Building a community of women who work in technology – hosted by Betsy Speare, Jennifer Marsman & Helene Love Snell

Posts tagged ‘#womentech’

Why I Hate Email

“Gasp” will be the response of approximately 300 of my coworkers with whom I spent 7 years with building Exchange 5.0, 5.5, 2000, and 2003. Honestly, I’m feeling a little nervous about posting this one – mostly because it seems sort of heretical after all that email work we did for which I am immensely proud. And, before you read this post, be warned – it’s not my most politically correct post, which is sort of pitiful because it is a blog related to diversity. Anyway – there’s a section in here that is funny – funny like the movie Hangover is funny. So, there’s my confession and your warning. Hope I won’t be burned at the stake. Now you can find out WHY I HATE EMAIL!

Betsy Speare, Principal Program Manager Lead, Microsoft Windows Server, Happy Family member, new Green Lake, Seattle Resident, 15 years at Microsoft, EWU CIS grad and chicken farmer (total 3 now – getting eggs)!

I’ve been threatening to write “Why I hate email” for a while– but really, I use email in all the ways I hate it. So, I thought I would start by discussing…

…Satisfying things about email:

  1. RTFM (where M=MAIL): At work, a chest beating bully indignantly declares “YOU did not tell ANYONE about that!” You don’t even have to answer because someone else says – “RTFM.” On your behalf! THAT is the best.
  2. The one line question: You have a simple, 1 line question. You put that question in the subject line. The respondent replies within 1 minute with a simple one line response. I LOVE THAT. No chit chat, no manners, just Q AND then A.
  3. I can’t remember what I said: But I said it in email. It’s there in black and white and I can refer to it. Great for dates and commitments.
  4. Meeting Requests: electronic sharing of calendars is a beautiful thing if you insist on having more events/meetings than you can keep track of. My Dad would have been disgusted at the ridiculous complexity of my life that requires a calendar like this, but that’s another blog topic. #3 is probably related to this.
  5. Makes the world smaller: there was a time when email was the premier tool for communicating quickly and cheaply around the developed sections of the world. Now there are a lot more, but important to keep that in mind in the benefits.
  6. Forwarding: seriously – is there anything better than when someone makes a hilarious statement or has a great email alias and you can then forward it to your co-worker in a meeting and you are both laughing and trying not to snort? A real example I recieved: “…At least it isn’t the guy I used to know … named takeshi – last name was something like tanuda – alias he was given was takeshit. Almost as good as dong wan kim (who got dongwank) or …”

Zach’s story: Zach is 14 and he grew up next door to me. He’s recently started playing the drums and I was viewing his latest school concert on his Mom’s phone. I asked him to email me his concert schedule. His answer: “I don’t do email. I text or Facebook.” Ok, I now get what the rest of the email technology community has understood for a long time. Email is going to die.

Zach & Alison Wulfman, with my daughter Livvy… the night of the email convo…

I imagined a life without email. I thought about all the crap I have to deal with in email. The never ending days old email threads that never give quite enough context anywhere at the top and require you either read the whole thing or start another thread begging for a summary. The rude “RTFM” attitude (oops), the expectation that email actually replaces human interaction and the communication that never stops! . Ick. Life without email would be AWESOME.

Since it was on my mind, I began noticing that email was never referred to in a positive way. My co-worker, Kenneth, admitted that he had been “using email too long” and just tried to avoid it now. I personally banned laptops in a number of “warteam (now called shiproom, more PC)” so people would pay attention. Ironically (and this really is irony John), that was in the Exchange team. Some people got mad.

Now, here’s the opposite. A great friend of mine, CJ Corbett has recently begun working at Providence Hospital. A faith based organization, they start each meeting with 1 minute of quiet reflection time to leave behind other topics and get focused on the subject at hand. Then sometimes, they have a prayer or short parable to illustrate what they are trying to accomplish. I’m guessing no one is forwarding jokes or reading email in that meeting. Sounds nice.

My brother, Jamie, works at Google. He told me that at Google, people commonly reply to a long email with TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read). Now – that makes sense – I might start that in my group. Of course, I might get RTFM as a response.

