Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Dressing for Success

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I had a meeting with a potential new client today. So yesterday, I was somewhat frantically sorting through my wardrobe, trying to find something appropriate to wear.

This is a surprisingly fraught decision.

Unlike my male peers in my particular line of work, I can not just wear khakis and a dress shirt. First of all, khakis are seen as more casual on women than on men. I have several pairs of khakis (my personal favorites are the Broken In Straight Khakis from The Gap), and I frequently wear them when working onsite with a client. They are fine for daily wear in my line of work, but not for a new client meeting. I could possibly get away with black khakis, but only if they were new enough to be unfaded and crisp.

However, my male peers can wear khakis for new client meetings. I know this, because they do it, and they get business. (And hooray for them!)

Then there is the problem of the dress shirt. Given my bra size, I simply cannot buy an off the rack dress shirt and have it fit. It will either be too big around the waist, and therefore look sloppy, or be too tight across the chest, and therefore look awkward, at best.

There is also the question of the degree of formality. One simple solution to the need to look professional is to wear a suit. I like this option, because a suit jacket hides a lot of flaws, including shirts that don't fit completely right. However, in my industry, that is really not done, except for during a full job interview (and even then, it is not necessarily required).

If I had worn a suit today, I would have betrayed a lack of knowledge about the industry. The people I met, it turned out, were wearing jeans or khakis and casual shirts.

So, I needed something professional but not too formal, and I needed a top that would work on my body type (I am a classic hourglass).

Plus I needed to be comfortable, so that I could concentrate on the meeting, and not on my clothing.

And then I needed shoes. They needed to match my outfit and again be professional without being overly formal.

Here's what I came up with:

I am quite happy with the outfit. The skirt came from a Stitch Fix box. I would probably not have picked it for myself, but it is a nice skirt and is very comfortable. The top came from a shop in Wellington, New Zealand. I always do some clothes shopping when I'm in New Zealand, because I find the clothes there are more likely to be cut in a style that flatters a woman of my body type. I don't know why that is. This particular top is from an Australian brand called Veronika Maine. The shoes are a testament to my policy of buying quality: they are Munro pumps that I bought roughly 12 years ago.

The necklace is a strand of silver "pearls" that my husband gave me for our anniversary this year, despite having assured me that the trip to France was our anniversary gift to each other (so I didn't buy him anything).

There is a funny story behind that necklace. It is from Tiffany's, and is the only thing I own from that store. He specifically wanted to get me something from Tiffany's this year because we had recently been reminiscing about the following story:

Back in the early 2000s, when I was working at my second biotech company, a male colleague went to Tiffany's to buy a gift for his girlfriend. The salesperson asked if he wanted it wrapped, and he said yes. Then the salesperson asked what color ribbon he wanted, and he said: "I don't know. What color is the box?"

Several of the women at the office were teasing him about how shocking it was that he didn't know what color the Tiffany's box is, since it is such an iconic thing in the US. So everyone was asked if they knew what color the Tiffany's box is. All of the women did. Not all of the men did.

That night, I went home and asked my then boyfriend if he knew what color the Tiffany's box is. He said: "What's Tiffany's?"

Clearly, I didn't care about this gap in his knowledge, although it did get a good laugh when I mentioned it at work the next day.

And now, almost 15 years later, it is the reason I had the perfect necklace to wear with my outfit today.

The meeting with the potential client went well, by the way. I don't know if it will lead to new work in the short term, but it was a chance to meet some new people, and given the small world nature of my industry, that is always a good thing.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Weekend Reading: The Unconscious Bias Edition

Wow, it is Friday again. This week went by fast. My 10th wedding anniversary was on Wednesday. My sister came over and watched the kids so that Mr. Snarky and I could have the evening out. We decided to keep the evening low key, since we have the big trip to France coming up and can call that our proper anniversary celebration.

So we went out to dinner at the local pizza joint where we ate on the night Mr. Snarky proposed to me. He didn't actually propose over pizza- he waited until we were walking home on the beach. (This was during our years living in a beach community.) Still, it seemed fitting to go back to the same restaurant. Then we strolled along the beach and up to our former local pub. The owner was tending bar and bought us beers, just like he did a couple of nights before we left for our "big trip."

It was all very nice, but the owner bought me one more beer than I really needed, so Thursday was a little rougher than it had to be.

Anyway, on to the links... I have a bunch of links about unconscious bias this week.

First up, Brainpickings reviews a book on the topic that looks really good. The ocean current metaphor is a powerful one.

Next, Freada Kapor Klein writes about how companies need to innovate in their "people ops."

Our biases are making Black women virtually invisible in the workplace.

And Mark Creamer has a useful post about how to "disengage" from our own biases.

Here's a new Medium collection about the women of Silicon Valley- and not that god-awful casting call that was making the rounds a few weeks ago.

The Salesforce CEO is taking a radical approach to solving the pay gap in his company: he's giving women raises.

Kate Heddleston continues to write excellent posts about management failures in tech that impede progress towards achieving a diverse workplace. The latest is about the perils of the null process.

I was going to make a little "promos" section, but as it turns out, I only have one actual promo link: Laura Vanderkam's next book, I Know How She Does It, is now available for preorder. She interviewed me for the book, and I think I made it into one or two sections, so I have extra incentive to read it. But I would have read it anyway- I enjoy reading about how other people make it all work. I pick up some really good ideas that way!

I thought I'd have a link to some new products in the design section of my business, but it has actually rained here (a little) for the last couple of days, so I have been unable to take good product photos. Maybe I'll get the listings up by next week.

I should also have cover reveals for the first two books I've signed, soon, too... but I don't have them yet.

Now, for some fun things:

A dog drives a tractor and causes a traffic jam.

The Apple II watch. Definitely check out who wrote the most highly rated comment on this post.

My new theme song:

Luckily, Mr. Snarky appreciates what he has.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Learning What Works

I remember thinking that What Works for Women at Work, a book of information about common types of bias women face at work by Joan Williams and Rachel Dempsey, looked like a useful book when it came out early last year. I also remember thinking that I couldn't trust myself to read it right then, because I suspected it would hit very close to home, and I was in a fragile place.

I can now say that I was right on both counts.

I have somehow found myself on the hook to give a short talk about how women can self-promote (don't ask... I initially said no on grounds that this isn't something I'm all that good at myself!) and since I of course want to do a good job, I knew that the time had come to read this book. I want to tell people the right advice- which is most definitely not that you just need to self-promote like a man. There is plenty of evidence that doing that often backfires. See, for instance, the HBR article I discussed a couple of years ago.

Anyway, I bought a copy of What Works for Women at Work, and set aside some time yesterday to read through the sections most relevant to my topic at hand. It is a good book: written with an easy to read style, well-referenced so that I can look up the data to support their statements about bias, and with some helpful ideas for how to navigate through the biases to achieve your career goals.

And yeah, it hit close to home. The two authors are from two different generations (they are in fact a mother-daughter team). Joan Williams is in her 50s, and her introduction to the book was so painfully true for me that I almost started to cry. As I read on, I definitely recognized a lot of things that have happened to me over the years, and I began to realize why I deviated from my original plan and suddenly quit my job last year. I have a better understanding of how I could like and respect my former colleagues and at the same exact time be unable to stay in that position. I have said before that I just burned out, but the first two sections of this book provide an explanation for why I burned out.

If you're curious, or want to read along at home in the book, I think I burned out from exhaustion from having to "prove it again" so damn many times and from exerting so much effort to stay balanced on the f%&#ing tightrope they describe.

Even now, a full year after the events that led to my sudden resignation, I find reading this book fairly devastating. I have no idea what would have happened if I'd tried to read it last year.  I wish I had read it 10 years ago, but even if it had existed, I might not have recognized how much I needed to read it at that earlier stage in my career. (Side note to any early career people out there: read this book now, before you begin to get the promotions and such that will put you on a collision course with these implicit biases. Forewarned is forearmed and all that.)

Reading it now is making me feel a little better about my uncharacteristic decision, though. I am starting to think that I acted so suddenly because I was in a type of immediate danger: if I'd stayed longer, I might have become so burnt out that I would have been unable to salvage my new career path from the remains of my old one. At some point, the instinctive self-preserving part of my brain overruled the rational, planning part and made me act.

