A little bit of girl power

So we’ve talked about my new office nemesis… well not really nemesis… she’s got nothing on me… more an irritating fly hovering round my picnic! But today I saw the benefits of fellow like minded females working together, albeit from thousands of miles away! See, my organisation is part of a global one and we’re trying to get our UK ship in order, hence I got hired.

I was delighted today to have a conversation with a fellow Female Data Architect in the same organisation who works thousands of miles away on the other side of the equator but is equally as passionate about doing the job properly as I am and it was incredibly refreshing. I often work alone… like an assassin in the night tinkering away at designs and governance, doing my thing before it gets to the board and they hopefully say yes, then the real fun work begins of actually guiding the guys through making it. I’m normally the witch at the front of the battle march as I guide my general through the rocky terrain of data delivery, scoping out the unknowns with my mind so that when battle commences we return triumphant with something that works and we release it into prod.

The intuition is the mystery I own as they deal with the here and now and I forecast and plan and consider how the landscape of the data we design will change over time so that what I design is adaptable and built to last.

Today I met my equal, the fellow data witch on the other side of the planet who faces the same issues, deals with the same obstacles of not knowing and having to predict and consider and plan for all possibilities. I realised I’m not so alone in this male dominated world, and whilst girls like us are rare in this role, when you get one you can be damned sure she’s doing a bloody good job. It was great to share ideas with someone who actually saw the benefits of using a variety of techniques, wasn’t just another Hadoop ‘fan boy’ jumping on the train to be the best at the tech. Instead she’s practicing her art and applying her knowledge to come up with something that works and isn’t just wizzy and shiny but falls over as soon as it hits system integration testing.

So what is it that we women offer in these roles? The wise one offers pragmatism, the ability to reflect on what works and what doesn’t. I often find we’re more open to ideas and not just running off on some ego trip of who built it faster, who built it bigger or who made it the most complex. Perhaps because we’re not blinded by testosterone quite so much as the boys we are more holistic in how we solve problems, more willing to stop and think rather than jumping in with our swords at the first sign of trouble.

This is what I’m talking about, girls in technical roles supporting the others regardless of gender and lifting them up so they can be at their best. Girls who know the struggles of having to jump those extra hurdles to prove that the innie bearer can be just as good if not better than he of the outie. Perhaps it’s the inner mothers in us that makes us want to nurture our work, plan it carefully to see it grow over time rather than trying to constantly create that Big Bang of change with catastrophic effects of it doesn’t work out.

We wear makeup and we look damned good in heels but it’s just a mask to make the power of the brain inside more approachable perhaps, that scary brain with ideas that might just change the world one day. The benefits of the witch at the helm on your ship is that she can play all the roles if she’s comfortable in how she uses her powers. She can navigate, she can plan, she can fix, she stays positive even in the storm. We lead in a way that doesn’t scare the men, we lead in a way that motivates the troops.

Today was a day when I felt less alone, in a world full of men who loose their heads at the first sign of trouble, with their hair on fire as the production environment burns to the ground, we’re here in the background keeping it together till we’ve put out every last fire and try to make sure we plan so there isn’t another one…

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Insecure

There will always be insecure people in this world, perhaps we’re all a little insecure to some extent in some aspects of our lives to a somewhat greater or lesser extent. The trick is in how you deal with it. I have a million and one some days, other days perhaps just a hundred or so… most revolve around the idea that people might not like me. I’m a bit of a marmite character I guess. My enthusiasm can be perceived as fake if people don’t know that that’s how I am. My sarcasm cutting because well it just comes out. Many people don’t see what lies behind the slightly off the wall red head with a few strings to her bow. This week I’d had some suspicions about a new work colleague confirmed. A rather rather insecure woman in a management position who perhaps sees me as a threat. I’ve dealt with these types before. They are so unsure of themselves that they see another woman as competition and so have to try discredit them in order to feel better about themselves. It’s a bit sad really.

I’m my head when I’m a woman in my mid forties I’ll have worked through a lot of my issues, I’m doing this daily, and will be so well grounded that I’ll know myself inside and out well enough to understand my strengths and accept my weaknesses. We all have them, and a weakness is only really a weakness if you can’t accept and control it or allow someone else to fill in that gap when we’re talking professionally.

One thing I can never understand is why women feel threatened by others, we have a hard enough job to do when we are faced with trying to make it in what is still a quite male dominated world. Perhaps this is our downfall as a gender. I will often complain about the “boys club” mentality of some organisations, that’s still present and quite obvious in some places, but actually if women clubbed together and stuck up for each other in the same way a sisterhood would, we’d be a lot stronger than individuals all fighting to get into the boys club where we’ll never quite fit in. That is the reality.

I get it, I get why women do this, we are beating ourselves up constantly, we believe inside that we’re failures so much that when we see another woman who seemingly has it together they’re a threat to our already insecure shakey foundation and might just pip us to that coveted post as honorary girl in the boys club. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The woman I’m dealing with, who can’t stand my jokes, my knowledge, my being on time for work, my need to have a vape to go think stuff over, my ability to fit in with my peers, my experience of life, doesn’t see or know about the things I have had to do, or overcome to get to where I am. She doesn’t understand that I listen to music because it helps me concentrate. She doesn’t understand that I wear makeup because I’m still not totally over having had terrible skin as a teenager. She doesn’t see that I go to the gym because it releases seretonin so I can cope with depression without pills these days, she just sees a metalhead, who is bold enough to wear red lipstick and works out so must be vain. She doesn’t get that my tattoo has meaning, she didn’t ask, she doesn’t realise that raising a diabetic teen is worrying, that being soul payer of the mortgage, the bills, the organiser, the soother, the fixer and the tidier has its days where going to work is actually a blessing. We have different viewpoints on working. I work to further my experience, learn everything I can and become an expert at what I do, this lady is perhaps here to take the money and make sure people know how important she is.

My way to deal with these people is kindness. Kindness at arms length. If she looks down her nose, I smile at her back. If she seems stressed I’m compassionate and empathise then walk away because shes too busy to help so I’ll go to someone who can, thats better for me and take’s away her power. Sadly these people talk themselves out of being key to an organisation’s sucess because when it comes to the crunch, people will see that the easy stuff was too stressful for them and so they won’t be able to cope with the big stuff. When you rise above someone’s dirty games that are rooted in their own knowledge of their personal and proffessional incometencies you allow them to be the navigator of their own destiny. I have no need to tell tales about the bad things the blonde lady did, because the blonde lady will do it all to herself. When she points fingers at me for the things she saw but didn’t understand, my work will be done to a high standard and everything else wont matter. Whilst she’s spending her paid time ploting, talking shit, flapping; I’m busy, busy doing what I’m paid to do, and its really fucking excellent work too. When my strategy is out there, my plans, my designs, it really won’t matter what colour my hair is, how I dress, what I listen to, my morals, my religion, my home life, or how I travel to work. My strategy and designs will speak for themselves, and I’ll have done it in spite of my perceived short commings, this can only work in my favour.

My reaction will be to smile and say thank you, the audience will know all my so called short comings because the blonde lady told them and they’ll say, well she’s done this and juggled being a single mom to a diabetic, she rides a motorbike to work, how cool, shes perfectly made up like a model yet she talks tech better than the boys. She’s wearing killer heels and yet knows the governance rules that she’s dealing with better than the governance expert in charge. She’s passionate about doing the right thing, she cares about her work, who cares that she does it with loud music to block out the chatter and the flapping on the pod behind her. You see, I have no need to worry because my house is in order. A good general knows that you sort out your own ship and then fire your cannons. If your ship is half manned, and you’ve lost your head, your cannon fire is pointless because theres always a bigger one going to be fired back, and with less men to counter because half have abandoned ship, your ship is going to sink really quickly.

