Getting to “Hell Yes”: Negotiating While Female

This post is brought to you as part of the coverage for the Grace Hopper Celebration, in Houston TX.


“You get what you incentivize”

The basis for a successful negotiation is all rooted in a methodical and well-planned approach. Leading off with a chestnut about Richard Nixon and his dog Checkers, as a cautionary note on how not to negotiate, Katherine Monson and Becca Dewey delivered an informative and entertaining session on effective ways for women to approach the bargaining table. The story of Nixon feeding his dog a biscuit as a way to stop him from chewing on the corner of the carpet, framed the discussion that negotiating is a process where success can be thwarted by rewarding unwanted behavior.  In Nixon’s case, as declared by his exasperated Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, all he did was teach his dog to chew carpet.

Calling on their experiences as negotiators for the aerospace, defense and entertainment industries, the speakers broke down the complex process in several understandable steps, relevant in salary negotiation or every day life.   Though the audience was mid-career women in technology they added that these concepts are applicable to anyone at any stage of their careers.

Avoiding the trap – Bargaining

When it comes to the concept of bargaining, two parties meet on some arbitrary level to achieve a stated position (Think buying a car). If this process gets prolonged it only incentivizes the most stubborn or deceitful.  For women engaged in positional bargaining, they can be perceived as selfish, pushy or greedy, which does not maximize value for anyone.

Negotiation is a framework with the goal towards solving problems, and women are just as successful as men when they choose to negotiate.  What does that look like beyond a back and forth bargaining session?  It starts with research and identifying what your interests are ahead of time. If you don’t know what your interests are then how will you know when you’ve been successful?


“K&B Negotiation.  2016”

Interests – What do you care about?

Visualize negotiating as an iceberg and focus on the unseen part, below the water.  The stated positions (the part of the iceberg you can see) don’t explain why people are at the bargaining table and this lack of data can lead to unwanted results. By thinking about interests ahead of the process it provides a clearer picture of priorities (buying a house, saving for children’s education, vacations, etc)  and creates more options from which to build solutions.

With interests itemized you can then learn more about your counterparts by asking questions on their position. A helpful phrase to use in these discussions would be, “Can you help me understand…?”   or “What am I missing here?”. Depending on the situation, this could be an effective means of working with your counterpart to reach a solution, through talking about desired interests. Just make sure to clarify this is a separate stage of the negotiation and not the end point.


If the process reaches a point where both parties are not able to reach a suitable agreement there is a measure to help identify when it’s best to walk away. BATNA, or Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement is the point where one or both parties understand that not reaching an agreement is more desirable than reaching one. The indicator can be if a salary range or package offered will only generate bitterness or falls far short of accomplishing set goals. In those cases, maybe the status quo is the better deal.

For women, the speakers warned to watch out for the gender trap. “Women are socialized to work with people and be more empathetic. If you’ve invested a lot of time to talk and negotiate you may be tempted to fall into the trap of “take a deal, any deal!”  If that’s a situation you find yourself in, take a pause and assess if the conversation needs to continue.


“K&B Negotiation.  2016”


If both parties are able to articulate their goals and work towards a solution the next step is finding the ZOPAZone of Possible Agreement.   The ZOPA is a combination of variables that both parties are able to achieve to close the deal.  They may look something like taking a lower salary increase in lieu of receiving a deferred compensation plan, that provides revenue streams for retirement or children’s schooling, adding paid time off or subsidized transportation.  This is where due diligence and interest planning ahead of time come in handy, because it enlarges the pie to develop more opportunities.

Remember, negotiating is a process and takes time and energy to develop those skills. If you would like to learn more, take a look at the additional resources below.  If you would like to connect with Katherine and Becca, they can be reached at k.bnegotiation AT

Recommended Readings


Derek Cameron is the Employer Outreach and Partnership Manager for Northeastern University Career Development. When he’s not connecting with employers or blogging he’s trying to negotiate with his 6-month old daughter.

The Video Game Industry Needs You!

This post is brought to you as part of the coverage for the Grace Hopper Celebration, in Houston TX.


“Gaming is an art form that brings technologies to life”

In a world where 43% of gamers are women and only 17% of computer science graduates are women, this disparity has created a major talent gap. Thankfully, there are plenty of opportunities for women to make contributions and develop the skills and competencies to build towards a career in gaming.

Addressing a packed house at the “Video Game Industry Needs YOU!” session a panel of gaming leaders at Microsoft delivered an entertaining and highly informative discussion on how women can carve their own paths into gaming.


Bonnie Ross, Corporate Vice President, 343 Industries, Microsoft
You don’t need a technical background to be in gaming.  We (343 Industries) look for a diverse team that brings creative all disciplines together.  You alone or you with a friend can create a mobile game.

If you can make things that you can show that helps.   Even copying an existing game or modifying something else, but showing up with a lot of passion makes a difference.  There are lots of women that didn’t have any gaming experience but wouldn’t stop knocking. Their passion was the driving factor that helped them through the door.

Helen Chiang, Senior Director of Business and Strategy, Microsoft
Advances in technology have made gaming accessible to more people.  I can play games of Candy Crush with my mom or my son can build worlds in Minecraft.

Don’t let the lack of a specific degree hold you back.   I like to hire for passion over skills and experience.  I think technical skills are things you can always learn and people can teach you over time, but no one can teach you to develop that passion.

Kiki Wolfkill, Executive Producer, 343 Industries, Microsoft
Get your CS degree and figure out what you’re passionate about.  We love a combination of CS and traditional skills, in terms of film writing or story telling, or user-interaction design.  Every one of those roles is a combination of technology and being a great project manager; or being able to tell a great story or compose amazing music.  It’s an interesting combo of new and old.  All of these traditional rules apply, in terms of what makes a good story or what is a great composed environment.

Go out there and start making stuff.  You can go to hackathons or game jams and team up with a handful of people really quickly.  It helps you understand what your strengths are and what areas you may want to lean into.  More importantly, it teaches you to work across disciplines because that’s the one thing about game development, it is every discipline collaborating and working together to solve problems and creating together.   That’s a really gratifying dynamic that you can learn with 3 or 4 or 6 people at a game jam.

Shannon Loftis, General Manager for Studios 1st Publishing, Microsoft
If you love games, play them and play them as much as you can!  Start exploring the tools that are available (like Twine).  Once you get used to telling stories, thinking about stories and thinking about the ways people are going to experience them then you ARE a game developer.

There also opportunities due to an acceleration of technology on the other end:  Virtual reality, Augmented Reality, Mixed reality.  This is inspiring whole new generation of creatives.


Derek Cameron is the Employer Outreach and Partnership Manager for Northeastern University Cooperative Education and Career Development.  When he’s not attending conferences, connecting with employers or blogging, he’s still enjoying some vintage Atari and Pong.




Talking while Female: lessons learned from two years of technical podcasting

This brought to you as part of coverage for the Grace Hopper Celebration, in Houston TX.


“For women thinking about hosting their own technical podcast, go for it.  Know your stuff, own it and do it!”

In October 2014, about the same time when Serial took the podcasting world by storm, Katie Malone, a Data Scientist with Civis Analytics, and Ben Jaffe, a UI Engineer with Facebook, launched their own show, Linear Digressions.   Tapping into Katie’s experience as a data scientist, they created a unique format that looked at the technical side of how data solves problems and delivered content in a way that could be understood by non-technical audiences.

It’s been a great hobby for her and a way to distill her thoughts and share content with a larger audience. Since then Katie discovered made some great discoveries about podcasting and shared these tips at the Grace Hopper Celebration.

“I think podcasting is a great medium, because it gives you the ability to talk about a broad array of topics, while also helping hone your communication skills. Ben and I would be talking about data science and machine learning and it came out in a very conversational fashion, so it translated well to podcasting.  We had developed a good rapport where I spoke about the technical elements and Ben played the part of the non-technical audience. It’s also great line on a resume.”

Their weekly program  takes about 5 hours to produce and post to iTunes.  To accomplish this she has broken the process into two major parts:


  • Audience – Who are my listeners and what delivery style do they expect?
  • Subject Matter – What topics do I want to cover? How will I continue to find material in the future?
  • Collaboration – Who are my collaborators? What part of the project is own their plate and what part is on mine?
  • Logistics – How will my podcast be distributed? How frequent are new episodes?



As they refined their practice and applied a more professional approach they saw their audience grow immensely.  “It took that first year to really understand what we were doing and even listening to my own voice in editing, I was able to improve how I communicate.  I say ‘like’ A LOT and heard myself ending sentences on an uptick so it sounded like I was always ending on a question. It’s helped me to really hear myself and focus on that.”

“For women thinking about hosting their own technical podcast, go for it.  Know your stuff,  own it and do it!”


If you’d like to hear Katie and Ben on Linear Digressions be sure to subscribe to them on iTunes and if you’d like to contact Katie directly you can follow her on Twitter @multiarmbandit or email .

Derek Cameron is the Employer Outreach and Partnership Manager for Northeastern University Cooperative Education and Career Development.  When he’s not blogging or connecting with employers he’s tuning into podcasts, being a dad, walking the dogs or grilling.