Category Archives: Career

Here’s To the Dreamers: A La La Land Review Among Other Things

The best movies touch every audience member in a different way, but have a clear world picture of what they want to say. La La Land is one of those movies, and I highly recommend you see it (spoilers enclosed) — the film follows the lives of two dreamers – a young actress and jazz musician in Los Angeles who are chasing their dreams. The film starts out with the actress (Emma Stone) working at a coffee shop on a film lot and the jazz musician (Ryan Gosling) getting fired for playing unconventional jazz music he wrote at a restaurant gig after being warned not to by his boss. Then it follows their lives over the next five years through a love story that’s more focused on how hard it is to chase your dreams than it is on the love story itself. In the end everyone gets what they want, well, sort of – at least in terms of their careers.

For anyone who ever chased a dream or is chasing one right now, they can relate to the film in that context – how hard it is to chase a dream, and the hope that maybe some day it will all work out (and the reality that even when it does not everything works out even a fairytale ending is met with the reality that nothing always is perfect, and you always have to sacrifice to reach your dreams.) For those of us who are too afraid to chase our dreams, it gives us hope that maybe it’s not too late – maybe it just requires someone to nudge us along the way, whether that’s a tap-dancing romeo or a voice within. Of course, for every success story of dream following there are a million that never come to fruition.  Continue reading

INFP in an ISTJ World: The Artist In Silicon Valley

I don’t fit in here. More than 10 years working in tech in Silicon Valley, and I look around at all of my peers and feel more like an alien than ever. Don’t get me wrong — I highly respect my peers — but I’m not one of them. While diversity of thought is valuable in any industry, it’s clear my thought is not welcome as is.

However much you believe in Myers Briggs as the be-all-end-all truth of personality definitions, there is a fairly common theme in technology firms of personality type: the INTJ. While my introversion is not judged as harshly in the tech industry as it would be outside of it, my complete anthesis of the typical Silicon Valley worker otherwise makes it vital for me to be an “E” — the “E” (extrovert) which is a value add since many of the folks here are introverts. Limited senior leadership roles that are open to non-engineer types often look for “E’s.” There are enough introverts to go around who are practically rocket scientists, but as an extrovert there is less competition to make it to the top – if you’re truly charismatic (which I am not. I am an awkward introvert and despite dreaming of having the presence of a Michelle Obama I realize that will never happen.) Continue reading

Attempting to Refuse to Give A Fuck Except the Only One(s) Worth Giving

“I don’t understand this depression thing. You have a job, you have a husband, why are you depressed?” my mother asked, following up five minutes later by asking me if I’m ever going to get a job she can “explain to her friends” because “that would be nice.”

Over dinner, my sister, seven years my junior, was reminded by my mother how in high school she couldn’t write long papers like I could (she had a learning disability) and, yet again, I cringed as my sister was compared to me knowing full well what that does to her own psyche. Luckily she’s a strong chica, but she went through serious depression as well and deals with a mile-high pile of her own shit on a daily basis. We both do in our own ways.

Time is flying by so quickly. I’m coming up on my six month wedding anniversary. I’m 33. 30-fucking-three. Ovulation calculators remind me that if I get pregnant this spring my child will be born when I’m 34. I’m fully an adult now but I still flinch when my mother or father criticizes the choices I make and things I do. I try hard to not be as self absorbed as they are. I think daily of the ways I will not be like them when I have children of my own. I imagine how to be a little less myself when I’m a mother, how to hide the real me.

I never thought I would change, but I think in some ways I have. I’m still the same old miserable-at-life mess that I’ve always been. I can waste time like it was trash itself. I still am passionate about what’s right and justice and empathy and honesty. But as an adult, I care less about proving myself and more about adding value to society. I still hope one day the value I add will be recognized, and while I’ve given up  long ago on being famous it was only in the last few years when I no longer coveted fame as the be-all-end-all goal in life. I began to develop a newfound appreciation of my anonymity, realizing I found happiness in the moments when I walked down the street alone in new cities where I knew no one and didn’t have to worry about running into a person who wanted to strike up a conversation.

Fiscally I no longer crave wealth in the way I once did. It’s not that I ever wanted to be extremely wealthy, I just wanted to be in the upper middle class with the ability to afford my shopping binges at discount designer outlets and Sephora.com, plus regular excursions to new cities and places around the world, and a home with a nice bathroom with a giant tub and beautiful gourmet kitchen to cook in and perhaps a backyard pool or community one where I could socialize with actual friends. But now I’m over that dream as well, to an extent. It would be nice to have a house, sure, but I don’t need one to be happy. It may even reduce my happiness because I find other than anonymity what keeps me content is freedom. I like to have the husband thing committed so I don’t feel totally lost, but I prefer freedom to being trapped in my life, especially in my area of residence. When life is a big blur the only thing separating one time period from another is when I’ve moved from one apartment to the next. This is how I tell time.

Lately, especially with what’s going on in the world of politics, I feel inspired to do more about fixing the world. I’m not sure exactly how, but I like to tell stories and I like to create and I like to help people, so there’s got to be something I can do professionally where I can pay the bills, put away a modest amount of savings AND give back to society. I’ve considered returning to journalism because I feel like I didn’t give it enough of a chance in my career — I was too young and afraid and didn’t understand the world enough to provide any useful commentary on much of anything. Unfortunately, pay in journalism is so low and to start over would be practically impossible if I could even find an opportunity. Typically that would require moving to a middle-of-nowhere market and as a married person that requires convincing my spouse to move as well… which won’t happen. But the thought is there.

When I have kids – if I can have kids – I know I need to settle down a bit and really pick a career that will consistently pay the bills. Maybe my current world is ok I just need to learn how to be more on top of things. Or I do something different. I don’t know. I will have to move if I want to try something new. Hubby is open to moving, though partial to particular regions where it always rains. I prefer the sun. I really don’t want to move anyway. But I will if I have to.

Life goes by so quickly. And when you step back and look back on all the crazy in the world your little piece of it doesn’t matter at all. Look at who we elected President. We elected a sociopath to the White House. Who knows what will happen in the next four years. Maybe my stocks will increase in value short term, maybe the entire market will crash. Who knows. I am a bit worried, but more so just tired of worrying. If I lose all my money, so what? It is scary, but it probably won’t all be gone. If it’s all gone, then there are bigger problems. I’m more concerned about civil war and nuclear holocausts and climate change and injustices and lack of access to education. I’m more concerned about other people than I am myself. I guess that’s what I mean about being a changed person. I’m tired of caring about myself. I want to care about other people… whether that be my children or the children of the world. I’m so tired and beaten down from working a job where the rewards are solely financial. I need a break and a breather to feel value on a deeper level. I’m still scared shitless but I’m also starting to break free of all my fears. Starting…  is a start. Not letting my mother’s nagging get to me is a start. Not allowing that voice in my head that tells me I suck at everything when I clearly only suck at “this one thing I’m doing that I happen to be getting paid for right now aka my job.” No accepting that I am a failure on all levels, that I must be either GREAT and AMAZING and a WINNER or a total loser.

I really don’t want the rest of my life to be this. There has to be something more.

Spiraling Out of Control: Fighting Horrible Anxiety Through Long Winter Nights

Anxiety ebbs and flows through my life, causing varying levels of disruption to my productivity and potential for success. Unlike depression, which feels somehow more real and worthy of concern because I can feel my body shifting into a state of inability to move, anxiety is different and fuels a sense of shame. It is a horrible loop of self sabotage – lack of sleep makes anxiety worse and anxiety makes the ability to get a good night’s rest impossible. My heart is breaking for the life I want that keeps inching further and further from my grasp. It feels like I’m attempting to breathe in a room where the oxygen is slowly being sucked out and I’m expected to perform just the same as I suffocate.

This anxiety makes it impossible to focus. My mind literally cannot stay focused on one task requiring intellectual processing for longer than a few seconds. Clearly that is not acceptable when my career relies on me to produce quality work leveraging my brain. I keep thinking I’ll just take a few minute’s break and then get back to work and make progress, and then I find myself staring at the same blank sheet of paper unable to do anything. I am exhausted and want to walk out of my job and never look back, except I can’t because I need my job and if not this job I need job and no role will be better.

My doctors wouldn’t give me anti anxiety medication because I may be trying to get pregnant soon, which makes sense since it would be dangerous to an unborn child. So I don’t know what to do at this point. The depression fueled by anxiety is much scarier to me than the one that stems from my actual depression. Anxiety is an alien attacking me from the inside, and I as I attempt to hide my hand’s tremors I long to to grab a knife and cut it out.

I try to breathe, do exercises which for a second may ease my mind. I listen to music in attempt to calm myself. Other than watching a television show or closing my eyes and falling asleep (if possible) I cannot stop thinking in these horrible loops over and over and over again. I feel incredibly alone and ashamed. Why can’t I just stop?

The current political system in the U.S. makes it worse, certainly. I feel helpless as I watch our country being taken over by an evil, self-serving man who may lead us into world war or who knows what. I fear for the safety of people of color and anyone who thinks differently. I wonder how I will be able to raise children in a society where a man who throws temper tantrums on Twitter is president. How the one person who is supposed to represent stability and calm in a big scary world filled with evil humans is actually the scariest of them all. And I want to do something to help, but my role in this great big world is to wake up each morning and convince companies to buy software that will make them more efficient. I’m part of the problem. Perhaps I am the problem. One of them many.

Maybe it will be better tomorrow. I hope to get home safe, I don’t feel comfortable driving right now but I must to get back to my bed, only to repeat the journey again – to feel like everyone is watching me in my small desk in our open office, or that everyone is noticing that I left to attempt to get work done at a coffee shop down the street except my head is spinning so fast the only time I can get anything done is late at night when it’s quiet and calm. But I need sleep, so staying up late to work is not the best idea either.

Trade jobs are being lost to efficiency and automation. The jobs that exist now and will continue to exist are those which create redundancy between human work and machine work, or the roles which produce more efficiency from the machines. Maybe one day we’ll be in a world where we won’t have to work so much because robots do all the things that need to get done, but that doesn’t work in a  capitalistic society. As all the science fiction shows and books try to warn us, this is not going to come to a happy end.

Perhaps I should just shut up, take a few big breaths and keep my head down, and live my life and make the world more efficient and pose it all as a positive as more and more people lose their jobs or are called out for not being efficient enough, not being 150% productive in a society where 100% is no longer good enough.

I want to feel excited again. To feel like my work is contributing to something greater that is helping the world or at least entertaining those who feel this same sinking anxiety and horror at the state of things.

Instead, again I find myself drowning yet again. I don’t even see the surface anymore. It’s just dark and cold and I’m losing the energy to kick and force myself to the surface for a quick gasp of brisk air before plunging back into the darkness.

 

 

The Second Coming of My Life

Watching my hands shake violently as I attempt to calm myself down  without anyone noticing, I realized that I really desperately need to make a massive change in my life. There is nothing in the world that will make this the right career fit for me, and I have the choice to either continue falling straight on my sword each time I fail to produce results, or doing a 180 and running in a completely new direction. I’m ready to run.

I’m 33. That’s not old but it isn’t young either. It’s old enough to know better to jump into the same old situation yet again. I’ve created a conundrum for myself, in which I’m too senior to qualify for junior roles where I can learn how to do my job better, but too inexperienced to be truly qualified for the senior roles. An old business acquaintance not too familiar with my professional contributions outside of my public resume this week asked me if I’ve be interested in a very senior level marketing role in his organization, where he is on the executive team. He assumed I had the appropriate experience to take on this role but I don’t. And I’m so tired of this whole “fake it to you make it” because I’m horrible at faking it. I can’t even get my head around how to do a good job.

Today, I’m again fantasizing about grad school. I go back and forth over whether I should pursue an MBA or a design degree. The MBA would definitely make me better suited for my current role in its more senior incarnations, but the design degree would set me up for a job that I have a chance to actually love – thus, the design degree is probably the better choice. Either way, I need to take a standardized test and apply within the next month or so, which is a lot to do for someone who hasn’t prepared at all yet other than to categorize all the elements of math that I’d need to learn in the next 30 days. I can always wait another year, but I feel like it’s now or never at this point.

The best situation would be to stay in my current role and do the best I can for the next 8-9 months and leave for grad school in the fall. I’m sure I’ll be the oldest in my class by far which will be disheartening but maybe I’m finally mature enough to get a lot out of school (which I definitely wasn’t in undergrad) and I’d learn a ton and be employable for roles that I’d actually want once I finish. I’m less concerned about finances at this point – I’m still worried about retirement and such, but being as right now I’m not unable to afford a house and miserable in my career choice, I might as well be unable to afford a house and happy. Right?

I’m keeping the grad application thing secret as I probably won’t get in anyway and I’m trying to learn how to be self motivated to study for the tests. I really would like to just focus on the standardized test at a separate goal which, if I complete that and do well enough, I can move on to the next part of the journey which is actually applying to the schools. The problem with that is all the apps are due between Jan 1 and Jan 15… it doesn’t give me nearly enough time to pull together my portfolio and such. The MBA programs are a bit more flexible as I can apply to later rounds, so I might go the MBA route anyway and find a school where I can take a few design classes. Either way, I think the educational route will help me break out of this decade-long funk. I’ve learned a lot, but I need a massive shift right now, or this will be the rest of my life, and I can’t handle not knowing what I’m doing and falling apart on a daily basis.

 

And So Life Begins… Thoughts on Turning 33

In five days, I will be turning 33 years old. I was just reminiscing the time of my life when I thought 33 was quite old, and I realized I still think it’s substantially ancient. Sure, I have a lot of years ahead of me, but 33 is no longer my “early 30s” which could pass off as an accidental overage of my 20s. Thirty-three is serious adult business.

I honestly never pictured myself at 33 because I couldn’t imagine it. I’m not sure how many people see themselves as working professionals or mothers or whatever else it is 33 is supposed to be when they’re younger, but I didn’t have any sort of vision of who I’d be at this age. If a six-figure salary and wedding ring on my finger = success then I guess I’ve made it. But I feel ridiculously behind and lost, which is much scarier at this age than it was my 20s. Continue reading

Why Aren’t There More Female Senior Managers?

Continuing on my last post about why will never become a vice president, I’ve been thinking a lot about all these articles about gender equality in the workplace. The findings show that the higher in the organization, the more male it becomes – and, most shockingly, this starts with the first promotion when men are more likely to be promoted to manager than women.

The report assumes women WANT to be senior leaders (or that we should want to be senior leaders.) Who really wants to be a senior leader? There are two reasons you would want to become an executive – money and power. You can make money without being a senior executive – definitely not as much money – but you can make enough to have a happy and satisfying life lower in the organization. Since men tend to make more money anyway, women have the option to marry someone who is making a lot and have other ways to have that lifestyle anyway (*I did not go this route as I marry a man who makes less than50% of what I earn today.) If you don’t desire a high income and you don’t want power, then why WOULD you want to be a C-level executive? Continue reading

I Could Be a VP and Why I Never Will Become One

I am at the point in my career where I know the exact traits and skills required to climb the corporate ladder. And, despite seeing a clear path to the top, I’ve looked down to see I have no feet and I don’t have the strength or energy to continue climbing upwards. I look back down at the steep hill of my 20’s behind me and feel my legs buckle beneath me as I slowly slip and begin to roll back down the hill. I’m scared and sad and partially so excited to jump fall all the way down and lie there at the bottom in a pile of my own failure, staring up at this giant hill I once climbed, seeing my feet appear on my ankles again and, for the first time in years, I can stand without feeling myself falling.

Here is what it takes to become a Vice President in my field, and why I’ll never be one: Continue reading

What Kind of Person Are You?

Forget the Myers Briggs and DISC and all those fancy assessments that try to tell you what kind of job you should have. I wish I was told this back in high school, but jobs can be easily broken down into a few simple categories:

  1. Create Value (Engineer, Artist, Product Manager, Doctor, Researcher)
  2. Create Efficiency (HR, Finance, General Management, Consulting, Operations)
  3. Sell Value (Marketing, Sales, PR, Real Estate Agent, Promoter)

Really, most jobs fit into one of those three buckets. What’s important is you have a job in the right bucket that fits with where you find your flow. Is it in creating new things? Fixing things? Selling things? Of course, each bucket has a wide variety of roles under it and not every role will be right for every person – but in order to be happy with the work you do, you need to ask yourself are you a creator, an optimizer, or a seller? If you find yourself in the wrong bucket, you will add unnecessary stress because the role with not fundamentally provide intrinsic satisfaction.

Take, for instance, yours truly. I am definitely a Type I (Create Value) but I am in a Type III role (Sell Value). This is a very poor fit for me. Now, would I be a great doctor? Probably not. But, assuming I could become a doctor, I’d be happier being a doctor over a salesperson (type III) or an accountant (type II).

Which type are you?

Didn’t Get the Job – Back to the Drawing Board

The hiring manager seemed to love me. Within two weeks of applying for the job via a cold online application I was in late-stage interviews, presenting a powerpoint I put together in front of 1/3 of their pedigreed team including their CEO. When I asked why I didn’t get the job, she was very nice about it – “culture fit,” she said, adding that based on what I said in the interviews and what my references said I needed more stability to thrive. Maybe that’s true. Or, maybe they just picked someone more junior who was lower risk to the business.

I’m not devastated, as the timing was moving way too fast and I wasn’t ready yet to throw in the towel at my current company – but I did get excited about the opportunity and how FINALLY I could move away from sales-focused marketing roles into something more focused on product. Even my old boss, who I thought didn’t like me, told me over lunch that he thinks I’m great and jumped in to give me a reference that should have sealed the deal. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.  Continue reading