Monday, September 05, 2022

Labor Day Thoughts

 Happy Labor Day! It is a much needed long weekend for me.

My work situation is still muddled. Back when I was actively angry about how things had gone at my current company, I stopped saying "no" automatically to people who contacted me on LinkedIn. That didn't lead to much right away, but I think word has gotten out in the industry that things are unsettled at my company, because in the last month or so I have some several much higher quality contacts and now I've got three potential different options to explore. I am trying to decide what to do about those.  I have had a couple of phone conversations about each but haven't sent a resume in for any of them. I am also trying to decide if I should also start a proper job search. 

There are signs my current company will sort itself out in the mid-term, but I'm not sure if I have the patience left to wait for that. On the other hand, there are some things I really like at my current company and some financial incentives to stay.... But on the other other hand, I think I could boost my salary by a fair amount if I move, particularly if I pursue one of the opportunities that would give me a significant title bump.

I need to decide what to do soon. The uncertainty is creating tension that has settled in my shoulders and neck (ouch) and I just in general do not like how it is making me feel. But I also don't want to make any hasty decisions. So it is a bit of a conundrum.


We are in the midst of a heat wave here in Southern California. It is hot enough out that even I, the former desert dweller, don't want to do much outside. Luckily, our heat pump, solar panels, and home battery mean that it is nice and cool in our house all day and we still contributed energy back to the grid during the peak hour 4 - 9 p.m. period yesterday.  

I tease my husband for the way he optimizes our home energy flow, balancing charging the car and charging the home battery... but I can't argue with the results.


I, meanwhile, have spent the last four weeks trying to find bras that fit. (Warning: bra talk follows. Stop reading now if that is of no interest to you!)

You may not think the bra fit problem and the energy optimization problem are problems of similar complexity, but let me assure you that in fact the bra fitting problem is harder. I have been fitted in multiple stores over the years and the results have been multiple sets of expensive bras that are not comfortable. I used to have a "go to" style and brand that I could buy on Amazon for ~$25, which, for a woman my size, is a freaking miracle. Unfortunately, the pandemic weight gain made those not fit... and so I embarked on my most recent round of bra searching. 

I tried Third Love and Cuup but I eventually realized that their supposedly smart fitting wizards led me far astray. I finally found a bra that fits via the fitting quiz on the Montelle site, which is measurement based. And even then, the bra that actually fits the best is not the size the quiz told me I was, but that size's sister size. (For those who don't know, once you're over a D cup, measurements do not map to sizes in a standard way - you need to know how the particular brand sizes it cups. It is very annoying.) 

I also found the information on very helpful - particularly this article about where your underwires are supposed to hit.

I think I have finally landed on the right size - I am up both one band size and one cup size from my old go-to, but it retrospect that old go-to was probably one cup size too small. And I think I am actually up a half a band size, because the bra fits best on the middle hook not the loosest hook. 

So, that's a happy outcome, but because it took so long and because I generally need to wear a bra for several hours to know if it is truly going to work out I now have a handful of unreturnable, expensive bras in the wrong sizes. I am thinking of trying to find a domestic violence shelter to donate them to. But I also wonder if I should hold on to a couple in case my size changes again. 

Also, I still don't have a new go to bra style, just a firm idea of what my size is. I still have to experiment with different styles to find the best one. 

I can't believe the amount of mental energy I've put into bras recently. I look forward to being done with that!


And now I should log out and go finish my chores for the weekend. I hope those of you who also have a three day weekend are enjoying the extra day off!

Friday, July 29, 2022

Long Time, No Write

 So, it has been awhile, eh?

Work continues to eat up more of my life than it should. I am doing some stuff I really like but it is clear that the core thing I bring to this role is my ability to navigate patiently through various roadblocks and Get Stuff Done and I am not sure what I think about that. Part of me thinks I should just lean into that since it is the thing I'm good at that differentiates me from other people. But part of me thinks that is just a recipe for always being the person behind the scenes who gets all of the headaches and very little of the credit.

In other work news, it is slowly dawning on me that the company I really liked working for and went through a lot of crap to stay at because I liked so much... that company is gone. I now need to figure out if the company that took its place is offering me a good enough package (type of work, work conditions, compensation, etc) to stay. It is a subtle shift in how I've been thinking about the work situation. I have no conclusions yet.

