Tag Archives: business

Needing to Escape But Nowhere to Go

Getting a job isn’t easy, but it appears based on my experience and half-way decent interview skills, I am able to get offers. This already makes me so much more fortunate that 99.999999999999~% of people in the world. Yet every day I work in corporate-esque America, I feel my soul being sucked out of me in its entirety. If only I could fake it like so many people around me probably do, then I’d be doing so well. I’m saving boatloads of money per month (given my relatively low cost of living in a high-cost-of-living area), and I have a job that provides substantial autonomy and seniority —

I could do a job for a short-term project — say, 1-3 months of figuring out a business problem — but staying in the same role for years has me driving home from work everyday thinking I’m going to look back on my life and this will be all I’ve done — whatever this is, it surely won’t matter in the grand scheme of things — I’m just a cog in the machine and a poorly functioning one at that (with all sorts of poorly fitting parts clunking away trying to make my little piece spin) and after now 12 years of trying to push forward I am just collapsing under the weight of adulthood. Continue reading

Mozart in the Management Jungle

mozart-in-the-jungle

After a weekend of binge watching Amazon’s Golden Globe-winning Mozart in the Jungle, I felt equal parts saddened and inspired. Saddened, because the show follows the lives of artists — musicians — who dedicate their lives to creating. Their madness is enhanced for comedic purposes, yet the madness of a musician is something I mentally relate to far more than that of a CEO. However, I also found the show offering lessons in leadership, and a reminder that the conductor, while expected to be versed in numerous instruments and able to step in to play if needed, is considered successful as a leader, a director, an – orchestrator – not a musician, i.e., an individual contributor.

I’ve always wondered why conductors were considered so important — all they do, it seems, is wave a stick and keep everyone playing at the same pace. Perhaps they would make a bigger motion to increase volume, but it seems to be largely for dramatic effect. What does the conductor actually do? Why do orchestras — filled with musicians who can read music as well as most of us can read the English language — need a conductor to begin with?

My challenge as a manager is stepping away from my nature to be an individual contributor. Although in a small company, I cannot walk away from the individual contributor role entirely, my value is in being the conductor. With this in mind, I return to examining the value of a conductor – not as someone just waving a stick in the air in a marvelous rhythmic dance, but someone who is leading a team, interpreting the “best practices” of the music and adjusting with their vision, keeping everyone together, guiding them through to the final product. The conductor’s work and value, I’ve been reminded, largely is contributed before the product release (aka the performance.)

I think I’m actually a very good manager as a conductor, but when I’m trying to play the proverbial violin and trumpet and oboe at the same time, it makes it nearly impossible to conduct successfully. Although the conductor may step in to fill missing seats, it’s her responsibility to hire the right musicians and then inspire them to follow their greater vision. A manager must do the same thing. She must hire the right team members and determine what role they should play, how loud they should play it, and otherwise orchestrate the score of any given quarter’s objectives.

While business isn’t art, it’s still an orchestra of creation, and still needs to be conducted. Without a conductor in an orchestra, perhaps experienced musicians could play music – but they wouldn’t know which music to play, or how fast to play it, or what to do should one of their violinists get sick for an extended period of time. In romanticizing the life of an artist – which I do frequently – I find myself feeling most alive when I approach my own work as practical art. I can still bring the passion which a conductor brings to the stage in front of a large concert hall during a sold-out performance. I can inspire people to be excited to play their instruments from start to finish, even if they’ve played this score a million times. I can inspire them to think differently about the music, to hear subtle shifts in rhythm and composition, to try new things, take risks, and ultimately learn and grow and make the great music of increasing ARR.

In orchestrating a team, there is a musicality to the work, a rhythm which must be established, an ecosystem of players who must all come together to accomplish a common set of goals. So, while I likely lost the chance to live the life of the broke artist, I’ve gained the opportunity to make a new kind of music – one that 10 years ago I didn’t know existed. When I feel overwhelmed or frustrated or scared, I now close my eyes and imagine myself with a baton in front of an orchestra, and I examine by players as well as the notes written on the page, and with a deep breath, I lift the baton, and my team begins to play.

Can an INFP Succeed at Business?

I’ve had the fortune of watching a number of executives and managers go through poor treatment by their own managers, layoffs, firings, or underpayment, and resiliently go on to obtain even better opportunities. It seems that no matter how much they seem to have their heart and soul poured into a job, they’re never bound to one business. They just aren’t emotionally tied to it.

Most people won’t be emotionally tied to their work. Sure, one could get excited about completing a project, solving a problem, or getting a promotion, but at the end of the day their life isn’t their job. Even if they seem to work and network most of their waking hours.

I started wondering recently how important it is to have somewhat of a sociopathic mentality to succeed in business. I took this test on whether or not I’m a sociopath and came out to be just 22% sociopath. Apparently the average woman is 37% sociopath and the average man is 50% sociopath.  Continue reading

Seriously Serious About Grad School

I’ve put off going to grad school until my 30s because I wanted to wait until I was ready to make the commitment. Given my interests are so varied it has been difficult to determine what exactly I should pursue in further education, especially as I’ve moved up the corporate ladder and, without an advanced degree, started to make a six-figure salary. So right now it isn’t about the money. I don’t expect to make more by earning a graduate degree. What I expect is that I will open all those doors that are tightly shut on my face right now that I desperately want to open.

For the past 10 years, I’ve wanted to go to graduate school for human computer interaction or interaction design. While my ultimate goal is to become a VP of Product, I’d rather approach this from the more scientific and design side over the business side. I know people who clearly are the right type of people to get an MBA, which was, until recently, another option I was seriously considering. But as much as I’d love to better understand how a business works, I have no aspirations to be in charge of business operations at a company. If I ever want to be in charge of a business it will be in a very tiny startup that I founded and I learn more about how to manage this type of business by spending my time in actual early-stage startups. So I think this is the right decision.

My goal is to somehow score well enough on the GRE to get into a graduate program in fall 2014. I think this is ideal timing too because at this point I will have been in my current role for over 4 years (if I can make it that long) and I don’t think anyone would hold it against me for wanting to shift career paths. I still have a few goals to accomplish in my job today, such as working closing with a colleague on a project where I am getting some product management experience, figuring out how to iterate on our website so I fully understand a/b testing aligned to generating quality leads, and honing my semi-executive presence over the silly person I really am.

But it feels good to have a goal again. I could easily just keep plowing along as I’m doing today, and finding jobs in marketing/pr, but this would never make me happy. I value my experience in this field, as I think it’s always good in product to have a solid understanding of not only your customers but also how the overall market would respond to your story. I wouldn’t give up this experience for the world, even though had I gone to grad school 5 years ago I might already be in a senior product role by now. It has taken me a long time to accept that life is not a race and there really is no destination for the journey. There are many things that come up along the way that you don’t expect and the best you can do is let life teach you its lessons while doing some soul searching in determining what makes you happy.

I’m pretty clear on what makes me happy — building a product with crazy good user experience from the ground up with a team of people who care about the experience as much as I do, but who bring their own unique ideas to the table so we can collaboratively kick ass. I like to build products that help people, whether that be improve efficiency, make it easier to learn new things, or help people lead healthier lives. I could see doing my graduate thesis around education and social user experiences, possibly somehow tied to wearable technologies.

I’m fascinated by the future of mobile devices — while google googles are terrible from a design perspective — the future is a connected one, where we measure so much more than we do today about our daily lives. I’d be very interested in designing learning experiences for children with ADHD which are designed to capture a short attention span and help these students memorize information. Some tie in with psychology, learning, and computer interaction. This is my passion and this is what I’m going to do. I have no idea how I’ll make a career out of it, as I don’t want to end up in the R&D wing of some giant corporation slaving away at projects that never see the light of day — maybe I’ll have to start my own educational technologies business. Who knows. But it all sounds extremely exciting, compared to spending the next 30 years begging reporters to give my company a smudge of virtual ink.

The real challenge, the biggest challenge, perhaps the ONLY challenge, is getting a high score on the GRE. I don’t know for sure if I could get into my top program choice, but there are a lot of good HCI/Interaction masters programs out there and I’m very confident with my experience in technology, even on the business side, I’ll be able to get into a good program as long as I can achieve reasonably high scores on the GRE. Easier said than done. Despite being a writer and philosopher of sorts, I’m a terrible academic. Studying has never been my forte. So I need to somehow come up with a way to motivate myself to learn and retain knowledge. It’s crazy how I’ve never really learned anything in my life past basic verbal skills and arithmetic. Or, I should say, I’ve never been taught anything. I always figure things out for myself. It’s pretty crazy looking back on my education and realizing that I never let myself actually be taught anything. The good thing about graduate school is that I’d be taught about things I’m very interested in, and a lot of it is about teaching yourself and doing your own projects/research, which is how I learn.

Needless to say, I’m very excited about this plan. It does put a huge damper on my $50k per year savings goals, and any trace hope of early retirement, but I don’t really want to retire early, I love working, and I’m miserable when I wake up in the morning with nothing meaningful to do. I need to work on that as well (doing nothing is ok) but ultimately right now I know I need to set myself up for a career that is going to fulfill me not just for a few years, but for the remainder of my professional career. Design-thinking product management, especially in the area of learning technologies and connected devices, is most definitely it.

Effectively Managing Time, People, and Happiness

It’s 2am and the only thing I’ve effectively managed to do is stay up way past what should be my bedtime. Somehow official work hours disappear in the blink of an eye, somewhere between meetings, interruptions, and small tasks requested of you that end up taking longer than anyone else might expect, not to mention your daily distractions.

There must be a much more effective way to successfully manage all aspects of life; if there’s anything I fail at most it’s management. If someone gives me a project to do with some sort of general framework, I can get it done. The second I’m tasked with competing priorities (personally and professionally) things go to shit. And that is why I’m still awake at 2:16am.

I’m also thinking, and concerned, about a conversation I had with the one person I manage at work. While I’m bad at managing myself, I’m absolutely terrible at managing other people. To be honest, I haven’t had a lot of experience in this area so I have to learn somewhere, but some people learn management skills from their parents and others don’t. I’m in the don’t camp. I’m in the “get beaten and degraded until you do what they want” camp. Not to say good managers couldn’t have been put through that sort of upbringing, but I can’t imagine it helps the case.

Continue reading

Joining the Yakezie Challenge

Proud Member of the Yakezie ChallengeI’ve seen “The Yakezie Challenge” around on a few of my favorite personal finance blogs, so I decided to check it out. Apparently, it’s a group of personal finance and lifestyle bloggers joined together to help each other break 200,000 in Alexa Rankings (I’m currently 1,686,423 so I have a long way to go!) But it’s not all about site rank.

The reason I decided to join the challenge is that it requires a dedication to blogging 2-4 times per week for next six months. While I went through a period of my life where I blogged a lot, I stopped writing for Her Every Cent Counts for a while. While only a few readers would frequently comment on my posts, I knew there were others who were repeat visitors who probably wondered what happened to me.

Incredibly enough, I started this blog in 2007. I really don’t have enough posts to show for it. Additionally, and most importantly, this blog is designed to keep my finances in check. When I blog about my spending… I’m less likely to splurge. I know I have you, my reader, to hold me accountable. So, with that, I’m committing to the Yakezie challenge. I’m doing well so far… this weekend I’ve written 7 posts that will show up over the coming days. I look forward to reading your comments on them… some are quite controversial.

Shopping Update

Spent $450 at Ann Taylor yesterday after 4 hours trying on just about everything in the store. Why must every single top have some weird ruffle on it this season? Not only do they look ridiculous, in the rare cases they didn’t, I just thought what that poor ruffle would look like after being through the wash once or twice. Or even hand wash. I don’t like to do dry clean only for my tops.

Showed my boyfriend my $350 worth of Theory purchases and while he liked my sweater jacket thing, he disliked the dress (I don’t really like it either) so that’s going back to the store. $150 return. Cha ching. As for the Ann Taylor stuff, I got a grey pencil skirt that fit nice (but may wrinkle too much… why must things wrinkle?), a pair of size 12 petite black pants that are a little bit too big (the 10s looked like i was going clubbing the way they hugged my ass, so I opted for the larger size), a kind of pretty navy blue shirt with short sleeves, and a pair of patent leather shoes that don’t fit at all… they are going back to the store too. So my $450 trip will be a $300 trip and my $350 trip will be a $150 trip once I make all my returns.

I’m forcing my boyfriend to come shopping with me tonight. I don’t agree with his taste in everything, but he did help me go through some of my clothes in my closet last night, and we discovered that while I own a lot of “slutty” clothes as he likes to call them (I call them thin-strapped tank tops, not work appropriate) I don’t have much when it comes to work wear. I’m throwing something together for today that I’m not 100% happy with. Really, the most important thing I need to get are shoes. I own one pair of shoes that will work for today but they’re so worn out on the heal that they make me walk crooked. They were great while they lasted.

Image Makeover for Corporate Success: Part 1 – New Hair?

Until recently, my hair has always been on the short side. As a child, my mom loved to approve of the bowl cut, and eventually let me have hair a few inches past my shoulders. I was convinced my hair just wouldn’t grow longer than that, but in reality it was my hair dresser who refused to let it grow any further.

So I grew up with a complex about my hair, among other things, always admiring the other girls who had long, beautiful hair when mine would just not grow. As an adult, after chopping off my hair to chin-to-shoulder length for the ease of it during college and for a show I was in shortly after, I let my hair grow. I’ve had a few trims here and there, but basically I’ve been all about the long hair style. My boyfriend loves long hair on me, and even though I never know what to do with it, I admit it’s the more flattering for my round ball head than most other looks.
But with my new job and my dedication to creating a professional image for myself, I’m torn. Do I cut my hair off and look corporate slick, or keep the hair long the way I (and my boyfriend) like it and just wear a bun or something when I’m at the office. It’s not like I work in New York, and business casual around here is a little looser to define than in some other environments. However, if I’m going to be doing any world travel, the culture quickly changes, and I want to look like I mean business.
It’s kind of amazing how many powerful women have short haircuts. Just look at the list of Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women of 2009 and you’ll see what I mean. Granted, most of them are in their 40s and 50s when a short hair style makes more sense, but most of them have short, really manly hair styles. It doesn’t even look that good, but I guess it makes them less sexually desirable by men, so they could be taken seriously. It makes me sad to think that might be true, but why else would all these high-power women want a crop top? Just to limit prep time? I’m not so sure.
In addition to figuring out what hair style to get (likely I’ll just go for the trim this time around), I need to figure out how often to get my hair cut. Up until now I’ve lived by the two cuts a year rule. I think it’s silly to spend money getting any more hair cuts, really. I feel like it’s a huge conspiracy by the hair dressers who want you to pay them more often. That said, my hair probably could use to be cut more often than twice a year. And with this image makeover I’m doing for myself, getting a trim every 8 weeks won’t kill my budget, and may help a lot with my overall presentation.
What do you think? How often do you get your hair cut? What style do you wear and is it appropriate for your job?

Managing Outsourcing

I was recently assigned the task of managing a team of outsourced workers for a small project at my company. As part of this assignment, I must interview and hire candidates through an online tool that allows me to find a low-cost workforce.

This is my first experience truly managing a project, and also working with offshore help. From a purely financial standpoint, the staff is very cost effective if they follow the instructions and produce quality work. However, I am feeling queasy regarding paying someone $2 an hour. I know in the Philippines and such $2 is worth more than it is here, but I can’t imagine it’s a livable wage.

However, this is the world we live in and in order to keep up in business, I think I must accept that offshore labor is an evil necessity. And my current goal is to keep costs down as much as possible. I feel like a slave driver. I do not like this feeling. But I do like the numbers.