April 15, 2010

When Glass Ceilings... Evaporate

After Mr. T was born, in 1997, I thought I was finished having children. We had our two, life was busy, I was working part time, and I thought we were where we were.

But being back at work, I needed more of a challenge. I'd been doing my job for six years and could do it in my sleep, a perfect job for having to go in and out on maternity leave and to go part time. But now that the family thing was settled (or so I thought), I needed a job more challenging. I wanted a job more technically challenging. I was bored.

Sleepless... but bored.

So I went to our Director and asked for a more challenging position. There were jobs that were almost exclusively male and I wanted to be there. I would no longer be in a support position, but in a front line technical position, and after nine years with the company, I felt I was ready.

He told me that because my degree was in Applied Mathematics and not in Mechanical Engineering, I couldn't make the move. I found that puzzling as I'd been working supporting these guys for so long, I could not possibly see how I couldn't do the job... in particular as I was requesting a transfer into one of the easier groups. I wasn't asking to be a crash investigator.

I knew my limits.

And the guys all thought I could do it.

And so I said, "I don't get it. John Doe has a degree in Finance and Joe Blow has a degree in Physics. Why do they get to do the job, but I can't?"

And he said that that is what way it was. Period. And when he spoke, you pretty much didn't argue. He told me to go back to my desk and figure out what else I might want to do.

You know... don't worry your pretty little head.

So... I requested a transfer out of his department, out of the building, entirely, to which he made it happen, telling me however, that if I wanted to come back, to let him know. And off I went into the Land of the Engineering Building, where I was surrounded by some pretty sharp guys doing some pretty sharp things.

There were also shrines to Amtrak, but that's a whole other story.

I stayed there until the plant closed, never reaching my full potential. I had yet another maternity leave and then a job change within our department, and the long agonizing wait to get my dang clearance... and then the plant closed and I became a full time Mom.

I regret nothing.

But I was always aware, that I'd hit not a class ceiling, but one made of steel and cement. It was not the first time I'd had a problem being a female in what was mostly an all male company, but this time, my fight was gone and... so I didn't.

I just moved on.

Sometimes that's the best plan of action.

Flash forward from 1997 to 2010.

I was sitting at my desk today when an email flashed across my screen from my tech lead asking me if I could go full time, temporarily. (Side funny note: our cubes are nearly side by side, but we email each other.)

I took a deep breath and answered a single, "Yes" and hit send.

Then I realized, "How long?" and sent that as a second email, to which I was told four weeks.

I never questioned. I don't question anymore. I'm part time, I'm a Mom, I wonder sometimes what people think of me technically, what the men at Company X think; I'm a subcontractor, it is different now. The men I work with at Company X are always good to me, always respectful, and keep me busy with work... even when I have a million questions for them.

I will do anything for them, as well. If they have a deadline, I'll come in on Saturdays to make sure they have it. I try to be as efficient as possible with them, while trying to learn their hardware.

THEIR hardware. That is key. I own nothing... I am a jack of all trades, a master of none, I have whored out my brain... I own nothing.

So I don't ask. Give me my assignment, I'll dog it down, research it to the nth, work with the right lead engineers in the various departments, pull it together and get it done.

I thought nothing else of it. I start Monday, I need to figure out how to alter my life, and I'd get the job done.

My Tech Lead came into my cube and started explaining some of what I'd do.

"Are you sure I'm not getting in over my head on this?" I queried.

"Absolutely not," came the reply. "I'm your back up. You need to know you weren't my first choice."

Things like that don't bug me. I have no ego in this anymore. I told him, upon finding out who choice #1 was and that they turned it down flat straight away, "As he should have been your first choice. There would have been nobody better for the job...he has 35 years of experience."

And so the chick with 17 years experience came in 2nd and she's happy.

And then the flurry of emails started upon certain people at Company X learning I'd take the job... for one month. That's all they need someone for... one month.

I cannot list the project I'm working. I'm still working on the same aircraft I've worked for the last 5 years, but I had no idea what I'd taken on.

I'm the temporary lead engineer on a very large section for a very large study being done.

The first email came out from someone way up in the Food Chain at Company X and it explained to the team (I was a .cc) what I would be doing, something I was still clueless upon, what accesses I would need, who would need to be working with me, getting me on distribution for meetings... and I reread it... THREE TIMES.

I sent my Tech Lead a note and said, "I don't know whether to be giddy or to throw up."

Fifteen years ago, there was a glass ceiling of mammoth depth.

Today I've been given a job that so overshadows the small job I requested 15 years ago, I'm still in shock.

And I didn't ask for it.

And nobody is doubting I can do it.

And nobody cares I'm a woman.

And nobody is thinking twice about the choice.

