I've had the pleasure of interacting with Garrett St. John on a number of projects over the last few years. In 2017 we brought Garrett into our office in Richmond on contract to complete a round of team interviews, an exercise that was specifically designed to measure the pulse and health of our team, company, and processes. As 2018 approached we agreed that a long-term arrangement would be beneficial to our team and our clients, ultimately deciding to have Garrett join Foster Made as acting Director of Technology.
Today I have the opportunity to sit down with Garrett and discuss his life, work, and role here at Foster Made. Let's roll.
Q: Whenever someone meets you in person for the first time they say, "Wow, you are so tall in person." This has me wondering, why don't you look so tall on Slack?
A: Wow, you caught me off guard with that one. I was ready to answer a question about how to optimize your development workflow or encourage an educational team culture.
The only thing I can think it might be is that video conferences are only shoulders up and it’s hard to see relative height on camera. That and I suppose not everyone you meet in a day is 6’ 5” tall so it comes as a bit of a surprise.
Q: What kind of guy are you; hugs, hi-fives, or handshakes? You'll be in the office a few times this year, and I want to make sure we greet you appropriately.
A: I think when it comes to business relationships I default to the handshake, but I won’t turn down a good hi-five or hug. Just don’t throw me one of those confusing “hi-five/handshake/hug” looks.
Q: When people talk about their favorite music, I think they often try and pick something that makes them sound "cool." What song, artist or album have you secretly loved? White Snake? Cyndi Lauper? Vanilla Ice's Ninja Rap?
A: I'm on a major Country bender right now, but don’t tell anyone. I first started listening to Country music when I was young and have been interested in everything but Country since then; it’s nice to be looping back around again. I like the new stuff, but I’m still partial to the Garth Brooks/George Strait/John Michael Montgomery days.
Q: Enjoying meals together is an important part of our culture here at Foster Made. If you had to cook for 22 people, what would you make?
A: Anything you can cook in a skillet. I’m all about cooking grilled cheese, quesadillas, fried eggs, and pancakes.
Q: Okay, so your site says "Technology Leadership Advisory, Mentoring, Training." What is that exactly?
A: All of my work revolves around helping software teams grow effective leaders throughout their organization. I do this in a number of different ways ranging from training junior developers to more quickly become impactful contributors, to mentoring staff into positions of technical leadership, to serving as a temporary stand in CTO or Technical Director as I am with Foster Made. The ideal outcome of working with me is a healthy, growing software team working for a stable, increasingly profitable organization.
Q: We both made quite a commitment to bring you in for an extended period of time. Why Foster Made?
A: I believe Foster Made is an agency I can help. I only work with teams where I can drive positive change and I feel like FM is in a great spot to do just that. Not to mention you all are pretty great folks, that always helps.
Q:What are you most looking forward to at Foster Made?
A: I think that Foster Made is a group of people that really care about one another. The team has high technical capabilities and a great track record for delivering for its clients.
The part that excites me most is creating opportunities for people to intentionally improve and grow in their careers. The drum I bang daily is a healthy blend of focus on people and systems with the end goal being everyone knows what is expected of them, while also not being overly process-oriented.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to technology leaders what would it be?
Why just one? I write emails every Monday and Thursday to my email list with tips, tricks, and contemplations about how to lead software teams more effectively.
If I had to pick just one, though, it would be to remember that your team is made up of human beings, not robots. It can be all too easy to flip on auto-pilot and expect to see requirements file in and finished work to flow out. People need more than some fresh grease in their joints every day. Each person has a unique personality and set of desires and aspirations that must be understood by you, or they won’t be under your employment for long.
Q: Work is a big part our lives, but I want to think bigger picture. When the final bell of life rings, and all is said and done, what impact are you hoping you made?
A: At the end of the day, if I can help people grow in their careers, if I can help owners carry less of a stress load and make more money, if I can help build places where people enjoy spending a third of their day... if I can do those things, I'll be proud of my legacy.