Books, Quotes

“In a certain light, feminism is just the long, slow realization that the stuff you love hates you.”

Lindy West, Shrill

Lindy West

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Your life in keystrokes

I just learned about Scott Hanselman’s Keys Left. In the spirit of Wait But Why’s Your Life in Weeks, the tool calculates how many more keystrokes you’ll get based on your age and typing speed.

Scott suggests that if something is worth writing about in an email it’s probably something more people could benefit from, so you should consider posting it someplace where you can link to it.

We all have a limited number of keystrokes left (even fewer if you’re on the slower side when it comes to typing), and posting your writing online gives you more bang for your buck. It’s also a solid strategy for frequent blogging!

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Growth

The value of reviewing your work week

 

It had been open in a tab on my computer for over a week now, and I couldn’t put it off any longer: I had to fill out my end-of-quarter self assessment, for real. Oh, how I had tried! But each time it had quickly become painfully clear that I didn’t have a specific idea of what I had learned or what my favourite accomplishment was. I knew there had to be examples, but my mind was blank.

It was as if all my little victories and failures of the previous 3 months had never happened, and I was left only with metrics. Ticket touches, tickets solved, satisfaction score, but nothing to show for all that ticketing.

It took me more than 2 hours to complete the 5-question assessment (the most maddening, frustrating, and slow couple of hours in recent memory), and I decided to never put myself through that again.

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Enter this advocate weekly review tool. It’s a very simple table with a few questions and prompts designed to capture aspects of my work days that I want to remember and explore:

  • Wins and Pride: What am I proud of?

This one is a good way to start on a positive note, and keep a record of those times when I save someone’s day or figure out something tricky.

  • Fails and Follow up: How did I fail? What’s my plan for following up?

A reminder to take risks and fail often! And to take responsibility with an action plan when I drop the ball.

  • Resistance: What did I resist doing? Why?

Ah, the Resistance. Steven Pressfield’s concise way of describing the reason it’s so hard to go out of one’s comfort zone. We all know that’s where growth happens, and thinking about this helps me identify missed opportunities and understand why I avoided them.

  • Learning: What did I learn? What’s my plan for the next thing I want to learn?

I look stuff up, test things, and ask colleagues many times a day. This is a place to save what I find out and to get ready to learn more.

  • Projects

Between my tendency to put my head down and get those tickets done and the high volume of requests we get, it’s hard to spend time outside the queue. I manage to do it occasionally, and this is where I can log that and make time for more of it. Everything involving more than 2 steps is a project, which is a reminder that (1) I can find the time to work on stuff between tickets, and (2) little projects count!

  • On-holds review

This section is related to the Resistance and Learning, as it forces me to review any tickets I’ve been avoiding and tackle them already. Usually leads to some pretty satisfying wins!

  • Metrics

Last but not least, this is how I stay on track. I can’t imagine relying on someone else to tell me how I’m doing, and this provides me with an opportunity to check my progress regularly. This makes it easy to spot unwanted trends and correct course if needed. There are much better things to talk about at one-on-ones than metrics!

Using the tool consistently is still a bit of a struggle, but even if some weeks I only use one or two sections, it’s been very useful. It’s an excellent way to make sure I’m engaged at work, collect work stories (for quarterly reviews? future job interviews?), and manage my own career and growth.

My future self is grateful.

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Uncategorized

On drawing lines after the election

The last time I saw my 20-year-old brother in person back in May, the question of what famous person you’d like to have dinner with came up. He said Donald Trump. My other brother and I laughed and teased him, but he stood his ground. Jokingly, in a way that made it clear that his main interest in the hypothetical dinner was the potential for a ridiculously outrageous story. After all, Trump was mostly a joke back then, and whatever any of us thought didn’t really matter because none of us lives or votes in the States.

After that, he would occasionally send me irritating but harmless Trump memes that didn’t really merit anything beyond an eye roll.

On Tuesday he did it again. While talking about what a great party he’d gone to that past weekend, he added a Trump Seal of Approval photo for emphasis. I texted back expressing relief that the absurd campaign would be over soon, and he replied with vague pro-Trump fluff and asked me to let him know of any major developments, since he wouldn’t be following the election.

The results were clear by the time I went to sleep. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I was dreading my brother’s taunting almost as much as the changes the next four years could bring. I knew it would still be a joke to him, and I also knew his teasing would hurt and infuriate me.

