Question Problems

“When you struggle with a problem, that is when you understand it…”

This clip autoplayed while I was working today and half-paying attention. I listened to the last part and thought, “This is excellent advice for people screening job candidates” and sent to a few friends who were hiring.


Then I listened to it again and was reminded of advice I got from my father on the importance of asking the right questions to your problems to make sure you pull the right lessons. Can you ever reverse engineer solutions if you never examined what you got you there? Can you reframe challenges into opportunities if you fail to ask the right questions? It reminded me that problems and challenges can sharpen you and make you wiser but only if you choose. Wisdom is the gold medal awarded when you lean in to learn from your struggles.

“Anyone who has struggled hard with a problem never forgets it.”

Real Talk, not #realtalk

So many of my conversations with women in tech can be summarized as validating the following, “You are not crazy. This is fucked up.”

For women in tech, trusted Real Talk (not to be confused with #realtalk) is rare and usually done offline (the better to avoid Hacker News thread). Which is why I loved this post, How To Survive as a Female Founder. It has practical advice, manages to still be funny and touch on essential subjects of Real Talk– namely grinding (at work, at yourself) and looking up one day to see that all that effort is not getting you as far as your male peers. The game is rigged. So what do you do?

“I’ve been struggling for years to make this work, and signs indicate that it is finally on the cusp of taking off.

But the road has been long and hard. There were late rent checks, metro turnstyles hopped when I didn’t have the cash to pay (one time immediately after giving a keynote at a DC tech conference). A kind, sensible lawyer sister (and teacher mom) who let me put charges on their credit cards and pay them back later when I didn’t see another option. Understandably concerned relatives who told me that it was time to “get a real job.” A lot of it sucked. But what sucks the most is that I saw male friends with startups get a lot more support, more readily…and often with less traction to show.”

Read the full post here.

Code Your Own Power

A few weeks ago I got invited to give a tech talk at a Mother-Daughter Hack Day from two dope local high school seniors who run a project called Inspiring Femgineers. I don’t have kids but had just given the graduation keynote at a local Girl’s in Technology program and had THE BEST time dismantling structural inequities via emoji and teaching them how to power pose. This group was a little younger (grades 5-8) but I said yes right away and asked if I could bring my 10 year old niece along with me. They said yes and we were game on.

It only hit me yesterday that I didn’t really know what I was going to talk about. Like most hackathons, it was kinda ╮ (. ❛ ᴗ ❛.) ╭ go-with-the-flow. So I decided to remix an email pep talk I gave my girlfriends last year about building your own power into a lady-superhero themed tech talk.

Slide01

I talked about HOW to approach work in technology so it remains fun and you want to keep doing it. But mainly my message was this: learning to code is like building your very own superpower. You don’t need to ask for permission to create what you think should exist in the world and that’s awesome. When you’re doing awesome work, you will attract and build community full of people with their own awesome, funky superpowers (like back-end development! UX design! robotics!). Because eventually you’re going to experience resistance to your ideas and if you believe in your heart it should exist and you have an awesome, funky, superpower-packed community behind you, coding your own power is lot less lonely and a lot more fun.

Oh, and my talk was entirely done in GIFs.

wonderwoman2

Then I walked them through a product ideation process on a whiteboard. Lots of future apps for animal-lovers who enjoy swimming, running and singing on the horizon…

But don’t take my word for it. My niece took the world’s most awesome/hilarious/OMG-we-are-totally-related notes.

IMG_8589

IMG_8588

After the hackathon wrapped, my niece and I walked over to New America to visit DataKind whose phenomenal DC chapter were running a DataDive. DK’s team totally welcomed this junior data scientist into the fold and introduced her to all the projects teams were working on. Thank you DataKind, for your hospitality!!!

When we got on the elevator to head home, my niece exclaimed “THIS WAS THE BEST DAY!!! I WANT TO USE TECHNOLOGY FOR GOOD WITH ALL MY NEW FRIENDS!!”

All and all, a pretty sweet Saturday.

IMG_2321