Archive | June, 2012
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Are you Awesome?

28 Jun

Are you Awesome?

The answer is yes.

Just a quick post today, to highlight this site: http://weareallaweso.me/

Go be a speaker. Start preparing now.

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Are you a Girl Geek?

25 Jun

Are you a girl geek, or a supportive male?
Do you study or work in Computer Science, Software Engineering, Information Technology, Multimedia, Computer Games, Science, Engineering, Mathematics or other related disciplines.

Then you’ll want to be part of Girl Geek Coffees:

Better still, if you are a Girl Geek in India, or know any Girl Geeks in India, please get in touch. We are attempting to open some Indian chapters, and need your help!

About Girl Geek Coffees:

Girl Geek Coffees (GGC) is a meet and greet open discussion group, for women in Computer Science, Software Engineering, Information Technology, Multimedia, Computer Games and related disciplines (e.g. Science, Engineering, and Mathematics). Supportive males can attend if they are accompanied by a female. Chapters of GGC can be found at Universities around the World. Students and early career graduates proudly independently run the GGC. Proactive support is generously provided by Academic and Industry Ambassadors, including supportive males to incorporate rich and varied perspectives.

We aim to foster relationships, networking and mentoring over a relaxed cup of coffee (tea, chai, chocolate etc). The GGC observes a flat open structure, enabling women from all different walks of life and experience levels to chat casually and ‘be themselves’. The group may engage in forum discussions, industry insights, and faculty advice. The greatest emphasis is on forming ‘connection’ and ‘support’ amongst females in a relaxed and comfortable personal environment.

The Next Steps (my learning journey)

23 Jun

After the strong finish point of my previous post, the youngest voice in the room, I’ve decided to look for inspiration on how to take those next steps. I recently picked up a copy of The Passionate Programmer, and whilst I am not a software developer, I find it still has plenty to offer in supporting my journey.
The text had me in its grips from the foreword, and just kept drawing me in. One of the key points made is that “a person who wants to become great is far more likely to be great” – that to treat your job just as a job is unlikely to lead to happiness, let alone success. The passion that comes with wanting “to be great” subsequently offers a lot of drive and energy for achieving just that.
Whilst I do recommend reading the book if you have the opportunity, I would briefly like to share just three of its tips that have resonated well with me:
  • Find a mentor
    Whilst there are many opportunities for self-driven learning (i.e. endless reading, attending events, and so on), experience has taught me that without someone else to bounce ideas off, I have no idea what I’m missing out on.
    Let me explain this another way: The way we think has often been described to me as drawing from four aspects of our knowledge – (1) what we know that we know, (2) what we don’t know that we know, (3) what we know that we don’t know  and (4) what we don’t know that we don’t know. — At this point in time, I am unsure of where this concept first originated, and hence who to attribute it to.
    1. Obviously the first, what we know that we know, is knowledge that we apply when we can. For example, I know that mingle is a pretty useful tool, and I know how to use it. I use this knowledge daily.
    2. When I don’t know that I know something, it often comes as a surprise – information that is stored in the back of my mind, that I absorbed at some point and have retained, that jumps to consciousness when I need it. For me, this is primarily medical information, as when I was younger I entertained a love of biology books and, a few years after that, would often help family and friends study for medical/biology courses. Right now, whilst writing this blog, nothing related to medicine/biology comes to mind, mostly just vague ideas, but I know from experience that if somebody were to ask me about, oh, what ibuprofen is or what interacts with calcium supplements, or maybe even about kidney diseases, I would probably pull the answer an accurate, informed answer from the depths of my memory, and each time it would surprise me, yet I would know it to be right.
    3. When I know that I don’t know something, I can seek out the information myself. This is when reading and self-learning is most useful. For example, at the start of this year, I did not know what mingle was, and at some point I knew that. It was then that I looked it up on the internet (like you likely will too – go on, click the link!), found out more about it, and trialled the software.
    4. The problem with the above example though, is that I first needed someone to tell me of something new, for me to know that I didn’t know about it. There are endless collections of thoughts, facts, ideas and knowledge that I cannot even fathom – to learn more about them, first I need some inkling that they exist. For example, I bet you didn’t know that you didn’t know about this concept. And now you’ve gone from (4) to (3) knowing you didn’t know to (1) reading about it here and now knowing that you know. This is where you most need triggers for your curiosity, and where a mentor can help out most.
  • Practice 🙂
    Not by doing what is comfortable, but by stretching your limits and trying new things. This may mean presenting at a conference, when you’ve only ever presented to your university class. Just go do it, and treat it is a learning challenge.
  • Learn to fail
    It’s not really about failing, but about being okay with potential failure. If we don’t feel capable of coping with it, chances are we won’t try in the first place. Recently, I was organising a vacation trip through the North of India, but I wanted it to be perfect. Knowing that I did not know enough to make it perfect, and knowing that I was certain to fail in actualising my feeble plans, I hesitated, and hesitated again, and kept postponing the bookings. Finally, a month before I was intending to travel, after realising I was going nowhere, I contacted a local travel agency, in the hopes that they could help me. I was relying on their expertise to prevent certain failure. When I ceased getting timely responses from them, I just waited. Knowing that something had gone wrong, I did not want to follow up with them and get the bad news, I preferred to hope it would turn out all right. In the end, things had gone wrong, and my entire vacation had to be replanned, but I only came to grips with this the day before I was due to fly out.
    Failure has its benefits – the primary one being that failure is often a learning experience.
    Additionally, failure is not as scary as we often make it out to be. The damage of my failed trip planning was little – it just required some replanning. This occurred much later in the process, but could just have easily been tackled months earlier. The damage caused by my lateness in facing the failure – major out of pocket expenses, due to the lateness of rebooking.

🙂

The youngest voice in the room

9 Jun

I was recently invited to partake in a 3-day strategy meeting, to assess and make recommendations for the future of our graduate program. That’s pretty exciting for me, because the graduate experience is something I feel quite passionately about. Then my eyes were drawn more closely to the words “strategy meeting”. I took a look at the names of the other invites, and saw People Leads and Recruiters, and well known employees and old-timers. What then, was my reaction?
“Uh-oh, looks like I’ve been invited by mistake, I should let them know to amend the invite”.
So I went from being exciting and thinking “this is exactly the event I want to be part of”, to assuming it’s a mistake and I won’t belong.
How did that happen?
It wasn’t that I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea, or that I wasn’t competent enough to go, and I definitely wanted to be a part of it. Yet there was an element of surprise: Why would an employee as new or as young as myself be requested to aid in strategy development?
Upon arriving on the first day of the meeting, I found myself confronted again. A colleague even asked “what are you doing here?”. The question was intended to uncover what perspective I, and other attendees, was providing, but I found it a little unnerving. I ran a mental check:
What was I doing here? Do I need to justify my presence? Will I be listened to?
I had a valid view to represent. As a recent graduate, a recent student, my views and my buy in would be just as important as any other.
Not only that, but I could offer the infamous fresh perspective. As a recently new hire, I had lesser view of what had been done in the past, and so less temptation to grasp onto the familiar. I also had a range of other experiences to draw from, that allowed me to offer unique insights. My presence had value. My presence had reason.
This leads me to wonder – are the opinions of the fresh faces being sought out often enough? Or should we continue to lean towards the veterans?
Yet more importantly, how often do new joinees avoid getting involved, because they feel their insight won’t matter?
At present, I only have anecdotal evidence – having been an intern twice, and now a graduate, and having worked and trained with other new joinees, I understand that we often feel we don’t know enough to start voicing our opinions. It’s best to sit back and learn from the experts, that’s what they’re there for, right?
I say that’s not good enough.
No matter what our experience levels, we have something to share, and plenty to learn.
If I’m not confident enough to share my own view, I’ll learn by questioning others’.
My plan is to get more involved in SIGs, giving presentations, or running workshops, if only to raise more questions.
My plan is to not run away.
My plan is to share my perspective.
What’s yours?