Aggressive Accessibility

I’ve been working in tech a long time (it’ll be 28 years in May), and I think some of things I think everyone already knows, or are obvious, maybe not everyone knows and aren’t all that obvious.

Updated to add a disclaimer: This is what’s worked for me. Coralie posted a really observant comment – and I think it’s worth mentioning that this might have worked for me because of my privilege. It’s very difficult for me to tell because I’m in it, but I’m not going to discount what’s a pretty high likelihood that privilege has had a lot to do with this.

So, since I’m at risk of missing my back to blogging goal of 3 posts this month, I figured I’d write up something real quick on my favorite topic.

I think developers focus too much on technical excellence and think that’s the only way to get ahead in their career. It’s definitely important – but it’s the bare minimum. To excel, I think you’ve got to be able to grow other people, and part of that is something I like to call being “aggressively accessible.”

It means:

  • Offering to help when you see an opportunity to offer it.
  • Looking for opportunities to provide help, even if it’s outside your normal duties.
  • Making things better because they need to be made better.
  • Volunteering for special projects.
  • Showing up places you think you might be useful.

By offering help instead of being asked, you put yourself in a place to be of more use than just waiting to be activated. You’ll meet more people, learn more stuff, and become more effective, and you’ll never be bored!

None of this needs to be super overt. Just showing up and being open to helping is enough. Just quietly offering help when it looks like someone is struggling is enough.

It has made such a big difference in my career and built so much social capital that I don’t know that I could actually quantify it.

It’s also part of moving from “senior” engineer to roles like staff, principal or into leadership roles like CTO. You have to go from being an executor to an enabler / multiplier.

That’s it.

My Intentions for 2023

I don’t do resolutions. I don’t remember who I first got the idea of doing intentions from, but I really like it. It just feels better than BIG RESOLUTIONS that I inevitably fail. Intentions are things I’d like to do in 2023 but don’t have the same weight or guilt associated with them. So… here they are, my intentions for 2023.

Write more. I signed up for Bring Back Blogs, which means I’m committing to write at least three things here in January (this is one of them, so two to go!). With me less in love with social media than ever, especially the “big” ones, and my fascination with the fediverse (more on that later), it’s time to write more, think more, and revive the blog!

Read more. I think I only finished two books in 2022. I started a bunch, but unless I was trapped in an airplane, I didn’t make time to read books. I think it’s partly because I literally read all day every day at work, but that’s just an excuse.

Contribute to an open source project. Work keeps me pretty busy code-wise, but there’s so much interesting stuff going on in the distributed social world, that it’s time to do something with it. I’m keeping my expectations pretty low for this one, but I expect I’ll at least help with bug fixes and documentation on some interesting fediverse project like mastodon (or maybe I’ll start a federated ficly).

Get out of the house. I almost don’t care what shape this comes in. The pandemic turned me into a full-on hermit to the point that leaving the house now is fairly rare. That needs to change. It could just mean riding my new ebike regularly, or going out to dinner with Jen more often, doing community things, or… something else altogether. We’ll see.

Travel more. We’re empty nesters now! We’ve already got a couple of trips planned for this year, and I want to do more! I want to go back to Europe and explore some places I haven’t been yet. Stay tuned.

I had three or four other things I was going to add here, but this feels like enough.

Kidnapping isn’t protected speech

Shame on you, Buddy Carter, for celebrating DeSantis’ immoral stunt in your weekly newsletter. How dare you support using the most desperate and helpless among us as pawns in a publicity stunt.

Shame on you. Not just for celebrating it but by misrepresenting the support the people illegally transported, and then abandoned, were given by the community and then the state’s governor.

Buddy failed to mention the fact that the people Florida’s governor kidnapped weren’t even in Florida. They were lured by false promises and lies by someone employed by Florida’s governor outside a shelter in San Antonio.

We can have differences of opinion over immigration policies. Kidnapping people as part of a publicity stunt isn’t legitimate political discourse.

Buddy has lost the plot. He’s not in office to help the first district or represent his constituents. He’s lost in the vortex of partisan games.

I’m tired of being embarrassed by Mr Carter.

Time for him to go. Please, please vote for Wade Herring in November. He’s a good, earnest man and will represent all of the first district with integrity.

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Categorized as politics

It got me…

COVID is wild. I tested positive on Monday. I’ve been hiding in my room since then. I was with Brian and Jen at UGA orientation in close quarters for 4 days and in the car for 8 hours. Jen and I slept in the same bed.

I’m the only person in the house who’s tested positive, and everyone retested today.

I’ve never run a temperature. I feel pretty crappy, but I’ve definitely been sicker.

I’ll be more careful in the future, especially indoors in crowds, which I’m pretty sure where I got it.

It’s not been fun. I don’t recommend it. But, I’m glad I waited two years to get it, where we have rapid tests, paxlovid and the variants are more contagious, but much less deadly, especially for fat asthmatics like me.

