Why I Do What I Do

I have to thank Cory House for mentioning this article about Why Do You Do What You Do Because You Better Know.  With some changes happening, this is something I have personally had to face.  I am wrapping up things at The Software Guild at the end of this month, as I have decided it’s time for me to pursue other career directions.  Talking with some people, the “why do you do what you do” and the “what do you do” questions have come up.  It’s been interesting chatting with them, though, as I find my friends and contacts in the field see other directions for me, which don’t align with my vision.  So I figured I’d put this out there for others to see… what do I do?  And why do I do what I do?

What Do I Do?

There are many things that I enjoy:

  • Organizing conferences and other tech events
  • Speaking at conferences
  • Teaching in the classroom
  • Mentoring – in-person, over coffee/tea, via email, online
  • Creating technical programs for others – be it lessons, modules, after-school programs, or larger programs
  • Making tech less scary, more approachable to others
  • Social media – blogging, Tweeting, engaging with others online

Some people may see my steps in the leadership, teaching, and mentoring realm as going soft.  However, I also have technical interests, including:

  • Data engineering – especially exploring various platforms and tools:
    • D3.js
    • R
    • Python
    • SQL Server
  • Web development – especially looking at the various CSS platforms and JavaScript libraries out there
  • API development – reading up on strategies
  • DevOps!!!
    • finally, something that allows me to put my dev skills and IT skills to work TOGETHER and makes sense
  • User experience development

Why Do I Do What I Do?

Long story, short… it’s fun!  I have always enjoyed playing with technology.  When I learn a new tech, you will hear the word play used, as that’s how I see exploring applications of technology and concepts.  Whether I’m building a sample app to prove a concept can be done or really have a legitimate use for these tools, I take fun approaches to technology, keeping my curiosity and interest up.

When I take on contracts and work with others, I choose to partner with companies that keep me on my toes, challenge me in good ways, and help bring out the best in themselves and others.  I find companies and people that align with my beliefs, morals, ethics, and general career direction.  I want to make sure that I make a positive impact to the world.

Over time, I have realized that not all people can teach others.  There are certain levels of communication and patience needed, and somehow I have those.  I enjoy building materials and teaching them because of the impact – watching others become more informed, seeing those “ah-ha” moments.  When I know that I can teach others something complex and have them realize it isn’t that complicated and really is approachable, that makes me have hope in the world… hope for humanity, hope for future generations… or at least for today.

I also appreciate the flexibility that I have in this career, especially at this point in my career, over 15 years in tech.  Being able to make my own schedule, being able to volunteer at my kids’ school, being able to go out to lunch with my husband… being able to put in time working when my kids are asleep (or choosing to spend some of that time with my husband)… having that kind of flexibility is invaluable.  So part of what I do is indeed for the flexibility.

So What’s in Store for 2018?

I have some folks reaching out to me to help build programs for them.   Also, restructuring my LLC for Space Apps last year means I have contracting companies trying to get me into federal contracts.  If you see something in my “What Do I Do?” that may benefit you and if you see that we may align in the “Why Do I Do What I Do?” part, reach out to me here or on Twitter, and we can take it to email as well.  I look forward to partnering with others in 2018, especially those who can put my talents to use and align with my goals and beliefs.

Why I Participate in #PayToSpeak

Over the past few days, I saw a lot of people talking with the #PayToSpeak hashtag, and knowing that some of my followers were curious, I figured I better weigh in.

Community-Run Events

When I know an event is community-run, then I know to expect some degree of #PayToSpeak.  Face it – when a community group is just starting out, sponsorship is a tough thing to get.  I want to see a community be stronger from our community-run events, so if there isn’t a budget for speakers’ travel and entertainment, {shrug} that’s fine with me.  I’ve been organizing community-run events since 2008, so I am sympathetic with those running the events.  I really enjoy seeing communities help each other grow.

Now, if it’s a community event that’s well-established, then that may be a different story.  I may ask for some assistance with travel costs – a hotel room or a place to crash is appreciated.  But for me, I see value in speaking to particular audiences, knowing that it will lead to work.  So I take that into consideration and typically shoulder some of my costs since I know they’ll be recuperated later.

Events and the Distance Factor

If there’s one thing people should know about me, it’s that I’m a family person.  I like being able to talk with my family when I’m on the road and try not to travel far from home.   So you don’t see me leave far from the Cleveland area – usually sticking to Columbus, Pittsburgh, and Detroit.  Sometimes, I can make exceptions for Cincinnati, Dayton, and Kalamazoo.  If it’s a relatively short drive (one I can do in a day sanely) and if I don’t have to stay more than a couple nights, I’m happy.  So I keep fairly local so that if I have to #PayToSpeak even a little bit, the costs are kept down.

If I am far from home but have friends or familiar faces where I am, that also helps.  When I am traveling and knowing something familiar is at the other end, then I feel less anxious.

What About Flying? That’s Expensive to #PayToSpeak!

As long as I don’t have to fly through La Guardia, then I am okay with flying.  Anything with direct flights out of Cleveland or Akron is even better, as I have yet to fly somewhere with a direct flight.    I do fly for engagements at times, but I keep that to a minimum as that gets costly, and that’s a cost I’d rather see the engagement pick up than have to pick it up myself. (I will work with the engagement to keep that cost low.)

This year, there were a couple events that went outside of close distance, and within good reasons.  I’ve known many of the Music City Code folks since pre-parenthood, and many are considered part of my tech family on the road.  Since my husband has been pushing me to get back into conference speaking again, I figured I’d go to a familiar area.  As for KCDC, that was one I had heard my friends mention, and seeing Jeff Strauss involved with it and knowing that my friends Mike and Jay think well of him, I figured I should see what that was like. (Also, I’ve learned that the KCDC crew are just as awesome and are also friends with my friends. So the tech family grows!)

Why Not Ask ALL Conferences for Travel Assistance? Why #PayToSpeak at all?

I’m also an event organizer and not just a speaker.  So when I sign up to speak at an event, I am also considering what the event organizers have to deal with in comping speakers’ expenses.  As Jim points out,  the costs do add up crazily if we – as organizers of small to medium-sized conferences – comp ALL of the speakers’ expenses:

What About Larger, For-Profit Events?

Depending on where those are held, how they align with my schedule, and what is covered, I’m a lot more selective with larger, for-profit events.  These, I typically will not #PayToSpeak.

Why #PayToSpeak?

There are times when I have little hesitation on considering #PayToSpeak some:

  • Helping a new community up off the ground
  • Promoting community alliances
  • Seeing old friends and making new friends

I think David Tanzer captured my overall thoughts well:

And…

So I am okay with #PayToSpeak for the right cases.