This post was originally published on LinkedIn. Comments and likes should be made there – on the original post.
For awhile now I’ve been aware that female programmers tend to focus on proper nouns in their LinkedIn skill list. Specifically, programming language names, technical libraries and frameworks, software tools, and really whatever tech jargon they can in order to express ‘I’m not a graphic designer or the marketing person, I’m the programmer.’ I figured by adding both ‘Leadership’ and ‘Team Management’ as skills on my profile I had at least corrected the problem for myself.
Fast-forward almost 6 months.
Skill endorsements on LinkedIn is a topic that keeps coming up in my life recently, so today I actually went to see the state of skills on my profile. This is what greeted me:
To most people, I bet this looks really good. I was quite pleased with the number of endorsements I had, along with the range of endorsers. Then I moved my focus from the mini-profile pictures to the skills themselves and read down the list.
By number of endorsements its rank was third. But by how I had arranged the skills a few months ago it was second.
Now, I am willing (with discomfort) to admit I’m a really great project manager. I keep track of details, communicate among people, check-in, follow-up, juggle time and priorities with grace, answer questions, gently give reminders, resolve issues within the context of the project, and deliver work on time. I’m sure to other people my diligence looks easy and I know project management is a valuable trade. However, it is not my trade. I do it to help out, or when someone else isn’t doing it effectively enough, or when there is no one else to do it, or when it’s faster/easier/better for me to take it on, or, I’m sure, some other situations.
But I am not a project manager. I don’t want to be a project manager. There are way better project managers than me and most of them enjoy what they do. I don’t enjoy project management. My dreams are not filled with accolades for delivering on time, keeping JIRA up to date, running next month’s starfish retrospective with a twist, or nagging people to do their job.
Just because I can, does not mean I should.
Yet a few months ago I blindly re-arranged my LinkedIn skills so they would be in count order and project management must have been second at the time because that’s where it was in the list earlier today – staring up at me.
The last three months I’ve been doing a lot of heavy thinking. I’m trying to figure out what to do next with my life, what makes me happy, how do I balance my desire to help people with my desire to make a living, how do I channel the anger I have towards people who disrespect me into something positive instead of something that could destroy me, the power of language, and more. So to find that I – myself – personally, in an effort to provide order to a list, didn’t even realize I was putting those get-women-out-of-programming-without-admitting-we’re-mysogynists words (Project Management) in a respectable place on a document explaining myself to friends, colleagues, bosses, and direct reports from my past, present, and future was disturbing. It bolted me awake in a new way.
Months ago, I put skills on my profile in endorsement count order because it was orderly, because LinkedIn had done it that way historically, and because I was unconsciously buying into the ‘see there are people who think I’m good at things! so I can’t be completely incompetent’ mentality. (Also, *cough* impostor syndrome *cough*.)
I’m older now. So I asked myself: what am I best at? What are my most valuable skills? I ended up here:
I arrived at this list, in this order, by:
- not deleting any skills I had endorsements in
- being honest about what I have the most experience doing
- critically contemplating the full scope of a term and my expertise across that scope instead of in comparison to the common usage of the term or where I want to be
- deleting less relevant or significant skills in order to make room for a more accurate portrayal of myself
- ordering by a combination of what I think I’m the best at and what provides the most value instead of what other people have randomly agreed with over the years and happened to publicly communicate (at least until you get down to entrepreneurship, after that I just left everything else in a pile)
For the more sheltered among you, let me elaborate on a few of the skills I added:
- Not Reciprocating Disrespect – The ability to treat someone with respect despite their negative, hurtful, and/or inappropriate actions towards me. This is actually relatively easy when you believe that ‘boys will be boys’. However, it’s like trying to swim with an anvil tied to your feet when you realize the true cowardice of the apologists who taught you ‘boys will be boys.’ This skill, despite the difficulty level, is something I’m going to continue to practice doing as much as humanly possible.
- Responsibility Without Authority – Being responsible for getting things done, finding the solutions, controlling the chaos, ‘coordinating’, and more while having no decision making ability. This is made worse when you have to get permission for something as minor as changing from a pencil to a pen from someone who isn’t even sure what the thing you are doing is. To put it another way, this is when you’re running the show as long as you don’t admit (or for so much as a minute let on that you know) that you’re the one running the show. This is a skill I acknowledge I have tremendous expertise in, but one that I will no longer allow myself to do.
- Not Fighting for Credit for my Ideas – When someone else gets credit for something I thought up, for executing something I did, or when my contribution to an achievement gets forgotten or minimized I do not make a fuss, ‘get emotional’, have ‘pointy elbows’, explain the situation, ‘whine’ about it, or otherwise stand up for myself. This is a rare example of a time when the pursuit of accuracy doesn’t help and in fact causes harm. This is a skill I have, but I probably won’t be retiring it anytime soon.
I have a few last parting thoughts for you:
- Did you notice that I have no Leadership and no Team Management endorsements after months of having them listed?
- I can only add these skills to my profile and write this post because of the immense amount of privilege that I have in other portions of my life. I do not expect and I do NOT encourage others to add the three skills I highlighted above to their profiles.
- When I got done with my edits, this is what my endorsements looked like: