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How Star Trek Deepened My Support for Women in Tech

I started as a hardcore nerd whose wish for fairness and equality was deepened by watching Star Trek.

I started Sunday school, Jewish version, very young, and I think that's where I started hearing about the Golden Rule, treating people like you want to be treated. That was reinforced in later grades.

By the time Star Trek started, I was ready for the (imperfect) lessons of equality that the show displayed. The message in a number of episodes is that racism is wrong, and stupid.

startrek

The show was a product of its time, and half-heartedly treated women as equals, that's the imperfection.

Is the Boss an Empty Suit?

For the most part, I consistently screwed up when I started new work.

Being a nerd usually means no instinct for social norms or conventions, and it took me more than 25 years to catch on to what humans normally intuit.

Here's my brief take on what I wished I'd done, and some of it will sound cynical.

Once you're in the company, figure out whether the culture is about building a good product, or about telling a good story and looking good.

Sun Microsystems built great Unix-style servers and dominated much of the growth of the Internet. However, they never told a good story about themselves, and failed.

At IBM I tried pushing Unix systems, failed, and failed again.

Marketing (telling a great story) is mission critical, but if that culture dominates your culture, you have a problem. Climbing the corporate ladder might become more a matter of looking good and exuding confidence, which is labor-intensive.

People who get great at telling a story might never learn to build great products, and worse, might never respect what it takes to build stuff.

So, your first task after getting inside might be to determine if the boss is an "empty suit," looking good and projecting confidence and that's it.

Then, you decide if the culture is a fit for you.

To be clear, the ability to tell a good story is mission critical, and not just for company product. It applies to you as an individual.

From the very beginning, take responsibility for your image, how people perceive you, your brand. The idea of a personal brand has become devalued, but it's a real thing. It's about how people will decide if they want to work with you.

Your effectiveness will be amplified, or reduced, in this manner. Our species is collaborative, and usually gets stuff done within networks. Without that, we'd be extinct.

I've never been good at telling a story, which is reflected in this piece.

Don't be like me; for example, realize that being right often doesn't matter, and confrontation is frequently counterproductive.

Some things matter, some don't. Figure out what fights are worth fighting, and which aren't. People prefer to go with the flow, to collaborate, or at least to avoid trouble.

There's a lot more to be discussed, like the value of ***authentic networking***.

However, no one seems to talk about this big-deal difference between corporate cultures, and how much it determines your happiness at work.

First thing, figure out what that culture is about, and maybe if you don't like what it's about, plan a future which involves finding a different place to work.

Over $4.1 Million Raised for Nonprofits

Folks, the CrowdRise #GivingTower Holiday Challenge was a really big deal and raised lots of money for nonprofits.

A total of  $4,141,131 was raised for charity. That includes all prize money (I gave $50k) and the money raised by all the charities, online and offline. That's 15.5x leverage on the prize dollars.

holidaychallenge

The Grand Prize winners are…

-1st Place: The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust  with $364,979 raised

-2nd Place: Cure JM  with $287,328 raised

-3rd Place: Wildlife SOS  with $143,342 raised

-4th Place: Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee with $129,855 raised

-5th Place: Alfalit with $92,030 raised

There were lots of cash prize winners this year – 32 in total. You can take a look at all the winners here. A big congratulations to everyone who participated, and to the good folks who donated.

Did you participate in the Challenge? What was your experience? Thanks!

 

 

A 10 Minute Interview With Craig Newmark

Hey, I recently did an interview with 10 Minute Interviews, and they captured a snapshot of the life of a nerd. They asked about my upbringing as a total nerd, my biggest challenges with craigslist, and what a day in the life looks like… You can read the full interview below.

10min

What was your upbringing like, and how did it shape who you are today?

It’s all a blur, but in retrospect I never had much instinct for social norms or convention. That’s to say I don’t go with the flow, since I had no idea what the flow was.

That combined with a severe literal streak meant that I took stuff like “treat people like you want to be treated” and unfortunately thought that life might normally be fair.

Worse, that resulted in behavior like showing off in class, resulting in a lot of social isolation. I was a total nerd, even wearing a plastic pocket protector and thick black glasses, taped together.

Nowadays, I figure I can help life be less unfair; that ain’t bad.

What were the biggest challenges you faced during the early years of craigslist?

(see below)

How did you first meet Jim Buckmaster, and was what it about him that convinced you that he was the right person for the job of craigslist CEO?

My biggest challenge was being a little too trusting and a little lazy, taking bad advice.

However, people helped me understand, end of ’99, that as a manager, I suck. Only took a year for me to get it, which is good, by startup standards.

