I started a rather odd habit at The Iron Yard almost a year ago. I was the only instructor for our entire first year but, with the advent of John Saddington joining the team, we were starting to look for more instructors. I began writing very thorough journal entries about everything I did each week, anticipating that these would help new hires handle the overwhelmingly difficult task of turning students with no programming knowledge into useful and hirable hackers. My writing is often categorized as “unnecessarily thorough”, but in my journaling I reckoned that the more detail I could give, the better. I wrote about everything that happened in my classroom and in my student interactions; my greatest mistakes, my most triumphant victories.
There are some especially raw entries, about my own efforts to grow and improve, and apologies that I had given to students who I had hurt with snarky comments. There are records of just about every struggle that my students faced, and the resounding joy in the next week’s journal after they had overcome some impossible hurdle.
The funny thing about these journal entries is that I shared them via Basecamp, and on a project that all staff were on (and to which all future staff would be invited). This meant that these gut-wrenchingly honest write-ups, replete with the details of my every failure (and my successes, too) were sent to the entire company.
Now, as the CTO and Lead Instructor, I have a certain degree of autonomy and privilege that one might argue allows me to flout this sort of information with little consequence. In a sense, that is correct. But here’s the interesting part: everyone else started following the trend.
The leadership, campus directors, instructors, accelerator team; almost every single person at TIY broadcasts a weekly recap of everything they failed at, everything they kicked ass at, and everywhere in between. There are only two exceptions, and those staffers are in specialized roles that report via other mechanisms.
As a fully distributed company (with around 3 to 5 people at each campus), this has been an incredible way keep a pulse on ourselves and to share best (and worst) practices quickly. Company-wide journaling has created an environment where our processes and efforts undergo constant, super-fast refinement.
Now that we have over 30 employees, reading everyone’s journals isn’t generally doable, so we have a few simple expectations: read the journals of the staff at your campus, and the journals of the people on your team (viz. Instructors, Campus Directors, Leadership, etc.). For example, this means that a campus director would read the journals of the 2 or 3 instructors at their campus, and all the journals from the other campus directors. I imagine this will change as the staff continues to grow, but an important element will also be lighter cross-team exposure to journals and heavier inner-team reading.
I honestly don’t know of any other company where everyone emails everyone else each week about their failures. What started out as my exceedingly honest journaling habit has become one of our company’s most powerful platforms for introspection and refinement.