For months I had been able to mostly ignore his obnoxious comments, reassured in the certainty that it was just part of having an annoying kid brother. But now in my post-election feelings, even though nothing had changed between the two of us, I found myself having a hard time seeing the Trump joke he sent me last Thursday as simply more of his usual trolling.

Did he not see how racist and misogynistic the man was? Or, even worse, did he see it but didn’t think those were unacceptable beliefs in a president?

Those are actual questions I had about my own brother, someone I’ve known all his life. I changed his diapers when he was a baby and we grew up together in a home led by a strong woman, who raised us with values that have nothing to do with the ones Trump displayed throughout his campaign. Despite knowing all of that, it was only after he suggested having a serious conversation about Trump one day –finally hinting at how not serious everything else he had said up to that point had been– that I could breathe a sigh of relief: he does know right from wrong.

And as hard as it may be to see it right now, so do the great majority of the people who elected Trump. For all I know, most people saw voting for him as a compromise, a strategic way to secure the change they desperately want but can’t see happening any other way. They didn’t necessarily vote for the wall or the Muslim registry, they voted for the dignity and safety they feel only Trump can give them back. And most of them are just as horrified as I am by the spike in racist bullshit we’ve seen these last couple of days.

I need to believe they’re not full of hate –and I do– but I want to see it. I want Trump voters to take responsibility for the consequences they didn’t see coming, or chose to ignore. A lot of people were embarrassed to say they were planning on voting Trump for fear of appearing ‘politically incorrect,’ and the election results are certainly part of the culture war to define what is and isn’t appropriate. Still, I want the people who voted for Trump to acknowledge that it’s no longer about being able to say things others might find offensive, but about people actually being harassed and physically assaulted. Mock the concept of microaggression all you want, but don’t let that blind you from the fact that people of colour and Muslims are having their lives threatened by strangers at gas stations and parking lots. And no, that’s not new, but all evidence suggests it’s gotten worse since Wednesday.

So no matter who you voted for, if you believe everyone should be able to feel safe, act on that! Support organizations that protect minorities and women’s rights. If you witness harassment, stand with the person being targeted, or at least document the situation and talk about it. Do what you can to let the person being harassed know they’re not alone.

Whatever it is, just do something. The line between letting others suffer and working to make their lives better is the only line that really matters.

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Support

How I arrived at Support

This post is my first contribution to this year’s Support Driven 6 Week Writing Challenge, and the perfect way to kickstart this blog.

The ways of support are mysterious. As a young human who would avoid math and small talk, I always thought my jobs would involve neither of those things. Books were my safe place and one of the few things I knew for sure I liked, so after I finished school I decided to get my degree in literature. Not because I had any faith in the career prospects, but as a way to get a few years of all-reading-all-the-time before I had to face the real world.

That real world had real people that I was afraid to talk to. When puberty hit, I stayed away from the drama and tears that seemed to unfold at least once a day during 7th grade. It had seemed like the wisest choice at the time, but years later, as the time to go into the workforce approached, that excellent decision was looking a lot like a mistake. What if I had missed out on crucial empathy-building moments and now would be forever behind in social skills?

But even if you’re convinced you’re an inadequate human, you quickly discover most jobs do involve interacting with other humans. A lot. My first job was at a weekly biking event called CicloRecreoVía. Every Sunday, our group of quasi-volunteers would close down a few streets in a nearby neighbourhood to create a car-free zone. It was beautiful to see families going out for a stroll right on the streets, children riding their bikes or skating without having to look out for cars, and people generally experiencing their neighbourhood in a completely new way, if only for a few hours.

The job itself was great, too: I got to do a bit of (very light) physical labour setting up and taking down the cones and barriers, directing local traffic when people needed to drive in or out of the car-free area, and mostly bike around making sure everyone was having fun and appeasing the occasional grumpy neighbour.

A few months later it became clear to me that I should find more gainful employment, as my family’s financial future was starting to look a bit uncertain. As far as I could tell, my only marketable skill was that I spoke English, an ability that everyone in Chile is taught to believe will open every door. I found an ad for a part time receptionist position at a small apartment hotel that would work perfectly with my university schedule, so I bought my first pair of slacks, my first pair of non-sneaker shoes, and the kind of top my mom would approve of and maybe wear herself.

In full professional costume, I was able to appear competent enough during the interview to make it to a trial shift with the other top candidate. She had experience, was actually comfortable in her work outfit, and seemed generally more at ease than I was, but it was a hotel after all, so my English got me the job. That and my queerness, since I’m sure that made the lesbian couple who ran the place like me more.

