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Personal Space of ramblings…

April 29, 2014

When I was in high school, one of my science teachers told us that if you ever wanted to know how big a person’s personal bubble was, while eating a meal with them, slowly start placing your items closer and closer to them.  When they either speak up, or move the items, you know you’ve hit the personal bubble limit.  This is a fascinating idea to me, and I think subconsciously I’m always testing the waters.  I’m constantly finding my glasses on the other side of the table, and quickly pulling them back to my side, wondering if anyone has noticed.  No one ever speaks about it, and I’m not sure if this means I have a large personal bubble, or if I’m just a subconscious analyst of people.

In my reading about ways to succeed in the professional word, one thing that comes up repeatedly is how to appear powerful.  One of the best ways to appear powerful is to take up a lot of space.  Many men do this almost automatically, where many women tend to take up less space, and thus appear less powerful.  I’m not sure if this is social conditioning, or more personality.  When there are a lot of people around, I tend to close in around myself, and take up as little space as possible.  I don’t consciously thinking about projecting any weakness, because usually I’m just trying to avoid a situation where I touch space with someone and their movements send me into spasms of annoyance.  But no one else is inside my head, so they couldn’t possibly know that I’m trying to be kind and offer them as much space as possible.  This doesn’t happen in all situations.  On the airplane, I try to take up as little space as possible, and get as much of the arm rest, or the space I need to hold the book I’m reading.  Is this a sign of social conditioning, or just a need to be comfortable in uncomfortable spaces?

Back to the body posture indicating power, I think it’s somewhat ridiculous.  There’s a co-worker I know, who oftentimes spreads out so that he takes up more space, and I just find it arrogant.  I know when I was learning about the DISC profiles, that D’s tend to take up large amounts of space, as it’s a sign of dominance, but again, I think it’s slightly absurd that we judge things on appearance and body posture, and not what’s actually being said or done.  Maybe if we all spent more time analyzing what comes out of people’s mouths, instead of how they look or how they hold themselves, people wouldn’t see gender and race differences.  Maybe if we realized that everyone looks the same under the skin, we’d stop having prejudices.

I’m frustrated sometimes, that I’m proud of Mary Barra for being the first female CEO of an auto company, because the only thing that should matter is her expertise and talent.  It shouldn’t be important that she’s female, but right now, it is.  I can’t wait for the day that we celebrate people’s accomplishments for the accomplishment, and not the color of their skin, or their gender, or their age.  

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With Pride…

April 24, 2014

My high school marching band had a call and response cheer that was mostly designed to remind us of how we should be standing, but also meant to get us in the spirit.  At the end of the cheers the drum major would call out “EYES?” and we would respond “With pride!”.  A phrase that we repeated three times before cheering for our school (the Lions).  I can’t speak for anyone else in my high school but when we would finish that cheer, I felt the pride.  Whenever we were announced and marched onto the field, I felt that pride.  The same thing happened at CSU, though it wasn’t nearly as strong as in high school.  However, the point of this entry is that I don’t have that sense in every aspect of my life, and I want to mark the moment where I start to actively change that.

When I was at the University of Hartford, I quit my job in school-age child care, to pursue employment opportunities in engineering.  The summer of my sophomore year, I got accepted for an internship at Johnson Space Center.  I was totally stoked for going to work at NASA for the summer, but I didn’t have that pride.  I went back to my old stomping grounds, and told a former co-worker where I was going for the summer and her response was “Wow!  You must be really smart!”  I laughed and told here that I was just an intern and I got the job because I had an in, so it wasn’t really me getting there on my own merit, but…it totally was!  I deserved that opportunity, I worked hard in school, I worked hard in that internship, and I should be proud.  I should have been proud then, but I was still struggling to know who I am, and to love myself.

Tonight, on my drive home call to my parents, I was telling my dad about how I was concerned that if I moved programs, I’d never get the opportunity to have a program go into production and be able to say to all my friends “See that part right there?  I designed that!  I worked on that, that’s my part!”  He told me that I just needed to be patient, that he’d worked for his current company for many years and it wasn’t until just recently that things he had designed were coming into production, so he understood my concern, but also knew that I would experience it.  And then after thinking on it a little, I realized that when I move positions within the company (I signed up for a rotation program) I may move into a group that does work on things that go into production sooner, and if that’s the case, then I will be able to tell my friends about the parts I worked on.

