Spring Thaw

I’ve been busy being depressed, watching Netflix, and procrastinating everything in my life. It reminds me a lot of when I was graduating from Macalester, and I’m mad at myself for falling into the same habits. I haven’t written, partially because of all of this, and also because I’m not always sure if I want to continue having a public blog. I started this blog, and have maintained it, because I think other people go through the same things I do, and it could be helpful for them. Yet, I wonder if it will ever hurt my chances at finding a job. Or worse, hurt someone I care about. It is a delicate balance that I am always very mindful of, but sometimes I make the wrong decisions. A friend of mine recently shared her own story though, and it reminded me of the reasons I will continue to share my own.

One example of fear related to a job… I recently went to Utah for an interview. The highlights were endless: the company is a small, fun technology firm; I would be a manager to 10+ high potential recent grads; they allow puppies in the office; culturally, I loved everyone I met. On the other hand though, it is in Utah, which is far from the NYC in which I envision myself living. Both geographically and culturally. I was really concerned about how me having a public life could influence my ability to lead a strong team. Would they have doubts in my leadership abilities because I have publicly stated I’ve dealt with depression? Would I be less effective with my subordinates knowing details of my personal life? I’ve never pretended to be religious, but I would also be nervous that my openness could be frightening to some of the more religious and conservative people that are in the majority in this small town in Utah.

In the 6 weeks since this interview, I’ve come to realize a few things about myself. First off, I’m just a candidly open person, both online and in person. I don’t say anything on the internet that I wouldn’t say in real life, and whenever I do have the opportunity to manage a team, I will carry this strength with me. I believe it makes me both relatable and inspiring, and is something I would value in a manger of my own.

Next, Utah isn’t for me. It is beautiful, absolutely, and I would love to vacation there sometime. Yet, I need to live in a big city. I love being able to walk everywhere and not have to worry about a car. I love being able to run down stairs and across the street to get my Starbucks coffee. I need to have a neighborhood bar when Joe and I can go after work for a drink or two, and not have to worry about driving home. I also feel that there is just more going on in NYC. My Macalester community, Girls in Tech, book clubs, etc., will all be available in New York. Sure, they could be in Utah too, but there would be fewer options and a longer commute to any of them.

Learning these things about me, that I want to be in NYC and that I’m really excited about managing a team (and believe I’ll be really great at it), took a while. I had been applying to a ton of data analytics positions, both because that’s what I know and because it is what I’m good at. Yet, it isn’t what completely excites me. So, today I still don’t have a job, but I know a lot more about what I’m looking for and can be more fierce in tracking that down. For now, I’m pushing down the fears that I’m a fraud and can’t actually positively contribute to a company. I’m happy it is finally spring.

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Finding a purpose

So I wrote this post over a week ago, but was sitting on it because it felt so unresolved. Now it might be resolved and I’m relieved. 

I’m at a fork in the road. An impasse. Basically I’m stuck. I’ve always had a purpose and right now I feel like I don’t. None other than to graduate from MIT, but that’s nearly done.

In high school, I wanted to do well in class and stay busy so that I wasn’t around home. Between my parents splitting up and my mom starting to drink, I liked to stay away as much as possible. I volunteered and took college classes and did all the National Honor Society stuff that a good student does.

In college, all my focus went towards Program Board and Student Government. I loved having an impact on the student body and contributing to the overall experience of my classmates. Student Government in particular gave me a great glimpse into the bureaucracy of business and I loved it.

After graduating, I remember going through a struggle similar to the one I am now. It was the first time I was embarking on a time of my life that wasn’t pre-determined. What I did after college was a blank canvas and I was nervous about that. It wasn’t a terribly long struggle though, because I had my job lined up before I graduated and started my corporate gig that summer.

Even then I found more ways to be involved. First, I started this blog. Second, I joined Girls in Tech and started giving a lot of my time to volunteering. It was a great experience and something I miss dearly. I tried getting involved with similar organizations while in Boston, but nothing has been the right fit.

