Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Adventures at GHC - part 2 - Communicating for Impact and Influence

Adventures at GHC part 2 - Communicating for Impact and Influence - a workshop with Denise Brosseau

This was the third session I attended on the first day of GHC. I thought it was interesting enough that I'd dedicate an entire post to summarising it. Hopefully I can use this to come back to if I ever want to review the material.

This session focused on how to present information about projects to (more senior) stakeholders (although some of the skills are definitely transferrable). I had initially thought it was going to be  mostly another "here's how to project confidence blah blah" talk, but I was pleasantly surprised to receive concrete advice on how to present a piece of information in an effective way.

I liked Denise Brosseau's soundbite quote from the intro to her workshop:
"Good communication is a gift ... to your audience, and to you"
 She explained the reasoning behind this:

  • You will feel less frustrated (your audience understands what you want and is thus able to give it to you)
  • Your audience will feel less frustrated (they can understand what you want)
  • You will be more effective (because you are able to get more of what you want)
  • The effect of the above is good for your team and your company too
The workshop focused on "the three P's":  Preparing, Presenting and Prevailing.

[image of my notes on the three P's in the handout we were given]

Preparation is key

This is from the handout + my notes. I re-ordered them a little in a way that makes sense to me.
  • Think about what's in it for them (if you don't listen to them, why should they listen to you?)
  • Think Big! (What do you know is possible? Think bigger than that. What's even bigger than the the thing you just thought of? For various reasons, women tend to pitch only the part that is obviously possible, call it "E", while men are pitching to "Z". You have to trust that by the time you get to "E" you'll know how to get to "F", "G", "H" ...)
  • Do a dry run or write a rough draft (what are your arguments, get them in order in your mind before you do it for real)
  • Think through their possible objections (who will disagree and why? You need to recognise and respect their views otherwise they will not change their mind - think about various political groups, anti-abortion groups come to mind)
  • Make contingency plans (what should I do if someone disagrees? how can I address their argument?)
Once we'd gone through these, we did a little exercise on preparation. We were told to think of something we wanted to ask for, or to use asking for a promotion as an example, and prepare a one-sentence pitch. A few people shared theirs with the room. Here are a couple of ones I remember:
"It will be bigger than GMail."
Nice and memorable, but lacks details.
"Given my continued performance on project foo, I believe I could be more effective if you promoted me."
 Not too shabby, but lacks impact.
"I'm in this for the long term, but to do this I need to be recognised and compensated better."
This one is supposedly the best example of a one-sentence pitch that was given by an attendee. I like it, it's punchy and to the point.

I have to admit, I'm a little unclear on what the difference between the second and third examples are other than buzz words, but somehow the third one does sound better to me too.

When you Present

  • Present your ideas clearly and succinctly. (For example, when writing an email, put the ask up front, or head it with "FYI")
  • Sell yourself AND your ideas. (You're not just pitching a thing, you're pitching for the stakeholders to invest in you doing/making the thing. Make sure you also put your credentials out there)
  • Listen well. (You need to be able to hear or see people's responses and adjust your angle accordingly)
  • Respond well to criticism or objections. (What was your plan B? Don't be defensive)
  • Make the ask clear. 
  • Make it easy for the stakeholder to agree. (Break it down into smaller things for them to agree to if you can.)
  • Build their trust in you before asking for something big. (Builds on previous point. Denise Brosseau shared anecdotes about two women who wanted her to mentor them. One straight up asked "will you be my mentor?" and that was too big for Denise to agree to. The other asked for a single, specific piece of advice, used it, then a couple of months later, asked Denise out for dinner to thank her and tell her what happened. Then another couple of months later asked for another piece of advice. Rinse and repeat = eventually a successful mentoring relationship. Also, people like to know what happened when you give advice - did it work? Was it helpful? Feedback is good)
We did another exercise here, which was a bit cheesy but was quite fun. In pairs/threes, one person would say something they like about themself, and another would "amplify" them. The idea of this is to show how easy it is to boost/promote someone else, even if we don't know them very well - so if we can do that for someone we don't know, why not ourselves?

That led us into the third of the three P's:

Prevail after the presentation has finished

  • Assess what happened. (Preferably with someone else. A post-mortem if you will, or a debrief to make sure you know how to move forward.)
  • Get help to win buy in. (What if other people reinforced your idea? Maybe you won't win something if only you go to your boss about something, but what if your boss hears it from 5 different people?)
  • Don't take a "NO" personally. (A no is NOT a stop sign, it's a push in a different direction. Collect no's - they are learning experiences)
  • Follow up. (See previous anecdote about Denise Brosseau's mentees. Make sure you hold your audience and yourself accountable to do what you said you'd do)
  • Try, try again.


I enjoyed this workshop, and I think it included lots of helpful advice. I will be thinking of the three P's before I do high stakes presentations in the future!

Adventures at GHC - part 1

As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent 3 days last week at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. In this post, I'm going to write about the first two sessions I attended: the opening keynote and a new managers session.

Since these sessions were at the start of the conference, I feel like they're already partly lost to time in my memory ( :( ), but I'll see what I can do, for my own record as much as anything else! Here goes:

Opening Welcome and Keynote - Shafi Goldwasser (MIT)

I had to leave early to conduct an interview during this session, so I didn't get to see much of it, so I'll just add some links, because other people can say it better than I can...

Shafi Goldwasser is a professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, and in her keynote, she talked about cryptography. A major theme of her talk was about paradoxical abilities enabled by cryptography (e.g. securely exchanging secret messages without meeting first), and how the presence and ability of an "adversary" (a malicious entity who wants the data you're attempting to protect) defines and determines the solutions to a problem.

I really enjoyed the first 10 minutes of this talk, would attend full session if it was offered again. Here are some links about this talk:

Recording: http://gracehopper.org/2014-grace-hopper-celebration-wednesday-livestream/

Nice write up by Huma, who also did good writeups of several other sessions: http://i-thinq.blogspot.com/2014/10/ghc14-keynote-shafi-goldwasser.html

AZ Tech Beat: http://aztechbeat.com/2014/10/shafi-goldwasser-cryptography-grace-hopper/

New Managers - What's your challenge? (Birds of feather session) - Emily J. Leathers (Brigade)

This session was primarily for mildly guided discussion between attendees who are new(ish) managers and tech leads. While it was an interesting discussion, I didn't feel like I learned very much. - I think I'd been a tech lead / manager of interns for a little longer than the other people in my group. (Interestingly, writing that feel funny, even though it's factually true and easy to check. Impostor syndrome?) It was nice to hear that the kinds of issues I've had are not dissimilar to other at least. I hope that the other attendees had something interesting to think about when they go back to work...

I went to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing!

Last week I went to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. It was a fun experience, well, mostly, so I thought I'd write about what I saw and did there.

I attended a variety of sessions, and I think most of them were pretty good this year. I think that means I did a better job at choosing which ones to go to this year! Here are the titles of all the sessions I went to. I'll do posts about the ones I found most interesting / have Opinions about, and may or may not say much about the others.

  • Opening Welcome and Keynote - Shafi Goldwasser
  • New Managers - What's your challenge? (Birds of feather session) - Emily J. Leathers (Brigade)
  • Communicating for Impact and Influence - Denise Brosseau
  • Male Allies Plenary Panel - Penny Herscher (Moderator, FirstRain), Mike Schroepfer (Facebook), Alan Eustace (Google), Blake Irving (GoDaddy), Tayloe Stansbury (Intuit)
  • Keynote (day 2) - Satya Nadella in Conversation with Maria Klawe
  • Accountability and Metrics for Gender Diversity - Denise Menelly (Bank of America), Lazlo Bock (Google), Danielle Brown (Intel), Theresa Kushner (VMWare), Jeanne Hultquist (Anita Borg Institute)
  • The Dynamics of Hyper-Effective Teams: How inclusive environments drive innovation - Lori Mackenzie, Caroline Simard (both from the Clayman Institute for Gender Research)
  • Reverse Male Allies
  • Keynote (day 3) - Dr Arati Prabhakar (DARPA)
  • New Perspectives on Gender-Inclusive Game Design - Elisabeth Gee (Arizona State University), Gillian Smith (Northeastern University), Carolee Stewart-Gardiner (Kean University), Gail Carmichael (Carleton University), Kate Compton (University of California)
  • Addressing Stereotype Threat in the Education System: Brainstorming Possible Approaches - Beccie Magnus, Danielle Del Rosario (both from ThoughtWorks, Inc)
Aside from the sessions, I had a blast meeting tons of different women from around the world and talking to them! Overall, I think the conference was a net positive for me (although next year I think I will decline to do so many interviews - I had to miss several sessions, including part of the opening keynote!). I hope the Anita Borg Institute listens carefully to the feedback and media attention this year's GHC elicited, and improves on the parts which were not so good.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The 61st Down Under Feminists' Carnival

Welcome to the June 5, 2013 edition of down under feminists' carnival! There are lots of yummy links ready for your perusal.


Kate Marsh writes about the high costs and (in)accessibility of abortion in Australia - particularly in Queensland - in A matter for women and their doctors? If only at The Drum.

