Funemployment, gratefulness and my next role

Funemployment, gratefulness and my next role

Issue No. 4

This is a project by Jeremy Brown. I write about topics that I care about, such as building high performing teams that make great products, culture, leadership and technology.
As I'm building this newsletter (and a podcast and YouTube channel) in the open, you will get updates on this project here from time to time.

Sunny greeting from Paris, this week's newsletter is a little late (I try to publish every Sunday) as we were travelling back from our holiday in Thailand this weekend and I didn't have the energy to finalise this post yesterday.

💬 This issue is a bit more personal than the previous ones as I'm changing jobs so I wanted to:

  • Reflect back on some of the accomplishments we had at OCUS.
  • Update you on what I'm going to be doing next.

I have been unemployed for the past three weeks after resigning as CTO at OCUS a few months ago. It has been an interesting ride and I wanted to reflect back with a grateful heart ❤️ on some of the accomplishments 🚀 I had with the team during my short one year tenure.

I teamed closely with OCUS's CPO to build a diverse and healthy Product and Tech organisation (~60 people) with strong collaboration between Product and Tech.

I led a diverse tech team of ~40 engineers, which included developers, infrastructure specialists and a data science team. The CEO initially hired me to double the team in my first year, and while we didn't get to do that, we did lay the foundations for the future growth of engineering.

I created and led a bottom-up change and alignment mechanism in the form of a quarterly two-day Product and Tech in-person event using Open Space Technology as the format.

I established shared principles between Product and Tech around our roles and responsibilities and how we sought to work together. We called these our operating principles.

I worked with the CPO to bake our operating principles into our processes and methodologies to foster the team's agility. Other changes that I was involved in or led were:

  • We implemented six-week product increments with a two-week cooling-off period to stabilise a constantly changing roadmap.
  • We started a continuous discovery process with Product and Tech jointly involved to reduce the number of handoffs we had in our approach.
  • We increased focus time for the team by streamlining the number of meetings ICs were attending to three or four hours or less per week.

I worked to carry out a reorganisation and clarified roles and interfaces between teams. The restructuring of the organisation improved flow and reduced handoffs.

We created a career ladder with the People Team and hired our first apprentices.

I initiated a project to fully automate manual integration testing in our release process, which initially took two to five days for a release. This ongoing initiative will significantly improve quality and reduce lead time.

Consolidated the tools we used to visualise and track our work from nine different tools down to one, GitLab. The result of this initiative was that we could visualise all of our work in one place. We implemented automation in GitLab to govern our process, which allowed us to define our process in code. I gave all staff at OCUS SSO access to GitLab to comment on and follow our work and see our roadmap.

We started tracking the "four key metrics" of Lead Time, Cycle Time, Change Failure Rate, and MTTR. I focused on monitoring productivity at the team level and rejected approaches to track individual developer performance. This initiative resulted in each team reviewing their metrics at the end of every product increment and fed the culture of continuous learning, which I tried to cultivate.

To foster innovation and creativity across the organisation, I implemented "innovation time", a half-day every week for unstructured innovation, learning and experimentation (also tracked in GitLab). With the CPO, we ran OCUS' first company-wide hackathon with very high participation from all departments in the company.

I implemented a technical roadmap, standards and principles and a new bottom-up decision-making process for technical decisions. The process allowed me and the technical leads to oversee and guide our architecture. As a result, we provided solid and healthy challenges to the technological choices our teams were making while encouraging autonomy in our people.

I developed, tracked, and controlled our annual operating and capital budgets for IT and Tech. The budgets included all purchasing, staffing, and operating expenditure. I managed all external vendor relationships and optimised our infrastructure assets to satisfy internal financial targets.

During my time at OCUS, I had to reduce our costs significantly, which I did. One project which I initiated was around translation. We reduced the cost of translation by 80%. Additionally, we automated translations from our source code in GitLab. We removed a massive quantity of manual work (about one FTE dedicated to managing translations).

I owned security and compliance at OCUS. As part of this, I reduced our exposure to security vulnerabilities. In addition, I helped meet our contractual agreements on security and privacy. When I arrived, I carried out an audit of our contractual obligations to our clients and our current security situation. I implemented many interventions to improve our security stance and potential legal exposure. Some interventions included:

  • I built a plan and started the process to work towards SOC 1 and ISO certification,
  • Writing our IT policy,
  • Established a security team and security response process,
  • Secured Cyber Insurance for the business,
  • Personally implementing SAML SSO everywhere,
  • Implementing endpoint security on all devices (Kolide),
  • Controlling access to our data,
  • Maintaining a flexible BYOD and work from anywhere policy.

I was responsible for and did most of the IT work at OCUS. As we didn't have a dedicated IT Manager or an outsourced service for this:

  • I automated several high-risk manual IT processes such as offboarding,
  • I changed our policy of supporting Windows and Mac to a simplified model using only Macs. This standardisation made it procure and manage our laptops.
  • Crowd sourced our IT helpdesk to a channel on Slack.
  • I worked with our People Team (who helped with some aspects of IT) to change how we tracked and purchased laptops.
  • I supported other departments with their tools, such as choosing a new HRIS through implementation, integration, and company-wide best practices, such as tools like Slack and Notion.

I helped other departments solve their business issues and helped implement innovative technical solutions. Some of these solutions significantly reduced the number of freelancers we had used to do "manual automation" of our integrations with large Enterprise customers.

I was involved in the due diligence for a few potential acquisitions that OCUS considered and led the technical part of any partnerships we considered.

Finally, I was part of the core team pitching to VCs for our Series B raise and funding rounds.

And so much more...

Phew 😅 it was a super busy year and we did a lot in a short amount of time! The most rewarding part of my time at OCUS has definitely been the people I met and worked with.

📰 So what is next for me?

Well, I'm getting this newsletter off the ground (subscribe here) and I will soon be launching a podcast and hopefully a YouTube channel. You can read more about what I'm doing here.

And finally, I will be starting at Dashlane tomorrow to lead the Engineering team that builds the Dashlane web app, browser extension and website.

If you aren't using a password manager you should definitely try Dashlane.

Oh and Dashlane is hiring - come work with me!

That is all for this week folks, have a great week!

Jeremy (he/him)

Don't ignore your dreams, don't work too much, say what you think, cultivate friendships, and be happy.

📌 Follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter.