Last year, I wrote about our Values Champions program: a peer-nominated, peer-selected program designed to celebrate employees who holistically live up to Sonatype’s Core Values.
Today, I am excited to share one of our winners’ stories with you. Watch Richard Panman’s reveal video below:
Richard was named a Values Champion as a new hire, having been with the company 4 months at the time of his nomination. We discussed his experience at Sonatype thus far, digging into his experience with the Values Champion program and how he integrates the core values into his day to day at Sonatype. It was interesting to learn how he views the values in his nomination differently from his nominator. Check it out below!
Why don't we start with a quick intro of your role at Sonatype and how long you've been with the company?
I’m Richard Panman and I am part of the Customer Success team. I'm a Customer Outcomes Manager which is a role that's dedicated to making sure that customers realize value from the products that they buy from Sonatype. And I've just had my first year Sonatype anniversary.
What made you decide to come to Sonatype?
I'd been with my previous company for 20 years and a message flashed up on LinkedIn at some point saying “Congratulations on 20 years!” At that point I thought that I could either stay where I was forever, or make a change. So I started looking around. In my previous company I'd been working in a role as a project manager while also deploying CI/CD pipelines and trying to automate processes.
And then very, very fortunately, I came across a post on LinkedIn while I was interviewing for other jobs. Sonatype was in a completely different field from where I was before so I was a bit hesitant about applying initially. Then I went for interviews, and at every stage of the interview process I got the impression of a really open culture. We were having a conversation rather than an interview and I really liked the attitude of all the people that I was speaking to, the whole process felt very positive and engaging. It was the people and the energy they projected that sold Sonatype to me.
We do work in a very technical space, but a lot of people come to Sonatype without a very technical product, and they're able to succeed just as much.
For sure, the feeling I got was that my attitude and ability to learn were more important than whether I knew much about the technology.
Absolutely. At this point, you've been a Values Champion for not quite a year but maybe coming up on a year soon. Can you talk a little bit about your experience? Specifically, let's start with the reveal, and what your reaction to that was. And then we can talk a little bit more about values specifically.
I was pretty surprised to put it mildly. Carlos, who nominated me, had been pushing the team to turn up to the meeting and I had assumed it was because there were nominees from Customer Success in the International team that were on the list. I’d been at an event at my son's school that afternoon, and came back online specifically to attend. So after some names from the International Customer Success team had come up in the first part of the reveal, I was chilling out and relaxing. And then Carlos came up on the screen at which point I thought, “Oh.” And then he started talking about work that seemed to relate to me. At which point, my heart rate shot up, and I thought, “Oh, I'm going to have to say something very shortly in front of hundreds of people, which is not my natural safe zone.” So it was a combination of shock, surprise, terror, and joy.
So did you know it was you before he said, “Congrats, Richard?”
What he was talking about was very specific to what I’d been doing, so I saw it coming.
That is a funny story, because it is a challenge to get all of these Values Champions to attend the meeting without tipping them off. But I think the whole company is generally pretty excited about it. So hopefully, we don't need to do too much pushing for people to attend the reveal. And I do some heavy calendar stalking too, to make sure that the winners don’t have any conflicts.
Can you speak a little bit to the value that customers get out of the Insights Analysis and why that's an important aspect of our engagement?
Certainly. So the Insights Analysis, for anyone who hasn't seen it, is an infographic. It looks at eight key measures that we look at across a lot of our customers. And the aim of it is to use objective measures to help customers realize value. Customers share data from their IQ servers and then we turn that data into metrics that we compare against benchmarks that we have. So we can say whether a customer is improving in these benchmarks or still has some work to do and ask questions like “Based on how they compare against other Sonatype customers, are they doing well?”
But really, what it does is make real the value of our products, because sometimes it can be quite hard to objectively see the value of any product you’ve bought. You give a tool to developers, they may or may not be using it. But when you have the hard metrics, you can really see people are onboarding applications, whether they're scanning regularly, whether they're actually remediating issues that they found. And it's done in this infographic format, so that the teams we work with can present it to their management and show how well they've done with their implementation. When we present it, generally, it goes down very well with customers and they really appreciate the feedback and the guidance we give based on what we see as to possible actions that they can take from there.
Let's actually talk a little bit about the meat behind Carlos’ nomination, because I am interested to hear what prompted you to do all of that automation around the Insights Analysis.
I came into the team, a group of Customer Outcomes Managers, and it became pretty obvious talking to people that quite a while was spent preparing these infographics, and also that there was an awful lot of “copy and paste” type activity from one document into another and then getting the text right.
I also noticed that there are mistakes in that process as people do it. Having come from two years of CI/CD pipelines and DevOps, it just felt to me that that was a very similar challenge to this. You're trying to get things to be repeatable, consistent, and fast, with minimal human interaction if you can get away with it. So it felt like a continuation of that.
And also, personally, I find it difficult to do the same repetitive thing over and over and over again. So there was a little bit of selfishness on my part, “I don't want to spend the next X years having to do this thing manually when I know that it can be done automatically” and then it also has a knock on benefit for the rest of the team.
How long did it take you to put that together?
Probably in the background with the day job, a couple of months?
Wow, that’s really long. I mean, it's not that long in regards to the scope of it. But I had no clue.
I learned a lot as I went through and a large part was experimentation. I would try one thing, and then see that it didn’t work and try another thing and just keep going down avenues until I find something that I was happy with. So some of the time was learning, throwing code away, and starting again.
That's really interesting, because I know when Carlos talks about your nomination, he talks a lot about the Be Bold aspect of coming into the business as a new hire and making an immediate impact. But the way you're talking about it really highlights, to me at least, Pursue Growth, because it was something that you learned throughout that process as well. And it was kind of that continuous iteration and improvement to get to that final stage where you were happy with it. Is that fair to say?
