Free lunch to free lunch

Free lunch to free lunch

Wherein I wrestle with myself and the question “Why does your company give you free lunch when you’re the last person who needs it?”

 

Tech jobs: Get your ass in the door

Getting a job in tech when you aren’t a developer or computer science graduate takes the strongest parts of yourself.

If you have passion, curiosity and determination, you can get a job in tech. Be willing to admit when you don’t know something. You may not have the technical skills today, but you’ve got something else of value: interest.

I really do!I have a passion for communication and the technology that powers it. I began learning about infrastructure by asking myself how the web works, from an address in a web browser to bytes on a computer disk and back to my monitor. Answer that question and you’re ahead of most people in the world. 15 years later, I spend more time thinking about how thousands of people can send information to thousands of other people instantaneously.

Maybe you love an app on your phone, or how youtube videos of cats display on your television. Be curious about technology around you, then go learn how it works. This is the easiest path toward developing technology skills because you are learning a skill while feeding your interests.

When I’m searching for a new job, I always have these questions and answers in mind: What am I passionate about? What kind of company do I want to work for? What experience do I have? Then I follow these steps:

  • Write down a list of your education, talents and experience. They don’t have to be technical. Technology companies need the everyday positions held in other companies. Think about how these skills can be utilized in any environment.
  • Develop a network of people smarter than you and get comfortable asking questions. Nobody expects you to come to a new community with all the answers. Learning about technology is a long journey without end, and nobody is going to fault you for taking some shortcuts by asking for help. When you are helped by your network, be gracious and kind. These are the people who will help you through the rest of your career in ways you can’t imagine now.
  • Find a company that excites you. I focus on companies where I’m already using their product, or where I find their branding in line with my own interest. Entry-level job seekers should focus on smaller companies, where culture and fit are as important to the success of the company as skills and experience.
  • Find a contact at the company. This is where your network comes in – through Linkedin, your social circle, a local user group, or even through the company’s “about” page. I’ve contacted a CEO directly when I found a small company I loved and it worked. I don’t recommend this with a large organization where the CEO is not directly involved in hiring decisions. Contacting a person directly may get you routed to an area you weren’t aware. That inside person may know of a job that best suits your skill.
  • Don’t focus on job titles. Job requirements lie. Job titles are made up. I’ve had more titles than I can count at this point in my career. Hiring managers put our ideal candidate in the requirements in the event that the person exists. Most of the time we mostly want dedicated employees. Apply for the job even if you don’t match all the job requirements. You never know where your experience or interest may fall right in line with a job, despite lack of skill.
  • Ignore the recruiters. Recruiters are much more strict about skills and experience. This is because they don’t know the job well enough to know where to be flexible. A recruiter may not see that being fluent in three languages + staying up all night gaming is the perfect fit for a gaming company looking to expand to Europe. Don’t be discouraged if you’re rejected by a recruiter – they’re not the people to impress when you’re new to the industry.
  • Write an interesting cover letter. If you’re funny, make your letter funny – appropriately. If you’re passionate about travel, speak to your ability to jump into new situations and thrive. Include the talents and experience you wrote above. Don’t copy/paste a form cover letter you’ve found online. When you allow the hiring manager to see the real you, you’ll both know when you’re the right fit for the job.
  • When interviewing, never say “I know this but I just can’t remember” even if it’s completely true. Take a breath. State the question back to the interviewer to make sure you understand what they’re asking. Walk them through how you would get to the right answer. It’s OK not to know the answer. We want to know how you’d get the answer when it happens at work. Keep the insecurity inside your head, and lead with confidence.
  • When you do get a job offer as an entry-level worker in tech, be flexible. The hours or commute may not be ideal, the pay not as awesome as you thought tech jobs would be. Research the company, market and pay for the type of work being done and don’t undervalue yourself. You’re just getting started, and the payoff potential is huge. If you’re passionate and focused on the prize, you will know when the trade-off is worth it.
  • Once inside the company, learn from peers in other departments. Volunteer for projects that are outside of your comfort zone. You may find you are particularly interested in an area you hadn’t considered before. You may find you don’t want to learn to program. That’s fine!

If you do want to program, there are plenty of resources online. I  like how to get a job as a developer in less than six months. Jeff has great, specific advice on a path to a developer job. Pick a language, learn it well enough to make something and you’ll be able to apply that skill to developer jobs, even if the specific language is not on the job requirements.

These are all ways I’ve been able to land jobs in tech. If you’re in tech and didn’t come through the traditional CS route, what’s worked for you?

A Rollergirl state of mind

Roller Derby* is a physical game, but like most sports, most interesting is what is going on inside a Rollergirl’s mind.

