Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

You might have noticed a little change in the subtitle of our Silicon Valley Tales blog. Four years ago, I invited my friends to write about their experiences in Silicon Valley. After two years, the posts slowed to a crawl. Many of us, including me, had life changes that included relocation. First I moved to Portland, Oregon and now I live New York City. Some of the other authors are traveling the world or living in different states and countries. The booming tech economy is spreading across the globe, and I finally realized it gives us the opportunity to tell new stories.

I’ll start with New York City. Most people move to this little island at the start of their careers. It’s a bit weird to arrive here in the middle, but it’s been a great adventure so far. The hardest thing to get used to isn’t the weather, (although everyone tried to scare the crap out of this West Coaster) it’s the sheer volume of people. 1.6 million people live in the 22 square mile space that makes up the island of Manhattan. Think about doubling the population of San Francisco in half of the space. On top of that, the number of people doubles in any given weekday from employees commuting into work.

I knew I was signing up for a lot of neighbors when I moved, but there have been two times in the last five months where the sheer volume of people just shocked me. The first time, I was trying to find my way to my new office in the morning commute. Yes, I was one of “those people.” I was wandering down the street, phone in hand, trying to use Google Maps. I missed a turn and wanted to course correct. I looked up to make sure I wasn’t going to get run over by stopping my tracks. I was. For sure, I was. There was nowhere to step out of the way of the traffic stream. A block later, I finally navigated into a gap to catch my breath. After I finished having a panic attack, I found my building and walked around the block to get back to the correct set of doors.

Finding the right entry doors in Manhattan is kind of like a game, especially when you take the subway. This is where the second “crowd-experience” happened. When I lived in the Bay Area, I took BART for ten years. Before I left, commuters politely queued for the next train and boarded in an orderly fashion. That doesn’t happen here. Luckily, I only live one express stop away from my office. Every morning, I head down the subway stairs and stand with the rest of the crowd on the platform. Then, we all try and shove in the train the best that we can. As a side note, it’s been interesting to watch the subway crowd size change based on the days of the week, holidays and the weather. One day, right before Christmas, I was standing on the platform. My train pulled up and stopped. The doors opened, and the force of the crowd shoved me into the train. I’m not sure that I even took one step. It was one of the weirdest sensations that I have ever had.

Even with all the people, you can have some amazing experiences in the pockets of quiet. One night I was wandering home pretty late, and it started snowing. It was my first snow experience in New York City, and it was magical. There were maybe five other people in Union Square at the time. I was standing on the sidewalk in heels with no gloves or hat, staring at the sky and smiling like a crazy person. I looked over at a guy who was manning his food cart. He chuckled at me and gave me a thumbs up. That pretty much sums up my New York experience so far. It’s a little crazy. I’m not quite prepared. There are a ton of people, but most of them are pretty great.

JUST IN: “LOL” out, Traditional “Haha” Back In

olwvzojltvhenqyml7ka

According to a new Facebook study, online laughter has devolved from the modern “lol” to a more traditional “haha.”

“As denizens of the Internet will know, laughter is quite common: 15 percent of people included laughter in a post or comment that week,” a Facebook blog post said.

The classic “haha” prevailed, followed by different emoji and the giggling “hehe”; “lol” and variations thereof, meanwhile, were scarce.(Source: http://bit.ly/1DId5EY)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

San Francisco, California (August 10, 2015) — According to a new and completely non-scientifically-validated Facebook study, traditional word-based expressions are making a comeback in the online world.

According to Facebook rep ROTFL_LOL, “Apparently, users of Facebook (“humans”) are finding that their ability to communicate using rudimentary miniature hieroglyphs and bizarre letter sequences is creating a less rich, expressive forms of communication, making us feel more isolated and alone in a digital crowd.

He continued: “We were shocked. I mean, who knew words were more expressive than symbols and letter sequences??”

In case excessive online acronym and emoji usage has caused your language capabilities to atrophy, we’ve compiled a helpful guide to word-based expressions you may run across online so you, too, can participate in a “traditional” conversation.  

