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me and my friend T'Challa (Black Panther)
Hanging out in Wakanda with my pal T'Challa. (Okay, we were at the MoPop.)

On Leadership and Teamwork...

If you scroll through Nobel prize winners — particularly those in science — you'll noticed multiple winners and shared rewards. We're at a point in civilization were major breakthroughs and innovations are created by teams. They are built on the work of others. They are solved by a group of different minds with different backgrounds and experiences coming together on one problem or project.

We have great looming, global problems to solve. Climate change — ignored by the vast majority of the government in the US — being one that may utterly destroy all life on the planet in my own lifetime. Problems of this scale won't be solved by one great leader, or one amazing scientist with one answer, but hundreds, if not thousands, if not millions of people with good approaches and behavioral changes. It is scientific breakthroughs, as much as it's policy changes, regulation of large polluters, and community leadership.

Anyone who calls themselves a leader — from world leaders down to small companies — needs to address how they think of teamwork, and have active conversations about what teamwork looks like at their organizations. How do people communicate? How is power and rank distributed through the hierarchy? How are decisions made? How are teams operating? What is most efficient and successful? What is not? How can leaders empower teams and empower others with specialized knowledge to make company and industry-impact? How can an individual members achieve career goals, while the organization achieves their mission, vision, and goals?

If a leader cannot answer these questions with more than a work ethic philosophy, then they will not be able to scale and they will not be conscious of their impact on their teams or the world.

(What's a work ethic philosophy? Think Tony Robbins, Tim Ferris, Gary Vee, and other bro-preneurs and lifestyle spokesmen. They think short-sightedly only on their commitment to work and maintaining their material wealth and work-centric lifestyles. This is an unsustainable zero sum game of work culture.)

The most impactful and industry-changing large scale programs I've been on involved teamwork. They involved understanding my own organization power and rank and understanding my team member's skills, work they and I enjoyed doing, and ultimately trusting them to make decisions and execute on parts of that project.

GeekGirlCon was founded and (still is) run by all volunteers. It took a volunteer staff ranging from 15-35 people to execute on the fundraising events and the annual convention itself. I may have led the organization for two years, but I certainly did not do all the details, or even make all the decisions. A creative director understands visual branding better than I, the same way an Operations person knows how to file taxes and make decisions on reimbursements. The strong mission — to celebrate geeky women and anyone else marginalized in geek culture — kept us focused on the greater purpose.

And GeekGirlCon impacted the greater convention culture, especially in Seattle. Without GeekGirlCon, these other conventions probably wouldn't do things like 'cosplay is not consent,' gender neutral restrooms, or place people of marginalized identities on more than just a single "diversity" panel. I remember not ever being able to find a shirt that fit my small frame with superheroes on it; now there are so many options and clothing sales account for like 70% of comic book-related, non-book, retail sales.

The very first conference I ran for Moz, an SEO software company, had only 10% women attendees of 850 people. In fact, I had to find a hotel staff member to unlock the women's restroom, and then send a staff member to the drug store because the tampon dispenser was broken.

But over the years, we dug our heels in about making the stage gender inclusive — plus more, as gender is one step — and making sure the experience welcomed every digital marketer, no matter their background. At the last MozCon I ran in 2016, the audience was 50/50 along binary gender with 1,600 attendees, and yes, all paid attendees. And when I came to CMX, we took our stage diversity further and met goals around racial diversity and LGBTQ representation.

This didn't just impact MozCon, but it impacted the entire SEO industry. In 2012, no one — especially industry men — called out conferences who only programmed white men. Men even questioned if there were any women good enough to speak on stage. In 2013, I got feedback from a man in 2013 asserting that the women speakers were lower quality than the men, and I shouldn't program just for gender. (Ironically, when actually tallying the man's individual scores along gender lines, he didn't individually rate the women lower than the men, but his biased overall perception was that women were less than.) Now, there's change in that, and some industry-known men don't speak when only white men have been programmed.

None of these projects could've worked without understanding efficient teamwork and how to use our skills in a better manner. They couldn't have made industry impact without it. These projects needed champions, people to sweat the details, vision, group buy-in, and more. Junior team members brought as great input to a huge organizational decision as a CEO did.

The pieces of my teamwork philosophy:

  • Open communication and information sharing
  • Understanding your own organizational power and rank and internal biases
  • Knowing each other's skills and strengths
  • Knowing the types of work we enjoy doing (likes/loves/mehs/dislikes)
  • Avoiding overlapping or redundant work
  • Trusting others to do their piece well, on time, and better than you can do
  • Having candid conversations around the divisions of labor and workload
  • Discussing future career goals for team members, and being okay if those include leaving your team or your company

The projects, teams, and individuals I've enjoyed working with and have seen the most success with had these qualities. No one is perfect at these things. But we all worked toward them.

There have been times where I felt competitive with another coworker, where all it took was a conversation about career goals to sort out that we were not on the same path forward. But I had to remind myself of that. There are times when not being open about communication and information is a bad hierarchal habit that comes off as a power-play, which blocks efficiency and creates redundant work or poor decisions.

If we want to solve the major problems of our world — or even execute on large organization projects with goals spanning months or years — teamwork is essential, and every leader must have an understanding of their own teamwork philosophy and how they are socializing this and showing it through their own actions.

Bookworm corner

As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman 5/5 stars
Charlie's adventures at an all-girls Christian summer camp resonated so much with my own experiences and more. I do hope there's a sequel in the works.

Bae O'Wolf and the Mystery of the Collected Mysteries, Volume 1 by Catie Donnelly 4/5 stars
Fun and funny.

Becoming by Michelle Obama 5/5 stars
This is a beautiful book about an incredible person. I took so much away from what she shared, and ended my reading even more in awe of Michelle Obama. I listened to about 3/4 of it, and it was extra special to hear her read it.