But before that, I don’t need to have worked on a production vehicle to be proud of what I do.  Every day I do things that I should be proud of.  Whether it be improving the amount of time it takes me to mesh an induction system, or giving a progress report in a meeting, or even just attending a meeting and being able to contribute to what’s being discussed.  These are all things that I should be doing with “eyes of pride”.  And to help kick start that, I’m going to try at the end of every work day, to write one thing that I did at work that I’m proud of.  If I can do this before I leave work, I will, but otherwise I will do it when I get home, or right before I go to bed.  The point is, I want to kick-start my self-confidence in my professional career.  I’m doing well at work, I’m supported, and it’s time for me to act like I know I’m doing well.  And maybe, having a collection of all the things I’m proud of, will help me calm down when I get overwhelmed with stressful projects, or programs not working correctly.

A thought that I just had, is that maybe I put up a white board, either in my office, or in my bedroom, and each day, I write the one item of pride that I have singled out for the day.  Then when I get to work, or get up in the morning, I have motivation to get through the day.  Though, like most of my random thoughts, it may just be a thought and not something I act on.  I do intend to act on the pride thing, but I haven’t decided just how I will execute that.  Any suggestions that people have for how they celebrate personal wins, would be really appreciated.

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More than…

April 22, 2014

I have two main goals in this blog entry, but as usually happens when I write off the top of my head, that may change.  This entry is a reaction piece.  Also, I’m going to write about cosplay, but I have never done cosplay, so take my two cents with a grain of salt, I don’t have a lot of experience with this, just personal feelings and a good memory of what other people have said on this topic.

In a previous entry I talked about being a geek, being passionate about things.  Sometimes that passion involves dressing up as characters, or creating clothing that is inspired by a blue police call box, or any number of things.  These creations take lots of energy, time, and creativity and the people that make them should be admired and supported.  Most of the time, if the cosplayer is male, there is support or admiration.  If the cosplayer is a woman, immediately she is judged upon her appearance, whether she’s skinny, or not skinny enough, how much skin is showing, pretty much everything EXCEPT the item that she spent hours creating.  This is wrong.

Now here’s where I attempt to draw a connection between my two goals.  In the situation that inspired this reaction posting, the cause of the hurt feelings, explained that he was joking, it had happened between them many times, and that everyone always laughed at his humor.  This is more wrong.

I want to put an end to the excuse of “well everyone’s laughing, so it’s not really that bad”.  Get it out of your system!  If you don’t want to laugh at a joke, no one will make you, and if someone accuses you of having no sense of humor, you can turn it back on them and tell them that you’d rather have originality and class, than be stuck in immaturity.  I ended up in a situation where a person of power was talking to a room full of (mostly) men and little comments like “well you know who really wears the pants in this relationship” or “well she was always nagging him” were thrown around like nothing.  Most of the people in the room laughed.  I laughed.  But I was not amused, I got extremely annoyed, frustrated, and turned off to the lesson because of it.  This is not acceptable behavior.  It is not okay to make stereotypical comments that are no longer valid in this country.  It is not okay to hide behind the fact that everyone laughs.  It is not okay to make the person uncomfortable with the comments, to feel like they are overreacting.  It pisses me off that people still hide behind that excuse.  It makes me angry that instead of saying “I screwed up, I’m sorry”  you get “I already said I’m sorry, but we’ve joked like this before”.  At any point in a conversation, someone can stand up and say “Hey, this is absurd, stop.”  Male or female.  Young or old.  Everyone has the right to feel comfortable.

And yes, I am fully aware of the argument that stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason, and that if someone has an off-color sense of humor, to shut them up, is silencing them.  I don’t have a good response to that, except that maybe having such an off-color sense of humor, isn’t a good thing.  But let’s go back to the original situation.  At no point in time, should it be acceptable to ignore someone’s hard work and make them a piece of meat to be ogled.  Whether the two people have joked about it before or not, it’s not acceptable.  Another example, a few years back a woman made an awesome Tardis dress.  The internet was supportive, and yet horrible at the same time.  Someone saw the picture and started to comment on the figure of the woman who had put a lot of effort into this dress.  They called her ugly and belittled her accomplishment because she wasn’t their ideal image.  That’s absurd.  For their effort, nerd-dom did step in try to shut down the people saying the horrible things, but surely the damage had already been done.  Damage not just to the person who spent so much time on the outfit, but also to people who saw that reaction, and instead of being proud of their own creations, hid in a dark corner for fear of getting the same reaction.  That is so wrong!

