What do you see?

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I was recently asked a question in one of the interviews, “how do you deal with things in a men dominated profession, as there aren’t many women scrum masters I have seen. You are the second woman scrum master I have come across. I am asking you the same question I asked her”.

The later part was to cover one’s back, claiming that “I am asking the same question I asked another person”. I smiled. It did catch me off-guard, as I was gobsmacked to say the least. I pondered over in my head, while I was filling the gaps with a few words, carefully. One question that stayed in my head was that what question did you ask your male scrum masters about this “issue” you are facing? Why do *I* have to explain? What do male scrum masters explain?

Another issue the scrum master role suffers is that “developer/scrum master” or “technical background scrum master”. Typically managers have promoted developers to act as scrum masters as after all it only requires running the daily stand up and then preparing some reports. It is also helpful if they can “get” what the impediments are as after all it is the “scrum master’s job” to resolve the impediments. There are several branching issues I can dwell on in this. For the sake of focus, let us focus on who gets picked for that “promotion”. How many times a woman developer gets picked to act as a scrum master, unless the manager sees this as a “stationary maintainer” role? There gets defined when a woman becomes a scrum master – stationary maintainer, food organiser, and more importantly meeting room organiser. (There was an advert I saw for a technical scrum master with technical skills listed in bullet points with the top point being “knows how to book meeting rooms”!).

There was a guy who came to me and asked me how do I feel about working in a techy place, which is quite unusual for women, he said! I told him this is such a boring place compared to the rocket science place I used to work before. He must have thought that I was referring to my special manicure place! (I don’t do manicure. Hope my manager doesn’t send me back home for not keeping up with the standards!)

In meetings I see I get constantly talked over. Either I talk along too and then eventually it would be me who has to shut the mouth and then earn the label of being “aggressive” or shut up as someone starts talking over and then earn the label of being “lack of confidence”.

In one occasion we were in a scrum masters’ meeting. A newly recruited scrum master  and the scrum master who was involved in the hiring process were discussing about another ongoing hire. I was never included in the loop of the process nor in the discussions. I got to overhear sometimes like this. What I gathered from their discussion was that the person they wanted to hire is now declining this offer over another offer at another place. In the interest of joining in (leaning in) the conversation and to feed my curiosity, I asked whether they could find out the reason why the candidate is deciding so. The newly joined scrum master, who has not even bothered to know my name or anything about me, (obviously I must be a scrum master to be sitting in that room, unless he assumed that I was there to take “minutes of the meeting”) turned towards me and started explaining, “delivery manager role is one level up (gesturing with his hand above his head). Delivery managers usually do this.. that…..”. I am sometimes shockingly sharp in understanding where he is coming from, yet, politely smiled at him and said, “is that the role offered to him in the other place?”. The icing on this cake was that he is new to the scrum mastery himself, poor chap. May be he is finding out himself what a delivery manager role is and he is being kind to explain that to me? May be he thought that I am new to the scrum mastery as well as him, hence explaining the org structure to me?  I self-talk to myself that it is not my job to fix holes in the heads.

In the interest of equality and inclusion: It came up in my linkedin newsfeed when a woman professional was advising girls to take it as a compliment when men message the girls about how pretty they are. There have also been advises to these girls on how to behave professionally on linkedin kind of professional sites such as not to bring up such issues. I don’t see any advise being handed out to those men on how to behave professionally and not to message girls in the first place. I don’t see this person advising men on when there is a NO, it is NO. It is beyond my comprehension how it is even any of her business!

I was not going to post any of it, as I fear, as I already have so many factors stocked up against me in getting a job, remaining successfully in jobs and successfully influencing the strategies to make Agile work… I fear for my survival. I do. Just wait and see how my “hireability” goes down once people find out how *I* “feel” about this “issue”. I silence myself. I keep going. I do my job. Yet it is what they see (me as) in their visible spectrum  is what bothers them. I continue to do my job. I keep my focus.

Then I come across some well meaning folks trying to speak for the under representation of women in this profession. A picture is worth thousand words they say!

