You’ve Got Male – Kat Baxter

I dial the phone and then wait for my youngest sister, Willow, to pick up. On the fourth ring, she finally does. “What?” she hisses. She’s out of breath. “Where are you?” I ask. “Where do you think?” “It’s a Sunday afternoon, Will, you do get days off.” “Tell that to Sabrina. This is the woman who doesn’t even let me answer my phone at work. Just to take this call, I screamed and told her I was going to be sick, then just ran to the downstairs powder room, turned on the fan and the faucet.” Her voice is still at a whisper, but her explanation clarifies the extra noises I hear in the background. “You really need a different job. This woman is going to kill you.” Willow works as a personal assistant to Sabrina Wilde. Yes … that Sabrina. And if you don’t know who I mean, lucky you.

The woman is as beautiful as a pure bred Siamese cat and twice as temperamental. “Paisley, I can’t exactly hide in the bathroom all day. What do you need?” “I just went over your dummy order in my app. Pregnancy tests and condoms? Really, Will?” As part of my senior seminar class (and my lifelong dream), I’m developing an app. Since I’m working on a shoestring budget here, Willow is my beta tester. She giggles. “What? Just because they’re in a retirement center doesn’t mean they can’t still have sex.” “You’re so not helpful.” “Did it work though? The app testing?” “Yes, the coding seems to be working so that’s good.” A loud bang sounds on Will’s end of the phone, then a woman yelling. “Shit! I gotta go,” Willow says. Then she disconnects the call. Two hours later I’ve cleaned my entire apartment, folded and refolded clothes. I’m considering reorganizing my kitchen cabinets and that’s when I know it’s time for me to quit being ridiculous about the task I’ve been putting off. I pour myself a cup of tea and head to my laptop.

I’m unexpectedly nervous when I sit down to log into my newly formed Zeebra account. Zeebra is the latest software from the local Austin company, Zee Suite Software. Theoretically, Zeebra is software designed to improve workflow by pairing experienced mentors with less experienced workers. I’ve been recruited to help beta test the software as part of my senior seminar. As the software opens, a screen shows a herd of zebras grazing. One zebra looks up, and breaks into a run. As it runs, its stripes slip away and it becomes a white stallion, leaving the rest of the herd behind. Then the company logo appears. “Zee Suite — Tools to Transform Your Workforce.” I roll my eyes as the software loads into the corner of my screen as a sleek dialogue box. Subtle. Really subtle. Not that I expect anything less from the company started by local business shark, Ezra Carlisle. Feeling petty—because there’s no way I’d be using this software if I wasn’t basically hamstringed into doing it for a class—I leave the window open, but move it to the back, behind my music app, which is playing my lofi “work” playlist. Then I open up the latest version of my code and get to work.

I almost forget about the Zeebra app running in the background when I get a notification that a message has come through. @ZebraInfo: Congratulation, @PyschedelicAlmond! You’ve been paired with a mentor! @TheZMan will be messaging you shortly. “I can hardly wait,” I mutter. It’s another twenty minutes before the next message comes through. @TheZMan: Hi, just a quick check in. Looks like we’ve been paired together to beta test this mentoring software. I move the window to the background again and keep working for another eleven minutes. I’m not being passive-aggressive. I just like to work in thirty-minute-long chunks. If I stop mid-chunk to answer every little message, I’ll get out of the coding zone. When the timer on my phone goes off, I pop open the window and type out a quick reply. @PsychedelicAlmond: Thanks for the check in. I doubt I’ll need much mentoring, but thank you. @TheZMan: That’s a shame. I was looking forward to helping out a young entrepreneur.

@PsychedelicAlmond: Thanks, but I’m good. @TheZMan: You’re a college student, right? @PsychedelicAlmond: last semester of my MBA, actually. BS in computer programing. Summa Cum Laude. @TheZMan: Nice! So you know your stuff. @PsychedelicAlmond: I do. @TheZMan: well, I know my stuff too. And I’m good at it. So if you need help, guidance, or expertise, I’m here. @PsychedelicAlmond: Look, I don’t mean to be rude, but ZeeSuite isn’t really my thing. I get that you’re invested in this. That it’s your thing. But I’m more of a march-to-the-beat-of-my-own-drum kind of girl. I wouldn’t be using it if it wasn’t for my senior seminar. @TheZMan: Why isn’t ZeeSuite “your thing?” I thought your profile said you were an app developer.

