July 2015
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On Women in Technology

I recently got into a (somewhat) heated discussion on twitter with some folks about all-male technology panels and what that means for women in technology fields. It’s pretty much impossible to talk with any nuance in 140 characters or less, so I thought I would expand on my thoughts here.

(My apologies for this diversion away from the usual content of stupid stories and pictures of my kid, but I have thoughts and I feel like I need to put them out there.)

(I’m mostly going to talk about women, because that’s the perspective that I’m coming from. But a lot of this applies to other minorities as well.)

A little backstory: there is a growing online movement to highlight all-male panels at conference. Nothing is quite so egregious as that  all-male panel on women in comics , but there are a lot of all-male panels out there. I will be attending InfoComm , the yearly AV convention, for the first time this week. Someone on twitter pointed out that the key-note speech is all dudes. A bunch of dudes started arguing about this. I put my two cents in, saying that when I see all-male panels at industry events, it makes me feel like an outsider.

This much is true: all-male panels do make me feel like an outsider. This much is also true: there isn’t a quick fix for this. Our industry gets better about diversity every year, but women and minorities are still a very small part of it. And, of the women in our industry, there are very few of us doing the nitty gritty nerd work. This is a classic chicken and egg problem: women feel like outsiders when they’re not well-represented on things like keynote panels. But if there aren’t enough women working in technology, who do you ask to be on panels in the first place? When you add into the mix that many women are uncomfortable with public speaking, you suddenly have a tiny pool of women to draw from.

One of the things that I said in my tweets is that I don’t want to see us resort to tokenism. If I’m ever fortunate enough to be asked to speak on a heavyweight panel, I want it to be because I’m a kick-ass programmer, not because I happen to be a woman. I think that there are women out there who can nerd it up with the best of them. But it’s going to take some significant effort to find them. And some of those women are going to have to step up and agree to take on some more public speaking, even if it’s outside of their comfort zone.

One of my biggest difficulties with being a woman in technology is that most people who don’t know me assume that I don’t know what I’m talking about. This is (gradually!) getting better, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pretty much had to read off my entire CV just to get someone on the other end of a tech support call to take me seriously. I have literally had a CSR tell me at the end of a call, “We don’t get a lot of women calling in. You really know what you’re doing!” He meant it as a compliment, but it came across as “wow, you sure are smart for a girl.” (Just in case you think I was projecting, a male coworker overheard the entire exchange and was floored by it). When people don’t see women doing this kind of work, they end up internalizing some pretty retrograde assumptions about what a technologist looks like.

I want to see more women on technology panels, because it challenges people’s assumptions about what women in our industry do. I want to see more women on technology panels, because there are some amazing, kick-ass women in our industry who have thoughts that I want to hear. I want to see more women on technology panels because it gives us all new thoughts and perspectives to think about.

Please don’t take this post as any sort of knock on InfoComm and the amazing programming that they put together. InfoComm is incredibly supportive of women. They recently formed the Women of InfoComm Network (WIN) Council, dedicated to bringing together women (and all of our allies!) to support each other in our industry. I will be speaking at the WIN Council meeting at InfoComm. For all I know, InfoComm asked a few women to speak at the keynote and they all turned them down. This particular panel just happens to be a catalyst for some thinking. And sometimes I can’t get my brain to shut up until I write my thoughts out.

In the long run, I think it’s the generation behind me that’s going to change the face of the technology industry. Women my age and older weren’t usually encouraged to get good with technology, or to take STEM classes. It’s hard to play catchup when you didn’t learn this stuff when you were younger. I am so fortunate to have had parents that pushed me to work had at math, to play with our family computer, to build with Lego, and to (eventually) major in computer science. When I first got started, I didn’t have a lot of women in tech that I could look up to. There are so many more female role models now. I think that, as enrollment in STEM programs goes up, the face of technology will change with it. There were three women in my computer science cohort, and we were the class with “wow, so many more women!” That’s a tiny baseline, you can pretty much only get better from there.

All too often, online discourse tends towards stratification and antagonism. People hurl accusations at each other, and then retreat into their corners. I have a tendency to throw out some barbs myself. Whenever I get too heated, I like to stop myself and say “Do I want to be right? Or do I want to be effective?” I would take being effective over winning a high school debate tournament any day. Hopefully, this post is effective. If it made you think some thoughts, I would very much appreciate hearing about them.

Memorial Day 2015

If the quality of a long weekend can be gauged by how dirty and sticky your child was by the end of it, I’d say this one was pretty damn awesome.

I mean, any time a weekend starts off with your husband letting you sleep in while he takes your toddler with him to procure the most delicious donuts in the world , you know it’s going to be a good one.

