Issue out on the 11th July, 2019. Available at all good newsagents, Airports and Online Via https://www.ymag.com.au/ymag-home-page/subscribe/
I see so many women hate on the word “competition”.
An Aussie woman, Ashleigh Barty, just won the French Open… Do you think she shies away from a little competition? Congrats Ashleigh, while I am here, you are amazing! Pretty sure Ms Barty competed her ass off to win this award!
Our Olympic winners, do you think that they don’t compete? Every day they compete with themselves and their personal best, to be just a little better than before. We celebrate them, and if we don’t, we certainly should.
So that is okay, so maybe it is just when women compete.. what… with each other? That’s what Olympians do also. There is a first, second, third, and all the others. Sometimes the others get a mention, like when they just keep going no matter what, but do we remember them? Nope. But we celebrate the Gold Medallist don’t we?
We join clubs and point systems and rewards than give us “Gold class” versus “Diamond” or “Platinum” levels. Isn’t that a form of competition? Who has the higher level? These systems are designed to make sure we compete to get to that higher, glossier, more “privileged” level, aren’t they? But that seems to be okay. Maybe that is competition with the “corporations” because we believe we are getting more out them than most, or maybe that is a competition with ourselves, to “level up”.
So why don’t we women “compete”, when quite clearly, we do, and we do it well in certain areas?
Is it because we compete against other women, and there is already enough out there telling us that we are too fat, too thin, too blonde, too shy, too prosaic, too plain, too pretty, TOO MUCH? Is it that we are just joining the party and using the “women don’t compete line” to actually drag another women down because she wants to be a winner? Because maybe, we, ourselves, can’t compete, so we perpetuate a myth than means we don’t have to strive, to animate, to be better than yesterday, knowing we will better again tomorrow? What is wrong with wanting to win?
I don’t think that is it, I see plenty of women getting their game on, hustling, entrepreneuring, creating, making, fulfilling, being out there in the world.
I saw an article recently that stated :
“leadership has been a predominantly male arena and as a result, typically “masculine” qualities such as decisiveness, resilience and confidence, have been viewed as paramount.”
Erm, they are paramount and they aren’t “masculine”. It is not a gendered word. I am sick of being “masculine”, “feminine” or some other category that I did not sign up to, but someone else thinks that I must be “this way” because of some daft gendered suggestion. I am not masculine because I am resilient, because I can make decisions, because I am confident.
I am these things because I created myself this way, because I chose it, because I wanted it. And I am a woman, heaven forbid! But I rose through the ranks of the construction industry as a female, and I will be damned if I reduce myself in any of these areas because some article designed to sell something suggests I am and have “masculine characteristics” And if I do, what is the big deal with that?
Women raise the children, predominantly, and this is changing, but it is still mostly true for most families. So when you are raising that child each day making decisions, you aren’t being decisive? Of course you are, whether you see it that way or not. Making bad decisions is not less than decisive, it just means you like learning by experience.
Experiencing breast cancer and over-coming the every day struggle that it is to just keep going, have faith, believe that there is hope and recovery – that is resilience even if you don’t have the energy to say the word.
Being on stage and presenting requires a great deal of confidence and we see women more and more taking that stage. Are they really women because they are confident? Or have they embraced being a man, being “masculine”.
Of course not, the suggestion is ridiculous.
And so is the suggestion that these things are masculine in their intent, context and delivery. I really get sick of women creating this divide and then wondering why they can’t be taken seriously in the world arena. If anything, the suggestion of these traits as masculine or feminine are perpetuating the belief that there is one way to be if you are a man and one way to be if you are a women. And that is simply not true. It also perpetuates the myth that men are less than women because they have these traits, and I think that is a pile of bullshit too.
And that denies the rights of women that have been fought over for years, the ability for our ladies to be in the defence force, fly planes, vote, own property, you know, “manly things”.
The entire concept that confidence is masculine is absurd. Confidence is defined as: full trust; trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing, belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance
Are we still in an era where we don’t want that for our daughters? That our sons aren’t as good as our daughters if they have these traits. When you break that statement down like this, it is entirely ridiculous.
I compete every day. I compete with myself to be better, more intelligent, know more, be greater, achieve higher. I compete in my role because I represent a company and I need to be the best I can be for that role, it is what I am paid to do.
I reject the idea that competition is masculine and has no place in a woman. I reject the mythology that surrounds the “feminine” and the “masculine” and that they are somehow less than or worse than the other.
What I embrace is that we can all, both male, female, and non-gendered, non-binary and nonsensical if that is how you roll, is that we can all have these traits if we choose to. We need to stop vilifying words in the attempt to one up the scale and continue the gender divide. And to sell from a platform that perpetuates this divide.
I embrace my resilience, I am confident enough to say it and I won’t be changing my decisiveness to do so any time soon. Join me if that doesn’t make you afraid of being the best version of you, because that is the competition I am in.
“I’m inspired by people that are marginal. I’m excited by their resilience. ” ―Mira Nair
I did the life coaching qualification thing before Susan became one on “Neighbours”. It was in that moment I stopped calling myself a coach and stopped claiming that as a part of my public skills set. Don’t get me wrong, I have been coaching for 20 years since that qualification and went on to do another one (Performance Coach if you are into labels). I just haven’t “identified” as one.
