April 23rd, 2013

10 Important Things I Learned from One Year at GitHub (and probably other startups too)

About a month ago, I passed my one year mark at GitHub. Here's ten things I've learned:

1. Work on things you really care about. At GitHub, we're told 'work on whatever you want.' The problem is there's so many things to work on at any given time, that it can be hard to focus on and ship one thing. Especially as your company grows. Suddenly pull requests involve hundreds of people with different opinions, insights, and feedback. Working on things you actually care about will lend you the patience you need to wade through it all while continuing to push things forward.

2. Learn to say no. Overcommitting makes you feel and look like an asshole. It's okay to say 'no' when your plate is full.

3. Find your Emoji Spirit Animal.

4. Celebrate your ships. However big or small.

5. Don't take yourself too seriously. You'll have a lot more fun when you learn not to.

6. Keep growing. And learning from the people around you.

7. Don't be an asshole. It's almost too easy to respond to pull requests, emails, IMs, and pretty much through every form of online communication without thinking something through. If someone's response to your work infuriates you (which will happen because you love what you do and you're super passionate), take a few minutes, or maybe even a night, and then re-read whatever initially made you upset. Respond with a clear head. Because odds are, it probably wasn't that big of a deal to begin with.

8. Give your coworkers props. Endlessly.

9. People will disappoint you. Forgive them and move on. Or leave. As Jen Myers once brilliantly put it, "hate takes so much more energy out of you."

10. Ask questions. Surround yourself with people who will push you toward the right answers, instead of tearing you down for not having found them yet.