My user manual: about me and working with me

There’s been a lot of discussion of whether writing user manuals is helpful or harmful in building a culture where people feel like they belong. My take? It depends on how it’s written. Here’s mine.

Aubrey Blanche, The Mathpath
3 min readAug 24, 2019

What motivates me

I feel that my purpose here is to…

  • make the world a more fair, equitable, and innovative place by re-designing our systems, processes, and interpersonal practices to interrupt bullshit behavior and outcomes.
  • help people grow into the best and most kind & thoughtful versions of themselves.
  • show the humans in my sphere of influence what ‘authentic’ means, by pushing myself to be more open, honest, and aware of others.

What gives me energy

I feel energized and engaged when I am…

  • designing and creating with others. Getting to collaborate makes me the most happy (because otherwise I’m just stuck with my thoughts and opinions).
  • proactively looped in. I’m someone who says “yes” to a lot, and I hate delivering poor quality work because I can’t dedicate the appropriate time to something.
  • asked for expertise or reference materials. I’m a super avid reader (books, articles, Twitter, etc.) and love helping people learn.

Want my reading recommendations?

What drains me

I struggle to focus and stay motivated when…

  • I don’t have enough time to produce high-quality work.
  • anyone accepts unfairness or inequity as inevitable. Systems are the output of our choices, and we can always design differently.
  • people pass off their personal (n=1) opinions as expert knowledge. I think personal perspective is deeply important and worth incorporating into all work, but am incredibly frustrated when people act like their opinions are equivalent knowledge validated by empirically rigorous analysis.
  • I don’t know why certain decisions were made. I struggle to follow or respect things that feel dishonest or don’t make logical sense. I can deal with what I don’t like, if I understand it.

What makes me feel valued

To make me feel like I matter, please…

  • let me know when I’ve helped you learn something or grow.
  • send me reading material or fun new facts. Seriously, about anything.
  • give me research tasks, or asking for help answering the question “How would I know if this were true?”. I love contributing with these skills, and love even more to teach people how to grow in this area.
  • learn about inclusion, equity, and belonging on your own, and apply it in your work.

What I’m particularly sensitive to

I’d really prefer if you would be willing to avoid…

  • leaving me out. I’m not great at vocalizing when I feel excluded, as I tend to assume the best of people (which means I often get stuck on “Well, I don’t want them to feel bad…”).
  • people using lazy, privileged proxies for qualifications, talent, or ability. Going to Stanford or working at Google doesn’t make someone smarter or more capable than anyone else. Absolutely everyone has something useful and important to contribute.
  • insinuating that I have negative intent. It’s very personal and core to who I am to try to be a kind, minimally judgmental person. I take pride in being able to humbly hear when I’ve wronged someone, apologizing sincerely, and being accountable to improving.

Where I’m trying to grow

Right now, I’m working on…

  • being more direct when I feel like something isn’t working or I’ve been negatively impacted.
  • telling myself more positive narratives about frustrating events, and spending less time spinning on them.
  • writing things down. While I have a pretty good memory, my life’s gotten complex enough that I need to build myself a new organizational system.
  • looping back to people. I often move very fast, and sometimes forget to loop back and confirm it’s done.

Giving me feedback

I once had a manager say that I am “one of the most coachable people she’s every met.” I still consider that the best compliment that anyone’s every given me in a work setting, and hope I’m still living up to it.

When you have positive feedback for me, I’d prefer you…

  • Let me know in private if we’re at work. I’m awkward about personal, public praise around people I work closely with. It’s just a thing.

When you have something constructive for me, I’d like if you could…

  • Check with me to see if I’m in an OK place for it. I promise if I’m not at that moment, I’ll bring it up in our next chat or 1:1, promise.



Aubrey Blanche, The Mathpath

Equitable Design & Impact @CultureAmp. Advisor, investor. Mathpath = (Math Nerd + Empath). Queer dog mom, Latina. Your contribution matters. She/her.