Ran across a comic strip this morning described as “9 Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies For Women”. . Linked to the original source, but the reminder of it this evening came from Fast Company’s “How to be a Non-Threatening Woman”, which linked back to the Cooper Review’s original article…

In this fast-paced business world, female leaders need to make sure they’re not perceived as pushy, aggressive or competent. One way to do that is to alter your leadership style to account for the (sometimes) fragile male ego.

When I first skimmed it this morning, I thought the writer was trying to give good advice… “Trying” being the important word here. I grew frustrated as I read the article, until my caffeine-deprived brain got enough clues that this was a tongue-in-cheek approach and meant to highlight the pain-in-the-rear-edness behaviors some of us experience, and the stereotypical coping strategies / highly annoying behaviors some folks use to cope. (Note that I’m not focusing solely on women doing the coping – seen guys do some of these things as well. Just as highly annoying.)

I’m a woman in tech. Highly outnumbered and have been throughout my career. On my current project, in a room of 35, I’m one of 3 women. The 3rd woman joined one month ago, while the 2nd woman was still on maternity leave. So, for several months, just me in the estrogen column. Neither of the other two women are leaders of groups in the room. Leaving me the sole female leader in a room where the guys shoot rubber bands at each other as a form of male bonding, where another of the tech leads said his frat-hazing treatment of a more junior member of the team was his way of showing care, and where one team member gave another leader in the room a thong as a way of poking fun at his accent in pronouncing ‘thon’… I’ve been talked over, had things demeaningly explained to me, and had my points and ideas repeated by others (and thus finally heard)… I definitely lean to the ‘left’ on the pictures presented in the article, and refuse to shimmy to the right.

Next week, I leave that particular team. I didn’t think I was leaving because of the sort of behaviors demonstrated – there were other reasons to leave. But suddenly realizing how much I’m looking forward to gelling with a new team.

Part of my job duties include recruiting new software engineers to join our firm. I think we’re pretty neat. We’re small, though, so its not as if we run mega-magazine campaigns or TV or radio ads. Instead, we rely on a more direct form of recruiting. If I know you, you’re likely to hear about our company. If I don’t know you but we have a chance to talk about professional stuff, you’re likely to hear about our company. If you’re connected to me on LinkedIn, you’re likely to hear about our company. And if LinkedIn thinks you might be a good fit for the candidates we’re searching for, you’re likely to hear about our company.

Where you’re not likely to hear about our company, as heavily anyway: my personal Facebook profile or other social network personas. I keep my professional network fairly broad, and my personal network a bit more close. Microsoft announced today that it’s buying LinkedIn, and various TV talking heads were concerned that LinkedIn’s network reach and stickiness (how many times I’m likely to return in a day/week/etc) aren’t as high as, say, Facebook or Twitter. I don’t go to LinkedIn as often. When I go, it’s for a specific purpose. When I “clock out”, I go to other places. LinkedIn wouldn’t serve me well, and thus wouldn’t receive the money I give it per month to provide search and contact services, if it was as wildly open to interactions as other spots.

So, Microsoft, find better ways to help me source candidates. Find better ways to help me market myself to potential employers. But don’t expose my info to every family member, church member, friend of a friend, etc: I prefer to keep my business activities separate.

Headed on the train up to NYC to attend Strata, which is a BigData + Hadoop conference. Looking forward to sessions on Spark, as well as getting exposure to other open source platforms which might be of interest to my company or to its clients. And, of course, interested in making contacts that help us either hire more people or enter into new business areas – particularly those that have fewer barriers to entry to bringing on people!

That’s the blend of things that go into my idea of a successful conference visit. I should come away with some 3-5 contacts that make sense to follow up with, post conference, and should find 2-3 things that I hadn’t previously really been exposed to. Oh, and I should be able to come away with some sort of themes of the event – folks were talking about topicY moreso than topicX, or the main thrust of the birds of the feathers sessions aligned or didn’t align with what I saw in the curated conference speaker topics. And somehow fit in a bit of wandering around the expo to see if there’s a commercial offering that makes sense to track or compare the open-source world to – some killer feature or ease of use bundling or new infrastructure or platform as a service offering to experiment with.

After the event, I’ll put together a summary – intent is to post it here, as well as make it available through our corporate LinkedIn page. Nerdery publicly shared!

[I intended to write this post about a week ago, and then got distracted by all things motorcycle.]

Someone on the web suggested that a good way to mark Labor Day was to think through the first jobs you had, and what they taught you in life.  So, here goes…

My first “job” was as a paper route carrier at the ripe age of 9 1/2.  I may have needed my folks to ask special permission, since I was so young.  Each Wednesday and Saturday, one of them would drive me around to deliver my 40-80 subscriber route (varying routes over time). I got my first checking account and learned to balance my checkbook to be able to pay my district manager; I earned a life-long habit of calling folks “ma’am” and “sir” that gets me in trouble today, but got me lots of tips then; and I got my first taste of sales as I’d go door-to-door trying to convince folks to join my paper’s subscriber list so I’d earn extra money on my route or prizes from the district.  Being a young kid did not protect me from rudeness from folks who really didn’t want to talk with me.  I learned to not take it personally, as well as a certain amount of empathy for sales folks as they knock on my door now-a-days.

I had a paper route until at least 14, which was the earliest my state would grant a work permit for kids.  The local hardware store hired me on as a cashier.  I was decently good at it – kept a good attitude with customers, and liked getting customers through my line quickly.  It became my own personal competition – could I remember that scan code?  Could I hit the keys quickly on the keyboard without making any errors?  And, of course, there’s the challenge of making sure the till at the end of night all evens out.  Some of my coworkers weren’t as motivated, as one would expect in a place that pays minimum wage and hired teenagers for whom this money was spending money, not living-on money.  But I was making better money than I did on my paper route, and hey, if I was going to be there, I decided I’d rather be busy and productive.

I had a few more jobs as a teenager- fast food convinced me that I needed to make sure I found a better career.  Long hours on my feet, customers who definitely didn’t respect you, and the occasional filthy bathroom duty.  Did I mention the customers not respecting us?  I think a few went out of their way to make the nastiest messes they could in the bathroom, just to imagine us having to deal with it.  Other retail gigs were painfully interesting in the Christmas rush season (lines to where?!!!) but also put more pain in my feet and less money in my pocket than I was willing to consider dealing with long-term.

I haven’t yet decided how strongly to encourage my kids to get jobs when they’re old enough.  The jobs I did as a teen kept me from things like sports or clubs that I also see as valuable.  In hindsight, the small money I made wasn’t actually going to cover my college costs, even though my folks’ rule was that I had to save 50% of everything I made.  Thankfully, I earned scholarships to put me through, as my folks were upfront that they weren’t going to pay for school, and I don’t remember having any large stockpile set aside from my jobs.  The big highly valuable life lesson jobs gave me was a sense of what things cost.  Nothing like comparing my car payment to the number of hours I’d need to spend flipping burgers to earn it!

Accomplishment for the night: a WordPress update from 3.5.1 to 4.1.1.  In most systems, that’s a well-planned out affair.  The combination of a ‘what the heck’ attitude this evening by me, and a push-button upgrade by WordPress means that I made a major upgrade with nothing more than an XML export without suffering any (at least thusfar noticed) undue effects.   Well done, WordPress!   No login to my hosting environment to rescue my database, no even import from the afore-mentioned XML export.  My theme came over successfully, even though I’ve hacked it up…  Again, well done!  May my development efforts handle software upgrades as successfully as you have!

A business blog recently described a list of interview questions HR might ask you to try to get inside your head.  Some of them I’ve actually used on interviews with candidates.  I’m not an HR person, but hey, seeing if someone can describe the technical projects they’re most proud of helps me to see that they take pride in their work, as well as what they consider to be something worth bragging about.

