It’s the end of the year in a few days. Just before I went out on holiday break I finished documenting my accomplishments for the past year. I actually like taking some time before the New Year to take stock – not just of my own work, but also of the broader landscape. A friend forwarded me this timely blog, “2013 was a lost year for tech” by Christopher Mims. His assessment of the tech industry is that it was a dud in 2013. Whether you believe things are really this bad or not, it’s still a pretty good wake up call for those of us in tech who want to continue to do amazing things with technology.
And with any wake up call, some sort of change on the part of companies and individuals alike is required. Change is a funny thing. It is hard, and the less you embrace it and the more you resist making the minor transitions in your work (or any part of your life), the harder it gets to make the really big, important changes.
I went to Chicago recently to visit family and had some time to catch up with my niece Stephanie Gizzi. She is a senior at Northern Illinois University. I interviewed her to see what it’s like for young women pursuing a STEM degree these days. Here is our conversation.
Stephanie, tell me about the degree program you are in.
I’m getting a Bachelor of Science in Meteorology – it’s an engineering-based science degree. I’m done with all of my calculus and physics, so I’m taking mostly meteorology courses now.
I am getting my GIS (Geographic Information Systems) certificate to differentiate myself from other meteorologists. I am using ArcMap to analyze geospatial data. I can compare all kinds of historic trends to today’s data and graph it. It’s really practical in business for analyzing growth zones for development, visualize population density trends and things like that. For example, Walgreen’s uses it to plan where to open retail stores.
Originally posted on Nov. 19, 2013 on intel.com
I attended the 2103 Grace Hopper Celebration, a women in computer conference with 4800 technical women participating. There I had the opportunity to attend a lively panel session on Big Data. After spending 2 seconds on the proliferation of data in our digitized world problem statement, the panelists launched right into a focused discussion on how big data analytics helps us unlock the value and gain insights. They acknowledged the hype, yet stressed the point that every company needs a core data competency, must be accountable to uphold security and privacy regulation and need to deliver better performance and tuning (users expect responses quickly).
The panel went on to discuss about career opportunities and the gaps businesses have right now in filling positions for qualified data scientists who have both the business acumen, programming and statistical knowledge necessary to unlock and visualize the data, so the business can make better decisions faster.
Recently, I watched an Omega Institute for Holistic Studies live webcast “Strength, Courage and Wisdom” with TED icon Brene’ Brown and Zen priest Joan Halifax Roshi.
They were talking about finding your strength and how important it is to know your capacity and own it. I loved that Joan Roshi said, “Remember to take an in-breath.” Then she posed the question “How can you take care of the world, if you don’t take care of yourself? You must love and show kindness to yourself.”
“The female identity is being a care-giver or a do-gooder,” added Brene’ Brown. The conversation went on that it’s unfortunate that if a woman does take that in-breath, in our culture she is viewed as narcissistic. What I pulled from that part is that to have power, we also need to take care of our needs and not care how others perceive us. Sometimes you have to enlist the help of others and put down that do-it-all shield.
Talk is cheap, right? To really do this, you have to overcome your fear of what others think or any other feelings of inadequacy that you harbor. For women, it takes courage to take some of those “in-breaths” in our lives. And to really have power, you have to be your true self and speak your own truth. You have to speak up for yourself. If you have a supportive family and friends, it may be a little easier to do this kind of woo woo stuff in your personal life, but what about at work?
When I graduated from university in the late 80’s jobs were hard to come by – even with a technical degree. You had to get experience wherever you could. I knew when I graduated that the easiest way to find a job was to work through the campus recruiters, but I ended up moving to Japan and doing some backpack traveling for a few years instead.
While I was in Japan I worked in a translating company that specialized in technical documentation. I checked and corrected Japanese product/service manuals and research papers that were translated by native Japanese speakers. I read all kinds of things: scientific papers on the effects of electromagnetism on cockroaches, recommendations on which potatoes to plant in SE Asia to prevent famine, computer user manuals, and lots and lots of documentation about tool die casting equipment. I’m talking tool die specifications, product installation, service manuals and marketing brochures. Did I say a lot? There were so many tool die casting manufacturers in Japan at the time. Tool die casting was not sexy, but it was my big opportunity to get some technical experience that I could take back to The States when I was ready to turn in my backpack for a real job.
Six years ago our family went to the animal shelter and a beautiful Black Lab named Abby picked us to be her family. It only took one look at her sweet brown eyes and we were smitten. She has been a great family dog. Even though she’s 50 pounds, she curls up with our daughter on the floor when we watch movies. Please don’t tell her she’s not really a lap dog. Our daughter has grown up with this dog. So far in this relationship it feels like we have gotten way more from her than we provide.
Relatively speaking, the end of last year and early part of this year was difficult. My dad went through 8-weeks of chemo and radiation 2000 miles away. Mid-way through the school year, my husband and I had to find a better school environment for our daughter. Plus a few other irritating things were going on that just added to the noise.
Usually I am pretty good about taking these kind of things as they come. What I wasn’t used to was having them all pile up in a few months.
Luckily I had a wonderful positivity coach during this time. It was my dad, yeah, the guy with cancer. Because of the distance, we were on the phone constantly during those months. The premise was that I was calling to check on him and boost his spirits, but often I was the one who got the lift.
He’s a true Mid-westerner. Doesn’t believe in blaming others or wallowing in your sorrows. Kind of this Abe Lincoln thinking.
Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
I’d like to share a few of the lessons in positivity I learned from my dad over these few months: