My wife and I have been together for 17 wonderful years. With each year we are still uncovering new depths of our relationship as we continue to learn and discover ourselves. She is the mother of my child, the keeper of my household, my partner on the journey and my best friend. And where GTD comes up short, she has a great memory for things I said I will do. I would not be half the person I am today without her love and the innumerous ways in which she supports me.
In 2015, when he was a bit over two and a half years old, we brought home our adopted son from Seoul, South Korea, and since then life has never been the same. Although, in fairness, that’s the thing about life, it rarely stays the same regardless how many kids you have (or if you have any at all).
His favorite things are Beyblades, Minecraft, Roblox and Pokemon.
Back when I first started managing people, I discovered (slightly by force) meditation. Then I read a book (seems a lot of my stories start this way) and that book led me to Dharma Refuge. One Wednesday night in the spring of 2017, I showed up to join a meditation practice with other people. Since then, I have barely missed a single Wednesday unless I was out of town.
These days, I help Dharma Refuge keep track of its membership and mailing lists, and once in a while I step in as an umzed (translated to “chant master”), which is the person who guides the group through meditation as well as opening/closing ceremonies.
I earn a living by building effective software engineering teams that create software others are willing to pay for. While my understanding of the management role and its nuances continues to evolve, my day-to-day responsibilities involve continuously working with others to define a path for our organization as well as create a culture that balances the needs of the business with well-being and continuing growth of the humans who make up our teams.
"Be the change you wish to see in the world" -- Ghandi
To me, leadership is about not being a passive passenger or a bystander as the world around you happens. It is the discovery of your own voice, your own agency and your own ability to imagine a better world for yourself, your family, your company, your community and anyone else you come in contact with. It is the continuous drive and passion to start with your imagination and do what it takes (as long as you are doing what's right for everyone) to make that a reality. It is the ability to organize, energize and inspire people around you and support those people to discover and unlock their own leader.
The one on the left is my girl, Selene, named after Greek goddess of the moon. The other one is McCloud named after one of my favorite TV and movie characters, whom sadly kids these days have never heard of (spelling had to be altered for obvious reasons). We also have a cat, Sheldon (aka "Shelly") who found us rather than the other way around. And a cockatiel, Gosha
I'm going to date myself a bit here and I am okay with that. My coding adventures started off with BASIC on 8088 PC whose only means of persistent storage was a double-density 5 ¼” floppy disk which could fit a whopping 360 KB.
While my professional career path has taken me away from directly writing code, programming is an outlet that I have not let go off completely... for now. On occasion I still very much enjoy sitting for hours and hours, to the detriment of spending time with family, building something. It is one of the whys behind this website as it gives me a chance to continue to play around with things.
Cooking is my other creative outlet which has a side benefit of putting delicious (not always, but I try) meals on the table and saving a bunch on our going out bill. Doesn't always happen, but one of our family goals is to try a new recipe we’ve never made before at least once a week. One of my most cherished kitchen utensils is my carbon steel wok which makes great stir fries (I help). I love baking bread and have been growing my own sourdough culture even before it was cool. However, I try to refrain from baking bread too often as all my self-control goes right out the window when there's a freshly baked loaf sitting on the kitchen counter. We make lots of greens, salads and veggies, but once in a while also enjoy a nice, thick rib eye cooked to a perfect (yep, every time now) medium rare.
Seeing how a lot of my personal and professional outlets involve me sitting on my rump in front of glowing screens (got up to 4 at one point), I picked up this hobby as a way to disconnect and rather focus on physical objects that I could produce with my hands.
Like many others, being inspired by multitude of YouTube videos and Reddit posts, one of my long-term dreams is to get more into woodworking. For now many of my projects involve building things around the house like shelves that fit weird spaces or a server rack enclosure (pictured here) that is now holding all of the home server/network equipment. (Many thanks to Tom who builds stuff for providing designs and write-up to follow)
There are plenty of other roles/responsibilities that I haven’t mentioned here but overall these slides are a high-level introduction to Dennis. Collectively, they (begin to) define who I am… today, but one of the humbling experiences of my own journey, and which I hope to capture somewhere within this website, has been the realization of how dynamic our lives are and how quickly our identities and a sense of self can change because what we do and are responsible for today does not always stay the same tomorrow.