Anyway – bottom line is that mail might be more efficient, but it’s not more fun. People are fun (unless they aren’t – I guess you could make an argument in some cases that email was better than talking to some people, but I digress from my fundamental view of life). If we are using email to increase the number of topics & people that we can communicate TO because it’s more efficient, I wonder if we are losing track of what matters in human terms, and that the is the RESPONSE, not the reply.

What I’m going to try:

  1. I’d like to listen and talk to more people and read less email.
  2. I would actually like to read more comprehensive documents (with a good summary) and quit wasting time hitting delete and scanning for valid information (Sinofsky has some good thoughts on this, but now I can’t find the post… might be an internal only one).
  3. I’ll keep using email as a calendar and notes to myself system.
  4. I’d like to quit getting the “RTFM” look, so I’m going to quit giving it.
  5. I’d like to say: I enjoy learning about what my colleagues are doing. I’m not deluged with minutia
  6. Play around with the new tools more – I keep getting pointed to www.pintrist.com.

So I’m going to give it a shot. I’m going to change my expectations of email and see how people respond. I won’t be perfect, because it’s a hard habit to break – but this stuff is evolving quickly and we need to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. Actually – I’m excited to see where we end up. People like Zach just have an expectation that instant communication is lightweight, convenient and on his terms. You can see the pieces coming together – texting, facebook, twitter, pintrist – it’s time for email to really evolve. Can’t wait.

Should Women In Tech Get Special Treatment?

We are lucky to return to Anandi  this week as  our guest blogger —  remember her awesome post ”  Your dream schedule in a tech company – it CAN be done! Four steps to find the schedule you want!.” I have to admit that my first reaction to this blog was less than enthusiastic.  The beauty of owning the blog is adding my own editorial and even changing the title (which I did  – Anandi title kicks off the blog article). 

On a bit lighter note,  over the holidays, my family launched a new website in remembrance of my Mom, Chef Char Zyskowski – it’s 1200 of her best recipes and I can tell you they are all soooo good.  The site is all about enjoying food and friends.   Take a minute to check it out www.AppleCharlotteCooking.com.   Next rev will include menus she created as well as another big bunch of recipes…

However, its a conversation that is at the root of this blog even being in existence – a special blog just for women in tech.  I guess the point is, women in tech do not have the leadership or decision making positions at the same rate as most other white collar industries.  You can point to the “math problem” (girls not encouraged to do math) and the “pipe” problem (not enough women with technical degrees) – but it’s hard to not to admit that there is something inherit in the corporate software industry that discourages women from staying in software as well as a culture that doesn’t promote them at the same rate as their male counterparts if they do stay.   So I say – YES!  We should be doing something different so that women will stay.  For example, building community for women in technical companies enables them to connect to conquer the isolation that drives  them away is good.   Identifying sponsor and mentorship programs that teach our male leaders to be aware of stereotyping is powerful and connects women with coaching – it’s is all good.    The examples Anandi gives seem more like recruiting tools  that are  more superficial “rewards” offered to women who participate – as in any scare resource.   I heard from the interns at MS this year that they got a private concert with Dave Mathews – wow – and that’s both men and women.  What’s that saying?  Scarcity breeds “over-the-top?”  We can’t pick on MS for this though – every company, college, business, government in the world relies on this premise.  So, your read it, and let me know what you think!  use the comments!

Betsy Speare, Principal Program Manager Lead, Microsoft Windows Server, Happy Family member, new Green Lake, Seattle Resident, 15 years at Microsoft, EWU CIS grad and chicken farmer (down 1 chicken due to racoon)!

To follow the Women in Technology Blog – go to https://womentech.wordpress.com/feed/

An-web (2)Blog post by Anandi Raman Creath, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft Corp.

Empowering or Separate But Equal or Unfair Advantage?

I originally posted this on my personal blog, House of Peanut, and have revised it based on some of the insight I got from the discussion with friends and coworkers that resulted.  I know “good blog posts” are supposed to have a strong opinion, but I am conflicted on the topic, so  I’m putting this out there as a collection of viewpoints and would love to hear *your* thoughts on the topic.

When I was accepted at Caltech in 1991 (yikes, that was a long time ago), the offer of admission came with an extra surprise. Not only was I invited to attend Prefrosh Weekend, which was a way for prospective students to figure out if the school was a good fit, but Caltech would PAY FOR ME to attend, simply because I was female.

