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Exhibiting Humility at Epiq

Sean Reminga

03/15/23

With the holidays in the rearview mirror, we're entering our peer-review cycle at Epiq — taking some time to do a little retrospective. As a father, I'm constantly thinking about what values are important to me and what values I want to teach my children. I am also a firm believer that if I want my children to possess these values, I must set a good example and try my hardest to exhibit them.

My wife… err, I mean, Santa Claus... did something special this year for Christmas. Along with the typical presents, he left a handwritten note to each of my children, containing an additional gift. To my oldest, he gave her the gift of compassion and encouraged her to try hard to think about what it may be like to be someone else. To her twin sister, Santa gave the gift of focus and encouraged her to try hard in everything she does. To my youngest, he gave the gift of patience and encouraged him to take a deep breath and listen to what mommy and daddy are explaining. Granted, my youngest is only a year and a half, but these gifts allow my wife and I to work with each child on a specific value we find important.

At Epiq, similarly to a lot of companies, during the peer review cycle, we try to get an understanding of how all of our employees exhibited our core values over the past year — one of which is humility. The more I listen to my friends, neighbors, and family discuss their jobs and interactions with their coworkers, the more I realize just how important humility at the workplace is, and how great it is to work at a company like Epiq.

What is Humility?

Humility is defined as the quality of being humble. As a trait, this means being free from false pride or arrogance. Being humble shouldn't imply weakness or manifest in self-deprecation. It also shouldn't imply being free from pride. Our colleagues should be proud of their work and take pride in what they do, but they should be able to do it without bragging or boasting. Humble co-workers and managers are quick to shine the spotlight on others and to admit mistakes. They help others without being condescending. They take constructive criticism well and always work to improve themselves.

What are the benefits of humility?

Software defined radios are complex pieces of equipment. Their design requires expertise in a variety of engineering disciplines and further specialization within those disciplines. To successfully meet the design requirements, it is imperative to seek advice and solicit help from others with that expert domain knowledge. Within the engineering disciplines or functional areas, it is common to have brainstorming sessions to develop ideas and architect solutions around the problem statements. Brainstorming sessions are much more effective when everybody involved is engaged. The humility of one's peers and managers directly impacts these interactions.

Professional Relationships

Condescension and arrogance drive people away. These traits can make a person less approachable. When humility exists in the workplace, people respect one another and learn about each other's strengths and weaknesses. This can also lead to more compassion, understanding and patience when team members are struggling — either at work or on a personal level while trying to maintain a sustainable work-life balance.

Knowledge Sharing

As professional relationships are established, employees feel more comfortable going to each other for help. This leads to more experienced staff mentoring and passing down knowledge and experience to junior staff. Humility can also be exhibited by managers through understanding that their job isn't to know everything, but to learn from their employees, understand what makes their jobs difficult, and seek advice from them in their respective areas of expertise.

Engagement

When employees are learning from their peers, their managers are listening to them, incorporating their ideas, and giving credit where credit is due, they are likely to be more satisfied in whatever tasks they are accomplishing. Feelings of accomplishment and having an impact, along with feeling heard, keeps us all engaged, motivated, and wanting to come in to work every day and do our best.

Productivity and Efficiency

An engaged and knowledgeable staff is simply more productive. They communicate freely with each other and do not wait for an upcoming meeting to move past any roadblocks. When one team member has a lot on their plate, humility will enable them to reach out and seek help. Humility on behalf of the other team members allows them to recognize that their fellow teammate is overloaded and make a conscious effort to help. This level of teamwork and organic coordination is a productivity multiplier. When issues arise or mistakes are made, humble team members raise them and admit to mistakes quickly. This allows mitigation efforts to be planned and corrective action taken before the issue becomes a problem and impacts a project's schedule.

I have had many experiences throughout my career, two of which have stuck with me. Both of the experiences occurred with different employers prior to joining Epiq.

First, I was tasked to implement a new feature on one of our products. This feature would get implemented in a shared code block that a few other projects used. The senior engineer who "owned" the shared code did not allow me to touch his codebase. I performed all of my work on the side, on a separate branch in our version control system. My contribution was never merged back into the mainline. No reason was given to me for this decision other than "his mainline branch was stable", and, "it was too risky to add my features into the codebase."

