Early in my career, I didn’t care that there weren’t women out there doing what I wanted to do. I didn’t care that there weren’t mothers out there that were visible in the community. I was on a mission to make my career happen on my terms and let life happen. I was determined to succeed in tech, regardless of representation.
Here we are, 20+ years later, and I know I need to be the representation. I need to be the representation to tell you:
- Women can code and make architectural decisions.
- Moms can have careers while still being moms.
- Women over 40 with 20+ years in tech do exist in technical roles. (If you don’t believe this, let me introduce you to me!)
How do you do it?
While at CodeMash this year, I got the quintessential question:
Sadukie – how do you do it all? How do you help organize events, volunteer at events, work, and have a family?
First of all, I am not doing this by myself. Throughout my career and all of my adult life, I’ve had a wonderful partner in life. He’s the guy who told me to learn HTML back in high school. He’s the one who encouraged me to go with him and his best friend to the Linux users group (LUG) meetings in college, and he was there supporting me while his best friend roped me into co-presenting on the Samba Web Administration Toolkit at the LUG. He’s the one who told me to go to that developers conference and poker party at the other end of the state that led me to network with so many folks and build more friendships. He’s the hardware/networking/3D printing/sysadmin to my software architect/software developer/database admin/web server admin. Together, we script and geek out on other things. My husband Kevin has been my biggest supporter.
We have a shared calendar that makes it a bit easier for us to keep track of everything going on. Kids’ school adventures, his work travels, and my conference schedules are all there. We keep it so that we both have a general idea of who’s where. This makes it easier for us to figure out things like vacations, child care, and supporting each other as best as we can.
If we have events where we’re ships in the night passing, we have family nearby that can assist. When it came to taking the kids for us to go to events, our parents and siblings helped when needed.
How do you work full-time while being Mom?
Setting boundaries is important. Knowing what you will do and what you won’t and sticking to your lines is crucial. Earlier in my career, I had jobs where I was on-call 24/7. Nowadays, I pass those types of roles up because it doesn’t work with my lifestyle. I set clear expectations with my clients and employers – I am the primary parent on call and need to have the ability to drop when school calls for an emergency.
In terms of working, I stay transparent with both my clients (as a consultant) and my employers (as an employee). If I’m worried that my hours are going to be off because I need to take time off to deal with kids’ situations, I’m raising that flag as soon as it comes up. Whenever I have raised that flag, my employers have been supportive of me in those times. I suspect that my transparent communication also helps in those times.
The fear of missing out (FOMO) is real. We’re afraid of missing firsts and important moments. We feel like we have to be everything to everyone. But in reality, we’re all in this world together and get by together when you remember you’re working with fellow humans. While I can’t always be at school functions, I know the kids will share their stories and that the teachers may send pics of what’s going on. Life happens concurrently, and you have to be okay with accepting the parallelization of life timelines.
What’s the trick to managing it all?
Make sure to carve time out for yourself. At the end of the day, the person who has to be most happy with yourself is you. For me, it’s taking the time in the morning to make a cup of tea and settle down. It’s playing video games or watching shows at the end of the day. It’s reading a book on how to improve some things in my life. It’s listening to music while blogging. It’s baking – especially breads and cookies.
Have a good support network. My support network nowadays includes my husband, my mother, some close friends, and some close business contacts. They’re the ones I go to when I need guidance and support. They’re the ones who tell it like it is, without sugarcoating things. They’re the ones who dry my tears when I’m going through rough moments. They’re the ones who have to remind me that I’m human during those moments when I’m being hard on myself.
Ask for help! This is my secret to surviving my career this long. It’s okay to say “I need help with x.” and “Can you give me some guidance on y?” It’s okay to not know everything. Asking for help and persisting the push for help in times of need has really helped.
What if I need more advice?
In February 2023, I will be offering paid discussion slots for those who want to talk through career choices and other life adventures. Stay tuned!