Mental Health Challenges For Agency Owners

Diane Wallace

Diane Wallace

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Jan Koch  00:07

Welcome, everybody. Thanks for joining me on the WP Agency Summit. I’m here with Diane Wallace from Big Orange Heart and Diane is a WordPress developer. And in the pre-chat, she considered herself a hiring gun. So that is just to say that she has a very informal way of working, which is brilliant, I think because Diana has found a good way to structure the business so that it works for her. And it doesn’t follow like this scale of big mantra that you see oftentimes. And Diane and I will talk about mental health because this is a very important aspect of running a business and being self-employed. Diane, thank you so much for coming on to this event.

Diane Wallace  00:50

Thank you for inviting me. 

Jan Koch  00:52

It’s a pleasure. Yeah, absolutely. And I want to talk about imposter syndrome first, because that is something that I think many people including myself struggle with when they’re running a business, that there’s always this slight feeling of, I’m not good enough for this project, or how can I solve this issue that I have right now? I don’t know what I’m doing. So I would love to hear your thoughts on that. 

Diane Wallace  01:19

Yeah. I mean, the interesting thing about imposter syndrome is I think everybody suffers from imposter syndrome. But everybody believes that although everybody as you know, we’re now at least at a point where we admit that we suffer from imposter syndrome. We still always have that little voice inside us that says, Yes, but everybody else thinks they’re an imposter. But am I actually an imposter? And you know, self-doubt, I think, especially if you know if you work on your if you work alone. And I think that a lot of people now that work in teams, for the first time are working on their own. And so you don’t have that sort of support structure that you might be used to having around you with web, where people kind of, you know, kind of reinforce that you are a valued member of a team. So when you’re on your own, it’s very, very easy to have that self-doubt creeping in. But the truth about imposter syndrome is everyone does have it, or I remember having a conversation with a friend of mine. She’s a university lecturer, and she just been sequestered to a prestigious University in America, they were holding her chair for her. And at the university that she was in, in the UK. And I was explaining to her that I just accepted a job. And I was saying that I actually felt that the job wasn’t right for me. So I gave them a list of demands and kind of quite unreasonable demands. And then they gave in to all my demands. And then I said to her, and now I’m going, Who do they think they have? Like, who? Who did they hire, as she was going, you know, that’s imposter syndrome? And everyone has this, and I was looking at her and I was going, Yeah, I know that. This woman was an impressive, accomplished woman by anyone’s standards. so reassuring for her to say, you know, everyone has it, you know, I have impostor syndrome, but at the same time, a voice in my head was going, but you know, you’re obviously not, you know, you’re obviously accomplished and brilliant. But, you know, kind of but, but am I, you know, kind of, am I the person that they think that they’ve, they’ve heard, I think the thing to recognize is that we all have self-doubt. And I think that the key is to know what you’re good at, you know, understand your worth, but also be honest with yourself and with anyone else, about, you know, everyone has gaps in their knowledge. And that’s, that’s fine. That’s how we that’s how we learn. Our job would be really uninteresting if we if we didn’t actually have things that we still had to learn. So, so that’s part of it. So I really wanted to kind of say to everyone, if you have self-doubt, if you are suffering from imposter syndrome, recognize that that is something that everyone experiences and gaps, gaps in your knowledge, that’s part of being human. No one knows everything.

Jan Koch  04:28

This is such a beautiful summary of the situation. And I think that, for me, imposter syndrome can be quite dangerous because I tend to get into this self-sabotaging habit when I don’t realize that what I’m doing is due to imposter syndrome. And it happens, almost any summit that I’ve been running is like you have these big projects in mind, whether that’s a virtual summit, whether you signed your first five-figure project, whether that’s just a regular maintenance client who has has a really demanding task for you, you’re faced with this challenge that seems over your head. And for me, what I sometimes try to what I sometimes tend to do is I go into a mode where I feel super productive, but I’m not working on the important things. And I’m putting back the important work because I don’t know how to tackle it. And I am afraid, I guess, to dive into something that I don’t really know anything about. And that’s something I find myself doing over and over again, and then I have to be very careful about it.

Diane Wallace  05:39

I yeah, I think that’s really, I think that’s really quite a normal response to that. So, you know, kind of you kind of procrastinate, you, you know, you have this monolithic task, and you just don’t know where to start. So you know, you find yourself doing other things. I think that when you’re faced with a monolithic task like that, the thing to remember is that it’s usually actually a series of smaller tasks. So So instead of like looking at this absolutely terrifying thing, which I can imagine, like doing a summit like this absolutely terrifying. You kind of break it down, then into the, into the smaller tasks, and then, you know, then it doesn’t, you know, it’s not so frightening so you kind of go right, this, you know, this is what I have to do. I’ve broken it down into smaller tasks. And you’ll realize that actually, those smaller tasks are actually well within your capabilities that, you know that. But yeah, I think, for me, there are two states at the beginning of a project, there’s the excitement festival, and you’re like, this is fantastic, this is great, this is great. And then there is the dawning realization of like what you’ve taken on this huge monolith, and you’re like, oh, what did I do? Why did I? Why did I say I was gonna do this. And you know, there are not enough hours in the day. And that is completely normal. I think the thing to remember is that this is really, really normal. And everyone feels like this. So break it down. It’s well within your capabilities. But also know, I mean, as you said, How many summits? Have you have you done? And you know, you can do it. And yet you still feel that at the beginning. And so I think if we just keep saying to people, this is normal, and this is within your capabilities, what you don’t, what you don’t know today, as well, you’ll learn and as you go along, but break it down into manageable tasks, you know, no one can. No one can, you know, kind of do projects in the way that we tend to think of them as this huge, overwhelming. monolith.

 Jan Koch  07:51

Yeah, yeah, I couldn’t agree more. And sometimes. All right, I edit that out. I couldn’t agree more. And sometimes what I find is when I’m starting to break down things, for example, for the summit, I tend to get overwhelmed even more with this sheer amount of small tasks that I have. But then that is part of running the business. And that’s part of working for yourself and making your own rules. And once you have the list of small tasks, you can take targeted action to get it done. So when I have this monolith, as you name it, I don’t know what I can delegate, for example, I don’t know which tasks are blocking other tasks and therefore being impactful on the deadline of the entire project. But once I have this breakdown, I now see, okay, this is something my VA can do. This is something my design team can do. This is something my developers can do. If you don’t have that team, by the way, watch the presentation of Matt Frost, about scaling using recruitment versus subcontracting and working with remote teams, that’s a highly relevant presentation in this context.

Diane Wallace  09:08

That’s great, that’s a great tip, actually, you know, if you can delegate if you are lucky enough, you know, kind of, you know, that, that that’s always a really good tip if you have other people that you work with, you know, always, always reach out, you know, that certain sometimes, you know, sometimes we were working on a project and even if we’re working with other people will, will kind of run around in circles going, I don’t know, I don’t know how to do this one thing, but I have to do it, I have to prove myself, you know, I have to prove myself to clients or employers or what, but you can, you know, you can actually you’ll save time, you can actually reach out and sort of saying to someone else, if you’re working in a team, do you know how to do this? And, you know, don’t ever be afraid you’re not having to prove yourself as much I think as we think. I think we’re much more demanding on ourselves than other people are. Everybody needs help sometimes. And if you do need help ask for help. And that actually, if you’re working in a team is really healthy because then it lets the other team members know that they can ask for help as well when they need it.

Jan Koch  10:18

Yeah, that is such an important point. And it also boils down to the culture of your company. So if you develop this culture of asking for help when you need it, I think you’re so right Diane. The projects will go so much smoother with that because there are no like egos blocking process progress, just because somebody doesn’t want to admit that they are stuck at something. This is really good. And it ties into the next question that I had, or the next topic for this conversation, which goes into self-doubt. And that is something that is closely related to imposter syndrome. 