First thought was “OMG, I got in?!”. Next thought was “Hooray, a trip to California!” since it was a cold April in Pittsburgh. But having never thought about it before, I was puzzled by why they’d fly me out for free, since I did not need financial assistance. Of course, I soon understood it was because of their 4 to 1 male: female ratio, and the fact that they wanted to increase their ‘yield’ of admitted female students accepting the offer.

I went to Caltech, I made lots of friends both male and female, and it wasn’t terribly hard for me to adjust to life in a skewed-ratio environment. I didn’t feel like being female was a disadvantage or that anyone was discriminating against me for it, so I never felt the need to seek the services of the Womens’ Center, all-female housing, or other women-only groups, which were all available to me.  I had one professor make an asinine remark about women not being able to visualize 3-D space, but it was, thankfully, an isolated incident.

One of my best recommendations I got for my graduate school applications was from a male professor who was involved in the decision to admit women to Caltech (only in 1974!).  Grad school and my subsequent job at a Big Five consulting firm were pretty much close to a “normal” gender ratio.

And then I came to my current company, a very tech-focused environment which seems to have the same male: female ratio (or worse) than Caltech, at least on the product teams I’ve been on. I’m frequently the only woman in a meeting, and in our last team meeting, I counted maybe 3 women in a room of 40.

This is typical, but doesn’t bother me. I’ve never felt like people were treating me differently for being female.  Except when guys apologize for using bad language in front of me – that drives me up the wall. I know they mean well, and I tell them I am fully capable of swearing like a sailor and then it’s all good.

My company sponsors a Women’s Conference, which is open to all, but typically it’s 98% women who attend, and the topics are mostly focused on women in technology, how to navigate office politics, work-life balance, etc. We have several active womens’ groups at different levels of the company that offer training, host social events, and meet regularly to work on various initiatives, like sponsoring STEM events for girls. I’m guessing men aren’t explicitly excluded from these events, but they don’t attend.

And there’s my dilemma. I’ve taken advantage of the special training sessions and conferences offered by these groups, because they’re really great opportunities that others pay a premium for externally. I like to go to the social women’s’ networking events to see former coworkers and meet new people.

Some of these events have an undercurrent of “us vs. them” and “we women have to stick together” that makes me uncomfortable. I also feel guilty because I don’t feel like I *need* special treatment or training just because I’m female. And I wonder if I’m somehow saying with my actions that we women “need this kind of help”.

And at the other end of the spectrum, to borrow a term from the Caltech Honor Code, sometimes it seems like I’m getting an “unfair advantage” by being offered these things, when most of my coworkers are not.

Some men in technology fields are socially awkward and not savvy about things like office politics and networking. They may be from other countries and don’t “get” the way things work in our American culture. I bet they could benefit from the same training opportunities as well.

When I think back to the Prefrosh Weekend trip to Caltech, I know my parents would have sent me anyway, even if they had to pay for it. There may have been guys who didn’t go because their parents didn’t want to spend the money. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of my attendance being more valuable just because of my gender.

And yes, I’m really, really lucky that I don’t have to deal with overt sexism, and that I haven’t felt that frustration. I know it still exists, even in the land of technology where I’d like to believe it’s all about intellect and efficiency. It’s possible that at my worker bee level of the hierarchy, deals and promotions are not being forged on golf courses or sports bars, but at higher levels they are. But even if that’s the case, it’s theoretical – I personally don’t feel like I’m being limited because of my gender.

Do I continue to take the opportunities offered to me? Do I respectfully decline them because I don’t feel like I’m at an inherent disadvantage and maybe someone else does? Is it like going to church, where some people need that kind of community support more than others? Am I naive and being discriminated against more than I realize?

When I put these questions out to my peers on Facebook and my blog, I got some surprising answers from both men and women.  (I love social networking!)

I had a few people say they were strongly against what sounded like “affirmative action” and “special treatment” based on gender alone.  They were all engineers, two female and one male, different age ranges, so no generalizations to be drawn there.

