Why I (still) do I.T.
UPDATED (because this deserves your attention and thanks to http://blog.izs.me/post/19786163075/sexism-words-and-marketing for summarizing the recent drama with Geekl.st and for the record, the video is disgusting in my opinion.
): This is a little bit of a rant, but with a positive spin. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
I used to be a secretary. Not a very good one mind you, because I was bored to tears. Then the universe gave me a big ol gift of being slammed into by a garbage truck while driving my little Honda Civic down 28th St. in Minneapolis. Now most people wouldn’t see this as a positive and I sure didn’t at first. But here’s the deal. My left hand was broken in about a bazillion places. Not so good for typing eh? I simply had to change careers, or least change jobs. I ultimately landed another admin position but I loved it, I was doing simple admin stuff but not very much typing. I was surrounded by technical people as I have been in most jobs. But somehow this was different. My bosses noticed that I had some talent, some drive and I was progressively given interesting tasks. I was still very young and didn’t know all of the “rules” and kept asking and pushing the envelope. There was excellent diversity and women were welcomed and supported.
Bump in the road
I loved my work but really disliked Minnesota, I couldn’t deal with the cold and the snow any longer. A great opportunity came along to relocate to California to work in their West Coast division. This was it! I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to get there and work with people to do and learn even more. Slam! Reality sets in. Turns out that in this particular company’s west coast division, strong women’s voices in tech were not welcome. I spent nearly three years trying to bring change and improvement to broken processes and make the helpdesk and support desk a FUNCTIONAL and healthy environment. I cut my losses and moved on which is sadly sometimes the only option. There were no mentors, and folks liked you better if you kept the status quo.
The next position I took was really a lateral move, driven primarily from reaching the proverbial glass ceiling. After 4 months of Sarbanes Oxley and helpdesk management, one morning I was sexually harassed by not one but TWO guys at the same time. Devastating. I thought I was strong, I thought I could take it and be okay. Turns out that the company’s “zero tolerance policy” was completely unenforced and I was actually made to feel guilty for what I was wearing on the day in question and the HR director asked me “do you really want these guys to lose their jobs?” Um, perhaps not but serious counseling on the inappropriateness of their behavior and company wide conversations about creating harassment free workplaces. I resigned because I didn’t want to give any more of my precious energy to an obviously broken organization. People ask why I didn’t sue them and my answer is that I have better things to do.
Hmmmm, this could be cool.
During the last few weeks of that icky job, I had been recruited by a company who did IT support for celebrities in their homes. I don’t really care that much about celebs but I was intrigued by the idea of solving problems and the immediate gratification – it’s either fixed or not. I started with the company but after 8 months realized that I while I was a high producer for the company, I wasn’t being compensated for the value I brought. Clients loved me. They did not love the company. They often complained of feeling “ripped off”, overbilled, sneaky tactics, etc.
Today I am the boss.
My ethics are rarely challenged because I won’t tolerate it. I work for clients who value their time, who appreciate the rare woman in I.T. who has top skills but doesn’t need to bring ego to every interaction. I offer them the discretion and privacy they so rarely see in vendors and I pride myself in being easy to do business with. I just love this work; it’s technical, analytical and logical yet I still get to care about people. I hope I can use my skills and position to improve things for women in IT. I am the ÜberGeekGirl!
My message to every woman who is considering I.T., whether sys-admin, programmer, helpdesk. I want you to know that you can enjoy your work, you can be a great tech and you do not have to put up with the abuse that keeps most women out of I.T. You have to say no and stand up to people who would otherwise put you down. It will NOT be easy. You will ridiculed, called out for making trouble and will likely be told to “lighten up”. Your job might be threatened and you might be accused of being a man-hater. Guess what? I adore men. I am the mother of 3 sons and the wife of a computational physicist. I get up everyday and grow my company and support 3 fulltime employees.
There will be days where you just want to stay home. Go ahead, but the next day, get your smart ass out of bed and keep saying YES to yourself, your values and ultimately be a mentor for the next generation. Don’t forget to thank the people who are working hard to make it better because they usually get thrown under the bus.
That’s why I still do I.T. How about you? Comments and questions welcomed!