Mercenary Witch

Today was the day when the sheer magnitude of the tasks in hand hit home! Less than four weeks in, okay this always happens and I’ve been hired for a reason, I’ve been here before, but I started to wonder if I had perhaps just a little bit over estimated my ability and perhaps for a little while wondered if I had perhaps bitten off more than I could chew. Okay so we all get this at some point, well I get this a lot! There was a moment of make or break in my little head this morning where the angel on my shoulder said “just lay down and roll over” and the devil on the left said “At it girl go slay!” Slapping me on the proverbial and giving me a boost. I thought about the easy job at the government agency for a day rate I’d turned down a few weeks back and questioned my sanity, then remembered that I am a little nuts so this was the right choice.

So the girl who’s never done this before at this level of difficulty, with this level of nothing to work with, and this level of “shit fix it quick” stood and she stood and she kept on standing till every last arrow had been fired, every last bullet ran out and all the cavalry had been slayed or retreated. She shook off her armour, fixed her hair, wiped off the blood and put her sword back in its sheath. She will live to see another battle…

Today’s battle was all in her head, a battle of confidence in her own ability to do the things she’s gonna have to get done. She realised she really isn’t alone, although she felt alone perhaps, everyone here is in the same boat, we’re building from the ground up, we have the ability to shape and mould and create and the world is our oyster if we just work together. The tricky part is often people don’t know what she does, or what she’s there for, they just know the reputation of the sparky red haired witch who fights battle after battle and never gives up. She’s got a lot to live up to, they expect her to answer the questions, their problems. Some view her with suspicion, she’s going to change what they do… well maybe in the long game… but not for a while. The winning of the hearts and the minds is easy for some but impossible with others and it’s the impossible ones that she needs to win over. They’re only a handful but still they exist.

So the crisis of confidence fought, the realisation that they’re all just as scared and if she can just get them to work together the problem will shrink. But where does she start? Where does she begin? Well she’s just gonna take it little by little. No big reveals just yet though it’s tempting, big reveals are a part of her nature, long game, long game, you have to play the long game, there’s no magic spell that can fix this by nightfall, no magic in the world that will do it by the full moon, the half moon or even the new one. The long game she’s in and the long game she’ll do, for the little red witch doesn’t quit doesn’t fail, doesn’t flee doesn’t run. If she has to die inside so she will and respawn for the next day, the next day until… Until she has done it, that’s the day she lies down and takes a deep breath and then starts on her mission to find the next war. Mercenary witch, that’s what you are, stand in battle, cut the right throats, serve the right general and win the right Wars. Mercenary witch, play the long game, for it will all be worth while in the end, you will see…

Sexism…

There are a lot of discussions lately about sexism on social media and I’m welcoming it! The what’s right and wrong and the actually it’s perfectly okay for a woman to say “I haven’t finished can’t you wait a sec?” Is really raising this issue around how we women are traditionally seen as the alien in the office, we keep it balanced but we should never be in charge, and that we rarely have valid points to raise. So I’m going to share some of my past experiences, because they’re pretty relevant to this discussion.

Until pretty recently I’ve always been apologetically polite and it’s done me absolutely no favours in the business world and so I stopped! Here are some of the things that lead to it.

A few years back as a project manager really struggling with getting a development team’s non-technical scrum master to actually deliver the requirements, I remember being blamed by my male manager for being… “intimidating” to all those boys in the room because… and I quote… I was “too knowledgable about the technology” and “too outspoken” when someone was being lazy and trying to get out of delivering what was possible. This manager was also non-technical, hated my curiosity to learn the code that the developers were using and quite frankly didn’t like that I could blow his knowledge out of the water. He was the king of micro management, every time I made a decision with my stake holders on their project, he’d undermine me, every time I challenged requirements not getting delivered, I was told to reign it in… Just who was I managing I this project for? It appeared this was just an exercise in keeping some old school code developers in a job rather than actually delivering any value to the business… very against my ethos.

So one day after the usual drama of the scrum master ignoring the requirements I was asked to sit down and sort out a set of responsibilities. I already had but he was ignoring them. So we sat down again. The result? His worst remark ever for his fragile male ego… “what do you want? A dick measuring competition?” Yes that’s right… I with an innie.. was challenged to measure up against his outie! In a modern day office with HR rules, not that anything got done. Perhaps he expected me to just agree that actually I had no idea what I was doing… or that he could just rule the world or something…

My response… said very dead pan… “well this would be tricky since well I believe my genital anatomy may be different to yours… however from that statement I’m assessing you may feel that my non-existent one is larger that your micro one so yes perhaps I win.”… he had no comeback… I’m an insolent woman aren’t I? Quite how I kept a straight face I’m still not sure. However raising this with my female ops manager a couple of days later that there may have been a bit of a male bullying culture within that team fell on deaf ears to the response of “well boys will banter, you just have to learn to take it.” Funnily enough she’s since been demoted! I didn’t stay there long, I got myself out of that poorly managed area and got to where I am today.

Other things that have happened… I’m a Data Architect… however I’ve been referred to as A Data Analyst and had a shocked response when I’ve corrected them, to the tune of “But you’re too young, you’re too attractive” and the best, “Wow never get women doing that”. These are normally dinosaurs who don’t know any better.

I have definitely been asked who I was sleeping with to get to where I am, and have definitely been referred to as the IT totty. And why? Because people… men and women… don’t expect that a woman can do such a role unless she’s a billion years old. People don’t realise that you can be a mum, have a full life, get to the gym, eat properly, wear clothes that suit your figure and perform a technical role.

So… my pretties, my ladies with the lumps and the bumps, my beautiful readers and the gents who follow to get inside the mind of a woman… remember, we have biological roles and we have professional roles. Biologically it makes sense that I do the popping out of the babies… I have the womb and all that jazz… I’m comforter, I’m the logical wise witch who reminds my child to be kind and I’m the nurturer. However, professionally, my brain is as good and any darn man’s brain you put on that table in front of me! So drop the sexism! Don’t apologise for being funny, clever, or an expert regardless of your gender! Experts come in packages great and small, some with innies, some with outies and the balance of the innie/outie ratio is getting better. I’m not gonna burn my bra… because that shit is expensive. I’m not gonna cry because my code broke any more than the shrivelling mess of a guy that’s been sat there churning through the multitude stored procedures since the dawn of time. But, I am different, and not because of my innie status, nope, because of the way I think and that’s what makes me good at what I do… todays rant… was brought to you by the letters N and O and the number 27… how many Data Architects does it take to change a light bulb? One to model it logically, the same one will work out the size and the storage needed for a lightbulb of that size and document it… then he or she will call the janitor because well, who the fuck is asking me to change a lightbulb? That’s physical work… I only deal in the logical silly! Unless I’m at home of course and then I’ll do it my god damned self!

Cutting out the bullshit

I have a rule… after many years of wasting my life in meetings where nothing gets done and there’s always a protagonist who wants to own the stage I decided no more! Enough is enough! I’m getting my life back, my work done and my happy smile back on my face! I call it the 15 minute challenge. Rarely have I been in a meeting that needed to be longer, yet there this convention that a meeting should at least last an hour! I say no! A meeting on a single issue… 15 minutes, a workshop for facilitating ideas, fine grab an hour tops, and a demo… fine, 2 at the most but it better be good!

So here’s what I do…. as soon as the waffling starts I stop it! What I often find… people haven’t done their research and so we spend half an hour getting people on the same page! Nope! Not in my world buddy! If they haven’t done it, I end the meeting… postpone it until everyone knows what’s going on, if it happens once, it won’t happen twice. Someone wants to waffle, I give them 2 minutes tops and then butt in… normally to the relief of the others in the room! Sorry, we ain’t getting paid for that! Okay, it comes across as polite questioning rather than “stop it!” Which is generally what I’m screaming in my head. Then the planning begins, the actions get handed out and everyone goes away with something to do. My pet hate is people in the room who have a lot to say but nothing to actually do!

