Tag Archives: work

Point Made: Improving Communication Skills

When I was a freshman in high school, I took a class called “speech and drama” where half of the year we focused on public speaking skills. One of the things the teacher would say to have us focus on being crystal clear in our speech was “point made.” It was something everyone in the class would get told on occasion, but it practically became a running joke every time I had to talk. Succinctness, if you can tell from the lengthy posts on this blog, is not my strong suit.

Being verbose might be beneficial in a social situation when you’re in a room full of introverts who would prefer not to speak or at a table of people who culturally like to talk a lot to and over each other, it’s not ideal for the board room. While I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I actually believe in my points that I’m trying to make, I’ve yet to uncover how to turn my mush-pot of a brain into quality communication. My boss pointed out the other day that I was verbose and sounded defensive over a project I was in charge of that didn’t go over so well, and speaking of points I agreed with his. Yet I find no matter how hard I try I just cannot in the moment figure out how to produce words that say exactly what I want to say without babbling. It’s especially hard on conference calls as one cannot quickly see others in the room zoning out.

I know I need to focus on improving my communication skills if I will ever be a successful executive. But how do I do this? Yes, there are things like toastmasters and such, but those are more for getting up in front of an audience and presenting. I could use help there as well, but my bigger problem is just general conversational communication. I did not learn this from my parents as my mother is the type who will just talk your ear off and my father, while he’s better at debating, is so convinced that he always has the right answer that he taught me that I’m always wrong (unless, of course, I agree with his POV.) I wasn’t taught that it’s ok to stand your ground or believe in your point so much that you don’t need to constantly defend your point. The more you defend it the weaker you seem, the quicker your conviction foils.

So I have good ideas, just as good as anyone else, yet some people with good ideas get others to buy in and stand behind them and others just get lost to the wind. I can take my ideas and execute on them and then finally people see that they were good ideas. I’m not the type who can just speak with great charisma and get others to join alongside me. That’s what I need to be if I’m ever going to become a successful executive. But is that something that can be learned, or is it just not in my personality? And where could I go to learn such a skills, if it is learnable?

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

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

Returned $250 Worth of Clothes

A long time ago in a far off land I loved trips to the mall. While not everything looked great on my curves, for the most part outfits fit. And as a student I could get away with wearing funky looks, including low-cost versions of trends.

These days, I’m having trouble finding the right look for work. Over the past few weeks I’ve done a lot of shopping, and despite spending a lot, not much buying.

Old me would have kept items I bought hoping to be inspired to wear them one day, even though in the back of my mind I knew I never would. But from now on I’m not letting any money go to waste, especially on expensive clothes that I just don’t love.

So I returned the $130 pair of patent leather shoes to Ann Taylor that were too big and had a high heel that I’d never wear. The other day I found a pair of low-heel shoes by Nine West that were $78 and have worn them every day since. The Ann Taylor shoes are back at the store and the money is back in my bank account.

I also returned a blue cotton Theory dress to Bloomingdales that cost me $140. I don’t love the dress. My boyfriend says it makes me look bigger than I am, which was enough to inspire the return. So that’s back to the store as well.

Even with returning those items, I’ve purchased a few things I am keeping:

2 pairs of machine washable work pants from Nordstrom petites, $78 each.
4 button down short-sleeve shirts from Express, about $20 each.
1 Calvin Klein black jacket, $99.
1 pair of black shoes from Nine West, $78.
1 black turtleneck by Theory, $80
1 gray sweater jacket by Theory, $140
1 pair of Ann Taylor black pants, $100
1 blue dress t-shirt for work at Ann Taylor, $40
1 skirt on sale at Express, $20

So I’ve spent a lot on work clothes, but I feel better now that I’ve returned the two items that I’ll never wear. Right now I’m looking for a few items that I need, and then my work wardrobe will be complete..

