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Showing who we are

I’ve always been interested in the human desire to belong to groups and how we adapt our appearance to show which ‘group’ we’re in. Even in our teenage years when many of us believe the way we dress is non-conformist in truth we’re aligning ourselves to a sub-group that exists out there.

A friend of mine in her first year at university always wore Levi 501s and walked to her English lectures with an Eighteenth century novel poking out of her right back pocket and a pack of Marlboro cigarettes in her left. The signals she hoped she gave off then make her cringe beyond belief today!

Because that’s what happens, the identity we choose to present to the outside world changes over time. Many of us become less concerned about rebelling, or we gain confidence about our identity and the way we choose to transmit it.

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A Life With No Limits

Does the name Nick Vijucic mean anything to you?

I hadn’t heard about him until recently, when I came across this video called‘No Arms, No Legs,  No Worries.

Nick was born without limbs 29 years ago. His birth was described as a ‘disaster’ by doctors and family; people react with shock to his appearance; his childhood was riddled with stories of prejudice, bullying, depression, and, at times, thoughts of suicide.

I read the introduction, and clicked the link to watch a video with Nick, fully expecting to be moved to pity. Instead, the first thing I did was laugh.

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Diversity in Resentment and Liberation from Guilt

Padmasree Warrior, our Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President of Engineering, shared some thoughts earlier this month on women in technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.  Padma joined Google’s Marissa Mayer, Hunch’s Caterina Fake and CNET’s Lindsey Turrentine on this CNET sponsored panel.  The takeaways are for both men and women:

Padma said that liberation from guilt is an important choice to make.  Earlier in her career, she felt guilty at work about not being with her child but she also felt guilty when she had to miss customer meetings to be home with her child.  Regardless of the decision, she learned not to be guilty about the decision.

In this day and age, you can be yourself at work.  Caterina Fake commented that in the 80s, businesswomen adopted the “Sigourney Weaver” uniform of heels, suits with shoulder pads and speaking in a low voice.  Now, you no longer need to conform to a single image to be taken seriously.  Marissa had a great line: “you can wear ruffles… or you can be a jock”

Burnout was a meaty topic that Marissa Mayer introduced by saying that working long hours is not what causes burnout. Read More »

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The Iron Lady and the Glass Ceiling

Wherever you live, the chances are that you will have seen posters in your town or city of a familiar woman’s face. The sharply tailored navy blue suit, immaculately coiffed hair piled high, power pearls, and that anthracite gaze that crosses three decades and still has the power to pin you to the spot.

“The Iron Lady,” Phyllida Law’s biopic of Margaret Thatcher, hit the box offices all over the world earlier this year.  Thatcher’s pulling power, the enduring legend of the UK’s first female prime minister, is still so strong that the Iron Lady is causing queues to form at cinemas, hitting the headlines and being debated by the media all over the place.

Nicknames are inevitable, especially in public figures, and whilst they provide a handy snapshot of how an individual is perceived, they also reveal so much about stereotyped thinking and preconceptions that condition the way we think.

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A human working culture

We’ve all done it, squeezed a meeting into a colleague’s last remaining gap for a lunch break, or set a conference call for an unsociable hour. Yet we’ve also all been the victim of such logistical moves. Because the problem is, in a mega-busy global working environment like ours, we increasingly accept that this sort of thing is normal and needs to happen, so we can all get everything done.

And perhaps at times it does, but not without considering if there are other possible options and not without asking.

Politeness aside, how many of us properly acknowledge the priorities each other has outside of the office, those priorities which help shape the people we are and often conflict with the demands of our working lives. How many of us raise an eyebrow at the person who leaves to go to the gym, or the parent who goes because of childcare issues. We even sometimes fail to acknowledge the shame of a colleague missing a family celebration because of work demands.

These issues comes up a lot but I think we could all be part of changing what is regularly seen as acceptable and just the norm. We could all speak up when meetings are set at anti-social times; share our human selves as well as our work selves to create a human culture where other commitments are given due credit, time and appreciation.

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