Dolores peacock costume
Few months ago I wrote some thoughts I felt important to share with girls in tech. It was about killing usual culture, that refrains some girls (but also boys), from being free and natural at work, like feeling miserable or sorry for no reason. I now realize that part of girls (and boys) success in tech, is also about promoting correctly their achievement, realization, contribution. This may be a general worker problem, not a gender problem, but it seems to me that girls tend to forget more that special part of our job : promoting our success. This stroke me when I heard a colleague of mine commenting after a presentation I gave on a successful project ‘Well, Virginie, wonderful, that was clear and understandable, as usual, thanks you so much’. I did not have the feeling that I was outstanding, I just made my job. But I just got from that remark that promoting my work was beneficial for me and for the project. But the key is to do it efficiently.
What does it mean to promote efficiently ? It means building a message, adapted to your audience. A message, that will not get them lost, and overload them with inappropriate details. Of course it depends on the context, audience, and topic. Working on technology innovation scouting, meeting lots of people and companies and having to report different aspects, from market to strategy and technology, I had to think about my own classification on what to say to whom, and when. That classification might not be universal, but you can get the principles, depending on the context. Here it is.
But first. Never ever. Whatever is the situation, never ever get into the direction of sexist joke and naked girls (or boys), footbalistic analogy, Apple and Google systematic reference. This is forbidden – if your plan is to stay credible. While this may be the easiest way to have people with you, this is simplistic. And by avoiding reproducing that simplistic view of the world, you do not really miss anything, you just show you worth more then that.
Jump on opportunities. You meet the right person in the corridor, you need her or his advice, don’t miss it. Target one sentence and one smile. That is teasing time. You’ll have to say what is stake, which solution you believe you should go and make your request. Then smile and be silent to get an answer. Note for weird people : I am not talking about hot seduction attitude here, but just staying tuned, kindly.
The people agreed to meet you and you have time. It’s serious stuff, here, you are consuming time from some people. They have to know why you are here, what you are talking about. And to do so, I recommend to stay high level, talk strategy, express the key notions, expose the frictions, list the market actors and suggest solutions. And, because, you need to keep them happy with you, you can make jokes (aka, be relax and smart, alright, not making bad bar jokes). You must keep some time for concluding, making sure everyone agrees on the solution (action plan, next steps, …). That is normal communication rule. But (and that is the key point). During all this interaction. You should say ‘we’, when it was a team work and say ‘I’, when it was your own work. Don’t dilute your contribution, be transparent-cristal-clear about it. That is key to value your work.
You are on stage, in a conference. You may not have anything to learn from me if you already made the decision to be on stage. The only recommendation I would give is : build your talk like a story. You need a ‘fil rouge’, you need little anecdotes, you need surprise (taddaaaaaa, here is my program, wouaou, here is my design…). For the others. And if you are just thinking about applying for a conference talk, I would say that you should not hesitate anymore. Conferences are key event to force you to be synthetic and clear. This will give positive visibility to your project. And conference organizer will make their best to help you to be good on stage (it is their interest). Finally, you will be able to re-use your talk elsewhere. You just need to find the right conference, with the right audience.
You need to talk about your work, but... I know you want everyone to know that while going go from SuperProduct v1.3 to HyperProduct v1.4, you made some choices, you managed some shit, you were about to be killed by 2 engineers, and had to dance with your enemy, but… lets admit that, sharing those details in a decision meeting, or while reporting about your project success will not help you. You are professional, you are managing correctly your tasks and making decisions. That is why you are getting paid. But the good news is that you will have to leave evidence of your work. Digital archive, for voluntary and curious colleagues, or to have it somewhere for later reference. In this archive, you can play with all the secret details of your work. You can use your every days professional life vocabulary and habits. Acronyms, architecture, references to geek literature, bugs number, product version, test suite, clickable urls, little stories of your battles, multi-bullet points slides, matrix (with titles), text with different policies for super cool effects, resource planning, exhaustive list of participants, detailed figures… And this is the only place where you should play that game of entering into the boring details. Right ? Unless someone weird ask you detailed questions about it…
My 2 cents, hoping it will make you going out and showing your technical work to the world…