Language i is a system that consists of the development, acquisition, maintenance and use of complex systems of communication, particularly the human ability to do so; and a language is any specific example of such a system.
Language is one of the most powerful tools we have as humans to communicate together and to understand each other.
The words we choose define what kind of relationships we want to build and what environment we want to have.
One of the keys to an inclusive tech sector, where everyone feels welcome and has a sense of belonging, is inclusive language.
The quest to be inclusive require us to use new vocabulary words from time to time. It also needs us to stop using some words and expressions as we learn from each other.
I recently expressed annoyance at the use of the word “guys” to address a group of people who do not all identify as males. I specifically expressed displeasure at including ME in such groups.
If you are using “Guys” on emails, social media or slack, you are free to do so.
BUT, do not expect me to answer your question, help you with your request or even reply at all. You’re talking to the “guys” and I’m not a guy 💅💄
Today is the last day in my end of year vacation. A long 3 weeks holiday that involved hiking, sightseeing, amazing food, new cities & countries but also massages and poolside juices.
The plan for today is to read, write, enjoy the pool and rest. Oh, a balinese massage and flower bath are also planned.
This is so new for me. This whole business of doing nothing, resting and slowing down.
Younger me would be using every single second to do more. Such a fool! But my present self thinks differently.
My present self values our body, wellbeing, wellness and time more. My present self values self-care.
This may surprise you but this is partly due to the nature of my job (and getting bloody old).
My job? I’m a developer advocate.
I love the variety and flexibility I get from my job. As a developer advocate, I could be sitting home writing code (Yay for remote work!), preparing for a talk, writing a tutorial or hopping around the globe speaking in conferences.
My job is awesome. My job is stressful. My job is tiring. My job is really awesome &I love it.
To have an online presence sharing knowledge and trying to help other developers as well as doing public speaking is to expose myself to the good, bad and ugly of the Internet. Luckily for me, it’s been mostly good.
To be out there in front of an audience is a sign of bravery, self-confidence & all until I hid in my hotel room to cry & feel vulnerable & be overwhelmed. ( I may be over-dramatising things. I hid in my room, eat junk food and watch Netflix. That’s what really happens).
It’s stressful. I’ve done about 20 conferences this year, you’d think one get used to it, I get nervous every.single.time.
To add to the mental fatigue, there’s the physical fatigue.
To be able to attend conferences over all the world, I need to fly (until teleportation is a thing). That’s a lot of time spent in airports, train stations, airplanes & trains. I also need to deal with jetlag sometimes and be on top of my traveller game. That’s tiring. Not just mentally tiring but muscle-ache tiring.
All of this made me aware of self-care and the importance of having time to myself to recover and actually be able to do the job I love so much. Because:
Broken me is an unproductive me
When it comes to productivity, it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. You can spend hours trying to achieve a task but if you are tired, if you can’t think properly, there’s no point.
The more your body and soul get the rest they need, the more productive and efficient you are.
I learnt this lesson the hard way but eventually I learnt.
No one wants to deal with unhappy me
Unhappy me is an ugly angry woman. You do not want to deal with unhappy me. I, myself, can’t stand unhappy me.
With the hectic life-style I have (by choice. By all means, I’m not complaining here), it’s easy for me to forget to take care of my health mentally and physically wish could lead to serious problems such as depression and stress.
I learnt that in order to excel in my job, I should come first.
Self care is not just face masks and massages (Although I highly recomment those), it’s a series of techniques and lifestyle changes that will help you looking after yourself.
Here’s how I look after myself:
I don’t just try to find free time to exercise. If you do hope for free time to exercise, you’ll never have that time.
Instead, I include my exercise into my weekly schedule. I make sure that I have slots on my calendar for the gym.
Nothing is harmful or stressful more than the mental burden. Thinking about tasks, meetings, deadlines, priorities, etc… could be overwhelming.
To keep on top of things, I follow the mental declutter technique. I try to be mentally organised and make space in my brain by religiously using To-do lists, prioritise tasks and tackle them accordingly.
I’m also half way through mastering the art of saying no and yes wisely. It’s important to know when to use these 2 magical words (No Jennifer, I won’t do your job for you. Yes James, I’d like to own that piece of work and take full credit for it).
This is also known as wisely budgeting my fucks.
Making time for the people I care about
With all the travel I have to do, maintaining a social life is challenging but I try my best to have one.
I’d usually be sitting in an airport waiting for my home bound when I text friends and family to arrange meeting them.
It’s important to stay connected to the people we love and by all means, disconnect yourself from negative influence.
Making time for the activities I care about
There will be always work that needs to be done. There will be always a deadline. And they all can wait.
As someone who works remotely from home, the line between work and my personal life can easily get blurry. So it’s really important to have time for hobbies so my work is not my life. I’m not my job.
Switching off is important.
I’m slowly learning how to slow down (good pun, right?) , live in the present moment and disconnect from the hectic digital world from time to time.
I find nature and mindful walks very therapeutic.
Eating healthy and drinking water
By all means, you don’t have to do what I do. But know that you should take care of yourself. Be selfish about your wellbeing & wellness.
Does it really have to be a competition? Why can’t we simply celebrate both women and men’s potential and success.
Also dear sir/madam, if ,due to your insecurities, you had the urge to reply to a tweet celebrating a lady shaping the future of technology and human lives by the “can’t pee standing up” argument, joke is most definitely on you.
Was it an innocent comment? I doubt it and even if it is, it’s still very inappropriate. It’s not fun. It’s annoying.
This is a small sample of the 💩 women have to deal with on daily basis. It’s just tiring and completely unnecessary.
This incident for example made me angry and when I’m angry I can’t do my job properly because I’m not in the mood.
I also had to spend time writing this rant instead of focusing on the conference and trying new APIs.
My point is this is not only affecting individuals or just women, this has consequences on everyone. So please, let’s just all try to be more mindful.
Before saying anything nasty, ask yourself: Is is really necessary?
Before I go to try peeing standing up, I just want to add one more thing : Empathy. Empathy is a magical word that does wonders.
I’m currently typing these words while on board of a Delta flight heading from LHR to JFK for what should be: ONE HELL OF A TRIP.
The main reason behind this tour is one small human being, my newborn niece. When my sister told me a while back that she’s expecting a baby and that my parents would be travelling as well to see their first grand-child, we all agreed it would be nice to have a family reunion.
Being a remote worker made things much easier for me, the plan was for me to work from the States where I have already some of my colleagues.
But then one thing led to another and instead of going for few weeks to work from my sister’s couch, I will be touring the country for more than just a couple of weeks speaking and attending some conferences.
So if you happen to be attending one of these conferences, please come say Hi!
Earlier this week (3 weeks ago now when I started drafting this post), I posted on my Instagram story ( I luuuuv Instagram. Go ahead and judge me.) how I wake up early (6AM FTW which is way too early by my standards), went to my gym session and did not break any nails while lifting weights. Oh yeah.
A friend pinged me to say how cool I’m (totally agree on that one) and how she’s struggling to find the motivation to wake up early and exercise.
The truth is I don’t just wake up early and go to the gym, in the same way I don’t just eat healthy and drink water or most importantly I don’t just sit in front of my computer and magically am productive. It’s a whole process that I’m applying to try to descipline myself to find the motivation to do all the things I want to do and be productive.
By all means, I’m not one of those self-help gurus (or whatever they are called), I’m just going to share with you some tips and hacks to win at life or simply survive…I guess, based on my own experience.
Chances are my line manager, the boss of my boss and my teammates are reading this, so it’s wise not to mention anything about distraction or my struggle to focus.
First of all, I never pretended to be wise.
Second of all, I’m lucky (until this is the norm for everyone as it should be) to work with an amazing group of humans that values…humans. I don’t have to pretend, I can openly go to my boss and say that I’m struggling to focus, that I can’t find the motivation to do this piece of work or that it’s taking me forever to finish a task. Even better, I get some tips from them on how to deal with it all.
It does happen. To all of us (don’t try to hide, I can see you over there. It’s alright, come join us).
Now, buckle up, things are about to get serious!
I must clarify that there is a difference between not feeling motivated to go to the gym once in a while and not liking your 5 to 9 , 7 days a week job.
I’ve been there, for both the gym & the job.
I found (notice the past tense 😉 ) myself twice in jobs that I hated.
That resulted in me being a very unpleasant person loudly and publicly expressing my hate for the job …in the office. I don’t think I was despressed as rage took over any other kind of feelings but I was definitely unhappy.
My motivation to get up every morning to go to that job was to pay my bills ( I was late most of the days, we had a fairly flexible hours so technically I wasn’t late).
My motivation not to murder anyone on that job was the fact it is illegal and I could go to jail. I do not want to go to jail.
Was that enough motivation for me to stay? No.
In my own experience, unless you’re motivated to do something, you’ll never be able to do it. Maybe you will but as a result, you’ll end up with a done task and a very miserable depressed human being, that’s you.
Doing things without love is not sustainable, eventually something will fall apart.
So here’s my first valuable tip for you :
Paying the bills is not a good enough motivation to be stuck in a job you hate. Some of you may shout “We have mouths to feed”. I understand but that still doesn’t make it a good motivation.
But hear me out, when I left the job I hated , I didn’t just suddenly leave. I had a plan.
I actually turned that shitty situation into my new motivation to find a new job. Instead of ” This is a shit job but it pays the bills” , my brain was telling me ” This is a shit job that only pays the bills. It’s time for us to look for another job”.
So we did.
Last year I gave a talk entitled Keep Climbing in which I state lessons learnt from Climbing and how to apply them in my professional life as a woman in tech.
The first thing I mentioned was my motivation to start climbing in the first place as I’m scared of heights.
I do climb to beat my fear actually ( I’m still a pretty rubbish climber but who cares? I’m still doing it. I’m actually going climbing tomorrow) .
This is how important having the right motivation is! You can beat your greatest fears for the right motivation. ( I’m also scared of rope bridges but I did cross one in Morrocco because that was the only way to reach the restaurant where we were having lunch…the power of food).
Now, for the gym, in November 2016 I suddenly decided to start exercising. I joined something called BootCamp which is basically a small group of people exercising with a Personal trainer.
As this wasn’t surprinsing enough for myself and everyone who knew me, those bootcamps are early in the morning. They start at 6:45AM which means I have to wake up at 6AM. What’s so unsual about that? I DO NOT WAKE UP EARLY.
Guess what, since November 2016 I’ve been going to my bootcamps 3 days a week. I did miss few sessions because of work or laziness but I did not give up. Why? Because If I ever make it to the age of 60 or 70, I want to be healthy and active.
This is what Sarah Knight call the power of negative thinking in her books. I imagine a future me out of shape, unable to go hiking and really miserable. That’s the future me I do not want, that’s my motivation to go to the gym.
The positivity of negative thinking. This sounds similar to !False = True , doesn’t it?!
Basically, find what makes your heart beat , it doesn’t have to be the job or the gym but whatever you do or want to do , think why you want to do it? What motivates you? And this will massively help you move to the next step : Doing the thing.
I don’t know about you but I had days when I had all the motivation of the world and all these amazing plans and yet couldn’t achieve much.
The first step towards being productive is knowing when you’re not (which shouldn’t be that hard) and trying to fix it.
In the era of social media and increasing mental health issues, it’s easy to get distracted or loosing focus.
You think you’re only spending 5 minutes to check Victoria Beckham latest Instagram photo but she tags David, Brooklyn, Cruz and Romeo and you end up checking all 5 profiles for hours!!
Here’s what I did/am doing in order to be productive and it’s fairly working :
Adios notifications : I don’t think it’s FOMO but I really hate notifications. The moment I see or hear one, I have to check it out. I can’t stand having little notifications on my screen. I get emails, slack, facebook, Messenger, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp notifications. That’s simply a lot. Checking all of them is definitely a huge distraction and waste of time. That’s why, I disabled all notifications on my phone. Since then my life is much better. I do still check emails and Slack on my phone but on my own terms, same thing for Instagram.
To-do lists, To-do lists, To-do lists: I love those, I always did but I’m applying them more to my daily life after reading Sarah Knight’s book Get Your Shit Together. Every morning, while having my breakfast, I’ll spend half an hour writing down my To-do list.
Raise your hand if you are a woman who’s been asked in tech events who’s she with.
Raise your hand if you are a woman who’s got a tap on the shoulder for being a woman in tech and doing your job.
Raise your hand if you belong to an underrepresented group in tech (basically if you’re not a white man. Mean, I know but I never said I’m nice) who felt uncomfortable because all eyes were on you.
Raise your hand if like me you hate the “good on you” accompanied by an approval smile.
Unless you are my boss or on a conference committe, I doubt I need your approval (if you are neither my boss or on a conference committe to which I submitted a talk but you think I may need your approval in the near future, please let me know and I’ll apologise for my arrogant tone. The rest of you, stopping rolling your eyes at me as if you never practiced the art of arse kissing).
I usually get the “Oh!! good on you” <Eyes glaring with surprise/> on two occasions:
When I’m having a casual chat with a stranger in a coffee shop or airport and they ask “so what do you do for a living?”
