I noticed a lot of sad people this morning on Twitter.

Recently I have intentionally been distancing myself from all technical events, including KubeCon. My reasons are my own, and are mostly related to burnout and being hurt from toxic marketing departments taking advantage of me.

Regardless of my experience, seeing people I love and care about hurting makes me sad. So I wanted to write a few things honestly about my experience with public speaking in tech.


Things I have been rejected for

Google

Google will NOT hire me. Period. I can’t even tell you how many times I have interviewed at that company. I finally gave up and stopped interviewing a few years ago.

Yes. I can reverse a binary tree on a white board. I have done it live about a dozen times.

University and High school

Hi. Hello. I never have graduated anything. I have never worn one of those hats. I have never been given a piece of paper by a person.

I technically completed high school, but what I would call an “illegitimate” way that probably has more to do with being a white dude at the time than anything. I was never able to graduate, or get a proper diploma. I had moved out of my parents house during my final year.

I was rejected from almost every university I applied to.

When I finally did get accepted I had to fund it myself, and ultimately failed.

Twilio

Yes. I am a Senior Principal Software Engineer at Twilio now.

Kris,

     Thank you for your time talking with the team last week. 
     
     Unfortunately we have decided...

However, I have hundreds of these in my inbox.

In fact, when I lived in Denver ~5 years ago I applied for a small company as an SRE. The company was SendGrid, and they originally rejected me.

Yes. This would be the same company that was later bought my Twilio.

Yes. This is now the BU at the company I just signed a job offer from.

Yes. It took over 5 years.

Yes. I will be working with the same people who rejected me in the past.

AWS

Yes. I did get an offer from AWS recently.

No. It did not make me happy.

I was leveled fairly low for non-technical reasons. This was hard because I very much did not focus on this part of the interview. When interviewers asked me interpersonal questions I did my best to give short answers and move past them quickly. I wanted to have more time for the technical questions we never got around to.

Other companies

  • Salesforce rejected me in January
  • Datadog stopped calling me back
  • My experience at Apple was laughable
  • I used to apply to Facebook every 12 months - and was rejected every time
  • Pintrist turned me down the first month after my transition
  • My first startup went bankrupt

I know there are countless others I am forgetting.

I am a Terrible Public Speaker

This one is going to be hard to write, but I will be honest here.

I fucking hate what public speaking did to me.

  • The audience can be obnoxious
  • Event organizers can be pushy
  • Most events are only interested in marketing agendas and making money, and that hurt me
  • I was bad at doing my “homework” before I go on stage
  • I stopped drinking last year, but I was drinking during 99% of my public events just to deal with the anxiety

The truth is that the majority of time I was a diversity metric.

It became a problem for me.

I had to turn down events.

“Oh we need a queer woman on the lineup so we dont get Twitter shamed, we better call Nóva”

I recognized the value in this, and like the ruthless pirate wench that I am I took from the events everything I could get and left them with nothing.

Argh. Avast ye tech bros.

I spent about 2 years speaking at the events that didn’t respect me. I would do panels, D&I sessions, and would accept the talks that blatantly only included me because I was a minority.

Then I would do my best to put together a good session and hopefully people would remember me.

I’ll be honest - I have even sucked dick that later helped me get ahead in my speaking career.

I am very good at putting on makeup to make myself look glamorous. However, at the end of the day I am a horrible smelly pirate wench.

Mountains

I have turned back, and failed at so many stupid mountains I have tried to climb.

It’s just part of the game. Some days you aren’t feeling it.

I have fallen.

I broke my hand.

I have been lost.

I have been lazy.

I have just been plain ol' incapable.

This has happened MANY times. Many fucking times. Like – MANY – times. I have failed 3 alpine adventures already in 2021.

Rejection fucking sucks for everyone

Have you ever had to tell somebody no? It’s fucking hard. Like – REALLY – hard.

Especially when you don’t want to do it, or when you are bound by constraints out of your control.

Major respect to everyone who has to deal with rejection, both as a leader, and as someone who gets rejected.

I have been on both sides - and it equally sucks - and we can all share that together.

The only thing worse than having to reject someone - is the feeling you get after you do it - especially if you can tell they are hurt or angry.

It’s just a shitty situation - and we can all be upset with the situation together.

I am not going to tell you it will be okay

I will not tell you that you need to “pick yourself up”. Or that “it’s all going to be okay”.

I am going to tell you that we live in a shitty world were we don’t normalize rejection and that everyone feels it.

You are not alone.

Not only does rejection fucking suck, but we live in a world that shames rejection.

It’s just a shitty situation piled on top of another shitty situation.

And that my friends - fucking sucks.

I love you

I can promise it won’t suck forever.

You are doing great.

I am proud of you.

  • Nóva