Tell your Women In Tech story in our Medium channel!

I had a stunning number of women volunteer to write chapters for Women In Techthe book we just kickstarted. I think somewhere around 150 women volunteered at last count, and I keep getting emails! I was honored and thrilled that so many women wanted me to help them tell their story, and I’m so proud to announce now that we’re launching a Medium channel to provide a platform for women to tell their stories in the same way that Brianna, Keren, Kristin, Angie, Kamilah, Miah, Katie, and I are. If you write a great story, you may get an email from me about future work 😉

We’re also looking for a publication editor on an ongoing basis, so please let me know if you’re interested in helping women tell their stories!

HOW TO SUBMIT:

If you’re interested in telling your story, I have to make you a writer for the publication. Send me an email with your Medium username so I can add you, and then I’ll have you submit your essay to https://medium.com/stories-from-women-in-tech/submissions! I’m a little new at this Medium thing, so if you have any issues submitting your essay, just email or tweet me and I’ll get you fixed up.

If you follow this structure, more or less, you’ll get to the heart of your life and experiences. Vary or change this any way you see fit; this outline is just intended to give you a place to start.

  1. Growing up
    1. Where were you born?
    2. What was it like growing up as you?
    3. What is your family like?
    4. When did you start to have an interest in tech?
    5. Did you go to college? What did you major in?
  2. Early career
    1. Did you start out in technology? 
    2. How did your career start to grow more and more aligned with what you’re doing now—or did it?
    3. What early lessons did you learn as you started working in all your different jobs that helped teach you what you needed to know to get where you are?
  3. Now
    1. What are some of the times that you felt that you couldn’t keep going on?
    2. What made you push through?
    3. Are you happy doing what you do?
    4. Why?
    5. What will some of your next goals be?
    6. What do you do to help others succeed and what are your passions involving mentoring and volunteering?
  4. Reflections
    1. Is it possible for others to do what you did?
    2. If you could go back and change anything, would you—and why?
    3. What do you wish people knew about you that they don’t?
    4. What do you hope telling your story will accomplish?

Thoughts

  • Liberally sprinkle this whole essay with examples that focus in on how you felt at times when you were at decision crossroads and what made you make the choices you did.
  • Do not let your own modesty stop you from talking about yourself. Talk about yourself and your accomplishments instead of doing a general critique of the system.
  • Think of this autobiographical essay as an explanation of how you got where you are now. This is a moment to show what you did, not tell others how to replicate what you did. Huge numbers of women in tech (including me) did not have a computer science degree and came into tech through a side door faced with difficult decisions, self teaching, and life-altering moments. 
  • This is only about you, your story, and how other women can see possibilities for themselves through your story. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. I can’t wait to hear from you!

From Engineer To Executive

I recently did the keynote talk for the Puget Sound Python users group, and while it wasn’t filmed, I had a couple of requests that I post the material somewhere. Here you go!

Going from an engineer to someone who can manage people and execute on the company vision takes a commitment to changing yourself, changing your environment, and changing how you relate to others. There are three key areas that I had to work on and will be striving towards for the rest of my life. They are: (1) your people skills, (2) a will to change, and (3) your support network.

First, let’s take a look at people skills. You need to lose your contempt for interpersonal skills. You may be one badass engineer, but if you cannot communicate your purpose and assign tasks to your subordinates in such a way that they’re enthused about the tasks you set for them, you can’t be an executive. That’s it. Learn to rephrase your requests and statements about situations in a positive way. Many engineers are uncomfortable about dealing with people, and you’ll need to not only lose that discomfort, but actively enjoy employing your people skills. Note that I don’t say that you have to actively enjoy people. I’m a full-bore introvert, and dealing with people takes it out of me if I cannot escape and recharge. However, I can always enjoy that I have a skill, and that I’m getting better at using it every day.

If you don’t like social media, tough cookies. You need fans and connections. These are people that you can transmit ideas to, and from whom you get updates on how the world thinks and works. Make the connections on LinkedIn and open up your Twitter and Facebook profiles. You won’t be able to hide what you say anyway, and you may as well keep your lack of privacy in mind. You no longer get to bury your head in the sand when it comes to social issues. You’ll need to keep updated on meaningful news. There would be no excuse for a leader of people who made a tone deaf crack about protesters the day after the Ferguson grand jury decision because s/he didn’t know what was happening in the world. You can be yourself on social media, but you cannot treat your public pronouncements as if they reflect only on you now. I am communicative on social media, but I don’t complain about individual people anymore, no matter how bad the customer service was. I have the ability to point attention at issues, and as a representative of my company regardless of how many disclaimers I put in bios, I have to respect that I’d be punching down, not up. Remember the same.

The last thing on people skills, and the hardest lesson I’m still working on is this: don’t be the smartest person in the room. That’s a direct quote from a mentor of mine. It was an especially hard lesson for me to learn. As a female engineer, I’ve been screaming for 15 years that I’m right, that my code is good enough, that my solution works, and that I belong in this room with the rest of the engineers. I’ve had to shift my approach a lot. Now, what matters is that the people that I’m talking with feel like they’re heard, not that I’m smart. That is how they’ll build consensus on the right way to solve a problem. If you figure out how to do this, please tell me.

Second, let’s talk about your personal will to change your life and grow. This is a very difficult topic, because it has to do with social class, judgment, and your own goals. There’s a common phenomenon among professional athletes and musicians who succeed dramatically. Those among them who came from less privileged backgrounds often will struggle with negative influences from the people who loved and supported them while they were on the way up. I have friends and dear loved ones who have loved and supported me, but are still fighting to give up drugs, get out of prison, and get their lives together. I can love them and be there for them to the best of my ability without being pulled into problems I have no power to fix. Think very hard about the people you surround yourself with. The motivational speaker Jim Rohn very famously said that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” I choose to be around people that I like AND admire. I think of people who I respect for their kindness, entrepreneurial spirit, irrepressible joy, courtesy, intelligence, and strength, and then I figure out if we like the same comic books and TV shows (thee must like Arrow or I will not have to do with thee). Those are the people I try to spend my time with.

Develop your own sense of judgment about people to the point that you’ve learned to trust your instincts about someone’s character before you start making final hiring decisions. I screw up sometimes, and I make mistakes all the time. However, we have built a culture at Fizzmint that ultimately reflects my personal decisions about people’s characters, and I have to trust that I make good decisions while always being willing to revisit those choices if needed later. You are going to start learning to consciously harness the judgments you make about people, because if you don’t, you’ll judge unconsciously. That’s how poor hiring decisions get made, like hiring a team of nothing but straight white men and thinking it’s because they’re the only ones tough enough to stand up for their coding choices. Without examining how you judge others, you’ll do so without thought. Don’t not think.

If there’s any one thing I can tell you about being a different person and one that others will respect, it’s this: be on time. People who are habitually punctual have a whole lot of other life skills nailed down. They manage their time well. They’re honest with themselves about how long tasks will take. They have the logistics of their city and transport down. They respect you and your time. They have built time into their day for small tasks, often after they’ve arrived early to meetings. They likely sleep and eat on a healthier schedule. I and everyone else understand that sometimes you cannot help being late. There’s a difference, however, between someone whose definition of ‘on time’ is 5 minutes late, and who arrives more than 15 minutes late half the time, and a person who arrives early or on time 19 out of 20 times. The habitually late person is not honest with themselves about their commitments and how long their day will take to execute on–or they’re pushovers about letting others dictate their schedule. That’s not someone I want managing others. The more time I spend with the people who run companies, the more I realize that this is one of the unstated expectations on people who should be trusted with making decisions. When I set up coffee with a fellow CEO, s/he is nearly never late. That’s even in Seattle, which has a truly terrible transportation system, and which can unexpectedly jam up with hours of traffic and overpacked buses and trains.

Develop your personality and interests outside technology. I have lots and lots of interests, side projects, hobbies, and fun things I do. I have to, or I would be a deadly dull person with a stultifying lack of stories, points of commonality, and conversation openers. I like reading audiobooks, and I’m currently running a Kickstarter to bring Frankenstein’s Creature’s favorite book to audiobook for the first time ever. I helped found and currently am on the board of Hack The People, the world’s largest tech mentorship initiative. I help underrepresented hackers propose to speak through Defcon Unlocked and Infosec Unlocked. I take cat pictures and read and play WoW and do triathlons and cook. If you don’t have a cool hobby and some volunteer commitments, get some, or you’ll be boring. Also, you’ll miss out on personal growth and contributing to your community.

Finally, let’s talk about your support network. There is nothing, NOTHING more important than your mentors and mentees. Your colleagues can come and go, but you MUST develop tight relationships with people who want to teach you, and whom you can teach. You never really learn something until you teach it, and you need to pass on what you learn. This blog is part of how I pass on information to people, after I filter it through my own experience and understanding. I’ve been given truly terrible advice, and truly spectacular advice, but the common thread there is this: someone cared enough to try to help me.

Join your professional association or a group of people who do the job you’re currently doing and the job you want to be doing. Learn from them. Treat your network like a million dollars, because that’s literally what they are to you. Create weak and strong ties to people in your community and in your virtual network. Find a person you admire online that you’ve never met in real life, and tell them that you admire them. You might be surprised at the result. Most of what people face when they’re public-facing is criticism, anger, and second-guessing (unless you’re Taylor Swift, in which case bless your heart, honey). It’s always nice to hear that someone’s picking up what you’re putting down.

Add some comments about your best tricks and tips for how you transitioned from engineering to executive work, and post your questions. I’ll do my best and point you at the right people if I don’t know the answer!

Captain Picard, Enterprise CEO

I enjoyed analyzing Captain Janeway’s style of leadership as compared to a startup CEO in the first part of a three-part essay on Star Trek captains and leadership. In the second part, I get to tackle my favorite captain of them all: Jean-Luc Picard. I’ll be talking about how Picard’s style of management is ideal for a mature company. CEOs for mature companies are often selected from the outside rather than being promoted from within—but how did Picard get selected to become the captain of the Federation’s most prestigious ship? And how can you learn from his deliberate choices? I’ll first look at how Picard built his expertise and was trusted enough to take over the Enterprise, and then I’ll delve deeper into the relationships he creates and curates in his team.

As the captain of the USS Enterprise, the Federation’s flagship, Picard is one of the most prestigious, highly respected, and well-known leaders in Star Fleet. Many CEOs of mature companies have multiple accomplishments to their name, giving them well-roundedness, common ground with many people, and sources of inspiration, and Picard clearly has a well-rounded and investigative personality. He uses his musicianship, his interest in Vulcan philosophy, and his love of Shakespeare to relate to aliens and create understanding, as well as giving him a life outside of and an escape from the burdens of leadership. He’s smart to do so. Leaders need to maintain an active mental life, and I certainly find that if I start dropping my outside pursuits like writing, playing music, and creating art, that I lose perspective on the choices I make inside my company as well.

Many CEOs of mature tech companies are business and finance specialists with proven records as operations officers. Picard captained the Stargazer for 22 years to gain experience and demonstrate his capacity to lead. The USS Enterprise is not a gig for a child or a first-timer, no matter what some poorly researched reboot might claim. James Kirk captained an as-yet unnamed ship before taking command of the Enterprise. The next captain of a ship named Enterprise was Captain Rachel Garrett, CO of the USS Enterprise-C, the only time that a first-time captain has ever commanded the Enterprise—and a time when the Enterprise was not the flagship of the Federation or in open war. The point here is that demonstrated expertise as a skilled operator matters a great deal when taking over a prominent leadership role in a mature enterprise (yeah, I just did that pun).

Let’s get down to the specifics of how Picard manages his people. Although he has a skilled and competent XO, Commander William T Riker, Picard isn’t worried that Riker will attempt to either eclipse him or to substitute his own judgment for that of Picard’s. The fact that Picard is fearless about having competent, brilliant, ambitious subordinates makes him a spectacular manager and captain. Without concern for his own position or whether Riker would or could push him out, Picard constantly and perpetually supports Riker’s decision process regarding his career. This is much more important than most people realize, and for good reason: the fruits of Picard’s trust in Riker lead to Riker learning to trust in ambitious, competent subordinates. Who could forget the clash of wills between Lieutenant Commander Elizabeth Shelby, the excellent officer detailed to the Enterprise to assist with defensive strategy planning during the Borg invasion? Riker initially disliked Shelby’s tactless ambition and found reasons to criticize her. When Riker was promoted to captain during Picard’s abduction by the Borg, he immediately promoted Shelby to First Officer. He realized why Picard had trusted him in the face of his own ambition, and learned to trust his own decisions about who to promote and support. Picard sets an excellent example of how to treat people, and it’s reflected in the fact that his subordinates take that skill with them into new positions and new responsibilities.

Picard has deliberately curated his own reputation as a trustworthy and competent leader, and uses it to back up his decisions and create conditions of trust between himself and his team. Picard may be modest, but he never actually insisted that they name the Picard Maneuver something else. Picard understood that the creation of himself as a legend as well as a human was a vital part of building the emotional component of support for his leadership. I don’t know what the equivalent of social media will be in the 24th century, but Picard is clearly well known outside Star Fleet and throughout the Federation as a diplomat and negotiator. He doesn’t just accomplish the impossible, he clearly lets others talk about his achievements. This strategy only works because he has the skills to back up even the most outrageous expectations laid upon him.

This means he can use his power and prestige for the benefit of his crew. He never visibly uses it to bolster his comfort level beyond the minimum needed to maintain his image as the captain. On several occasions he’s deliberately chosen not to use his authority internally to benefit someone he cares about. When Lieutenant Commander Nella Darren took over Stellar Cartography aboard the Enterprise in 2369, Picard and she rapidly grew close. He could easily have used his power to advance Darren’s career or give her a cushy transfer. He chose instead to end his relationship with her due to the very valid fears of his crew that he would prefer one of his direct subordinates over others. He set an excellent, if personally painful, example for how to conduct your personal affairs as a leader, and his team respected him deeply for it.

Jean-Luc Picard exhibits sober judgment, trust in his team, support for their ambition, and he rarely interrupts his staff when they’re speaking. He’s a spectacular role model for the CEO of a mature company in the way he manages his personal life, his professional relationships, and the direction of his career. He’s an example I try to live up to every day.

Kathryn Janeway, Startup CEO

Reposted from an edited version at WeWork Magazine.

A couple of weeks ago, WeWork Magazine interviewed me for a Spotlight article about me. One of my answers about which Star Trek captain I thought my management style most closely reflected betrayed how seriously I take Star Trek. So, they’ve asked me to expand on my thoughts about how Star Trek captains can be compared to tech CEOs. In this three-part essay, I’ll be looking at Kathryn Janeway, Jean-Luc Picard, and Benjamin Sisko as examples of CEOs at different stages of their careers: at a startup, in a mature company, and during transitional periods.

I was eight years old on the evening of September 26th, 1987. My dad whispered “Shh. Don’t tell your mom I’m starting you on science fiction,” and tiptoed with me down to the basement of our old farmhouse where the little 13” TV sat in his proto-mancave. He flipped the switch, put a little more aluminum foil on the antenna, and I saw the blue letters on the screen as the Alexander Courage & Jerry Goldsmith music played for the first time ever at the beginning of Encounter At Farpoint. Dad choked up a little, remembering when he was nine years old and watched The Man Trap with his father. We bond with these stories. We tell and retell them. We vary the details, but the core myth remains the same: a diverse crew explores the boundaries of space and other civilizations while learning more about what it means to be human.

