Toastmasters: Honest Review based on IT Team Brain writing exercise done in Nov 2018

Toastmasters clap as a way to support each other
Toastmasters clap as a way to support each other => I Love Toastmasters!

I worked for Toastmasters for about 2.5 years (2016-2019) as a Lead Software Developer and then Application Services manager. I Love Toastmasters, and that’s why I wrote “Honest Review based on IT Team Brain writing exercise done in Nov 2018” for the Glassdoor.
Thanks to Glassdoor, I went through variations of the review and ended up with a review more balanced between Pros and Cons. I kept some of the original notes here though.

Pros:

  • Good benefits
  • Standing desks for everyone
  • Corporate Toastmasters Club – paid memberships / weekly meetings during lunch
  • Meditation group
  • Free monthly lunches
  • Annual reviews with raises and bonuses
  • CO Office is close to public transportation
  • Has a place for walking and birds watching (in spring / summer)

*** Personal Notes: I worked with wonderful people in IT. Unfortunately, most of them are no longer work there. Even people who moved to Colorado as a part of company relocation were fired, their positions eliminated, or left due to bad work environment. Yet, I built relationships with people I worked with, and learned a lot about myself and others. ** Toastmasters Club Notes: I’m still a member of Toastmasters and I love my Toastmasters Club. Yet, it’s unrelated to the Toastmasters International World Headquarters (TI WHQ), as clubs are independent entities and are run by volunteers.

*** Toastmasters Club Notes:
I love my Toastmasters Club in Dana Point CA, and Toastmasters’ Club experience! Yet, it’s unrelated to the Toastmasters International World Headquarters. Clubs are independent entities and are run by volunteers.


Cons:
I have notes from IT Team Brain writing exercise done in Nov 2018 .
It was an anonymous survey, with a promise of no retaliation against participants. Yet, almost all people who participated in it, are no longer with the company (fired, positions eliminated, left due to bad work environment). I decided to share it here, because I promised people I worked with that something will be done. I was assigned to be in charge of the survey as a person everyone can trust. I combined the results and categorized them. I did not change the wording.


Brainwriting Summary = Ideas/Problems

Management/ Engagement
• Lack of a cohesive Environment.
• Management Disconnected from Employees.
• Micro Management
• Management should approach employees
• Inability of management to accept making mistakes
• Goals and check in with Employee.
• Schedule Less meeting though out the day.
• Employee Needs, Wishes, Wants
• Trust the employees with their responsibilities and to carry out to completion.
• Remove hierarchies
• Anonymous grading/feedback for all managers

Deadlines
• Coming up with Realistic timelines.
• Unrealistic deadlines result in bad quality projects, which result in organization not trusting IT.
• Putting stress might help in delivering faster but that will affect quality of work for sure this is known fact. This is all due to committing to deadlines that are not somehow realistic let’s say.
• Follow Agile development practices with no set deadlines – it seems to work for the Summit
Team
• For some projects giving estimates by high management without consulting with the whole team especially the development team who will work on it. Some projects are following this scheme which is appreciated.
Other / One Off’s
• Training for Staff / Group!
• To Many Projects “ stop new Development Until all existing products have been Optimized.”
• Learned helplessness. We train ourselves to not be able to do anything, and it’s a cyclical thing of reinforcement.
• The higher management gets, the less removed they are from being able to take direct action to fix a problem, meaning that all they can do is stress about it getting done. The workers, in turn, receive the stress. It’s not healthy for anyone, and I feel bad for us all.
• People do not feel equal.
• Would be helpful to explain what happened with Jason, at least some background and what could’ve been done differently.

Communication
• Expectations not clearly communicated.
• Listening to Employees “Actually Listening”
• Fearless Feedback “Speak up”
• Approachability
• Transparency
• Not understanding
• We don’t talk to each other enough.
• Open and Honest communication.
• Post the communication in Teams
• Have a meeting with Teams to clarify;
• Asking for help if Plate is Full.

Hiring Process
• Organize technical/non-technical interview process better, since current process leads to poor hiring practices.

Processes
• Working with business closer
• Lack of formal preparation for projects.
• Get suggestions from regular Toastmasters and MES and create projects based on that. If we learn to listen and hear, business and regular Toastmasters will see that we care, can solve their problems, and will trust us.
• Committing to a Process.
• Training for Processes
• Document existing Processes. Agile Implementation
• Scrum Vs. Agile Methodology. “What are we?”(Pick one or other)

Rules / Schedule
• Allow Remote working to all Team members Occasionally.
• Standardize Remote workers Hours.
• Checks and Balances for Remote users.
• Time Management
• Showing up on time
• Follow up on a Strick Schedule.

Other
• I have a problem and it is most important and I want to have it resolved right now
• The fact that everyone’s head is persistently on the chopping block, both workers and management.


Nothing has been done to solve the problems listed above , with an exception of retaliation against participants. Another company wide survey was done in spring, with IT being indicated as a problem by the entire company, but that’s a separate story.


Here are a couple of Personal notes:

• Valuable employees were fired without any explanation. This includes people who moved to Colorado, and had 5-10 years of experience with the company.

• IT deadlines were unrealistic which resulted in a lot stress to the team. If deadline gets moved by a year, it tells you that it was unrealistic.

• Very challenging Website code base. To be honest, it’s the most challenging code I’ve ever seen. It was built by consultants and then a lot of different components added on top, with the main shop component from a company that went bankrupt.

• Unacceptable treatment to employees by IT leaders. Yelling and blaming became a norm, but it is not normal.

• HR ignored multiple complains from the employees. As a sample, it took them a week to start investigating a sexual harassment complaint.

Original Text:

*** Horrible Website Code Base
I’ve never seen anything that bad. It was built by consultants, parts of the code is on the plugin from the company that went bankrupt. (don’t let me started, I’m already over my time limit..)

*** Deadlines are unrealistic and make everyone stressed
The original deadline for a big project was set by CIO to Feb, then moved to May, then moved again. Yet, think of all the stress the team went through trying to make it to Feb deadline. When technical people give advice on deadlines it was not heard, yet those technical people are the ones expected to work extra hours…

*** Very Personal Notes:
I am a woman, and was paid less than a man who held the same Application Services Manager position before me. He was promoted to manage me and another person. This new position was created with the main task of managing the two of us, and he was paid even more (it’s a public record). The other person (Enterprise Architect) was fired, I left. So my manager (IT Director) didn’t do a good job after all. Yet, no bad feelings, just facts. I also filed a sexual harassment complaint while at Toastmasters against CIO. My complaint was investigated a week later (after I checked with HR again), so people who were to be interviewed didn’t remember all the details. Yet, I did feel horrible, but I let it go… it’s just me.


Again, I promised my team that I will do something about their feedback, and now, a year later, I’m doing it. Sorry for the delay!


Advice to Management:

Change management immediately to prevent them from destroying the company. I believe with IT being so weak, Toastmasters are in a really bad position at this point with most members not being happy with the educational software.

Please note, that my CEO rating is for Dan Rex. But the President of the Toastmasters should do something too… Please!

One last note. Recently TI WHQ let go of their first internal DTM , who was also a Chartering President of TI WHQ Toastmasters club “I’m Just sayin'”, as well as valued, well respected and trusted employee who worked for TI for over 5 years and relocated to CO when TI moved there. If this doesn’t tell you something is wrong, what would?


Questions to consider:

Can you learn leadership by giving speeches about leadership?

What if the secret sauce of Toastmasters isn’t an educational material but a Club Experience?


To learn much more:

(and to support this website)



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