In non-work news - we're recently returned from our first trip to see my in-laws in New Zealand since Christmas 2018! It was wonderful. I wrote up my traditional awards show summary. While we were in New Zealand, Pumpkin discovered that she likes lamb. Of course the only meat she likes would be the one I most dislike! (Lamb has a distinctive taste that I find unpleasant. I cannot describe it and everyone else thinks I am weird, but so be it.) Regardless, Mr. Snarky has grand plans to grill a lot more lamb now.

We were in New Zealand for three weeks. We worked remotely from Auckland for one week, and then had two weeks of vacation. We did this because when we originally booked the tickets we thought we'd need to self-isolate for our first week. New Zealand lifted that rule well before our trip, but we decided not to change our tickets because I've long had the idea that we could sort of extend our vacation by working remotely for a week in the vacation spot before starting the actual vacation and I wanted to see if it would work. It did! The only downside was that since we were mostly working while in Auckland we didn't get to do many fun things there. So the concept needs fine-tuning but basically works.

While on vacation, I always come to the conclusion that I need to make more time for some sort of creative hobby. I come back determined to do that... and then I crash into the reality of my over-busy life and it doesn't happen. I haven't given up hope this time. Yet.

I did read a really good book while on vacation - Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I also have some podcast recommendations for you, even though I listened to some podcasts on the 12 hour flight from LA to Auckland (or from Auckland to LA) and fell asleep during them and then would wake up when it clicked over to ads or the next podcast and rewind and listen again. I cannot recommend this method of listening to podcasts, but it was quite effective at helping me get some sleep on the long haul flights.

Also, Petunia was told she could move up to the next level ballet class (although she should also keep taking her beginning teen class), so she is starting a second ballet class which is on Saturday mornings and is 1.5 hours. Therefore, I spent a lot of time on Saturday wandering around Balboa Park trying to work out what a good walking route would be, or if maybe I should use the time to visit museums, or maybe we should get our zoo passes renewed and I should go wander around the zoo for an hour every Saturday... and all this time, I was listening to podcasts.

So here are some podcasts I listened to and found really interesting, in no particular order:

Jane Coaston talked to Jon Favreau on Offline about why internet debates suck.

Ezra Klein's interview with Kim Stanley Robinson (I think I like Robinson's interviews with Klein better than I like his books, but oh well)

Ezra Klein's interview with Thomas Insel about the state of mental health care in America.

David Roberts interview with Dr Ye Tao on why we might need some sort of project to cool the earth and how we might do it (this is one I listened to a more than once due to falling asleep while listening on the plane, but I eventually was awake for the whole thing and it is really interesting)

It has been awhile since I gave you a weekend bunny, so here is one:

Have a good weekend! I hope to write more often but I hope to do a lot of things and work is crowding them all out right now. I am going to try to fix that.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

More Ramblings

We're entering the years when our children have their own busy social calendars and I'm not sure what I think about it. It doesn't really matter what I think about it, of course. My kids are becoming their own people and our job as parents is changing from actively setting their course to being a helpful guide as they plot their own course, and eventually we'll just need to be there to support them as they strike out on their own. Weird.

Anyway, Pumpkin has several things on this weekend, none of which involve us other than as chauffeurs. Mr. Snarky wanted to pick something off our family fun list to do - we have so far only done one thing and here it is almost May. We might be able to squeeze something in tomorrow. I suspect the family fun list will get harder and harder to complete as the kids get older.

Fun is still being had, though. Last weekend, Petunia had a party to go to in a neighborhood south of downtown, so after we dropped her there we headed over to Barrio Logan for a short exploration.

And our days of active involvement aren't quite over. Petunia has a ballet showcase coming up, and as with many events of this type there is mandatory parent participation. I'm signed up to help in the dressing room during one of the dress rehearsals. I just sat down and read through all the instructions for Petunia and for me so that I'll know when we need to be where. 

We are, thankfully, almost done with the annual "schedule out the entire summer" exercise required by summer camps. Each kid has one camp they want to do this summer. Pumpkin is doing a jazz camp and Petunia wants to do a volleyball camp. Pumpkin's all signed up. Petunia wants to do her camp with a friend and so we're still in the scheduling dance. Only needing to do the scheduling dance for one camp is a huge improvement, though!

I am finding it hard to motivate myself to do anything, either fun or from my ever growing to do list. I am just deeply tired. I don't know if it is because of the work situation, because we never really got a good break to recover from the pandemic stress (and let's be honest, we're never getting one), or if it is just because I am getting older and can't keep up the pace I used to. Or maybe it is a combination of all three! I daydream about taking some sort of retreat where I just sit in a pretty location and do nothing. This is not going to happen anytime soon.

So that's what is going on here. I have a couple of links to share, once again heavy on the podcasts because while I can't motivate myself to read much I am still getting on my rowing machine three times per week, and I listen to podcasts while I row. 

Ezra Klein's interview with Emily St. John Mandel is delightful and interesting and now I want to read her new book (score one to the publicist who booked her on his show, I guess)

Chris Hayes replayed an old interview with Adam McKay and Omar El Akkad about storytelling and climate change and it is really great. It predates Don't Look Up. It predates the pandemic! But it is still so relevant and it is also very funny. Omar El Akkad's final answer about how his greatest hope for his fiction is that it will become irrelevant is worth the entire show. 

This thread, and the heat wave in India right now, is terrifying and I keep thinking of Kim Stanley Robinson's Ministry for the Future, which opens with a terrible heat wave in India.

That's all I have, so here's a rabbit:

Have a good weekend!

Saturday, April 16, 2022

A Small Update and a Few Links

Not much has changed in my work situation. My friend/new boss is trying very hard to get me credit for my work and I think is having some success. The work itself continues to be interesting, but there is too much of it and we don't have a junior person on the team (I am the most junior by title and my title includes "Senior") so I spent the equivalent of an entire work day on some time-consuming and essential work that definitely did not need someone senior doing it and kept me from getting to the strategic/planning things that do need my attention. But there was a deadline on the grunt work so I plowed through it. I did get about an hour yesterday to at least plan out the next few months' work.

Given the recent events, it was a bit funny to realize as I made dinner last night that I basically wrote a project plan for a complex project in an hour and it is a good one that meets our deadlines and is achievable. 

I could do that for the other projects that need it in maybe a little more time (I'd need an ~1 hour meeting with the other project's lead to figure out what they are trying to do and then another hour to make the plan and then maybe another 30 minute meeting to refine it).  I guess most of the other people on my new team don't know how to do this and so the assumption is that I'd have to be reassigned to the other projects in order to get me to make them a plan, but really I could just do it as a small side task if that's what was needed.

I wish I could figure out how to teach other people to do what I do when I'm planning a project. I've tried a few times but it is one of those things that is just obvious to me so it is hard to back up and explain how to do it. I think the best way may be just to write some plans together. I briefly had a direct report in my old role and was starting to train him on this but then he left for a different job.

I think the key is being able to see how the various tasks interrelate - what tasks does any given task depend on, where is there some slack to allow overlap and move things faster, where do you have to keep things running in serial or risk a project implosion, etc., etc. I don't know how to explain how to see that sort of thing. I just see it.

I also spent some time thinking about my options. I came up with four options:

1. Stay put and figure out a way to make a career path I'll like at my current company. This has the advantage of leaving me working with people I like, but a lot of potential pitfalls.

2. Conduct an immediate job search and jump to some place else. Right now, it would probably be easiest to jump to a program manager-type role, which would be fine (perhaps even great) at some companies but moves me further away from my goal of getting to be technical/creative again.

3. Stay put for awhile and work to build the skills/experiences I'd need to move to a senior role like I thought I was getting, but at a different company.

4. Stay put for awhile and work to build the skills/experiences I'd need to make a lateral move into a different industry (I have been wondering if I wouldn't mind being the person behind the scenes getting things done if I could tell myself the larger goals of the work were worth it - I think a job working to electrify everything might do that).

So far, I'm leaning towards staying put and seeing which of options 1, 3, or 4 appeals in a year or so. However, I suspect another major insult would make me angry enough to just quit and embark on option #2!

For me to stay put, though, we need to recalibrate some things at home. Work is going to be intense for another few months as I learn the new things that I need to learn and also keep the various projects I'm assigned to on track with the skeleton team we have. We're hopefully hiring a couple of new people soon, but hiring is hard right now so I can't count on that happening. Also, I am not the hiring manager for the jobs that are open so I have very little influence on how fast that hiring goes.

The problem is that Mr. Snarky also recently got a promotion and so we're both pretty busy at work and that makes keeping things running at home a little more challenging. Last time Mr. Snarky got a promotion, my job wasn't that intense and so I picked up some extra things on the home front for a few months. Neither of us can do this for the other person right now. The kids are being pretty awesome and becoming more independent as needed, but they can't do a lot of the things that need doing and so I need to carve out some time to make a new plan for the running of the household, too.

