Why is it so difficult to report harassment, and what can you do to help?

This is a personal blog and it is from the heart. This incident is separate from the MeToo incident that I wrote about previously.

When I was 24, I moved to Aberdeen, in Scotland, to start a new postgraduate degree in Artificial Intelligence. On my last night in my home town before I left to go to Aberdeen, I celebrated with childhood friends in a local restaurant, which had a little dance floor and a bar. In the bar, I met an ex-boyfriend, and I ignored him. He tried to speak with me, and I told him to leave me alone.

I went up to dance with my friend, and my ex-boyfriend followed me and continued to hassle me. His first punch came from nowhere and I only remember being hit directly in the face, and everything going red, and falling backwards. I don’t remember anything after that punch. I only remember, vaguely, my friend Christine screaming and screaming and screaming and I could only hear her, and everything was red. I remember idly wondering why she was screaming but then I lost consciousness. I only woke up the next day in bed, covered in scratches and bruises and I felt like I had bad whiplash.

After the punch that took me to the floor, he hauled me up by one arm and was punching me with the other. Then, I was kicked about on the dancefloor, unconscious. My ex-boyfriend was pulled off me and he went to the bar. I was taken home by my friend in a taxi. I don’t remember any of it. I wasn’t drinking much because I am not a heavy drinker; it was the initial punch that took me out. I weigh about 100 pounds and I’m not quite five foot two. It was no contest, really.

After that, the bar/restaurant went back to normal; people eating, drinking. I have no awareness of the events after my attack. All I do know is that my ex was told to leave the bar, and some men in the bar followed my ex-boyfriend outside. They beat him unconscious in an act of revenge, which I did not instigate. I do not approve and there is no joy in it for me.

The next day, I decided I would go to the police, after going to the hospital. As I learned about the events afterwards, I began to understand that I could not go to the police. I didn’t want the very well-meaning men to get into any trouble; their attack on him had been down to his attack on me. So, I felt responsible, even though I was not there.

His mother called me to see if I was ok. She told me that she’d raised a monster, and that I should stay away from him. And I did; I never saw him again. I started my postgraduate degree with my body covered in the vestiges of his attack on me. He used to wear a ring and I had scratches from where it landed on my body, with the weight of his fist behind it.

I am writing about it now because, all these years later, I regret not going to the Police and reporting it. I had so many witnesses, and I should not have felt responsible for the actions of the well-meaning men who wreaked revenge on him. But I did. I think that victims can feel that all problems end with them, and that they are the only ones who can fix things even though they are the victim. That’s why you end up absorbing so much.

I never felt any victory that he’d got beaten up. I don’t think he learned anything at all. I learned a few years later that he’d attacked his then-current girlfriend, a woman I vaguely knew. I felt responsible for her.

I don’t think that those well-meaning men should have beaten him up. This deprived me of control of the situation. Revenge was not theirs to give; it was mine to take, going through the courts and speaking to the Police. It is the best way to secure long-term sanctions on their behaviour. I understand that they thought they were doing the right thing. I did not hear about their revenge attack until the next day, and I was aghast. I understand that they felt that they had to do something.

My choice? For me, honestly, being a witness, and making my voice louder, would have been the right thing to do in the longer-term. By taking action in place of me, they essentially took my control, my choices and my voice away from me; my experience, my suffering, went unheard. I was not being allowed to drive the situation, and that’s what I wanted. I wasn’t consulted. I don’t believe women are weak fools at all and I don’t need people to speak for me. I just need my voice to be helped to carry, and, by ‘speaking’ for me, they were taking away from me the very things that would secure the most likely outcome for ensuring that he did not do it again.

Women need to be heard and believed. We don’t need talked for, talked at, or talked over. When we talk about #MeToo incidents, often you will hear women say that they feel better after speaking out. They don’t say that they feel better because someone else did something or spoke for them; they want control back. Loss of control means no options, and not having options is a terrible way to live your life.

