One day this week I reached out to my team lead/scrum master (my team has one person who does both) to schedule a quick meeting. I was struggling with a difficult task that I had been assigned at sprint planning, and this wasn't the first time this had happened, so I wanted to make sure we were on the same page about what tasks I was comfortable with and how often I was being assigned tickets that were a bit of a stretch for me.
Reaching out to my team lead to schedule this meeting was difficult. I often struggle to ask for help, and my instinct was to play things out until he noticed that something was wrong. Ultimately I decided that the best way for me to ensure that my needs were addressed was to speak up and to be my own best advocate. If I'm doing my work and not really falling behind, it's hard for my team to see that I'm struggling. But if I speak up and share my experiences and concerns, then I know that my voice has been heard and my manager and team lead are aware of my situation.
The fact that I felt comfortable reaching out to my team lead to discuss this is something that I cannot take for granted. I've worked for companies where I didn't feel that I could ask for a meeting like this, and knowing that the culture at my company is one where every voice is valued and it's important to ensure that everyone is supported made it easier to schedule this meeting. While I do have 1:1 meetings with my manager every other week where we discuss my work and my growth and address any concerns I have, being able to speak to someone (whether it's my manager or my team lead or the engineer on my team who sits next to me) whenever I feel that I am struggling is something for which I am very thankful.
The most important demonstration of the culture of my company happened during the meeting. I started off by expressing my concerns and my team lead was immediately receptive to what I was saying. We discussed both the specific ticket that I was struggling with and some general thoughts on the tickets I was being assigned across all of our sprints. I articulated my plan and my thoughts on how I could address the situation, and my team lead replied by acknowledging that he can do work on his end to help with this and to help ensure that I'm not being put in a situation where I don't feel like I can't do my work independently. Overall, it felt like a very productive conversation, and I'm excited to see what comes out of this meeting.
The content of our conversation isn't really what was most important about this meeting. What was most important was that I felt comfortable sharing my thoughts, even though not everything I had to say was positive, and my team lead was receptive to my words and interested in finding a solution to my problem. It's good to have a team that will work with you to help you succeed, but it's easiest for your team to know that you need the help when you show them that, whether through your words or your actions. Sometimes you're in a situation where you can't ask for help, and it's important to acknowledge that those situations exist, but whenever you can, advocate for yourself. If you have a good team, when they see you saying that you need help, they will take the next step and find a way to help you succeed.
I will admit, every time I do something like this - advocate for myself or express an opinion that goes against the popular opinion on the team - I feel like I'm overstepping my bounds. But my team is there to constantly remind me that I'm not and that it's important that I express my voice and my opinion.
I'm fortunate to have a team that backs me up in all of my endeavors, whether that's teammates who will pair with me to help me learn new things and solve problems, teammates who make themselves available to talk if I'm struggling with work or with fitting in, or a management team who really care about making sure I am supported and know that I am contributing to the team. But ultimately, I have to be my best advocate, and expressing my needs to my team is the best way to give them the tools they need to best support me.