Photo By Joe Schwartz

Rollergirls must face and overcome fears every time we enter the track. There’s fear of falling, fear of ridicule, fear of failure, fear of losing and fear of real physical harm. We face these fears in front of our loved ones, and sometimes in front of crowds of thousands. When a Rollergirl learns to skate, she must set aside these fears, or risk them coming true.

Skating like a Rollergirl means pushing ourselves beyond our comfort barriers. Our motivation has to come from a place of excitement and an opportunity to learn something new. Instead of focusing on the ways we may fail or lose, we imagine how awesome it will feel to execute that turn-stop or jump that apex. A Rollergirl focuses on where she wants to go, not where she’s afraid. That means never looking at the ground. When rounding the track we look to the next corner, always anticipating our next move.

At the core of a Rollergirl state of mind is knowing we may be knocked over at any moment on the track. A Rollergirl must first become comfortable falling. Our gear is necessary for physical safety, and reminds us we are allowed to fall. As we become comfortable with falling, we take more risks. We learn that every fall is an opportunity to stand up and try again. The Japanese proverb “Fall seven times, stand up eight” is physically true for Rollergirls.

Roller Derby radically changes our appreciation for our bodies. Our focus is on how best to utilize each part, no matter the size or shape. As women we get much of our strength in our hips, thighs and butt. When hitting or being hit, Rollergirls lead from this source of power. Our lower halves weren’t made just for babies – they provide us with stability, strength and confidence. There’s no time to worry about a muffin top when blocking a jammer or scoring a winning point.

Rollergirls are aggressive, despite the fact that as girls we are taught to be nice and likable. There’s an obvious tension here, which may explain the skirts and makeup. A great thing about Roller Derby is we keep aggression on the track, where we give each other permission to do so safely. Whatever happens on the track stays on the track. Still, years of being told to be nice to your friends is difficult to overcome without practice. My Jr Rollergirl step-daughter handles this by imagining her opponents as pieces of bacon, rather than her friends.

Rollergirls practice all of this for hours every week. We practice so our bodies move without thought. We practice so our feelings aren’t hurt when our derby hero knocks us across the track. We practice so we learn to lose gracefully, and win with humility. We practice to anticipate the unexpected. We learn the only things we control are our minds, bodies and how we react to the unexpected around us.

The last time I fell playing roller derby, I didn’t get up right away, and not on my own. It took me a couple years and a hip surgery before I put skates back on. I no longer play competitively, but every week during derby season I strap on my gear and coach the next generation of Rollergirls. The challenges I face as a coach are different than as a player, but that’s for another post.

* Roller Derby is a grassroots, full-contact sport made up of hundreds of leagues around the world. We play by a unified set of rules, with referees and scorekeepers. Skaters don’t get paid to play. We play because we love it. To learn more about roller derby, visit WFTDA and DerbyNewsNetwork. Roller Derby is in your town and you will love it too.

** If you’re in Seattle this weekend and interested in hearing a little more about roller derby, come see me and many other interesting guests speak at Ignite Seattle. Fremont Outdoor Cinemas, 7:30ish.

What we talk about when we talk about tech jobs.

I stopped reading main stream news articles about the lack of women in technology. I care deeply about the gender gap in tech, but I don’t need to read the article to know what they’ll report. Lots of women go to college, not enough get computer science degrees, even fewer get jobs and stick with programming or development after they graduate.  I’m a woman in tech, and none of that is my story. Let’s talk more about all of us without a CS degree. Let’s talk about the jobs that aren’t programming or development.

Working in tech puts you in a position for high-salary, great benefits and access to further opportunity.  I want more women to do it.  However, the stereotypical tech employee, as depicted in main stream television and film, is a young male developer with a CS degree. (Ok, sometimes you get the male dev who dropped out – Zuckerberg, Gates, Jobs – but how many of us can honestly relate to them?)  Tech jobs aren’t limited to developers, CS degrees or men. The media isn’t addressing the large number folks like myself that don’t get paid to develop, yet still reap the benefits of a job in technology.

