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STEM

Is the Lack of Women in STEM about Individual Choices?

A response to Juliet de Baubigny’s post “The Tech Sector Needs More Women; Here’s How You Can Make It Happen.” in Forbes.

As an advocate for women in technology, I was drawn to the promise of a recent Forbes article called “The Tech Sector Needs More Women; Here’s How You Can Make It Happen.” After reading Juliet de Baubigny’s post, I came away troubled with her reasoning for women being missing in the tech field.

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Got Confidence

Reflections from Dreamforce: I’ve Got Confidence in Me!

It’s the last day of DreamForce and as I wander around Moscone with husband and daughter in tow, I reflected on the week that came before. My mind travels back to a specific incident that occurred while at DreamForce that really brought home the difference between women and men. And that difference is confidence.

I had decided to take the Salesforce.com Developer Certification (I’ve already been certified as a System Administrator).

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tech devices

Techno-mindlessness

April, my wonderful Mindfulness coach, suggested I read “Wisdom 2.0“. It’s funny, because while I was going in the marketing work with DVQ Studio, Emily, my other wisdom coach, suggested that I attend the Wisdom 2.0 conference. So, when I hear things more than once, I think that the universe is trying to tell me something.

I’m still in the midst of reading this short book (which is jam packed with great ideas and suggestions), but I wanted to share my thoughts with you on what I’ve read and learned thus far.

Fact: Technology is here to stay. For better or worse, the Internet, computers, cell phones, tablet computers, etc., are not going away. According to the author (and in my own opinion) that in itself isn’t the problem. The challenge is to be more mindful when interacting with it. (Who among us hasn’t lost track of time playing a game online, on the computer, or on a phone?)

Here are my technology-mindlessness confessions. One recent, and the other several years ago.

Remember The Sims (pre-online game)? I was a Sims junkie. I played for HOURS, getting my Sims to be happy and keeping them on track for their jobs (insert irony), etc. When I played, I was oblivious to everything else: my physical upkeep, my friends, and my family. Sims players know you can tell a Sims’ mood by the color of the gauge above their head. I began looking for color indicators above the heads of actual people! I began to fantasize that I could change my friends’ and family’s behavior with a mouse click, just like the Sims.

Somehow my brain had melded my real world and my virtual world—and that scared me. I thought of gaming tools when I had to find a real-world solution to a situation. It was remarkable—and also crazy.

Like a smoker who finally acknowledges cigarettes are an addiction, I knew I had a Sims problem. And I knew I couldn’t quit cold turkey. I had to wean myself off, so I began to play with in a very mindful way. My brain knew what it was going to do before I began to play. I would say out loud to David, “I am going to go play The Sims now. I’ll catch you for dinner in about an hour.” To which he would reply, “Ok, we’ll see!” Then, I would go play with a timer set for one hour.

Before my mindfulness, when I started to get too caught up in the game, I noticed my breath slowed down a lot … nearly stopping at times. My shoulders would hunch over and I’d almost meld with my computer.

After mindfulness, if I sensed the melding point was imminent, I’d look away from the computer and gaze at a picture or an object on my desk. Then I’d take a deep breath and resume the game.

Mindful play allowed me to hear the alarm. (Yes, it took multiple trials before I could actually hear the alarm and walk away.) Sometimes I’d leave for an hour and then come back to see what my Sims had done in my absence (there was an auto-play session), and I’d feel compelled to “fix” all the problems that came up for my Sims. But, one day, I found myself coming back less and less. Reality became more and more interesting. While I still wished people walked around with a gauge over their heads, I began to notice that it bugged me more that my Sims were so easy to manipulate. That knowing their moods from a gauge wasn’t nearly as fun as seeing the expression on a person’s face (although, when a Sim gets really upset, it shows on their face). Or hearing a sentence in English rather than Sim language (it was a strange language).

All this to say that while the game was fun; real life was really more fun and more compelling. And, I haven’t played Sims once in 2012.

My second story is much more recent. I’ve begun to take walks after I drop Zola off at school. It’s a way for me to connect with myself and, in a sense, reboot my morning.

The other day while walking, I was entirely attached to my cell phone. Sending text. Writing emails. Updating and reading Facebook. For about half my walk, I was entirely in my phone. Not aware of anything but the sidewalk underneath my phone. I noticed my pace began to get slower, my breath began to get faster, my body began to feel less and less attached to my head and my eyes felt funny (like they were attached to someone else). It’s like I wasn’t me at that moment. I stopped, looked away from the phone. I slowly placed it back into my pocket and began to mindfully walk.

I began with a slow pace, staring down at the ground that seemed to be moving. Then, I looked up to the beautiful blue sky, which also looked to be moving. You know how it feels when you’ve been on a long train or boat ride? Well, that’s how I felt—very disconnected to the world around me. Really, the same feeling I had with the Sims game, only it wasn’t about clicking people, it was about the environment that surrounded me.

After about 10 minutes, my brain adjusted and my body felt normal again. I picked up the pace and kept walking, focusing on each step, on each breath and on each moment as it happened, knowing that the messages on my phone would be waiting for me on the other side of this walk. I completed the walk with a clear and refreshed mind and when I got back to the car, I went to my phone and answered the messages waiting for me. On my terms. At my time.

Although both stories are about technology, it’s not the problem. The problem was how I interacted with the technology. Was I controlling it, or was it controlling me? We must remember, technology was developed and created to make our lives easier. We are its masters, it is the servant. When the servant becomes the master (cue the Depeche Mode song), we run into problems.

What do the Sims and my morning walk have to do with Database Sherpa and specifically, databases? Technology. Remember in the old days when we had to collect information or addresses and names in a hand written format? Technology has streamlined the process, but it can also cause stress, as we try to master the database.

At Database Sherpa, our goal is to put you in the driver’s seat. You are less stressful because you are the master; you drive the intention of the database and build it to be what it needs to be. Then walk away. No more and no less.

An effective database will not overtake your every waking moment (like the Sims or my cell phone). An effective database, just like our minds, should be fully present in this moment. And as its master, we remain separate, mindful of time spent with technology. On our terms.