Blogs and Notes

Positive Psychology

Michelle Shaw and Sean Southern
Written by Whitney Holmes

Wherever we are in our academic or professional careers there are always ways in which we can improve our outlook on our projects, increase our positivity, and make sure that we are leaving a lasting impact on those around us. These small changes we can make begin with positive psychology, and no this is not meant to be a therapy session! Many thanks to Michelle Shaw and Sean Southern for introducing this topic at the kickoff of the Women Working in Technology annual conference today. Positive psychology is defined as the scientific study of optimal human functioning. It aims to discover and promote the factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive.
Thriving in the face of challenges can be extremely difficult, especially considering how frequently these challenges, no matter how large or small, occur. Resilience and optimism are imperative to our success on a team, maintaining a positive outlook on life, and always focusing on goals of the future. Michelle Shaw spoke of how we are all born with natural optimism and resilience, thinking back to how we fight through the challenges (bumps and bruises included) of learning to walk as a toddler. These characteristics played out in adulthood include: emotional regulation, impulse control, self-efficacy, realistic optimism, and empathy. Highlighting these traits as we manage stress, struggles, difficulties, and the roadblocks that come our way will help us to focus on improving our mental and physical health.
Is it possible to change or adjust our own positive psychology? Absolutely! Sean Southern highlighted this training paralleled to how he trains in the boxing ring. The first step is to stop and shift your attention away from the challenging situation, and next is to create alternate causes to the situation, and useful steps to making changes. It is extremely important to know that successful people often have to push themselves out of their comfort zone, are consistently coming up with new ideas and approaches, focusing on how to become better, persistently fight through failures, and find that they are passionate about what they are doing. Sean emphasized that these steps do not come naturally for everyone, so he suggested reading both Learned Optimism and Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman, and taking a look at positive health tools online at: https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu.

 


 

Overcoming Bias

Jenifer Nelson
Written by Rebecca Penn

     This “Unconference Session” allowed many female leaders within the technology to share stories and solutions to many biases and problems that they experience in the workplace. Even in 2016, one woman told the story about a new boss in her department. She was initially excited to learn about him and get to know his management style, however, after only a week she heard several sexist comments from him such as, “The guys will be fine because they’re guys. The girls in the group we should be worried about,” or that “men don’t think that way.” After this story, it was noted that every single female in the room had experienced bias in the workplace before. Many had grown up experiencing this – recognizing that because we are cognitive of it, it is clear that this is a larger issue than many understand. Gender, age, and cultural biases are pervasive of them being successful.
Those in the room shared ways to overcome this problem, and it was clear that many believed that standing up; taking initiative with a confident voice is the best way to handle a sticky workplace situation. Instead of waiting for someone to include you in the conversation – start the conversation. Become the leader of the group. Staying visible in your role will allow you to climb the ladder more easily.
Throughout the brainstorm session, we developed a list of ways to overcome bias. At first, many admitted that when they had experienced these types of issues in the past, they used coping strategies to move on with their lives. They either avoided the issue or ignored a certain boss, sometimes even leaving the company to flee the situation. However, by working together, we created a list to help women of all ages to overcome bias (see below).
One woman in the session told the story about a boss explaining upfront when she was hired that their department does not experience many promotions. Later she noticed two new hires being promoted before she saw any change in her position – she found that instead of having a narrow point of view and questioning her skills personally, she chose to go to her manager directly with her concerns. It is imperative to refuse to let someone take skills from you – she pointed out that she noticed everyone around her getting promotions except her. She shared that once her manager realized that she acknowledged that favoritism – or sexism – existed in the office, they are more likely to minimize it.
It may be necessary to open women’s groups up to men – this will provide transparency within their groups and will allow women to know who their advocates are and which men share similar values – offering a fresh perspective on women’s issues and how to overcome them. It is important to find an advocate. This is usually in the form of mentorship or joining an organization to promote your values.
Many people do not understand that they are being biased or sexist against minority groups outside of their comfort zone – one person brought up the issue of how weight bias has a negative impact on the workplace environment. People may be conditioned to believe that those who weigh more are lazy or unhealthy – even though their weight could be due to the recent birth of a child or a multitude of other factors. Simply the pressure to “look good” in a traditional sense can make or break your chance at a job – makeup makes a difference, and often women are expected to wear it. Men and women who weigh more, statistically, are seen as “low performers” regardless of their actual work history and experience. To overcome this bias, give yourself an hour before an interview or presentation to listen to happy, upbeat music and get the confidence that you need to overcome your worries and get ready to ignore the voice in your head that you may not be good enough.

