I am thankful today. These two. My biggest fans.
This is not the name I gave them, but the name they gave themselves. Their real names are Mom and Dad, or Bob and Lorraine in the world outside my family. But I frequently receive a note signed ‘your biggest fans’.
I know I am blessed. I always felt fortunate, but didn’t really understand how important the support and belief and challenge is from parents in our lives. I assumed for most of my childhood that everyone had people like this in their house – people to cheer us on, people to celebrate our success. I know now that not everyone has these types of fans standing with them.
Don’t get me wrong. They didn’t cheer me on without having high expectations. When I needed a push to study harder, to think about my actions, and to bring my best self to the table, they were there for those moments also.
But they were always there as a fan when the moment mattered … when I got an interview, when I landed a job, and when I was promoted. They were there in personal moments too … when I got married, we bought a house, made important decisions about how to raise the kids, and when I achieved my black belt in martial arts. They discussed important decisions with me, they provided input, they let me make decisions and mistakes, and they celebrated the successes.
I recently gave a strategy presentation that was extremely important in my job. I discussed it with them. They both have backgrounds in technology jobs. They provided feedback, proof-read the presentation, and provided feedback on how to make it stronger. Just like real fans, they want me to be great.
They call, send notes, share photos, and brag every now and then. 😎
They inspire me with their zest for life. They are busy, involved in life, and yet always there for people who need them. One of their mottos is “we show up” and they do. They have extended family all over North America and they are often on the road. They’ve got it figured out from packing the car, hitting the road, finding new adventures, and being there for the good times and hard times in equal measures. People often say “we knew you’d come”.
They’ve taught me so much and been there for so many. And yet, at the end of the day no matter what else is going on I know they are there for me. Encouraging, smiling, and cheering. My biggest fans.
Serenity in Sturgis? Three words I never thought I’d say. Heck, I never knew what Sturgis was until 10 years ago and certainly didn’t think I’d go there. More accurately, never thought I’d want to go.
I found myself agreeing, and then actually looking forward to attending the bike rally in Sturgis, South Dakota this year. It was the 77th annual rally.
It all started with the first rally of 9 bikers and a race so long ago and has grown to an all-time high for the 75th anniversary of 739,000 attendees. There are bikes and people everywhere you look, vendors hawking shirts and hats, and bikes for demo rides and bikes for sale. And of course, food and beer.
We had great weather – the rain threatening every day but not really invading (okay, soaked us once) and the rally was fun.
So, where’s the serenity? Oh yes…
I was fortunate to attend with my husband and 11 other members of his club. And while the rally was terrific and Sturgis a sight to see during rally week, the riding…the beautiful riding was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. The views, the history of the area, Mt. Rushmore, the eye of the needle, the Badlands (as fun to say as it is to ride), Spearfish Canyon, and Needles Highway.
I felt like an honorary member of the club being treated to a secret world of twisties, wind rushing past, beautiful sights, and camaraderie over dinner after each tiring day. I could never find the words to thank this crew of hardcore riders for generously sharing Sturgis with me so I’ll try with photos.
When you’re on a road that twists and turns for miles on end and then arrive at a sign that says ‘caution, tight turns ahead’, you know you’re in for something special. Leaning into the curve and enjoying the sensation is the prelude to opening up after the curve and being presented with a visual feast of rock formations, waterfalls, and wildlife.
South Dakota. Where they planned the views, and then built the roads to present them at the perfect angle. Literally. How could you not find serenity in that?
May all you girl geeks enjoy vacation this summer and find your own inspiration for serenity.
Stand strong and be visible. There are so many reasons to be discouraged by what you hear, what you read, and what you experience in technology today.
And yet, there is one reason to stand strong – because you want to be in Tech and you know you’re good at it. Scratch that, girl geek. If you’re in tech today as a female, you’re probably great at it! If you were merely curious, or sort of good at coding, you likely would have opted out through the education, hiring, or early days of working in tech.
Great coders – those who ‘feel it’ – when the code doesn’t work, and then ultimately when it does, have so much in common. This goes for men and women. We all have the common desire to solve problems and create. The most humble also have the trait of wanting to help others by looking for the elusive bug or syntax error in your colleague’s code help him/ her get over that roadblock. These humble geeks care – about the profession, about the people, and about the results.
You can always find the other kind of coder – the bully, the sexist, the kind who believe the ‘club’ should be closed. Spoiler alert – some of these people are actually women. Women who had a hard time breaking in and want the women behind them to feel it too, and women who are afraid there are only so many seats at the table open to women and will (sometimes quietly) derail other women to secure or protect their seat.
Don’t focus on these people too much, but know they exist.
Seek out your positive, helpful, supportive colleagues and bosses and network. There are so many people in tech – men and women – who want to help with advice, and connections, and their time.
