Tag Archives: silicon valley

They All Want to Be Steve Jobs

Last night, MR. HECC and I went out for a date night featuring deliciously overpriced bison burgers from The Counter and a movie. Well, he wanted to see James Bond but given we can’t stand other people in movie theaters sitting near us and it was opening night, we opted for the less popular and has-been-out-for-a-while Steve Jobs flick.

I haven’t seen the handful of other Steve Jobs movies that have come out since his passing, but this one focused on his life story from the first Mac to the launch of the iMac. The story followed his professional path and personal life in a series of too-long dialogue scenes which all took place in the hour leading up to a major launch conference or in flashbacks. This fit a lot of story into a short amount of time but wasn’t exactly the most compelling to watch. Despite that, it did provide a reminder of the live of one Steve Jobs, who, without his existence, I wouldn’t be writing on this MacBook Air, wouldn’t be texting friends and family on my iPhone or reading non-fiction on my iPad. Love him or hate him, the man changed the world of consumer computing, music, and phones.

Steve Jobs is known as being an asshole, but one people loved to follow – a fearless cult leader who cared only about being true to himself and his vision. I’ve worked for a lot of CEOs who I believe would be trying to “be like Jobs.” They get the asshole part down but their intuition in business isn’t quite so keen. This is definitely a certain style of leadership which only works should your intuition be right most of the time. Even Jobs was wrong for a long time. He got fired from Apple. He was hired back because in the long run instinct and understanding what customers want – not what they THINK they want – is the most coveted talent known to business, even beyond top engineering chops.

There are parts of Steve Jobs’ personality that I recognize in myself. I constantly get chided over my focus on details, on making things absolutely perfect. But, unlike Jobs, it’s my job to make the things perfect too. Jobs was an ideas man and people loved him for it. They saw that brilliance and the value he brought and eventually he got it right. Now Apple stock is up hundreds upon hundreds of dollars. Jobs brought Apple back from the dead and said fuck you to anyone who didn’t believe in what he knew was right.

Of course, I don’t say “fuck you” to anyone. Unfortunately I have that part of my psyche which tries to please everyone. It’s pretty standard for females and I have it really bad due to a father who constantly told me all my ideas were wrong, and who would aggressively debate me should I decide I disagreed with his judgement. My mother was not allowed her own opinion, so I was taught very clearly that women should not have a voice. Women should be obedient. I didn’t have a brother so I never experienced that family dynamic (would have been interesting to see how my father treated a boy child) — but ultimately that was my life. My father certainly didn’t believe in “thinking different.”

I’m not my father, you say. I’m a grown-ass woman. I’m going to be 32 years old this month (fucking A) and I need to just stop being influenced by my past and think about my future. Be a leader. Be strong. Be a – man?

Here I am, approaching two new business opportunities. The leadership team of one (if you’ve been following – this is the larger, 300 person company) has one woman on it. The 15-person startup has 2 women in it, which, actually, compared to the ratio I believe exists at the larger company, is probably, percentage-wise, more women then at the bigger firm. I’m not 100% sure about that. Maybe it’s around the same. In the smaller company, I’d be the first female on the non-official leadership team.

This is nothing new. Even my last company which was heavily female the leadership team was all dudes plus one token women. This is life in Silicon Valley. Men can get away with being Steve Jobs – or faking to be Steve Jobs until finally someone realizes they aren’t. Somehow these men are so confident that they manage to go on to other roles even after major failures. They wear their failures proudly and walk on to the next opportunity.

Women leaders are far and few between in my life. While I have a few male mentors, it’s not the same. Many men who have been my peers had much closer ties with the male leaders at companies. They’d go out to drink with them on the regular, not just once to have a serious “mentor” chat. It was easy for them to call up their now friend to explore life’s many professional possibilities. The one female VP I know fairly well gets mad at me when I try to talk about work. I’ve learned to stop asking those questions.

I wish I could be more like Steve Jobs. Not in terms of being an asshole and horrible parent, but in terms of not giving a shit what other people think. How beautiful would that be? When it comes to opinions, everyone has one, but no one is actually right – so I might as well stand behind mine.

When I’m up in front of a room inspiring people, sharing my passion for great user experiences and products, I’m at my best. When I’m trying to coordinate a marketing program, I’m at my worst. I’m a catalyst, not a finisher. I need to learn how to be a leader. I need to learn how to be my own version of Steve Jobs – only then will I be valued, because I know I have great instincts, and my life’s challenge is to figure out how to get people to listen to them. I think that starts with not caring if they do.










Top Countries to Be a Mother? USA Ranks #31

As I approach the years when — if it’s going to happen — I will become a mother, I’m thinking a lot about what that means, logistically speaking. Growing up in America we’re taught to think that we live in the world’s greatest nation, or at least one at the top of the chain — powerful, successful, prosperous. But in terms of places where it’s best to be a mother (at least according to an annual Save the Children report) the US is dropping fast in rankings, from top 10 in 2000 to above 30 in 2014.

This report largely focuses on the health, educational, economic and political status of mothers. While the goal of the report is to remind us that there are many countries where being a mother is terribly grim, it isn’t looking so great for America either.

For a country that’s so gung-ho about making abortion illegal, and pundits noting that hell is freezing over (or something like that) now that women earning the majority of income for their families, you would think that at least our conservative nation would support the family values of making it possible to afford being a mother. Not so. In fact, the U.S. is the ONLY western country that doesn’t require paid maternity leave.

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Let’s Get Real: Sex & Power in Silicon Valley

In an industry and town which is so heavily male, in an industry where the TV show about it features an all male cast with the exception of a secretary, one has to wonder if she’s making a huge mistake by not Joan Holloway-the-second-ing it up. Sure, it’s 2014, but in many respects, the world I live in is Mad Men 2.0. I try not to think about gender as part of my day-to-day work, because the good lawd knows I’m not exactly BFFs with most women (I tend to get along better with men anyway), but ignoring the fact that I’m often the only woman in the room would be a disservice to my own take on impostor syndrome.

A good friend of mine recently joked that I should use my sex appeal to get ahead, in so many words. Not that he was suggesting I have sex appeal, more that it seems to be working for some women here. He pointed to the perky Amanda Rosenberg, 26, fresh-faced and bushy tailed and literally Googley Eyed (she works in marketing for Google Glass), who has stolen the heart or at least the genitals of one Sergey Brin, much to the delight of the Silicon Valley gossip rags. Continue reading

My $20,000 Lesson: Stock Options are BS

It’s been a while since I covered the bullshittery of startup stock options on this blog, but today life had led me to needing to put out a distress signal to anyone who doesn’t quite understand how they work and why they are really a load of fancy horse manure, slightly more valuable than a handful of lottery tickets.

What’s worse is those lottery tickets come with a price. I’ve explained this on my blog before, but feel like it’s necessary to cover this topic one more time, just to make sure that the point is clear.

When you join a startup, part of your total pay package is in stock options. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say you are a new employee, relatively senior, and you are going to be given $100,000 in total compensation. That compensation will not be all cash. Say you get $70,000 in cash, $30,000 in options. The value of those options is really where the bullshit factor begins. Options are priced at what the investors think the company is worth. The earlier the company, the lower the “valuation” (i.e. price the investors think the company is worth), but also there’s a lot of guesswork involved as well. What is the company going to be worth when it sells? How can anyone know that before the product is tested and it’s clear that people actually want to buy that product for the long term? Continue reading

Apartment Hunting: The Search is On

After driving in what seemed like too many circles in a three-block radius, we parked in front of a tiny row of one-story apartments and walked inside. The 450 square feet “one bedroom” apartment led you into a tiny room straight from the doorway, with another even smaller room in the back. The walls, you could tell, were extremely thin, as neighbors a few apartments over playing music were providing atmospheric entertainment. We looked around for a second then got back in our car and left.

The tiny Mountain View apartment was listed for $1175 a month.

I’m rather spoiled but I care about having a living environment that makes me feel good. This is an issue of both space and natural light, as the rest I can forgive. It seems though both space and light come at a vast premium around these parts.

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It’s Not Impostor Syndrome

As I’ve been thinking more lately about the next 5-10 years of my career, I’m trying very hard to be confident in my abilities yet realistic. Everyone talks about “Impostor Syndrome” these days, thanks to Sheryl Sandberg (who clearly suffers from a case of it herself), but that’s not what I’m facing. Or maybe, a teeny tiny bit of my struggles is self-doubt and feelings of being and impostor, but most of that feeling is fact, supported by hard evidence. While I have some learned skills and natural talents, I’m not prepared for any sort of next step in my career – whether that be a step up, step sideways, or even down.

I’ve read numerous job listings, applied to a few just to see if I could get any bites, even partook in a couple of interviews as an exercise. While I’m not devastated that none of them landed at an offer (I am focused on adding value in my current role at least for the next year), I’m also hyper aware that I’m not setting myself up for long-term success.

This is not the first time I’ve written about this, of course, but every day that goes forward is another day passing where I imagine a future for myself of under or unemployment. Yes, I can definitely take steps to improve my prospects, but I feel like I need to commit to a clear direction before I move forward.

My social anxiety and general anxiety is crippling, yet I hate using that as an excuse. But any job that requires constant nurturing of numerous social relationships is not for me. This pretty much excludes most, if not all, senior-level marketing and business development functions. There is a small space for someone like myself as an expert in content production and data analysis, the later area which I can certainly improve in, but I’m not sure I want to spend my life dedicated to hiding in a cubicle crunching numbers.

That leads me back to the question of whether I want to stay in technology to begin with. I completely fell into tech, and I’m glad I did, but it’s also an industry filled with highly intelligent, well-pedigreed individuals who are so talented at learning quickly and effectively to continue optimizing their daily process and deliverables. That said, I do really enjoy working in an industry that values brainpower over fluff. I could have ended up working in media given my background, maybe even having found myself in LA instead of San Francisco after college, and I imagine now I’d be lost in how to move up inside a highly social, “who-you-know” relationship-based industry.

Nonetheless, in Silicon Valley, those who succeed without seriously high IQs are brilliant on the people side, and as I’ve already stated, while I’m an extrovert my social anxiety limits me greatly on this front. I cannot have a job that requires me to go to drinks and sustain conversation with a business partner, prospect, or industry analyst. I might be able to do this once in a while, and at times enjoy engaging with other people, but the amount of stress it causes each time I imagine must cut into my overall life expectancy.

Even if I was to successfully obtain, say, a content marketing manager job in the future, where does this lead? At 20-something, content marketing is a good role because it exposes you to a lot of areas within marketing and business overall, and then you can pick which to pursue. That said, a good content marketer looking to move up the food chain will have similar options (and limitations) to what I have today. The content marketer could just build out a team of content writer in a large organization and manage global content strategy – which is a good and important job but seems to end at that. I don’t think I’d feel fulfilled in a role limited to content creation. Or, the content writer could move into a more external-facing role, but I’ve already discussed that I’m not suited for such a position.

Work is work, yes, and no job is perfect. It’s possible over the next 10 years, when/if I have a family I’ll realize that my “kids” are what’s most important and my job requirements will shift dramatically. Perhaps then becoming a terminal content marketing manager with clear deliverables and reliable hours will seem more than palatable. Or then I could freelance as a writer and charge heaping fees for each document I create, which by then would be high-quality due to years of high velocity output for some global 2000 technology organization. Maybe I need to tell the little girl voice who wants to change the world to shut up because it’s time she grow up and find a stable, albeit unsexy career. I’ve spent too long at startups that no one has heard of, and this makes me unemployable.

