Joey Davis
Work Culture

Walk With Me... Explained

Walking together as a metaphor for team and community development in the modern workplace, emphasizing collaboration, continuous learning, adaptability, and mutual respect

Published on By Joey Davis

The Context of Walk With Me

I wrote "Walk With Me" in the weeks following coming aboard as the technical lead for the enterprise data team at JD North America (JD Finish Line). At the time, I had the opportunity to walk through the airport traveling with two other members from the company; our data product owner Bri Pedersen and my then manager, Dan Gradl (who was SVP at the time).

The company had flown us out to our sister headquarters in Boulder, CO to workshop on what needed to be done for the enterprise data team that had not been able to deliver significantly in 4 years.

I was excited to be there, and I was excited to be walking with Bri and Dan. Both had truly stood out during the interview process 1 that ultimately led me to select this opportunity over the alternatives extended at the time. I could tell that the leadership practices and approach that I hold myself accountable to and advocate for could thrive in the environment.

What the Analogy Means

"Walk With Me" was one of several things I wrote up in the notes on my phone during the plane ride home after a successful workshop.

The analogy it presents is more than just an invitation; it's a metaphor for team and community development in the modern workplace. In this analogy, the shoes we offer represent the tools, resources, and support needed to embark on a collaborative journey towards shared goals and visions.

As we've all already been walking, we each bring to the table our experiences and knowledge, setting the initial direction of our journey. Yet, this path is not rigid. Our insights, ideas, and innovative approaches are crucial in shaping the trajectory from there. Together, we can redefine our destination, finding routes that are more efficient, creative, or fulfilling. The modern workplace thrives on dynamic collaboration, where diverse perspectives converge to create a more robust, inclusive, and equitable path forward.

When any of us gets tired, it symbolizes the inevitable challenges and burnouts that teams face. Here, we pause, not just to rest, but to reflect, realign, and re-strategize. This is crucial in a fast-paced work environment, where adaptability and resilience are key. Our collective strength lies in our ability to recognize these moments, provide support, and emerge more focused and energized.

Encountering new pairs of shoes along the way represents the continuous learning and development opportunities in the workplace. These could be new skills, technologies, or methodologies. We assess whether these new tools better serve our journey or perhaps benefit another team or project. This is reflective of a learning-oriented workplace culture, where resources are optimized and shared for the collective growth of the community.

Eventually, our paths may diverge, an echo of the ever-changing dynamics in careers and organizations. This parting of ways is not a loss but a natural progression. It signifies growth, new opportunities, and the branching out of influence. The gratitude and well-wishes we share are indicative of a healthy, respectful work culture that values each individual's contribution and journey.

In essence, "Walk With Me" in the modern workplace context is about building a culture of collaboration, continuous learning, adaptability, and mutual respect. It's about recognizing that every team member's journey contributes to the larger narrative of the organization's success.

The concept is reminiscient of a quote from Albert Camus, who I studied in school:

Don’t walk in front of me… I may not follow
Don’t walk behind me… I may not lead
Walk beside me… just be my friend
— Albert Camus

Gratitude for the Walk

As we reflect on the concept of this walk, it becomes clear how invaluable such a journey is in the tapestry of our professional lives. It is a profound expression of gratitude for the shared experiences, the collective wisdom gained, and the unspoken understanding that develops among team members in a workplace. Each step taken together symbolizes the small victories, the learning curves, and the collaborative efforts that contribute to the larger narrative of our organizational success. In acknowledging this, we cultivate a sense of deep appreciation for the nuances of teamwork and the diverse contributions that each member brings to the table.

This walk serves as a reminder of the importance of human connections in the workplace. Amid the hustle of deadlines and projects, it's easy to overlook the human element that drives it all. But this journey brings it to the forefront, celebrating the connections formed, the support extended, and the empathy shared among colleagues. This sense of gratitude extends beyond mere professional accomplishments; it encompasses the personal growth and the sense of belonging fostered within the community. As we continue to walk, either together or on diverging paths, we carry with us not just the skills and knowledge gained but also the profound gratitude for the journey and the people who have walked alongside us.

A Year and Change

So, where are we at in rebuilding an enterprise data team? The team is the definition of transformation.

  • We've made amazing progress, even with tech debt we inherited.
  • We've adjusted mindsets to see challenges as opportunities, creating a virtuous cycle for delivery.
  • We've adjusted roles and allowed engineers to work with agency across the data stack, upskilling and cross-training as they go.
  • We've put in the effort to ensure our team culture evokes candid communication rooted in trust, respect, and dignity.

The strides we've made in rebuilding the enterprise data team are just the beginning. As we look ahead, the path remains vibrant and full of potential. Looking forward, there are new challenges to explore, ideas to develop, and more milestones to achieve. With each step, we will discover new ways to innovate, adapt, and grow—underpinned by the shared commitment to excellence and collaboration.

We hope to see you out there as we cross one metaphorical finish line and continue toward the next win.



  1. If I had to pick one thing from each that I will never forget:

    • Bri: "We don't stay in our lane here."
    • Dan: "Always feel empowered. You have my full support."

    These stuck with me because their words weren't performative, but rather informative. Their actions continually underlined those words.


Reading Time: 5 minutes
Word Count: 1053 words
Author: Joey Davis

Walking together as a metaphor for team and community development in the modern workplace, emphasizing collaboration, continuous learning, adaptability, and mutual respect