Let’s Stop Making People Feel Stupid.

Let’s Stop Making People Feel Stupid.

Intro here.

There’s been a lot of interest in this talk, which I’m doing in various locations this year (details here). People have asked me to share slides, but I deliberately don’t put much content in my slides – particularly text – because I find it just distracts people from the delivery.

Most of the slides just contained pictures of cats!

So, instead, here are some notes. And a couple of pictures of cats. 🙂

confused-cat-7-im-confus

Making people feel stupid: What does it mean?

  • People listen to what you say
    • They overhear you criticising others. They internalise it.

What’s wrong with me?

  • Maybe you’re quietly judging me already. Maybe you’re thinking, she’s probably not very clever and doesn’t like it when that gets exposed.
  • Maybe you’re right! I often think that about myself. But I have a maths degree, 18 years experience, I’m a tech lead with a major international consultancy, etc
  • I imagined you judging me just now. Maybe you did and maybe you didn’t. But the point is, I imagined that you would. Because I’m so used to people in tech judging each other for being stupid.

My story

  • I’ve always felt there was something wrong with me because I struggle to understand things unless they’re explained in simple concrete terms.
    • And yet I can do complexity.
    • I build complex systems out of simple parts.
      • If anything, my flaw is a tendency to too much complexity
      • …which is why I deliberately try to break things down into simple parts
      • …but I also don’t remember complex terminology – I remember their easier-to-remember counterparts instead.
    • I have missed out on jobs because people were bemused by my apparent lack of expertise
      • I have been told in interviews that I wasn’t competent because I couldn’t respond to the kind of question that requires you to have memorised stuff

The Impact:

Impact on the industry

  • Facts, Figures, Statistics:
    • There will be an estimated 1 million more computing jobs than applicants who can fill them by 2020, projects Code.org, based on estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on job creation and separately, estimates of college graduation rates by the National Science Foundation.
    • Only 11% of employers (US )believe higher education is “very effective” in readying graduates to meet skills needed in their organisations
    • Some 62% (US) said students were unprepared.
    • US: There are more than 500,000 open computing jobs nationwide, but less than 43,000 computer science students graduated into the workforce last year
    • Last year, the White House claimed the federal government alone needed an additional 10,000 IT and cybersecurity professionals.
    • Source, March 28th 2017: https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/talkingtech/2017/03/28/tech-skills-gap-huge-graduates-survey-says/99587888/

Impostor syndrome

  • Hands up if you feel like other people are cleverer / doing things better than you?
    • Somehow they’ve failed to notice my failings
  • I hate – am almost incapable of – playing the game where everything is obfuscated and translated into a language that only the elite can understand.
    • Ironically this means that my impostor syndrome is at least partially based around the fact that I don’t seem capable of doing the things that entrench everybody else’s impostor syndrome
  • I can hit the ground running, but I keep forgetting
    • I have to prove it to myself over and over again

Scenario A: Meeting where people talk jargon & nobody understands

  • Hi, sorry I’m late
  • It’s fine, we were just talking about the ARM processor
  • Ah right, yes of course
    • Shit, ARM, I know I’ve heard of that before. ARM, um…
  • [some stuff I don’t hear cos I’m trying to remember what ARM stands for]
  • Looks guys, I’m so sorry, but I’ve forgotten what ARM stands for?
  • “Articulated retention matriculation”
    • I have NO idea what that is. I’ll work it out as I go along
  • Somebody else: Actually guys, I think we should be considering AMRM at this point
  • Me: AMRM?
  • Reply: Articulated meta-retention matriculation
  • [someone else, not me]
    • That’s a very good point! We definitely need to get meta at this juncture.
    • Oh God, I was only just following this, but now they’ve lost me. Meta? What does meta mean in this context? What does meta mean in any context? It’s one of those terms that always confuses me, I know that much
    • Oh well, I said juncture. I love saying juncture. It’s the perfect word for situations like this.
  • [some stuff that Person2 misses cos they’re worrying about what meta means]
  • Etc

