Do the work AND take credit

By Shiney Rossi

Shiney is a Senior Mobile Engineer at Nest Labs. She loves simple and elegant designs and loves finding ways to make technology enjoyable and less intimidating for the everyday person.

Shiney Rossi

Shiney Rossi

For much of my career, I have always assumed that the quality of my work would speak for itself. But one experience taught me the value of appropriate self-promotion.

Several years ago, I volunteered to host a small hackathon on behalf of a female-focused developer community. I approached an executive in my company who often voiced support for getting women into STEM professions. The executive agreed to have the company sponsor the event.

I coordinated everything that needed to be done to host the hackathon and recruited many of my coworkers as volunteers. During the event, I managed the volunteers, connected attendees with one another, and offered technical help to those who needed it. I also tweeted about it, posted photos, and publicly thanked my employer for sponsoring it. The turnout was great and both the company and I were happy with the outcome, which included a number of potential hiring candidates.

After the event, I sent a company-wide email thanking all of my colleagues who had helped out. I also acknowledged the support of our executive.

A few weeks later, the same executive announced their latest blog post for a career management site. The post described how the executive had supported women in STEM professions by hosting a hackathon. The post didn’t give specific credit to anyone, but implied that the executive had organized the event.

I considered confronting the executive and asking for some sort of acknowledgement for the work I did. Knowing this person, and the company culture, I knew that they would probably not provide the recognition I wanted. So I decided to let it go and learn from the experience.

Given that this was a public event, I should have immediately taken credit in a more public forum than just within the company. I should have publicized it on my own blog and shared it with the developer community as a way to promote future events. The unfortunate reality is that by not owning your work, you leave room for someone else to take credit for it.

The whole incident reminded me why it is so important to give credit to the people who support you. It is essential to maintaining strong relationships and good will.

3 thoughts on “Do the work AND take credit

  1. Lori says:

    Hi Shiney. I like your post. It’s causing me to rethink my old motto of “I don’t care if someone else claims credit for m ideas so long as they come to fruition.” But I’m still not sure which sentiment I agree with more. That might be an interesting question to pose in your blog. Can I ask you what difference it would have made, in the grand scheme of things, had you been credited? Regardless, nice work with the Hackathon! –lori

  2. Hmmmm…shame on that executive for not holding you up and acknowledging your work. Executives need to take a back seat and focus on celebrating/acknowledging team member work, not take the credit for themselves. That said, don’t focus on credit, focus on outcomes and results. You probably helped a ton of people through this Hackathon event given all the dots you connected and talent you inspired; know in your heart you did something good, and don’t worry about credit. Besides, credit is more meaningful when someone else gives it to you, not when you take it yourself, otherwise you will be viewed like that executive of yours…with suspicious caution and doubt. Trust me talent like yours, heart and courage will ultimately shine through on its own.

  3. M-C says:

    You might think of it as a credit vacuum, that credit will be attributed somehow, and if you don’t claim it then it’ll go to someone else, And we know that someone else will generally be a man, from a combination of male credit-grabbing attitudes and general assumptions about women.

    The good part is that in the old days you pretty much were stuck with the internal means of communication. As you point out, it’s now much easier to discreetly toot your own horn on the net. It may not entirely prevent credit-grabbing from ill-intentioned parties, but it gives you a much better shot at keeping at least some of it.

    And shiney, it must be particularly painful for you to lose credit on this topic :-(). May I make a suggestion? How about publishing a “guide to putting on a hackathon”? It’d help you crystallize your thoughts about what worked and what could be improved, it’ll be helpful to the community, it’ll as a aside make it crystal clear who actually did the work. And also I’d think you could put “organized the first — hackathon” on your resume, in your linked-in credentials, without anyone being able to bat an eyelash over it. Don’t give him credit :-), it’s unlikely he’ll have the chutzpah to demand a correction.

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