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Self-Care, Hero Journeys & Risk Assessment

Nitya Narasimhan
PhD & Polyglot / Senior Cloud Advocate @Microsoft / I love mobile, web and visual storytelling / Be fearless, learn continuously!
・3 min read

This is the first post in a multi-part series about the Write/Speak/Code conference, what I learnt from attending it in 2019, and why I think it's important for us to support these events.

It's 11pm on Monday and I am still reminiscing about Write/Speak/Code. The people I met, the talks I attended, and the skills I was able to develop or improve in that compressed time frame. According to their website

Write/Speak/Code’s core curriculum is designed to help you break down mental blockers, identify and own your expertise, and build a toolkit and body of work around technical blog writing, conference speaking, and open source coding

But this year they had a fourth track dedicated to Growth, featuring sessions that dealt with tackling challenges and opportunities for personal and professional growth. Topics ranged from salary negotiations and toxic workplaces to parental leave and personal health and safety.

In this post, I wanted to share three talks that made an impression on me for various reasons.

The Hero's Journey (Alex Qin)

Alex Qin is someone who has inspired me for years, from when I first met her it a C4Q (Coalition For Queens) event to hearing her share her journey in tech at various developer conferences. But this was my first time in the room as she delivered one of the most emotionally-charged talks I've heard live.

It reinforced the saying that appearances can be deceptive. Under her successful exterior was hidden a world of trauma and unhealed wounds that drove her to harmful and addictive behaviors. Her hero's journey was one of slow healing, deliberate dismantling of various "personas" she had acquired, and hacking her brain to change her beliefs and behaviors with intention.

This was a deeply moving talk for me, that I have still not recovered from. I hope she records a version. It is something we would all do well to hear and learn from. My biggest takeaway was this: healing takes time. give yourself that time and space to heal before you seek to help others.
Slides | Live-Tweets

Why We Worry About All The Wrong Things (Hilary Stohs-Krause)

You might know Hilary Stohs-Krause as the designer of the famous Ada & Dorothy & Mary & Grace .. t-shirt that raise awareness of the major contributions made by women to tech.

But in this talk, she dived with cheerful aplomb into a subject that has always fascinated me: Fear. Why do humans fear things, and how does fear in turn drive us to making decisions that harm us or fill us with regret?

Her talk started off asking where fear and anxiety come from, and how the science behind them can help explain our responses but also craft strategies to overcome them. At the core was a simple takeaway: Human's risk assessment processes are outdated, having been built for primitive environments. If we are to live happier lives without being ruled by fear and anxiety, we must educate ourselves, be intentional about changes, and be willing to accept best-effort progress over a quest for perfection.


Self-Care: Refactor Life, Revitalize Community (Nitya Narasimhan)

Last but not least, was my talk. This is part humble-brag -- it was a memorable talk because the topic is close to my heart and this was my first Write/Speak/Code conference. But it's also part contextual-relevances.

What knits these three talks is a common thread on human frailty and the amazing ability for humans to overcome established habits or responses through intentional learning, doing and sharing.

Alex shared a deeply personal journey in self-care, while Hilary provided a strategic approach to hacking your fears. My talk was somewhere in the middle. I see stress and self-esteem as a destructive cycle. Breaking the cycle requires strategies to control sources of stress, cope with responses (when you can't control them) and comfort yourself to boost self-esteem.

Slides | Live-Tweets

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