The value of doing nothing

I won’t go as far as saying “I am a lazy person” but I definitely have lazy spells.

Sometimes I build up this mental list of things to do – chores, but also fun things. Ideas, if you will, on how to spend an evening or a weekend – with friends, with my husband or alone.

But then I turn on Netflix and I can’t remember any of the things on the list…

Then I turn Netflix off and start my evening routine. And guess what? All of the things I didn’t do start flooding back to me and I make a promise to myself I’ll do some of it tomorrow and next weekend.

Busy is not the same as productive

I don’t even think anyone is trying to keep it a secret; how busy you are doesn’t in the slightest predict how effective you are.

Having spent a portion of my career as a team leader I often had a fully booked calendar several days into the future. There are all the team ceremonies – and some of them required me to do some planning and/or gather some data – meetings with my peers and superiors, one-to-one meetings with everyone in my team. And something wonderful, which we called “10% time” – time for personal development and learning. This was also scheduled in my calendar – and although definitely the first thing any of us sacrificed to “get things done” – something many of us pretended to do every Friday afternoon.

And there was definitely a lot to do. In hindsight I don’t understand why I couldn’t see it was out of control. When someone asks you for 15 minutes of your time and you have to schedule it two days into the future (!) you should realise something ain’t right, right? And when your personal development time increases your stress levels? And when you’re basically okay with that just being “the way it is”?

Mostly stuff did get done. But that was actually the point: stuff got done.

It was easier to just continue with what’s right in front me – kinda like when I watch Netflix at home. Except with fewer dead Swedish people*. And when I turned off the computer, preparing to go home, I’d sometimes see the bigger picture – opportunities and challenges otherwise hidden behind piles and piles of post-its with tasks – and promise myself I’d look into that tomorrow, or definitely next week.

Just do nothing for awhile

At home, when I turn off Netflix well before bedtime (or don’t even turn it on at all!) I look at my house. And I see things. I see things I ought to do and things I want to do.

I notice that we have six guitars, a double bass, a drum, a microphone and an electrical keyboard. I could play some music – or at least I could practice so I will one day be able to play music.

I notice that we have two sewing machines, countless knitting needles, crochet hooks, needlepoint stuff, yarn, fabric and accessories – so I could finish one of the countless projects I’ve already started or I could start a new one.

I notice the flowers look thirsty and the photos of our families still in a pile on the floor rather than on the wall.

I see problems and opportunities.

And then I solve the problems and seize some of the opportunities.

At work, I had an opportunity to switch off the endless stream of busy-work. My Netflix equivalent to-do list. It was because I had a change in responsibilities and I ended up in one of those jobs where you have to be “self-lead” or whatever the term is nowadays. That meant I didn’t have a list. And on some days I actually just wondered around the office, looking for problems and opportunities. Not having a list of things to do made me able to see much more valuable things – things you can’t just write on a post-it – things, that will make a real difference.

And recently, standing before another career change, I’ve reflected on this and realised that the most valuable thing my colleagues can do now, is nothing.

 

* I’m quite partial to Scandinavian crime drama. I like Swedes. I love Wallander.

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I’m not a woman in tech

My name is Maria. I happily identify as female. I work as an Agile Coach for a tech company in Cambridge, UK. I am not a woman in tech.

I grew up in Pjedsted, a village in Denmark, with my mum and dad and my little sister. I climbed trees – sometimes I fell out of trees I had climbed, I built a soapbox car – and crashed the soapbox car, I cycled in the fields, ran in the woods, built fortresses out of snow and spent some time in A&E. I also dressed up, played with dolls and dressed up the cat (which could have led to another trip to A&E!)

Some of the activities I’ve described above, requires society to give me a label.

Tomboy

I thought that’s what you call “a child”?

I actually spent some time thinking about this when I was a kid. It meant I wasn’t a proper girl, but I wasn’t quite a boy either.

Luckily, I didn’t give a fuck…

Or… It’s possible that I just didn’t get it.

In any case, I went about life, thinking of myself as mainly a girl but also “one of the guys”.

I played Diablo II, LoD so much that I clicked an imaginary mouse in my sleep but I also loved (the concept of) my high heeled boots.

After discovering that I absolutely *hated* studying English at the university I decided to do software engineering at a business college. I *loved* that! I loved programming! I loved the Advanced Algorithms and Data Structures class! I loved lots of really technical, computery  things that only men know about… Teehee…

I got me a job as a programmer right out of school. Whoop!

The ignorance started to wear off…

I still loved being a woman and I really loved working in tech!

But I fucking hated being a Woman in Tech.

“Woman in tech” is just another label I don’t need. Like tomboy. I feel like I’m a rare species. For you to ogle. Like in a zoo. “This particular one has brightly coloured hair; not an uncommon trait for a ‘woman in tech’.”

Maybe I’m representative, maybe I’m not, but don’t ask me to represent!

I don’t want your ‘exclusively for women’ support groups

I want inclusivity, not exclusivity.

You’re victimising me when you do that. You’re indicating that it’s most likely I need special, extra support. Just because I’m female.

You’re also indicating that “this is a women’s problem, best solved by women” but that deepens the divide, creating an “us” and a “them”. Just based on gender…

(I can understand your argument if you say that sticking together makes an already marginalised group stronger, like gay pride for example. I also wish gay rights == human rights. If you throw a parade celebrating women who did awesome shit in STEMM and invite the world to join, I’m in and I’m bringing pom-poms!)

I don’t want your special award

What is it about tech awards specifically for women? Have new studies shown a correlation between technical abilities and Y chromosomes? Don’t we all, in theory, have the same possibilities for succeeding in tech?

By creating special awards for women I think you’re belittling the impact and effort a group of humans are having in their field – just because of their gender. It’s behaviour like this that leads to the news headline being that ‘a man nearly beat his own record’ and in smaller text or below the fold ‘a women totally smashed any previous record into the ground’.

If you actually wanna say “look, women can do this too” – inspect your unconscious biases and nominate the women who deserve it for the not-only-for-women awards! Because I know there are a shit tonne of deserving women too…

(And I don’t even know why it’s just women… Is there an award for each non-binary option, or do all non-binaries have to share? Are XY-ers, who identify as female, welcome at DevelopHER?)

I am not the problem you’re trying to solve

Is it a problem that of computer science degrees earned, only 28% are earned by women? Or that the rate of women in computing has been steadily in decline since 1991? Or that twice as many women quit the high tech industry as men?

Well, I certainly think so, and I assume you do too. Studies are showing that more diverse teams have higher collective intelligence – here is some research from 2011 and you should google for more: Defend Your Research: What Makes a Team Smarter? More Women

Assuming we can agree there is a problem, I’d say it’s something like this: the problem is, that the tech industry isn’t able to attract and retain enough women.

I’m already here, people. So I’m not the problem you’re trying to solve.

It’s hurtful when you say “we need to solve the problem of women in tech” and “Maria, you’re a woman in tech” in the same breath…

Lose the label

Inspired by my friend Michelle, I implore you to lose the label. Lose all the labels! That is an important step on the path to inclusivity.

lose the label maria

 

 

 

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