1. Emotional Expressions

    • “That’s funny.” Your humorous joke / story / wry observation of modern life made this person feel mirth at your attempts at humor and they are driven to express it. Generally, this delightful feeling is expressed through laughter, but it may also result in the slightly less intense reaction known as a “smile.”
  • “I’m sad.” This person is experiencing emotions that center around sadness, a feeling on the darker side of the emotional spectrum and one that most digital devices cannot actually decode. May occur in response to an event or action, or possibly just because s/he is feeling, well, sad.
  • “I’m having a bad day.” This person had a day that, for some reason, is not going well.
  • “That makes me angry.” This person is experiencing feelings of anger over something that has happened. See also, “That really chaps my hide” and “I’m seeing red” or “WTF??”  (Editor’s note: We apologize for the rogue acronym. It won’t happen again.)
  • “I’m a Happy Camper” This person is one who feels joy and / or elation around a campsite. Also an expression of general happiness.

2. Commands and Exclamations 

  • “Sit down.” Sit the rear end of your body (also known as your behind, booty, or caboose) down onto a chair or similar furniture. Also a statement sarcastically directed at Kanye West when he attempts to pseudo-intellectually rant and ramble during a music concert.
  • “Help!” This person needs assistance of some sort. More specific details to follow but be prepared to react quickly.
  • “Go away!” This person has no interest in interacting with you, now or possibly ever. Best to leave them alone before they throw a digital device at your head.
  • “No really, please just go away.” See above; clearly, this person does not want to interact with you. Ever.
  • “Sigh.” An vocal expression that no words can actually convey; more a sound than a specific word. If this sound is directed at you, it typically means that your audience’s patience has probably been worn thin by A) your excessive use of LOL, OMG, and ROTFL or B) your excessive use of emojis instead of actual words or c) both A and B.

3. Environmental Hazards

  • “Slippery when wet.” The floor may be covered with a liquid substance. Be careful. Also a classic Bon Jovi album from the ‘80s that is still in frequent rotation in New Jersey bars.
  • “Danger” Hopefully self-explanatory. Otherwise, get the HELL out, girl! And be careful on that wet floor.
  • “Charge fully before first use.” A very annoying state that most shiny digital devices show up in. Typically, first use charge takes anywhere from 4 to 234 hours.
  • “Do not use in the bathtub.” If you need a definition of this one…then please, by all means, use it in the bathtub.

Despite any dependence on elementary-school acronyms and the modern equivalent of cave-man scratchings, we believe you, too, can learn show a full range of emotions online using W-O-R-D-S. We hope this simple guide to basic human word-based expressions serves you well in your endeavors.

And if not, we’ll be ROTFL LOL’ing….hahahahahahahahahahaha.

Haha. 🙂

For Real? Estate – Part 1: The “No Es Bueno” San Francisco Land Grab

It all started wwhitebagith a plastic bag last winter.

“I think you’ll REALLY like this place over the others we’ve looked at — it’s right in your price range and they’re even willing to wait 3 months for you to start the lease until your other lease is up!”

My commercial broker, Amy, was her usual perky, peppy self as she maneuvered her late model BWW X5 slowly the narrow alleyway that passed for a street near San Francisco’s courthouse / jail complex oBryant and 8th Streets in SoMA.

As we slowly drifted past a motley assortment of buildings in the street, I kept sinking down further into my seat and even contemplated refusing to get out of the car when it stopped at our destination.

The back alley buildings themselves held the businesses one would expect in the neighborhood immediately surrounding the local pokey – bail bondsmen after bail bondsmen, followed by shingle after shingle advertising criminal defense attorneys (“Available 24/7!”). And let’s not forget the tasty side of other sketchy-looking services that cater to the patrons of the court system and jail. Bail_bonds

Amy squeezed her large SUV into a small, cracked driveway next to a pale pink rock-facade 1960s era apartment building; we slid out gingerly onto the broken pavement, looking furtively from side to side for I don’t know what.

Across the driveway, a lean, blonde, very-tanned man greeted us energetically – Charlie, the broker from the “other side”, i.e. the guy who represented the landlord in a commercial rental transaction.

As Charlie thrust a lean, tanned hand toward us, Amy stage-whispered to my partner and me, “It was so nice of him to come out to show this. Most brokers are already done for the week. But he and I go way back and so it’s a favor.”

It was only 10 am. On a Friday.

So it made sense that he would be done for the day….if his clients were vampires.

The property itself was one of the oddest office buildings I’d seen in San Francisco. Badly weathered aluminum siding covered on the upper part of the building above a layer of pastel faux-rocks. A large external cement staircase in the front led up to each of the 6 units, 2 per floor.  They all looked like apartments rather than offices, each featuring a very homey front door with a knocker and a large picture window next to it.

