Sunday, October 27, 2013

Why Most Engineers Don't Have Blogs

Because when push comes to shove 40 hour weeks can only account for the time I spent at work Monday to Wednesday,  weekends are but mere suggestions,  and I occasionally spend 12 hour days just arguing with people twice my age to ensure that my system works properly. Since I am passionate about my work and have what I believe to be a strong moral compass,  being confronted with individuals who are blowing smoke up my ass day in and day out so they can make a quick buck is extremely disenchanting. I think perhaps it is right of passage to adulthood to have the pleasure of a grown man looking you in the eye and lying about something that matters. And I think it is a right of passage to becoming a responsible adult to learn when and how to tell people you fucked up.

As much as I have ideas brewing,  and opinions I want to share,  I have to admit that in weeks like these I just come home and collapse in my bed,  and only get up in time to go to work again (in less than 7 hours).

At the same time,  I hate and love every moment. Every time I find out somebody has screwed me over,  I also know that I've caught a mistake before it causes damage. And I know every moment that I need to stay up,  every person I need to yell at,  every person I have to take yelling at me,  I know it's all worth it. And I don't want to risk loosing the ability to catch those errors.

And that is why I think most other serious engineers tend to stay away from blogging. Not because we can't write,  nor because we don't have opinions. Writing in a public forum is a risk,  and one with outcomes that cannot be accurately calculated. It's exactly what we are trained to avoid. And the risk of getting caught couldn't be higher; our dream of being able to continue to create is at stake.

Yet I still am writing. Maybe because I'm crazy,  maybe because I think it's important that people know that engineering is more than sitting on your butt and collecting a big pay check,  and maybe it is because I believe that discussing issues that plague our industry is the only way to fix it. But either way,  I'm going to keep on blogging and making crappy stick figures (at least for the near future).



PS Why do you think we don't have more active engineering blogging community?

Monday, October 21, 2013

How to Pick A Cute Work Hairstyle

I apologize that I missed last Monday's post. I'm going to try post two times this week to make up for it (insert gasps and cheers from all 20 people that read this blog regularly and never comment). This week I decided to go with a less substantial topic that still impacts engineers: hairstyles.

In an all male environment, it's hard to find inspiration for ways to spice up boring hair days. Something about wearing your hair completely down and having it look nice by the end of the day is a concept that completely evades me. Perhaps it is because of the hardhat I have to occasionally don, perhaps it is my hair's natural proclivity for knots,  or perhaps I just fidget too much. Any way you slice it,  I need a hairstyle that is cute while still being durable enough to deal with a full day of work.

Everyone has a day like this sometimes...

While I considered posting pictures and instructions for the different styles I like, I realized this is a solved problem and that there are in fact dozens (if not hundreds) of videos that show how to make every hairstyle I feel like I've invented. To that end, I scoured YouTube for engineer-proof hair tutorials, and have come up with the following:

Hair Tied Ponytail 

The simplest of these hairstyles is a sleek way to spice up the average ponytail. Hair wrapped ponytails hide your neon hair elastics, and make the hairstyle look office appropriate.

Rave reviews from one coworker say, "But...  Where does your hair end? "

French Braid Side Ponytail

This is a slightly more complex variation on the side ponytail. It only takes 10 minutes or less to do in the morning, so it won't cut back on your much needed sleep.

What my coworkers have to say about it: "Vanessa,  your hair confuses me."
"You must have magic to make hair do that."

Braided Bun

The braided bun is a great way to get a sleek look quick, when your hair is not cooperating. Cons are it isn't necessarily good for a hard hat, and it uses an ass-ton of bobby pins (which is relevant for workplaces which regulate the amount of metal you have). 

One day,  when I was wearing my hair in a Braided bun,  my coworker found a bobby pin on the ground. While I was minding my own business typing an email,  he slipped it into my hair and said, " I believe this belongs to you." Truth is, he was probably right because I was the only one wearing my hair up, but it was VERY uncomfortable anyways.

Side Bun

I'd love to say that I wear side buns instead of regular buns because they are more fashionable. But the truth is, my preference for side buns over regular buns is a result of the fact that regular buns make driving in a car quite literally a pain in the neck. There is nowhere to put your head that isn't super uncomfortable. I would venture to guess that the longer a commute a woman has, the less likely she is to wear a huge bun protruding from the back of her head.

