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Write Speak Code 2019 Conference

August 16–18, 2019 / San Francisco, CA

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Illustration of San Francisco by Maia Boakye

Program

Workshops, personalized feedback sessions, panels, and talks by talented technologists with marginalized genders.

4 Mistakes from my First Open Source Contribution

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We all know we should be contributing to open source. But if you are like me, actually doing it for the first time can be daunting. I made my first contribution to an open source project this year, and there were a lot of hurdles that tripped me up. In this talk, I will share the mistakes I made in that first PR, as well as the things that I did well that helped me (eventually) get that PR merged.

Advocating for Salary Transparency

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Salary transparency is a necessary precursor to salary fairness. In advocating for salary transparency, we face three main obstacles - a concern for employee's privacy, social stigma against open talk about money issues, and desire to obscure salary inequity. This talk will discuss some approaches to communicating the importance of salary transparency as well as assuaging concerns about those issues.

Ask your dumb question

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Have you ever been in a situation where you didn’t ask a tech question at work because you were scared people would think it was dumb? 
Well, you’re not alone! In this talk we’ll examine our reluctance to ask questions in the workplace and how the stereotype of the 10x superstar developer is driving us to second-guess and devalue ourselves as developers. We’ll explore the roles that psychological safety and debunking stereotypes have on nurturing creative and supportive spaces in tech. Come find out how asking your dumb question helps make that happen.

Building Software with Trust & Safety

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Online harassment and abuse is a major problem, and when users don't feel safe on a platform, they will leave. In this talk I argue that everyone who is building software for humans has the ethical responsibility to build with user trust & safety in mind. With that perspective, I walk through the framework my team uses to evaluate and develop features, and I give examples of this framework in action. I hope that attendees will come away from this talk knowing why they should and how they can bring the principles of trust & safety back to their own work.

Contributing docs to open source projects

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If you are a new open source contributor, you must have been told at some point: "Start by contributing docs to open source projects". But no one tells you how to do it. How do you choose an open source project to contribute docs to, how do you communicate with the project maintainers, and how do you actually write the docs. These are the questions I intend to help answer in this talk. Drawing on my experience as a Senior Tech Writer at an open source organization and a docs contributor to other open source projects, I want to share my process of finding and choosing an open source project to contribute docs to, interacting with project maintainers, and my technical writing process to create useful documentation.

Deeper Understanding & Better Communication through Art & Observation

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Understanding new concepts and complex systems is hard. Explaining them? That’s even harder. Like anyone in a highly specialized career, software engineers may struggle to convey information concisely, confidently, and clearly to technical and non-technical folks. As an illustrator and former graphic designer, Anna has found that visual art can be the key to both deeper understanding and clearer, more accessible communication. In this talk, we’ll explore why the ability to clearly communicate is vital to mastering complex topics, how to choose the right abstractions to present to a specific audience, and how a different medium can provide a new lens through which to view a familiar concept.

Demystifying Human Resources

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"Don’t trust HR," is something you hear a lot, and with good reason: fundamentally, the role of Human Resources is to protect a company's interests. (I should know: I used to work in HR before I became an engineer!) However, there are situations where the company’s interests and your interests are aligned, where involving HR might be a good idea. How can under-represented technical workers leverage Human Resources to help our teams and ourselves? In this talk, I'll explain the different types of HR folks you're likely to encounter in the wild. I'll share some principles you can apply to understand whether or not HR can actually help you, including real world stories from both sides of the table.

Designing Against Domestic Violence

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The reality of domestic violence doesn’t disappear when people enter the digital world. Abusers use technology to exploit and control their victims, meaning that technologists have a responsibility to ensure that users of our products are empowered to protect their safety. How can we prevent people with violent intentions from forms of abuse and control that are digital, such as exploiting online banking software to control a partners finances or tormenting them with smart home devices? How can we recognize points of possible intervention where we might be able to help a user who is experiencing domestic violence? How can we make it harder for stalkers to find their victims? While there’s no simple answer and ultimately no way to ensure our users’ safety in all situations, thoughtful considerations and small changes while designing and building products can and does result in meaningful contributions to people’s safety. This talk will help the audience get into the right mindset for thinking about safety and provide a framework for building technology against domestic violence.