Diversity and Inclusion

  • People want to fit in
    • Two effects:
      • They use jargon to fit in and create a shared identity
      • They feel bad if they feel like an outsider
    • People will leave, or not join in the first place, because they feel excluded
      • This disproportionately affects under-represented groups
    • Stereotype threat: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereotype_threat
      • “…men in STEM subject areas overestimate their own intelligence and credentials, underestimate the abilities of female colleagues, and that as a result, women themselves doubt their abilities — even when evidence says otherwise”
      • Stereotype threat has been shown to reduce the performance of individuals who belong to negatively stereotyped groups. If negative stereotypes are present regarding a specific group, group members are likely to become anxiousabout their performance, which may hinder their ability to perform at their maximum level. Importantly, the individual does not need to subscribe to the stereotype for it to be activated. It is hypothesized that the mechanism through which anxiety (induced by the activation of the stereotype) decreases performance is by depleting working memory (especially the phonological aspects of the working memory system).

Talking in jargon

  • These insecurities cause people to increase the amount of jargon they use
    • They want to prove how clever they are.
    • Their colleagues struggle to understand them, but they pretend they do, to avoid looking stupid…
  • Complex impenetrable language is what people deploy as a kind of force field
  • Weird vicious cycle: everybody obfuscates to protect themselves from potential exposure as somebody who doesn’t fully understand
    • In the process they confuse everybody around them, who in turn become terrified that somebody is going to notice that they don’t fully understand what’s going on, so they join in the game, make everything they say sound complicated, and so the cycle continues.
  • There does come a point where you’ve been immersed in it for long enough that only some of it is confusing, and some of it does make sense.
    • That’s quite a kick!
    • You have to pay your dues to get to that point, and it feels good. You feel special.
    • So you pull the ladder up behind you.
    • You had to go up it, and so should everybody else.
    • You’re in the club now, and you want to savour that.
    • So you join with your new comrades in mocking those who still haven’t arrived.
    • You make no concessions in your language.
    • You’ve learnt what it means! It was hard! Why would you waste all that hard work and abandon your hard-won vocabulary by explaining things in simple terms?
    • Explaining things in simple terms takes twice as long anyway
  • Giving the answer you think people want to hear
    • The hairdresser asked me whether I had straighteners and I answered Yes. Why? Because I felt like it was the “right answer”. I don’t have straighteners. I’m never going to manage this labour-intensive haircut I’ve been given.

Scenario E: When talking jargon feels good

  • I felt all pleased with myself recently when I worked out how to join in with a hangouts conversation by using words like “discoverability” and “distinguishable”. I felt less insecure, and like I was now a proper grownup, a member of the club. But meanwhile there may well be somebody somewhere hearing nothing but “blah blah blah”…

Reasonable reasons

  • Is it sometimes ok?
    • “I can’t spend my whole time teaching people, I need people who can hit the ground running”

Unreasonable reasons

  • Many people project a sheen of knowledge
  • Many limit themselves by seeking to preserve knowledge once they find it.
  • People focus on their own experience – making themselves look good.
    • When they look at someone else they have a different agenda
    • They don’t stop to wonder whether they have ever said anything “stupid” like that themselves – and if they did, WHY?
    • Or they remember it full well and don’t want anyone else to remember, so distract attention by joining in with the attackers
  • We identify the things we CAN remember, then we fetishise them
    • We push them over alternatives
    • Not necessarily because they are better – just because we feel more comfortable there

Definition of competent

  • What really impacts on you and your team?
    • Is it lack of knowledge?
  • What does it actually take to be good at your job?
    • What is the definition of competent?
    • What is the definition of intelligent?
    • “Be curious. Read widely. Try new things. What people call intelligence just boils down to curiosity.” – Aaron Schwartz

People who are not techies are impacted too

  • Examples of support staff, stakeholders, non-technical people… being made to feel stupid

My personal experience – the happy story

  • How I learnt to attack new knowledge outside my comfort zone.
    • The irony is that my career – and my enjoyment of it – has improved dramatically since I started admitting ignorance

First principle questioning

  • Elon Musk – ancient Greek teaching around logic – simplest possible question about most complex problem

 

