Heartifacts - Day 1

Author: Jenna Quindica
April 21st, 2018

Today was an emotional day at Heartifacts Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Heartifacts is a two-day conference that facilitates conversations around mental health, communication techniques, and community involvement.

Our first talk from John Sawers was "Hacking Your Emotional API". Imagine slides filled with API endpoints and code implementing the backend. I learned that there are different levels to unpacking our emotions.

  1. The first level includes foundational tools, like how to defer anger for later as well as why not to use the word "should" or the phrase "what you really feel".
  2. The second level is about how to deal with emotions on your own. My favorite example was dancing! Moving your body is a great way to deal with emotions because feelings begin in the physical body.
  3. The third level is processing emotions with someone else. For example, quickly catch up with someone with an honest "how are you" answer. John said, "Working with a therapist should have no more stigma than bringing in a consultant to your development team." – and he's right.
  4. The last level is feeling with a group, and John shared his experiences at the P3 Retreat. The short story is: throw a fit in front of others to process your anger.

John left us with this: "These are not soft skills. These are super hard skills."

Next up was Emily Freeman with "The Intelligence of Instinct". Emily's talk was extremely moving, and I can't hope to replicate its effect in this blog post. We listened to Emily give two riveting stories about being in violent situations and listening to your gut. There's a caveat to listening to your gut, which is that sometimes your gut is a false alarm. Fear and anxiety/worry physically manifest in the same way. Emily detailed the differences between our unconscious and conscious brain. The unconscious brain has cognitive bias and uses heuristics. The conscious brain is an investigator who forms hypotheses and creates algorithms. My favorite takeaway from this talk? "Acknowledge your curiosity and allow it to transition into suspicion."

Right before lunch Aisha Blake gave the talk "Give Feedback Fearlessly". This talk included a fun workshop with groups of four! Aisha asked, "Why do we need feedback?" Some of the audience answers were blind spots, course correction, how we learn, and for perspective. All good answers. If we need feedback, why is it scary and uncomfortable? Feedback is wanting to change or encourage a behavior, not a person. Here are some techniques on how to give feedback:

  • Be specific. Keep feedback focused and actionable so that there's a clear path forward.
  • Deliver feedback proactively. Try not to let things fester for too long.
  • Take a breath. Back up a little. Don't jump in angry.
  • Check your bias. Your perception of the issue may not match the other person's lived experience.
  • Invite discussion. Don't make too many assumptions about the facts of the situation.

After lunch, we got to see so many hedgehogs on the screen. Laura Mosher gave the talk "Harry the Hedgehog Learns You a Communication". Not only did this talk include hedgehogs but it also included many Harry Potter references. Here were Laura's tips for better communication:

  1. Think, then speak. This is the foundation of all communication. Ask yourself the following questions:

    • What do I want to say?
    • Who am I talking to?
    • How should I explain it?
  2. Drop the "nots" because while "nots" reveal truth, they can also enable misunderstanding.

  3. Drop the "justs." By removing the elitist "just", you make room for growth for others.
  4. Watch your phrasing. You don't want it to be self-deprecating, stereotyped, or ambiguous.
  5. Praise in public, critique in private.

Before the conference, I was most looking forward to Hayley Denbraver's talk on "From the Ashes: Rebuilding a Career After a Breakdown in Mental Health". To say the least, I was very emotional during her talk. I won't summarize her full talk as it was very personal, but I loved Hayley's advice.

  • Know yourself.
  • Know your options.
  • Know your boundaries.
  • Know your strengths.
  • Know your priorities.
  • Know that you're worth it.

"How Not to Review a Pull Request" by Aaron Goldsmith was easily the most hilarious talk of the day. First, I learned there are four types of code review behavior:

  1. Rabbits - timid and questioning, their statements lack conviction
  2. Idealists - their way is the right way
  3. Spartans - the review is terse and difficult to parse
  4. Tornados - indiscriminate and overzealous commenting on everything.

Aaron brought up active pausing, which is taking a step back from now to recognize how a situation is impacting you. Psychological safety was a key point to Aaron's talk. Nobody sets out to do the wrong thing, so we should always trust that our coworkers mean well on pull requests, but verify that this is the case. We are all human. We all make mistakes. We are emotional beings.

The last talk of the day by Jenny Bramble was "Risk-Based Testing: Creating a Language Around Risk". Her message was that if we define shared vocabulary, we can communicate more clearly and precisely because we all know what we're talking about! So what is risk? It could be anything, from something that goes wrong to something awful to a scary situation. Risk is not only the assessment of unfavorable outcomes but it also works to illustrate the likelihood of failure.

All these talks have made me super pumped for tomorrow's talks. I'll be writing about the last day of Heartifacts as well. Talk to you again soon!

2017 OSMI Review

December 19th, 2017

2017 was the biggest year yet for Open Sourcing Mental Health, LTD. We wanted to share with you some of the things we've accomplished and what we as an organization and our community of volunteers have been able to do to spread the word about Mental Health in the tech industry.

We published our 2017 Mental Health in Tech survey results to Kaggle.com, a data science platform: Kaggle Volunteer Cristina Keelan organized a lot of great work around analyzing the results from the survey. Ed Finkler went to Google and did a talk as part of Google's "Talks at Google" program.

Several of the volunteers travelled to sunny Miami in February for the SunshinePHP 2017 conference. Gary Hockin, Ed Finkler, Joe Ferguson, Amanda Folson, and Matt Trask were all speakers at the conference.

In march we premiered our new video "Supporting Mental Health in the Workplace: Creating a Culture of Support" on YouTube featuring Dr. Jennifer Akullian, Dr. Johanna Wu, and Emily Carter as well as our founder Ed Finkler. OSMI invaded the annual MidwestPHP conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota where Ed Finkler, Joe Ferguson, and Gary Hockin all spoke and hung out at the OSMI booth and talked to many peolpe about the organization.

Volunteer Amanda Folson gave a talk "Silence is Deadly" on CoderCruise, a conference on a cruise ship in July. We also started an OSMI podcast that has been slow going, but hopefully we'll be adding hosts soon to get more traction and content produced. We also have volunteers working on an update to our Guidelines for Metal Wellness in the Workplace we hope to release in 2018.

All totalled OSMI volunteers spoke at over 35 events in 2017 mostly in the United States and Canada, but we also made appearances in Europe as well. On average OSMI contributed to the travel expenses on nearly half of these events. Ed Finkler spoke at 20 events, Nara Kasbergen tried to keep up with him clocking in an amazing 11 events. Mark Railton brought OSMI to his local user group in Dublin, Ireland and Allison Tarr spoke at WordCamp Halifax. Nara Kasbergen and Jennifer Akullian were also a part of a panel at the Grace Hopper Celebration.

We also had an amazing fundraiser in 2017. We broke all of our previous fundraising records and raised just over $50,000. Much of our fundraising goes directly to sending these volunteers to many of these events which are not able to cover speaker travel. We also had a direct sponsor to pay Ed to work part time for OSMI each month.

php[world] was the last "big" event where we had many OSMI volunteers in attendance. I personally had a very humbling experience seeing so many OSMI shirts, hoodies, and stickers around the conference. We started a new tradition at events with many volunteers we're going to start doing a big group picture of everyone who has OSMI swag.

I'll leave you with one of the images from #phpworld as it sums up how amazing I feel about the year that OSMI has had. Thank you to every single person that came to a talk, donated to a fundraiser, or told a friend about what we do.

Take care of each other.

Lena Reinhard On Community

November 22nd, 2017

Empower communities: A gathering in Bangladesh to discuss childhood cataract.

"So often, we're so caught up in treading water, and don't notice the others around us doing just the same."

Lena Reinhard's post "On Community" (@lrnrd on Twitter) muses and expands a bit on her past year in relation to community and support. Many of us are exhausted for many different (and similar) reasons. She reminds us that there can be great consolation in community and that we not alone, even if we don't have the emotional resources to engage as strongly with our chosen communities.

This is a good reminder, especially as the holidays approach, to be more gentle with ourselves. Maybe we can also open ourselves up to similarly embracing our own vulnerabilities and appreciating the power of connection.

Allison Tarr

OSMI at php[world] 2017 Wrap-up #phpworld

Author: Kara Ferguson
November 21st, 2017

Photo by Nicole Vassallo Photography

As a non-developer attending PHP conferences over the past few years, I have a unique perspective on the community. I’ve been involved with many different communities and organizations over the years, technical and otherwise. As a whole, the PHP community has been the most welcoming and inclusive I have ever encountered.

This past week I attended my fourth php[architect] conference run by One for All Events; the third I’ve volunteered at. php[world] 2017 was November 15-16 in Washington, DC. If you were a speaker, sponsor, or attendee of the conference, it’s more than likely that I checked you in.

Last year at php[world], I watched Ed Finkler give his Stronger Than Fear talk as a keynote. Words are powerful, and I’m not sure anyone can watch Ed give this talk and not be touched, in some way, by his words. If you haven’t personally experienced mental illness, you likely know someone who has. I’ve since seen Ed give the same talk a second time, and was no less awed by his openness and the enormity of what OSMI is trying to accomplish in the technical community.

Photo by Nicole Vassallo Photography

While Ed wasn’t in attendance this year, the impact he and OSMI have had on the tech community was glaringly obvious. Even before the OSMI sponsor table was up and running, I saw numerous OSMI branded t-shirts and hoodies, not to mention the number of stickers present on laptops. And, with a direct view of the sponsor table from my spot in registration, I can say once the table was set up, there was a consistent stream of folks visiting the table manned by Joe Ferguson, Nara Kasbergen, and Matt Trask.

Struggling with a mental illness is isolating. And yet, at php[world] it was almost impossible not to see someone sporting OSMI swag; saying, “You are not alone.” That’s the community OSMI is building, and conferences like php[world] are supporting.