  1. Take the lead
    2. Be who you are
    3. Find an advocate
    4. Stay visible
    5. Join a group/network *realize not everyone is the enemy *make the group diverse/inclusive
    6. Address the problem head-on
    7. Tell someone about your problem – talk about it
    8. Ask for promotions and raises directly
    9. Turn around an offensive comment into a compliment
    10. Take it with a grain of salt
    11. Advocate for diversity in all aspects of life
    12. Know your limits
    13. Listen to your co-workers (help is around you)
    14. Know what to dispose of upfront
    15. Be willing to re-invent yourself
    16. Pump yourself up – positive imagery and music
    17. Show off your skills – get certifications and learn even more
    18. Don’t give up your “space.”


Social Media

Peggy Cenova and Lexy Madrid
Written by Gwen VanHove

How well do you know social media, and does it have a place in your professional life? That was the major focus of the Social Media breakout session at the Women Working in Technology conference. Attendees ranged from having little experience with social media to quite a lot, but the majority of those in attendance seemed to use social media rather frequently.
Session leaders Peggy Cenova and Lexy Madrid made a convincing argument that social media is a great way to advertise, either for yourself or your business, and it can be an effective way to build and connect with an audience. According to one survey, social media now plays nearly as big a role as television does in influencing purchasing decisions. Social media is a free way to “meet” people or customers, and it can also be used to follower competitors to see what they’re doing. Focusing too much on “sales” talk is a bad strategy, however: using pictures or engaging directly with customers are the best ways to make use of social media in a professional setting.
The breakout session ended with a discussion about how to balance social media for personal and business use. Although opinions were divided, it was suggested that social media can be a great tool for those in “creative” professions, but less so for those in more practical careers. Ultimately, putting your “best” self forward is the best way to make use of social media, no matter what your reasons are for using it.


Securing Your Personal and Professional Life

Prosy S. Nalweyiso, Joyce Stout, Kevin Scott, and Deb Howell
Written by Lauren Minhinnett

This year’s panel session focused on securing both your personal and professional life. Panelists Prosy S. Nalweyiso (KPMG), Joyce Stout (Eli Lilly), Kevin Scott (National Government Services), and Deb Howell (Ball State) all presented on the many issues that we face in the connected world. As Prosy pointed out, there are successful attacks happening every three minutes, so staying up-to-date on security matters is crucial.
Deb started off the session by providing insight on how we can educate the next generation on the dangers of being online. As she pointed out, 95% of children between the ages of 12 and 17 are online, and many tend to hide their online activity from their parents. She advised that parents take the time to get involved in their child’s online experience through education and close monitoring.
Kevin’s session focused on protecting personal computer data and preventing phishing scams. Some of his advice for countering a cyber attack included installing operating system updates, securing your wireless networks, and avoid giving accounts administrative privileges. While it is important to take these preventative measures, there are still times when data can be compromised. To prevent total loss of data, Kevin recommended taking a proactive approach to backing everything up on a separate hard drive or cloud storage.
Similar to Kevin’s presentation on phishing, Joyce focused on these scams from an enterprise environment perspective. She discussed the dangers of spear phishing, which is a targeted attack where a hacker impersonates an employee in order to gather information via email. The best line of defense in this scenario is through education, limiting privileges on accounts, and proactively monitoring for abnormal activity.

