Insomnia & String Interpolation
It's 45 minutes till 4 a.m. and as we all know, 4 a.m. is the latest it can be and still be considered night. I have insomnia tonight.
It's the good insomnia—the excited kind, not the anxious kind. Alas, I'm an old hand at the anxious kind but I'm a bit at a loss about what to do with the good kind. Perhaps I should be meditating, doing a good Yoga Nidra with my Insight Timer app. Meh.
The culture of the tech industry as I've known it has been mostly online: through places like Reddit, Quora, Medium, and to some extent Twitter. I brought this up at the Zeroth social with one of the C4Q founders and a program manager—how the online tech culture of these places sometimes rubbed me the wrong way. I mentioned leaving Reddit a few years back because of the grossness going on there, but having rejoined it upon acceptance to Access Code, albeit only subscribing to tech subreddits so as to avoid the grosser expressions of some redditors.
There are things I really like from what I've gathered during my limited exposure to tech culture. I love the emphasis on self-learning/self-teaching. I get a little hesitant when it morphs into an overarching belief in survival of the fittest and/or social Darwinism. I like the general acceptance and encouragement of ambition, both in career and life. I get wary when it becomes the sole lens through which to view life and success.
By no means was book publishing perfect (especially technically), but it was a very familiar kind of imperfect. Maybe a feminine kind of imperfect, for a certain narrow definition of femininity, compared to tech culture's heavy nerd-bro-influence.
Maybe book publishing came so easily to me because it was so expected of me, as an artsy reader. But coding resonates on a deep level with me too, and even in these early, early stages (it's pre-Day 1 still, Margaret) I feel forgotten parts of myself emerging: my love of research, my affection for the ease of sharing information with tech-savvy others, a respect for rigor, a sense of humor about brute force. (My intermittent creepy attention to detail comes in handy in both fields.)
In book publishing, I fit. I was female and passed for white and was educated enough, mostly. In tech, I feel more the oddball (minus passing for white). I worry that under the scrutiny of others (perceived or actual), I will let bits of myself fall away in order to blend in, or that I will stop turning an ear to voices that aren't as easy to hear amongst all the noise.
During the workshop when we were working on the group app project and discussing features, I mentioned that someone else's feature idea would also be a great way to monetize the app. In an attempt to be funny (sigh), I added, "If money's the sort of thing you care about." Without missing a beat, one of the other group members made a great comment to the contrary, which I wish I could share verbatim right now (memory fails). I just remember the shock at how easily I'd let myself fall into the blasé talk about money that tech culture/VC culture can get into. I grew up safely middle class, so it's not an entirely foreign tone, but both of my parents are tight fists and take their finances seriously. And more importantly, money hasn't been prevalent in my adult life, especially recently. So why was I joking about money? Dumb move in an attempt to curry favor. Yikes.
Even during talks today about the Pay It Forward commitment, and I think during Turnbull's Q&A, VC money was mentioned in large amounts, pretty casually.
I suppose the amounts that really surprised me because they seem more immediate (for me) than VC money, was the discussion of the very real possibility of making more than 50k/yr. Part of me still hasn't let that number sink in, and I'm a little terrified of going to job interviews for anywhere around that much when I've had publishing jobs with quite a bit of responsibility for not half that.
One of the things Turnbull did mention in his speech was believing that we were entitled to the information we are being given. Another part of that formula seems to be believing that the information we're being given is worth half a hundred thousand dollars or more. I'm still learning how to believe that.
Maybe I'm a bit in mourning for my publishing career. I liked the work I did there, and I worked hard at it, just as hard as I'm working at coding, I believe. So why was it worth so much less?
I've always had trouble separating my worth from my job. I guess that doesn't get easier just because you might start being paid much, much more. If you're taught that it's of the upmost importance to do your best work every day for its own sake, no matter your compensation, then how do you know what you're really worth? It feels gross to even type that. I'm torn between believing in fair compensation for labor and just feeling totally unqualified to negotiate for thousands of dollars. I'm used to money in much smaller increments.
All of this reminds me of my first cash register job at a bookstore, when I was terrified to physically touch let alone take the money out of customers' hands. Taking their credit cards practically made all the moisture leave my mouth. I just wasn't used to handling money. I got used to it though, pretty quickly (had to).
I suppose this will be part of the career readiness and I'll have to talk about and relearn how I think about money and compensation.
I hope I'll also learn how to maintain a healthy skepticism of the hand(s) that feed me and that I never forget the people, places, and beliefs that got me here.