My confession: I have no passion.

I have been thinking about this word for a while, “passion“. I am often envious when I hear people say that they are really passionate about something; for example, writing or coding or cooking or whatever it may be. I have also used the word passionate many times, and whenever I do that, I sort of feel like a fraud. Am I lying to others and worse, lying to myself?

Let me elaborate a bit more on this. For example, I care about the issue with lack of women in technology and I’d like to do my part to raise awareness and help out where I can. But does it make it enough to claim that I am passionate about gender diversity in technology? It feels even worse when people use the word “passionate” to describe me. “Isabel is so passionate about career development.” “Isabel shows her passion in her writings.

The more I think about passion, the more I realise that it is subjective. Unlike your BMI, there is no standard formula to tell you whether you are truly passionate about something or not. I also realise why I feel a bit uncomfortable whenever I use the word passion or the adjective passionate to describe something I do enjoy doing. 

You see, many people tend to say they are passionate about one particular thing, and one thing only. For example, Mary might say she is passionate about writing and all she wants to do every single day is to write. John might say he is passionate about cooking and that is why he quit his job as an accountant to become a chef. Me? I am not like Mary nor am I like John. I don’t have one particular passion and one that is so strong that I want to pursue that one interest for unforeseeable future. I have a lot of things that I care about and I enjoy doing, but they are often changing from time to time. 

So the truth is, if you are like me, and you don’t feel like you don’t have any passion, then don’t feel bad. I am sure there are many things in your life that you enjoy doing and they describe who you are as a person. Now I would like to share with you what I enjoy doing and things that put a smile on my face. In no particular order:

  • Spending time with my loved ones
  • Being productive
  • Learning new skills
  • Coming up with a great idea or a solution
  • Creating things 

As you can see, they are vague and broad. It would be weird to say “I am passionate about spending time with my loved ones” or “I have a passion for being productive”. There is a saying that “follow your passion and everything will fall into place”. I used to feel like I was going to be stuck at my job forever and be a fairly average person (not that there is anything wrong with being average) because I can’t seem to figure out what that one passion is that I need to follow. And then I panic and worry about my future. 

But I think I am going to be ok. And if you are like me, you will be too. Because in the end, every one of us is unique and different. Even if some of us don’t have any passion or don’t believe that we do, as long as we are doing what we love and we are having more good days than bad ones, having a passion or not doesn’t really matter in the end.  

My main takeaways from Girl Geek Sydney Meetup in Oct 2016 + Atlassian Sydney HQ

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending Girl Geek Sydney Meetup at the Atlassian HQ in Sydney. It was my first time attending a Girl Geek event because well, in the evenings, I have important personal committments, such as making dinner for my daughter, bathing her and putting her to sleep.    
But, there is always a but. I have heard good things about Girl Geek events and being a woman in technology, I know how nice it is to get support from fellow women so I made time yesterday evening to attend.  Besides, as I’m doing more speaking engagements and on the look out for collaboration opportunities this year, I thought I might learn a few things from the event. And I wasn’t disappointed. There were pizza, drinks, inspiring talks and a room full of intelligent women (and a few men) in technology. Now, I’d like to share my main takeaways from the three talks that evening. 

Georgie Luhur – How to let go of the fear of failure and make better goals


Georgie talked about performance goals vs learning goals and that was my main takeaway. I liked that she shared a lot of facts and researches and also shared her personal story that many of us can relate to, getting burnout because we tend to push ourselves too hard in the beginning in order to achieve success that we have in mind. My takeaway was to think about a better version of yourself when you are setting goals and not worry too much about success or failure.  

Sera Prince McGill – Sera’s going on a Job Hunt


Sera is a true character and she took us through her journey of looking for a job that aligns with her values. She was funny and entertaining. My main takeaways were mind map/value map and referrals. She talked about how helpful it was to have a mind map of yourself and referrring to it often as well as tapping into the power of networks and people that you know to support you and keep you going during job hunt. Definitely something that I will think about when I am looking for my next role.  

Leanne Yong – Debunking the myths about following your passion


I really enjoyed Leanne’s talk, she is funny, articulate and clearly very passionate. She talked about her two great loves and how she is following her passion. Her talk and Georgie were somehow related in my opinion. We are sometimes too hard on ourselves and care too much about what other people, the society might say or think. My main takeaways from this talk were that it is ok to take a break, it is ok to feel frustarted sometimes and it is ok to lean into supportive people around you when you’re following your passion.  

