Sunday, May 12, 2019

Colorado Startup Life: Week 35

This was a good week, May 5th to 11th. In many respects it was a total success.

It started off with me crying in church on Sunday, and then that afternoon I went on a little bicycle ride. My first bicycle ride outdoors of the year. I definitely can't run right now, but I can bicycle, so for the month of May I will try to focus on bicycling and try to go most days because it's a great way to get back in shape. On my bicycle I don't feel the pressure to run sub 8 minute miles, or have a certain heart rate. Bicycling is so variable due to the wind alone, let alone altitude or climbs that you can have a high heart rate going into the wind on flat ground at 13 miles per hour, and a lower heart rate going up a category one climb at 13 miles per hour with the wind at your back. In short, I'm so out of shape I just need time doing cardio exercises, and bicycling and walking are the two of the moment.

Needless to say, my ankle is improving. People tell me it's miraculous, and I agree, but I also don't have much reference. This whole injury has reinforced how blessed I am to have the skills I do, and also to have done all of the things I have done in the past. I climbed Mt. Everest! I ran 154 miles in 24 hours! I ran a 2:30:20 marathon! It's possible I never surpass any of those three feats, so I need to appreciate having been able to do that at all.

Work is going well again. The customer and us are in a much better place than we were two weeks ago. We're communicating, lots of people, from our side and theirs, are involved in the conversations. We're solving problems. This is engineering, we'll figure it out, as long as we communicate with each other and have patience when we don't understand where someone is coming from.

A few weeks ago at work we had an engineering meeting with seven women and three men. It was the first time I remember in my career an engineering meeting with more women than men. Since that time we have had a couple engineering meetings with more women than men. One of my coworkers, a recent college grad, when I mentioned how it was a new experience for me, said, "when I was in college when we were working on projects sometimes we had more men than women and sometimes we had more women than men." And that is how I want to think of it. And honestly I might already be mentally there. When I go into meetings, where I don't check the list of attendees ahead of time, I want to live in a world, or work in a company, where there might be more women than men in the meeting. It's not a requirement at all, but I like that humbling feeling when people are filtering into the room and suddenly there are five women (all engineers) and me. It's a little scary, because suddenly I'm afraid I will say the wrong thing, because I'm basically never outnumbered by women in my life. Do women feel like that when they are outnumbered by men in a meeting room? I asked several of my female coworkers if I am a male chauvinist, and they've all said no so far, but I worry about it. And I also tell them to let me know if or when I say something inappropriate.

That being said, I'm not sure 50% parity in occupations is actually what gender equality means. I don't know that women will ever be 50% of all engineers. I don't know than men will ever be 50% of elementary school teachers and nurses. Maybe, and that would be great, but I don't think that's the yardstick to use. I say that because the variation over different years, companies, and regions mean that 60%/40% splits and 70%/30% splits could easily happen locally, in both male dominate or female dominate directions in a world where men and women are treated equally in the workforce. Personally, and I'm sure people will disagree with me, but I think having equal pay for men and women for the same job is a great yardstick, and I also think having women in management, in particular senior management is another great yardstick. That being said, the job(s) should ideally go to the most qualified person or people, even if that most qualified person is another white male. After all, in the USA there are a lot of hard working white males.

I have said for years, after my unemployment of 2010, that year made me more compassionate and more cutthroat than I was before 2010. What I mean, in this scenario, is I understand how an interviewee might feel discriminated against for something outside of his or her control. In my case it was not having internships, and having an MIT and NASA fellowship. Two caution flags that scared potential employers away. Sure those were mostly my choices, but I didn't know in 2006, 2007 and 2008 that 2009 and 2010 was going to be the worst recession in 70 years. In other words, I've been delighted to have several of the applicants we have recently had because they are incredible, and at my former employer, we would not have gotten those very well qualified applicants, and even if we did, we might have passed on them because they didn't seem to fit the "culture". By the same token, I'm going to try and be amazing at my job so that employers are afraid to not hire me, even though lots of people could do what I do. That being said, I think my current company might be the last traditional full time engineering job I have as an employee. Being an entrepreneur of some sort is wildly interesting to me at the moment.

Since the last three paragraphs are probably sexist and discriminatory and offensive, I want to explain why I went ahead and if you are reading this I must have clicked publish. The world is changing, in my life time, and I want to record it, and share it with people who don't circulate in the same circle of people that I do. If I don't say I want to work in a world where there might possibly be more women than men in an engineering meeting, who will? Equality isn't just a conversation for the Op-Ed writers at big city newspapers. Since I am involved in hiring new employees, I'm part of the conversation. Years ago I was out at a bar with five men and the conversation turned to objectifying several women that we all knew, and I was disgusted, as were two others at the table. That's my fear, that if I don't say something about equality, however unenlightened my comments are, I could live in a world where that kind of toxic conversation happens at work and permeates our whole culture.

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