I’m a single issue voter now

The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe v. Wade, and Clarence Thomas’s “roadmap” for which freedoms the extremists on the court and their allies will attack next has crystalized something in my mind that has been percolating since Alito’s draft was leaked.

I’m a single issue voter now.

That issue is bodily autonomy and our right to self-determination. The court and conservative extremists are hell-bent on imposing their views on our bodies, and I will not have it.

You will not push my sisters into an alley, or my LGBTQIA+ siblings back in the closet. You will not deny their right to exist as full members of society with the same rights to self-determination as I have as a cishet white guy.

It’s too easy to say “go vote,” but I’m going to. Please vote. Make sure you choose candidates that support our right to determine the right choices for our bodies. I don’t care if you like them. I don’t care if you disagree with them on some other minor issue. This is literally the most important thing in the world because it will dictate how our children and their children will be allowed to exist in the world for the next century (and that’s not hyperbole).

Beyond voting, we need to support organizations already in this fight, join them however we can, and think seriously about running for office. Especially in the South, too many conservatives go unchallenged. It’s time to fight for every seat in every election and turn back the tide of hate and extremist being inflicted on us by a hateful minority.

I’m sorry I didn’t see it sooner.

The Gun is Fear

The shootings in Buffalo and Texas have wrecked me – and I can’t keep watching the same old arguments fly by in screenshotted tweets in Instagram stories.

It’s all so predictable and isn’t going to change anything. And that makes this grief feel worse.

This thought keeps pinging around in my head and it won’t go away. It’s not fully formed yet. But it’s something like this…

America was built on fear – fear that Europe would come and take it from us; as slavery was ending, that all of these people we’d imported and enslaved would rise up and do us in, and then fear of immigrants and the “others”.

So, we built the biggest military in the world. We have the most overly funded police forces in the world. We made rules about who could vote and who could come here, who could marry who, and where they could go.

We wrapped our fear in laws and religion and called it culture.

We have more guns than people and the mere presence of those guns (the facts are irrefutable, but I know that won’t stop you) is why so many thousands of people die by them every year. Just having a gun in your house, yes, even you “responsible” gun owners, makes you many many times more likely to die by gunshot.

Guns take bad moments and turn them into tragedy. Having access to a gun means that at your lowest moments you might not just drink yourself into a stupor or harm yourself, you could kill everyone you love – in a moment.

We take our fear, wrap it in the flag or camo, and call it patriotism. We arm it to the teeth so we never ever have to confront what it’s guarding: our own inability to face our collective fears.

Until we admit that fear drives our actions – that it drives all of our passion and drive around gun culture, it will not change.

The opposite of fear is love. We need to love ourselves, our children and our communities more than we fear them.

Give up the fear, and we’ll give up the guns.

The Next Step in Representation

My youngest is in the process of graduating from high school, and I’ve got all kinds of feelings about it, so I’ve been escaping to comfort TV and rewatching The Great Pottery Throwdown from start to finish. In season four, they “promoted” kiln man Rich to host (he’s delightful) and replaced him as the kiln tech with Rose Schmitz. They never once mention her gender identity, and she cheerfully helps the potters, encourages them and gets about her job on the show with quiet happy confidence.

In season five, we meet AJ, who goes by “they/them”. No one screws up their pronouns. No one even makes a deal about it at all. Everyone on the show just gets on with doing their pottery things, and AJ is an amazing potter.

Earlier this year, I fell in love with the show Somebody Somewhere. I think I fell in love with almost every character in some way, but the reason I’m diverting from pottery is to talk about Murray Hill. There are a few nods to his transness on the show, like the waiter at the diner flubbing things, but, again, like Throw down, it’s not a huge deal. Where Murray stands out is that Murray is a not just a comic and MC of “choir practice” but we get to see Murray the college professor leading a bunch of students helping out Sam’s dad on his farm. We get to see Murray the professional.

And this is what I love about these three examples: Rose, AJ and Murray and shown first as talented amazing people, who are good at what they do, and are celebrated for it. Their identities are present, respected and acknowledged, without it being the only reason we see them.

This feels like real progress. We’ve seen representation of queer struggle in media for years – of torment, the pain caused by small-minded abusers and close-minded bigots. That’s important.

But, it’s not everything. While we need to acknowledge the pain and struggle of finding yourself and acceptance, we need to show off queer joy and accomplishment. Give me more competent queer people just doing their jobs! Being good at things! Being happy! I want to know that there’s that possible future for my kids, and I’m sure queer kids still coming to terms with their identities need to see it to.

A Small Part

No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it. Where we live and who we live there with define the terms of our relationship to the world and to humanity. We thus come again to the paradox that one can become whole only by the responsible acceptance of one’s partiality.

Wendell Berry