This is what goes into getting hired in a non-technical position in Silicon Valley, from most to least important:

  1. Pedigree: Where did you go to school and what company’s have you worked at in the past? What was your degree(s) in? One successful company that is respected, even if you spend just one year there, helps greatly. (If there were some pedigree score on resumes from 1-10 I’d say at this point I have about a 2.5.)
  2. Analytics Savvy: Can you speak data? What results have you generated from your work and how did you measure them? How can you use data to add more value to an organization?
  3. Social Skills: Are you able to maintain a hour-long conversation with different types of people on topics ranging from how great they are to last week’s football game? Do you come off as not somewhere on the autism spectrum*? (*The tech industry has plenty of room for people who are brilliant aspies, but mostly in technical roles. However, if you are very strong in analytics than this is acceptable and expected even in a non-technical role.
  4. Writing Ability: Can you write in complete sentences? Have you ever created any collateral which drove quantifiable results (sales revenue metrics are best if you can figure out how to measure this.)
  5. What Have You Done? If you pass all of the qualifying items above, then, and only then, does what you’ve actually accomplished matter.

So if I want to stay in Silicon Valley I need to work on at least #1 and #2. I’ll never be strong at #3. I’m ok at #4 and can focus on improving this in my current role. For #2, I want to figure out how to become a quant-minded marketer. I’m trying to get the right analytics set up to measure goals and such, but I don’t know where to start. For #1, well, I think my goal needs to be really beefing up my analytical skills in order to obtain my next position at an established, soon-to-IPO startup. I desperately need that at-least one year of a success on my resume to be taken seriously in the Valley. Alternately, if this still proves impossible, I could get an MBA in order to get into one of those “just about to be successful” companies, but that requires getting into a Stanford or Harvard, which is just as hard if not harder (esp as a 30-something.)

So I just am taking a hard look at myself and my future to decide how badly I want this. It’s not like if I go into another industry suddenly I’ll have a clear career path and not have to work at it, but I have a feeling that outside of tech there’s a bit more opportunity for people who aren’t former valedictorians and student council presidents. I definitely can make something of myself here – I feel I’ve established a wavering baseline of competency as a tech marketer – but it’s going to be a lifelong uphill battle. Yes, it’s even harder as a woman, with few female role models at the top to look up to (not that I’m a typical woman and not that I get along with women anyway, but it is what it is. There are additional unspoken limitations when you are female and cannot have a close yet informal mentor relationship with a senior executive without dirty looks from fellow employees.)

I really need to figure out how much I want this. And what is “this” that I want?

Well, this is what I want, but can I get a job that fulfills this, and how on earth to I pivot from communications to something that does:

  • To create a product or experience that many other people use and that improves their lives
  • To be able to get to the end of my life, look back, and think of all the great things that I’ve built (or been a part of building)
  • To disrupt industries that are inefficient and limit value to the everyday person
  • Enough money to afford a house, infertility treatments for 2-3 kids plus the resulting 2-3 kids, international vacations at mid-tier resorts
  • Time to spend with my future family, traveling, painting, writing
  • Being around smart, witty people all day and laughing whenever possible
  • *Or, maybe, I just want to take a road trip to anywhere, picking up stories and experiences, and become an author, somehow, and creating stories that address psychological and sociological issues generated by our current and future technologies and economies… hmm.

Lean In: Becoming a Better Leader by Leading

One of my colleagues I greatly respect shared a valuable piece of advice with me earlier this month: you don’t get to become a manager by asking to be a manager. You get to become a manager when you show you can manage. Just do it.

This colleague is exactly my age, at my supposed ranking of seniority in the company (title-wise) and yet he has two direct reports. I, on the other hand, have none. And, as I told him, if for some reason we both had to leave our current positions today, he’d be set up for a VP-level role at another company (or at least one at the same level) whereas I’d have difficulty securing a position at my level due to not having direct management experience.

But that’s not the real reason I want to manage. I’m at a time in my life and career where I have ideas on how to move the needle that are bigger than what one person can do. I also want to learn how to be a good manager, but it’s so challenging as I wasn’t brought up in the most socially normal family and my general “how to relate to other people sense” is always lacking. I’m really working on that, and hopefully it shows. I figure I’ll always be ADHD and sometimes not think before I talk completely, but as long as I keep a positive attitude and am not afraid to be relentlessly enthusiastic, it will get me somewhere in life. Well, it’s gotten me where I am today to a point. Still, I’m no cheerleader. Continue reading

It’s Official – I’m Moving!

Looking at the lease renewal letter with the $250 rent increase one more time, I decided I really have to move. So I wrote up my 30-days notice letter, turned it into the apartment office, and clenched my teeth knowing that means I’ll have one week to move out when I get back after my trip next month.

I think this is for the best. I hope this is for the best. I’ll be saving money, anyway. And given that the only way to ever be able to afford property is to live super cheaply now and save, save, save, well, that’s what I’m going to have to do. I just hope I can find some place decent to move.

Ridiculous to Stay, A Pain in the Ass to Go

Ah, it’s a beautiful Saturday morning in my lovely studio apartment. The spring air is keeping the room cool – in a few weeks it will be piping hot outside, with the heat somehow collecting in between the walls of my studio.

In the background of my waking state is TLC’s “My First Home.” A couple is looking for a home in the Bay Area, and they’ve found one they loved.

Meanwhile, I search Craigslist ads vigorously. It’s not that I’ll find a place to move today, as my move-in date is July 1 at earliest, but I’m still trying to decide whether to leave my complex for a more affordable option or stay here and deal with a tight budget and less savings.

When I moved in and the studio cost $905 including utilities, it wasn’t that much of a jump from the $700 + utilities room share options available on the market. For $100 extra dollars, approx, I could have a place of my own. That was a no brainer.

Then rents went up to $1050 and I decided to stay. It was a shock, surely, but it still seemed like a pretty good deal given my options.

$1300 – is about double what I could be paying for a room share situation. I could even compromise and get a room and bathroom in a 2br/2ba condo apartment for less than the $1300.

Moving is such a pain in the ass, though. I could hypothetically “move” for little cost, if I can get some friends to help. As far as furniture goes, I don’t have much. The only large thing I’m sold on keeping is my bed, since I bought that new for a whopping $800 two years ago (I decided after 6 months on a used futon with poor support, I deserved a good night sleep). I have a large bookshelf I got at Target a few months ago and it’s really heavy – but it would be a shame to toss that! Other than the bed, bookshelf, and some small tables, I have a piece of crap IKEA coffee table that started to fall apart before I put it together (though it’s functional) and a large horizontal dresser that I could part with – I’m not sure anyone would want to buy it, but I’d consider trying to sell it on Craiglist. I have plenty of room in my closet now for my clothes, and I’d hope that wherever I move would have at least this much closet space. Then there’s a TV, a printer, a microwave, and other odds and ends. I really don’t have that much stuff. It’s still a bitch to move, but it’s not like I’m moving a house worth of life. It’s just whatever I could fit in a studio for the past two years.

Also, having less space might be good for me. It would keep me organized as there wouldn’t be places to hide things. Heh.

The downside of getting a roommate is – well – obviously enough to have me living in a studio currently. Noise. Roommate drama. Not being able to cook naked in the kitchen. These things are hard to compromise on. 🙂

My biggest fear is that I won’t find anything I like. I have some cushion. If I decide to move – I’d come back to California around June 20-something, and I’d have that time to finish getting out of my apartment. I’d put my things into storage and move in with my good friend who has offered up her second bedroom. I’ll pay her rent, but it will be way less than what it would cost to stay in my studio in August. $1300 versus, maybe $500 or something (plus whatever it costs to put my things in storage for a month.) That will cover the 2 weeks in June that I can’t work because I’m going to be in Israel on vacation. Then I can really take some time to find a good living situation.