Starting at MIT was a tad overwhelming. The classes were a lot of work and I got involved with a few groups, but I never felt like I was making an impact. Even when I was all in on the Its on Us campaign, the Women’s Advisory Group, and the Title IX Working Group, I didn’t feel like my efforts mattered. I’ve come to the realization that I have no idea where I’ll be living in a few months or what I’ll be doing and that’s hard. It’s also difficult to get out of bed every day when I’m not actively contributing to something I’m crazy excited about. I’m excited to find that next thing again soon. 

The next day though, I made a trip to NYC to meet with people in the entertainment industry. I ended up landing an opportunity to work with a small entertainment advisory firm. I’m going to be doing some really neat analytics work for identifying successful content before it airs. If it ends up being a perfect fit and I like the company and the company likes me, maybe it turns into a job. Even if it just working on extremely awesome analytics that focuses on content featuring strong females and meetings some really great people in the industry, that sounds just awesome too.

Divas, Donuts and Drinking

The bar search continues. The Tip Tap Room is pretty solid, although they do have a substantial lip at the bar. They have a unique menu though, which is perfect for when I’m in a mood for something other than just standard bar food. Now I’m at Firebrand Saints. Location is perfect, it is right across the street from Sloan, they don’t have a lip at the bar and they have some nice outdoor seating. Downside? “Bad” drink options (which I totally understand is relative). By “bad” I mean they don’t have Bud Light -wtf- or Red Bull. How can I get my pre-class kick on without Red Bull?

In other news, I’m not doing a very good job managing my summer. I’ve gotten some good Ingress playing in, as well as other video games and TV shows (just started Covert Affairs, which I *love*). But that just feels like such a waste. I’d rather be putting my energy into writing and working on other small projects. Yet I have absolutely no discipline. During school or work this isn’t as much of a problem – I’m better at time management when I have a lot of things to do, including things with deadlines. So why am I so terrible with self-imposed deadlines or prioritizing my actual priorities? I’ve tried to schedule things, block out my day into “writing” and “exercise” chunks, but things end up getting in the way or I just plain decide not to do it.

I just work better under pressure but I’m having a difficult time creating the pressure.

Monday, I flew out to Pittsburgh for the Miley Cyrus concert. It was good. It wasn’t ticket + flight + hotel great, but I’m still glad I went. Row 1 seat 1 turned out to not be as awesome as it should be. She played all the good songs I wanted her to though, and she is a fun performer. At the end of the day, I’d rather see P!NK over and over because she is still the most amazing live performer I’ve ever seen.

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Also in Pittsburgh I stopped by an awesome little donut shop called Peace Love and Little Donuts. They did mini donuts with toppings and they were fantastic. The manager was pretty nice too and liked my book project. I need to get better at book layouts – how do people draft those up?

DSCN0186Anyway, I’m off to solicit sponsors for Girls in Tech, publicizing the Hacking Arts Hackathon I’m working on, and prepare for a pre-term class I’m taking/teaching. Oh, also going to start reaching out to agents with my book proposal. Toots!

 

Women portrayed in media

This article/video perfectly articulates the way the I feel about women in media. I truly believe that changing the way entertainment and media portray women will do wonders for empowering women and girls to be confident, proud, and encouraged. Take a look and watch the video – how can we continue to push this trend forward?

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27475423

An update on too much

I know its been forever since I’ve written. Things have been so hectic, and in lieu of giving the most thrown together recap, I’ll try to pull some semblance of a story together… starting with present day…

Today was a mopey-ass day. It started out really good but then I got a call from the doctor stating I have to go in for another colposcopy, aka, the worst procedure ever. [Aside: The doctor lady told me to take ibuprofen beforehand and I asked her if I could take a few shots of vodka but she didn’t know.] I was supposed to start my triathlon training today but after that news and the endless rain and continued apartment stresses [see below], I just wanted to stay at home for the night. So, I ended up writing out some thank you notes as it is my last week(!!!) at work. Which in itself feels really weird. I woke up on Monday and was like “holy cow, this is my last ‘Monday morning!’ for at least the next year.”

Joe got a job. This is a good thing. But they want him to start ASAP and while in Boston this past weekend we realized that the housing market there is a joke. Especially in “off season”, aka, not when students are vacating the area. To start things off, we found one place we loved but then by the time we got back to the realtor’s office it was gone. Then we spent three days viewing endless apartments and walkups and other random vans-down-by-the-river, until we realized that not only is there nothing available in the timeframe we need it to be, there is also nothing available within the price range we set for ourselves.

