Tuesdays With Motivation – 21 June 2016: Typing

This past Saturday, I enjoyed the air conditioning and relative quiet of my local Whole Foods Market. It was late morning and the shoppers hadn’t quite all turned out yet.

My laptop was open and I typed away furiously. What was I working on?
I don’t remember now.

My concentration was broken by a Whole Foods employee who emptied the trash cans that were next to where I sat. “Excuse me,” he said, “I don’t mean to bother you. But, do you mind if I ask you a question? It’s a weird question.”

“Sure,” I replied and looked away from my computer. Admittedly, I was a little hesitant, not knowing where this conversation was headed.

The man asked me, “How fast do you type? It looks like you type really fast.”

Not expecting typing to be the weird question he wanted to ask me, I honestly replied that I didn’t know how many words per minute I can type. But, yes, I do type fast.

“I also noticed that you don’t look at the keyboard,” he stated, “How do  you do that?”

I chuckled and thought of  that old joke about getting to Carnegie Hall and replied, “Practice.”

The man went on to tell me that he was trying to teach himself how to type and asked me if I had any pointers. I showed him the keyboard of my laptop and explained which ones are called the “home keys,” and that’s where you rest your hands. I also showed him how the F and J keys have little raised bars on them, so that you remember where to place your pointers fingers to align up correctly with the home keys.

I encouraged him not to give up. I told him typing is a great skill to learn. I let him know that I didn’t always type fast – or accurately – that it comes with time and repetition. I recommended that he visit his local library to see if they have classes, or could provide him with some other assistance. I also mentioned that maybe he check out videos on YouTube to see if they would be helpful. I was at a loss on how to give someone typing instruction – a skill that I’ve had for so long that I don’t even remember when I learned it.

He thanked me for answering his question, and for the suggestions, and smiled.
I wished him luck and smiled back.

That brief exchange really made me reflect on taking something like typing for granted. The digital divide is a growing problem, and the skills that go along with that  – like typing, or keyboarding, whatever you want to call it.

I think I spend a lot of time agonizing about the skills that I don’t have. I need to spend a little time recognizing and being grateful for the skills I do have – and how I can help others to shrink that divide. We all should.

Tuesdays With Motivation – 10 May 2016: Community

Your tribe.
Your peeps.
Your posse.
It’s important to be a part of a professional community.

I give presentations fairly frequently to LIS students and new professionals about networking. Not just creating a network, but sustaining one as well. That’s a good start to get involved with your professional community, but it goes beyond that. To me, it means actually getting involved with a group. That could mean volunteering with a professional association or at a conference. It could also mean engaging with fellow professionals on social media and keeping up with them, whether you’ve ever met them in real life or not.

But, I’m an introvert. Some people whine.
Ain’t nobody got time for that. Shout others.

Groucho Marx famously said, “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.” Some days, I really feel that. I really do. Yeah, sure, it can be exhausting at times. Especially if you are a pathological volunteer like myself and maybe sometimes (only sometimes) take on a little more than you should be handling. (But, you totally think you can do it!)

I’m here to tell you that the benefits of belonging to a professional community, as an active participant, strongly outweigh any of the negatives you are probably going over in your head as you read this. I’ve met people and have had experiences that have made my volunteering very rewarding. It’s still more than that. It’s knowing that you have a whole group of people, maybe even strangers, to use as a sounding board or a resource for questions. It’s that satisfaction of when you Tweet a joke that only you and your professional community of nerds would get, and you see all the likes or favorites pile up in your social media. You know that there’s a group of people out there who get you.

It’s like Google+, that’s still a thing, right? People have different circles. Those circles are all the different communities of which we are a member. Family, friends, neighborhood, etc. To some people, the professional community is one they cast aside as being the least important. To me, that seems like an unhealthy balance.