Enough about all of that. I promised a few links.  They are podcast heavy, because I haven't had time to read much but I listen to podcasts while I'm on my awesome new rowing machine.

David Roberts had two podcasts on great ideas for decreasing our fossil fuel usage quickly:

- Rob Harmon on how to scale up energy efficiency. I found this one fascinating and encouraging. Harmon talks about the incentive mismatch that makes it hard to get commercial buildings to become more energy efficient and a pretty cool idea for how to structure things to get past that mismatch.

- Zeynab Magavi and Audrey Schulman on how to replace natural gas heating with ground-source heat pumps. This is another clever idea that works with the incentives companies and people have instead of fighting against them.

Ezra Klein has been doing a great series of interviews about the war in Ukraine. I found his interview with Timothy Snyder particularly good, but the entire series is worth your time. He also had an interview with Margaret Atwood that was really interesting and looked at our current point in history from a different angle.

A job posting for a Grizzly Bear Conflict Manager made the internet laugh for a few days, and John Scalzi used it as a prompt for a fun short story.

This cracked me up:

Here's a rabbit:

And now I'd better get going on the weekend chores. Have a good weekend, everyone!

Saturday, April 09, 2022

Updates as Events Warrant

Well, it has been awhile.

Petunia's bout of covid passed without infecting any of the rest of us. She had symptoms between a bad cold and a flu that lasted for a few days. She doesn't seem to have any lingering effects. 

I had another weird heartbeat incident but this time we called 911 as I had been told to do. Paramedics came to my house and caught the arrhythmia on a monitor. I also caught it on my little Kardia monitor. This was not hard to do because it lasted for over 30 minutes. It only reset to normal when the paramedics gave me adenosine in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. I spent the day in the ER. I heard the lady two doors down from me vomit from taking too much ivermectin and then get intubated while the staff called around looking for an ICU bed for her. I was very grateful for my KF94 mask and the door on my room. I hope that lady made it through. I saw her as I was wheeled into my room on my stretcher. She was an elderly lady who looked very scared.

In the room between us, there was a man with an armed guard who at one point became violent and they cleared the floor of all staff except more armed guards who ran toward him. Once the crisis passed, a psychologist came in. The man was clearly delusional. 

ERs need better sound-proofing.

I saw a cardiologist and discussed my options for dealing with my tachycardia, which she classed as "annoying, but not life-threatening." For now, I have learned some techniques I can use to try to force my heartbeat to reset if another event happens and I carry metropolol with me in case those don't work. If the incidents become more frequent and/or annoying, I can get an ablation done to zap the heart cells that are setting up the non-productive rhythm.

I also discovered I have elevated blood pressure and we decided I'd see if I could bring it under control by changing diet and adding more exercise (something I planned to do anyway). 

All of that happened in January.

We wrapped up my daughter's Lego Robotics season successfully. I was so proud of the kids on her team, many of whom had been with the team since we started it. They have grown so much in their abilities and confidence. I retired as a Lego coach and we moved the Lego table out of the garage. We still can't park in the garage because I bought a rowing machine and put it in there, along with Petunia's barre. I love my rowing machine. If I'd bought it earlier in the pandemic I might not have 10 extra pounds to try to lose now.

That was the big event of February. 

Through all of this, I was also working really long hours.

I started my new position at work in January. Well, sort of. For the first three months of the year, I was theoretically 2/3 in the new role and 1/3 in the old one. That worked out about how you'd expect - roughly full time in the new role and half time in old one, desperately trying to hand over responsibilities in my old role so that it could taper off. I think I got it down to about 1/3 of my time part way through March.

I had three deadlines I was working towards, two in my new role and one in my old role, all "due" at the end of March. All were extremely challenging to meet - I would joke that I had two really difficult goals and one impossible one. And yet I met the two in my new role, and the one in my old role is happening next week (that one was a production go-live for a customer, and the delays were due to customer staff availability). 

So you would think that March 31 would have been a very happy day for me, right? Finally finishing my dual roles, a reasonable expectation of glowing praise for having met my two deadlines in the new role. Well... in a meeting on that day, I heard my department head praise one of my colleagues for the success in meeting the goal I'd considered almost impossible and then the group was reorganized and I now report to that colleague, who is also someone I've been friends with for roughly 20 years and who my kids think of like an uncle. Neither of us had any advance warning this was going to happen.