  • Facts:
    ○ 95% of children between 12-17 are online
    ○ 75% of teens have access to the Internet on mobile devices
    ○ 25% of Internet access is on their phones
    ○ Internet sexual predators target kids ages 11-15
    ○ 100% of cases, teens have gone willingly to the sexual predators
    ○ Nearly 800,000 Registered Sex Offenders in the US as of 2015
    ○ 16% of teens considered meeting someone they’ve only talked to online
    ○ 75% are willing to share personal information online about themselves and their family in exchange for goods and services
    ○ 33% are Facebook friends with people they have never met
    ○ 43% of suicides among youth are kids who have been cyber-bullied
    ○ 98% of teens will not tell their parents they have been cyberbullied
    ○ 70% of teens admit to hiding online behavior from their parents
  • How do teens hide their activity?
    ○ Clear browser history
    ○ Close or minimize browser when parents walk in
    ○ Lie to parents
    ○ Use computers that parents won’t check
    ○ Use mobile devices parents won’t check
    ○ Manipulate privacy settings to block parents on social media
    ○ Private or invisible browsing modes● Top 3 Threats
    ○ Strangers
    ○ Friends (peer pressure)
    ○ Themselves● Education is our strongest weapon
    ○ Importance of strong passwords
    ○ Install parental controls
    ○ Look for teachable moments■ Show them what spam is
    ○ Parental monitoring software
    ○ Lead by good example
  • Stop your computer data from being held for ransom or phished, create a digital panic room – KS● Encrypt and back-up your data
    ○ If your devices are compromised, at least, your data is still available■ Drive Savers
    ■ Disk Doctors
    ■ File Savers Data Recovery
    ■ Data Doctors – Computer Services
    ● Anti-malware protection is a must
    ○ Firewall between your data and hackers
    ● Install operating system updates
    ● Automate your software updates
    ● Secure your wireless network at home and out in the wild
    ● Practice principle of least privilege
    ○ Create a separate account on your computer then the default administrator account
    ○ Make sure your account is not administrative
    ● Use passphrases rather than passwords
    ● Don’t open emails from people you don’t know and avoid clicking on links in emails
  • Enterprise View: Phishing and Privileged Account Management – JS
    ● Phishing has been on the rise since 2011
    ○ Clicking on a bad link from an email
    ● Spear phishing
    ○ Targeted attack
    ○ Someone learns a lot about a company and a specific employee and then impersonate that person to get information
    ■ Send me information or click on the resume
    ○ Learn from LinkedIn, social media, administrative assistants, etc.
    ○ Typically a very realistic email so that it is trusted
    ○ Typically in company network for 220 days before anyone even knows they are there
    ● What can be done?
    ○ All about educating people
    ■ Send a phishing email to see how employees would act
    ■ 25% of people will click on anything no matter what
    ○ Limit privileges of privileged accounts for people as much as possible
    ■ Make sure they only have exactly what they need
    ○ Improve security of these accounts – strong passwords
    ○ Secure access stations
    ○ Proactive monitoring – be on the lookout for “un-normal’
    ● Privileged Accounts
    ○ Only need access to one in order to get access to everything
    ○ 100% of attacks that we hear about are due to privileged access

 

Guiding the Client to What They Don’t Know They Need

Sarah Boswell et al.
Written by Corey Chea

     In this exciting “unconference session,” Sarah Boswell from Allegient covered Guiding the Client to What they Don’t Know they Need. This bold topic challenged listeners to think about designing an organization that finds new ways to add value to a client’s business before they ask for it. Allegient believes that the key to a successful practice is using a comprehensive team of business analysts, a project manager, and data analytics from developers. If any other configuration is used, project results tend to fall short of expectations.
Business Analysts are crucial because they bridge the communication gap between technical requirements and business needs. Project Managers are crucial for keeping projects within budget and on time. Lastly, data analytics from developers are crucial to finding trends and predict where new opportunities may happen.