Sunday, July 16, 2017

7/11/17- Reading List 3

As a child, I read a lot during summer break.  A lot.  I'd go to the public library and check out a stack of 12 books at a time, and a couple of weeks later, turn those 12 in for a new stack. Call me a nerd if you must, that word is a compliment to me (as an adult), but I wasn't a bored child during the summer.  That's for sure.

So to me, summer time equals the perfect time for reading. Really, any time you can squeeze in a book as a busy adult is a good time, but summer for me means it's the perfect time to squeeze in lots of reading.  And that's why this reading list is dedicated to us adults (past reading lists for preschoolers to 2nd graders and teens).  Let's squeeze in sometime to read, follow adults!

1) "Why Not Me?" by Mindy Kaling
First, it's funny and pretty quick to read.  I read it a few years ago, and then suggested it to a book club last summer-- I was re-reading it for the summer and started sharing excerpts with Bobby, and he thought those excerpts were so funny, that he asked if we could read Mindy's book together.  Second, this book has some good career advice in it.  Also, if you're in an industry where there's an over representation of a certain demographic, this book may provide comfort (it did for me).

2) "It's Not Rocket Science" by Mary Spio
Mary is a satellite engineer turned entrepreneur, so of course I wanted to read this book (a female engineer whose crushing it, shark yes!).  This book is really about how to become entrepreneur, but Mary does share some of her own personal story. She was an immigrant from Ghana and she became on engineer with patents, which lead to her starting her own company.  Hearing her story was the part I liked best and very inspiring.  Her entrepreneurial and changing-the-game career advice is on the optimistic side, so I think this a good read to give yourself a boost if you're down in the dumps about your career.  Sometimes we just need the positive message. 



3) "Yes, Please" by Amy Poehler
This book made me laugh and cry so hard.  Amy talks about everything from her childhood, to just starting out in the comedy business, to marriage, kids, and divorce, to working in a male dominated field, and to moon hunting (you'll have to read the book to find out what that is).  And she wrote it all in a way that made me relate and empathize with everything, even though I've never done stand-up, worked for SNL, or been married to Will Arnett.  I have enjoyed all the books on this list, but if you forced me to pick just one for you to read, "Yes, Please" is the one I'd recommend.

4) "Lean In" by Nell Scovell and Sheryl Sandberg
There's a lot commentary on this book- a lot of its bad, but a lot of its good.  While I didn't agree with everything the authors wrote in this book, it is still a good book for both men and women to read to start to understand the issues working women have.   

5) "Hidden Figures" by Margot Lee Shetterly
I've already written a review of Hidden Figures, which you can read here, but its a great book to read during the summer and to read in intervals.  If you've seen the movie and found the movie inspiring, you will also find this book uplifting.  I also enjoyed reading about the Civil Rights movement and wars that were happening in parallel to Katherine, Dorothy and Mary.

6) Bossypants by Tina Fey
Again, a really funny book.  And again, Bobby and I read it together and laughed much at Tina's words.  In Tina's book, the career advice isn't so straight forward as Mindy's or Amy's.  If I remember correctly, Tina writes somewhere in the book that she doesn't want to give straight out career advice (because each of us have unique situations or something along those lines), so it's kind of more just work stories. Those work stories are very entertaining though, and you might even find yourself going, yep I've had one of those moments.  

That's it for this list-- I'll have more adult, teen, and kid reading list soon enough.  And since you're smart, you recognized the pattern here for this list: autobiography/biography or person sharing career journey/career advice and all written by women.  If you have fiction book recommendations or other career and biography book recommendations (written by both women and men), then please share these recommendations in the comments!  I'm always looking for a new book to read.  Happy summer reading everyone! 

Monday, July 3, 2017

7/3/17- Hello Impostor; I See You've Failed

I thought I was done feeling like an impostor; 13 years into my job as engineer, I do not doubt my engineering skills anymore. I doubt the place that I work, but I do not doubt that I've got something to offer as an engineer.  For the first 5 years of my (engineering) job, I doubted my engineering capability.  Being sick and discovering I had RA, made those feelings of impostor and fraud linger a little longer than I felt they should have. But as soon as my health issue was figured out, and I got project experience under my belt, I no longer felt like a phony.   Every couple of years, I'll acknowledge that there are engineers who are smarter than me (on my team), but I am not a dummy; I know the work and how to do the work. I can do it in my sleep now (ugh, sometimes I dream about analyzing completing systems reliability tickets).  So I  have said good-bye impostor syndrome.

