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

Traveling Shoes

Yes ladies, there is a travel uniform. And if I had only known about it earlier, it would have made my life so much simpler. Thus, I share it with you in the hopes you can have pain-free travels because of it.

For the flight:

bring a big bag for carryon

Big bags hold everything and make security a breeze

  • Black yoga pants
  • flip flops or slip on shoes
  • two layers of tank tops
  • open front button-free cotton cardigan
  • hair in pony tail (with a metal free pony tail holder)
  • stud earrings (insert joke here)
  • big huge carry on bag which contains wallet, computer, toiletries in the quart-sized plastic baggie (mine is pictured at the right)
  • If you’re speaking at an event, bring a black shift dress -they travel well and are almost always appropriate. Dress it up with accessories. I got this little tip from Kira Wampler and she couldn’t have been more right. (thanks, Kira)

So what did I miss? What travel uniform do you wear?

Two reasons women leave tech jobs

On Sunday The New York Times posted a provocative story about why there aren’t more women in top positions in Silicon Valley. It’s not the first such article about subtle bias against women in business. As a woman working in the software industry I read the article with a combination of disappointment, mild surprise (at some of the more outrageous examples), and the grim recognition of common experience.

The NY Times article focused on the nature of people to revert to long-held biases (including those against women) in tough times, combined with the tendency for women to want to work more socially than men in similar engineering roles. It also touched on long-standing issues for women such as work/life balance and timing when (or if) to have children.

Here’s what none of the articles I’ve ever read touch on, although I can’t understand why. As a woman who used to be a web developer and chose to leave that mostly predictable, job-secure field to join a team of product managers for two reasons:

  1. The “Code Monkey” Bias: Even though what I was doing was far more technical than most of the sales/marketing people I worked with, I often got treated like I couldn’t understand, affect, or God-forbid drive strategy. Nothing pisses me off faster than people who treat me like I’m stupid, and ironically at this most technical time in my career it happened on a fairly regular basis.
  2. The Woman Bias: Never in my life until I was on a team full of men (who did the same thing as I did, btw) did I have the experience of giving an idea in a meeting that got ignored, only to have it brought up by one of my male colleagues ten minutes later to room-wide acclaim.

During that same time I went out to happy hour with a couple of guys I used to work with who had nothing to do with the technology field (the photographers from SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo). Over beers, I heard myself talking as fast and with the shortest sentences I could muster. I slowly realized I was doing it because I expected to lose their focus at any moment. When I looked at their faces, they were relaxed and waiting calmly for me to continue my stories – so different than what I realized I had gotten used to. The sinking feeling in my stomach at that realization was the beginning of the end of that line of work for me.

Sometimes I miss the feeling of satisfaction and control you get when you build an entire website, from beginning to end. But I can still build sites if I want to-and I never get tired of people respecting me and listening to my opinion.

Some things matter more than social media

Some things matter more than social media. Or strategies. Or even spreading the Gospel of Word of Mouth Marketing. The people who love us and our connections with them are the most important things in our lives, period. (Anyone who doesn’t know that already should see the movie “Up In the Air,” stop tweeting about the Top Ten Reasons Your Brand Should Be on Facebook on Christmas day, and get some counseling.)

IMG_0285

I waited 36 years to meet my wonderful husband, Matt. That’s thirty six loooooooong years. As much as I love my job, there is no meeting, no work “emergency,” no work priority of any kind that matters more than he does. Two years ago today I had the privilege to marry one of the great humans on this planet (that’s Matt, in case you were wondering). And he’s great looking too. And he sent me these gorgeous flowers today.

Jobs – even careers -come and go, but I plan on keeping this great husband of mine. Because he matters.

Where were you when the Wall fell?

It's the 20th anniversary of an emotional day.

Do you remember where you were the day the Berlin Wall fell? A student at Occidental College in Los Angeles, I stood in my dorm room and watched in incredulous disbelief on our tiny black and white television set as people stood on top of the biggest symbol of oppression of my lifetime, tearing it apart, piece by piece. And I cried.

When I was a little girl, our family moved to a tiny town in Bavaria called Wetzell, population 100. My brother and I attended West German schools and became fluent in the language, and to some degree, the culture.

When I was about eight years old, we went on a car trip to Berlin. It left quite an impression. After a long drive we came to a checkpoint staffed by East German guards. After taking our American passports they disappeared into their guard station, eventually returning and allowing us to pass. (If you've ever been in an Eastern block country and have someone disappear with your passport, it's a pretty unsettling feeling).

Once we arrived in West Berlin, after seeing the remnants of bombed-out churches and buildings, walking the wall and seeing the museum dedicated to East/West escape attempts, we took the subway to the Eastern part of town. The subway system left no "gray area" as to when you hit the wall: the walls abruptly go from being roughly 5' out on either side of the car to mere inches. (Presumably to not allow anyone to hold on to the side of the car to escape). A few old stops in the "no man's land' were empty, except for the East German army guards with loaded machine guns.

Arrival on the East side meant a required exchange of money, and we could finally get out to see the city. Having just left the bright lights, honking cars, and big traffic of the West side, we emerged into a gray, dreary, dark place on the East. Evidently they had just had some sort of uprising… there were armed soldiers on every corner with loaded machine guns standing at attention. My brother Drew was fascinated and proceeded to talk to one until he finally talked back out of the corner of his mouth. A small victory of humanity in an otherwise alienating, depressing place.

Even as a little kid, seeing the disparity between what it looks like to live in a place were people get to vote (REALLY vote) vs not made a big impression on me. I vote whenever they let me. 

Smart Women, It’s Tough Out There

Being a professional woman in your thirties can be tough on your love life. No one tells you as a Woman in Your Twenties that waiting to find the Right Person to Marry is going to start to hurt in your thirties. Until recently, I had forgotten all about what it’s like to be in my twenties. Then I hired a wonderful 22-year-old woman who has since become my friend. Hanging out with her has made it clear how many men are interested in cute women in their twenties above cute women in their thirties. Multiple men at work have asked her out, even to the point of annoyance. Don’t get me wrong: she is beautiful, but I have other equally lovely friends in their thirties struggling to find Mister Right. The whole thing made me remember how easy dating was in my twenties (BTW I’m happily married now, but not without a long and exhaustive search for The One) and made me ponder what changed between then and now.

Here’s what I came up with.

1) Men are generally attracted to young, cute women. The younger the better. There: I’ve said it and I’m not sorry.
2) There are more guys to choose from in your twenties. Fewer men in their twenties are married, plus my recent experience leads me to believe guys even in their late thirties see nothing wrong with asking a 22-year-old woman out. I know exactly zero women in their thirties dating a man in their twenties and I’m guessing I’m not uncommon in that regard.
3) You know what you want and you’ve had enough of what you don’t want in your thirties. Enough said.
4) The more smart and successful a woman gets, the more threatening their resume gets. Maureen Dowd wrote a great column about this phenomenon. I have to say from a personal standpoint this was the most baffling part of dating in my thirties. It’s hard to wrap your brain around believing you need to hide what should be an asset to find a great partner. I took the attitude I think many professional women take: If they don’t like me for me, including my sassy, smart side, then I don’t want them anyway. BTW my strategy did work. I married a man who regularly laughs at my snarkiness, points a finger directly at me and declares, “Sassy!” (Many good times are had at our house.)
5) All the work you put into sounding successful and smart doesn’t help in a first date situation. I came to the slow, somewhat painful acceptance of the fact that to be a good first date, professional women like me need to let themselves be vulnerable, at least a little bit. Your mother was right: men like to feel like there’s some aspect of your life they can contribute to. Being all buttoned up didn’t help me with men after age 30. Letting a bit of the “real” me show on dates helped but OH – MY –GOD was it hard. It was all worth it when I met my husband though.

Smart women in your thirties, forties, and above trying to find love in this world: you have my empathy and respect. It ain’t easy out there.

Introducing Social Graces

There are plenty of social media analysts and theorists out there. I have no intention to be one of them. As a social media marketer and a long-time corporate citizen, I have a practical experience I hope will bring a new perspective to the conversation. More importantly, I think there are more people like me out there: social mavens in corporations longing to connect with others who can relate to the challenges, doubts, hopes, and triumphs of convincing the organization to connect with their customers.

A second focus for this blog: being a professional woman in her 30’s and all the joys and trials that go along with it. Being a grown-up isn’t always what I expected – it’s a richer, more complicated journey than it seemed like it would be when I was in my teens and twenties.

I look forward to the conversation!