NSConf – Jessie Char – Expert of Nothing

My notes from @jessiechar‘s talk at @nsconf [video].

Credit: Wikimedia

Going through a period of transition. Very fluid. Feel uncomfortable prescribing processes to people.

Ambivalence is not the same as apathy. Ambivalence – caring too much about both sides to make a decision. Apathy – not caring enough to make a decision. Same result, but different. Why process is so interesting.

Really easy to spout an opinion out and find people to agree with you. Like a drug. Feels so good to have people agree with you about things.

Then people grow these army of supporters, live in this world of everywhere they think turns to gold. And then why not profit about that.

Common in design critique.

Part of it is moving fast – want to make quick calls, save time for people. But realise later lost elements they liked, or gained elements they don’t.

What appears convictive and decisive crumbles.

Can be easier to be convictive when not constantly stating opinions.

State what isn’t working, not what should happen.

Prescriptive feedback can have good intentions, but if no description provided it can lead you down a rabbit hole.

Taking a step back from opinions can help you give a much more clear explanation of what you think.

White dress / blue dress – good illustration of how people can perceive the same information completely differently.

Develop a shared vocabulary. When you work with other people, important to have shared goals, want to have the same end goal. But some things can get lost in translation. Debates where people agree, but think they disagree because of the words they are using. Or the opposite, can really bites you in the ass later.

PSA: Sometimes you find someone’s understanding of something does not match up with your own understanding. Lot of people correct people on the internet. Starts with “Actually”, it sounds like a question, but not a question. Actually is a state of mind, where you feel the need to adjust everyone’s opinion. Sentiment – you hear something somebody else thinks and “actually, I disagree with you”. Actually is the truth or fact of the situation. Try and avoid that kind of interaction with people, that kind of corrective tone.

Communication on a scale: literal meaning, to colloquial understanding. Sweet spot in the middle. Then buzz words, the aspirational words that people use. It’s like language inflation, and even appropriation.

Rock star. What it really means is a celebrity known primarily for making music.

Means: we want someone who is good at their job

Read: an entitled engineer who sends passive aggressive emails to the office manager when the kegerator is tapped out.

Raconteur. A person uses captivating narrative to convey a story.

Mean: A person who cares about the overall experience of a project to which they contribute.

Read: A marketing person who didn’t get their MBA but still wants to sound fancy on LinkedIn.

Bespoke: Made to order clothes.

Mean: Artisanal solutions for discerning customer.

Read: Regular work with a different name.


Commotion over GG. Feminism finally became widely discussed topic. Think she might be exempt for it, because doing pretty well. But death threats and violent comments are not the entry level to sexism.

“But you can fix a computer but I bet you can’t cook an egg!” ~Guy at the Apple Store

Used to get way worse comments than this working at the genius bar. “Are you sure”, wanting 2nd opinions.

“Since you are competent at a traditionally masculine activity, you must suck at traditionally feminine activities.”

“I’m sorry but we just have to ask: are you an escort?” ~Dudes at WWDC.

“It is so unimaginable that a woman would attend a tech conference. You must be here to serve us in some way.”

“I work on things that make your computer work” ~Bro at a party

“I bet you don’t understand what I do for a living, so I’m going to make myself sound really impressive.”

(He worked on Yahoo Weather)

“You might make a good junior recruiter.” ~Tech Recruiter

“You don’t look like a senior manager”

“Mike, you sound calm knowledgable and respectful.

Jessie, for how cute and bubbly you sound, you know what you’re talking about” ~Podcast feedback

“Complements I receive because the bar is set so low for me, that anything I do is over it.”

Unconscious bias. Not about being a good or bad person. Insidious. Not just about how people view her, about how she ends up viewing herself.

Feedback most often get is about how her voice sounds. Sounds like nails on a chalkboard. Fast forward through every time talks. Other person said they had to stop listening to podcast because voice is so annoying. External say, that is a jerk. But wondered if just had a high pitched voice, not for radio, but podcast okay.

NPR feedback on women’s voices.

  • Too high.
  • Too child like.
  • Lacks authority.
  • Vocal fry.
  • Uptalk.
  • Too low.

We don’t really know why this phenomenon happens, but probably, you know, “unconscious bias”

Might put a target on her back, but putting it out there, because men need to know. And women – to know that struggle with things do.

Talked about language, and how we should adjust, but ladies we have already adjusted too much.

It’s important to cater to the way people hear you, but it’s important that you don’t change who you are.

Kanye West “Everything in the world is exactly the same.”