Family/Women's Work

Elizabeth writes about Mothers’ Day mourning at Spilt Milk.

QoT writes about recent parliamentary events in Parenting and politics just don’t mix! at Ideologically Impure.

Sarah hates the "supermum" meme because you shouldn't need to be superhuman to be a mum in When bad things happen to Mother's Day at The Sarah Monologues.

The north island is finally getting a unit to help mothers who face post-natal depression or distress.! AlisonM writes about it at Mother and Baby Support: A Long Time Coming at The Hand Mirror.


Eutraphalia writes about casual racism at The Shake in Where are you from? On casual racism.

The Koori Woman at thekooriwoman is not going to "get over" colonialism in “Get Over It” On Colonialism.

General Feminism/Social Justice

Orlando writes about something horrifying: women being prosecuted for retracting domestic violence allegations in NSW at Hoyden About Town.

blue milk talks about double standards in who gets labelled "brainless" for their hobbies in Radical jam making.

Blue Milk has some opinions on various topics in Opinions I hold that almost no-one agrees with.

[cn: fat hatred, bullying] Sleepydumpling is defying the bullies and their derailing tactics in WHY I TAKE NO SHIT FROM ANYONE IN MY ONLINE SPACES at Fat Heffalump.


stargazer writes about the hillcrest park guardians group, and the recent council hearing she attended.

stargazer is unimpressed by the Waikato District Health Board's proposal for reducing the waiting times at the hospital's emergency department in this is unhealthy.

Victoria Rollison writes An Open Letter to Bernie Brookes, Myer CEO, with regards to his predictable opinion on social welfare.

missaleksia at I Totally Have A Blog writes about Tony Abbott's "women of calibre" remark and paid maternity leave in Paid maternity leave? It’s not about the money.


anthea at The Hand Mirror questions the language used by the media around payments for family member carers of disabled people in Adult disabled children.


LudditeJourno at The Hand Mirror asks us not to shut the door on nuanced understandings of desire and love in When did you choose? Every day, thanks.

Chally is Tossing the script of desire at Zero at the Bone. Then she writes beautifully about her personal experience in Something rich and strange.

[cn: suicide, heterosexism] LudditeJourno at The Hand Mirror writes about the NZ government's new plan to address suicide, and its lack of mention of the GLBT community in Killing us softly, so softly.


Cate at Accidentally in Code writes about being OK in The Aftermath.


[cn: violence, rape culture] Deborah analyses recent media about the coverage of a rape in Hamilton at A Bee of a Certain Age in Today in rape culture.

Scuba Nurse at The Hand Mirror is disappointed by the latest Star Trek movie in Equality: The final frontier?

Jo at A Life Unexamined is heartened by the writers of The Big Bang Theory taking a turn towards Taking Sheldon and Amy Seriously.

[spoilers!] Racebending on Star Trek Into Darkness by TigTog at Hoyden About Town.

Kim at the news with nipples ponders on reporting practices and The ethics of re-writing someone’s personal story.

Gaayathri at A Human Story deconstructs a post by The Lesbian Mafia found on Storify in The Lesbian Mafia Has a Big Transphobia Problem.

The Body

[cn: eating disorders, sizeism] Sleepydumpling writes about Fat Stigma, Healthism and Eating Disorders at Fat Heffalump

[cn: fat hatred] A speech that Kath from Fat Heffalump gave at UQ Women’s Collective Diversity Week event “Embracing our Bodies”: Wait...

[cn: reproductive coercion] Chrys Stevenson writes about her feelings about whether she would have an abortion, working with Catholics for Choice and the World Congress of Families Sydney in A Smidgen of Sophists – World Congress of Families, Sydney 2013 at Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear.

Kate Galloway considers the assisted reproduction industry and the source of human ova in Human Embryo Research: Who Donates the Eggs? at Curl.

Chrys Stevenson says Let's talk about bums and the health thereof at Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear.

[cn: alcohol, suicide] Cha at Shallow Depths writes about Bientôt l'été - a virtual reality simulator - in Summer's gone.

[cn: bullying] Bri at My Scarlett Heart writes a touching poem about a yellow bikini: Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny


[cn: rape] Ana Australiana at terra firma is disappointed by Solidarity's response Holding On.

[cn: rape, rape culture] Jem at Just OK White Shark writes a letter: Dear supporters of my best friend’s rapist…


A look at the January 1978 edition of Broadsheet Magazine, published just after the 1977 Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act was passed, from ALRANZ.

Linky collections

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Down Under Feminists' Carnival in progress!

I'm currently compiling links from May for the 61st edition of the Down Under Feminists' Carnival.

Watch this space!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Australia's Paid Parental Leave scheme is flawed

I was having a discussion with a group of people about Australia’s paid parental leave scheme, and we noticed that it is biased against families where the birth mother earns more than her partner. As someone who could potentially end up in this position in the future (depending on the timing of things and whatnot), I find this rather concerning.

The government webpage (http://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/enablers/centrelink/paid-parental-leave-scheme/eligibility) says “If you are the birth mother of a newborn child or the initial primary carer of an adopted child, you must lodge the claim for Parental Leave Pay .... if you wish to return to work early, transfer some or all of your unused Parental Leave Pay …. The person to whom you transfer Parental Leave Pay must lodge a claim for the scheme and meet the eligibility criteria. This person cannot be eligible for the scheme if the birth mother or the initial primary carer of the adopted child is not eligible.”

This means that for the partner to participate in the scheme, both members of the couple need to pass the means test.  For example, suppose there are two couples, A and B.  Couple A's mother earns $80k annually and her partner earns $155k annually.  Couple B reverses the salaries so that the mother earns $155k and her partner earns $80k.  Couple A will be able to participate in the scheme, but couple B will not, despite the fact that the two couples have the same income.

I realise that it might be a rare thing these days for a couple to be in a situation where the mother earns more than her partner and the partner wants to be the initial primary caregiver of their child. But, just because it is a rare situation doesn't mean it is all right for the scheme to discriminate against those people. Since the scheme was, in part, implemented to encourage women to stay in the workforce, I find it surprising that it can penalise mothers who earn more than their partners.

In light of this, I recently lodged  a complaint with the Department of Human Services. The woman I spoke to said she saw the hole in the system, and that the way these things get fixed is for people to lodge more complaints.

Please help get this fixed! You can lodge a complaint of your own here:
(phone number is 1800 132 0468 - select the option for centrelink)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Crochet cute

I'm bored of posting on my blog only when something bad has happened.

So today, I present the crochet dog I made. Just because.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Things not to do when waiting in line

[Content note: violation of personal boundaries, also foul language]

Dear denizens of the internet,

In light of an incident which happened to me when waiting for a table in a restaurant tonight, I'd like to give everyone who needs it a not so gentle reminder of waiting in line etiquette.

If you are waiting in line for something, and there is a woman, who is reading something on her phone while waiting in the same line as you, do not go put your arm around her and ask her if you can watch porn with her on her phone.

Now I know this might seem like common sense, but if you're unsure of why you shouldn't do that, it's because you come off as a creepy fuckwad who is invading her personal space. You will be setting off a million red flags in her brain which are there to help her avoid entitled assholes who are dangerous to be around. Even if you don't think you're dangerous, that's still what will be happening, because she can't read your mind. She gets to decide what sort of behaviour seems dangerous to her, not you. Also, even if you are "just trying to be friendly" by doing such a thing, and you can't see that you're being incredibly intrusive and rude, you're an idiot. If you can, and you don't care, then by gods you're a bigger jerkface than anyone could have predicted.

If you can't think of other things to do while you're waiting in line, try checking your own phone. Or talking to the group of friends you're with. Or staring at the ceiling. Or attempting to start a polite conversation that isn't about a sexually charged subject with a stranger. Or anything else that doesn't involve inserting yourself into somebody else's personal space without their permission.

If you do somehow find yourself in the embarrassing situation of having already put your arm around a woman who is a stranger to you, and she says "don't touch me", one thing you absolutely do not do is direct your apology to another man who happens to be standing near her. Most especially you do not apologise for "stepping on his toes".

I would have thought that this seems like common sense, but if somebody says to you "don't touch me", you generally apologise to the person you touched. There isn't anyone else to apologise to, since you are have invaded that person's boundaries, and nobody else's. A woman is not the property of her male partner or father, so you are not breaching any of their boundaries by touching her without their permission. A woman who goes out in public without her (male) partner or her father is not "free game to whatever to with impunity because she's out without an owner", because she owns herself. I really shouldn't have to remind anybody of this, but pre-school 101 still applies: keep your hands to yourself.

If somehow you're managed to invade a woman's personal space, and then apologise to the wrong person, and she and the group of people she's with get angry at you, you should know that "I was just trying to be friendly" and "I was just joking around" are not justifications for your behaviour. There is no justification. You don't get to touch people if they don't want it. That goes for everyone. If somehow you've got this far into the situation, and you're still trying to defend yourself, all I can say is "dig up, fool!". You've just perpetuated a nasty bit of retrograde sexism and rape culture which claims that women do not own their own bodies. You should be ashamed of yourself.