Morning Routines

I was just looking at my basic Twitter feed, and amidst the Salesforce and Mass Effect and election posts, there was a Promoted Tweet from the Wall Street Journal –

(I’m sure you’ve all seen the article in the journal, but I want to stress that it’s all conjecture. 

My feelings journal?

Michael, he means the Wall Street Journal.

Oh. The Wall.)

– interviewing the CEO of Slack, and the first question they asked was “What is the first thing you do in the morning?”

It just got me thinking about causality, causation, correlation, all of those fun C words that are similar but different. (Connotatively speaking, but also concretely.)

I seem to see a lot of things like this. People want to measure success by common threads of habits, and while there is likely something to that – successful people tend to work hard, sure – it also contributes to imbalance of power.

Because here is the thing.

I work hard. Absolutely. I don’t even have time to update this blog so often anymore because my job keeps me busy. But I ALSO worked hard when I worked at Geek Squad, and most people would not want to interview me when I was in that job to capture the things that made me successful. Strictly speaking, at that point in time, most people would not have seen me as successful. The way people spoke to me when I had that job definitely made that clear.

I am not even close to being the first person to point this out, and I won’t be the last. But asking a white guy what he does in the morning, and correlating that to his success in the tech industry, just isn’t meaningful.

I honestly don’t know how he answered because I really didn’t care. Most of the answers are irrelevant. Because what they do in the morning isn’t what makes them successful.

A working single mother who isn’t leading a Fortune 500 company probably has more on her plate in the morning. If she made enough money, sure, she might meditate or read the paper or whatever, but she doesn’t. Her morning probably starts just as early, and maybe she makes lunch for her kids, and then she gets them ready for school, sees them off, and then goes to work. Or maybe she has to be at work so early that she can’t do those things for her kids.

Asking an already successful person who started life on Easy mode is like asking a native language speaker how they managed to get those pesky verb conjugations right. Sure they had to practice and learn, they probably made mistakes, but since most everyone around them was speaking the same language, it made it easier.

I don’t begrudge the guy his success. And I’m not implying he doesn’t work hard. I AM saying that morning routines mean less than I think people give them credit for, and I’m also saying that I am just really tired of seeing those things come up on my Twitter dashboard.

Time flies etc.

I have had a few people lately approach me to ask about what it’s like being a consultant. I’m always a little surprised by that because I think “why would they ask me? I haven’t been at it very long.”

I looked at the calendar recently. It’s already almost September. 2017. What the actual…anyway, that means that I’ve been a consultant for over a year now. And being the annoyingly introspective person that I am, that led me to hours and hours of thinking about that question and my answer.

I still don’t feel like I’m the right person to ask. There are still days where I haven’t quite gotten my feet underneath me. The treadmill is still just a tad too fast sometimes, and I stumble. Being human means that I focus a lot on those stumbles and less on the increasing number of successful steps.

Here’s how I’ve been answering that question.

Becoming a consultant is like any other major change in life. Day to day, nothing changes. I get emails from clients – sometimes I know the answer off-hand, and sometimes I have to do some research. I build things in Salesforce, and then I test those things and rebuild them. I provide insight into what the platform can and cannot do, what it can do natively vs. custom, what might be better left to a third party app, etc. I encourage admins to learn, and somewhere in all of that, I manage to occasionally put on a virtual meeting for the West Michigan WIT group.

But then I look back over the past 3 months, and I realize I have learned quite a bit. Over the past 6 months, 9 months…a year. I see things that I did early on that I would do differently now. Not that I was wrong then, but I’d be better prepared for them now.

There are little things, too. I speak more confidently about some things than I used to. I recognize patterns that I hadn’t noticed before. Gradually, I’m getting faster with some things.

Even I keep waiting for something to click. Some obvious and clear sign that says “You are now a Consultant.” But that’s not going to come. My business cards and job description say that. What I do on a daily basis says that.

That’s been the biggest lesson for me. I’ve learned in every job I’ve ever had – that’s what we do. This time it just feels more intangible. I can’t say “I now know how to complete an OSHA 300 and 300A form.” It’s more things like…”I now know that I can use Talend for data transfers and transformations.” But that encompasses so many things, not just a single task or ability.

As one of the least patient people I know, this kind of slow adaptation and realization of what I’ve learned has been both the most difficult and most rewarding part of the transition for me.

I don’t know if that’s the kind of answer people are looking for when they ask. Being a consultant varies depending on where you work, on what kind of team you’re working with. Just like being an admin at one place will be different than being an admin at another. But that’s the best answer I can give.

Regardless I’ve appreciated the questions because they forced me to take that long look and give myself some credit for how far I’ve come. And it’s made me really excited for whatever will come next. What will I know 3 months from now? 6 months, 9 months, a year?

If nothing else, I can safely say that being a consultant is never dull, and that’s probably the most important advice I can offer.

 

Georgia on my mind

I grew up in the peach state, various towns and cities at different times, only vaguely aware that people lived in other states. It’s weird how that happens. When you define a place as Home, it feels strange sometimes to think that there are billions of people out there who not only don’t live near you, but have most likely never even heard of your town.

When I was very little, I affected a thick Southern drawl, drew out my syllables as folk do in Georgia. But over time that dwindled, even living in the state. People who meet me now will not often guess that I spent the better part of my pre-adult years (and even early adult) in the foothills of Appalachia.

Fun fact: Georgia is the largest state East of the Mississippi. Yes, it’s true. Yes, even when you take the Upper Peninsula into consideration for Michigan.

I mention that because when I tell people I grew up in Georgia, they almost always know someone in Augusta or Savannah. I lived about 6 hours from them, in that case. I most likely don’t know them.

I’m headed that way on Saturday, the hubby and I hopping in a rental car to make the drive down. We’ll spend some time with my family at the homestead in the hills, and then I’m dragging him along with me to Southeast Dreamin’.

SED-Web-Logo-e1453762337688

In addition to being excited about being in the place I learned how to walk and speak and be an adult*, I’m really excited about this stuff:

  1. Charlie Isaacs‘s keynote. He’s one of my favorite people in the community, so I’m very happy to see him speak.
  2. Rebe de la Paz is going to talk about educating end users – a topic near and dear to my heart.
  3. For my NPO friends, you can check out Adam Kramer‘s session on Optimizing NPSP as an Admin.
  4. My friend and fellow #GifSquad member, Amy Oplinger, is reprising her fantastic session on Imposter Syndrome.
  5. Phillip Southern is going to share how they created the open-source Trailhead leaderboard.
  6. Doug Ayers is sharing his presentation on using Process Builder to create a Chatter Bot.
  7. THE Jen Lee of Automation Hour fame is sharing a session on Flow.
  8. Chris Duarte‘s closing keynote! It’s like a delicious Salesforce sandwich, people.

Did I mention the Hackathon on Thursday (this will be my first!)?

Did I mention the SaaSie Tech Social?

Did I mention time with the community, seeing the #Ohana?

To be honest, Georgia hasn’t been home in almost 10 years, but having so many great things to look forward to, I know it’ll feel a lot more like it next week.

See you there?

*I am legally an adult. Whether or not I’m an “Adult” is up for debate.

 

Show Your Pride

nala This is Nala.

Correction: this is Nala circa 2012.

Today, Nala is graduating from high school, and I’m simultaneously amazed at how quickly the time has gone, sad that all of my babies are grown up, and immensely proud of her (and my other students walking across the stage).

Nala is the only student that has stayed in touch over the past 4 years, but she and I still have a lot to talk about.

When I first joined the WIT Diversity group, like other new members, I was asked to share a little bit about why diversity is important to me. This is why.

In the year I began teaching in Pine Bluff, the graduation rate for the school district was 66.7%. To put that in perspective, one district over, in the same county, the primarily white school had a graduation rate of 83.5%. We’re talking a school maybe 15 miles away.

I don’t know what it would be like to teach in a district with that kind of graduation rate. I’m sure it also has challenges…but I say that with a little bit of a bitter laugh because the challenges my students and I faced were many.

