Looking Back on 2015…

If you had told me that 2015 would have been this crazy of an adventure, I wouldn’t have believed it.  However, I’ve grown a lot this year, and I’m thrilled to see where things are going.  I’ve got a few adventures ahead that I’m excited about, and 2015 is to blame for setting me up with those expectations.  Let’s see what went on.

CodeMash 2015… and a Peek Into the InfoSec World

In January, I knew I wanted 2015 to include a selfish adventure – looking into crypto and other security topics. When I was in college, I had fun reading up on topics in that realm and finding exploits in the labs and reporting them. Somehow, that part of me woke up in January and wanted to see what’s out there. I caught a couple sessions at CodeMash 2015 to appease that curiosity.

White Spy from Spy vs. Spy (from Mad Magazine)

White Spy from Spy vs. Spy (from Mad Magazine)

I thought that part of me would stay quiet. But no… those sessions kicked me in the butt. So I reached out to my friend Bill Sempf to see if B-Sides Cleveland would be a good spot for me to see what’s going on. He mentioned that it would be a great community event for me to check out, and I think that is the understatement of the year! It was amazing to see so many people of all walks of life, and with a venue like The Grog Shop, it was unlike any other conference I’ve been to, spoken at, or organized. It was also the first conference in a very long time where I was not only an attendee but also had my husband with me, as he’s interested in the security stuff from an IT perspective. Some of their stories totally blew my mind away (triggering a slight case of impostor syndrome) and then others I could relate to well. I look forward to the next B-Sides Cleveland and hope to one day get the courage and ideas to speak at it.

Realizing My Impact on My Apprentices

The groups of apprentices that I’ve dealt with this year have been astounding. The more I deal with apprentices, the more I identify certain personality characteristics and learning styles, and the better I get at doing my job. Across the board, I’ve seen trends, which also reaffirms that I love the education space and evaluating how people learn.

Earlier this year, I had an apprentice in particular that had a profound impact on me and I on him. However, I didn’t realize the impact I made on him until about week 10 of our 12-week program, when a passing comment gave me an inkling of the impact. He was a challenge for me not because he was a difficult personality – far from that. He reminded me of someone from my past, a much younger (in terms of timeline, not necessarily in age) version of me. I couldn’t put my finger on why – other than similar development starts. It didn’t help that he had a way with words that really hit me at my core. On our last day together, we talked a lot. That’s when he explained everything, and I realized that we have a lot more in common. He also mentioned that I filled big shoes, which I hadn’t realized that were there to be filled. From that point on, I reminded myself that I need to continue to be that person, not just to him but to my other apprentices as well. We are still in touch, and he still has a way with words and timing that tugs at my heartstrings and reminds me why I am in the position that I am in.

Later in the year, I had another apprentice who I swore reminded me of the one I mentioned from earlier in the year. They were two different personalities, but they both have similarities that I couldn’t verbalize. I couldn’t explain why, but throughout that whole cohort, I knew deep down that there was something about this other apprentice – who also had a profound impact on me, more than he probably realizes. We talked throughout the cohort, and around week 10, I knew I had to figure out why I had the read I did. On the last day of class, we were talking about things in general, and he made a comment that made me go “Ahh… it all makes sense.” He had a background similar to my apprentice from earlier in the year. My read turned out to be spot on. I’m looking forward to hearing about his adventures as he takes the next steps in his career.

 

Double Loop rollercoaster

Double Loop rollercoaster from Geauga Lake (my first real rollercoaster)

My apprentices – all cohorts so far – have been a rollercoaster of emotions – highs at successes, lows when they experience setbacks. I’m by their sides for the whole ride, trying to level out the extremes and keep them as even keel as possible. This year has been a year of extremes with them, so much so that I was happy to see the positives and hated to share my negative stories (but had to because, well, my life experiences are learning experiences for them to learn vicariously from). As I look back on 2015 with the Software Guild, it’s been quite an adventure. I am not only helping others learn, but I’m also learning more about myself in the process. I look forward to the journey ahead with them in 2016.

Getting More Comfortable with Myself – Podcasts and Netshows

If there’s anything you need to know about pre-2015 me, it’s that I did not like watching or listening to any recordings of me. I’m my biggest critic, and I couldn’t watch or listen to any recordings of me without turning supercritical. It’s my nature, and it was something that I just couldn’t settle in. However, 2015 forced me to get comfortable with myself and to shut off the inner critic, if only to take everything in.

