PS: Written by Ushahidi CEO, Nathaniel Manning, but published by Angie, because he went on paternity leave just as he finished this before he could post it :)

The exciting news, is that my wife and I are expecting our first child any day now. Preparing for parental leave as an executive has been both a terrifying and incredibly helpful practice. On one hand, it feels like letting go of a family member, albeit only for a short time, to be able to welcome in a new one. I don’t think I have gone more than a week, at most two, over the past seven years with Ushahidi without having answered an email or at least lurked on slack.

My goal in preparation has been to make sure every decision, every little task that I do, every digital account that is linked to me, is accounted for and has a clear owner who will be able to hold fort while i’m away.I started my parental leave handover document a month ago, and it has grown to be over ten pages long. This has been a practice of letting go, empowering a team, and communicating above and beyond.

In Ushahidi’s early days, there were at most two or three parents out of the first 20 or so employees. Ten years in, we have welcomed at least 15 Ushababies into the world, and 50% of our current 30 team members are parents. Ushahidi has a progressive parental leave policy, that gives employees flexibility to take time off to take care of their new family members, confident of their job safety and security. Previously, we offered 12 weeks paid maternity leave to mothers, and 4 weeks paid paternity leave to fathers, with the option of an additional month unpaid. We recently updated our policy to account for all employees being able to take 12 weeks paid parental leave, with the option of one additional month unpaid leave. We’ve had several employees take this time off, with members of the team stepping in to hold fort temporarily. In short that means that we have each other’s backs. At Ushahidi we certainly aim to accomplish a lot, and usually more than the reality of our resources can account for. We rely on an incredibly hard working and brilliant team who manage to make magic happen every sprint cycle. When one of us takes time off, we make sure to cover for one another.

Our Ushahidi Operating System, the holacracy based model of organizational governance we run, is built around this concept of having functions and accountabilities for each person and circle. What that looks like in practice is currently a 440 line spreadsheet of functions and accountabilities that need to happen for Ushahidi to run, and a person’s name next to each one. They are all broken down by circles, or teams, such as “engineering”, “finance”, and “implementation.” Each quarter, every circle has a governance call to review their list of functions and ask, “Are we missing anything, is someone doing something that isn’t accounted for here? Do we need to delete anything that is no longer relevant? Does anyone want to change their functions, are they burnt out or want to try something new?” And so, we evolve.

This document has been the most helpful document ever for me while preparing for parental leave. I went through and pulled every function and accountability that had my name next to it, “Do interviews with interested press”, reassigned, “Maintain funder relationships,” our partnerships team has my back, “sign agreements,” our CFO can step in there, and so on and so forth.

What I didn’t expect from this process, was how useful it would be. It required me to sit down and figure out everything else I do on a day to day that happens to live in my brain and seven years of being with Ushahidi, and put it down on paper.

At Ushahidi, we say we need to have everything documented to foster resilience, so that, “if anyone decides to go meditate on top of a mountain, the next person can quickly pick up and keep running.” As a key decision maker in the organization, I needed to provide clarity in what will need to get done and by who, for continuity’s sake, in my absence. Preparing for parental leave has taken me from a generous 3/10 rating to a self-measured 9/10 in having clarity and documentation showing what it is I do every day to help Ushahidi go round (. But the real test — let’s see how the team rates me after I get back).