On Wednesday, uOttawa WISE had the latest talks in our Inspiring Women series. As has happened every time so far, I think this is the best yet. How do we top it in February? (OK I have a sneak preview of what will be happening in February, and that’s going to be awesome too).
Our speakers were: Dr. Jennifer Decker, Team Leader, Metrology for Nanotechnology, Institute for National Measurement Standards, National Research Council Canada; and Mrs. Stephanie De Silva, Head, Monograph Management Unit, Natural Health Products Directorate, Health Canada.
I didn’t make notes about specifics, so I’m just going to write a little about the different themes it pulls out for me.
First up, I was struck by the similarities in what these two women spoke about, despite the disparity in their career paths and ages. We think we’re unique, that our problems are special in some way, but they’re not. We all have similar things that arise, we just deal with them differently. We all struggle to find balance, but being imbalanced is okay – if we manage our imbalances. I.e. unbalanced weeks are okay, but we can aim for our overall life to be in balance.
Second, I was reminded of Clay Shirky’s “A Rant About Women”, which I blogged about the other day. Both of them had been persistent in getting the job they wanted – without being pushy. If you want to work in the government, calling regularly to say, “so, how’s my application going?” is likely a good idea.
This is something I struggle with, and it was a reality check for me. I released on Monday but I’m not sure some people who I wanted to notice had (it’s hard to pick out one tweet in a stream if you follow a lot of people). And I knew I should message them and say, “hey, thought you’d like to know I released this” but I was prevaricating because maybe they noticed and weren’t that interested.
Seriously, I was holding off letting people know who had already expressed an interest in my work, that I had released something new. OK, I don’t want to be a jerk but this is likely going to far the other way! And isn’t it more arrogant to think they would just notice? People are busy, I’m just one person in a stream of information. Saying, hi and letting them know is not such a big deal! So I pulled myself together and put it out there. I’ll probably do it a couple of people at a time.
(As I write this, I’ve contacted two people. One of them replied within an hour suggesting we connect via phone next week. Seriously – why was I prevaricating?)
Third was asking for help. Stephanie has a young family, and wasn’t ashamed to say that being a working mom was made possible by the help of her friends and family and the support of her husband. This was echoed by Dr. Decker. I think we can be reluctant to ask for help because we think we should know, but none of us is superwoman! The most effective people I know don’t mind asking for help, and do it with regularity. There’s nothing less effective than spending hours struggling with something that someone else could take 5 minutes to set you on the right track with, really, is there?
So Thursday morning I took the thing I’d been struggling to write for nearly a week now and emailed the guy who asked me to do it. Because I’m angsting that I’m on the wrong track. And he can just tell me, and probably make some really helpful suggestions. Of course he was nice about it, and arranged to meet me later the same day.
The fourth, and final aspect, was failure. Some people get seized up by failure, and waste their time berating themselves about it. But if you’re not failing, you’re not pushing yourself. So fail, dust yourself off, and try again.