We finally got something squared away through an outgoing Sloan student so we left Boston happy. All good and awesome right? Well, no, because it turns out it isn’t as clear cut as that and we don’t know when we’ll be able to move or if we will be moving in. Which, in some ways is okay because we still don’t have our place rented out, but in other ways sucks because Joe will still have to be out there and I’m a lame face who doesn’t want to be alone.

So basically I have no idea what the next three months of my life will look like. Which I suppose is fine, because a lot of things are good and falling into place too. I’m trying out a new business development role within Girls in Tech Global. I’m super excited to continue with the organization and about my growing responsibilities (or, at least shifting). I also connected with the Macalester Alumni in Boston group – so at least if I am there this summer I will not be alonezies.

And finally, if you support my writing and fun projects, please back my donut book because you guys, it’s gunna be really good. Plus, I’m already going to be traveling to a lot of places anyway and I need good reasons to photograph (and eat!) good donuts.

Women in tech v. Women in business

Last week I moderated a panel of female investors and entrepreneurs at a tech event in Minneapolis. I was excited to be involved and am thankful for the opportunity. I learned a lot from the women in the panel and I also learned more about myself. 

The tool I got to use for gathering questions was pretty neat. Anyone in the audience could submit a question online and it was directly fed onto the iPad I held. It kept the flow moving along quite nicely by not having to vocally solicit questions from the audience. It also gave me the ability to vet questions and as the moderator, that was my duty. 

As the questions started rolling in, I noticed a certain theme among some of them. Lean In came up, as did being a working woman with a family. I deeply considered whether to bring up these topics and ultimately I decided against it. I believe that when we are discussing women in technology it needs to be a different conversation than discussing women as professionals. 

I read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In when it came out about a year ago. I thoroughly enjoyed its message. It really resonated with me considering my ambitions to become an executive officer at a large company while also wanting a family. I felt it clearly addressed the issues that separate men and women, both acknowledging that we are different, and calling for greater equality. This discussion needs to continue until women are treated and compensated as equals in all industries and is not specific to technology. 

Insinuating that fewer women are in technology because of these inequality issues ignores some of the outright sexism that exists in tech. Society does a terrible job of teaching kids that both boys and girls are smart and that girls are as capable within STEM fields, just as boys are as capable within historically female-dominated industries. 

Online and in conference rooms, women are often seen as inferior to their male counterparts. I’ve gotten weird looks introducing myself as the technical consultant and my male coworker as being from marketing. Phrases like “who can we talk to about the technical stuff” and “will you be taking the notes?”/“can you grab us all coffee” undermine both our intelligence and our earned right to be there. Assumptions about a lack of technical skills means women have to prove harder that they are competent. Additionally, as Amanda Hess explains, women encounter situations online that no one should have to deal with, making for a larger barrier to entry for women. 

Neither battle can be won in a silo, but I think acknowledging the differences is an important step. As we continue the dialog on gender equality, keep in mind there are additional hurdles for women to jump when entering technology and similar industries. The Minneapolis tech community is extremely supportive of women and is a place where I truly believe we are equal. I hope this spreads to more places and we grow towards a more gender balanced industry. 

Winning the lottery

On a long car ride last weekend, Joe and I began discussing what we’d do if we won the lottery. We both agree that we’d need to continue with the passions we have – neither of us are the type that would be happy lying on a beach for the rest of our lives. Turns out, Joe would keep his current job, which makes me totally happy for him. I had always said I would as well, but realized this last time, I might not. I definitely like the work I’m doing right now, but realize the contributions I could make without having to worry about an income. I love every single thing I am doing with Girls in Tech right now and look…

I began this post on August 14th at about 7:16am. I don’t entirely remember what I was doing back then, or why I didn’t finish it, but I remember it was right after BlogHer. I was just about to dive into the most amazing entertainment + technology idea ever, and I know this for two reasons.

  1. Over the summer I was contacted by a recruiter from EA within video games. I entertained the idea (ha! get it?) and went through the interview process. All my interviews had to be phone based though because of timing and a big sales meeting or something so everyone was out of town. I remember doing one of them from the hotel room in Chicago. You know how sometimes you talk yourself into loving something you didn’t know you did before? It was this experience that propelled my love for the entertainment industry and the connections it has with technology. I ended up not getting/taking the job, but enjoyed the experience nonetheless and am happy with the outcome.
  2. At BlogHer, I met a man. I don’t remember his name, clearly it was a close relationship we formed. I think he liked my dress… and I liked that he had a purple triangle coming out of his well-fitting-suit pocket. It was a dark grey, not black, and I think that goes so well with purple. So we went for a drink. It turned out that he worked for HBO. So, of course, cliché!, I pitched him my TV show idea. The premise was making technology cool by writing a sitcom about how some girl uses tech and is cool too. It would be like what Harry Potter did for wizardry (hah! I get this reference now) or something. After talking to him though, and having my idea completely shot down (well, he acted interested, but he was hitting on me and I can tell the difference), it started to evolve a little more. And that’s where I really got excited.

From there, the idea transformed into me wanting to create some reality show or even just a documentary on how important technology is to the entertainment industry. The ideas I tossed around were like, following Taylor Swift on tour (or maybe Lady Gaga!) or being on the movie set for Jupiter Ascending (because I really was there and was in awe of the technology required to manipulate the content into sci-fi.) highlighting all the technology required to pull those things together. I’ve always felt that breaking down the stereotype of tech being ‘men coding in a basement drinking mountain dew’ is a step towards closing the gender gap. Plus, being the fangirl I am, I knew it would have gotten Katie excited about tech back in the day. [Katie, for those of you who don’t know, is me in a time long ago.] I tweeted my excitement…

and

Eventually the idea became a webcast in which I’d start out by interviewing local technology women, and then expand into local entertainment-type things, maybe the news station or something like that, and grow from there. It was the tiered approach. The first video is being filmed next week actually, highlighting a woman working in video games! And that’s all well and good, right?

Well, then I was on my way to a Macalester board meeting (go Mac!) when I heard John Rausch being interviewed on the radio. This name isn’t necessarily supposed to mean anything to you unless you are a crazy cat in the music industry… but he was one of the sound engineers on Taylor Swift’s RED album and is from Minnesota. So… what if I just skipped all those tiers and cold emailed him to see what type of awe-inspiring content we could make to engage girls in technology??

So, that’s what I did. I’ll let you guys know how it goes.

Jamaica: Day 1

Let me start by saying: I’m a big Hanson fan. I’m no where near the biggest Hanson fan. This has never been more clear to me than this morning, when at 10am people were already sitting out in front of the stage saving their spots for the 10pm concert. In Jamaica. Sitting, in one spot, all day. Just sayin’.

I knew the male to female ratio would be small, given that we are at Hanson’s Back to The Island event in Jamaica. I don’t have a truly accurate estimate yet, as some people are still coming in (we got here a day early). On the bus from the airport to the hotel though, Joe was the only guy out of 16. At least two people have asked him if he is with the band. Let’s just say there are tons of women.

On the bus ride over here, I reminded myself that women are my friends and not my enemy. Over the last few years, through college and even more so through my involvement with Girls in Tech, I’ve really grown to love and appreciate women. As a young girl, I was not this way. I’m sure it could have stemmed from a multitude of reasons, most prevalent in my mind is that I was weird. Girls didn’t want to be friends with the weird girl, boys were more apathetic. I think a bit also had to do with the small town Minnesota mentality that most had, whereas my mom raised me to think critically and be open to others. Not believing in god and being open to sexualities beyond heterosexual made me a walking target.

College was really the first time I had close girl friends. It was new to me, but I was at college and open to experimentation. I loved it. I realized that there is so much more I get from my girl friends than guy friends. They were able to relate in ways I never knew I wanted. There was never any weird sexual tension, or expectations that the relationship could turn into anything more. I really think that finding those people my freshman year is what allowed me to fully flourish into the person I am today. They accepted me – big burps, stories about pooping, and all.

And then I went into technology and that was liking open a big jar of wax. Actually, I’m not sure what the analogy means, if I even have it right. Wait! I think I mean can of worms. Yes, let’s go with that. I opened a big can of worms.