By going to the Police and trying to secure a conviction against him, I could have helped to make sure that he would have had a record, which would have warned off future victims. And I was wrong not to see that. In the later incident, the one I wrote about in the MeToo blog, I was very well aware that other women would suffer in the same way I did, so I did my best to make sure it was stopped before it started. That made me feel responsible, and I have paid the price of the highest level of guilt since since I was not successful in the process. Victim blaming can often include the victim themselves, and we do not need told what to do. The world will make you feel small, if you let it.

After the separate #MeToo incident, I was given some medical counselling. Due to a shortage, during the counselling process, I was paired with a male counsellor and I am going to call him Edward. Edward taught me many things. He taught me that your friends are not the ones who spend time with you or who even like you. Edward helped me to see that I had choices, even though I felt that my choices were taken away from me. Edward helped me to feel as if I had control back, even though the control of everything, even that of my own body, had been slipping away from me. In doing these things, Edward helped me to get my voice back.

I never got to thank Edward. One day, I called to speak to him, and I was told that he’d fallen ill, and he wasn’t coming back. I never called again. One of my regrets in life is that I never got to thank him and I hope that he found someone in his life as precious and supportive of him, as he was to me. There are good people there and they flit in and out of our lives, leaving a thread of love that you can see if you are looking for it.

Inspired by Edward, who strove to ‘to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world’, I am going to put forward a list of what you can do to help. This is based on a few sources, but mainly Rape Crisis Scotland should be credited here.

Do:

  • Listen. Good or ‘active’ listening means you help the victim develop their own
    thoughts so they can look at options and make their own decisions. It’s not up to you.
  • Stay calm.
  • Be comfortable with silence.
  • Encourage
  • Take notes
  • Ensure safety
  • Read this list from RAINN in case an incident has happened
  • Listen. Keep the cakehole shut.
  • Accept and don’t judge
  • Be patient.
  • Take the lead from the victim– it is important for them to feel in control
  • Avoid asking intrusive questions.
  • Learn about sexual violence and its effects
  • Learn about ways of coping with these effects
  • Ask them what they need from you
  • Look after yourself too
  • If you think what you’re going to say sounds thoughtless, it probably is. So shut up.

Don’t:

  • Judge
  • Instruct
  • Decide for the victim
  • Feel responsible
  • Ask loaded questions, opinions and comments such as ‘you could have done such and such couldn’t you?’ or ‘you must be feeling terrible?’
  • Use ‘should’ or ‘if I were you’. If you are going to do tell me what to do, just go away. You are not helping.

I’m going to end, as I sometimes do, with a poem.

“Even in our sleep,

pain which cannot forget,
falls drop by drop upon the heart until,

in our own despair,
against our will,
comes wisdom

through the awful grace of God.” – Aeschylus

So how many badass female inventors, role models do you know? Here’s a handy starter book list to share and inspire

How do you inspire girls to make choices that inspire them? How can we inspire girls to be badass and yes, it is a compliment? How do you give them role models?

There is nothing worse in the world that not having any choices. So let’s give our daughters the chance to have options and choices, just like boys. Don’t filter them out before they get started.

I’m in data and technology (my uncle was at Bletchley Park) and I was inspired to learn to program as an eight-year-old girl by a spy who cracked Japanese codes whilst hiding out in India. I was extremely lucky to be taught by someone who knew Alan Turing personally and was friends with Ludwig Wittgenstein, but many folks don’t know where to start. They just know that they have to harness their daughter’s enthusiasm somehow. And there is nothing wrong with boys reading these books either…. or anyone else. My son can read these books and say ‘wow, Hedy LaMarr was awesome!’ and that’s great to hear, right?

On Twitter, I saw the British historian and BBC presenter Dan Snow post the following tweet:

What Mr Snow may not have expected is that there were many responses about the fact that many inspiring women in history get forgotten, or even written out of history. Think Bletchley Park; how many famous women do you know from there? There were thousands of female workers at Bletchley Park there but we only hear about the men.

It’s time to right this wrong, and Snow’s tweet got me thinking. Some mentioned some of their favourite books that focused on women who inspire, in order to show their daughters a different way. Example:

WE NEED MORE OF THIS! We often talk about girls needing role models, and we end up being caught in a paradox.

