What Transitioning From Male to Female Taught Me About Leadership In a Tech Environment by Ivett Ördög

Automatic Summary

Leadership and Decision-Making: A Blueprint for Taking Tough Calls

Whether you're an established leader, a budding entrepreneur, or an aspirant, we make decisions every day - some easy, some complex. These decisions encompass every aspect of our lives, from choosing the next critical goal for our company to personal dilemmas like buying or renting an apartment. In this blog post, let's explore the unseen and often critical nuances of decision-making and how it ultimately shapes our personal and career trajectories.

The Art of Making Crucial Decisions

In the everyday hustle, decisions ranging from involving new technology to abandoning costly projects can have extensive consequences. How do we tackle these? We might rely on risk analysis, evaluate potential returns, or outline the pros and cons. However, the most crucial thing to remember here is that making a wrong decision is often better than indecisiveness because it leads to action, which is always better than complacency.

Facing the Unforeseen in Decision-Making: A Personal Tale

In 2018, I was confronted with the hardest decision of my life. This was not a business decision, but a personal one that forced me to reevaluate everything I knew about decision-making. To provide some context, I was struggling with my identity, which was a long-drawn, silent suffering. Despite appearing as a man to the world, I always felt like a woman. This realization, much comparable to the Matrix's red pill or blue pill moment, set the ground for my dilemma.

Red Pill or Blue Pill: Contemplating the Choices

The blue pill equated to a pleasant, predictable life on the outside - complete with a wife, family, and promising career as a software engineer and leader. The red pill, in contrast, meant acceptance of my true self, but with the inherent risk of losing my wife, support system, and career trajectory. It also implied transitioning into a minority prone to daily discrimination and criticism - a risky, uncharted territory. This narrative exemplifies the toughest decisions that are backed by irreversible consequences, pushing you to accept, avoid, or reduce risk before it comes into play.

Handy Strategies for Tackling Difficult Decisions

  1. Focus on Advantages over Disadvantages: Concentrate more on the positives to avoid falling into a spiral of self-pity.
  2. Lean into Your Values: In conflicting options where no choice is clearly better, guide your decisions based on your deep-seated values.
  3. Experiment before committing: Even if you're facing irreversible consequences, you can still run low-risk experiments. Break down the problem into smaller sections and test them with limited risk before committing entirely.

Making the Bold Decision

Having undergone my low-risk experiments and evaluated my options, I leaned towards the red pill and decided to embrace my true self. This judgement call took a toll on my personal and professional life, including an unexpected departure from my company due to the fear of discrimination and losing my wife's trust for not opening up about my struggles sooner.

Regret Not, Learn Always

Despite the various hardships and shocks encountered in my journey, I stand firm on my decision. This affirming stand comes from the premise that I exhausted all possible risk-mitigation exercises - from experiments to honest self-assessments against my values. My decision eventually led me toward a happier life of truth and acceptance, free from the splinter of gender dysphoria.

My journey also provided valuable insights into empathy, trust-building, and the importance of feedback in personal and professional relationships. It taught me the impact of feeling included and understood and the crucial roles allies play to bridge the gap between majorities and minorities.

The Final Verdict: Mitigate the Risk

In the grand realm of decision-making, the principle to hold high is, a wrong risk-mitigated decision is better than indecision. Remember, it's the rigorous, hard decisions that test your ways, require the scientific approach, and ultimately define you. Make every decision count – timely, prudent, and unregrettable despite their possible dire consequences. These are the ones you'll remember, and these are the ones you should never regret.

Follow My Journey

If you enjoyed this article and are interested in exploring my journey further, I'd love to invite you to my Lim Pocker workshop. You can reach out online or participate in events organized in 30 cities worldwide. Additionally, you can check out my content on the 'Cup of Quote' YouTube channel, where I talk about life, gender dysphoria, and a lot more.

Video Transcription

OK, let's get started. So this talk is about leadership. So I assume most of you in this room are either leaders or aspiring readers. We make decisions every day. Sometimes these decisions are easy. Sometimes they are hard at work. We may have to make decisions with limited risk.