The most important part about Star Trek captains isn’t which one you admire most, or which one you feel most closely reflects your management style. The most important Star Trek captain is the one who inspires you to be a better leader, and though I think I have the most in common personality-wise with Picard, the truth is that Kathryn Janeway is the closest ideal to what a startup CEO should be. She has no shame or pride, no false sense of ego, and a single, unwavering, certainly monomaniacal goal: to get her crew home. In the course of seven years on the way back from the Delta Quadrant, she uses everything she has and more to succeed.

Janeway is put in impossible situations with untenable choices, and yet she creates humor, freedom, and a shared sense of purpose. She’s by far the wittiest and funniest of the captains, and very free with a joke or a tension-relieving pun. I like her sense of humor a lot, but there’s one thing she does which I try very hard to emulate. She understands that her promise to her crew to get them home is the only thing she’ll ever be judged on, and she sacrifices her personal comfort, her friendships, and her privilege time and time again to make it happen. Barring morally despicable options, there’s nothing she won’t do to achieve her goals. Over seven years, she adopts the roles of a mechanic, a prostitute, a governess, a merchant, a general, a killer, a janitor, an exterminator, a referee, a teacher, a programmer, a scientist, a pool shark, and many, many more. When the time comes for her to play a low-status person to aid in her goal of getting her crew home, she doesn’t hesitate.

Janeway strikes a careful balance among the tight and dramatic relationships that form in the crew when there’s a limited amount of choice for who to socialize with. The greatest CEOs I know worry about their people, not their status. Janeway invests in her people and builds them up instead of tearing them down to maintain an artificial hierarchy, and in return, they achieve more than they could imagine in a crew that will support them.

I love that Janeway has two heroes that I can think of in Voyager; one is Amelia Earhart, and the other is her own ancestor, engineer and architect Shannon O’Donnell Janeway. Perhaps this is where I feel closest to Janeway; she too has mentors and heroes that inspire her that she’s imbued with personality and hope, that she uses to get her through tough decisions, and that she believes in. She’s never met them (well, she meets Amelia Earhart, but this is science-fiction, people), but she knows what they’ll say when she needs their advice. She uses their accomplishments to hold up a mirror to her motivations. There’s not much of a difference between the inspiration of an ancestor you’ve never met except through stories, and a fictional hero who dares us to achieve more. When we need heroes that are more than human, we create our own legends to give us strength, and Star Trek is a rich source of hope and mentorship to me.

Captain Janeway, you’re my hero.

Benedict Cumberbatch Lied To Me And Broke My Heart

Ever wondered how Frankenstein’s Creature learned to speak? He listened to an impoverished professor reading aloud and explaining one of the greatest books of the Enlightenment.

Those of you who recently saw the brilliant Frankenstein/Creature role swap done by Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller by the National Theater will remember that De Lacey used Paradise Lost to teach the Creature to read.

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Actually, in Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein, the Creature learned from a book called The Ruins, or Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires, by Constantin François de Chassebœuf, comte de Volney.

I love audiobooks, and I realized that no one has ever done an audiobook of The Ruins! This rich and magical book, a source for art we love and even our own political freedoms, is in danger of being forgotten.

So over the last several months, I have been recording the audiobook of Volney’s greatest work for the first time ever in human history!

I hope you want to learn about the rise and fall of empires the same way that Frankenstein’s Creature did. I need your support to finish the recording, redo some of the first chapters, and get a sound engineer and editor to turn this from digital recordings into an audiobook! Back my project and spread the word, and together we will bring a lost treasure of the Enlightenment to audiobook and to the world!

HELP ME TELL BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH THAT FRANKENSTEIN IS JUST FINE THE WAY IT IS. AND SO IS HE.

Share this project at http://bit.ly/volney!

Manage your time like a boss

I saw an executive coach this last year for a few sessions on time management…or so I thought. I asked him for help managing my stress and time, and he said “Is that really what you’re here for? To manage your stress? That sounds like a depressing personal goal to me.” He was right. I didn’t want to manage my stress, I wanted to be happier and feel like I had all the time in the world. I have a lot of commitments and I get a lot done, and I’m happy with myself and the world, and it’s because I follow three rules that you can use and tailor to yourself.