How do we inspire girls with role models, if there aren’t any role models? How do we get role models, if we can’t inspire girls?

Before you read below… how many women can you think of? A quick poll of people around me produces ‘that woman who invented Tippex and was David Bowie’s mother’ – three things with that; a. stop defining her as a mother b. remember her own name as well c. she wasn’t David Bowie’s mother (!). A quick research shows that Bette Nesmith Graham actually was the mother of one of the Monkees. In a reverse Handmaid’s Tale sort of way, you might call him Michael OfBette. If you haven’t read Handmaid’s Tale, please do; it will make you angry because it is so plausible. It will make you scared for how the world could go, and that’s exactly why you should read it.

Well, the good people of Twitter started to put the world to rights again, when people started to note their own favourite books, which showcase women in a variety of fields. I am listing them here, and please do add more in the comments.

I do not get paid for recommending books because that’s plain grubby and money-grabbing. I’m recommending these because the good folks of Twitter recommended them, and I will be reading them myself.

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls – recommended by James O’Flynn

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World by Kate Pankhurst – recommended by James O’Flynn

Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics by Jason Porath and recommended by Jenny Colledge

Tough Mothers: Amazing Stories of History’s Mightiest Matriarchs by Jason Porath

These books are perhaps more for the adults:

Laurel A Rockefeller writes a series aimed at women in history

As I said, I’m into technology so I have to recommend Programmed Inequality (History of Computing): How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing. Written by Marie Hicks, it will inspire and hurt and you will learn something about how Britain can do better. Plus, WELCOME TO MY LIFE, PEOPLE.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – If you don’t read it, then you have to watch it. It’s painful because it’s articulate, insightful and it feels so close to the surface that you can almost touch the dark reality that’s not so far away from ours.

So, Mr Snow, if you ever decide to do a series on female badass characters throughout history, I think  you’ll have a very interested audience. #SubtleHint

I want better things for our children, boys and girls. If you are reading this far – Well done you – and it gives me hope that we might miss out on the dystopian future in The Handmaid’s Tale after all.

It’s about giving girls choices. If your daughter wants to be a mommy and wear pink, that’s fine. But if she also wants to be a car mechanic or scientist or save the world through environmental science, she shoudl be able to do that too.

 

Open Source Decency Charter Proposal for Dealing with Harassment at Technical Events

rawpixel_alphabets-2518268_1920

If you’re reading this, you are probably a decent person. You shouldn’t read this thinking that you will be putting yourself in danger if you attend a tech event. I can tell you that I normally feel pretty safe at these events and you can read my story here and I’ve talked about it publicly since I want to do something good with it. Note that I don’t represent any other organization or body or person with this blog. It’s another heartdump.

Most people are pretty decent but what do you do about the ones that are not? How do victims know what to do? How do you know how to help one of your friends?

The vast majority of people want to help and are decent, and that’s why I’d like to propose the creation of an open source Decency Charter to help at technical community events which need support for handling harassment at events.

A Decency Charter would outline reasonable and decent expectations for participants within the a technical community event, both online and in-person, as well as steps to reporting unacceptable behavior and concerns. It’s fairly simple at heart: be decent to one another.

I think that it would be good to have to have something very clear in place that people can use as a template, so everyone can have a voice and feel safe. That’s why I think an open source Decency Charter is a good suggestion and I’d be interested in your thoughts.

This blog post is an attempt to bring a few strands together; namely diversity, harassment in the technical community, and a proposal for a way forward.

It’s a shame that we have to encode decency into technical events.  More and more workplaces are being embroiled in sexual harassment cases. According to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in 2017, over 50% of workplaces have had an issue with sexual harassment. I think it would be good if people could adopt a Decency Charter, since it sounds more positive than a Code of Conduct. The inspiration came from Reid Hoffman, who talked about a Decency Pledge in his article The Human Rights of Women Entrepreneurs where he talks about sexual harassment of women in the industry. I’m grateful to Reid Hoffman for his article because it does help to have male voices in these discussions. Simply put, his voice will carry further than mine, and with way more credibility.