Over the summer, I received the keys to my classroom. I was so happy to have them; I felt like it was the start of something transformative. It had belonged to a veteran teacher who had left everything behind. She finished the last day of school and just left. As I was sorting through the years and years of homework and paper, a cockroach crawled over my hand. They love making nests in paper.

More than a handful of my babies went to jail during the year and came back with “ankle jewelry.” One of my students got a girl pregnant. There was a riot.

During my year there, I spent a lot of money of food. Not for me. Students who weren’t even in my classes came to my room during lunch because I had food there – anyone could have it. It was better than them eating chips. It was better than them not eating.

I wonder if that had anything to do with graduation rate? Hmmmmm.

My students were fiercely loyal. Yes, they misbehaved and gave me headaches and made me want to scream. But if someone threatened me or my classroom, that someone didn’t do so again. The girls wanted to be in my wedding when I announced that Eric had proposed to me at Christmas. When I had to leave the school because we were moving to Michigan, they did this to my whiteboard:

whiteboard.jpg

Nala was quiet and sweet and stuck in my 8th period class. 8th period was the last period of the day, and as a new teacher, I struggled most with that group. I wanted so badly to do right by her, though, since I saw so much of myself in the budding writer.

When I left, I gave her all of my contact information and told her to stay in touch – let me know what was going on in her life. And she has. Last month, I got an email telling me that she was accepted into Hendrix College. I was relieved. I was proud. I cried.

I wake up at night, thinking of lesson plans that I should have done, ways that I could have served my students better.

No matter what I do moving forward in my life, I will carry this burden of feeling that I failed. I failed them. At least most of them. I wasn’t rigorous enough, hard enough, thorough enough, demanding enough…good enough. They deserved so much better.

Pine Bluff’s graduation rate is currently 56%. That means that approximately 72 of my kiddo’s are graduating today. I am immensely happy for that.

And when I think about the 58 who won’t be walking across that stage, I have to remember Nala. I have to remember that she’s going to Hendrix College, and it’s up to me to continue working to make a place for her when she jumps over that next hurdle; it’s up to me to try and lower those hurdles for her.

It’s easy for me to feel guilty, to blame myself, to be miserable.

But today…today I’m going to be proud, and I hope that all of them know that.

#BEYA – Authenticity and Imposter Syndrome

There are two people I need to mention before I step upon this soapbox.

The first (always and forever) is my mom, who is a fantastically inspirational woman.

The second is the SaaSy Sistah herself, who wrote this blog post, then challenged some of us to keep the dialogue going. Challenge accepted.

soapbox

I hate saying this, but I am smart. I really am. I am the kind of smart that gets bored easily or can reach logical conclusions based on information provided before it’s explicitly said. I don’t like saying that because it’s considered bad form to speak about myself positively.

I mention this because, especially as a woman who works exclusively with men, I often dumb myself down around people. (See how this just keeps sounding worse?!) I work with a lot of people who lash out at intelligence, despite the buzz words and the catchphrases that make it seem like they would embrace it. They feel threatened by it. So I keep quiet; I keep things to myself. I pretend I don’t remember things that I do remember when it would seem “weird” to.

And, yes, I get bored. If I don’t feel challenged in my work (in an enriching way, mind you), then I’m much more likely to find a way out. This has been thrown in my face – “you seem to have bounced around a lot, how do we know you will stay here?” I have to apologize for that? (I will say this for my authenticity – when asked this question, my response is “I have done a lot of different jobs, yes, and I’ve been successful in each of them.”)

Things that don’t bore me: fantasy books, comics, video games, and some movie and tv franchises. I’ve been accused of being obsessive at times…by more than one person. I get rather enthusiastic about things that I like, and sometimes it’s a really hot flame that doesn’t burn very long. If I had a nickel for every time someone complained to me about my intensity, I would have enough money to make up for some of this pay gap.

So in response, I resort to stoicism or self-deprecating humor. Easier to pretend to be indifferent than to be told that my enthusiasm is ill-placed or unwelcome.

It’s also easier because there’s a gender war in some of those arenas. Comic fans (even some writers) and gamers are typically white males, and if I don’t want to deal with harassment or arguments, I have to enjoy those things quietly and largely on my own. Does my blood boil when the hubby and I go to events, and he is treated with respect, when he knows less about comics? All the time. Does he know that and correct people? You bet.

And perhaps the worst part…is that I know all of this about myself. I know that I am intelligent, that I am a genuine fan of things, that I have a great memory. I know that I actively pretend to not be. Yet I still feel inferior.

On the Women in Tech Leadership call this month, Imposter Syndrome was the main topic of conversation. It was strange to me that I had never heard of this, but even before they explained it, I understood the concept. I mean, it’s in the name.

Essentially, what that means is that I’m wearing a mask over a mask. I wear a mask of confidence to hide my mask of insecurity, which hides my true self. Or maybe I wear a mask of timidity over a mask of confidence over insecurity? I can’t say anymore, and that is the worst part of all of this.

I’ve been thinking about authenticity all week; I’ve been thinking about Imposter Syndrome. and the most disturbing realization that I reached was that maybe I don’t even know anymore which parts are mask.

 

West Michigan Women in Tech

February 25th marked the inaugural West Michigan Women in Tech User Group meeting.

The first meeting for the West Michigan WIT User Group was snowed out – fitting for where we live. And befitting West Michigan ladies, we just rescheduled. *Snow happens* amirite?

Accordingly March 22nd marked the inaugural West Michigan WIT User Group meeting.

We were not snowed or rained or anything out, which was already an improvement. Due to the reschedule, we did have some people de-register. It’s cool; it happens.

I spent the week before the meeting both excited and almost dreading it. As I mentioned at the meeting, I’ve never been a group leader type. I led some things in college, usually because I was handed the thing and said “here. Do something with it.”

I guess in a way this group is the same. I wasn’t happy with how the existing area user group was functioning, and feeling no other recourse, I just thought to start a Women in Tech group. It has been a rocky road.

I don’t like to sugar coat things, even though I’m consistently neck-deep in Salesforce kool-aid. User Groups are popping up everywhere, which is great, but when I initially signed the papers, there were only two people responsible for supporting them, and for the first few months after submitting myself to lead a group, I didn’t feel supported at all.

It is difficult to learn what is expected of you or how you can be set up for success, doing some of the cool things that other groups are doing. It is very much sink or swim. At least it was for me.

Until I got a mentor anyway (Sarah Deutsch, rock star, I’m looking in your direction).

I’ve said it before, and I will say it over and over until I am blue in the face – this community is where it’s at. Once I got signed up with a mentor, things started to move. I met other people who had done this; not to get too metaphysical here, but it was as if once the universe knew what I needed, I developed a Salesforce-mentor-related gravitational pull.

But back to the point. I don’t know what I’m doing, but after last night, I feel like it’s ok.

We had 5 people super cool women attend our inaugural meeting, graciously hosted by Ashima. We decorated wine glasses, so we can drink (whatever we want!) from them at subsequent meetings. We discussed what we want this group to be. We vented. It was positive. I was inspired and reinvigorated.

But this post is supposed to be for those of you A) looking for some support in West Michigan and B) thinking about starting a user group.

If you are looking for support nearby, please join us! We are on the community; we are on LinkedIn. We tweet #WestMichiganWIT. We want to hear from you and talk Salesforce with you!

If you are thinking about starting a user group, get a mentor. They have fought the battles that you will have to fight, felt the disappointment and feelings of inadequacy, and they can give you some really solid tips. They can be a cheerleader or a firm hand. I also encourage you to be patient; I originally signed up for this gig in October of last year. It takes a while to get things moving, and it is slow to start. Still worth it!

It’s probably too early for me to writing all of this. I have a cat who doesn’t understand REM cycles. But at least I can say it’s authentic. And so was our meeting.

Next one will be in April. And from there, who knows?