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A link to a linkedin post that addresses some relevant issues:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-one-silicon-valley-engineer-benefitted-from-tacit-faye-keegan?trk=hp-feed-article-title-like

When the work culture is not defined by those who do not have a life outside work or by those who have someone at home taking care of it, then there may be a hope that things may begin to change. When the brocutlre begins to change as family-friendly one, may be, things might begin to look better.  Albeit so many family-friendly policies sported by the companies and the HR, unfortunately they do not often extend their helping hands when “soft” things happen, such as when marking women as “under-performing” as apparently someone has to be marked in that category and that someone randomly chosen happened to be women! Not to mention some elaborate rumour-spreadings about women being “emotional” in order to kill someone’s career just because that someone rejected some advances!

Can you please stop defining me by my gender? I will let you know when my biological composition becomes an issue, such as when I have forgotten to bring the needful things on my period day that I may have to hit the shops immediately, no matter how back-to-back meetings booked in my calendar.

There!

Thank you.

Dear Daughter

The world would have you believe that it is a better place now, far better than how it was before. Especially with the letter from one of the richest and the most powerful men in the world to his daughter, who is in team with the LeanIn lady  both of whom promise to make the world even better, especially for the girls. Apologies for not being able to take it with all the hopes it offers.  All I want to tell you is that, keep some cynic side hidden somewhere inside you so that you don’t feel betrayed when the reality hits you in your face. Believe me, it will.

I wrote you a letter myself sometime ago after reading a letter from a mother, whose life was vastly different from her growing daughter’s. Ours too are very different lives, slightly different from the differences noted in the other letter that I was inspired to put it down on my blog. You might comment that it was mostly about me rather than anything to do with you. True. You were small at that time, in my defense. You still are, in my opinion. Yet you recently disagreed with me on the subject of theology and our takes on it, demanding that you be regarded as a separate individual  who is capable of holding own theological views! Goodness me, I thought. You are growing. There are no two ways about it. You will hold your own views and opinions. There are no two ways about it either. Just would like to share some thoughts from my own learning so that you are informed to watch out for realities.

You don’t have to be all that cynic either as you know from your mother’s life that anything is possible. Some may come with some hardship, but then that will shape you up too. The world is ruled by those who are privileged. The men at the very apex of that privilege heap of all the categories and differences that one can come up with. You will soon see how your brother’s life will have more advantages, the ones you wish for yourself are easily handed to him while you have to constantly prove yourself to get anywhere near those. Your mother had a taste of it at her own home, which perhaps prepared her in line with the real world outside. Your mother did have a better life than her own mother at her own  home. You, now, have a better life in your own home. Sure. Yet the bottom line was the same in the world outside. It is still the same.  It will be the same too when you step out into the real world to make a life of your own, sadly. There are some well meaning leaders like those I have mentioned at the very top of this letter. Yet, it is a complex issue to address. It is not an easy one to solve.

You are clever. Yet you will be questioned if you said anything “technical” that you have to prove yourself everytime. You do not like the competition mentality. You will be labelled as “not competent enough”. You don’t necessarily lead in a crowd. You will be labelled as “you lack confidence”. Yet boys around you can happily become “architects” for their ability to work “on their own”. Boys who bully will be called as great leaders. You and your girl friends will be called bossy if you said anything other than “thank you”, “sorry” and “please” as after all you are expected to be polite, nice, and never to disagree!

You will be paid less. You will be promoted less. You will not always get the good roles. You will not always get the roles for the right reasons. You have to have plenty of experience of doing the same job for years to be hired at the junior level. You might think that doesn’t make sense. How do you get the experience then, and why can’t you be given a senior role if you have experience. You cannot ask those questions yet. You will be called political, if you did. You will get even less opportunities when you talked about it.  While men with “potential” will tell you “how it is done”.

If you showed any interest in progressing further, by default you will be assumed of offering sexual advances to the boss. Your boss may mark you “underperforming” if you don’t allow the sexual advances. In his defence, it was your fault. HR will ask for evidences, dates, times and witnesses. Even if you are able to get all those, yet it will be your words against his. You must know, his words will weigh higher. If you are lucky enough to be asked to tell your side of the story, that is.  Most of the time no one will ask your side of the story.  Most women will just go silently. You will watch it in dismay.

The team members will not accept you, if you joined in a lead role and they will look for a male counterpart to report to. They will call the male manager a good manager. They will look down on you for coming to work, while the children, according to them, are not eating cooked food at home. They will make a point to defy everything you try / say just so that they can prove that you are not fit to be in that lead role. You will watch in dismay.

