Happy almost April, y’all! It’s another fourth Friday, and this is “Geek of All Trades” – a place where I chronicle my misadventures in doing something new and geeky every month. Typically, I talk about new hobbies (like my terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad attempt at playing Portal) or about righting terrible wrongs (like the fact that, just a short time ago, I’d never seen the original Star Wars trilogy). This month, we’re targeting a place more intimidating than Mordor, and more soul-sucking than a Dementor’s kiss – the workplace.
“Now wait a minute,” I hear some of you saying. “I feel totally at home at work.” By this, I assume you mean:
A) You work from home, and I am infinitely jealous of both your career and your expansive selection of yoga pants.
B) You work in a creative field where you can wear jorts to work and there is a keg in the break room. I know that magical place; I used to work there. It’s called advertising.
C) You love working in a cubicle, and you are a sick freak.
I won’t take up your time by outlining all of the reasons that cubicles are the worst (and there are many). I will say, I don’t know how I’m supposed to be even moderately productive when the man in the next cube hums “Oye Como Va” all day and takes all of his conference calls on speakerphone. But worse than the complete lack of privacy or being forced to smell other people’s lunch is this – there’s no easy way to embrace geekiness in a corporate environment.
Cubicles are designed to be “one size fits all.” They’re totally homogenous – generally grey desks, grey walls, grey drawers, and your standard black computer chair. I get it – the companies who issue them to their employees are looking for productivity, not luxury. But if Seasonal Affective Disorder is a thing, Cubicle Affective Disorder is, too, and I definitely have it. If you, like me, see in color and have interests, you’ll be dying to make your cube your own from the second you cross its threshold.
“YES!” you think. “BUY ALL THE THINGS!!” Before you know it, you’re in the checkout line at Target with a cartful of cork boards, miniature terrariums, and an Isaac Mizrahi decorative bowl. You have framed pictures of every major milestone in your life dating back to Kindergarten graduation, and you have color-coordinated your push pins. You’re ready for cubicle domination – or so you think.
But what about all the stuff that makes you…you? What about the fact that you own every single Game of Thrones Funko figurine? What about your extensive Magic the Gathering card collection? What about the fact that your room is positively plastered with pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch in various states of un-scarfing? Are you just supposed to save all that stuff for evenings, weekends, and tracked Tumblr tags? That ain’t right. But on the other hand, you’re navigating the land of blazers and button-downs – chances are, you don’t work for Comic Con (and if you do, I’ve got a resume for you). People are expecting you to look professional, and for most folks, “professional” excludes a lot of the fun stuff.
So what’s an Iggle or Miggle to do? How do you strike a balance between corporate couture and geeky goddess? I’ll tell you how – you go stealth geek.
Though admittedly not as cool as sticking it to the man and wallpapering your cube in Thor posters, going stealth geek ensures you two things – you get to put your personality front and center, but you also get to remain professional enough to meet a client at the drop of a hat. Here’s how you do it.
Pick your battles. As we have already established, it’s probably not best for your corporate career to Lisa Frank-ify every corner of your cubicle. But a well-placed item or two can do wonders, and will attract geeky friends without repelling corporate co-workers. Maybe you make your favorite Warhammer miniature the guardian of your mousepad. Maybe you slip your favorite Hawkeye comic in right next to Lean In among your stack of impressive, leather-bound books. Me? I’ve got this Game of Thrones dragon egg chilling right next to a framed picture of my husband and me on our wedding day, and I can’t tell you how many other stealth geeks see it, lean into my cube, and whisper “Dracarys.” Immediate BFFs.
Keep it sneaky. Sometimes my geeky contributions to the 9 to 5 are so small that I am certain no one else notices them – but it’s kinda fun that way. It’s like I’m living a double life that only I know about. “Yes, let’s definitely set up some time to talk about the impact to the sales pipeline in Q2FY14, but also DID YOU KNOW I HAVE DALEK EARRINGS ON!?” We’ll just breeze past the fact that my giant red mane pretty much negates all possibility of anyone noticing what any of my earrings look like ever – it’s just another cog in my wheel of all things sneaky and geeky.
Change it up. Look, friends, the whole point of going stealth geek is to keep feeling like yourself in an environment that’s often not conducive to individuality. So do whatever you have to do to make your space feel fun, inviting, and unique all the dang ol’ time. Tiny Warhammer guy not doing it for you anymore? Replace him with Aqua Man. Or a time turner necklace. Or this excellent skirt from Etsy seller NerdAlertCreations that features a map of Westeros. “Of where now?” says your boss. “Oh, uh…west of us. It’s a map of west of us.” Perfect cover.
Going stealth geek is not optimal – clearly, I want more Funko figurines, Magic the Gathering cards, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Lisa Frank in all facets of life. However, it is a surefire way to keep your sanity and individuality in a very corporate job that might not allow for your preferred level of geekery. And trust me, with even the smallest geeky statements, your fellow stealth geeks will come out of the woodwork ready to befriend you – or at least jack your sweet Wolverine action figure. Got any tips, tricks, or pics of all the ways you’ve tricked out your workplace? Leave ‘em below. I’ll see ya in April!