When New Years Eve rolls around, I like to be at home. Not my apartment back in Rochester, but my home in the sleepy suburbs of Metro Detroit. Every year more and more of my Facebook friends celebrate New Years jet setting to big cities across the globe. Any other part of the year, I would experience a tingle of “FOMO” (fear of missing out). But for New Years, I like to be at home base. Although every year the TV commentators get more annoying, I enjoy watching the count-down and the Times Square ball drop from the comfort of my couch, in the home I grew up in.
It has been 365+ days since the start of 2015. A year ago today, I’m pretty sure I came up with a list of goals I wanted to achieve and experiences I wanted to have in 2015. Looking back, the only thing I can remember from that list is “read more.” I probably should have been more specific because the majority of reading I’ve done in 2015 has been on the Internet. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing — in fact, I think it’s a reflection of the world we live in today.
All the reading coupled with events in my daily life, can be boiled down into three overarching themes:
The measure of an engineer is more than code
I spent most of 2015 inundated with articles about
- The lack of Women in STEM
- The Unfortunate Byproducts “Hacker Culture” has brought to Tech
- The Gender Divide in STEM and Corporate Leadership
Thankfully, 2015 has amazed me by initiatives such as:
- Girls Who Code (and the pledge to hire GWC alumni)
- Goldie Blox (if you didn’t see their latest ad, you’ll have to settle for their backstage one)
- Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls
- Malala Fund (she amazes me every time)
- Barbie’s Imagine the Possibilities Campaign
In 2015, I have directly or indirectly taken on several roles:
- Software Test Developer
- Open Source Contributor
- Project Management
- Technical & Professional Development Mentor for New Hires & Interns
- Intern for an Intellectual Property Review Board
- IBM Patent/Disclosure Writer
- Onsite initiatives leader
- Graphic Design and Content Creator
2015 has given me plenty of opportunities to exercise my engineering abilities beyond software engineering, and beyond code. I have been able to harness my problem solving, technical communication, and even graphic design skills. One of the most valuable skills I picked up in college was “learning on the fly” — and 2015 allowed me to flex that muscle on site. The measure of an engineer is more than code — at the heart of every engineer is a burning desire to learn and solve problems. This is a key facet that I want people to remember in 2016, and beyond.
Looking forward to 2016, I realize that there are going to be several trials and tribulations; for me, for our industry, and for our world. As with most industries, I think STEM related industries are on the cusp of massive change. Now more than ever, it’s critical that we engage in deep learning, and we take control of the narrative.
In 2016, I want to engage in deep learning to understand problems, and solve them beyond the surface level. I want to be able to be an expert in something technical — to know everything about a certain subject inside and out. At the tail end of 2015, I was given the opportunity to work in the Docker open source community — by the end of 2016, I want to be an expert.
In 2016, I’d like to engage in deep learning to solve problems on a global scale related to women in STEM. I want to see a greater push in k-12 STEM initiatives to look beyond coding. And I’d like to shed light on the issues that affect our collegiates in STEM. Most importantly, I’d like to hear the stories of Women at IBM, and I’d to be a part of the force that shares them with all of you; because so far, I’ve met some of the most amazing, kick-ass professional women here at IBM.
“When you meet a woman who is intimidatingly witty, stylish, beautiful, and professionally accomplished, befriend her. Surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look worse by comparison. It makes you better.”
— Ann Friedman
When I started working for IBM, I was the youngest female in my department by at least 10 years. I was probably one of 10 youngest female engineers on site. In May, our team hired a new grad — Kendall. She is incredibly smart, funny, stylish, and hard working. We have a lot in common, most notably, our ambition. Truthfully, my instincts made me view her as a rival when she started. Because she was, as Friedman said, “intimidatingly witty, stylish, beautiful, and [becoming] professionally accomplished.” Attending the SWE annual conference (we15) in Nashville was the wakeup call I needed. Kendall is the work-bff I have been waiting for. Listening to her talk about her goals, and seeing her growth as a technical leader within the OpenStack Cinder project, has been motivating. Seeing her shine technically makes me want to shine too.
Shine Theory is real if you want it to be. Having the smartest, most ambitious, and energetic women in your corner is the biggest confidence boost.It is also the type of confidence that is infectious. In 2016, I’d like to continue to be an advocate and ally for Kendall, and for women like us that are growing their careers at IBM. I’d like to be a better mentor, and I’d like us all to shine together. If you are a future IBMer, a current IBMer, or someone who wants to give Shine Theory a shot, don’t hesitate to reach out.
“I don’t shine if you don’t shine.”
— Aminatou Sow
Together, we’ll shine brighter.
You Control Your Narrative
I spent a lot of time in 2015 doubting myself, and my decisions. Am I cut out to be an engineer? Should I have gone to Silicon Valley to start my career? Am I happy with the position I’m in today? Should I pursue grad school? Reflecting on these questions, I think most of my self-doubt stems from fact that I don’t have a clear vision for my future.
I’ve struggled with writing this post. Between word docs, notebook paper, and sticky notes, I think I’ve come up with 20 distinct versions of this post. They all vary in tone and content, and were shaped by the mood I was in. Most of these drafts served as ways for me to diffuse the self doubt. This version, this final version, is me getting comfortable with the self doubt.
Moving to Silicon Valley or to any other tech hubs would have been excellent start to my career. But considering all the experiences I have had over the last 1.5 years in Rochester Minnesota, I think it’s fair to say if you surround yourself with amazing people, amazing opportunities will be right around the corner.
This past year I
- Attended 3 conferences (SWE Region H, we15, and DockerCon)
- Became a leader of 3 initiatives onsite
- Gave 1 tech talk
- Recruited at my alma mater
- Attended 2 Michigan Home Games (including Jim Harbaugh’s first home game as Head Coach)
- Was nominated to be a part of two global initiatives (1 as an individual, and 1 as a part of a team)
- Was selected to speak at a conference in 2016
I have been able to work with people across the globe. I have gained mentors that have guided me through difficult decisions. And I am a part of a team that supports me in my endeavors, advocates for me, and continues to push me outside my comfort zone. The power of working for a global company is that there is an endless supply of role models, mentors, experts, and friends that are only a few keystrokes away. Thank you for believing in me, and for being the epitome of #squadgoals.
I know that in this moment I’m not sure where I want my career to go. But I know that I’m closer to figuring this out compared to where I was Jan 1st 2015. In 2016, I’d like to boost my creative confidence. I think if I have more opportunities like this — to write, to find my voice, to share my narrative — I’ll be more confident and reassured with the bigger decisions I have to make in the future. I’d also like to document 2016 by taking a photo everyday.
I also know that I have several opportunities with the advent of 2016 that will shape my career moving forward. I’m excited to see where I end up Jan 1st 2017.
Hi 2016. You have big shoes to fill, but I think we are going to have a pretty good time together. I’m looking forward to more memorable moments, building new friendships, and learning more.
Cheers 2016. Thanks for giving me the inspiration I needed to get this post out of my head and onto the screen. Thanks for giving Michigan a well deserved bowl game victory. Looking forward to seeing what’s going to happen next.