The conference theme was “Ascent: Climbing the Steps of Your Student Affairs Career,” which I found intriguing enough. Then ACPA Vice President Donna Lee (@DeanDonnaLee) delivered a dynamic lunchtime keynote and brought the discourse to another level when she asked us, “Ascend to what end?” In sharing some of her professional journey, she encouraged us to reflect on our paths, passions, and purposes. She also mentioned that ascent doesn’t always mean up, which was a helpful reminder that a professional trajectory need not be a straight slope. Sometimes I feel myself getting caught up in the race to the top and comparing myself to other people. Checking in with the question of “Ascend to what end?” reminded me to think about my values and to reflect on my journey with that lens.
If you are not a member of a local professional organization, I encourage you to find one and jump on board now! Both ACPA and NASPA have regional versions of their national organizations, and many functionally-focused groups also have presence at state or regional levels. Leadership opportunities abound at this level, and are an especially great entry point for graduate students and new professionals (plug for my CA friends – CCPA elections and appointed position applications are now open). Professional development programs from these groups also tend to more accessible, both in terms of finances and logistics, as events are typically cheaper and closer than national ones. And, of course, networking with local colleagues is fun and can be particularly useful for geographically-bound folks looking for jobs.
Shoutouts go to the CCPA Leadership Team and volunteers for putting on a great event, the California College of the Arts for hosting, all the engaging presenters and speakers, and the many enthusiastic participants.
Forget the whole chicken vs. egg dilemma. The conundrum I face on a daily basis is balancing the conveniences technology provides with customer service standards that cannot be sustained.
What do I mean? Well, in my work we provide a lot of technological ways for students to connect with each other, our office, and request services. I love finding new and innovative ways to utilize technology to enhance the customer service on a college campus. In fact, that very sentence used to play a prominent role in my Twitter bio.
But what are the consequences for providing so many ways to utilize technology for customer service? A challenge I have found on a frequent basis is managing expectations when technology allows for the perception that things can be done with ease. For example, we allow new students to select their own rooms on campus – similar to how you select your seat on a plane. We have gone so far as to allow students to invite roommates into held rooms, and even change their selection multiple times. So what happens when our servers get overloaded with requests due to high volume of traffic? We get calls of complaints on how terrible our product is. I think the juxtaposition of customer service via technology follows a statistical bell curve of when the technology provided enhances the services provided, and when they are a detriment to it.
I also see this playing out in unrealistic expectations of response messages. I have had students email me at 8pm at night and then have a parent call me frustrated at 8am the next morning due to lack of response. How is it reasonable to think a request after standard business hours will or even should be addressed so quickly if it is not an emergency? I’ve seen this scenario get so bad for some colleagues that they feel the need to put an out of office message up from Friday at 5pm until Monday at 8am.
So how do we find the balance? An approach I take is through conversation. When our servers are overloaded and our product becomes slow, I explain to frustrated customers what is happening and why, and then I make a plan for improvement in the future. When someone is frustrated with the lack of response, I try to educate what a typical work shift is, and what our standard expectation of response is. Thankfully this seems to diffuse the situation in most cases. I also start asking the question of if the service that is currently providing more of a challenge than supplement to quality service is necessary. Do we need to provide this fancy and shiny technology piece if it ends up making our customers unhappy?
Who are the unsung leaders of the web in your community?
Was there a digital ambassador who helped you get on board with web technology?
Do you have a great IT support team?
How about an awesome content manager?
Can you send a virtual high-five to your favorite bloggers?
Who is that person in your life you can always go to with web tech questions?
Who do you count on to be the innovator and push the envelope of the web?
Check out the #HonoringWebFolk hashtag on Twitter and add your own acknowledgements. Perhaps you can extend the spirit of this movement beyond social media and take the time to show these folks how much you appreciate them with a hand-written thank you card or even a face-to-face conversation.
I talk a lot about authenticity. To me, a core tenant of a person’s integrity is reflected in their authenticity. Authenticity in who they are at home, at work, with friends, and most importantly when no one else is watching.
I am also a big fan of most social media platforms. I am frequently an early adopter for new social media options, and love being able to connect with people all over the world around common topics. That said, I think people quickly forget their authenticity when provided the opportunity to hide behind social media and the internet.
A few months ago I wrote about why I think Student Affairs professionals should care about Gamer Gate. There is sadly a lot of evidence on how women are treated deplorably online in ways men are not. Heck, the actress Ashley Judd made news recently about how her Twitter bullies had gotten so bad, she was seeking legal options.
Back in the world of Student Affairs, there was a lot of discussion last week, lead in part by this post by my co-editor Niki, about the dark side of Student Affairs professionals who hid behind the anonymity of the social media platform Yik Yak at the recent NASPA conference.
What is it about social media and the internet that allows people to think they can say what they want without consequences online? Where is intent vs. impact in the thought process? Would you say the things you say online (anonymous or not) to someone’s face?
Those who know me well have heard me say that I try to always be my authentic self online. If you look at my Twitter feed, or see what I post on Facebook or Instagram, you see the real me. If I ever feel that I am misrepresenting who I am as a person, I will part ways with that social media platform.
We talk a lot about digital identity and how your online presence follows you everywhere. How help people see that authenticity matters in the digital world too?
If you aren’t sure if you should post about that event, or make that comment about someone’s photo, try this tip I learned from my colleague in student conduct: Think about whether you would say those things if your grandmother was watching. If the answer is yes, proceed. If the answer is no… well, turn off the damn computer.
NCAA basketball March Madness is upon us. And that means even the casual fan becomes a bracketologist. Whether you are a serious student of statistics like our friends at FiveThirtyEight, a prognosticator based on your psychic abilities, or you ascribe to my personal strategy of mascot prowess, there are many ways of approaching the tournament.
Atypical Basketball Brackets
A quick internet search will get you the NCAA men’s and women’s teams displayed in a traditional (read: boring) bracket. Here are some more unique perspectives:
A great example of accessibility in practice, this site presents the standard NCAA bracket information in a clean and functional way using web tools and coding standards that make it more accessible for people “using non-visual interfaces such as screen readers and those who are physically unable to use a mouse.”
There’s a little more emphasis on the “student” part of “student-athlete” with this bracket, which picks winners in the men’s tournament based on academic performance indicators, such as the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate (APR) and the Graduation Success Rate.
March is Women’s History Month and March 8th is International Women’s Day. These serve as yearly reminders to honor women’s achievements and to continue to press forward in advocating for women’s rights. A number of online campaigns have launched this year, including the #NotThere hashtag and video, raising awareness about gender inequality. #NotThere is just one of many hashtags promoted for this important day. Visit InternationalWomensDay.com to learn about the various campaigns and the 2015 theme “Make It Happen.”
Google promoted International Women’s Day through it’s search engine Doodle. Doodles are a fun way for Google to raise awareness about topics, inventions or people deserving of recognition. Unfortunately, SPARK recently documented that between 2010-2013, of the 445 people Google honored, only 17 percent were women.
Google is aware of the issue and promises to do better. Google Doodle team lead Ryan Germick reported to The Huffington Post, “This year we’re hoping to have women and men equally represented. So far this year we’ve done Doodles for as many women as men, a big shift from figures below 20 percent in past years.”
Google is working on other ways to promote gender equality in technology, with it’s Women Techmakers global summits and meet ups throughout the month of March. These events provide resources and visibility to women in technology. While unfortunately there is no meet up in my area this year (check their map to see if there is one in yours), I am marking my calendar to apply to attend the summit next year. What a great opportunity to meet inspirational women in tech!
Another campaign Google/YouTube are promoting is the #DearMe videos. They are asking women to tape themselves answering the question: “What advice would you give your younger self?” These videos give inspiration to young women who may feel discouraged or filled with uncertainty.
What would I say to my younger self?
