thoughtwisps One commit at a time

deference error

I’m going to struggle to write this post, because I wish to remain generic enough to have some semblance of anonymity while also diving into the deeply personal, but I feel the topic if important enough and topical for me at the moment to warrant a few notes.

A long while ago, I had a conversation about my tech career with a line manager and one of the comments that I received was that I was to deferential to my team mates and colleagues (all men, as usual in this line of work). Although most of them were senior to me in title and surely senior in pay, I was still their peer, I was told and so should act that way. I assume this deduction came about because of late, I’ve stopped caring when I’m interrupted in meetings and when my ideas are co-opted and re-hashed as someone else’s. I simply don’t believe it’s worth my very limited time and energy to fight against someone who already believes that I am intrinsically less capable to do my job, because of some external and biological factors.

So these days, instead of vocally being labeled the bitch on the team, I simply let go and peacefully flow along. This act of distancing and letting go and in general accepting that no matter how much I want to be one of those “women-in-tech” eggs that gets thrown at the wall of techbro sexism and general bullshit and survives intact, my shell, after these five years, is wearing kind of thin and I still have the better part of the marathon to run. I can’t be taking many more hits or the pieces are going to start coming off.

And this peaceful coasting had been working well for me until this conversation.

It seemed, for a second, unfathomable to believe a few things. First, that I was apparently performing on the same level as my more senior colleagues, but an actual promotion was still far away in the future. Second, the presence of this ever thinning double-edge that I constantly walk on. Seem too assertive and aggressive and risk being labeled the difficult to work with bitch on the team. Don’t get into debates with people to keep the team spirit peaceful and be labeled too deferential? You just can’t win in this game.

In the past half a year my conviction to continue down this technical career path has become threadbare. I can barely remember why I got into this profession. Oh yes, I liked solving problems, and writing up the solution as small silicon thoughts that I could then run on an auxiliary silicon brain - I mean how cool is that?

But then I realised that being the other on every team would mean that my career would quickly become about bumping into various glass ceilings and navigating the various cracks to see if maybe at some remote point in time when finally I was done proving myself over and over again, I’d finally “make it” and just as these thoughts were crossing my mind, I realised that once I’d “made it”, so what? There would be yet another ceiling and the same thoughts and feelings would be present again.

I’ve written about stepping away from the traditional tech scene - you know, the massive vendor sponsored conferences, the tech t-shirts and endless bucketloads of swag, the conversations where people begin by namedropping the computer they learnt to program on (if it’s not Commodore64 apparently you are not 1337 enough to sit with us at the lunch table) and their first programming language (if it’s not C or Pascal, then what are you even doing in this industry, lol?) to gatekeep the people who they don’t deem “technical enough” - a favourite phrase that gets thrown around all the time - but until now, I’ve still been biding my time, waiting for the last straw on the camel’s back.

I’m stepping away and I’m going to try to remember the person I was five years ago and what were the things I valued and wanted to do. And then maybe, I’ll come back and I’ll create my own version of tech, because after all, the way tech - the industry - is now is not the way it has always been and not the only way for it to be.