I’m sitting in the airport in Panama City Beach, after a really energizing weekend back home to the redneck riviera. My flight is delayed because the Houston airport has called a ground stop due to a bad line of thunderstorms.
Those storms are a sure sign of spring on the Gulf Coast. Spring is awesome, all the plants start to wake up again, the birds and the squirrels are crazy in love, and we can get back to just wearing flip flops everyplace.
This spring is also bringing change to me in another exciting way. Tomorrow, I’m starting as PMM (product marketing manager) at VMware. I’m going to be concentrating on vSphere, and more specifically helping figure out how to help Dell sell more vSphere!
If you’re trying keeping track, this has been my career path:
EMC: Tech trainer right out of college, then a technical training developer, blogger, and community manager.
Dell: I built the Dell Storage community from the EqualLogic, Compellent, and Dell communities. Then I was the PMM for AppAssure.
EMC: PMM for Spanning Backup
What can I say? I can’t keep away from the family. Planning to stick around for a bit….can’t wait to start working with old friends again, and excited about making new ones. I think this role is the perfect role to work more on my personal motto, and I can’t wait to get started!
Hidden Figures opens officially tomorrow, but I saw it tonight. This movie is about three African American female engineers who pioneered space travel at NASA. Oh yeah, the movie was set in the 60s, and they did this while fighting racism and sexism and all sorts of discrimination.
I’m just going to free flow with thoughts here, so I don’t lose them. The events in this movie happened 50 years ago, before many of us were even born. However, all of the social behavior demonstrated in the telling of this tale continues today.
Here are the characters that stood out to me, mostly because I have seen them all:
You’ve got the mechanical engineer who can tinker and fix anything, yet understands the politics enough to know when it’s time to learn something new. Oh, and she brings everyone with her. If someone throws up a political block, she finds a work-around.
You’ve got the hard headed engineer who does not take no for an answer, and who can not keep her emotions inside when her feels bubble up.
You’ve got an amazing mathematical engineer who perseveres even when she can’t attach her name to the work SHE has done.
You’ve got the arrogant lead engineer, with all the right education and the powerful position, who can’t see beyond the way things have always been, because to do so could possibly mean giving up power. This ended up being a silly fear that didn’t even come to pass, but how much time did he waste that impacted the mission, let alone the mental health of a brilliant mind who was critical to the mission? I’ve butted heads with this guy many a time, right down to his exasperated sighs when I keep pushing against the “this is just how it’s always been Gina” excuses.
You had the woman who kept her fellow women down. In this case, she did it based on race. But she “really didn’t have anything against these women”. Yeah, I’ve worked (formally and informally) with her before, way too many times.
You’ve got the manager that only sees the work, and can’t see the subtle (and no so subtle) discrimination, not because he’s bad but because he can’t fathom it actually happening and interfering with production. Had those too.
You’ve got the men who just see you for what you bring to the team. They encourage your tenacity because it helps the group accomplish their goals. It’s easier to find this kind of guy nowadays, and that’s pretty awesome.
You’ve got the men who appreciate and completely support their phenomenal women. Those have been few and far between, but those good guys exist.
These are socialized roles y’all. People play these roles because that’s how they have seen other seemingly successful people act. Which means we can re-socialize ourselves. Be the good examples, not the bad ones. Expect more from your interactions with others, both from them and from yourself.
It is just ridiculous that we’re still living like we are in the 1960s in our professional lives. It needs to end with us.
Who’s with me?
You can start by going to see Hidden Figures, and talking about it.
I’ve been hearing and reading more and more about personal brands again. To level-set, here’s a definition of personal branding from the Personal Branding wiki:
Personal branding describes the process by which individuals and entrepreneurs differentiate themselves and stand out from a crowd by identifying and articulating their unique value proposition, whether professional or personal, and then leveraging it across platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal. In this way, individuals can enhance their recognition as experts in their field, establish reputation and credibility, advance their careers, and build self-confidence.
The term has been around since the late 90s, but really picked up steam as individuals began to express themselves and showcase their talent using blogs, podcasts and twitter when social media first emerged as a platform in the mid-2000s. As I remember, it was people in marketing who latched onto the term, not the doers who were happily sharing their work, and their thoughts on that work.
Marketers were terrified of what would happen if normal workers were able to have a voice in discussions about the industry in which their organization played. The personal branding concept became a way to acknowledge that workers were able to talk to anyone, anywhere, about anything, but it gave them a sneaky way of keeping some control. They convinced us that in order to be taken seriously about the topics on which we are the experts we needed to have a personal brand. The people with the most acceptable personal brands were the ones who would get the better jobs, the rock star acolades and all the material gains that go along with that. If your personal brand was not acceptable, not up to snuff, then your ideas would be easily dismissed and ignored.
It was a brilliant marketing ploy. Marketing could still control the ways knowledge workers were beginning to communicate with each other. All they had to do was convince them that if they did not stay on message they would face being irrelevant.
