3 Questions for the WIT

At SQLSat 84, in Kalamazoo, MI, I attended the Women in Technology Luncheon. I am NOT a Woman in Technology per se, but I do USE technology, and I am all for other people using it. I also try to teach kids about computers. It’s becoming more relevant at younger ages. More and more, I hear about schools going to textbook-free classrooms. My own daughter (in 5th grade) says at her school, each child has their own laptop to use there. Many homework assignments for the kids end up being on the computer, or related to something on the computer. Anyway, I digress… I attend the luncheons when I can to support my friends, and because I think it’s important.

The WIT Luncheon today was moderated by Shelly Noll (@shellynoll). Other panel members were: Kendra Little (@kendra_little|blog), Wendy Pastrick (@wendy_dance|blog), Yanni Robel (@Yannirobel|blog), and Erin Stellato (@erinstellato|blog).

Shelly started out with some statistics from 2010 on women in different job positions. DBAs, Computer Programmers, Software Engineers, Systems Analysts were all dominated by men by over 50%. She then asked panel members 3 questions: Question 1: How have you been able to leverage your differences to compliment a team? Question 2: Are there any communication techniques you’ve developed as a result of working in a diverse environment? Question 3: How would having more woman in IT benefit the workplace as a whole? Throughout the entire panel discussion, Shelly brought the panelists’ comments back to how what they were saying benefits both genders, and everyone in a group. I thought she did a great job!!

There was some great discussion on these and other questions. It went a little something like this:

Question 1: How have you been able to leverage your differences to compliment a team?
KL: Likes to suggest different ways to look at things, just to explore other options and to think outside the box. She acknowledges they may go back to the way they were previously talking about it, but it’s worth looking at things from different angles.
WP: Differences are in managing people and their expectations. “Let’s find the common goal.” Helps them find ways to communicate together. She says maybe because she’s a woman, also her personal style. Internal customer service/mediator. Wendy told a story about phone with buttons on the outside. It was being created by a group of men. A woman came in and said she wouldn’t use it because she’d throw it in her purse, and it would get wrecked.A good reminder that sometimes, you need feedback from everyone, other points of view may exist.
YR: Collaborates a lot. Part of personality. Sits back and listens, gathers information, and then finds a way to meet most needs, also sneaks in other helpful pieces to what’s being done
ES: Likes to be in control. Also sits back, listens, and figures out where she can fit in. She sometimes takes control, sometimes finds another way to fill a need.

Question 2: Are there any communication techniques you’ve developed as a result of working in a diverse environment?
KL: Talked about a director she once had who stood back in a meeting, yet still participated. He didn’t sit at table. She says it broadened the focus of the group to everyone, not just those “at the table.” she said he was engaging and dynamic, which spread to the whole team.
WP: Stressed follow up, and wrapping up after a meeting, etc to make sure everyone’s on board. Too easily things can follow through the cracks if there is no record of discussion. Recap, record, follow up
YR: Is in charge of a DBA team. She makes sure to include all managers in one on one discussions. She approaches everyone, and often needs much patience and repetition. She said her monthly one-on-ones with managers, and all DBAs makes the team stronger (and she doesn’t let them back out more than one month in a row). She allows herself to be in a direct line with everyone on her team. Yanni stressed the personal approach. She “sneakily” gets what she wants.
ES: Erin talked about e-mail. She sometimes has a hard time interpreting if there was a hidden message in emails. Her way around this problem is to go have a conversation before writing an email (even though it goes against her natural tendency). The personal contact avoids some of the mis-interpretation of intent behind what needs to be said. Interestingly, Erin pointed out that she is pro-emoticon (though it’s not always appropriate for work). :-)
KL: Also admitted she’s pro-emoticon, which prompted another interesting discussion on webcams and other ways to communicate with customers, co-workers, etc. Webcams can help the conversation (conference calls) seem more personal, and is a subtle way to connect with people. When you later meet them in person, there may be a feeling that you’ve met before or “know” the person. Being able to read facial expressions helps other people understand the meaning behind what’s being said.
KL: The conversation lingered on diversity for a while… Kendra mentioned being on a team of people from all over the world. There were Russians that kept referring to “Taking a dump of the system”. Because of the meaning of that phrase in the US, the Americans had to mute and giggle. No one else seemed affected by the phrase. Diverse teams work together better. Everyone learns something from other people.
YR: Yanni represents another piece of the diversity, being from another culture. She agreed that diversity benefits people on many different levels (with what they learn from each other).
WP: Wendy pointed out that diversity is important even on different socio-economic levels. They may provide different perspectives. She pointed out that there can be untapped resources when a group is missing out on different people. She then talked about an interview she was in where she was told “We think you’d be a good fit for our team.” Her thoughts were, “What about my skill sets?”
KL: Kendra piggy-backed, saying “Team fit” isn’t always a “good fit.” People need to be more open minded when interviewing candidates.

