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In his recent article about the importance of mentorship, Yujin Kim, Chief Technology Officer at WorkMarket (an ADP company) talks about what he learned from his mentors and how they helped shape his career and life.
Yujin and I worked together for four years at Conde Nast and then for another four years at The New York Times. We have been friends and colleagues for twelve years. I witnessed Yujin grow from an engineering lead to CTO of WorkMarket. Yujin is an excellent engineering leader, a meticulous manager, and a caring collaborator.
I am honored that Yujin mentioned me in his article (and I feel lucky that my name happened to appear first, even though his other mentors are more accomplished than I am.)
Dear Family and Friends, I’m moving into an exciting new job at News Corp, the parent company of my current employer, The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones. Below are the announcements from Matt Murray, Editor-In-Chief of The Wall Street Journal & Dow Jones Newswires; and from Ramin Beheshti, Group Chief Product & Technology Officer of Dow Jones. The announcement from Matt was reported on earlier at other sites and the announcement from Ramin is shared here with permission.
Announcement from Matt Murray, Editor-In-Chief of The Wall Street Journal & Dow Jones Newswires
Feb 20, 2019
Most of you will have seen by now the exciting news that Rajiv Pant has been promoted to a new role as Deputy Chief Technology Officer at News Corp. This is great news for him and for the newsroom; I expect he will continue to be actively involved with us going forward and will help facilitate the next stages of tech development. In just two years as our CTO, Rajiv has been a transformative presence, bringing in a great many new talents and helping our products and technical capabilities march forward on many fronts. Thanks to him, product, design and engineering have been ever more central to the newsroom–as they must be for our continued success.
Rajiv will be with us for several more weeks before moving upstairs to his fancy new digs, and we’ll soon share plans on how we will advance the work he has undertaken. In the meantime, please join me in congratulating him and thanking him for all he’s accomplished here.
Announcement from Ramin Beheshti, Group Chief Product & Technology Officer, Dow Jones
Feb 20, 2019
As you may have read earlier today in Marc Frons’ announcement, Rajiv Pant has been promoted to the Deputy Chief Technology Officer of News Corp, reporting to Marc.
Over the last two years, Rajiv has helped transform WSJ Technology. He reimagined what it means to be a team, by bringing together the Product, Design and Engineering groups. He also evolved how we measure our successes by promoting OKRs across the department and built a stronger, more open relationship between the Newsroom and Technology.
While he is going upstairs, he won’t be out of reach. In his new role, Rajiv will help drive global digital product and technology initiatives, and continue to work closely with many of us across the department. He will also focus on developing innovation and culture, sharing many of the great ideas from his time at Dow Jones with the rest of the News Corp family. I’m excited to see what he accomplishes in this new role.
Rajiv will officially transition to his new role over the coming weeks. Please join me in thanking him for all his contributions to Dow Jones and WSJ Technology. He has truly been a valued member of my Technology Leadership Team and I am delighted to have another strong partner at News Corp.
GROUP CHIEF PRODUCT & TECHNOLOGY OFFICER
© 2017 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
This is a framework for understanding, describing, and performing your job duties, roles, and responsibilities. You can use this as a template to create a useful job description that you would actually use while you are in a job.
It divides a job into three categories: activities, outputs, and outcomes. To be successful in your job, it is useful to understand the difference between these, and to achieve an optimal balance spending appropriate time and energy on each.
This article is written for multiple audiences — people who are primarily in maker (direct contributor) roles as well as those primarily in leadership and management roles. The ratios of time spent on activities, outputs, and outcomes as well as the types of items in each varies based on your particular job. You should determine in collaboration with your organization how your job should be defined and described in terms of these.
Ask yourself this question: After being hired in a job, do you ever refer to your HR job description to guide you or to check if you are doing what your job is described as?
I prefer to use this framework rather than the commonly seen job descriptions. Most job descriptions are not real descriptions — they are job advertisements to get candidates to apply to. After the employee is hired, they rarely, if ever look at their job description. Conventional job descriptions are usually a formality to check certain HR, legal, or compliance boxes. The commonplace job description is like the marketing ad for a product. This is meant to be the summary version of the owner’s manual. For examples of longer handbooks for jobs, you can view my previous articles 90 Day Plan for a CTO in a New Job and How to be an effective CTO.
You can’t magically drive results. To meet your company’s objectives and key results (OKRs), you must spend time on activities and produce outputs. I link to more information on OKRs later in this article in the outcomes section.
Activities are the things you spend time doing in your job. Certain activities may be doing the work of creating deliverables, but others may not deliver tangible outputs. Some activities may directly lead to measurable business results, but others may not.
Activities can be beneficial to the organization or they could be busywork of low value. It is better to spend more time on activities that lead to outcomes — or at least to outputs — than on activities that can’t be confidently tied to valuable business results.
Always to know its clear purpose before engaging in an activity. For example, attending a meeting is an activity. If you do not have a clear and valuable purpose for why you are attending a meeting, you are likely wasting your and others’ time.
Here are some examples of activities.
- Reading and answering emails and slack messages. Being responsive
- Attending (preferably participating in) meetings
- Talking 1:1 with colleagues to build good professional working relationships
- Interacting with team members and colleagues to uplift their morale
- Mentoring and coaching others
- Organizing working sessions, meetings, and presentations
- Resolving conflicts
- Reviewing the work output of others
- Soliciting input from other teams
- Providing substantial and insightful feedback provided on work, documents and plans created by others
- Leading by example. Demonstrating leadership, management, and ethical behavior
- Demonstrating expertise or deep experience in one or more areas
- Interviewing job candidates
- Collaborating with others and helping them with their work
The activities in the above examples by themselves are often insufficient. You could have a very busy day at work every day, and yet accomplish little in terms of valuable and meaningful results. Imagine a car stuck in sand, spinning its wheels but not moving forward or a wild animal in a zoo enclosure pacing back and forth yet accomplishing little beyond getting light exercise.
When I ask someone how their work is these days, and they reply “busy, very busy,” I’m usually unimpressed. It implies that their schedule is busy and it is likely not by their own choice. Unless you work in extraordinary circumstances — as a hospital ER or are an active duty soldier engaged in a war — that response likely signals your schedule is completely out of your control — a sign of weakness and poor prioritization. When the first word that comes to someone’s mind in describing their work is “busy,” it is a sign that they are far more focused on activities than results. If you had to describe your work in one phrase, I’d prefer hearing words like “exciting,” “meaningful,” or “challenging“.
Don’t be busy, be purposeful.
Outputs are the tangible deliverables you create or co-create. Outputs are maker’s work. Your team’s outputs do not count as your own unless you had a significant hands-on part in creating them as a maker, not just as a manager.
While outcomes are the most valuable part of any job in any organization that cares about results, outputs are the most easily measured and attributable to you. Examining your outputs is one way for your company to know about the value you personally add. Good outcomes usually result from teamwork. Because outputs are tangible and can be reviewed by others, their examination leads to your management being able to continually better align your work to the organization’s desired results.
Creating outputs on a regular basis also helps you avoid failing the lottery test:
Below are some examples of outputs. To be considered outputs, these must exist in a tangle form as physical and/or digital product. For example: documents, presentations, spreadsheets, diagrams, videos, software code, or physical objects. Drafts and prototypes are acceptable.
- a vision, strategy, plan, recommendations, and works of thought leadership
- thoughtful memos
- written down plans
- proposals, business cases
- competitive research
- budget spreadsheets
- status reports with evidence of material work you did or progress you made
- software code
- multimedia, videos, photos, artworks
- digital and/or physical products
As a general best practice, you should not create most of your outputs in isolation. You should share early drafts and prototypes of your work and ask for input and feedback. Your colleagues should have clear idea what you are working on and why. Stanford Professor Baba Shiv’s Art of the Imperfect Pitch is another reason to share early versions of your work.
I can’t stress enough that to be considered your outputs they need to be authored or significantly co-authored by you. Even if your job role is strategist, planner, or thought leader, you still need to write down (or make a video of, if that’s your thing) your strategy, plans and thoughts. Writing down ideas also helps refine and evolve them. On that note, while slide presentations have their value and place in specific situations, they should never be a substitute for a well thought out document. To quote the famous and successful founder and CEO of Amazon:
“The reason writing a ‘good’ four page memo is harder than ‘writing’ a 20-page PowerPoint is because the narrative structure of a good memo forces better thought and better understanding of what’s more important than what.”— Jeff Bezos
Outcomes are the results. These are the most valuable and important part of your job. The activities you engage in and the outputs you produce should be towards these results. I recommend the OKR framework that I mentioned near the beginning of this article. Here is a link to a comprehensive guide to objectives and key results.
