Tag Archives: silicon valley

Holy Hell 2020: $850k Total Income (Can We Hit $1M Next Year?)

Ok, let me catch my breath here. Because. What? I just added up all our income for the past year and if my calculations are right (they are) we made $850k in ONE YEAR in actual income (not counting investment gains.) This figure makes me kind of numb. You would think I’d feel rich (because when you make $850k you are rich even if it’s temporary) yet… I’m blinking here and feeling like, wow, even if I never make this much again in one year, I’m shocked that I did this ever. 

  • Shocked because I’m a bipolar woman who can’t hold a job.
  • Shocked because I’m pregnant with my second kid and struggle to be a mom and a full time employee and I constantly feel like I’m going to be walked out the virtual door.
  • Shocked because a year ago my boss put me on a PIP and I was supposed to be fired in July, but I held on for dear life to make this year a reality.
  • Shocked because in Silicon Valley, it’s probably somewhat normal for 2 adults in a household to earn this much in a year ($750k of the $850k was my earnings, $100k was my husband.)
  • Shocked because I don’t deserve to make this much.
  • Shocked because many of my peers and superiors likely made 2-5x+ what I made, and are likely going to continue to do that.
  • Shocked because wealth makes no sense and while many people struggle and go hungry in this country, and I am trying to figure out my place in how to help people while also knowing that due to my mental health issues I need to save a bit more aggressively than the average person, as I could hit a wall and not be able to work at some point.

This income won’t be our income forever. 2021 could easily break this record if the stock market holds up, but in 2022 we’ll be back to about $300k (which is still crazy good compared to the average person, but not holy shit we earned almost $1M in a year good.)

For the record, this has been my income and net worth gains since 2005. Clearly this year is abnormal. (This doesn’t include my husband’s income/savings, which have remained largely flat. If I keep earning like this maybe he can actually quit his job and become a FT SAHD!)

Year Income Networth $ Growth % Growth
2005 $15k n/a n/a n/a
2006 $35k n/a n/a n/a
2007 $50k $24.9k n/a n/a
2008 $60k $15.8k -$9.1k -37%
2009 $60k $32.7k  $16.9k 206%
2010 $120k $88.6k $55.9k 270%
2011 $90k $145k $56.4k 64%
2012 $100k $200k $55k 38%
2013 $110k $253k $53k 26%
2014 $125k $299.5k $46.5k 18%
2015 $160k $342.4k $42.9k 14%
2016 $190k $416k $73.6k 22%
2017 $130k $551.3k $135.3k 32%
 2018  $300k  $625k  $73.7k  13.3%
 2019  $400k  $1.05M  $425k  99.83%
 2020  $750k $1.6M  $550k  52.8%
2021 $750k 2.1M Goal $500k Goal 31.25% Goal

I’m still. Blinking. At my google spreadsheet. It is insane. Absolutely insane how much one can make a year if you hit the RSU lotto. And PLENTY of senior Silicon Valley execs make this every year of their working lives. And are married to people who also make this much. What do they do with all that money? I mean, if I could consistently make this much for even 10, maybe just 5 years I’d be set. Forever.

That would be nice.

My taxes are a nightmare but that was expected. We went safe harbor last year knowing we’d owe a lot. I was running these numbers to figure out how much “a lot” is and it looks like we owe about $50k for 2020. That’s ok, I have that set aside. What I don’t have so neatly set aside is 2021’s first quarterly payment. It’s going to be messy because if we go safe harbor (which we probably should) we have to do 110% of this year’s taxes owed.  Welp, that’s going to be $57k…

Typically, some of that would come out of salary. Now, some of it will come out of my RSU vesting and bonus (if I get one) as that will be paid out while I’m on maternity leave. But my maternity leave pay is much lower than typical pay and no tax is automatically paid on it. I know, boo hoo rich people problems — but we need to be careful because if we don’t pay enough estimated taxes next year we’ll have a huge penalty. The year after will be fine with my income dropping substantially. Next year is… well, basically in April we owe $100k in taxes. Hopefully no additional penalties there… I think we should be ok, as our CPA said we were doing fine on safe harbor as long as we paid 110% of last year (and we did automatically, since my total income went up so much.) But next year… it’s going to be rough if I lose my job at any point as we will be forced to massively overpay early on.

Again, rich people problems. Am I a rich person? Eh, I don’t feel like one. I guess I am? I did just buy a $1000 Roomba and a $35k bathroom remodel. But I still feel like I can’t afford a good kitchen table (we’ve never owned a good kitchen table.) So there’s that.

Next year–my wish is to break $1M income. It will be close. I’m going to have fun building a donor-advised trust as well. It might be wise to do that this year also, but I think I’m going to wait as I don’t have much of a mortgage deduction yet and I’m kind of scared about the tax situation so I need as much cash on hand as possible for the time being (plus who knows what random costs will come up for this house.) By the end of next year I should have a better idea of just how much I can/should put into a donor advised fund.

I mean, if I have some horribly traumatic birth and end up disabled (or dead) things are going to change quite a bit. If I don’t… then it’s full-speed ahead to some serious wealth. People on this blog constantly ask why I stay in Silicon Valley. This is why. I want financial freedom. FAT Fire. This dream is being built here. It’s certainly not a sure thing. But it’s worth it, as I approach 40, to know that I’ll have hopefully a large chunk of my adult life when (earning and saving a lot of) money is no longer a concern. We could always pick up and retire elsewhere and live a life of luxury too, but we love it here, and I think there are still great things for me to accomplish with the right company/team. Businesses to build. Problems to solve. There are a lot of things I love about working in Silicon Valley. I don’t love the craziness behind how people change when they’re chasing their next vest date, or needing to white lie to a board to get that next round of funding. But I do love a lot of the energy here. The desire to always improve things. Never settle. I probably would get bored most anywhere else.

The day we surpassed $2M in networth. Can I buy a Roomba now?

Holy hell. Personal capital shows our family networth crossed the $2M threshold. This was my goal for 2020, yet it felt so far away earlier this year. A bump in my company stock was really all it took, but it was far from guaranteed. Even with deducting $100k from the cost to sell our home (which I have set up as a liability in personal capital) we’re across that $2M mark. Insane!

2 million networth

It feels especially weird given the state of the world, with so many people struggling. While living in a HCOL area with 2 kids and hopes for one more, I can’t start throwing heaps of money at charity as I’d like to yet, I’m looking into doing a donor-advised fund next year, as well as where we can help locally at food banks and such. I’m a little nervous about next year as the breadwinner of the family who happens to be about to go into labor any day now (and who has to hold down a $7k a month Bay Area mortgage), so want to be smart about giving strategies, but it’s time to think seriously about that. I just feel overwhelmed as so many people need help right now. I feel guilty for having “so much money” and yet, so many people have a lot more $ here too. And many are struggling to put food on the table. I feel weird being one of the people benefiting from the state of the world as I have a lot of stock, but at the same time proud of myself for being frugal and investing in my 20s, and also landing this job and seeing the potential in this company a few years ago.

Sure, the stock market could crash overnight or my company could go belly up — and at this point I’m holding way too much stock in my company despite selling along the way. It’s about 25% of our net worth, which is way too risky. But I also want to hold off on cap gains until AFTER next year, since I’ll likely go back to a normal income once I vest my final year of my initial grant. But that’s super risky. Yes,  I can and should sell my new RSU vest now, and I probably will (it’s down a bit so holding until 2021 to either take a loss next year to offset potential short term gains later in the year or just take a gain if it goes up again.) I’ve held on to most of my ESPP against the wisdom of finance professionals everywhere, which has proven to be quite a lucrative bet. Those get taxed at a mix of income and cap gains, and my cap gains right now in CA is basically the same as my income tax rate, so it feels prudent to hold just a year longer even if they could end up being worth nothing. I’ve decided that in order to build wealth there is some truth to needing to do stupid things and take risks that aren’t wise. Men do this often. Many of my male colleagues haven’t sold one share of their stock even though they know it’s super risky and you know what, they’ve made a fortune in holding. Sure, they could lose it all as well, but so far I know some of my coworkers are set to retire tomorrow, all because they are men who take on too much risk.

Maybe risk is ok. The more money you have, the more risk you can take. It’s not quite putting it all on red. But I would not have $2M now if I hadn’t ignored my CFP’s advice and sold all of my ESPP up front. Instead, I have over 1000 shares I’m holding now, with the total value hovering around $500k. Is that stupid? Maybe. They say don’t hold your company shares as you have too much riding on the success of your company already just with your employment. That’s probably true. And RSU has no reason to hold since they’re taxed as income on vest and you should treat as a bonus (and you likely wouldn’t go and buy your company stock with a bonus – also true.) ESPP is a little more complicated. In typical slow-growth companies these give you the benefit when you make a purchase, a small 15% discount on shares, plus any growth within a lock back period. But holding you can pay cap gains tax on any growth, which can be substantial in a fast-growth company. So I’m holding. Maybe I’ll regret it. So far, doing this has catapulted us to our $2M net worth goal.

