People have often asked me about how I manage to put together summaries of my work (blog posts, performance reviews, promotion documents, etc.) in a relatively quick way, and the only answer I have to that is “I track my work.”
I’ve tracked my work for many years, well before working at GitLab, though what I’ve been using in recent years is the most comprehensive method I’ve used. I’ve had a lot of people ask me about it, so I knew it was time to write a blog post to share.
Inspiration and development
This blog post starts with a thanks to GitLab and my hiring manager, Lyle Kozloff, for following the practices we had at the time. When a new hire started, it was common to start a “promotion” document on basically their first day. That idea has evolved into various options for career development, particularly the individual growth plan. I like the new emphasis that we don’t need to work on getting promoted, which is important, because there is no expectation to move up.
While we have an accomplishment tracker, that template focuses on our values, and doesn’t include job responsibilities. What I use and recommend includes both, so expands on the accomplishment tracker.
It should be fairly obvious why you might want to track your work, but here are some of my reasons:
- Performance review – often it’s exactly what your manager will be looking for, so you may not even need a separate document. If not, it provides the evidence for how you should be rated.
- Promotion document – makes it easy to pull highlights for a promo doc.
- Confidence booster – you can see how productive you’ve been, and help you talk about your accomplishments. See also #IamRemarkable.
- Reflect on your year – have a list of work completed means you can see achievements, but also where you may have gaps.
I’m sure there’s more, but those are the main ones that I’ve usually highlighted for people.
Getting started with tracking your work
I use a document, but the medium doesn’t matter. I’ve heard of people using a wiki, spreadsheet, GitLab epics and issues, and others. The important thing is tracking your work in one place that is easy to manage, and searchable.
While you could just dump anything and everything, I recommend creating categories to have a general organization to the list so that it’s easier to grab examples. The idea though is that you add anything you feel like regardless of the reason and whether it’ll end up on a more formal document later. While the categories are helpful for organization, you can always put items into whatever makes it most sense at the time and reorganize later.
Some sources for what categories you want include:
- job description
- performance review
- the above but for the next level if you’re considering a promotion
- list of competencies
- career or job framework
You may then also want categories for other things, such as:
- external contributions, including conference presentations,
- list of professional development, including books, online courses, attending conferences, and
- statistics overview, typically monthly, of relevant aspects of work.
For “ease of use”, you’ll want to split it by the interval of your performance reviews. For example, we do the annual review in November, so I split mine yearly from November to October. Some people find it easier to split it by calendar year.
If you prefer listening to me talk through the example in video format, one of the support managers asked me to talk about the template I made for the Support Engineers, a few months ago:
As an example, I’ll use what’s most familiar to me: GitLab Support Engineer. Specifically, for someone at the intermediate level looking to move to the senior level.
Sources for categories:
- job description
- performance review worksheets
- Support career framework and competencies
- company-wide job frameworks
- company-wide competencies, including values and remote work
As a result, the list of categories would look something like this:
- Themes/Highlights for the year (completed at the end of the year)
- Stats (docs/code Merge Requests, link to tickets/comments dashboard)
- Troubleshooting and debugging
- Bug and feature issue creation (drive resolution for Senior level)
- Documentation improvements based on interactions
- Merge requests to solve issues (for Senior level)
- Resolving customer problems and positive customer interactions (other, doesn’t fit in previous categories)
- Process and workflow improvements
- Contribute to other projects (for Senior level)
- Mentor & train others (for Senior level)
- Help hire
- Help mentor/train
- Professional Development
- Training (online courses, etc.)
- Other (conferences attendance, etc.)
- External contributions
- Values (especially for anything that doesn’t fit in prior categories)
- Diversity, Inclusion, & Belonging
- Remove work competencies
- Manager of One
- Effective Communication
- Handbook first
- Using GitLab
The last section for screenshots are for things that tend not to stick around, such as Slack messages. I recommend using some kind of reference, such as “screenshot 1” in the document itself, and then numbering your screenshots. Using references helps to keep the rest of the document “clean” and easy to skim through.
Continuing to track your work
A couple of recommendations for continuing to track your work:
- Set aside 15-30 minutes every week or 2 weeks. You can do use a longer interval, but you’re more likely to miss things.
- Consider adding a “highlight(s) from last week” (or from the last time) to your 1-on-1 with your manager. This is a little different since there should be a space for you and your manager, which increases visibility to your manager, and for you to better understand what your manager values.
If you’re struggling with deciding what to add, I recommend adding anything that comes to mind, whether big or small, and adding at least 1 item per week.
Tracking your work is about building a habit to reflect in small amounts regularly, and making it much faster and easier to pull together what you need those few times a year.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out.