And..I totally forgot to publish this post on Monday! Better late than never…
This past Thursday, I had the pleasure and honor for delivering a lightning talk to a significant crowd of women in tech. Entitled Lean Whatever Way You Want: Tips For Building A Career in PDX Tech, I went into it with my usual nausea, anxiety, and insecurities and left feeling on top of the damn world. Here’s a really nice recap of the event if you’re curious.
So, before I share with you the transcript of my talk, I thought I’d share my lessons learned on the experience as a whole, delivering a talk to a large group of women from all backgrounds, a few men sprinkled in, amongst many of my peers as well at the event…
1) Don’t type notes in 10 font. I know, duh. But sometimes our nerves make us forget these things when you’re up til 3am prepping :) You’ll never be able to read them when you’re buzzing with energy during the talk! Fortunately I am pretty conversational in nature so went off the cuff several times when my eyes failed me. While I didn’t have slides, I think I probably would have forgotten them, so those old fashioned notecards would have rocked.
2) No matter how much you rehearse, you will forget things. I kept thinking afterwards, dang I forgot that whole cool sentence about such-and-such! But it didn’t matter. I got my point across and have lessons to take with me for the next time I get the chance to do this.
3) Have someone videotape or at least photograph you during your talk. I would kill for better documentation of this so I could improve for future talks (and show folks who hadn’t been able to come), and hey just for business PR. Fortunately the photo above was tweeted, but I’d love something a bit clearer :)
4) Leave your insecurities behind. I spoke at a panel last year and remember someone coming up to me right after and, rather than saying something nice, she said “you could really use Toastmasters”. It sunk me for a while before I thought, fuck her. Sure, my public speaking is not presidential, I know I didn’t self-implode up there. And we all know Madeleine Albright’s quote. I knew that for this event, my passion had to shine through, and fortunately it did.
5) Be prepared for awesomeness. Not having an idea of the background of the attendees beyond them being women who work or want to work in tech in Portland, I had no idea how the audience would react to my opinions, advice, and the quote at the end. All I knew was that this meant so damn much to me that I had to share it! So when I started hearing the “yeah!s” and the applause before I was even done, I knew I was in the right place. And let me tell you, I was SO incredibly humbled by the cheering at the end and the many women who approached me as I walked out of there in a dizzy fog, that when I got home, I got teary eyed telling my partner about it.
I’m so incredibly inspired and so grateful for the women (and men!) who inspire me every single day to keep doing what I’m doing, to keep working to be better and stronger and sassier, to keep following my heart and fighting the good fight. So with that, here’s my words for those of you who weren’t able to attend who might benefit or know someone who might benefit from some words of encouragement.
Lean Whatever Way You Want: Tips For Building A Career in PDX Tech
Hi, I’m Aimee Fahey – I’m a recruiter and career coach here in Portland, and I’m here to give you my top five tips for building a career in the Portland tech community.
- Create a Job Search Strategy.
Put a plan together, get connected, and get credible advice. The organized folks are getting jobs the quickest. For some people it’s hiring a career coach like me who recruits for a living. For others it’s hooking up with a mentor to bounce things off of. And for others it’s assessing what it is you HAVE to have and what you want to avoid at all costs. When I left the corporate world to go to work for myself – I did all three. Favorite website by the way? LiveYourLegend.net.
- Learn How to Network Efficiently & Effectively.
The word “networking” makes a lot of folks want to vomit – including myself. I’m a recruiter but most events labeled as networking events make me feel like I’m back at the 7th grade dance -rockin’ the home perm, glasses, and braces. Avoid ‘em. Go to events where you’re going to learn something, where the attendees aren’t your competition. Remember that networking is not about sales, it’s about building relationships.
- Know the Diversity – and Reality – of the PDX tech scene.
Portland is tremendously diverse for tech jobs – so look at a variety of companies, not just the hot startups. There are SO many organizations taking good care of their people and offering great opportunities to learn and advance. They’re not always in the shiniest wrappers, so don’t turn your noses up at companies whose size, products or office locations seem “unsexy”. Not all big companies – or startups for that matter – are created equally – some have their shit together, some are disasters waiting to happen, some are a mixed bag. Make sure you like and TRUST your manager-to-be. Find out:
- What is their hiring record of women in all areas?
- How long have the women been there and why have they left?
- Are there women on the exec team…and in tech leadership roles?
