Dee Grey (they/them) is always game for a conversation.
Whether coaching an agile team, interviewing a prospective employee, or hanging out with neighbors, Dee’s a big believer in communication, feedback, and kindness.
If we want to make things better, we need to start with kindness. To me, kindness is giving and accepting valuable feedback.”
And spinach—at least as a metaphor.
It's nice to not point at your friend and laugh at them because they have spinach in their teeth. But it's kind to discreetly inform your friend, “Hey, by the way, I think you might have some spinach in your teeth.”
Your friend may feel embarrassed because, at that moment, you're the person that's seeing them in a vulnerable space. They may blame you for putting them in that vulnerable space. But ignoring the harm someone may be doing to themselves so that they aren’t embarrassed doesn’t help them at all. It isn’t kind.
People need to be willing to be kind enough for radical candor, where they both care personally and challenge directly.
Agility meets DEI
As a software engineer with a background in computer science and gender studies, Dee discovered a deep appreciation for agile, which promotes collaboration, flexibility, and cross-functionality among software development teams.
For Dee, finding agile led to the realization that you can love your work. Dee believes that we all have a natural and innate desire to collaborate and build with others. By helping teams become more agile, Dee wants to help other people along their journey to love the work they do too.
Agile also tied in naturally with another of Dee’s passions: diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). After becoming a scrum master and engineering manager, Dee had an ah-ha moment — an inspiration to merge agility with DEI before joining TheoremOne in February 2021.
They noticed that the transformational journey organizations go through for diversity and inclusion is often the same journey as an agile transformation—you can’t have one without the other. While the two have been separated, Dee believes now is the time to put them back together.
Facing your biases
For Dee, agile is about creating a way of understanding reality and getting as much feedback as you can to make the next best choice. Getting to that next choice, however, depends on making sure all teammates feel fully welcome to be themselves.
You can't have a psychologically safe, highly creative, highly functioning team if some members need to shrink themselves in order to contribute.”
Without feeling truly accepted and included, team members cannot live up to their full potential. Being creative is a vulnerable experience, and creativity is a requisite for producing great work. At its functional core, agile cannot exist without diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice. Dee recognizes that to unlock a team’s full potential, agile coaches, trainers, and engineering managers also need to be diversity experts.
It all starts with coming to terms with our own biases.
“We're all biased—there's none of us who aren't biased—we have to understand that that's how our brains work,” Dee says. “As soon as we accept that, then we can accept that we cannot understand all people's situations at all times.”
But that’s OK as long as we are open and listening to the feedback from others and recognize that others’ experience of a situation will be different than ours.
Feedback culture leads to great products
Dee has a lot of respect for TheoremOne’s strong feedback culture. For them, TheoremOne’s leadership principles and focus on diversity are examples of how feedback culture creates a positive work environment.
In addition to internal coaching and training, Dee enjoys the DEI work they’ve done for TheoremOne. This includes building a diversity channel and diversity actions channel that’s a bit more private for suggesting directions for leadership. Those channels generate great conversations.
“I believe in the moral and human value, and that's one of the reasons why I love TheoremOne,” says Dee. “The company believes in the humanity of its people and that, in enabling our humanity, we will create great products. The focus has been on how to enable and create that humanity so that we can all show up to work and be humans.”
Continuing the conversation
Dee’s personal journey with self-identity has not been easy. They came out as queer in 2015 and then as trans and non-binary earlier this year. Dee explains that their identity was not always welcomed by family, church, or other workplaces. TheoremOne, however, has been a different experience.
Their boss at TheoremOne has made it a priority to create a safe, welcoming space for them. Co-workers have an awareness about gender identity and take care to use the proper pronouns.
Dee wants to help TheoremOne continue to evolve these vital discussions.
“I am trying to find ways that I can constantly be improving this organization while still meeting the big need that we have—which is to have a great conversation with someone so that they're excited to be here at TheoremOne.”