Below are some examples of types of results. Results should be measurable (preferably with numbers), directly lead to objectives being met, and of real, high value.
- meeting or exceeding revenue, profit, and/or growth targets
- delivering products and services to customers that meet their needs or delight them
- process changes in operations and/or product areas resulting in savings of time and/or money
- culture improvements shown to increase employee morale, productivity, and retention
- other measurable improvements that can be directly or indirectly attributed to your work
- better collaboration or relationships among distinct teams leading to quicker and higher quality product delivery
Next Steps and An Alternative To This
To illustrate how to use this framework, I’ll share an example of a job description using this as a template at a future date and update this article. If you try this out and would like to share yours, Tweet it to me at @rajivpant and I’ll include a link to it from this article.
An alternative to this framework I’ve provided is Holacracy‘s system of describing a job a different trio: purpose, accountabilities, and domains. I plan to incorporate some lessons from those into this system in future and will update this article.
To avoid the cycle of often being too busy yet not accomplishing the goals to your organization’s and your satisfaction, consider describing your job using this framework to create a quick user’s guide for your job.
Once you have drafted an actionable job description you can refer to periodically, use it to guide your work. You should review your actual work (your calendar, deliverables, and results) along with your job description on a regular basis, making changes to your actual work or to the description, as appropriate.
Such a living handbook is also immensely valuable to the next person in your job (when you are are in your next even greater job.)
In this showcase session at Applause, the Wall Street Journal’s CTO & CPO, Rajiv Pant, will explain how the media organization is using advanced technologies to combat fake news. You’ll hear about ultra-realistic voice and video cloning technologies that will make you question the legitimacy of recordings. You’ll also hear how machine learning, artificial intelligence and the crowd are being deployed to defend against this threat and others.
Many books on leadership are like fairy tales: Inspiring, but misleading about leadership that is actually effective in our real world. Real leadership — i.e. leadership based on evidence and science, and thus statistically more likely be effective in practice — is less commonly found in leadership teachings. Instead, what we often hear is “feel good leadership” that sounds good, but is often ineffective, or worse, counterproductive at worst.
Few books open our eyes by revealing truths hiding in plain sight. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is one. Leadership B.S. by Jeff Pfeffer is another.
Many books, lessons, and word-of-mouth teachings about leadership are misleading, misrepresentative of real world experience, and based on feel-good ideals. There are five reasons why several things we are taught about leadership and management are wrong.
- Lack of Rigor — Many leadership lessons based on someone’s experience are not based on a systematic analysis of complete data, comprehensive understanding of circumstances, and other available options at the time. What worked for the winner may be simply chance (luck), weakness of the opposition, or insufficiently acknowledged help from others.
- Before and After — The behaviors that lead a person to a powerful leadership position are often not the same as the good qualities the person assumes later in life after they are already successful. Take the case of Bill Gates, who as a competitive businessman was a different person from the kind, caring philanthropist he is today.
- Delusion — Human beings have a positive, good impressions of ourselves that are often not accurate. Studies have shown that about 80% of people believe they are better car drivers than average, better looking than average, and better human beings than others. The Overconfidence effect and above average effect are well documented. How a successful leader feels they act (morally) is often quite different from what they actually do based on observation.
- Deception — Human beings, especially successful ones, lie, mislead, and often don’t give away their coveted secrets that given them their competitive edge. There is plenty of scientific evidence that lying is a common daily habit.
- Leaving a Legacy — Many leadership books and articles are written to make the author look good, to build a good reputation and brand for the leader, and to make money. They are not primarily written for the purpose of making other people successful, even if the author thinks so. This could be due to delusion, deception, or a bit of both.
For the above reasons, my friend Jeff Pfeffer and I sometimes say that most leadership books and products should be labeled like packs of cigarettes: “Warning: This information will make you feel good in the short term, but is likely to be harmful to your effectiveness, career, and well-being.”
So how should you minimize your time and effort wasted learning ineffective leadership and management methods that are likely to backfire?
I highly recommend reading the excellent book Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time by Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer of Stanford University. It was finalist for the 2015 Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year and Best business book of the week selected by Inc.com. This book will help you identify real and effective leadership and management lessons based on evidence that are more likely to work than platitudes.