So if you love buns, and hate neck-aches, here is a tutorial for how to make a quick side bun:

Standard fair. Poorly done you look like an angry librarian. Well done,  you look like you mean business.


Especially if you have shorter hair,  this is the easiest way to look like you tried with minimal effort. I recommend doing a side part,  or letting your bangs fall normally (if you have them)  so your bangs don't look like somebody out of an 80s work out video.

If you don't know how to use a hairband yet... than here is 5 ways to do so:

I go through prolonged hairband phases, and they usually involve solid colored hairbands. Although, I will admit that I was involved in the blinged out butterfly and flower hairband phase and am not entirely over it even though I am aware it is socially unacceptable.

That's all for now. Variety is the spice of life, so try a new hairstyle tomorrow!



Monday, October 7, 2013

First Impressions of New Hires

Disclaimer: This is not meant to scare you, just to share what happens in my non-conventional work environment. It is meant to inform you, but not to make you paranoid of every nice gesture on your first day.

So here is the honest truth about what happens when a new girl  has joined one of my companies where there are over 80% men. The biggest thing to understand is that men and women in this environment have adjusted to the fact that female engineers are as rare as a rainbow unicorn. So when a new woman starts and people don't know who she is, chances are people will bet that she is a secretary, marketer, salesperson, or any other non-engineering job their company has. This has something to do with the fact that women tend to dress up for their first day in a stereotypically "non-engineering" or feminine way (I spent over an hour getting ready before my first day of work), and something to do with the fact that statistically the new girl is almost never an engineer.

Wouldn't you be surprised if you worked with a unicorn? 
Once everyone meets her, people tend to place the same sort of bets on who will be the first one to ask her out, date her, fuck her, etc. It's wildly inappropriate, but it happens consistently in my workplaces and can range from more innocent comments to very explicit statements. For the new girl, the awkward onslaught of people hitting on you can be very uncomfortable when you are just trying to figure out how to charge the time you work and where the bathroom is. 

The majority of guys involved try the awkward engineer approach, like the one who told a new female engineer on her first day: "I really love the way you wear... colors. You really pull it off." Others will drop more standard pickup lines into work conversations, or invite the girl to spend a weekend with him at his lake house. It all sounds innocent enough, but everyone else can hear these conversations from their cubes. In my opinion, a lot of it is done for show and the woman is often established as the "new woman" and not as the "new engineer". While I don't believe the men intend to be vicious, I do think that it creates an environment where women are initially not taken as seriously as their male counterparts.

I'd like to point out that none of the female engineers I've worked with have actually dated or slept with one of the men involved in these bets. Usually it just means that all of the guys are overly nice to the new girl, and that there are a few awkward conversations. 

It's not just men who can make the transition awkward for new female hires. Note I said earlier "people tend to place bets" and not "men tend to place bets"- some women make similar bets on who will be the first to hit on a girl. This is interestingly usually done in a way offensive to the man, as if he is so desperate he'll hit on any new person he meets. 

In addition, the female engineers will have one of three reactions to new female hires in this environment. The first group will not care at all, and will react the same for male and female employees. The second will have a strong negative reaction to a new woman because they will have less attention and some even feel like their job is less secure. For example, if there are only two women at the company, it is hard to fire one without seeming sexist. But if there are four women, firing one of them seems less sexist and more that the woman was under-performing. The last group will be super excited to have new women in the office, as it may help change the testosterone filled environment. I am somewhere between the first and third group, since I'm pretty excited for new hires in general but I enjoy having a coworker that is guaranteed to not try and talk about his dick.

Is there room for more than one unicorn in an office?
The women end up usually coming around within the month when they feel more comfortable that their position is safe, and usually the original "challenge" phase is over for the men when they realize they can't win you like a prize at a carnival.

If you find yourself with some overly "nice" brand new coworkers, try not to worry about their possible bets and bullshit. Your new coworkers don't expect you to know about any of this, so you can't exactly address it head on. Take help that is offered to you while maintaining professional behavior, and use their eagerness as an opportunity to get yourself up to speed as quickly as possible. You'll soon find your niche at work, and prove to everyone that you are competent and they are lucky to have you on their team for your skills (not your gender). 

The easiest way to change this environment is by proving it wrong one awesome scientist and engineer at a time. So go ahead, take that hour to get ready for your first day at work if you want to, and bust some stereotypes.