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Fearlessness in the Workplace

How Bungee Jumping Made Me Stronger at Work

Being fearless is the mantra of my life. I believe it has been the key to my success and happiness in life, especially as a woman in tech. I want to take you through a specific event in my life where I had to gather my courage to be fearless and why I think it has made me a better person and more successful.

The Bungee Swing

Bungee jumping had been on my bucket list for a long time. I discovered that I could do a bungee swing when on a trip to New Zealand.

I tried to convince family members to do it with me. No one would do it with me, so I resigned to doing the zipline instead. My mom even signed up for it! I love her for being fearless herself that day. She was terrified, but still did it, and ended up loving it! Even so, I still longed for the bungee swing.

But, just before our zipline tour started, I followed my heart and went to check out the bungee swing. I thought:

When am I going to have this chance again? I have to do it.

I knew already when we were going to “check it out” that I was going to do it. I could feel the excitement, apprehension, and courage coming together to create an intense focus that would get me past my fear.

This is the view from the platform you swing from. The platform in the picture is the one the bungee cord is attached to and they pull you up onto it after the swing. This photo is from: http://www.bungy.co.nz/the-ledge/the-ledge-swing

Once I paid, I was truly committed to do this. I knew at that point I would not back out. To get ready for the bungee swing I needed to walk to the bungee jump platform, where I was strapped into a serious harness. This was the first time the fear started bubbling. I asked multiple times if all the straps were secure and how many ropes I would be attached to (The answer is two by the way). I reminded myself of my goal and focused on what I was doing.

Next I went to the swing platform. The bungee cord is attached to the bungee platform and pulled across to the swing platform. The other rope is attached to the swing platform and allows you to hang about five feet below the platform in preparation for the swing.

This photo is not me. But is how I felt at the pin pull moment. The red cord in her hand is attached to the cord you pull to trigger the fall. I unfortunately did not pay the extra 50 dollars on top of the 150 to the swing for the photos. This photo is from: http://www.bungy.co.nz/the-ledge/the-ledge-swing

Now might be a good time to mention I don’t like heights. I was not enjoying just sitting out there with nothing below me!

To trigger the fall I had to pull out a pin! I didn't know this prior to the jump! This is when I was fearless. If I wanted to do this. I had to do it for myself. So I gathered all the courage I had and pulled the pin!

My heart stopped! This was terrifying!

For some reason I thought it should feel like a big swing and I would always feel tension on the rope. NOPE!

This is a picture of me, taken by my husband from the ledge I swang from.

The first few feet are completely free fall due to the slack in the bungee line. This I have to say is terrifying and I screamed! Once there was tension and I started to swing, the scream of terror turned into a scream a joy!

The swinging was amazing, the view was amazing. It was completely freeing and I got the biggest adrenaline rush of my life.

To this day I am so proud of myself for being fearless on that jump. I felt the confidence in myself grow a bit that day. I knew I could push myself to do something I was terrified of. I have used that knowledge to continue to push myself to do things I was terrified of, especially in the workplace.

Me after bungy and zipline. I was full of adrenaline!

Everyday Life

I work in tech. I often walk into rooms that are 80–90% men. Early in my career this was intimidating. I really had to push myself to be fearless and speak up in those meetings. Today I don't notice the diversity or lack of it in meetings I am in. I go in with confidence and speak when I need to.

I draw on that strength to be fearless when I am in meetings with senior leaders. Just because they have a bigger job title than myself, doesn't mean my ideas and insights don't add value. To voice my ideas, I have to quell my fears, remind myself that I am smart, and my ideas are valuable. To me this is being fearless.

When I see organizational inefficiencies that could be improved, I need to be fearless to suggest ideas to change it, get feedback on the idea, and collaborate with others to make the changes happen. (More about that here)

I have to be fearless when I give an employee difficult feedback. It is much easier for me in the moment to gloss over the feedback or not give it at all. To be a good coach I need to bring it up in a compassionate and empathetic but direct way so that the person can grow.

Every time I go to a networking event I have to fearlessly walk up to people I don't know and start talking to them. This took a lot of practice to get used to doing. Again it was scary, but I knew it was the right thing to do for my career. I have been rewarded with an amazing network of people I respect and enjoy hanging out with.

The more you do things that scare you the easier it gets. But you have to keep pushing yourself to do them. I recently read an article, by Jeff Haden, about things successful people never do. The article is a great read and I felt number nine “They’re never afraid to do the things that matter” was particularly relevant.

Me teaching the girls of CAGIS to code using scratch!

Women and Girls in Tech

I have always supported women and girls in tech. However, it wasn't until three years ago that I became vocal about it. At that time I went through a hard experience where I had been marginalized at my job because I was a women. Once I got out of that situation and regained my confidence I realized I needed to do something about it.

The bungee jump also taught me that I could do things I was really afraid of. I learned I could and should push myself to do the right thing, even if I was terrified.

In the past I had been scared to offend my employers, that they would dismiss my comments around being a woman in tech, that it would hurt my career. I decided that all these things may still happen, but if I stayed silent nothing would change and that wasn’t ok.

I decided to be fearless about this too. That didn't mean being reckless and calling out people who had wronged me. I don't think that is a productive way to effect change. The approach I have taken is to focus on the positive things that companies, the tech community, and I can do to improve the situation for women in tech. I have done this by:

Me at the TAM (Think About Math) conference for grade 9 girls run by the University of Waterloo.
  1. Attending events to get young girls engaged in tech.
  2. Being a mentor to women who are in tech.
  3. Championing a women in tech peer-2-peer group.
  4. Volunteering for organizations like CAGIS (Canadian Association of Girls in Science)
  5. Getting the company I work for involved in women in tech events.

Fearlessness can be learned!

Being fearless is about evaluating the risks and consequences of your actions or inaction. It is about pushing yourself to do the things you feel are right for you, your family, your team, your company, your city, your country, or your world.

Be fearless!

Share your stories how you were fearless in the comments below or on twitter tagging @Dinah_Davis #BeFearless.

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