074: Be Your Own Hero with Astrid Countee

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Panelists:

Christina Morillo | Sam Livingston-Gray | Jessica Kerr | Astrid Countee

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Show Notes:

01:41 – Astrid’s Superpower: Being Analytical and Logical

04:33 – Social Scientists and Technology

12:47 Professionalization

The Code of Ethics Project: Data For Democracy

20:00 – A Day in the Life of a Social Scientist

25:39 – Social Science and Design

32:13 – Working in Numbers-based Environments

Obliquity: Why Our Goals Are Best Achieved Indirectly

46:41 – Influence and Control

55:05 – Social Media

58:59 – Work/Life Balance and Prioritization

Transcript:

Support for the Greater Than Code podcast comes from O’Reilly Fluent and Velocity conferences, happening in San Jose, CA, June 11-14. Don’t miss your chance to get double the exposure to practical knowledge, expert speakers, and networking opportunities that can immediately boost your own skill set, and elevate team performance. Save on your pass using code GTC 20. Learn more at http://oreil.ly/2o07Ufw.

CHRISTINA: Welcome to Episode 74 of the Greater Than Code podcast. I am super happy to be here with Sam Livingston-Gray.

SAM: Hey, thank you. And I am here and super thrilled about it with Jessica Kerr.

JESSICA: Thank you, Christina. Thank you, Sam. And I am excited to be here with our panelist of the day, Astrid Countee. This is one of our famous panelist episodes in which we get to grill one of our own about her superpowers.

SAM: Woohoo!

JESSICA: Today, we’re talking to Astrid. Astrid is an Anthropologist and writer and a Ruby newbie, programming in Ruby for only three years now. She slowly worked her way up to software development by managing and building databases and working as a data analyst. Then she went all in and attended the Iron Yard Academy in Houston. Afterwards, she worked at HP as a QA Engineer and DevOps engineer, now she is the director for Tech for Justice.

ASTRID: I was.

JESSICA: Oh, you were.

ASTRID: Now, I am a Community Manager for Data for Democracy.

JESSICA: And Justice.

SAM: In the American way.

ASTRID: Hi, everybody.

SAM: Hello. We only made it halfway through your bio. How are you doing?

ASTRID: Yeah, that’s fine.

ASTRID: I’m good. I missed you guys. Haven’t been around for a while but I’m trying to change that.

JESSICA: Yeah, we miss you too.

ASTRID: You guys and girls and everybody else.

JESSICA: Women.

ASTRID: And women.

JESSICA: I’m over 40. I don’t get to be a girl anymore, even if I’m just like one.

ASTRID: Really?

CHRISTINA: I am admitting to nothing and I still gets to be a girl.

JESSICA: There you go. Yes.

ASTRID: I think we’re having too much fun already.

JESSICA: Okay.

ASTRID: I can be serious now.

JESSICA: All right, Astrid. If you got to be serious, you have to tell us what is your superpower and how did you acquire it?

ASTRID: Oh, my God! Do you know that I don’t know the answer, even though I ask this all the time?

JESSICA: Maybe [inaudible] superpower.

ASTRID: I can tell you what people tell me. So people tell me that my superpower is being a very analytical and logical person which I don’t always know if that’s meaning in a good way like as a compliment, but I try to take it that way. I think that that’s just something I always have been. Though I do have a really good story about that. So when I was probably like two and a half years old, I have this memory which got filled in later by my grandmother retelling this story. And it’s this memory where I’m in a car, I’m in the backseat, and everybody is talking. And then I talk, and then nobody says anything and I just wondered why nobody said anything. And then my grandmother tells me that what happened is that my aunts and uncles which are her brothers and sisters were all around us in the car arguing about how to get somewhere. And then I said, “You should do this and you should do this and you should do this.” And then nobody said anything else because they’re shocked that the two and a half year old kid in the backseat was making more sense than they were.

JESSICA: And you were right.

ASTRID: I was right. The bigger part of the story is that they were going to like bickering, arguing even though they were over 40. So I don’t know if that helps, Jessica.  But they were bickering about what they were doing and I guess I was just telling them what seemed to be the right thing to do and they didn’t realize I was even listening. So I think that that type of thing is something I do a lot. I listen a lot when people are not expecting that I’m listening and then because I listen a lot, then it becomes pretty clear to me what to do a lot of times. And I guess that’s what people mean when they say I’m very analytical and very logical.

JESSICA: That’s interesting because before the show, we were talking about rants and passions. It’s like rants and passions.

ASTRID: Yes, I have passions. I try not to have rants. So one of my big passions is because I am a social scientist, I really feel that there needs to be more social scientists who are doing work in technology. Because if you pay attention to the news, this is a great example why, there’s a lot of stuff going on that involves people and what they do. And a lot of people who are in charge of it don’t really have that type of skill. But it is not so much just ‘I’m a social scientist, let me tell you how to do your job’ because I think that happens a lot. I think it’s more like, I think social scientists need to be taught that technology is also a world that they should be involved in. It is a world full of people. It’s not just a world full of computers. And I think that it’s still kind of viewed for people who are outside of technology, it’s still viewed as those people over there who do that stuff with those machines, but not like this is your whole life.

I don’t know anybody who can actually say they can live a whole day that does not interface with some technology at some point. And there needs to be a lot more understanding of how technology affects what people do, how they think, how technology is a part of their lives, how they use it. And not just so that we can make nice interfaces but also so that we can really think about what kind of world we’re building and what that really needs. And when I’m talking to the social site, especially the Anthropologists, I tell them things like when you’re an Anthropologist, you learn that understanding the Roman Colosseum, for instance, and its construction matters when you’re trying to understand Roman society. But in our world, we build digital structures. You need to understand that because that matters for our society. And I think there should be a whole lot more crossover.

So, it’s like my big passion. I talk to everybody about it but I can’t because I feel like it’s just not there enough. It’s just not enough.

JESSICA: That’s [inaudible]. We talk on this podcast a fair amount about as technologists, we need to think more about the social. So you’re saying sociologists need to think more about the technical.

ASTRID: Yeah, they do. There’s some of that but it tends to be marginalized. It’s like you learn how to use certain types of technology for your work. So when I was in graduate school, there’s a lot of SPSS which is a statistical package. And because you have to do statistics like some people don’t realize that social scientists do math what they do in statistics. And in some social sciences, we use R, which is great but it’s still like I’m just using a tool to do what I do, as opposed to saying, “Do you actually understand?” I try to tell people, “Do you know how the web really works? Do you understand what’s happening beyond just the nuances of social media rants and stuff like that? Do you understand what it means to be connected in this way? How that changes things?” And I think there needs to be a lot more of that.