The question I’d never asked anything near is what someone would do if they won $5 million dollars.  I’m certain: I’d be done working for anyone in particular.  I’d keep doing technical work, but I’d only do that which particularly interested me.  That’s not a very reasonable scenario for working for someone else…  there is this thing about keeping the customers happy and paying the bills that is worthy and valuable. But without the need of an ongoing paycheck, I could definitely see geeking out on open source projects, working as a technical contributor for a non-profit, etc…

I’d actually be interested were someone to ask me the $5 mil question…  their response to _my_ response would help me understand how big they think their impact on my life ought to be overall…    So, a highly useful question if it helps us each winnow the other out.

The life of a technologist is rarely boring. If you’re a senior developer or architect, you’re expected to drop into a project situation and make sense of nebulous requirements, new and/or undetermined technology stacks, and unreasonable timelines (they’re always unreasonable – it’s a truism – partly because the requirements are nebulous, partly because you’re getting up to speed on the tech stack..) Your job is then to convince folks you know enough to get the job done, while knowing you don’t yet, and then paddle like crazy to figure out the right stuff to actually get the job done. If there’s a new technology out, you’re supposed to have an understanding and an opinion of where it fits in the ecosystem. To be effective, you have to know how to do all of the above, while keeping your conversations at the business impact level. Oh, and you have to find a way to lead folks who think they can all do things better than you. If you’re honest with yourself, for at least some areas, they can. Your job i to stitch it all together. Good luck.

Spent Monday and Tuesday at Healthdatapalooza in DC. Key objective there was to see how the Code-a-palooza shaped up, as well as what things folks were most talking about.  Recap here is a recap of what I sent to my healthcare-focused team at work, but

Here’s the winner’s list:

1) LyfeChannel’s Smart Hero app, which gives consumers information that they can use to discuss/negotiate with their physician what they’re charging you… (LyfeChannel also won a healthfinder.gov mobile app challenge last year, so is someone interesting to pay attention to… I was also interested in their approach of going to a local IHOP to find seniors and talk with them about what the data set contained, and how they’d like to make use of it… resonates pretty strongly with how my company looks at user-centered design)
2) AccordionHealth:  had an interesting model of tracking likely side effects to help determine an overall cost. These guys combined the CMS data set with a deep data set they had from Texas, so their app only really helps folks in Texas at the moment. Very small company, two PhD students, I believe.
3) Karmadata and its myhealth.io – find a physician for your surgical procedure. For a zipcode, find a procedure, get counts of patients, procedures, and physicians. Their company provides access to healthcare data, as well as an app gallery of apps built on top of their items.

In the demos on Monday, I also heard Fred Trotter talk about the data in light of DocGraph and its new Omni solution. Fred’s blog over at DocGraph also talked about some of the other competitors who’d entered the contest.  In Fred’s presentation on Monday, he pointed out that the data had some real gaps in usefulness. I don’t think the judges appreciated the poke, though I think I agree with Fred’s statement.

Takeaway on my part: we had an interesting angle for our own Code-a-palooza entry.  Via a system processing glitch, ours didn’t get considered for the competition, but we got good feedback from someone kind enough to give us a first-level look.  I’m looking across the Code-a-palooza competitor set (winners and others) to see where we might complement their offerings.  Our solution was much more ‘help me keep up with my own record’ focused than anything I saw in the competition pool.  Think ‘Mint for Medicaid’ with a smidge of Consumer Reports as a first-cut elevator pitch..

Things folks were talking about that I thought were interesting: OpenFDA (FDA data + APIs released giving access to more than 3 million adverse drug event reports), BlueButton (common means of sharing data across systems – intended to give you access to your personal health record), Open mHealth (another means of sharing data across systems, including things like FitBits), and even a bit of SMART platform came up. SMART is interesting to me because of it’s at least on-the-surface analogies to OWF – it appears to have had a resurgence of activity of late. Also tracking something called PCORI (Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute). All leading to – wow, a lot of things to explore and decide whether they’re worthy to track further.