Home (Binti #2) by Nnedi Okorafor 5/5 stars
Could not put this down. And be prepared that it ends on a cliffhanger for the next story. (You definitely need to read Binti before diving into this one.) Love how Okorafor expands the world, especially around Binti's own assumptions of culture.

The Night Masquerade (Binti #3) by Nnedi Okorafor 4/5 stars
A fitting ending to the Binti series, where we have some answers, but we cannot save everyone.

Black Panther, Book 5: Avengers of the New World Part 2 by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Chris Sprouse, and Leonard Kirk 3/5 stars
I wish the ending of this had been as strong as much of the work that went into the rest of the story.

Check, Please! Year Two by Ngozi Ukazu 4/5 stars
This series continues to be just delightful. Cannot wait to see what happens next. Was having a rough morning and sat down to read this to get out of my head. It was exactly what I needed.

Giant Days Vol. 11 by John Allison and Max Sarin 4/5 stars
There's a lot new romance and new disasters. I am curious to see how Allison and company will end this series once the final year of university is over for Susan, Daisy, and Esther.

Heart of Venom (Elemental Assassin #9) by Jennifer Estep 3/5 stars
Lots of assassinating and villains without any kind of possible redemption like most of these books. I did not like how Estep played with rape here, which made you cheer for the deaths of the main villains. Spoiler: Gin gets back with Owen, and one of the main things I continue to want from these books is her violet-eyed beau being the perfect man.

Jem and the Holograms: Dimensions by Sophie Campbell, Kate Leth, Tana Ford, and many more 3/5 stars
Like most anthologies, these stories were hit or miss. Most of the art was pretty great, but the stories waffled.

The Infinite Loop, Vol. 2: Nothing But the Truth by Pierrick Colinet, Elsa Charretier, Daniele Di Nicuolo, Sarah Stern, and Ed Dukeshire 3/5 stars
I loved the first volume of this. Sadly, this one fell sort of expectations, particular the metaphor running across the book.

Southern Cross, Vol. 3 by Becky Cloonan 1/5 stars
Nope. Made it to issue #14 and it became pervy booger monster horror, and I'm not here for it. Putting this book down.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 8: My Best Friend's Squirrel by Ryan North and Erica Henderson 5/5 stars
I will miss Henderson's art on this book so much. A bunch of happy tears. The last issue was the best.

The Wicked + the Divine, Vol. 8: Old Is the New New by Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, André Lima Araújo, Matt Wilson, Kris Anka, and Jen Bartel 4/5 stars
This volume collects all the specials. There are major spoilers for the series in these specials, but some of them came out around Volume 2 and Volume 3, so readers may want to choose to buy this volume earlier if you are starting out on your Wicked + the Divine journey and read them in chronological release order with the other volumes.

The Wild Storm Vol. 3 by Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt 4/5 stars
A warmup to the war.

Things I wrote recently

On Patron:

On other sites:

Engagement, Community Churn Metrics, and Correlative Predictions

I discuss my work on cross-referencing engagement and churn for CMX Pro and what correlations I discovered. (You must be a CMX Pro member in order to access this exclusive post.)

Reviews on my comics blog:

Tiny rants (are back!)

Everyone who comes to my house and meets Jacob: “Your husband is very nice.”

Everyone who sees me and Lisa on a date: “Are you sisters? Cousins? Friends? Coworkers? College roommates? Pen pals?"

Green thumb update

Spring has sprung in the Puget Sound. The outside annuals are starting to bloom and grow, or at least recover from the snow. There are couple that I'm unsure if they survived, but we'll see. Soon my cherry blossoms trees will flower, and I'm prepared this year with a prettier face mask for my allergies. 🌸

I've been spreadsheeting, germinating seeds, and setting up my garden. For seedlings started indoors, my current preferred germination method is to use plastic reusable food containers and damp paper towels inside. Plus, generally keeping them in a warm room. Once they are germinated and the little seed leaves appear — the first two leaves a plant generates — pot them in egg cartons with seedling soil made of coconut coir. Once they are about two weeks old, they will need soil with more fertilizer in it, and they will definitely need a bigger container than a little crevice in an egg carton.

Current seedlings include peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, basil, watermelon, and some flowers. I've planted outside my arugula, purple potatoes, and one variety of shelling peas.

Today's slightly over 60℉, and my jalapeño plants are on the porch. They'll be harden off over the next month by spending their days — and eventually their nights — on my covered front porch for a little over a month and when the danger of frost is completely passed here (April 20th). Jalapeños die at the slightest frost. Plus, I can use their grow light and protective from cats cage for the seedlings.

North garden bed
South garden bed
Left: North garden: kale, cilantro, parsley, leeks, saffron, peas, and arugula.
Right: South garden: kale, parsnips, and chives.

Other things

[CULTURE] It's Time to Make it Impossible for Racists to Live Public Lives by Kendra James. While this was published a month or so ago, I cannot help but feel this more today after the vicious attack on the Muslim community in Christchurch, NZ.

[CLIMATE] How Google, Microsoft, and Big Tech Are Automating the Climate Crisis by Brian Merchant. "Progressive" tech companies have huge investments in the oil and gas industry. These investments mean they want the outdated polluting ways of oil and gas companies to continue.

[GENDER] How Marie Kondo Helped Me Sort Out My Gender by Sandy Allen. Loved this piece to pieces.

[WORK] Should You Call Your Teammates “Family”? by Nicole Miller. In the last several years, I've also moved away from calling my work team members "family" for many of the reasons Miller lists here. It also has become somewhat of a red flag gauge for me, the same way gendered language or work ethic answers to leadership questions are.

I believe in you,


Erica McGillivray

Copyright © 2019 Erica McGillivray, All rights reserved.

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