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Geeks Versus Jocks: CIOs, Beware Your Culture
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Drew Conry-Murray
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Drew Conry-Murray,
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6/5/2014 | 9:55:40 AM
Monoculture
This article didn't go where I expected it to--and that was a good thing. It's too easy for people aligned with the IT industry to get binary about geek culture (geek culture good, non-geek culture bad). But as you point out, a monoculture--whether geek, jock or something else--can surpress other voices, alienate those who aren't aligned with the dominant model, and surpress productivity.
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
6/5/2014 | 10:06:55 AM
Re: Monoculture
I concur, Drew. I appreciate the focus on reducing monoculture. Diversity in background, skillset and opinion will only benefit any IT shop (any department in any industry, really). When we all think and act the same, we miss out on valuable opportunities and insights that are only visible when someone says or does something completely unexpected.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
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6/5/2014 | 11:30:06 AM
Re: Monoculture
What's your take on culture for companies that have most employees working onsite in an HQ versus more distributed orgs, with many peope working from home offices or small branch sites? I have worked at both, and while it seems nonintuitive, I think that a virtual workforce can have an equalizing effect. 
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
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6/5/2014 | 11:41:54 AM
Re: Monoculture
There are benefits to a distributed workforce, but I don't believe they necessarily outweigh the productivity and organic communications that happen when a team is colocated. If you have diversity in your team and they are able to communicate efficiently and openly, then you have the best possible combination. Nothing against telecommuters, but there are concrete reasons why most agile frameworks strongly encourage a team to be located together. That is where the best communication (verbal and non-verbal) happens.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
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6/5/2014 | 11:48:08 AM
Re: Monoculture
It's interesting you say that. I have heard lately of instances where companies are insisting on employees being onsite, even if it means passing up a qualified applicant. Do you see a growing backlash against remote work (or, in a better light, pull to have teams physically colocated)?
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/5/2014 | 12:16:21 PM
Re: Monoculture
@Lorna- Have you seen that elsewhere than Yahoo? I'm not seeing it much elsewhere, but maybe i'm looking at the wrong companies.
progman2000
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progman2000,
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6/6/2014 | 4:15:45 PM
Re: Monoculture
I thought we were past the era of companies wanting employees centrally located.  I'm also curious as to where you have seen differently lately.  I was actually starting to wonder if some companies were rushing too fast to utilizing a remote workforce.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
6/6/2014 | 6:14:57 PM
Re: Monoculture
@Progman2000: Yahoo is the only recent example I can think of where a dispersed workforce was required to return to working in the office. From what I have read about it, that was the right move for that company at that time. In general, though, most people I know and most companies I have worked for in the past 10 years have allowed some degree of remote work and in some cases have fully encouraged it. I think this became especially important during the last recession, when companies could not offer salary increases, or in some cases had to cut salaries, and yet wanted a way to retain their top performers. Perks such as telecommuting, additional vacation time and other things that had no "hard cost" associated with them started to becomre more common and are now fully entrenched. I don't think we'll ever turn back the clock on this trend.
zaious
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zaious,
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6/8/2014 | 11:19:46 PM
Re: Monoculture
Obviously, Yahoo might not have walked that path if the company was very happy with its current situation. They felt the need to pull things up by the bootstrap. 

Offering non-monetary perks are a good way to keep employees a bit happier, but in the long run they will switch where the pay is better. However, these perks keep them content for some time (and may even prevent them from job searching).
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
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6/30/2014 | 7:17:28 PM
Re: Monoculture
I agree with you, in most cases better pay will trump non-monetary perks without a second thought.
batye
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batye,
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7/1/2014 | 7:07:10 PM
Re: Monoculture
I think we must to take in account personality and ideas... as to each person his own perks... how I see it...
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
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7/31/2014 | 10:07:18 AM
Re: Monoculture
@ batye

Perks based on attitude and performance! I like that idea.
batye
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batye,
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8/3/2014 | 12:24:37 AM
Re: Monoculture
thanks, in my mind human nature is to see goal or reward of some kind... one way or other...
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/31/2014 | 5:00:45 PM
Re: Monoculture
@ Batye

Your correct, goals are what keep us pushing forward!
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/5/2014 | 12:09:26 PM
Re: Monoculture
@jagibbons- I think it is hard to argue that a close-knit team working all together in one office doesn't produce good results. But I think technology (IM, Skype, Google Hangout, even something like a speak phone) can produce equally good results. What you lose in simple communication you can make up for by catsing a wider net for talent, pass off things across time zones and specialities, and produce work-life balance that provides happier workers. 
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
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6/5/2014 | 12:48:36 PM
Re: Monoculture
In my experience on a number of projects with a number of different mixes of resources, the wider net of talent doesn't usually offset the hampered nature of communications for distributed teams in application development. I'm sure others will have different experiences, and many companies won't have a choice based upon the staffing market they are in. For me and my shop, I've yet to see any distributed development team work as efficiently and creatively as one that is sitting together, bouncing ideas around and learning from each other day in and day out.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/5/2014 | 12:52:29 PM
Re: Monoculture
@jagibbons- I think that is fair enough. I've been telecommuting for 5 years now. I'd say it took me at least 3 years and maybe more to get good at it. I think telecommuting is still new enough that people are in different parts of the curve. 
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
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6/5/2014 | 12:54:24 PM
Re: Monoculture
@David Wagner, I could certainly see time for the team and all stakeholders to learn how to work most effectively in that way would help. Whether it's done well or not, there certainly is a major transition involved, both the telecommuter and those working with her/him.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
6/5/2014 | 3:14:44 PM
Re: Monoculture
@jagibbons: I've worked in both situations, as a telecommuter with a dispersed team and in an office where all my team mates were there alongside me. My takeaway from these experiences is that it all depends 100% on the personalities involved. Given the right mix of people, either can be equally effective. The wrong mix of people can make either option a disaster. The dynamic, in my experience, depends much more on the culture and personality of the team members than it does on where they are based.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
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6/5/2014 | 3:54:24 PM
Re: Monoculture
I completelly agree that it all depends on the team.  If the members of the team fit together and can cooperate.  This can make a great difference in the output of the team's results.   
jastroff
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jastroff,
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6/5/2014 | 11:47:52 AM
Re: Monoculture
>> I think that a virtual workforce can have an equalizing effect.

Good point. Outsourcing in general probably has a equalizing effect.

Virtual teams can be more diverse. People tend to assemble virtual teams based on skills and need within the budget, rather than "like hires like" for on-site teams.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/5/2014 | 12:15:14 PM
Re: Monoculture
People tend to assemble virtual teams based on skills and need within the budget, rather than "like hires like" for on-site teams.


@jastro- I'd like to think that's true of ALL teams. Do you think it isn't? And if so, why?
jastroff
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jastroff,
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6/5/2014 | 1:16:05 PM
Re: Monoculture
People tend to assemble virtual teams based on skills and need within the budget, rather than "like hires like" for on-site teams.

>>  I'd like to think that's true of ALL teams. Do you think it isn't? And if so, why?

An old friend with a prominent position in financial services IT once said to me "like hires like." In the world of financial services IT, he was right. For virtual teams, perhaps they are less constricted by older patterns just because of their nature.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
6/5/2014 | 3:09:11 PM
Re: Monoculture
@jastro: I wish that were true of ALL teams. I'm not convinced it can even be stated across the board as regards to virtual teams, at least based on what I've heard from some women developers who work on remote teams. In fact, I know one who just had to leave such a position because the culture became too unpleasant for her. She's as Geek as they come, and so were her colleagues. It would be oversimplifying it to say she was in a boys' club culture there, though I do think that was part of it. It was the kind of place where she was always the one asked to keep the meeting notes because she was always the only woman at the meeting.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/5/2014 | 12:02:44 PM
Re: Monoculture
@lorna- I think the same thing applies to coolaboration. People will tend to reach out virtually to people like them. But where i do think equalization happens is in surfacing ideas to management. 