Dooooonuts

 

(I returned the favor on Sunday).

(With waffles).

(I cheated and used a mix, but it’s the thought that counts, right?).

LJ’s best friend from daycare came over for a play date on Saturday afternoon, so I spent the morning cleaning the house like a crazy person. Because, well, LJ’s friend and her mom were going to be walking through our house on their way to the backyard. And I didn’t want them to judge us too harshly. And, well, you know… crazy person .

K had a much more productive morning than I did.

Swing set!

If I had known what a hassle it was going to be to get this swing set in working order, I’m not sure that I would have gone the “free swing set from Craigslist” route. But, then again, we did save ourselves about $500 this way. Plus, I’m told that putting one of these suckers together from scratch is a weeks long ordeal.

The moral of the story is: if you’re going to put a swing set in your backyard, save your pennies, buy a really good one, and then pay someone else to put it together for you . We were not going to save enough pennies in time for this summer. We were probably not going to save enough pennies in time for next summer. The “free swing set from Craigslist that needs some work” option was a fantastic runner up.

The playdate went really well… Although attempting to make two almost-three-year-olds share a backyard full of toys when they only ever want to play with what the other one has? Exhausting.

This might have something to do with the fact that we watched How to Train Your Dragon for the eleventy billionth time on Saturday night.

Sunday morning featured the aforementioned waffles. Lilian wanted to help, but she also wanted to stay the hell away from the waffle maker. I can’t say I blame her, that thing belches out steam like one of her dragons. I usually try to make her help with stuff like this (building good habits and all that jazz), but this time I was totally fine with her doing her own thing in the kitchen corner. She did, however, help decorate the tray.

Breakfast and Flowers in Bed

In this post-Mothers’ Day era, Lilian has decided that any tray bearing breakfast must also have a vase full of flowers on it. I told her we didn’t have any flowers, so she grabbed these fake ones that we have on a side-table. I like her style. That kid is resourceful.

K wanted to get some yard work done, so after breakfast LJ and I went on an “adventure” to bring Auntie Beans some refreshments at work. Auntie Beans works on an organic farm. So we had ourselves a little picnic.

(The picnic was not very organic).

Picnic!

We stopped at a local cafe, picked up some sandwiches for ourselves, and some cookies and lemonade to share with Auntie Beans. We put a blanket under a tree, and ate our little spread. Is there anything nicer than sitting under a tree, feeling the breeze when it’s 80 degrees out? No. No, there is not.

When your best friend works on an organic farm, you have to go where she is if you want to see her during the warm months. Which is not exactly an onerous imposition when she works at such a beautiful spot. Added bonus: we picked up some tomato and hot pepper seedlings for our garden.

We also had a little fun with our Auntie.

Naughty!

That evening, we went shopping at Assembly Row, because Kristian’s work shirts are all slowly disintegrating and this is kindof a bad thing. I took LJ with me to the Loft and Express outlets, because K had an actual shopping need and I was just along for the ride. It’s kind of hard to try pants on when your toddler wants to pull down everything in reach.

So, yeah, apparently my little fashionista is a perfect angel if you let her pick out things for you to try on. Also, she is great for the ego and terrible for the wallet. She says that everything looks good on you. I’m pretty sure she’s lying, however, because she will start saying how great you look when the dress is still all tangled up around your head.

(In about 10-15 years, she’s going to be rolling her eyes and telling me how lame everything looks on me, so I’ll take it when I can get it).

I ended up picking up a few new dresses and a couple new shirts. Most of it was things that I would never have picked to try on myself, but was pleasantly surprised with when I got into the fitting room.

We finished off the evening with dinner at a Mexican restaurant, where Kristian was served a margarita that was approximately the size of his head. LJ was fascinated with the salt around the rim. I’m getting thirsty just looking at that thing.

Mmmmmm

We also had a walk along the river, and played in this awesome playground that they recently put in. I’m now exhausted just remembering all the stuff we did in one day!

Kristian and Lilian headed home together, and I stayed behind to watch Pitch Perfect 2 with a friend. Acca-awesome! I’m not usually into a cappella music, but both Pitch Perfect movies are hilarious. You have to love a movie where the best cameo isn’t President Obama (for the record, the best cameo was the Green Bay Packers).

Monday morning, we did the lazy thing and let Lilian play with Kristian’s iPad while we both stared off into space for some precious few extra minutes. I’d like to pretend that we had a stimulating and intellectual conversation with her while consuming organic omelettes, but sometimes you just need to watch a little My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and then eat cereal. Parenting is hard enough, I refuse to feel guilty about these things.