Revisit your real priorities.

There’s at least one or two things you wish you were doing. In my case, I wasn’t making time for the creative pursuits that let me feel like I’m contributing to culture. I needed to add back in my audiobook recordings, writing, acting, and textile arts. I needed to make time to cook and eat actual meals. I was cramming food into my face while tweeting, and it was unhealthy and counterproductive. Find even one hour a month to sit down quietly and ask yourself this: If I die in 90 days, will I leave something of worth behind me?

Time block and journal.

You should be using tools to run your life that drive positive behavior, not ex post facto documentation of your screwups. In my case, I use calendaring, OmniFocus, and a daily log of how I actually spent my time. You’ll find that when your emails drop to the lowest priority, that you spend only a few minutes on them per day. It’s been quite eye-opening for me to see how I actually spend my day. Most importantly, block out time for yourself to eat, sleep, and exercise. Don’t lie to yourself about having enough time to take care of your body and mind. When you’ve actually blocked out the time for yoga or spinning or rock climbing or whatever you do (and that includes transit and cleanup time!), a half hour each for three meals and a break, and then look at your day, it will become ice clear that you’ve been ignoring yourself and your health. If you have a job that regulates how you work and at what times, I recommend Tim Ferriss’s 4 Hour Workweek for a good lesson on how to manage up to make time for yourself. If you have commitments like PTA or volunteering, do you have those blocked out on your calendar? What about realistic transportation on the bus or in a car back and forth from every single meeting? That’s what I thought. Even if you can’t control your schedule, you can be honest with yourself about what you’ve actually committed to.

Say yes to favors and no to meetings.

I’m often asked if I have an hour for a meeting or 30 minutes for a cup of coffee. The answer is no. When someone says to me “I’d like an hour of your time to [go over this document/meet a friend/talk about my project],” what they’re saying is “I know better than you how your time should be used.” They don’t. What they actually want from me is [a signature/their friend to be introduced to someone I know/me to back them on Kickstarter]. I can give them a yes/no on that favor in seconds or in a 2-minute email, and I’m happy to do so. If they want more face-to-face time, it’s because they want to convince me of something concerning which a 2 paragraph email will be ineffectual–likely because it’s a bad idea or I’m not going to get anything out of the situation. I’ve even had people be subtle enough to think that I’d need extra time to let them down gently if I wasn’t able to do them the favor. I really don’t require the extra time; I wasn’t going to be tactful anyway. I’ll be honest with you, which is my version of respect.

Cowhand up, people; you have one life and so do I. Use it wisely.

Redirect timewaster sites with 3 Chrome extensions

I have a lot of sites that by themselves, aren’t terrible for me. I won’t spend hours on Facebook or Buzzfeed or Twitter or Gawker or Huffington Post…but I have found myself spending hours on Facebook AND Buzzfeed AND Twitter AND Gawker AND Huffpo.

I looked at some helpful productivity extensions, and I like this combination:

1. New Tab Redirect automatically redirects all new tabs to my fitness website instead of showing me my most visited sites in Chrome, which was distracting and sometimes led to Facebooking where none was intended.

2. StayFocusd gives me a time limit for how much time in a day I can spend on a collection of timewaster sites. Here’s my list of sites on which I can only spend 10 COLLECTIVE minutes per day. Yes, this means I have to compose my tweets before I go sit on Hootsuite for an hour mindlessly clicking.

Remove aol.com
Remove buzzfeed.com
Remove cracked.com
Remove dorkly.com
Remove facebook.com
Remove gawker.com
Remove hootsuite.com
Remove huffingtonpost.com
Remove instagram.com
Remove nytimes.com
Remove reddit.com
Remove themuse.com
Remove toofab.com
Remove tumblr.com
Remove twitter.com
Remove zergnet.com

3. After StayFocusd ticks over for the day, trying to go to those sites lands me on a StayFocusd ad page. So, I use Switcheroo Redirector to selectively redirect any URL to another URL. I fed in the StayFocusd ad page and now when I try to mindlessly hit Facebook after the time limit is up for the day, I land on the NOAA astronomy page looking at a current picture of the sky.