Charlie bounded up the stairs in front of us, casually announcing over his shoulder that all the other tenants were defense attorneys.

Naturally.

And then I saw it.  The bag.

As I lifted up my foot to take my first step onto the staircase, I noticed the small, white, lumpy bag on the ground at the base, with a neatly tied bow — it was a bag that looked grossly familiar to anyone who has ever owned a dog.

I froze, my stomach lurching ever so slightly, and quickly side-eyed my partner, seeking some reassurance that that bag was not what my stomach and nostrils were perceiving.

Without missing a step, he whispered as he passed me and stepped onto the staircase, “Yes, that is exactly what you think it is.”

Our tour of the apartment / office turned out to be just as disheartening as our trip up the staircase. Charlie pleasantly pointed out the features: 3 beige separate (bed)rooms, beige in-suite bathroom, beige kitchen, beige wall to wall carpet, beige linen closets, fire escape access in the back down to the garbage cans….yes, garbage cans. In the back, where garbage goes.

At this point, there was no shaking the apartment-complex feel to it, although when asked, both Charlie and Amy swore it had always been a commercial property. They both gamely attempted to sell the highlights of the space’s 3 bedroom floor plan — more privacy because of the separate rooms, all new kitchen appliances, a shower in the bathroom, large closets for coats….by the end, I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to work there or make a happy home.

But even if the doggie welcome bag hadn’t been there, the office space was simply not at all what we could move our tech product design firm into. As I’d emphasized to Amy many times, our must-have requirements, after price range and square footage, included an office with natural light, and parking, both for me and my staff and for our Silicon Valley clients, many of whom had to drive into San Francisco for business meetings. (But not typically criminal court dates.)

Needless to say, we said our goodbyes to Amy and her services later that day. While I certainly didn’t hold her responsible for the doo-doo bag, I did let her know that we had higher hopes for her meeting our office requirements. But given the commercial real estate market, perhaps I was overly harsh on her on even that front. After all, Amy was only able to show us inventory that was available. And the inventory pickens were indeed slim.

While it was to be the last, tDIAKADI_Fitness_Performance_Life_-_Google_Mapshis wasn’t our first disappointing office visit to San Francisco commercial space within our size and price range. The other visits, while not as notably colorful as the Bail Bondsmen Backalley, all seemed wrought with similarly fatal flaws — one building was a converted warehouse that had a single tiny bathroom per floor of 8 offices.

And then there was the Peruvian startup attempting to run an illegal co-working space out of their offices. Although we were initially excited about their bright, IKEA-decorated sublet, the dreamy deal started falling apart when we started asking several tough, probing questions such as, “Has your landlord actually given you permission to sublet the space?” These were met with a lot of blank stares, and a few “Es bueno, es all bueno, no problem, no worries. Deal?”, which we met with a corresponding, “Nooooo, no es bueno. Noooooo deal.”

I could go on about ore dire properties we viewed, but it just takes me back to the sadder place to recount the weird, cavelike, or just downright depressing office spaces for rent.

Soma_StreatFood

Basically, though, I was starting to believe that we’d be better off pitching a tent in the SoMA Streat Food lot next to the food trucks and turning that into an office space with tasty snacks nearby.

Wondering what happened next? Check out more about my roller-coaster experiences in the San Francisco land grab in Part 2: Why can’t I just work in my car??

 

For Real? Estate – Part 2: Why can’t I just work in my car?

TransamericaBld(To recap just how this all started with a plastic bag of poo, please see Part 1: The “No Es Bueno” San Francisco Land Grab )

The crazy commercial and residential land grab in San Francisco is not new news to anyone who lives in the Bay Area. It was just my personal first brush with how insane it’s all gotten in the run up of the past 6 years since we first took a commercial lease. Ah, those were the salad days of early 2008, where SF office space hovered at “bargain” prices of $30 / square foot

For those of you (well, okay, maybe it’s just me) who find the price-per-square-foot number a little inscrutable — it’s basically the annualized cost per square foot for a rental. So an office space of 10,000 square feet at $30 / square foot will cost your firm a nifty $300,000 to rent for the year.

How little I realized what a bargain those olden days were.

