Which Buffy the Vampire Slayer Characters are on Your Team?

Are you a Buffy, or more of a Xander? We look at seven Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters commonly seen on teams and the unique contributions each brings to projects. (Article originally appeared on the quickbase.intuit.com site.)

More than a decade after going off the air, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series (and the Joss Whedon movie which inspired it) still has a huge fan base. If you missed the show when it first aired, you can binge watch it on Netflix or Hulu; and if you’re lucky, you might catch one of the actors or writers in person at a nearby Comic Con.

In addition to being binge-watch-worthy entertainment, Buffy the Vampire Slayer offers a classic cast of character personalities often seen on project teams. Our protagonist, for example, did not volunteer to lead her team. Instead, she had to grow into her leadership role. Other characters illustrate how former demons can become valued contributors, and how mentoring improves team dynamics. I created a list of seven Buffy-based project personalities to get you started, but fans of the show shouldn’t have a problem adding to it. (Spoilers abound, but it’s not like you haven’t re-watched the show a dozen times.)

Buffy: The Chosen One

Great leaders don’t always start out so, well, great. Buffy, for example, was a mediocre high school student with a colorful transcript who did not become a leader on purpose. Despite her less-than-stellar academic performance, she is the “chosen one,” and over the course of seven seasons, viewers see her stumble and grow into her leadership role.

Starting in episode 1, on Buffy’s first day at a new school, she observes other students and identifies skills they bring to a team. Buffy immediately notices an obvious influencer, Cordelia, a popular student who openly mocks the mousey and book-smart Willow. After Cordelia is gone, Buffy approaches Willow and says, “I heard a rumor that you were the person to talk to if I want to get caught up.” Already we’re seeing great leadership potential from the chosen one!

Before becoming a team leader, Buffy becomes a cheerleader. But by the time she leads her team of vampire fighters, she’s off the squad and in the trenches working with teammates to research, develop, document, and execute plans of attack. Occasionally she makes bad calls, the effort fails; sometimes Buffy even cries. But what project manager hasn’t wanted to cry every now and then? (Or drive a stake through the heart of someone opposed to her plan?)

Then Buffy dusts herself off, gathers the team together (or adds different members to the team), and she works on developing a new (hopefully better) plan.

Giles: The Mentor

An experienced team member with a good handle on documentation and process is an asset to any team. He helps keep projects on track and running smoothly. Giles, the librarian, shows how an understanding of best practices (or processes) and access to good technical data streamlines projects and ultimately saves time and resources. By sharing his experience and helping teammates acquire skills and access resources, Giles mentors his teammates and improves the team dynamics.

On the other hand, Giles can be seen as “old school.” He is not an early adopter of new technologies. He’s the team member who needs a little coaching before he changes his established workflow. Giles is more likely to be thumbing through a print tech magazine than reading his Facebook feed on a lunch break.

Willow: The Mentee

Mentoring and access to resources help new team members develop skills, gain confidence, and live up to their potential. Willow demonstrates how willing and reliable team members can become resourceful, dependable, and valuable team players – and possibly even star performers (or, in Willow’s case, powerful witches). “Oh I could totally help you out!” Willow says when she first meets Buffy.

Through the seasons, viewers see Willow become less mousey and more confident, as she learns from various mentors and improves her skills. (But let’s not watch a clip of what happens when she becomes overly confident and briefly goes rogue, okay?)

Angel: The Rock Star

Angel, the handsome and powerful vampire, is the team member who is either a huge asset or a giant liability, depending on his unpredictable mood. The “rock star” team member tends to get a lot of attention and often appears to be a team leader, but in reality he isn’t as productive, reliable, or valuable as his teammates. Ultimately Buffy learns that the team functions better without Angel in the picture. (Eventually she kills him, but our analogy ends before that story arc.)

Oz: The Werewolf

Otherwise quiet and friendly team members can turn into monsters when they don’t get time to log off and recharge. For the safety of Buffy’s team, Oz needs a few days away during each full moon when he turns into a werewolf.

Perhaps you’ve walked into the office in a good mood on a Monday morning, only to open your email and find a snarky message from a colleague who worked through the weekend. Or maybe you made the mistake of verbally asking an IT staff member for help while he’s in the middle of a stressful server upgrade, so he walks away after rolling his eyes and telling you to “file a ticket.” Even the best team member gets grumpy under stress, so you’re more likely to avoid a werewolf’s wrath if you know when to give him space and time off to recharge.

Anya: The Independent

When properly handled, a disruptive team member with an “every person for herself” attitude can become a valued team player. Anya first appears in an episode of Buffy as a vengeance demon who travels alone. “I don’t need anything else. Vengeance is what I am,” she says.

With mentoring from her patient new teammates and their help at improving her communication skills, Anya’s past experience and unique skill set become valued contributions to team projects. For example, she is motivated by money, which makes her a great choice for managing finances at the Magic Box retail store. Anya is the exceptionally quirky person on the team with a few odd phobias (such as a fear of bunnies). She’s also incredibly independent and self-sufficient, which can make team dynamics challenging for her. However, she might not be the best team member to help recruit new hires at the conference expo.

Xander: The Generalist

Unlike his classmates, Xander doesn’t go to college after high school graduation, nor does he excel at any one skill in particular. Instead of depth, he brings to the team a breadth of knowledge and an eagerness to learn. His positive attitude and great sense of humor makes him an asset because he’s quick to volunteer, to pick up new skills, and to work with a range of personality types. Xander probably shouldn’t lead a huge project, but he can be counted on to tackle specific tasks or project pieces. Often generalists are overlooked, and they fly below the radar.

In a talk with Dawn, Buffy’s younger sister and a fellow generalist, Xander sympathetically explains, “They’ll never know how tough it is, Dawny, to be the one who isn’t chosen. To live so near to the spotlight and never step in it. But I know. I see more than anybody realizes because nobody’s watching me.” He goes on to tell Dawn that she isn’t special; rather, she’s extraordinary. Actually, Xander the generalist is the team member you want helping out at the expo, networking at events, and moderating your forums. Don’t underestimate him!

Which Buffy characters are on your team? Do you have a Spike, a Cordelia, or a Faith?

Leaving Kansas

Written my final day in Lawrence, Kansas: January 31, 2014

Lawrence, you saucy little minx.
I moved back here with my baby, and our temporary stay accidentally lasted 17 years. Thanks for helping me raise my beautiful girl, for the wonderful eclectic mix of creative and brilliant friends, for the top-notch collection of artists and musicians and visionaries and educators, for all the parades (and really, you are the parade-lovingest town ever there was), for the downtown library, for the jaw-dropping views of sunrises and sunsets and rainbows and stars in the sky, for the bald eagles just chilling out downtown, for the dog park (where I left mom’s ashes), for the loves I’ve had (and for comforting me through the heartbreaks, too), and for the oh so many memories I take with me.
Love you, mean it.

From Texas to Kansas
From Texas to Kansas
From Kansas to Texas


Dripped coffee

As the barista artistically made my drip coffee this morning at Central Market, he told me how I’d notice hints of brown sugar and citrus in the freshly roasted local brew, and he described the roasting process used by PT’s in Kansas City, sharing his admiration for their blends. Meanwhile, I’m picturing our future together in our little coffee shop. He’s at the counter helping customers, and I’m in the back running our website and taking online orders. As my new husband gently handed me my cup of passionately brewed…errr, dripped… coffee, I asked for cream. His face contorted in horror and I heard the needle rip across the romantic soundtrack as he called the divorce lawyer and I lost custody of our cute little coffee shop. At least I got to keep the dog.

How to Write a Conference Talk Proposal

In 2013, I was on the speaker committee for Texas Linux Fest. When the CFP closed and I looked through talk proposals submitted to Texas Linux Fest ’13, I noticed that I frequently got excited about an interesting talk title, only to be let down by the content of the proposal — or more precisely, the lack of content in the proposal. And I worried that we’ll have a small percentage of women speaking, despite our outreach efforts. So I wrote about it:
I interviewed a few FOSS (free and open source software) conference organizers to round up a handy list of suggestions to help you write a better conference talk proposal. But first, here’s my pep talk to women who have never submitted a conference talk proposal before:
Ladies, conference organizers cannot force you to submit talk proposals, but by golly I wish we could.

Why should you talk at an event?

  1. If you care about the low numbers of women represented in STEM careers, speaking at events is one way to raise visibility for women who are already here. How will anyone know about the cool stuff you are doing if you don’t tell us about it?
  2. Speaking at events can be good for your career. Being a conference speaker looks great on a resume, can make your manager and team happy because you are publicizing your work, and makes you visible to potential future employers.
  3. Speaking at events can be great for your social life. As an event speaker, you get to rub elbows with other cool speakers, including some big names in tech. You also get to know the event organizers and network with attendees who share common interests with you.
  4. You can get cool stuff. Maybe you get a speaker gift, or invited to a speaker dinner, or access to the speaker’s lounge with the good donuts. Or you could get an all-access pass to a pricey conference. And you get bragging rights, of course.
  5. You can get over your fear of public speaking. When I started speaking at events, I hated it. Dreaded it. Regretted signing up to do it. But I knew that I wanted numbers 1-4 on this list, so I bucked up and gave my first talk at a community conference. Then I gave another and another. I wasn’t a natural, I looked nervous, and I felt like puking, but I did it. And every time I spoke at an event, it got a little easier and my talks got a little better. (Believe me, I’m still not the speaker I want to be, but I’m not giving up.)
  6. People want to hear you. If your talk got selected, there are people who want to hear what you have to say. Your talk attendees are interested in your message, even if your hands are shaking and you feel queasy. And they want you to succeed. Anyone who has ever given a talk already went through the crazy thoughts rushing through your head and the churning going on in your gut. (Check out this great book for speaking tips and advice: Confessions of a Public Speaker, by Scott Berkun.)

So why aren’t you submitting talk proposals already?

And now for talk proposal best practices. I compiled these tips from suggestions I received from fellow TLF 2013speaker committee members Cody Lee and Nathan Willis, Selena Deckelmann (frequent conference speakerand event organizer), and Chris St. Pierre (2013 USENIX Configuration Management Summit program chair).

8 Tips for Writing a Talk Proposal:

  1. List key points you plan to cover in your talk. The points should be somewhat specific, but broad enough for the selection committee to understand or at least do a quick search for the topic if they are not familiar with the subject.
  2. What’s the one thing you want your audience to walk away from your talk with? State that sentence in your talk proposal.
  3. One way to start proposals is with questions you think the audience might ask before they see your talk.
  4. Specify whether you will include a demo in your talk, what it will be, and anything you might need the event organizers to provide for it.
  5. How long will your talk be? If you have a 45 minute time slot, but you only expect your talk to take 30, how will you fill the other 15 minutes?
  6. Who is your intended audience? For example, novice programmers, expert software developers, recruiters, community managers?
  7. If you want to speak at an event but can’t afford to cover travel and/or lodging, specify that in the proposal. If your proposal is compelling enough, event organizers might have a travel budget or other resources to help you attend the event.
  8. Don’t be afraid to over-communicate. You need to convince the speaker committee that your talk will help make their event interesting.
Still stumped? Chris advises, “I always try to make my proposal ready for immediate publication. That is, I look up last year’s program for the conference that I’m proposing to, and I make my proposal match their format exactly — sections, approximate length, etc. Ideally, once they accept my talk they should just be able to copy and paste into their proceedings.”
And Selena recommends a couple of other handy resources to help you polish your proposal: