Contemplating the question of whether I’m ready for my new job as an annointed (annoying? the words sound so similar…) Product Manager at New Relic.
Excited, yes! This is going to be a learning opportunity without compare, and tons of opportunity to get to know a whole new set of customers. The amount of stuff I don’t know is huge – I know a lot of stuff on which I’ll build, and I’m a super-sponge for the customer needs, the way their tech works, and what’s really important to everyone – and there’s plenty of opportunity to live that dream.
Nervous? Hells yeah. Those customers could be very demanding; the engineers might find me wanting; the technology is terribly complex and I worry if there are things I’ll just never get. Worst case, they’ll encounter me as one of “those people” – the folks who don’t understand the technology, are talking out their ass, and end up misrepresenting the way it really works or how long it could really take to deliver a new feature.
Ready to start working? Um. YES. I’ve been getting more and more anxious about all the what-ifs, the ways I might embarrass myself and how many ways I want to help out and make good stuff happen. I thought the time off between jobs would be helpful to get my mind at ease and clear of the old world; clear was easy, but ‘at ease’ was apparently not in my playbook.
Why do the moron patrol spout their ill-informed opinions when the confounding data is so easy to obtain? If there was no systemic discrimination biasing the work-for-hire systems at the Big Two (DC and Marvel) towards white males, I’d expect to see a relative population among female creators somewhere better than the female engineering population we see in the tech industry (which according to the best of the paucity of data out there, is around 12%).
Analysis/conjecture: the % of creators hired by the Big Two who are female has consistently peaked in the low teens, and even % of back-office employees is generally lower than the magic 30% threshold (where “gender diversity” is celebrated, and beyond which females start to experience a marked uptick in pushback, and “diversity initiatives” start to see institutionalized resistance). And sadly, this is years after fans demand DC take action to change it (and they agreed). Maybe DC thinks that <10% is their end goal?
Contrary to what I’ve heard in the comics press and hallways for years, comics fans are about half female these days. Hasn’t always been that way, but it’s also fascinating that readership has achieved near-parity when many (men of course) predicted it would never, and that maybe it shouldn’t (to preserve the enclave of “what we white males have always enjoyed in the safe past”). It’s not like there isn’t interest from females, and I’d predict this to bleed into the creative population who’s trying to get a gig there – it would blow my mind that only 10% of the people trying to create comics are women. (This article mentions women outnumber men in an undergraduate cartooning setting, for example, and then quotes the instructor, “It’s also not uncommon that they’re the best students in class”.)
So assume for a moment the fantastic proposition that there’s a greater proportion of women clamouring for the gig than are getting the gig, what does that say about the selection filter: are those making the hire decisions going to explain this by saying that the greater proportion of women aren’t as talented as the men? That they aren’t applying through the correct/operative/off-the-books channels? Or that they are actually just more comfortable hiring people like them (white, male, cis)?
[Relevant anecdote: Bobbie Chase, a female editorial director for DC, was quoted in this article saying, “We’re pursuing people all the time who could be new voices for comic books, but it’s still going to be a predominantly male industry. I don’t think that has to change, but we can certainly make a much better balance.”]
[Another relevant anecdote: Ann Nocenti in this article said, “Its undeniable when you look at industry-wide statistics, women are hired low, their salaries are lower; I think statistically you can say women aren’t treated fairly in any industry.”]
Any answer raises troubling questions that I really hope are being examined and answered honestly, and which will drive systemic change in both the comics and the tech industry.
Good news. Hell, great news!! I’ve accepted a role as Product Manager at New Relic (a very cool, local Portland-based software company). I’ll be joining them later in July – wild adventures await!
So with that simple admission comes a little Story Time: you know me, and you know I’ve grown into a well-oiled Product Owner and Interaction Designer in my work at Intel (for basically the same organization for my eight years there).
Working for them allowed me to grow into these skills while delivering a suite of business applications, a Security Conference website and as little paperwork as I could get away with.
[None of those fully-stocked portfolios of art pieces for me – I stopped trying to “build my portfolio” when I realized it was a textbook example of the Waste that gets in the way of thoroughly agile development.]
Using those skills, I birthed the core application out of conversations I had with team members in 2008, and shepherded it through:
its underground “you shouldn’t spend any time on this Mike” phase
a series of dev teams (man, when I was first delegated “half an engineer”, what a momentous achievement that was!)
many competing ‘visions’ of what it should be when it grew up, and
over 100 sprints of delivery – short, long, successful, abject failure, research, tech debt, “spike” (aka “we have no idea what we’re doing”), breakneck, misdirected and surprising
Recently I took on an exciting and challenging volunteer assignment with an IT team who are responsible for internal collaboration tools. Which was both a rewarding and fast-moving learning experience – it’s incredible how much planning goes on when you have a 4:1 ratio of non-doers to doers, and it’s amazing to see how much good dev work actually happens despite that.
A little while later, a friend recommended me to a hiring manager at New Relic, who reached out for a coffee to talk about a ridiculously challenging role they’ve designed to assist their Agents teams. That conversation continued through three rounds of interviews (and a heavy-duty homework assignment!) and blew my mind by manifesting into an offer I patently couldn’t refuse.
This new PM role is both incredibly suited to my talents and brings a range of new challenges for me to tackle – I’ll be contributing to product direction for six teams in a fast-growing, revenue-focused organization with a heavy engineering bent and a lot of new customers and technologies to learn. I couldn’t be more excited about this.
So hey, if you happen to be looking for new features in the New Relic product stack, drop me a line come end of July and I’ll see if I can’t connect you to the right players (it might even be me!). I will use my newfound powers with utmost gravity…