“So, why are you sitting here?”

I had been anticipating the question and it was a fair question, after all, I was one of two men sitting at the Women in Technology Birds of a Feather table at PASS Summit.  But let me back up a bit.

Last week was the PASS Summit in Seattle, an annual event that I mentioned two weeks ago that I was headed to. There are several thousand people that attend and in order to promote networking, in the massive lunch hall, they have a number of tables set aside for particular topics, i.e. “birds of a feather”. So if there’s a particular topic or interest group you are associated with you, you can sit at such a table and know you’re among like minded friends. For example on Day One I had set at the “Virtual and Local User Group” table.  But today, I found myself at the Women in Technology table.

So why?

Let’s back up even further. I grew up in a small town in the northwest corner of Connecticut. I can’t say my parents were poor, but we probably lived below what many would consider a middle-class lifestyle. However, I was very fortunate to have hard-working parents and grandparents who helped, and more than a bit of privilege.  What do I mean by this? One example comes to mind. A couple of years after college when I was first consulting, I needed a small business loan to cover a project for a client. I literally walked into the local bank and on my word got the loan I needed. Even then I realized I had a bit of privilege going on there.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve listened to more and more testimonies from women and persons of color and continued to realize how for granted I’ve taken many aspects of my life. As a result, I’ve worked to listen to others and try to increase their access to opportunities and gain the same privilege I was simply born with by being a white male.

So why was I there?

The question was not a surprise, since the table host, Kathi Kellenberger had said she wanted to go around the table and ask folks why they were there. fortunately she hadn’t started with me first! This gave me time to think about my answer.

To listen. To listen to two women of color talk about their struggles and efforts to make it into the world of being SQL DBAs. To listen to other women talk about their experiences and to learn from them.

So I gave that and a bit more as my answer and then shut up and listened. It was a great lunch and a great experience.  As my friend, and WIT Virtual Group co-leader (along Kathi) Rie Irish is wont to say, “if women could solve these problems we’d have done so by now. We need your help”.

So to my fellow men out there, I would say, be an ally. Attend the WIT Luncheon (which was the day before) at Pass Summit.  Encourage women to speak at your User Group and at SQL Saturdays, stop others from interrupting them during meetings, amplify their ideas. And sometimes, just shut up and listen. And if you’re involved with SQL Server and PASS and want more information reach out to Rie and Kathi and contact the Virtual Group the manage, Women in Technology.  Trust me, men are welcome as allies.

 

Family

Over the weekend on my Twitter feed I saw some tweets about #SQLFamily taking the #SQLTrain up to Seattle for the PASS Conference I’m at this week. It made me reflective.  As some of you may know, I grew up in a train station (no trains though) and have always loved trains. And the ride from Portland to Seattle is one I’ve wanted to make because of the scenery.

But I want to write more about family. Family can mean so many things. It can be your blood family, but it can be those you choose to associate with, or that chose you.  Both have their value and place.

In my blood family, my daughter, as a tradition, has started to take me to see the latest Star Wars film when it comes out. This has led to some amazing moments, such as in 2015 when I got to see through her eyes, the excitement I felt at a similar age of “a new Star Wars movie“.

Unlike some, I loved The Last Jedi, for many reasons. Yes, it had some weak moments, but I think it was a great movie. And it makes me think about family. Something I alluded to in the post linked above. Kylo had his blood family. He had parents that loved him, an Uncle that care for him. But, he rejected all that, trying to find more.  Ultimately, at the end of The Last Jedi we realize, before he does, that he’s utterly alone; that he has rejected everyone in the Universe that cared for him or tried to care for him.

Rey on the other hand, learns just the opposite. Many fans were upset to learn she’s not a Skywalker or a Kenobi or anyone famous. Her parents literally are nobody. She is, in the ultimate sense of the word, an orphan, without family. Or so she thinks. At the end of TLJ, it becomes clear, she is part of a family that has chosen HER, not because of blood, but because of who she is. And she has chosen them.

I am fortunate to have many families. I have my blood family, ones that I hold near and dear. I am fortunate to have them and have such great ones.

I have my #SQLFamily, which is a diverse group of people who all share one passion: SQL Server. It’s a bit nuts at times and we’re all different, but it’s a great group of people for that chosen field. I’m not sure they’re my ride or die family, but I’ll take them!

I have certain friends I consider a family. These are my ride or die family, the ones I would drop anything for if called and asked. I’m visiting some now in Seattle while here for the PASS Summit.

While here, I’ll be visiting yet another eclectic family, my ROC Family: folks who I have shared many adventures with as members of the Rensselaer Outing Club.  We all share a common set of experiences and it binds us.

And finally today, election day, I think of a different family: one that I’m perhaps a distaff member of, but that is my friends and associates who are members of the LGBTQTI+ (and if I’ve left off any letters its through oversight not for lack of caring) community.  They’ve invited me into their homes, to their birthday parties, weddings and more. Today I think about them because for many, today is about more than tax reform, or foreign policy, it’s about in some cases, whether or not their government will support and protect them, or possibly even try to define them out of existence.  So I’m going to again break one of my own rules (what are rules for if not to be broken) and say, if you haven’t voted today, do so. And if you do so, think beyond simply your taxes, your religion and your other views and remember, we are all members of various families and elections can and do have consequences.

I love my families, all of them, in different ways and I hope you all are members of families that love and care. Not every family is of blood nor should it be nor does it need to be.