Or so I thought.  Two years ago, I decided I would write a blog.  And then I decided I would write and publish a children's book.  I've done just that-- I published a children's book.  I have also published pieces with Highlights and STEM Media and guest blogged for Tech Love.  Technically, I am a published author. But I don't feel like one. I feel like I am another silly, stupid, and annoying person who thinks she can write in the same school (not class) as great, amazing, best selling, and world-renowned authors.  But I'm not one of them.  I am not in the same class as them.

I'm pretty sure I don't belong in the writing and publishing industry.  After all, I'm just an engineer-- what right do I have asking to be in the writing and publishing industry?  I have no degree in writing, my only formal (college level or higher) writing classes were English 101 and 102, and technical writing does not equate to creative writing.  I haven't toiled for decades in perfecting my craft to finally land a book deal. How can I, after just a couple of years of playing around and pretending to be a writer, expect to get an agent/book deal/traditionally published book?  I am naive and stupid in thinking that.  I don't belong here.  I am an impostor in the book/writing/publishing industry.  And I feel like such a failure. A big, fat failure.

It doesn't matter that people have bought my indie published children's book.  It doesn't matter that friends and family share with me that they book the book and how much they like the book.  It doesn't matter that I get photos of smiling kids reading my book.  It doesn't matter when bloggers and book critics write positive things about the book.  It doesn't matter that the book got featured on podcasts.  It doesn't matter that my book has received a couple of awards.   I still feel like a failure.  I feel it's time to hang up my author hat, pat myself on the back, and tell myself, you tried, but now it's time to move on.  Time to stop fooling yourself and others; time to acknowledge that you are an impostor.



This irrational feeling of failure and impostor, well, I know it's irrational.  I never expected to make the New York Times Best Seller list, and my selling expectation was in the low hundreds (which close at 85 sells so far).  I also know it takes a long, long time to find an agent and get a book published traditionally, and  I knew indie publishing my book wouldn't bring agents and publishers knocking on my door.  I just knew that I loved the story and had the means to share it. All I could hope for is that others would it love too.   And when the rational voice in my head is speaking, I know that my hope, of others loving the story, is true.

All the stuff I said above that doesn't matter, well, rational voice knows that it does matter.  People liking/loving the book, the awards, and the best part, photos of happy kids reading my book, that all matters.  I'm so appreciative of all that; those things are huge and wonderful accomplishments.   When I let the rational voice talk, and remind me of those huge and wonderful accomplishments, I don't feel like a loser, a failure, an impostor.  If I truly look at it, I've accomplished some pretty cool things in the writing world.  And I have so many other stories I want to share.  No way am I done yet with this industry.  I'm here to stay.

I just have to keep working at this writing thing and to tell the irrational impostor voice to shut the shark up! Impostor voice, where you see failure, I will embrace the mistakes and see a chance to learn and grow.  Where you say I've accomplished nothing, I see many kids enjoying the book and great reviews.  Where you say, it's time to quit, I remind you that writing is fun and that you have another story to write. Where you sing Beck's "I'm a loser baby so why don't you kill me", I change the lyrics to "one day I'll kill it".

One day (hopefully sooner rather than later), I will kill it in the book world, and stop doubting my capability as a writer, and my impostor syndrome will subside again. Until then, hello impostor, I see you've failed (in making me completely doubt myself). So shut the shark up already! I have writing to do!

Need more info on the impostor syndrome, check out this:
https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/26/your-money/learning-to-deal-with-the-impostor-syndrome.html

And this:
https://www.dailyworth.com/posts/5-tips-tackling-impostor-syndrome


Monday, June 19, 2017

6/19/17- Marshmallow Catapult

Happy Summer!  Have fun building this Marshmallow Catapult and googling tension, torsion, and gravity, which are the forces involved when catapulting an object.

Supplies:
7 Wooden Skewers
1 Rubber Band
1 Plastic Spoon
Masking Tape
4 Large Marshmallows, plus marshmallows for shooting

1) Use 3 marshmallows and 3 skewers and form a triangle for the base.
2) Use 3 more skewers and 1 more marshmallow and form a pyramid.
3) Tape the plastic spoon to the end of the remaining skewer.
4) Loop the rubber band around the topmost marshmallow.
5) Insert the spoon and skewer combo through the rubber band.
6) Connect the skewer and spoon combo to one of the base marshmallows.
7) Put a marshmallow into the spoon and shoot.
8) Try shooting the marshmallow again, but this time pull the spoon further back.  Did the marshmallow go further? Did the marshmallow go higher?
9) Try other adjustments to the catapult. How far can you get the marshmallow to go?  How high can you get the marshmallow to go?








Thursday, June 15, 2017

6/14/17- The Women Whose Shoulders I Stand On

I finally finished reading the book "Hidden Figures" (by Margot Lee Shetterly in case you didn't know).  I started reading the book back in March; it took me a long time to finish.  It's not because the book isn't great; it is.  It's not because I didn't like Mary, Dorthy, and Katherine; I immensely admire them. It's not because I thought the writing awful; I though Margot had perfect prose for a historical narrative book. It's not because I found a historical narrative book boring; I was deeply fascinated by the history.

It's because I have about 30 minutes a day for reading (that's a lot for some working parents, I know, be jealous). And sometimes I read op-ed or news articles instead of books.  And sometimes I read things on Facebook or Twitter and get really annoyed and wished I had read the next chapter in "Hidden Figures" instead.  If you are like me, and don't have much time, books like "Hidden Figures" are perfect for you.  I could read one chapter, and if it was many days later until I could read the next chapter, I didn't feel lost at what the plot was. I think it's also a reason I liked Mindy Kaling's "Why Not Me?" and Amy Poehler's "Yes, Please."  If I couldn't come back to the book for a few days, no problem.  I wasn't going to loose my place or forget what had happened in the plot.

But I digress.  If you've seen the movie, "Hidden Figures," then I highly recommend you read the book.  If you haven't seen the movie, I highly recommend you read the book.  Another reason I really liked the book is that it was a historical narrative.  The movie really focused on the 3 women, Mary, Dorthy, and Katherine, and had dialogue between people and Hollywood suspense (check the numbers as count down happens! Yeah, that didn't happen in real life; it was at least 3 days prior to the space flight). The book does focus on these 3 awesome women, but more in a bibliography way (remember reading and writing those in elementary school?) where you get this sequential telling of their lives with some emotional insight and direct quotes from them (no dialogue).  



You also get a bibliography of what is happening at NACA/NASA--their testing planes during wartime, adhering to presidential employment orders to hire people of color, and other chronological order information.  You also get what is happening in the country's history (USA)-- Rosa Park's refusal to move to the back of the bus, Dr. King's "I Have a Dream," Virginia's stupid and sickly stubbornness to integrate schools. I enjoyed learning about the background of NASA and the USA, the good and the bad. 

There's definite low points (some shark stuff the USA did) in the integrated stories of these women, NASA, and, the USA, but it is a story of  inspiration.  As Margot puts it "It's a story of hope, that even among some of our country's harshest realities-legalized segregation, racial discrimination- there is evidence of the triumph of meritocracy, that each of us should be allowed to rise as far as our talent and hard work can take us."

I do not understand what it was like to be a black, female engineer back in the 1950s and 1960s, nor do I fully understand what it is like to day to be a black, female engineer. I do have empathy, and that empathy fills me with a hope-- minorities, females, minority females will be allowed to rise as far as their talent and hard work can take them.  I promise to pay forward the benefits that I have reaped for standing on the shoulders of these women, Mary, Dorthy, Katherine, and all the female engineers who came before.  My accomplishments are in part because I stand on your very strong shoulders. Sincerely thank you.  Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

6/8/17- Main Street Electrical Parade

Phew! The past few weeks have been a whirlwind for my family and I.  We went to Disneyland, I participated in Susanna Hill's "Would You Read It Wednesdays?", Jack started swim lessons, I got multiple rejection letters from agents, magazines and publishing houses, somewhere in there was the day job, I got elected Vice President of a local non-profit, we all saw Boss Bay (Jack sat for most of it-- can't wait to take him to Cars 3!), family photos, Jack punching and kicking Bobby and I as he got a haircut, a follow mom shared Annie as part of blog post about children's books that have math concepts in them and some other stuff I'm sure I'm forgetting. There are so many stories I could share, but I'm going to talk about our latest Disneyland trip.

