Can you be yourself at work?

Recently, I spoke to an executive coach who says she works with executives for years before many can finally accept who they are – and let themselves be themselves.

I tried to find a really good quote for this – and there were so many on being yourself, yet none fit what I’d like to discuss. This one by Political Animals comes close: “It’s like you put on this expensive tailored suit and everybody tells you how great you look in it, but it doesn’t fit quite right unless you stand perfectly still.”

Frankly, I struggle with this concept. Not that I struggle to be me, but that being me is acceptable to those around me. As an attorney, a certain amount of presence is expected. And of course, I am a woman working in a male-created field – and one that largely remains male-dominated.

The picture below (from the Association of Corporate Counsel annual meeting, Health Law Committee wins small committee of the year) is a visual of what I struggle with.

Do I not fit in … or … do I stand out? Which one of these is least like the others?

I truly struggle with this. I have worked with and do work with amazing professionals – professionals that while I may try to emulate some traits that I admire, I don’t feel that we mesh. Don’t get me wrong, I also have worked with and do work with professionals that mesh very well. scarily well.

When I am comfortable, I have no trouble expressing my opinions on a matter. Have I mentioned that I am ADD? So I am hyper, my logic takes a different path, and I speak with passion, sometimes eloquently, sometimes not so much. I usually wind up apologizing for being me.

Why do I feel I need to apologize? Is this a me thing? Is it a woman thing? Is it an awkward geek thing? Is it a manifestation of my disabilities (which are systemic and do impact affect, emotional lability, and expressiveness)?

Typically, when I feel that I have said something in a meeting that I should explain more or apologize for, I draw on advice that I received in the State Bar of Arizona’s Bar Leadership Institute: Man Up. To be fair, they did not say it that way. But I learned a lot about differences between the genders. In general, women tend to worry about what they may have said  – and agonize, apologize, follow up, bring it up again, etc. (anyone relating to this?). Men don’t. By bringing it up repeatedly, following up to apologize, women actually make it an issue that others then do remember – whereas generally, they likely never noticed it. Please keep in mind that these are generalities and may not apply to every situation.

On the other hand, a female professional I once worked with – on a restroom break during a meeting where we were the only two females in a group of about 20 people – this woman made the comment that the two of us had bigger balls than anyone in the room. Pardon my crassness.

Am I too feminine at some times – yet too assertive at others?

Do men even worry about these things – not the being too feminine part, but how to strike the right note professionally?

Is the real problem one I mentioned earlier? The legal field was built by men. All the expectations on behavior, dress, attitude, work-life balance, etc. were all defined by men. Women, to enter the field, adopted those expectations – wearing black, navy, gray, and brown – working long hours – and in some part, distancing themselves from the idea of femininity (which is not to say these colors are not feminine, just look at the picture above, the other two women are gorgeous and feminine and wearing traditional legal colors). A female professional I know – in the generation before me – wears a tuxedo to black tie events rather than a dress. I think it’s cool. But I wonder if that desire was formed because she developed professionally in a field that is decidedly unfeminine.

Me. Well, I wear purple cowboy boots to work. And ones with peacock feathers. I love pink. and lace. and frills. I laugh too loud and talk with my hands. And my work accepts it. I am hyper, scattered, ADD, some OCD, and frankly, way too freaking perky for anyone’s good. And yet I worry. I worry if I am accepted and RESPECTED for who I am. I am highly intelligent but not scholarly. I am well-educated but not an academic. I am ambitious but won’t sacrifice my family. I am emotional but not vindictive. I am outspoken but not mean. I am honest to a fault but I do love playing with words. I cannot abide stupidity (unless it is truly a case of low IQ and the inability to learn) or people who do not deserve respect (no exceptions on that one). I am passionate and creative. I am not demure or understated.

So can you be yourself at work? I say yes in most cases. It won’t come without some cost. If you are a psychotic killer, I’d say no. Please don’t be yourself. But in general, the average person should know who they are and not be willing to sacrifice him or herself for the job. You might worry if you strike the wrong note, but hiding your personality where you spend a large part of your waking hours does not serve you well in the long run.  In the end, unless there are significant drivers to the contrary, I recommend finding somewhere you can be you. You will be a better professional and perhaps feel like a better person.

There may be some compromises, but they should not compromise your foundation as a person. For example, just because you love 80s rock does not mean wearing Metallica t-shirts and ripped jeans to court is acceptable for an attorney. But if your personality truly demands that freedom and it impacts who you are as a person, choose a career avenue that suits you better (pardon the pun).


ERMAGOSH – my 2008 Phoenix FBI Citizens Academy Graduation Speech

This was the speech – nearly verbatim – from my 2008 Phoenix FBI Citizens Academy. I am positive that a few words were changed in the delivery. Janet Napolitano, Arizona’s then governor was the “professional” speaker. I was the highly honored elected student speaker.

the Phoenix FBICA class of 2008

the Phoenix FBICA class of 2008

Thank you

When we were told that I had been elected the class speaker, I was deeply honored and deeply troubled – there was some talk about using the redneck as target practice.  I must remind you that I am a business invitee of a commercial venture participating in the specific activity for which I was invited…in other words, I expect FBI agents to throw themselves in the line of fire.  Heck, someone could be on a hill a mile away with a 50 caliber.  I guess I’d better speak quick.

I am honored and I must say a few thanks. Scott is one of the few people I tried to talk into going to law school – and who has done an amazing job in the two years since.  Connie, thank you for your support and encouragement that helped get me accepted.

I am a member of an incredible citizens academy class, we have made history this year. This is the 100th year for the FBI, and we have the first foreign citizen in the classes – and a Canadian consul no less.

About 15 years ago, the counterintelligence team was sitting around a table complaining about the lack of resources to maintain surveillance on their top 40 people.  So they decided to get them all together at the same place at the same time – every week.  It was so successful; they have done it every year since.  Welcome to the Citizen’s academy – and its alumni association!

I think it was the fourth class when we were listening to the guest from the US Atty office.  SAC John Lewis came in and made an announcement.

“Ladies and gentlemen.  Do you recall when we explained that there are times when our suspicions of a person rise to the point that we can get a warrant.  Sometimes these are a sneak and peek  – we have to get in quickly while they are gone and see what is there.  Other times, we have enough reason to be able to take their computers or something with us.  Well, today, we have an unexpected occurrence.”

I was thinking “Oh crap, they found my 4000 pictures of porno.”  And I wasn’t the only one.  We’re a scary class.

No, we’re safe – for now.  It was the DC guy who comes to ensure they follow all protocols and procedures for collecting and handling the evidence.  It was an unplanned visit and so we had an unexpected treat.

The whole program is like that.  We learn so much that many of us never imagined.  But that’s the purpose.

You – the FBI – stand on a wall.  You stand on a wall we don’t even see.  And whether your weapon is a semiautomatic, a keyboard, or a credit card to pay for lunch for a Mexican official – you use that weapon with precision and effectiveness.

We’ve learned so much.

We learned that Hostage negotiators don’t lie. And that polygraphs are a scientific tool that could test that for us.

We learned no one is safe online.  No one.

We learned that there are some agents here who have never kissed a girl – but they can quote star trek episode 138.

We learned that military recruiters cheating on tests are never simple cases or cheap to solve.   Seven steps from the ASVAB to airplanes and border incursions.

And we learned that sharphooters do NOT use red laser sights.  How could they possibly tell which one is theirs?

Speaking of which –

These agents have hearts of gold, nerves of steel, and a dead-on aim.  I would have no problem sitting in a chair when the SWAT team takes a building.  

And what can we do with our newfound knowledge?

  • We can support our officers when we hear of a shooting.  We understand the actions and reactions called for in such situations.
  • We can make sure pot never becomes legal – it finances the drug cartels.
  • We can maintain a degree of suspiciousness if we see something “just not right” at work or in our neighborhoods.  Leads do come from everyday people.
  • We can defend these brave men and women when the public starts attacking them when the news reporters find ONE event of the 200 other events the FBI stopped and the public never knows about. That’s doing their job.
  • We can support a bill to require reporting purchases of more than one gun (not just pistols, but all guns).
  • We can join the citizens’ academy alumni association and participate in the various events, such as baseball games, golf, and the new 5k run in the fall.

So what do we take away from this unforgettable experience – How are we changed?

  • No more road rage.  There is no need.  When some idiot cuts you off in traffic.  Just say to yourself.  “I know people.  I can arrange to have you killed.”
  • We can talk the talk.  The SAC did a CIA on the ERT and found H&K MIA on the Legat with MS13.
  • And we can walk the walk – just not 90 degrees horizontal off a building face first.
  • We get to show our shirts with FBI and our nifty bags and people treat us nice.
  • We are weapons certified.  NOT.
  • FATS is now a good thing.  In fact, we should have a FATS meeting every week.
  • And when we watch all those TV shows and movies, we can spot the fakes.  No one collects evidence in the field wearing tank-tops and stilettos.  But the superglue thing to get fingerprints is real.  and cool.  From 20 feet downwind.

So in closing.

I don’t sing, but this is so fitting.  See if you can pick up the tune.

Bye Bye. To the FBI.
We shot our shotguns at the levies and the levies were dry.
So to the agents and staff of the FBI
We say thank you for the day we don’t die.



Twitter Disassociative Personality Disorder

Do you tweet? Happy to follow you – with all my handles.

See – I have multiple Twitter personalities. Well, they are all pretty much the same thing…I just can’t decide. Of course, I was way late to the party having started tweeting a few months ago. Now one @privacyqueenK is starting to get followers, but turns out people confuse me with @privacyqueen. So I went on a journey to find one that was uniquely me. I already knew that @kjustk was not available and many people confuse that with me. Understandably as I have multiple emails with kjustk@something and license plates in multiple states with KJUSTK…but the twitter is not me.

@RedneckPrivacy was my next attempt. now THAT is me. I’m a redneck born and bred and I wear purple cowboy boots to work  silver ones, too – and ivory ones. They rock. Turns out that professionally, my colleagues don’t like referencing that twitter handle. The only people who don’t like being called a redneck are those who are not a redneck. Rednecks love it.

So okay, I am now on to @heartofprivacy and I am committing to it as evidenced by the blog with two entries. Ha.

But I don’t want to send out notices yet again that I am switching twitter handles. This will be a journey to resolving my disorder. Thank you for joining me. Oh – and follow me @heartofprivacy

at the Heart of Privacy

Privacy is increasingly becoming more important to the average person, but we do not live in a world that values individual privacy. Technology makes the idea of privacy even more incredulous. To effectively create and to maintain privacy for individuals, we need people, governments, and businesses to work together. There are many professionals out here who claim to advocate for and protect the rights of individuals, but nothing truly replaces awareness and education. The only person who can actively protect your privacy is you. Yes, those who have the technology and wherewithal to circumvent the steps you put in place will always take advantage of their capabilities – sometimes, rightly so. But until you care about your own privacy and affirmatively take action to protect that privacy, you cannot expect others to do it for you.

I am not a scholar.

I am simply a person who has found her way into privacy as a career field and found it a natural fit. Perhaps in this blog, I can manage to keep sharing my own thoughts and opinions- and perhaps someone will find it useful.