Me: I’m a software engineer
Them: “Oh!! good on you” <Eyes glaring with surprise/>
When I’m in a conference and someone asks about my partner/husband/boyfriend/any male I belong to
Me: actually I’m here by myself like a big girl. I’m one of the speakers.
Them: “Oh!! good on you” <Eyes glaring with surprise/>
Then I get the smile, that smile that says “I approve of this, you little Muslim brown immigrant woman” (technically I’m white skinned but politically I’m brown from a shithole country).
Now most of the time these smiles mean well, they don’t really say all that stuff mentioned above but I’m not perfect, I’m a human with my own biases. If anything it makes me uncomfortable. I’m not seeking anyone’s approval.
It’s really tiring to be the one to answer all the damn questions all the damn time. Why do cover your hair? So you don’t drink alcohol? At all? All the time? Are you vegetarian? How are things back in your country? Is it safe now? Do you have cars there or do you still use camels?
As much as I’m happy and proud to talk about my country and my religion, it’s simply tiring at times.
By acting overly nice in an attempt to make me feel welcome, you’re actually confirming that I don’t naturally belong there, I’m not normal enough and you have to do the extra effort. This doesn’t just apply to people from minority ethnicities, Non-binary/bisexual/homosexual people also get the special treatment.
Would you ever tell a man “oh!! Good on you”. No, you won’t.
If a man tells you they are a speaker or coder, you’d simply ask them about the details of their talk or job and you guys start nerding out together.
No one ever asks men how they balance between their work and life. No one ever asks men how they can excel in their careers yet be good fathers.
Here’s a simple thing to consider; that applies to all of us, even you minority in tech: before spelling the words, ask yourself how you’d feel if someone asks you the same question and would you still ask the question if the person in front of you is a white man (white men, I really have nothing against you. You just happen to be the majority and let’s face it you are the trouble makers).
Now because I only aim to please, here are the answers you’ve all been waiting for:
Why do I cover my hair? So I’m never having a bad hair day.
Am I vegetarian? No. I actually love meat but only eat halal meat which makes me pescatarian/vegetarian most of the time. I’m happy with that as I’m trying to have a balanced diet.
Do I NOT drink alcohol at all?<scream face emoji/> Do you really want to see me drunk? Do you think that’s a good idea? Exactly.
Do we really use camels in Africa? Absolutely. Also as an Arab African, you should know that my dad is the king of Africa and an oil baron.
I know what you’re thinking. You think I should focus on the real issues of women in tech and highlight them. You think I should take this more seriously.
Well first of all, this is my blog, I write about whatever I want.
Second of all, I bet you there’s not one single woman in tech who, at any point of her career, did not ask herself the following question: is that the right outfit? Would I fit in my workplace wearing this?
So if my question of heels or no heels sounds a bit simple or shallow for you, that’s probably because you’ve never been a woman in tech.
Now let’s go back to my struggle here : heels or no heels? That’s the question.
I remember in a previous job, a job that i enjoyed btw, on my first day, I put my favourite heels on, a fine pair of jeans and was ready to rock the world except no body else was wearing heels. That day I wondered if I needed trainers to rock the world.
but what would I do with my huge shoe collection? So, purely for financial reasons and practicalities, I decided to be me and keep the heels on.
It took a while and lots of motivational/inspirational talks and book to finally come to the conclusion that I don’t need to change my style to blend in with the brogrammers gang. It’s been scientifically proven that I can code wearing whatever I want even ugly shoes which I don’t recommend btw as the world is miserable as it’s, let’s not make it any worst.
There were moments when I felt uncomfortable because I was overdressed. By overdressed, I simply mean I made the effort to not just put a t-shirt that I got as swag from a conference. I can tell some of you are now rolling their eyes. I’m not judging you, maybe a little. It’s ok to wear that t-shirt but also it’s ok for me not to.
If you are a man reading this, I want you to ask yourself: have you ever felt uncomfortable and thought about your outfit for work?
Because for us women, the struggle is real and it’s in those little things. Why would I waste energy on these unwanted thoughts instead of focusing on my job? Maybe if we all minded our business, I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable, just saying.
Anyway, that was a long time ago. As I’m getting old, yep that’s a fact, I have less and less of those things ,which I totally forget the name, to give, if you know what I mean. I don’t seek validation or try to blend in because if I’m somewhere, that’s because I deserve to be there and I do belong there.
Did you hear me sister? If you are somewhere, it’s because you deserve to be there and you do belong there. So please keep being you, keep doing you and let the magic happen.
To be honest, I don’t wear heels as I used to. Apparently as we get older, we start opting for comfy shoes. None sense.
