Many interesting women I know are incredible geeks, and many interesting geeks I know are incredible women! But then, I may be biased, cuz I’m a girl, and yes, I’m a geek too!
The truth shall set you free!
What solidified the fact that I am, indeed, a geek was my first invitation to a Saskatoon Girl Geek Dinner. That was it! I had no choice but to acknowledge my long-denied nerddom. I missed SGGD’s first meetup, but I have attended every Saskatoon Girl Geek Dinner since.
Last Tuesday, Saskatoon’s Girl Geek Dinners held its 4th event since its local inception in early summer, 2008. The dinner was held at Zu’s stylin’ new digs on Pacific Avenue. They were awesome hosts!
Organized by Melanie Cey, Brittany Melnyk and Devon McGeary, the GGD agenda included dinner, a presentation, a workshop, and an impromptu tour of Zu’s new facility.
The turnout was great! Not surprisingly, the ratio of women to men was a complete reversal of what we see in the workplace. Instead of 30:1 men to women, the ratio was 1:30+ men to women.
“I love my team, but…”
After dinner and socializing, Melanie got the program started by explaining the Girl Geek Dinner concept to attendees. You can read about GGD here. Essentially, Melanie acknowledged that working in a still male-dominated field of study offers few or no female role models within the workplace. Let’s face it: sometimes men and women exist on different planes and as a result life can be frustrating. But we don’t want to give up, fellas… we love what we do! and we want to keep doing it for as long as it makes us happy.
Ginger Koolick spoke to the group on becoming a consultant. While outlining logistical processes of becoming self-employed, Ginger’s story had a notably female voice, and included not just business sense, but personal philosophy for leading a fulfilling life. It was interesting to hear that despite the sudden nature of her decision to go into business for herself, Ginger actually assembled a comprehensive business plan. I hope in the future she returns to the group to present retrospectives on her initial plan.
Flexing our Agile muscles…
Devon McGeary ended the presentation layer of our event with a hands-on exercise called “Blitz Planning”, an exercise which many of us at Point2 (if not all of us) have participated in to some degree within the past few months. In a nutshell, the session emphasized a quick and collaborative approach to building a project’s stories and tasks, illustrating and revealing sequences, dependencies, moving parts, and necessary expertise. (I know I’m omitting objectives, so if the idea sounds interesting, you should read up on it starting here.)
Just before the evening ended, Zu gals gave us tours of their newly renovated space on Pacific Avenue. It is a beautiful old building, and the decor is fresh and groovy. And truly, who wouldn’t love a fireplace in their lunchroom!!!
The story has yet to be written… GGDs are cooperatives which focus on science and technology, and of course, women working in those fields. The Saskatoon chapter is new and growing, and certainly, there are many women (and men) who have much to offer the Saskatoon Girl Geek Dinner community. Maybe you are one of them??
By: Karen Martens
Key ingredients to success and career growth, at least the two on my mind right now, are focus and determination. Why are these things important? I’ll tell you why, because when most people are asked how to be successful, focus and determination will probably slip off their tongue, however if you were to actually observe them at work and in their personal life, you would most likely see a lack of one or both of these.
Lets start with determination as it seems more obvious. Determination isn’t really something in and of itself, it’s more of a measurement of what lengths you are willing to go to in order to achieve your goals. So being very determined to accomplish something really just means you are willing to do certain things to get there, which usually will consist of things like:
- Looking for teaching/coaching
- Anything else that makes sense.
Many people may say they are determined to accomplish something, but what they really mean is they really wish they could just wake up tomorrow and be at their destination. That’s an exaggeration for most people, but for many it’s somewhere between that and what’s actually required to reach their goals.
Focus on the other hand is something that most people probably don’t think about enough. Determination by itself is not good enough. The problem is that when your goals are to become an expert at anything, no matter how determined you are you won’t be able to accomplish that goal without focusing on it. You’ll need to cut out distractions, and stop trying to focus on improving skills that are not related to the skill you wish to be an expert at. There is an old saying you’ve probably heard before “Jack of all trades, master of none”. It’s relevant in all industries, and IT trades are definitely no exception. I’d say it may be worse in IT but that wouldn’t really be an informed opinion so i won’t make any bets on it.
So, if you take my word for it, lack of focus will result in a jack of all trades. To be more specific, a lack of refocusing will result in a jack of all trades. The reason for that is because at the beginning of your career you won’t know what you want to focus on besides becoming a better developer, business analyst, sys admin etc. Sticking to the development track because it’s what I’m most familiar with, you’ll initially need to focus on how programming works, basic skills related to the industry, and probably try to get a basic level of knowledge on as many things as possible.
So now you’re done school and ready for your first job. You start out by soaking up as much information as possible, learning everything you can. You learn about things like object oriented design, service oriented architecture, domain driven design, database design and performance tuning etc.
Skip forward 3 or 4 years, you’re quite competent in every aspect of your job, you’re a go to guy for your team, you can become competent at a new skill in short order at the drop of a dime. You have basically reached the epitome of most peoples career – broad competence with the ability to pick up new basic skills quickly.
Now you’re faced with the decision everybody in the industry runs up against, and most people don’t even realize it. Do I want to keep getting better, and if so, how? The answer to the first question is a factor of determination. How much are you willing to do in order to keep getting better? The answer to the second question is focus. Up until now in your career you’ve enjoyed getting better at everything, making constant improvement in everything. Bad news – that’s not going to last forever. You’re going to have to pick a skill, or subset of skills and focus on improving those skills. The side effect of this is that you’re going to have to “defocus” on all skills not related to the ones you’ve chosen to focus on. It’s a large hurdle for most people to jump because it’s easy to understand but hard to accept and work with.
This will be a turning point in your career. You’ll either accept the hurdle and jump over it, taking a turn down the road to becoming highly skilled in narrowly focused areas, or else you can understand the hurdle but not choose to jump it (lack of determination) and decide to take the easy path which unfortunately leads to the dead end of being average, the jack of all trades trap.
So to sum up the thought, you’re going to continue to refocus your skills throughout your career. Every so often you will zoom in on a new area that you’ll specialize in. Once you have reached a certain level in those skills you’ll zoom in your focus again on yet another area to become more specialized in. Only you can decide when you’ve focused enough. The less focused you are the more skills you’ll be able to maintain a specific skill level at, at the expense of increasing that skill level. At some point the only way to increase skill in some area you’re interested in will be to defocus on another skill and allow your ability in that area to lapse.
Focus and determination. How determined are you to reach your goals? Determined enough to allow your skills in something you used to be good at to lapse? Willing to not be the go to guy for a laundry list of skills? How many are you willing to drop, how much are you willing to work at the ones you’re going to focus on? Keep asking yourself this question, it will play a key role in your career development.
By: Chris Dagenais