Diane Wallace  11:01

Yes, yes, it is. And again, it comes back to, as you said, what we touched on before, this idea of having to continue continually prove yourself. And what can happen is, because it comes from self-doubt, and needing to prove yourself, you might take on, you know more than you can or have or feel that you have to do everything on your own. And you know that if you ask for help, you know, sometimes we think everyone will think I don’t know what I’m doing, you obviously do know what you’re doing. That’s why you’ve been hired or commissioned, or why people come to you so so recognize that, that you do have worth and that you are good at what you do. And but again, as I said, gaps, gaps in your knowledge are fine. And be you know, be honest about that. And I always say it’s best to be honest, early on before you get yourself into that state where you’re like running around, and, you know, setting up until like, you know, two o’clock in the morning trying to, you know, trying to do something, if you’d have reached out earlier in the day, sometimes as well, it’s just looking at the problem in a different way. And sometimes discussing it through lots of times, I’ve reached out to a teammate or someone I’ve been working with, and describe the problem to them, and then come up with the solution while I’m actually explaining the problem. So sometimes, sometimes I do it as well with my because I’ve you know work remotely, sometimes I do it with my husband, and he just sits there with a panicked look on his face. Because he has no idea what I do. And I’m saying to him, this is what I’m trying to do. And, and as I’m talking to him, I actually realized that, because I’ve thought about it in a different way, the solution comes to itself. But this is self-doubt. And like I said this, you don’t have to continually be proving yourself, you know, I think that the key is to know that you’re, you’re good at what you do, otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to do it. And you know, if there are things that you can’t do, things that you can’t do today are often things that you excel at tomorrow, it’s fine to not know how to do something, it’s really fine to not know how to do something you can’t know everything. And you know, that’s just not, that’s just not how the human brain works. And you accumulate knowledge through learning through doing things. So, you know, self-doubt is normal. So recognize that, don’t worry about that. But don’t, don’t go into this destructive cycle, where, as I said, you take on too much. You feel like you can’t ask for help. And again, as I said, it’s this idea of continually having to prove yourself, you don’t actually have to prove yourself, you do the work that you know that the work that you’ve done in the past and the work that you’re doing. The fact that people are coming to you to do the work. That is evidence of how, how good you are at what you do. And if anyone’s sitting there thinking, Oh, but you know, maybe I’m not that good. That’s again, imposter syndrome. So don’t do that to yourself. 

Jan Koch  14:23

Yeah, this is so true. And one thing also where self-doubt tends to creep up for me sometimes is when I fall into the better the old habit of comparing myself to others. This is so so ambivalent. It’s almost omnipresent in the entrepreneur space because on social media, everybody’s sharing pictures of their big houses and Lamborghinis and Ferraris and stuff. And even if you are very, very careful about how you structure your Facebook feed by blocking toxic people, for example, or by removing people who constantly share negative stuff, which is definitely something you should do. By the way. I think it’s very easy when you when you’re browsing through Twitter or Stack Overflow, or just talking to people and asking them how they are doing, that you fall into this trap of comparing yourself with them. And that is such a big problem for me. 

Diane Wallace  15:20

It is…

Jan Koch  15:20

because it’s nothing that can be compared. 

Diane Wallace  15:24

Yeah, you could, I mean, you’re, you’re right, you. The thing is, it’s natural, you know, we compare ourselves to our peers, but what we have to remember, as well is we’re actually usually comparing ourselves to our peers on their best day, you know, people don’t, you know, they don’t usually share on Twitter, oh, my God, I’m drowning, and I don’t know what I’m doing. You know, so people tend to share their successes. So first of all, yes, you’re comparing yourself to somebody on their best day, not on their on not on their worst day. And, and, and as well, people are all different. And there are lots of wonderful, really accomplished developers, you know, kind of that, that we see, they still don’t know, everything, they, there are still things that you know, that they don’t, as well. And it’s kind of, you know, it’s natural to compare yourself to other people, I think, you know, that, that we do that in all walks of life, not just in, in work, but I think that you have to recognize, and like I said that you’re comparing yourself, you’re not really comparing your life with their life, because you don’t really know someone’s life from social media, or, or even, you know, kind of looking in people’s GitHub repos or anything like that. You’re looking at them, at a selected a curated version of their lives. And, and as I said, you know, they’ll have gaps in their knowledge, they’ll have self-doubt, as well. And all of those things that we don’t like to admit to that you can you are the somebody said to me once or send a quote saying, You’re the best at being you. You can’t be anyone else. Because everyone else is taken. 