Girl geek – stand strong! After all, if you walk away, who will help the next girl geek who was looking to be inspired by you?
Today I am thankful that although I have to do some work after hours, I found this beautiful workspace to use. Travelling for business, staying in hotels, and missing the comforts of home can be draining at times. Instead of sitting in my office at work, or sitting at the desk in my hotel room and feeling tired of handling paperwork, I decided to sit outside and work. Reading documents and managing email felt so different. It was a quiet space and the weather perfect for sitting outside (in the shade).
I also realized I am feeling more creative and my mind is flowing in better ways than normal. I’m inspired and motivated. Is it the peace… the comfort… the time of day… the warm weather and sunshine… ? Maybe a bit of all these factors. And I’m sure one other reason is I made a choice – to sit and focus, to enjoy my surroundings while working, and to set a cut off time when I would wind up the day and head to the gym. When I work in a hotel room, it’s hard to cut the work off so I’m enjoying many benefits and a positive sense of perspective.
Our surroundings – the space and the people – matter. Make good choices girl geek!
Positive Controversy? Yes, it’s happening right now for Women in Tech.
There have been many stories in the news over the past few weeks about how women in technology have been treated badly. And almost as many stories about the reaction of people to those facts.
From CEOs who have resigned, to CEOs who have spoken out saying “maybe they didn’t realize what they were doing” (bullshit) to companies working on culture change and women feeling empowered to tell their own stories. Diversity and inclusion are being talked about, and many companies are working hard to create a culture where diversity and inclusion are not only understood but also practiced.
The stories are varied in frequency, impact, and viciousness. The one thing they all have in common is that women in technology are often treated as though a) they shouldn’t be there because it makes men uncomfortable, b) they can’t possibly know how to code, c) if they are going to be in this profession, they should accept lewd behaviour and worse, or d) they can be successful but only to a point. (That point being a level in the organization just below the person who is judging them).
But…these stories are all positive for one reason.
Because women are in these jobs, and it’s making people uncomfortable, and that leads to talking about it, and women standing up for themselves, and other men and women standing up for them, …and ultimately change.
When I started in technology, there were no women managers in the technology department of the company I was in. And now women are not only in manager roles, they are also in executive roles, and CIO roles, and in roles as CEOs leading tech companies.
Imagine the arrogance of women doing that?
Imagine the bravado, the intelligence, the tenacity, the grit!
Go girls go! Keep showing up. Keep making people uncomfortable. Keep proving yourselves. And while you’re doing all that, make a conscious choice to stand up for other Women in Tech who need your support.
I look forward to the day young women in technology ask us what all the fuss was about because they are treated so normally they don’t know the challenges that existed.
Let’s help make that happen.
The Times, They are A-Changing
I’ve had some terrific experiences interviewing and accepting jobs in my career. I’ll contrast this with some other experiences I’ve had along the way.
One time I talked to a senior executive of a company I worked for and stated my interest in a job that had just opened up. This job was leading a technology area that had historically been mostly male team members and always led by a male executive. His response was “this job is difficult and could have an impact on your family life”. When I talked to the HR Executive about my interest in the role, she asked “do you think you’re tough enough?”. I believe their responses would have been different if I were a (louder, larger) man.
One person I interviewed told me he wasn’t sure he could work for me because he had never had a female boss.
Once I was interviewed for a role and the executive said to me “If you look at all the people you’d be working with, do you think you’ll be able to get your point across with your style?” I didn’t understand the concern so I probed further. He clarified by saying “It doesn’t seem like you would be comfortable yelling”.
I was asked once if I would be comfortable working for a female executive.
I am not using these examples to call these people out. This is how they genuinely think and feel. Everyone goes through their own evolution of thinking about inclusion at their own pace. I tell you these stories for two reasons:
1. Awareness – It’s always good to know the truth. If someone thinks you aren’t tough enough and says that to you, you can give examples of how you work through difficult situations or with difficult people. If they’re concerned about working for a female boss, you can discuss what the concerns are and talk through your management style. If they think two strong women can’t work together, you can talk about why you think it’s an advantage and how you have experience. Anything someone brings up can be discussed. When the bias is unspoken, it’s hard to make your point.
2. Decisions – Times are changing, and people are changing. Some of the change is driven by education, some by exposure and time, and some change is driven by law. There may never be a time everyone will embrace your participation. In these cases, you may need to make decisions about what you can accept and what you can’t and whether the environment is the right place for you.
The Times, They are A-Changing. Maybe not as quickly as we want, but keep in mind that every step forward creates positive momentum. Keep the faith, keep challenging the status quo, and be ready with your examples in case you end up in any of these situations and discussions yourself!