My dating history. . .

Otherwise known as my career history. I can’t help but draw analogies between the two. Having recently made yet another job switch, this area of my life is top of mind.

Anyone looking at my resume would say I’ve gotten around a bit – 8 months here; 10 months there; and a few long-term relationships thrown in. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. I’m just trying to find the right fit.

My first “real” job out of college was the one that taught me the most about the working world. Just like anyone’s first “real” relationship is the one where they’ve likely learned the most about dating. A lot of ups and downs – maybe a few more downs than ups because in both scenarios you’re young, naïve and have no idea what to expect.

I stuck with my first job for five years. That was too long, but I just didn’t have the confidence to know that I deserved better. I was underpaid, overworked and miserable. Right in line with this experience was my first relationship. There are too many parallels to even elaborate on, but I stayed in it for too long and put way more in than I got out.

Towards the end of the five-year stint, I finished grad school as well. That was very much a turning point for me. My confidence had grown both personally and professionally and knew it was time to make a change. I wanted to make a clean break for a new life and a new city.

To play it safe, I ended up staying with the same company, but they moved me to a new city with a completely new team and department. It was a fresh start as far as I was concerned, and I started to come out of my shell.

Two years in, I realized I was making too many excuses for why I was so unhappy there. It was the same company, just in different clothing.

After seven years, I decided I wanted to take a few months to figure out my next step. As expected, my next move was to a risky, start-up company that could not be more different. It was an extreme move and I realized very quickly that I went too far to the opposite side of the spectrum from the bureaucratic, corporate doldrums I had previously been stuck in.

I can’t say it was a wasted eight months. It was actually a huge confidence builder because I had nothing to lose. I’d say most men and women have had those short-lived relationships where you know it’s not a long-term thing, but it’s fun, you learn a bit about yourself and when the time comes, you move on.

From there, it was back to a bit more of a stable work environment. The honeymoon period lasted for about eighteen months. The company had been acquired by one of the largest corporations in the world and dealing with the day-to-day just became too hard. Neither your job nor your relationship should be that hard. I’m not saying in the “challenging” sense, I mean going through the motions of something you feel no passion about.

The next job I knew was a mistake the day I signed the offer. I consider it a rebound relationship. I just knew I wanted out of my last place and was looking to commit to anything to get the passion back.

When it came time to grow up, I had two job offers in front of me. One was the risky, sexy start-up – the guy with the motorcycle who will likely break your heart, but just maybe I can change him. The other job was the safe bet – an established company with a team I had worked with before.

Like most women who make terrible choices on occasion, I decided on the risky bet. Surprise, surprise. . .I got burned (aka down-sized). With my tail between my legs, I went back to the safe bet and they hired me immediately.

I thought we both wanted the same thing. I was looking for a long-term career move with high aspirations for growth and career succession. They were looking for someone to bring in and grow as the company grew.

Six months in, the first of many promises were broken. At twelve months in, more began to fall. At eighteen months, I gave an ultimatum. Actions speak louder than words and when it came time to make a true commitment, they flailed and I walked. With work as in relationships, it is not healthy to be strung along and drag things out.

I wasn’t necessarily cheating, but I needed to know what was out there when the last job started to deteriorate. I had my feelers out and was introduced to a company that seemed very promising. There was the usual back-and-forth when I first gave notice – they didn’t want me to go. . .things would change. Admittedly, I was torn, but ultimately made the move.

I am now a few months in at this latest job. The company is at a stage where it’s looking to establish itself and I finally feel like I’m hitting my stride. While I realize I may still be in the honeymoon phase, I think this could be the one.

*Any likeness to companies or men/women you might know is completely intentional.

Who has time for hobbies?

I really shouldn’t be complaining because some of my fellow bloggers are parents and have the extra responsibility of raising a family let alone trying to maintain a full-time job. But, I still have my days where I wonder how I can fit anything else in.

I get up at 5:30; out the door by 6:30; in the office by 7:30; work; work; work; gym; back in the car at 6:30; home at 7:30; eat; go to sleep; rinse; repeat. While I’m a creature of habit, quite frankly it’s depressing when your days become so predictable.

There’s always the thought that maybe one day I’ll find a career I’m passionate about and that “work, work, work” part of my day won’t feel like such a drain. That inspiration might not hit for some time though.

I found myself at a bit of a crux over the holiday weekend feeling the need to pick up some kind of a hobby—something outside of the day-to-day that engages parts of my brain left atrophied by thousands of hours sitting in front of a computer.

I’ve always had a penchant for music. In 1st grade, I played in a violin concert. In my heyday of college, I was a DJ on the local radio station playing Motown. In more recent years, you can sometimes find me at The Mint in SF belting out Tina Turner’s Proud Mary. So I figure I must have some musical talent.

Sarcasm aside, I decided I wanted to pick up an instrument as a potential hobby to try and vary my daily routine. With my loving and supportive husband in tow, I bought an instrument over the holiday weekend. I’m now the proud owner of a white on white Fender Stratocaster. Admit it, I look like a natural.

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I’m only a few days in and I’ve already learned a lot. For example, learning to play the guitar without any prior knowledge or know-how is hard. On the plus side, the hour or so of my day when I’m sitting there strumming the two chords I’ve learned, my brain can actually disengage from work. It’s amazing. I’m hoping I can stick with this because I think this hobby—or any hobby for that matter—is going to be extremely therapeutic. In the near future, I hope to follow up with a blog about my first gig. . .or potentially a listing on Craigslist for a used guitar.

PTO(D): Paid Time Off (Debate)

I’m at the tail end of a vacation. As I sit here on my flight home, I’m dreading the first day back at work.

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While the time off was a welcome reprieve, I realize there are a lot of emotions that occur when it comes to taking time off from work: 1) undeserving because you’re too new, have too much work to do, or no one else has taken vacation 2) anxiety that your colleagues realize they can handle your work and don’t really need you OR 3) even a feeling of greed that you want to bank as many days as possible for a big payout when you leave. . .for those that still have annual vacation day allocations and are continuing to chase the eternal carrot as discussed in a previous week’s blog.

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In Silicon Valley, it’s becoming ever more rare to find companies that still have vacation day allocations. Many have learned that the vacation days end up as a liability on the books–lack of accurate tracking or user-friendly systems or lax tracking policies and enforcement tend to mean vacation days can stay on the books for some time.

The “unlimited vacation day” policies have been adopted by a lot of Silicon Valley start-ups. I’m still undecided as to whether these are a perk or a genius ploy. While you don’t want to have to count your hours of PTO accrued, without a defined policy I wonder whether employees feel they can take vacation at all. The statement, “vacation is good; we think you should take it,” is one I’ve literally heard as a start-up’s official vacation policy. I appreciate the simplicity, but it doesn’t give you the warm and fuzzy feeling that they’d like you to take time off.

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There’s also the other side of the time-off equation–what other employees are thinking while you’re out. If it’s just one day, you’re definitely interviewing. If it’s two days, you’ve flown somewhere to interview. If it’s more than a couple of days, you’re actually taking vacation, but there may be some resentment about it. I’m not saying everyone speculates about others taking vacation days, but given the job-hopping that’s so common and been mentioned in fellow blogs, it’s not inappropriate to assume.

I’ve worked at both types of companies–those that have defined vacation policies and those that have “unlimited” policies. I’ve always made sure to take time off, but admittedly I run through the gamut of emotions mentioned above. I’ve seen companies where the “unlimited” time off goes completely unused and I’ve seen the defined vacation policies where no one tracks their days off. Both situations are frustrating.

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Despite your vacation policy type, there are a few rules I like to follow when it comes to time off:

  • Long weekends can be just as good as 1 or 2-week trips. One long trip a year is always good, but don’t discount what a 3 or 4-day weekend can do for your motivation and mental psyche. . .even if your colleagues may think you’re interviewing.
  • If you are a people manager, set an example and take time off. If you show you value the time away from work, your employees will take time off and will likely be happier for it.
  • Don’t be an *sshole and take vacation right after you give notice. You will burn a bridge and that’s just bad etiquette. Period.

Any other unwritten rules on vacations? Opinions on which policy type is better? The grass is always greener for me–I currently have a defined vacation policy and wish I didn’t. The PTO math can be exhausting. I have just 6.5 days left for the rest of the year. Maybe a few more long weekends and a nice New Year’s? Or save up for a big trip in the Fall, but no extra holiday time off? (sigh)

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Talkin’ ’bout my generation

I am on the cusp of being categorized as a Millennial. I was born at the end of 1979 and according to the Population Reference Bureau, Millennials are those born between 1983 and 2001. I honestly didn’t even know there was a Population Reference Bureau (PRB) until I was writing this post and doing some research. It’s a pretty fascinating site if you have a few hours to kill on some articles and webinars.

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The PRB has one of the best descriptions as to how and why these generations have been defined:

“…By virtue of when they were born, members of each generation live through unique times shaped by unexpected historical events, changing political climates, and evolving socioeconomic conditions. Generations also come in different sizes and changing mixtures of ethnicity, helping to shape the choices individuals will make in life. A generational perspective offers fresh insights into contemporary society by emphasizing both the distinctiveness of each generation in its particular historical context and the persistence of such distinctions across an individual’s life. When different generations respond in unique ways to common problems and choices, businesses, governments, and we as individuals need to recognize and understand such distinctions.”