Disclosure: In the acknowledgements section of this book, Professor Pfeffer writes:
This book was inspired in part by my interactions with Rajiv Pant. It was Rajiv who first used the phrase “feel-good leadership literature.” It was Rajiv who provided some of the stories and examples incorporated in this book. But mostly it was Rajiv Pant who helped me see how much damage was occurring because of the current incarnation of the leadership industry. Rajiv’s support and friendship mean a great deal, not only for this book but in my life.
Pfeffer, Jeffrey. Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time (pp. 221-222). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
My rating of this book: 5/5 stars.
In follow-up to earlier work on a) versions one and two of these technical and related career tracks, b) pathways for career development in product engineering, c) job titles, and d) employee evaluation & career development, here is an updated version three of the career growth tracks.
This version 3 includes software engineering & architecture, quality assurance & test engineering, data science & engineering, infrastructure & systems engineering, product & product management, and design & user experience. This version moves “chief” and “head of” type titles to the discretionary column, keeping only four main levels (contributor, manager, director, and vice president) with three sub-levels designating seniority within each.
This is presented in a Google Sheet embedded below with tabs containing areas like engineering and product. I’m also providing a direct link to to the Google Sheet you can copy and edit for use in your own organization.
As always, I’d love your feedback. Thank you.
Check out the blog post by Very, the product development partner I worked with in my previous job at Thrive Global to design, build and launch multiple Mobile, Web, and Voice-controlled products from ideation to go live in 12 weeks!
Thrive Global was created to end the stress epidemic. Founded by Arianna Huffington, the comprehensive platform tackles burnout — a widespread barrier to productivity and success. By delivering sustainable, science-based solutions, Thrive Global enhances wellbeing and performance, so that people can move from surviving to thriving.
This isn’t something I thought I’d be writing – if you read my recent piece on Thrive Journal, you’d know how excited I was to join Thrive Global. I’d long admired Arianna, and when we met it was immediately clear that we share so much: mission, values, a dedication to science-based approaches – along with a lot of common friends and even our foreign accents. And I wrote about the twist of fate – several twists, in fact, that it took to bring me to Thrive.
And now life has thrown me another twist, which is that I’ve just accepted a job as Chief Product & Technology Officer at The Wall Street Journal. It was an emotionally difficult decision – when I joined Thrive I felt then, and still do, that living my life by the Thrive principles and helping others do the same was my calling.
Working with the team at Thrive has been everything I thought it would be, and has only deepened my passion for the mission. And personally, it’s been especially rewarding working with Arianna. We hit it off right away and that’s only continued since. I’ve learned so much from her that I’ll take with me in my life ahead. Most of all, her incredible ability to connect warmly and authentically with everybody around her — not just about their work, but about their lives away from the office. You don’t just join the team, you become part of a family. And that’s why this was such an emotional decision.
But this role at The Wall Street Journal is no ordinary opportunity, and I certainly wouldn’t be leaving if it were. There were several considerations: this is a newly created position and represents the culmination of what I’ve been working towards my entire career. It’s also a chance to reunite with several former co-workers who have remained dear friends. In the end, after a lot of persuasion, and an opportunity too good to refuse, I decided to make the move.
I’m excited, but also sad to leave. I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve built at Thrive Global. In three months we launched a media platform, a behavior change platform, an e-learning site, an e-commerce site and a number of specialty apps, including for Android, iOS, Amazon Alexa, and Chrome.
I am incredibly grateful not only for what I’ve learned but also for the friendships I’ve built and that I know will continue. And I’m especially grateful to Arianna for bringing me into Thrive and into her extended family. If I’ve learned one thing from this experience it’s that we never know what twists of fate the future may bring, but what I do know is that incorporating our Thrive principles into my daily life and my work at The Wall Street Journal will make both me and my colleagues healthier, happier and more productive.
Rajiv spoke at Fastly‘s Altitude 2016 Summit in San Francisco. #Altitude2016 was a full day conference featuring technical content and idea sharing about the edge, web performance and content delivery from industry experts. Rajiv spoke from his personal knowledge of a CTO’s role in getting, maintaining, and developing buy-in for infrastructure engineering projects from business stakeholders.
Here is a link to the slides.