by Jason Lutz
In an effort to spice up the daily work life of my team, give them freedom to develop something new, and provide added value to the business, I decided to create “Findaway Time,” inspired by Google’s 20% time.
Since my team is IT, not product development, I slimmed Findaway Time down to 10%, and focused it more on internal improvement versus creating a new product. But overall, my hope was to encourage using 10% every week to do something different than the normal job. I tried to make it institutional by laying down ground rules and telling everyone to use 4 hours a week, every week, but in true Findawayer fashion it has morphed. I don’t think there is a member of the IT team that literally uses 4 hours per week as I had originally planned.
What has ended up happening is that the majority of the team has stuck to the “spirit of the law” instead of the “letter of the law.” There have been weeks when some people spend all 40 hours on a new internal improvement or R&D for one of our websites that is outside of their normal job. Some of these projects have resulted in great things and others have fallen by the wayside when they didn’t work for business reasons, but the point is that we’re spending time to go beyond our everyday jobs in an effort to positively impact the business.
This is what I absolutely love about Findaway, and why I feel like I belong here. When I was hired it was essentially to work on .Net code for internal media production tools and possibly other similar tools. Within a week or two, I overheard that our newly-crowned Findawayer of the Year Rob Tandy was working on integration software, written in python, for our library website, and he was getting overloaded because he was working on other projects too. Knowing python, I offered my services, and bam! I was on the project. Also involved in the integration was a cloud service called boomi. We had a consulting company working on that piece at the time, but I jumped in and learned it. Why pay someone when you can do it yourself?
A little while later, I learned about some updates that were needed for some of our ColdFusion websites. Previously my manager, Bryan Chaikin, was the owner of just about all code written by Findaway. He WAS the IT department. But as the company expanded he needed to get away from doing development to focus on other things. I didn’t know ColdFusion, but I thought, what the heck? I love learning and doing new things, so let’s learn it. Then a php project came along. Again, I didn’t know php, but I figured, let’s keep the ball rolling.
Six months into the job, I had expanded my responsibilities from .Net guy to, as Matt Gaudio called me, the utility guy. And this is why I love Findaway. You are only limited by yourself. Yes, there are certain things you HAVE to get done, but there is also ample opportunity to go outside of the norm and shift, expand, and even contract your job responsibilities. In my opinion, you are only limited by your drive and your ability to get stuff done. As the Done Manifesto says, “The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.” I live and die by this. I want to get projects done because I want to work on other projects.
This post overall has turned into much more of a post about me than I intended, but I wanted to give a concrete example of what I’ve seen all over the place at Findaway World. Rob Tandy is a perfect example of what being a Findawayer is, and his impact on the business has been huge. Matt Nocera morphed from a great media production team member to a great quality engineer. Matt Ditty added to his responsibilities by also learning boomi for our data integration processes. He’s the expert now. Not everyone has the luxury of completely changing their job responsibilities, like Rob, Matt Nocera, and I, but everyone has the opportunity to at least shift and grow them.
I hope that the team continues to live by the “spirit of the law” so that we all provide unique value to the business beyond our job responsibilities. Doing this will help the team continue down the right paths technically and help Findaway World through our period of huge change.