Followers of my blog will know that I’m trying to get support for a Diversity Charter to support diversity at events. As an additional add-on, I’d like to propose a Decency Charter as well, which gives people a template that they can use and amend to monitor their event, as they see fit. I’d love your ideas and please do email me at jen.stirrup@datarelish.com with your thoughts, or leave a comment on this blog.

I am going to start to list a few things here from the viewpoint of someone whose head is bloodied, but unbowed and I want to use my voice. Everyone’s experience is different but I thought that this might help in shaping a Decency Charter that sits alongside a Diversity Charter. So, what do I actually want?

telephoneaged-2974648_1920

As a starter for ten:

I want to feel safe and comfortable – Make it easy. I don’t have to have to think about it too hard if something happens to me or one of my friends – I need something that is so easy that I don’t have to look far to know what to do. I need to know what to do when something happens. I want to have a ‘home’ to go to, if something happens – that can be a location, or a person to call. I want to talk to someone. I want a number to call that is very visible on my event pass or pack so I can find it easily. I don’t want to google around for a form to fill in because that introduces a delay when it goes to an organizer, plus I am worried about putting my concerns about an individual or an event down in writing in case it gets in the wrong hands. This won’t secure my safety after the event, and that worries me, too. If I make a complaint, I can’t be sure that it would be successfully resolved and all relevant data removed, or handled confidentially. Google forms are so easily digested and forwarded by email and, like feathers, it could spread. I just want to talk to someone, in my own time. So, before, during and after the event, I’d ideally like each event to have a named panel of people who will listen to my concerns and they can act upon them in a clearly documented way.

I want others to feel safe and comfortable – I expect people to be able to answer accusations made about them. I don’t want people to think that the Microsoft Data Platform community, for example, is some den where there is a lot of harassment. There isn’t, but I’d like to see a Decency Charter in place in case there is.

I want to have a voice – I don’t want my voice taken away from me. I don’t want other people to speak for me. It’s easy for people to propose things without asking victims what they want, it’s very easy to dictate an approach from a point of privilege.

I want other people to have a voice – because everyone should be allowed to speak for themselves.

I expect confidentiality. I don’t expect people to repeat private details or rumours. At best, it immediately breeds distrust and you will never earn it back. At worst, you can deeply impact someone’s life by handling issues insensitively, and this cuts both ways. An accusation can’t be a condemnation, and there also has to be a balance with protecting people at the same time. Gossip doesn’t make me trust your processes in resolving things, and it has to be well thought out from all angles.  People can see how people behave with one another, and it’s a halo effect.

I expect you not to judge.

I expect to be able to get help right now, and have event organizers and volunteers who can support me if I need it. This is simply making sure that event volunteers are trained in knowing who to alert when something happens and responding thoughtfully and without judging, and, ultimately, centred on sensitivity.

I expect to be able to get help after the event, and have event organizers and volunteers who can support me if I need it.  I think that having an easily-available contact in place, well after the event, would be a good step. Event organizers usually have to clear things up well after an event, so this isn’t an onerous issue at all.

So how could this shape up?

I’d like to propose that, along with the Diversity Charter, we roll out an accompanying Decency Charter, similar to OpenCon Community Values or  the PASS Anti-Harassment policy. The PASS one is a good model but it only affects PASS events, and I’d like it to be an ‘open source’ way forward for community models. I think that, if we offered a ‘package’ of a Diversity Charter plus accompanying Decency Pledge, then the community have a template of ‘add-ons’ that they can choose to flex and use for their own events. They are absolutely welcome to change and adapt as they feel fit. I think it would be great to get a version 1.1. out there for the community to review and we can see what changes I get back.

What problem does this solve?

People don’t know where to start so we can give them a hand up.

As part of the speaker selection process, speakers can submit their past speaking experience as part of the speaker selection process. Organisers can choose to follow up with those past events to see if there are any issues with speakers; in any case, they should be doing their due diligence on speaker selection anyway, so it should not cost much effort  just to ask if there were any other issues that they should know about. It’s hard to deal with attendees because they are harder to police, and they can provide anonymous details at the point of registration. However, sending a signal with a robust Decency Pledge would send a message before people turn up to the event, and they should agree to adhere to it as part of the event registration process.