We did go to Music Together later that morning. Well, LJ and I went to Music Together. Kristian went and got coffee all by his lonesome. Sometimes, you just need to consume caffeine and stare off into space a little bit more.

Then, we all piled onto our bikes and took a trip down the Minute Man Bike Trail. I was positive that Lilian was going to start howling to get down from her bike seat about 15  minutes in (she doesn’t like having her feet strapped into the carrier). I told her that, if she feels frustrated about her feet, she should put her hands up and wave her arms around. She hates sitting still, but waving her arms was just enough movement for her. I am still kindof amazed that this worked.

We managed a seven-mile (total) trip. I couldn’t believe we made it that far! We did, however, stop at the halfway point and let her run around a playground for a half hour or so. Every time we biked past a park, she had been telling Kristian “I need to play there! I need to play there!” We’re not monsters, people.

We finished the day off with a cookout at our place with some good friends and their little daughter. We finished the weekend off with some ice cream from the sketchy truck that stopped across the street.

Ice cream!

At some point over the weekend, I finished up my latest sewing project. I honestly can’t remember when that was. Sunday morning, I think? It’s all kindof a blur at this point. I will post pictures as soon as the person that I made it for receives it.

After all that weekend, I think I need another three days off.

Mothers’ Day 2015

I had a pretty great Mothers’ Day this year. In fact, I had a pretty great weekend.

Friday night, we relaxed after work with a couple of drinks.

Bartender, make my next milk a double!

Saturday, I was my sister Allison’s +1 at a Pan Mass Challenge Pedal Partner event at Fenway Park. Allison wasn’t able to ride the PMC challenge last year ( shattering your elbow tends to have that effect), but she’s going to kick it into gear (see what I did there?!) this year.

I’ll probably post something a little more in-depth about the Pedal Partner event later, but let’s just say that it was incredibly inspiring. The Pedal Partner program matches up PMC teams with kids who are being treated through the Jimmy Fund clinic. The idea is that the kids inspire you to train hard and raise a ton of money. In return, the kids get to point at you and laugh. Or something.

Also, Allison’s team’s partner is named Raphael, so we ended up with Ninja Turtle face paint in his honor. Because, if getting ridiculous face paint can make a kid with cancer laugh his ass off, then sign me up.

#TeamRaphael

(Allison and I are now extra committed to raising a shit-ton of money.)

(And Raphael got a ton of laughs out if it.)

(Well played, Pedal Partners. Well played.)

Saturday afternoon/evening, we spent a lot of time and energy transporting an old swing-set to our house. I found it for free on Craigslist, but the jury is still out on wether or not we got a good deal on it. It wasn’t until we had the whole thing assembled on Sunday morning that Kristian realized that the part the swings hang off of is pretty badly rotted. He’s pretty sure he can replace that section with some new lumber, but I felt pretty bad about bringing a rotten swing set into our lives.

The good news? Lilian already loves her “little house” and the super fast slide.

Swingset

Sunday morning, I had the requisite lie-in, and then breakfast in bed. I think Lilian was almost as excited about this as I was.

(And I was pretty damn excited!)

After breakfast, Kristian and Allison put together the aforementioned swingset of doom, while Lilian and I had some quality time at our neighborhood playground. She’s been on a “NOnoNOnoNooooo!!! I want DADDY !!!” kick lately, so I think the best Mothers’ Day gift of them all was simply the fact that she was so happy to be spending time with just me.

Kiss! Kiss!

(It’s super exhausting for Kristian that she wants him to do everything , but goddamn it breaks my heart that she never wants me to sing her a goodnight song.)

My Mom and Stepdad came over a little later in the afternoon, and we had a lovely little late lunch/early dinner on the back deck. I almost can’t believe that the long, horrible winter is finally behind us. I could get used to this whole “sitting outside and not freezing to death” business.

The sunburn that I managed to pick up? I’m not liking that one so much. But it was still a loverly weekend.

Jai Nepal

Some things you need to know about Nepal:

  1. It is one of the poorest countries in the world.
  2. When I lived there, we lived a few buildings down from the Ministry of Roads and the street was almost undriveable. Which is to say that…
  3. Their infrastructure is not good .
  4. The recent earthquake was massive. And it was shallow. Which means that it hit the area hard.
  5. The death toll from the earthquake is currently 3,800. And rising.
  6. People are sleeping outside because there is nowhere else for them to go.
  7. It’s fucking freezing in April there.

Basically, what I’m saying is… Nepal needs some help. And we all need to pitch in. The best way that we can help is with cold, hard cash.

