“We pour into each other. We do not build by destruction.
We build with growth. We lead with love.”
“People want to understand. People want to be understood.” Lee Edwards has incorporated this philosophy into leading his team at Nutanix over the past three years.
A native North Carolinian from Selma, Lee leads a team of 10 professionals in Nutanix’s Durham office. “I’m one of the only non-transplants here.” Be sure to ask him where the best food is!
Building a Culture of Trust
When it comes to setting the culture at Nutanix, Lee explains that “there’s a human condition involved in everything that we do.” Lee creates a space for growth and mentorship for his team by practicing what he calls “trust in value.” “Our interview process at Nutanix is really robust. We turn down a lot of good candidates because we want the best of the best.” Once candidates make it onto the team though, Lee has their back. “We trust you, we believe in you. Now go forth and make it so.”
This mindset tackles the all-too-common industry-standard of built-in “just in case” unnecessary redundancies. This empathetic removal of unnecessary burdens build up employees and is more efficient.
Sometimes this “trust in value” and investment in others manifests by building others up by believing in them before they believe in themselves. Lee gives his people the space to be their best selves and help each other grow. “We build with growth and lead with love. It starts with leaders and coworkers saying you can do this. You are enough. And here is the magic we use to get it done.”
Growth Through Empowerment
Lee invented a three-phase “reverse shadowing” training process and a “troubleshooting ladder” to foster confidence and self-sufficiency in new Systems Reliability Engineers (SREs). When his team members encounter a problem, he lends an ear and empowers them with the confidence to understand that they had the answer all along. This approach builds independence and fights the paranoid, micromanagement mentality Lee encountered during his tenure at other tech companies. Lee offers SREs a chance to lead informal team meetings in order to secure an open line of communication coupled with transparency.
Lee’s approach of building with growth and leading with love has inspired SREs to identify and tackle challenges as a team. When SREs noticed some of their teammates were struggling with the NSS certification exam, they coordinated group meetings through Slack channels to help each other prepare. The results were immense. Those who went through the program once had a 71% pass rate. Those who went through the program twice had a 100% pass rate. Lee proudly reflects, “I trusted them, and they came back with results.”
Diversity and Representation
Lee considers diversity paramount to the success of a company and puts it at the forefront of creating a culture of inclusion at the Durham office. “If I’m trying to recruit someone because I know that they’re super talented, and they happen to value wanting to wear their hair in a natural manner and then come into the office and see others with natural hairstyles as well, that may be a factor in their decision making because they may look at it and say, ‘That’s one internal battle that I don’t have to fight. I don’t have to explain that this is the way the hair grows out of my head and that’s how I choose to wear it.’ I have this conversation with my wife all the time.”
When people come together in a shared space, they bring shared experiences with them. This diverse input can help fine-tune how we operate and what we create as a company. Lee highlights the importance of diversity in product development:
I was in a meeting the other day, and we were talking about color schemes for our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. An engineer had an excellent idea and suggested ‘Hey! We can color this row this color and this row that color to identify the differences between the data sets.’ The first question I asked him was, ‘Okay. What happens when someone is colorblind?’ And he looked at me and said, ‘I didn’t think of that.’ But I asked that because my best friend is colorblind and we had someone in the room who was grey-scale colorblind. Though color coding was a great idea with nothing but the best of intentions, considering the impact it would have on someone who couldn’t differentiate colors helped us to come up with a more inclusive solution.
To take diversity to the next level here at Nutanix, Lee has worked on recruiting at historically black colleges and universities like Howard and North Carolina A&T State University, which is Lee’s alma mater and the number-one school in the nation for black engineers. Lee offers the following advice to other technology companies, “We have to begin to look at a person’s knowledge and capability as a while versus things turning into technical jeopardy.”
“We pour into each other. We do not build by destruction. We build with growth. We lead with love.”