This has been on my mind lately because we are entering what I call “conference season.” There are a lot of LIS conference coming up in the next few months. These are great opportunities to reconnect with your tribe, your peeps, and your posse. But, don’t let it turn into a “same time, next year” sentiment. Cultivate those professional relationships. If you want to go far in your profession, you should go together with your community.

Tuesdays With Motivation – 29 March: Rejection

Denied. Rebuffed. Turned down. Dismissed. Swipe left.

Rejection. There are many different terms to express it, and none of them feel like a particularly good message to receive.

I’ve seen a lot of stories about rejection just this week. From JK Rowling posting her rejection letters as a way to inspire writers, to a man who made rejection into a game in order to conquer fears, to a woman who had a disappointing encounter with a teen idol. So many tales of rejection cropped up at once, that it got me thinking if there was any social significance. Perhaps this is a wake-up call to a society that is now so accustomed to instant gratification and demanding of recognition. A reminder that, like the Rolling Stones sang, “you can’t always get what you want.” Or, the universe exercising its muscle to remind mere morals of humility.

OK, fine, or maybe it’s a slow news week. Whatever. The theme of rejection is trending right now.

It was hard to read some of those articles. Embracing something negative like being turned down can be difficult to deal with. Whether we’re talking personal or professional life, it’s a straight up bummer.

From my life experiences, I’ve learned that in some instances it is also very hard on the person who is doing the rejecting. For example, I judged a well-respected conference bursary award for the past few years. It’s highly selective and decisions were often made after hours agonizing over who was the best fit for this substantial award. I was very cognizant of how the rejected applicants would feel, and therefore I took my role as judge very seriously. As bitter as some of those people may have been for not receiving that award, I do hope they realized how difficult it was to reject. In some instances, having compassion for the judgement makers can help lessen the blow of a negative result. Sometimes.

The other point that I wanted to make about rejection is that, in my opinion, any good rejection story is going to have some sort of inspirational silver lining. A door shuts, but a window opens – you know, that sort of stuff. That’s the point of it, really, is that life goes on and you need to keep going.

But, wait, aren’t you allowed to have any time to be upset about being rejected?

Oh, hell yes. Once, after receiving some news of rejection myself, I basically shouted through the phone at a friend every expletive I could think of in a nonsensical string of phrases. Well, not *at* that friend. That person was merely a sounding board absorbing my rant of swearing like a sailor for one hour. That’s friendship.

But, afterwards, I got myself together and moved on. I had some compassion for the decision-maker, I had some pity for myself, and then I had a new outlook with a fresh attitude.

You’ll come across rejection many times in your life. So, wash-rinse-repeat.

Don’t let rejection break you. Let it make you.

Tuesdays With Motivation Round-Up: 1Q 2016

As we approach the end of the first quarter of 2016, why not take a look back at all the Tuesdays With Motivation posts that I’ve written so far this year?


Yes, this is a ploy to distract you from the fact that I don’t have an original blog post this week. As of March 29th, there will be 13 Tuesdays in 2016. I have blogged a total of 9 times. That’s 69.23%. Yes, I know that I need to get my average up.

Here’s to a more consistent 2nd quarter!

Tuesdays With Motivation – 15 March: Luck

With St. Patrick’s Day happening later this week, four-leaf clovers and horseshoes abound as decorative symbols of that whole “luck o’ the Irish” thing of legend. Have you ever actually read Irish history? Lucky isn’t exactly the sentiment that I get out of the Emerald Isle. Perseverance and fortitude are more appropriate, but less catchy of a slogan for a lower back tattoo.

But, what does it mean to be lucky in  your professional development or in your career? People may genuinely wish you “good luck” before a job interview or “good luck” on  your first day at work. Is it really luck that you need?

No. I’d say that it’s opportunity that you need. More specifically, the ability to recognize opportunity. Then, converting that opportunity into an advantage for yourself. If executed seamlessly, it looks like luck. Ta-da! *jazz hands*

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone wrote this great piece for the Harvard Business Review about creating opportunity for yourself:

I believe that you have to be the architect of the circumstances—that opportunity is something you manufacture, not something you wait for. 

