Month: August 2015

LittleWicksy’s Rules of Life

Follow at your own risk. I take no responsibility for any trouble you get into as a result of you taking these as your own. I’m pretty sure I got most of these from my Dad. Or the internet. It all blurs together.

  1. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
  2. Time enjoyed is not time wasted.
  3. The most precious thing you can give to anyone is your time.
  4. The common factor in all your problems is yourself.
  5. There is no knight in shining armour. Fix it yourself.
  6. Don’t trust drivers who wear hats. They’re unpredictable, and didn’t take the optional extra of ‘indicators’.
  7. It’s none of your business what people say about you behind your back.
  8. Don’t poke it!
  9. If you looked silly doing it, you *meant* to do that.
  10. Be more cat.
  11. Always go left.
  12. Don’t treat people how you wouldn’t want to be treated yourself.
  13. You can’t change people. You can only change how you react to people.
  14. Throwing books at stupid people is frowned upon.
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Professionalism

Merriam-Webster defines professionalism as ‘the skill, good judgment, and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well’. It goes on with a further definition of ‘the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person’.

I guess that my own confusion in terms of being seen as a professional is that unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?), such expectations as defined in this context are not actually down to the person who wishes to be seen as professional.

I have been called unprofessional a few times in the past. Usually when I have disagreed with someone about something. Strange, that.

A comment once made to me did actually cause me to reflect slightly on *how* I disagree with people:

‘You always argue your point strongly, even when you’re wrong.’

Did the person who said this to me have a point? Possibly. I was raised to speak my mind, and engage in debate. While I acknowledge that I can be *very* stubborn, I can be argued around to a different way of thinking – because when all is said and done, I wouldn’t be arguing any point if I thought it was actually wrong. I have no patience to play devils advocate. That said, some people see any kind of headlong disagreement as an intimidating confrontation. I honestly still have no idea how to deal with that. Should I sugar coat my thoughts? Tip toe around an issue? I don’t know.

This does bring me to the point of this post, though. Which is more professional – giving (and occasionally arguing) an opinion in a professional capacity, or keeping your mouth shut for the sake of not disagreeing with someone higher up the food chain?

I guess the answer to that depends on who’s answering the question. I know where I stand on it.

So, for me, I guess showing professionalism comes down to the following:

  • Don’t be afraid to speak up. *
  • Share your knowledge.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
  • Always do what you say you will do, when you say you will do it.
  • Don’t play the blame game.
  • Get on with the job.

I freely acknowledge here that my list may seem incomplete to some. I’ll quite happily argue/debate the points and amend said list if I can be talked around. I’m not right about everything. On the flip side – I don’t think I’m often wrong, either.

* Though try and be tactful about it. My brain to mouth filter is malfunctional. Announcing to an entire room that something is stupid does not win you friends. Trust me on this.

The most aggravating compliment

Sorry folks. This is a dreaded women in STEM post. It’s sad that #ILookLikeAnEngineer is a thing. People still do not get it.

So, a true story.

A long time ago, in a job in my past, there was a week of BIG MEETINGS. It was a huge deal, with very important clients who we *had* to impress. The culture of the office was lax, and the usual code was ‘get in for some time, do all your work, and wear what you want’. For this week, we were asked to be in well on time for the BIG MEETINGS, come in suited and booted, and above all, behave.

So, I spent a week turning up to the office, wearing a nice skirt, blouse, and killer heels. Literally, killer. When the clients had gone for the day, I’d kick off said heels and start sticking plasters on all the bleeding bits, longing for my comfy trainers or boots. I kept my mouth shut, and smiled when spoken to. I didn’t really achieve much of my own programming work that week, in-spite of only having to attend a couple of the meetings, as the entire team was on tenterhooks with how said BIG MEETINGS were going. Things were going on that made it too difficult to concentrate.

I received three compliments that week. Take a guess which one infuriated me.

  1. Please don’t take this as harassment or anything, but you look stunning like that. I wish we could see it every day!
  2. I won’t sit next to you in meetings when you wear a skirt any more, as your legs are too distracting.
  3. I’ve been really impressed with your professionalism this week. Great work!

If you haven’t already guessed that the third compliment was the one that annoyed me, you still don’t get IT. So, I’ll explain further.

The week where I can honestly say that all I did was turn up, look pretty, and not share my professional opinion, is the one where I got complimented on being ‘professional’. This sent the message that I am only valued as a professional when I’m making an effort to look nice and keep my mouth shut. So for what reason had I been turning up and busting my arse all those years before?

