Turn On Your Video In Meetings

"Happy birthday Rob. Can we have a quick chat on Monday about SOME-TICKET. Thanks and have a good day."

This was a message I received on Skype from a manager I've never met. Was this person happy about SOME-TICKET? Did I mess up SOME-TICKET so badly that they needed to chat with me privately?

There is no context in messages with only text, so you are left to wonder all these things.

Every place I've worked in my professional software engineering career has had a stand up meeting. On my first day, at my first job, I went into a manager's office that was overly crowed with people I've never met before. They were all standing and there were 2 open chairs, but I stood because everyone else was standing. I later learned that the purpose of standing was to expidite the meeting, because everyone would want to sit down. This point always resonated with me and when stand up meetings would devolve into 45 minute long cool story sessions I would become frustrated.

At this point I decided a stand up meeting was supposed to be a short meeting where everyone explains what they are doing and blockers are hopefully cleared or at least acknowledged. What I did not realize was the subtle things the stand up did for us as a team. Seeing people's faces, everyday, even when you worked from home and your only other interaction was with your significant other and maybe a cat or three. These are real people I work with; not just some avatar I type messages to once in a while. When reflecting on this, it may have been more subtle because initially I worked with all these people in the same office. I knew all them well and if I saw them shopping at Wegmans I would be able to recognize them.

We became a remote shop after working together for almost 2 years; we had hired consultants at some point after this. One thing they were quite adamant about was turning on video for our stand up and retrospective meetings. I did not understand why they wanted us to turn on our video, but g+ hangouts let you wear hats and beards so we did not resist.

As people with different opinions, disagreements will happen. As part of a team you must overcome these disagreements, hopefully with a happy resolution for both parties. For me, if I have a disagreement with someone I feel I know well, I will be a lot more candid than with someone I do not know well. Perhaps I should be less guarded and always lay it all out, but I can be quite excitable and sometimes come off hostile when speaking about something I feel strongly about.

If you work with someone everyday, or at least see their face everyday, you will generally feel like you know them more than if you just see the messages they type, with no context. Without even realizing it, you are getting to know your teammates just by seeing their face everyday.