You can find a list of my appearances in my Microsoft MVP Profile. There were a couple podcasts and many appearances on Coding 101. I listened to each recording once they were posted, and the more I listened to myself, the stronger my self-confidence grew and the more comfortable I became with appearing on podcasts and netshows!

I am sad to announce that Coding 101 was recently cancelled by TWiT.tv. Thankfully, they are keeping the past episodes in the archives for others to watch. I’m thankful that Leo LaPorte and Lisa LaPorte gave Coding 101 a chance, as it exposes a variety of technologies to those who are just getting into coding. Yes, I had my fangirl moment before my first appearance, which led to more nervousness. However, all nervous energy dissipated after my first appearance, as Padre and Lou are great conversationalists and always made me feel at ease. It was great to do a recording in person with Lou. I still want to visit the TWiT studios if I’m ever out that way.

Overall

Overall, 2015 has been a great year for me career-wise. I had a lot of introspective moments, which really brought me out of my shell more than I ever expected. The boost in self-confidence helped me improve my vision of my impact on others. Knowing that, I now have a better understanding of how I can continue to serve the community and encourage my apprentices to grow in their careers. I also have a better idea of where I want to go in my career. So look out, 2016! I’ve got dreams that I’m determined to make into realities!

Parting Words…

Yesterday was my last day with my September group of apprentices at the Software Guild.  We bonded fairly well throughout the cohort, and it was great to hang out with a group of them last night afterwards.  I woke up excited yesterday morning because we’re graduating this group of talented individuals who have worked hard and kicked butt throughout these past 13 weeks, learning C# or Java, as well as SQL and some front-end stuff (CSS/JS).  In past cohorts, I have had separation anxiety bite me on the last day, but yesterday, that didn’t happen.  There was something about these groups that made me more proud than nervous for them.

Some Parting Words of Advice

  • Once you get a feel for your job and new life, if you have time, take on side projects to keep your skills sharp.  Try to stay up on technology.  If you need ideas for side projects, come to any of us and we’ll be able to inspire you – either from personal inspiration or from others.
  • If you’re more social, then get involved in your local tech community.  If you aren’t sure where to start and are in the Cleveland area, check out Cleveland Tech Events – one of my sites!   If you’re in Akron, there’s Akron.io – one of my friend’s sites!  Otherwise, check out this past blog post where I offer other ways to find community.
  • If you’re in the Cleveland area or in a neighboring state, don’t be surprised if I’m speaking at or organizing a conference or user group near you.  I haven’t talked about my community life much in the classroom, but know that I am in the community and may run into you there.
  • If you see me in the community, come say “hi” and follow up with me!  I love hearing from past apprentices, seeing what they’re up to, soliciting feedback on where we should be going, or even just catching up personally.  The storyteller and listener in me enjoys catching up – so please come say hi!

Conclusion

From “The Farewell Toast”, as covered by Brigid’s Cross:

May your joys be as deep as the ocean
And your troubles as light as its foam
And may you find sweet peace of mind
Wherever you may roam

Here’s to a wonderful group of apprentices who I was privileged to work with!  Look out world – here they come!

And if you’re interested in hiring entry-to-junior level C# or Java developers, join the hiring network at the Software Guild!  I work in-person with the group in Akron, and I sometimes deal with our Minneapolis and Louisville groups online.  Knowing the curriculum, contributing to the curriculum, knowing the other instructors – this is a solid program taught by individuals with a decade or more of experience and an undying passion for technology and education.  I am thankful for working with such an exuberant team!

Dealing with Impostor Syndrome

This week was apparently Impostor Syndrome Week, but I don’t know why.  One of my apprentices mentioned impostor syndrome in his most recent blog post, and a friend from the tech community mentioned it in a post on Facebook.  Both of them linked to this NY Times article.  I also was dealing with my own personal bouts of impostor syndrome this week.  For me personally, I tend to get these feelings when I feel like I’m in a situation that’s way over my head.  In reality, they typically are situations that are high-stress and the emotional toll of the stress ends up triggering my impostor syndrome.

Am I really capable?!?

That came up in my first bout of impostor syndrome.  I sit on a non-profit’s board of directors, and we had two pressing issues on our plates for this meeting.  In both cases, I was optimistic going into the meeting and quickly switched to the realist position, which put me in a dissenting position for both issues.  At my core, before my realist kicks in, I’m an optimist.  However, the older I get, the quicker my realist kicks in.  Having worked with non-profits and their projects at various GiveCamps – including Cleveland GiveCamp – I knew there were things to watch.  When I get into a dissenting position over big things like this, I always question myself in terms of whether my position is valid and then that leads down the impostor syndrome path.  Thankfully, there are other realists on the board, which makes it easier for me to bounce back from that.  When one of us chimes in with our dissenting views, one of the others chimes in as well.  Once I see that I’m not that far off base and actually do know what I’m talking about, then it’s a lot easier.

How did we do this?!?

This is from my second bout of impostor syndrome this week.  With the help of the staff at the Software Guild, The Bit Factory, and the community, I was able to pull off a great event on Wednesday night with Julie Lerman speaking about EF7.  The people who made it happen behind the scenes rocked – Dave, Victor, Randall, Eric, Annal, and most of all Amanda!

For a last minute event put together around Thanksgiving, I figured we’d get a low turnout, but honestly, we did great!  However, deep down, I was still beating myself up and thinking “I could’ve done better”.  Seeing that everyone enjoyed it, though, helped me from beating myself up further and falling into the impostor syndrome trap.  That and the following day, I was on the phone with one of my tech event organizer friends, and when he mentioned his range of attendees for the same space, I realized that I got this event planning stuff.

I don’t have this….

This was from the last bout of impostor syndrome this week.  I had a stressful situation at work, one where I felt like I was wearing the bad cop hat a bit more than I really wanted to.  Deep down, I knew I was in the right position to make these calls, but after the stress of this week so far, my “flight or fight” response was quickly changing from fight to flight.  I was done, crumbling under it all, too afraid to click the Send button on the email because I was making decisions for more than myself, and I feared this wouldn’t work well.  But rather than completely running away, my realist showed up and after talking with my colleagues, I knew I was not only okay with my decision but that it had to be done.  It was an act of tough love, loosely speaking.

How to Survive Impostor Syndrome

Every person deals with it differently.  Some completely get engulfed by it and then spiral out of control.  Some are alert enough to see when it’s coming and they seek help.  Since I deal with it more often than I like to admit, I’ve been able to identify when it’s getting triggered, and I take a few steps:

  • Write out the situation as it’s playing out, and figure out how to get the inner self-confidence to be louder than the inner impostor.  I’m good with helping others with this; yet I’m still working on myself with this part.
  • Disregard non-constructive feedback.  No offense to those who have feedback that isn’t constructive – it’s just noise, though, if I don’t have action points.  The last thing I need is more internal noise if I’m trying to fight impostor syndrome.
  • Talk it out.  Depending on the situation, I tend to rely on different people to talk with them and get myself out of that rut.
  • Worst case – I reach out to the ones who are near and dear to me and know just how to pull me out of the low parts and summon my self-confidence.  These guys have been in my life awhile and know just which buttons to push to get me out of the funk and chaos that comes with impostor syndrome.

Impostor syndrome – along with the self-doubt, anxiety, stress, and depression of it all – is something I battle.  However, the more I identify it, the better I get with managing it.  It’ll be a lifetime of managing it, but I think I got that!

Recruiters and Blind Emails

As I was catching up on email tonight, I noticed an email from a recruiter and had to read it.  Then I had to wipe my eyes and make sure I was reading this correctly:

recruiterfail20151203

Recruiters: Please, please, please research who you are sending these to before you send them. 

While I would normally have ignored the email and deleted it, I couldn’t.  I had to reply.  I warned him ahead of time that my resume isn’t suitable – not with my experience.  However, I work with some amazing apprentices at The Software Guild, with bootcamps graduating throughout the year, and I’m sure some of them would be interested in this position.

As much as I really wanted to delete this, I couldn’t.  My apprentices are on my mind a lot, especially when it comes to job placement – much like a great recruiter, I like matching my apprentices with the right contacts when the opportunity is right.  So we’ll see how this plays out.