The software must have thought we’d be a good match. @PsychedelicAlmond: You really want to know? @TheZMan: I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t. @PsychedelicAlmond: Yes, I’m an app developer, but I’m starting my own company. I have zero interest in being a worker drone for a software behemoth. @PsychedelicAlmond: No offense. @TheZMan: Not offended. But why do you assume I’m just a worker drone? @PsychedelicAlmond: “TheZMan”? Company loyalty is right there in your user name. @TheZMan: Fair enough. @TheZMan: Even if you don’t think you need help, we should chat occasionally. To beta test the software. @PsychedelicAlmond: I’ll check in if I need you. With that, I start my timer back up for another thirty-minute chunk and dive back into my code, confident that I don’t need anyone’s help. CHAPTER 2 Ezra It’s been two weeks since I was connected with a coder who goes by the name of PsychedelicAlmond. I message her every other day just to check in, but she still stubbornly refuses to engage much more than basic pleasantries. I admit it pisses me off.

I’m considered a Goddamn titan in the industry. There are people who would kill to be mentored by me. Probably not literally—okay, hopefully not literally—but my advice is sought after. So much so that my VP of R&D actually laughed at me when I offered to be part of the beta testing. He thought I was joking. I wasn’t. The truth is, I miss the days of having my hands on every product we release and thought I might be fun to try. I did not expect that my mentee wouldn’t want my help. This woman is damn lucky to have been paired with me. I realize she doesn’t actually know who I am, but everyone at the company is top notch. ZeeSuite has gotten where it is by paying top dollar for the smartest people in the industry. Any number of my employees could be offering a budding computer science student some valuable information. So, yeah, I’m annoyed that she’s not overjoyed to be working with me. And yes, I know she’s a she. In addition to her remark that first day about marching to the beat of her own drum, each user has a two-line profile that includes preferred pronouns.

In case you’re wondering, her profile description is a quote from Madonna. “I’m tough. I’m ambitious and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okay.” Frankly, it takes guts to lead with a quote like that. Maybe that’s why I’ve stuck with this. She intrigues me. Probably more than she should. And so I keep coming back, checking in every few days. She seems to be slowly softening up to me. Today when I log on and message her, she answers almost immediately. And as always, our conversation becomes one of the favorite parts of my day. @TheZMan: Hey, we got news at the office today and I was curious if your professor had shared the information with the class yet? @PsychedelicAlmond: Ohhhhh… are you offering to give me an insider scoop? @TheZMan: I don’t know how to answer that. @PsychedelicAlmond: It’s okay, I won’t get you in trouble with your boss. I’m assuming you’re referring to the grant? @TheZMan: Yes.

What are your thoughts? @PsychedelicAlmond: Fifty-thousand dollars to fund your start up and a year of legal consulting from the ZeeSuite lawyers? It’s an amazing opportunity. @TheZMan: And? @PsychedelicAlmond: I would not want to be the one to pick the winner. I’ve got some incredibly talented classmates who have stellar projects they’re working on. @TheZMan: That’s very diplomatic of you. @PsychedelicAlmond: Just being honest. @PsychedelicAlmond: Are you high enough on your totem pole to have any hand in selecting the winner? @TheZMan: Are you asking if I can give you an upper hand? *Winky emoji* @PsychedelicAlmond: Actually the opposite. I wouldn’t want to continue this relationship or whatever we want to call it if that were the case. @TheZMan: So you wouldn’t want me to nudge the selection committee in your direction? @PsychedelicAlmond: Absolutely not! I don’t want handouts. I don’t want help. @TheZMan: Yeah, yeah. I get it. You’re a badass who doesn’t need anyone’s help. @PsychedelicAlmond: Damn right, I am! @TheZMan: I suppose if I told you I think you’re adorable it would undermine your reputation as a badass boss. @PsychedelicAlmond: You wouldn’t dare! @TheZMan: But, just so you know, it’s okay to ask for help. @PsychedelicAlmond: Just so you know, there are some things you have to do on your own.

Independence is very important. @PsychedelicAlmond: And don’t think I haven’t noticed that you still haven’t told me one way or the other if you’re on the committee who will select the grant winner. Because if you are, we’ll need to stop messaging. @TheZMan: I would miss talking to you. @PsychedelicAlmond: I would miss that as well. @TheZMan: The answer is no, I will not be the one selecting the winner. @PsychedelicAlmond: So you can’t get rid of me that way. @TheZMan: Guess I’ll just have to keep you then. @PsychedelicAlmond: Speaking of things you keep, let me tell you about that new restaurant by my house… @PsychedelicAlmond: I know you weren’t always as successful as you are now. Well, at least I’m guessing that, unless you were born into your job. @TheZMan: What are you trying to say? @PsychedelicAlmond: Okay, brace yourself. @TheZMan: Consider me braced. @PsychedelicAlmond: It turns out, I need advice. @PsychedelicAlmond: You went silent on me. Did the shock kill you? @TheZMan: Yes.

I’m typing this message as a ghost while the medics work to bring me back. Better ask fast. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel and I think I smell my nana’s apple pie. @PsychedelicAlmond: Dial down the drama, okay? @TheZMan: Sure. What do you need advice about? @PsychedelicAlmond: How do you deal with the overwhelm? I feel so scattered and unfocused about my project. I know ultimately what I want it to be, but it seems like the pieces are never going to completely fit together. Like I’m trying to put together a puzzle with pieces from different boxes and I don’t know what exactly I’m doing. @TheZMan: I feel that way with every project I ever do. It’s part of the process. At least for me, it is. Perhaps it’s the same for you. Every project—at least the ones worth doing—feel too big to accomplish. It’s how you know you’re on the right track. Anyone can do the easy projects. The tough ones—the ones worth doing—need someone as smart and focused as you.

@PsychedelicAlmond: Have any advice of how to deal with it so I can get back to being productive? @TheZMan: Think about why you started the project. What is your WHY? If you don’t know why you’re doing it, then you’ll never have a clear picture of the end result. It’s like walking around in a dark maze. You’re just making turns but you have no idea if you’re getting any closer to the end or just walking in circles. @PsychedelicAlmond: Look at us using all the metaphors today! How very literary of us … @PsychedelicAlmond: UGH! Why can’t I get this code to work? @TheZMan: Need help? @PsychedelicAlmond: Yes, but no thank you. @TheZMan: That counts as a hand up? @PsychedelicAlmond: Anything from you would. I’ve got to do this on my own. And I have to turn in all of this tomorrow to meet the grant deadline. @TheZMan: Do you have ice cream? @PsychedelicAlmond: Well, that’s random, but of course I have ice cream. We live in Austin, isn’t it against the law to not have Blue Bell in your freezer? @TheZMan: Excellent point. @PsychedelicAlmond: How will ice cream help? @TheZMan: Because it’s ice cream. Ice cream always helps. @PsychedelicAlmond: Hmmm … I think I was looking for something a little more concrete than that. @TheZMan: The trick is to take a break, walk away from the computer, eat some ice cream and come back to it with a fresh eye. @TheZMan: Also, literally go through the code line by line.

Debug it old school style. Another set of eyes would help, but I assume you don’t want to share your screen so I can read over your shoulder. @PsychedelicAlmond: Not even a little bit. @TheZMan: It’s not a crime to accept help. @PsychedelicAlmond: But it’s a slippery path. There are always people willing “to help” and then pretty soon, what started out as mine will be theirs. @TheZMan: Help doesn’t have to be like that. @PsychedelicAlmond: Maybe not. But if I do all of it on my own, I know it’s mine. @PsychedelicAlmond: But if you want to hang out with me while I eat my Blue Bell Moo Bar, I could handle that. @TheZMan: It’s a deal. @PsychedelicAlmond: BTW, I have a complaint about this software. @TheZMan: That’s not good. What is it? @PsychedelicAlmond: I wish it allowed gifs. @TheZMan: What? @PsychedelicAlmond: Sometimes I really need a Mrs.

Doubtfire gif, but this software has no such capability. @TheZMan: Why do you ever need a Mrs. Doubtfire gif? Why does anyone need that? @PsychedelicAlmond: First of all, watch the tone, Mister. Mrs. Doubtfire is a classic. But mostly because I have a weird thing where I use a British accent when I’m nervous. @TheZMan: That’s adorable. @TheZMan: The reason though is that this is anonymous to maintain professionalism they don’t want colleagues flirting back and forth with cheeky gifs. @PsychedelicAlmond: I see what you did there with the use of the word “cheeky.” @PsychedelicAlmond: So is that what we’re doing? Flirting? @TheZMan: It’s what I’m doing, but I think my game is off. @TheZMan: I have a question for you. @PsychedelicAlmond: Shoot. @TheZMan: What do you have against working for a software behemoth like ZeeSuite? @PsychedelicAlmond: I don’t have anything against it. It’s just not for me. @TheZMan: Why? You have something against paid vacation and a cushy benefit plan? @PsychedelicAlmond: Sigh.

I do dream of cushy benefits. @TheZMan: So come work for ZeeSuite. I could get you an interview when you graduate. I know we could use someone with your talent and ambition. Especially sinc


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Updated: 14 January 2022 — 11:22

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