Get the real scoop on what people think about the leadership –do your homework outside of the interview process. During the interview, ask yourself this: do they care about what you have to say, are they open to different thought processes, or do you feel like they’re just filling their quota to “get more women in tech”? Go to social events and see how they behave towards women. Then trust your gut.
- Remember YOUR Priorities – Leaning “In” Isn’t the Only Way to be Successful.
“Lean In” is getting a lot of play and while it may work for some, the “work even harder” advice is not the roadmap for all of us. I’ve had CEOs – men and women – tell me they believe that promoting work/life balance equals a lack of hard work. I highly disagree. So ask yourself this – do you want to work for companies who don’t think you should have time for doing things that don’t involve helping them make money? Do what is best for YOU, and remember we are all allowed to – and CAN – choose to lean out rather than lean in and protect what’s sacred. And by the way – so can the MEN in our lives!! Just because much of today’s workforce culture was created by men doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.
And you don’t have to be at someone else’s company. Start your own business, partner with others, work part time in tech and part time in another field, volunteer with a tech nonprofit, contribute your tech skills at a non-tech organization. Build your career however YOU want. When I let go of the voices of the media, family members, and so-called “successful people” and learned to listen to my gut – that ultimately led me to my niche. Because to me, success is about being happy in my whole life – not just my job.
- Confidence is not a male trait. Own your strength.
For both men AND women who I coach, confidence issues spring up. So many stories focus on WOMEN’s insecurities, as if confidence is a male trait. Women are told so much that we’re not confident enough or if we are confident and unafraid to voice our expertise that we’re difficult, disruptive, overly aggressive – terms that would never dare be used for similar behaviors in a man. So find people who embrace the strengths you offer and aren’t going to put you into a box of what a woman’s work or behavior should look like. Don’t self-select yourself out before even applying – if you see an awesome job you think you could do, apply for it! It’s okay if they reject you – it’s not okay to let your insecurities get the best of you.
So here’s my final thoughts, quoted from a recent response in The Stranger to Sandberg’s latest Ban Bossy campaign:
“We should be telling girls to own the living shit out of bossiness. Instead of casting it as a pejorative, we should be reifying the idea that being bossy directly relates to confidence, and teaching girls how to harness that confidence in productive and powerful ways. This isn’t a problem of language—the problem is our backwards system that rewards women for silence and compliance, and encouraging them to be less fierce is a supremely fucked up way to counter that. What is this wilting flower, let’s-not-say-bad-words approach to empowerment? When you’re bossy, you’re explicit. You know what you want and you say what you mean. It’s my dream, my goal in life, to be surrounded by unrelentingly bossy women.”
So get out there and be bossy – and lean whatever way you want so you can be happy. Thank you.
“There’s been an awful lot of silence…and we need more men to break that silence.”
Jackson Katz, the speaker, is the founder of the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program designed to encourage both young men and women to be leaders in the fight against violence.
Men – I encourage you to speak out in the comments and support Katz. There are a terrifying number of men out there who are being silent when the assholes out there are spewing hate and violence against women on these video posts. If you care deeply about these issues, your silence must end, you must have the “guts, stength, and moral integrity…to stand with these women.” You owe it to the girls – and the boys – in our culture. Women should not be the only ones fighting the good fight.
This past week I received the results from my first thermography exam and it was very eye opening. For women who haven’t had the benefit of thermography to assess their breast health, I highly recommend it (click HERE for a previous blog post on it and my wellness strategy). It can find things years before mammograms do, and are especially recommended for women under 50 in safely detecting changes in denser breast tissue, typical for younger women. In addition, unlike mammography, it is non-invasive and doesn’t fill your body with radiation to assess where changes are occurring in your body (they can assess you head to toe, both men and women). Even though I had the thermographs taken by a wonderful ND, the results are actually analyzed and reported out by an MD, and then sent to the office that did it, myself, and my fantastic naturopath at Bloom Natural Healthcare.
Being that this year I turned 40, I am really conscious about the changes in my body as it starts to occasionally look, act, and feel a bit different. I got my first gray hairs last year – just a few but enough to pull out the tweezers initially in a slight panic. Not any kind of disgust, just a shock to the system that I could possibly be old enough. (Then of course I was quickly chided by my girlfriends who got their grays at a much younger age!). I noticed when I do cat/cow in yoga that I need to put the blanket under my knees. I stare at the skin on the top of my hands that is starting to move around more when I touch it, and it reminds me of how much time they’ve put in helping me live my life. I’ve fallen in love with the wisdom of Christiane Northrup’s Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdomand it’s inspired me to get even more holistic with how I look after myself.
