Category Archives: In the News

Why there aren’t more women in tech? Why the Google Manifesto matters.

While the day-to-day subtle and less-than-subtle sexism in the tech industry is something that usually doesn’t get national press, this month a Google employee’s manifesto — “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” —  about the supposed biological differences between men and women — had everyone talking about Silicon Valley and gender bias. Even Fox News got in on the action, will all the hubbub making manifesto author James Damore an insta-star of conservatives everywhere.

If you’ve been living under a rock, or think that companies don’t care about corporate liability after an employee writes a literal manifesto about why men are better than woman at certain things, you may not know that (or understand why) Damore was fired from Google. He was. And he isn’t going down without a fight… Continue reading

Game of Thrones: An Allegory of America’s Class Warfare

downloadOne of the best shows on TV today – Game of Thrones – is successful not only due to its typical onslaught of T&A HBO is known for (which is has plenty of, mind you), it’s because the show itself is an allegory of the age-old problem with societal inequality. Specifically, Game of Thrones walks the fine line between showing different families and individuals at war for wealth and power in a fantasy world, and one where us modern folks can relate by looking at what we’d sacrifice for the success and longevity of our own families.

I’m not the only one who sees the underlying commentary of humanity as a whole in the series, and beyond all the humping there’s a warning for us all: as long as wealth remains within families, there will always be conflict and violence. Peace is not possible, even for the peaceful.

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The Things #YesAllWomen Know

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about deranged killer Elliot Rodger going on a shooting spree in the quiet, upscale college town of Santa Barbara because, in his own words, he was a virgin and women wouldn’t sleep with him. Even though he clearly had some serious issues, some people are taking to the internet to pity him for his inability to get women. Women, however, are bringing the misogyny behind this statement to light, noting that it’s not ok for men to think they have any “right” to women… and this sentiment is getting worse, not better.

The challenge of being a woman living in 2014 is that feminism seems too past tense, yet it’s clear that women are not treated the same as men in our society. For example, how many men know what it’s like to walk down the street and have a creepy guy in a truck lean out the window and whistle at you or say something to make you extremely uncomfortable? Reading some of these articles and blog posts popping up after this attack, I feel fortunate that I was never the type of girl that got a lot of male attention (despite being upset about it at the time) — it’s terrifying to hear of girls turning down date proposals to prom only to be stabbed over it. Continue reading

Why Steve Jobs’ Death Hit Home

Since Steve Jobs passed away on Wednesday, there has been an outpouring of articles, memorials, tweets, status updates, blog posts, etc, on the man’s life and his impact on the world. I wanted to wait until I had time to write a meaningful post on the entire situation instead of a gut reaction. Although I never met Jobs, I think the reason that his death hit us all so hard is that outside of celebrities, he’s the closest to a living god that we’ve had in our secularized society.

For someone who seems immoral, dying at 56 is a fast blow to the face of reality. I look at my father, also suffering with cancer, also in his last years of life, and see the world moving faster than I want it to. All of our days keep ending, the world keeps spinning, and we’re all just specks of energy that take our first breath and last breath in a pinprick moment compared to eternity.

No matter who much money or fame you accumulate throughout your life, eventually it will end. Today, tomorrow, a year from now, 50 years from now — as Jobs’ put it so eloquently in his speech to the Stanford graduating class of 2005, “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Steve — how could you forget his face and spirit? Despite being one of the meanest managers, he knew what he had to do to get HIS job done, and done well. A lot of us aspire to be like him in business, to be relentless, to not settle for ok, to revolutionize the industry through a perfect melding of science and artful design. Not only did he change the world with Apple, he also changed the world by building Pixar into the most successful animated film business of today.

I remember back in college when I rolled my eyes at Apple — what a hipster company — and today I own an iPod, iPhone, a macbook air, and covet my boyfriend’s iPad. I’m iObsessed. How Steve Jobs, in his last few years of life, turned the company from a computer company focused on designers to the world’s most valuable company that sells extraordinary new products that change all of our daily lives is the result of pure genius. Granted, he had an incredible team working for him that came up with many of these ideas and details, but it’s clear he had a pretty big say in which of the ideas were going to be seen to fruition, and how to market those ideas.

The whole college dropout story is enviable (Jobs, Zuckerberg, et al) and reminds us that genius and passion can’t be taught. In fact, traditional, formulaic teaching might actually hold us back from making the larger changes in the world. It reminds me that perhaps business school isn’t the ideal option for growth in my career, and that working in a fast-growing company is actually the place to learn the best lessons day in and day out.

The night before I found out about Jobs’ passing, I watched the episode of Mad Men when Marilyn Monroe died and all the secretaries were crying, because they all aspired to be her. She was their hero. I felt the same way about Jobs. He was my hero. He was unafraid to think different. His inspiring quotes live on. If you haven’t yet seen his speech to the Stanford graduating class of 2005 (which you probably have because everyone and their mother has posted it), I leave you with the transcript and video from this speech. Let’s all remember life is short, and no amount of money can change that fact, so live each day like it might be your last. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

“I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.” — Steve Jobs, 2005

Will I Be Rich Because I’m Jewish?

Google News “Spotlight” popped up a NY Times article today that asked in it’s title: “Is Your Religion Your Financial Destiny?

According to the article, the most affluent of the major religions, including secularism, is Reform Judaism. What’s more, 67% of Reform Jewish households made more than $75k per year. Hindus and Conservative Jews take the #2 and 3 spots.

On the other end are Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Baptists. In each case, 20 percent or fewer of followers made at least $75,000. The share of Baptist households making $40,000 or less is roughly the same as the share of Reform Jews making $100,000 or more.

While I’m not sure religious belief has anything to do with the income discrepancy between religions, it’s clearly due to the values placed in each culture (because let’s face it, in America, for many of us, religions is our culture — even if we’re not religious.)

In other families – perhaps other non Jewish families – money wasn’t the considered the most important definition of success. I couldn’t choose not to go to college, nor could I choose to be satisfied in a lower-wage position when I knew the only thing stopping me from upward mobility would be myself, and myself being a coward. But, given I was able to go to college and graduate with no debt, the bravery had a cushion behind it at all times.

The article points out that “the differences are also self-reinforcing. People who make more money can send their children to better schools, exacerbating the many advantages they have over poorer children. Round and round, the cycle goes. It won’t solve itself.”

Taxing the Rich, Class Warfare, and the Quest To Be in the Top 1%

With $3,000 extra after my recurring bills are taken care of per month, I know I have a chance, albeit a tiny one, to ride the tailwind of the rich to my own wealth. As I dream of prosperity, I also acknowledge the class war that is brewing throughout the world, and in America.

The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent.

For the white collar workers of the world, and even those with mid-level government jobs like teaching at the nation’s public schools, wealth — as in ascent to the top 1% — is not even fathomable. The only goal regarding finances is to be able to pay the mortgage and children’s doctor bills.

Then there are those in my bucket… the 20 somethings with a dream of one day being in that top 1%, knowing it’s unlikely, but in the least working in an industry where odds are better than playing the lottery in becoming a millionaire, in the least. Continue reading

America — a Nation of Government Jobs?

Once upon a time, America was a great and wealthy nation, built on manufacturing jobs and a manufacturing economy. But so much has changed since then, as the “making” jobs have moved offshore, leaving the government to grow its employment roster to keep unemployment rates down.

If you missed Stephen Moore’s opinion piece on this subject in the Wall Street Journal last week, it’s worth a read, even if you ultimately don’t agree with his argument.

He begins by pointing out:

Today in America there are nearly twice as many people working for the government (22.5 million) than in all of manufacturing (11.5 million). This is an almost exact reversal of the situation in 1960, when there were 15 million workers in manufacturing and 8.7 million collecting a paycheck from the government.

This isn’t just a change in the types of jobs we do, it’s a change in how people are paid, and where that money comes from. Nearly half of the $2.2 trillion cost of state and local governments is the $1 trillion-a-year tab for pay and benefits of state and local employees. Every state in America today except for two—Indiana and Wisconsin—has more government workers on the payroll than people manufacturing industrial goods. Moore asks, “is it any wonder that so many states and cities cannot pay their bills?”

From the 20-something blogger standpoint, what’s most interesting about his piece is how surveys of college graduates are finding that a growing number of “top minds” want to work for the government. Now, that’s not so bad… it’s always good to have smart people in government agencies… but as Moore points out, “when 23-year-olds aren’t willing to take career risks, we have a real problem on our hands.” Continue reading

See the Future, Wrinkled You and Save More?

Researchers at Stanford believe that the reason so many 20 and 30 somethings don’t save enough during their valuable investing years is that they actually think their future self is a whole other person than the self they are today.

The trick to making us save more, then, is showing us a digitally altered version of ourselves that’s just recognizable enough to shock us into saving more and spending less. Apparently research proves that this works, to an extent.

In one experiment, young people who saw their elderly avatars reported they would save twice as much as those who didn’t. In another, students averaging 21 years of age viewed avatars of themselves that smiled when they saved more and frowned when they saved less. Those whose avatars were morphed to retirement age said they would save 30% more than those whose avatars weren’t aged.

My question is, how fast will these 20-somethings forget how they looked all wrinkled and grey, and return to their spend, not save, philosophy and reality? Hopefully there is some long-term truth to this study, and it can be used to help people my age save more versus waiting until it’s too late to build up a reasonable nest egg for retirement outside of a cushy mid-six figure corporate job. Continue reading

Who wants to be Charlie Sheen?

With 2 million followers on Twitter since joining the site a few days ago, it’s unquestionable that Sheen’s celebrity power is worth enough money to fund his addictive, bipolar, goddess-filled lifestyle. America LOVES Charlie Sheen, in all his crazy glory. America LOVES to hate him as well, because he can get away with all the things the average person would be doomed by. His cocaine binges, his self-indulgent media whoring, his ability to become MORE famous for his crazy antics despite causing his show to shut down, makes him almost as invincible as he thinks he is.

