Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cross-Cultural Communication Challenges Faced by Women in Computing

Communication skills are very important. I can't stress that enough. I recently graduated with a master's degree and have been looking for a job for several months now and I've seen it: employers want you to have communications skills. If you are very smart but you can't communicate or get along with others, you are of no use to them.

In my opinion, you can read about communication all you want but it still won't be the same as actually putting it into practice. What I recommend is, whenever you can, do presentations, network, write blogs or e-mails or articles... even if you don't want to. That's why I decided to become External Affairs Executive of CU-WISE. I did it because I was an introvert and I wasn't a great communicator. Not to mention I never liked speaking to someone for the first time. It drained me. But after 2 years in that role, here I am writing blogs, speaking at high schools, networking at conferences, and promoting CU-WISE everywhere I go. By the way, a great way to socialize is to wear something goofy (like a funny hat), to be a photographer (approaching people by taking their pictures), or carry something funny (like the duckies in the picture). The CU-WISE executives approached her just because of those silly things!

My notes on this session don't give the panelists justice because I couldn't always keep up with typing what they were saying. They did spend a fair bit of time speaking about different kinds of communication norms in different kinds of cultures. That is definitely something to watch out for. I remember I met a young Iranian lady through CU-WISE and she told me about a concern she had. She asked me why the males in her classes didn't take her seriously. She was in engineering. I asked her to explain because I never felt that way in my undergrad. She told me that when she asks a guy a question about a course, let's say about a formula or something, he always ends up laughing or joking and never answers the question. I thought about it and asked her to explain exactly how she asks these questions. She was a very kind young lady with a very low voice so I thought that maybe she just didn't speak loud enough. In the end I found out that it was in her culture to not look a man in the eyes while speaking with him and to many people here that could show anywhere from lack of confidence to disrespect. I personally feel uncomfortable when someone doesn't look me in the eyes when they are speaking to me. I would assume that they just don't respect me or the conversation we are having.

So I would like to close by reminding you all again to practice, practice, and practice! Does anyone have any comments or suggestions about this topic? About the notes?

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