My thermography results look somewhat similar to the top image in the above sample, with the red as areas to keep an eye on (potential fibrocystic changes, although I don’t have any symptoms). There is also indication of hormonal (estrogen/progesterone) imbalances which may or may not be attributed to recently getting off birth control after many years. Fortunately, since this is my first thermo, the initial exam is to create a baseline, and I’ll be getting another one this summer for them to compare against before any in-depth recommendations are made. Simply knowing there are things going on in my breasts, however, has made me particularly thoughtful, being that both sides of my family have a history of breast cancer and I had gotten mammograms almost yearly since I was 28 until two years ago. I feel much more connected with my own body than I ever did with a nameless radiologist and an ob/gyn who spent maybe 15 minutes with me once a year. I *love* this piece, by the way…
So, for anyone and everyone, below is a beautiful video my fiance shared with me that is part of Australia’s Cancer Council paying tribute to Chrissy Amphlett of The Divinyls who passed away from breast cancer last year and encouraging women to do breast self-exams. Check out the article on it for more details and to get connected with the project.
* China is pushing fracking and, not surprisingly, wreaking havoc on its people and environment. Ugh.
* Why did they not have farm camp when I was a kid? Oh yeah, it was called working in my mom’s garden. But still, farm camp! How rad is that!!
* Reminders are good. NRDC’s Nine Ways to Save Water. Time for me to get that bucket in the shower!!
* Eating for Optimum Fertility – good food for thought as our thoughts over the rest of the year will include preparing for that possibility…
* An awesome bible for basic gardening – How to Plant.
* Ooh la la, Stella McCartney’s gorgeous line of eco-friendly lingerie.
* And finally, music to boogie to as you start your weekend, woo hoo!
“Women who take on informal leadership roles are going against the gender-based grain by behaving assertively and decisively – qualities more traditionally associated with men…Men are traditionally defined by words like aggressive, forceful, independent and decisive. Women, on the other hand, are stereotypically expected to be kind, helpful, sympathetic and concerned about others…But, despite the widespread notion of women as social specialists, perceptions of the network positions of women will be distorted because of the expectation that brokerage is men’s work.”
~ Phyllis Korkki, from the New York Times article The Leaders Who Aren’t Always Followed.
It finally makes sense. This article helped explain a lot about the role many women are given as informal leaders, in roles where they are not managers but expected to influence organizational or departmental change, then are subject to the hypocrisy of gender bias.
We’re told we’re empowered to make decisions, then torn down for being “difficult”.
We’re asked to come in and make big changes, then pulled aside for being “disruptive”.
We’re hired for our knowledge, yet when we voice our expertise, we’re thrown under the bus.
I’ve watched this happen over and over again with so many strong, smart women – kickass women who are unafraid to be wholly themselves and not roll over, “lean in”, or otherwise feel the need to change their awesomeness to fit into the clique of women adapting to the norms of the typical cultures where women are told to mimic the style of men in order to be successful.
I have witnessed it first hand as well as dealt with it myself when I was in the corporate world, watching both men and women who claim to celebrate diversity, encourage free thinking and push innovation in their organizations then go right ahead and discriminate, punish or otherwise piss all over those who think differently and aren’t obsessed with playing the people-pleasing good girl role.
“Women who display competence are too often seen — by both men and women — as unlikable, unfeminine, aggressive, conniving and untrustworthy. Although some competent women may get credit for their achievements, men who may be less accomplished are seen as likable and are more likely to be hired or promoted. Such perceptions are a major roadblock for women as they try to climb the career ladder.”
~ Rosalind C. Barnett and Caryl Rivers, from the LA Times article, For women, it’s not a glass ceiling but a plugged pipeline.
So…what are you doing to change this in your work? What are you doing to open your mind as a leader to those who think and behave differently from you and are equally effective at bringing in results? What are you doing to call out those who discriminate against the awesome forces of nature called women? What re you doing to assess your own biases?
Are you going to change the world or are you going to go along with the status quo?
“What if, as a society, we celebrated other milestones instead? Wouldn’t it be amazing if college graduations were given the wedding treatment? If the commencement ceremony included a $3,000 dress and a $70-a-plate dinner for friends and family who came in from all over the country? Photographers, flowers, dancing, a band? “You’ve got to see my graduation video. It was so beautiful!” What would be the outcome if little girls had 32 television shows to watch about that? Would that give them something else to aspire to? To dream about?”
~ Valerie Alexander (from her article in the Huffington Post)
As I’ve mentioned before, our wedding is intentionally green both in how we respect the earth AND how we choose not to buy into the media and societal frenzy about what makes a wedding (AKA, spending tens of thousands of dollars). I’ve been reading a lot of blogs about weddings lately, and most are the same story – traditional wedding obsession, massive spending, and making it less about the two of them and more about spending six months’ income for a few hours of partying and a whole lot of waste left behind at the end. Some even express feeling conflicted about it, yet don’t seem to dare veer away from the status quo.
Calling Out the Overspending
Some say you shouldn’t say anything if others choose to spend tens of thousands on their wedding. Being this is me, I call bullshit on that. Your parents fronting the bill so you think it’s no big deal if you spend all that money? You have so much money on your own that you say it’s your prerogative? See, to me that’s still a problem. Just because they will doesn’t mean they should. Just because you can doesn’t mean you must. If your parents or you have $30K lying around and you choose to spend that all on that one occasion? It just is a bit too telling about what’s so, so wrong with our society. I’m not trying to take away anyone’s right to do what they want, just trying to get people to stop for a serious reality check about following what others say your wedding should include.
If you don’t have to worry about retirement, a rainy day fund, kids, or other plans for your future that requires financial means, at least think about how many people you could help with thirty thousand bucks.
And trust me, I get it. I have a Pinterest board. I had dreams as a little girl, playing MASH as I was taught by society to think of boys as the top priority of growing up, while none of my the boy friends had anything even remotely similar to play or look to. They were looking at careers and adventures.
So first, I’m not talking about not having a special day, I’m just saying, is your day not special if you only paid a couple thousand bucks for everything rather than twenty or thirty times that?? Will you regret in ten years that you didn’t spend more on fancy invitations or floral centerpieces?
Food for Thought
Here’s some food for thought from this CNN article, Don’t Waste Money on Your Wedding…
- “On one hand, it’s a once in a lifetime occasion. On the other, it’s just that — once — that you’ll only be wearing your wedding dress, so do you really want to spend a couple of mortgage payments on it?”
- “Your guests’ presence is a present, indeed, but you don’t have to pay them back with custom-printed tchotchkes that you might end up lugging home or tossing in the trash.”
- “It’s bubbly, elegant and oh so festive, but truth be told, champagne is a lousy pairing with cake, and half-filled glasses and barely eaten slices end up littering the tables.”
It’s pretty amazing at how much cleanup happens after a wedding. We thought about all the leftovers that might occur just from our simple small dinner we have planned, and the fact that with so much dinner that folks may not have room for dessert! And with that, I contacted the restaurant and cut our food order by a third. (Dude, the pies that Gretchen makes? Worth saving room for.)
A great piece of advice I have seen out there was to pick three things when making a big decision, which for this would be the top three priorities for the wedding for the two of us – then not worry about the rest. For us, it was to say our vows at our favorite little spot on the coast (where we have beautiful memories), have a good photographer document our special day (neither of us have had a professional photographer since senior pictures in high school and as a photographer myself, it’s been kind of a dream), and take a honeymoon trip right here in the Northwest (a chance to explore our surroundings in a way we normally don’t afford ourselves).
Our venue cost nothing, our photographer’s fee was reasonable (we paid cash), and our honeymoon is set for autumn when less tourists are about, fall colors are kicking in, and so we can use a portion of an upcoming inheritance to finance a bit nicer hotel selection. (Nope, not spending the entire inheritance on the honeymoon – the majority is being used to pay down our mortgage). Who said you need to rush off on a trip the day after the wedding? After all the traveling we have done, we’re looking forward to a quiet summer enjoying each others’ company, working on the house and in the garden, and growing my business while Dan volunteers at local nonprofits until his employment authorization is processed.
But What About the Dress?
