When I came to Next Jump there were many aspects of the culture that were very foreign to me, and especially when you consider how different Next Jump is from a typical NYC-based company it seems like there are a lot of unusual practices. But for me, the unique aspect that really stuck out was the Talking Partner (TP) relationship. The idea of having a person there to support you during your ups and downs, all the while keeping you true to yourself but still recognizing your flaws, is very inspired and unique in any work environment.
So with all that in mind, I took the opportunity to sit down with Josh Hixson and Mitchell Davis, a TP pair that formed back when the TP practice started about a year ago. It was great to sit down with them and understand how they have developed and evolved their TP relationship.
How was your TP relationship when you first started?
MD: The whole focus of the TP initiative in the beginning was this concept of MEET, VENT, WORK. In the beginning the whole idea was that if you developed trust with someone and you went in and complained or vented to them, worked through it together and with that off your chest you could go out and feel better and be able to work on what you are aiming for.
JH: When it started it felt a lot more structured. Sitting down in the Ready Room for a half hour every day to actually VENT. It evolved into something like we can stop by each other’s desk and you don’t have to make it an office thing where you say “we are going to meet now”! It became more of something where we call each other to talk when we need it.
MD: When situational workshop started up it sort of pulled that venting aspect out of it. Making the purpose of the TP relationship more high level.
JH: I think the situational workshop turned our conversation into a more personal one because all the things we wanted to complain about for work we would discuss during the SW. All the other things on our mind were the things that came out in our TP meetings rather than just the work topics.
Both of you being on the engineer side, what do you find unique about that?
MD: We both have technical backgrounds so we can understand each other. Like when we vent about other things we can complain about technical problems and we give each other that type of support which is nice.
JH: I feel like it’s easier for us to give advice to each other just because we both are more technically and logically minded, it would go ‘from this instance, follows this result, and then this…So you should not feel this way’.
MD: We communicate in ways that the other understands a little bit better.
Outside the projects that you guys overlap in and the work you guys do together on a day - to -day how do you guys help each other out on a day-to-day or a week-to-week basis?
MD: I think it is mostly the support structure. Because the work we do is fairly compartmentalized from each other. Like I work on mercury, and while we do some security brush ups and we call in Josh to help us out as a team, most of the work I do he would not normally touch. And likewise Josh’s work is in his own segment. So there is not a lot of direct support in that way but a lot of what we give each other is more structure and someone to come to when needed.
What was the most challenging conversation you guys ever had? What was a time you guys pushed each other?
MD: A good example for that would be when we were both preparing for 10x. We spent a lot of time together just presenting to each other back and forth repeatedly. And throughout the process we called each other out about not just the presentation, but the way we were presenting. Whether it’s our demeanor or our tone.
JH: I guess the context for that is for TPs you are supposed to be on the opposite sides of the Arrogant-Insecure spectrum. And I sit squarely on the Arrogant side and Mitch skews on the Insecure side. So working on 10x with Mitch was him telling me ‘Josh you are being too arrogant. Calm down!’ And for me to Mitch it would be ‘Mitch you are not giving yourself enough credit. Speak Up!’ And it was that type of back and forth. It never did get confrontational but it got a little heated at points. We were both saying to each other ‘Why are you not seeing this?!?!’ And I think that is what we were supposed to do. As TPs you need to say ‘Hey, you are not seeing this because you sit on this side of the scale’. Opening your eyes to the big picture. Just like, technically, he helps me with web dev and stats stuff and I help him with systems stuff that way we can both see the whole picture. And I think it is both on the technical and personal side.
MD: We have had our disagreements, confrontation has definitely been a part of it, we have called each other out when someone skews too far down the scale, but we never escalated up to tension or conflict that rubbed off on our relationship.
Everybody can relate to the day-to-day stresses of work or life, and the effects of this are compounded, whether we notice it or not. Deterring us from working up to our full potential. Distracting us from focusing on our goal. It all really feels like self-made psychological barriers. But having a support system built on trust with someone that you can relate to has a way of breaking those barriers down. At the end of the day, one less barrier to deal with can be all that’s needed to propel you to that next level.
To quote Charlie from an old TP post “TP also stands for toilet paper.. they take our shit. Once that is done, you can get to work.”