Tag Archives: job

Waking Up from The American Dream

Today, we received notice for our annual lease renewal. Our rent will be increasing $170 a month to a total steal of $2465 for a one bedroom apartment, not including any utilities. If we lived in the city the same apartment would be at least $1000 more. That’s life in the most expensive area in the country — no matter how much you make, you’re still not making enough to afford the life you thought you’d have at this point. You just have to wake up from the American Dream and realize it’s just that – a dream.

I’m incredibly fortunate to be one of the few who is making a high salary — more than I could ever had imagined making and more than I believe I deserve. At the same time, I acknowledge that in order to afford a house here you pretty much need to be taking home $400k (as a couple) which isn’t in the cards for our future, despite my relatively very high income – even if I manage to find success and stability in my job. I realize that many others will never even make as much as I do, and I feel I make too much, but it’s a loop of relativity when I try to comprehend how much I’d really need to make in order to purchase a 3 bedroom house with a tiny backyard.

Do I need a 3 bedroom house with a tiny backyard? Even if I don’t, soon our rent, for a one bedroom apartment, will creep up to $3000 a month, even in the suburbs. We won’t exactly be priced out but we’ll be able to save less and less each year. At some point, I think we’ll have to accept that it’s time to leave. And with a total income of about $250k, we’re doing much better off than a lot of people who live here. It’s just not enough and it will only get worse as we attempt to start our lives together.

If kids end up not in the cards, maybe it’s doable. We can stay in a one bedroom apartment, no need to pay for extra space when it’s just us. We can live in a one bedroom for the rest of our lives. This isn’t at all the life I had imagined, but we can survive easily without that much space. If we do have children that changes the story quite a bit. I don’t see how we can have children and remain here, especially if I need to take time off for any reason. The pressure of being the breadwinner, especially suffering from severe anxiety, is too much. If I am responsible for me, myself and I — that’s no big deal, I can roll with the punches, live cheaply when needed, and just weather any storm that comes my way. With children, we need a much bigger security net. We’ll have to move. We will have no choice.

I write this at a time when many entry-level workers here are seriously struggling, unable to feed themselves or pay rent on minimum wage. I feel embarrassed to look at my quite high income and still feel so hopeless, because if I feel hopeless, how on earth is the rest of everyone supposed to feel?

I’ve come to accept that if I’m going to have children we can’t stay here. I don’t have a solution yet or an answer to “where to do we go,” but sooner than later we have to get out. I’ll very much miss the beautiful scenery and sunshine. I’ll look back on my 20s and be glad I had the opportunity to live in such a glorious part of the world. But it’s time to grow up and move out. Or, at least it will be soon.

People say to not worry about the future and to just live in the moment. I find it very hard to do that. We now face the choice of staying in our current apartment and paying an extra $2000 to do so next year (and continuing my 3 hour a day commute) or finding a place closer to work that will either be more expensive or less livable or both. We’ll probably just stay here for another year – neither of us wants to deal with moving, and $2000 doesn’t seem like that much compared with the inconvenience of finding a new apartment and lugging our stuff to it… moving isn’t free either. So we’ll probably give it on more year here and hopefully by the end of the next lease I’ll be pregnant and we can then figure out where on earth we’re going to live in the future (aka not California.)

I had hoped that I’d be at a point in my career where I’d feel so distraught over losing my job / career in order to have a family… but while I appreciate my job for what it is now, and really admire my colleagues and am so grateful for this opportunity… I have no personal investment in this career. I feel no sense of pride in my progress or role. In five years, to continue on this path, I end up in a leadership role were I will never fit. I acknowledge it’s soon time to leave. Right now, the best I can do is hold on for dear life, do the best I can, and try to save money by living relatively frugally and bringing in a good income where most of it goes straight into the stock market / my savings accounts. This may be my last significant savings opportunity in my life, given I plan to move to an area with a lower cost of living and obtain a job which pays significantly less in my next career move. My goal is still to get to $500k in savings before I make this move, and the goal is becoming much more dire given that I’m rounding the corner of my mid 30s and I know I can’t handle this life for much longer. If I can just hold out until $500k — I can completely shift my lifestyle to one of lower income and greater flexibility in another part of the country. We can live off of, say, $100k total across both of our incomes and still live a decent life. If we make more than that, great, but we don’t have to (or, in the case of staying here, I’d likely have to earn over $300k in order for us to hit the $400k mark and afford a small home.)

What was once kind of this running silent joke in my head about how one day I couldn’t afford to live here and that I’d move away is proving true. I guess what has changed is that I’m more ok with that than I was before. I used to think that I didn’t want to trade my career for a simpler life. I didn’t want to be one of those women who had kids and no longer had her own identity, especially a professional identity. But now, I don’t know, my professional identity is not who I am. Despite not making it to Hollywood or Broadway I’m an actress nonetheless, everyday portraying someone who I’ll never be. I’m over this obsession with what I thought was success. I have nothing to prove, no one to impress, no game to win. I have maybe 60 good years left on this earth if I’m lucky, and many fewer with all of my loved ones in good health. I hope to make the most of them, and it doesn’t matter if that occurs within a tiny apartment or a giant house. It feels good to finally accept that… to embrace the loss of this embedded classism my parents have taught me, to stop feeling like if I can’t maintain the level of comfort and luxury from my childhood that I am a failure. The only true way to fail is to lock myself into a life where I no longer have any reasonable options for escape.

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.

Hello 2016! A Toast to an Amazing, Productive, Healthy, and Sane Year

I’ll admit it, 2015 was rough. With my long commute to and from work, my sanity and health sank to perhaps an all-time low. Although I achieved networth growth over the year, it wasn’t nearly as much as I had targeted. In fact, in the year when I made significantly more than I had ever made before, I ended up saving less than I had in the past (including interest.) I closed out the year with $344k in total assets with the exception of my car (I don’t count that in my networth calculations, though, I guess I suppose I should.) I wanted to be at $400k in networth, but between some bad investments, general stock market blahs, and being unemployed for a brief while, I just didn’t get anywhere near that.

What I try to remind myself is that $344k at 32 is not too shabby. If I don’t touch that, don’t add anything else, and it manages to grow at 5% YoY that’s $1.3M by the time I’m 60. Ok, so I want to get to $4M by 60 (which requires about a 10% YoY annual return with my current principal and no annual additions), but even if I get to $1.3M by 60 I think I could remain working and manage to grow that another 5  years, which gets me to $1.7M and that isn’t counting any savings from future Mr. HECC.

The plan was to hit $500k net worth, have a kid and save for a house while living in an apartment with young kid, and then over the next five years save enough for a 20% downpayment ($300k) on top of the $500k plus annual interest that I wouldn’t touch. That goal is looking rather unlikely right now, and I’m actually ok with that. I’ve gotten to this point where I’ve accepted that the life I am going to lead as an adult is going to be at a lower class level than the one I was used to as a child. While I grew up in an upper-middle class household, my family will be squarely in the middle class (for my region of the country), and we’ll be fine. We’ll still be doing much better than the majority of households in the country, even if we can’t afford a house for a long time, if ever.

Right now, my focus must be 100% on excelling in my job. With my current salary and responsibilities, I have the opportunity to set myself up for a very successful next 20 years of my career. I also am very seriously confronting the reality that if this doesn’t work out for any reason, if this is a failure, then it means a significant shift my career trajectory and networth projections. I very well might return to school – which I’ve been talking bout for a while but haven’t seriously pursued – to study to become a psychologist or design researcher with a psychological focus. But I don’t want to think about that right now, I’m heads down, fully in the game, trying to relax and thrive despite the many challenges at hand. In other words, I refuse to mess this up.

Beyond work, this year is just a huge year of major life changes. I get married in a few months (tax bill goes up next year, woohoo), and I also likely start trying to have kids, confronting the soon-to-be-proven fact that conceiving doesn’t come so naturally to me (thanks PCOS.) I’m hyper-focused on losing weight, eating healthy and exercise right now. My weight fluctuates significantly — in 2012 I was at 180lbs (my highest ever, which is very heavy for a woman who is 5’3), to 155lbs a year later, to 176lbs a year later than that, dropping and holding steady at 170 through 2014 and most of 2015, ending 2015 at 160lbs. I hired a personal trainer 3x a week ($50 a session which is a really good deal for this area) so we’re working on getting my weight down to about 130 in the next couple of months (5 pounds a month is my goal to lose, which is a good, achievable goal.) It’s mostly so I can feel happy with how I look in my wedding pictures, but it’s also just something I need to do in order to save myself from premature aging. Plus, I just feel mentally more clear and balanced when I’m eating healthy and exercising. It’s good to have such short-term goal so I am focused the entire way through, no matter how hard it gets.

This year, my goals are going to be a little less intense on the networth side. I’d like to get to $400k in networth, including $23.5k in new retirement savings (401k & IRA). That leaves $31.5k to make up for in interest and other savings, or about $2.6k per month. I’m planning to try to save an additional $2k per month on average, and hopefully the rest (~$7200) will come from interest on, say, $250k of invested, interest-earning assets, which is about a 3% gain on those investments. I’d prefer to go well over this, but trying to be realistic with the goals, especially with the wedding spending. I don’t think this is going to be a hugely profitable year but I could be wrong.

2016 Goal Summary

1) $400k networth – including $23.5k in retirement savings, $24k in taxable investments, and about $7k in interest.
2) Be 130lbs by summer
3) Thrive at my job (and be gainfully employed and loved by my colleagues when Jan 1, 2017 rolls around)
4) Get pregnant before I’m 33!?!

Well, here’s to kicking off what is sure to be a crazy year. Fingers crossed it’s a good one. I think it will be. I hope it will be. Oh god, it better be. 🙂

 

 

 

The Gender Pay Gap from the Top and What to Do About It

Last week, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff announced that the company paid $3 Million dollars to correct gender pay imbalances across its organization. Although this isn’t a huge number for a company of it’s size, it’s still telling that the firm found $3M in imbalances to fix in the first place. This means that when they ran the numbers they believed that women were earning less than men in the organization for roles of a similar level, and they decided to publicly fix this. But why was that the case in the first place?

As I approach my job negotiations for a senior-level position, and I’m incredibly uncomfortable with doing so, I remind myself that I have to negotiate because any male in my position would. As one woman, I’m not representative of all women, but I can say I find it incredibly hard to negotiate. As a woman, I may read negotiation advice and bring a request to the table based on research from online websites that give some idea of pay ranges. And, as a woman who doesn’t like to shake the boat, I’d typically pick the average to ask for because it feels uncomfortable to ask for anything more.

But I’m not an average woman, and I try to push myself to ASK. This gets harder and harder as the numbers get bigger. I always like to state that it is a PRIVILEGE to have this problem, but it is an issue nonetheless. According to this Harvard Business Review article, the Gender Pay Gap Widens as Women Get Promoted. Basically, the higher up in the organization a woman is, she is likely earning less than her male counterparts. A female executive earns 6.1% less than a male, compared to only a 2.2% gap in an individual contributor role.

The problem with negotiating as a woman is that you can’t win. There is plenty of research that shows women pay a higher social cost for negotiating. I’ve experienced this first hand. In my last role, I negotiated very well (in my opinion) but the I was reminded pretty much every single day from my boss that I was making “so much money” and this made me insecure and ultimately defeat myself in the role. I would have been more comfortable had I been earning less and not rocked the boat.

But what I come back to is this – my role is one that generates clear revenue for the business (well, if it doesn’t, I don’t get to stay for all that long.) I’m working for a for-profit organization in a revenue-generating role, and I deserve to be paid for it. Even then, I have no way to know if I’m overstepping — a man in a senior role can ask for anything. He may not get it, but it’s accepted that he’ll ask. A woman in a senior role worries she’ll offend someone. That’s just how it works.

The HBR article notes that while it’s not clear why female executives are paid less than men, it appears that women need sponsors in organizations more than they do mentors. My strategy has been to change jobs relatively frequently in order to move up and earn more. I would not feel comfortable negotiating for higher pay once I’m on a successful track within an organization. It’s at least a little easier to negotiate at the start — but the big question is, how often do men negotiate throughout the year when women do not? Do men ask for bigger raises each year, or do they request salary increases at a more regular frequency than women? Are the raises of similar frequency but just more substantial due to executive sponsors? These are questions no one seems to have a good answer for, so we’re all left in the dark.

In order to solve this problem, organizations need to be provided training from the top down and bottom up about negotiating. It’s tough to do this because it’s in the best interest of the organization to pay each employee as little as possible to keep them engaged and working as hard as they can. If one employee will accept less than another, this is good for the business, at least on paper. And if no one knows how much everyone else i making, how much can it hurt? But wouldn’t it be crazy if a business actually taught people how to negotiate and encouraged it, making typical negotiation timelines around promotions (official and non-official) more transparent? I wonder if anyone would do that. What Salesforce did is a good first step – but also a good PR move. How long will it be before those salaries are unequal again? And what can we do to fix that?

To start, I’m always going to ask for more, even when it makes me sick to my stomach, and even when I know that my likability factor is dinged, because in the long run to be successful, if you’re a woman, you can’t be liked. You can only be respected.

 

 

 

The Jobs. The Offers. The Decisions. The Lack There Of.

It used to be getting a job offer was a huge challenge. It’s not exactly easy today, but I find myself in a place where I have three serious offers (well two offers and one offer if I wanted it) and I’m trying to figure out what to do.

Both offers at this point are somewhat equal in terms of compensation. Base salary is identical in the initial offers for both. One has a bit more stock, the other, a bit more bonus / cash earning opportunity. I haven’t accepted any so theoretically there is room for negotiation. I hate negotiation. Last time I negotiated I got the salary I wanted but then I was reminded over and over again by my boss how overpaid I was (btw, I wasn’t, given the offers I’m getting now are even more than what I was paid there, so clearly market rate wise I was fairly comped in my last role.)

The reason I hate negotiation is that I have no one at my level in a comparable role to talk to about it. At this level of compensation and given my relatively frugal lifestyle, even for this area – on one hand, when numbers get this big, I feel just downright silly negotiating for more money. On the other hand, I think – if I were a dude or someone with confidence, I’d negotiate anyway. Ultimately, my role in either firm is one that indirectly generates revenue for the business – it’s pretty cut and dry if I have generated revenue or not (granted, I’m not closing business, but I’m still generating it) and thus I think a bonus compensation structure makes sense, and that structure should be more or less unlimited as a percentage of sales, or at least substantial in a tiered structure where maybe base stays about the same but total compensation is based on how well I do my job. If I do my job well – then I’m “cheap” – if i’m not, then I’m – “gone.” Low risk to the company either way, given they plan to hire me (or anyone else for this role.)

But I hate that awful taste of negotiating for more – and ultimately I want to pick the job where I can do THE BEST job. And I don’t know which that is right now. I’m not at the point in my career where I can get an offer at a company that has its shit together. That means either I get an offer at a new, young company where it’s still figuring things out, and where it needs someone who can deal with the ups and downs of startup life — OR I get an offer at a company where things are probably more systemically dysfunctional due to years of poor management decisions, but one that has managed to sell enough of its product/service to still be alive either private or public, it doesn’t matter as both come with their own challenges.

I seem to be a perfect fit for those environments, maybe thanks to a very turbulent childhood. But I also think a positive, healthy, rather successful work environment would be nice. My challenge is that I’m not so great at maintaining the status quo. I’m someone who comes in and creatively solves problems. I fix things or build things but I certainly don’t inherent the same old and run with it as such to collect a paycheck. I like moving fast and getting in and making a difference. But then, as history has proven, either I do that really well for short bursts or I can’t manage to figure out how to fix things fast enough and I’m out.

My last job was a trainwreck from the start. CEO who sexually harassed (in a joking way, but nonetheless, it was sexual harassment) most of the women in the company and heck, even some of the men if you were to ask a real HR department. I learned a lot in the role but there were just so many things wrong with the company that I felt lost at what to do. Too many things to fix. Too many holes to fill as water would start leaking out another opening I didn’t even see.

If I go to the smaller company, my main priority will be to hire a small handful of really great people really fast. Hiring is hard. People have to want to work with you and the rest of the team. You (me) have to be a leader. A true leader. In my mind I like to think I’m a leader but what I see in leaders I admire I don’t see in myself. They are very strong, determined, and once they pick a route they don’t chance course (and if they do it certainly doesn’t appear they did this because they realized they made a bad decision.) Leaders have a very clear vision and get everyone aligned to common goals. I have a hard time getting myself aligned to a common goal, let alone a team.

The larger company would immediately have me managing a decent-sized team. It’s a huge opportunity in that if I can successfully manage a team and help them become more productive, that’s a metric I can take to the bank for the rest of my life. I can also build a team at the smaller company and have a similar outcome, but at the second company I would’t have to hire immediately. I’d have something to work with. That can be good or bad, depending on the contributions of the team today and what I figure out needs to be done to hit goals. It likely involves being able to come in and, if anyone isn’t holding their weight, being that bad guy and letting people go early on and replacing them. You know – typical management stuff that I don’t like to do because I’m an INFP and I can’t handle hurting people’s feelings, only letting them down.

I still am most excited by the smaller company… if the larger one was a bit more stable, or selling a product that I could get extremely excited about, it would be a different story. But I have some good opportunities here and I just need to finalize what I’m going to do… it’s a good problem to have, for sure. I just am at that point where I really don’t want to make the wrong decision… and I’m not sure there’s a right one to make. Because – when it comes down to it, I’m in the wrong career overall – but it’s a hot market and people keep throwing money at me and it’s hard to say no. It’s easy to say – one more go, let’s see if I can make it happen… I’ll try my absolute best… and in the meantime, keep on putting away $5k a month to attempt to reach my goal of $500k in networth before I give birth to my first child. After that, I feel like I have a bit more flexibility/freedom to maybe switch jobs and earn less, or consult part-time at a higher hourly rate, or… anything other that continuing on this trajectory which can’t be forever.

 

The Reality of My Professional Apptitude

As I review my next steps, I have many, many, many variables to consider. Above all, I want to take on a role where I can be successful *long term,* not just for a few “burn myself out” projects — OR, take on a role where “burn yourself out” projects are the norm. I’d be much better off in a creative industry working on television shows or movies, but it’s a bit too late for that, especially given my massive fear of change. I’m trying to work with what I’ve got here. And, at the least, I have options. And good ones at that.

Ten years ago at about this time, I was getting fired from a marketing internship at a non-profit. It was my first year out of college and I didn’t know what on earth the future held or what I wanted to do. I applied for hundreds if not thousands of jobs and rejection emails gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling that someone or something out there reviewed my experience, or lack thereof, and decided to personally not give me a chance. Since the full-time job thing wasn’t working, I applied to a pretty-much unpaid reporting internship and, when I found a place to live, found a part-time admin job which was never a good fit for my ADHD self. I survived the entirety of the internship, but the part-time admin gig was, well, a predictable disaster.

Although I moved on and continued to apply for job after job after job, I didn’t know what I wanted in life. I had no friends in the area, very little family, and the only reason to live was to try to make money… to save a little bit… to build something when everything around me was crumbling. I somehow impressed a magazine that I was a worthwhile hire for an editorial assistant role and I stayed for a year, writing articles and attempting to become a better reporter. But my social anxiety really got in the way of that. I did the blogger thing for a short while, which was even worse, because bloggers need to be super aggressive and not let anxiety get in the way of getting a scoop. My journalism career practically ended before it started.

Without rehashing my C.V. for the thousandth time, the point is that I haven’t really massively succeeded in any one role. There have been pieces of roles where people have seen my strengths, and there have been times in the past 10 years where I’ve really poured my heart and soul into projects, and they’ve been considered significant successes. But nothing has ever been sustainable – you can say I just need to suck it up and work, but when you have ADHD and bipolar disorder, it’s not that easy. My mind doesn’t work that way. I have the potential to do great things, or not so great things, but very rarely anything in the middle. I seem to be failing at acceptable.

When it comes to my two or three job opportunities that are getting closer to being real, I consider all of the elements of the role and companies. A few of you long-time readers have warned me that it would be absolutely idiotic to take on a role at a smaller company again. But – there are reasons I failed at those companies that #1, are unique to the companies (not due to their size) and #2, there are similar issues that would happen at a company of any size. If anything, I am more suited for smaller companies because I need to move fast and get things done, or else I get bored and demotivated, and that’s when I do my worst work. If I’m just a cog in a corporate machine, I might keep my job longer just due to HR policies, but I certainly won’t be helping myself or my firm.

The smaller company job is exciting to me right now because I can see many things I can do in a very short amount of time to make a huge difference. I want to compare this opportunity to my past failures at smaller firms to try to hash out the difference, and realistically explore why a smaller company is or isn’t a good idea…

My past two companies, which have ranged in size from 20 to about 100 employees, had significant challenges unique to each opportunity.

Upon leaving a smaller firm where I stayed four years without getting fired(!), I took on an opportunity I knew I wasn’t the right fit for. The head of the company was an expert in my field, and while it’s his fault for hiring me without asking some basic questions to establish if I actually knew what I was doing or what he expected me to do, I also had a boss who had a very set way of how he expected me to get my job done. I really didn’t know what I was doing and it became clear pretty quickly that I wasn’t the right fit. If I were to take on that job now I’d actually do  much better at it. I still wouldn’t be the right person for the position, but I now know enough that I could have lasted longer. I was just clueless and five months in when I was let go, it was the right decision for the business. Given the industry the company was in, I couldn’t even do the things I do best there because of the industry. It was just a very bad fit from the start.

My next job, where I stayed a year (which is respectable in startup time), I picked a company in an industry that I care about. Yet again I found a CEO who was starry eyed about me and recruited me so aggressively I had no time to discuss my strengths and weaknesses. I was thrown into the fire, but at least was given a reasonable budget to work with. But everyone at this company would agree – there are some serious management issues teetering on schizophrenic. Another trend – the head of the company had a background in something similar to my role, so he had a lot of strong opinions on how to do the job, and would basically force me to do a whole bunch of things that didn’t make sense at the expense of time to do the things that had to get done. I did fail to hire a team for a number of reasons, some of which were out of my control – the biggest problem was that the company had a lot of fundamental issues and it still does (lots of people have quit by choice over the last few months and the trend seems to be continuing.) Beyond the basic issues of the core business, the head of the company’s behavior teeters on sexual harassment (anyone working at the firm would agree) and everyone working there is so stressed and upset that they end up taking it out on each other.

Despite the challenges at the company, and it being the right time to leave by choice or by force, I learned a ton in the last year. I worked with an outside agency who taught me a lot about how to do my job. I learned how to not waste money through a bunch of trial and error and how to do things faster. I also discovered a bit about the types of people I like to manage and the types of people who I cannot manage. I learned how important recruiting is and how challenging it is at any company but – it’s actually easier at a hot young company than a big corporation or a startup that has been around for years and is on the verge of falling apart. If you can’t attract the right candidates to your firm, you’re pretty much fucked (or you’re spending a whole lot of time on recruiting that you should be spending on getting your job done.)

Ok, so why even think about going to a smaller company again? Haven’t I learned my lesson!?! Well, as you can see, a lot of the issues had at these companies were company-specific, or addressable by the fact that now I have about two more years of experience and I much better understand the bigger picture. I understand how much things should cost so I’m not freaking out every minute about budget and wasting too much money or not spending enough. I’m not saying I’ll be perfect at my next job, no matter where I go – but I do know I do my best work when I care about the product my company is making and respect the people who are making it.

The smaller company I am considering is SMALL, don’t get me wrong — there will be challenges for sure. But the founders are a bit younger – closer to my age (I think the head of the firm is maybe 2-3 years older than I am) – and this makes a huge difference in team chemistry and respect. I’ve always worked for teams where the execs are in their 40s/50s, and much older than I am. I’m fine being the only woman in a senior leadership role, but it helps with the others aren’t all dudes who are going through their personal mid-life crisis while making the younger women of the company feel uncomfortable.

What’s great about the small company is that I believe in them. I see that their product is already getting a lot of traction, and I see a lot of ways I can quickly help – and I’m super excited to jump in and do just that. I know I have some hiring to do – but I also have the momentum of the company and it’s early stage to help source the right talent. There are really two types of employees in Silicon Valley – the ones that like early stage startups and want to be part of growing something — and then the ones that want to work for a very late-stage startups or public companies that are big and somewhat stable and come with that fancy brand name and cult-like culture. It’s really hard to hire for the middle ground… the companies that are not hot, sexy startups but that haven’t made it… the ones that are dying a slow and painful death, who often have second or third CEOs who are brought in to “save” the company which had about a .00000001% chance of actually saving.

So, in short, not all small firms are created the same AND my experience today is vastly difference than my experience from a year ago. I have a fairly strong opinion on what to do and who to hire, and I won’t be floundering quite as much for the first six months on the job. I’ll certainly hire a detail-oriented person to be on my team, who balances out my big-picture strategy style. And I just think I can knock this one out of the park. If I didn’t, I’d never even consider it. But something tells me this is a really good opportunity. But I could be delusional. I could be lying to myself because it’s the most exciting opportunity, but not actually the best fit. I’m trying to sort that out.

The larger private firm is also a really good option. What I can’t figure out is how much is broken right now and how much is working. It’s not a stable public company and it’s not a small, early-stage company with the fun moments of cherishing each win and feeling part of that with the whole team (I really love that about smaller companies.) My role would be very vital to fixing some of the pieces that aren’t working right now… and I can see what those are and have some ideas how to get things in order… but once I get the basic stuff functioning, I’m not sure where I’d go from there. The role seems a bit more limiting. The company’s product, while useful and needed, is not something I can get super excited about. Maybe that’s a good thing? But I’m an INFP and I really need to feel morally connected to my work. I told myself I’d never work for a company selling to marketers again, and, quite frankly, the two larger opportunities I have are selling to marketers. I’m not sure that’s the right fit for me either. Yes, it may be more stable and it may be closer to home and the salaries may be higher (don’t know that yet) but… if I’m not feeling passionate about the product I’m just going to crash and burn pretty quickly.

There are other jobs out there — but so much of the business technology lacks the human side. I like to have that human piece to spin stories and generate buzz. The smaller firm has so much going for it around the stories I can tell, and that’s what I do best, with the right company and right stories. I think I could help all three companies but I see my value being most at the smaller firm. I think what they’re looking for and what they value is a lot more in line with what I do best — they very much appreciate that I can do all the other stuff, but I do feel like they’re hiring me for the skills I actually have, and will value my ideas and contributions in those areas vs constantly debate me and tell me I’m wrong.

So… I am most enthusiastic about the smaller opportunity, but I’m also not 100% on it. I think that the feedback from my readers warning me to not go to a small company again has merit. I hope the above explanation shows why I’m not just jumping into any smaller firm, and that this one specifically excites me for a lot of good reasons. It will be hard and a lot of work… but I want to feel inspired and work hard. I want to go to work everyday thinking that I feel good about building something great with people who deserve to be winners. Good people who aren’t sociopaths or narcissistic or delusional or suffering from borderline personality disorder. Just people who want to build something great. That’s where I want to be, and that’s why I’m excited about this opportunity, history be damned.

 

 

What on earth should I do?

Two companies are about 24 hours away from giving me official job offers. Meanwhile my old boss has a consulting project for me to start Monday – if I want it. I’m on unemployment now and the messed up thing about unemployment is if you take a side project that’s short-term you can end up losing your unemployment earnings (which aren’t that much at all but still) — I mean, I make about $1800 a month on unemployment so theoretically I would work one week a month and make that at my going rate… so it’s not like, the end of the world if I lose unemployment, but it would still rather suck if I can’t find consulting work and these full-time ops don’t pan out.

I’m trying to be really smart about this next job thing. And I’m really not sure what to do. I wish I was comparing apples to apples here but I’m really not. I have so many things to take into consideration. The logic side of me says to go work for the slightly larger company that is more stable and get a solid name on my resume that people will know. The passionate, excited, wants-to-do-something-i-love side of me is really interested in this opportunity to run a department at a very small company (<20 people.) One thing I would do for the second opportunity is make sure to negotiate in specific headcount before I accept the job. I’m looking to build a team, not be a one-person-machine masochist. Which is what I normally am.

I could also feasibly convince everyone to hire me as a consultant, but I’m not sure that’s an ideal route either. I mean, I’m not sure what my rate would be. My friend said I should bill $125 an hour. I think I’d try $150 and see if people would go for that. Compared to FT salary it isn’t that much w/ self-employment taxes, health insurance, buying supplies, non-covered transportation, loss of unemployment income in the future if needed, PTO & maternity leave (if provided by company), et al. Those costs add up fast. I figure if I could work 40 hours a week for $150 an hour, though, I’d be doing very well for myself. And I’m sure I’d be a whole lot happier and way more productive in those 40 hours. But I really don’t think these companies would be open to hiring me PT, or for that rate.

The problem with the small company is that it’s far away from where I live again — big red flag — but I’d also really focus on negotiating remote work before I sign on the dotted line (like 2x per week remote plus occasional longer periods to work from east coast.) If they really want to hire me, I’m going to make sure it’s on my terms. Otherwise I’ll go to the bigger company which is closer to home and that probably has better benefits since they can afford them at this point.

But — there is a part of me that’s thinking this is my last big shot to do a startup and really run with it. Yes, I’ll prob be a young mother at some point in this journey — but I can get a good year in before I have a kid right now (i mean, it takes 9 months to have the kid even if I get pregnant at some point in that year.) I can do a lot in a year with the right team. When I have a kid I’m def going to want a job closer to home and such, and there will always be those opportunities out there. But now… I just want to go somewhere where I can make some magic happen.

 

So many doors… but are any of them the right ones?

Amazingly enough, I have 3+ almost opportunities on the table today. Each is very different, yet they’re all generally in this field which I think I need to leave. It’s just very hard to change careers when people are practically begging you to work for them doing what you’re supposedly good at doing. Somehow I manage to interview well but it’s the day-to-day management of the details that is just not my forte. All of the opps have their pros and cons. I’m waiting on the offers to see what the packages would be, but this time around I REALLY don’t want to pick based on salary alone (yes, last time I opted for a package worth at least $40k more but look where that got me… well, $50k closer to my financial goals but otherwise back where I started!)

I hate decisions. I really would prefer to become a consultant and freelance so I could work for numerous companies and there would never be an issue with staying at a place for 3 or 6 months, as that’s part of consulting. I found it quite hilarious and at the same time disheartening when an old boss who knows me quite well, and actually likes the work I did, told me on a call the other day that managing people isn’t my forte. He also went on to tell me that it’s not good that I’ve had a series of short stints in jobs (I didn’t tell him that I was actually axed from this one, I just said it’s time to move on) and he went on and on about how bad it is to be in jobs for such short amounts of time, and proceeded immediately to ask me if I’d want to work for his company. But he does have a point – it doesn’t look the greatest to just be in jobs 6 months or even a year. In this field a year is the minimum one can do full time without seeming like a job jumper… but after a while, in more senior roles, it’s really ideal to stay longer… at least 2-3 years, if not more.

Beyond the career tenure (or lack thereof) what really struck me most was his reminder that I’m not a detail-oriented management type. The unfortunate thing is the two roles I’m very far along on are both more management positions — one is a much smaller company so there’d be more day-to-day, hands on work — whereas the larger company would probably be more strategy and then driving that to execution. And I’m still pretty certain that this whole field is just wrong for me to begin with. I just feel so stuck. I’m too scared to make any drastic changes. It seems just dumb now — even if I don’t make as much as  I was making this past year I should still be doing reasonably well. If I start over… who knows.

For being such a fuck up I’ve done ok so far but it’s time to get serious. Down to business. I can’t just keep making the same career mistakes over and over again. I’m very nervous about the upcoming negotiations with the two firms all while continuing to interview with others and to somehow ensure my old boss provides a good reference (again) even though he thinks I can’t manage a jar of fruit flies.

I try to remind myself that there is some truth to the companies I’ve worked for just being – hot messes – but it’s my fault to put myself in those situations and worse it’s my fault to not figure out how to survive them. Other people I know are just so much better at that.

The Unemployment Rollercoaster

There are so few times in life when you have your health and you’re neither in school or employed. For the lucky few who can afford a period of time out of work without a complete financial meltdown, this should be a time to stop, reflect, and even, god forbid, enjoy life for a minute or two. I really wish I could do that, but as always I’m a heaping ball of anxiety. I can’t just let go and allow life to roll me on its merry way, wherever that shall be. And all the anxiety is getting me sick, for I’m coming down with some kind of cold, because my body has finally let go and accepted its own weakness.

