I’ve always held that you can’t judge people by appearance. I also lament the dearth of women in engineering (and STEM in general). Here’s a little anecdote:
On a recent flight back from San Diego (for work), I sat next to two young blonde women. They were both remarkably pretty. If I were to broadly characterize them by their appearance (which I am loathe to do, but am trying to prove a point here): The one farther away (seat F) had a girl-next-door sort of look; the one closer to me (seat E) had a college-sorority look. (I had the aisle seat: seat D.)
As people boarded, I overheard snippets of banter from the two women about plans for the weekend and possibly a popular musician.
I started a conversation the way I start every conversation on a plane: “How are you today?” And the young lady closer to me smiled and said she’s doing great. I asked if they were going home, and she said they were on business.
I asked what it is that she does. We talked for a while, and I learned that they work for Abbott Labs. They are in a rotation plan that lasts 2 years, and each rotation lasts 6 months. She had done a few rotations, and one of them was in Chicago. They are both currently assigned to a location 45 minutes away from San Diego.
What struck me here is that this is how things used to be at Motorola (well, sort of—a better example is Intel). I was happy to hear of a company that still invests so much into young talent. That it’s a Chicago company was a nice bonus.
I asked what they do for Abbott, and they are both engineers. I asked if this was chemical and they said biomedical. Abbott basically spun off their pharma business as AbbVie and retained medical devices.
As we took off and I looked along the coast, I asked whether they worked north or south of San Diego. The young lady closer to me said north, ’cause 45 minutes south would be Mexico. I smiled at my obvious error.
For most of the flight, I put my headphones on as they talked amongst themselves. They were clearly traveling together, and I didn’t want to be an interloper. Plus, I had a Runner’s World to read and statistical data to pore over for work.
Closer to Chicago, I heard them talk about restaurants. I asked if they wanted a recommendation. The young lady closer to me reminded me that she had lived in Chicago and she knows the area. I took this rebuke to mean that they prefer to converse amongst themselves, and so I went back to reading the WSJ that I grabbed from the hotel. (I tend to be on the chattier end of things and have to watch it—especially with strangers.) I smiled and suggested that maybe she should give me a recommendation, seeing as how I don’t get out much.
Finally, near the end of the flight (when they were both quiet and seemingly bored), I asked where they went to school. They had both gone to Cal-Poly (the good one ’cause there are apparently two). I asked where they want to be when they’ve finished the rotation program. They both wanted to move to the Bay area when their rotations were over. The young lady closer to me reminded me that she was almost done with the rotation program.
They both agreed that Northern California was Better. (As a people-pleaser I said how Northern California is nice because it is cooler and that’s good for running—but honestly, I don’t have a preference.) The young lady farther from me talked about how in Northern California, they say “Hella”. Like, “Hella-fun day.” But they don’t say that in Southern California.
At the end of the flight, I told them it was nice to meet them and I hope they have a good time this week in Chicago. I said, “Would that be a hella-good time?” They young lady farther from me laughed and said that I got it. The young lady closer to me smiled and said that I don’t have to say “hella”; she’s from Northern California and she doesn’t.
So, here’s why I’m bothering to write about this particular conversation: I was absolutely delighted that the young lady closer to me acted like almost every other engineer I have met—correcting factual mistakes when dealing with people. Because if you don’t correct people, they will veer off in the wrong direction. And Bad Things will happen.
It made me feel glad that I had evidence for something I’ve long held—that there’s no inherent difference between men and women. And you can’t judge people by the way they look. And you can only know someone by interacting with him/her.
And at some point in the past, these young ladies would have been encouraged to be pharma reps, not engineers. (I do not suggest that being an engineer is necessarily better than being in sales—I do suggest that having more career options is better.)
Well done, America.
I’m like dynamite. I need a cheerleader.
I went for my first outdoor run in a long while. I still have some deadlines at work (mid-April), but I got over one hump this week.
And everyone was actually encouraging me to leave at 4, especially after I advertised it all day.
So at 4, I left. I didn’t want to immediately–there’s that usual fear of cold or being out of shape–I went for a run outside. I ran to downtown Dundee and back. All in all, it took an hour.
I listened to The Fault in our Stars, and finished it on my way back.
I then got to work on some computer chores, and did that until the family came home.