It’s okay to be a nerd and geek. Embrace that identity because it will lead you to the places where you are most fulfilled. Take it a step further and explore your creativity in technology. Take classes in design, think about the communications field and explore your interests instead of feeling pressure to pick a major right away. Find ways to practice what you love and you’ll get even better at it. Find other people, other women, who have some of the same passions as you do and nurture that excitement. Oh, and make sure to buy a Mac instead of a PC sophomore year of college 😉
This week, I had the privilege of attending the inaugural Lead On: Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women with 5,000 mostly female folks who gathered at the intersection of technology, leadership, and gender. I attended this event as a volunteer resume reviewer and was also able to participate in the general sessions. I’ll admit it was odd for me to be in a space so focused on gender as this is an aspect of my identity I don’t often have the opportunity to explore with as much depth and concentration. Here are some of my takeaways:
Conversations I appreciated
Leadership as a ‘lady thing’
“We’re going to talk about lady things, like leadership and taking over the world in 2016,” said Kara Swisher as she kicked off the opening session. The conference theme was “Lead On” and this sentiment was palpable in everything from the hashtag (#LeadOnCA), to the background music (“I’m every woman” and “You’re gonna hear me roar”). Of course, the main draw for the conference was the keynote lineup, which included Hillary Clinton, Jill Abramson, Dr. Brene Brown, Candy Chang, Kara Swisher, and Diane von Furstenberg. Their stories are remarkable not just because they are women but also because they are leaders.
Opportunities and encouragement to be change agents
It wasn’t all talk at this event; leadership was in action in a variety of ways. For example, conference participants shared goals and contributed to their own “Before I Die” wall, inspired by Candy Chang’s work. The exhibit hall, which at most conferences is all about commercialism, featured a couple community engagement efforts, namely partnerships with Family Giving Tree (where attendees stuffed 500 backpacks with school supplies and encouraging notes for children in need) and Dress for Success San Jose (which collected donations of handbags and jewelry). “What you do doesn’t have to be big and dramatic,” said Hillary Clinton, encouraging participants to make change. “You don’t have to run for office,” she said with a figurative wink and nod but no official announcement about her intentions.
Conversations I wanted more of
I’ll admit I spent most of the day fulfilling my volunteer duties in the Career Pavilion, meaning I only saw the keynote addresses and attended one workshop. So conversations like these could have happened in other spaces, but I found them glaringly lacking from the general conference dialogue and social media backchannel.
Breaking out of the gender binary
Everywhere I turned, there were examples of dualistic gender thinking. In general sessions, female attendees were celebrated while male allies were thanked for their presence. Every statistic was presented with just two options (ex: 70% of Google’s workforce is men and 30% women). An announcement that some of the men’s restrooms had been converted to women’s facilities elicited a big cheer from the audience, and I couldn’t help but think why some couldn’t have been converted to all-gender spaces. The result of these binary practices: our nonconforming community members were unacknowledged and rendered invisible.
Gender + any other aspect of diversity
I know this was a “conference for women” so it is expected we’d talk a lot about gender, but could we please acknowledge some other aspects of our identities? While listening to the main stage speakers, I noted less than a handful of comments that directly addressed aspects of diversity other than gender. And of those comments, most came from women of color. By not addressing intersectionality, the female experience was painted with the same (white, middle class, well-educated) brush. “Leaning in” and trying hard were touted as the keys to happiness and success while dynamics of privilege and power were unexamined.
Random things that got me thinking
The items in my participant swag bag included two office supplies and four body/cosmetic products, including one item for children (sunscreen). I wonder how these giveaways were determined and what conversations happened around those decisions.
A Nursing Mother’s Room was available for attendees. Although I did not utilize this space, I tracked it as one of the event’s inclusion efforts and was glad to share its location with the woman who was balancing her pumping equipment and bottles on the edge of the bathroom sink.
An emphasis on making connections was built into conference process and content. Intentional spaces for informal conversations were available in the exhibit hall and general session area, Twitter handles for all speakers were included in all conference materials, and almost every major speaker described women supporting women as essential to success. In these ways, networking was framed with a relational perspective as opposed to a transactional one.
All the resume reviewers were volunteers from local colleges and universities. It was nice to see higher education professionals recognized and sought out for their expertise in career support and guidance, especially in the business-driven environment of Silicon Valley. I even consulted with someone who currently works in corporate HR and said she brought her resume because she valued the advice of career services professionals.
One last thing: shoutout to Kathryn Ward who also represented Samuel Merritt University as a resume reviewer and drove us both around the Bay Area that day!
Have you attended a conference like this? What were your takeaways? What would you like to see at a “conference for women”?