Hiya folks! Jackie here at Altair with a little bit of a personal blog post this go around. Sorry in advance, it will be a bit of a long one. But a lot of you may not know me. Bryan and the team didn’t know who I was either before I randomly DM’d Bryan, which was something completely out of character for me if I’m going to be 100% honest, after seeing his tweet saying that he was serious about building Altair. Part of the experiences that make me who I am is being a bisexual Korean-American woman that grew up primarily in the Southeast in a conservative military family.
As an Asian women in tech for a little over a decade, I’ve gotten used to being spoken over, ignored, and disregarded. So when Bryan politely told me he’d reach back out to me when they got to a point where they’d need someone in the position I was angling for I knew I’d need to be a little loud to get his attention.
For some clarity: I am not putting Bryan down here whatsoever. I saw the tweets and the overwhelming responses he was getting. I can only imagine what his DMs were like. I commended him at the time for getting back to me with a well-meaning response considering we had never even spoken or interacted with each other before that point. I’ve learned since then that Bryan will and has taken the time to speak with anyone. (Within normal boundaries of course - remember he’s only human and can’t physically speak with literally every single person ever).
To get a little bit back on track, I decided to create an 8ish long page document detailing parts of what I envision Altair could be and sent it to him later that week. That started the process of him talking with the other members of the team that were currently on board and the rest is history as they say. But what pushed me to that point? What made me feel comfortable enough to do something that was out of character?
At the time I was stuck at a job that was terrible for my health in all aspects but particularly my mental health. I had been shuffled between departments, had promises made to me that weren’t honored, and to be frank I wasn’t appreciated. It wasn’t until I put in my two weeks notice in back in August the CEO (whom I have worked with previously on projects) was willing to show me how much I was valued and worth to the company (which was apparently a significant amount more than I could have ever anticipated considering our previous interactions).
I am someone that takes a lot of pride in the work they do and in the 6 years at my previous company I was chipped away to a shell of who I was because I learned quickly that taking the time to create work I was proud of was not valued. I initially spoke up and tried to make changes but I learned that it was easier to just…be quiet. Do my work, keep my head down, and just attempt to survive until the next day.
All of that to say, if I had been reaching out to Cody (our wonderful CTO) instead of Bryan I probably would not have stepped out of my comfort zone despite the current conditions of my workplace because my interactions with white men in power have been less than stellar experiences overall - insert Schmidt’s “A white man?! No!” meme here. But, I gave Altair a chance because I saw an Asian man that has been in the tech industry as well that may share a fraction of the experiences I’ve had. That decision is something that I consider to be a turning point in my life. A point for the better.
My Altair Experiences
However, the past 15 months at Altair haven’t been perfect. We’re a startup and I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of a start up being smooth in the beginning. There’s a lot of chaos to laying the foundations down. Our team hasn’t always agreed on decisions, and there is the friction of attempting to solve problems from multiple different perspectives. I laugh about it a lot but for example, Cody and I are radically different in our approaches and he’s usually the one that gives me that push back when we’re working through things. We’ve obviously had very different life experiences that have shaped and molded our decision making process. Luckily those differences have led us to creating some really wonderful solutions in my opinion.
But when we’re in the weeds making decisions, noodling on features, and working together to make this future home for folks, and when I’ve needed to go back to confirm with the team that “Hey, what I decided on is good, right?” they have validated me each time. My decisions have been respected in each situation. Or a counter argument to make the decision better has been brought up but in a manner that wasn’t dismissive of the original idea but to enhance it. The bar is on the ground with this but I can’t remember when a decision that I’ve made in the past wasn’t eventually overruled and/or almost changed entirely because of someone else despite my expertise and work on the original decision.
All of that to say, there have been times I’ve still held back in some situations that have made me uncomfortable in more of a personal sense. Was this because I doubted our team could take my feedback in a manner that wasn’t dismissive or felt unsafe doing so? To be honest…a little bit. But that fear did not come from my previous experiences with them but how I’ve been treated in my life up to this point prior to joining the team.
Altair Going Forward for Me
For a long time, I needed Altair to be bright and shiny and good in my life. It was like the light at the end of the Chesapeake Tunnel when I was a kid that I thought we’d never reach because I thought the tunnel would go on forever. But I finally made it out on the other side, and I’ve started having these harder conversations with the team.
I’m still unlearning the instinctive fear and distrust that my team will let me down so why bother bringing things up. It’s getting easier for myself though because they have shown me, and continue to show me, that my feelings and feedback are valid. They’ve recognized what actions of their own have contributed to the situations, apologized, and their actions going forward have matched their apologies.
While our best intentions do not always mean the impact of our actions will be purely good, I believe that we as a collective can enable Altair to make an impactful change for the better in our industry. We’re not perfect people, and we’re not a perfect company. My experiences do not speak for everyone, and neither will yours. We’re not monoliths for our communities. But if you’re ever interested in joining our team, expanding our scope of experiences, and have your reservations, please feel free to reach out to me via Twitter DMs (@nahitschaos - this is open to message requests) or Discord DMs (Jackie#0007 - this is limited to shared server spaces).
I know I can be a bit wordy but if you need a quick summary: Altair isn’t perfect. But despite not feeling 100% comfortable I gave it a chance because of the Asian CEO that could potentially relate to some of my experiences. And I’m really thankful I did because when I’ve brought up feedback to the team they’ve been receptive to it. They’ve validated my concerns, apologized for what they caused me to feel, and adjusted their actions going forward.
As Altair grows to try and be a corner of the internet that can be a place people feel safe, know that the people that make it up are learning and growing with you all. If you’re ever interested in joining our team, but have your reservations, feel free to reach out to me so we can talk about them.