Question 3: How would having more woman in IT benefit the workplace as a whole? (I’m not actually sure where this question came into play, since the conversation was flowing so naturally at this point).
ES: Talked about her company looking for an Oracle person… she interviewed a woman. Erin admitted she really liked her, and felt like she didn’t interview her as thoroughly as she could have because she liked her so much.
WP: Talked about expectations of people based on her past experiences. Her manager is a woman, and doesn’t relate the same as her expectation of how women relate to each other. She connected with other members of team who had all good things to say about manager, so she was able to put pre-judgments aside, and take the job. She is happy she did.

A guy in the room asked if there is an assumption that because they are a woman, they AREN’T the IT person. Erin gets it often with customers. Wendy says when she says she’s a DBA, people assume she does Data Entry. Yanni has had people assume she’s a vendor or with a vendor.

KL: Kendra talked about a recent conversation using the word “expert” about yourself. She said sometimes it feels a bit pretentious. She does like to call herself an expert when it applies. To be able to call yourself an expert shows confidence. She then talked about a Twitter study that uses programs that can determine what words men vs women are using when talking about certain words. Talk about technology to show women can talk about it too and not just men. (Oh, and there actually are men who are BAD at computers too). Wendy – wants to be seen as technical.

A woman in the room works in a manufacturing company, she said when men come for support, they pass the women by and go to the men for answers on questions on the systems that the 2 women in the room support. Erin suggested putting up a sign that says “Stop here for questions on…” Wendy asked the question, “Where do you first go when entering into a room, where do cool kids sit on the bus or in a room???” Those can be important to keep in mind. The tendency is to go to the receptionist first… Yanni said she is often asked, “So you’re the manager of the DBA team, so who do I go to on a technical matter?” Kendra and Wendy both said that as a consultant, people are pleased to see them come in to help.

All in all, there was great discussion on diversity, communication, and somehow, it snuck in there that Brent Ozar (@BrentO), Tom LaRock (@sqlrockstar), and Jeremiah Peschka (@peschkaj) were “booth babes.” Gotta have a little comedy in a WIT panel too!!

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One thought on “3 Questions for the WIT

  1. [...] The day went by very quickly, probably because I spent most of the day working and in discussions with Alison McDonald from PASS Marketing, oh, and that other person who seems to never stop talking, no, not Rob Farley, Tom!  (I hear Rob out talks Tom, I find that really hard to believe after this weekend).  Throughout the day many attendees, as usual at these events, were commenting on how great the event was and how happy they were that it came to Kalamazoo.  The turnout was very close to the numbered registered, I think they ended up with only about a 12% drop-off, even though there did seem to be a lot of food leftover, but I think that is typical when you do food trays with sandwiches. I think sandwich shops under state really just how many people one tray will feed. This was the first event that I attended that we had the new SQLSaturday laptop stickers and patches, and those went over big time, everyone wanted those.  Looking forward to seeing how many of these make their way to the Summit next month.  For their event, they had a WIT Panel during lunch led by Shelly, which unfortunately I missed due to talking too much myself!  The WIT Panel was a great line-up of Kendra Little, Wendy Pastrick, Yanni Robel, and Erin Stellato.  Since I missed it, I can’t do it justice, but Sarah Strate did a full detailed blog about it, that you can read up on here: http://sarahsjolander.wordpress.com/2011/09/17/3-questions-for-the-wit/ [...]

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