– 1 brown or blue jacket (for brown pant days)
– pair of brown shoes (or shoes that match brown pants)
– 3 button down long sleeve shirts that are machine washable and actually fit me

I’ve been looking at all the stores but have had no luck with these items. Oh well, nothing wrong with waiting until next month to make more purchases. I haven’t even gotten my first paycheck yet!

Early Retirement, What it Means to Me

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of early retirement. From reading blogs like Early Retirement Extreme and Free at 45 I’ve begun thinking about the true meaning of life. Not from an existential standpoint, which I’ve already thought about long and hard, but from a view of what every waking moment of my day is worth from now until my death.

My parents and their friends are getting old now. By old, I mean they’re in their late 50’s and they are really starting to look old. My dad is dying of cancer so he looks even older. When I was a kid, I thought, well, I want to live forever. I never wanted to be young forever. I guess your late 20s is when that thought pops into your head. I don’t really want to be “young” forever. I feel like one’s 30s are the perfect mix of being young and old. And the 40s aren’t bad either. But once you hit 50 your body does start to seriously age. You can definitely work hard at keeping up your body through physical exercise, eating right, etc, but the years take their toll on every body.

When I think about early retirement, I don’t have a dream of retiring to some desolate island and relaxing on a beach. I dream of working hard but doing what I want, when I want. I want to get to a point where working freelance or part-time on my own hours won’t kill my bank account, where my savings are large enough that the long-term stock market gains will provide a substantial portion of my income.

So over the next few weeks, I’m going to work on calculating exactly what all this means from a financial standpoint. What year could I “retire” from 9-5? How much do I need to earn now and in upcoming years to obtain this goal? How much do I need to save? And when exactly can I retire “early?”

My current plan is to try to save $6,000 per month while I’m fortunate enough to have a job that pays well and low living costs. I’m not sure if this is maintainable over the long term. I’ll update in the near future with some further calculations to determine how much I will need to save each month to meet my early “retirement” goals.

Her Makeover Attempt: Clothes for Work

This weekend, I have frantically been scouring department store after department store (and smaller shops) to find the perfect outfits for my first week at work. While back in my high school days I’d have trouble narrowing down my piles of “loves” on shopping trips, these days I can’t find things I even remotely like. Partially, as my body ages I’ve developed curves in places clothing designers are terrified of admitting existence, so few things I try on even fit. Then, there’s the question of – what does a 26 year old wear when trying to dress older and more professional but not too old or too professional to a job that interfaces with many different types of people… in an informal left coast city?

The other thing is, I really don’t want to spend my entire paycheck on a new wardrobe before it’s even deposited in my banking account. I will if I have to, but that seems really silly. I do have expensive tastes, but in the past my purchases were more often sale rack than full retail, even in nicer stores. But in this role I really feel like I need to look expensive. Does this mean my clothes need to be?

Some days, I wish I was a guy. Men have it so easy. Wear a pair of slacks, a button-down shirt, slick your hair, wear nice shoes, and you’re done. Being a women… there are way too many variables for the professional world. What hair style do I wear? Up or down? Should I wear a skirt, pants, or a dress? Long sleeves or short sleeves? Or a jacket over a tank? Can I take the jacket off at work if I get hot? What shoes do I wear? Closed toe? Peep toe? Should I wear heels or can I get away with flats? Yikes.

Yesterday, I spent the morning shopping at Bloomingdales because they are having a 20% off sale and I also had a $25 off coupon expiring in April. Figured it was worth a look. The whole shopping experience there infuriated me. First off, finding my size… or anything close to my size… in items I liked was fairly impossible, with the exception of when items were “small, medium, large” — I’m somewhere between a 10 and a 14 depending how the designer cuts the clothes. Petite only in my inseam but everything else is, well, average to large. 31″ waist last time I measured. Probably bigger than that now. I have big hips, a protruding behind, and thighs that don’t look like they belong on legs with a 27.5″ inseam. Thanks mom.

Even when I found a few things I liked that seemed to fit I had to stop and ask myself — does this make me look too young? Can I be taken seriously in this? There is one skirt there by Marc Jacobs that I’ve been eying for months and I was surprised they still have it. It’s a $200 a-line black skirt in a thick fabric that just feels really nice on. Size medium was a little too tight, but I almost bought it because I have a habit of buying black skirts knowing I’ll wear them. Then I looked at the skirt again. It was flattering, covering my belly bulge with the exception of where it was slightly cutting into my stomach (must exercise), but it just didn’t make me look older. In fact, the whole outfit made me look younger. I tried the skirt on with the sleeveless shirt and sweater they were showing it with on the rack. The shirt, which looked like something I’d wear when I was 5, was a sleeveless with hearts on it and these gaudy gold buttons. The sweater was grey and preppy but oversized, and only available in a large or extra small. I grabbed the large and headed into the dressing room to try out the look. And, yes, I looked like I was 5.

Who wears this stuff, I constantly asked myself browsing all the expensive options by designer labels… half of the collections at the store look like they’re designed for people in high school or maybe college, and the other half (ralph lauren, eileen fischer, etc) look to be designed for women in their 40s. What do professional 20/30 year old women wear?

I’ve always found myself drawn to certain brands which seem to come close to what I’m looking for. Theory, one of my favorite brands in terms of style, had a few options. But at $200-$300 an item, I stop to wonder, can’t I find this style some place cheaper? Do I need to spend $250 on a pair of pants to earn the respect of my colleagues and move up the corporate business chain? And even if I do, is Theory the right brand to get me there? Surely, it’s a better option than anything offered by Marc Jacobs (really – WHO WEARS THIS STUFF?) but with each outfit costing $700-$1000, it’s tough to splurge without it being perfect. And nothing was perfect.

I found a nice grey half-sleeve sweater that I instantly knew would become a classic in my closet, so I felt that was worth the $200 price tag. There was a blue sleeveless cotton dress with ruffles on the neck which I could see looking nice under the grey sweater if I had a brown leather belt to tie it all together. So I bought that, the sweater, and a t-shirt length black turtleneck, all by Theory. Total cost after discount: $355. And really, I don’t have much of an outfit there. I still need shoes and a belt and handbag to make the dress/sweater look complete. The $75 black turtleneck feels like heaven and will be worn, but I’m not sure what bottoms to put it with.
So today I’m still looking for what to wear tomorrow. I really want to look like a million bucks without spending anything near that much money. But how? Sure, I could buy a suit at Macys for $99, but a suit really isn’t right for this environment. It’s too formal, especially for my role. Funny how it costs much more to do business casual than true-blue business. At least for women. I could definitely find a nice suit outfit for under $200 on sale. But to really look slick, slightly trendy but also professional, that’s where the money starts to become an issue.
The other thing I realized is… I don’t have much of a life outside of work. I mean, maybe all the clothes they sell at Bloomingdales are for women who dress up to go out at night and on the weekends. But I don’t go anywhere. On occasion my boyfriend and I go to dinner but I don’t really need to buy new outfits for that. I have plenty of dresses and things that work for my non-professional life. I have no reason to spend $1000 on an outfit that I wouldn’t be wearing to work. So I never would. I like to spend my money on nice clothes for the office because I’d end up wearing them most of my life. And it’s the only opportunity I have to dress up and look nice in my life. Even with my potential $100k salary, I live a $40k life. And I’m ok with that. I just like to dress up sometimes and where else am I going to do it other than the office?

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.

What Does a Multi Millionaire Look Like?

I pose the question as repeats of Patti Stanger’s “Millionaire Matchmaker” plays in the background. Immediately I picture someone dressed extravagantly, lounging in their decadent home, trying to figure out what to do with their time.