Voila!

How to choose a co-founder for your startup

It’s more intimate, in many ways, to have a cofounder of a startup than a spouse. Your cofounder will know more about you than almost anyone else in your life. In fact, your cofounder will know things about you that your friends and spouse don’t even know.

You can and should feel the need to keep some things hidden from your friends when they’re inconvenient or uncomfortable. Fortunately or unfortunately, your cofounder will need to know intimate details about your life, your health, your relationship, and how you chew your food.

Your cofounder will not judge you about the state of your relationship, but they may know much more about it than your close friends do. You may have friends that are little bit flaky, but your cofounder never will be. On days when you can’t handle, your cofounder had better be able to pick up the slack. You will have more close interpersonal time with this person than possibly anyone else in your life for several years. You will know this person’s credit score, you’ll know whether they have food allergies, you’ll know who takes the food in their backpack on long plane flights, and you’ll know who handles the ticketing and hotel accommodations.

You had better be able to handle being in close proximity with this person for hours and days at a time. It’s okay to hide your stress and frustration and mental health issues from your friends. After all, you’re trying to make sure that you still have friends tomorrow. However you cannot ever lie to or even conceal from your cofounder about your mental health or physical health. They will know everything about you.

They’ll know embarrassing things about you. They’ll know your personal issues with your parents and the inside of your relationships. After all, they are there to compensate for your weaknesses, as you are there to compensate for theirs. You’ll have sorted out very quickly which one of you is introverted and which one is extroverted. Possibly you both are one or the other. There cannot be any jealousy between you. After a while, your skill sets will start to diverge from one another. After all, it’s likely that you began having very similar skill sets, which is why you decided to found a startup together.

One of you is going to be more famous than the other one. One of you is going to have to answer customers’ angry phone calls. One of you will spend long and exhausting hours programming. Don’t be jealous of either party; accept your roles in advance.

If you have competing–as opposed to complimentary–goals for the level of publicity and the amount of technical skill that you each wish to acquire over the course of the next several years, you probably shouldn’t be founding a startup with this person.

You each have my permission to whine about the pressures of your position in the startup. You never have my permission to complain about the level of effort that the other person is putting into your startup. The key things that I looked for in my relationship with my startup founder were their work ethic, their discretion, and their complementary skill set. Liz is the only person I’ve ever met who I genuinely believe works harder than me, and she feels the same about me.

I say, sometimes, that Liz is not my friend. In many ways, she is much more than that. I have a much closer relationship with Liz than I do with almost any other person on earth. She and I know a great deal about each other–like our psychological make up, our families, and what we can and cannot tolerate on a daily basis.

My friends cannot tell me to get off the Internet. My friends cannot tell me to go home for the day because I’m done. My friends cannot tell me that I need a vacation, because I won’t believe them. I can do believe and do each of these things when Liz tells me so.

You will often act as a check upon the other person’s stupidity. Liz and I regularly throw each other off the Internet when we’ve been working too hard, and the quality of our labor is slipping. I don’t listen to my husband when he tells me to get off the Internet, but I do listen when Liz does.

Have the deepest respect for the person you’re founding your company with, because you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Now, imagine that your cofounder is 3 out of the 5.

And Liz? I know you stole that burrito.

How to become a web application developer: #TarahTalks in first live broadcast

I am starting a webinar series this Wednesday from 3:30PM-4:00PM Pacific on Google Hangout. The first topic is: How to transition into web application development. I’ll take questions via the Q&A application. The first 15 minutes will be a discussion of how to specialize in web applications and how to be recruited by companies looking for web app developers, with a focus on startups and open source technologies. I’ll then take questions for 15 minutes. I am really looking forward to this!

