Sunday, September 17, 2017

Review: Women in Tech



I finished reading @tarah's book Women in Tech. What better way to celebrate its paperback release than with a quick review.

Five years ago, I found my life turned inside out. People asked me deeply personal questions and questioned my basic competence. In the center of the maelstrom, I found comfort in a book with stories of people like me who were successful in spite of the difficulty. The stories were also paired with advice on how others has survived, thrived, and moved past the traumatic events.

In my case, my spouse had come out and I was coming to grips with my future as a straight half of a mixed orientation marriage. The book that helped me through that was The Other Side of the Closet: The Coming-Out Crisis for Straight Spouses and Families. Just knowing that I was not alone had a powerful influence. Therapy had helped; family could be supportive; friends might be weird. Those stories gave me the strength to say, "This too shall pass." 

For me, Women in Tech knocks it out of the park in a similar fashion. Concise, varied, authoritative women have lined up to share their experience making it in tech. Some faced abuse while others encountered discrimination. In the end, most felt the creeping fear of being an imposter (poignant in light of the abuse hurled at Equifax's Music Major CISO). For marginalized groups, simply knowing you're not alone can be enough strength for the day-to-day challenges.

The practical advice made it particularly useful for me. Coming to tech by way of tech support, I had no tutelage in interviewing, technical CV's, and salary negotiation. To this end, I've rewritten my resumé, registered a domain for this humble blog, and continue to try to organize a testing meetup in this desert town of mine. I don't know if each step individually will bear fruit, but together they make me feel less vulnerable to a manager's whim. I have a presence online and a skill to sell independent of any one job.

Broadly, Women in Tech has helped me understand the journey many of my co-workers have made. A fantastic tester with 20 years of experience that is comfortable in OpenVMS still expresses a lack of confidence in interpreting 'man words'. A skilled project manager guided countless projects from C-suite dream to customer reality while being a betimes single mom.  Being so broadly defined, tech needs diverse voices at all levels, and it particularly needs women and their contributions supported wherever possible.

There are plenty of gems in the book that I can't begin to address. My heart broke when the advice had to find a balance between optimism and reality. Having my spouse, an engineer by trade, transition made me want to learn more about the trans-in-tech experience. The constant refrain of Impostor's Syndrome makes me want to look for research papers. It is clear that Tarah has captured experiences with a depth and variety unavailable elsewhere.

I wouldn't be a hacker if I didn't mention the brain testing crypto puzzles at the heading of each chapter. Themed on famous women in tech, the learning curve is steep. I am currently stuck and, as the book makes perfectly clear, progress can only be made with help from all sides.
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