Caroline talks about support for Asian Americans and exciting news at Girls Who Code!
There’s a funny scene in the Netflix comedy series “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” by a character named Titus, played by Tituss Burgess. While preparing for his eagerly awaited five minutes of fame on local TV news, Titus is unaware that the camera is already rolling live, and he is seen and heard doing embarrassing things. Horrified, he yelps out, “I want to start over! I wanna be a baby!” and then falls over and lets out some gas in the process. It’s been almost a whole year since my family watched that episode and we still fall into a fit of giggles recalling that scene.
February snow & ice. Photo credit: Chong Oh.
Does anyone else feel like Titus right now, in that 2021 didn’t quite start off the way you needed it to? I think we all wished that January 1, 2021 would have marked a complete demarcation from everything negative that 2020 brought, and that it would have been the true fresh start we all wanted. Even with some bright spots, including progress with vaccination, COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on our emotional, physical, economic and societal health. Here in the U.S., we are now dealing with the aftermath of the horrifying events that took place at the Capitol last month and the massive power grid failure amidst freezing temperature in Texas. There is definitely a sense that it doesn’t feel like a fresh start, and that we are already behind in terms of all that we wanted 2021 to be.
For those of you feeling like that, I invite you to indeed “start over” whenever you decide you are ready. I’m a big fan of staking a mark at whichever month or day that means something to you, and mentally starting over. Of course, you are still left with the same challenges you were grappling with. But sometimes a mindset shift can bring on a new drive and a new perspective to move forward and begin tackling the hard things you feel blocked by. How about considering the Lunar New Year, which just began last week, as the new start you need? Maybe you can use the beginning of a new season or the beginning of a new quarter. Your birthday is also a great day to make a fresh new start and so is the new school year or a new job! If you want a little motivation for setting and checking in on your goals in February (or another point in time), check out my Linkedin piece, Revisiting (or creating) New Year's Resolutions in February.
I was born in the year of the Ox, which comes around every twelve years, and makes this lunar year MY year. Ha.
Supporting Asian Americans
Speaking of Lunar New Year, I have appreciated that in recent years the Lunar New Year has become more visible and widely embraced as a multicultural holiday in the U.S. My non-Asian friends are now routinely wishing me “Happy Lunar New Year,” and posting photos of beautiful homemade dumpling dinners along with special Lunar New Year stickers and emojis readily available on social platforms. It is lovely to see others accept and appreciate your own culture.
Something I’m hoping will be more widely noticed and that will lead to action is the growing violence against Asian Americans. I do not want to post terrible videos of elderly Asians being beaten, as I know we’ve all seen versions of them. As I watch these images come through on my news feed, I have been trying to bring awareness about what is happening and how to help. And rather than promoting fear or the feeling of being a victim, I am trying to instill some street smarts and safety instincts in my kids, and even more importantly right now, their grandparents.
I know that writing about this issue in my notes is like preaching to the choir as I know that no one reading this is actively causing or enjoying violence on Asian Americans. However, I hope you do consider stepping up your financial and volunteer support for those in the trenches or those who have become victims of racist violence and abuse.
I also hope that you will actively notice and report these crimes by using the STOP AAIP HATE site and gently and firmly guide the children and immature grownups away from cheap, hurtful Asian stereotypes. Every action and inaction matters. Words matter. The former President, who decided to rename COVID-19 the China Virus, is one example of someone who may not be physically hitting someone but is greatly contributing to racism and harm. For some ideas on supporting Asian American communities, consider reading “45 Ways to Donate in Support of Asian Communities” from New York Magazine or watch Trevor Noah and Ronny Chieng on the Daily Show.
On the bright side, something really great happened this month. Girls Who Code, a client organization dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology, announced my former colleague and dear friend Tarika Barrett as its next leader. In April, Reshma Saujani, Girls Who Code’s founder and current CEO, will step off the post and will continue to support the organization from a new perspective as a Board Chair. You can read about the announcement in “Exclusive: Dr. Tarika Barrett To Succeed Reshma Saujani As Girls Who Code CEO” in Forbes.
In recent years, Reshma has been like a superhero who has been able to swoop in and out of tackling the most important issues that face girls, women, and technology. Beyond the scope of technology, Reshma is currently spearheading the Marshall Plan for Moms, which shines a light on the painful realities of moms that are breaking under the pandemic pressure of compounding family and work responsibilities, and demands financial stipend for all moms. I am so curious to see what Reshma’s next moves will be.
Tarika, in my opinion, is among the best kept secret in the field and I cannot wait to see Tarika begin to lead from the front, not just from behind or from the side. I know that she has the vision, knowledge, experience, work ethics, and genuine love of this work to be the very best leader Girls Who Code deserves. As I reflect on Tarika’s growth as a leader and the preparation she is doing to step into the CEO role, I thought it would be fun to share my Clyde Fitch Report profile of Tarika from 2017.
At this moment, I’m also thinking of Tarika’s team at Girls Who Code who did not ask for any change but is having to change themselves with this transition. When your colleagues are in transition, you are also thrown into the ring with them and have to pay attention and make sure you're not being reactive but instead focusing on what’s really important. By doing this, they can bring their very best to help support the change, as well as thrive in the new environment.
Perhaps the scariest role is the person that’s doing the leaving, after pouring so much of herself into creating and building the organization. I shared with Reshma how when I left iMentor, after nearly 13 years, I was feeling all kinds of feelings. In fact, I cried so hard the last day at work, from my morning commute to my evening commute, that I woke up the next morning with swollen eyes and feeling severely dehydrated!
It takes tremendous courage to step away from something that you have built and cared so much about, and inevitably have attached your sense of identity and self-worth to. As I celebrate Tarika and Reshma, I also celebrate the leaders everywhere getting ready to let go of something so they can try and start something different. It’s a start over like Titus wanted, even if they can’t start over as a baby!
I’m also using First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins as a framework to support those that are in their first crucial few months of transitioning into a new role. I generally shy away from recommending the book because it feels a bit disorganized, but I have a book summary I can share if you are interested. If you want to check out either book yourself, please let me know and I will send it to the first two folks who reach out.
Now, go away for real, 2020, so we can welcome something different and new. Haha. Please share what you are planning for the new, new year, and what you are letting go of.