What really goes through a WIT mind..

Recently I have been involved in several women in technology sessions and it has caused me to stop and reflect on how I am performing as a woman in technology. Its funny to me how we put so much emphasis on the fact that we are women and we are in some sort of technology field.

For me this whole process has been a hell of a journey. This year has been a big indicator of how much I still am learning about myself, how I process and how I react differently than those male counterparts to situations in my field. It is teaching me some lessons I am not sure I was entirely ready for. The real question is, okay why?

Leadership is a trait that some are born with, some are really good at doing and learned quickly, some could be natural leaders yet struggle with the jump from subordinate to leader. I know that there are millions of books, seminars and classes that all talk about leadership challenges and how to become an influential leader. I have taken quite a few in my time. Yet why do I still feel unprepared?

In our classes we learn how to theoretically handle conflict management. We learn how to give direction and set goals for our staff. We learn the fundamentals of leadership. They don’t teach you how to deal with self-doubt, uncertainty, and how to deal with shame and guilt.

Shame and guilt.. lets touch on that for a moment. You see one thing that stood out to me at all of the WIT or Women in STEM sessions is that we still see ourselves as flawed. We as women use emotional intelligence in situations to figure out how to deal with them. We can be decisive and stern, yet in the back of our minds we are always wondering if maybe just maybe that was the right thing to do. Perhaps its only me, but I do find that giving criticism or correcting a problem can cause me to reflect on whether or not I did the right thing. I feel shameful and guilty that maybe I was out of line or too harsh, or perhaps I wasn’t harsh enough and that my leadership ability will be called into question.

We as women technologists have dealt with situations that are beyond our control from time to time. Situations that make us uncomfortable as the only woman in the room and dealing with the notion that someone may dismiss your actions or advice not because it isn’t good advice, but that it rather came from an emotional viewpoint. I often wonder how the men I work with view my actions. Am I rational? Am I emotional? Am I just being ‘a girl’? I struggle with these questions whenever a situation comes up where I am asked to voice my opinion. To be honest I have no idea if men feel like that, other women feel like that or I am alone.

As for the ability to give direction. I took on the responsibility of leading a group of volunteers for a new credential. Last year we worked on the materials and getting our ducks in a row, this year is the year of growth, yet I worry that I’m not stepping up and giving clear guidance on the activities, that perhaps I am letting the responsibilities slip, therefore contributing to a failure of the adoption of the credential. Sounds pretty dramatic doesn’t it? In my mind it is. I know I am not a one woman show. I have some really great members around me, but we all have day jobs. So how is it that I should be the only one feeling like I am failing by not being readily available. For not being the one beating the pavement talking about the credential and all of its greatness. For not being able to garner more membership, more partners, more investors. Why do I feel so guilty?

Speaking of day jobs.. In my day job I find that I am contending with a new found management position in where I don’t have to put my hands on keyboard to fix a problem. I don’t have to log in everyday into the mobility system to work on an issue. I am struggling with this transition from doer to leader. There just seems to be no great article, resource or class that teaches the transition part. There is no manual. I find that I still get passionate about my teams issues and where I could just ask someone else to take the stand for me, now I am the one that has to calm down and take the stand for the team. I find that I still get hot headed over issues, and yet when I talk to my manager he is not as fired up as I am. He seems to have found the even keel as it were. I wonder if I will be able to get that even temperament, or am I doomed to be a hot head emotional woman?

I recently saw an article where a female Democratic Senator used expletives in how she explained her view on some particular issues. Her passion for the subject was lost when all the focus was on the fact she used the ‘F’ word. I saw myself in her shoes. I too get passionate and the expletives fly. Is my message getting lost because of the language? That is the question I have been asking myself. Is the message lost because I, woman, swears like the former sailor I am. I am not sure.