Don't Fear the Red Light: Getting Started with Screencasting

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One of the really great things about learning to code is that so much of that learning can take place online, on our own time. If video is your thing, you know what a powerful medium it can be. You have something unique and interesting to offer whether that be in the form of a conference talk, blog posts, etc. Share it through a screencast! This session walks though the basic steps to help you design your own screen cast. We’ll cover some options for basic equipment, software, distribution, and lots of tips to help you develop and deliver the best content you can.

Donde Esta La BiblioTech?

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When it comes to accessibility, in the Javascript community we often forget to talk about what it takes to get on the internet in the first place, yet the Federal Communications Commission estimates that 34 million Americans don’t have access to the internet. Where do these people go when they need to check their email, turn in their homework, or apply for a job? To the original open archive for information: public libraries! In this talk we will peer into the digital divide and learn about what public libraries across the United States are doing to support their communities access to the world wide web. We will discuss how hardware constraints, PC reservation software, browser access, and broadband speeds affect user experience and what we can do to help librarians and the Digital Inclusion movement. 

Fierce, Feisty, Fussy… fighting for fair, ungendered feedback

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"Kate comes across as too pushy and abrasive in front of clients. Maybe she should try to be more accommodating." "Jim can really be a strong driving force when it comes to convincing clients. His confident approach shows clients we believe in what we’re doing." This is an all-too-common example of similar behaviour perceived and evaluated differently based on one’s gender presentation. Does this situation sound familiar? If it does, you’ve probably experienced gendered feedback - a construct that harms everyone and is never fair. In this talk we will discuss how to identify gendered feedback when it’s not so obvious, how it’s having a tangible impact on your career success and how to protect yourself from it while leveraging your peer network.

Four-Letter F Word

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A career path, like any path, can contain bumps and obstacles. But we don't often hear about the stumbling blocks along the way, leading many to believe their experiences are singular and isolated. Learn the best tools for professional progress despite setbacks by discussing strategies, dispelling myths, providing resources and speaking openly about the potholes on the road to success.

Free Software as a Feminist Issue

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As software begins to control more and more of our lives, the Free Software movement limps along, failing to reach mainstream consciousness. Women are in a unique position to help change the future of software and help protect our liberty – But while we are still fighting to even be accepted as technologists in the first place, why should we care? This non-technical presentation will explore the adverse impact that proprietary software has on women and girls across the world, and make an argument for software freedom as a human rights and feminist issue. We will look at access to technology and technological education, direct physical harms of proprietary software on women, and the use of proprietary software to uphold the status quo: including patriarchy. Additionally, we will discuss the unique value that women can bring to the struggling FOSS movement, and the important role women have played in organizing the great social movements of the past. Attendees should leave this presentation with a new framework to understand why we need women in tech. It’s not just about diversity for diversity’s sake – it’s about creating a better world for generations of women and girls to come.

Gender Neutral Design & How to Achieve It

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Stereotypes are ever present in our lives. Design stereotypes are no different. Designers sometimes unknowingly design for what we believe is “feminine” or “masculine” in the colors, layouts, and typographic treatments we choose to apply to our work. I want to embrace the concept of gender-neutral design; where we are not designing for gender specifically, but for people all together.

Give bad talks: An introvert's step-by-step guide to public speaking

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Even though we all know how much public speaking can advance our careers and increase the visibility of our fellow members of marginalized groups, let's be honest: it's terrifying!!! Especially if you're an introvert or have a social anxiety disorder like I do. In this talk, we'll explore strategies to excel at public speaking and conquer our fears through a series of incremental steps. From vocal variation exercises to video blogging to PowerPoint parties (more fun than it sounds!), I'll share everything that helped me become a public speaker while conquering my social anxiety along the way. In psychology we call this "systematic desensitization". I just call it "lots of small wins over time"!

How To Give Talks: A Talk

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You've always wanted to speak on a particular topic, but how do you go about doing it? What will you say and how will you say it? How will you keep your audience engaged and yourself focused? And most importantly (as it turns out), how do you bring yourself--your background, your personality, and your identity--into your talk in a way that makes what you say both authentic and relevant? Join comic book writer, developer (and raconteur) Lilah Sturges as she explains not just how to make your talks engaging, but how to engage yourself in your talk.