Jan Koch  17:13

You can be Batman, always be Batman. 

Diane Wallace  17:21

Absolutely. Who wouldn’t be Batman? But even you know, even Batman has, you know, his dark moods and his off days, so, so remember that people if you can be Batman, but even Batman’s life isn’t a bed of roses.

Jan Koch  17:40

So true. Yeah. And I think this is also something that has to be ingrained in the culture when you’re building your business. And if you want to hire people, you have to make it very clear that you’re not shooting the messenger if somebody brings you bad news. And also, that asking questions is always welcomed, and always encouraged. And I’ve seen way too many people working for agencies, where they were afraid to just ask for advice or ask for help, and that limited the growth of the entire company? 

Diane Wallace  18:13

Yeah, I think I think that’s true. Like, like we were saying earlier, don’t be afraid to ask for help, if you need help. And that does, you’re right, that does make it a much nicer place to work in if everybody knows, that they can ask for help when they need to, because everybody, literally everybody needs help sometimes. And that fosters a real, I think, camaraderie. And that’s how you build a team, you know, you include everyone. And I think that you know, asking for help, or even including people, even when you don’t particularly need help is actually healthier than the other way around, trying, you know, trying to do everything. And I remember I was working on a project once and, and I just kept saying, oh, I’ll do that. Because I knew that the teammate I was working on the side with didn’t have such short, strong JavaScript skills. And the manager of that project said to me, don’t keep taking everything done because otherwise the rest of the team don’t get to learn. And I was like, that’s actually true. Actually, I thought that I was helping by saying, I’ll do something within my particular skillset so that they don’t have to stress about something that they don’t know so well. But actually, then I realized actually, what I was actually doing is stopping them from learning. So you know, if you want to build a team asking for help, or even if you don’t need it, I think is a good practice to have but definitely ask for help when you do need it as well. 

Jan Koch  19:54

Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Also, I think this is where the beauty of the development community comes in because you have so many places where you can reach out to more experienced staff in that field that you are currently in. So, again, when you are comparing yourself to a different developer, if I compared myself to WordPress core contributors, for example, I have no chance of holding against their PHP skills, but I don’t need to, because that’s not my core focus. And then when I see that self-doubt coming up because somebody published a fantastic project on GitHub that I’m so jealous of because I couldn’t have a build something like that myself, I constantly have to have to take a step back and to calm down a little bit, maybe take a few deep breaths, and just remind myself of what it is that I’m really doing, and who I should measure myself against because I think measuring yourself against somebody else or another business is actually a healthy thing. But you have to do it in a reasonable fashion.

Diane Wallace  21:00

Yeah, I think I think that’s an interesting point. Yeah, you, it’s good to be aware of what other people are doing and how they’re doing things as well. Because you can, you can take, you know, the best of you can say, you know, kind of, I really like the way someone’s doing that. But like you said, that’s, that’s the healthy way, I think that’s a healthy way of being aware and going, that’s brilliant, I’ll take that. But if you’re, if you’re measuring yourself against someone, you’ve yourself, you know, if, if it’s damaging your self-worth because you’re like, I will never, you know, I will never be able to code, you know, as well as, as this person. That’s, that’s something different. And, and as you said, there are other skills that you have that that person probably doesn’t have. So, yeah, it’s having that balance. And, and even as we say this, we know that, and both of us are saying very unhealthy to compare yourself to other people, we both know that we’re still going to carry on doing that.

Jan Koch  22:05

Of course. 

Diane Wallace  22:06

But at least, if you’re aware that that’s what you’re doing. I think that’s the key, you know, kind of human beings are always a work in progress. And we’re always going to be filled with self-doubt. And we’re always going to be doing these things that we are advising people right now not to do. The key is to recognize that that is what you’re doing. And I think that that makes, you know, that makes it easier, even if you know, kind of even if you’re you still have that little voice, if you know, okay, this is what I’m doing, you know, I’m sabotaging myself. You know, I’m, you know, kind of I’m reinforcing myself that even if you just are aware that that’s what you’re doing, you’re going to be in a better place mentally just by knowing that that’s what you’re doing. And also by knowing that’s what everyone else is doing. And that’s really why I wanted to talk today because I wanted people to know that everybody does this. And I think that helps as well when you know you’re not alone. And that this is just part of being human. And I think that that just helps you mentally to carry on being the flawed human being that you are.