Perhaps it’s a Mum thing, or a bitch thing, or both, but my time is precious, they don’t pay me to listen to the poorly researched stuff happening in a cloud of myth and nothing get sorted. I remember one particular place I worked at who had this meeting every few months that I never needed to go to because the other guy did it, it used to go on for at least half an hour after the time limit and yet the actions were months old! My lucky day came when I needed to chair it, I was on my way out to the new place at this point. My delegates turned up disinterested, we ran through the incomplete actions and after 10 minutes had left the room, a nice tracker for actions and a week to respond followed. Because, what is the point in giving actions if they’re not going to get done? That month, shit got done…

It’s not really rocket science when you work out that people are better off doing work at their desks, with time to carry out the actions from the last meeting and prepping for the next. If you ask anyone who works probably anywhere, their biggest bug bare is meetings all day and no time to do anything. Not in my world.

Personally I think that 15 minutes of, what’s broken? What’s the plan? And who’s doing what? Is plenty of time to work stuff out and spring to action. I often wonder where people get the idea that a long meeting pouring over things that actually half the people in the room don’t care about is a good idea. I think some of it is that bit of mentality of, meeting means important. If my meeting was long it was very important and therefore I’ll drag it out unnecessarily to prove that it was. If your people are organised they should know what they’re doing, they should know the very point at which they hand over the work and you should be there to make sure that happens. I always used to get told “less time gassing, more time thinking” when I was a kid, and actually that’s good advice. If we knew we had a meeting on a new regulation a week ago then we should all know what it’s about and why before we even get in the room. Is it a Man versus woman thing? No I don’t think it is, it’s probably an introvert thing. There’s time to talk, and you need to double that for the time you need to shut up and listen, then stuff gets done.

Now to conquer the world… recon I can have a plan together in about 15 minutes provided everyone keeps quiet…

Define busy…

Ever noticed how some people are always busy and some people are never busy, however how busy that person is actually doesn’t always amount to the actual work they have to do? Some people appear to make a whole career out of being busy and making everyone know just how busy they are, when proportionally they’re nowhere near as busy as the guy apparently taking it easy right next to them.

I used to be horrifically busy, but most of the busy was my own noise. What does busy really mean? Busy means I’ve got no time for you. Busy actually means you do not come high enough in my list of priorities to drop the other stuff. When this is your friends or your family being picked over some work task, that’s pretty sad.

Prior to being single my ex partner was always too busy actually sometimes we both were. To be fair he worked hard, but it meant the quality of our relationship actually disappeared. Why? Because in reality the goals of his career were more important to him. I’ve certainly done the same, it’s an easy trap to fall into. A lot of us struggle to let go of control over simple things and delegate. So here’s the learning path to me learning busy isn’t good.

It is so rare these days I’ll tell you I’m busy. I might say I can’t do that now but I can do that by such and such or whatever. But busy to me is unacceptable. I’m also now happy to say, I can’t do that right now but here’s a few people who could for whatever it is if it’s urgent. It’s a hell of a lot more helpful, and actually makes me more trustworthy. My other new favourite rather than “that’s not in my job description” is “I think this person may be able to do this better than me”, it’s a brave one but actually you are acknowledging what you’re not the best at and giving someone else a chance to shine, isn’t that better?

We are brought up wrongly to believe we have to be good at everything, we can’t have weaknesses and that’s simply not true. If we acknowledge someone is better than us at something we take the pressure off. Let’s face it, would you rather pay £60 to watch a one man band or the London Philharmonic? I know what I would rather do. Okay orchestral stuff many not be your thing and you’d rather go see Sea Sick Steve but you get my point, not even that guy does all his production, his bookings and his lighting… it’s a team thing.

There is no honour in working yourself to the point of a nervous breakdown because you simply cannot let go of the smaller things. Busy to me screams control freak, it screams I cannot let go, it’s like saying my work is so difficult and the key words… I’m so important that if I let someone-else do something in this task it wouldn’t be done properly.

There it is right there, we think busy means important and actually no, busy means idiot to me. Busy means, I am so much more important than you that I am busy and you are not. What a horrible attitude to have towards others. And actually it’s never true.

So I gave up the busy and got organised. If I know that I have to do something by this point I make sure it happens. I never turn down work that I’m capable of but if I need help with it, I always ask. If I can’t do it in the time frame, I work with the people who need it to prioritise it. If I’m working then should I not always be busy? Otherwise what are they paying me for? Yes, everyone is busy, that is the point.

When someone tells me they’re too busy to help me, I offer to lighten their load, it’s amazing the response you get. Normally it’s a “No, I don’t need any help” this for me speaks volumes, the person who can’t let go will normally waste time by complaining they’re overworked but then when offered help realises they will loose that “busy” badge of honour and so cannot accept help under any circumstances. If they fail… normally it’s not their fault either, they are always the first person to point the finger when actually, they wouldn’t share and so it’s all down to them.

Busy is bad for your reputation. Think about it, if you’re looking for a service provider and calling for quotes or looking on the internet, how long are you prepared to sit on hold or wait for a page to load before to give up and going elsewhere? I know that I don’t wait very long at all.

Here’s how I got my life back… I’m strict with my time, if I’m not being paid for this hour, I don’t do it. If it brings me no joy in doing it I delegate, that includes cleaning, I’d rather take the hit and delegate than get all het up doing something I hate.

It’s amazing how much more work you get done when you put down that tiny violin, stop making so much noise and get the hell on with it.

So today’s random thought/observation, busy = drama, calm = getting shit done. Everyone is busy, stop telling everyone and get it done so we can all get some peace and quiet!

Email Testosterone

The extrovert got broken again by the people and it made her realise she wasn’t such an extrovert after all. Today isn’t dark thoughts just the annoyance of the invasion of mind space with unwanted thoughts that don’t matter to her. Today began with coffee, her own space, her thoughts, her wish to be free, and the impending doom of the office she’s leaving behind soon. It’s not that she doesn’t care, more that she’s now powerless to steer the veering ship and wishes to let go of the wheel now and ride away on a jet ski into the coming waves to find her fate.

Today started in the office with a trail of emails fuelled by the testosterone of male colleagues all fighting for the one-up-manship after a request for resource that was an optional at best. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. She made the mistake of taking advice, of speaking to management of getting their opinion about buy in for the new thing that would affect their people,the double edged sword of tell them now and they don’t have the time or tell them later and she kept it a secret, the witch who tells us how to do our jobs when it’s perfectly okay as we’ve done it before, it’s perfectly okay with the good old thing, we don’t need the new, just butt out redhead. But the redheaded witch is here to bring the new, the kicking and screaming and moaning will all be in the past if they could only just see what the new has to offer. But easy isn’t what they want when easy means change or different or other ways or not what we’re used to.

Exhausted already the witch made amends, she spoke and charmed and reassured, she wrote up the failed experiment that just couldn’t happen, she wrote up the steps that had failed in her lab, in her sandbox, in the offsite lab, the conclusions of experts that it just doesn’t work. She gave them more options, but they were reluctant to look, for the witch has tricks, the witch isn’t one of us, she’s different she doesn’t know what we do, but she does. The witch learns quickly, she sees their motives, their work, she sums up the drama in words that are few, she cuts through the bullshit for the wool can’t be pulled. And that is her strength, she seeks to understand.

So the email warriors too busy to think, the email testosterone too proud to step back had a fight, they drew swords and she distilled their anger with hope of solutions, please let it pay off! The theory is there and the practice is promising but the manpower is lacking and she needs them onside. But she knows that she still learns the lessons regardless, she sees it in action she sees how it works, she leaves the men to their swords and their dramas and battles and casts but a spell from behind the mist that most will not see and she prays for success.

Sometimes she wishes she could spend her days in solitary confinement, alone with her thoughts, free to explore the fruits of her imagination without shackles and rules and people to please. Perhaps one day she’ll just get that wish. Who knows but she’s done with the explaining, the need to justify every last detail. Sometimes they just don’t need to know everything, sometimes they just need to trust what she says. If they gave her the chance just to prove that she knows they would get it much faster with less drama. Perhaps that’s the issue, the bored mind makes trouble, the idle mind sticks it’s nose in, the tired mind makes mistakes and the mind that is closed just will not see what is put before him to make his life better, he only fears change.

The red headed witch feels the toll of her task, the solution is easy, but the people are not…