The real question is, how picky am I? I get anxious in so many living situations. Finally, in this light and airy studio I feel, well, at the very least calm and comfortable. The greenery outside (beyond the parking area) makes me happy. It almost reminds me of home, back east. I love waking up here.

But is it the stupidest thing in the world not to move? If I did move, I’d look for a place ideally that costs less than what I’m paying now, so I could pay under $1000, and I’d put any extra money between that and the $1300 I would be paying for my studio into a special down payment fund. I’m tired of renting, and dealing with yearly rent increases.

I just wish I felt more settled. All of my friends are getting engaged and married. Buying homes. Me? Well, I’ve been in a relationship for two years. We joke about moving in together one day but we’re talking more apartment than house. He’s going to grad school in fall 2009, and who knows where I’ll be. That’s why it really doesn’t make sense for me to buy anything right now. Even though the prices for condos in the area are coming down while rents are going up, up, up.

The more I think about it, the more I realize the only logical option is to move. I could be saving $500 a month if I find a place for $800, or $6000 a year. $6000 a year is nothing to shake a stick at. That’s a huge chunk of change to go to my downpayment fund. Even if it’s $4000 and I get a slightly nicer place, it’s still a lot of money.

*sigh* – I just… wish there was an obvious option hitting me on the head. But life is never so black and white.

How We Gonna Pay This Year’s Rent? – a $250 a month increase!

I knew it was coming. But I didn’t know how fast or how hard.

My rent increase letter arrived in my mailbox today. In its perfect off-white envelope adorned with the elegant and harmless-looking apartment complex logo, the contents inside were more like an offer of a boxing match where the mailer was allowed to bring guns and a knife. I would, of course, have to fight bare handed.

When I moved into my quaint Silicon Valley studio apartment two years ago, it cost me $905 a month, utilities included.

Last year, when they bumped the rent up to $1050 a month (still, with utilities included) I was tempted to leave. But around here, I had few options anywhere near as nice. I wanted to live alone – that’s part of the problem. Still, other options for studio apartments that are cheaper than $1050 are, maybe, $900, and look more like a closet than an apartment.

Today’s letter, I knew, held the answer to my question – will I have to move out this year or can I stay for one more year? The answer… I’m moving out.

The utilities are no longer “included” although they’re offering $50 a month extra for them to be “included.” That brings the total rent up to $1300 a month to get what I’m getting now for $1050. A $250 increase? Are they out of their minds???

No, they’re just raking in the dough while plenty of people are losing their homes and the rental market is getting increasingly more squeezed. When my rent was $905 another company owned the apartment complex, in fact, I think it was family owned, so the rents were always reasonable. Then this big shot property management company came in, decreased the quality of life around here, and upped the rents. Gotta love capitalism and free markets, eh??

So… now I have to figure out what to do. To complicate matters, I’m leaving town for about a month at the end of May into June, which leaves me with about a week when I get back to find a new place.

The good news is that my friend has offered to let me stay with her while I look. So it sounds like I’ll be storing my stuff in storage for the summer, living with my friend, and trying to find a decent rental in this painful renters market. I’m almost tempted to look into buying. It seems like a really good time to buy. I’m not sure I’m in the right part of my life right now to buy property, but gosh, if I’m going to really be spending that much of my income on housing, I might as well be putting it into something I’ll own in the long run.

So right now I have about $25k for a down payment if I cash out my Roth IRA and all of my savings accounts. Of course that would leave me with no emergency fund – probably not the best idea. Perhaps I could convince my parents to give me a loan for a more enticing down payment, but I’m not sure they even have the money. Well, my dad will have the money in a couple of years when he can access his 401k, but he retired early and the money is apparently somewhat tight right now.

Do any of you think I should look into purchasing property? I’d probably want to buy a 1br condo – it seems to be in poor judgement to buy a studio (as I doubt it’s easy to resell a studio.)

There’s a lot I have to think about. I didn’t expect such a huge rent increase. I thought maybe they’d bring it up to $1200 and I was going to deal with that. But $1300 a month? For a studio? For a fucking studio?