I am not a tree. I am a person. I speak for me.


Carol Willing


February 3, 2015

For years, I enjoyed reading Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax to my children. Today, a wise quote from the book pops into my head when I read a twitter post by or about Mr. Wadhwa.

In the story, the Lorax “speaks for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.” The Lorax’s logic strikes me as very reasonable. [Added 2/4/2015: Listening to Amelia Greenhall's reading of her blog post, <em><a title="Quiet, Ladies. @wadhwa is speaking now" href="http://blog.ameliagreenhall.com/post/quiet-ladies.-wadhwa-is-speaking-now" target="_blank">Quiet, Ladies. @wadhwa is speaking now</a></em>, I was moved to share my perspective from over 30 years of experience as a electrical engineer, software developer, entrepreneur, and teacher. While I may not agree with all the specifics in the post, I find her points to be well reasoned and largely accurate. I commend her for sharing her voice.]

Below are some thoughts that I  shared in December after being encouraged by a respected colleague. As background, I don’t know Mr. Wadhwa personally so my thoughts are largely based on his writing and speeches.

I have briefly met Amelia Greenhall. Through her writing and speaking, I find her to be intelligent, thoughtful, and respectful, and one of the sharpest business journalists that I have seen emerge in the past 30 years.

So here are my thoughts today and my thoughts from December.

My thoughts from February 3, 2015

I am not a tree.

I am a person.

I speak for me.

My thoughts from December 13, 2014

I’m someone who struggles with sharing my voice and thoughts publicly. Yet, another Syster encouraged me to share my perspective on male allies, like Vivek Wadhwa and others. Since I’m not a writer and sharing my genuine voice with others is a struggle, I’m going to share the words of encouragement as well as my reaction.

Words of encouragement from another Syster: “I love the way you’ve described your reaction to Vivek. It’s objective, where so much of this conversation is subjective and highly charged. And it makes a lot of sense to me.  You should write a blog post about it. Or consider at least sharing it with systers.”

The comments that I was encouraged to share:

From what I have seen/read, he speaks genuinely and with experience on the rise of Indian respect in the tech world. I can remember another engineering manager at my level in the early 90s, not in Silicon Valley but in RTP, NC, giving me a folder of resumes. He had sorted the resumes into two groups - one group of possible interviewees and the other group to receive “thanks for applying letters”. As he handed me the folder, he tells me that I don’t even need to bother looking through the larger stack since they were all duds. As I quickly flipped through the stack, I asked him why a few of the resumes with excellent qualifications were in the reject pile. His response: “Well, they have an Asian name so their English is not going to be good.” I agree Vivek’s voice on success and the hard work to get to that place with the Indian community in tech is genuine and grounded.

There’s a part of me that feels that there’s a naive innocence of analytical thinking when it comes to his ideas on gender. I don’t even think that he realizes that he is trying to apply a method that has worked before into a new problem space. It’s his underlying assumption that the two problem spaces are fundamentally similar that trips him up. If his assumption was reasonably accurate (say 85% similarity or correlation between the two problem spaces), then his words would sound reasonable. If the assumption is less accurate (say 55% similarity between the problem spaces), his words come off as condescending to us because we can see the differences between the two populations more easily and accurately. While he’s talking, I’m filtering his words through my belief that his underlying assumption of similarity is fundamentally flawed. Therefore, his prescriptive solutions, which could be correct or effective, feel a bit controlling and forced since he hasn’t yet gotten my buy-in that I believe he understands the gender problem.

I hope you are well too. I had a delightful outreach event at the new San Diego Downtown Library for Hour of Code on Wednesday. A diverse mix of teens learning how to explore code and the importance of teams in software development. At the end of the day, I really enjoying sharing my love for problem solving and exploring code with small groups of students - young and old.

Okay, I left the last paragraph in just to give you a sense of what rocks my world.

My hope is that you will continue to listen to each other and share your individual experiences and voices with others. One of the students that I have mentored for over 7 years shared in a speech what makes me an effective mentor for her. Her views were: she listens to me and tries to understand my question or decision to make; she offers options of where to look or things to think about, and most of all she lets and encourages me to try my ideas and lets me come up with my solution.

To all of you that share your voices and listen, thank you.