I learned quickly, for when our office lease was about 6 months away from expiring, we started conversation with our current building management team about the potential cost of renewing. I nearly fainted in my chair when I was told that current market for our building and spaces like it was running between $52 and $60 a square foot in our neighborhood

Just based on the sheer 80-100% increase in rent alone, it was becoming clear for our bottom line that we’d need to look around for a new office space.At this point, in the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I’ve only helped create this quasi-dire office space situation by limiting my search area to the side of San Francisco that is absolutely the most competitive for commercial space currently, thanks to the tech boom. It’s the area known as SoMA (South of Market) combined with a few nearby streets in the Mission district.

While I’ve never been one to be driven by tech trendiness in making business decisions, there are truthfully some solid reasons why tech startup companies flocked to the SoMA area (and it’s not because of the SF Giants home ballpark).

att_parkThe major commuter train transportation hub, otherwise known as Caltrain, comes to rest in the heart of SoMA, which enables numerous non-SF dwellers to commute from as far as San Jose 45 miles away as it travels up through the Silicon Valley and Peninsula corridor. It’s also close-ish to the BART stations lining Market Street as well.  And it features a number of funky, trendy smaller office spaces in unique buildings with lots of light and architectural features, the kind of space that suits both unconventional start ups and also my firm, a design firm with Silicon Valley clients.

In short, for my business, SoMA was and still is best area of San Francisco for an office space.

And yet, despite having run my business successfully in San Francisco for over 9 years, it seems that we, too, were now being priced out of the market (or forced to downgrade significantly).

While I’ll refrain from making any poor-me comparisons to the truly displaced residents, I have to admit that I can feel a few twinges of the frustration of having been based in a place as both a resident and a business owner (the latter activity which created jobs), of paying local taxes, and of generally contributing to the local economy by patronizing other local small businesses.

After contributing productively as such for 9 years, I suddenly found my ability to rent a suitable office in my home city becoming more and more difficult, priced out by small startups whose biggest contribution to the world so far, besides creating a mobile app that let’s them rent the air around their apartment, is that they believe they’re “disrupting disruption” and that they are proudly developing a corporate culture based on “awesome snacks.” (I am not making any of this up, although I may have combined a few startups.)

This whole experience has a distinct quality of what I imagine it would feel like to wake up one morning and find out every apartment in your building was rented at ridiculously high rents to spendthrift 13-year olds; these youngsters were given a wad of cash and no adult supervision. Sure, they might do *alright* for a while, until they spend all their cash on shiny new MacBooks and In-and-Out Burger and Twizzlers and can no longer afford the rent, at which point they flee and leave the mess for someone else to clean up. And your rent’s 45% higher than before and not going down.

But lest you worry – I’m far less likely to protest my commercial situation by throwing rocks at a Google bus, or by picketing the Twitter offices; however, I haven’t ruled out asking those companies to let us sublet for a while…after all, they both have SOOOOO much more room, and we don’t need much space at all and will keep very quiet, I promise.

GoogleBusAnd more importantly, did we find a new space? More on that in another post, but I promise you, this story DOES have a happy ending…stay tuned for this to all be wrapped up neatly with a sparkly bow in Part 3: I do have a Real Estate Fairy Godmother After All…

WFH or WTF? Diary of the “Working From Home” Silicon Valley Productivity Myth

“From 2005 to 2012, the U.S. workforce grew 3%, and regular telecommuters grew 66%. An impressive 64 million U.S. employees–that’s half the workforce–have the option of working from home part time.”  — From Fast Company Co.Exist
Couch

“Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home,” reads the memo to employees from HR head Jackie Reses. “We need to be one Yahoo, and that starts with physically being together.”  — From AllThingsD


Dear Tumblr Diary:

OMG – I am soooo excited to be in my new role at WhizBangMobile. Today was my very first day in the office. I can tell that the team works really hard here – they’re super-bonded and spend all their time together in the office and even outside of it.

And everyone is sooooo nice – they somehow knew to order me my own vegan gluten-free burrito for company-catered lunch without even asking asking (like someone’s been stalking my Instagram – #VeganGlutenFreeMexicanFood rules!!)

I was also invited to play in the team’s ping pong tournament – they’re taking on the Marketing team and it’s beyond awesome that I can bring in that personalized handmade bamboo-shoot paddle that I got at my last company (also in my Instagram – #YOLO). There’s even a spot for my environmentally-and-commuter-friendly folding bike – so cool to “park” my wheels inside.

I can’t wait to see what cool stuff tomorrow brings.

#LoveMyNewJob


Dear Tumblr Diary:

Still loving the new gig, but I’m kinda bummed –  the team isn’t in the office as much as I hoped and so I’m not getting the bonding (or the ping pong) time I was angling for when I accepted the offer (J/k!).  I’ve noticed a trend…there seems to be one or two people doing the work from home (aka “WFH”) thang each day.