All in all, great talks and a great event. We need more meet ups like this and I hope to particpate more in the future. Kudos to the organisers and presenters for their amazing efforts and dedication.    It was an evening well spent for me and it was also a bonus to check out the Atlassian HQ.   

Atlassian Sydney Office

A few people have requested to see photos of the Atlassian Sydney HQ so I’ve added them below. The Atlassian  was the generous host of the October Girl Geek Sydney event. The event was held on Level 6 of the office so my photos are of Level 6 only. Apparently, an Atlassian employee said that it gets better with each level. Perhaps, some robotic stuff?  J/k. 


5 things I wish I knew before I transitioned into a managerial role

I first had the taste of being in a managerial role in 2007-2008 when I took on the role of IT manager/team leader for a medium sized online agency. I lasted at that role for exactly a year and it required a lot of discipline from my end to stick around that long because I didn’t want to seem like a failure by quitting so early. 

I am now in a managerial role again, after almost 10 years. And this time around, I’m happy to report that I’m doing much better and dare I say, enjoying the experience. 

For those transitioning into a people manager role from an individual contributor role, I would like to share my experience and five things I wish I knew back then so you can learn from them and your transition is an easy one. 

1. Trust is important

Being in middle management is sometimes like a filling inside a sandwich. We are in between frontline employees and senior management and therefore need to be able to manage both upwards and downwards. Trust is very important in this role; trust in the senior management’s ability to make sound decisions and trust in the direct reports’ ability to execute things and handle day-to-day operations. When we have trust, we wouldn’t be feeling the constant pressure and carrying weight on our shoulder. Besides, having trust enables us to be more supportive and positive. We need to trust in people and processes and believe that we can achieve great things together. 

2. Effective communication is crucial 

Middle managers are often the bridge between senior management and frontline employees. Therefore, we need to learn to communicate effectively, clearly and convey messages in both directions. Effective communication also means timely and clear communication. When decisions are made, we need to understand rationale behind these decisions and be able to explain them clearly. Clarity and timeliness are important not only in directing others, but also in managing expectations. Knowing an appropriate medium to use, be it email, written report, face-to-face meeting, or phone call, is key in ensuring that there is little to no room for misinterpretation.  

3. Planning is as important as doing

When I was an individual contributor, I took great pleasure in getting things done, and being on the ground to execute tasks. When I first became a manager, I missed that, and I missed that a lot. I felt that if I wasn’t doing any hands-on work, I wasn’t being productive. It took me a while to understand and accept that planning, strategic thinking and making sure other people can deliver and execute on my behalf is equally, if not more, important for a manager. After all, if we are able use the power of more people, more things get done in the end. 

4. There is always room for development

There is a saying that the more you know, the more you know you don’t know. It is very true and quite comforting because learning is my passion and I never want to stop learning and growing. I used to worry that as a manager, I would no longer have up-to-date technical knowledge and become obsolete. However, over time, I’ve come to realise that I am still learning and expanding my knowledge everyday as a manager. And technical knowledge is not the only knowledge we need to make our mark in this world. 

5. It’s ok to fail as long as I learn from my failures

I hate to say I am a perfectionist but many personality tests I have taken thus far have revealed that I am one. As such, I don’t like failures and I want to get things done perfectly the first time. Being a manager means that sometimes, we need to think and make decisions on our feet without much preparation. I was not comfortable with the fact that I could be making wrong decisions or saying wrong things that affect not only myself but also other people. However, I have come to accept that it is ok to make mistakes as long as I learn from my mistakes and do everything in my power to correct them or learn from them. So for example, these days, I make quick decisions with information I have at hand but I am willing to change my decision as I gather more information or stand corrected and not beat myself over it. 

I came across this talk on taking the management leap by a fellow woman in technology, Kristine Howard, where she spoke about how she ended up in a managerial role and what her responsibilities were. I recommend you to check it out because it will give you a great insight into a managerial role in a technology company. 

To those who are looking to become a manager and think they will be good at it, I say more power to you and I wish you all the best. To those who are not sure if they want to become a manager, I say give it a go because you never know until you try and there is really nothing to lose. If you like it, then you’ll be glad that you give it a try. If you don’t like it and go back to being an individual contributor, you’ll have gained an invaluable experience and that’s a win too. And who knows, you might be ready to come back to it again at a later time like I did and enjoy it second time around.