Susan J. Fowler, STEM, Men, and Goals

There’s a fine line between jealousy and inspiration. My most recent jealousy inspiration is Susan J. Fowler. Obviously I’m not jealous of her for the only reason most of us know her name – her sexual harassment at the hands of her employer, Uber, which was then made newsworthy by the fact that Uber’s HR department defended and protected the harasser. No, I checked out her blog. And this woman can do everything. Write. Write code. Write about code. Speak. Start businesses. Write/edit philosophy papers. Professionally and reasonably navigate a traumatic situation. Be young and beautiful. And more than anything, believe in herself.

Self belief is about impossible to impart to another person, and it is just as impossible to describe in a worthwhile manner. But it is key. I have a friend who’s an engineer, generated 7 million dollars for his company through an endeavor he largely spearheaded, speaks internationally, wrote and published a book, is now a CTO of a small company, and is 26. Yes, 26. That man swims in self belief. You can see it as he walks down the halls. Swagger. Fashion. Everybody knows Bill. I suppose it’s a perfect constellation of factors coming together: drive, physical health and high energy, talent converging with the right industry as it’s rising (tech), through-the-roof social ability, and straight-up good old standard intelligence.

But back to Susan. She read 52 books last year. Wow. I will never do that and I will not try. A key difference, I imagine, is she’s likely not spending 5 hours a week at the gym. Were I to spend my gym time reading, sure, a book a week would be doable.

Another inspiration is that she truly feels STEM is her home (Science Technology Engineering Math). She doesn’t even hesitate. I am yet part of the phenomenon and error that says that women can’t compete in STEM. I can feel it in my soul. I meet another female engineer/developer and I’m always impressed. Why? Why am I impressed?! Do I think women can’t write code? See. I am part of the problem. And this despite the fact that I live this life (I write code for a living), was valedictorian of my high school (i.e. beat all the boys), and am aware that American girls have had equal math scores with their male counterparts for the past 30 years. There are no grounds to the lie that women aren’t equal to men in intellectual ability, but STEM and technology still do not reflect this truth. Technology is 90% male. Still a boys club. And she got the brunt of it here, and Uber lost a high performer because of their sick culture/boys club.

But, goals! This is all about goals, for me. Susan – a woman I have never met and never will – has inspired me.

  • I will read 12 books this year. One per month.
  • I will post to this blog once per month.
  • I will use my train ride into work to do JavaScript problems. (This is fun for me, I promise.)

And I will deepen my current goals, which are giving of myself to my local church, and studying a few hours each weekend on the philosophical/religious ideas that plague, pursue, entertain, and give me life.

Thank you Susan! Thanks for being brave and ignoring your gender because in our society females are still “less than”.

San Francisco

I walked the city tonight. About 3 miles of it. Sun setting, fog spreading, tourists and children and accents of all types chaotically pleasure-seeking, as was I. Other than New York City, this is the most densely populated large city in the U.S., and tourists only deepen that density.

What’s odd about San Francisco is it is home to both nature and technology. Steve Jobs has loudly proclaimed that no tech company can start outside Silicon Valley, or some such bold and likely untrue claim. And I’m here for the tech – attended a Computer Science workshop today. Nerdville. Yesterday I attended an Advanced JavaScript Fundamentals all-day workshop at The Microsoft Reactor. A cool place, more nerds, tech, code, all things artificial and severely human. Code and its power are a direct product of our hands. It is almost a measure of our minds. But back to nature. You could say nature is everywhere, and I couldn’t disagree, but when I say San Francisco is a home to nature I mean it is a home to some of the most stunning views on earth. San Francisco is a collision of mountains and ocean, bays, inlets, and brazenly large and vivid flora.

It’s people are no less brazen and vivid. I’m from Chicago so I can compare: I don’t remember seeing this many, uhm, shall we say “characters”? Sadly, I also don’t remember seeing this many homeless.

The hotels are opulent and loud, the fog makes you believe you’re in another world, a city in the clouds, but the broken-souled teens on the street, the drugs and public masturbation ruin ideas of perfection and purity. If you look in the right places – like the second-story corner Italian restaurant resting above a steeply sloping-away hill, filled with wine glasses and beautiful people, the pacific sun casting an evening hue through the glass-enclosed room – it’s magic. Maybe the world, or at least this corner of the world, is perfect.

My Uber driver tonight played upbeat, relaxing new-age music during the climb up Jones street – a street so steep that it’s actually a bit scary. Last night my Uber driver took the same street but played sexually explicit music. I rolled down my window to try to drown out the words I didn’t want to hear. He flew through the city. I kind of wonder what his ticket history looks like.

And at the sushi restaurant I ate at, a beautiful young Asian waiter paid me more attention than what was needed. His body language spoke mild intoxication – I imagine he couldn’t tell my age – and his last few sentences didn’t make sense. As I was leaving he wanted to know where I was from. Chicago. It appears I can at least I can attract someone. Actually, the entire staff paid me lots of attention – maybe they don’t get a lot customers?

Technology and nature. Hippies and businessmen. Homeless and the stratospherically rich. I have to say it feels kind of, well, lost. But also free. I know this culture bucks restraint, but so often what ends up replacing too much restraint is too much freedom, the next-door neighbor to emptiness. I don’t see a coherent culture, or really a place of hope. I do however see grandeur to the heights, both technologically and in the foggy beauty of the bays, inlets, bridges, mountains, and ever-expanding ocean.