Burning out at work

A User Guide to Working with Ryan Mahoney

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone came with a manual?


Learning from the people I manage and collaborate with is the best aspect of my job, and I am excited to be working with you!

I know this document may seem a bit unusual — I’m hoping that sharing this information will help speed up the process of us getting to know each other and finding effective ways to work together.

How I view success

Maybe I can first say what success isn’t. Success is not herculean efforts or brilliant strokes of genius. Success is not working overnight. Success is not being the smartest or most accomplished person in the room.

Your success is contributing to a team that consistently deploys iterative improvements to our products. Success is deep engagement in your work and having a personal sense of which tasks have the most significant impact on our customers. Success is putting in the effort to do work thoughtfully, so each change has its intended effect. Success is a peaceful march that sometimes seems dull, except when you look back and see how much you’ve achieved.

My success is providing you the support and clarity you need to be successful at the moment and grow in your career. Part of giving clarity may come in the form of saying “no” or enforcing certain boundaries.

How I communicate

I'm fairly confident about my perspective, but I am open-minded to being proven wrong, I love to be proven wrong actually because it means I’m learning new things. The sense of being personally "right" means little to me, I’d much rather do the right thing for the organization.

I try to be as direct as possible, and I don’t spend much time on pleasantries. Sometimes this might seem like I’m “all business,” so I probably won’t post pictures of my dog, baby, or baby-dog in a Slack channel, but I encourage you to express yourself as little or much as feels right for you.

I’m typically available after hours if need be, but I do not expect anyone to respond to me on the odd occasion that I send a Slack message in the evening.

Things I do that may annoy you

Sometimes the experiences I’ve had in my career make me biased towards doing something new in a similar way to how I had achieved something else in the past. I’m trying to be more open-minded, but it isn’t always my default state.

I think engineers are lucky in terms of how the market has valued our skills, I see this as a privilege and not an entitlement. I detest how some companies give engineers special treatment, and I expect engineers to work on the same professional level as people doing roles that don’t have the same scarcity. This effectively means, coming in on time, being present in meetings, following up on your commitments, doing any mandatory training or paperwork, keeping your space clean, picking up after yourself, etc. We all contribute to the reputation of engineers in the organization, and I expect us to have a good reputation beyond our work’s quality.

I view practicality and idealism as a significant spectrum in engineering. I’m far toward the practical side of things, as that has always helped me to keep shipping product improvements. This is an area where I realize that being more in the middle (but definitely not on the extreme end of idealism) can benefit the organization’s sustainability and where I may require some push-back.

What gains and loses my trust


  • Being authentic.
  • Showing that you care about our product and customers by working conscientiously.
  • Seeing you treat people in the organization respectfully and being helpful.
  • Being open about your weaknesses and being willing to grow.
  • Taking ownership of problems.
  • Giving me critical feedback.


  • Bullshitting/faking/lying.
  • Repeatedly receiving feedback about an issue and showing no progress over time.
  • Mistreating anyone in the organization, especially putting down someone else’s work in a public forum.
  • Not letting me know in advance if you can’t keep a commitment.

My strengths

  • I can communicate complicated ideas in clear terms.
  • I’m good at seeing what motivates people, and I’m excited when I can match someone with a win-win opportunity that matches their goals with the organizational priorities.
  • I take the feedback about the organization, process, tools, etc., seriously, and address concerns to the best of my ability.
  • I give credit where credit is due as much as possible when someone is doing good work, I make sure to spread the word.
  • I recognize when other people’s time is being wasted and strive to minimize it.
  • I care deeply about diversity, equity, and inclusion, and this helps me see opportunities that are sometimes overlooked.

My growth areas

  • I’m trying to take on fewer coding responsibilities and delegate those better.
  • I get swept up in an exciting initiative and temporarily lose focus on some less sexy efforts.
  • I overthink some types of work, which makes me less steadfast than I typically would have preferred to be in hindsight.
  • It’s easier for me to look back than to look forward, so when it comes to technologies that might be transformative, it’s not always clear to me how they will be beneficial unless I have a specific business case.

About the Author

Ryan's FaceRyan Mahoney is the director of technology for the customer-facing technology department of state of Massachusetts’ public transportation agency. He has spent the past two decades leading engineering teams as a founder, director, manager, and tech lead working with brilliant engineers that make positive impacts with their work.

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