I’m on the WOMMA Board!

I’m proud to announce I’ve been elected to the 2014 WOMMA Board of Directors. I’m looking forward to learning shoulder to shoulder from such great leaders as Virginia Miracle, Brad Fay, Mark Bisard, Rick Murray, Rod Brooks, Peter Storck… the list goes on.

In short, it’s an honor to serve a great organization like WOMMA and I thank those of you who helped me get nominated and elected!

Change takes patience

I’ve said it before: it’s more powerful to be like water than fire. Amber Nasalund has written a piece on her outstanding “Brass Tack Thinking” blog I think describes some of the finer points of why this matters.

  • Change is incremental more than it is ever sweeping and broad. It happens in tiny pieces over time, in a non-linear way.
  • Resistance is only overcome over time, with consistent evidence, ongoing encouragement, and by presenting small, realistic steps that can be seen and felt in the short term even while working toward a long-term vision.
  • Culture, mindset, and attitudinal change is some of the hardest and potentially most frustrating work there is. It’s also some of the most rewarding.
  • Brute force doesn’t work. Even if you’re changing a process, the humans behind it have to do the work to make it happen. Humans are emotional creatures with egos, values, insecurities, irrational thought patterns, and pride. Those things shatter under the wrong kind of pressure. In short, you can only ever lead the horse.
  • There is a point where you have to let go and realize that now might not be the time. No one can tell you what that point is.

Leading with this lens requires character (which is hard) and a strong sense of self (also hard). It also requires the leader to take a long view of success. Most leaders aim to be in any role for a year or two at the most before moving on, which further complicates things.

Still, never giving up combined with genuine partnering (including listening when someone disagrees) across the business has been the secret to whatever success I’ve had to date.

Thanks to Amber for a great post.

Pointless hostile comments – at least it’s not just me

Reading the comments on David Pogue’s column in the New York Times today about “pay by phone” devices I realized something useful: no matter how useful, how factual the story, some people are going to get all riled up in the comments. And it doesn’t just happen to me. It even happens to someone as well-loved as David Pogue.

The column narrates the story of how one  iPhone card-reader device works. If you read the comments, you’ll see there’s an undercurrent of fear and a connection of Pogue with the technology. Here’s my favorite quote:

These people should be shut down immediately. Thanks a lot, Dave. You’ve just lost a devoted reader.

What? That doesn’t even make sense. He wrote the story, not the software.

Like I said, at least it’s not just me. For some odd reason, today it felt validating to see a titan like David Pogue have a few trolls.

Transposition of the great arteries: our baby’s story 2 of 2

This post contains the information I was most anxious about before Ryan’s birth, so I’m going to get pretty detailed in the hopes it helps other anxious parents.

This cute baby had transposition of the great arteries when he was bornWhen you know your baby will need surgery immediately after birth, you want to set a schedule as much as you can so you can get the “A” team, not whomever is on call in the middle of the night when you go into labor. Also for the safety of the baby we learned you want to go as close to exactly term as possible, but not longer. On May 27th (a few days short of being full term), 2011 we officially gave up on being induced (it didn’t work) and scheduled a C section for the next day. There were probably 7-8 nurses/doctors in my surgery room connected to another surgery room with another team ready for Ryan. There was a little hole cut in between, like a McDonald’s drive-through.

During the actual event Matt stood next to my head. As soon as Ryan was born they passed him to the next room. I’m quite sure they gave me some sort of valium-related drug bc I was pretty drowsy. In fact, I wouldn’t have seen Ryan at all after he was born if my husband hadn’t called my name from the little drive through window. I was so out of it I didn’t even realize he moved from my left side to the other side of the room with the baby. The sight was a relief: he was pink (babies with TGA can sometimes be born blue) and perfect looking. I never got to hold him, which still makes me sad. Still, I don’t regret the decision to get him to the cardiologist as fast as possible.

This next part I learned second hand from my husband, since I immediately went to post-surgery where I was joined by my angel of a mother who stayed with me for many hours.

Once with the cardiologist, they do an immediate diagnostic to determine what his oxygenation levels are, how his heart is working, etc. Since his defect meant no oxygenated blood would move through his body, oxygen is a big deal. Before babies are born and right after (for some) they have a little hole in between the chambers of their heart so the mother’s heart can do the work. The hole closes up either right before or right after the baby is born. In our baby, we wanted that hole to stay open until major surgery, so oxygenated blood could flow through his body. Once he was born, his cardiologist quickly determined he needed to have the hold re-opened, so they used a scope to open it back up. Medication kept it open until his major heart surgery. To get him to this initial surgery, the team walk/ran our baby from the Women’s hospital through the maze of tunnels to Rady’s Children’s hospital where they did the scoping surgery. He did well – this surgery was minor compared to what was to come.

The first time I touched him was in the NICU in the heart wing at Rady’s- an amazing place. After a week’s stay there in his own room with a host of incredible nurses he had his major heart surgery one week after he was born. The hours of waiting to hear were some of the most traumatic and blurred of my life. Finally his surgeon emerged and told us the surgery went picture perfect. We were hugely relieved – I think maybe I cried.

A few weeks later, Ryan came home. I think he was maybe in the hospital around 3 weeks. Shortly after he came home we realized something wasn’t right and within a few days he was readmitted. It turned out to be nothing serious – he had a really tough case of gastric reflux, which most heart babies do, evidently. When he came home the second time (he was only in the hospital a few days that time) we came home to stay at my in-law’s house for several weeks until we could establish a routine of sorts.

Looking back, this stuff both seems both so far away and still feels so immediate. Our little guy is 1 now – his cardiologist has said he only has to come back once a year for a checkup. Although he’s doing well, there are a few side effects that can occur over time.

I was blessed during this process – wonderful husband, wonderful parents, wonderful baby, wonderful friends. People came out of the woodwork to support me. On one particularly dark and fearful moment my boss/friend told me she KNEW everything was going to be just fine. She knew down in her bones. Let me tell you, if you are looking for the right words to say – those are the right words. It gave me something to cling to.

And now? We have a happy, healthy baby boy. If you’re reading this because your baby (or future baby) has TGA he or she will be too. Do as my MIL told me: be strong, mommies! 🙂


Transposition of the great arteries: our baby’s story 1 of 2

One year ago today was the happiest, scariest day of my life – the day our wonderful baby Ryan was born.  While I was still about 5 months pregnant, we found out our still unborn baby had a critical, fatal (but fixable) heart defect called TGA or “Transposition of the Great Arteries.” Out of concern for our baby’s privacy, I’ve not written about him or used his photos in any public websites. That said, after months of soul searching, I can’t forget the hope a selfless mother’s blog about her family’s experience with her son’s TGA gave me. And I want to give other mothers the same hope I got. So, just this once I’m going to write about our experience with him during the past year.

This healthy kid was born with TGAI was 40 when I got pregnant. After years of fearing not meeting the right man in time, thinking I might be too old to get pregnant once I did (I was 37 when we got married), and multiple disappointments, suddenly without any outside intervention we were pregnant. The emotion was overwhelming: joy, gratitude and anticipation. When I was about 5 months pregnant we went into my obstetrician’s office for a routine ultrasound. While administering the test. after initially chatting and exhibiting her southern charm the technician suddenly grew silent. She kept looking at the blood flow (it’s color coded now, pretty amazing) around the heart, pushing so hard on my stomach it actually started to hurt. Next we were ushered into a normal examination room where a young doctor (ours was out delivering babies) came into the room and gave us the news: she thought our baby had a heart defect. I think she even named it. And we needed to go see a specialist at UCSD who had a better machine for a diagnosis. At that point we were terrified/in denial. I think we asked some questions but mainly felt stunned. How could we have waited so long for this baby to have an outcome like this?

After getting the TGA diagnosis confirmed we also learned I would have to deliver at a different hospital, one attached to the Children’s hospital because Ryan would almost certainly need immediate surgery after being born. Even though knowing about his diagnosis so far ahead of his birth was painful, it gave us the luxury of choices we wouldn’t otherwise have had: I chose a perinatologist for myself, plus Ryan’s cardiologist and heart surgeon before he was born. We considered flying up to my home town of Palo Alto if Stanford would have given us a better outcome but after researching and interviewing the the doctors closer to home, decided our options in San Diego were good. The heart surgeon we picked, Dr. Lamberti, had extensive experience, including a stint at Stanford. We were also able to work with the head of Cardiology at Rady’s, Dr. Moore. Usually normal people do not welcome the kind of grilling you learn to do at Intuit to get to root cause (we learn to ask five levels of “why”) but these docs not only answered all my questions, they did so with kindness and calm confidence you want to see from a person who is going to cut your baby open, stop his heart and start it again.

Up next: his birth

Best career advice I ever got: be like water

Intuit can be a very intense (and rewarding) place to work. We have a strong company culture built on putting the customer at the center of everything we do and the pursuit of excellence proven by measurement. As a new employee, you will either love it and thrive or quit/get invited to leave very quickly. I knew I belonged here the minute I walked in the front door. Even still, long term success here can be elusive. I’ve been lucky enough to not only have some longevity here (seven years and counting), but to have helped usher in change along the way. This week I’ve mulled over what helped me get to the level of success I’ve had so far. Beyond the culture match, there is one piece of advice that stuck with me all these years that has really helped. That advice was to be like water.

Here’s what “be like water” means to me: instead of getting angry (I admit I sometimes do) and retaliatory about obstacles to change , be always thinking about the next avenue to take if the current one doesn’t pan out. Keep coming at the same goal gently, continuously until you achieve it. It’s not a very “western” way to approach change. Most people I know have taken the “fire” approach to change: get angry, try to force acceptance, argue, bully. The truth is, that approach often does work in the short term. I’ve never seen it work longer than a year or two. People figure out a way to respond in kind eventually, which ends all chance of change occurring, because it’s associated with the person who started all the drama.

Being like water means you never give up, never quit trying. It’s also one of the more powerful forces on earth. Fire scorches on a superficial level, but things grow back. On the other hand, over time water breaks down mountains and clears valleys. If long term change is your goal I encourage you to be like water. Go ahead, clear the valley.

The marathon as shrink

Christine and Timmy finish the San Diego MarathonThere’s something about running marathons that helps people focus on what they really want out of life. Seven years ago I ran a marathon after what seemed like training forever with my friend Timmy. The day of the marathon was one of the most emotional and difficult runs of my life. (Whoever tells you if you can run 20 miles you can run 26.2 is exaggerating) But here’s the beautiful part no one tells you about: after getting through the parts that I include under the “lowest lows” heading of my life (where the medic asked me if I was okay and needed to stop at mile 10 and the guy walking his dog who told me I was super-slow), I reached this moment at mile 23ish where the whole world just seemed to crack open to me. I know it sounds crazy but it was a near-religious experience. I felt if I could do this impossible thing, anything in the world was possible. Like there was an opening of myself to the possible.

Up until that day I had been working as a web developer. Which was fine, but really not making the most out of what makes me the best person I can be. Within a year of that marathon I started my job at Intuit which quite literally changed my life. I also met my husband.

I’ve seen two dear friends run marathons in recent months. One of them has already completely transformed her life: career, love life, moving closer to family, the whole thing.

There’s just something about those marathons. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself.

Maturity may not be what you expect

As we get older (as we all are every day) the goal is to get smarter, better, and be full of hope and joy. A word I like to describe all those things at once is “maturity.”

Without the benefit of experience and wisdom, Immaturity dictates you approach delightful things with an air of disdain and cynicism. Immaturity thinks it makes you look smarter to not admit you like comic books or musicals. It even means you don’t notice the natural world around you – plants, birds, laughing children and twinkling stars go unnoticed. Twenty-something friends, this doesn’t make you mature, it robs you of happiness. When I think back to the smug kid I was growing up in Palo Alto – a place it’s really easy to be smug and cynical by the way – it makes me a little sad of all the moments of joy I cost myself.

Maturity says you grab joy in every little way you can, minute by minute. One of my dear friends made her way into my heart the at a New Year’s Eve party where neither of us knew virtually anyone. A house party, they had Dick Clark’s countdown on their big-screen TV. After the announcer said who the upcoming entertainers would be, in a quiet moment she said a little too loudly: “I love Kelly Clarkson!” (She had just won American Idol) More silence followed. We looked at each other and cracked up, laughing until we cried. Embarrassing? You bet. But it made me love her joie de vivre. So twenty-somethings let that be your goal: go get you some joie de vivre and admit you love Glee.

“Most people don’t grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is aging.”
— Maya Angelou

The next frontier part II

Innovation adoption curve

Innovation adoption curve source: Wikipedia

As part of the “next frontier” of embracing the early majority on social media, there are some big questions leaders have to grapple with:

  • How do I encourage people across the business to include social solutions in their strategies?
  • How do I simultaneously cede control to the increasing numbers of people who want to engage in social channels and still guide the strategy?
  • How do I convince even the late majority and laggards that social solutions can improve the outcomes they’re seeking? More specifically, how do I do it without my ego getting in the way?
  • How do I balance time spent between executing strategies and educating?

I don’t know how I’m going to answer these questions yet, but one day soon I hopefully will. If you have any answers borne of experience, please comment.