Jan Koch  23:25

Oh, yes, we all are. We all are. I mean, that’s how social media works today is the platforms like Facebook or Instagram, they’re actively exploiting these behaviors. So there’s a point in what you’re saying it I understand that we will continue to do these negative things. But we have to be aware of that. And I hope that also the other sessions on the summit help you, everybody who’s watching this, identify and become more aware of your patterns, because as you’ll see in the sessions with, let’s say bred to an R from delicious brains, for example, who founded a brand that I admire, and that I’ve consumed for years now, those people who build these really thriving businesses, they are human too. And they have flaws, too. And they don’t know what everybody is doing in their business. And they sometimes don’t even know what they themselves are doing. But they are aware of what they don’t know. And they are okay with it and taking active measures to improve. And I think that’s what sets them apart from the majority of average if you will.  

Diane Wallace  24:39

Yeah, like you said. The nice thing about the development community is, as you were saying earlier and I thought that was a really nice point. It’s very supportive. I mean, the fact that things like Stack Overflow exists, and you know, that’s quite a wonderful and beautiful thing, you know, those other developers will share their knowledge and that is partly because that’s when they’ve needed help, they have found help in the community too. So that kind of tells you that, you know, kind of the, even the people that are really accomplished, and that are posting solutions all the time and sharing their code. You know, the reason why they do that is that at some point, they have been helped in the past. And so we all share this human experience, and, you know, of needing help of, of not having all of the knowledge at our fingertips when it’s why Google exists.

Jan Koch  25:53


Diane Wallace  25:55

Yeah, so as you were saying, so, you know, kind of social media, on one hand, is designed to make us more insecure. And I think, you know, sort of maybe, you know, kind of maybe that’s balanced by, you know, kind of open source developers wanting to share their knowledge. So that, you know, maybe, maybe that’s the nice, healthy balance.

Jan Koch  26:17

Absolutely. And that that is also why I appreciate the support of the sponsors for the summit so much is because those companies are aware of what we are doing in the community. And they are trying to help us foster some really, really positive relationships in the community. And unfortunately, there are also other companies or other situations where people find themselves in unequal relationships, where there’s, for example, so much pressure from the boss coming on to you, that you have to struggle with a certain project, whereas it would be better suited for somebody else to work on that. And I would love your thoughts, Diane, in this situation when you are in such an unequal relationship. What do you do?

Diane Wallace  27:02

Yeah, I mean, this is, this is quite an interesting area. Because, in, in personal relationships, I think that we recognize that, those healthy personal relationships are a relationship amongst equals, and we know that and so. So if we, if we feel that we’re in a non-equal relationship, we recognize that that’s an unhealthy situation to be in, in, in a work environment, as you said, that’s really difficult, because there is usually or often a hierarchy and so so it, it is an unequal relationship. And so you find yourself and again, going back to imposter syndrome and self-doubt, somebody like your boss, that, you know, kind of gives you a project that the timescale is too short, you know, we’ve all been there. And like you said, it might not be your area of expertise. And so you panic, and a lot of the time you feel that you can’t, again, say actually, you know, the timescales too short, or you know, kind of especially because this is, this is not my area of expertise. So I need to be upscaling. And you feel that you can’t say that, again, it comes back to this idea of having to prove yourself, so you, you put your head down, you’ve got this impossible deadline to do, and using skills that you might not have. And I think the thing to do in that situation is, yes, there is a hierarchy. And but I think that you can and you should if the timescale’s too short, then the earliest that you can say, and, and if you feel that there are skills missing, again, the earliest you can say and say to someone, that time is going to be really tight. There are ways that you can say these things without being confrontational. You can also say, you know, are there other resources? Is there somebody else on the team that, you know, has the skills that I don’t have? The earlier you can say that the better because otherwise, you’re going to go back into that destructive cycle of behavior, where you’re going to take on something that you feel that you can’t do, you’re going to feel isolated, and alone and panicked. Lots of people that I’ve been talking to, especially at the moment because they’re working remotely, some of them for the first time. Whereas before in this situation, they might have been able to talk to colleagues as they were, as they were grabbing coffee or just lean over to the person on the next desk. Suddenly they feel that they’re on their own. I think that the thing to do is that you’re perfectly within your rights, even with a boss or a manager or anyone above you to say very honestly, when you feel that you’re overwhelmed when you feel that you need more time, or more help, and I think that the best thing to do is to say that early on, and again, it comes back to this which the one thing that I want people to take away, is you’re not having to constantly prove yourself, lots of people I’ve talked to recently kept, kept saying, you know, I feel like I have to prove myself and I’m failing. And, and you’re, you’re failing because you’re, you’re failing because the deadline’s too short, or you know, or you don’t have the skills, that’s not a personal failure. The thing to remember at that point is that you have to be honest about what you can and can’t do. And I think as long as you do that, as soon as possible, as soon as you realize that you’re not going to, you’re not going to be able to do this, and, you know, kind of, and again, ask for the help, you don’t have to prove yourself the facts that you know, the facts that you’re part of a team or you have this job, that means you can do the job, you don’t have to be able to do everything, you don’t have to be able to do everything on your own, you know, no, you know, no one can do everything on their own. And I think that, you know, be be be honest, and be honest, as early as you can, you know, and I know, that’s, that’s sometimes at the moment, especially I think feels impossible, lots of people are feeling under pressure. With work, they’re feeling insecure, now more than ever, and they’re isolated, more than ever, but keep, you know, keep reaching out to your teammates, you know, kind of, even if it’s, even if you’re working remotely, don’t isolate yourself, stay in contact with your teammates, though, you know, whatever channels you communicate with email or slack. And, and, but know when to push back, even if it’s your boss, you know, especially, and, and the thing is that I do recognize that people are feeling insecure, and people are feeling insecure about work. But if you do take on more than you can handle, you are more likely to fail. And then that’s, that’s, that’s going to make you feel more insecure. So it’s actually better, even if it feels impossible, it’s actually better, to be honest about what you can and can’t do, rather than and not actually be able to do the thing that you’ve been asked to do, and just not telling anyone.

Jan Koch  32:43

Yeah. And I think it’s really, really important in these hard situations that you try to detach yourself from the emotional side as much as possible and just have an objective look at what’s the situation? How many tasks are on their plate? What do you think you can accomplish in the time? What do you think will fall off the wagon? And then just evaluate the consequences for that. So what happens if you don’t get task ABC done in time? And what’s the impact on the project? And how would that impact your situation in the company as well? So for me, in the past, when I had these situations, that was the way that I could sum up the courage to actually talk to the project manager and say, Hey, I’m sorry, you, I am overbooked, with tasks, I have more on my plate than I can handle, and I don’t want the project to suffer because of that. What do we do about this situation? 

Diane Wallace  33:43

Yeah, I think that’s the key, I think, you know, kind of constructively and honestly, you know, go to the go to the project manager, or the, or the client, and say, within the time allowed, you know, we can, you know, kind of, we can do this, this and this or say to them, you know, kind of like that deadlines really tight, what actually needs to be done. And as I said, Be be really, really honest, because it’s, it’s better, to be honest, and deliver, you know, kind of as much of the project as you can, and for everyone to be aware, I think as long as you keep communicating with people, as long as they’re aware, you know, kind of that, that it’s impossible for them to have everything tomorrow. You don’t say it to them like that you say in a more diplomatic way. But as you said, you know, kind of in the timescale allowed we could achieve this and they might kind of come back and go, but we really want this and through communicating you can you work out really what is important to them for that deadline for them to have in that project. But the worst thing to do is to go away and say nothing, and then just have this task. That’s done. just impossible to complete, be honest, and, you know, be diplomatic. But, but definitely be firm about, you know, what is achievable in a timescale? You know, kind of, and in my experience, you know, most people, if you’re, if you’re honest, early, you know, I just really glad, and it’s always better. It’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver instead to over-promise and under-deliver, no one will thank you for that. Even if you’ve almost killed yourself, to try and get something done in an impossible timescale. And no one will thank you for that. But people will be glad, if you’ve been honest with them, and told them what they can have. And then you can really work out really what’s important for the project. It’s difficult, but you will save yourself a lot of heartaches, just by being forthright about what you can and can’t do.

