Giving what I want to get


Every Thursday at work, we have Engineering talks. These talks are technical talks by developer-tech-type people for developer-tech-type people. They are short to long, interesting to boring, by experienced speakers and by inexperienced speakers, good to fantastic. They are recorded and viewable by anyone in the company, though discovery of older sessions isn't well supported. Given we have three main offices for the company ("main" is defined as "has a good-sized engineering team," but even that is hand-wavy with the "good-sized" description), the Engineering Talks rotate among the offices, streamed to the other offices.

Today being Thursday, we have Engineering Talks. Today's talks are at the office I work in. My first inclination is to just watch the livestream: I can stay at my desk and keep working, half listening to the presentations while still Getting Shit Done™. It also allows me to be somewhat unsocial, which is to say, not overwhelmed by the mass of other people all crammed into one room. The sound is often better on livestream, as is the slides' view.

So, yeah, my default is watch from my desk.

When I mentioned this to a coworker, his response was, "Boo, it's in Ottawa. Come to the lounge."

At which point, after pausing to realize I wasn't really considering my actions, I was just defaulting to hermit mode, my sole thought was, "Huh. Yes."

Yes a thousand times, because that is what I want as a speaker. I want people to listen to me when I have something to say (which, oddly, isn't as much as other people want me to speak, a fact I find very strange). I want my coworkers to know a bit more of the puzzle that is the giant piece of software that we work on. I want to know more about what is going on in other parts of the system. I want to be engaging as a speaker, entertain, and still teach; amuse and still explain. I want them talking about the conversation I start with my presentation, and debating the merits of what I say, expanding to their work.

My first talk here at work was short, 8 minutes, about squashing git commits in pull requests. I explained what the problem was (too many not-useful commits merged into master), gave boundaries of the issue (each commit to master should be atomic), I showed two ways of merging a commit (git merge --squash and git rebase -i), and provided solutions to the peeve that was the ten-commits-in-a-merge-only-two-of-which-were-stand-alone. It was well-received, started one of the most active conversations in the development channel, and had a positive change on the awareness of coworkers in squashing commits into atomic chunks more easily used by git-bisect. A win in my book.

If everyone had stayed at their desks, though, would I have had the impact I did? I would not have, not by a long shot. There were questions asked at the talk, people watched the talk, people engaged. My talk was better because of that engagement, because I wasn't talking TO my coworkers, I was talking WITH my coworkers.

Being present in the lounge and showing support to my coworkers as they talk about their work, as they show their enthusiasm for this new technology or solution, that is what I want. I want that when I speak in front of them, so I will give that when they speak, as best I can. I want a positive work environment, and being present is one way I can show support.

So, yeah, I went to the lounge and listened. And learned more than a bit.

Besides, I'm not really sure I can resist in any appreciable way a grown man saying, "Boo!"

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