trampolines | the art of giving (up)

As I often complain to those who listen, making a functional, reliable, cost-effective product at scale isn’t the same as making an overly expensive, replaceable piece of hand-bling. It takes a great deal of good management and luck to bring teams who make the second to  be successful at the first. The organization I work for went on yet another predictably despondent set of top-down decision making sprees.  Someone tried to justify it in a meeting. Sounded like one of those starry-eyed kids high on kool-aid, stupidity and/or denial. Seeing beyond what is, to what will-be, is a skill that most of my colleagues avoid with alacrity.  Perhaps it is born of the nature of the industry. Perhaps it arises from the nature of the geopolitical circumstances and uncertainty. I am tiring of the gullibility and the denial though. I have exhausted my reserves of sympathy, and now I feel it is time to make stricter budgeting of my resources.

As always, one of my specific concerns revolves around how being a woman makes me a target for stupidity, ranging from newer technical members talking down and dumbing down things for me, silly attempts by those who arrange activities to make me feel ‘included’, and the constant apologies that happen when others swear or make lewd, workplace inappropriate jokes or comments about the sexual characteristics or cognitive abilities of women. All of the attempts to make me feel welcome are well-intentioned, perhaps, and I like to believe so. Yet why then do they lapse into comfortable defaults when they feel they are threatened? Raising voices  in a technical discussion, outright physical looming over me, arguments that veer from the professional concern at hand to personal remarks – more of the same old, regardless of company. There are indeed niceties as long as there is some understanding and common ground about always ceding to male technical or decision making authority.  I am hardly reactive, or argumentative, so at least I have managed to escape so far the all too common war stories I have heard about female colleagues being called unreasonable, temperamental or psychotic.

I was offered random encouragement about how a female superior enables me, by simply being female. I found it a crude and erroneous comment – we have nothing in common, and I am quite grateful for that. I have learned tips about how to do things from her and I admire her tenacity and will, but mostly I have learned a great deal about how not to do things. At the large meeting today, men were interrupting at will, and cutting me off whenever I tried to ask questions or raise concerns. There was no intervention from the female superior who works hard to portray herself as the role model for anyone in need of role models – she clearly has to work harder at being a role model, if she wants to be any good at it.  Her whole message was that the new set of changes being implemented will enable her to be an asshole to other groups, to pressure them to deliver. I don’t think being an asshole is what coaxes others to deliver, and it frightens me that there are people who believe it does. Charisma coupled with assholery, maybe. Just wearing a turtleneck and being an asshole is unlikely to cut it. I was watching kids play on trampolines. Trampolines always made me motion-sick. Now I feel I am on a trampoline, and it isn’t fun.

(there are positive things, and they will be here on another day – today, though, is for whining and hot chocolate)