It took me a few months to realize how starkly male-predominant the technology world is, but once I did, I was like “this is crazy!” Then Girls in Tech happened. I saw all the ins and outs of society, understood what it meant to be a feminist, and how important it is to value and support other women rather than take on a competitive stance. The twenty of us really have to stick together. Just kidding, there are a lot more than that. But, if you have time, read this article about some of the challenges women face just by being on the internet.

Why have I told you all this? Because sometimes being in situations with hundreds of Hanson Fangirls brings me back to the bad place of not loving every woman. I know that in practice this is okay, but I also think I’ll be happier if I remember that not everyone here is an enemy. Assuming I have enemies is something that puts me on guard and has no place in my Jamaican vacation.

In other news, there are not one but two nude beaches at the resort. We found the first one by surprise this morning when we were sitting on the beach and looked off to our right. The second one we found while sitting in the lawn chairs out on our back yard. It now make sense that the only wifi we can catch in our room is: GRANDNUDEBEACH.

Public Speaking my ass

The other weekend I spoke at a conference. It was actually a code camp, which is basically a tech conference. It was the first time I had actually submitted a talk for something like this. The other cases where I’ve spoken have been on panels where others reached out or by random happenstances. The coordinator for this conference though contacted me after us meeting at That Conference.

I usually get pretty nervous when speaking in front of others… Even though I understand the importance of public speaking, it still terrifies me. My face and ears get beet red, my mouth gets dry, and I have a tendency to rush through my speaking points. So, I’ve been signing up for more and more talks like these in an effort to combat this fear. If I want to be any kind of leader in the future I need to learn to speak in front of others…

My talk was about Google Glass. I didn’t put a crap-ton into this presentation beforehand because I had already given the same presentation 3-4 times and was pretty comfortable with how it would go. I don’t like to over-practice things because then I can come across as too rehearsed. Rather, I like to just have a really good understanding of what I’m speaking about.

Let’s just say, this talk went hella-well. I didn’t feel nervous at all going into it. I knew I knew my content and I was excited to teach others about the functionality. I went into the day with a nice bowl of cereal (Lucky Charms!!) and then red bull and coffee too – so I was just a bit hopped up. My session was just after lunch too, so I went up with a full stomach rather than starving my nerves like I’ve done in the past.

When I did the evening presentation of Google Glass for Girls in Tech, I had a beer beforehand which I thought loosened me up and enabled the good presentation. With this one, I obviously didn’t and it was still just as good if not better. The feedback I got was encouraging too. Most liked the humor I brought to the presentation and my overall ability to engage. One person even suggested I consider stand up comedy. It’s really remarkable to put a lot of effort into something and then see my efforts pay off… 

Application time!

I’m in Berkeley. I’m here visiting the business school. Mainly because Chris Kluwe lives nearby and I miss having him close, but also because it’s a pretty good program. Or so I’ve heard. I’ve never experienced it. I’m not a good reference.

I submitted my MIT application on Monday. It was the earliest deadline and a good starter. The application was average in terms of essays/prompts, amount of information, etc. I haven’t visited yet, but really like a lot about what the program has to offer. I also think the location would be great. One down… 7 to go?

Next Wednesday is the infamous Stanford deadline. I went and tried to psych myself out today by looking at application stats and stuff. Only 7k people apply for the less than 400 spots, so, it’s not like it’s impossible… My essays are in “okay” shape. Questions like “what is your favorite place” and “what is your favorite thing to read” give me not only the opportunity to let my personality shine but also make an ass out of myself in less than 300 characters. If I had to guess, I’d say 23% of applicants get an interview. If I’m not in that bunch, I’ll be a sad cat who failed. If I’m in that bunch but then don’t get in, that’s okay. At least I tried.

I’ve also been maybe over-doing it lately. Work has been pretty busy, Girls in Tech stuff is in full force, and I’ve been getting up every morning at 5am to work on my essays. Yesterday I just wanted to come home and sleep but I had already volunteered to help out Tix for Tots at the Lynx Game, they kicked ass, by the way. And now today I whisked off to Berkeley, delayed flight and all.

I’m just going to be so relieved when it is all done and I can impatiently wait for months on end.