Why Empathy is so Important

  • “They only care about making themselves look good”
    • This in itself is judgmental
    • Think about how it feels like to be them!
  • You can find yourself alienating others without ever having conscious malicious intentions.
  • Other people know other stuff
    • Two effects:
      • One: when they know stuff you don’t, you feel insecure
      • Two: When you know stuff they don’t, you can get impatient

Conclusions / Advice

  • Maybe you see me as an idealist. Or maybe I’m a pragmatist. Over the years I’ve paid attention to what works in life and what doesn’t. What makes people ill, what doesn’t. These are all practical hints for survival.
  • Does it actually matter how much people know? Industry constantly moving, people forget stuff
  • Some of the most important moments in my career have been the times I’ve realised that my colleagues are also confused.
    • Eternal thanks to those that admitted it
    • People are often scared to admit confusion
    • I often don’t know what I’m doing
  • The range of knowledge in our industry is VERY WIDE
    • Don’t expect other people to know what you know, and vice versa
  • People forget things they once knew
  • If people don’t know enough, WHY is that? What’s deterring them?
  • What would happen if we changed the rules?

confused-cat-10-dafuq

Greek: Don’t Confuse Genitive Definite Articles with Possessive Pronouns

I got confused after using the word “his” to explain the genitive case of the definite article (here).

It’s especially confusing because the possessive pronoun for 3rd person plural (ie “their”), is the same word (“τους”) as the accusative form of the definite article for male plural (here), but NOT the same as the genitive form of the definite article for male plural (which is “των”).

Anyway, just to note that the definite article and the possessive pronoun are often, but not always, the same.

Full explanation here on the DuoLingo forum.

Find the nth term of a Quadratic Sequence (Maths GCSE)

Find the nth term of a Quadratic Sequence (Maths GCSE)

I’m currently helping my 15-yr-old son revise for his maths GCSE, and one topic is “finding the nth term of a quadratic sequence”. I’m an ex high school maths teacher, but I had forgotten how to do this. I couldn’t find decent complex examples on either of my favourite GCSE maths revision sites (Maths Genie and BBC Bitesize), and when you’re doing the more complex examples, a step-by-step guide is really useful.

So I’m placing my notes here in case they’re any use to anyone else.

You’re aiming for a result of an2 + bn + c, but easier examples might have a solution of an2 + b, and even easier ones will just be an2.

Simplest Example (an2):

Find the nth term for the following quadratic sequence: 3, 12, 27, 48, …

First calculate the gaps between the numbers – these are 9, 15 and 21.

Then find the gaps between the gaps – these are 6 and 6. Like this:

nth-term-05

Take that 6 and divide it by 2 (it’s easy to forget to divide by 2!), to get 3. This tells you that your final result will contain the term 3n2.

I’ve already told you that this is a simple example – we’ve reached our solution: 3n2. But you should always check your results:

n 1 2 3 4
n2 1 4 9 16
3n2 3 12 27 48

Yup, that’s our original sequence.

More Complex Example (an2 + b):

Find the nth term for the following quadratic sequence: 1, 10, 25, 46, …

First calculate the gaps between the numbers – these are 9, 15 and 21.

Then find the gaps between the gaps – these are 6 and 6. Like this:

nth-term-04

Take that 6 and divide it by 2 (it’s easy to forget to divide by 2!), to get 3. This tells you that your final result will contain the term 3n2.

Create a grid, which starts with your original sequence. Below that, add whatever rows you need to help you calculate 3n2.

Now, subtract 3nfrom the original sequence. So in the below grid, we subtract the fourth row from the first row, and that gives us a new sequence, which we have placed in the fifth row:

start 1 10 25 46
n 1 2 3 4
n2 1 4 9 16
3n2 3 12 27 48
start minus 3n2 -2 -2 -2 -2

We now have a row of constant numbers. This tells us we can reach a solution. It tells us to add -2 to 3n2, and that will be our solution: 3n2 – 2.

We can easily check this by adding up the fourth and fifth rows, which gives us the first row (the original sequence).

Most Complex Example (an2 + bn + c):

Find the nth term for the following quadratic sequence: -8, 2, 16, 34, …

First calculate the gaps between the numbers – these are 10, 14 and 18.