Just like what the Cambridge Analytica stuff that we’re now talking about, these are things that are very, to me, fundamental social science questions. This is the type of stuff that you would have done as your own research, as a social scientist under some sort of Code of Ethics with particular types of research being added to it that is your literature review. And this type of stuff now is just being thrown out there. It’s harming a lot of people. But also because the social scientists are also not involved in how this type of stuff happens in the first place or building the stuff or even knowledgeable that it’s being done. So I think it’s a big disservice to keep them separated.

CHRISTINA: I feel like it has a lot to do with the whole notion of move fast and break things.

ASTRID: And now it’s move fast and break people.

CHRISTINA: Right. I think it will always break people, because it is breaking people. And earlier, we were talking briefly about Impostor Syndrome and I feel like that’s only really come to life for me with social media. So I call it anti-social media. Like on my phone, I actually have the Twitter app and Facebook in a folder called anti-social. It’s like a reminder to myself that I’m not really being social on social media. But yeah, I feel like it’s just all about move fast and break things and forget about who you break. We won’t know the effects of what today’s technology has done to humanity, I guess, for another couple years.

ASTRID: Probably for a while. But I think it’s not all bad too. I think there’s a lot that is helping us do things differently. And then it gets into a lot of other stuff like part of the way your brain evolves is to culture. And so, if our culture uses digital technologies, how does it change how your brain is going to change. There’s a lot of questions that could be asked more and could be actually actively being studied that would be useful and helpful because I feel like this is one of the reasons why we think of artificial intelligence as like this cliff that we’re going to fall off, where the wall is going to fall into the hands of all these robots, and they’re going to kill us because we don’t really understand what we’re doing with technology. We haven’t thought about that. We don’t understand how to best use technology to help ourselves. We don’t know how what we’re doing today is going to affect something five years from now. And although some of those things we’ll never know, we’re also not trying to do that work in a mass-scaled way. And I think that we should. And I think that you have…it takes a lot of years to become some sort of social scientist, so why not take a person who has been doing this for 5, 10 years? And why not have them learn these skills so they can enter this world and start to do that kind of work? And that’s kind of why I keep pushing it because I feel like it’s just like if you go to another country, you have to learn the language. Just learn the language because you’re already in this country, you just don’t know how to talk to anybody.

SAM: But we’re famous in this field for discounting the value and experiences of anybody who isn’t in it.

ASTRID: Yeah, everybody in this field is like that, though. I mean, we can say that technology is bad about that. They are. But I don’t know what isn’t bad about that. But do you know when that’s welcoming? I don’t want to say that everybody feels this is very trivial but they seem to be.

JESSICA: But this is the one that we’re in, so it’s the one we can affect. So we can work on it where we are.

ASTRID: Yeah. But I feel like it’s not just a technology problem. It’s a huge problem because right now, technology is a place where we’re saying if you want to advance, you should learn technology. If you want to be able to build things for this world, you should learn technology. And then when you get there, they’re like, “We don’t want you.” And so, that’s a problem. But I think that if you were to turn that around and go into any other discipline and wherever their headquarters would be and try to walk in there, they don’t want you either. I think it’s just like this possessiveness that people have. And so although I do think it should be fixed and corrected, I also feel like let’s not pretend like technologists are the only people who do this type of stuff.

JESSICA: Yeah. Just like you said, it has a particularly big impact that technology if we can make technology more welcoming because going into technology has a big impact. And we want more social scientists to understand technology so we need to welcome them.

ASTRID: And they need to bully their way in. I mean, I think it’s nice that we [crosstalk].

JESSICA: Is that what you did?

ASTRID: Yeah. I feel like I love the idea of it being like, “Hi,  we love to see you. Come on in.” I love that. But the truth is that’s not what’s going to happen all the time. So you also have to give people the skills to say, “No, I’m going to be here. I don’t care if you want me here or not. I want to be here.” I feel like that’s an important thing that we kind of forget to tell people. You have a right to be wherever you want to be. So put your flag in the sand and do what you really want to do. Don’t wait for somebody to give you permission because that’s never going to happen, not in the large scale the way we want it. There’s too many reasons why somebody could say no. And if you have to ask permission, then there’s a lot of things you’re not going to get. So you have to bully your way in sometimes. That’s how change happens anyway, It’s usually by somebody saying, “I don’t care if you want me here or not. I deserve to be here. And I’m going to be here.” And then you stick your tongue out and do whatever you want to do.

JESSICA: Yes!

CHRISTINA: I don’t know if it’s a feature or a bug in humanity. But I feel like we see it so much more in technology, at least because this is the industry that we’re in, that’s just what I alluded to. But it feels like there’s this thing where you almost want to be part of the cool crowd or this elite crowd. Like if you can do this, then you’re part of the cool kids. You can sit at the cool table.

ASTRID: Yeah.

CHRISTINA: It also speaks to the argument about being technical and non-technical. A lot of people in tech don’t value non-technical brainpower. It’s technical or nothing. So that’s why I’m like, I don’t know it’s a feature or a bug. I guess it could…I don’t know. With different use cases, it could be beneficial but I don’t see it. I just see it as negative. It’s this thing that we do in society where we’re like, yeah you can shop on Madison Avenue. Then you’re part of this affluent group because you’ve got it. But if not, then you’re basically poor and you can’t stay with us. That’s a simplistic way of saying it.

ASTRID: I think what’s different about technology is unlike a lot of other disciplines, you don’t have to have credentials to try to say that I’m great. Before when I was doing research in graduate school, I was doing it on diabetes. And so, I spent time in hospitals and that’s a very hierarchical ‘you are not a part of our group’ kind of world. And in medicine, the nurses, many times are extremely, extremely skilled. But because they’re not called ‘doctor’, they get dismissed a lot when it comes to what they say should happen. There’s reasons for that and I understand all that but it’s also true. But the difference is to be a doctor, you have to go through a certain amount of education, a certain amount of board certification. So then they feel like, “Okay, I did all that. I’m entitled to say doctor.” And if you’re in meetings even if you have PHD’s, it’s important that you say, “I’m Dr. so-and-so…” because that’s how they determine who the elite are.

But in technology, you can just be like ‘I made this therefore, I’m better than you’. And I think that’s a little different because that means you’re not passing through like peer review. You’re just saying I’m great. And you’re saying, “If you look at this, I did it. That makes me great.” And maybe you can back up your skills and that’s fine but it’s not like if that same kind of paradigm was compared to medicine, the nurses could be able to tell doctors are stupid and they could actually do better jobs than some of the doctors but they are not allowed to do that.