Yes, yes, I want to look pretty for my sweetheart when we exchange vows, yet the longer I looked at dresses, the more I realized how simple I wanted this to be and how awkward I would feel in a big fancy gown. Not to mention how silly it was that most dresses are made in sweatshop conditions, and the fancy boutiques usually require a minimum of 6-12 months. To me, that’s crazy! I can’t imagine getting engaged then not getting married fairly soon thereafter – never would we allow a vendor to determine when we say “I Do”. A friend here in town is making my dress, honoring my love of vintage fabrics and eco-style, and refuses to charge me an arm and a leg for it.
Rethinking Gift Giving Traditions
The quote at the top that I included really hit home with me. When I got my degree at age 31, I didn’t receive any cards or gifts or parties. I got a piece of paper in the mail and a mountain of student loan debt that no one offered to chip in on. Imagine if I had created a gift registry for student loan payments – would anyone take that seriously? Kinda doubt it. Yet I received so many inquiries about if I had created a registry for my wedding that I finally did, but made it explicit that we are not expecting gifts. And the stuff we did put on the list? Gift cards. We couldn’t think of anything and felt kind of silly making a list of specific things out. Maybe it’s getting married in our 40′s, but all we are looking for from our friends is their presence in our lives.
It comes down to this: we are making an investment in each other. Our marriage is more important of a focus than any one day. Our life we have built and will continue to build is the investment. So with that, we choose simplicity.
“Try to make the life decisions your 37-year-old self would want you to make, not the ones the seven-year-old you fantasized about. Want the marriage, knowing all that it will demand of you. Want the child, realizing that her needs will come first for the next 20 years. Choose the man who will take care of the laundry and change the baby’s diapers when you’ve got the flu, rather than the one who spent a month choreographing his proposal so that the video of it would go viral. Understand what you’re getting into and put your energy into planning your union, not planning your wedding. That’s the key to a happy marriage and a happy life.”
~ Valerie Alexander (from her article in the Huffington Post)
This week’s theme in my yoga class, taught by our wonderful instructor Pamela (who happens to be one of the rad women of YogaAnne – their videos and app are kinda awesome, y’all), was all about the breath.
As most of us know, when we stop to take a breath, to get quiet, it can help us feel so, so much better. For many years, I’ve been practicing ujjayi breath when I am in poses, and also during those moments where I just have to stop and get myself centered. Isn’t it funny how during moments of tension our breathing can change so dramatically?
My fiance and I always giggle when she has us do lion’s breath, so much so that while he’s been back in Oz, our skyping always includes one because neither of us can do it with a straight face. But hey, laughing relaxes, which is totally a major point of why we do yoga. Today’s class focused on alternate nostril breathing, always surprising me because we tend to breathe primarily out of one nostril depending on the time of day (for me, it’s the left one). It may sound silly but when you do it, and really focus on it as you start your meditation and/or yoga practice, it can totally put you in the zone.
Below is a pretty awesome infographic I ran across the other day that discusses some of the many health benefits that occur when we focus on our breathing…namaste, y’all :)
Woo hoo – the sunshine is amazing this week here in Stumptown!! I actually had that first moment of the year in the garden where I thought, uh-oh, I’d better get some sunscreen on my back and shoulders! Pretty cool how the seasons still manage to make us giddy when they come around each year.
Here are a few things that drew my attention this week…
* AWESOME news here in Portland this week announcing that we can now return to recycling rigid plastics (things like lids and clamshells and prescription bottles that can’t go in the curbside bins)!!!! While we all need to reduce our use of plastics, this is great to hear there is a market for what does exist.
* Some of you have seen the video about how to peel garlic by shaking it between two stainless steel bowls, but what if you don’t have a ton of garlic to peel? Check this awesomeness out.
* Can you believe Earth Day is right around the corner? Here’s a ton of ways to make a difference in Portland, and here’s a ton more ways to get involved anywhere in the world!!!
* The arugula is growing like crazy in the garden – not long til the first harvest! Thinking about trying this arugula quinoa risotto, substituting my vegan cashew ricotta for the dairy and almonds for the walnuts. YUM.
* LOVE this tool shed made out of repurposed doors…and we just happen to have four old doors in the garage and a fella with a love of carpentry…hmm….
* While I’ve been blogging as EcoGrrl for 5 1/2 years, today marks two years blogging on WordPress! Yippee!! So glad I moved over from Blogger – the ease and customization are both SO much better, not to mention the app. :-)
“There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling.”