Category: Adulting

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 Scariest Thing I’ve Done This Year

We all reach milestones in life at some point. They’re generally scary places to be. People who know me may think that getting a new job would make the top spot for me this year, but today I think I just passed a way scarier one successfully.

I was introduced to my boyfriends children for the first time. On a full day out a farm theme day.

This is scary for various reasons.

If they hate me, that’s it for the relationship. My boyfriends children are the most important people in his life, and they have to come first.

I’ve opted not to have children, and odds are that I am terrible with them.

Meeting the kids is entering into a commitment. You don’t just enter a childs life and be ready to walk away easily.

It’s strange to think that the future of a relationship I am in is hinging on the opinion of a 6 year old and 9 year old girl.

I admit I was tempted to wuss out of the whole thing by simply not answering my phone this morning. But I knew it had to happen at some point. I think it went well. The first half hour was difficult, as they obviously didn’t know what to make of me. They don’t currently know that I am their Dads girlfriend. A bit of effort to talk to them, followed up by being the bearer of a water bottle in the corn maze seemed to ease the whole thing though, and soon I had small children talking a mile a minute to me about … well, everything.

My proudest moment for me though was not running screaming like a little girl when a wasp started dive bombing one of his daughters. I went in, lured the wasp away without showing fear, and returned an ice lolly wasp free. While a wasp isn’t so scary as entering a childs life, wasps are a big phobia of mine.

So, scariest thing today? Realising that I have just entered a commitment that I won’t walk away from easily, now that I know his children didn’t hate me on sight. Awesome thing is that I’m actually ok with it.

Oh, also, I got to see a baby pygmy goat climbing a tree. That was pretty cool to.

Goat in a tree!
Goat in a tree!

A Lesson in Perception Management

Yesterdays post, Perception is more important than results, discussed how a bad perception can render your achievements null and void. One response I got from a former manager of mine after the blog was posted was ‘Do you actually do any work or just write blog posts now?’.

Obviously, the answer to that is that I *do* work at work. By setting a posting schedule for WordPress to publish my blogs in the middle of a working day, I have to acknowledge that he makes an excellent point. The schedule, while saving me from having to log on and post things manually, is giving the perception of someone who is more focused on writing blog posts in the day as opposed to doing actual work.

Your online activity during the day (regardless of if you have a bot posting it for you or not), sends one overriding message – at *that* time of day, you are surfing the internet, posting things on social media. There is a time stamp right there, with your name next to it, for all of your contacts, personal and professional, to see. We’ve all been guilty of having a quick browse during the day, but if you want to leave the right impression to your peers that you’re actually being productive, it would not behoove you to leave the actual posting and sharing of content until outside of work hours.

Thanks, Mr Manager! I have changed my blog post schedule so as not to add to a workshy perception. I probably owe you beer.

Perception is more important than results.

I am a failure when it comes to office politics. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I generally just act like myself. This is a problem when it comes to managing other peoples perceptions of you – and a bad perception can be incredibly damaging.

As a person, I am hard working, fast working (and talking!), I can pick up new things quickly, and I see a job through to the end. I’m honest and upfront – I’m not afraid to say exactly what I think. My memory is great. I’m enthusiastic, and love my job. All great assets in an employee, right?

On the flip side of that, I am so caught up in flying through my ‘to do list’ that I can lack attention to detail once I mentally check something off – meaning I can make some mistakes that I really should have caught before the QA team started giving serious consideration to lynching me in the car park.

I’m upfront to the point of being blunt. Without meaning to, I can really put someones back up by not stopping to think before I open my mouth.

My reaction to stressful times is to make fun of a situation, usually in a sarcastic manner.

My most recent encounter with office politics taught me a very harsh lesson. The work that I was kicking bottom with didn’t matter. The extra hours I’d put in did not matter. The perception people had of me was that I was not taking things seriously, and that was the feedback I was getting. The things I was doing well at weren’t even being considered by this point.

I railed against this in my head for quite a while. From my perspective, I was working harder than I ever had in my life. I was hurt that my actual results weren’t being examined fairly. I was putting in huge amounts of effort to take more care with what I was working on to produce fewer mistakes. It sucked. With a capital SUCK.

It still feels incredibly unjust in my head, and it feels really unfair. I will be taking on board the lesson, though – how your peers perceive you means more to your career than anything you achieve. It really is an attitude I’d love to see change, as perception often has little correlation with the reality of a situation.

Things my Father told me.

My dad has the advantage of having numerous t-shirts in the ‘been there, done that’ category. I would do well to pay more attention to the advice he has given me over the years. Here are some of his nuggets of wisdom that have stuck with me – even if I haven’t always followed them when I should. My navigation of office politics or life in general would have been much smoother if I had.

  • To be seen as just as good as the boys, you have to be better than the boys.
    • I strive to do this. Probably the only place I consistently succeed is playing computer games. Unfortunately, this is coupled with being a rather graceless winner.
  • For once in your life, keep your head down and your mouth shut!
    • Father brought me up to be outspoken, and to question everything, and this does run counter to that. However, not every situation is helped by speaking my mind. Sometimes, I do need to just shut up. I’ll work on that.
  • You’re responsible for your own happiness.
    • I sometimes forget this. In a bad situation? It’s up to me to get out of it. There is no knight in shining armour waiting to save me, so I’d better get up and slay that dragon myself.
  • Don’t be a victim.
    • Sometimes, it’s too easy to wallow in self pity. In times when I’ve been depressed, I wish I’d kept this at the front of my mind.
  • You don’t give offense. You *take* offense.
    • Nothing is more annoying than someone who *looks* to take offense. Although the main thing that has happened as a result of taking this on board is that I find people more annoying.
  • Stop cutting off your nose to spite your face!
    • I’m a stubborn person. I don’t think this will change. Oops.

I think that will do for now. There are plenty more, but it would likely turn into a book. I guess the point of this post is that all the above pieces of advice, if I’d chosen to follow them throughout life more consistently, would have improved so many rubbish situations I’ve managed to land myself in. Make no mistake – the common denominator in all of my problems past and present is me.

I should probably listen to my Dad more. Even if he is leaving all the money to the cat.

On me and adulting.

Who am I, and why should you read this blog?

Well, I’m a very average person. I have lots of ideas. I’m a software developer, gamer, reader and serial project starter. This is the result of one of those project ideas.

Why should you read this?

You probably shouldn’t. All you’ll find are Opinions. Yes, that is capitalised on purpose. If that hasn’t scared you off, by all means stick around!

Above all, I’m a person, and I have randomness in my brain that needs an outlet. Most of that randomness comes from the journey that I term in my head as ‘adulting’. Which would be the day-to-day things I’m apparently supposed to know how to do now I’m over 30. Like going to work. Paying bills. Not trying to excuse everything I do with a loud cry of ‘For science!’. Boring stuff like that.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have it all figured out. Adulting is a trap hard work. Hopefully, blogging about it a little bit will help me figure out that the answer isn’t necessarily 42 all the time.