How We Tell Stories In Code

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If you you ask the experts how to write ‘good’ software, they will likely emphasize precision and predictability. They may recommend great tools like functional programming, immutability, testing, and type systems — all of which aim to make software more reliable. But software must interact with the real world to be useful, and the real world always presents scenarios software does not account for. You can’t write good software by trying to architect unpredictability out of your program. To write good working software, you must build systems that work well even though they are unpredictable and incomplete. Your code has to describe and solve a real world problem without accounting for all details of the problem. Good software tells a narrative, but like all narratives leaves things out. Maybe good programmers are really just good story tellers. Story telling is a process that we do all the time, including with our personal histories. Story telling both approximates the truth and influences our reality — the stories we tell affect how we remember the past and behave in the future. This has interesting implications for writing software - the systems we design affect and change the nature of the real problems they’re designed to address. And the story we tell in code is directed as much to other programmers as it is to the machine the code runs on. Recognizing the messy, very human nature of writing software teaches us to trust our intuition, and makes us better programmers.

How facilitation can help you achieve more in your meetings

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Are you frustrated with meetings? Do you struggle to manage difficult personalities? Do you feel like you spend hours talking, but never reach a decision? These are all problems that can be solved with facilitation! I have been training and practicing facilitation in my company for the last several months and have seen the benefits it can bring. In this talk, I will share with you the ways that facilitation can transform your meetings to improve efficiency, outcomes, and happiness and will give you some techniques for how you can start to practice facilitation in your work.

How to #HumbleBrag Effectively

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Many people are shy of accepting praise, and highlighting their professional achievements to the detriment of their own career success. The reasons why they are uncomfortable advocating for themselves could be gendered, cultural or societal. In this talk, I hope to highlight the specific ways to phrase your wins, and position your thinking to not get left behind due to a lack of perceived value.

How to give your first technical talk and not die.

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Do you imagine the absolute worst when it comes to giving a technical talk? Come learn how I gave my first tech talk gone bad, a full 45 mins (shudder!) and yet came out alive after several mistakes. I had all the ingredients of a good tech talk gone bad - Audio/Video fail, nerves, tough audience, challenging Q&A etc. And still managed to come out as one of the best talks at the tech conference per audience voting! You may know what to do at a tech talk, now learn what not to do as I walk you through each failure scenario and how I recovered from them.

Improv for Introverts Workshop

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Making a funny remark on your feet in front of strangers is intimidating. Luckily for us, good improv isn't about making well-timed jokes or being the funniest person in the room. For some, learning improv comedy can even reduce social anxiety. Improv for Introverts is a safe space to try out improv through supportive exercises. The lovely thing about these energizing improvised-theater activities is that everyone is expected and ENCOURAGED to have fun and make mistakes. This workshop's activities are specially crafted to focus on lifting the next person up (instead of competing with them)! By the end of the workshop, you'll feel more comfortable with ambiguity and authentically connected to others. You'll also walk away with ways to foster more welcoming environments where you work and beyond.

Lead/Measure/Adjust: Create Your Own Feedback Loops as a Manager

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As a manager, your success is tied to the performance of your team, which can make it challenging to recognize your own accomplishments. If you ignore these triumphs, you’re actually at risk of becoming a detriment to those who look up to you and not elevating yourself for future opportunities. This talk will help leaders identify tangible ways to measure and track their progress, as well as demonstrate how they can continue improving their skillsets.

Making Myself Through Writing

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For the year of 2019, I was determined to get over my fears and start writing 300 words every day. A friend of mine created a platform called Write Together which uses a GitHub inspired streak counter to help incentivize writers on the platform to write daily. Now 136 days strong, and counting, I want to share how writing has had numerous benefits for my wellbeing, friendships, and career, and how and why you should start your own writing practice too!

Managing up

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No one cares more about your career than you. Whether it’s your first job, or you are an experienced manager we all report to someone. Our managers can’t help us get where we want to go if we don’t talk about it. Without speaking up, your manager is flying blind. This talk will highlight how you can manage your boss to better the daily communications, and guide your long-term career planning.

Mind the gap (between technology and morality)

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Results of ethical plights make international headlines overnight — from Boeing 737 Max crashes, to Facebook privacy scandals, to 23andMe genetic data sharing, and more. Ethical dilemmas with technology force us to confront difficult a questions: who gets the last word when it comes to making money or doing what’s right? And: whose job is it to decide? In this talk, we’ll examine why ethics in technology is uniquely challenging to address, and explore how to equip ourselves for an active role in making sure everybody does good.

Oh baby! How to successfully navigate being the first to need parental leave at your startup

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Becoming a parent is a big life change. Being the first person to need parental leave at a startup makes it feel even more daunting. This talk walks you through steps you can take to educate your company about what leave you're entitled to and shows how you can own the situation and take control. This talk is for anyone who works in startups who is thinking about having a baby (or adopting one!), is currently expecting a child, or just wants to be an ally in the workplace for soon-to-be parents.

Opening the Door to Open Source and More, by Getting Git

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Git is the most widely used open source version control system. Git, like any language, opens the door to a world of possibilities, including contributing to open source, collaborating with others on projects, showcasing your code work publicly, hosting a blog and so much more! Git and tech, go hand in hand.

Salary Negotiations Unlocked

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Do you want a fair salary for you and your friends? Do you feel awkward talking about money unless it’s to talk about a deal you got at Target? Do you wish you could just pay someone to negotiate on your behalf? Do you dread the fact that you have to be an adult and advocate for yourself? If you said yes to those questions, this is the talk for you! First, we’ll talk about how you can answer those awkward questions about what your current salary is and what salary your looking for so you don’t get that heart in the throat kind of feeling. Then, we’ll set you up to do the right research for a fair salary because who can argue with data? We will talk about tips and tricks for your upcoming negotiation, but we’ll start you on the right plan to be confident and prepared for the next negotiation. We will finish it off with some real life practice in a safe space and give each other feedback on how we can improve. Let’s start closing the wage gap today!

Shitty robot fight club

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Work in teams to build a node-powered battle bot and compete to be the *ultimate shitty robot champion.* In this workshop participants will combine cardboard, circuits and open source software to learn about working with hardware. Everyone is welcome, no experience required. Laptop with node installed may be helpful, but is not necessary. First rule of shitty robot fight club - have fun!

Sneakily toxic workplaces and how to identify you may be in one

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Toxic workplaces come in many kinds, and some are so sneaky you won’t know you were in one until you’re long gone. Abuse survival is like that sometimes. Time in the industry helps give you that baseline, but wouldn’t it be nice to identify these before you have years of trauma to get over? This talk will be going over various ways that workplaces can be toxic, the psychological safety techniques that work to survive them, and how to identify you may be adopting some of these techniques. Knowing you’re in a toxic environment helps isolate the long-term damage, and gives you a leg up in relearning healthier techniques when you get to a safer place of work.

So You Want To Save The World

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What would it look like to save the world - to help people become and stay healthier, to make the world more equitable, to mitigate ecological disaster? How do you craft a career in service of that goal? This talk proposes a strategy for identifying the causes you're passionate about, how to build the skills that will prepare you to work effectively in highly constrained environments, and where to get started. We’ll talk about: Abandoning the savior mentality, Guiding entrepreneurial ambition through user-centered design, The pros and cons of working for-profit, non-profit, and for-the-government, Common technical stacks in the social good space, Looking for opportunities, How to cope with disillusionment, and more! Attendees will leave with a high-level view of the tech for good ecosystem and some advice for how to navigate it, grounded in real world examples.

Story telling with Git rebase

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In a successful software development project, a key challenge is to manage complexity because projects get very complex very quickly even within small teams. Version control is the tool for communicating intent in our codebase over the life time of the project. Rebasing allows us to revise our development history before sharing it with the team. Learn to use Git commit messages to keep track of the intent of your code changes to make it easier to make future changes. Learn how to make using feature branches less painful and more effective. Learn the mechanics of interactive rebasing, how to merge conflicts without losing precious code and how to auto-squash commits. Basically, stop fearing interactive rebasing.

Sustaining Community Empowerment as a Black Woman

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I entered the tech industry from a nontraditional path. I felt as if I was alone during my journey. I constantly felt overwhelmed by the idea of entering the industry as a black, female, self taught, developer. Growing up, I was told I had to be twice as good to get half of what they got. This nontraditional path broke that idea, and I struggled with finding a way to overcome my own self doubt. I searched for help. I tried to find people who would get this feeling, people who looked like me and struggled with some of the same issues. I quickly found several local communities that focused on supporting, uplifting, and empowering women (queer, cis, trans, nonbinary). There were all of the things I needed, but it still didn’t feel right. Between their marketing, the way their program was structured, to the way leadership ran the organization, nothing about the space felt like it was made to support me. This space wasn’t made with me in mind. I decided to keep my head down and learn what I needed despite feeling alienated in this space. These experiences opened my eyes to how easy it is for organizations empowerment strategies to turn into harm when they’re not focused on protecting the most marginalized individuals in their community. To me, getting community right was simple: create a space where the most marginalized people feel safe, and this space will be safe for everyone. As an individual, this is what I tried to do whenever anyone needed help on their tech journey. At work, during events, and in online communities, I became the person that would drop anything to help someone that was stuck in their tech journey. Little by little, I saw what type of organization people needed. I saw the gaps in the market, and I knew I had the empathy and skill set to build it. That became the birth of Tech By Choice. Tech By Choice became a way for me to fix all of the things I saw broken. A way to build a community for those who felt left out. I went through the stages of building the team, creating the mission, finding our values, and doing the neverending legal paperwork to create a nonprofit organization whose goal is to authentically support all underrepresented groups, at all stages of their journey.

Telling stories with doodles

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For an industry where we constantly need to be picking up new knowledge to succeed as engineers, product managers, designers, technical writers, and everything in between: we're actually pretty bad at communicating with each other. One thing I've been experimenting with lately is using sketchnoting and low-fidelity doodles to complement technical explanations. By adding simple visuals that require no artistic talent, my written content has gained far greater traction than before, and it's even helped me to grow a wider, more diverse professional network. In this workshop, I'll walk attendees through (1) building a visual library of technical subject matter, (2) applying some illustration tricks to make simple doodles look more sophisticated, and (3) thinking about modeling technical concepts in cartoon metaphors for more nuanced storytelling. By the end of this session, all attendees will have the seeds of a new superpower planted.

The Hero's Journey

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I took a sabbatical in October 2018 after a very difficult year, both personally and professionally. I stopped working and traveled by myself for three months, during which I started the slow and deep process of healing. This talk (which might feel more like poetry at times) aims to share some wisdom I have gathered on this journey -- that this industry, this world, wounds us and that we need to heal and transform ourselves in order to transform anything else.

The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers: Tautology and Business Value

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You didn't get that cool programming job because you're a great programmer. You got it because the company you work for wants to make money and they think you can help. It's easy for us to feel like our worth/value/capitalist expression is tied to our employment, but it's also useful to flip that narrative and talk about how our companies need us, and how we can use that understanding to be more valuable employees and even better humans. What is the value that you bring to your employer? Can you articulate it? Can you expand it? Can you take that value and use it for your own purposes?

The philosophies and practices you need to scale an equitable organization through diverse teams

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The workforce of the future will look nothing like it does today. With changing demographics, increased automation, and a breakdown of traditional corporate silos, businesses which don’t adapt—and keep adapting–will be at a competitive disadvantage. In the future teams, not individuals will drive innovation, and research shows that diverse and inclusive teams maximize results. An innovative, iterative, data-informed diversity & inclusion strategy can not only help you attract the right talent but also retain it. Right now, you have the data you need to begin understanding your barriers to building a diverse workforce, and how to invest to create an inclusive culture. Over the past two years, collaboration software maker Atlassian has been able to improve its hiring of women in technical roles by 80% while simultaneously improving the representation of employees over 40 and those from underrepresented cultural groups. Join Aubrey Blanche, Atlassian’s Global Head of Diversity & Belonging, to hear how you can leverage your data to build a balanced team at scale.

Think Coding is Hard? Try Writing a Kids Book For It!

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As a software engineer for the last 8 years, I've encountered many technical problems and challenges. The most difficult one? Writing a book to teach kids how to code in Python! I'll give you insights on how I accomplished this monumental task while maintaining a regular 9-5!

Whiteness In Marginalized Spaces: When Coalition Building Harms

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As we work on improving the diversity of our technical organizations, communities, and events, we must also address the harm that is inflicted when whiteness centers itself in marginalized spaces. In this talk, I will discuss what is happening, why it's happening, and provide a strategy that focuses on prioritizing the most vulnerable.

Why we worry about all the wrong things

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Modern humans aren't great at risk assessment. We often blithely ignore things that could harm us, and are intimidated instead by things that are factually quite safe. This has vast implications for all aspects of our lives, including our careers. In this talk, we'll explore root causes of fear and anxiety, and discover how we can work to deliberately rewrite our "instincts", redirect our worry toward what actually matters, and channel it into productive outcomes that make us safer, happier and less stressed.