Connecting with the Past, Speaking to the Future


UCLA Anderson EDGE

I’m someone that puts everything on my Google calendar, and several times a week, I’ll take a look at the weeks ahead to see what is coming up. I like to look at the ‘one week’ view, and as I was coming up to last week, I realized I had two things I was very excited about. The first was a months in planning lunch with two former bosses and mentors (not former mentors, still mentors) from my old company. The second was a panel discussion in which I was going to serve as the moderator – perhaps the first time I’ve been in that ‘official’ capacity.

The lunch had first been discussed in February, and after several times of moving it due to schedules, the stars finally aligned. Though it’s been over two years since I left Northrop, we got right in to discussing the business I’ve been building the past year, as well as more general conversation about women in leadership positions, trends in the aerospace industry, and of course, some personal things about what we each had been up to.

One topic that was brought up, which I had never heard by a specific name, is microinequities – behaviors, gestures, tones, etc that end up marginalizing someone, often based on race or gender. This isn’t a new idea – it was actually coined 40 years ago by Economist Mary Rowe when she was working for the Chancellor and President at MIT. They are little things – who is acknowledged in a discussion, who is first addressed, who is expected to take notes in a meeting – that add up over time.  I then came across an article in a weekly newsletter I receive about microagression and management, and the way that small behaviors from those in charge can be very detrimental to individuals and progress of the team.

We also discussed the plateau (and in some cases decrease) of women in technical fields, especially the ‘harder’ fields like electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and physics. As I’ve written about before, I think part of this can be attributed to the tendency of women to needing to be 100% sure before speaking up or volunteering information – and in more complex subjects, you won’t always be right, so women hold themselves back. During lunch, we talked about the fact that group norms and behaviors in a group that is predominantly men will be more ‘male’ behaviors, and until the percent of women in the group exceeds something like 30%, it will be difficult for them to break in and change the behaviors.

The second special event of the week was when I got to moderate a panel on Coworking spaces, accelerators/incubators, and the Los Angeles startup community at NextSpace @ AmplifyLA as part of theUCLA Anderson EDGE program. It is a four week business boot camp for upperclassmen and recent college graduates, and there are two people special to me taking part in it – my sister Brittany Haby and my friend Summers McKay, who is the Program Director. We had a great panel that made the moderator job pretty simple – they answered many questions without needing a prompt, and built on one another’s points very well.

A fun part about moderating a panel that I hadn’t appreciated was the learning that I would experience as part of the discussion. When you are helping to guide conversation you have to really pay attention to what is being said, and part of the fun is the unanticipated things that come out. Some of the major lessons for me were:

• There is great value in building and being part of a community – you won’t want to go back to working on your laptop on your couch at home once you’ve experienced a coworking environment.
• Surround yourself with those who have a similar mindset. Coworking, accelerators, incubators, meet-up groups all help to do this for you.
• If you don’t know how to get an ‘in’, you can always work for free (which works great for those building companies as well), but also realize the value you bring, and be strong in asking for what you deserve
• And finally, as was stated in the poster on the wall behind us, sometimes you need to “Just ‘Get Sh*t Done’!”

And as I reflect on what these two events last week had in common – I was able to connect with and build on some of my relationships from the past, while sharing with and teaching things to the future. A pretty good week.

About Tamra Johnson

I’m an entrepreneur and a recent MBA graduate from UCLA Anderson. I have 10 years of experience in IT Management and Systems Engineering. I love learning, helping others, exploring the world around me, running at the beach, going to concerts, and visiting family and friends. I grew up in Helotes, Texas, went to undergrad in Cambridge, MA, and now live in Venice, CA.
This entry was posted in Ambition, Business, Engineering, Entrepreneur, Flexible, Leadership, Networks, Startup, Technology and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Connecting with the Past, Speaking to the Future

  1. Crystal Skolaut says:

    Great article! Thanks


    There is a road from the eye to heart that does not go through the intellect. Gilbert K. Chesterton

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