The Future of Full Time Careers

We’ve all heard of the new tech wave dubbed ‘The internet of things’, but what I find way more fascinating is the ‘Uber of things’. More generally speaking, the Share Economy that is slowly taking over how we interact and transact on a daily basis. Such tech companies like Airbnb have revolutionized how we think about travel and for some, how we think about sharing our own homes. DogVacay is a brilliant way to connect dog owners with host families instead of using expensive dog kennels. RelayRides lets you borrow your neighbor’s car at a small fee to take advantage of underutilized cars in the neighborhood. TaskRabbit let’s you hire an assistant by the hour to perform all kinds of jobs and errands in San Francisco including waiting in line at popular restaurants or the Apple store so you can buy your next fancy iPhone.

I have used TaskRabbit to hire a last minute photographer for my daughter’s birthday as well as a closet organizer to help me out of my own mess. Both things I would have never done before because it would have been too expensive. As a result there are tons of jobs being created every day that would have never existed before.

Most of all, however, I am in love with Uber Concept. Not only have they given us a superior way to hail a cab but I am fascinated with what they have done for an entire generation of part time and full time workers. The idea that you can just turn on an app when you want to work and turn it off when you don’t is incredibly revolutionary. Every time I take an Uber I can’t help but ask the driver why they started driving for Uber.

I’ve heard many captivating responses. A student from San Francisco State University told me that this is the first job he got where he can’t get fired. You see he is an avid gamer, and some nights he just loved staying up all night playing video games. This did not bode well with his old employers where he would either be a no show or come to work incredibly tired. With Uber he can drive when he wants, and go to school or play video games the rest of the time. Best of all, the ROI (return on investment) on an evening spent driving for Uber is very easy to calculate. This automatically adjusted his video game playing habits and helped him develop better working habits or so he tells me.

Another driver I met was a mom of two who was previously working at a law firm and constantly struggling to balance her children’s pick up and drop off schedule around her strict law firm’s schedule. She always felt like she was either late to work or picking up her kids. Now she tells me she makes just as much money but dictates her own hours without the sinking feeling of inadequacy in her stomach about being late for work or kids.

Another guy I spoke to told me he was a former taxi driver, but eliminating the middleman, ‘taxi cab companies’ meant more money in his wallet and he couldn’t be happier about increasing his margin. He also loved how Uber paid him weekly and resolved any open issue within minutes of reporting it.

When we add it all up, Uber has figured out a way to please both consumers and workers. I often wake up wondering, why can’t I have a mobile app that I can turn on when I want to work, and off when I don’t without the repercussions of being a flakey employee. Yes, I know, it’s called consulting. But I hate the idea that as a consultant, I need to spend just as much time selling myself as I would be doing the actual work I was hired to do. As a result you end up having to charge very high rates to make the same amount you would working a full time job. Seems like a lot of wasted energy.

The concept of getting up daily at 6am, having breakfast, commuting on an overcrowded mode of transportation, returning home, making dinner, sleeping and then doing it all over again Monday to Friday seems really archaic in 2015. I feel like by now we should be able to contribute complex ideas to a rich work environment without the boundaries of a physical office, or the boundaries of a single company.

I would love the idea of an O-desk style company (recently renamed Updesk), that combined the availability calendaring of Airbnb, and the geomapping of Uber mixed in with the sliding profile of Tinder to allow me to work on interesting assignments for companies near me that I found compelling.

I can’t imagine 20 years from now we will still be showing up to a physical office, working for 8-12 hours a day, going home and returning to do it all over again. I think the next big thing to be disrupted is our routine and I simply can’t wait to see what it might look like.

Hey Girl

On Being a (Young) Woman in Technology

I woke up at 6am for a call the other day only to open my email and be greeted by a note from a senior sales executive. It opened with a condescending, “Hey girl,” and proceeded to outline how I wasn’t being aggressive enough with bringing a new product to market and that I should call him so we could discuss further.

First time for everything.  I didn’t know if I was more taken aback by being called slow and passive or being addressed as “hey girl”. for women in the industry, I’ve often been called too aggressive, unduly assertive, or bluntly that I need to work on softening my tone.

Shocker – I wasn’t in a rush to call him. In fact, I never did.  However, I quickly responded to note that in fact it was his team that was causing the delay, and that P.S. – in the future, “Alyssa” worked better than “Hey girl.” This interaction is similar to many I’ve had and unfortunately seems to be the norm amongst my female colleagues.

  • I’ve been called a “Hot ginger,” which would make a “great draw” for a marketing event.
  • I’m referenced as “the mobile girl” more times than I can count.
  • I’ve been asked if I’m going to be late because I might need time “for a mani pedi.”
  • I’ve been told that big opportunities were given to me because they need folks on stage who “aren’t old white men.”
  • I’ve been propositioned by senior staff members – both directly and, on occasion, in writing.
  • I’ve been entirely ignored / talked over / interrupted in technical discussions, seemingly presumed not to have either a valid opinion or any relevant knowledge.

I’ve thought a lot about what it means to be a “woman in technology” – I’ve wrestled with a lot of different questions on both the macro and micro levels.  I’ve spoken with my boss, my family, my boyfriend, my therapist, my friends, my colleagues, my executives, attended conferences, and begun thinking critically about my own daily experiences.

A few things I would like to share:

  1. I’m not alone. I’m humbled by women like , , Sheryl Sandberg, , and many others whom I follow and from whom I try to learn. There are a lot of women who have navigated these waters before me. They put on conferences like the and . They form groups like , and . They host lunches and seminars and try to help elevate others. These have become sources of strength, knowledge and relationships which inspire and humble me.
  2. It is hard. Harder, different, difficult, awkward, and challenging. First step to fixing anything is identifying the problem. One problem is that simply being a woman brings additional barriers, navigation, and hassle towards making a contribution. It is harder to be heard, harder to know what’s appropriate, harder to form relationships, and harder to get ahead.
  3. There are no easy answers. Every situation is nuanced. Depending on my mood, the background, or the lead up, my response to an insensitive  comment varies significantly. Sometimes I smack the person, sometimes I make a joke,  sometimes I launch into a discussion, or sometimes I do nothing. I have never reported anything to an HR department. I don’t know where the line is, and the line seems to change. I look at examples like Elen Pao and wonder if I’ll get support or become the victim of even more jokes and remarks.
  4. I think most people are well-meaning. That doesn’t mean it’s not wrong. I don’t think those who have made a hurtful comment, hit on me, or been inappropriate are ill intentioned. Insensitive yes, but they aren’t trying to be pigs. Maybe I’m young and naïve, but I believe that most people are using phrases as terms of endearment, ways to break the ice, or occasionally even as a compliment.  That doesn’t mean the comments aren’t  hurtful, or damaging. It’s okay to call them out. Acknowledging the damage is the first step in repairing it.

I’ve wondered at times why I am so fixated on the topic – can’t I just add value, work hard, and not think about what gender I am? Why do I care so much?

I realized that what gnaws at me is bigger and more important than just what I am experiencing as a woman. I believe that there is damage being done, and I’m worried that I’m contributing to something negative. Certainly there is a lack of female presence, but there isn’t enough diversity – of any kind. Technology is being built by a group of people who are from a very small – and insular – subset of our society, with limited viewpoints and narrow set of experiences. I believe that the technology we are building as an industry – which is quite literally building the future – is not particularly good – or as good as it could be.

Furthermore, how will I participate in change? What will my contribution be? I struggle with integrating my own sense of self – my character – in the technology world.

I often marinate on teachings from my own Jewish upbringing as well a pivotal moments in history. One of my biggest fears is that I will be a bystander- that I will not participate in the work of making the world a better place.

It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work [of repairing the world], but neither are you at liberty to desist from it. -Pirke Avot (2:21)

I’ve resolved not to be a bystander.  I won’t behave correctly every time – I won’t engage with every comment or person, but I will not be silent. I’m worried there will be negative consequences for me. I’m worried it will make people uncomfortable. I’m worried it may stunt my career advancement, and I’m worried I’ll be wrong.

The only way I know how to move forward is engage and speak up. I do so on a macro level because I think it’s important to have diversity in our workforce, in the work of building the future.  I do so on a micro level because frankly, I’m sick of being the only woman in the room.

Why Do I Have A Love/Hate Relationship With Most Amazing Start-Ups?

I got introduced to the start-up world very early in my career.  I left my first job with a big wall street firm to go work for one of the early start-ups launched by a guy who is now known as one of the most successful serial entrepreneurs.

It was a wonderful learning experience. And since we were a small company, I took part in many pieces of the business.  Something I’d never get to do at a bigger company so early in my career.

I loved my job, I loved the company and the founder’s vision.  I did everything from B2B marketing to business development and straight-up sales to help us grow.  And grow we did.  We also ultimately failed as a company.  It was an eye opener.  I decided to go work for an established company.

I got a great job working in magazine publishing. I remained in that business and grew from sales to sales management over several years.  One day I got a phone call from the founder of a digital start-up focused on the youth market. It was my focus at that time so I had a lot of experience and expertise.  I figured it was worth a meeting since I knew digital media was growing fast.

I met with him and the rest of the (very small) team there and was completely hooked.  I left my “safe” big company job to try the start-up world again.  By this time I had a husband, though no kids so why not?!

It was a fantastic experience.  The company grew from 20 people to over 200 during my time there. And we grew revenue from zero to over $18 million in 18 months.  I got to pitch VC’s, investment bankers, met and presented to Mary Meeker and participated in putting together our S1.  The founder’s goal was to take the company public.

And then the dot com bubble burst.  Ouch.  The company went from 220 people down to 20 in record time. And ultimately it failed. This one was a heartbreaker.  It honestly felt like a death in the family.

I went back to Corporate America and worked for big companies.  The only twist is that I got to work on some start-ups within these big companies which was an ideal combination of building something new coupled with big company security and resources.

My favorite by far was growing Addicting Games.  AG was part of MTVN’s Atom Entertainment purchase. It was a property that many considered the “dog” of the portfolio.  With the help of a small dedicated and passionate team we grew the brand from 7 million to over 15 million unique visitors.  And we grew from half a million in network revenue to over $25 million in brand direct revenue in 3 years.  It became a very valuable property and brand within the MTVN portfolio.

Two years ago I went to my third VC backed, early stage start-up.  It was the first time I worked in marketing tech/SaaS and I have learned a lot.  I learned about marketing and selling a SaaS product vs. a media product.  I learned about SaaS businesses and metrics, social media, social listening and social selling and so much more.  All good!

I joined because I believe in the founder, the product and the board ( the Chairman of the Board had hired me at another company before this one).  And I’m no longer part of the company.  A week ago they decided to let go of all of senior sales and marketing to focus their resources on necessary product improvement.  Another heartbreaker.

And even though I’m no longer part of the company I really do hope to see them succeed.  I want all the time, effort and hard work (in addition to financial investment) to pay off.  I still believe in the product and the people.

So what’s next?  That’s a great question.  I’m still pondering my choices and what I really want to do.  At it’s very core, what I love about start-ups is the collaboration, developing and growing a business, the change, the lack of bureaucracy, the opportunity to learn and the hope and vision of changing the landscape. Creating something that did not exist before successfully.

So where’s the “hate” part?  I hate when they don’t work out, I hate when I put my heart and soul into a business and don’t get to see it come to fruition.  I hate it, but I love all the rest a lot more which makes it worth it to me (either that or I’m a glutton for punishment).

So is another start-up is in my future? Maybe.  Well probably – if I’m being honest with myself.



The Silicon Valley Economy, a History Told by Traffic

Photo courtesy of George Miquilena via Creative Commons

Ah, traffic. I despise it. Not sitting in
it is one of the big benefits of working at home. That being said, I need to meet clients face-to-face at various points in time. So I find myself dealing with many traffic jams: sometimes ones with which I’m familiar, sometimes new forms of trafficular torture when I go to someone’s office for the first time or at a new time of day. I have lived in the Bay Area for most of my working life, and all the time I have been stuck in my car/ on BART/ sprinting to an office from the San Francisco Caltrain station has made me think about how well traffic tells the story of Silicon Valley.

1990’s: 101 or 280?

I spent parts of the mid 1990’s driving the 101 corridor on the Peninsula. As long as you didn’t go at peak rush hour, life wasn’t too bad. In 1997, I commuted from Belmont to E*TRADE in Palo Alto. I could leave home at 7:00 a.m. and zip down with only a minor slowdown where Dumbarton Bridge traffic hit 101. If it got to be 7:20 or 7:30, 280 was the only way to go. I would hit top speeds on the freeway until I had to weave my way down Sand Hill Road, through the Stanford campus, and all the way across Palo Alto. In spite of the traffic lights, the drive wasn’t too bad. Getting home usually wasn’t a big deal at all.

Dot Crazy

I moved to San Mateo in 2000, at the absolute peak of the dot com bubble. Sometimes it would take me 45 minutes to get to my job at high-flyer BroadVision (now considerably smaller company) – 9.3 miles away. It wasn’t just a choice of 101 or 280 (not the 101 or the 280, LA friends!). Now I had to consider whether El Camino Real would be faster, even with a traffic light every half mile or so. If El Camino was clogged, side streets could be the best option. Then the bubble burst, and by mid-2002 I was flying down 101 at 55 miles per hour to go do four people’s jobs.

Mid-2000’s: Slowly Building Steam

Traffic increased gradually from 2002-2007 as the economy recovered. I could feel the difference even from month to month, but more traffic was a welcome sign of less stressful times to come. My coworkers noticed too. We would joke about it how long it had taken to get home some night by saying, “Well, at least we know things are getting better.” Anyone who had survived Dot Bomb never wanted to see traffic get better so quickly again.

The Big Not Tech Recession

I wasn’t in my car very often during late 2007 to 2008 (infant twins will do that to you), but the big financial crash didn’t take all that many cars off the road. You had to plan ahead carefully, but travel times were predictable as long as you weren’t trying to go somewhere at peak times (or through the dreaded trip up 101 to San Francisco on a Friday night).

In 2009, I could do the 9 a.m. drive to my client near 101 and 237 in about 30 minutes. By 2010 when I had a client about five miles closer near Google, the same drive took about the same amount of time. By 2011, I had to leave about an hour later to get to the same client in the same amount of time. I could see things steadily getting more busy.

2015: Are We Really Any Better than LA?

I was a traffic change denier for a couple of years; I guess my working-at-home gig just made things too easy. Then I had a bunch of on-site activities that started creeping into peak commute hours, and the denial had to end. Worse yet, traffic—particularly on 101—has started to affect me at unpredictable times of the day. Now, 10 a.m. is still rush hour. 3 p.m. is too late to leave San Francisco and expect smooth sailing home. And if you have to drive through Burlingame and past the San Francisco Airport, you need to be ready to hit traffic no matter what time of day or night.

I spent two years driving up and down the 405 while I completed my MBA at the wonderful Anderson School at UCLA, and every week 101 reminds me of that time more and more.

Yesterday I got stuck in traffic heading south from SFO at 3:30 p.m. on a Sunday. Last week, I saw a lady driving a BMW 70 mph in the fast lane of 101 while putting on mascara. Lipstick at a stop light? Not out of the ordinary for the Bay Area. Mascara at 70? That’s a sign of desperate times. I’m waiting to see a man primping or combing his hair while driving, and then I’ll know that LA has arrived here.

What does your commute tell you about the economy? About life where you live?