I am now trying to move away from my 30 years in the construction industry and it has come to my attention, that all that conflict resolution, project planning, team management and mentoring, all uses my coaching skills and I’m doing myself a disservice from ignoring that label. As a woman who also loathes labels and how attached we are to them, this has been a bit of a mental challenge.
You see there are a lot of coaches out there who are…. Well, offering to coach you in order for you to coach someone else. I am qualified to train coaches (that’s how far I went in my quals) but I don’t want to be the super coach at the top of my up-line, coach of the year…
That, along with the promise of a “7 figure income”, is not, as they say, my bag baby. Now, those coaches might be great, I’ve met a few and they are great. They really mean what they say. So if that’s your thing, just make sure they do have their “7 figure income” before you hand over your money!
As for me, I want to offer success. Success in life, career, business. Whatever it looks like to you – SUCCESS! You see for me, money doesn’t equal success. I’ve met a few millionaires. They have lots of money, but success? They aren’t happy, they aren’t fulfilled, they don’t see their family, they can’t afford to take time off… I am sure you’ve heard it all before. For me those things – life, love, laughter – are my measure of success.
So here is my thing.
I have 2 quals as a coach and 20 years of experience. I don’t want to coach any one to coach anyone else. I want success for you. I want you to already have success and want more.
After so many years in construction, having an invisible disability that entire time, and running my own consultancy for 13 years, I want to share my success with others.
I’m an engineer, I deal with facts. I offer facts. But I find that is nowhere near as an attractive marketing strategy like the old “7 figure income” promise.
I want you to sort your income out. You measure the success you want in that area.
I will help you with mindset, resilience, overcoming imposter syndrome, sort out your business systems, support you to get processes in place, set goals, and a variety of other things; either in your career, business or personal life.
Resilience is all of those things I think – the ability to deal with whatever life hands you, has handed you (and sometimes life hands you your ass with a good luck card and then runs away!) and be living a fabulous life loving who you are. After that comes the money on my list of what is important.
I want to support you being the most successful person you can be.
You then go and be fabulous and earn whatever the hell you like. You will be confident, a leader, able to deal with shit. Go make your own money with that attitude and earn whatever you like.
It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership. Nelson Mandela
I was privileged to be invited to the BPW Geelong group to speak at their annual breakfast event, themed “moving On Up”, held at the GMHBA Stadium. It was an incredible view over the grounds as the sun came up. I can admire it because I usually make a point of not being awake when the sun comes up!
The topic was about resilience being your greatest asset and the intro that was given used all of my not-too-insignificant achievement to introduce me. I wanted everyone to know that I had a achieved many amazing things in my life over the last 30 years or so since I started to embrace “adulting”. (I’m still not sure I’ve nailed it 😊). The reason I wanted them to know that is because of how I grew up.
My family home was not… comfortable. As I told the audience, my first memories are off my father belting the living daylights out of my mother. The memories never got better. They got worse. There were various other forms of abuse enacted on her and on her children, myself and my two younger siblings. I moved out of home as soon as could and was working full time to put myself through university when I was diagnosed with a lifetime autoimmune condition called Rheumatoid Arthritis that was going to be my constant companion for the rest of my life. Which was likely to be short due to the aggressive nature of my disease – or so the doctors told me.
So there I was, 19 years old, with a traumatic upbringing that I had not even begun to deal with mentally, with a physical condition that was, by all external accounts, going to make it pointless to strive for anything, studying to be an engineer and with no family, no friends and no support.
How did I get from that to the award-winning, published, confident leader than I am today?
I didn’t know what it was back then, resilience was just a word that I read in books; it had no relevance to me, but that is what I used. Like a muscle, I exercised that thing like I was powerlifting to rival the Terminator’s strength. I was given plenty of opportunities to practice resilience in my life, what with a degenerative and painful (is there a word that is less descriptive of what continuous pain feels like?) condition, and working in the male dominated field of construction, with a history of male and authority figure violence. I know the statistics. I am not supposed to be this women.
But that is exactly why I am this women. The powerful creation of my own making, because I refused the story I was told that was my predictable future. I refused to give up, fade away, self sabotage, be less than, be a good girl, shut up, don’t make waves and definitely don’t be so damn smart. FUCK THAT. Let me say that again. FUCK THAT SHIT.
I refuse to be less than everything I can be, because history, statistics, my disease and some people tell me that I am not supposed to be here, capable, strong, powerful, a leader, whole. I am not supposed to be comfortable with what I’ve been through and I am not supposed to be able to hold my own on a stage, a platform, a crowd, leading a project, or even in dealing with life and my disability.
It took so much for me to learn to forgive, to move on, to rise above, to be better than the story of my life. I changed the story. I will continue to write my own story and inspire other women, via the stage, via my writing, via being the best I can be and improving every day where I can.
Resilience – it is the best accessory a person can have. I carry it with me always.
Becky has 20 years’ experience in engineering and construction and has been a qualified Project Manager for over five years and a qualified performance coach for over 10 years. She has been involved in public speaking since one of her managers put her in front of 600 men and told her she had 20 minutes to teach them how to do their job properly. Becky is known for her use of humor to challenge status quo thinking and offering alternative views for consideration. She is motivated to pass on her lessons learned to assist and educate the next generation of leaders to become high achievers like herself.