I’m not saying that it’s easy. It’s not. It’s work. But, it’s work that may come easier to some than others. You need to be perceptive. Be able to read a situation and analyze it. You are simply problem-solving, with the end result being a positive result for yourself.

*slippery slope klaxon*  OK, I know what some of you are thinking. You may find yourself in a situation where taking advantage of an opportunity may also be an ethical quandary. Let me give you an example from a legal ethics class I took many moons ago. We were sent a PDF via e-mail as a part of a class exercise. We were instructed to open the PDF and found that parts of it had been redacted. Ever the over-achieving student, I quickly figured out that the information was not blacked out properly. Just a few clicks of my mouse uncovered all the information that wasn’t supposed to have been seen. Thus began our class conversation of whether or not it was ethical for someone to read that information, when the intention was clear that it was not to be read. Oh, and I do have a point. (1) That I just like telling this story because of how quickly I figured out the redaction wasn’t done properly in the PDF and (2) Yes, Virginia, you may have to wrestle with your conscience every once in a while when presented with an opportunity. But, let’s leave ethics for another blog post.

Back to creating your own luck through capitalizing on opportunities. What does that look like in the real working world?
It could mean having your elevator pitch or reference interview questions at the ready. When you come across that C-Suite person from your organization, you can make an impression on that person about how your professional skills can help with achieving his or her own goals.
It could also mean applying for scholarships, grants, or bursaries to attend a professional conference or to win an award, and reaching out to past winners to get advice and tips from them or just reading past winning submissions. Something that other applicants are probably not doing.
Or, it could just mean cultivating your professional network like a garden by helping to connect others and just being active in offering help or suggestions. Having good things come around to you that way could just be karma. But, whatever you want to call it, it just helps you in the end.

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. – Seneca

May your pockets be heavy and  your heart be light.
May good luck opportunities pursue you each morning and night.

Tuesdays With Motivation – 8 March 2016: Passion

Passion. No, not the NSFW kind of passion. Nor the kind of passion one may reserve for enjoying a favorite kind of gelato. Nope, not passion fruit.

The passion you have — or, should have — for your work, your job, your career and your professional development.

On my flight home from the RSA Conference, I listened to this podcast episode about how you should bring passion to work with you, as opposed to blindly following passion and maybe suffering because of it along the way. It is an information security-centric podcast, but I think the lessons they discuss are applicable to all. So, if you are not a tech-y kind of person, just let those references go over your head and concentrate on what the podcasters say about passion and work.

If you are in a rut or just hate your job, you may scoff at this idea of having passion. There are plenty of articles that can help you do little things to adjust your thinking and hopefully ignite some fire within  you to bring flames of passion to what you are presently doing. It could also start you on a path to bring about passion to change where you are give you something to works towards. (Ahem, uh, like I did about a month ago.)

Give this podcast episode a listen and understand what it means to bring passion to your work and how it will help you professionally in the long run.

PVCSEC 56: Bring Passion to Your Work, Don’t Follow It

PVCSEC = Passion, Vision, Communication (& Execution) in Leadership & Security Podcast. The four hosts, and occasional guests, discuss topics about information security and professional topics in general. Follow them on Twitter @PVCSEC.

Tuesdays With Motivation – 1 March 2016: Ask

Greetings from San Francisco! I am here this week to attend both the BSidesSF and RSA conferences. If you have been following my blog, you know that I decided to make a tech-centric information security pivot in my career. I didn’t make this career change because I already know everything about tech or security. I did it because I want to learn more. I am learning a lot while I’m here. It’s overwhelming at times, for sure, but exhilarating.

You want to know the key to me having the time of my life here, versus being in the fetal position in a corner because I don’t understand what’s going on? Asking questions.

You know the expression, “There’s no such thing as a dumb question?” I think that needs to be refined. We need something more positive like, “It’s ok to ask questions, it’s how you learn!” Or, “People want to help you, let them know by asking questions!”