And I think that happens in a lot of other realms. You can’t just walk into a courtroom and be a lawyer and just say, “I’m better than you because I read all these books.” That doesn’t matter. Lawyers have to pass the bar. That’s what makes them lawyers. And I think that that’s what we don’t have in technology. Not that I think we should. But I also think that’s why you should push back on that even more because you’re kind of self-proclaiming how great you are and then other people may back you up. But that also means that there’s no real law that says that you are great and I’m not. It’s just about how much I’m going to challenge that.

SAM: It sounds like you’re talking about professionalization, the process by which a particular field erects barriers to entry and polices its own members and basically creates artificial scarcity to benefit the people who are in the group already. One of the side effects of that is that these professional groups, they do wind up with having at least the form of having some kind of professional ethics. Engineers and lawyers and doctors, they all have standards that at least in theory they can be held to. And that’s definitely something that the lack of that is something that we’re seeing explode in the news this week as the Cambridge Analytica story is everywhere.

ASTRID: Yeah. That’s actually a thing, there’s a project going on inside Data for Democracy that is trying to help correct that. So internally, we just call it the Code of Ethics project. But it is a community-led project to build into the thinking of people who are doing this type of work that there should be a code of ethics that you follow, there are some guidelines for how you should think about certain types of cases. Because this exists in other places already, like in other fields, they already have that, and not having that in technology leads to a lot of horrible things that happen. And a lot of those things could be avoided if there was better understanding of how to ask these questions. And I think some of that comes from ‘you don’t need to take Ethics to get a Computer Science Degree’, so you don’t even have the opportunity to ask those questions of yourself before you go out into the working world. And everybody who’s doing any type of technological work doesn’t necessarily have a degree anyway. And it’s not required that you have some sort of ethical training to do the work that you’re doing. And that type of stuff, I think, is now we’re starting to see these big mushroom clouds of problems because it’s been going on for such a long time but these platforms are scaled and are affecting so many people and you see the big backlash.

So I think there should be better ways of building in ethics because I kind of hate that it’s still this extra piece that we’re like, “Oh, we should care about other people too.” That’s a benefit of what we do. I think it should be part of it. I think there’s a lot of cases from the business world where companies are not incentivized to care about what happens to people and then you see what happens. And then we try to do something about it but it’s always extracurricular work instead of part of the core mission. So, I’m hoping that since what we’re doing is community-led, that these are the people who are doing the work who are saying we should do this. And hopefully that type of push, because it’s not coming from some external group that’s telling you what to do, will kind of help make it more ingrained.

JESSICA: And it beats scrum master certification.

SAM: Sorry, I was misdirected because I was looking at my own record of my college courses. And as I recall, the Bachelor in Computer Science program that I went through had a, it looks like actually it was a 2-credit course not a one-credit course in ethics and I believe I skipped it. And I was allowed to graduate without even taking it.

ASTRID: Yeah. I don’t think it’s required for most programs. Whereas for me, I had to. There’s no way I could have graduated with either one of my degrees without taking that and it’s part of everything that we were doing because the minute you start doing research, you have to think about what’s going to happen to people because the research we do is on people. And it goes to all kinds of review and all that other stuff. I don’t think that that’s practical for a company to implement, but I do think there has to be something between zero and academic review boards.

SAM: I remember there was some noise about that awhile back where Facebook had been experimenting with showing positive or negative news to people and experimenting on whether or not it impacted their mood. And surprise! Surprise! It does. And there is no ethical review board on that.

ASTRID: You could get kicked out of college for doing that type of stuff. But Facebook can do it and it’s fine. That’s the kind of where we live in and I think that’s why I tell the social scientists to bully their way into the room of technology and say something or do something.

CHRISTINA: What would it look like, I guess, a day in the life of a social scientist?

ASTRID: I think it depends on what you’re doing. Most people who call themselves social scientists are academics. But I think that if you’re working in the industry and you’re not doing just research, what that would mean is that you would be thinking about the context of whatever your work is. Like if you’re building a product, if you’re working on a service, if you’re working with a team, thinking about how that goes through the checks and balances of what you know is ethical research and ethical work. If you have questions about should we release this on our product or not, then most social scientists are already trained to think through, “Well, if you do this, what does that mean? Who could that effect? Are we thinking about all the people who are not necessarily assuming would be using it? How could it be used?” I think asking those questions is actually really helpful because although you may not have an answer, at least to put that out there for the team to be mulling over. Because a lot of the stuff that we’re seeing is stuff that obviously could be used in a horrible way, there is a bad actor. But it could be used in a great way if there’s a great person who’s doing it.

But you have to also think about what if everybody doesn’t have good intention, then are we releasing this in a way where if somebody who has a bad intention can cause irreparable harm? Do we have anything in place to try to monitor if it is being used in a harmful way? And if we do, then what are we going to do about that? That’s the type of stuff that a social scientist would be thinking. And that type of contribution can help a lot when it comes to some of the ways that these products are being pushed out there and how they’re being used. And then there’s also more nuanced things like what about when you build something with the intention of one person to use it but maybe because of how cultures change or are different, they get used in a way you didn’t intend.

There was some article I read a while ago that was talking about this with cell phones. In the United States, we assume that one person has a phone that you wouldn’t have a phone and have your whole family use it or share it. But in a lot of other places in the world, that’s not true. Phones get shared among people. They take their SIM cards out and put another SIM card in. Sometimes they’re sharing data. And this particular article was about a kiosk that was in India where you take your phone. It was not like a smartphone, it was one of the flip phones. You take your phones to this kiosk and there was a person there who is kind of like a broker and you would give your phone to them. They would load new things up on your phone for you because you wouldn’t have good streaming service. So it would be like, do you want see the latest video, do you want to hear this new music. They would load on your phone. You pay for that service. You keep it for a week and then you go back and you do this over and over again. That’s not the original way we assume people use a cell phone. But if that is how people could use your cell phone then you could think about ways that you could build your product to accommodate that use as well, as opposed to trying to get everyone to fall themselves into one way of behaving, you could actually take advantage of what people really want to do with these phones.

And then in a lot of other parts of the world, they’re using them for a way of transferring money. It’s very interesting when you stop thinking just in this very America-centric way about how products could be useful because then you can start to seek ways that you could actually help improve somebody’s life. If you think about that, you know way earlier in the process when you are still in that building pace.

JESSICA: So part of ethics is thinking about how this technology could be used that isn’t your intention. And if you do that, you might actually find money in it.