I don’t know how to interview right now. I have interviews — interview #5 with a larger startup and interview #2 with a smaller startup and interview #1 with a global firm. I’m a decent interviewer, but I always feel like I have to fib a bit to get the job. It’s not like huge lies — but someone may ask me if I know how to do something and I say sure and if they ask me to explain results from said thing I find some numbers that sound obtainable and throw those out there. How many leads did I generate per month? Oh, great question. What number do you want to hear that is actually something I might be able to deliver at this company, even though it’s in an entirely different market? Hmm. Even telling the truth can bite you in the ass — for at one company it might be much easier to deliver strong ROI than another. You just can’t win, but what you say at that interview, if you take the job, will haunt you forever.

And I don’t want to have to fib my way into an opportunity, or just accept the blind  delusion of some CEOs who think I’m god’s gift to this field until they’ve hired me and see my limitations. I just wonder how people who do this for a living actually get good at it. Some of the job is just mindless repetition and detail work, which I’m intuitively horrible at. But there’s a lot of strategy and execution around that strategy as well. I mean, it’s not rocket science. Why do I suck so bad at it?

For starters — the field I’m in has a zillion / infinite things you can do at any given time. This confuses the shit out of my ADHD brain. I want to do EVERYTHING! So I start a whole lot of projects with the best intention. The few that do get finished are usually pretty good. Problem is, most don’t get finished, or at least not in time. Even when I try really hard to not do this I end up in the same hole, over and over again. If I were to take a job where I was assigned tasks I’d probably be ok with that if it required some level of creativity to solve the problem at hand, but not if those tasks were detail-oriented and repetitive. I know I’ve gotten so far in my career — to a $160k salary — by just saying the right things and trying my best until the anxiety just exhausts me and I can no longer think straight and I start making one careless mistake after the next.

Some of my commenters have suggested that I move somewhere with a lower cost of living. That’s certainly an option. But I have (some) friends here. And no matter how little money I have, driving down the freeway and seeing the beautiful rolling hills at sunset with the fog rapidly dancing over them is just – worth more than anything I could pay for. There are so many reasons why I love living here. I could move, but at the least the frequent sunny days and blue skies here keeps seasonal depression largely at bay — it was just so, so bad in other places I’ve lived. My fiance hates warm weather so there aren’t many places we can go that are sunny yet not so hot. I’d like to somehow stay here. I don’t know if I can.

I guess I’ll see if I end up getting offers for any of these jobs. I’m way too over qualified for roles in other fields that I’d like to pursue, and ironically the only way to switch into a job paying less than half of what I make now is to go back to school and spend about $150k-$200k for a master’s degree. Which is also an option. Right now, I just need to relax. I’ve been getting more and more upset about this entire last year and there’s just not point to that right now. What’s done is done.  I have to just move on, and hopefully not too fast to the wrong thing, just because it’s there.

 

 

Over and done and on to the next

While I’ll never say I was perfect at my job, my new boss REALLY didn’t like me. I believe he had it out for me from the day he joined the company less than three months ago. People respect executives that come in and make fast changes – it gives them credibility that they know what they are doing. And, looking at the scenario outside myself, AND if I was a heartless professional (i.e. the kind one has to be to survive in the corporate world, I’m not saying this is a bad thing) I’d probably make the same move. From his perspective, I was this employee who committed to a whole bunch of stuff, and then it took longer than she expected, and things were done late, and she lived so far away she came to office at 10am when the rest of the team got in at like, 8.

What sucks is that I was actually making good progress. It was way too slow as I really was learning as I went, and I made a lot of mistakes that I’d never make again. I came in and reachitected a sales database and all the corresponding marketing workflows. I focused way too much on the operations and not enough on the actual marketing. But when everything was in place and I did turn it all on, it really started to work. I could see in the system a large number of really great people who could buy our product who were engaging with our content. It was just too little, too late. And, so, off with my head.

Even though I did get a warning about 20 day ago, the actual getting fired was a bit jarring. For one, I thought I had 30 days or maybe a few more, as my boss and I discussed both 30 days AND my staying through to the beginning of November to wrap up projects. But for whatever reason he got pissed about something I did and decided that yesterday was the day. Maybe my CEO made the call – like many CEOs I’ve worked with he has a black-or-white view of the world and while he used to adore me and my work (when he hired me and shortly thereafter) I had moved over to the dark side, getting a few nasty emails from him about a press release he hated and my asking the office manager to help with some mailings, that, apparently I was supposed to do myself. I have a suspicion that they both had it out for me — they gave me a warning on Sept 23 and said I could go peacefully into the night right then and there, but I am not a quitter, so I said let me stay and prove to you I can be better. I’m so close to having things work. I’m so close to showing you I can do this.

The problem was, I didn’t really believe that. Even with the systems all set up and emails going out, I didn’t have enough content to send, or enough support to deal with the thousands of other requests pouring in — managing a series of conferences, getting PR up and running again, dealing with random asks from other teams that I didn’t plan for, et al. And, the thing is, my boss(es) really want someone who just willing to sacrifice their entire life for the job. That’s what they do, so why shouldn’t everyone else? And, in my 20s, I was all for that kind of life. I had being bored, I like feeling part of a team and helping contribute to a common goal  – so what if it’s at 11 at night and I’m half asleep and I have to wake up at 5am to get on a plane?

Now, that’s not how it would be every single day at this job, but the mentality certainly is either you’re the type to just spend every waking moment of your life working (or at least be smart enough to provide the appearance of this) or you’re out on the street.

Well, I’m out on the street. My boss set up a 3pm meeting and someone at the company actually leaked a memo that gave me a little bit of a heads up, which I am forever grateful to them for. I spent the day clearing off my computer and starting to clean out my desk. I wasn’t 100% sure it was going to happen that day — after all, there’s an event next week and I’m the only person who was going to be able to set up the booth, so I thought. I thought wrong.

He must have been really pissed at me because … he set up a 1:1 at 3pm, then at 3 he asked me if we could meet at 4:30pm and then at 4 he comes over to my desk and – out loud in front of everyone else says – “let’s just get this done with. We only need 30 minutes.” That’s when my suspicions were confirmed.

And that was it. “We’re going to let you go,” he said. I waited for more. I waited for a list of specifics which I failed to do in the last 20 days when he had told me I at least had 30. But he basically gave me the look like “you know.” Yes, I do know, I wasn’t willing or able to dedicate the entirety of my life to the job, nor was I able to successfully be about 5 other employees that I wasn’t able to hire for the team, for various reasons. Ok, this is it, I thought… what crazy paperwork do I have to sign in order to get my severance and how little is it going to be (being as I was there a year, I thought they’d at least pay me out until the end of the month.)

But there would be no severance. Clearly they don’t think I’m a lawsuit risk. They just want me out. Last paycheck, last expense check, and good day. This guy is so irrational that he told me that I should consider coming in the next day to pack up in the morning, early, so no one else would be around to see me do it – or I could pack up then. LUCKILY I had already done most of my packing earlier in the day, you know, standard fall cleaning, nothing to see here folks – what was left was just a lot of trash and work content that I didn’t want to deal with anyway. About an hour after I left I get a text message from him saying it’s a bad idea to come in tomorrow and they’ll pack up my desk and mail me things. I love how quickly he changes his mind.

The entire situation at the company was impossible. Sure, I could have done a better job, worked harder, slept less, took a 5am train and returned home after 9. I could have lasted a bit longer. But the company itself is a mess. The product has been entirely rebuilt and that isn’t going so well. Clients are unhappy. Everyone knows the CEO is crazy. I caveat that by saying all CEOs are crazy and that on its own isn’t a ding in my book. Just look at Elon Musk or Steve Jobs. The problem is that CEOs think they HAVE to be like that in order to ensure the success of their company, but not all have such inherent intuitive genius. Some are just swayed easily by whatever they hear from someone else, and suddenly the world will end if that particular issue isn’t resolved (while in reality the rest of the world is burning around them, but they have to hyper focus on this one issue to make them feel like they have control of the entire situation, which, they don’t.)

Maybe the company will get purchased by someone and there will be some kind of a successful exit, but it’s like one of those many startups out there dying a slow and painful death. I don’t envy the CEOs of these companies — they come in, usually after the founder has given up or has been pushed out by the board, and they’re handed this pile of shit to try to refurbish. These CEOs are the type that are in it primarily for the money (founding CEOs sometimes actually care about the product and maybe even changing the world.) Second and third CEOs just want to get rich, or more rich. I don’t fault them for that — trying to turn around a failing startup is not an easy task. And there are still a number of people employed by the company, so this CEO is day in and day out fighting for not only his shot at wealth, but also their livelihood. It can be an admirable position.

The problem is more often then not, the new CEO isn’t able to recover. It’s kind of like handing a kid a broken toy and seeing if they can fix it or have fun with it. Maybe they’ll turn this broken toy into something amazing (maybe even something better than it was meant to be) – but – really, you’re probably going to end up with a very frustrated kid having a temper tantrum and throwing the broken toy across the room once he realizes it’s not at all salvageable.

That said, I did respect the CEO of this company because he was handed a broken toy and sold said toy to some pretty big, well-repected toy buyers, so to speak. He works his ass off and for that I can’t not respect him. And, despite his having some pretty unrealistic expectations when it comes to the performance of the team, I can’t fault him for pushing everyone really hard. His management strategy is push people as hard as he can until they break. Make the ones who are working hard feel really special (i.e. CEO is paying attention to you and “invested” in your success!) Then people get super burnt out and either they leave on their own accord or, in the rare case that someone stays because they refuse to quit or move on, he gets someone else to fire them (i.e. new boss, three months later, hands me the ax.)

Well, here I am, unemployed – yet again – but I feel ok this time around. I’m actually in a much better place now than I was a year ago because I learned A LOT over the last year. I have been talking to a few companies while I was still employed so I want to move quickly on those opportunities. I also feel like I need a break. I know it has been just a year since I was last unemployed and it’s embarrassing that I’m this tired and burnt out right now,  but I’m this tired and burnt out right now. I threw out my back/neck/shoulder/something last week and even though I sleep at least 7 hours a night I’m always about ready to fall asleep. I can use a week or two to recharge and hopefully will be ready to head into the next thing.

What I don’t know is what that next thing should be. It’s one thing to be recruited for how great I look on paper, it’s another to be able to actually execute and be successful. I don’t want to jump into yet another situation where someone has convinced themselves I’m so great when in reality I’m, well, not quite all that and a bag of chips. Or maybe now that I’ve had some more experience I can be better. I did learn a lot. I see the bigger picture more clearly. I understand the framework of what needs to get done to be successful. But if, at the end of the day, this entire field isn’t right for me, and I’m not right for it, then should I really try to stay in it just because it’s the only place I can get hired? I can take some time off… take classes… figure out who I am and what I’m good at…

I’m still planning to take the GRE soon and I still have my grad school applications in process. Maybe that’s the right way to go. I feel like I need a change. Maybe it’s just a change of company. Maybe it’s a complete 180. In any case, I guess I am relieved right now that I am no longer struggling to promote the wonders of a broken toy that may not be at all fixable.