Around the same time marketing was hatching this ploy, others began to see how these social tools could be used to connect people in ways that naturally made sense, and not in ways forced (and blocked) by org charts and PR/marketing message-shaping. One organizational principle that came from this is wirearchy:
a dynamic two-way flow of power and authority, based on knowledge, trust, credibility and a focus on results, enabled by interconnected people and technology.
So, here we are 10 years later. Most organizations have social media policies, and marketing owns the task of managing social media. Many of the doers now think they must develop a personal brand in order to be taken seriously as a podcaster or blogger. The personal brand has become the important thing, not connecting into the wirearchy of our respective communities of practice
Eric Wright published a post today where he reframed the definition of personal brand to be all of your online contributions. I understand that is the way he sees this, but unfortunately this is a 10-year old phenomenon on which many a marketer has staked her career. A couple of comments he made reminded me why this concept of a personal brand has always frightened me:
If we think of the phrase “selling yourself short”, you have to also agree that the other side is true. Every single day we are selling ourselves, in the best of ways.
MBAs are taught that people are one of the many resources available to a firm to create a product or service that will hopefully bring in a profit. Resources, even human resources, can have a value assigned to them so that they can be bought, sold, or traded as needed to be profitable.
This is dangerous. It is important to resist the idea that we are a resource.
We are human beings. We are not human resources to be bought and sold. The problem that the firm has now is that the world has changed. In a knowledge society, the means of production is inside the heads of the workers. And for a short time, we (knowledge workers, the doers) had the power to share that knowledge freely with others, because the teams responsible for controlling the firm’s messages (PR and marketing) didn’t understand how to control it. We were able to connect and create, and do good work for the firm at the same time.
We are still able to do that…but we need to be careful that we don’t give up our freedoms for a few shekels. Look back at the definition of personal branding given by the people who have been promoting the concept for a decade. That definition talks about human beings having a unique value proposition, leveraging it across platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal. These are all business terms, meant to control messages. How does a human being have a value prop that they can leverage with a consistent message and image? That’s what branding folks in the marketing departments at big organizations do. That’s what Kardashians do.
Human beings are messy. We don’t all think and speak and look the same. And that is what makes the ability to publish a blog post or a podcast so amazing – you can connect with others who may or may not agree with you. You can grow your network by openly connecting with others, to understand them better. If we control our interactions to adhere to a personal brand, we can’t connect. Being connected and networked is how we learn, how we grow.
We live in an era where it’s harder and harder to distinguish real news from fake news. What happens when we have generations of marketers and PR folks who are trained to make everyone adhere to one message, and no one is willing to deviate from it because it may damage their personal brand?
Please remember that we are human beings. Be human, never sell that. Even for a personal brand.
Leaving you with this video of John Trudell, who talks about the importance of being human.
Today is Thanksgiving Day in the US. My family has decided not to celebrate in the “traditional” way this year. I just couldn’t reconcile the origins of Thanksgiving with the increasing escalation of violence against the Lakota and Dakota water protectors in North Dakota. The events on Sunday solidified my feelings.
To be honest, the reason I feel empowered enough to regularly speak up and participate in actions about injustices that affect me, such as the #NoDAPL resistance and the ever-lingering topic of women in tech, is because I’ve been protected and blessed in many ways. So instead of fussing over a huge turkey dinner, today I’m fasting and reflecting on all of the things I am truly thankful for.
I am thankful that my children live close to me.
I am thankful for my dog Fred. He makes me feel safe in my new house, and he’s such a good buddy.
home sweet home
I am thankful that I have a house to call my own. It is very scary and overwhelming. It’s also a little frustrating at the moment. But I’m very proud of this accomplishment, and very happy with this decision.
I am thankful for my new job. It is challenging me in ways that I didn’t expect. If I’m being honest, that’s when I’m happy at work, when I have interesting puzzles to solve and a team of smart motivated people around me that are also working to solve those problems.
I am thankful for my new co-workers. I’m the only woman in my group, nothing new there. The men I work with are really good people. Of course they are smart and professional, but they allput their families first, and talk about their wives with such respect and love it is inspiring. It really makes a difference in how you look at your job when everyone around you is this balanced.
I am thankful I have the opportunity to meet so many amazing people. Even if we don’t agree, the conversations are always interesting and inspiring.
I’m thankful for good friends to go on adventures with.
I’m thankful I have the means to get home to my water on a regular basis.
I like to take my dog Fred on long walks on the weekend. One of the nice things about Austin is all of the nature trails that are in the city. The days we make it out there really early are the best. I tend to zone out, especially if Fred isn’t acting super crazy.
Last week one of the things I thought about was about how important it is to keep on the path you’ve chosen for yourself. Sometimes it’s good to go off the beaten path, and go exploring….but when you want to really zero in on a goal you have to ignore the distractions and keep on the path. And you have to be physically able to keep on the path. You also have to pay attention to rocks that may be stuck in the trail, because if trip over one and go down, it could keep you off the path. And you’ll have to start all over again.