Mentoring is about other people. Genuinely, honestly, and completely. There should be no self interest in a true mentor.
There is always secondary gain to being of service to people, but it should be exactly that – secondary to the people you work with, otherwise you are a manager, or a dictator, not a mentor. And dictators need not apply.
Mentoring takes a special set of skills that can’t be taught in a classroom, although I am sure that a degree in Mentoring is not far away, if not already in place somewhere.
The skills that make for a good mentor are included in the following list. Perhaps not all, but certainly more than one of these skills apply if you want to be a good, or even great, mentor.
The skills that make for a good mentor are included in the following list. Perhaps not all, but certainly more than one of these skills apply if you want to be a good, or even great, mentor.
Experience – a broad range of skills and abilities in many areas that you can vary and apply to each set of circumstances. You don’t use the same process every time you are faced with a challenge. You have tried and tested many ways of solving problems during the course of your own career.
Problem solver – see above. You enjoy a challenge and see it as a goal to overcome the problem, in fact see it as an opportunity. You don’t complain about how hard it is, you just get to it and get it sorted.
Giving – you enjoy offering your skills and services to others and don’t seek reward. You like reward, don’t get me wrong, but it is not the first thing you think of when you observe a situation that you can assist with, improve, solve or add value to.
Communication – a very tricky one. The biggest downfall of most peoples’ communication is talking to others in the language they use, not the language the other party uses. This causes failure, confusion, and misinterpretation which can sometimes lead to disastrous results. An example might assist. If you are building a high tech facility, do you use emoticons to demonstrate the outcomes you want or do you use technical language? This might be a slightly exaggerated example, but it offers the point that the delivery must be understood by the person receiving the information, not simply to show how many big words (or emoticons) the person making the delivery has access to
I can offer you a blue sky concept that encapsulates a paradigm shift via a panel based approach
I can offer you an alternative solution that will engage all your team members and encourage maximum participation and uptake of the concept.
Who would you choose from those two statements? And yet they offer a similar meaning.
To be Continued in the next blog on 10 Jan 2019 …
A New Year Story
I am passionate about writing. I have passion for what I write. I am passionate about the messages that are exchanged when communication occurs e.g. I write, you read! I am passionate about assisting people with improving their lives; their outlooks; their mindset. As a coach, I am passionate about people.
So why is this article so hard to write? Because I am also passionate about many other things. Sometimes I just get really passionate about sleep. Mainly because as an insomniac, I don’t get much!
If you haven’t been under a rock lately, you will no doubt have heard, read and seen all the various ways in which you can be passionate, have passion, get more passion, find a new passion, on so on!
Do we really need to be passionate ALL the time? Do we need to live every second as passionately as we can? As a young women, my answer was absolutely yes! I had been diagnosed with a chronic illness that saw me not likely to make it to old age. I dived into life, I got hobbies, I went travelling, threw myself out of planes, flew helicopters and did everything I could with passion and zeal, enthusiasm and vigour. Now I have reached the age I was told I’d never make (40 for anyone who is curious) I am a bit tired!
I still have passion; after all I am writing this article during the Christmas holiday period which is generally when we all get full of the spirit(s) of the festive season, not so much passion. You might be passionate about spending time with your family, but at this time of year, it is traditional that we all give passion a rest in exchange for parties!
It takes passion to be motivated to do something we don’t really want to do. Or we do want to do, but in our time, not to deadlines! So, how have I found the passion to write this article?
Now that I am a little older, I can see that passion is tiring. It can be exhausting to try and feel passion for something, everything, all the time. So I give myself a break from being passionate every now and then. I distract myself with some cheesy movies, or a great fiction; something that takes me away from the life I live, and puts me into another pair of shoes for a short time. Once I have had a vacation from myself in this way, I can take a deep breath and dive right back into that passion pool.
Sometimes I check out altogether, turn of the social media, the computer, the phone and just sit still – you might call it meditation. I just STOP. It has taken me a long time to forgive my all too human body for letting me down and being tired or unable to perform. It has taken a long time to convince myself, she who must squeeze all she can out of life before its too late; that it is okay to have a minute; an hour; a day; or even a week, where I do not achieve something, educate myself or be of service to the community in some way.
It’s okay to take a break from passion and being passionate. To sustain any kind of intense emotion takes energy. In this busy world, with the expectation on women to “have it all”, we can all feel guilty for not being there yet. We can be our own worst enemy for not achieving something according the goals, the rules, and the deadlines we set, or have set for us.
But how about, as we start another new year, filled with opportunities, excitement, growth and passion, we take a moment to remind ourselves that we are not machines, we are not robots; we are in fact simply human. We need our downtime. We need to have some silence or solace in order to gather our thoughts, file our facts and figures, to re-assess and regroup before the next round of passionate achievements.
And that is how I have written this article. By taking a break. By not worrying too much about the deadline. By taking a deep breath and realizing what I want to achieve this year. When I did that, I realized that I want to reach more women, I want to assist all of us to be easier on ourselves and manage our expectations for success along with our health – mental and physical.
And writing this article is a part of that passion that I have to ensure that every woman, no matter what they are going through; no matter what they wish to achieve this year and for their future; has an ally, a good friend, that says – it’s okay to just breathe. You are still a passionate creature. You have the ability to tap into that source of passion at any time you want. Just reconnect with why it is you want what you want; and remember why it is you do what you do.
And if in realizing that you are not passionate about something, make it okay to change your mind and be passionate about something else.
Passion is flexible and changeable. It is not fixed. It is movable. It is the creative flow that assists, along with some motivation, to move you towards your destiny, your goals, your desires. So I hope you all enjoyed your festive season as much as possible. I also hope that you have something that you can reconnect with and be passionate about this year. I know I do and I am excited and passionate about what 2019 has for all of us.
Passionate New Year to you all.
The framework of project management applied to the practice of writing, the use of a professional tool in your creative works
The Key Principles
Project Management in Australia is based
on the PMBoK (TM) and uses the following
framework to achieve an outcome or
• Stakeholder Management
What is your book about?
Must be pretty cheap to make a book these days, every is doing it.
I reckon I’ve got a book in me…
Why, for what audience, by when and for how much are you producing this book? How do you determine what is client satisfaction – the project complete?
For your plot, how do you summarise what you need to have happen and the step along the way according to the following considerations:
• Length of Story – both in words and in story timeline
The cost of editing, publishing, marketing, illustrating,
writing, printing, selling, appearing, talking,
promoting, and otherwise begging for anyone to buy
your book now it’s complete…
The cost of writing to your life:
• Imposter Syndrome
• Mental Health
The cost in your plotting, why the conflict occurs and
who it affects most, what is the payoff at the end?
When do you find time to write?
Must be nice to have all that time to just sit and write.
I’d love to write a book but I would never have the time. Routine is over rated, but kind of helpful in getting the habit of writing practiced and actually finishing a project. Or a novel.
In your pantsing, how can you keep your writing to the point and focussed on the outcome, not getting sideline by subplots, other ideas that look shiny, new book concepts, marketing, social media, people…
What could possibly go wrong? Consider things like keeping two copies of your work and saving regularly and backing up your work. Have a agreements in writing with people who are “supporting” you – editors, publishers, book-sellers, cover artist… Try to make sure that when you publish your book, it remains YOUR book. Read the fine print.
When you are plotting and pantsing, this is all of the reasons we write, we love what we do and the bit that makes it worth while to write, when we ask of our characters… What could go wrong?
All of the other things you have to write for…
• Social media
• Hashtag everything
• Speeches, press releases, and readings OH MY!
Plus writers photos and inspo backgrounds and time. Do we know anyone who has stock in time? In order to save money, or spend money, or both. The experts you need to assist in the polish of your writing aren’t taking exposure bucks for payment either. While still writing, what else does your MC need to achieve the scope? What risks will they take to obtain it and how will that affect the timeline of the story?
What team do you need around you and what skills are they offering? What are your weaknesses and can you find someone with a complimentary set to help you meet your scope and schedule and just keep writing? Did you even know the other skills you are supposed to have when you decided to be a writer? Surprise!
Does your MC have the skills to pay the bills? How has their life contributed to the skills set they suddenly need in order to achieve the scope, is that the point of the story or is that subordinate to the plot? Is it the character development they need and who will assist them? How will they procure this help, pay for it, and what will it do to the schedule?
What you wanted to create versus what you actually created. Where did you go in your journey as a writer and will you use it next time to make you a better writer (continuous improvement) ? How much did you invest (time, money, etc) versus the reward, personally or financially, or both, that you and others received from this experience? Are your readers responding to this?
Are your characters and your plot, your outcomes and your delivery what the scope was originally? How did it change the story and did it make it better? How far from the plan did you go?
Juggling family, career, study, learning, work, expectations, appointments, life, writing, marketing, begging for sales… Rinse, repeat… The writer is also a stakeholder in this mix and sometimes, you just get to pick one or maybe two of the framework categories to focus on today. And let tomorrow take care of itself. At least you have a plan to come back to. Or sort of. Maybe. Lets check the schedule…
As you MC finishes their journey through the maze, the plot twists and the resolves all the risks, who else is changed by this adventure? How will this benefit those around the MC? And will they make it through the editing process?
The sales pitch. How do we sell ourselves, our products, our wares, our words, when we have spent so much time nurturing them and protecting them from risk. What do we say when asked “what is that book you’re writing about again?”
The very word needed and the bloody thesaurus just won’t work properly enough for you to find it and you’ve just lost 2 hours to time and space vortex or alphabet soup. And did you get that social medial blog post website update new blurb written yet?
When all is over and the arc is resolved, did the MC and cast carry out the vision, the mission and achieve the scope. Did they gain the rewards and complete the project in full? And most of all, did they satisfy the client requirements? Are you happy with what you wrote, and are your readers?
And They All Lived Happily Ever After
Breaks the process of creating a book into manageable portions and separate from the process of writing the book. Help build categories of knowledge for use and re-use as you produce more work. Gives you a different angle to examine writer’s block and other associated writers’ problems. You can discard any category if not relevant to the outcomes at any time, or re-instate it.
Gives you an overall pathway to finalising aspects of your novel and a new way of looking a your writing once complete to see if you have left any key details out of your world building. And your world domination plans.
Provides a reference point to where you wanted your journey to take you, even if you didn’t follow it, you can still see how far you made it.
It’s a weird one right? Who would think that working on a film set would have anything to do with construction. The tie in is via my Project Manager qualification and the cross over into this world from a position of observation.
(see journey to cover girl blog)
However, I also enjoy experiencing new ideas and being able to see alternative ways of doing, how other careers work, and I like to learn new things. When I found out there were children involved, I was sold on the idea. To be a safety manager is an important job, one I take seriously. The entire premise is to make sure people are safe and stay safe, and once you add children, and a new learning experience, it was a pretty easy choice.
Except they forgot to mention the early starts! The long hours. The disarray that comes from working with a new team should have been something I had thought of based on my own experiences building skilled teams, but nope. Foolish mortal!
I realised early that it really was so similar to project management in the construction industry, that I spent some time thinking about how the various roles matched my experience. It was good fun, and kept me focused on those 14 hour days when I saw both sunrise and sunset. So here goes, a breakdown of the film crew through the eyes of a construction guru…
First you have the Producer. They are the client in my world, the ones who put up the money. Our producer was also intimately involved in the film behind the scenes organising, dealing with problems and making sure everyone got fed. I can say not most clients in my work would do that, but it was awesome to have a chance to connect with the person who was responsible for making such a project happen.
Then there is the Director. It is his vision, his script, his concepts the rest of us were tasked to bring to life. So he is similar to the Design Manager on a project. Creating the vision, the layout, the goals, the ideas from scratch and expecting the construction team to bring it to life. Make it so!
The Assistant Film Director and the Production Coordinator are the next two people who come to mind. They are the project management team, the project leads in my world. Keeping the Director focused, on time and ensuring the here-and-now outcomes, acting the liaison between the rest of the team and the vision, they are integral to the success of leading the team through the creation process.
The cinematographer is the Construction Manager. Using a camera instead of a white board, but nonetheless responsible for interpreting the Director’s vision, he uses his lens, carefully selecting the correct one, at the right height, angle and aperture, in order to capture the creation. In much the same way that the Construction Manager will ensure the right people and activities occur according to the schedule, he alters the concept from idea to reality.
Then you have the gripping crew. I struggled at first to place them, but they are the highly skilled operators. Working in close conjunction and consultation with the cinematographer, they use their experience, judgement and precision plant and equipment to create the very effect that the cinematographer needs, the Director desires, in order to make the vision accurate and highlight the beauty of the creation unfolding. Machine operators are not often viewed as being specialists by those in senior management, nor seen as creators. Without them nothing can happen, nothing works quite as it should, and very little can get accomplished. In both worlds.
The film cast are the project team. It might seem weird that they are seemingly not important to the overall scheme but they are critical. They are the doers, the people who get the job done while the vision unfolds around them. Following the instructions from a multitude of management, they are the people who act out the collective creation from all that have been mentioned before.
There was an amazing crew of interns who I would call middle management. The support, the help, the organisers and the runners of the film world, just as they are in the construction industry. Our interns were from a local highschool and they have such bright futures ahead of them from the dedication I saw. Their teacher was also an incredibly helpful support to them and the film crew on the day. You could call him one of the project sponsors.
And then there is the art department. Procurement in my world, they obtain the things necessary to assist the vision. The art, the backgrounds, the props, the costumes, they are the procurement specialist, without them, you run the risk of getting the wrong pipe. Or the wrong prop to complete the analogy. They can make old sheds looks like a mystery world, garages looks like a cavern of treasures and planets look like they were plucked from the sky.
I almost forgot about the sound department! Which is understandable, because we mostly take the effect of background – bird calls, machinery hum, wind – for granted… Until it is not there. They are the unseen support crew, something like the surveyors in a project team. They are just there, doing the work, checking the measures, and without them something just doesn’t feel right. It was ironic, or perhaps simply poetic, that the sound crew were some of the quietest members of the set. But so important to the overall finish and polish of the creation. Just like the surveyors of the construction world, without the sound team, you risk the final product not being quite right.
And if anyone is wondering if I struggled with not being in charge, the answer is yes, I did. After managing multi-million (think $500 Million average) projects and being the overseer, it was a real problem for me to keep out of the way. But I did. After all safety works best when noone realises they are doing their job, but everyone gets to go home.
And that’s a wrap.
The year of Cyclone Tracey in Darwin, and a year that Brisbane experienced extreme floods, I was born in Perth, Australia. For a long time in my life it seemed that axis of bad luck overshadowed me. This week I am the cover girl for the second anniversary release of a women’s empowerment magazine, “the thinking woman’s”, magazine as it markets itself. YMag. It’s been a process.
I never had much belief that other people would see me in this way. I had a long journey through self-worth, confidence and I required a massive amount of resilience to overcome the circumstances of my early childhood to gracing a front page of anything!
I’ve worked in the construction industry for about 30 years now and that is a tough gig. Not because I am a woman, although that provides a few challenges to some of the men, but because it is a harsh industry. Extreme conditions, tight deadlines, limited budget and long hours. I feel like I’ve worked three jobs for my whole life – it is usually 13 hour days, it can be 7 days a week, and it is relentless. Buildings, roads, rail, your water supply – these things don’t happen by magic, they happen because of the sweat, the effort, and the talents of many people. I am one of those people.