Jan Koch  36:04

Yeah, I still remember one situation when I was working as a business consultant before I was self-employed. And I was tasked to introduce new software into the client’s company, which was the backbone of their daily work. And they had this really old system that I spent roughly two months analyzing and trying to migrate the old data into the new software, then over the course of a weekend, Friday afternoon, Saturday, Sunday, I was tasked to go into the client’s offices, set up a new server, install the new software, and then get everything to be ready by Monday. And obviously, in the preparation, you never catch 100% of the bugs. So I got to 70% that the client could operate at 70% capacity, which I was pretty proud of because I uncovered many bugs on that weekend. But the client came furiously into my office. And obviously, he was really, really mad about just being able to operate at 70%. While I was happy to even have achieved 70%. And that is due to a lack of communication on my end and due to setting the wrong expectations with the client too. So while I definitely did not deliver what I promised, as it said, I under-delivered and over-promised, I learned that communication is the key. And if you notice that things are starting to go south and starting to go off track immediately, immediately talk to somebody, whether that’s a project manager, whether that’s a customer, whether that’s another team member? Yeah, you have to raise some flags at that point.

Diane Wallace  37:51

I think, yeah, I think that that’s the thing. And that’s what I always say, you know, you can’t over-communicate, and especially if, you know, kind of if you’re working remotely, and you’re not used to it. And you know, it’s kind of probably not you, you might feel that you can’t communicate because you’re on your own, but you know, kind of use the tools you have slack or email or whatever, whatever you use, you can’t over-communicate. And the earlier you tell people that there’s a problem, and the better. And you know, people will, for the main part, people will be glad that you’ve raised things as soon as possible. It’s much better to say to someone, there might be an issue here and then come back to them later and go actually it wasn’t as bad as before. And, you know, kind of and everything’s fine. And as soon as you think that there might be an issue, raised it then, you know, kind of nobody is going to be upset because you’ve managed to resolve the issue much faster than anybody expected. You know, kind of, you know, it’s sort of it really does, it really does pay to be a little bit pessimistic.

Jan Koch  39:14

Yes, all about setting these expectations for everybody involved in a project, whether that’s your team members, whether that’s the client or the project manager, and I would love to continue this conversation, Diane, but unfortunately, we’re coming into land already. So what I do want is I don’t want to leave people hanging well watch the watching this conversation and want to learn more about this stuff. So first of all, a big shout out to big orange heart which is the nonprofit that you are engaged with. So tell us a little bit about what Big Orange Heart is doing. 

Diane Wallace  39:50

So, Big Orange Heart is offering support to improve mental well being for people that are remote. working. So and that is whether you are have been remote working for years. Or, or if you’re new to remote working, and you just need some help and support, if you need to know where to find support. And if you’re struggling, and you just need somebody to reach out to, then you got a Big Orange Heart up there. And it’s, um, you know, that that’s a website and big orange heart is it .com? 

Jan Koch  40:33


Diane Wallace  40:34

.org thank you, Jan. 

Diane Wallace  40:40

Yeah, I think it is .org and you should be able to find, you know, kind of any. Now, Dan said, Don’t use signposts, because that’s, that’s, that’s a UK specific thing. But resources or, or, you know, any help that you need, you’ll be able to find, and you know, you’re not alone. And even if you are currently on your own, and maybe for the first time, but there is support out there for you. And, and if any of you need if you need help or if you need someone to talk to do just reach out to Big Orange Heart. 

Jan Koch  41:18

Yeah. And how do people can reach out to you personally to learn more about what you are doing, Diane?

Diane Wallace  41:24

So I’m probably I’m very active on Twitter. So that’s at @_dianewallace on Twitter. And I’m also you can reach out to me there. I’m also twice a month now as well at WordPress, London, which is an online event at the moment. And so you know, you can drop in and join us there as well. We do online events.

Jan Koch  41:58

Fantastic. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing your thoughts.

Diane Wallace  42:02

Thank you for inviting me.


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