I didn’t say anything, of course. I really do, even now, still get that the compliment was meant as just that – a compliment. It wouldn’t be right to give the complimenter a hard time over it. I do not believe that anything bad or insidious was meant by it. It was genuine, and not meant as a put down in any way. Normally, I’d be happy to hear it. But as a woman working in a male dominated field, where I have often felt that I’ve *needed* to shout out and dress down to be taken seriously, it really stung. It still does.

I subscribe to the saying ‘You don’t give offence, you *take* offence’. But before anyone shouts me down for this post, maybe try wearing those killer heels for a week in a similar situation, only to be hit with the reality of what counts higher up as ‘professional’, and tell me you wouldn’t be spitting fire about it to. This really does tie back to my earlier post. As much as I can look back on this incident, and know that logically, I took this in a way that was not intended, it just underscores that perception is an absolute bitch.

Is this what Man Flu feels like?

I knew that quitting real cigarettes would catch up to me. About a month a go, I converted over to e-cigarettes. I knew there would be a period of time when all the toxins from real tobacco would all start trying to escape, making me feel very rubbish.

For the last few days, I have ached all over, my nose is running, my throat is sore, and I am kept awake all night coughing.

It’s bad enough that it’s bloody tempting to go and buy a pack of real cigarettes and put off this hell for another few weeks. I won’t though. That would just be delaying the inevitable.

It’s not just the nicotine withdrawal that makes quitting hard – it’s the withdrawal from all the other crap in a cigarette that kicks your arse to.

Now, this is hardly my first quit attempt (if this can be called a quit attempt, since I am still getting nicotine). I must admit though, that the slow weaning off nicotine through buying lower strength liquid is working better for me (and cheaper!) than any number of tablets, gums or patches in the past has. Anyone attempting to quit should try converting to vaping for a bit if all else has failed. And be prepared to feel like crap after a few weeks of kicking the real ciggies.

The films that scared me when I was little are awesome now.

Just some random musing, today. I was trawling Netflix, looking for some of my old favourite films – namely, Labyrinth, The Never Ending Story and the Dark Crystal. These films all have two things in common – mainly, that I love them, and all three gave me nightmares when I was little.

The main scary points, in order:

Never Ending Story – Artax sinking in the swamp of despair, while Atreyu cries.

Labyrinth – those pink things throwing their heads was disturbing.

Dark Crystal – Skeksis. Need I say more?

In spite of the nightmares they gave me, I could watch these films on repeat now. Especially Labyrinth. Which may or may not have something to do with *those* trousers. Strange how childhood perception can be flipped on its head later on.

The Zone

The Zone is something that most programmers will know about. It’s that place of quiet in our head that allows us to focus all of our attention on one problem, to the exclusion of everything else. My Dad calls it ‘hyper focus’, which is also quite apt and probably more accurate.

I’m personally of two minds whether the ‘Zone’ is a good place to be or not. I can never determine how I go into it – all I know is that if I find something interesting enough, the rest of the world falls away. All that is left is my ‘item of interest’. People have been known to shout or throw things at me to get my attention when I’m in this place. A ceiling once fell in behind me while playing Sonic the Hedgehog when younger, and I never even noticed.

I’m not sure if the quality of my code gets any better while I’m in this place. Some claim that their code is the better for it. What I do know is that coming out of it, either due to someone else forcibly distracting me, or coming out of it naturally, is horrible. It feels like waking up after only 2 hours of sleep. Confusion reigns as I try to catch up on everything that may have happened while I was in the Zone. People have to repeat themselves a few times before I get what they were saying. It’s like emerging from a dark fog into a brightly lit room – you’re temporarily overloaded by all the things that you had not been noticing whilst in your own world of productivity. And then the overwhelming urge to go to the toilet, or eat/drink something. If I’ve ever gotten stuck in the Zone, I’ll often find I have been there for hours.

Some people have different methods to get into the Zone. Some need absolute quiet. Some need music. Personally, I find I just … get there. I habitually wear ear phones and listen to upbeat music whilst at work, but that’s mainly to drown out the noises of people around me so that I can concentrate when I’m not in the Zone. When I’m in the Zone, I don’t even hear the music. Or anything. Which is one of the reasons I find it kind of a scary place to be. I’ll end up in the zone through reading a book, playing a computer game, or doing work.

I actually try to avoid getting there these days. Which is actually easier said than done, given how easily I slip away to that place. I keep my usual Spotify playlist random (feel free to check it out here. Don’t judge me!). I try to make a conscious effort to take breaks every hour or so.

So, is the Zone a good or bad place to be? Honestly, my verdict is leaning more towards ‘bad’, given how awful I feel after coming out of it.