Several people commented on the studies done re: the inherent advantage men have in the workplace re: pay inequity, perception of male parents vs. female parents, and even getting through an interview process (swapping a male for female name on the same resume, etc.)  So there is a feeling that sexism exists, and it may be very subtle.  It may be worse in different parts of the country (or world) and can be dependent on the average age of the workforce, too.

What I didn’t expect was that nearly *everyone* encouraged me to continue taking the opportunities presented as long as *I* found them useful.  A few men and one female coworker presented it as something companies do to attract and retain underrepresented groups.  Another Caltech alumnus and Amazon engineer (male) pointed to an article about Scott Page, an economist who did quantitative research showing that diverse groups are better for organizations.

Someone made a good point – these programs exist and may give me an advantage, so why wouldn’t I grab the opportunity, for my own career development.  Because most certainly others are doing so, and these are the same people I’m ranked against at performance review time.  Pragmatic, but true.

More than a few said that I could assuage my guilt by sharing the knowledge with others on my teams, both male and female.  I like that idea a lot – building community and spreading out the benefits from these targeted activities to more than the intended group.

I also noticed that the discussion seemed to delve pretty quickly into *why* there’s an underrepresentation of women in STEM fields, and it’s pretty easy to rathole and speculate on why that is (cultural factors vs. biology).  But I think that’s too large a topic to address in this post, so let’s keep that one separate, please.

If you’d like to look at the original discussion and read the comments verbatim, here’s that post.

What’s your take on this?  Do you think we still need programs to encourage and support women in technology?  Do you take part in them, even if you don’t feel you are personally at a disadvantage?  Does the question of “fairness” enter into it for you?

And I heard a woman say…

This week’s blog post is the perfect post for the first of the year – inspirational for both men and women.  I keep threatening to write the “why I hate email” blog post but you were saved once again by a much better topic.  I suspect you’ll see a lot more of  guest blogger Stacey Sargent on this forum – I already can’t wait to see what she writes for us next!

BTW, don’t miss the big blog improvements this week – we’ve got facebook and twitter buttons! Whoo hoo!

Betsy Speare, Principal Program Manager Lead, Microsoft Windows Server, Happy Family member, new Green Lake, Seattle Resident, 15 years at Microsoft, EWU CIS grad and chicken farmer (up two chickens, now laying eggs – thanks to the Macleod’s).

Guest Blogger – Stacey Sargent.  This awesome post is all you need to know (oh, and there’s more at the bottom about her…)

Last fall I had the opportunity to attend two women’s conferences in a row. The first was the Grace Hopper’s Celebration of Women in Computing in Atlanta, and the second was the Women’s International Network (W.I.N.) Global Leadership Conference in Paris.

There was one message that resonated from both experiences.  It seemed to follow me where ever I went, hanging there like a brilliant star in the forefront of my mind.  I couldn’t ignore it.  At first, I felt the message might be shining just so I personally could see it and learn from it.

What I realize now is that everyone needs to hear this message – especially women.  Women who thirst for more in their life.  Women who aspire.  Women who want something challenging AND meaningful.

The message was articulated precisely by Pascale Dumas, of HP France, at W.I.N.  When asked what she would do differently if she had to do it all again, she answered simply (with a beautiful French accent of course), “I would take more risks.”

I would take more risks.

And then I watched two different panel discussions, each containing successful women leaders who echoed the same message.

I would take more risks.

For me, it translated into the present tense: take more risks.  Now.  Period.  End of sentence.  No caveats.  No additions.  No stipulations.

Take more risks.  NOW.

With this new bright star message in my mind, it is now illuminating everything and I see the need for it everywhere.  Opportunities to take more risk.  Openings to define what risk might be for me.  New ways to look at what taking risk gains for me or what is truly at stake if it goes awry (usually what might go wrong is less than I imagine).  And I can see it in all of the women I work with – their struggle to have the self-confidence to take risks. .

In a recent interview at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit, Ginni Rometty, the new (and first female) CEO of IBM, talked about the importance of self-confidence in taking risks.

“Really early in my career, I can remember being offered a big job. And I can remember [my] reaction to the person who offered it to me. I right away said, ‘You know what? I’m not ready for this job. I need more time, I need more experience and then I could really do it well.’

So I said to him, ‘I need to go home and think about it.’