There’s a huge demand for application development, and for that reason I’m thankful for efforts to teach programming and computer science to girls. The stronger the demand for application development, the more opportunity exists for these surrounding roles in tech. In addition to developers, tech companies need:

  • Design (Web, Graphic Designers, UX engineers)
  • Infrastructure (Data centers, Networks, Systems)
  • Database Administrators (DBAs)
  • Testing (Quality Assurance)
  • Project and Product Management
  • People to answer and resolve your questions and issues (Customer Service and Support, Community Management)
  • Documentation (Technical Writers)
  • Data analysis (Business Analyst, Data Scientists)
  • Sales and Marketing to ensure longevity or the application
  • HR
  • IT (Helpdesk)
  • Administrative assistance, office management…
  • The list goes on….believe me

This is the story that needs to be told. We need more examples of technology jobs and more diverse role models for women who have not yet stepped in to this industry.  Women need to know where to aim before taking the leap in to the mostly unknown. My ego wants you to understand how much impact I have on technology empowering free-speech around the world, without being a developer. I want to tell you what I do so I can encourage you to do this, too. I’d like for you to know that the doors are still open to you.

Technology is created and supported by folks from all sorts of backgrounds. I encourage anyone to consider working in tech regardless of experience, talents or background. The more broadly we talk about all tech jobs, the better chance we have of recruiting a more diverse group. Technology companies will benefit from this diversity. We will better meet the needs of our users when we are made up by those we serve.

This Sunday I’ll be discussing this topic along with other women on the panel “Tech jobs you never knew you wanted”. Come say hi to us at GeekGirlCon!

I am a Diversity Candidate

I am a Hispanic woman without a college education. I lived in poverty, as defined by the US Census Bureau, until I was 19 years old. Regardless of where I’m at today, my income or the opportunities I’m now awarded, I will always be a Diversity Candidate.

I will spare you (today!) the stories about getting in this industry despite my background. Today, I’m responding to Bindu Reddy’s TechCrunch post I Don’t Want To Be A Diversity Candidate. While many parts created an immediate gut reaction (and not in the “you go girl!” way), rather than picking it apart I will focus on this sentence:

  “I am not really sure we should worry about the lack of women in tech any more than worrying about why there are not more female truck drivers or more male nurses.”

You know why there should be more women in Tech? Because tech jobs are awesome. Because women deserve the benefits and privileges that being in Tech are awarded. Because for some lucky reason right now is the best time to be in this industry, and getting in now may mean you have that privilege for the rest of your career.

I pushed myself in to this industry, and as a result I live a life of privilege that I only dreamed while growing up as a “Diversity Candidate.”  These are some of the benefits I’ve enjoyed over the last 14 years:

  • Flexibile work hours
  • Telecommuting
  • Unlimited/unaccounted vacation days
  • Tech gadgets – phones, laptops, web cams
  • Snacks/drinks/Catered meals. Never-ending caffeine
  • Massages, gym membership, yoga, meditation and other health focused activities
  • Opportunity to meet and talk with the very best in their fields
  • Relocation to awesome cities (Seattle, San Francisco)
  • Continuous work through 2 market crashes
  • Networking opportunities – getting connected with other passionate techies in up and coming fields
  • I am passionate about the products I support
  • Having a baby does not mean choosing a career or a child

These benefits treat me humanely, allow me to keep a healthy work/life balance and care for my family, but they are the exception in our country. Until the “woman dominated” fields afford the same luxuries as the male dominated field of Tech, we should be worried. These are our mothers, sisters and daughters – why would we be OK accepting anything less than the most awesome for them and us?

I encourage anyone – women, men, educated or not – to find a way in to this career. This is not about whether or not you’re good at math or you have a CS degree, or whether you received a scholarship, money or opportunity due to your race, sex or class. Tech needs all kinds. I’ve never (to my knowledge) been hired or educated due to a quota. I have had, throughout my career, particular people who have reached out to give me a hand where I otherwise may have been lost or missed an opportunity. For those people, I’m extremely grateful.  I encourage you to be aware of and take any opportunities given. You, your family and Tech will benefit in the end.

I, WFH

I’ve worked from home on and off for the last 8 years. Lots of us romanticize working from home.  You can work in your underwear! You can run errands! You can lounge on a back patio and work at the same time! Your house will be clean, you will have an awesome tan and people will ask if you’ve just gone somewhere tropical. You will smile and announce “No, I get paid to tan!”

A couple weeks in to your new dream job, you are lonely, unfocused, and (still) wearing your PJs. Your skin is pale and you’ve forgotten how to talk to people you meet in person.

The reality of working from home sets in. It’s difficult to be present in your job while doing errands. Multi-tasking doesn’t work. The sun glare on your monitor ruins the “working from outside” dream. (BTW as soon as that problem has been solved I will amend the working from outside statement – I’m never giving up that dream!). Your coworkers aren’t sure what you’re doing all day, and you can’t shake the feeling that you should be working – 24 hours a day. Unless you are lucky to make a living doing what you love, being at home does not make your job suck any less. You’ll just be at home with nobody to complain to.

However! Give it three months, stick the these rules, and before you know it you’ll forget that most of your interaction with other beings involves your cat.