I talked about being proud of things that bring you passion, and it’s really hard to be proud when you look over your shoulder to see what nasty things are going to come your way if you aren’t perfect, or if you have boobs.

Gender inequality is not just at work, it’s everywhere, and if people would stop tearing each other down, and start raising up these passions, this would be a much better place.  Please help me strike this attitude from our actions.  When someone says something belittling, or sexist, or rude, speak up.  Sometimes it’s not about putting a person “in their place”.  Sometimes it’s easier to just change the subject.  For example, there was one day where a co-worker was teasing another friend, person A has a habit of being really close to the line between humor and offense, and judging from the look on person B’s face, he was about to cross it.

Part of me wishes that I had said something wittier, or that I had some scathing put down that would put him in his place.  Instead, I rolled my eyes, looked at person A and said “Really?” when he responded “yes really”, I shot back “couldn’t you come up with an insult that’s more original?”  I didn’t make everything right, but that subject stopped, and person A hasn’t been as hard on person B (at least around me). Can we all please act like decent human beings now?

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Friendly Competition

April 16, 2014

I want to start this off by saying that I have an addiction to pub trivia.  It’s true.  It started in Colorado when I discovered Geeks Who Drink, and then flamed back up when I found Quizzo in Detroit.  I am by no means that smartest person in the room, I am not even close to the smartest person in my group of co-worker friends, but I have a completely different background and a healthy dose of competition.  So when I’m the one who turns in the answers at the end of the round, I’m the one who picks up the “speed bonus round”, and I like reading words, so I can’t help that I get excited and answer 8 of the 10 questions before the rest of my team gets a chance to even look at the paper.

In some ways, it makes me feel like a bad team member for answering all the questions, but I’m the one who walks the answer up every round, and so why not let me have the first crack at the answers?  In addition to the speed bonus rounds, I also get very competitive about answers that I suggested which turned out to be correct, but I was vetoed and a different answer was written down.  To be fair, I am not the only one who comes up with the correct answer, but it isn’t picked.  But some of that back and forth, and the risk of having the wrong answer, is what I love about pub trivia.  I love seeing the knowledge that my friends have, or the dumb luck of some random guess being the correct answer.  Actually, that’s a funny phenomenon, to randomly throw out a guess, and then have it be the correct answer.  Could that be a sign that the knowledge was learned at some point, whether directly or indirectly? Or is it just a case of dumb luck?

Back to my original thoughts,  pub trivia is one of the few areas where I get really competitive with someone other than myself.  And I can’t stop playing.  Anyone else have something that they just can’t stop doing?

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Changing definitions

April 15, 2014

I want to change the way a word is defined.  In my limited lifetime, I have heard about words that used to mean one thing, but now mean another, and I want to add to that change in vernacular.  The term “geek” used to be an insult.  If you were a geek, you were someone who was very smart, but socially inept.  You wore thick glasses, were either a skinny rail of an awkward guy, or an ugly duckling if you were female.  At some point, that mentality began to change.  Being a “nerd” is becoming more acceptable.  This is due in part by the internet, tv and movie, and by celebrities themselves.  While the new definition of being a “geek” has become something that is more socially acceptable, the mentality is that “geeks” are immature, that they’re just being silly children, playing at fantasies.

I think being a geek is more than that.  I think being a geek is about passion.  It doesn’t matter what the passion is, but it does typically lead to a person getting more knowledge on the subject.  Typically the label of geek is given when someone has a lot of knowledge, or spends a lot of time participating in the item that earned them the moniker of geek.  I translate this to being passionate.  Passion is a good thing.  Passion is what drives us to get up in the morning.  So why is being passionate about something a negative?  Why is it a sign of “not having grown up”?

There are plenty of people whom I would call a geek, that are not necessarily the stereotypical “geek”.  I think anyone that gets really excited and passionate about fantasy football, or “March Madness” brackets is a geek.  We should stop discouraging passion.  We should stop making knowledge something to be ashamed of.  I work with a guy that is so knowledgeable about cars, that it’s become a game to come up with something that he can’t answer off the top of his head.  I think it’s awesome.

