Welcome to Real Job Talk, Kat Cosgrove, Staff Developer Advocate from Pulumi. We invited Kat to join us to talk about her experience as a technical woman in the technology industry. After a conference, Kat tweeted about being hit on in the virtual hallways, and Liz and Kat Troyer talked about how people really need to be more aware of appropriate behavior in professional settings.
Kat started as an engineer, taught at a bootcamp, and then found her way to being a Developer Advocate for the last 2 years.
Kat tells us how she’s always asked to talk about the nice parts of being a woman in tech, but was excited to talk with us and pull back the curtain on the ugly parts. The parts we want to change. Now.
First we asked Kat to talk about the differences she experienced as a developer vs working in a more public role. She said that as an engineer, the sexism was quieter; she was underpaid, underappreciated, overworked, and often talked over. She had to really stand up for her ideas and make sure she was listened to.
As a Developer Advocate with 20,000 Twitter followers, she gets inappropriate attention and even hit on a lot, and when she doesn’t respond positively, men have done so far as to threaten her job. Once, after a conferrence, someone messaged Kat on the conference platform to try to hire her because he wanted to hire a "female." Kat turned him down, and also asked him not to refer to her as female because she found it insulting. He flew off the handle, yelled at her, and when she posted redacted screenshots of the interaction, he filed a code of conduct violation with the conference and said she and her followers had threatened him and his family. He also approached her company's HR department. In this case, both the conference and Kat's HR department saw that the hiring manager was inappropriate, and that Kat hadn't done anything wrong.
We asked Kat what she thinks the aggression she sees is about, and she feels like it might be about how women are conditioned to be docile (she’s not) and men machismo.
Kat hears advice for women in tech that they need to be assertive, loud, mean, and aggressive, and we all agreed that’s BS. Why can’t people be themselves? AND why in 2021 are we talking about objectifying people at work?
It amazed us that Kat’s DMs are “a cesspit” and people feel free to send her inappropriate pictures, comments etc. Would they send those to their boss???
We asked about people like us, who aren’t as technical as Kat. She believes that men who are sending these inappropriate messages believe all women aren’t technical, and that they always assume that she’s less technical than she is, so she’s constantly proving her value as an engineer, showing both her critical thinking skills while using her soft skills to understand the customers/users of her products and work as a part of a healthy team.
People's behaviors can be different in the office with your team vs at a conference with strangers and acquaintances. Kat feels lucky to have been on great teams that have supported her and stood by her if people are disrespecting her. Conferences are social, and Kat has to be “on” for her role, which is different from the office. At this point, she’s quick to file a Code of Conduct violation to do her part in stopping inappropriate behavior.
At conferences, Kat limits herself to 2 drinks to stay sober and make sure that she stays safe.
Kat said that when she calls people out for being inappropriate, she gets told that she’s limiting the places that people can meet potential partners. Not true! If you are interested in someone professionally, get to know them….SLOWLY. Go to lunch. Find out their favorite pastimes. And if there’s chemistry -- AND CONSENT -- you can take things to the next level. It isn't ok to come out of the gate with “I want you. Let’s sleep together.”
Kat’s married, but her husband is private, so he doesn’t come up a lot on her social media. She find that many men ONLY back off once she mentions her husband, NOT when she says no. Think about that.
One time, Kat had booth duty and someone asked for an engineer. She said she was an engineer, and then he proceeded to ask if she knew what a DNS server was, and then explained to her how the internet works. Nobody does that to her male colleagues.
Twitter’s a weird place. How do you become a friend without being a stalker? Kat’s met friends on the internet, and even her husband on the internet! Kat breaks down her hierarchy of Twitter acquaintances vs actually having her phone number. The screwed up thing is that after she said it, she was afraid people would try to find her number (good luck -- she doesn’t answer it). She has 2 Instagrams: a private one that's described as just for friends and one where she sends strangers that ask inappropriately with a big "No" sign on it. She feels that people think that she has lewd pictures on the private account, but it's just so she can share things with friends and away from inappropriate internet strangers .
We all talked about making sure people we work with know we’re married in order to draw a line. Being professional means making people feel comfortable in your presence.
How does Kat assess new roles for her career? When Kat is looking at a new job, she asks about conflict resolution. It tells a lot about management and the company’s HR. She also asks about politics at work. She feels that companies who won’t discuss politics at work also won’t stand up for critical issues, and that's a sign that women should run.