CEO

On this page

Intro

This page details processes specific to the CEO of GitLab. The page is intended to be helpful, feel free to deviate from it and update this page if you think it makes sense. If there are things that might seem pretentious or overbearing please raise them so we can remove or adapt them. Many items on this page are a guidelines for our Executive Assistants (EAs)

Favorite places

Flaws

Transparency and directness are part of our values and I want to live them by sharing the flaws I know I have. I'm fully responsible for improving the things below, listing them is no excuse. They are listed here for two reasons. The first one is so that people know it is not them but my fault. The second one is so I can improve, I hope that listing them lets people know I appreciate when people speak up about them.

  1. I look serious all the time, it is OK to say 'maybe you can smile more.'
  2. I love debating, it is OK to say 'please stop debating and start collaborating' or 'we should have a dialectic instead of a debate.'
  3. My English pronunciation, choice of words, and grammar are not great. I'm taking lessons but I welcome corrections when we're having a 1:1 conversation and/or when it might confuse people.
  4. When in a rush I will jump to conclusions, it is OK to ask 'can we take more time to discuss this.'
  5. I sometimes make reports feel like I'm scolding them, as in being angry for a perceived fault. It is OK to say, I don't mind you making that point but your tone doesn't make me feel respected.
  6. In my feedback I sometimes sound more like I'm giving an order instead of offering a suggestion, even when I mean the latter. It is OK to say 'that sounds like an order, I would have appreciated it more in the form of a suggestion.'
  7. I sometimes fail to distinguish which of the three levels of performance I'm talking about. It is OK to ask 'is that a commitment, an aspiration, or a possibility?'.

If you speak up about them I should thank you for it, it is OK to say 'this was on your list of flaws so I kinda expected a thank you'. I'm sure I have more flaws that affect my professional life. Feel free to send a merge request to add them or communicate them anonymously to our Chief Culture Officer so she can send a merge request.

Not a flaw but something to know about me, I have strong opinions weakly held. Or as someone said, I come in hot but am open to new evidence.

Communication

Thanks to Mårten Mickos for the inspiration for this section. All good ideas are his, all bad ones are mine.

I am a visual person much more than auditory, and I am a top-down person much more than bottom-up. This means that I love written communication: issues, email, Google Docs, and chat. Feel free to send me as many emails and chat messages as you like, and about whatever topics you like.

If you have a great new idea or suggestion for me, I appreciate if you can convey it in a picture or in written words, because I learn by seeing more than I learn by hearing. I don't mind if you send me or point me to plans that are in draft mode or not ready. I am happy if I can give useful feedback early. It doesn’t have to be perfect and polished when presented to me.

In written communication, I appreciate the top-down approach. Set the subject header to something descriptive. Start the email by telling me what the email is about. Only then go into details. Don't mix separate topics in the same email, it is perfectly fine to send two emails at almost the same time. Try to have a concrete proposal so I can just reply with OK if that is possible.

I get many email on which I am only cc'd on, I would very much appreciate if you started emails intended specifically for me with "Sid," or some other salutation that makes it clear that the message is for me.

I have accounts on LinkedIn and Facebook. I will not send invites to team members on those networks since as the CEO I don't want to impose myself on anyone. But I would love to connect and I will happily accept your LinkedIn and Facebook friend request. You can also find me on Twitter as @sytses, I won't request to follow private twitter accounts, I assume I'm welcome to follow public twitter accounts, if not please let me know.

Please chat me the subject line of emails

I get a lot of email and I'm frequently not on top of it. I appreciate if you sent me a chat message if I need to respond to something. Please quote the subject line of the email in your chat message.