Kids are curious and passionate about things, and then we drill it out of them.  We make the idea of reading for fun seem like a sign of anti-social personality.  It doesn’t matter what you’re passionate about, it’s important to have passions.  And having passions doesn’t make you less mature, or less of an adult, or less of anything.  Being a geek doesn’t define who you are, it’s only a part of who you are.  Let’s stop making being a geek a bad thing, and encourage everyone to embrace it.  Because face it, that young mother who says that she’s had to grow up and is no longer a geek, probably has something that she’s passionate about, and that means she is a geek, because being a geek isn’t something you grow out of, it’s part of who you are.

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I’m the only woman in the room

April 7, 2014

Most of the time, I’m the only woman in the room.  I’m the only female in my group, and usually in meetings, I’m the only female there too.  I hate that I’m drawing attention to this.  I hate that this is still a significant thing, but it is.  Women are starting to gain numbers.  In my group of 12 co-worker “new hires” 5 of us are female.  So the number is growing, but it’s still relatively lonely to be the only female, or one of the few females in a meeting.  I understand that outside of STEM, this isn’t as lopsided as it may seem, but engineering is my world, where I make my memories.

How do we change that?  How do you get women into engineering when the stigma is that it’s a “boys club”?  I know that companies tried to target women by offering a perfume making kit, or other “girly” things.  That wouldn’t interest me.  What would have interested me was building a trebuchet and having some sort of target.  Once again, I think about the engineering class I took in high school and how I decided to take the easy way out, because I didn’t think people would have listened to me.  If I could go back and do that year aain, I would have participated in building the robot.  Maybe we could have actually accomplished the task if I had helped out.  Instead, I took the easy way out and decided that I should make the notebook because I’d be the only one to have a feminine touch.  That’s a cop-out and I kick myself for having used it.  But I can’t change the past, I can only hope that I’ll make choices from here on out that will break that mold.

So my first step in breaking through is that I’m going on a tour at work that will also include helping take apart an engine.  You heard me right, I’m going to help take apart an engine.  Boo.Yah.

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Starting conversations

March 20, 2014

When I first came up with the idea of this blog, I had a million ideas about what I was going to do.  And for awhile, I was able to keep up with the demand I had put on myself.  I was able to spend a little time during the day writing down my thoughts, and if I had comments on the blog, I thought it was a great day.  Time passed, and the blog stopped being a priority and I stopped having things that I really wanted to talk about.  But now I am back.  And this time, I want conversations.

I have really begun to value talking, but also listening.  There are so many other opinions and thought processes out there in the world, and I want to take them all in.  One of the things that I’ve really enjoyed about my job is that I get to work with people from all different backgrounds.  It’s fun to talk about conventions behind naming children, or how someone views ways to show company loyalty.  It’s all fascinating.  I believe that sharing these stories and having these conversations make my job more enjoyable.  I am able to relate to the people I work with, but also can walk away at the end of the day feeling like I’ve learned something new.  And maybe so has someone else.

To be honest, I’ve really struggled in writing this entry.  I left work with a great idea in my head, and then as I sat down to write, I started questioning whether I should go the route I wanted to or not.  The bottom line is this.  I work in a field that consists mainly of men, and I want to change that culture.  I want to change acceptance of phrases like “you know who really wears the pants in the relationship” not because it’s offensive, but because it doesn’t add anything to the conversation.  I read an abstract for a book that talks about gender differences, but when I first read it, my reaction was that the author was telling the readers to change who they are, in order to get ahead, and that’s not something I agree with.

One of my biggest complaints came with a bullet point in the abstract about how if a woman felt like she was being discriminated against as a result of her gender, that before she makes the report, she should think careful, because doing so could label her a troublemaker.  I get it, we live in a world where upsetting the cart, challenging the way people think, is considered troublemaking.  I get that because the cultural mindset hasn’t changed, the attitude is that the person being discriminated against, should consider that their comfort and success should only be taken into account, if they’re willing to accept the risk of being labelled a troublemaker.

This really makes me angry.  Every person should be free to say “Hey!  That’s not cool, just because I’m “x” doesn’t mean I’m not as capable as “y”!” without the worry of retribution.  I know a lot of people will probably start rolling their eyes here, and muttering about damn feminists, but I don’t care.  Just because it has been accepted for years that a woman is a nagging wife, does not mean that in society we should continue to make the joke.  And just because women laugh when the comment is made, does not mean that it is an acceptable comment.  I want to change this.  I want to make the world less hostile.

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