It’s so much easier to talk facts to someone, which is why I think organizers can offer contact details in case anyone wants to get in touch with them after the event.

Here are some resources to follow up:

PASS Summit Anti Harassment Policy

Enforcing a Code of Conduct

Responding to Reports of Harassment at Tech Events

I also want to add these resources in case this blog triggers anyone:

Male Rape and Sexual Abuse – because men can be victims, too.

Supporting a Survivor. 

I wanted to put this poem here, which is Invictus by William E. Henley:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

You’ve got this.

I’d love to know what you think. Please contact me at jen.stirrup@datarelish.com and I’ll be pleased to know your thoughts.

metoo-2859980_1920

#MeToo and being a woman in Technology

Where do I start? I never wanted to write this story and I’m going to ask for your patience if this blog isn’t as polished as I would normally do. Instead of a braindump, this is a heartdump and I hope you’ll bear with me.

As always, this does NOT represent any organisation or entity other than myself. Note that THIS IS A TRIGGER WARNING and if you need to talk to someone, there are plenty of organisations that can help.

d1984c3e60f78c13be19d10f501c469d

You can tell a lot about a girl from her shoes. Some women have too many pairs. I used to wear high heeled shoes that looked like the shoes on the left. Fun, delicate and feminine. I call this phase the ‘Before Girl’.

Then, something happened to me. Something bad. My ordeal lasted for about seven hours. I don’t want to recall the details; I will just leave it there. To this date, I am not really sure how I got out but I got help from a passing cab driver who thought I’d been hit by a car and he took me to safety. The ‘Before Girl’ died and she was left somewhere dazed and in the cold; the ‘After Girl’ was born.

Unlike the young lady who wrote her letter here, I didn’t have a cyclist or two to help me. I’m further on in life than she is, from her story, and I wish her the absolute best and her bravery has inspired me to speak here. She has been a lighthouse for me. I never knew the identity of the taxi driver but I am forever grateful; I do not believe that all men are bad, and I do think of him sometimes because he reminds me that there are good people out there.

So what happened after? It impacted everything. Probably the most visible change you’ll see are shoes. I began to wear shoes that meant I could run far and fast if I ever needed to, to get away. So I started wearing flat shoes or trainers or Doctor Martens. I do wear heels sometimes but I usually have ballerina wraps in my handbag; a silver pair or a black pair.

I decided that I was no longer going to live my life in fear; I’d had enough taken from me already. I don’t want to live my life in fear dressed up as practicalities. So I realised that my strength had to come from me. I did lots of things, namely, try to become the ‘Before Girl’ again and not the ‘After Girl’ that I’d become.

About 8 years ago, I started to speak at technical events because I wanted to tackle my fears head on: standing up in a room full of men, everyone looking at me. So my first session was one hundred people, and since then, I’ve spoken all over the world, and my largest in-person audience was over six thousand people. I did lots of technical community work and I began to find my home there; I found friendship, and men who treated me as a person and an expert as I proved over and over again that I could teach and be relevant. I stopped being this afraid thing. I also learned from other people and I found some healing from my experience, simply from being part of the technical community.

I want to deeply thank the informal tech community of Microsoft and the Tableau community for giving me the opportunities that you have, and for helping me to find some healing there from the mostly great people I met. I have given a lot, but you have given me far more than you will ever know. Thank you.

I didn’t want to write about it at all, but my hand has been somewhat forced. I talked to a few people I trusted, in confidence, because the current thinking is that you should share and talk about your experiences. We live in an Oprah society; we are all supposed to talk about things. That didn’t work for me at all. I soon found that my confidence was broken and that this story was being talked about. I didn’t want my struggles to be my story. I want to talk about my failures, achievements and successes instead.

After I realized that my story was out, I felt more stricken than I’ve done for a long time. I felt I’d travelled to a different country, and came back speaking a language which nobody else knew and it was my only way to communicate. I didn’t know how far my story had feathers which carried themselves on the wind, and I’d never be able to catch all of the feathers. I felt isolated from the community where I had been working to heal myself and try to bring the ‘Before Girl’ back to life again. So I decided, after months of deliberation, just to front it out and here I am. The #MeToo campaign helped me, and I hope that this will help you, too.

When you tell people that you’ve been attacked, they look at you differently. There is a ‘look’ that people seem to give you and you know that’s what they are thinking about. There are two voices inside your head, as a victim; the first voice talks about the facts and what happened, and those facts absolve me. The second voice talks about what society thinks of you; how you were to blame, how you are tainted, and how you will always be guilty and ashamed, and held accountable. It’s at this point that my mind throws up a lot of turbulence. I was worried that people would hold the second voice about me, but not the first; not the facts.

So when you are in a state of fear, and I can only speak for myself here, you end up freezing and your limbs become weak and your hands can’t move and your eyesight dim like you’ve been rubbing your eyes too much, your ears hurt and the world goes silent. Thing is, at first, your mind-numbing, screaming fear is that you are going to lose the war over your body. Then, you do. In horror, you watch yourself lose the battle over your own body. Your fear shifts and moves on. Your new fear is that you are going to die. There is always another rung to fall down. If you have ever wondered what you think about when you are sure that you are going to die, then I can tell you with some certainty that you can only think of your loved ones and the loss that you are leaving behind, and how much grief that they are going to suffer and how changed they are going to be and how much you really really love them. Truthfully, all that’s left of us at the end, is who we hold tight in our hearts.

So, after all that, the ‘After Girl’ was going to have to adapt. I’m still me and I’m still there, underneath it all. I still want to be part of the community and talk tech and share my passions for what I do. It’s a big risk to be seen as the authentic ‘you’ but I am taking this risk; I won’t lose anyone I’ve already lost, and I won’t gain people I don’t have, right now. It’s zero sum. What I will have, however, is that I’ve risked being ‘seen’ in order to try and do something good with this experience. Ultimately, I can’t win but I have to make the choices that are right for me.

I saw the #MeToo campaign appear and I thought it is finally time to knock this on the head. I want people to know I’m okay and that I’m still here and I’m still me. If I was going to have a nervous breakdown, I’d have done it years ago. I didn’t want this part of my life to be used as some confirmatory bias that I’m not okay, and potentially turn out to further isolate and even inadvertently discredit me. I have had my lesson in human cruelty and I got through it, and I’m much stronger than people seem to think.

4dfc9f14d5bb0c62ffe580b2272618bb-kahlil-gibran-quotes-khalil-gibran

So I’m getting out in front of it so that I take back some control and that people will talk to me about it, and not about me. I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to the #MeToo campaign. You have helped me feel less alone.

Honestly I don’t want my struggle to be my story, and I’m not sure how else to handle it. I’m fed up hiding and I’m fed up trying to catch feathers and I hope I can move forwards from here. I realized that I could live authentically as an imperfect person who wasn’t broken, but still shine brightly, casting out more light because of it. I’m hoping that other victims will find strength in themselves to keep going. I’m hoping more women will see that they have a home in the tech community too. I’m here, and you can be, too.

I’m also hoping that this will encourage new speakers. People sometimes tell me that they are ‘afraid’ to get up and speak. You’re not afraid; that’s privilege speaking from people who don’t really know what it means to feel fear. You might be nervous but you’re not in fear. If you want to speak, think about me; if I can do it, you definitely can.

I want to move past this, so let’s talk a little about what’s next for me?

Diversity Charter – I’m trying to set up a Diversity Charter so tech community orgs, such as user groups, can show that they are truly welcoming to people of different backgrounds.

Thought Leadership – I’ve also become attracted to thought leadership and I do industry analysis as a freelancer. I’m still interested in this part.

Events – I’ll continue speaking for as long as people want to hear me.