-- Kara Ferguson OSMI Volunteer

Photos by Nicole Vassallo Photography

Know The Warning Signs of Mental Illness

November 21st, 2017

Sign Shop

The NAMI web site has a good article on common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents. They can include the following:

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don't exist in objective reality)
  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack of insight” or anosognosia)
  • Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
  • Thinking about suicide
  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance

The article goes on to talk about how to get help, starting with the NAMI HelpLine.

NAMI: How to Encourage Someone to See a Therapist

November 20th, 2017

How to Encourage Someone to See a Therapist

Mike Jones writes about steps you can take to encourage your loved once to seek therapy:

Misconception about mental health and therapy has intensified stigma in society. Your loved one may be aware that they need help, but may be afraid to seek it if they think you will judge or treat them differently. Therefore, it is essential to use non-stigmatizing language when talking with them about their mental health. Assure them that you will support them through the therapy process.

Read more at the NAMI Blog

OSMI Podcast 002 - Lindsey Kopacz

June 6th, 2017

Welcome to the Open Sourcing Mental Health podcast, each episode is an interview with someone from the tech community that has been impacted by mental health issues.

Sponsor: https://www.phproundtable.com

  • Joe Ferguson: https://twitter.com/joepferguson
  • Lindsey kopacz: https://twitter.com/littlekope0903

Donate: https://osmihelp.org/donate

OSMI Podcast 001 - Eli White

June 6th, 2017

Welcome to the Open Sourcing Mental Health podcast, each episode is an interview with someone from the tech community that has been impacted by mental health issues.

Sponsor: http://www.nomadphp.com

  • Joe Ferguson: https://twitter.com/joepferguson
  • Eli White: https://twitter.com/eliw
  • Driven to distraction: https://www.amazon.com/Driven-Distraction-Revised-Recognizing-Attention/dp/0307743152

Donate: https://osmihelp.org/donate

Fundraising 2017 Recap

June 2nd, 2017

This Has Been Amazing

First, thank you to everyone who donated to our fundraiser, shared a post, sent an email, or told someone about our fundraiser! We couldn't have done this without each and every one of you. When we needed you; you were right there for us, and you stepped up big for us. We went big and asked for five times more than we ever have before: $50,000, and you and our corporate partners have delivered. We are overwhelmed by the support you have shown.

For the first time, we have reached out directly to many companies to help us. CakeDC, Github, Digital Ocean, and Laravel have become our first corporate partners. CakeDC has gone above and beyond by designating a monthly $1,000 commitment for 12 months to go directly to Ed's salary. These companies are a huge reason we have been able to announce founder Ed Finkler will be going full time with OSMI as his day job.

Your support has never been needed more as we transition to having Ed full time.

Corporate Partners

We're Just Getting Started

We'll be doing more outreach, more fundraising, and more speaking to help fight the stigma against mental health in tech.

We've started a podcast! We've released the first two episodes featuring guests such as Eli White and Lindsey Kopacz, with much more to come. Each episode is an interview with someone from the tech community that has been impacted by mental health issues.

We're going to be at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference in October! Our volunteers will be moderating an hour-long panel on mental health in tech. We will also be helping our volunteers get to conferences this fall to speak about mental health in tech. We can't announce which yet, it's not public, but we're incredibly excited!

Our 2017 Mental Health in Tech survey is coming! We'll need you to help share and take our survey once we publish it.

We're increasing our outreach to mental health professionals. Mental health professionals play an important role in advising and providing insight into our handbooks and online resources;we want to continue reaching out to and receiving input from them.

Header image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/konch/3409644310/

OSMI Podcasting Kit

June 2nd, 2017

We recently launched the Open Sourcing Mental Health Podcast via our YouTube channel. (RSS/iTunes coming soon!) We recorded the first two episodes on site at PHP conferences with borrowed gear from our awesome friends PHP Roundtable and NomadPHP.com. Since we visit a good number of conferences every year we decided to buy our own gear to mirror the very portable set ups used by our friends.

We blatantly and shamelessly bought the same gear (or as close as we could get) as our friend Cal Evans and we wanted to share what we're using with you.

The Case

We started off with a Pelican 1500 case to house everything in a very protective environment that we could ship if need be. I also wanted the most obnoxious color I could easily find so I went with the bright orange. It's our own nuclear football! There may be some sticker shock here, but keep in mind this is a water tight case. They're not cheap.

The Microphones

We went with Shure SM58 microphones because they are the gold standard in the vocal world. We're not recording pop songs but we want to record at the highest quality we can reasonably get without buying a recording studio. We paid a little extra to get the XLR cables with the microphones so it was one less thing we had to remember to purchase. The come with a neat little carrying case as well.

The Device

The Zoom H5 is a battle tested device by many podcasters and has proven to be an easy to use workhorse. We have two microphones on the top of the device and we can also record from two of the XLR inputs on the bottom of the device. The H5 supports multitrack recording as well as working as a multitrack interface for common audio applications. The only downside is it will only support a maximum SD card side of 32 GB, not the 64 GB card we bought.

Odds and Ends

We still have some odds and ends to buy: small desktop mic stands, mic flag holders, and a smaller SD Card since the 64 GB card we bought is too big for the H5.