PTOn...Finding the Time to Dedicate Individual Projects of Passion and Role


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A culture presentation about how my teams make use of a dedicated time model called PTOn for working on individual projects of passion and/or role on our team. It's similar to Google's 20% model, but a little different.

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  • This refers to our Big Rocks presentation we had in the winter of 2013.Big Rocks – Here’s what’s in therea.       Product qualityb.      Vastly simplified instructor experience (VSIE)c.       Teaching and Learning in the Cloudd.      Mobile Learn – I see one guy assigned to maintenance.e.      Big Dataf.        Internationalizationg.       Bundles – e.g. Learn and Collab
  • These pebbles are what make up our composition as an Engineering Services team and contribution back to the organization.They get broken down into (4) categories: Engineering Services, Our Engineering Services Teams (Operations, Performance and Security), Individual Role and Individual PassionPhoto:
  • We have special days outside of the normal grind and velocity of our product work to dedicate time to those pebbles.We have (4) Engineering Services days to work on 1 or more ES projects. This will be decided by the middle of February. Anyone on the ES team can make recommendations for what activities we should plan for these Services Days. We have the option of doing 1 per quarter, 2 x 2 day projects or 1 x 4 day project. We may choose to do (4) hack-days…or we may bring in guest speakers to spend a full day with us.Team days are to be determined by each team within Engineering Services. We have (3) teams: Operations, Performance and Security. We have 12 to 24 days to be spent over the course of the year. The expectation is that the Directors of each team schedule these days on a monthly basis. They can be used as each team sees fit. The only stipulation is that they must be spread out over the course of the year. Individual role and passion days (10 combined) are the days this presentation focuses on. Read below to learn about PTOn.Photo:
  • The focus of this presentation are the 10 days of individual time for both our ROLE and Passion.These 10 days make up PTOn
  • When you are sick or take vacation, you use PTO. When you need some time to focus on your individual growth and development, sometimes you need days without distractions. We call these days PTOn days so they can be a) scheduled b) tracked c) organized and d) measured
  • 10 days a year might not seem like a lot. It’s less than 1 a month. It’s a start…We struggle to take vacation prior to December. As a result, we tend to have way too many team members who wait until the end of the year to take vacation. We lose the entire month of December to vacation.Everyone will have to be diligent about planning and scheduling their PTOn days. Since it will be measured within the Peoplesoft Performance Management System, decisions/proposals about how this time will be used must be completed before the end of March.
  • The best way to make PTOn successful is to map out your vacations at the beginning of the year. By map out, I literally mean block time in your calendar to find vacation. Don’t worry about random days to play golf, take your kids to the zoo or just sleep in because you had a late night out. Those will get factored in. What we want to avoid is the pattern we see year over year with engineers. Projects get in the way…schedules never get adjusted. Vacations never get scheduled…as a result most engineers take the whole month of December off.Source:
  • Since PTOn is about the individual, we have two types of individual time called out. One is role based, which is focused on individual contributions in one’s current responsibilities. The second is passion based. I’m not saying you can’t be passionate about your role. Rather, I’m leaving open the possibility that each individual may have a passion or interest outside of the scope of their responsibilities. For example, maybe you are a developer focused on Security, but you want to dig into a data science project. The Security team may have a need for a data science project, but it’s a lower priority or possibly not even on the road map. Ultimately, if this engineer proposes a data science project, he or she can use as much as the 10 days to work on this project. In addition, this engineer could use the ES: Security team days to work on this if agreed by the manager.
  • Each ES team has a road map developed by the Director of the team. Everyone on the team should know the contents of this road map. If not, the first discussion should be, let’s review the road map. Assuming the road map has been communicated, the next action should be a conversation between the manager and the employee to strategize how PTOn time can be used.Possible PTOn activities:Open source or Internal development projectMulti-day ConferenceOne day conferences and local talksOnline class and/or reading daysWriting a paper or presentation Developing a training session and material for a topicWhatever is proposed should align back to your role and an item on your road map. One example might be a project tied to our automation initiative around a tool like Chef. The employee might start by taking a day read a book about Chef and/or take an online tutorial for getting Chef started. He/she may then attend a 1 days local conference on Chef. This 1 day conference could be helpful for networking, research and general subject matter awareness. The next couple of days might be spent designing and prototyping one or more recipes. The next few days might be dedicated to some focused programming, followed by a final day writing up a presentation for sharing to the entire team.
  • We have a lot of items on our road map. So there is a good chance there is something we are passionate about might not be on the road map given our limited capacity and time. That doesn’t mean the work can’t be done. Rather, the PTOn time could be used to work on a project that’s not on the road map, but the individual is passionate about it.Passion projects are important as they could be so successful that they become part of our core over time. It just took that 1 individual on the team to take a risk on a project that he/she wanted to work on.
  • Credit:
  • Discovery and Research Phase: The initiation of the PTOn project. In this phase you are trying to develop the thesis or core ideas about the project. This may require some time at night or on the weekend to think about your individual role or passion project. You can use part of your 10 days to do the discovery/research. It’s expected that this is 1 to 2 days at most. The output of these days would be 1 or more blogs (note 1 blog per day) that covers what was done as part of the research, plus the proposal of what work is to be done. If you are doing a conference (1 or more days), this would count as part of the research phase days. In that case, the number of days could change from 1-2 to a higher number. Note that you really need to share your idea(s) to your manager and your team members. They need to give feedback to you as well. Hacking and Experimentation Phase: You may chose to take on a development project…you may coordinate to go to a conference. Whatever the case, this phase is about the early data gathering, experimentation (hacking and playing around from a development perspective) and feeling the project out. This is a time to fail, but fail fast. Please note you should be blogging each day you spend on this phase. Put your stuff out there with full transparency. Ditto to the team…meaning their feedback should be fully transparent as well.Formal Work and Sharing Phase: This should be the bulk of the time of the initiative in which you are coding or writing. Your work is formally being worked on so that you can present your PTOn assignment to the team. It could be that you are locked away for a few days coding after a POC or hackday. It could be that you have come back from a conference and are working on implementing a tool or a framework you learned about while at the conference. The key takeaway is that you are making best use of the experience of going to a conference and introducing new work to the team. Please note you should be blogging each day you spend on this phase. Share…share…share. Put your work out there. You want the feedback and the engagement from your peers.Final Presentation: PTOn is more than just the experience. It should have a tangible output upon completion of the project in the form of a presentation (synchronous) to team members and a paper or power point (asynchronous) for team members to read. Photo:
  • PTOn...Finding the Time to Dedicate Individual Projects of Passion and Role

    1. 1. Blackboard ENGINEERING SERVICES
    2. 2. We Have Some Big Rocks to Deal With…
    3. 3. Big Rocks are Really Just a Bunch of Pebbles
    4. 4. Changing Our Work Velocity Engineering Services Days Team Days 4 Days 12 to 24 Days Individual Role Days Individual Passion Days 10 Days Combined
    5. 5. n PTO
    6. 6. What is PTOn? • PTOn stands for Paid Time On – We use PTO for Paid Time Off – This is different…very different! • It’s an opportunity to block time in the normal velocity of work to focus on individual skills development and experiences. – Individual projects and/or research – Conferences, classes and independent study
    7. 7. PTOn Logistics • How many days do I receive? – Up to 10 in a year. • How do I track them? – Blog posts: Any day you take requires a follow-up blog of what happened. – 1 blog entry per day – Schedule them in your Outlook calendar as well. • How will this work be measured? – Every ES employee will have a PTOn initiative in Peoplesoft. – PTOn initiatives will require an end-year presentation for each employee to share their experience/work. • When does my PTOn need to be decided? – Needs to be formalized between employee and manager by the end of March.
    8. 8. PTOn Timelines • Identify Topic or Project – January through March – Meet with Manager – Put together 1 page blog proposal • Post Topic Selection – Anytime after Topic/Project is approved • Mid-Year Check-In – Meet with your manager in late June to go over the state of your topic/project • End of Year Presentation – Anytime from October through December
    9. 9. Why Wait to Schedule Vacation?
    10. 10. Two Paths of PTOn Focus…
    11. 11. Individual Time: Role vs. Passion • What are the key items on our roadmap? • How can I help and contribute? • How time do we have? • What’s realistic to cover? • Will this PTOn project influence my career? All Roads Start with a Conversation…
    12. 12. Individual Time: Role vs. Passion • A conversation between employee and manager still needed. • What do I want to do that will positively influence my career, but could be different from my role? • Can this help my career even if it’s outside of my current responsibilities? All Roads Start with Deep Thinking…
    13. 13. Getting Started with PTOn
    14. 14. The Four Phases of PTOn Discovery & Research Phase Hacking & Experiment Phase Formal Work & Sharing Phase Continuous Sharing   Continuous Feedback Loops Final Presentation Phase Synchronous and Asynchronous