Archives for posts with tag: tech

A friend who recently started in tech from another industry posted about…well, what sounded like a pretty normal week in tech. I had a response I thought I’d share. And I wish someone had shared this with me 6 years ago when I was crazy deep in the weeds. They probably tried. Anyway, my response to this friend is here. Maybe it’ll help someone.

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I watched this great master class with Pavarotti, you know, back in the day. And a student asked “what would you tell a director who cast you in something that wasn’t right for you?” And he said “the director is right. You trust the director. The director hears things, knows things, you don’t know, you can’t hear, sees things you can’t see. You have to trust the director.”

Tech is hard. It’s fucking fast, it’s insane, it’s exhausting, it’s ego-destroying, demoralizing, and insanely rewarding, especially if you’re the kind of person who is motivated by working on OMFG cool things with amazing, amazing people.

YOU ARE one of those people. You are one of those amazing people. YOU CANNOT BE MISCAST BECAUSE YOU WOULDN’T HAVE MADE IT THROUGH THE INTERVIEW PROCESS, LET ALONE 7 WEEKS without being right for the job. *I promise you*. I still have days like this after 13 years in tech and nearly 3 years on my team. Because it’s FUCKING CHALLENGING. It’s never comfortable.

But you are NOT in the wrong role. You can’t be. You were not hired for your knowledge of tech; everyone knows that. You were hired for your brain, your unique take on things, how you view the world and your work, your character. I don’t need to talk to your hiring team to know that; I know that. The ONLY thing that will kill this for you is if YOU allow these thoughts to undermine you. Because when you second-guess yourself, your character, whether or not you belong there, you undermine the very character and qualities for which you were hired. So *don’t* do that. Have faith in not knowing. Have faith in the process. We’re all learning. How you handle this part, NOT how much you know, is what will decide your future. So go strong. Remember why you are here. And, if you need to remind yourself, come back and read this thread.

The hardest, hardest part of the rehearsal process is the first time through off-book. In front of people, you test your memorization of the role. It’s HUMILIATING. It’s wrong, and you know it, and everyone who is looking at the score knows it. But YOU aren’t looking at the score. You’re face-first into the fire, you’re DOING it. And, before long, you’ll be popping off APIs and SDKs like a fucking pro, and if you remember why you were hired, you are going to be a rockstar. You ARE a rockstar. As said above; you’re still learning the songs.

I love you. You’re not miscast, because that’s impossible. You HAVE THIS. And this is PART of it. The suckiest part. But a part that, the more comfortable you get with it, the more you’ll grow. I feel like this *a lot* and, every time I feel like this, my career takes another shot forward. Deep breath.

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The message from men in software to women in software is…

“Shhhh”.

Yes, it’s been a long week. Yes, I’m feeling isolated. And, yes, you’re going to hear about it, right meow.

Typically, a post of this nature would go into “rantmodeon”, but the name of this blog is far too appropriate, so here we are.

To be clear, this stuff happens ALL OF THE TIME. These are not the first nor the most egregious examples. But now it’s happened often enough and in quick succession and it’s Friday, so I’ll stop issuing qualifiers and just dive right in.

First, a naming game. Everyone on a distribution list was throwing out names for a new product. I typically don’t have time to engage in brainstorms, much as I might want to, but it had been a long week and I had just finished a big thing so, I jumped in. And, despite my (male) manager having suggested names in a similar vein and no one saying anything, I was summarily smacked the heck down. For reasons for which my manager could also have been smacked down, but wasn’t.

“Shhhh”. Is what the response said. Or, if that wasn’t the intent, it’s what I heard. Or maybe it was “Shhhh, this isn’t your role” or “Shhhh, men are talking” or “Shhhh, I wasn’t willing to tell our boss why that naming convention won’t work but you’re [relatively] new and female so enjoy this public lesson in shhhh.” Very Dr. Evil, really.

To my manager’s credit, he responded to the distribution list saying he liked the name. And that was kind. But the damage is done. Am I going to speak up in a brainstorming again? Nope. I’m too busy…and the catch in my throat is too thorough, and creativity, especially mine, especially in a new realm, is like a flickering candle. You disappeared my safe space like the goddamned Cheshire cat, leaving me to think I should have known better.

So the very next day…

A meeting, in-person. I’m the only woman. I’m used to being the only woman in this environment. It’s toward the end of the meeting, we’re laughing, throwing out ridiculous suggestions, all increasing in volume, and I throw one out and a colleague says, “Stop screaming.”

Yeah.

Instead of doing what I’d do to a friend, in a trusted environment (which would have been to scream this instead), I laughed and said “If I were screaming, you’d know it.”

But I’m furious.

So it’s ok when your [male] co-workers are doing it, but when the little lady does it, you finally say something about it? Or is is that you aren’t willing to say anything to your other peers but I’m an ok target? Or is it that you just don’t think women should speak up and that it’s inappropriate? Or that you’re too delicate to be in a conversation with multiple people and think other people should change to accommodate you? Or…

You know what? Fuck yourself. And fuck me trying to figure out what the fuck your damage is. My job is not to figure out your motivations for being a condescending douchenozzle. Fuck yourself in the fucking neck for thinking it’s ok to publicly “shush” me in an environment where it’s totally fine for me to be exactly as loud and brilliant and vibrant and joyful and hilarious as I am; not a quiet workspace where everyone’s silently hunched over their desks. I’ve got a big personality and I have spent enough of my life apologizing for it. Yes, it’s important that people like me in order for them to want to work with me. But it’s also important that I not compromise who I am, because I have a job to do and I can’t get it done when I’m someone else.

You know what I don’t do with men who don’t like my big personality? I don’t fucking sleep with them. Don’t worry, buddy – it’s not a risk.

But what concerns me is that that isn’t as funny as I think it is. I think that men, many men, many men who mostly interact with women in non-work situations and then enter work environments that don’t particularly challenge them to change that behavior are just absolutely crippled when they encounter a woman with whom they need to work in order to get their jobs done but with whom they can’t envision spending time as friends, as lovers, as anything other than colleagues.

It’s nice when we like our colleagues. It makes things easier, it’s wonderful. Some of my closest friends, people I respect the most, are colleagues. But I also have an easy time respecting people that I don’t like – try putting on a show with 60 strangers some time. You’re not going to be friends with everyone, and you must find a way to interact without not-so-silently yelling “GET IN THE BOX! GET IN THE BOX!” while rapidly flipping between father figure/older brother/younger brother/awkward stranger at the bar personality types, trying to figure out how to interact. Try “respectfully”, as a start.

So what happens now? I smile, I go on, I do my damned job. I feel a bit sad, a bit alone, I write a blog post and marvel at the inadvertent harshness of the tech world, the impact of it on the personalities of women who are so naturally collaborative, who thrive on people getting along, who have walked over a proverbial bed of nails to just be in the tech world in the first place.

Getting a seat at the table is hard enough for a woman. You can’t imagine, most of you, most of you not doing exactly this, the knife blade on which a woman has to balance to be heard, when thoughts and opinions are part of the job, without being considered “shrill” or “bitchy”. And you can’t imagine how very, very quickly a woman is deflated, will retreat, will cease to offer the opinions you so desperately need in order to cease running a sausage factory.

Wednesday, I spoke at a girls’ technical high school about being a woman in tech. The topic was specific to women with degrees in the arts and humanities who had ended up in tech. I feel like a traitor for not talking about this. They’re so thoughtful, so collaborative, so outspoken and comfortable and in such a safe space.

The speakers had lunch beforehand, and we had a directed conversation about various things. Someone said “the reason there aren’t more women in tech is that there aren’t more women in tech.” Why is it? Not entirely, not all of it, but certainly part of it is because you loud, loud men are yelling:

WE NEED MORE (quiet, compliant) WOMEN IN TECH!