But I keep buying them. You know how those nerds, can’t stop buying gadgets? That’s me except I buy heels. I’m a shoe nerd. If that’s not a thing, it’s now.
But here’s another secret thought: I still ask myself the heels question.
Surprise! The woman who’s preaching other women to own their space is still having her own doubts and insecurities. Of course I do.
Now that my job involves more public speaking, I find myself going back to that old thought: would I fit in this conference that’s probably 70% nerdy white males who wear swag t-shirts and spend their time in the conference competing on who’s the nerdiest? Who’s got more GitHub repos? Who wrote more code? Would I fit in with these guys if I show up wearing a 10cm heels? Knowing that probably I’m the only one or one of 2 wearing heels and a dress.
And then I remind myself why I am in the conference in the first place. Because I deserve to be there. Because I’m there to share my knowledge just as I’m: a strong independent Muslim woman from a shithole country who writes code, speak about it, wear high heels and a headscarf.
This is how the worry and the question fade away until the next conference, until I need to remind myself again of who I’m and what I deserve.
If you ever find yourself doubting yourself and wondering how you can fit in whether you like heels, trainers or cowgirl boots, just remember you do not need to change your outfit to fit in, you are where you are because you deserve to be .
Now if you excuse me, I have some shopping to do before my next conference.
As we waved goodbye to 2017 and somehow are still welcoming 2018, this is the time of the year for me to look back on my year and have few retrospectives on a professional and individual levels but also what happens in the world in general.
It’s been an interesting year and what I want to talk about here is what’s been happening in Tech.
We’ve heard about some shocking stories unfortunately about sexism, homophobia etc. Most of these stories had impact on women but luckily not all stories were dark and sad.
There were also some amazing initiatives to support women and keep them in tech.
One of the initiatives that I really like is EDF Energy’s Pretty Curiouscampaign.
The reason why I like Pretty Curious is that the initiative is for teenage girls to inspire them imagine a future where they make an impact through STEM.
It’s widely known that there are fewer women than men in STEM fields. A good way to tackle the problem is to start early and try to engage girls in STEM from an early age and that’s exactly what Pretty Curious tries to achieve.
Pretty Curious aims to get girls interested in STEM and reach out to undiscovered STEM talent.
It provides hands-on experiences and digital content that can be found on the website.
The activities provided by the programme aim to change the perception of STEM subjects and give young girls a taste of what it might be like to work in STEM careers in a fun and smart way.
Future Me allow the girls to create a personalised Avatar to see themselves in their future dream career whether this dream career is to be a robotic engineer, software engineer or architect.
They also can take a quiz to help them decide what STEM career suits them best. How cool is this!
There is also a virtual reality 360 video where you can see inspiring women in their everyday job. You can also read about those role models under the “Be Inspired” section which is another point that the campaign nailed. Young girls need role models, they need to see that what they dream about is possible and there are already women who have achieved it.
Pretty Curious doesn’t just offer activities for young girls but also for parents too. The parents quiz provides guidance for parents to help them identify their children strength and potential.
The Pretty Curious Studio is one of my favourite things about the campaign simply because it allows the girls to have hands on and build a droid. Not any droid but a Star Wars Droid.
On top of all of that,The campaign also has some exciting partnerships like partnering with Edinburgh International Science Festival and Disney. All I’m saying about that is “Last Jedi”, I’m not going to say anymore, go check it out !
As you can tell, I’m really excited about Pretty Curious , I believe it could have an enormous impact encouraging more girls into STEM. I hope we see more of these awesome initiatives.
Well done EDF Energy. I can’t wait to start building Droids with the girls here in Bristol.
Since it’s new year, new me, new resolutions BS, I thought why not starting a new series on the blog. You know, something to give meaning to my existence. Not that watching Netflix isn’t enough.
This is going to stop by the end of January probably because resolutions (wink! Wink!) .
Anyway, here is the idea: in these series entitled “the secret thoughts of a woman in tech”, I’ll be sharing some of my everyday challenges, insecurities and thoughts!! I can already bet that my fellow women in tech have the same thoughts.
Now, to be clear, this is not going to change the world or be revolutionary. Sorry if I’m already disappointing you but if you know me, you know that I can’t really do serious. This is going to be silly, light, sassy, sarcastic and basically me.
If you do not know me, the photo below pretty much sums me up:
Who knows, maybe in 10 years time when a famous presenter invites me to their show and asks me how my career as a comedian started, I’ll say ” I had this thing on my blog” .