I admittedly haven’t followed Sheen’s story closely, and have only caught glimpses of his interviews online, and have seen the stars glistening in my boyfriend’s eyes as he defines Sheen as “awesome,” half jokingly, half… well, half surely wanting to be Charlie Sheen. His 24-year-old blonde Goddesses clutching his side, watching his children, and undoubtedly providing a party in the bedroom, without asking him to grow up — after all, who needs to grow up when you have billions of dollars to blow through?

Our society both glamorizes this type of outrageous celebrity lifestyle, it’s easy to forget these people are human, not gods, and probably have as many downs as they do ups. Yet somehow — even with all the drug use and body-hurting behaviors — most live, and seem, well, happy. Especially Charlie Sheen — maybe he just fakes it well — but he sure seems to love being able to exploit his mania, and have the financial cushion to do whatever he wants in life.

Ok, so maybe YOU don’t want to be Charlie Sheen, but I might. Not to be HIM exactly, but to have enough fame and fortune to live a life of extremes and spontaneity. That may be unhealthy, but I’d agree to some extent that it IS winning. Then again, as someone who struggles with a more mild form of Bipolar, I lust for an even more extreme mania than the hypomania I occasionally experience with Bipolar II. I’ve never had a real manic episode, but — deep down my happiness seems tied to the ability to live manic. Why do I need a lot of money? I want to be able to, when in a manic-type of mood, go to a mall and spend thousands of dollars on clothes and other items. I want to be able to blow a few thousand dollars on a weekend trip to Hawaii, or London, or anywhere else in the world. And I want enough money to buy my friends, because then you don’t have to be the perfect friend, just the one who can afford to keep your selected company around.

I guess I do want to be Charlie Sheen, and with that being my goal in life, I don’t think my dreams are all too realistic. Especially since the female version of Sheen is Lindsay Lohan or something, and I wouldn’t want to be her.

Making Sense and Losing Cents of the Economy

Like everyone else who has a dime or more invested in equities, I’m concerned about the future of the stock market. Whenever the market looks so bleak, everyone is concerned. And that’s usually the best time to invest. Yet with my yearly investments becoming more sizable, this feels a lot like Las Vegas. Even with diversification, it doesn’t help when all (or most) stocks are on red.

After receiving my paycheck for the past months and reimbursed expenses, I realized that I’m sitting on $16k liquid in my checking account. Part of me hates writing about this because I know I’m so lucky to have the luxury to ask the question “where should I invest?” But this may also be a temporary income boost and I want to invest wisely.

Yesterday, I pulled out my social security statement and studied my yearly income since 2002. Other than last year, I made somewhere between $0 and $25,000 each year. Last year, I broke $60k for a full year’s worth of work. This year as of Sept 1, even with 2 months of unemployment (unpaid), I have earned around $70k this year. And with the way some contracts are shaping up, I expect to make an additional $10k to $30k by the end of the year. So now I face the unlikely problem in a time of economic crisis – what do I do with all this money?

The easy answer is: spend it. Not on wasteful purchases, but things that I need or will need soon. I could buy a new car, or a “new” used car. Or I could invest in property somewhere (though that requires stable long-term income, which I am not confident I’ll have, especially with my plans to go back to school in the next two years.) So where do I put the excess cash?

I’ve already maxed out my IRA and will, within this month, max out my 401k (no match, bummer.) I will likely put another $2000 in my HSA which is invested in very low-risk funds. My IRA is in Sharebuilder and I bought 5 funds – the gold ETF, the silver ETF, two high-dividend ETFs and a REIT ETF. My 401k is invested in a mix of equities and bonds, and I’m not clear what is in it exactly. With a large chunk of my savings this year going into my 401k, I’m concerned that in the next ten years we’ll have deflation, high taxes, and my 401k will turn to mush.

But I’m willing to take that risk with $16.5k because it could be a very good time to invest as well. I’m just not sure I can stomach taking that risk with more money. Not without understanding the real economic situation in this country and the world. History doesn’t always repeat itself, or even if it does it may take a longer time to turn around. I’m young now, I can handle that, but if the next 5-10 years will be lost decade #2, why should I play?

The whole media fueling the fire is disturbing as well. I can’t tell how much of the stocks slipping these days is all the fear stories about how bad the economy is doing. It’s a domino effect that goes in a circle downward. What if all the news resources lied and said the economy was turning around and there’s a ray of sunshine close ahead? If people would invest and spend money than… well, that seems to be the only way to dig ourselves out of this mess right now. I don’t know if I agree with that, but what else can we do? We need people spending again so companies will start hiring again. That’s how capitalism works, right?

But it will take a long time to trickle down to lower and middle classes. The media couldn’t lie for that long. News would get out that the future is not so sunny. And everything would crash again.

Or you can just – apparently – print money until the cows come home and thus make every dollar worth less and less and less. That can’t be a good thing.

Right now lots of big names in economics are saying that we may have a “double dip recession” or – worse? – a depression… because we never actually recovered from the first recession. I wish I understood economics jargon more so I could make sense of this, this, this and this … and the thousands of other economic gloom and doom stories I’m reading.

Any feedback from those of you out there who are more economically savvy?