Meeting request requirements

If you want to schedule a meeting, email the EA the following:

In case you have a same day request, you can send the same information in the "ea-team" Slack channel

Formats for invites

Make sure to include in the description

Videocalls


Please read our primer as preparation for this meeting: https://about.gitlab.com/primer/
[ONLY calls in the hiring process] Please fill out this form a day in advance, to discuss during the call: https://docs.google.com/a/gitlab.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScXUW07w36Ob2Y2XQuESBaYqU5_c1SoweGS1BzGHnbesISGXw/viewform

Meetings at the office


Please read our primer as preparation for the meeting: https://about.gitlab.com/primer
CEO cell:
Guest cell:
Accessing the GitLab office building
Enter the building through the double doors between the two Mike's Bikes locations.
On the intercom press the call button then press '206' (for GitLab) to have us buzz you in.
Proceed to the elevator at the rear of the foyer and go to the 2nd floor (strangely the elevator will show 3 when you stop at 2).
Exit the elevator and proceed to the right. The unit is the last door on the right at the end of the hall (2F).
More details are on our visiting page: https://about.gitlab.com/visiting/

General scheduling guidelines

Pick your brain meetings

If people want advice on open source, remote work, or other things related to GitLab we'll consider that. If Sid approves of the request we suggest the following since we want to make sure the content is radiated as wide as possible.:

  1. We send an email: "Thanks for being interested in GitLab. If we schedule a meeting it will follow the format on https://about.gitlab.com/handbook/ceo/#pick-your-brain-meetings Are you able to submit a draft post with us within 48 hours of interview?"
  2. If we receive a positive answer we schedule a 50 minute Zoom video call or visit to our office that is recorded by us, uploaded to Youtube as a private video, and shared with you.
  3. Within 48 hours you share a draft post with us in a Google Doc with suggestion or edit rights for anyone that knows the url.
  4. You can redact anything you don't want to publish.
  5. Our content department will work with you to publish the post within the agreed timeframe.
  6. A great examples of this in action are the first two times we did this https://about.gitlab.com/2016/07/14/building-an-open-source-company-interview-with-gitlabs-ceo/ and https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12615723. Both got to nr. 1 on Hacker News.

The EA-team will create an issue once it's scheduled with the label ceo-interview on GitLab.com should follow up to make sure the draft post is submitted.

Reply to emails: Thanks for wanting to chat. I propose we meet in the format proposed on https://about.gitlab.com/handbook/ceo/#pick-your-brain-meetings so that other people benefit from our conversation too. If you're up for that please work with Kirsten (cc:) to schedule a time and location.

Alternatively we can also make it a YouTube live event, people can ask us questions in the chat during the event, and we can share the recording later.

Email

Hiring process

Travel

EA does research for the best option for a flight and propose this to the CEO before booking. Make sure to add a calendar item for 2 hours before take off for check in and add a separate one for travel time before that in the CEO's calendar. If a flight was changed or not taken due to delays or other circumstances, make sure to check with the airline for the persons flight status. Current preferences for flights are:

Mail

Expensify

Sales meetings

Some general guidelines of what travel is appropriate, these guidelines are not fixed, feel free to ask for exceptions:

  1. Check my availability with the EA, reschedule with the EA, cancel with the EA, not me.
  2. I'll take any meeting via video conference or at our office.
  3. I'll take a meeting in the Bay Area as long as it is not an SMB organization.
  4. I'll take a meeting outside the Bay Area but in the US with large or strategic organizations
  5. I'll take a meeting outside the US with strategic organizations.

Consider the following to increase efficiency:

Conferences

When at conferences I want to achieve results for the company and be efficient with my time. Please ask sales and/or marketing to set up meeting for me in advance. I don't mind doing booth duty, presenting, or any other way I can contribute. I do mind unscheduled time randomly wandering the hallways, I've found this to be ineffective.

House

If you are a GitLab team member you can use our house in Utrecht, the Netherlands for free with up to 5 guests. You can find more information on AirBnB. When it is not reserved on the AirBnB calendar you can reserve it, message Karen Sijbrandij in the #valley chat channel to do so. Our host Justus will check you in and out and will take care of the cleaning. Enjoy your stay!

Three levels of performance

There are three levels of performance:

  1. Commitment: what we promise to our stakeholders.
  2. Aspiration: want to get to 70% of this, these are our OKRs
  3. Possibility: what are intrigued by, inspired by, and what I talk about

I'm driven by what is possible, the aspiration, what can be. What is possible is more than what we are satisfied with or what we promised to our stakeholders. We can be above what we promised and below what is possible and still have done a good job, we can win without doing everything we aspired to do, or everything that is possible. It is unlikely that we win without doing what we promised. I have to be clear in distinguishing these level when I discuss a goal with my reports.