The other day I was riding my bike to work, felt great, and got there in 26 minutes. I usually take about 35 minutes to get there. My wife even noticed with my automated location texts that my phone sent her (Michael is leaving home, Michael is arriving at work). She sent me a text congratulating me on the great accomplishment. I even congratulated myself a bit on how regularly I bike now and how I’ve gotten so much better at this over the last year.
At the end of the day, I started home. The wind was screaming in my face, and I could barely go over 10 MPH.
On the way home, I saw two bikers going in the opposite direction, cruising along happily. They looked at me with pity, thinking I was out of shape. I wanted to yell out, through the wind, “You don’t realize how good you have it!!!”
Almost an hour later I was home. I was tired and beaten.
When the wind is at your back, you go faster. You don’t realize it’s the wind that is pushing you; you think it’s you doing it. When the wind is in your face, you are constantly reminded of the challenge and you constantly have to push.
I have met many women in my professional network who have had the wind in their face and pushed through anyway and built successful careers. They meet countless people along the way who think they are better suited for more people-oriented professions like sales.
At a recent conference, a lady in technology was checking out a technology at a sales booth. The person at the booth immediately raised his voice to a less threatening and gentle voice and then remarked about how surprised he was to hear that she wasn’t in sales herself.
At other times women run into people who will mindlessly delegate the meeting notes, or the administrative tasks to them, because…there is no good reason.
Minorities within technology often have the wind in their face and push through. I was horrified to overhear a white man at an event start talking with an inner city accent to an African American man about how he was going to go “all ghetto” on some technology and make it work, presumably, by not taking digital prisoners. The African American man politely acknowledged the awesomeness of this endeavor and quickly exited the conversation. I thought to myself, how many of these types of conversations does this person have to endure in places like this?
If you’re a white heterosexual male in technology, the wind is at your back. You may not notice it, but it is.
What to do for the others? My rule is that I will always treat others as people, never as labels, and keep my interest and conversation toward what can make them successful. I never bring up their status; they have enough awkward examples of that without me adding to it. But I also make an effort, in whatever way I can, to support, encourage, and respect those who have exhibited much more tenacity and courage than I have.