This is suppose to be an inspirational piece about being in tech while being female and māori. Ooops….oh well.
These are three stories that have stuck with me in over a 15 years of tech. There are more but I haven’t got enough Kahlua left to handle the pouri.
These stories stuck because I was never sure, why they occurred and truthfully I didn’t want to know. Knowing would mean fighting or at least correcting and acknowledging that people see not what I am capable of, not the talent, the time or the care that I put into my love for technology but the stupidly ridiculous notion that my abilities are somehow tied to my race and gender.
— — — — —
“You’re not a geek!” He spat through his screwed up face.
I’ve been called a fair few things in my lifetime, but being denied that title, really fucking hurt, I’d worked hard for it.
“Yes she is! I taught her how to use netcat this morning!”
I was and will always be eternally grateful to Mike. He always took the time to explain, to show, to fix up the things I had accidentally broken. Even the hard stuff like Java, he tried, to ensure I had at least a basic understanding of how it works.
CT was my big break, my first real honest to god, paid job in a Information Technology company. The pay was utter shit, but my title was “Web Design Specialist” and I had business cards! The boss let me choose my own title, probably in lieu of money and I had the bestest bestest Squad evaaaa. I still miss them to this day.
1. Surround yourself with people who see your abilities and your potential.
In about 2005ish I had to apply for the Unemployment benefit, I had been made redundant. In my mind, it was just the way it goes and I figured that this was just to tide me over until I could pick up another job as there was no payout.
This was also around the time that Work and Income started assigning work brokers who tried to get you interviews for jobs. Now don’t get me wrong, it was a work broker that got me my first job at CT, I love these people. They do good work. Just not this one.
“Well, you’re not going to get another IT job, I mean look at you.”
I remember squashing down the hurt and the sharp retort about what the hell I looked like. I actually think it was because I didn’t want to know if that comment was because I’m a woman, māori or not pretty enough.
I remember scrambling to push myself to be nice, a choking spikey feeling. He was trying to help, he didn’t know me, he obviously hadn’t read my CV. So I pointed out that I had 3 years experience.
“I know it says you can HTML and you have experience but seriously, you won’t get back in again. I have a nice role in a lovely hotel as a receptionist, you can still do computers.”
2. Don’t underestimate the importance of anger. Anger is the fire that tempers the beautiful hardness of resilience and determination.
I’ve been pig headed since day 1 but after the redundancy and then working up the courage to go to Work and Income, to be told this, I most definitely wobbled and thought about applying.
But then old faithful kicked in and started kicking and swearing in my head and I did what I do anytime someone tells me that I can’t do a thing. I hammered at the problem until I get the desired result.
2 weeks later I had a job offer at MSD… oh the irony and Work and Income called to ask if I would do an interview on how having a Work Broker helped me get a job. Sometimes the Universe just laughs her ass off at me.
3. You can out work anyone and any problem, I have learnt this over and over again. Engari, kia tupato e hoa ma, too much can lead to burnout.
Last thing, not so much a story as a learning.
There is such a thing as the Angry Brown woman stereotype and I overcompensate for it by smiling alot, by giving way, not speaking up, nodding and smiling, saying “Oh but don’t you think?..”, “Shouldn’t we..”.
4. Well fuck that, decisions come faster and clearer when there is less bullshit.
5.Stop softening yourself. You cannot be your best you, if you are always worried about what others think.
So point out the flaw, let your annoyance show, take over the whiteboard and tap loudly at your diagram, raise your voice! Show your passion for your work and the fact that you really REALLY give a fuck!
If you are in a workplace that won’t allow you to be who you are or you have encountered situations that make you have that choking spikey feeling. Reach out, find support, talk to others and find your people, there is strength in numbers.
If you’re in Wellington New Zealand, reach out to me and let’s find you another job.