My Gender

Image result for scales

“Because of your gender…”

“Because of your gender…”

“Because of your gender…”

It has become a revolving chorus in my head. I have been stubbornly silent for the past month – afraid of what might just spill out if I start ranting. I think I have calmed down enough to finally talk about it.

Basically, it has been a circus at work and I have been trying for a while to make a few horizontal transitions into a new department. I have never quite handled something like the new opportunity and the prospects are exciting as well as challenging.

While the murky politics of the movement played out, I got to meet with the super-duper-head of the new department a few weeks back. We are talking about one of the movers and shakers of the company and I couldn’t believe I was getting to speak to him. I walked into the conference room with my head held high and overwhelmed with what I had prepared to speak with him.

And it went downhill like nobody’s business. Not because he wasn’t happy with my work or my skills, not because he didn’t speak properly with me.

But because he stated precisely four times, that I am going to have tough time adapting to the new role given my gender. Given that I am a female. That his advice to other folks is different as they were all men. 

Four times.

Without even looking or knowing about my background or the work I have been leading these past few months. 

I chose to keep a straight face and not respond during any of those circumstances. I was expected to, I think, but I couldn’t dignify those comments with a reaction. I was afraid of what might spill out. I have never faced such blatant sexism – it is usually equivocal. And it delivered a sucker punch to my self-confidence.

I have cried and vented enough to people and I do not wish to put it writing – I am wondering if it makes me cowardly to want to forget it happened. It has been almost a month and I am trying hard to not dwell on it during those idle moments.

On one hand, I want to prove that any role is beyond gender.

But more than that, I just want to forget the way I felt when I walked out of that room – small, shrunken and insignificant.



 

Professionally Speaking

I had a mini Eureka moment at work. And I assure you it rarely happens.

So for all practical purposes, I am a “junior” in my team given that there is a minimum gap of 8 years in terms of work experience with other members. And it has been a tremendous learning and grooming experience! It feels pretty awesome being treated with the same level of respect, authority and expectations. And I have been extremely lucky to have a team that has mentored me during my plunges in unfamiliar waters.

But this awesome senior helped me understand something – do not bow down simply because of your age and lack of experience. My role revolves predominantly on client interactions and being a liaison; there are folks with a gazillion years of experience under their belt but often clueless in certain areas. I am supposed to jump in and steer them towards the right direction.

I had flat-out refused at first… Frankly, I was scared. I simply could not take them to task, review their work and give “constructive feedback”. But slowly I learnt how to handle delicate situations. I did fumble and mumble but all in all I managed to come to terms with the work. But it was difficult to be rid of the block “I am inexperienced – how can I do this!”.

And then came the “Eureka” moments. Our team was expanding and we needed more resources. So lo and behold! I was assigned with conducting preliminary interviews. Pop went “No! No! No!” inside my head. The “junior block” reared its snotty flaming nose very aggressively. But okay! Here goes…  I reached out and dialed.

And my doubts melted away. It struck me with the subtlety of a club that intelligence comes from area of expertise – what I lacked in years I made up in expertise. I was warm and cozy in the work while these candidates were still in the blue ocean. In that one moment, I found my confidence and my humility – to acknowledge people for their work and not just years of experience.

Skills. Skills. Skills. The work is what defined me even though the process itself was challenging and annoying. Today, one and half years later, I am entrusted with project management apart from the consulting assignments. I am learning to handle multiple projects and balance priorities driven by my instinct. I am slowly understanding people and significance of the professional relationships in this maze of development. I am allowing myself to make mistakes rather than not do anything at all. And I am thoroughly enjoying being in the driver’s seat with its breaks and accelerators!

So yay! For our work. For our expertise. For our learning….

Okay, let’s be real! The YAY is just for our weekends… The rest is stupid.


What was your defining coming-of-age moment in your professional life?

Observations of a Frustrated Desk

Listen up Young Man!

You stalk in here every morning,

Your suit sharp and briefcase gleaming,

A scent of expensive cologne trails behind,

Dreadfully camouflaging the reek of a rotting mind.

 

Your frown greets me sourly,

Your fingers slam at my smooth surface,

Your foot taps restlessly against my corner,

Your shoulders crack from a cramped misery,

Your tie chokes every pleasantry you spittle out,

Your pursed mouth smothers your violent expletives.

 

Where is the boy who wished to soar in stars?

Where is the athlete who lived to play football?

Where is the youth who aspired to bring a change?

I see a ghost who has forgotten the face of the skies.

I find a shadow who can barely keep up his forged smile.

I hear a slave who bequeathed the power of a spirited fight.

 

Listen up Young Man!

The stale air is drawing your life out,

The dream of green notes haunting your sleep,

The incessant torrent of reports stifling your vision,

Run! Lest they make a rat out of you in this twisted race.


At dVerse, Marina Sofia recommended an exercise to make the abstract concrete, where I ended up with the prompt “Frustrated Desk”. This is my slightly skewed take on it.