Dating, Douchebags and Women in Tech

January 13, 2012

There are few experiences more painful than the agony of a first date. First, there is the unnecessary pressure, the endless hours of worrying what to wear, the polishing, extra moisturizing – all in anticipation of hanging out with someone that will likely have the mental capacity of a 13-year-old (I have endless amounts of data to back up my previous statement, in the interest of keeping this a valid and informative post). During any first date you inevitably reach that moment where you’re sitting across the table from your suitor, nervously stirring your first drink and the number-one-lamest-way-to-start-a-date question comes up:

So, what do you do?”

Typically, I respond with something like this (verbatim):

Well, I work for Barokas Communications, the Northwest’s leading mid-sized public relations agency. We also offer ancillary marketing services – if you’re interested.”

Just kidding. That one was for you, Ralph. I typically launch into some type of overview about how I work in tech public relations for a (super cool) firm in Pioneer Square and how it’s exciting because we’re constantly working with new start-ups that are literally changing the way we interact with technology. That actually isn’t a joke, and I’m not even vying for a raise (although if you’re offering…), I truly do enjoy learning about our clients and the innovative ideas they bring to the table. It’s one of the cool things about working in this industry – you get to be a part of the living and breathing monster that is the technological world.

It usually takes my counterpart a second to respond, as if the cogs in their brain are slowly turning into motion, or as if they can’t believe that I would have any interest in tech-anything. Shouldn’t I be worried about a Kardashian or something? In about 90% of my personal experiences, this sparkling nugget of conversational brilliance is the response:

Oh – so like computers and stuff?”

This is normally the moment where I realize the date is going nowhere. I’m not sure if these otherwise seemingly-intelligent individuals feel like they’re “dumb-ing” it down for my benefit (because if I’m working in it, it can’t be THAT difficult) or if I’m really, truly attracted to tree stumps. I typically bite back the urge to say that the first programmable computer (the Z1, in case you’re interested) was actually invented between the years of 1936 – 1938, so to consider computers “new and exciting” technology is, in short, a little asinine and instead sip my drink (please, God, let it be strong).

I guess I can’t totally blame the guys. As women in this industry we play a fairly new role, and we’re not exactly brought up valuing the technical and strategic mindset that it takes to be successful creating (or working for) these types of companies. In some cases we do allow ourselves to become a novelty in the space – I’m totally guilty of simplifying my job duties or the descriptions of the companies I work for in order to make it easier to comprehend. I’ll also shamelessly admit that I’m constantly running across new terms and technologies that I don’t understand – but isn’t that the point of innovation? If everyone already knows about it, it can’t be considered groundbreaking.

I don’t want to work in a space where there isn’t anything left to discover and the moment I stop seeking the answers to all my new questions is the moment my growth will stall. There isn’t any room for complacency in tech PR – you’re constantly expanding, which is why the lazy, routine-driven and apathetic individuals rarely hack it in this environment. It’s sort of a Survivor-esque business model, and if you’re not constantly strategizing, forming alliances and making creative tools out of sticks, you’ll probably get snuffed out.

So – the point of this long-winded post is that navigating the tech PR world as a woman is much like navigating dating. You start out going into a world you don’t understand, you’ll most likely have to prove your worth at one point or another and you have to be prepared for people who won’t take you seriously. The only thing that keeps you coming back, in both instances, is an insatiable curiosity for what the next day (or date) might hold.

To all the guys out there – if you happen to be going on a date with someone who works in the tech PR industry, at least make it a little interesting and drop a “cloud” mention or “API” reference into the conversation instead of relying on the ‘ol “computer” standby. You can Google those things to find out what they are. Also, if you happen to be intelligent, motivated and you can hold a conversation without consulting Siri, you’re probably more awesome than anyone I’ve dated recently and you can contact Howie to get my number.

-Ashley

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