I give the information security community lots of credit for being so receptive to my questions and helping me. This might not be true for all industries, but it should be. From friends that I have known for a long time who are skilled in this field, to strangers on Twitter whose real names I don’t even know, I feel comfortable asking them questions in order to learn.

Lose your inhibitions to asking questions.

I like to say that what I currently lack in tech and security knowledge, I make up for with enthusiasm and interest and an honest attempt at learning — and I embrace it. I feel like Alice in Cybersecurity Wonderland. I am confident and uninhibited when I ask questions like: Who are you? What’s that? How does this work? Should I drink this?

I know what you are thinking. What if you meet up with a Queen of Hearts who shouts, “Off with their heads!” when you ask a question?  Smile as wide as the Cheshire Cat and say, “I’m just asking a question.” Then, walk away because you’re late for tea.

Live in wonderment. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The people answering your questions could be the ones to open doors, or rabbit holes, to you and whatever fulfillment you are seeking.

Tuesdays With Motivation – 23 February 2016: Assertive

I attended a tech job fair last week. Not to actually job hunt, per se. I was there for professional networking reasons, since I recently started my own business. I was also there because I knew that a friend of mine would be in attendance, and it was an easy way to meet up with her. Two things, by the way, that are important and that you should always make time for — professional networking and reconnecting with friends or acquaintances. 

When my friend and I spotted a company we both wanted to speak to, we headed to their table. I noticed a woman, in a suit with resume in hand, standing just far enough away from the table that I wasn’t sure if she was waiting to talk to them or not. “Excuse me,” I said, pointing, “Are you waiting to talk to this company here?” She replied that she was, and had been waiting a while. Always trying to be the problem-solver, I suggested that perhaps she was too far away and that the company didn’t know she was waiting to talk to them. She dismissed my idea and said that she wanted to be polite and give the people already at the table room and privacy.

That was a beautiful and admirable statement she made. But, it was a job fair. Basically, the Hunger Games of employment.

My friend and I stood with this well-mannered job seeker and chatted with her for a few minutes. All the while, my Katniss urges of survival were bubbling to the surface. Once again, in the vein of being helpful, I suggested to this woman that if she didn’t move closer, that someone else could cut in front of her. I also reminded her how long she said she had been waiting. She still disregarded my suggestion and stayed put. Frustrated, I stopped chatting with her and we stood in silence in an oddly-formed queue at a weird distance from the vendor we all wanted to see.

Within a blink of an eye, there was turnover at the table. A man appeared from out of nowhere and stepped right up to the vendor, bypassing all three women standing in line waiting.

I turned to my friend and said, “We just experienced what happens to women in tech, or in any work environment — we get ignored or bypassed. I mean, we were just literally cut in front of.” Now, I’m not trying to make a villain out of the man who made his way to the table before us. But, the symbolism of it all was hard to ignore. I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t realize there was a line. I will, however, remain annoyed at the vendor representatives who really should have had some better crowd control skills. By “crowd” I mean three women standing in an ill-conceived and albeit awkward queue.

The mild-mannered job seeker then stood there, mouth agape and incredulous that her strategy of giving way-too-much personal space didn’t work out the way she had envisioned. Frustrated, I leaned closer to her and through somewhat gritted teeth said, “You need to just go up to that table now and join a conversation in progress, or you will be standing here all night.”

I didn’t do that to be mean to her. If I wanted to have been mean, I would have bypassed her myself. I wanted her to step up. To be assertive.

That’s assertive, not aggressive. Don’t confuse the two. Very different. While there may be times when aggressive behavior is warranted, this wasn’t one of those times.

You can still have manners and be polite, while being assertive. They are not mutually exclusive.

It’s not always going to be easy. For example, read this article about how “For Women, ‘Assertive’ Still Means ‘Mean.'”

As they say, pick your battles. Step up when you need to. Be assertive in a situation where you might otherwise find yourself to be a shrinking violet. Don’t keep standing around, waiting for things to come to you when they may literally be only a few feet away.

If you are looking for a job, read “3 Ways to Surviving the Job Hunt, from The Hunger Games.”

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Tuesdays With Motivation – 16 February 2016: Swift

Swift, as in Taylor. I honestly don’t know that much about Taylor Swift or her music. I know that she’s originally from Pennsylvania, and like to take some Keystone State pride in that. I’m familiar with most of her big hit songs, but don’t know any deep cuts. I guess what I know the most about her is how, to me, I think she seems like a good role model for young women. I would be devastated if it were to be revealed to have been smoke and mirrors this whole time. But, I have faith that she seems genuine and she puts forth a positive message.

For this week, Taylor Swift is my motivation and she should be yours as well.

Tonight at the Grammy Awards show, she accepted the Album of the Year honor with a few words that were a not-so-veiled retort to Kanye West lyrics about her.

…there are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame. But if you just focus on the work, and you don’t let those people sidetrack you, some day when you get where you’re going, you will look around and know it is you and the people who love you who put you there.

Her words immediately made me think of both women in the tech industry as well as the female library & information science students and new professionals I know. Just this week, results of a study have been circulating in which computer code written by females is considered to be superior — unless the gender of the coder is revealed to be a woman. (As an aside, I’d love to see a female coder use the name George Sand and see who gets the reference.) There is also the article from January of this year in which it was reported that 60% of women working in Silicon Valley experience harassment. Hell, Beyonce received harsh criticism from many over her new song/video “Formation.” The woman danced in heels on a torn-up football field and managed to save herself from falling on stageand made both look easy. Women can’t catch a break.

But, I digress.

Sadly, Taylor Swift is correct that, yes, haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.

The Harvard Business Review wrote about a study of how women get less credit for teamwork.

Whether you are a solo or in a group, you will be marginalized if you’re female. But, don’t despair, my Millennial and whatever-comes-after-them friends. Be prepared with this knowledge. Call people out on it. My advice is for you to pick a strong female as your touchstone to get you through those discouraging times you may come across if someone takes credit for your ideas or  you are overlooked because of your gender.

Whether it’s Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Sheryl Sandberg, Joan from “Mad Men,” or your mother, have some #SquadGoals of strong women in your arsenal for inspiration … then, go set the world on fire.

Tuesdays With Motivation – 2 February 2016: Changes

For those of you paying attention, I did indeed miss a “Tuesdays With Motivation” entry last week. But, it was for a good reason. I was very busy launching my new business, Sherpa Intelligence LLCYour guide up a mountain of information.

This is a huge change for me. It means leaving the comfort of a good job I’ve had for 7 and a half years with a great employer. I will be an independent information professional and carving out my new path. The reception I received from my librarian colleagues when I made my announcement has been full of excitement and encouragement. Some of them even calling me or messaging me privately to tell me how brave I am, that they would never have the courage to make such a dramatic change in their lives.

Making this leap didn’t seem so scary after I thought it through. I took a long, hard look at the state of my profession, my industry, and my own needs. Then, I wondered what took me so long.

I still don’t know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
And every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet

What I previously thought was making me happy professionally, just wasn’t anymore. Then, a combination of planning, hard work, support, luck and networking brought me to the day that I made my resignation official.

Change must be contagious. Among those messages of support from friends, colleagues and acquaintances have also been statements about the changes they now felt empowered to make in their own lives. I’m happy to be a catalyst for positive change in other people’s lives, even though that was never my intention.

You still have eleven months left in 2016. Do you want to keep your course, or is there a change you’d like to make?

I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence and
So the days float through my eyes

Of course, I don’t mean any disrespect by chopping apart the lyrics to “Changes,” but these passage speak to me with their own meaning.

Find your change, or ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.

As for me and my new professional endeavor? Well, David Bowie said it best, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”