ASTRID: Yeah.

JESSICA: As well as mitigating harm.

ASTRID: Yeah. I think mitigating harm is a big plus, but also you can make a lot of money. And I don’t think that it’s even so hard to do. But I do think it’s like a lot of things is a mindset. And people who are trained this way, they already have this mindset coming in because it’s already been ingrained in them for years and years of this. So it’s really easy. I mean, I can walk into a room and easily see things that people just don’t seem to see. And I think part of that is just I’m taught to observe, so that’s one of the reasons why. But also, I just think about the outcome in a different way. Engineering is about building which means you want to get to something that is actually out there. But social science is not about building. It’s more about understanding and then trying to analyze and do something with those results. That can lead to the same thing but it can also lead to other types of conclusions. And that’s the stuff that I think you need to start incorporating more in.

JESSICA: It reminds me of security, how DevOps is turning to DevSecOps. Now apparently, we need [DevSecSOps].

SAM: You mean we need to be multidisciplinary? What?

ASTRID: Yeah, I think it’s hard. It’s a really huge tension because I think you need specialists. You just do. But you also want to be aware of what’s going on in other disciplines but then who has time to train themselves in three different disciplines. I feel like this requires a lot of different types of people and they have to be a part of the same ecosystem working together. And I know that that’s like, and then we put a rainbow on top and then the birds sing. But I feel like we have to try. We have to start moving in that direction as like the core way that we do work. And it’s just not going to be easy. You’re going to have to think a lot about it. You’re going to have to keep reminding yourself because it’s just not the way things have always happened. But just because it’s always been that way doesn’t mean it should stay that way.

CHRISTINA: How does this relate to the design? And we hear a lot about design and just designers in tech and UX/UI designers and all of this research and the pre-work. Does social science kind of fall into that category somewhat?

ASTRID: Yes. In fact, I would say that is the majority of where social scientists are working in technology. They’re working in design. So they’re doing design research, they’re doing user research. And then some of them who have learned some technical skills are doing some of the UI stuff too which is great. My only complaint with that is oftentimes that’s closer to the end of a process. So you’ve already decided who you’re building for, you already built something. And then now we’re building around that to make it usable. But I think that you need to keep this type of thinking throughout that whole process and it really needs to be much, much earlier. Because it’s not just in making it something that people can use where you have value, I think it’s also in challenging assumptions. And so I think that that’s what’s missing. A lot of what you get trained to do in social science is to say you’re doing this. Why? Because a lot of times, that question of why doesn’t get asked. It’s assumed that you’re doing this because this is how you do it. But if you challenge those assumptions, then it gives you the opportunity to say, “Well, maybe I don’t have to do it this way.” And that can be useful outside of design.

A lot of what’s happened in the way is design, I think, came along sooner with understanding that in order to really be effective, you’re going to have to dig deeper and to do that. That’s why a lot of design thinking and the human where the design comes from, when you’re really trying to think about what people do and how they do it and why they do what they do and you’re building that into a lot of times with digital products interface. But if you’re talking about a physical product, you are building that into the way that they’re seeing it, how it works, what the packaging looks like.

But this challenging of assumptions is something that could be happening at the beginning where you’re saying, “Let’s build this.” Why? Sometimes because ‘I can’ is not a good enough reason. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t build it but you should know why you’re building it. And if you ask that question then you can also ask the question of, “If I build this, what could happen?” If you start thinking about those things a little bit more, then at least it gives you a little bit of lead time to prepare for if something happens you don’t want to happen or if things get taken in a direction you hope they don’t get taken in.

But it also gives you a chance to start thinking about how people are different. I think there’s still a lot of grouping people by things like race and gender and not grouping people by how they see themselves. Because most people do not wake up in the morning and say, “I am a black woman and today, I’m going to enter the world as a black woman.” That’s not how people actually act. They feel certain types of identity affiliations more strongly than others and maybe that could be being a woman or being a black person, but it could be other things. It could be, “I love comics and I identify with people who love comics.” And that’s a whole another way of seeing the world. And that’s not something that oftentimes is how you group who your user is.

If you start thinking about how people really act in the world, then you question, “I want to build this.” “Why should you build that?” I mean, do the people who you think want this really want this? Could you be building something that somebody who wants to hurt the people who you think want this will use? That’s why I think there should be more of it further down the line.

CHRISTINA: I feel like I’ve been in some of those meetings or more security meetings and we’d see the world like it is. And when someone asks why or something, you get the evil lie or you’re difficult. You’re not being a team player. Because the end of the day, it’s about making money. So if they identify that this feature is going to bring in X millions of dollars and you’re here being like, “Why? How is it going to hurt people?” I mean, what’s the best way in your experience to kind of balance that because it’s like capitalism over everything.

ASTRID: I think you do have to understand that businesses are about making money. So a lot of times what I try to do is try to frame what I’m saying in that context, meaning why do we do this when we could actually do this and it would be better and this might make us more money or might save us more money by doing it this way. Because a lot of times, the better thing to do is not harder, it’s not going to cost more. It’s just unknown or some person with power just doesn’t want to hear it from you. And that’s a lot of the ways the decisions get made. And it’s not so much like, “If you want to do something that’s good, it’s going to cost us so much money and we’re going to have to hire so many people and it’s so impractical that we just can’t do it.” That’s usually not the case. It’s hard because it means there’s no one way to approach it. It means that you have to kind of understand that room and who those people are and what kinds of things we’re going to get them to align a little bit more with what you’re talking about which usually means that you have to more so align what you’re saying in a way that they feel like they’ll actually hear. It will go through. They’ll be porous enough to go through their whole walls that people will put up.

So it takes a lot of, I guess, nuance to work on your part. Because if you’re going to challenge something, if you tell somebody no, then the first thing they’re going to say was, “I don’t want to hear it from you. I don’t care who you are.” So it’s not going to get your point across. But there are ways that you can challenge things which one of the best ways I found is to ask the question and not say, “You should do it this way.” It should be like, “Why aren’t you doing this?” And let somebody answer because sometimes it’s just nobody said anything. Because usually what will happen is if you do whatever, you don’t say anything and it goes out there and then some problem comes up, then the question you get asked in that meeting is, “Why didn’t anyone say anything?”

SAM: Can’t win.

CHRISTINA: Good point.

JESSICA: This is really interesting. So you have the point that coming up with a better solution is only one step. Getting that solution into the brain of the person who can implement it or get it implemented is quite another step.

ASTRID: Hmmm.