Of course, the problem is that the manager is often complicit in the monoculture. 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/5/2014 | 11:58:44 AM
Re: Monoculture
@Drew- Thanks. I try to find a new angle with everything. The interestingly thing about the monoculture is that I think a lot of managers strive for it because they mistake it for harmony. But harmony actually requires multiple voices hitting notes that sounds good together. Too zen?
Drew Conry-Murray
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Drew Conry-Murray,
User Rank: Ninja
6/5/2014 | 4:50:07 PM
Re: Monoculture
@David Wagner: Not too Zen at all. That's an apt description of harmony.
jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
6/5/2014 | 11:22:02 AM
Outside the Box Teams
To the IT mix of staffers, let's add artists, designers and philosophers, cartoonists and MBAs. And not only those trained in graduate programs designed to turn them into systemized technology robots (I'm thinking of all those UX people, sorry).  All would make good additions to IT staffs when it comes to product development, conceptualizing how people will use it, seeing the business and financial benefits, and know how to make it appealing. Such a group did exist in product development for a large bank a long time ago – we did wonderful things. Let's not stop at the threshold, let's pull from all the disciplines and channel their contributions into the effort. The products and services will be great.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/5/2014 | 12:01:08 PM
Re: Outside the Box Teams
@jastro- I like it. But how do you find that mix of people as a manager? the typical job asks for "qualifications" that won't necessarily resonate with that diverse group. Are we writing poor job descriptions? Are we interviewing wrong? How do you build the mix while still getting folks that can do the job?
jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
6/5/2014 | 12:13:59 PM
Re: Outside the Box Teams
The manager of the group was a journalist with product development experience, and some of the staffers were early videotex veterans. The head of the Division was a superstar product thinker. It was built out from there to include all kinds of different people. It was not an "IT Group" – but attached to an IT group. Maybe that was the difference. But this group drove the effort. The entire purpose was consumer development for financial services. They could tell by your resume and by your interview if you were a "fit" – the job descriptions were eclectic, to say the least!
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
6/5/2014 | 1:25:54 PM
Identity Crises
Gee, this article makes me wonder if people like me exist anymore. I'm a jock by most anyone's definition, all I ever wanted to be was a professional baseball pitcher. But I blew my arm out at 18 and that was end of that. So I went to college (1978) not really sure what I wanted to do, just knew I enjoyed solving problems. Used to love the old Encyclopedia Brown books, stuff like that. When I got to school, I saw people with 2.0 GPA's were getting jobs like crazy in Computer Science field. Being lazy at the time, that sounded good to me. The rest is history, almost 30 years as a development guy now.

But I'm still a jock at heart. If I have choice of watching a ballgame or Discovery Channel, it isn't even a choice. Even after all these years, I have no real interest in tech after leaving work. I rarely use computer at home, except to get tickets to game or concert from StubHub. I have no interest in Facebook, Twitter or any of that crap. Now, I do keep up on technology thru reading, I've gone from coding in COBOL/CICS on mainframes to now writing Sencha Ext JS apps.

So what the heck am I, a jock or a geek? :-)
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
6/5/2014 | 3:05:17 PM
Re: Identity Crises
@TerryB: You're the reason I hate putting labels on people. Most of us are complex and nuanced in our likes and dislikes, how we choose to spend our personal time versus what our work interests are. To answer your primary question, I'd label you a Jeek or a Gok.

:)
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/5/2014 | 4:00:39 PM
Re: Identity Crises
@TerryB- I think you can claim multiple memberships. More importantly, well-rounded folks are the best to find for a department. The only "problem" with being a geek or a jock or anything else is if it prevents you from doing your job. And the only reason have too many of any of them is a problem is if it creates a problem in your department.

In terms of geeks, I'm like king of the athletes, too, so i totally get what you're saying. But i happily hold a dual passport. :)
sferguson10001
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sferguson10001,
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6/5/2014 | 5:35:57 PM
Re: Identity Crises
@DavidWagner: What I think is most interesting here, and especially with the Google example you used to illustrate the point, is how hard it is for companies to create the kind of ideal culture you want. After all, if Google admits that its corporate makeup is not where it should be, how can other companies achieve what one of the world's best run businesses cannot? In the end, maybe the decisions are driven by expediency and need and not by strategic thinking. Thoughts?
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
6/6/2014 | 6:11:29 PM
Re: Identity Crises
@sferguson10001: It could be that Google's lack of diversity is, in part, a reflection of the available labor pool especially when it comes to the tech-related job openings there. Although, as I recall, the Google report said that something close to 50% of its workforce was in non-tech related jobs. while much has been written about the lack of diversity in the overall STEM labor pool -- with no really good answers as to why this is the case -- I can't imagine the same argument could be made for the non-tech jobs at Google or anyplace else. It's a problem of human nature, and an organization has to provide the training and top-down culture that helps people avoid the "like-hires-like" default that so many of us may act upon, oftentimes without even being aware of it.
sferguson10001
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sferguson10001,
User Rank: Moderator
6/9/2014 | 11:02:57 AM
Re: Identity Crises
@snunyc: To that point, I think we are talking about a larger culture shift in how we educate people in the STEM field. In the last few weeks, there have been some articles about how students are learning to code earlier and earlier. Despite all the perks of Google, it's going to take a much larger cultural change to bring more students into the STEM market, as well as to diversify that talent pool. Google and other big-time Silicon Valley companies also tend to take coders and other engineers from the most elite universities thanks to the big bonuses they pay. Maybe one way is to strengthen the IT- and engineer-related programs that are create at smaller universities and colleges.

 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/9/2014 | 4:55:55 PM
Re: Identity Crises
@snunyc- Another interesting part of this is that a shockingly large portion of Google's employees went to one of only three colleges. Perhaps, some of the blame falls on the colleges. Or on college admissions or education in general.
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
6/13/2014 | 3:45:09 PM
Re: Identity Crises
Dave... it could be secret brotherhood of Google... but time will tell...
Angelfuego
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Angelfuego,
User Rank: Moderator
6/15/2014 | 8:43:06 PM
Re: Identity Crises
@Dave, Re:"The goal is to break out of hiring habits that define your culture by personality traits rather than skillsets and mindsets." I agree. Recently, my friend was not hired after being interviewed. She was totally qualified and equipped with both the skillset and experience to competently perform the role.I truly think she wasn't hired due to personality reasons.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/16/2014 | 12:29:00 PM
Re: Identity Crises
@angelfuego- I feel for you. And that's rough, and you are probably right. And what makes so much harder is that the hiring proces sis so shrouded in mystery now because no one wants to say anything that can be used in a lawsuit it is impossible to know why anyone is hired or not. 

I understand the legal reasons, but within the company I think it would help if people had to be more transparent with HR and others making hiring decisions so personality is less involved.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/16/2014 | 12:29:00 PM
Re: Identity Crises
@angelfuego- I feel for you. And that's rough, and you are probably right. And what makes so much harder is that the hiring proces sis so shrouded in mystery now because no one wants to say anything that can be used in a lawsuit it is impossible to know why anyone is hired or not. 

I understand the legal reasons, but within the company I think it would help if people had to be more transparent with HR and others making hiring decisions so personality is less involved.
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
7/1/2014 | 7:08:41 PM
Re: Identity Crises
it happens :(  as sometimes personalities do have conflict... plus likes and dislikes on the personal level....
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/9/2014 | 4:51:57 PM
Re: Identity Crises
@sfergusen10001- I get your point, but they only admitted their problem days ago but thye've had the problem for decades. So we'll see what, if anything, that actually can achieve.

Clearly, the problem is bigger than just one company. For instance, with women, they avoid the field entirely which is not good for IT. 

But I look at it this way. If a company makes a real effort at this, they are goign to gain a stratrgic advantage. Not only will they have a more efficient set of teams, they will have access to talent many other companies are ignoring. 

Just like addiction, the first step is admitting you have a problem.
impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Ninja
6/9/2014 | 1:39:28 PM
Google is not alone
Google is not alone in its lack of diversity, its and endemic corporate problem. Dave you have hit the nail on the head  about diversity --it goes way beyond race or gender. Having a diverse workforce in every aspect assures that you have the types of people to successfully fill every position. The same type of person will fill only one type of need. If a company is serious about growth and innovation it will embrace diversity on every level.
zerox203
IW Pick
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
6/17/2014 | 7:46:49 PM
Re: Geeks Versus Jocks
You're definitely on the money, Dave - 'diversity' is not something to be slapped on a poster in the hallway and then done away with it. The only reason to go after it is because you want to reap the benefits - and that requires actually going after it, like the gentleman from Google said. Nobody's going to give you an award for going halfway. As you say, reaching a truly even distribution amongst all these demographics in the workplace (if that's even what we should be shooting for) is no small order - what if you don't get women interviewing for your IT positions? It's a systemic problem that needs to be corrected starting in education, and maybe even farther back.

Maybe it's a little limiting to exemplify the whole thing with 'jocks vs geeks', though. After all, we're kind of talking about the person doing the hiring more than the people being hired, aren't we? Maybe someone will put their sports background on their resume, and maybe they won't - or maybe someone is an uber-nerd but played lacrosse in college. The problem is that we're doing hiring based on assumptions about people that we aren't basing on real facts. We have to do hiring based on who's best for the job, not based on some gut-feeling of who will create an 'ideal' work atmosphere (because it doesn't exist) - and, in theory, that will naturally lead to diversity on it's own.
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
7/1/2014 | 7:04:36 PM
Re: Geeks Versus Jocks
interesting to see, as it like never ending process at workplace... but also office politics are in play.... how I see it.... 
kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
6/19/2014 | 11:01:25 AM
It's okay to think different
You are right. it's a problem that can happen anywhere. Even in some acedemia circles now if you don't think 'the right way' about something then you don't get hired or heard. But hearing these numbers for women inthe sciences, while it no longer shocks me, I am glad my daughter at 6 is excited about robotics camp this year. She wanted to do engineering too but we had to go on vacation sometime. Don't be afraid to have a few people that think a bit differntly than you do.
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
7/1/2014 | 7:06:00 PM
Re: It's okay to think different
it like problem need to be looked from all point of view :) so to say... as each party must have it say in the process... to get right....
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
9/10/2014 | 12:04:04 AM
Nature :)
@StaceyE thank you, but how I see it, it the same way in the nature... just the way of life... or keep moving...


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