If I was younger, and unattached, I’d be on a plane over there to help rebuild some houses. If I was Warren Buffett, I’d give charities working there a billion dollars. But, I am neither of these things. So, all I can ask is that you please donate a few bucks. There are some great charities listed here . You could also donate to the school where I volunteered . I promise you, they make every penny count.

I am so grateful to have stayed in touch with my host family on Facebook, which is how I know that they’re all ok. But, I met a lot of wonderful people in my four months there, and I have no way of knowing if they’re all safe. I do know that a lot of the amazing temples and monuments that we visited have been destroyed.

I’m trying to figure out the best way to put a benefit together. But, in the meantime, please donate.

Nepali Sunrise

It feels like nobody is talking about the earthquake. And we should all be talking about the earthquake. Nepal’s economy can’t rebuild on its own . Please, please, please. Make a donation. Spread the word. Tell your elected officials that we need to send aid. If you’re friends with Warren Buffett, ask if he’d like to send a billion dollars. Every little bit helps.

B.A.A. 5K Recap

A bunch of Kristian’s coworkers decided to sign up for the Boston Athletic Association 5K that’s part of the marathon festivities. He asked if I’d like to join them and I was like “you had me at ‘you get to run across the Boston Marathon finish line.'”

(They don’t let you finish on the marathon finish line, but you do get to run across it.)

(Technically, you could run across the finish line any old time, but that would involve dodging a lot of crazy traffic.)

My sister was kind enough to watch LJ for us, so we got to spend some quality time with each other… and the other 8,000 or so people running the race.

Seriously, I can’t remember a more crowded run. We waited for about 20-30 minutes at the back of the starting line (because we are, admittedly, very slow) after the race was supposed to start. We waited so long, in fact, that just as we crossed the starting line, I looked over and Kristian’s very fast co-worker  was just finishing the race. He did finish in the top 100, but that is still an impressive wait.

Lucky for us, we still tend to enjoy each other’s still company, it was a beautiful day, and we weren’t paying our babysitter by the hour.

(We weren’t paying her anything at all, but I did pick her up a little something at the race expo afterwards.)

The course itself is great. If you’re reading this blog post because you’re googling the race to see if it’s worth the $50 race fee, let me tell you that yes, yes it is. It’s crowded, but well organized (I could have done with some more porto-potties, but I am pretty sure that could be said about every race in the history of running). The course itself is crazy flat, there are plenty of people out cheering, and you get to run across the Boston Marathon finish line and keep going.

(They do have to continuously announce that, if you want to take a picture at the finish line, to please move off to the side and not cause a backup.)

(Because there are apparently a lot of people out there with selfie sticks and no common sense.)

We spent a lot of time dodging walkers, which is kindof annoying, but also not all that hard because, seriously, if this course was any flatter it would be a map of pre-Aristotlean earth.

I did not set a PR, but I did beat Kristian by 12 seconds. Which, because the race is so enormous, was good enough for finishing about a hundred places ahead of him. This is about as close as I get to bragging rights when it comes to running.

(In case you’re new around here, I’m so slow my spirit animal would be a turtle if I wasn’t already a honey badger.)

(I should also probably mention that he didn’t really train for this one.)

Basically, I surge at the end of most races when I’m about a few hundred feet or so from the finish. I didn’t train as much as I should have for this one, but I did train more than Kristian and I can generally run farther than him. I told him I’d run most of the race with him, but once the end was in sight…. all bets were off. Remember how I said there weren’t really enough porto potties? Yeah, with about a quarter of a mile left I realized that I really wanted to finish and use one. Kristian basically looked up and I was gone .

(He still finished strong, and we got our race medals and t-shirts together.)

My sister told us to take our time and have fun, so we spent the morning chilling with Kristian’s coworkers, walking around Boston, and checking out the marathon expo. My sister may or may not have regretted her decision to give us the morning off. Especially when LJ started eating non-food items in protest of both her parents having the unmitigated gall to leave her with her beloved auntie for a few hours.

(Let’s just say it’s a good thing that my husband is good at googling things from his phone.)

(Because I had already called my sister to remind her that they should both be wearing sunblock, so I was clearly not in the most rational of moods.)

(And now we can all file “I ate part of the window!” under: things I never want to hear my toddler say when I get home.)

(We’re talking non-toxic stuff, not lead paint!)

(Brand new window, brand new sill.)

(Seriously, please don’t report us for this one.)

The race shirt is one of the nicest race shirts I’ve received, although that’s a pretty low bar these days. Unless it’s a tech shirt, I usually don’t even bother bringing one home. The medal is also pretty badass.

My new favorite race medal! #baa #5k #onlyinboston

A photo posted by @beerandpie on

All in all, it was a pretty successful race!