It’s a little…umm…odd. They send out almost uncomfortably detailed emails about why they aren’t in the office. Like, too much detail??

E.g.

Hi team,

Unfortunately I am not feeling well today. Feeling very weak and dizzy. Need to take rest and take many medicines which makes me feel sleepy. Hopefully tomorrow, I should be able to come to office. But maybe not. I may still feel weak and dizzy. Wish me luck! 

Oh, I might be able to work later today. Will be  available on chat/email phone then. But still may feel weak and dizzy.

Later,
D

Maybe I’m just being picky…he’s probably got that nasty Guatemalan-Peruvian-Mexican throat bug that’s been going around the New England states.

#StillLikingIt


Dear Tumblr Diary:

After biking in a foggy rainstorm today and nearly getting rundown by no less that three Priuses (Pri-ii?), I arrived at the office to find that I am the only person on my 10-person team here.

Since I couldn’t even find my boss, I asked the receptionist if I was missing an offsite meeting and, after he looked up from playing CandyCrush (soooo last year) on his S4 (also soooo last year), he stared at me blankly, looking confused. After a super long pause he finally said, “Dunno, but I’m supposed to put a lunch order in for everyone on staff today so, like…?”

When I logged into my Mac, I noticed a string of WFH emails from team members – that explains it, I guess:

—-
Hey all,

I’m going to be WFH today due to sheer and utter exhaustion from all the work I’ve been thinking about doing this week. I need to be well-rested for my personal life. Just let me know if there are any issues that need to be tackled.

~W
—–
Hello team,

My GF got a Wednesday part-time job. I need to drive her to work and will WFH afterwards. For the next 3 days, possibly. 

—–
Hello everyone on the team,

With my recent travel to Bakersfield and the huge weather difference there from Sunnyvale, I had very high fever and cold in the night. Had to go to ER yesterday.
I am working from my bathroom today when I’m not vomiting.

Very truly yours,
D
——
Bros and hos, aka my teammates – You all rock. Totally. So much that I need to get a break from your awesomeness and throw back some top-shelf Margaritas (no salt – yeah, baby!) See you mañana!
Rock on, Lance

PS: I’ll be on Google Hangouts, Skype, ChatRoulette, and the usual “other” online spots (wink) if you wanna video chat (wink 2x).

—-
All,
Will work from home this Wednesday and Friday to give my body and my back a break.
For those of you who didn’t know, my regular daily commute is ~ 4 hours each day that makes me very tired each day for work.

With rain it is 6 hours.. I hate rain.

Whatever,
M
—-
Hmm…could this really be just about the weather or is there something else….??? Nah, everyone here works really hard and loves each other. Must be just a fluke.

#FeelingLonelyAtWork


Dear Tumblr Diary:

Okay, this is just getting to be too much. It’s the third day in a row that I’ve been the only person working in the office. This place is a freakin’ ghost town from 9 to 5. I feel like I’m the only one who makes the effort to come in.

The WFH log is getting more and more…well…here’s a sampling; you be the judge:

—–
Hello again everyone on the team,

I woke up today with a sinus pain that made me think I had a brain injury when I went to Bakersfield as there was turbulence on the plane.

I am seeing double and sometimes triple. Also I have constipation. ;(

My mother says to go to the ER again because I may have a concussion or a bowel obstruction. I will keep you posted on any scans and tests and will send pics.

Very truly yours,
D
——
Dude Bros —

I’m having a killer time getting my work done at the beach with my dog hanging out with me (he’s a serious chick magnet). I’ll be hangin’ on the line in the usual spots (get it – on the line? Like Vince Vaughan in that Google flick from last year?) I crack myself up!

LOL Lance

——
All,

I will WFH this week to focus more time on the work than on the commute of 3-4+ hours. That is when the weather is good. When it is not good, remember, it is almost 6, sometimes 8 hours in traffic. And that’s if there’s no accidents anywhere along the route.