Video Conferencing – Use it

This is the best tool I’ve discovered over the last couple years, and has greatly altered my perspective on WFH. Yes, the same techology once associated with “cam whores” now powers my productivity as a WFH employee. I’ve got a camera on me at my home office, and a stationary monitor at the main office displaying my video. My coworkers always know where to find me, and when I visit the office in person, I sit at this same spot. This is my “virtual head” that keeps me in mind. It works, I promise.

Before I get in to the general WFH tips, here are a few specific to the camera-from-home lifestyle:

  • Be nice! Remember it is probably more uncomfortable for the folks on the other end of that camera than it is for you. Speak up, smile, invite conversation and interaction.
  • Get a buddy. Ask (nicely!) your manager for their support, and a coworker to conference in to meetings or other events.
  • Camera Etiquette. Keep your camera on mute unless you’re talking. Always remember when the cam is on. You will forget at least once, but probably never again after that.
  • Use it. Keep your camera on during  business hours. This will communicate to your coworkers that you are available and interested in engaging with them.

General WFH Tips

  • Create a space: Just as you would at an office, create a dedicated, clean space with your necessary work tools and put a door on it. Preferably this is a room that isn’t used for other activity – you want an area that won’t distract you with thoughts of house chores or projects. Close the door at the end of the day.
  • Routine: Just as getting up, dressing, eating, coffee, commuting and saying hi to coworkers is part of a “normal” work day – do as much as you can at home to recreate this. Say hi to your coworkers virtually.
  • Boundaries: Keep business hours. In my job, “business hours” extends to on-call, during which time I’m not on camera. However, when my co-workers are in the office, I am too. At the end of the day the camera goes off, the laptop closes, I shut the office door and am “done” with the day. Sometimes going for a walk or taking a bath helps the transition.
  • Hallway Conversations: This is one of the loudest and strongest arguments I’ve heard against telecommuting. You miss out on “hallway conversations” when you’re remote. This is an area where you do have to reach out more than your fellow coworkers. It is much more awkward for them to ask you personal questions when you’re at home. Asking personal questions of your coworkers while they’re in their work space, however, is natural. Ask how their weekend was. Share something about yourself, your space. My coworkers know more about my cats than anyone else, but I’m now a part of their water cooler conversation. It is easier to bounce ideas off of my virtual head because of this connection.
  • Dress for success: OK, I admit over the years I’ve become more lazy. But doing my hair, putting on makeup, dressing like I would in the office are parts of the routine that can get me in the mood for a full day of concentration. Plus, you never know when Lady Gaga or Suze Orman are going to stop by your virtual head.
  • Light-meetings: Meetings and telecommuting continue to be a challenge. I’m able to do this work remotely in part because my meeting schedule is light. While I can conference call to a meeting, it is difficult engage in the rapid fire discussions that occur. Whether in disagreement or a brainstorm of great ideas, having to interject myself can take some of the excitement out of the moment. This is a bummer. My suggestion: ask for notes sent out afterward, and book your calendar solid with in-person meetings when you’re in the real office.
  • Go to the office: Plan on this at a regular interval that will let you maintain some order in your life, but often enough that you don’t use it a as a vacation. When in the office, walk around, visit coworkers at their desk, schedule meetings – formal and informal. Eat lunch with strangers. Have coffee with people from other teams. And go out with your own team after work for those drinks you would have done if you were in the office regularly.

The Don’ts

Don’t watch TV. Don’t skip meals. Don’t disappear without letting your coworkers know where you are. Don’t assume you’ll be included without gentle reminding/nudging. Don’t take it personally when you’re forgotten.

The Do’s

Be present. Know what’s happening in the office. Communicate. Make up for your lack of physical presence with email, chat, phone calls and anything else available to you.

Forgiveness

Everybody has a bad day. At the office, you can signal these bad days by wearing headphones, keeping that “F off” body pose or finding an unused conference room for the day. Thankfully for us, it is as easy as turning off the camera for the day and putting yourself in email and IM mode only. Block off your calendar. Take the downtime you need, because that IS a perk of working from home. And  if you didn’t stick to all the rules today, forgive yourself and try harder tomorrow.

Take advantage of the advantages

My coworkers are fed catered lunches (and sometimes breakfast and dinner) every day. I miss that. However, I use my lunch time and afternoon breaks to prepare scrumptious meals that I would otherwise have no time or energy for if I were doing a regular commute. My “commute” time is a few minutes, so I sleep in longer than my co-workers. And sometimes I really don’t have to wear pants.

This is what works for me. Do you have your own tips you’ve learned through experience?  I’d love to hear them!