I'm not a Mouseketeer, Mousehead, or whatever you call Disney mega fans, but going three times to Disneyland within a 6 month period might suggest otherwise (one time was for a  conference, and the other times for family vacation).   It's just that Jack is still free, Jack loves Disney movies, and clever and sly Disney saying, hey 40% off our hotels!  Then next thing you know, you book another Disneyland vacation.  D'oh!

This time we stayed in one of the Disney hotels, The Grand Californian, and at the club level.  Club level means access to this room that has food, a patio to watch fireworks, movie rentals, and a couple of other perks.  Jack enjoyed going into that special room every day, and not going to lie, so did I! We rented and watched a movie every day.  The staff is so helpful and nice in that special room, and really in all parts of the hotel. The pool at the hotel was one of Jack's favorite things, although the slide wasn't ready/open when we stayed there. With all these perks and the pool, it was hard to convince Jack to leave the hotel for the park (Disneyland).



It was also great to go directly from the hotel into the park. There's still a security line, but it's much shorter. We also ate at one of the restaurants.  While it was good food, it was slightly on the too fancy side for a toddler, meaning an hour is too long for dinner (when you're a toddler).  There was a family next to us that had a four year old, and Jack and him became friends, so that helped a little. We also did character dinning at the Disney Hotel, which Jack loved.

Okay, okay, so at this point it sounds like we spent a lot of money on this vacation.  Club level in a Disney hotel is usually expensive, but remember, we got 40% off.  This trip did cost more than the last Disneyland trip, but it was not more than some our past trips (before Jack).  Bobby and I agree we really want to stay at the club level in the GC for our next visit (I swear it will be a couple of years this time, unless another awesome deal is offered). It really made this vacation pretty awesome, especially since Jack had such high-highs and low-lows at the park this time (he liked the rides and characters, but really disliked the crowd, sun, and any line over 5 minutes).   But there's no way we could do club level again unless there is a great deal. Or we win the lotto.

Besides the club level thing, there was one more thing that really made this trip special for me.  Like I said, Jack seemed to be happy one minute in the park and then cranky the next. On our previous trip, he was pretty mellow, but had just turn 2. He was still a young toddler.  I think he's entering the stage that most parents dread, the terrorism threes, so I think that was part of the high highs and low lows. He was pretty content and mellow for all the time we spent at the hotel (we had a half day at the hotel when we arrived, a rest day in between the park, and also a half day before travel to another hotel/home (we break up the drive by staying in Indio or such)).

So the last night we were at the park, he was pretty much done. He kept asking to go to back to the hotel as we stood waiting for the Main Street Electrical Parade to begin.  I think we had been waiting about 15-20 minutes, and I was torn-- see the parade or go back to the hotel.  I really wanted to see the parade, as it was one of my favorite things at Disneyland as a child, but I also wanted a well rested and happy toddler for the next day. Then the lights dimmed, and we heard the music. If you've seen the parade, you know the music.  That synthesized bee sound.

Then Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Daisy, come around the corner on a lit up train, and Jack screams, "Train! Mickey! Train!"   And I absolutely lose it.  I'm just crying and crying, in the middle of Main Street at Disneyland, during a really fun light parade with horrible (or is it awesome) synthesized music!  Bobby's all, "Are you alright? What's a matter?"  I can't even speak.  Jack's still watching the parade, ignoring his sappy mother, and Bobby put it together (he knows me well), "Are those happy tears?"  All I can do is nod.  I was so sharking HAPPY!  To be able share something I loved so much and made me so gleeful as child with my own child and seeing how gleeful it made him, 30 years later.  It  just made me so sharking happy!

I could have died happy in that moment. So sharking special-- I hope to remember it forever and ever!  I'll be on my death bed, and be like, remember when Jack saw the Electrical Parade just like I did, and I totally bawled my eyes out because of how happy that made me to share the parade with him? (Of course if his kid sees it 30 years, on my death bed it will be instead, remember how much Jack Jr, Jack and I loved the Electrical Parade?) And yes, I'm tearing up just writing about it.  I'll just "zzz, zzz, doo, doo, doo"  myself out now; zzz, zzz, doo, doo, doo!