It took me years to see that my ability to solve problems, manage and encourage people, understand legislation and interpret technical data are incredible talents. It took me forever to acknowledge to myself that I was not just good at what I do, I’m great at it. You don’t get positive feedback in the construction industry. Or, as one boss put it when I was seeking some form of input as to my capabilities, if you are still working, if you are employed and not told to “get out” you are doing your job well enough. And that’s the extent of the positive feedback.
Times are changing, slowly and somewhat reluctantly, but that idea that if you still have a job you are doing okay, still pervades the industry. It is why I am a respected project manager, because I re!ember all the things I struggled with, and I make sure my team doesn’t. I communicate, engage and provide positive feedback. Because I never had it and I would have been even more motivated to work harder. If that was possible, because I am an all-or- nothing kind of person already.
There is no fence-sitting for me. I make decisions decisively, which is an attribute that has flowed over into my personal life. In fact I project manage my own life just as much, if not better, than I manage my construction projects. The skills I fought so hard to learn in my career have been invaluable in my personal life and have caused me to be determined, to never give up, to just make it work, and to not waste time on regret, chagrin, beating myself up over errors or waste emotions on things I cannot change.
It has caused me to win awards, to be recognised as delivering quality, to be known as something who just gets things done. I never let anyone see how alone, how solitary and how disconnected I was from the view of others. That imposter syndrome that no matter what feedback I did get, it was highly unlikely to me that it was true.
It is only since taking on mentoring females in the industry about 15 years ago now, seeing this support and knowledge I can provide to them, their reliance on my input and relief that there is someone who gets it, who has been there, who can reassure them that they “got this” that I realise that I didn’t have that. There was no one, as I developed my career, who could provide that for me, because there were no other women around who had been there and done what I had. There were so few of us in the industry at my level, that we didn’t even know of each other, let alone support each other. It is dark and lonely in the oubliette. This relates to trades as well an engineer’s and project managers.
It is changing now and so many more women are making their mark in such brilliant ways, but not 30 years ago. It is why I do what I do, because I experienced what it took to make it through that journey. The Labyrinth of self respect, self regard and self worth. But it wasn’t until I had this experience reflected back at me through coaching and me tiring others, that I understood just how tough, how remarkable, how resilient, how confident I had to be in order to get to where I did. So it was time to own it. To stop seeking validation externally and start providing it internally. I never knew how confident I actually was until I started showing someone else how to be confident.
So when the chance to really showcase myself was presented, I took it. I didn’t doubt, or worry about what others would think, about whether I was the right type of person, or even if anyone else would get it. I just did it. Like I have my entire career, I just backed myself and leapt. I held onto my self-worth and my self-belief and said to my imposter syndrome – you have no power over me. I said yes. Yes to showing the world that I have come from a land so distant to me now it’s just a fairy tale of my childhood, through hardships untold and dangers unnumbered, I have powered my way to this cover girl, to take my place on the cover of this powerful magazine. For my will is as strong as it ever was, and my abilities greater than I could ever see while I was developing them.
It is another milestone, another achievement, one that I am very proud of, but I won’t be stopping any time soon. There are more adventures to be had. Join me if you dare to realise your greatness too.
The idea of resilience is like experience – you only get it right after you need it!
I believe we can practice resilience, make it an art, flex it like a muscle, grow it from an idea into reality. Practice.
Like anything, practice takes time. A small part each day allocated to focusing on being resilient, just like you might be focused on what you eat, what you are doing, what you are planning. We take time out to focus on goals, to say affirmations; it is not such a reach that you might spend a similar portion of time to focus on resilience.
How to build it in practice? Take something that is annoying you and break it down. Why, who, what? Get honest with yourself and your reactions. Are they a result of the action that was taken, or the person who undertook the action? Are your emotions mixed because it reminded you of something in your past, or because your beliefs were challenged? Are you affronted or are you annoyed? Getting really clear on what has challenged you can then allow you to explore the why of it – why has it gotten under your skin?
Do you need to speak up and let the other person know of the result of their actions, or do you need to take responsibility for your reaction and clean up your own thoughts? Do you need to let it go because it is allowing another person to control who you are being in that moment?
An example of this is the classic road rage scenario. Someone cut you off while driving to work. You are focused, already thinking about the day and then suddenly you are confronted by rude behaviour which snaps you out of your thoughts, your focus on your life. How rude! How dare they? Who do they think they are? All of a sudden we are focused on them and what they did, and we are allowing it to impact our day. We might carry that annoyance into the workplace, creating a ripple effect of crankiness that is passed around like a plate of stale donuts at morning tea time. We might snap at our employees because we are cranky at what happened on the way to work and haven’t yet let it go. We might decide to answer the phone with less than our smiling voice and pass it onto the customer we are supposed to assist.
Or, we might decide to practice resilience and let it go. Release the anger and not allow another person’s actions to impact who we are, and who we are being in that moment. We might say a few choice words about their behaviour and then forget about them. Let the impact of their intrusion into your day become meaningless and irrelevant to the big picture of your life. We might laugh and feel superior and think that we are better than them as a careful and considerate driver. We might choose to get back to focussing on our lives and the outcomes we are striving for and forget about the rude person who briefly crossed our awareness.
We might do this as a daily practice and call it resilience training. We might find other examples, the rude customer service person (who may have also had some road rage that morning!), the abrupt waitperson, the screaming child, the mumbling co-worker… Where else can you practice the letting go of the things?