Basically, on the day my "promotion" was becoming official, I discovered it wasn't really a promotion, just a lateral move. When I took the new role, I was told I would have ownership of a set of related projects. In the new organization, my new boss will have ownership of the projects and I will be the person executing on them.  All that remains of the "promotion" is a better title and a higher salary - not nothing, but not what I expected.

And then the next day, he told me that the department leadership was going to reassign the "almost impossible" project that we'd made succeed to one of the other people on his team and I would go work on a new thing. I was too shocked to really express how this made me feel, but I am sure he could tell I wasn't happy. I worked long days and weekends to make the deadline, and instead of congratulating me on that, the project was going to be taken from me and the next phase, which is when the project would get to its first public release, would be given to someone else. 

And then that weekend, we had dinner at my new boss's house to celebrate my daughter's birthday (can you believe Pumpkin is 15?!?!?!) and I think I deserve some sort of medal for compartmentalizing how I was feeling and letting that evening be about Pumpkin, who has grown into such an amazing person.

We were supposed to have a meeting on Monday to find out what this new project would be, but it got canceled. I stewed and slept incredibly poorly. On Tuesday, I reached out to the person who had offered me the new role. That person had left the department to head a different department so couldn't do anything directly to help, but I wanted to hear his opinion on whether I had misinterpreted the original offer and whether the situation was salvageable. He at least validated that I had not misunderstood the original plan and that I was getting a raw deal. We talked over my options, which were not many. I decided that I could accept the reorganization but not the reassignment of the project and that if that stood, I would quit. He must have delivered that message to someone because the next day, my project was back to being mine.

So, I'm in a place where I can stay in my job but am not as excited by the new role. We succeeded in meeting our ridiculous deadline by working as a team and because I am actually really good and taking a big goal and figuring out the plan to meet it. (I get to brag on my own anonymous blog - but I think that is generally recognized at my company, because that's why they wanted me to move to the new project. It needs someone to figure out how to structure it. But the problem with that is that if I become the person who starts projects and figures out how to structure them and then gets yanked off to do the next one, I never get any credit for the success of the projects. As I told my friend/new boss, I can see why the company would want me to take that role but they would need to convince me it isn't going to suck for me, because from where I sit, it looks like it would suck for me. I would constantly be doing the work of bringing order to chaos and then handing the ordered project over to someone new to finish it and get all the credit.)

Anyway, we will keep working as a team because that's the only way to make this project work. I suspect credit for the team's achievements will go to my boss. I am happy for my friend, whose role has grown bigger. He deserves his success and I hope it continues. I am sad to be back in the role I seem to always end up in: the person behind the scenes making sure the goals are met so that someone else can get the credit. 

My friend has plans to try to keep that from happening, and I believe he is sincere and will try to make sure I get credit. But I think in the end, it won't be up to him. Our new senior management is quite hierarchical in their thinking and so they will credit the person they decided was the leader. 

I'm trying to figure out what lessons to take from this mess. One is a reinforcement to a lesson I learned very early in my career: Always have your financial house in order so you can quit if you want to. While my career has been stalling, my husband's is going great. He recently got a promotion and big pay raise. Between that and our savings, I knew that if I needed to act on my threat to quit, I could do so. I didn't have to wait to get something else lined up. I think that is the only reason I was able to get the project back. If I'd had to wait to get another job offer before I made the threat, it would have been too late.

I also think there is a lesson for me in the fact that I have a recurring pattern in my career of being the person behind the scenes figuring out how to turn someone else's ideas and goals into reality. Being able to do this is actually a pretty great skill, but I would like to get to use it to turn my own ideas and goals into reality. There is clearly something I am doing (or not doing) that keeps that from happening.  I am seen as a good manager but not as a leader. 

Either I need to figure out how to change my behavior to remove the ceiling or I need to find a career path in which I can be happy with the ceiling I apparently have. I am paid really well and am respected by my peers. I genuinely like all the people I work with directly and we have fun on our project teams.

While I am disappointed with how my "promotion" turned out, I recognize that I am still in a very good position. I don't know yet if it is one I can stay in long term. A lot depends on how the next 3-9 months go. For now, I am going to try to make peace with what has happened, talk to a few people I think can give me advice on how to report to a friend without ruining the friendship, and think about what I want to do.