JESSICA: I also want to go back to the point about companies are here to make money. I just finished this lovely little book called Obliquity by John Kay. And it is about the companies that make the most money, like sustainable profits over time, are not the ones whose job is to make money. Sorry, that’s not a goal that you can reach for directly. You have to get there by doing something. So the companies that do well sustainably aim for making great airplanes or giving people great music. They aim for the thing that they do well. It’s not that they have to have the objective of making money. Making money is a necessary state for achieving the unique distinct company goal of airplanes or music or I don’t know. Sam, what does your company do?

SAM: Software for real estate agents, it’s terribly exciting.

JESSICA: Okay. So, to get people into houses that they like by providing useful software to make that possible. You have to have that mission. And if your mission is making money, how are you different from any other company in the entire world? You’re not. And then you’re like Lehman Brothers. And the only people who want to work for you are the people who want to make money. And you know what they do? They make lots of money for themselves. And your company goes bankrupt. Anyway.

ASTRID: That was a rant, ladies and gentlemen.

CHRISTINA: Whoa, what a passionate rant.

JESSICA: It’s beautiful when you think about that. Profitability is a necessary state for achieving a goal that is unique for each organization.

ASTRID: Yeah, I agree with that. And I think inherent in what you’ve said is you have to offer something of value to people so that they will want whatever you’re selling.

JESSICA: So then I don’t feel bad about costing a little bit of money to maybe change what’s the worst that can happen into ‘we noticed and we stop it’.

CHRISTINA: Just being a part of or having been part of really large organizations both in the financial industry and in tech, like what that looks like. These are the conversations that I’ve been a part of or just how senior leadership looks at things. To Jessica’s point, there is a mission but everything is very much numbers driven. So it’s like there is an overall mission. But then at the lower level, it’s like we’re getting to that mission but you got to bring in your numbers, bring up your numbers. You have this code or you have whatever. Let’s say you have to make a million dollars per quarter. You have to meet that. So at the end of the day, it becomes about money. And your mission seems like it just looks really pretty on the website or in discussions. But I always question, “Is that really the goal?

Even looking at the whole Facebook fiasco, they had a mission. What is their mission? To connect everybody in the world.

ASTRID: They succeeded.

CHRISTINA: And they’ve succeeded, but maybe they needed a social scientist on staff. How did they get there? Yeah, they successfully connected everybody in the world. But, now what?

ASTRID: I hear what you’re saying because I used to work in oil and gas, and it’s also very numbers driven. And I had monthly goals. There is no, “Oh well, I felt like my teams have taken time off because we’re working really hard. So I told them…” We can’t do that. You have to meet your goals. But I still think that in there, especially if you’re in a place where you have a little bit of a chance to lead anybody, you get to make choices about how you do what you do. And I feel like it’s the little things that you do that make a huge difference. Because in what we were doing, we were selling a digital product to oil and gas companies. And if our product was poorly done, what was going to happen is that maybe not this week but maybe two years from now, they’re going to come back and say, “We need this redone.” We have to do it for free because that’s what their contract states. So we’re still going to lose money.

There were times where I was a supervisor and I would go to a meeting where someone is saying, “We need to have more of these done in this timeframe.” And I would say, “No, we can’t do that without sacrificing quality.” And sometimes, they would be like, “Well, we need it anyway.” I would usually will try to pass that on to the people who are doing the work because they don’t need more stress. But what I would try to say, maybe not in that same meeting but in another place, was, “Here’s what you would like me to do. This is the outcome of that.” And then I would include, “Because the quality will go down, we’re going to have these many things that we have to redo. This is going to be for free. Where this is going to take us is we’re going to meet this goal but we’re going to have that quality which will also cost us customers. Or we could go a little bit slower than what you want and have great quality which will chain us new customers and don’t have to redo anything.” And then I would say, “I will do what you ask, but these are the options.” Usually, people don’t point to the first option that they picked if I do that.

So sometimes, it’s trying to reshape it so that you can show them what they’re really saying. Because the other thing that I learned that took me time to learn was I have pressure for numbers but so does my boss, and so does their boss, and so does their boss. And so what they’re doing is just passing that down and not thinking through everything that they’re saying and how it’s supposed to affect what I do which is what I thought. When I first started working, I thought, “Well obviously, you’re the boss because you’re good at your job.” I didn’t know. I had to learn. I know we talk a lot about empathy, if you can think about what they may be hearing in their meetings and why they’re saying what they’re saying to you and try to subvert that a little bit if you can and make it easier for them to say yes, then that’s another way that you can have a little wind that can make a difference.

And I think that that’s a lot of what you end up having to do because I have never had a moment where I walked in and saved the day and then I can have like this great exit because I told the man no. That’s never happened. But I have had a lot of moments where I said, “Well, we can meet this but not this way,” or, “Let’s give people a chance to learn something. So, I’m going to make a program. We’re going to teach people. And I’m going to make sure we meet our goals, but people need to learn what they’re doing so they don’t mess up all the time.” And stop making it such a pressure environment because some of what it is, is just thinking but you don’t get a chance to think a lot in those numbers based environments. And it does mean that you have to kind of like take it upon yourself to try to do that maybe outside of your normal workday but it can make a huge difference. And then when you realize that it’s not just you it’s happening to, it’s this whole chain. That means that if you can do that, it gives other people the chance to think too. They could actually do that, it could change a lot of things.

JESSICA: Because it’s one thing to me in numbers this month and another thing to continue meeting them for years and getting better.

ASTRID: Yeah. To grow your staff and to make sure that they’re actually performing well and then make sure that they want to stay with you once they get to that place. I mean, a lot of these are not new kind of problems. It’s just that we’ve stopped, and maybe this is because of how we use technology. But it’s like we’ve stopped understanding that it’s still you have to have good people, they have to have the right skills, they have to have the right environment, and then you can do a lot of amazing things.

One of the things that we did end up doing is the group that I was working in, we did our stuff differently. We tried to get people trying to do their work. We started to exceed our goals, like ridiculously exceed our goals. And the group that we were under was never meeting their goals that the total group was never meeting their goals. And because we were exceeding them, that we would look like we would meet them. And then I was pissed off because I was like, “Look, we’re doing all this extra work. And they’re not even doing their goal.” So then you have more agency to go to somebody higher up and say, “I think that what we do works really well and what they do is not working so well. So maybe you should give us a chance to restructure how they do what they do.”

JESSICA: How do you restructure how another group does what they do?

ASTRID: Oh, you take over.

SAM: Infiltrate and destroy.