Because, once you start practising, paying attention and being present with the art of resilience, you might find many things that you can let go. You might also find more time in your day to focus on positive things once you are not consumed with the negative.
You might discover you have a great deal of resilience to apply to the life you are living after all!
Then, when something big hits your life, an illness, a family member affected, a career change unsought, a crisis of large proportions; we might just find we have time enough and the resilience that we have been practising, is no longer just practice, but very real.
“it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back, so shake him off’
Florence and the Machine – Lyrics from “Shake It Off”
We have a name for it now. That feeling of inadequacy and the doom that shrouds us when we consider ourselves, particularly in comparison to others, when we allow the not-good-enough to rule our minds and emotions.
I have been active participant in a dance with imposter syndrome ever since I can remember. My father made a point of sharing his displeasure that I had been born a girl. He often expressed that with more than his voice; fists were involved. Fortunately for me I was of the type that used the physical pain to overcome and fight against. The fight was only in my mind for many years until I developed the words to “shake him off”.
My mother was not a role-model for me, many years of domestic violence had whittled away at her for so long she didn’t know who she was. Even if there was a space for her in the world he created; her husband, my father, was far too controlling to allow any form of self-expression.
In my professional life, I chose the difficult path of engineering and construction. I didn’t really choose it, not back then. Back then it was a suitable use of my skills and the fastest way to a high paying long-term career – in my mind – escape! What I didn’t realise, that at no point was this industry going to make my dance with imposter syndrome smooth, more coordinated, elegant. It made it worse. And I still didn’t know what it was, just that I didn’t fit… anywhere.
I was in an industry that (back then) was much more resistant to females in the ‘power roles’ – admin and HR were perfectly fine – but engineer, leader? I was one of 10 women in my university course of over 600. I had some wonderful men who didn’t see my gender as an issue, they went out of there way to acknowledge that as I was bright, determined, and logically smart, I could make it. They supported and trained and mentored me before mentoring was even on the radar as a powerful tool. Since then I have become my own mentor, failing to find anyone who could fulfil that role for me during the early professional years of my life.
Fast forward through sever and on-going chronic illness, the final death of my father and my mother coming to live with me, and the many numerous projects and construction experiences I have had and it is only now, coming out of my thirties, that I feel I am now the lead in this convoluted dance. I chose when and how to turn, I choose the steps and the path. The imposter syndrome is now subdued, my pet almost, something that lifts it head for attention but does not insist any more than I dance to the tune of its making. I check in with it every now and then, because I also do not want to become its opposite – an ego monster, one so enamoured of itself that it becomes as consuming as the imposter syndrome once was. But it is now a tool, a function, one I have embraced and integrated into my life, rather than forced out. I stopped giving it permission.
The voice that tells me I have come so far from that scared, frightened, shy and subdued young lady is now a roar that echoes through the lives I have affected, showing the world and its propensity for shutting down the shine, that I am here and I am an incredible survivor, a high achiever, and I am not stopping any time soon.
I hope that your journey with imposter syndrome can be turned on its head and that you too can see the light that shines within you. I made it, I know you can too.
“pretty pretty please, don’t you ever ever feel, like you’re less than f###ing perfect”
P!nk – Lyrics from Perfect
Becky Paroz doesn’t fit in. She has worked for nearly 30 years in the construction industry, taking names and making one for herself. She loves her workboots, colours her hair purple and speaks loudly with a strong and confident voice. Bek makes her place in the world, she has never waited for a space to open for her Moving beyond mentoring within industry for the last 10 years, Becky is now seeking her tribe to connect within and would love to hear from any fellow mavericks and nonconformists out there at any of her social media spots which you can find on her website www.wordsofbek.com.au
If you would like to talk to Bek about her mentoring please fill in the form below:
I was to have travelled to India to speak at the Women’s Economic Forum (WEF) 2019. It is a conference where women (and men) come together to exchange ideas in the hope that sharing experience, knowledge and networks can support economic and personal growth for women around the world. It is a global network and approximately 200 women were expected to attend. I was to be one of them.
Combined with that, I was one of the group chosen to speak with a charity run by the Australian delegate supporting this forum, the wonderful @Shar_Moore These wonderful young women had come from all kinds of backgrounds and were facing the possibility of studying to become doctors and engineers and I was looking forward to sharing my story with them and the myriad of possibilities that lay before them.