My position existed to give each of the three full-time receptionists a day off, so I worked from 1 to 9pm on Fridays to cover the afternoon shift, and from 9pm on Saturdays to 1pm on Sundays to cover both the night and the morning shifts. The overnight shift was fairly brutal, though the fact that we rarely had walk-in guests meant I could usually sleep for a few hours at a time between scheduled check-ins.

Knowing when guests would arrive and leave made the job surprisingly introvert-friendly, because it allowed me to be prepared for most interactions. Calls were always unexpected and therefore stressful, but they got easier. While wearing my one office outfit and smiling all the time never stopped feeling impostor-y, I got a lot more comfortable helping guests, handling my mistakes, and solving problems under pressure.

I left the hotel to work much more reasonable part-time hours at a gym my mom co-owned, where the front desk and slim managerial duties got boring pretty quickly. I also felt I had to keep my queerness a secret since it was a semi posh women-only gym. Being in the closet created a whole other kind of Impostor Syndrome: I was actively hiding a part of myself to fit in. Elsewhere in my life, the master’s degree in publishing I was working toward seemed like it would be useless and my then-girlfriend was ready for a change, too, so we decided to try out Canada for a year.

Arriving in Vancouver four days after Christmas would have been a terrible idea if the 2010 Winter Olympics hadn’t been 6 weeks away. Thanks to the promise of tourists, every place that sold anything was hiring. My first Canadian job interview was a quick chat in which the manager of a pizza place admitted she just wanted to confirm I spoke English, and I started a few days later.

Morning shifts began with chopping veggies, portioning dressing, and folding pizza boxes, and then ramped up the pace at lunch time. Hearing and speaking English with the people choosing their slices was a bit tricky at first, but it was much better than being at the till and struggling to find the right items on the touch screen and to recognize the unfamiliar coins and bills quickly. The whole experience was a crash course in fast-paced customer service, time management, and local candy offerings, since I made a point to bring home treats with my tip money. Not to mention, the leftover pizza slices I sometimes saved from their dumpster fate.

Shifts became less frequent once the olympic craze faded and after a few months I was able to find a job that would actually remain full-time. It was at a family-ran Jewish bakery and deli that had been around for years. I knew close to nothing about Jewish culture (beyond being able to hum a couple of songs from Fiddler on the Roof) so it was an interesting experience. I learned about holidays, traditional foods, a few words in Hebrew and Yiddish, and even got to bake bagels once in a while. Having regular customers made it an ideal setting to practice building relationships and understanding loyalty a bit better, and it was nice to be able to hand make sandwiches for people I had come to know. In terms of the team, there’s nothing like a sandwich-making assembly line to teach you how to work with others, and the fact that my co-workers where so different from me made it really fun.

After about a year I moved into a leadership role where I got to try my hand at managing people, ordering from suppliers, handling stock levels, and get some insight into the bigger picture. I’m still thankful for the opportunity, because on top of everything I learned about myself and about running a business, it was what allowed me to become a permanent resident of Canada. I had spent over three years working at the bakery by that point, so I decided to look for something new.

While working in the food industry I had idealized retail: you didn’t have to make anything on the spot or wash your hands all the time, and your clothes didn’t smell like baked goods at the end of the day. So I was excited when I landed a job at a toy store, but the pace of retail turned out to be far too slow to keep me engaged. I was also used to having enough autonomy to go above and beyond for customers when needed (coffees on the house if we messed up someone’s order, a free cookie while you wait) but being the new person there was no room for discussing or bending company policies.

When I found out Hootsuite was based in Vancouver and hiring for someone to do support in Spanish, I thought I would give it a shot. I was generally tech-savvy and sure that my experience in customer service would come in handy, as would my native language. It took a couple of tries and some time in the customer forum to catch the attention of people in Support and show how I could help out, but I got the job.

Working regular office hours made me feel like a grownup, I enjoyed being able to wear jeans to work, and working at a growing tech company was just cool. The best part was getting to help people in a more meaningful, long-lasting way than I was used to, while learning about our products and the technology behind them.

Thanks to Support Driven, I’ve realized Support can be a path in its own right, and it has inspired me to find areas I can improve in and ways I can polish my craft. As an introvert I still find it hard to believe that I managed to find a job where I’m comfortable helping people. I’m proud of how far I’ve come and excited for all that there is still to learn.

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