Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.

24Mar/091

Inner Critic vs. Ada Lovelace

CK signed a pledge back in January to post a blog entry about a woman in technology she admired today, March 24, in honor of Ada Lovelace. The goal of the Ada Lovelace Day project is to get 1000 blog entries talking about women in technology. There's been a thing about it on her blog for weeks.

She surprised me by saying she wanted to interview me. Yes, I'm a woman who's been working in technology for over 12 years. I just never have thought of myself as worth interviewing over it. In fact thinking about it gets my inner critic all riled up noting how I don't do anything important, that I'm just a hack with a lot of what I do, there's so many other women who are better at technology than I am...

Yes, that list could keep growing, easily.

Part of it falls right in line with my having a very difficult time recognizing my accomplishments. I am so focused on moving forward, keeping momentum up that the very idea of stopping to appreciate, reflect seems very uncomfortable. I come from a very non-technical family and being the only child with a real passion for technology, learning and studying, my interest in these areas didn't really warrant a lot of supportive input. In fact, I never had a computer until I was in my 20s and on my own. The value of buying one for home was not something that I could convince my family of in the mid 1980s.

Here I was this morning, reading CK's blog post about me, and feeling awkward as all heck. Just noticing the awkwardness, where it comes from. Aside from all I've already said it occurred to me that it feels strange because I admire her so much, as a woman in technology and as a human.

In part I am just in awe of anyone who is successful in running their own business, doing freelance work. I've been in the situation of living with someone trying to do that and it was pretty hard. I've always felt a lot of uncertainty at my ability to do that and have let that drive me to try and find as stable as a job as possible. She works really hard for her clients and is concerned that her work be the best that it possibly can be. She has inspired me to think about leaving the corporate world and work for myself!

There is a large part of my admiration for her that comes from my respect for her integrity and intelligence. Those don't have anything directly to do with technology, but I think that they are so important. Combined with her openness, her want of learning, sharing knowledge and fostering collaboration is so important in any community. In the technology community I see her using these skills to find ways to support and encourage women more. CK also uses her time and technology skills to help non-profit organizations improve their online presence and make resources more accessible.

A lot of the time I think CK is a way more accomplished woman in technology than I am. She speaks with great skill about the specific tools she works. Her capacity and tenacity when it comes to learning is just amazing, she just sticks with topics, turning them from side to side until the solution becomes more clear to her.

I've never given a lot of thought to being a "woman in technology", it was just what I was drawn to and I spent a lot of time projecting a "tough" image to protect myself, playing "alpha geek" with all the guys who would be at events. I pretended not to notice and/or just played along with the "boys club" type attitude I'd run into on a regular basis in the NOC, in server rooms, in the cafeteria, and at conferences.

Over the past few years I've become more aware of the need to foster an environment where people do not feel the need to compete, especially for women. Yes, some competition is fun and can spark creativity, but it shouldn't be regarded as the only means to feel included in a group. Most importantly, everyone can benefit from being encouraged to go where the passion and curiosity for learning takes them, whether it is data visualization, neuroscience, baking, teaching, or writing.

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  1. I admire you both — I think being a woman in a male-dominated field is something very admirable. (I get to work with a bunch of social workers all day: Huge feelings vocabularies and not afraid to use ‘em at work!) I have gotten to learn about both of your jobs through these posts, even though I don’t understand all of it, I am impressed and awed at both of your strenghths ;)


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