A segment I heard this evening on Marketplace called “What kind of jewelry goes with a tattoo?” was what started me down this path on the different generations. It basically talked about how the Millennial generation is growing up and that marketers need to start paying attention. The piece stirred quite a few emotions: pride in the fact that I wasn’t part of the Millennial generation; annoyance at how trivial marketing sounded (I took this personally having always worked in marketing); and there was part of me that just felt out of touch with the way they were describing this generation. I was in denial that just a few years could make that big of a difference in the way our lives and attitudes would be shaped.

Over a few glasses of wine, I’ve started to look back at the last 10-20 years and realized that I really was at the cusp of some pretty major milestones:

  • Two-handed typing – I am 18-months younger than my sister. We’re 2 years apart in school. In the time between when she and I were each in 7th grade, they had switched the curriculum from learning short-hand (seriously, short-hand?) to taking a class on how to do two-handed typing on a keyboard. My sister can type faster than most people I know even with her hunt-and-peck style, but I appreciate the speed/dexterity two-handed typing has afforded me. . .especially since I spend 10-15 hours a day doing just that. So I realize now that every class after my year has been trained to type with two hands. I wonder if my 8-month old niece will only know touch screens and two-thumbed typing.
  • Computers at college – It was a very big deal to have computers with any kind of internet access at school. It’s hard for me to even think about what life was like before having everywhere access to computers and search engines. I think the major turning point was from 1997 to 1998. My classes started requiring work be typed up on computers–and a small start up called Google launched in 1998. I got my first computer that year: a Gateway 2000. Remember those? My family had had an Apple IIGS in the late 1980s, but it wasn’t until the late 1990s that I felt computers really became commonplace and a necessity.
  • Mobile phones – I knew mobile phones existed. I thought it was very cool that a friend of mine in high school even had a car phone, but they were definitely for the more well-off families. I do have to admit that quite a few kids in my high school had beepers, but that was for a different reason. In college, I *rarely* saw a mobile phone. It wasn’t until my senior year that any of my close friends got one. They were super expensive and landlines worked just fine. I actually got my first phone only after I got my first job. In the span of 4 years, we went from mobile phones being a rarity to the opposite being true–you’d be hard pressed to find an incoming freshman without one now.
  • Pension plans – Believe it or not, I had a pension plan at my first (real) job out of school. This may be why I stayed at that company for 7 years. Pensions and similar retirement programs no longer exist (or rarely exist) except for public sector jobs for the most part. I see my friends in these public sector jobs struggle with job satisfaction yet not leaving because of the retirement security. Would you call this job loyalty? Debatable, but when there’s actually a long-term benefit to sticking around, I’d say people are more incentivized to stay. I, admittedly, have been following the carrot quite a bit since I left that first company–all in search for the next big payout that will give me that long-term security. I think this is one area where I can relate to the Millennial generation. What’s the benefit of staying at a company for 20 – 30 years? Or even 2 – 5 years for that matter?
  • Social – There were chat rooms when I was in high school, but they were typically for “alternative” behaviors, interests, etc. I never jumped on the social train. Friends of mine are heavily immersed in the social world and dealing with the same withdrawals as my fellow blogger at times. I proudly have a traditional mindset about keeping in touch with my friends and relatives. And by “traditional” I mean phone calls, emails and texts.

So where do all of these observations land me on my view of the Millennial generation? Honestly, I’m in a much better place about it compared to when I first heard the NPR segment. I still have some processing to do, but I like to think I could be a bit more sympathetic to this generation given how I’m sure the Baby Boomers and generations before them view their successors. Who knows, maybe I am closer to the Millennial generation than I like to think…I did find myself doing a double-tap on a map in a travel book to try and make it expand.

 

Mo Money, Mo Problems

I pulled a little mid-course correction with this blog. I was initially going to write about a certain tweet that was posted several weeks ago by an individual—who will remain nameless because I don’t want him getting any more press than he deserves. The tweet was in regards to how women shouldn’t wear high-heels if they want to be taken seriously in the entrepreneurial world.

There was something else that caught my eye this week and hit a little closer to home, literally.  There have been multiple articles talking about how San Francisco has become (once again) the most expensive city in the US when it comes to housing. Take your pick of headlines and articles on the topic:

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There’s another story underlying this surge in housing prices in San Francisco. It’s a story about how techies are causing this inflation and ruining the Bay Area. VentureBeat did an article entitled“$4 Toast”—which, even they admitted, was a little tongue-in-cheek, but worth reading. The New York Times just wrote an article with a bit more background as to why this housing trend is happening and how the “Tech-invasion” is changing the face of San Francisco. To paint a picture of how ridiculous prices are for what you get, take a look at this stunner for a mere $750,000.

An astonishing statistic is that the Twitter IPO unleashed 1,600 new millionaires. Where do you think those 1,600 millionaires will live?

Unlike Chicago or New York, San Francisco is geographically confined. New York residents migrate to Connecticut, New Jersey or other outlying, less-expensive areas.

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San Franciscans can migrate to the Peninsula, but housing prices are even worse there because of Silicon Valley (aka Google, Facebook, LinkedIn). Here’s a lovely abode in the heart of Silicon Valley that’s a mere $1.7 million dollars. Then there’s Marin—with no BART service—where you have Sausalito (average home price of $2.0 million); Tiburon (average home price of $4.0 million); or more reasonable Mill Valley (average home price of $1.6 million).

Last but not least, you have the East Bay, which is by far the most reasonable with Berkeley (average home price of $950,000); Oakland (average home price of $523,000); and Alameda (average home price of $724,000). But even these housing prices—not to mention rental prices—are by no means a deal.

Arguably, you could move farther outside of these surrounding areas, but then you end up with the commute problem that my fellow bloggers lamented on: “There is No Such Thing as a Reverse Commute” and “Long Commutes are Normal Here, Right?”.

So where does that leave me and others like me who may not have the $1 million in cash to drop on a house? Or the $3,500 a month in rent?

Admittedly, we were lucky enough to move during what was the lowest San Francisco rental market in the last five years. We also have rent control, which means we don’t have to worry about our rent skyrocketing because I have no doubt that our apartment should be 50-75% more than it is right now.

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However, it’s a terrible feeling to be stuck. With my husband working in the city and my job in the Peninsula, finding a location that’s convenient for both of us is fairly limiting.

To be honest, I’m all for doing away with rent control. While I haven’t crunched the numbers myself, I actually think it would do a lot to normalize the market—at least rental prices. Anyone have thoughts on this one way or the other?

I don’t see the housing trend dissipating any time soon, especially given the continued success of Twitter, LinkedIn, Google and others. The Bay Area will continue to be a tech haven for the foreseeable future. Other than sticking it out in whatever their current digs are, I don’t believe SFers who aren’t millionaires have any other options. . .other than hoping that whatever tech bubble we may be in bursts. . .or at least starts to dissolve just a little bit. Ponder that over your $4 toast.

A Stroke of Luck with Big Data

I’ve been a data-driven marketer since the days it was known as market research. For any of you that may be one of my lucky 83 followers on Twitter, that first line may sound familiar. With a medium that allows me more than 140 characters, I thought I’d elaborate on my history with data a bit.

I elected for the safe route in undergrad (Go Tribe!) and decided to do a business major after a failed attempt at computer science. I took all of the basic required courses: accounting, finance and—let’s not forget about one of the most useful courses I’ve ever taken—one completely focused on proficiency in the Microsoft Office Suite. Believe it or not, the learnings from that course have done me quite well.

Of those required courses, two immediately clicked for me: Business Statistics (shout out to Professor O’Connell!) and Marketing 101. Statistics just made sense— the way data could tell a story; the concept that you could find relationships and make predictions just from a set of numbers; that by drawing three parallel lines you’ve conveyed not just a relationship between data sets, but also a confidence interval into which any predicted next point may fall.

I’m romanticizing a bit. . .but, for the record, the best story told by data to this day is Napoleon’s March on Moscow. I’m getting burned out on “infographics” as of late mostly because a majority of them aren’t data visualtizations at all. Anyone agree?

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I digress. . .when it came to marketing, I was first attracted to the idea of advertising. In particular, it was one ad from Columbia Sportswear that attracted my attention years ago. I thought it was genius.

I then took my first market research course—mind you there were a total of twelve people in the class—and a light bulb went off. I could make a career out of statistics and marketing. I did what any person would have likely done 15 years ago and researched all of the top market research firms. Soon after graduation, I found myself working at none other than The Nielsen Company.

I lasted there for seven years, which in Bay Area terms seems to be a lifetime.   I started off in Chicago and took a job transfer out to San Francisco. I could not have made a better move. Something started happening in the industry over that time. Data was showing up everywhere and marketing was becoming one of the most influential departments in organizations. I’d hit the jackpot.

There was even an article published several years ago saying that data analysts/statisticians were the new sexy career. While I’ll take the compliment, I couldn’t agree more because I also ended up marrying one.

So I now find myself in a very hot career having bopped around a number of analytics and data software companies. I’m going to ride this wave while I can, but the industry is ever changing so I don’t want to have too much hubris. Who knows what the next sexy new career might be? Any guesses?