Take a look at this NPR article for more news of HealthDataPalooza. The Kojo Nnamdi Show was also broadcasting from the conference on Tuesday the 3rd – you can listen in or read the transcripts from its site. Looks like the live chat held online has good info too…

One more healthcare world announcement of note that got mentioned at HealthDataPalooza as an aside: iOS X includes HealthKit platform, which is a means to bring together your quantified self fitness / other health data. Interestingly, they’re partnered with Epic. Uh, though this Forbes article points out that others have done that before (Google Health, Microsoft’s HealthVault)..

This Saturday, my rugby team, Severn River Rugby, heads to the Nationals quarter and semifinals. This is the 2nd time I’m headed to the premiere contest for my division, and the third time in four years for my team overall. Last year, we lost in the final game, bringing home the silver medal. We don’t like second.

The games this weekend are in Pittsburgh, so we’ve been coordinating car pools and hotels. If we win both games, we’ll be headed to Wisconsin for the final game, needing air tickets, hotels, and car rentals. Although software wonks make a reasonable living, most of my team fits more in the student / waitress / otherwise breaking into their career category. Can’t win without us all there – can you help by contributing to our IndieGogo campaign? Every bit helps!  We’ve also worked a stand at the Ravens stadium, are holding guest bar tending nights in Annapolis (Dock Street, May 14th, and likely Stan & Joe’s the following week), and are selling T-shirts to our fans. Orioles raffle coming, too!

We are a 501(3)(c).  We’re also recruiting team members to join us for the summer sevens and fall seasons – come play with a winning team who knows to have fun!   Watch the contribution box over to the right, or head directly to our IndieGogo campaign.  Great perks, befitting a rugby team and its fans!

In 2010, I went to OSCON. GREAT conference, very few women. For the GREAT, I wanted to go back. To help grow the set of women speakers, I needed to go back.

In 2011, I proposed a topic: W3C widgets and OpenAjax. (Don’t look them up..) Technical topic, in which I had great interest at the time, and which showed promise for a R&D effort. No dice.

In 2012, I proposed a topic: OWF, GOSS(?), FOSS?!.. The idea was to go to the biggest open-source conference, talking about a forthcoming open-source project out of one of the country’s less open government agencies. Not accepted.

In 2013, I decided to get a bit smarter. 3 proposals went in to better my odds. One on the now open-source OWF and how it got there (hey, who doesn’t want the in’s on what’s going on in a previously government-internal project?), one giving a tutorial on OWF itself, and one on how we were intending to extend the use of or patterns of use of OSGi to provide dynamic client modules. All good, in-depth geek topics. Not accepted. Geek in-depth just wasn’t getting me in.

By this point, I was more than a bit discouraged. However, discouragement != giving up. The end goals were still of value – I just needed to figure out how to be more viable as a presenter.

Cut to the chase: 2014, I _finally_ got the success. Decided to look at my topics from the catch-your-eye perspective. One topic compared open source communities to sharks – both need to keep moving to survive. Promised many Jaws and Nemo references. Technical topic, audience appealing-spin. One topic made folks aware of government’s efforts in the open-source world, with the intent of encouraging participation. Drier topic, but hits OSCON’s sweet spots. Last topic, and of course the ringer that got accepted, was the crazy what the heck idea – daughter’s Furby is annoying, where would annoying be useful – hey, hooking it up to a build system turns annoying bad into annoying good. Meaning, wanting to fix something quick to shut off the thing is a great use of an otherwise inane annoyance. Not only was the topic, “Arduino + Furby Broken Build Notification – Oh, You’ll Want to Fix it Quick!” accepted, it’s scheduled for the Main Stage (“There are some talks that are just too interesting to limit the audience. Join us in the Main Stage for a collection of jaw dropping talks across all topics”). That it’s scheduled as the last session of the full conference is both an honor (wow, closing out the conference) and a humbling note – folks start petering out by the last day…

Takeaway: marketing appeal matters.

Now to write a kick-tail presentation. By the way, we’ll preflight Furby + software with my company’s Women In Computing Day in June. The kids (young women from 9-14) won’t be seeing a Furby hooked up to a Jenkins server, but we’ll make use of Furby and its audio protocol to help show them robotics in action…