Rostislav – Readme – Last Updated Dec 2018

Rostislav — Readme — Last Updated Dec 2018

Photo cred: Emils Jasuns

Mid September 2018, I transitioned to a new role internally at Printify. I went from being a user researcher to being a Product Manager.

Coming from a background in Human Centered Design, it wasn’t hard to see how I could apply myself to this position. It would allow me to bring in parts of the human centered design process that weren’t accessible to me as a user researcher. Mainly the ability to actually apply research findings into creating real things that customers would use.

And although that part was exciting, there were many parts that I was also apprehensive about. I needed to start working much closer with developers, I needed to integrate with their processes, I needed to overcome language barriers, and I needed to gain their trust so that we could build great things. I still need to do all of these things.

In looking for ways to get better at all of these things, I discovered that many brilliant people create these documents called Readmes for their teams.

I have a personal mental model that I use for my decision making.

If people smarter than I do something, there’s probably a good reason for it.

In addition to potentially helping me communicate more effectively with my team, I realized it also helped me understand my own values a lot more. So I highly recommend everyone else tries it.

In making mine, I spent a lot of time reading others’. Much of the text below is mine, but where I felt something someone else said resonated strongly with my own values, I didn’t feel the need to change a word (but I must say that so many of the documents also used the same text, wish I knew who the original writer was that wrote those things, he has a gift of gab).

Anyways, below is a reflection of me at this moment in time.


About this document:

It’s a quick way to

  • Introduce me as a human
  • Answer some likely questions
  • Set expectations about what you can depend on from me as your coworker

As I am constantly trying to get better both at my job and as a human, this document will likely be changing. Like me, it is a work in progress.

Why did I make this?

There is the saying that the total does not equal the sum of it’s parts.

1+1 can equal 3, but it can also equal 0.

I believe that in order for us to work at our best in ways that complement the whole, communication is important. If we can communicate well, and know each others strong points, we’ll undoubtedly achieve something better — even if that better only amounts to a more pleasant experience at work.

General stuff to know about me.

I was born in Kiev, Ukraine. When I was 4 years old, my whole family moved to NYC. Until the age of 28, that was the only place I had lived. All of my friends and family are still in NY — Staying in Latvia was a very sudden and completely unplanned decision (meeting my current GF is a big part of why I chose to stay 2 years ago)

From 9 -18 years old, I attended a weekend school and summer camp called Idea. This was a Russian language center, as well as a theater, art, and sculpting school. That’s where I learned to act, draw, paint, sculpt, think creatively, as well as speak, read, and write in Russian.

I love learning, but also find it very difficult. I am a strong believer that humans suck at most things and that if we want to succeed, we need to manipulate our environment in order to make it easier for us to make better decisions. This is how I taught myself to play guitar.

I love all sorts of music, by all standards, good and bad. Listening and playing music is one way in which I deal with my emotions. Most of the songs I sing are sad, slow, Russian rock and folk songs. Campfire type stuff. (I’m a really self-conscious singer and worry I might be a tad tone-deaf)

My passions are beach volleyball, and self-betterment. If you want to talk to me about something random and don’t know where to start — you can ask me about what I’m trying to improve in myself, what recent podcast I listened to, or what book I’m reading. I am very likely to have a lot of things to say about any of those.

Why I work at Printify

I went to school with a lot of talented artists and designers. Many of them are still struggling to make a good life for themselves. As an illustrator, making a life for myself as a creator is something I have also struggled with.

That’s why I really resonated with Printify when I first discovered it — because it allows creatives, and really anyone, to make a life for themselves. I think that any business that helps people better their lives, is a business worth supporting.

Things about Printify / POD that I don’t fully support –

I think it fuels consumerism, creates a lot of waste and crap products, and might be a net negative for the environment.

I’m hopeful that the things I don’t support will be addressed / mitigated in the future.

How I see my job

As a PM, I am responsible for balancing merchant and Printify needs to uncover opportunities for bettering our platform.

I will then outline and provide all the context that you need in order to act on those opportunities.

If I am doing my job well, you will know

  • What you are trying to accomplish
  • Why it’s important (what problem this solves, what value this creates, and how statistically significant it is)
  • Who this is important for
  • When and Where this opportunity matters.

Some notes on context

Context should help you more easily complete a feature, fix a bug, or deliver a product.

  • I have opinions. This does not mean they are correct or you should blindly believe them. Please disprove me so that I can learn with you.
  • You have final say on the work you own. I trust you to gather necessary information to make the best decision to move the company forward.

My Assumptions

  • I assume you are a smart and good at your job. I don’t believe you would be here if you weren’t.
  • If it feels like I am questioning you or a decision you made — I am most likely trying to gather context or trying to understand what you see that I may not.
  • I’m not good at your job. You know best. I’ll work to provide necessary context and ask questions to help you vet your ideas, but I won’t make decisions for you.
  • I assume you’ll let me know if you can’t do your job. One of my main responsibilities is ensuring that you’re set up for success. Occasionally, I get caught up in work and think that I have provided all that you need or that something is clear when it’s not. I won’t know I’m letting you down.
  • I assume you feel safe debating with me. I find that ideas improve by being examined from all angles. If it sounds like I’m disagreeing, it’s probably because I am seeing things from a different perspective. It would help us both to understand each other’s reasoning. This does rely on us being able to have a safe debate.

Communication with (from) me

I genuinely love what I do and don’t have any strict separations between work and personal life. This means that I am actively trying to improve myself and my skills and apply them as fast as possible — this means I may message or post ideas off hours or on the weekends. I don’t expect other people to be like me, and I don’t expect responses. (Unless it’s an emergency, in which case I’ll likely apologize and let you know it’s an emergency.)

Also, feel free to ask me anything at any time. If it’s something outside of my ability to help with, I’ll let you know and try to direct you to where you can get help. Most of the time, If I am not answering you — I may be sleeping, with no cell reception, or in a situation that I can’t answer. If it feels like I am ignoring you, just ask me again — I may have seen your message when I couldn’t act on it, and then forgotten a bout it. Sorry!


  • I am 100% fluent in English
  • I think I’m around 95% fluent in Russian — (99.9% if it’s only in understanding what you are saying and not about speaking)
  • I am about 15% fluent in Latvian (this might be optimistic)

English is my default — but it’s only a default. I am only interested in us being able to work together and communicate most effectively. If I start speaking to you, it will likely be in English. This isn’t a conscious choice but an automatic one. Please answer however you feel most comfortable.

On Feedback

  • I love feedback
  • Feedback is critical to my success here
  • Three dimensions are required for people to continue to give you feedback:
  • Safety should be high (no fear of retaliation)
  • Effort should be low (no rebuttals)
  • Benefit should be high (positive results)
  • Let me know if I don’t do well on any of these three dimensions

Give me feedback however you want — in person, via telegram, via email.

What I value

Merchant focus. If the decisions that we made would have a focus on the merchant, then our discussions and debates would go much smoother — because there would be the base fact that our decisions stem from a consideration of our merchants and not our personal feelings or desires.

Critical thinking. I really love when people don’t just tell me something, but explain to me how they arrived at that conclusion and what things they did and did not consider.

Self reflection. It’s critical to growth and getting good at anything. Most people aren’t equipped with the tools to help other people grow in meaningful ways — so you should assume most people aren’t telling you what you should be doing more of, better, or not doing at all.

Time. Yours and mine.

Bias towards action. I value creators and makers — people who think by doing. No idea is perfect — people and situations change, so most of the time “good enough” should be the goal.

Taking Ownership. This can mean many things. In this case it means holding yourself and your teammates accountable by being aware of the bigger picture, remaining focused on the problem or opportunity (not the details), speaking up if there is something that you don’t understand, and not expecting that someone else will come by and tell you what you should be doing.

Known Failure Modes

  • When I ask you to do something that feels poorly defined, you should ask me for both clarification and a call on importance. I might still be brainstorming. These questions can save everyone a lot of time.
  • Humans stating opinions as facts are a trigger for me.
  • When my curiosity is shot down by people who “know better” or “have already tried something.”
  • I suck at responding to clearly biased opinions.
  • When people try to prove something by manipulating data to support their opinions.

Personal Rules

This section is still new and fresh and being defined.

  • I don’t personally work on anything if I am not convinced that it is an idea worth doing.
  • Done is better than perfect. There will always be time to fix something later.
  • It’s my base assumption that you are a smart, well-intentioned person with a clear reason for doing or saying something.

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