I haven’t seen much of the family this week, despite it being Spring Break. It was a nice afternoon and a nice evening.
Since last time:
Got a friend’s lunch cards automated (8th grade hot lunch) and printed them out for her.
Went to a memorial service for my wife’s uncle.
That same day worked from home and increased the bandwidth of a bias loop by about 10x.
Gave some coworkers some info they needed.
Unfortunately, got sick but luckily Monday was a day off.
Since the last time:
- Helped my wife at Cub Scout Sunday
- Got an eye exam (my eyes got a bit worse this past year–I think not running has an influence)
- Bought new phones for the house
- Co-Ran Monday pizza hot lunch
- Got kids to bed and up in the morning for the two nights/days that my wife was at Manager Tools
- Ordered new checks
- Set up my friend Scott to ride the lead bike in the Irish Jig Jog (which means I can now run it–and you should too)
- Went to First Communion meeting for my youngest child
- Upgraded my cable modem to DOCSIS 3.0 (with 50% faster connection rates & IPv6: before & after)
- Finished “David and Goliath” (Malcolm Gladwell) and finished “Highway 61 Revisited” (Mark Polizzotti)
- Started “Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter
- Ran once (indoors for 50 minutes), Friday of the week before
Stuff I did or that happened since January 17th. Man I’ve been busy! Read the rest of this entry »
This song came on my playlist today.
Really too late to call,
So we wait for morning
To wake you is all we got
To know me as hardly golden
Is to know me all wrong, they warn.
At every occasion I’ll be ready for the funeral
At every occasion, once more, it’s called the funeral
Stuff I’ve done this week:
Monday hot lunch at kids’ school.
Sent donation email out to families for hot lunch.
Worked late Tuesday night (2AM) and released some circuit blocks to layout.
Called hot lunch pizza provider for duplicate receipts.
Got back episodes of How I Met Your Mother.
Returned Netflix DVD – TWICE (this is huge).
Recruited volunteers for Pinewood Derby.
Pinewood Derby RSVP email.
Finished Divergent Book 2: Insurgent.
Met a friend (from Infinium) for dinner.
Work party at the go kart races.
Bought new keyboard for desktop computer.
You don’t need a title or role or permission to lead.
A few years ago, I was given the opportunity to be a project manager.
I left a very comfortable job to go to this company. After two years of challenging work, I was well established in a small management role. And then I was offered a new project management role. I took it, essentially risking everything I had built up to that point.
The new role wasn’t a good fit. And, of course, it didn’t work out. It ended abruptly after 3 months.
I was told that the job would go to someone name Matt. It was difficult for me to accept. I really wanted that project management role, and I had given up an equally important role (one that I spent a couple years working through) to take it on.
Anyway, here’s an email thread from about a week after this transition:
From: Poojan Wagh
Sent: Friday, March 18, 2011 5:24 PM
To: Boss; ProjectX; ProjectY
Subject: Re: ProjectX Technology updates 3/18/2011
… and awesome progress. ProjectX is in good hands.
—– Reply message —–
From: “Boss” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Fri, Mar 18, 2011 4:46 pm
Subject: ProjectX Technology updates 3/18/2011
To: “ProjectX” <ProjectX@company.com>, “ProjectY” <ProjectY@company.com>
Sent: Friday, March 18, 2011 11:22 AM
To: Boss; ProjectLead
Cc: Coworker, Coworker
Subject: ProjectX Technology updates 3/18/2011
Below are some progress updates on our new network and software solutions over the last week. Please forward as necessary.
In case you missed it, Matt emailed the team a progress update. Our boss praised his reporting. I praised Matt’s progress and gave him my support.
I don’t want to overstate how hard it was to give Matt my support. I got along well with Matt, and most people did, too. I thought he was a good choice for the role. So, I wasn’t merely putting on a good face when I had to accept this change. But, it would have been much easier to say nothing than to give my support.
Leadership isn’t always easy. It often means putting the team or an organizational goal above yourself.
The most powerful leaders lead by example. And we need more powerful leaders.
One can see a distinct trend of phone screens getting larger. For example:
On the left is an HTC EVO 4G (circa 2009), a Galaxy Nexus (2011), and a Nexus 4 (2012). Based on these observations, I’ve extrapolated what the next-generation wristwatch will look like:
The one on the left is a Timex (circa 2008). The one on the right is a prototype.