Thanks for being so understanding because The Traffic isn’t,
M

__
Hello Team,

My GF’s parents are going to arrive from Topeka this morning. I need to pick them up then and prepare tons of things for them. Will work from home once they are settled.
I also need to drop her off and pick her up from her part-time Wed job today and tomorrow. And her parents. 

~~~~
And what’s worse – no one’s ever “online” (or “on the line, Lance”) when they say the will be – they’re all permanently in a state of “away.”

I’m starting to feel isolated.

I’m also starting to feel like the only person who’s doing any work around here….

#Where_IS_EVERYONE_DAMMIT


Dear Tumblr Diary:

I think I may have actually had it. Not only were we supposed to have a huge IN PERSON team planning meeting this morning, for which I brought my favorite vegan gluten-free bagels and soy cheese topping, but we had our first big ping-pong match with the Marketers this afternoon. So I was stuck with 20 bagels going stale and a bunch of gloating marketeers as we were forced to forfeit the match.

I was the ONLY person in the conference room, with the rest of my team all connecting into a Google Hangout and getting disconnected at random times; and of course, no one could really hear anyone else because the sound and video quality frankly sucks hard.

But that’s not even the point. Why is the company even bothering to rent office space if no one ever comes in (no one but me, it seems).

Even Mr. CandyCrush Receptionist wasn’t in today – he emailed in a WFH day (how on earth do you WFH when you’re the company receptionist??? Video cam? Really.)

My boss did stop in today to ask me how things were going (I haven’t actually physically seen him since my first day here).

When I asked him if I could work from home, he got a little uncomfortable and said, “Well, not yet – we really need you to be in the office full-time since you’re new – you gotta bond with the team and learn to collaborate with everyone.”

#WTF_WFH


Dear Tumblr Diary:

Today is my first WFH day. My boss finally relented after I promised, PROMISED, that I’d be online the entire time, collaborating for the full 8 hours with the other team members. images

While I can’t actually connect with anyone online to collaborate (they’re all in an “away” state and no one’s responding to email or What’sApp), I have to say that I’m loving this “WFH” thing. I’m still in my pajamas at 1 pm, haven’t showered, and can watch all the streamed Hulu and Netflix shows I want.

And I feel SOOOO much more productive this way. I mean, I don’t even have to change into real clothes.

Here’s the message I sent out to the team – I think it’s a good balance of “professional meets whimsical”

Dear truly awesome, hard-working rockstar teammates,

I will be working at home today where I plan to log my usual 14+ hours of concentrated work. I’ll also be cooking a full vegan turkey dinner while listening to Shakespeare on Pandora (haha! J/K about the dinner – it’s full vegan chicken!)

Please contact me in any one of the following ways:

Skype: WhizBangMobile_MyTeamSux
G+: BiteMe_WhizBangMobile_Team
AIM: Who uses AIM???
Email: SRogers@WhizBangMobile.com
Email 2: SRogers_Hates_WhizBangMobile@gmail.com
Email 3: WhizBangMobile_Sux@gmail.com
Twitter: @FakeWhizBangMobile_Sux
Mobile (text only, please): 415-555-1211

NOW I really feel like I’m part of the team here!

This is going to be such a great LinkedIn profile builder job for me!

#LoveMyJob_WFH_Rules

The Entreprenurial Spirit. Otherwise Known as Sh*t I Don’t Have Time For

Living in “The Valley” has its benefits. First and foremost, the weather. We have skiing about a 3.5 hour away (2.5 hours if you drive like my fellow blogger Ursula Ringham), the beach just over “The Hill,” and lovely wineries (selfless plug here) all over the place. No mosquitoes! Fabulous restaurants. “THE City” just up the 280 (or the 101 if you are a masochist and want to sit in traffic).

Silicon Valley also has its downfalls. It’s astronomically expensive to live here in terms of housing costs, if you can even find housing at all. There are pockets of quality schools, but for the most part, public education sucks for the amount of money we pay in taxes. Traffic. Glassholes. Traffic.

For me, my #siliconvalleyproblems are all the side project “distractions.” Let me explain. There is a massive amount of creativity and entrepreneurship that happens all around me every day. My neighbor is developing a cool new shopping app. My daughters BFF’s mom has a new company.  My friends are writing screen plays and books! When did everyone get so freaking smart and inspired??

To fit in, I try and come up with new ideas too. But seriously, ain’t nobody got time for THAT! I have two kids, a job, Gweneth Paltrow recipes to try, work outs to do, Game of Thrones to watch, Facebook posts to comment on (but not on my phone, per my last blog post here!). It’s already exhausting!

Ask any of my friends. I come up with a new “amazing” (insert sarcasm here) idea almost every week. But I need someone to actually do the “doing.” Is that why the rich get richer? It’s one thing to have great ideas, but quite another to bring them to fruition. Successful rich people have ideas, but I imagine they also have numerous “staff” to take care the execution.

