Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

02 May 2014, 10:41 a.m.

What Will Success Feel Like To You?

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2014 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Disequilibrium -- surprises, failures, jokes, and disorientations -- will always happen, and we learn from it. We learn about the world, and we learn about ourselves.

I first felt like a New Yorker when I noticed my impatience with people who blocked my way on escalators and stairways in subway stations.

I first felt like a "real software developer" when I couldn't bear to leave a half-unfixed bug.

It's hard to notice as you slowly absorb the new values and habits of a new identity, of a new community of practice. But our brains are primed to notice mismatches and surprises, so it's easiest to notice the change when, for instance, you find mixed tabs and spaces annoying for the first time, or get an in-joke.

But sometimes there does exist some ritual or marker to indicate your change. I remember when I got my first set of Wikimedia Foundation business cards, as Volunteer Development Coordinator, with my name on one side, and the Wikimedia mission on the other.

Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That's our commitment.
I felt such a deep burst of pride and love -- is that what parents feel when they look at baby pictures of their children?

Ada Initiative logo (Ada Lovelace portrait) Yesterday, the Ada Initiative announced that I have joined its board of directors. I am now one of the seven people responsible for the management of the Ada Initiative, which supports women in open technology and culture.

When Valerie Aurora told me that the board wanted to invite me to join them, I felt a new kind of disequilibrium. It's one thing to get a one-time surprise compliment like "we'd love for you to give the keynote address to this conference." At another level is "we'd appreciate your continuing advice on this topic," as I'd heard in 2011 when I was invited to join the Ada Initiative's Advisory Board (on which I still serve.) But a board of directors is responsible in a different way. Not only had this high-powered group thought highly of me in general, and of my skills and judgment in open source and in feminism, they decided I was trustworthy, that my vote should count. They decided I could be one of them. This is what a certain kind of success feels like.

It's an honor. I shall endeavor to use it well. And, less urgently, to get used to it.


02 May 2014, 15:09 p.m.

Hey, I am glad to hear that. ^_^

Erik Moeller
04 May 2014, 22:13 p.m.

Congratulations! Really excited to see you selected for this role - I know you'll do fantastically well, and look forward to hearing/reading more about it. :)