Then find the gaps between the gaps – these are 4 and 4. Like this:

nth-term-03

Take that 4 and divide it by 2 (it’s easy to forget to divide by 2!), to get 2. This tells you that your final result will contain the term 2n2.

Create a grid, which starts with your original sequence. Below that, add whatever rows you need to help you calculate 2n2.

Now, subtract 2nfrom the original sequence. So in the below grid, we subtract the fourth row from the first row, and that gives us a new sequence, which we have placed in the fifth row:

start -8 2 16 34
n 1 2 3 4
n2 1 4 9 16
2n2 2 8 18 32
start minus 2n2 -10 -6 -2 2

We don’t have a row of constant numbers yet, so we need to keep working. We need to look at the gaps between the numbers in our new sequence (in the bottom row of the table):

nth-term-06

Now we have found a constant difference. This tells us that there will be a 4n in our answer. Note that this is because we have found a linear sequence. Note also that in the case of a linear sequence, we do NOT divide the number by 2.

So now we add some more rows to our grid. First we calculate 4n, and then we calculate 2n+ 4n. Finally we subtract (2n+ 4n) from our original sequence (subtract the 7th row from the first row):

start -8 2 16 34
n 1 2 3 4
n2 1 4 9 16
2n2 2 8 18 32
start minus 2n2 -10 -6 -2 2
4n 4 8 12 16
2n+ 4n 6 16 30 48
start minus (2n+ 4n) -14 -14 -14 -14

We now have a row of constant numbers. This tells us we can reach a solution. It tells us to add -14 to 2n+ 4n, and that will be our solution: 2n+ 4n – 14.

We can easily check this by adding up the seventh and eighth rows, which gives us the first row (the original sequence).

More worked complex examples

nth-term-01

Note that in this next one there is a NEGATIVE difference between the terms of the sequence on row 5. This one can easily catch you out. Rather than thinking of the difference between the numbers, it helps to ask yourself, “how do I get from each term to the next one?” The answer in this case is, “subtract one”. This one can also look a little tricky because it contains fractional numbers, but you just follow the same rules as before:

nth-term-07

Telling the Difference Between a Linear Sequence (an + b) and a Quadratic Sequence (an2 + bn + c).

When we calculate gaps between the numbers in the sequence, if the first level of gaps is constant, this means it is a linear sequence:

nth-term-06

If the second layer of gaps is constant, it is a quadratic sequence:

nth-term-03

Basic Rules of Modern Greek – Some, a, the (Cases, definite articles, indefinite articles)

Basic Rules of Modern Greek – Some, a, the (Cases, definite articles, indefinite articles)

I’ve been learning Greek!

This is one in a series of cheatsheets. Full list here.

THE (NOMINATIVE / SUBJECT)

Singular masculine ο ο άντρας = the man
Plural masculine οι οι άντρες = the men
Singular feminine η η γυναίκα = the woman
Plural feminine οι οι γυναίκες = the women
Singular neuter το το παιδί = the child
Plural neuter τα τα παιδιά = the children

 

CASES

Nominative The Subject of the sentence She
Genitive Possessive His
Accusative The Object of the sentence Him
Vocative Calling someone Calling someone

 

A/AN/ONE

MASCULINE FEMININE NEUTER
NOMINATIVE ένας μία or μια ένα
GENITIVE ενός μίας or μιας ενός
ACCUSATIVE ένα or έναν μία or μια ένα

 

THE – CASES

MASCULINE FEMININE NEUTER
Nominative singular ο άντρας = the man η γυναίκα = the woman το παιδί = the child
Genitive singular του άντρα = of the man της γυναίκας = of the woman του παιδιού = of the child
Accusative singular τον άντρα = the man τη γυναίκα = the woman το παιδί = the child
Vocative singular άντρα = man γυναίκα = woman παιδί = child
Nominative Plural οι άντρες = the men οι γυναίκες = the women τα παιδιά = the children
Genitive plural των αντρών = of the men των γυναικών = of the women των παιδιών= of the children
Accusative Plural τους άντρες = the men τις γυναίκες = the women τα παιδιά = the children
Vocative Plural άντρες=men γυναίκες=women παιδιά = children

 

SOME

MASCULINE FEMININE NEUTER
NOMINATIVE μερικοί μερικές μερικά
GENITIVE μερικών μερικών μερικών
ACCUSATIVE μερικούς μερικές μερικά
VOCATIVE μερικοί μερικές μερικά

 

Basic Rules of Modern Greek – Phrases

Basic Rules of Modern Greek – Phrases

I’ve been learning Greek!