And if I fail at this, it will be a crash and burn of the most spectacular proportions.

And if I succeed, nobody will think twice because... that's how it's supposed to be. Why would anyone doubt I'd succeed?

And that... my friends... is how it's supposed to be.

Blogging may be not so much starting on Monday. I'll be working nights and weekends to get my hours in and to make sure all deadlines are met...

When I'm not with my family, I'll be at work.


Holy crap.

Posted by Boudicca at April 15, 2010 08:33 PM

And there is no doubt in my mind that you will be a rousing success. Just don't kill yourself. I remember my 60 hour weeks at IBM and that was after my accident. I worked harder then than I did before I was injured.

Posted by: Denny at April 15, 2010 09:16 PM

I am so excited for you! Congrats, and I know you will thrive!

Do remember to allow enough time for you to decompress and relax with the family and the DH.


Posted by: Mary at April 15, 2010 09:39 PM

I can browse the archives if I need my Bou fix... Best of luck and much happiness to you !!!
Remember to smile !!!

Posted by: Mike D. at April 16, 2010 12:03 AM

Yipeee!!!! Hey, you can always call me and tell me what happened and I'll write it up for you! I'm getting pretty good at being a transcriptionist for my oldest. This is great news. *hugs*

Posted by: vw bug at April 16, 2010 04:38 AM

Fantastic! You will do great, as the others have said. And please do be sure to keep time for you and your fam.

Just a question... While this is supposed to be a one month full time assignment, I have to wonder if it could a) morph into something longer term or b) lead to other full time opportunities. Not to jump ahead, but you may want to let that germinate in the back of your mind... But you are prolly already thinking many steps ahead...

Do great, and enjoy the challenge!

Posted by: jck at April 16, 2010 05:13 AM

Not a single doubt that you'll knock this out of the park. Not a single one. And you're right....the ceiling is, while not GONE, a higher ceiling. It's MUCH better.

I'm still the "token white chick" and I'm really ok with that.

Mainly because I'm the Token White Chick that callin' the shots. ;-)

Congratulations Bou!! Go Get 'Em.

Posted by: Tammi at April 16, 2010 08:09 AM

Damn Skippy!

Posted by: Sean at April 16, 2010 08:47 AM

YOU GO GIRL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

One small step for men, one hell of a giant leap for women coming behind you!

Posted by: Quality Weenie at April 16, 2010 09:44 AM

Congratulations, Bou! You will succeed because you are not complacent. :) And when you do wrap it up successfully, and nobody bats an eye ... that will be the icing on the cake.

Posted by: PeggyU at April 16, 2010 11:11 AM

That is great news.

I was lucky that my first job in IT was working for a woman who was second lead in the department and was totally qualified to be that. I have never had a problem working for a woman who was eminently qualified. I just hope you get the guys working for you who realize that you are qualified and who will respect that.

Could not happen to a better person.

Posted by: dick at April 16, 2010 12:25 PM

That is awesomely fantastic! As everyone else said - you will be great.

Oh and you are so right - this is the way it's supposed to be. Going for the most qualified person possible to fill the job. It should not be done any other way.

Posted by: Teresa at April 16, 2010 03:24 PM

Did someone already say, "You Go, Girl!"? 'Cause if not, I would.

But it looks like Quality Weenie beat me to it.

Posted by: Elisson at April 16, 2010 03:25 PM

Posts like this make me appreciate the (alleged)'Chinese curse' that says "May you live in interesting times"! There's nothing quite as exhilarating as not knowing how deep the rabbit hole is gonna go, yet you dive in anyway. Best of luck! I can't see how you'll do anything but succeed!

Posted by: El Capitan at April 16, 2010 05:31 PM

See. This is precisely why you're the bombest of the bomb. Congratulations. To them.

Posted by: Leigh at April 16, 2010 07:14 PM

Wow, thank you, everyone! Woot! I was baptized in fire today. I'm beat.

I won't have anyone working for me. It's not the nature of my job. But I can lead a project and have people query me.

Also, this will never lead to anything full time... no requests for me to go ft, ever. I could never do a job like this full time, first because it's a study type project and second because I'm a subcontractor. I'm filling in. As I say often at work, "My badge is the wrong color."

I have to be a full time employee at Company X to have a job that is a real lead position.

And my Tech Lead is the best. He never doubts, is always supportive. He believes in me when I don't believe in myself... which is more often than I would probably admit here. He's great.

Posted by: Bou at April 16, 2010 10:04 PM

This is so awesome!! I love it and am pert near giddy for you. Go get 'em, grrrrl!

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at April 17, 2010 09:37 PM

Most Excellent!!!!


Posted by: P'Cola Titan at April 18, 2010 04:47 PM