A little while ago I sent out the following;

There were many thoughts behind that message and a bit of a personal story (and telling off) which needed expanding on.

I've never been good at prioritising myself over other people or things. I've got a personality type where I like to help where I can, and when you're like that you often forget to focus on yourself. This causes one of the biggest challenges. The time that is taken up when you're off helping other people limits the time you can spend on yourself.

For the past couple of years, I've written over and over again that I need to take a step back and almost re-design and re-engineer myself. I knew I had a problem that needed to be fixed and I most definitely knew that the problem was me and that putting it off wouldn't fix anything.

So, at the beginning of the year I pledged to myself that things would change. Over the past 4 months I've invested more in my personal health than ever before. I'm reaping the benefits. I'm fitter, stronger and healthier than I've been in 13 years*.

The investment that I've made in myself is both a time and financial investment. I dedicate at least an hour per day for personal fitness, I've rewired the way my brain thinks about what I eat and invested about £200/month over the past 4 months. I've cut back on the silliest of things I used to spend money on to help me on the journey I'm taking to become healthier.

The benefits and results from doing so aren't just physical, they're also psychological. Investing in myself has given me time to think, time to learn and most importantly time to become healthier than I ever have been in the past 13 years.

The next steps are to invest in learning again, for too long I've put this off because "I didn't have the time...", which is a brilliant excuse for just not doing it. I've figured that it is down to being afraid of not being able to learn. It's madness, true madness. To get through it, I sat and watched my two little girls who can pick up an object without having seen it before and start figuring it out in a matter of minutes, they don't know what it's like to be afraid and I'm now happy to follow in a 3yr olds footsteps.

Investing in your education doesn't and shouldn't stop at school or university. Our industry is so vast that there's so much to constantly learn even in our respective fields. Over the past few years there have been so many places that have popped up that you can do your learning, whether it's reading a book or online at places like udemy, treehouse, codecademy or skillshare, there's a plethora of places to go.

Try It

By picking any of the things above you'll start on your own journey, whether you want to learn something new or become healthier in body and mind, you can and will if you just start.

Start small, work towards something and enjoy the ride.

*I'm currently writing up a new article describing the changes and how things have changed which will be with you shortly.

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One year ago

I lived in Charlotte, North Carolina for two years.

Like many cities with a high number of corporate headquarters, Charlotte has seen a massive number of newcomers flocking towards jobs and opportunities. Add to that some fairly decent weather, affordably-priced housing, and a feel-good-family-friendly nature, and it’s pretty obvious why folks from all over the country (and the world) have decided to make Charlotte their home.

For the first year that I lived there, there was this notion of the elusive “Native Charlottean” — people who were born, raised, and still living in Charlotte. Indeed, with the booming influx of non-Charlotteans moving into the city, finding one who didn’t come from somewhere else was like finding a needle in a haystack. My friends and I used to joke that if and when we found one, it’d be like winning the lottery.

At the beginning of my second year in Charlotte, I joined the Charlotte Shapers, a group of younger adults (20–30 years old) invested in improving the city. Within our eight-person team, we had not one, not two, but three native Charlotteans. As we worked together, I met their friends (many of whom were also native Charlotteans — imagine that!). And I discovered that there were actually hundreds of these hypothetical needles: you just needed to know a few and the rest would follow.

It’s with this experience that I can’t help but laugh at hiring managers in the Bay Area who claim that women and underrepresented minorities are so hard to find.

“No one is applying,” they say. “The pipeline is empty. Those unicorns* don’t exist.”

My friends, the pipeline isn’t the problem. If it were, then the gender breakdowns at major tech companies would be closer to proportionally matching the number of women graduating with CS degrees.

This problem is a recognizing that there’s more to the haystack than a proverbial needle problem.

So here’s your homework: find one. Find one needle/unicorn/Brigadoon/whatever you’re calling them these days, get to know them (yes, it helps to be genuine and interested in more than just networking for networking’s sake), and discover the hidden (but definitely existent!) network of untapped talent.

Don’t know anyone?

Hi! My name is Raquel. I’m a software engineer. Oh, yes, I also happen to be a woman of Hispanic origin. Want me to introduce you to my friends? Just ask.

* the needles of the animal kingdom, obviously