Friday, March 4, 2011

Work: Wicked Witch of the West vs. Mary Poppins

In real life (IRL) I have a pretty amazing job: I am the top-ranked data security person at a very large company that makes some very good wine.  Over the years I've supported servers, email systems, survived six seasons of harvest, and have done everything from climbing up a 1/2 million gallon tank to riding a bike through a mammoth warehouse.  I love this place.

Data Security is a different beast than my previous roles here.  On one hand, no one wants our systems hacked, data lost, or intellectual property compromised.  On the other hand, everyone wants to be able to do everything without being slowed down. I've taken pride in the fact that all the feedback I've received from many different parts of the company have been complimentary and approving of how I've managed to balance this.  However, the other day my boss gave the opinion that I was "too harsh (mean)" in an email that I sent out to the IT staff. I was taken aback, because I never have viewed myself as mean.  Yes, I'm tough, but fair.  I communicate clearly but try to keep a light touch.  The old days of edicts from Data Security being delivered with the goal of shaking people in their boots is not what I am about.

On the flip side, I'm no Mary Poppins.  Never have claimed to be, never will be. If you want sugar and spice with your protection and policies, I'm the wrong gal. The margin for error in my position is infinitesimally small.  A wrong decision, a missed setting, letting someone "get away" with something could cost my company millions of dollars in the end. What at times chaffs my ass, is that manager I inherited this role from was a traditional throw-back datasec "cop".  No one questioned the tone of his emails, or called him a "bitch" behind his back because he didn't roll over and show his belly when he encountered opposition.  I try not to see everything through the lens of a female in a heavily male dominated IT world, but times like this I wonder if it's my actions that are being judged or my gender.

It's not anything new - this feeling of there being two standards, one for men and one for women.  So I was heartened to stumble across a post from the blog This Recording entitled "In Which We Teach You How to Be a Girl in a Boys Club". I laughed, nodded in great agreement with many sections, wrinkled my nose at others, and then sent it out to other women I know who are in similar positions such as mine.  It was a great reminder not to ignore critisims from people I should be listening to (yes, the PHB is one of them) but to always be strong and true to the *person* I am. I'm not a witch, I'm not a saintly nanny - but I am a force to be reckoned with. :)

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