Looking ahead to next year, I see $3M as a possibility. It’s unlikely we can go from $2M to $3M, but it could happen. Right now I’m estimating about $2.5M-$2.75M by the end of next year if the market holds. If it goes up, we could get to 3. There is something about that $3M number… it’s equal to about $1M in 1981.. so hitting $3M, esp in a HCOL area, is when you actually feel like a “millionaire.” It seems like a shit ton of money (and it is) but when you have $3M in net worth, I think your world changes a bit. It definitely changed for me at $100k and $500k and $1M, but $3M is the beginning of a new chapter. It’s when you cross the threshold from upper middle class to entry-level wealthy. At least in the Bay Area — $1M, $2M, $3M, $5M, $10M are these levels of wealth. $5M is realistic for a family with 2 tech workers who are each making $250k a year. Since my family is 1 tech worker, it’s still possible if I can have a few home runs with RSUs (ie make 500k-1M per year a few times in my lifetime.) If you don’t work in tech, or settle for whatever a company decides your level is worth without convincing them you’re worth more, then it’s really hard to get there.

I still have my eyes on the prize ($5M net worth) but when we get to $3M, I’ll loosen up a bit. I’ll fly my mom out twice a year and put her up in an AirBnB for a few weeks so she can spend time with her grandkids. I’ll send my sister that TV and other random gifts she keeps asking for (actually maybe I will do that this year.) I’ll take my family on some nice vacations and pay for my kids to take enrichment classes that cost too much but it won’t actually hurt our retirement goals so why not? And I’ll seriously look at how to build the donor-advised fund I’m going to likely start next year so we can be quite generous with charity in the years ahead, which I haven’t made a priority in the past.

I’ll do a full recount of 2020 networth once the year is over as there are still a few paychecks coming in and expenses going out. I’ve spent way too much on fixing up my new house and it isn’t done yet. Next year I’ll prob spend too much buying furniture for the house (to be fair, we’ve moved from an 800 sq ft one bedroom where we were still using mostly craigslist furniture or IKEA stuff I bought when I was 22) to a nearly 2000 sq ft house… we don’t even have a kitchen table right now or any place to sit outside in our yard except our camping chairs. So I’m going to splurge because life is now and we are in a good place to buy things to increase our quality of life without going overboard. I’m not talking luxury items but thing that will make us happy because we spend most of our time in this house (well pretty much all of our time now) so…

My boss’s boss (my former boss) even liked a small project I did this week, which made me quite happy. I know I’ll never be able to be good enough for this company, but if I can keep turning in quality work I can survive through the end of next year, which means $3M net worth is no longer a pipe dream. And once you hit $3M, theoretically you can make 10% on that YoY and get to $5M in 6 years. Yea, 10% YoY gains six years in a row after a bull market is quite unlikely (might see 6% YoY losses) but being this close of striking range to the $5M net worth goal is… just… well, I don’t even know what to think about it. If I can get to $5M by age 40, that would be a whole other level of crazy. And if I’m going to do it, that’s on me. My husband brings in a stable $90k a year, and that certainly helps, but I’ve got to lean into the crazy that is RSU growth in Silicon Valley’s top-performing companies, negotiate well for my next gig, and just hold on for dear life. I have no interest in being a VP anymore — I just want to FAT FIRE (well FIOR – financial independence, optional retirement.) $3M gets us close. $5M gets us all the way. Can I get to $5M by 40? Even by my calculations that’s highly unlikely. But a few years ago $2M by 37 was also very unlikely. So anything is possible. And when I set my mind to something, well, either I ADHD space out and it never happens. Or I ADHD super focus on it and I get there.

To my readers out there, thanks for your support along the way. I hope it is as fun for you to watch my nutty progress as it is to live it on my end. Right now my biggest focus is on NOT getting coronavirus, surviving childbirth, having a healthy baby, and getting myself healthy in the year ahead. It’s ALL possible. The world SUCKS right now and it’s hard to stay positive, but at least for me, good things are happening. I don’t deserve these good things any more or less than the next person. I am grateful and in awe of how the world works in such mysterious ways.

And I like that my couch fits so nicely in my family room. And I want a kitchen table.

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

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

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

What If I’m Not Good at Anything?

I’m not sure if it talents talent or natural ability to project manage and get shit done, but that seems to be one trait that can’t be learned (if you’re horrible at it) and the most important in any job. The few people who can get away with not being the most organized and being poor at communication are the rare idiot savants, those who are respected for their creative contributions despite other clear shortcomings.

We aren’t born to work, outside of hunting and gathering and building shelter so we don’t die, so all of these career tests and what you should be when you grow up aren’t telling the total truth — that we’re trying to identify some value-added contribution that we can do consistently well enough from post graduation through retirement. “Consistently well enough” isn’t an easy undertaking for anyone for 45 years. Continue reading What If I’m Not Good at Anything?

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.

Continue reading Top Countries to Be a Mother? USA Ranks #31

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

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 My $20,000 Lesson: Stock Options are BS

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.

Continue reading Apartment Hunting: The Search is On

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.