You will be forever some sort of administrator/secretary, no matter high the role is. You will be the “bitch” of your boss, if you know how to fix things. Yet, a man in the same role will be a decision maker and will be called that he knows how to run the company at enterprise level, “end to end”. He can deliver, they will say, if he fixed things. And many more. You will watch the world in dismay.

You are pretty. You will be expected to display it. You will be considered a misfit, if you don’t. You will be expected to improve it. You may ask why. Good question is all I can say. You will be constantly told that there are mistakes and areas that need improving in your appearance. There are products that can dramatically improve you. For every inch, for every shade, there are confusing number of products that promise to make you look “better”. You will also be reminded that you “still” look “beautiful”. You will wonder at the irony of it all. You will be constantly told how you are not good enough in so many ways. You will be constantly told to work on your self esteem “despite” the “shortcomings” of you both physically and intellectually. You will be expected to look for mistakes in you and you will be a constant apologiser. Don’t.

You will be expected to be the house maintainer. You will be expected to apologise for the “mess” in the house. You will be expected to organise your fridge and the events in your life, which includes your husband’s and your children’s. Your husband will have his own life with his mates. You will be expected to organise your life, which includes his life btw, around his life. You will be confused about the irony. You will be expected to apologise for everything about you. You will be expected to keep the man of the house at a respectable place in the society. You will be expected to apologise for the mess in the house. Don’t.

Don’t ever apologise. Don’t ever explain. Just stare. Grow some arrogance. You may be labelled rude. You will be labelled something or the other. Chose the label that you are comfortable with. All you can do is, choose the labels. You cannot avoid them. You brother can. You will be angry. You will be called you are taking it personal. You may be baffled how can it not be personal when it is hitting you personally. Men will say they can stay not taking things personal. How can they take personal when nothing has happened to them, you may ask. I have no answer for that. Learn this. It is about them. Men at work place and both men and women at social surroundings. They will constantly question you, label you, expect you to explain, expect you to follow what they insist that you should do. Just stare at them. It is about them. They are talking about them. Walk away. Now you know how it is not personal anymore. Men don’t know this skill. They will never have to come across this skill. Doesn’t matter. Ignore them. You can walkway now and truly take on the world. Your world. The world you choose for yourself.

The art of choosing is guided by what is around you. Sheena says it in her lovely talk what it is all about. Yet you choose. It is your choice. It is your decision. Not anybody else’s. No one can force their decision on you. No one can imagine they can be allowed to put their choice on you. Not that lovely friend who appears to have the best interest or the fierce mother of yours who appears to be taking away your freedom. You decide.  Your choice.  You will be peace with it. Just be aware that there will be things that are beyond your choice and yet you have to make peace with it.  That is the world waiting for you. Toughen up. Your brother may not need to. You do. Some of your friends might choose to stay out of the working life believing that they can avoid having to face the tough world. They will realise that there is no escape. The “socialsing” will bring it all that back to them. They may master the art of surviving in that environment. You will master the art of surviving in your environment. Don’t just survive. Live. To live, you need to face the reality and learn to blur it out. Your brother may not have to know all these. He may need to learn different  things. His life may be different. He might need different set of tough skills. Yours will be different. That is the bottom line.

Just another day

So I pull up near the kerb and it’s not right to stick out into someone’s driveway. I spot that the person in the other car is still sitting, and the car is parked halfway in two spaces making it not possible for anyone to be park without sticking out into the driveway. I bring up some courage and go to the lady and ask her if she could move a couple of inches forward, which will enable me to park my car. She gets angry and tells me, “you squeeze up close to my bumper and I cannot take my car out when I come back”.

“Emm, just two inches forward would really be enough”, I still try.
“What time are you coming back?”
“4 O’ clock, wait, I reach here by 6pm”.
“Oh, ok then, you would have gone by the time I come back. I will only be back by 7pm”.
She moves her car. I move closer. She gets out and checks.
“I just don’t want them to complain”, I point to the house.
“Don’t worry, you are not even in their driveway”, she assures me.
I get out and check. I neatly lost my breath as my car was really squeezed up against her bumper leaving just less than a half an inch. Started collecting my stuff. Another man walks by and smiles at me. “It is just parking space”, I utter with a shy smile. He smiles, “you usually squeeze up over there, don’t you?”, pointing to the other end of the road. Although I have noticed some regulars and I understand others might have noticed me too, I still go surprised that how much we know about each other. “I usually come for the earlier one”, he tries to take away the uneasiness. “Earlier than this?”, I am even more surprised. “Yes, I usually come for the minute past 6 one.” We walk together towards the station platform. “I take the minute past 6 one, change at Cambridge, walk fast to change platform and take the 6:15 one to Kings Lynn”, he takes me through his routine. “Kings Lynn?”, I ask with confused eyes. “Oh, bonkers. Kings Cross. It is just I am still sleepy”. He is not happy with himself coming across like this. “They both are ‘Kings’, aren’t they? It is confusing”, I smile trying to ease the conversation. We get separated when crossing the road.
I nearly missed to leave work by 4pm. Ran ran and ran and caught the usual train. My mind was all occupied with eating food and rewinding about the day. Got out of the train and walked to the car. I noticed the lady was coming behind me and I realised that I was supposed come before her. I thanked my luck in getting my usual train when I had totally forgotten about our parking situation.

I smiled at her, “you are early”.

She smiled back, “yeah, I was feeling tired and wanted go home. I got off the train and I saw you. We both are here now. It doesn’t matter now. What’s with this weather, it cannot decide what it want to be. A minute it is hot and suddenly cold and then windy….”
We both casually chat about the weather and walk towards our cars!

—–x—–x——x—–x—-
Always wanted to write up little stories about my commute. Today I had a lovely reason to start that!

Linkedin pulse posts

I have been posting on linkedin pulse.

I need some help with proof reading / editing. Please message me if you can help. The most recent ones badly need that help. Most recent at the top. Ta.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/de-jargoning-agile—customer-premalatha-5948171108355174400

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/de-jargoning-agile—customer-premalatha

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20141113100339-15671125-de-jargoning-agile-user-story-take-2

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20141108092703-15671125-de-jargoning-agile-a-small-attempt-user-story

On Balancing it

One of the topics I often come across in the discussion about a working woman is how she balances it. More importantly, her contribution towards running the family is weighed more than anything she does at work. Women like Indra Nooyi endorsing that makes it even more painful for those who are climbing up the ladder of life with hope. Then there are Junkets! Voices like Jennifer Garner giving us the hope back.

I often get asked – with all their good intentions – whether I miss my children when I work away from them? Of course I do. I am sure a man who works away from home will miss his children too. Yet, the society has accepted men travelling all over the country and working, or should we say, working hard to earn a crust for the family. Yet, the eyebrows rise to new heights when they hear my story – I just smile. A friend recently asked me how the children manage without me around. I had to remind her that it is illegal to leave them on their own – hence there is an adult, indeed their very own parent, who is actually managing the situation. This makes it no different to any other contractor’s household. She nodded and said, “yes, one of us has to compromise. It is alright if he is staying at home”. I wasn’t going to waste any more words on her, explaining that he is working too and not staying at home.

Our nanny who is helping us out with our “situation” has a child too. She has got some other arrangement with her child while she looks after ours. As my son is of the same age as her daughter, I often wonder how she is ok with doing homework with my children, while she can’t do so with hers. I don’t know how she ‘balances it’. I wonder if she will end up withdrawing from the current arrangements or continue with things as they are. Despite the undeniable fact that it is a curious topic for me, I refrain myself from asking her as a) she teaches my children better than I would have, b) my daughter listens to her and changes some of her habits – this doesn’t tend to happen when I am in the scene and c) I do not want to make her feel the same way that other make me feel by asking the question.

In an Indian scene the “good girl” quotient is so high that it is suffocatingly difficult to maintain a poker face and stick to the “I will not defend, and I will not explain” mantra. However, I am pleased to note that there is some hope there too. It is not easy for Indian women to break the mould and think beyond the conditioning the society has been subjected to for centuries and centuries.

Applying some of the tricks I have learnt through the experience of being a Scrum Master is the best therapy I can ever get in these situations. A friend asked, “Do you have to go all the way to Scotland to find a job? Would no one local hire you?”. I smiled in response and thought in my head that may be she doesn’t know people who do weekend commutes. “Do you have to go all the way to Southampton, for a contract?”, another asked. Again I smiled but thought in my head, may be he doesn’t know any contractors. “Do you miss your kids?”, many ask. “Hail Skype” is my standard answer. An ex colleague of mine who is also a contractor told me that he has been contracting ever since he can remember working and he has been all over the country. He has four children. He has only ever been a weekend visitor to his home. He mentioned that no one has asked him such questions, when we exchanged our notes of our Junkets! Another friend of mine works away from home a lot, travelling all over the world, he has only been referred as a ‘high profile’ man. I have not seen anyone asking him how his children are doing or how he ‘balances it’. I am sure he is exhausted too.

