Who Are You Imitating?

When I first started writing The Hacker Chick Blog, I was incredibly taken by Kathy Sierra and her Creating Passionate Users blog.

I loved how fun and edgy she was. I was in awe of her fearlessness in advancing her own ideas even when they flew in the face of conventional wisdom. Not only was she unapologetic for this, she clearly reveled in the idea. The mere thought of publicly standing up for my own ideas when they went against what others thought scared the hell out of me. But here she was – not only doing it but thriving from it. She was a huge influence in how I did The Hacker Chick Blog and I really tried to match her in both courage and style.Penelope Garcia (Criminal Minds)

Later, while watching the early seasons of Criminal Minds, I became captivated by Penelope Garcia’s character. This crazy, edgy, ingenious hacker who was not only a girl (that parts okay) but she was downright flamboyant about it.

As someone who’d been coding and doing all sorts of other primarily male activities my entire life, I’d been a tomboy since I was a kid. I made it a point of pride that I personified J. Random Hacker – right down to my obsession with wearing hiking boots everywhere (you know, in case a mountain should suddenly spring up in the middle of the machine room).

When I saw Penelope, I thought this is what a hacker chick should be (duh!). And so I changed my own style to be more colorful and edgy and to just have fun with the fact that I ama chick (huh).

When I started at Microsoft, I immediately adopted Gus Weber as my mentor. He wasn’t even on my team or anyone that I was supposed to be working with, but there was no way to miss the awesomeness he was doing for the Boston startup community. And so I did everything I could to ignore my official direction and instead follow in his footsteps. I thought, okay, I’m probably going to be fired for this – but it was so powerful what he was doing, that was more important to me then keeping my job. The entire experience would have been drastically different if I hadn’t decided to take that risk and imitate Gus’s actions, ideals and love for the community.

I am so glad every day that I did because I’m such a different person now and in a totally different place. In fact, for all of them for making me who I am today.

And so now, as I’m wondering what my next “big thing” will be (no pressure, Abbs) – I also wonder who might be next. Am I exposing myself to enough awesome to let me grow or am I getting too comfortable with who and what I know today?

It’s not that I haven’t done a damn amazing job of surrounding myself with awesome (you all know who you are). It’s just that I wonder… maybe there’s someone else out there doing something totally unthinkable to rock my world and flip it on it’s head… I sure hope so. Life is too short to stand still.

What about YOU? Who are you imitating?


14 responses to “Who Are You Imitating?”

  1. Not sure who we’re imitating, but we did want to say that this story is great – personal growth, bit by bit, until we become who we want to be 🙂

  2. Those who inspire us, help us to become ourselves. Abby, you are doing great work in inspiring others, too.

    Who am I inspired by? Warren Buffet, who created a bigger game. Hillary Clinton, who understands that human dignity drives innovation. Karen Armstrong, who has a mission of bringing the Golden Rule back to the forefront of the world’s religions. The Institute of Medicine, who is driving a patient-focused conversation on the evolution of healthcare. All the teachers, mentors, and friends who I have been privileged to know, as well as those who I have yet to meet.

  3. Owen Thomas Avatar
    Owen Thomas

    Hello. Nowhere appears particularly appropriate to ask this question, so here it is: what is your take on anyone (but particularly software developers) who want a regular part-time job as a teleworker/telecommuter?

    If I’m not working as a part-time regular employee who does his work from home, I’m not who I want to be.

  4. “What about YOU? Who are you imitating?” I think many are (or will be) imitating YOU, Abby.

  5. Melanie Perry Avatar
    Melanie Perry

    Great story of your journey!

    Starting work, I wanted to be like the Engineer who got me this job. He has taught me so much over the years. I questioned everything, I researched everything.

    As I got out into the wider design community, I started watching a Manager and Technology Evangelist. They both had a great way with people and could communicate to all levels, tech and non-tech, frontline and c-level.

    I think I have done a good job so far of internalizing these things from my mentors, and so I have also came to the point where I want to ‘own’ my image, rather than try to blend into the background like I always had before.
    (And, my older sister had long advised me “fake it till you make it.” Start doing what you want, pretty soon you will genuinely own it. Just like when I felt like a fraud at first for calling myself a Technical Editor… until, next thing you know, I’m 12 books in and actually really am one!)

    I like Penelope on Criminal Minds and Abs on NCIS, they’re brilliant and bold.
    I’ll never get quite so far from the mainstream, but, I did give up on heels and go back to my Engineer’s boots (but with colorful and sleeveless blouses that I’d avoided before) and I stopped drinking wine at mixers like all the other women and started drinking beer and whiskey because it’s what I actually like.

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