This is one in a series of cheatsheets. Full list here.

PHRASES

Καλημέρα Good Morning
Καληνύχτα / Καλό βράδυ Good night
Καλησπέρα Good evening
Όχι No
Ναι Yes
Ευχαριστώ Thanks / Thank you
Παρακαλώ Please / You are welcome
Λυπάμαι I am sorry
Συγνώμη Sorry / Excuse me
Αντίο Goodbye
Σ’ αγαπώ / Σε αγαπώ I love you
Γεια Hi / Hello
Τι κάνεις; How are you? / What are you doing?
Πόσο κάνει; / Πόσο κοστίζει; How much does it cost?
Εγώ είμαι ο / η ….. I am ….
Εγώ ζω (or μένω) στον / στην / στο …. I live in …..

 

Basic Rules of Modern Greek – I (you, she, etc), My (your, her), am, have (Pronouns and auxiliary verbs, conjugation)

Basic Rules of Modern Greek – I (you, she, etc), My (your, her), am, have (Pronouns and auxiliary verbs, conjugation)

I’ve been learning Greek!

This is one in a series of cheatsheets. Full list here.

PRONOUNS

If “they” refers to a group all males or male and female or its gender composition is unknown, αυτοί is used.

Εγώ I
Εσύ you (singular)
Εσείς you (plural)
Εμείς we
Αυτός he
αυτή she
αυτό it
Αυτοί they (male)
αυτές they (female)
αυτά they (neuter)

TO BE

Important note: the pronoun (Εγώ, εσύ) …is not always needed.

Εγώ είμαι I am
Εσύ είσαι you (singular) are
Εσείς είσαστε you (plural) are (or είστε)
Εμείς είμαστε we are
αυτή είναι she is (or he, or it)
αυτές είναι they (female) are

TO HAVE

Singular Plural
First Person I have – έχω (“echo”) we have – έχουμε, έχομε
Second Person you have – έχεις you have – έχετε
Third Person she has – έχει they (f) have – έχουν, έχουνε

First Conjugation Verbs

Many Greek verbs fall into this same pattern for changing their endings (or conjugating.)

We call this group of verbs the first conjugation verbs.

Here are a few more of them, given, as always, in the first person form:

I see βλέπω
I buy αγοράζω
I drink πίνω
I know ξέρω
I take παίρνω
I give δίνω
I eat τρώω

POSSESSIVE PRONOUNS:

Person Pronoun (own one thing) Pronoun (own many things)
1st person singular (Δικός/Δική/Δικό) μου (Δικοί/Δικές/Δικά) μου
2nd person singular (Δικός/Δική/Δικό) σου (Δικοί/Δικές/Δικά) σου
3rd person singular (masculine) (Δικός/Δική/Δικό) του (Δικοί/Δικές/Δικά) του
3rd person singular (feminine) (Δικός/Δική/Δικό) της (Δικοί/Δικές/Δικά) της
3rd person singular (neuter) (Δικός/Δική/Δικό) του (Δικοί/Δικές/Δικά) του
1st person plural (Δικός/Δική/Δικό) μας (Δικοί/Δικές/Δικά) μας
2nd person plural (Δικός/Δική/Δικό) σας (Δικοί/Δικές/Δικά) σας
3rd person plural (Δικός/Δική/Δικό) τους (Δικοί/Δικές/Δικά) τους
(masc/fem/neuter) (masc/fem/neuter)

EXAMPLES:

Ο άντρας μου=My husband 

Ο δικός μου άντρας= My own husband (emphatic).

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN Δικός, δική, δικό?

Δικός is used if the owned object is of masculine gender: Ο άντρας είναι δικός μου=The man is mine. 

Δικός becomes δικοί when the owned object of masculine gender is in plural. 

So, οι άντρες είναι δικοί μου=the men are mine.

Δική is used if the owned object is of feminine gender: Η γυναίκα είναι δική μου=The woman is mine. 

Δική becomes δικές when the owned object of feminine gender is in plural. 

So, οι γυναίκες είναι δικές μου=the women are mine.

Δικό is used if the owned object is of neuter gender: Το παιδί είναι δικό μου=The kid is mine. 

Δικό becomes δικά when the owned object of neuter gender is in plural. 

So, τα παιδιά είναι δικά μου=the children are mine.

THE DOUBLE ACCENT RULE

When μου,σου,του,της,μας,σας,τους comes after a word that is accented on the antepenult (second syllable from the end e.g. αυτοκίνητο), then it is accented also on the last syllable.

Example: 

το αυτοκίνητό μου=my car 

το ραδιόφωνό της= her radio 

η τσάντα του=his bag (no double accent here because the word τσάντα is not accented on the antepenult!)

Basic Rules of Modern Greek – The Alphabet

Basic Rules of Modern Greek – The Alphabet

I’ve been learning Greek!

This is one in a series of cheatsheets. Full list here.

Alphabet

Α-α Άλφα Alpha A as in Ant
Β-β Βήτα Veeta V as in Vase
Γ-γ Γάμμα (Γάμα) Gama g as in Good, or y as in Yellow
Δ-δ Δέλτα Delta TH as in THe
Ε-ε Εψίλον Epsilon E as in Element
Ζ-ζ Ζήτα Ζeeta Z as in Zoo
Η-η* Ήτα Eeta EE as in sEE
Θ-θ Θήτα theta th as in Thing
Ι-ι* Ιώτα (γιώτα) Iota EE as in sEE
Κ-κ Κάππα (κάπα) Kapa K as in Kitten
Λ-λ Λάμδα Lambda L as in Lemon
Μ-μ Μυ (μι) Mee M as in Mother
Ν-ν Νυ (Νι) Nee N as in North
Ξ-ξ Ξει (Ξι) Ksee X as in foX
Ο-ο* Όμικρον Omicron O as in Organ
Π-π Πει (Πι) Pee P as in Pet
Ρ-ρ Ρω (ρο) Row R as in Rhapsody
Σ-σ/ς* Σίγμα Sigma S as in Sit
Τ-τ Ταυ Taf T as in Table
Υ-υ* Ύψιλον Ypsilon EE as in sEE
Φ-φ Φει (φι) Fee F as in Fun
Χ-χ Χει (Χι) Chee / Hee H as in Hurry
Ψ-ψ ψει (ψι) Psee PS as in liPStick
Ω-ω* Ωμέγα Omega O as in Organ

 

Η-η, Ι-ι and Υ-υ have the same pronunciation (“ee”)

Ο-ο and Ω-ω have the same pronunciation (“o”)

Sigma has 2 types in lower case: Start of or inside word = σ, but end of word = ς

 

Diphthongs

ΑΙ αι sounds like E-ε, or “eh” as in element
ΕΙ ει sounds like Η-η, Ι-ι, Υ-υ or like ee
ΟΙ οι sounds like Η-η, Ι-ι, Υ-υ or like ee
ΥΙ υι sounds like Η-η, Ι-ι, Υ-υ or like ee
ΑΥ αυ sounds like “av” or “af”
ΕΥ ευ sounds like “ev” or “ef”
ΟΥ ου sounds like “u” as in “soup” .

 

Double consonants

ΜΠ μπ sounds like b
ΝΤ ντ sounds like d
ΓΚ γκ sounds like g
ΓΓ γγ sounds like ng
ΤΣ τσ sounds like ts
ΤΖ τζ sounds like tz

 

Accents

Modern Greek has only ONE accent.

It is placed above the accented vowels, like this: ά, έ, ή, ί, ό, ύ, ώ.

The accent goes on one of the three last syllables.

Accents help you give emphasis to the right syllable.

E.g. “βιβλίο” (veevLEEo), ”μιλώ” (meeLO) etc.

 

Punctuation Marks

The Period, or full stop, the comma and the exclamation mark are the same as English.

The Greek question mark looks just like the English semi colon ;