I went home that night and told my husband, and I’ve been married 32 years now, and he’s just sitting there. As I’m telling him about this, he just looked at me and said, ‘Do you think a man would have ever answered that question that way?’

……What [that] taught me was you have to be very confident even though you’re so self-critical inside about what it is you may or may not know. And that, to me, leads to taking risks.”

I believe taking risks is an important life lesson that we all must continue to learn and practice.  To practice self-confidence even when we have doubts.  To lean in and take more risks, and see what happens.

I have been practicing this art (not science) of taking risks more frequently and here are a few things I have learned:

  • I am very often much more      successful than I think I will be (read this as “don’t believe everything      you think”).
  • When I take the risk, something of      value ALWAYS comes out of it.  Aligned      with  what Rometty said, this is      when I learn the most and gain valuable experiences.
  • Taking risks doesn’t get      easy.  It is getting a bit more      manageable, but I have accepted that it will NEVER be easy or simple.
  • Having support through my friends,      family and colleagues helps me bear the challenge of taking risks.  But it only works when I SHARE it with      them and talk to them about what I am trying to do. The icing on the cake      is they are all there cheering for me regardless of result.
  • It pays off.  By taking risks I’ve had higher and higher      degrees of accomplishment (my definition of accomplishment, not anyone      else’s definition).
  • It can have an exponential effect      in many ways.  More risk taking      (with both success and survival) leads me to take even more risk.
  • I now have real data that shows my      success rate and the reality of what being unsuccessful feels like.  I’ve learned that I survive the risks      that don’t turn out well.  I might      be disappointed or sad, but that doesn’t last forever.
  • A critical component is to      PRACTICE my self-confidence (more on that in a future article!).

In my leadership and development work, which I do predominantly with women in technical companies, I see the challenges in building self-confidence and taking risks.  It can be a battleground.  But I have also witnessed a large number of women who continue to learn, grow, and RISK.  What a privilege to be part of the tribe of women who forge this path every day.

Best of success (which means, best wishes in your learning)!

“Growth and comfort do not co-exist.” ~Ginny Rometty

Stacey Sargent is the founder and principal at Connect Growth and Development, a leadership and people development company that works with individuals, teams and organizations helping them create definitions of authentic success that can be leveraged to gain more satisfying and fully-connected results. Stacey has a passion for working with women who aspire to combine achievement and meaning in their work and life. She works with clients and groups at Microsoft, Amazon, Expedia and more offering long term growth programs, workshops, facilitation and coaching. Clients value Stacey’s ability to bring a supportive yet challenging nature, an approachable manner, to ask right questions and bring focus to what really matters. The company tagline, “WHAT REALLY MATTERS” is Stacey’s focal point for bringing her passion and support to her clients, in the places and ways that matter. She can be reached at Stacey@ConnectGD.com or at www.ConnectGD.com.

Top Attributes of Successful Sponsors… and btw, how’s that different from a mentor?

I spent last week at the Grace Hopper Conference in Portland, Oregon focused on Women in Technology. Obviously, for this blog there are number of interesting topics including Facebook’s Cheryl Sandberg’s inspirational keynote.   Sponsorship is another area that’s getting a lot of support from Corporate Executives across the industry. We talked about it quite a bit last week in Portland –  Here’s my takeaway including “top attributes of successful sponsors…”

Betsy Speare, Principal Program Manager Lead, Windows Server Microsoft, Happy Family member, new Green Lake, Seattle Resident, 15 years at Microsoft, EWU CIS grad and chicken farmer!

To follow the Women in Technology Blog – go to https://womentech.wordpress.com/feed/

In a nutshell – senior women who benefit from executive sponsorship are more likely to advance.

Jimin Li hit on Sponsorship last week in her Women Tech blog post. Catalyst published a great article on this topic in August and the discussion has just been heating up. It’s garnering attention both because it makes sense as well as it being something we can all DOto try and reverse the trend of women in tech.

At GHC I was honored to partner in a subsection in the GHC Exec Forum with Linda Apsley, Bill Laing, Teresa Lunt, Mark Hindsbo, Rico Malvar and Rane Johnson (see her blog on GHC) to discuss the wins, challenges and outcomes of sponsorship duos. I also participated on a GHC Plenary Sessionwith three sponsorship duo (think exec/senior woman) who discussed the challenges, benefits and attributes of these sponsoring partnerships. I don’t think it was planned this way – but Linda did a great job of predicting sponsorship as a HOT TOPIC at GHC and organized that session.

 

Sabina Nawaz, CEO Coach, beautifully framed the GHC Exec Forum discussion by focusing our attention on conceptualizing what is working for women in tech and how the GHC Exec Forum could commit to re-creating those wins (perspective based on book SWITCH). While it’s fresh in my mind I thought I would write up what I heard and learned in those sessions. I also have a selfish motive – the Microsoft Exec group at GHC also wants to articulate a “How To” for execs at Microsoft who are looking to sponsor Women in Tech. So – please let me know what you think, what I’m missing and how we could better improve this information for both the prospective sponsor and sponsor-ee.

What’s the difference between a sponsor and a mentor?

Mentoring is about growth, learning, working through issues and decision making.  Sponsors see your abilities and potential and look for the opportunity to champion your career.  Bill Laing characterized mentoring as generally shorter term as well as problem specific, while sponsorship is a longer term investment because additional “spotlight” might be needed to highlight accomplishments or abilities. I’m not sure it’s always that clear – although I like the idea of clarifying the difference I think there’s a bit more cross over.

What are the top attributes of successful sponsors duos for Women in Tech?

1. A Shared Passion/Goal: Share a passion for a common goal or interest that you need each other to accomplish. Examples of this included driving best practices in secure computing, driving progress via corporate women’s communities (See the Microsoft Server & Cloud Women’s Leadership Council) and increasing the percentage of women in computing (Harvey Mudd College has gone from 12% to 42%– due to an amazing sponsoring partnership).

2. Developing 2-way trust:This shared passion becomes a win-win as the sponsor is able to “amplify” the needs and requirements of the individual as well as the project/goal underway as well as depending on the sponsor-ee to represent the shared goals and vision the other direction into the team, community or industry.

3. Integrity: Being a sponsor more than an assignment – the exec knows this person and is able to give representation this person because you know who they are, what they’ve done and have a sense of their potential. It’s a genuine belief in ability and deep knowledge of proven capability of the sponsor-ee. This gives you the clear conscious to identify opportunities for the sponsor-ee not based on favoritism, but ability.

4. Chemistry:Each duo had a unique and genuine relationship based on mutual respect. It’s clear in the successful sponsor relationships we discussed today that these people liked each other.

I’m a women in tech – how do I get my own sponsor?

This is one area that isn’t so clear – currently the idea is that senior technical women (i.e. principal, director) who wish to advance their career need executive sponsorship. In my experience, I also needed a sponsor to get to the principal/director level. Iain McDonald was a great sponsor for me and continues to be recognized as a great sponsor for women at Microsoft (perhaps a blog post from you Sir Iain)? So, now do the math – take every senior technical woman that wants to make it to the executive level – there are still more of them than there are execs who are available to sponsor. So, how to get a sponsor…

1. Ask. Ask someone you admire, think you might be able to trust and someone you think could help your career progression.

2. According to Catalyst Research,“…There is no silver bullet for attracting the attention of a high-level sponsor…. Sponsorship is earned… [with] reputations as flexible, collegial professionals who are consistently committed to their own career…” so – not sure how that’s actionable but gives another perspective.

How can I be a successful sponsor-ees?

1. Articulate what your needs and goals are clearly to your sponsor. They can’t help you if they don’t know where you want to go.

2. Don’t hide mistakes/failures – be open and honest. The funny thing is that we always think people are not aware of our faults. Usually, we’re the last to know our own “defects.” In the cases of mistakes – Sponsors on the panel encouraged us to be open and transparent about mistakes and what we’ve learned from them.

3. A question for the GHC Plenary panel asked how to deal with jealousy, accusations of favoritism or special treatment. The answer was two-fold – the first was really about the integrity of the relationship (see #3 in previous section) and the second was to be confident in your sponsorship relationship – ignore jealousy and accusations of “special treatment – ” they should get over it.

So, think of this as V1 – we’re just learning how to capture the ideas and make it actionable broadly. Looking forward to your ideas and suggestions on what might work here!

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