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Perhaps the most striking lesson I have learned is to trust that your manager has your back, when making leadership decisions. Trust is a hard thing to have in the tech world as a woman. You are not sure who really is on your side, versus just being nice to your face. Believe me I have had quite a few of them. Trust for me is a hard thing to contend with, but once its there the security of your job, your momentum and your path are suddenly attainable. This has caused me to ponder even more.. Yes I over think EVERYTHING.. Duh.. Woman…

What about getting older as a technology professional? The fact is that we are getting older. While most people look at me and question the notion that I have 3 grown children and 2 grand children, I am getting older. Instead of worrying about my technical ability, I worry about health problems and how they are perceived in the work place. I watch as some of my friends are having health crisis’s and wonder what I would do in their shoes.

I have a acquaintance I met about 2 years ago. She is a strong inspirational woman who is dealing with Cancer. I watch as she struggles to manage family, professional and personal issues. I wonder how she is working to be such an advocate for Cancer treatments and care yet starting a new job and dealing with young children at home and a husband who travels for work. I wonder how I would do it. Would I throw myself back into my job or any job to avoid the pain or stop the thoughts of what comes next? I’m not sure. I just pray that I don’t have to deal with it, yet there is always a part of us that look at it with the question, ‘Yeah, but what if it does happen?’

I honestly commend her for being so strong. While I hope to never have to go through it, I can certainly hope that I can handle that type of situation with the same grace that she seems to be able to muster. I have had a couple of female peers in my time that have taught me grace under personal fire.

The last parting bit I have is that there is a misnomer about how women band together in technology. Men this is for you, we don’t. We have a few friends we have met along the way that we cling to. When you find a true female in technology or STEM, we may get along we may not. We also will not tolerate those that pretend to be in the field. An IT project manager is not a WIT. They didn’t get the question about their mindset, their skill set or get ridiculed for the fact that they won’t wear a skirt to conform to office policy when crawling under a desk hooking up a computer or replacing a keyboard. They haven’t been questioned or talked down to by a vendor about their technical expertise. They for the most part haven’t paid their dues to be called a true WIT.

I will say this we are still women. We can be catty, mean and are our own worst enemies. Just take a look at any social media page. We try to be above that sort of behavior, yet it is hard wired. We may not say it, but we certainly think about it.

The last parting thoughts on your personal support structure.. I guess in the end one thing that really got me this week with WIT was a question about personal growth and how do we do it with all the obligations we have. The panelist replied, marry well. This statement garnered a lot of laughter in the room as you can imagine, but the panelist then stated her point. Marry a partner, someone who is willing to sacrifice as you do for a career. Someone who will support you from home or the office or where ever. We ladies, take on burdens that may or may not actually be ours, yet we carry them. We carry the kids, the home, the bills, the chores, the shopping, the planning, the list goes on and on. We cannot do it alone. We have to have a partner who helps us with our burdens and shows us that they have got it and that we can let go and do what we need to do to further our personal growth. That being said, I still find myself bowing out of staff happy hour or IT after hour activities, because I feel guilty for going and not being home to help out, to make a dinner decision, you name it. I don’t know if those sorts of thoughts plague my male counterparts, because it always seems that they have no problem dropping what they are doing and going out with the team. It does however cross my mind and always has.

Thanks for reading

-M

 

 

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Social Media Access at Work

Social media has become an everyday component of our lives. We post pictures of our families, friends, activities. We like pages that agree with our views and products we use. We post our random thoughts and feelings. We also post intimate musings about our relationships, ourselves, and others. We forward that cute article/video/gif, however we also forward the articles, videos that ignite our passion for justice, religion, politics and just our own personal views.

Suffice it to say we tend to overshare and say things we would never dream of saying in public, let alone to all of our friends and family in person. Heaven forbid Grandma reads your purity score on Facebook and likes it. That brings me to my topic. Is it okay to access Social Media from your work PC?

In this day and age where employers are looking for ways to entice younger folks and ensure they are happy at their jobs, we have evolved to allowing services to be used in our everyday work environment, that were shunned not so long ago. It has also created the boom of Enterprise Social among the requests.

However, we as people are very judgmental and one picture, word, video, comment can sour even the best of a work relationship. Especially if you run out and ‘friend’ all of your co-workers when you start a new job. They find out quickly who you are when you are not at the office and anything else you wouldn’t necessarily share in work environment.