What is the next most important goal to pursue? How can we redistribute resources among projects? Which new technology should the company invest in? Sometimes these decisions uh have far reaching consequences. Should we enter a new market segments? Should we acquire another company?

Should we abandon a project that is costing way more than originally estimated? We make such decisions in our personal lives too? Should we buy an apartment or should we rent it? Which should, which school should our Children attend? Should we start a family or break up with our partner? How do we make these decisions? We might try to estimate the return on investment or maybe list the pros and cons and analyze the risks involved. We want to make sure that our decisions are low risk over high return and most importantly are timely because the wrong decision is better than no decision. At all or is it in early 2018? I faced the hardest decision of my life. It wasn't a business decision. It was a personal one, but it made me reconsider everything I knew about making decisions. How many of you like the movie Matrix? Remember the Raia or Blue Glycine? Let me play a small part of it. You're here because you know

something what, you know, you can't explain what you feel. You felt it your entire life that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there like a splinter in your mind. Try to, it is this feeling that has brought you to me

like a splinter in your mind driving you mad. These few words captured the gender dysphoria of fierce, like much like the two writers and directors of the My Lily and Donna Bowski. I had that weird inexplicable sense that something was off and I couldn't explain what it was after years of silence suffering. I eventually realized that despite all the physical evidence, to the contrary, I wasn't the guy, I'd been a girl all along. That was my red beer or blue beer moment. I was married. I was married, my wife and I had plans to start a family. My career was heading in the right direction. As the director uh as the creator of the Lim Poker workshop, my name was out there. I've been speaking at conferences around Europe. I had a youtube channel with a moderate by growing viewership. Lim Pokers had been organized all over the world, 30 cities and, uh, from San Francisco to New Zealand at Oakland. I had to make a decision. I had risks to evaluate.

If I took the blue pill, I might have kids. I could carry on with my life as a successful software engineer, leader and coach and hope that one day that strange feeling would fade. I could hope that I wouldn't end up in another cycle of depression and another one and another one. If I took the red bill, everything would change. I'd lose my wife. The five year plan, the 10 year plan. Who was I kidding? Any plan would be out the window. If I took that red bill, I'd suddenly be in uncharted territory from having all the privileges of a white cicero male to being part of a minority that faces discrimination on a daily basis as a group under constant criticism from both the right and the left end of the political spectrum.

I'd risk losing friends. I risk losing my job and not finding another one. I'd risk not being taken seriously as a professional. The risk of ending up alone or being physically attacked and raped would all go up. According to the Center for, for Disease and Control and Prevention in the United States, about half of trans people experience some form of sexual assault over their lifetime. The same number is one in three for women and one in four for men, which is a problem itself. All I could hope was that in return that we're feeling that splinter in my mind that was driving me mad. That would finally go away. But I'm a leader. I know how to make decisions. Right? Do I release bug fee before it's been through Q A or risk? Uh, my fix having unintentional side effects or do I take the risk of the same bug causing the further damage while the waiting? Should we add this new feature into the monolith where it's more convenient now? Or should we invest into the future by extracting it into a new microservice? Should I keep someone on the team who is under performing in the hopes that they will improve? Or should I ask my manager to take them off the project? I was making these kinds of decisions on a daily basis. I remember the wrong decision is better than no decision at all or is it the pros and cons wasn't really helpful.

The prospect of being constantly depressed sounded just as grim as sharing the future I planned with someone I loved the risk for the two options were very different, almost impossible to compare. It wasn't like there was a middle ground, either my wife then made it pretty clear that the minute I started permanently changing my body, she would support me. But as a friend as not as my partner, even if she had let the door open to continuing a relationship. If I were to turn back, the transitioning is even harder and more demanding than transitioning. I felt like I was going to shoot myself in the foot. The only question was which food? It would be the wrong decision is better than no decision at all? Or is it? Why do we even say this? Why do leadership groups around the world? Keep saying this. When we start executing most decisions are essentially are essentially creating an experiment. We start with the hypothesis that the decision is right. We define the metric of success, then we act on the decision and see if it moves the needle in the right direction. We mitigate the risk by watching the Mets closely correcting our course as necessary. The beauty of this approach is that we are already acting on the hypothesis when it turns out to be true. And even if it fails the reality test, we have gained valuable information at a control cost.

However, this approach breaks down if the costs of the decision are inured immediately, why the benefits don't matter until later, truly difficult decisions arise when the cost, the po then the cost of the potential returns and the risks are not easily comparable. But once the decision has been acted on, the costs are immediately incurred, if for some reason, you can't avoid or transfer the risk, then only options are accepting the risk or reducing it before the fact, something that may seem impossible. At first, some companies may be able to afford to fail multiple products. But what if such a decision, put the company as a whole at risk if the risk is too big, our only option remains to reduce that risk before the fact, I have no blueprint for handling situations like this. But there are a number of strategies that I found useful using during my struggle to make up my mind and my transition, think of the advantages instead of the disadvantages. When you think about all possible options as something that takes from you or the company, you feel like you're about to hurt yourself. Anyway, your decision will become about what form of pain you can handle more easily.

When you think in terms of the positive elements of each decision, you'll be less prone to self pity, leaning to your values. Another important uh aspect of looking at the advantages of disadvantages is that it's easier to relate advantages to your ways when no option is clearly better than the other. When a difficult decision is being made, we must lean on our ways to guide us. Read every hard decision you have ever made in your life, you have defined who you are. As a person. For example, you may have chosen a career path that pays well over another one that you had to re passion for a higher salary is not inherently worse than following your passion as a kid. I wanted to be a musician, but eventually I chose my other passion, software engineering because I valued the financial stability over the emotional boost I get as a performer when the crowd applied, uploaded my work. When one option isn't clearly better than the other. You are making a trade off between the two. That trade-off will inevitably relate to your values.

You represent when better consciously or not, they are either rooted in your values you care about or they become the decision that define you that define how people see you by consciously weighing each option against your values. You can make it easier to evaluate the impact of those tradeoffs on your life on your company. Trust the scientific method. Even if you need to make a decision that comes with irre irreversible consequences, you can still run experiments. It's just that starting to execute on the decision isn't a viable experiment, verbalize the risks and your fears related to both options. How can you mitigate those risks? Is there any localized experiment that can provide you with valuable data with incurring only a limited risk?

Usually you'll be able to dissect the problem into a bunch of smaller experiments that you can run without committing to a particular option. No one needs time to make your mind up eventually, you have to make a decision. The biggest risk here arises when the decision is between the status quo and the alternative that significantly disrupt it in these situations, you might be compelled to indefinitely your decision of all prey to the status quo bias. One work related example is when there is someone on the team who is under performing, did you ever delay feedback for fear of upsetting that person? Maybe you give feedback but failed uh to let the person go when it was time to do so. Have you ever been reluctant to drop a feature that confuses many, many of your customers in the fear of losing your power users in your personal life. You might have stayed in a toxic relationship much longer than it made sense because you were afraid you'd re regret the backup. You will never be 100% sure. What you're looking for is the sense that you have done everything you could to assess your options before you commit to one. The decision may still turn out to be wrong. But you should be confident that even if this happens, you won't have regrets.

Your decision was grounded in the facts and in your values, there was no way you could have made a better decision based on the data available to you at the time. Having said that set yourself a deadline and you don't end up procrastinating forever. When I had to make a decision about my transition, I did all of these things. In fact, some of the advice I just gave you was given to me by my ex-wife who, whose support in the process has been invaluable. First, I started to look on the bright side instead of focusing on losing her. I focused on the possibility that I would finally live my truth and that somebody I'd have a new girlfriend who loves the woman I am and not the male I pretended to be. I was afraid that I would end up alone. But it turns out I ended up with a boyfriend, a trans man with whom I have so much in common. Instead of focusing on the risk of losing my friends. I started to see it as a test of my friendships by now. I know that most of my friends didn't just stick around. They were there for that. They were there uh for me during the hardest parts of my transition. And I have made some new friends too. I was afraid that I would lose my job. But maybe seven years at one company was enough and it was time for new adventures.

Maybe I won't find another job like that, but maybe it's time to start my own business like I wanted for so many years, maybe transphobia in Hungary made me move to Berlin. But maybe it was time for me to experience a new city, a new culture, the freedom I would have never experienced in Hungary as I was contemplating my options I learned leaned into my values. What do I really need to feel like I have lived the best life I could at this, at the time, someone close to me died. He was in his early forties at his funeral. I asked myself the question if I were to die today, what would I regret more? The fact that I don't have Children or the fact that I disguised my true self from everyone? Is it more important to adhere to the expectations of society? Or is it more important to be who we really are before committing to any irreversible steps in my transition? I carried out some low risk experiments. I learned how to use makeup to make my face look more feminine. I learned how to dress in a way that hid my masculine body. I may not have passed during the day, but at night, I went out with friends to whom I already come out to.

I got some real life experience of what it feels like to be a girl at a bar at the cinema. I started to use my new name Yvette in some social context. As I gained confidence in my new role, I went for my first pride, March as a female. I never forget the gender euphoria. I felt that day it was the exact opposite of the gender dysphoria that I felt for most of my life. I went for one last holiday as a guy with my ex to see if I could numb the dysphoria for at least a few days and truly enjoy our time together. It turned out that Pandora's box was already open. Once I experienced that what it feels like to be a woman, I was meant to be at least a little. I couldn't help but look jealous that every other woman around me. I set, I set myself at that line. I made a plan. I knew what experiments I'd like to run. Once I collected all the information I could, I made up my mind. Despite the fact that there was still a lot of unknowns, I made a decision that and took the direct bill. I will never know if my ex-wife would have stayed with me if I had come out to her sooner or if I framed it in another way, not having had the courage to talk to her sooner, almost, soon, sooner, almost surely eroded our her trust.

Although I knew I was going to lose my wife. I didn't expect I'd be accused of driving her away from the company where we both worked. I knew some people would give me a hard time at work, but I didn't expect that one day I would be walking out of hr knowing that someone had complained about aspects of my transition. But by, by being denied the chance to talk to them personally or to even know who they are. Just imagine being told that someone in the office does not tolerate you for who you are as a person and you don't know who it is. Suddenly you walk back into the office and everyone is potentially that person. You may have some friends you trust beyond doubt. But for most people, you won't know if they were the ones stabbing you in the back. When that happened to me. I couldn't spend another day at that company. I just didn't belong anymore. Life threw lots of things my way in the year following my decision, things I could have couldn't have anticipated. But I don't regret my decision because even though I hit some unexpected bumps along the road, I did everything in my power to mitigate the risk. I did my homework. I ran all the low, low risk experiments I could come up with.

I don't regret it because I know because I, I don't regret it because now I feel better than ever that splinter in my mind isn't driving me mad because there is no splinter. It's gone for good. I don't regret it because that decision was in line with my values. I don't regret it because I learned a lot. I learned that not sharing information as soon as possible, erodes trust and delays the desired effects. Now I give feedback to my colleagues sooner than ever before.

Even if that feedback is painful to give. I learned that not feeling included at a company you work for feels worse than I had to imagine. I learned that even if someone is an activist, like myself, having to be the one who educates their colleagues on social issues is too much of a burden. I learned that if someone is part of a minority, they need a lies because even the people who still take you seriously as a professional may dismiss the problems you face as a minority. Finally, I learned the most important lesson of all the wrong risk, mitigated decision is better than no decision at all. Make a timely decision by all means, but do everything in your power to mitigate the risks. In most cases, you can do that by having an escape strategy for when things go haywire, the hard decisions are the ones where the options are not inherently comparable and risk can only be mitigated before acting on the decision. There are they, these are the ones that put your way to test. These are the ones where dissecting the problem and using the scientific method to proper realize them becomes all the more important. These are the decisions that define you. These are decisions.

You will always remember, these are the decisions you should never regret. And that was what I wanted to say. Um And they just uh wanted to call your attention to the to the uh logos here in poker is my workshop. Uh If you're interested, you can uh join one of those events and I have a youtube channel on cup of quote. If you enjoyed this talk, check out my content there.