I do not know what the mom who slowed down by famously quitting her job in a big pond is doing now, as she has stopped updating on her blog. I used to follow her blog religiously. This was her first month in her having the life she wanted. No disrespect to her sentiments, but I am trying to show the confusions women from all different socio-economic background go through. Gaby’s quitting it all generated a few reactions from her circle and they were all good reads -a good sample of the real society out there for us.

I love being a Scrum Master. It is a passion I have discovered in myself and I am impressed to see it working every time.  I enjoy the different challenges the contractor life gives me – the way it takes me through a steep learning curve in every new situation, – makes me feel alive. A friend of mine took to running and other related challenges to take away the frustrations she faced – stemming from the conflicts between having to stay at home and her appetite to remain the ‘intellectual someone’ she wanted to be. In her blog about one of her such adventures, she called herself feeling “alive”.

The act of balancing “it” applies to me, to my husband and to our nanny despite all of us having very different daily routines. The things we miss are similar, and different, if we drill down to the detail. Life, as it is, is such a ‘balancing act’. Looking at women through a special microscope is not doing anyone any good. Everyone should be able to have the freedom to breathe and carry on with whatever the juggle they are in, without having to explain, defend and face the additional pressure from the society. Freedom is women’s right too. That is the balancing act everyone should learn to do and aim to do.

Published on linkedin: On Balancing it! 

The running girl

Whaddayaknow! I run now! Well, not quite, but I am well out of, you know the “V word” for running! Week3, day 1 completed! And the app I am using uses (looks like) the “200yards and 400 yards” instead of minutes, (see the program for Week3Day1), it brought me home early and I covered less distance than I normally cover! Confused? I cover more distance than what is expected at this stage! Whooohooooo! And, it was raining today, and I was still out and running!

But just one teenyweeny thing is that I still do not enjoy running. I do it like a chore! It is hard to get out of the house every time! I so look forward to the “start walking” voice, when running! I so look at the reference points to complete and come back home!😦

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Going to a beach

My childhood memories of going to a beach involved going in a tour bus, a dip in the ocean, another dip in the “good water” and then changing clothes in the open space, which was embarrassing and awkward. Then going to the market street to buy hand-fans made of palm leaves and buying  palm sugar in boxes made of palm leaves. Then the vast Madras beach, which was too hot to step foot on. Never understood why people went to such a hot hostile beach and what did they enjoy there. Not to mention the crowd and the unclean environment. Then came the English seaside experience. At first I kept looking for a beach, which was not there. All that muddy puddles and yucky muddy puddles, and then suddenly there was the sea, looking like a big blue waveless pond, calm and quiet. The sea was quite English. Calm, controlled and not expressing. To a person who is used to having noise as the soul of life, the sea looked depressing. And the absence of beach looked yucky. Thank God that I didn’t go with a lot of excitement about the visit to the beach. You got to live in this gloomy country for a one whole year of gloomy depressing cold winter and sprinkles for rain to appreciate the yucky muddy puddles for sea and beach. Give me the scorching sun and the shade under a neem tree any day. That was life. Life has to have drama. The sun and the shade. That was life. Noisy houses and the quiet gullies. That was life. Long gone. long lost. Back in the muddy puddle seaside, children were excited to see anything sandy. I had to sit down to get the concept of going to the English seaside. What’s with the windbreakers around some people? Probably I will never get that, but I am quiet and calm, sitting down on the sand and  not expecting anything else. Just need a book and less two kids, to enjoy the sit down. Not yet. the boy loved the visit to the beach. The girl complained about the prickly sand and sticks getting inside her sandals and did not think anything about the visit was enjoyable.  It was a good day out, truly.

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Edited to add:

How can I forget the must haves of the English day out? the KITES of course! We did not forget to carry a couple of kites. It can be an enlightening experience to see the competitiveness and the display of skills and cleverness in flying kites. The boy managed to get his kite off the ground and my girl didn’t give a fleeting look at that colorful thing, called kite. My girl.

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