Diversity is important to me because it means I can try to find something good with what’s happened to me. I know what it feels like to be powerless and have your voice taken away from you. I know how it feels to have a second voice talk over the first voice; hold onto that first voice. Ultimately, I want to be able to find some meaning.  I’ll never be able to apologize to the women that were attacked after me since I was not the last in a line, it seems, and their experiences are a burden which I partially bear because I could not find the strength to speak out. If only I’d been more successful in getting my voice heard, their pain might never have happened. I’m doing it now because my voice is all I have. I want to try and make something good out of it. Diversity makes sense to make because it’s all about trying to make sure that everyone is included and they aren’t isolated from doing a job or a community activity that they love. And techies do love technology and everyone’s inner geek should be welcome.

What should you do if this happens to you?

These are just my opinions and they are given out of concern for your welfare:

Get yourself safe. Get away.  I was too injured and distressed to do anything other than let the taxi driver help me into the car. I had no phone and my bag had disappeared so I had no money.  I don’t recommend that you do the same thing; that’s just what happened to me.  Call the police. They will never criticize you for it and neither will anyone else. That’s what they are there for. Use your cell and photograph everything.

Call the Police and get medical help and every bit of evidence you can. You got this. Police Stations are the loneliest places on the planet. So when the police are looking at you across the table, they ask you things like ‘why didn’t you fight back then? If you didn’t fight back then you didn’t really say no, did you?’ remember that they are dialling up the second voice by playing around with the first voice, and that’s why so few cases go to court. This is what happens – people mix the first and second voices. I hope that, if you go to the police, you will keep that in mind and you will will make sure that the first voice ring true and that your ‘Before Girl’ gets to speak. And take someone with you, if you can.

There are plenty of organizations that can help you e.g. In the UK, you can call the national Rape Crisis helpline (run by our member Centre Rape Crisis South London) on 0808 802 9999 between 12 noon – 2.30pm and 7 – 9.30pm every day of the year for confidential support and/or information about your nearest services. Put the number in your cell phone; if not for you, for someone else. Just in case. Oh, and that goes for guys, too; one of your female friends might need help someday.

If it’s a tech community event, tell the organisers but make sure you are safe first. Tell a friend.  I put the police first since they can also help you out.  PASS have the Anti Harrassment Procedure and I think that’s one of PASS’ greatest achievements. I think that other community events could adopt it although I’m not speaking officially for PASS here.

Don’t be hard on yourself. You got this and you’ll find unexpected friends along the way.

As for me? And maybe, one day, I’ll get back into high-heeled shoes for keeps. The ‘Before Girl’ has gone and this is her obituary, but the ‘After Girl’ understands what it means to value life and the importance of leaving something good for other people.

SQLSaturday Portugal: Why I’m going for the third year in a row!

Going to SQL Saturday Portugal? It is an excellent event, run by SQL Server MVP and European Community Tech Leader Niko Neugebauer and his awesome team.
If you haven’t been before, it is a great event for international attendees as well as Portugese sqlfamily with sessions in English as well as Portugese.

A little Twitter birdy tells me that they are getting full on the Saturday so I’d advise you to register quick! Here is a taster of the full day, paid Workshops right before the free SQLSaturday community event:
Tim MitchellTim Mitchell – Real World SSIS: Survival Guide  (10th of AprilThursday)
Milos RadivojevicMilos Radivojevic – SQL Server for Application Developers  (10th of AprilThursday)
Edwin SarmientoEdwin Sarmiento –  High Availability & Disaster Recovery Deep Dive  (10th of AprilThursday)
Paul TurleyPaul Turley – Complete BI Solution with Office & SQL Server  (11th of AprilFriday)
Brent OzarBrent Ozar – Virtualization, Storage, and Hardware for SQL Server (11th of AprilFriday )
Until 12th of March of 2014, the early bird for these workshops is just 100€ so what are you waiting for!
I have the honour of speaking at the event as well as the privilege of helping with a Women in Technology event. The Portugese event is special because it has a diversity of attendees from all over the place (including me, from Scotland!). This will be my third year because I love the event and Lisbon is a great place to visit.
See you there! 