A little earlier I found Jim’s resume on our site, hired him for senior tech work. After realizing my limitations I made him CEO. Among other areas, he’s much tougher-minded than me.

What are your goals with craigconnects?

In the short term, I want to help good people getting stuff done in causes I believe in. That’s in the here-and-now.

While doing so, I hope to learn for the long run, like my work with Veterans Affairs teaches me what might be done to fix Washington.

So in the long term, I want to help everyone connect, using the Net, to make things better fit all, to give everyone a voice.

From your perspective, what are the biggest issues currently plaguing the American political process?

Maybe the biggest issue is hard evidence showing the return on investment of lobbyist dollars for dollar returns in Washington. Sunlight Foundation created the Fixed Fortunes tool, which shows that one dollar invested in lobbying returns $760 in corporate benefits. (This is does not include “dark money” contributions.) Disclaimer: I’m on the board of Sunlight Foundation.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work with craigconnects?

I get a lot of feedback that I’m helping get a lot of good get done.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I use my phone to get done what’s awaiting me from last night and from the east coast. Then I do more of that, maybe including writing, on my notebook.

Following that, might be a meeting, say with a charity, followed by the office, more work.

Maybe another meeting, then home, time with the missus, maybe TV or a book, finishing whatever work comes in.

What were your favorite TV shows when you were a child?

I have memories of Captain KangarooGilligan’s IslandThe Man from UNCLEThe PrisonerThe Outer Limits and I’m sure I’m missing a lot.

In your opinion, what are the top three Leonard Cohen songs?

Maybe “Anthem,” “In My Secret Life,” “Democracy,” lots more.

If you could only eat at one San Francisco-area restaurant for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

Maybe Reverie Cafe, since that’s where I see neighborhood friends.

Are you superstitious?

Only for comic purposes.

If you could offer one piece of advice to your 18-year-old self, what would it be?

Listen to people, then listen more. (Keep treating people like you want to be treated, don’t change that.)

5 Women to Watch in 2015

Women had lots of gains in 2014, but not enough. And, as a nerd, I don't believe in settling, I believe people should be treated fairly. And that's still not happening. There's a gender gap in tech, in wages, and more…

It's really important to give women the credit they deserve. This past year, my team and I have recognized lots of women doing really good work, but there are still so many more who are creating real change.

Change

Here are 5 women you'll want to watch for their good work in 2015:

(in no particular order…)

      1.  Roya Mahboob –


        Roya Mahboob's an Afghan entrepreneur and businesswoman. She founded and serves as CEO of the Afghan Citadel Software Company, a full-service software development company based in Herat, Afghanistan. She's among the first IT female CEOs in Afghanistan. Roya was named one of TIME Magazine's2013 100 Most Influential People in the World for her work building Internet classrooms in high schools in Afghanistan, and for Women's Annex, a multilingual blog and video site.

      2. Sheila Katz –

        Sheila Katz launched and scaled Ask Big Questions (ABQ) and is the VP of Social Entrepreneurship at Hillel International. The goal of ABQ is to change the world through better conversations. Sheila's an expert in facilitating reflective conversations and creating multi-channel technology campaigns that lead to in-person action.
      3. Reshma Saujani 

        Reshma Saujani is the Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code and the former Deputy Public Advocate of New York City. Reshma has galvanized industry leaders to close the gender gap in STEM education and empower girls to pursue careers in technology and engineering. In 2010, Reshma became the first South Asian woman to run for Congress, promoting smarter policies to spur innovation and job creation. Advocating for a new model of female leadership focused on risk-taking, competition and mentorship, Reshma also authored the book, Women Who Don't Wait in Line.
      4. Debbie Sterling –

        Debbie Sterling is a female engineer and Founder of GoldieBlox, a toy company out to inspire the next generation of female engineers. She's made it her mission in life to tackle the gender gap in STEM fields. GoldieBlox is a book series and construction set that engages kids to build through the story of Goldie, the girl inventor who solves problems by building simple machines. Debbie writes and illustrates Goldie's stories, taking inspiration from her grandmother, one of the first female cartoonists and creator of "Mr. Magoo".
      5. Zerlina Maxwell 

        Zerlina Maxwell is a political analyst, speaker, and contributing writer for EBONY.com, Mic.com, and RHRealitycheck.org.  She writes about national politics, candidates, and specific policy and culture issues including domestic violence and gender inequality. She has consulted with the United States Department of State to promote the use of social media by students in the West Bank and is a frequent speaker at colleges, universities, and organizations about feminism.

Who would you like to see added to this list? Thanks!