Name: Landon Gray
Designation: Agent 0083
Double Agent Role: Software Engineer
Special Skills: Algorithmic thinking. Communicating technical jargon in plain speak.
Location: Dallas, TX
Favorite Emoji: 👍🏾
I’ve really leaned in more in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion. I am trying to understand, educate and interact with more people, plus broaden my horizons and perspectives about issues different people face. It’s very easy to be very siloed. But other people have struggles and it’s great to reach out and connect to educate yourself about struggles others face.
I’m an African-American, so when the whole Black Lives Matter movement rose up last year and a lot of things were going on in our nation, I was really struggling with that and I felt the pain of that. But that had to do with me. And I realized other people face a lot of pain in the workplace and women face struggles every day and they’re not the same as mine. And I have to understand they’re different and their pain, their suffering, too, is valid. Same with the LGBTQ community and specifically transgender issues. I’ve been working very, very hard to read more, educate myself and talk with people who are transgender. I have friends who are transgender, and I want to be a better human being for others so I can love and care for those people in my circle who are transgender. Because they face a lot of discrimination and persecution just everywhere. I still have much work to do and much learning, and I think everyone does.
The thing that has me the most excited is being a part of the Test Double team and starting a different journey. Prior to Test Double, I worked for Pariveda Solutions and we had grown to several hundred people. And, honestly, I really enjoyed what I did. I left because my curiosity kind of got the better of me. I was really excited to come to a smaller consulting firm and contribute in some ways I wouldn’t have been able to in a larger firm. So I’m really excited about the ways I’ll be able to help others and contribute in this capacity.
The mission and the day-to-day interactions and implementations of the mission. So overall, the mission being we have an opinionated view that software is broken but it can be fixed. And I think most of the industry would agree with us. But implementing that solution goes back to the relational aspect of working. So, because we know it’s broken, and there’s a lot of not so great things about software shops in general, we think about people. In fixing a problem, we’re not going to implement a solution that causes more pain for us as well. We’re going to give our people autonomy. We’re not going to micromanage them. You know, if we think that’s a problem in software, why would we micromanage our own people? If we think not giving enough support or resources is a problem in software, why are we going to do that to our own people? If you spend all this time trying to find good people with the right fit for your company, you aren’t going to do that. We value people who can thrive in autonomous, remote environments, who are willing to learn and also be very empathetic towards the client and their coworkers.
So I just got off of a call with Todd—the CEO—and we talked about healthy software development projects and healthy ways of working. We try to build that into the pipeline and not sacrifice it. We do this by implementing what we say and profess. We want to change in the right way. And that goes back to what Gandhi said: Be the change you want to see in the world. Don’t try to fix the world to be unlike what you would do yourself, you know?
One thing I think is very unique is our culture of high empathy, and that is something I’ve always valued. Being in an environment where everyone doesn’t respect everyone, care for one another, try to help and support one another and be understanding—that’s not a place I want to be. Today I had a mini crisis, and I was going to be a couple of minutes late to a meeting with one of the founders of the company. And last week, my power and water went out because of issues with the Texas utilities and a winter storm. I would have been freaking out if I wasn’t at a place where the people around me are caring, kind and understanding enough to know I’m going through a lot of pain right now. People at Test Double understand that and say, “Take care of yourself or take care of what you need to do.” And they know full well I’m going to give one hundred and ten percent the next time, because I remember this company really cares. This company wants to support me and have me do my best. And because I have that psychological safety, I can do my very best.
One thing that’s been on my mind a lot is the typical things that are broken about software. We want to build good software that works. OK, cool, build software that works. But, also, when you hand it off we want people to be able to edit it and keep it updated and clean. There are so many things that can get in the way of us being able to deliver as an industry. So lately I think a lot about my own processes. What are the things I could be doing to sabotage myself from being able to deliver the quality that is expected? I think that’s an interesting problem. And I think I’m at the right place, because we always work at getting better. And, again, we use the tools of empathy to try to understand our clients. Having high standards of excellence is not enough. It’s not, hey, we delivered this code to you. We can honestly say to our client we delivered this code to you and it’s up to the highest standards we hold ourselves to. We didn’t skimp on those areas of quality because of a short deadline. That’s not us.
I think the prospect of being home all the time was certainly memorable. It also has been kind of exciting for me to kind of figure out a new way I wanted to go about living. Obviously my normal hobbies I might’ve had, I was not able to do some of them because of the COVID situation. It forced me to kind of look within, take a moment to reflect and say: Am I headed towards the person I want to be in life, in marriage, and family? Am I being the kind of son I want to be? I reflected on my family relationships, like interacting more with my grandmother and my aunt because it’s COVID and everybody’s kind of trapped. You know this relational aspect is important, so I think it helped me to get outside of myself. There are other people out here in this world, and it’s been great to engage a little bit more with friends and co-workers.
I think what has me excited in terms of life outside of work is partly because of 100% remote work being more flexible. I’m excited at the prospect of not being tethered to one place as much as I would have been before. That has caused me to really expand the possibilities of what life can look like. lt could be anything at this point. I talked to my wife about getting an RV and driving to see the national parks one week. Or I could work from Hawaii for two weeks, then come back home. I have a lot of family in upstate New York, and the prospect of being able to see them more frequently is very awesome.
If I had to pick one movie or show I really enjoyed watching with my wife it would be The Queen’s Gambit. The actor who played the main role, Anya Taylor-Joy, she did a phenomenal job. So many of the characters did a phenomenal job. It was incredibly entertaining, but I also learned a lot. I felt a lot of emotions around what the main character had to experience as a woman chess player—the discrimination she went through every time she played chess. People who played her would be like, “You’re a girl.” But women can play chess, too, you know. The story played out in a way that was really enjoyable, but it wasn’t entertainment just for the sake of entertainment. I thought it was really well done and everybody in the world seemed to be enjoying it at the same time.
I think it will be a really great experience to go to the grocery store without a mask on, but right now I feel like that’s like 1 million years out. Like the comfort level at which I will not have to wear a mask anymore might be different from when they officially say you don’t have to wear a mask. I might just sleep with it for awhile!
Something I did several years back was live in England for several months. I was at a company that wasn’t fully remote, but they gave me a lot of flexibility. I had some friends who were professors at a university and they reached out to friends with, “Hey, we’re gonna live in Oxford, England, for several months and we’re just wondering if any of y’all wanted to come up and visit us for a while?” I thought, that’s cool, but too bad I can’t fly out there to visit them, work from England and experience that life. Then I was like, wait, why can’t I? Does my work really care where I’m working from? So I approached our president and it was fine. You know it actually kind of works out sometimes to be in a really different time zone. If you do a deployment at night for the rest of the company, which was during the day for me, it worked out perfect. So I was able to go around England and met some interesting people. Through an Airbnb I stayed with an older French woman who showed me around this area called Whitehall. She took me out to eat Thai food and we got to know each other. I met an artist and a musician who opened their home to me for a really great dinner. The artist also showed me the gallery set up in her home. It made me realize there’s a lots of life besides work. It was a really neat, awesome experience. And, of course, I got to spend tons of time with my friends and their new infant which was a fun time.
This interview is based on a recorded conversation with Landon Gray and Cathy Colliver. It may or may not self-destruct.