4 Things I’ve Learned as a CEO Shadow — GitLab

Fernando Diaz
4 min readNov 20, 2020


I was very fortunate to qualify for the GitLab CEO Shadow program after there was a last minute slot opening. In this program I followed Sid through his daily work routine (and some of his personal ventures).

I got to see the inner workings of GitLab, as well as attend meetings with a variety of different Silicon Valley CEOs. Just having a program like this shows how transparent GitLab is.

Ty Fujimura and Sid speak about creating a sense of ownership while working remote

In this post, I’m going to go over 4 things I’ve learned after completing the program.

How to make and communicate key decisions

As a CEO shadow I was able to attend board meetings. These board meeting really showed me how key decisions are made using data and how they are communicated out to the employees.

Having data is one of the most important factors in decision making. You need to know certain criteria the be able to answer some of these questions:

  • Is this implementation feasible?
  • How long will it take to implement?
  • Will we need more people to work on the implementation?
  • Will employees be happy and motivated implementing this?
  • What benefit is derived from this implementation and when will we see the benefit?

These questions can be answered by looking at past data, customer information and having input from a diverse team of individuals with different experiences.

Once a decision is made it needs to be communicated to the employees in a proper manner. Quickly after making a decision was made an AMA was set up with the appropriate parties. This allows employees to provide questions and receive support for their needs by management.

The importance of writing things down

As CEO Shadow I attended meetings from all parts of the company. I learned about support, marketing, sales, development, and so much more. With so many decisions being made for such diverse aspects of the company, it is so important to write things down when they are said.

Memory can get foggy, so it is important that you can go back and see what key decisions were made, and the dialogue which backed these decisions. Notes are taken in detail for every meeting and action items come from those notes.

To add to the importance of writing, at GitLab we keep a public handbook, which provides detailed information on how we run the company. Similar to a Legal System, we continue to iterate on and append sections to our handbook. Not only does this enable collaboration between all employees, but it allows us to grow as a company and allow everyone to have a voice via Merge Request.

The importance of collaboration

GitLab is all about community and teamwork, it’s so nice to have 2 shadows at once, following a learn from one and teach one. It really make the program that more fun.

I learned from [David Fisher](https://about.gitlab.com/company/team/#dfishis1).

and taught [Dan Parry](https://about.gitlab.com/company/team/#dparry)

We became buddies and would help each other out on taking notes and updating the handbook, and other tasks provided by the CEO. This really builds a feeling of rapport between co-workers.

How to manage time efficiently

I was amazed at how efficiently a CEO’s day is planned. I attended GitLab meetings as well as personal meetings for the CEO’s other ventures.

I noticed that every meeting was started and ended in the proper amount of time. Not only that, but there was no time wasted in meetings and the items that needed to be discussed were discussed. This makes the use of our time very efficient and allows us to make things for other things in life.

We could all take a page from the [Communication] section from the GitLab Handbook (https://about.gitlab.com/handbook/communication/)

I also noted that important personal events were included also in the CEO calendar. This inspired me, and I went ahead a started adding important things like working out, calling friends, and more to my calendar, so I can not only manage my work time, but also my life time.

Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

In Conclusion, it was an amazing experience and I feel very inspired. I’m grateful to work for such a transparent company.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this post!



Fernando Diaz

Senior Technical Marketing @ GitLab 🦊, Developer 👨🏻‍💻, Alien 👽