Engineering Power Couple, Tips for working with your S.O.- 5 mins
Work with your significant other they said! It’ll be fun they said!
Actually, when I first starting telling friends and family that my fiance and I were about to be software engineers at the same company most thought we were nuts. Most opinions were in the
“how could you live and work and commute with the same person every day?”,
“I could never do that with my partner”,
“you two are insane” realm, but despite the rhetoric, my partner of 10 years and I decided to both accept the engineering positions at our current company. I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous at first, I had some moments of anticipatory anxiety and some
“could this be the beginning of the end” type thoughts were in the back of my mind but my fiance Scott had the utmost confidence in our ability to be successful both personally and professionally. One year later, we are still happily living, commuting, working and building a deeper relationship together.
Surprisingly, the biggest challenge working together wasn’t the working together part, it was separating work from home. In fact, at the office we rocked it, we both have the same workaholic personality and we both love Ruby more than anything. Since we experienced the same victories, the same hardships, and the same frustrations it was natural to confide in each other and talk about work all day, all night, and during every time in-between. It is not sexy to talk about pull requests while trying to have a romantic dinner out. Work life and work stress was seeping into every aspect of our home life and our relationship and we both knew if we did not set some boundaries we would not get out of this rut.
As avid agile nerds, we did what came naturally to us - and we had a retrospective. Thankfully we have a huge white board at home and we were able to mark down some thoughts as to what was working well for us, what needed some attention, and what was downright wrong. As with any retro, we both understood and agreed this was a safe space, full of empathy and understanding, where we could provide each other constructive feedback with the intent of learning and growth. Instead of reflecting on process or engineering and product communication we reflected on how things were going in the relationship, pretty cute, right? We left our retrospective with some action items and plans to help us prioritize our relationship a little bit more. Here are some things that worked for us and helped us become better partners at home and at work.
Regularly Scheduled Date Nights. Every Wednesday is date night for us, no excuses. It’s actually really fun having a date night on hump day and always gives us something to look forward to on the apex of the work week. Just having a routine of doing something fun and for each other every week helped give us the opportunity to turn our work-brains off and focus on us. First rule of date night? No phones, put those puppies away. If you’re worried about missing messaging on Slack or late-night emails from your manager don’t fret. Everyone deserves time to unplug, even on a Wednesday night and think of all the messages you’ll have when you check your phone the next morning - you’ll be feeling like the most popular gal at the office, a win win! Second rule of date night - don’t talk about work. This was a hard one for us, especially when one of us has had a hard day at the office, as much as we wanted to be supportive of one another we needed some boundaries. We also found that without work stories, what could we possibly talk about? Probably nothing, right? To help alleviate those long pauses we decided to change it up. Instead of date night just consisting of the standard classic dinner and drinks at a restaurant we tried some different activities; going to art museums, hiking to the lighthouse on Roosevelt Island, getting cheap tickets to Broadway musicals, and just galavanting around New York City. Making memories, taking great selfies, and doing something off the beaten path.
Shared Hobbies Outside of Work. We’ve recently discovered the game Ingress. It’s great! You should check it out. It gets us outside, walking and biking around NYC together. Added bonuses, much exercise and we get to engage with members of our community and yell at kids who take over our portals (Just kidding we are very friendly and kind). Have I forgot to mention we are dog parents? Our proudest achievement, Molly Dog, and the two humans love to go hiking on the weekends. There are some great trails about an hours drive away from NYC.
Limit Slack and Email time when at home. We try our best to have our home environment be a relaxing and low stress place with some boundaries in place to give us some mental space. Scott is a little bit more important than I as he is in a lead position, but we try to not surf our slack channels to any great extent at home. I set a stricter boundary for myself where I will only give my Slack and email a quick check at 10pm on work nights and try not to look at it any other times. It is a work in progress and challenging at times especially since we work at a startup but we are getting better at not taking our work home with us every night.
Be Kind, Always. Long story short, we always remember our relationship is what’s most important, everything else is second. We are stronger as a team and it is important to not let differences of opinions at work get in the way of our personal life.
TLDR; Even if you’re not working with your significant other, writing good software is all about collaboration and trust. It can only be beneficial to yourself and others to practice kindness, empathy, patience, and understanding everyday. Pass it on + cheers.