Monday, May 29, 2017

5/29/17- Happy Memorial Day

In the States, it's Memorial Day.  A day to remember those who have fallen-- I know it's day for fallen soldiers, but I also think of the children and other civilians that have been lost to war.  Being able to spend this day with my child, and him being free of the burdens of war, unlike some other children around the world, is humbling.  It's something I take for granted too often.

And on that very serious note, here's a Memorial Day/Flag Day/July 4th/Labor Day craft project that I did with Jack (probably not where you thought this post was going; I didn't think it was going that way either).  It's really easy to do, and Jack liked it.  All you need is access to a printer and Microsoft Word (or related product), paper, scissors and paint (washable is preferable with young kids 😁).

In Word, go to the Insert tab, then Shape.  Guess what shape I just inserted?  A star!  Yep, I made a printout star that Jack could paint.  I printed this star 8 times.  Then I let Jack go to town painting them. Alright, Bobby and I also painted a couple of stars (the flag one is Bobby's; it's so impressive 😃) because painting is fun, and it's hard to resist fun. Let the star dry.  Then cut the stars out and hang up wherever to decorate.

Painting!  
We used Crayolas Washable Finger Paints 
that we found at the grocery store. 

Sure, the painting part only took 10 minutes, but Jack was super excited to paint (because painting is fun and messy, things toddlers love!).  And it's 5-10 minutes of prep time. It's the perfect craft for a short attention span toddler and a not so Pinerest parent.  Although I give props to the Pinerest parents who make shooting glitter and real sound effects stars. These stars will be up until Labor Day;  it's festive decorations to cover all the summer holidays (hence the Memorial Day/Flag Day/July 4th/Labor Day thing above, haha)! Happy Memorial Day!

Easy and Festive!


Thursday, May 18, 2017

5/18/17- The Mentors

A few weeks ago I interviewed my former manager as part of a series I'm writing for STEMedia.   It was a little surreal to be asking her questions about how she became an engineer, her past life (she was a dairy farmer for 13 years before studying engineering), advice for others studying STEM disciplines and so on.  She probably doesn't know this, but I've long considered her a mentor.  I never formally asked her to mentor me-- I just watched her outstanding ability as a manager, and hoped that one day when I was a manager, that I'd be able to follow her example.

She really cares about her employees and their careers/career happiness. She was the only manager I've ever felt I could be completely honest with and that she'd really listen to me. Even people who didn't report to her sought her confidence and advice.  She also made work fun-- a Halloween party with a Thriller flash mob dance is not something too many managers would coordinate.  That's the kind of manager I'd like to be. I probably won't have the opportunity at my current work place to be a manager, but one day I won't be there, and at the new place, if I'm responsible for people's careers, I'm totally modeling my management style after her.

She also has a pretty amazing and inspiring story of how she became an engineer, reinforcing my belief that engineers come for anywhere, and a child just needs to know that the opportunity exists for them.  Maybe you're curious now about her story, and for that you'll just have to wait for the STEMedia piece to come out. That's what writer's call a hook. :)

STEMedia already has one of the interviews I did up on their website, and the person I interviewed for that story is also a mentor.   I also don't think she knows that, but I totally look up to her as well. She's the person that I daydream and scheme with, and part of why I've dabbled in children's books. We both want to encourage and inspire girls in STEM.  In face, she started her own company to inspire girls, particularly minority girls, in STEM, and I really admire her for taking that chance. Starting your own company while still working as an engineer is pretty awesome (to me).  How could I not look up to this person?  And her story is totally already up on STEMedia, so I encourage you to check it out.

Of course there's many more people in engineering that I admire, and you'll soon be reading about them. Most likely on STEMedia, but maybe also here on my blog.  On the days I feel like shark (from the RA, annoying workplace, and such), I forget some of my blessings.  Having great mentors is a blessing, and I'm so thankful to these women for teaching me so much.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Tell me who your mentors are and why you admire them in the comments!
Here's the link to STEMedia: http://stemedia.org/