I am a strong believer that each one of us is capable of doing ANYTHING that we wish to do. The only question we must ask ourselves, “what am I willing to give up to get it?” We are not born with special skills or talents; those are acquired through grit, resilience and deliberate practice.
This is the expression of humanity and of ourselves. It compels us to look beyond the boundaries of today’s skill and knowledge and to keep pushing out those boundaries. Learn from others, get inspired, experiment and don’t get stuck doing the same thing that’s already been done.
The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away. I share with others everything I learn. Watching people around me grow and succeed is a major source of my own inspiration and joy.
On one hand, you may not always like what I say, but you will always know where I stand. On the other hand, I don’t have to agree with what you say, to like and respect who you are. I will always try to approach every person’s thoughts, ideas and perspective with open curiosity.
Whereas happiness is a chemical cocktail in the brain that temporarily makes us feel great but it comes from external circumstances, joy is love, empathy and connection. We feel it from our hearts as it brings to our lives a deeper sense of peace and contentment.
After more than two decades in software industry, I’ve been on various ends of conversations about leadership, technical leads, leadership teams, executive leadership teams (ELTs), extended leadership teams (yeah… also ELTs; confused me too) and leading teams of ICs (manager-speak for “individual contributors” who are presumably… not leaders 🤔).
Well, here’s my pitch, no matter who you are, what your job title is, how long you’ve been in the workforce or if you are in the workforce at all: You are at the center of your universe. Around you are two concentric spheres. Smaller one is your sphere of control; the larger one is your sphere of influence. From this perspective, whether you are a CEO, or just got your first entry-level job fresh out of school, or you are a stay-at-home parent, there are still aspects of your life that you control and those that you influence. In other words, whether you acknowledge it or not, you are a leader. What is different between us all are the dimensions of our spheres and our own habits/skills/abilities to make an impact within those.
In every situation you find yourself in, you have a choice: go with the flow or not? At one time or another, we all go with the flow and there’s nothing inherently wrong in that. We do what everyone else is doing. Or we do what our parents tell us. Or we do what our boss tells us. Or we do what we think our boss’s boss’s boss told us that one time (one of my favorites). Or we make it our goal in life to buy all the things that our neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Jones, bought. Going with the flow is safe. It is easy, and it doesn’t require all that much time and effort to figure out what to do. And then there are times when we break out and chart our own path.
At its very core, leadership is exactly the opposite of going with the flow. Rather than take the road of lesser (or no) resistance, it is about expending your own physical, mental and emotional energy to change the course of your corner of the universe. And we are not talking about making any random change, but an intentional, positive and meaningful one. When you set out on a journey to make leadership a regular practice, it will constantly require you to…
And it’s this journey that makes life interesting… for some of us. As we pause and reflect, we think through what we have done, what we have learned and what we would do differently next time. This website is my project in capturing some of the reflections of my own journey. I’m doing this exercise as much for my own reflection as to share with others anything they might find useful.
As our journeys unfold, we learn more about the world and about ourselves. We learn about our strengths, our weaknesses and where to make course adjustments. We might decide our written communication skills could use a bit more practice. This website is my project to learn how to express myself in written form. Fair warning, I’m not a writer nor do I have dreams of becoming one... at this point.
And along this journey as we pause and reflect, we might come to contemplate our interdependence and realize how important it is to build connections so that we can help and support each other as we are traveling. Actively making connections is something I've been trying to do regularly and this website is a part of my project to learn how to connect with other travelers. Are you a traveler who has wisdom to share? Or want to say something? Or to ask something? Drop me a note.