Personal Operating Manual
Hi, I’m Darren, and you’re awesome! 👋 I serve as Andela’s VP of Workplace Design and Remote Experience. My team scaled GitLab from startup to the world’s first 100% remote organization to go public (IPO in October 2021). I’m a lifelong team and systems builder.
I hope to leave a legacy of change, empowering more people and companies to work remotely in locales that fulfill their soul. As an adoptive dad, I advocate for others to be able to work from anywhere and savor moments with family.
This manual is intended to help others understand what it might be like to work with me, especially people who haven’t worked with me before. It's also a well-intentioned effort at building some trust by being intentionally vulnerable, and to share my ideas of a good working relationship to reduce the anxiety of people who might be on my team.
About me (Identity Stack)
I wrote a book on remote work, entitled Living the Remote Dream: A Guide To Seeing the World, Setting Records, and Advancing Your Career.
I love writing. I am passionate about informing and entertaining through the written word — so much so that I earned a Guinness World Record doing it.
I've flown over 1.3 million miles (equivalent to flying to the moon 5 times) and have tracked every single flight. You can peruse my destination history at FlightMemory. I've been blessed to travel to all 50 states in the USA, over 40 countries, and over 60 national parks around the globe. I was born and raised in North Carolina, USA, and am proud to call it home today.
Things I love outside of work: aviation, playing music, photographing beautiful landscapes, hiking in national parks, collector cars (driving and ogling), exploring locales foreign and familiar, connecting people with opportunity, making someone's day better.
The highest honor of my life is being chosen to be a dad. I'm an adoptive father, and I am a steadfast advocate for open adoption. It has transformed every part of my life, and expanded my family in a beautiful way. I will answer any and all questions about adoption. Nothing is taboo. Please, ask if you're interested!
I am upbeat and enthusiastic about life. I view every moment as a gift, even the stressful and trying ones.
I love meeting people and making connections. I appreciate it when someone answers the question "So, what do you do?" with a story about their life and what moves them, rather than defaulting to their job title.
Remote work is deeply personal to me. I value geographic flexibility and workplace autonomy over the usual suspects of salary, title, and fame. Working remotely has fundamentally shaped the fabric of my family. Our adoption would not have happened without the flexibility that remote work affords.
It is my goal to enable ever more people to free themselves from a daily commute and work where their soul is most fulfilled. I believe remote work can reverse rural depopulation, make communities less transitory, and spread opportunity to underserved areas.
How you can help me
I tend to place the needs of the individual above all. My initial consideration when analyzing any new work is: "How will this impact a person's life — their time, their mental health, their stress levels, their pride, their planned PTO, etc.?"
I like explicit asks. I’m better at helping when I have a good idea of what you need. “Take a look” is less helpful than “I’m looking for feedback on X and Y, by the end of month”.
Please do not take offense to periods of silence. I prefer long, uninterrupted windows of time for deep work. I disable all notifications on my Mac and everything but iMessage on my phone. This allows me to focus deeply on one task at a time, which is a more efficient way of working than attempting to multitask. In return, I will devote my full attention to your request and respond thoughtfully, with context and passion.
I believe that work is not the most important thing in your life, and that everyone is fighting a battle I know nothing about. I assume that there are cherished relationships and personal interests that are more important to your happiness, and it’s hard to be happy with your job when work detracts from those things. You can help me by extending grace in return when I’m having a rough day.
My working style
I am a Hub in the Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI). This essentially means that my motivator is to be flexible to the needs of everyone else. If I sense that a group needs leadership, I lean red (assertive). If I sense that a teammate is struggling or being overlooked, I lean blue (nurturing). If I sense that a group is rushing to conclusions, I lean green (analytical).
I love the 16 Personalities test. I'm an INFJ (Advocate).
“Advocates (INFJs) have some specific needs when it comes to a satisfying work environment. For people with this personality type, the most rewarding work allows them to help others while also growing as a person. And it’s a given that an ideal career for Advocates must be in line with their individual values.”
“Anything that gets in the way of these values – from red tape and meaningless rules to office politics and unscrupulous coworkers – can seriously sap Advocates’ motivation. This is a personality type that thrives in environments that promote fairness and equality. Most Advocates prefer not to think of themselves as above or below anyone else – no matter where they are on the job ladder.”
My CliftonStrengths results are: Maximizer, Intellection, Input, Ideation, and Empathy. I lead with Strategic Thinking.
"Leaders with great Strategic Thinking strengths are the ones who keep us all focused on what could be. They are constantly absorbing and analyzing information and helping the team make better decisions. People with strength in this domain continually stretch our thinking for the future."
“Your awareness of these responsibilities creates your value system. You are considerate, caring, and accepting. Certain of the unity of humankind, you are a bridge builder for people of different cultures. Sensitive to the invisible hand, you can give others comfort that there is a purpose beyond our humdrum lives.”
“Over time many will seek you out for help and encouragement because on some level they know that your helpfulness is both genuine and fulfilling to you.”
“You hear the unvoiced questions. You anticipate the need. Where others grapple for words, you seem to find the right words and the right tone. You help people find the right phrases to express their feelings—to themselves as well as to others. You help them give voice to their emotional life.”
“Yours is the kind of mind that is always looking for connections, and so you are intrigued when seemingly disparate phenomena can be linked by an obscure connection.”
“You are the kind of person who enjoys your time alone because it is your time for musing and reflection. You are introspective. In a sense you are your own best companion, as you pose yourself questions and try out answers on yourself to see how they sound.”
My Genius Spark results: I am an energizer.
“Energizers are very passionate about life. Because they have strengths in the Relating, Motivating, and Thinking Zones, they have little interest in doing something just to do it. The people in their lives or motivating missions fuel them. They usually have a personal mission statement for daily motivation.”
Communicating with me
I believe in the power of open space and deliberate focus time. I prefer time after a meeting to process and document takeaways. I prefer time before a meeting to properly prepare and devote my full attention to the person or people who are being gracious with their time.
Being booked at 100% is a risk, so I work to avoid this (see Kingman's Formula for the mathematics behind this). The ebbs and flows of life cannot be predicted — after all, it's impossible to know everything. If your standing commitments have you at 100%, you have no room to react thoughtfully to life, or to plan for improvements. I aim to allow space in my life for spontaneous projects and serendipitous partnerships.
I embrace asynchronous workflows. I prefer variety in my workday as opposed to routine. I work best when leveraging a non-linear workday, maximizing daylight hours for exercising and being outdoors with my family. Some of my biggest breakthroughs came to me while scaling a mountainside, far from the reaches of an internet connection. None of my biggest breakthroughs came while sitting in an office, tethered to a string of pings and notifications.
I try to be a structured communicator and thinker, but sometimes start to speak in an unstructured way when I get excited about something, when I'm on the go, or when I'm crunched for time.
I try to express gratitude frequently. This is genuine.
Unless specifically mentioned, I don’t expect immediate responses from anyone. I respect others’ time and want you to have the space for a thoughtful response.