The child, the grandmother, and the leaky roof

Part 1 of a series on how to communicate to executives, stakeholders, and developers at the right level of detail

Abby Allen


Image by stefamerpik on Freepik

It was February and the roof of the home we’d recently purchased was leaking. The snow on the roof was melting and a steady stream of water was dripping out of my kitchen cabinets, all over my countertops and onto the floor. The conversations I had over the next few hours looked something like this:

Me => mother-in-law: My roof is leaking. Can you watch our daughter while we fix this? Do you have a recommendation for a roofer?

Me => 5-year-old child: Please pack an overnight bag. You’re going to Grandma’s house until Daddy and I can figure out how to make our roof stop leaking.

Me => roofing contractor: My roof is leaking. Can you please come quickly to help me assess the problem?

Roofing contractor => me, after asking pertinent questions about the roof, it’s slope, the direction it faces, and snow cover: You probably have an ice dam. I am not the right person to help you right now. Call this contractor instead, then call me and I’ll look at it after it’s removed.

Me => ice dam removal company: I probably have an ice dam that’s causing my roof to leak. Can you please come immediately to help remove it?

Ice dam removal company => Me: Yes, but it’s been a busy day for us. We’ll be there in 2–4 hours and for safety reasons, we only work until dusk. Plus, if we come out we’re going to charge you whether or not it’s an ice dam. If we have to come out twice, we might charge you for two service calls. Cool? Cool.

Me => mother-in-law: Here is my child. Thank you. I have an ice dam removal company coming in 2–4 hours. I don’t know how long it will take to clear it once they get here, but if it’s too long it may need to wait until morning. Can you plan to feed my child dinner? Thanks.

Ice dam removal company => Me: We’re here! It’s definitely an ice dam. It should take us about two hours to clear. It will cost a stupid amount of money to have someone spray hot water on your roof. More water will come through your roof while we work. We’ll get started now.



Abby Allen

Abby Allen is a user-focused product manager, engineer, entrepreneur, and mom based in Minneapolis, MN.