But, hello reality check. I seem to work with a few multi millionaires. I should have kind of figured that out (duh me) from the beginning, but I guess I’m a bit slow. Figuring this out doesn’t change my opinion of them at all (as I mentioned a bunch of times before, I really love the people I work with. The more I get to know them, the more I like the bunch!)

It’s just kind of crazy to me. Here I am at 24, feeling guilty for making $57k a year, give or take, and I’m working with people who, by the time they were in their mid-20s, already had, oh, a few hundred million dollars in the bank. At the least, it makes me stop feeling so damn guilty about wanting to make more money.

The cool thing about working for people who were so successful in the past is that you know they’re working for passion. My company is run by a lot of really successful people and I look up to all of them. It’s kind of crazy that I was just a wee little high schooler back when they were all making an internet product that I used frequently. And now, here I am, sitting in the same office as these brilliant folks, giving them my opinion on things.

I’m not quite sure what they all think of me. I really want to do a good job at this company, and to prove myself. I don’t think I’ll personally become a millionaire at this job, heck, I gave up any stock options on my latest contract in order to raise my monthly income by another few hundred dollars. I’m not complaining, really, it’s just that it’s tough for a… copywriter and community manager… to be valued in the same way, say, an IT person would. Which makes total sense — IT skills, esp top-notch IT skills, are worth a fortune. Copywriters are a dime a dozen. I think I’m a pretty good copywriter. I think I’ve found the right type of job for me.

My favorite part of my job is that I actually get to collaborate with people. Being a journalist was so damn lonely. I had to talk to people I didn’t know, which made me super anxious, and then the people I did know had no time to talk or work together to create something new. Now? If we’re all hitting a brick wall in the office in terms of new ideas, we’ll go into a conference room, down some candy and throw out ideas until we come up with something good.

That’s what I love. Being part of that collaborative process. There’s nothing better.

Anyway, I just realized that not only do I work with a bunch of rich people, I work with a bunch of multi-millionaires. I mean, I don’t know how much they all are worth, and that’s really none of my business, but the point I’m getting at is that you’d never know just by meeting these folks. They’re so laid back, t-shirt and jeans types. I hope that if I ever do become successful, on whatever level, I’ll be able to remain as humble and grounded as they are.

Phone Call with AT&T

The only good thing out of this situation is that I was able to call and speak with a rep from AT&T last night (so I wasn’t spending more of my Verizon cell phone minutes to deal with the saga (see here and here.)

After barking at this women for over a half hour, it seems I got somewhere. Well, sort of. She explained to me that since my account was canceled on December 24, the charge that just showed up on my statement was for Nov – Dec. Also, since my billing cycle ends on the 21, I will have one more charge appear on my account for the three days between the 21 and 24, but the rep couldn’t tell me yet how much that would be for.

As far as canceling auto pay, she said she’d gladly do that, but it usually takes one billing cycle before that’s put into effect (so, in other words, it doesn’t really matter if i do that because there’s only one more billing cycle left).

What really frustrates me is that this all should have been taken care of in October, if the women at AT&T handled our phone request properly and transfered the account then.

At the end of the conversation, I realized that trying to get reimbursed from AT&T for the charge was going to be impossible. So instead, I asked if they could send me a bill for the last three months charges, so at the very least I could forward this on to my boss so I could be reimbursed.

That sounds so simple, right?

Well… I’m told that it costs $5 per bill to have them sent to me, but I could go online to see and print them for free. I bitch at her for another 10 minutes, explaining that I can’t get into the online account because it’s under my bosses’ name with HIS information and password. She finally goes to talk to her manager and puts me on hold for another 5 minutes. Then she comes back and says she’ll mail the bills out to me. Jackpot. Well, sortof.

That’s about all I can do for now. I’ll send the bills off to my boss the second I get them and hopefully will get the $300+ back that has been withdrawn from my account.

All I can think is thank goodness I was able to make this call at night when my minutes are free!

AT&T will never, ever, ever get my business again.