Perhaps if I had a small staff of “do-ers” maybe all my cool inventions and business ideas would allow me to now have a large staff? Who knows. For sh*ts and giggles, here are a few of my ideas and how they came to be. If you steal them, I will sue. I have a personal lawyer on staff. Just kidding, she’s my good friend, but she writes super threatening letters.

BabySure: After having two “false alarms” while nine months pregnant (i.e. thought my water broke, but I really just peed a little), my genius friend/attorney Brooke and I came up with the idea to create a pad type of thing that sticks in the underwear of a very preggo lady. If a “leak” happens, the pad would turn color if it was amniotic fluid and time to hit the hospital. Brilliant! But all the testing and endorsements and OMG, who has the time for that?

Myfirstafter.com: I am at that time in my life where divorces are happening amongst our inner circle of friends. Having been the confidant of several newly divorced ladies, I have discovered that one of biggest issues for each of them was that “first time” with someone else. We concocted an online community for people that are fresh out of a relationship. The site would match those who want to get “it” over with and move on. Right? Amazing! I went so far to partner with a few people and get a story-board video together. Check it out here, done by the awesome Fossum Creative. I giggle every time I see it. But, like everything else, I have no time. My partners kind of fizzled out as well. They all have kids, jobs and social lives as well. And then Netflix released an entire season of House of Cards, which totally takes priority.

Parent Pairings App: I own and work on a wine brand called MommyJuice. In an effort to help promote the product, I wanted to create an app that would pair all kinds of wines with different parenting situations. Turns out, it takes a lot of money and brainpower to create an app. It takes a lot less time to publish a book, so I did that instead. Parent Pairings (the book) is clearly soon to be bestseller. It is currently available in all two of my neighborhood bookstores. Seriously, who has time to go sell it individually to each indie store? I already do that with wine for my full time job. Summer intern for credit? Anyone?

iVibe: Many years ago, back in the dark ages when I decided to get a Blackberry Storm instead of an iPhone, my good friend and I Courtney Kramer had an idea to revolutionize phone sex. So, you take an iPhone, or a Storm, although Courtney LOLed when she found out I had one. iVibe is an app that makes the phone vibrate hard and fast enough to, well, give a…well, you know. BUT, the kicker, the phone could be controlled by someone else, from anywhere else that had a signal. We didn’t totally think it through (there was talk of a “sleeve” to “protect” the phone, which is just weird). But someone else really did think about it and now there is this: the OhmiBod. It is an app that controls a vibrator that is connected to a phone via Bluetooth. So someone from afar can be controlling what goes on down there. Via a phone. That’s pretty cool and changes phone sex forever. Because now its not just phone sex, right? The funny thing is, a friend of mine invented it all on his own. Without even stealing our brilliant idea. Nice work Brian Dunham. Nice work.

The “Oh Shit” Cam: Scenario: Your former employee has totally f-ed you over. Stolen business plan and customer list. This former employee went out on their own to create a competing business. On YOUR time. While neglecting their job and screwing up your business so it makes customers easy to poach. Yeah, that guy. Imagine you get a lawyer to file suit and then send that guy a letter about it. Wouldn’t you pay money to see that guy’s face when he opens the letter? How much? That’s the “Oh Shit” camera. Attach it to a document and when the other person is reading it and hopefully reacting with an “Oh shit!” face, the camera takes a picture or video. The file is then sent immediately via 4G it to an email address or text. The camera then disintegrates. I love this idea, but nothing has ever come out of it, just a lot of lunchtime laughs.

STIK Your Pose: So this is something that is actually happening. My attorney friend and I have done it again, coming up with the greatest idea ever. It is inspired by our favorite workout class at The Dailey Method in our ‘hood. We have a URL, a manufacturing plan and contacts, the start of a business plan and even a potential first customer! So I am not going to say too much more about it. Except that it has all the qualities of a potential new successful business. One, it solves a problem that I and others have. Two, I am passionate about it. Three, it fills a need in the marketplace as there is really nothing like it that is widely available. Of course, last but not least, there is a huge potential market for it. Stay tuned. But seriously, I don’t have any time to do this. I guess I will have to forgo Orange is the New Black this summer.

napkins

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.

Beach7

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.

Beach4

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.

Beach5

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.

Beach2

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)

Beach6