So keeping on the path requires good health, and paying attention. What else? What keeps you on your path?
Another week, another round-up. It’s getting hard to stay caught up! I have a request this week: if your official title is DevOps engineer, I’d like to talk to you, potentially for a future blog post. Email me!
One of the first and probably the most interesting conversations I had about the election was with my children. I told them that things *are* better than they were when I was a teenager in the 80s, in the deepest part of the south. I told them several specific instances of racism I observed. I told them that being afraid of a nuclear war was a real thing, especially living next door to the biggest air force base in the world as well the base that was home air force special ops (I grew up knowing we were in the top 5 for the targets Russia would aim at). Mix in the AIDS epidemic and the beginning of the war on drugs, there was plenty of bigotry and fear-mongering to go around.
I shared a couple of music videos with them that I think really captured that feeling.
Then we talked about how things have changed. Being overtly racist is not as accepted as it was when I was a teenager. My son said that’s what the problem is, things have changed and they’ve never seen so much hate on display.
This is what we must cling to.
Our country ismore diverse than it was 30 years ago. And, contrary to what you hear about people who voted for Trump, most of them like it that way. How do I know? By talking with my friends and loved ones. Have you talked to your friends and loved ones who voted differently than you did? Have you really tried to hear them out and understand why they voted as they did? If not, you need to get on that.
Have these conversations at dinner, on your front porch, in your backyard, at the hair salon. But have the discussion. Do not let the media convince you that only certain people voted for one or the other candidate. Do not let the media harden you so that you buy into the hateful rhetoric and terms. And y’all, that hate ain’t just coming from the Republicans.
This is critical right now. Even though our country is more diverse and tolerant, there is a faction that wants to oppress everyone of color, every non-Christian, every non-CIS person, even people with disabilities. And Donald Trump is installing the leaders of that faction into the highest, most powerful offices of our nation. They have the ability to change the good that’s been done over the last 50 years, and we may not see the impact of these changes for many years. Things you should be worried about:
We cannot allow hate to be the guiding principle that governs our nation. I don’t believe the people who voted for him want to see that happen. I know that my friends voted for him because they were just as terrified of the harm Hillary could do as a representative of the elite. The elite have honestly done just as much harm as the alt-right wants to do in part by amassing wealth by eroding the rights of workers, and by continuing to invest in infrastructure for the fossil fuel industry instead of funding and promoting greener forms of energy.
It killed me to vote for her.
Talk to each other. We have to connect on the things we want to see changed. People need jobs. No one in this country should be hungry. No one should be painting swastikas on anything. The cops need to step back from being so militarized. We all need to understand that many of the people crossing our border with Mexico are running away from the war-like conditions that are direct related to the actions of the same oil companies terrorizing Indian country in North Dakota right now. We need our government to get us out of that cycle, and to subsidize tech and infrastructure for clean energy, not the fossil fuel industry.
I think all of us want to see better conditions for everyone, not just those who look and think like us.
This conversation needs to happen right now.
Talk to each other. That’s step one. Step two is to take care of yourself, try hard not to medicate with drugs, alcohol, sex, social media, or whatever your escape of choice is. It’s hard to have a productive conversation with someone with whom you violently disagree if you’re numbing your fear. Feel those feels, and talk to people. Step three is to protect yourself, especially electronically. I’ll write more about that in upcoming posts.
For my tech friends, if you can “out” the marketers that spew vendor FUD, I know you can see the political propaganda (on both sides) for what it is. Analyze it, and then debunk it like you would FUD.
Remember, Dr King was assassinated in Memphis as he fought for sanitation workers’ rights; not just black workers. Malcom X was assassinated as he began to move towards uniting people of all races as well. The powers that be, that many in this election claim to have voted against, do not want people of different races and classes and religions to come together. But here’s the thing: we’ve been on that road for most of my life. We’ve seen real changes in how we treat each other. And there is only a handful of us that want to go back to the dark days of oppression.
For the love of all that is good, take step one. Talk to each other.
Words are important. I think it’s time we examined what we mean when we say “devs”.
In my mind, there are two types of devs:
A developer who creates the software for an application.
A developer who creates the infrastructure that a cloud application runs on
These devs perform different functions, and need different tools to complete their dev-y tasks.
I’m really trying to stay away from saying things like “traditional dev” or “traditional ops”. I understand that these terms help us ladder our understanding from what we’ve known in the past to where we need to go as an industry, but they also subtly convey the connotation that one is better than the other, and that one is stagnant, old, and out of touch.
I’m sorry, devops engineers who come from the ops mentality are anything but stagnant, old or out of touch.
The tools a software developer needs will be different than the tools a devops engineer needs (full disclosure: we’re working on a survey to explore those needs).