Exactly. I think the main thrust for Carlos was Being Bold. For me, I didn't feel I was doing anything bold. The environment at Sonatype just invites this kind of contribution. You don't have to ask anybody for permission to do anything. You can just go and do it. If the intention is right, then I’m pretty sure that the idea will land somewhere. I just wanted to make a difference and make life easier, while also learning.
Also your point earlier about not wanting to do manual work, I mean, I’m the exact same way with Excel stuff. I'm like, “I'm not going to manually copy this data. No way.” I'm so against it, even if it takes me a little longer to design an automated version, because then it's dynamic and I don't have to worry about it in the future. So it's investing a little bit more upfront to reap the long term benefits. And it's, in my opinion, always, always worth it.
Again, I've done it. I did it once manually, I didn't enjoy it.
How long did it take you to do it manually?
They take half an hour to an hour manually, and as I say there was always the chance of mis-copying something when we were copying from a table with lots of different boxes.
So it's not just a time thing. It was a quality.
For sure, that’s the beauty of automating processes.
What was the team's reaction when you gave them this new option?
They seemed pretty happy with it. I demoed it in a team meeting saying “I've been working on this…is it of interest?”. I think given that people had been doing this for a lot longer than I had, they could quickly see the benefit. Then we went through some phases of feedback and refinement: “maybe this could be better”, “can we tweak this?” which was great. It didn't take very long before everyone was using it.
And what is the time it takes now to produce that Insights Analysis?
Oh, it's five minutes or so. Very quick.
So I think some of the values that we've talked about that are the most prevalent in your nomination would be Be Bold and Pursue Growth. What does living up to those values mean to you, in terms of your day to day?
With Pursuing Growth, it can be very easy to settle in a rut. It's not something I think I suffer from, as I'm always looking for the next new exciting thing to automate or improve or tweak – I think I'm just built that way.
Which is probably related to Being Bold: not just to settle if you see something that's wrong. It's not just wrong for you, it's wrong for everybody. So Be Bold, and go and fix it. Also challenge yourself. There's enough forces at work in life that can get in the way without you being one of those things, getting in your own way and stopping yourself.
That's a really good quote, I like that. There are a lot of things in the world that create a challenge. Not inhibiting yourself or limiting yourself is a great lesson.
And that's difficult, right? You have to look at what you're doing and take some time to reflect. Which can't always be easy if you're overwhelmed with work…
Even reflecting itself is an act of Pursuing Growth because sometimes we don't want to be transparent with ourselves about the current state of things. Do you have a value that resonates the most with you out of Trust Through Transparency & Accountability, Embrace Inclusion, Be Bold, and Pursue Growth?
I would pick Pursue Growth because I'm always interested in how to fix things and make them better. It's probably my engineering background.
I do an onboarding session with new hires on the core values. And I always use your video as the example because you won as a new hire in your first six to eight months or so. Do you have any personal recommendations for new hires or for anyone really living the values?
I would say one Sonatype allows you to be yourself so take advantage of that. The values support that and you’ve been employed because Sonatype sees the potential for living those values in you. The opportunities are there and it's probably easier when you start to see things that can be improved, or that can be changed. I think that as you settle into an organization over time you learn to live with the situation you find yourself in. So use the opportunity that you have as a new employee with a new and fresh set of eyes. And from my experience, people in Sonatype will be open to suggestions or constructive comments on how to change things to make it better for everyone. It's not always easy for people to see what's always been there.
Yeah, I kind of envision like, it's hard to see the forest for the trees or whatever that expression is. Once you've been here for a little while, you think, “Oh, that's just how it is.” But as a new hire, it's more, “Why is it like that? That doesn't make sense.” And then everyone realizes, “Oh, yeah, I guess there's a better way.”
Yes, the people who've been here forever don't necessarily know better.
All the new hires come in for a reason. Because we value their expertise and their perspective and their background. And so I think there's no reason to be hesitant in terms of providing that value to others, even if it creates a little friction, which it inevitably will.
Exactly, and friction isn't bad, right? If everyone thought the same and all agreed with each other then I'm not sure it would help the creative process or drive any improvements.
100% Having those differing perspectives, definitely, makes us stronger.
It doesn't mean everyone is ever going to agree on everything, but at least let’s have a discussion about it.
Exactly. Okay, so, do you have any overarching thoughts or comments to share about Sonatype's values or Values Champion Program?
One could get cynical and think that “all companies have values” and that it's a tick box exercise. I haven't felt that here. I think I can see clearly how the values are there and they match the culture that we're in. It’s not just a set of words on a PowerPoint. Sonatype puts a lot of effort into making sure that those values are real and that they're reflected as we go around doing our business.
That's exactly what I say, they shouldn’t just be words on a virtual wall that we have. Sonatype is earlier on in our values journey. And so there's so much more that we can unlock, but people have really embraced them. I think around the time you joined we had just rolled them out a little over a year ago. So it's really incredible how they’ve become part of the culture.
The values came out the month after I joined I think so my timing was good.
My last question: what did you choose for your gift of choice? How did it go?
We chose a gaming gaming PC. I would love to say that it was for my own use, but it was for my son and he's very happy with it and it is in constant use because he's a young teen and that's where he spends his life.
It was a birthday present, right?
It was! Beautiful job on the timing from Sonatype.
Yeah, we planned it to coincide with your son’s birthday.
If you could do the same again next year, that would be great. ;)
I'm not sure how you’ll match this one. Who knows? Well, thank you so much for your time and congratulations again!