ASTRID: I mean, you can push it from the upside a little bit but the best way is to take it over, which is actually what ended up happening. Because companies since their job is to make money, a lot of the way that you’re going to do that is to show that you have value in making that money. If you are doing more than enough, people will listen to what you have to say. And by people, I don’t mean just like the people who are doing the work. These are the people who are decision makers who are determining who gets over departments and who’s going to be the one that’s going to make decisions about who gets hired. They’re going to listen to you because you’re one of the reasons why the company is doing well.

So improving your own value, you get an opportunity to kind of spread that which is better than what normally happens which is where you just have pressure, pressure, pressure and then everybody feels it all the time.

JESSICA: Even if you don’t have Doctor in front of your name?

ASTRID: Even if you don’t have Doctor. It’s probably better if you do, but just guessing. But yeah, I think a lot of it is it’s not always easy to make a direct impact. But you can control some parts of what you do. And that’s probably just like a life thing. So if you can control some parts of what you do, you have to make a decision. That is a little bit hard because it means you have to stop, like just going with whatever is happening because it feels like a whirlwind and you’re just being pushed in all these directions. And you have to give yourself a chance to decide what it is that you care about and then start making as many decisions as you can that way. And then what I’ve found is even when you just have teeny tiny ones, if you consistently do that, it will grow. And if that grows, it gives you an opportunity to kind of show other people that what I do matters. The way I do it is good. And it also gives people who are looking an opportunity to have something to model because I think often we only have negative things modeled to us as to how to succeed or how to make impacts. And then we have a lot of discussions about like the flowery stuff that like holding hands and loving everybody, but we don’t necessarily see what that looks like. So I think we often forget that we can be our own heroes and a lot of that is just teeny tiny things. And it’s not about saving the day all the time but if you can change something for yourself and that allows you to be able to change something for a few other people, that’s a big deal. And that can cascade just like how the negative stuff can cascade.

JESSICA: There’s a point here in the contrast between ‘let’s just hold hands and be nice to each other’ versus what you said earlier about ‘I want to be here because I want to be here, or I can influence these things, I can make this decision and I’m making it in this way’. And we talk often on this podcast about congressive and ingressive behavior. Congressive being I want the group to succeed; ingressive being I want to succeed. And that part about ‘maybe you don’t welcome me but I am here and I have a right to be here and darn it, I’m going to be here’. That’s ingressive in a sense of, “You know what? Yes, sometimes it’s about me. This is my decision and I’m making it and you are going to deal.” But the point is that by doing that, you can bring up the whole group. The best thing you can do for the group is not just sit there and conform to what makes the group feel comfortable.

ASTRID: I agree with that. I totally agree with that. I do think obviously you can do things for selfish reasons just I really want Vanilla ice cream to be served at work and I’m going to not leave until they do it. Does that really help anybody? I don’t know. But I also think you could do things because yes you want it. But by doing it, it means that other people get enough opportunity that they don’t have or that some sort of needs that they are not getting met. I think that’s the great combination of doing it. So be dogmatic about standing where you are and saying I’m not leaving just because you don’t want me here. So I definitely feel I think that is how change happens. I can’t think of some sort of movement or some sort of anything that has really occurred without it being somebody saying, “No, I’m not going to do what you asked me to do because you asked me to do it.”

JESSICA: Yeah I’m not going to sit here and be quiet just because you don’t want to listen to me.

ASTRID: Yeah. And I think we don’t talk about it as much. But I feel like it’s really, really important because a lot of the things that we don’t want occurs because people sit silent not because these other actors are just so overpowering. It’s usually those who do have some power not doing anything with it. And so I think it can be important to be assertive when it’s necessary. I mean, I’m not suggesting everybody [inaudible] their fist and walk into work tomorrow and start going crazy. But I do think that there’s always moments. And I think people know them in their own self. You feel like when the moment passed you and you could have said something or like when you know what’s wrong, you want to say it’s wrong, but you didn’t think you should because of all the rules and then you leave the meeting and you’re like, “Ah, I don’t like this.” You know those moments. I think you’re not going to get it right all the time but if you can get it right at least once, you’ll feel what it feels like to know that you’re doing the right thing, that it’s not just about you, that it’s good that you said something, did something, and that you can tell that it helped somebody else. And also you never know who’s watching you. That’s something else I’ve learned.

After I left my company, people who know me two years later can tell me something, “Hey, you said this me one time. That really helped me.” I had no idea. Most of the time, I was just trying to survive myself. I wasn’t coming into work fully refreshed and ready to fight the system. I was trying to make a little bit better decision than I made the day before and hope that I wasn’t screwing everything up and hope that I was not going to get fired and all that stuff. But you also don’t know who’s watching you. And that makes a difference, too. You don’t know what they see and how that might affect them.

JESSICA: We don’t have a lot of control but we do have influence.

ASTRID: I think that is control in a lot of ways. I mean, that’s what we’re kind of seeing with some of the bad stuff of social media, that influence is way more powerful than we talk about.

JESSICA: Yeah. Sometimes you feel powerless because you’re like I’m not in charge. That doesn’t mean you don’t have enough facts. Even if it’s that indirect fact of people seeing you say something and that changes their future actions, you never know. Especially on anti-social media, you never know who’s looking at you.

ASTRID: And I also think being in charge should not always be the goal because being in charge has its own limits. I’ve talked to people who are in certain positions and they’re like, “I want to do this but I can’t because I’m in this position.” And they want to be able to make a difference but they can’t because of where they are.

JESSICA: Like what?

ASTRID: Sometimes there are things that they know need to happen with their employees or with employees in general. They need to change the way that they train. They need to do a new type of program. But because of whatever position they’re in that’s either not their area, so no one wants to hear that from them, or they’re too high and so they’re too far removed from what’s happening there to have enough. Like you could say it from on high and then they would have to, but that’s still not what you want because it’s not happening the way it needs to.

So sometimes being in certain power positions is not always ideal to actually make things change. I think you can see that with the students of Heartland. So they’re not senators, they’re not politicians, they’re students. But because they have a platform, they get the representative from NRA to come down and they get to ask her questions that congress people have been trying to ask, but they can do that. Now that’s not because they’re in some high, fancy position. It’s because of where they are and because of what they went through that they have the right and people give them the right to ask those questions and not be interrupted and not be shut down. I think that that’s something we should also remember. That sometimes these things that make you feel like you’re powerless are actually when you band together a way for you to exert some sort of influence and power that can change something.

JESSICA: Because as the ones affected by it, the ones needing the training or the ones affected by the shooting, there’s this, I don’t want to say authority, but there’s a certain legitimacy.

