The Effects of Sending the Ladder Down
October of 2017, after 4 years in the tech industry, I was about to give up. I was going to call it quits and never look back. I was tired of the politics, of the judgement, of the difficulty I had faced navigating the male-dominated terrain. I just wanted to do good work and learn and grow. And at this point, it seemed that all of the forces were conspiring against me and the path I was on.
I wasn’t raised to be a quitter, though, so I had to do some deep introspection into my actions thus far in the industry. Had I done everything that I could to get ahead? Had I explored other options? Specifically, the options that required me to extrovert more than I ever cared to? No. I hadn’t. I had been doing this on my own and hitting my head against walls I couldn’t see because of ignorance. Okay, I said to myself. Then…what do I do?
First, I needed to know this was possible. For my male readers, this may not make too much sense since there is representation of males of all races in the industry, but I needed to see a woman in cyber security and in a high position. NEEDED it. My mentor, Keirsten Brager, kept popping up in conversation with various people so I decided to reach out to her on LinkedIn, thinking she wouldn’t respond or that she would give me generic, “the world is your oyster” advice.
She exceeded my expectations by far. She sent the ladder down. Here are some of the ways she sent the ladder down to me:
- She told me that my experience thus far is not indicative of the industry as a whole. Whew, was THAT a relief. There is something calming about knowing that what you’ve been through is not necessarily going to keep repeating itself over and over again your whole life. Provided that you switch up your strategy, of course.
- She told me that networking is the way to go. I’m a hardcore introvert who feels socially awkward when around new people. I also tend to have a bit of social anxiety. However, learning that connecting with people could give me perspective and help me out in my career was enough of a reason to try.
- She was a shining example of what I could be. Keirsten has shared her story on her website and on LinkedIn and she, at one point, was going through a similar situation to what I have been through. Seeing her come out on top is inspiring and something to look forward to.
- She related to my experiences. Each and every one of them. She was real with me about what she had gone through, even though she didn’t have to be. It made me feel less alone in my journey.
- She offered a hand in any way possible and facilitated connections with other people in the industry. She has hosted a few networking events that I have attended. If you’ve been around her, you know that Keirsten makes everyone comfortable by being herself and demanding the same from everyone around her. Going to her events has helped me meet people in a less intimidating way. She also has virtually introduced me to many people in the industry.
- She shared all of my accomplishments with her LinkedIn network. When I thought my CompTIA certs were nothing special, she scolded me and encouraged me to share them, because they were an accomplishment and should be celebrated as such. She also shared them with her network, and I received an outpouring of support from her network. I even made some connections!
- She wrote THE book. Now, this one wasn’t for me, specifically, but for all of us. It talks about developing a game plan, knowing what you want, firing your boss, multiple streams of income, you name it.
In 6 months, I went from despair, heartache and defeat to determined, persistent and fierce because of our virtual conversations. She sent down the ladder in more ways than I can count and she has made me a future force to be reckoned with. She is constantly encouraging me and keeping me honest.
I hope to also send a ladder down myself. It doesn’t have to be as involved as personally mentoring someone. Check your LinkedIn inbox, your Twitter notifications, even your email. There is most likely someone, somewhere, looking for help, support and just a sign that they can do it. Generic advice and generic information is not only useless and can be received from a fortune cookie, but it lowers your impact on future generations and it’s just plain lazy. Someone is a part of your journey, whether you’re aware of it or not. Someone wrote the book that you’re reading to advance your technical ability. Someone made the videos you’re watching. Someone gave you a shot at a job. It’s only right to help someone else when they need it and make this next generation of techies a generation we can be proud of.
How are you sending the ladder down? Let me know in the comments below!