I’ll be making this an ongoing series. I’ll do one each Wednesday at 3:30PM, and you can find my Google+ page here with upcoming events. Next Wednesday, April 30th, will be How To Get A Startup CEO To Recruit YOU, and May 7th will be How To Recruit A Mentor. You can see upcoming events in the sidebar of my blog here as well. After spending a lot of time helping folks with mentorship and tech, I tend to get asked many of the same questions in different ways. Some of these questions are:

  1. How do I get a tech mentor that actually cares about my career?
  2. How do I transition from college/junior dev status into web application development/front end development/DBA/operations/DevOps?
  3. How do I have an online presence when I don’t feel safe putting my contact information online?
  4. How do I build a brand around myself?
  5. How do I move from programming and hardcore technical work into tech management and executive status?
  6. How do I handle cyberbullying, keep my temper in the face of brogrammer provocation, and stay classy? [I have an opinion on this but possibly haven’t quite managed the ‘staying classy’ bit…]
  7. How do I make recruiters come to me instead of the other way around?

I end up giving the same 15-minute speech repeatedly to the people who ask these questions, and I’m getting pretty glib at it. So, it makes some sense to start making this knowledge available to more people, since folks want to know. In addition, I’ll be able to take questions and interact with more people, and I love efficiency just as much as Seven Of Nine. My YouTube channel is here, with the older Hack The People long seminars and these new webinars.

Beyonce may be ‘The’ Boss, but she’s not ‘a’ boss. I am.

I appreciate the #BanBossy campaign by Beyonce and Sheryl Sandberg a great deal. We know the stories of how Sandberg was called ‘bossy’ by her schoolmates while she was younger, and Beyonce is definitely on a campaign to popularize feminism.

There’s an issue. It’s in this picture here: banbossy-beyonce

I appreciate the spirit behind this message. However, this image and Beyonce’s campaign is making use of the expression “The Boss” as someone who is awesome, cool, in control, and admirable. What we need to get used to is the notion of a woman as **a** boss, not “The Boss,” as if she was Bruce Springsteen. A boss is someone who has power over people, who is a leader, who directs other peoples’ actions, and who makes decisions about hiring and firing. This isn’t what we mean when we say as a compliment that someone “is a boss!” or “did it like a boss!” Instead we’re simply offering a platitude. This is the same meaning that we attach to Beyonce’s statement that she’s “The Boss!”

I have responsibility for the hiring and management of more than 15 people now. I’m a boss. I tell people what to do, and sometimes I’m not popular. I accepted responsibility as a leader, and that means making tough decisions. It’s the part where I direct other people’s actions that makes so many people uncomfortable. That’s the thing Sandberg and Beyonce are trying to make ok, but they’re not coming at the issue directly. Instead, they’re popularizing the removal of the word “bossy” from our lexicon.

The #BanBossy campaign doesn’t tackle the real issue of why women are uncomfortable being bosses. Beyonce writing a blog post or doing an interview in which she explains how she hires and manages her staff both remotely and in person would be a better explanation of actually being a boss. We know Sandberg can handle management; I’d love to see her explain how to direct people’s actions and take ownership of the fact that people sometimes have issues with direction, rather than worrying about the label being applied.

Labels are important. What we call people matters to them and to us. I had a wonderful professor of social and political philosophy when I was at Carroll College doing my undergraduate. His name was Barry Ferst. He made a very specific point of repeating everyone’s names in his class, and working hard to remember how to pronounce them. If people preferred a nickname, he would write it down and remember to call them by their chosen name. When I asked him why he was so careful to pronounce my name “Tare-ah” instead of “Tah-ra”, and for that matter why he bothered to remember everyone’s preferred names in his class, he said to me “It doesn’t hurt me at all to call people what they want to be called, and it makes them happy.” I took that as one of the more important lessons from my academic career.

If women don’t want to be called ‘bossy’, then I’ll avoid that. When you actually **are** a boss, you find you have little time to care if someone is calling you bossy–you’re too busy taking over the world. Show women that the label ‘bossy’ matters less than the act of taking responsibility and leadership. Mentor them and demonstrate what it’s like to make hard choices, to serve a community and your team, and as women accept and seek out leadership roles, the label of “bossy” will fade into much-deserved obscurity.