ASTRID: Yeah. It’s like who has the right to tell them what they experienced? Nobody. Who has the right to tell them that what they’re saying doesn’t deserve a response? Nobody. So then you have to shut up and listen. Whereas like if you’re a congressperson and you want to have this conversation with an NRA representative, then you can argue politics back and forth all day long and nothing happens.

So I think power is great but it’s not the only thing that’s great. I think a lot of times, it’s the stuff that makes us feel marginalized, the stuff that makes me feel like an impostor, those things also have a way to be influential too. And I think we just forget that because we’re constantly fed that this is how you do things which is kind of like going back to the other way that we were talking about before. That’s not the only way to make some sort of difference. It’s not the only way. There’s not only one way to get to where you really want to be. And if you can think through where you have something that matters to you and you have even if there’s only one other person in the world who agrees with you and understands you, you can do something about that.

JESSICA: Astrid, who’s that one other person for you?

ASTRID: I don’t know. I feel like I have a few. It depends on what the thing is. My sister is great because I can send her like an NSYNC video in the middle of the day and she’s like, “Yes, I love this.” And that’s not something most people share. And I talk to my grandmother a lot because I feel like she’s very much like me and she’s 82. So it helps to have these big conversations about like, “Why is this happening?” Because she’s seen a lot already. When she was little, the Great Depression was going on. And so she helps me understand that, “Yeah, I know it feels this way. It’s been worse. It could get worse but you’ll be fine because you forget there’s a lot of good things happening, too.” And that helps me.

My husband is like one of the strangest people I know. So that was also really great. Because he’s weird in a way that I’m not. But since he’s my husband and I also know that he’s going to be the person that will hold my hand through whatever, even if he has no idea what’s going on half the time. He was like, “I don’t know why this matters, but okay.” It helps to have like little pockets in different places. Then also we have this show too which I think is great because we get to talk about stuff that people just don’t want to talk about, it seems. All the touchy feely stuff.

JESSICA: Yeah, we like talking about these stuff.

CHRISTINA: That’s so funny that you mentioned about your husband because my husband is like not into tech at all. And so whenever I’m really excited or I want to rant about tech, I have to use basketball analogies because he’s so into basketball. So when I’m trying to express my emotions and my feelings, when I’m feeling about something like, “Can you put [inaudible]? It’s like someone when you’re at the free throw line and they fouled you.” And he’s just like, “Yeah.”

ASTRID: I do this too. I use basketball and football and whatever I can to try to get it like, “No, no. You don’t understand.” And he’d be like, “Oh okay, I get it.”

CHRISTINA: I’m like, “They’re trying to foul me. Can you believe that?” And I’m like, “Why? Why? It doesn’t make any sense.” He’s just like all passion and fired up. And I’m really trying to. I’m just like, “Yeah, I think this is working.” But yeah. So thanks for sharing that. At least I know I’m not alone here.

SAM: That’s great. I usually just have to go to Twitter to get that kind of support because my partner is like, “Yeah.” I’ve just learned that she’s not going to follow with some of that stuff and I just had to maybe get that somewhere else. And Twitter is actually really great for that. It’s a great way for me to keep in touch with friends who share that particular aspect of my life.

ASTRID: Yeah. I like Twitter too. I feel like I have to go through Twitter with certain type of filters depending upon what I’m willing to allow in.

SAM: Yeah.

ASTRID: Like, maybe I should just stay on the brain picking Twitter feed for right now because I don’t want to see anything that’s going to make me get angry. But I do love that there are ways to reach people who you don’t know because I’ve met a lot of online friends through stuff like Twitter. And then you can have like that one thing. I have anthropology friends that I could talk about anthropology stuff with because most people don’t know an anthropologist, so you can’t just talk about it and they’re like, “Okay.” They will just nod and smile a lot and then they’re like, “That’s really interesting,” and they can’t talk to you. And so, I talk to them about that sometimes on Twitter. We have our little rants and then go back to the world and talk about other stuff. So I think it’s cool.

CHRISTINA: I’ve struggled with that because I think when I first got on Twitter and for the past couple years, I was as transparent as I could be, and as much as I wanted to share about my personal life and my personal feelings and depression and all of that stuff. But then I realized that once my personal and professional worlds kind of collided and I became more visible and just working for different companies and just panels and talks and all that stuff, I realized that I could share less. So I had to pull back a lot especially when your boss and executives are following you on Twitter. And now, I have this love and hate relationship because I’m like, “I want to share. I need to get this out.” But I’m like, “I can’t share.” So now I’m very strategic like, “If I share this, am I okay with this appearing on like The New York Times.” Is it useful? Is it helpful? No, forget it. I’m not going to share. So it’s been really, really hard to navigate. And I think it started there and then it made matters worse when I got that city checkmark. So now, I was like, “Ugh…”

JESSICA: Ooooh, you have a checkmark? Wow!

CHRISTINA: It’s silly.

JESSICA: I wanted to ask you earlier when you said that you have Twitter in the antisocial folder. If Twitter and such platforms are not social, what are they for you?

CHRISTINA: They used to be social. And I think I’m still hanging on to like maybe, I don’t know, 2015, 2014 Twitter when I got the best high from it and I still feel like this connection to this other world is my people, whether that’d be people in tech, women, people of color. So I feel like there were so many positives but as I became more visible, it just became more of I really can’t be as social as I want to be. So now, I just want to be silly and talk about nonsense like not tech-related or maybe tech-related. But then things are going to be misconstrued, become controversial. And I really just can’t express myself. But I still feel like this connection to it. It’s really strange. I can’t explain it. So I put it in the antisocial folder just to remind myself that with Twitter, just be careful and you can’t be too social. And then with things like Instagram, just to not compare my life or my journey to anyone else’s journey. So it’s just almost like not a trigger warning for me but kind of sort of. I’ve tried to leave. But I admit I’m addicted to social media. It’s getting better because I’m spending less time on Twitter but it’s almost like I have to go on Twitter to get my fix for the day, as terrible as that sounds.

ASTRID: Is it terrible, though? I don’t know.

CHRISTINA: I don’t know. Sometimes I feel worse. Like sometimes these feeds are so negative and you hear about another person being murdered or that guy that’s in the White House. It’s exhausting. So I’m trying to filter my feed. I have so many filtered words that it’s ridiculous. I’m like, “This is crazy.”

SAM: Yeah. I have different lists of different people from different groups that I’m like, “If I go here, I’m going to read this sort of thing and that’s cool.” And I have one list that’s like just the silly stuff because that’s what I want sometimes. I know some people manage the visibility problem by having a public and then a private or protected account.

JESSICA: Yeah, I have one of those. But really, if I want to talk about something that I’m not quite certain about, I go to the Greater Than Code Slack.

SAM: Yes.

JESSICA: We even have a channel for things I want to tweet but won’t.

CHRISTINA: Oh, I’m going to have to find that and start using that instead.

SAM: There’s good stuff in there, yeah.

JESSICA: It’s like I want to tweet this, but I don’t want to argue about it. But I know the people here will be constructive.

CHRISTINA: Exactly.

JESSICA: The social media world is what we make of it. It’s what we construct for ourselves which is both terrifying and useful.

ASTRID: Well said, Jessica.

JESSICA: Yeah, because then the question is can we study what do we construct for ourselves.

ASTRID: Yeah. There were studies, there’s a lot of that. 

CHRISTINA: But there’s also no room for error.

ASTRID: On social media?

CHRISTINA: Yeah.

ASTRID: I feel like social media is like when I was in middle school in band. And then after school, I’d be hanging out with my band friends and we would talk about the people who we didn’t like in school. And then all of a sudden, like the New York Times is behind you reporting. I feel like that’s what happened. We used to just be hanging out. And then now it’s like, “Yes, but three months ago you said…” And then you’re like, “What?”

CHRISTINA: Exactly. That’s exactly what I’m talking about.

JESSICA: Yeah, I like that the free Slack messages just go away eventually.

Astrid, what do you do at work?

ASTRID: What do I do? Oh, wow. A lot of things. Right now, it’s a lot of…the community itself has projects. So most of the people in the committee are data scientists or some sort of data practitioner. They start their own projects. And trying to keep up with all the different projects going on, making sure that they have things that they may need because everybody is volunteering. So their projects maybe things like we’re trying to build something for immigration and we need more people to work on this with us. Or there was a cool one where they were working on the robo calls that were happening around the election and tracking that and wanting to get all the data and trying to analyze what was going on and why it was happening that way. And so that part, just having the projects and trying to keep up with what people are doing and what they may need, welcoming new people because we get new people every day who are joining. The committee itself is really very friendly and very inclusive and very open. And I really want to fight to keep it that way. So we have it set up where you have to contact us and then we will put you in. It’s not like you just click on and join the community, which is great. Helping with this Code of Ethics projects, helping to come up with some strategy for what we want to do in the future. It’s a part of the parent company that I work with which is New Knowledge. New Knowledge does work on disinformation and trying to help protect companies and brands from social media kind of attacks and when certain types of things are passed around the internet the way that they tend to go.

And so there is some overlap between the researchers and Data for Democracy, what they’re doing and then what New Knowledge is actually doing because they’re kind of the same kind of people. So a lot of the stuff is very focused on trying to make some sort of change. Data for Democracy is also international, so we have people from other countries and they’re working on different types of projects maybe related to their country. There’s a project for India and their healthcare system which is pretty interesting and trying to help them pile up information about that to visualize that better, and just trying to keep up because there’s just a lot going on.

JESSICA: That sounds like a lot of things.

ASTRID: It is a lot of things but it’s cool because I don’t feel like I go to work. I feel like I’m always kind of plugged in to stuff that’s going on. I know, I know, but it’s true. I kind of gave up on that whole work-life balance thing a long time ago because it’s too hard. I feel like it’s an extra job to try to make sure I’m having work-life balancing.

CHRISTINA: That’s so true.

ASTRID: I can’t do that.

SAM: It helps a lot if you don’t care, but that’s hard too.

ASTRID: Well, what I’m trying to do is take care of myself and make it a priority. So if I need to spend like take time off because I’m tired, then I do that. Or if I need to go outside and play today, then I do that. But I can’t say like, “I work from this time to this time, so I can be refreshed from this time to this time.” I can’t do that. It’s just I have to plan that. That’s another job. I don’t see how I’m supposed to be helping myself by giving myself more jobs. It just doesn’t work for me.

JESSICA: I don’t need work-life balance. I have work-life alignment.

ASTRID: Yeah, so many words. It’s just too much.

JESSICA: I got up this morning and I was like, “Oooh, I get to work today.”

ASTRID: Yes. I feel like if I’m doing that, if I like what I’m doing, and I feel like what I’m doing matters which is this is how I feel, the job I have, then I’m good. Because at least if I put in a lot of work and I’m working really hard, it’s not just for some like unknown number that doesn’t matter to me. It matters to me what happens. And sometimes you have to work hard, so you know what happens. I can’t control everything and that’s another job too trying to control…I can’t do it all. There’s too much. So I feel like we should just stop giving ourselves so much pressure to this whole work-life balance thing. It’s just do your best, try to have a life, and spend time taking care of yourself. I feel like that’s all you can really do. And the rest of that is a lot of books that you have to read about how to make time.

CHRISTINA: I just call it prioritization. Everyone always asks me, “How do you have a career in tech? You work full time. You’re a mom of three. You’re a wife.” All these things and I’m like, “I just prioritize,” like you said I should. If I’m tired or I’m not feeling, I’m going to log off and not work the rest of the day. Or if I feel like I need a few more minutes in bed in the morning like after I send the kids off to school and stuff like that, then, “Hell yeah, I want to get back under my covers.” It’s like I’m going to do what I need to make sure that I’m good because I feel like we don’t put ourselves first and then we end up burnt out. And I have been there so many times that I’m like, “Nope, nope, nope. Got to be selfish.” And I’ve also stopped saying no to a lot of things. The whole year of yes. It’s like my year of strategic no’s.

ASTRID: I just feel like everybody does not deserve everything from you. You have to have something for yourself. And I think that if people just started with taking care of themselves and making that a priority, I’m not sure that most of us would move past that and be able to go onto the next thing because I feel that we don’t actively learn how to do that without it being about harming somebody else.

JESSICA: I got to hear Bill Clinton speak last night. And one of the things he said was if you treat it like a zero sum game like you have to be in a trade surplus with everyone and they have to lose so that I can win. That’s not the world we live in because we are interdependent. And everyone reacts to what we do and we react to that. We can choose to live in a positive sum game where in order for me to win, you have to win too. And when we take care of ourselves, that can help us help everyone win.

ASTRID: I don’t want to live in a world where if I’m not at 100 then I’m in zero. I want to have the chance to be a whole person. And that means you have to offer that to other people too. So stop getting everybody’s business because they took a day off. Calm down, let people live. Geez.

CHRISTINA: Let me live.

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SAM: Thanks everybody.

 

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