I was due to travel on the 9th April with the rest of the amazing delegation from Australia. I was in the hairdressers on the 2nd April getting prepped and pimped by the amazing Dana from @beautifyhairdesign
I had received my intravenous medication for my Rheumatoid Arthritis not a week earlier and it was full systems ready, set, GO for the big trip. Plus I was also booked to see the Taj Mahal – stopover for one night after the conference and before the meeting at Project RANi . Except something wasn’t right. Except, I was determined to overcome it, nothing was going to stop me. Turns out surgery did stop me. I was in hospital that night by 8pm representing with a blood pressure reading that was scaring people more than my pain levels, and the pain levels were through the roof. Turns out my gall bladder was filled with balls (technically called gall stones)– so full in fact one had popped out and was lodged in a pipe somewhere. Once that was determined, I was then prepped for emergency surgery. The nurses were very pleased that I had my hair and nails done for the visit and paid me a great deal of compliments. I love nurses. They do a great job in pretty extreme circumstances, and a bit of humour makes a bleak place just that bit lighter. So I always try and make jokes with the nurses so we can both laugh at our shared circumstances. There is no need to abuse the people who are making you as comfortable as you can be in, what are also pretty rotten circumstances for at least one of you #writethatdown I digress, because I am still devastated that I couldn’t go. One of the doctors was pretty nasty about it. I finally received the emergency surgery on Thursday 4 th April. I was maybe starting to accept that it might not perhaps be smart, to maybe consider, that perhaps, it was a possibility, I could not go to India… It certainly wasn’t acceptance at that point. So this particular doctor, on her rounds, with an audience, thought she would demonstrate her incredibly poor, very bad manners, terrible bedside skills, and clearly acknowledging my humanity, that despite making it all that way through what had to a have been a tough journey to obtain her skills
(dubious as I am about them); instead of being respectful of another powerful women, she dug another kind of scalpel under my skin and asked (and yes, the voice matched the attitude) “So, you still going to India?” Now I get that I couldn’t go. I get that it would have been risky and dangerous and quite potentially life-threatening if I got worse and not better. But that was MY acceptance to come to. In my own time, which admittedly, was a short window by this stage. Not her story to mock, to sneer, to spit upon. And it was mocking. It was nasty, nastily delivered, while I was drugged to my eye-balls, vulnerably lying with some tubes still sticking out of me, less than 12 hours after my surgery finished and dealing with my grief at not being able to deliver some (hopefully) supporting and powerful messages to women who might benefit from hearing what I have to say.
And so she sliced. I have several words I have used to describe her that I will not print here. I may make a formal complaint. I may move on from it without doing so. I haven’t yet decided because I am more focused on myself than I am on the slings and scalpels of others. I am more concerned with getting better and continuing my missions to support other women, to lift up those that I can reach, than I am spending time worried about some nasty piece of work having a dig ‘cause thinks I am some privileged women complaining about her holiday plans – or whatever story she told herself to make it okay for her to be such a terrible person in that moment. I get she might not even be a terrible person generally speaking. But she was in that moment a woman who didn’t just drag a woman down, she kicked her while she was in down and in pain. That’s just plain old ordinary average run-of-the-mill nasty. It happens everywhere, every day, to lots of people. And some of them aren’t as willing, or empowered, or confident, or even aware enough to know that you don’t have to be affected, and you certainly don’t have to take on the nasty acts of others. You can move beyond it.
You see, I know where my privilege comes from – I earnt it. I grew up in poverty, in a domestic violence situation where there was never enough money for food but always enough money for drugs and alcohol. I paid my own way through university by getting a low paid “cadetship” (another word for cheap labour) role in my chosen industry. AU$3.33 an hour to be precise. And was paid in minute- long increments, none of this rounding up thank you! If he said I started at 7:36am and I wrote on my timesheet 7:35am, guess what? I didn’t get paid for that minute. Yep, that really happened and yep, I really put up with it. I was 17 years old. It was my first job out of an environment where I was raised to never question what I was told. I had no skills to negotiate or even begin to understand what my rights were. I just needed to work and earn money to get out of the situation I was in, so worked my ass off, I did. His office was also in his own house that he showered and lived in. There were other blokes working there too. I never knew how weird this was until I told people this story and they looked at me like “WHAT??!” That is just one example and it’s the first in my career of 28 years since then and counting. I’ve earned my money, my job titles, my qualifications, my knowledge, and my position, as well as the ability to share how I managed to overcome my circumstances and actually be a success.
During this time I have been working on accepting this really (badword) news about India, one of the ladies I have mentored has written a beautiful message in a guest blog discussing how I have inspired her life in the time we have known each other, and shared skills that have changed her possibilities. Her opportunities.
Another approach was random, completely unexpected, asking me to be a brand ambassador for beyondBeanie insta tag @beyondbeanie
One of the founders is in design and architecture and supports Arthritis Foundation as a volunteer. The sales of the hand-made beanies and other products available support women, artists and children in Bolivia, most of them from rural areas and/or disadvantaged communities. Talk about aligning with my values! I was privileged to be asked and am organising that as I write this. (Watch this space for official announcements – but you heard it here first and hope that this does make a difference and create opportunities for the community.)
I am the guest speaker for an event in Melbourne in the middle of May (tickets available ) and if you can attend, I would love for you to come and introduce yourself. It is the 15th year the BPW Geelong group has been around for and I will be at their Moving On Up Breakfast, which is designed to encourage people to strive to ‘Move on Up’ in their lives and careers. The topic is one of my favourites – Resilience. Your Greatest Asset. It kind of coincides with the theme of my life! There have been more than a few other wonderful moments during this recovery time, where the women in my circle gave back to me at a really low moment. And so, I grieved for my loss, and then I got on with it. I am back at my desk sorting plans and making progress on other things, like writing this blog. Like supporting other women. Like applying for a book award (because you never know if you don’t try!). Like finding other ways to contribute to women through on-line communities while I am in recovery and supposedly “resting”.
I don’t do resting well, although I have had to learn, rapidly. Surgery is not arthritis, and frankly give me arthritis any day over major surgery again. It is always relative, what we can learn to live with, isn’t it?
So onwards, upwards, outwards and over it – as long as you’re using it, you’re not losing it. And that goes for my attitude as well as my bendy-not-so-bendy joints.