I have been told that it takes about six months to start feeling competent in a new role: to know where to look for things, to make decisions on your own, and to feel like maybe your employer didn’t make a mistake in hiring you. This was true for me in my job as a Happiness Engineer — at six months I felt like Ok, I can do this. When I became a team lead and mentored new hires, I comforted them with the same prediction.
Four months into my new role in operations, I wasn’t sure if that would be the case.
When I first began at Support Driven, we were in the midst of planning our biggest conference of the year, Support Driven Expo in Portland, Oregon. My job was straightforward for the first three months: execute the conference. If there’s anything I know I can do, it’s get in there and get shit done. In the back of my mind, I knew there would be harder things to do later. I didn’t have time to think them through, though, and I mostly pushed them aside.
Expo was a success. More than 400 people attended, we offered 76 talks and workshops, and we managed to get through the event without any major catastrophes. Attendees shared positive feedback, appreciated the practical lessons they were able to implement at work, and offered useful suggestions for how to improve next year.
During Expo planning, I didn’t think much about whether I could do my job, I just did it. In the weeks after, I wasn’t as sure. Once Expo was over, the work to do next was brand new to me: define organizational core values, write event-planning playbooks that had enough detail to get the job done but not so much that the manuals became overwhelming, bake in quality assurance so we can know at a glance if things are on track, think about the organization of the organization, make decisions about internal communication structures, make decisions about what direction to take the organization, write job descriptions, interview, hire, decline, negotiate, document, document, document.
I had days where I questioned my ability. I questioned if I had enough experience to do this job. I questioned if I was as good at organizing as I thought I was. I questioned if I was firm enough, nice enough, visionary enough, if I was doing the right work, thinking about things the right way, accomplishing what Scott was hoping for when he hired me.
After writing my first job description and making my first hire, which I knew was a good one — hi SarahB! — I started feeling more confident. Sarah, who had helped organize WordCamp US, took the wheel for our next event, Support Driven Leadership Summit. I documented a ton of event-planning information after Expo, and we handed it over to Sarah to start testing its efficacy.
With Sarah steering Summit, I started working with the community to plan for our next event, Support Driven Expo Europe: finding a city and venue, spinning up the website, writing timelines, writing a job description for its coordinator. Also, since Summit was in Sarah’s competent hands, Scott and I were able to start digging into some of the broader organizational questions we needed to explore: how can we best serve the Support Driven community? How do we need to hire to accomplish our goals? What do we need to do first?
Now, seven months in, and especially with Expo and Summit succeeding as valuable events for attendees — Summit sold out a month ahead of time! — I’m starting to feel competent. We’re getting things out of our heads and into documentation, we’ve improved and defined our hiring process, we’ve clarified our purpose and our core values as an organization, and we know what we want to make progress on, what we’re going to do first, and how we’re going to hire to do it. We’ve hired two people I’m super excited about to join us part-time, and I created an onboarding process to introduce them to Support Driven and their roles.
Best of all, I’m feeling closer to the community. Leaving my old job was really hard. I still miss hanging out with my teams — the team I led and my team of co-leads. Now, between being at Support Driven for seven months, participating in the book club, and attending Summit without being the primary organizer, I’m starting to get to know people better and make new friends.
Now, at seven months, I’m feeling like, Ok, I can do this.
The photo above is me at SD Leadership Summit, ringing a bell to help gather people at the end of breaks. The bell was super effective — major props to Volunteer Coordinator Yanina Wolfe for suggesting it.