Fail up and Blog

These are shower thoughts I’ve compiled on reasons I don’t blog:

  • Overwhelming and paralyzing desire to impress you with my totally original and unique thoughts.
  • Fear that I do not have original or unique thoughts.
  • Too many subjects. Too little time to write.
  • Too many thoughts but can’t focus long enough to write more than 140 characters  (or Why I Tweet but not Blog).
  • Don’t want to be judged.
  • I get annoyed when people disagree with me.
  • If I never write, I’ll never fail.

I have paralyzed myself over-thinking writing about my thoughts.

James Altucher’s 33 Unusual Tips to Being a Better Writer kicked me in the butt. His writing is entertaining, simple, insightful and shocking in a fun way, like that cold plunge after soaking at a Russian sauna. His advice has demystified a subject I’ve built up over so many years.  One point especially slayed me with his simplicity -

Don’t be afraid of what people think

13+ years of public education never supported those statements.

I wasn’t taught to fail. My body, thought processes, notions of time and reflexes have been to prevent failure. I am an expert at picking apart all ways others have failed. The idea that one day I’d be doing the same never hit home. Sometimes I do the wrong thing. Sometimes I lose. Sometimes I didn’t try as hard as I could, and I lose. Sometimes I put in  everything I have, and I still lose.

At 32, I have a new mantra. I will lose. I will make mistakes. I will have shitty periods of time that are completely outside of my control. People I love will make mistakes, usually completely unrelated to me, or not. I will work with people I don’t understand, that I really dislike, and they will fail, just like me. All of these things will happen, and there is nothing I can do about it.

Having failed in a few areas over the last couple years, I’m now back on my feet and ready to fail at something new. As the Japanese Proverb goes, Fall seven times, stand up eight. I’m ready to fail at blogging!

Home sweet home?

I’ve been blogging since Oct 2nd, 2000 where I had my “first post!” on Livejournal

With little concern about privacy, I publicly posted my daily habits, made plans with friends, caught up with old-coworkers and established my community and persona online. When I began working for Brad Fitzpatrick as Livejournal’s Systems Administrator, I made the decision to post more privately, using filters to distinguish between my inner circle, family, friends, co-workers, and the world at large. I learned the hard way that not all information should be available publicly, and the ability to maintain anonymity through an online experience allowed me to continue to be creative without fear of judgment or retribution. I continue to believe that anonymity and the ability to choose how you are presented online is vital toward the future innovation and community building through the internet – more on that in future posts.

Livejournal was acquired by Six Apart in 2005, and I continued to work with Six Apart not only on Livejournal but on Typepad, helping to create and run the service Vox and dabbling a bit with some MovableType services support. While Livejournal was my introduction into the blogging/ online community, Six Apart was a major part of that experience. Through the opportunities given to me at Six Apart, I was able to grow professionally while making some personal connections I hope to maintain for a long time.

Through those 4 years at Six Apart, I blogged sporadically through Livejournal and Vox, but found myself reaching out to community and sharing in other, more brief ways, such as Flickr for my “Photo a day” project.

In 2007 I began using Twitter for updates that fit my daily schedule (and attention span).  In 2010 I began working for Twitter, continuing my desire to work on what I consider to be the most important methods for real-time information sharing.

It is now 2010 and I want to post more than 140 characters and photos at a time. Livejournal was sold again, and I found the experience ruined by ads and lack of new user features. Vox is being shut down and with the recently announced acquisition of Six Apart by VideoEgg, I’m less stoked about starting a Typepad blog. So, I’ve made the decision to centralize online presence through WordPress.com.

It doesn’t make me happy to have so few options available to for blogging, though I am grateful for the tools and portability that allow me to move my data along with me. I hope this is something WordPress and future community sites continue to make available, and that we as a community continue to demand.

I hope to use this space for the expression of my ideas and experiences as a woman in technology and roller derby fanatic and anything else I feel like contributing!

Mercury in Retrograde: say it and you die

If you can tell me how this :

Mercury retro in Pisces, the sign of his fall, creates mental and emotional confusion, with strange dreams and sometimes psychic experiences. Mental processes being entwined with emotions, we find it hard to separate ideas and opinions from passion and idealism. Our mental orientation can be unstable, unrealistic and overly-spiritual, but it also inclines to laziness and increases the urge to consume alcohol. Nervousness and stress, even unfounded fears and paranoia are stimulated, especially from working or living in a hostile environment. Maintain privacy and dignity in the working environment and don’t try to read between the lines, when there is really nothing to find.

has anything to do with servers falling over without reason, maybe I’ll let you live. But why take the chance?

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