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Male Logic, Female Logic, how it all applies to Tech

09 Mar

It’s been said that part of being smart is knowing what you’re dumb at.  Part of being smart is letting other people know it – but – how do you say this…  There are several ways of solving problems.  I happen to know of several ways on this, and before anyone gets all PC on me on this next bit, hear me out.  There is nothing I admire more than someone who can think their way through a problem to a solution.  I love it if they can explain it – but if they get the answer, awesome.  Now a word used to describe problem solving like this logic.  Many years ago, Bill Cosby did a little schtick on Male Logic and Female Logic – and the way he said it, the male logic was very – well, ‘logical’.  If there was a 10 step process to go through, well, it took a guy 10 steps to go through it.

It went something like this:

Male logic

One… <click>

Two…<click>

Three…<click>

… all the way up to 10.

It was simple, elegant, and – to be honest, some might consider it a little boring…

Female logic

Now female logic, he said, was a lot different – and, as much as people want to think men and women are the same, we’re not – not by a long shot.  He pointed out that giving a female the very same 10 step process, she’d go at it like this:

One…<click>

Fourteen…<click>

10.

How the heck did that happen?

In fact, ladies out there – how do you do that?

See – that 14 is COMPLETELY outside our frame of reference, we don’t think about it – it’s not there.  We can ask you how or why it happens, but explaining to someone the concept of 14 when the numbers only go up to 10 is just baffling to us guys – and the way you relate things together that have you making connections and drawing conclusions that we might not see gives you a stunning edge in some incredible areas.

Call it intuition.  Call it what you will, but and it’s like women have a math coprocessor or something so they can shove a problem over there, let it get solved, and come back in a bit with an answer that even they don’t know how they got.

And often the guy’s on step 3, the gal’s at 10,

In fact, I gave the bulk of this blog post as part of a presentation once and got an astonishing piece of feedback from a woman who had “made it” in the industry.  It came to me sanitized, and I couldn’t tell you who it was if I wanted to, but what you read above was written by a guy, me.  What you’ll read below was written by a gal, is in her words, and she quite literally wished to remain anonymous.

When I ended up in the technology industry, I was usually the first female technical peer any of the guys had worked with, and the first technical female any of the (universally male) managers had tried to manage, and it gets ugly when you’re asked for status and all of the guys are all at steps 2-4 and you’re doing something … completely different.   It’s ugly then, and it’s uglier when, without being able to explain it or teach it … you get at least the same result, faster.  And as you gain confidence, much faster. I still remember being assigned to teach a pretty talented guy who have had all the right experience and skills, how to triage a network sniffer trace.  In my mind it starts with “you scroll quickly through the packets looking for something that’s not quite right” … and I knew the exercise was doomed when I looked at his notebook and he’d neatly written “Step 1.” I knew then I would never be able to explain the concept of not really reading, just relaxing with cup of coffee and scrolling through, knowing that your subconscious will throw up an alert if it sees something that’s “not quite right”. There’s your “skip to #14” bit – I can write or use a parsing app for a network trace, but before I go the effort, I’ll just use my eyes.  Sit back with a cup of coffee and scroll through the trace, looking for patterns that “aren’t quite right”.  I’m not looking closely, I haven’t the slightest notion what I’m looking for, and when something strikes me as “not quite right” it can take me some time to figure out exactly why, but it’s often not the sort of thing I could have ever found using traditional analytics and parsing tools.

I was just thrilled to find this info.  It proved my point, not that men are better or women are better. But that they’re different, and that difference needs to be recognized, acknowledged, even if, as guys, we may not completely understand it.

In fact, please understand – this is not a jab at either gender.  There’s no way I’d say one is right or wrong, they’re just different.   And this whole “14” thing – women seeing/feeling/perceiving relationships intuitively where men might not see them in the same way, I think, honestly, that’s why, while IT is traditionally a male dominated field, that database administration (hint: relational databases…) seems to have a greater percentage of females in it.

So, is there more to the story? Yes, there is.

In a nutshell: just because a guy doesn’t understand the existence of 14 doesn’t mean her 14 isn’t valid.

And just because a gal can’t explain the 14 to a guy doesn’t mean he’s an idiot.

It takes a wise manager to see that the problem-solving skills that employees bring to the technical table, whether 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 or 1-14-10, can actually be quite complimentary.

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7 Comments

Posted by on March 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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7 responses to “Male Logic, Female Logic, how it all applies to Tech

  1. way0utwest

    March 9, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Interesting, and good points. We both bring things, and it’s why diversity is important. It makes us better as a society.

     
    • tomroush

      March 9, 2012 at 12:04 pm

      Thanks Steve – I just had a chat with a coworker as I was helping her set up sql on a box – and we came to the same conclusion. Different doesn’t necessarily mean better or worse, and going in with that attitude can doom someone to failure.

      I mean, there’s a difference between bricks and cement, but you need both to build a wall. It takes time to learn stuff like this, but it’s fascinating what you can do once you actually have that ‘aha’ moment and really learn it.

       
  2. Meredith Ryan

    March 9, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Thank you for a great post. You articulated perfectly something that I have noticed in my own career of being the lone woman on operations teams that I haven’t been able to express myself.

     
    • tomroush

      March 9, 2012 at 12:07 pm

      You’re very welcome Meredith. I’ve seen it too often here where “smart” comes in different flavors. I’m in absolute awe of some of the problem solving skills I’ve seen, even if I don’t understand them. Of course, while I’m sitting there at 3, and a gal’s at 10, it can be a little disconcerting, but that’s where you put the ego down and start working together, and building bigger and better things. That’s often one of the harder parts of all this, but also often one of the more valuable parts. See the note I wrote to Wayoutwest about bricks and mortar. Take care – and thanks for the response.

       
  3. janis

    March 9, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Bingo! I’m a female in IT and have been amazed and yet frustrated at how I can get to the answer or solution BUT yet not be able to explain how I got there. Intuition was my only explanation….

     

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