SQLSaturday Budapest #278: Coffee Corner for Women In Technology: Making yourself visible and getting ahead

Social systems don’t trailblaze and they are not necessarily easily visible. However, social methods are quietly voted in by societies and it’s easy not to notice them. How can you try to make sure that you are noticed in your career? Is there a lower number of women in IT, or do they simply not put themselves forward enough? How can you create a sustainable competitiveness as a company, if diversity is not an important part of the organisation?

Come to this session for a lively discussion on how to shine, share your expertise, inspire each other and train yourselves in how to use networking to advance yourselves and each other.

Join myself and Gosia Borzęcka for an informal chat on this topic. You are very welcome to join us! Men and women are both welcome.

Our session is at 2.45 and we hope to see you there! The official site is here and to register, click here.



Women in Technology: Children at Technical Conferences

I read a post with the same title by Tim Radney, which I loved. In his post, which I suggest you read, he talks about taking his son to a technical conference. I thought I’d write a little bit about my experiences taking my son to a couple of User Groups in the UK. A few months ago, Mark Broadbent (SQL DBA guru and a great friend of mine) needed a speaker at the last minute for his Cambridgeshire PASS Chapter user group. I said I would do it, but I’d have to bring my eight year old because it would be too late to get a babysitter. Very fortunately, Mark agreed that I could bring my son.  At this point, I have to thank Mark for his patience with my son, who now calls him ‘his big friend Mark’. Mark introduced him to games on the mobile phone and didn’t mind that my son ate more food than anyone else! To introduce my son to everyone, I asked him to offer everyone a chocolate and then everyone settled to hear my Big Data session. My son and I went home happy.

I run HUGSS, a SQL Server user group in Hertfordshire. I’ve taken my son on the odd occasion, and he sits really nicely, reads quietly whilst the adults are talking, and eats as much as he gets his hands on. We are a very small group at the moment, and so far, nobody has minded too much. 

For those of you who haven’t worked it out already, I’m a single mother and have been for a good while now. I play mum and dad. For me, the hardest bit of being a parent is “teaching your child how to walk, and then teaching them how to walk away”. I didn’t set out to be a single mum and it wasn’t the life that I had planned for myself, but we are where we are. I do the best mum and dad combined roles that I can do. I love my job, I love the sqlfamily that I come across, and most of all, I am blessed, really blessed, to have a smart, wise, loving little boy in my life with a big generous heart and wonderful chuckle who opens my eyes and teaches me something new every day. He loves cuddles and TS Eliot poems about cats. He loves soldiers, Nerf, lego, iCarly, Hallowe’en, ice cream with sprinkles on top and loves being read limerick poems. I count myself lucky each and every day. I want more than anything to make his dreams come true and give him the brightest, best future that is in my power to do so.

So, in my role of mum and dad, I used to worry what people would think of me as a ‘single mum at a tech conference’ as an attendee, presenter or organiser. There tends to be less female attendees, and I wonder what percentage of those are in my demographic. I then wondered if perhaps other women worried as I did, that I would be odd-one-out. Then it struck me that perhaps, by sharing my story, that perhaps other women who share my life experiences might realise that actually, it isn’t an issue. People accept you for who you are. Community is community. I believe one hundred percent that there is no community as welcoming as the ‘sqlfamily’ and I have found my ‘home’ there. You already have a shared passion for tech and everybody is learning, and if I can do this, anybody can. 

Otherwise, I’ve never taken him to a larger conference and we are both not ready to do that. I think that it would be too much for him (he is only 8, after all!). I’m a mum before anything else, and I’d be fully involved looking after him than I would in doing community work or helping people with SQL Server or BI questions. When he is older and might benefit from the experience, such as doing computing science at secondary school, then I might be more inclined to take him so that he can be inspired by meeting some of the brightest minds in tech at sql server conferences, for example.

Normally I try to keep my family life separate from my professional and community life, but Tim’s blog celebrated family and technology, and inspired me to write a little so I’ve shared a few thoughts here. My experiences and opinions will be different from other people’s, but I had hoped that these thoughts might help someone somewhere.

Best,
Jen