This was contrary to the fact that my changes had been fully simulated, tested in hardware, and proven successful on the project I was tasked with. Later on, we wanted to implement this feature for a different project but the code had diverged. This required us to reimplement the feature which was a huge waste of time and resources. Had the senior engineer been more humble and worked with me to understand what he wanted to see in terms of validation to reduce the risk in his eyes, we could have merged the feature and not had to repeat work later down the road. Instead, the engineer had a "this is mine, don't touch it" attitude, and nothing I could do or say would change his mind.

Now for the second experience. I had finished up a task I was working on and was waiting for software support to implement some features in our custom GUI-based test tool to help me verify my design. The engineer responsible for the test tool software was busy with other critical tasks. He could have simply told me he was busy and let me know when he would be able to address my needs. That way, I wouldn't have thought much of it. Instead, he carved a little time out of his busy schedule to sit down with me and proceeded to explain the architecture of the software, the organization of the code, and what needed to be done at a high level. I would not call myself a software developer, but since I knew just enough Java, and that the software was an internal test tool, I felt comfortable modifying the code myself.

This not only allowed me to keep me progressing on my task, but it also enabled me to continue to add features to the GUI, giving other engineers the necessary features they needed to test their designs. The software engineer and I were able to split the effort between the two of us — keeping the project on schedule.

Innovation

Each one of the aforementioned benefits of humility can drive innovation. As an engineer, I typically think of innovation as breakthroughs in product features or performance. This is not the case. As outlined in the 10 types of innovation, breakthroughs can occur in all aspects of the business.

Humility is the enabler that can lead to all of these types of innovation. A humble workforce is empowered to ask questions about why we do things a certain way. Humble management listens to their staff, takes all ideas seriously, and takes time to address why decisions are made. When we communicate effectively with our co-workers, learn, grow, and understand what questions to ask — and are encouraged and empowered to ask those questions — we can be disruptive in our industry.

In Summary

It is refreshing to work for a company where humility is highly regarded. Every day I come to work asking:

  • What can I do to help someone else?
  • What issues can I handle?
  • What issues should I make my manager aware of?
  • Is there something I can teach someone to make their job easier or someone else's easier?
  • How do I help those around me struggling without casting judgment?

When I do this, I generally find my ideas are heard and I can see direct impacts on how we do business. If you are still not sold on humility as a core value, just ask ChatGPT:

Hey ChatGPT can you write me a blog post as an engineer discussing why humility is an important core value for a small tech company to embrace?

Sure, here is a blog post discussing the importance of humility as a core value for a small tech company:

As engineers, we are trained to solve problems, create solutions, and innovate. However, when it comes to building a successful tech company, one often-overlooked value is humility. In this blog post, we will explore why humility is such a critical core value for a small tech company to embrace and how it can contribute to long-term success.
First and foremost, humility fosters a positive work environment. When leaders and employees exhibit humility, it creates an atmosphere of mutual respect and collaboration. This, in turn, can lead to increased creativity, better problem-solving, and more effective teamwork. A humble team is more likely to listen to each other, consider different perspectives, and find innovative solutions to complex challenges.

Additionally, humility can lead to better customer relationships. When a company embraces humility, it shows that they are willing to listen to their customers and make changes based on feedback. This can lead to a more loyal customer base, increased customer satisfaction, and a better reputation in the industry. By being humble and open to feedback, a company can continuously improve its products and services, leading to long-term success.

Another key benefit of humility is that it encourages continuous learning and growth. When a company is humble, it recognizes that it has room for improvement and is willing to learn from its mistakes. This creates a culture of continuous learning and growth, where employees are encouraged to take risks, experiment, and learn from their failures. This can lead to a more dynamic and innovative company, which is better equipped to handle the challenges of a rapidly evolving tech industry.

Finally, humility can contribute to better decision-making. When a company is humble, it recognizes that it does not have all the answers and that it can learn from others. This leads to a more collaborative decision-making process, where different perspectives and ideas are considered. As a result, the company can make better decisions and avoid costly mistakes.

In conclusion, humility is a critical core value for a small tech company to embrace. It fosters a positive work environment, leads to better customer relationships, encourages continuous learning and growth, and contributes to better decision-making. By embracing humility, a small tech company can set itself up for long-term success and become a leader in its industry.

I couldn't agree more. Thanks, ChatGPT .

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