What an inspiring talk from Anna Meares at the Project F event on Thursday evening (13 May)!
I’ve been reflecting on the comment Emma Jones made that drivers and inspiration can feel a bit slippery – hard to grab hold of.
I wonder if that’s been your experience. How clear do you feel right now about what drives and inspires you?
My experience has been mixed – at times my drivers have been crystal clear and at others, they’ve been buried under a mound of expectations (mine or others) and I’ve had to really dig them out. I’ve also found that they can evolve and change, especially in the wake of significant events.
As I mentioned on Thursday evening, I’ve distilled a range of approaches I’m familiar with down to my top 3 for women in STEM right now. Before we get to them, it can be helpful to step back and pull apart exactly what we mean by ‘drivers’ and ‘inspiration’.
On ‘drivers’, I particularly like a framework by Canadian human behaviour consultant Stephen de Groot. If you’ve ever put thought into this, I suspect you’ll find it unsurprising. Nonetheless, I like its simplicity. He calls it our ‘Four Core Motivators’: Needs, Values, Goals and Strengths. Consider this – in coaching, our strengths are the things that energise us – they’re the wind in our sails – rather than the things we’re competent at (which we may or may not feel energised by!).
So now you can see why they can change over time, or why they can be a bit hard to get hold of! And especially as women, there can be spoken or unspoken expectations around our needs, values and goals, and how much of our time and effort we put into them.
(inspiration)…it is the fire within that warms us and helps us see when things seem dark and difficult.
Regarding ‘inspiration’, my current working theory is that it’s something tangible (in some sense) and represents in some way our core motivators. It might be external, such as a person, place or problem, or internal such as a vision we hold, but either way, it is the fire within that warms us and helps us see when things seem dark and difficult. For example, we may be inspired by a person who embodies values of tenacity and long-term perspective, or who meaningfully solves problems for a larger group in an inclusive and sustainable fashion. Or we may be inspired by a crystal-clear vision of how things can be different – better – for something very meaningful to us and ways to get there. I’d love to hear your thoughts about my working theory and where you’ve found inspiration.
So, to the practices!
1) Make space
The first is making space to tune into your own voice – a time and place where you are free of distractions and can lay aside expectations. Although we discussed this at length in the session, I’m reiterating it because it’s foundational.
I appreciate this can seem difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. The good news is that you can start small – a regular practice of even 5-10 minutes begins to attune you to your own voice.
This small practice can be made more effective by:
- Consistent external cues – such as a particular place or time of day, or connected with a particular activity such as walking between your workplace and transport – which ultimately helps you get into the quiet space with yourself much faster.
- Intention setting – such as telling yourself this is time for listening to your own voice, or more specifically for listening to your needs or recalling what energised you in your day.
- Be patient with yourself. We can be so accustomed, especially as women and especially in tech, to suppressing our voice to meet expectations and honour commitments that it can take time to build trust with ourselves.
Once it works for you, you can extend the time or frequency to meet your needs and goals. And remember you might need to adjust as your circumstances change.
2) Pay attention to your energy triggers
The second is to pay attention to what energises you, whether in the moment or reflecting on your day or week. Are there consistent ‘triggers’ for your energy, which may indicate strengths like leading, being creative or curious, and persevering in a challenge? Are there times when multiple core motivators are being satisfied?
3) Find your why
The third is to think about what has drawn you to a career in tech. What was interesting or engaging about it? Was it one or more of your motivators or was there something that inspired you? A person or company in tech you admired? Perhaps a problem or particular challenge you wanted to address using tech?
Some questions you can ask yourself include:
- Which of your own needs are met (or were met) by your work in tech?
- If you’re later in your career, are they still relevant?
- Have your needs changed?
- How are your values and strengths engaged by tech?
- If you’re reassessing, are there other ways for you to be in tech that meet your needs and goals, match your values and engage your strengths
Our needs, values and goals can change over time, and it can be easy to drift from what’s important to us by a succession of small compromises. Making space to hear our own voice and building trust in ourselves helps us to be clearer about our choices and the impact we want to make.
To get started:
- Reflect on what time of day is best for you to listen or to think. Choose a time, place or activity that will be your external cue(s) and set an appointment with yourself for 5 or 10 minutes, daily if possible.
- Turn off your phone and put it aside (if you need it for a timer, put it on flight mode and set a timer that won’t startle you).
- Take three deep breaths and set an intention. If it helps, consciously or even physically, ‘shrug off’ expectations.
- Tune in to yourself and wait.
If you find after you have been trying the practice for a few days or weeks that your brain is using the time very effectively to offer you solutions to problems, you can either:
- Go with it, reduce stress and get satisfaction from the solution. Write down the solution(s) and do the 5-10 minutes again to listen for your drivers, or
- Put aside your thoughts and try to listen to your drivers. Over time you’ll find a rhythm that works for you.
I’ve had a play with Emma’s ‘DEAT’ (drop everything and think). You could do:
- a DEAR – drop everything and reflect
- make a DEAL with yourself – drop everything and listen
- or give yourself a GIFT – go in for thinking.
Jodi’s background is highly relevant, from early on, with studies in communications and engineering, a PhD and graduating as the first female dux of RAAF Engineering and the first in the Communications/Electronics discipline. Then later, several years with NICTA and Data 61 where she blazed many trails in order to solve complex and strategic problems.
Jodi uses her extensive experience working as a minority by gender at work, along with expertise in coaching to help women in STEM careers achieve clarity, understand impact vs intention and how to “step into” their power.
Jodi offers the first, discovery session with coaches as complimentary for members of the F Factor community.
Contact Jodi: firstname.lastname@example.org