Jess Martin

⚠️ Warning! This is an in-progress research note exported directly from Jess's note-taking system. The ideas in this note are still under active development.

Last Updated: March 22, 2022

User Guide for Jess Martin

What inspires and motivates me?

I'm inspired by anything well-made or beautiful.

  • Music - I have a huge music collection, and I spend 3-5 hours a week actively searching out and listening to new music.
  • Food - I love to cook and host others for dinner and enjoy a great meal, at a restaurant or in someone's home.
  • Stories - I carefully research movies and books and draw a lot from the stories they tell.

I'm a connoisseur of ideas, concepts, frameworks, and other "intellectual scaffolding."

  • I love a rousing discussion of philosophy, theology, psychology, values, futurism, history.
  • I write in order to understand my own thinking and construct my own views of the world.
  • I read fairly widely, preferring books that are more than a few decades old.
  • I love essays and non-fiction and often find connections that I can integrate into my life and work.

I find grounding being outside in nature.

  • Snow-covered mountains remind me of the grandeur of the universe and my place in it. They put me at peace.
  • I take walks regularly throughout the day, strolling through my neighborhood and town in order to think, plan, and get refreshed.

What am I great at or love doing?

Friends who I've worked with for many years say I'm great at:

  • Communication - personalizing information to each member of a team.
  • Utilization - getting the most out of each person by knowing where to put them on a project.
  • Teaching - making information digestible.

Another friend refers to me as somewhere between an architect and an artist. I love to both create and design, usually have an aesthetic feel for the solution to a problem, but like to take into account the larger system and it's context.

How I work best:

  • Zero to one - I'm best starting things from scratch. I'm a zero-to-one guy.
  • Generalist - I'm a generalist, so I'm most effective on small teams where I can span multiple roles.
  • Focused - I like to fully focus on one thing at a time rather than spreading thin across multiple initiatives.

Activities I'm great at:

  • Prototyping - I'm not the most "scale-oriented" engineer but I can quickly build something to test out concepts and ideas.
  • Code review and debugging - I'm reasonably adept at diving into foreign codebases and projects, quickly finding my way around, and figuring out how to fix things.
  • Writing - Written communication, documentation, articles, etc
  • Presenting - I love prepping a talk, sculpting the message, the art of speaking.
  • Talking to customers - I've conducted hundreds of customer interviews and have honed a script for getting valuable info from customers.

What am I terrible at or hate doing?

  • I'm terrible at finishing things. The last 20% I simply have to grin and bear it to get it done.
  • I get bored with things that are in "maintenance mode." Once the major strategies have been implemented
  • I hate splitting my efforts among several major projects simultaneously.
  • Minutiae. I can play the project manager, but I prefer to have a strong task-oriented person on the team to delegate project management to.

What do I need in order to be effective?

  • Priority - There are always too many things to do in any organization, particularly so in young organizations. I need clear direction about what's most important. I can collaborate with others to determine priorities.
  • Context - I value a large amount of context on whatever initiative I'm working on. Why does it matter? What's the historical backdrop? What are the principles and ideas that underlie this initiative? What assumptions are we making?
  • Trust - I appreciate being trusted to take in the priorities and context, make clear decisions, and carry them out.
  • Dialogue - As a verbal processor, I value regular "working" checkins to think through a project and direct my efforts.
  • Feedback - I can sometimes communicate as if I'm certain of something, when I'm actually just exploring an idea. Great coworkers have helped hone my ideas and practices by providing direct, correcting feedback that have helped me grow and do better work.

Triggers/things that affect me negatively?

  • Two or more simultaneous in-flight initiatives - I like to focus on one big initiative at a time. When I have to divide my days between two or more large initiatives, I start to feel drained. I can only have one top idea in my mind, and I'd prefer to not have competition for that slot.
  • Politics - They're a fact of life. And I've learned a thing or two about how to "play the game." I need to get better at it, and I'm trying. But it's draining work for me.
  • Being a middle manager - I like leading teams, but I need to spend at least 50% of my time as an individual contributor. When I'm a manager who is managing multiple teams, I find the work draining. It's all writing documents and having meetings. (in other words, I need at least 50% of my time to be on Maker's Schedule rather than Manager's Schedule)
  • Underperforming coworkers - I've been blessed to work with smart, hard-working individuals for most of my career. In some cases, I have been the worst player on the team and I grew like a weed during those times. When I consistently have to work with and rely on coworkers who struggle to do the basis of their job, I can grow impatient and tense. I may start to try to do their job for them since I have lost faith in my ability to depend on them to deliver. If I'm involved with coaching and mentoring those coworkers, that tends to help me with empathy.
  • Leadership vacuums - Nature abhors a vacuum, and so do I. I find myself unconsciously acting to fill a void in leadership or direction on a team. At times, this is very helpful, part of the side effect of being a "natural leader." At times, it can seem like I'm being grabby. I have to actively resist a tendency to step in when there is poor leadership.

Three things you should know about my interests/hobbies outside of work

  • I follow Jesus and my faith provides a foundation for just about everything in my life, including how I work and what I value.
  • I love mountain biking and downhill skiing.
  • I love spending time with my family-my wife and my 8, 7, 4, and less-than-1 year old kids-especially going on adventures together, like camping, travel, etc.

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© 2022 - Jess Martin