So now layer that on with immediate access at work. I have seen a far share of policies drafted and access’ allowed that would have been shut down the minute it came out of someone’s mouth, over the last couple of years. Yet the bigger question is why? Does your employee(you) not have a personal cell phone? If they(you) have a company phone do you not allow them to access these sites/apps on their work devices?

I know the answer and the answer is, unless of course you work in the dark recesses of a government building, no it’s not blocked. So why allow it on your work pc?

I believe that most people don’t ever take into account that your company has the option to monitor and track your activity when you are using company resources. You are also asked to adhere to a code of conduct when using said resources. Meaning hate speech, vulgarity, drug/alcohol use etc is a no-no. They also have the ability to check for credit card information, social security, and any other PII they deem as potentially harmful. This means that every time you shop for new shoes, Amazon, Ebay, etc. the company knows and you agreed to let them know.

So now what do you do?
1) Stop friending current co-workers – Do you really need your boss hearing about your weekend, your relationship troubles, or that you love house music and marijuana.
2) Stop using company resources and use your own device to shop, share, Instagram, etc. which includes the free WiFi the company offers you to use for company business apps.
3) Stop oversharing – We don’t care that the food you had was great, or that you were so wasted last night and post the pictures to prove it
4) If you can’t say something nice to a persons/people then don’t say it on Social Media – Lobbing a salvo in Facebook against someone who wronged you in real or virtual is what our parents would say is ‘airing your dirty laundry to the world’

What this all boils down to is the company should not have to be your babysitter and tell you what is right, wrong etc. However if you ask for it/demand it (like using these pages from work) then don’t be shocked and surprised when the company acts on your moral/immoral actions or asks you direct questions about something you did on a business trip that was recorded on Facebook.

Life doesn’t come with out consequences.

If you would like examples, simply Google: fired because of Facebook.

The Trials and Tribulations of a Female IT Engineer

Let me start by asking you a few simple questions:
Have you ever been told how good your hair looks today?
Has someone ever commented on your outfit, shoes, laptop bag?
Have you been ‘talked to’ about not dressing professionally because you weren’t wearing makeup or heels when your job requires you to crawl on the floor?
Has someone ever recommended that you should join weight watchers?
Have you ever had a disagreement with a boss that ended with rumors that she just doesn’t like me or it must be that ‘time’?
Have you while working in an IT position worked for a non technical leader?
Have you worked for a female non technical leader while in an IT role?

I start this missive as a fact finding session. Female technologists are the Unicorns of the IT world. We are technical,  highly skilled and not usually prone to the same girl like tendencies as others in an office.
If you are starting your IT career you quickly learn the ins and outs of working with strictly other male engineers and techs. If you are mid career you have learned the skills of navigation and pretty good at knowing the boundaries. Mid career female engineers are still prone to a few mishaps and mistakes but quickly fix what is broken. Senior female engineers, they are out there but, they are a rare find in most industries. They are poised, calculated, and can read through the vendor hypes, the sad sorrow stories, and can do it with a poker face. These women are like highly decorated Corporate officers. They have their battle wounds hidden and they will never let you see them sweat.

I have learned a lot in my career. I am one of those mid career females. I have learned when it’s appropriate to tell jokes in the office and cut up with the guys. I have also learned how to deal and manage a family while working 60 hours on a project or handling after hours support issues. I have managed my Brand so that people know who they can rely on when it comes to an issue. I do it with a smile on my face and i genuinely care about the outcome.
However, I know what it’s like to be discriminated against for how I dress. I have dealt with sexist, masoganist men. I have cut my teeth, survived and thrived in a male dominant field. I have never been called a slacker or an egotistical glory hound until now.

I was asked of all the companies I have worked for have I ever had an issue like this. When I was asked I said no, but it dawned on me in my early morning stupor that yes this has happened once before. It too was while I reported to a non technical female leader.

Being an engineer is hard. Being a female in IT is difficult.  Being a mid career female engineer is a huge challenge.

But bad leaders can break you. They make you doubt who you are. They make you question your skill set. They don’t build your confidence or self esteem. They can destroy your Brand with your current company and make others doubt your abilities, recommendations and choices.

In a typical leader (male vs female) men can talk it out work through the problem and move on. It’s the ages old adage about two men disagree, go out behind the woodshed duke it out. They come out problem solved and continue on.
Women are wired very differently. When we are slighted we tend to hold it in until a breaking point. Once we have an opinion or a disagreement with a person, that perception will forever be placed on the offending party. If it’s a man we just chalk it up to it just being a guy. We forgive a little each day until we are done. But we never forget. If it’s a woman that has gotten on our bad side, hell hath no fury. Isn’t that the line?

For me I know my next steps. The question I pose to all of you is what have you experienced and what did you do?

Mobility is a crazy business and business is good

So as this year comes to a close it’s a great time to reflect on the accomplishments, heartaches, frustrations and wow moments from the year.

1) BlackBerry: Over the past year we have heard everything from its dead, being sold, going private etc. Organizations around the world have been hearing the horror stories from mass media, however they still remain strong. Wonder how they will course correct in 2014 and if they can restore corp confidence.

2) Apple vs Samsung: The war continues. Apples innovation has seemed to stall this year or lag behind other manufacturers. The corp play has been met with huge enterprise dissatisfiers. The play to make an OS to rival BlackBerry and win the enterprise crowd is less than scalable. As is Apples track record about building hype around use for work (see iPhone 3GS), the abilities are only if you use their tool and if you only deliver to a small group. All in all they have a long way to go. Samsung promised high delivered mediocre. They too went all in with a blackberry killer. Samsung KNOX, which requires more over head to implement and is only available on a couple of devices. Again great for small organizations but not yet there for corporate, but you can get a cool watch to talk to.

3) EMM: As anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge believer in what worked for you may not work for me. This year we have seen strategic partnerships that have vendors who want to buy into the space buying small vendors and pushing technology they don’t understand. To date there is over 150 or so EMM providers. The problem is reading through the salesman and hype to find out if they even have a working product. Do your homework and always look at each product with a small bit of skepticism. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.

4) Data vs Device: Debates have raged on whether or not we as enterprises are only concerned with the data on the device or the device itself. Data is king, but how far must a device be governed to protect data?

5) Microsoft phones: What are those? Someone actually owns one? Microsoft in a strategic move purchased Nokia. So they are quickly becoming a one trick pony like their rival Apple.

6) Apps: Chicken vs Egg argument. Do we wait for business need or build it and hope the business comes? Who dictates requirements? Business or customer or IT?

All in all the mobility space is evolving rapidly. Do you have a strategy to evolve with it?

When obsession poisons your point of view

I was recently reminded of a conversation that happened when I moved from end user support to an architect. That conversation happened very candidly between myself and my husband. Could I let it go and make the transition from day to day support to potential leader of people and little to no interaction with the users?

After having a thought provoking conversation over Valentine’s dinner and my struggles with my current project. I realized that I am a social creature. I love the interaction of people. I am not an engineer that can sit by myself in a room. I crave the interaction. I need it.

So I have started my day filled with questions. Is this the job I want to do? Am I able to temper my passion for mobility to further the future of my company constructively?  Can I make the transition? Can I work effectively with a team of people just like me and not feel like a brat child trying to get my way all the time.

As I struggle with myself I am finding more questions than answers. How can I be so self centered and egotistical as to not take a minute to think of those around me and the hell Im putting them through as I struggle with my identity. What does this say about any potential that I have for moving up in the world. I had an issue with a leader who couldn’t let go of the engineering tasks. I kept asking the question why he even hired me if he kept on insisting on doing it his way. It really got to me. Now I realize that Im like him in some ways.

They say with great leadership comes great responsibility. Well right now I am acting exactly like a displaced admin support person that I claim to have grown out of. Not like the architect that I am.

So my peers, I am working through this. If you have anything that has worked for you throw it out here.

Change is inevitable its what we do when presented with it that shapes our future.

What I really learned at MacIT

So this week I had the pleasure of visiting San Francisco to attend MacIT. I had some great sessions. I have attended some not so great sessions.
The biggest thing I have taken away is the need for full disclosure. I am a realist, I never take a look at a product and just take people at their word. It is becoming more and more apparent that in the Mac/iOS space, that individuals, admins, and support personal just eat up this information without a dose of skepticism. All too often, everything that is being presented is from a one sided small view.
In our business, whether we are supporting a 10 person team, a school district of 100k students, or a large corporation, to listen to someone talk about a $20 server that can manage all of your devices is disturbing. I realize that not all ideas/solutions fit every need, and given our diverse interests and backgrounds its important to ensure that material being presented is a useable solution for your situation and objectives as well as your constraints.. As an enterprise decision maker am I going to go out to my Mac base and say: “Hey use Logmein” and punch holes in my firewall. No I am not.
I have heard a couple of speakers refer to BYOD as Bring Your Own Disaster. BYOD does not need to be a disaster, but there does need to be governance. Comprehensive policy/end user agreements need to be created that protect the user and the company/organization/school. Consumer solutions may paint a lower cost, faster, simpler solution at first glance, but few have these sort of enterprise grade capabilities that are critical to these entities.

All in all remember these mantras:

  • You get what you pay for. ($20 for server and mobile device management. This solution requires hours of administration and customization. In the end it is still a small market solution that may not do everything you need. Considering you still need iTunes and the iPCU (iPhone configuration utility. More software to do one job.)
  • One size solution does not fit all. (Your organization/company/school is unique. Just because it works for one place doesn’t mean it will work for you.)
  •  A sucker is born every minute. (Listen, learn, ask questions, and research. Never take anything at face value. Most speakers are here to hawk their products and solutions. See the first mantra.)

Just remember, when you attend a conference take notes, listen, learn the methods but use it to your advantage and create your own success story. When you network (networking is what makes us stronger), talk about your methods and your practices and get feedback. Listen to a peer’s success story and take a mental note of their trials and tribulations but discard the vendor sales pitch. Listen to the criticism of other products and solutions and take into account the whys for it failing them, what they learned and what they did different a second time. By using a little ‘Sherlock Holmes’ method of deduction you can write the next great success story.

The chicken and the egg. What happens when the chicken mutates?

So you have run out bought an MDM, Rolled out devices and are blissfully happy, right? Not for long… The users start demanding apps, access to internal systems, and dare I say it WiFi at work! We created the monster, we let it out of its cage and we have some foolish notion that we are going to contain it with minimal controls and support. 

I have often likened users to children. This thinking has gotten a few raised eyebrows out of people until they think about it. When you hand a child a new toy how hard is it for them to put it down? What if that toy kept updating and changing so it never gets real boring? What happens when you try to limit the child’s time with said toy? Face it, we are now parents of grown children who are responsible for ensuring their safety and providing them the opportunity to grow.

So lets talk about what happens next. For many Companies this next year, and several more to come are going to be all about mobility. How do we prepare for the onslaught?

Take a look around and examine all of the things you have access to from your computer. How do you get that information from the web? What apps do you use all the time? What folders do you access for shared content? How do you get there?

Now apply all of that to mobile. Is the infrastructure ready to support every User with two connected mobile devices? It’s an industry stat; that more than half of all smartphone users will also have a tablet device as well as the phone. In the same breath does your company/building have adequate carrier coverage? Do you offer guest wifi? Do you want to allow users to access the corporate network through wifi? Is your network up to task of handling the traffic? Is your monthly spend on WAN ready for it?

What about outside of the office? How strong is your VPN? Is it large enough to handle multiple connections from 1 user concurrently? Are your internal connections large enough to handle the traffic? Do you have DR plan that has been scaled with your new infrastructure?

Staffing is another concern. As you add more complexity to your internal infrastructure you have to add bodies that handle the administration. So while mobile is the way of the future, maybe its time to reexamine your strategic plan.

Take a moment to peer into the crystal ball and ask ‘What am I going to need next?’ Prepare for the monster. If you feed it properly and tame it right from the beginning, it is way easier to control.