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She had limited value ...
Paying dues, paying it forward, and paying attention.
This issue is dedicated to Michelle S. and Jaahnavi K., one who was the greatest professional inspiration in my life, and the other who didn’t get a chance to live out her potential. Both gone way too soon. ~ Cynthia
Early in my career, I worked with an eBusiness strategy group. I was green, not even a few years out of graduate school, but ready to tackle the next big thing in my life.
I had a memorable conversation with a then-director, he said I had to "pay my dues." Being new to the corporate world, I had an idea of what he meant but wanted to keep what he said separate from my previous work experience.
A few summers before, I interned as a reporter for a local newspaper, and in that world (at the time), this meant getting coffee, running countless errands, and enduring numerous practical jokes - at my expense - while writing up births and obituaries and the occasional puff piece.
Paying dues in this director's mind meant the same thing; I worked long hours assembling finished proposal packets, I was responsible for printing and binding the documents. I scribed endlessly; I took copious notes for every meeting to which I was invited. I strived to be the first to work and the last to leave, and I served on several committees to show I was a team player.
I was working hard but going nowhere fast.
During my first performance review, I was reminded of everything I did not do. I didn't quite have the language then, but I needed the opportunity to hone my business acumen skills so that I could contribute. That was paying dues - at least, it's what my gut said.
Shortly after, I approached Michelle, a senior manager. She was highly respected, super sharp, and known for getting things done. I shared my frustrations, and she understood all too well. Within a few days of our conversation, I was invited to more brainstorming sessions and I wasn't just there to scribe. Michelle assigned me pieces of the proposals, strategy deliverables, and white papers to write. She invited me to listen in on client calls and attend conferences. She taught me how to read the room, what phrases to listen for, and how to decline work.
It was Michelle who introduced me to business process analysis and requirements writing -- all the things my performance evaluation said I should be doing but wasn't given the opportunity to do. She also taught me to trust my intuition, that based on my life experiences, my first reaction was probably the right one.
I finally felt like I was paying dues and building my skills so that I could make a difference.
Conventional wisdom would have us believe paying dues requires long-suffering and that if we're lucky enough, we'll see the fruits of our labor at some point. In a working world, I'm not buying it because the target will continue to move without measurable goals or a clear vision, and paying dues loses its objectivity. Who decides when I've paid my dues? Bottomline: Paying dues means getting your skills up; no long-suffering required.
In some affinity groups I'm in, I see buzz and excitement about the earning potential in tech (people want to go where the money is, there's nothing wrong with that). What I also need to see is the willingness to learn the skills and put in the time and energy to hone their craft.
I am speaking to being intentional and strategic about how and where one expends their energy to build their career. I'm not talking about leaning into meaningless tasks or consistently working ungodly hours.
In the book The No Club: Putting a Stop to Women's Dead-End Work, the authors share, "We found substantive and overwhelming evidence that women more than men are tasked with non-promotable work." It was evident there was a chasm as wide as the Mississippi between what I was tasked to do versus what I expected to do. And what saved me was seeking an ally to help when I couldn't help myself. Michelle helped me keep my non-promotable tasks and promotable tasks in check.
Also, something more than money must connect you to any industry. Get your coins. Yes! I'm on team "pay-me-what-you-owe-me." But also seek something within STEM you're curious about. Because once the curiosity wanes (and it happens), money alone will not be enough to hold you there. Paying dues won't matter because you'll bankrupt your soul.
I recently read about Jaahnavi Kandula, a young graduate student from Andhra Pradesh, India, working on her master's in Information systems at Northeastern University. Jaahnavi was struck in a marked pedestrian crosswalk by officer Kevin Dave of the Seattle Police Department in January of this year.
That's the first tragedy.
The second is the body cam footage just released in September from the Seattle Police Department. An officer Daniel Auderer's body cam accidentally turned on (or he left it on — the reports conflict) and recorded him making jokes about Jaahnavi's death. While on a call with the police union president, Mike Sloan, Auderer said that Jaahnavi had "limited value" and that the city should write a check for $11,000.
I don't know what's more appalling: him laughing, him quickly and effortlessly placing a monetary value on her life, or his cavalier attitude toward this innocent twenty-three-year-old who lost her life? All of it?
All of it.
I realized that I'm in the court of public opinion, but I know I share the sentiment of countless others outraged by this. I pray that due justice befalls anyone culpable in the demise and dehumanization of Jaahnavi. She deserves better.
Saw and loved this message from @womanceogossip via IG. Stay focused!
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