So here I am, having mostly picked up the pieces, but still trying to make them fit back together in a stable way. I find that I am unbelievably motivated to get to stay my own boss. If I'm completely honest, I'm also feeling fairly motivated to "prove it again" just one last time, which means, of course, that I can't hang up my tightrope walking shoes quite yet.

Photo from Flikr user Wiros:

Friday, April 17, 2015

Weekend Reading: The Oops I Forgot the Title Edition

Awww crap. I posted this without a title and now the URL is going to be goofy forever more. Oh well.

First of all, thank you to everyone who helped answer some of the mysteries of the universe in my last post. I appreciate it!

Before I launch into my main set of links, I want to share a survey that a student sent to me. She is looking to get more responses from parents, and so I said I'd include a link to the survey here. Here it is.

(As an aside, this is the second time I've been contacted by a student at that particular university. I suspect a professor is recommending students reach out to bloggers for help. In general, I'll try to help students where I can... but I'm not sure what I think about this approach from the professor. There is a risk that a bunch of students will reach out to the same people, who will then be overwhelmed with requests for help. Has anyone else out there thought this through more carefully than I have?)

Also, while I'm not giving you the main links... my publisher is now putting out Spanish-English bilingual editions. Here is the bilingual edition of Petunia, and here is the bilingual edition of The Zebra Said Shhh. I'll also note that these are paperback editions, so if you want a physical copy of Petunia and don't want to pay for a hardcover edition... now you can get a paperback. As a bonus, it will have the text in both English and Spanish!

Anyway... on to the regular links.

One company is taking a refreshing approach to setting pay levels- everyone will be paid at least $70,000, and the cost of this is being offset by a reduction in the CEO's pay. I doubt this will catch on, but hooray for that company, anyway.

I found this essay about the debate around "religious freedom" to be very useful.

Here is a great essay that I'm struggling to summarize so you should just go read.

And here is a great essay about raising a kid who is comfortable being different.

There were two interesting NY Times book reviews making the rounds today: Choire Sicha on Jon Ronson's So You've Been Publicly Shamed and David Dobbs on Alice Dreger's Galileo's Middle Finger. I'm more inclined to read the latter book, but they are both really interesting reviews.

Have you seen the Tableflip Club? It is a rousing manifesto. If you're trying to explain these issues to people who are unaccustomed to thinking about structural problems and you want them to actually read the link you send them, this remix from Viola Song (violasong? I am unsure if this is a name or a pseudonym!) is probably a better bet (and is also great on its own merits.)

Here is Dacher Keltner discussing empathy:

And here is my Crappy Things I Made to Stop the Whining post about Petunia's insistence that we make a house out of twigs for her little giraffe, presumably because the giraffe's name is Twiggy.

And now I have to go make some pizza for dinner. Happy weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Mysteries of the Universe

Some mysteries of the universe, the answers to which I will probably never know:

1. Why can't I find a bra that fits me and is comfortable all day anymore? I used to have comfortable bras. I cannot find comfortable bras anymore. I am seriously considering going back to the style I wore while nursing, because it was comfortable.

2. Why did Navigating the Path to Industry sell really well last month and then crash down to almost no sales this month? I didn't have any marketing activities last month, so I am at a complete loss to explain this. Obviously, I prefer last month's sales to this month's.

3. Why was I really good at not letting sexist crap get to me for so long, but am no longer all that good at it? For many, many years, I've used the mental image of a big trunk, and anytime something sexist happened, I'd just store it in that trunk. I'd see myself picking it up, putting it in the trunk, closing the lid, locking it, and moving on along my original path. Lately, it is like I can't get the lid of the trunk to close anymore. Why? Is it just too full?

Regardless, I need to find a new way to deal with sexist crap, because I damn well don't want it derailing me from my pursuing my goals.

4. Why does my older daughter like waffles and pikelets (small pancake-like things from New Zealand) but not pancakes?

5. Why can't I get in the habit of flossing my teeth? I am really good at making myself do other things, and flossing doesn't take that long and isn't hard to do. But I cannot get myself into the habit of always doing it. I'd say I floss 2-3 nights per week. What gives? I thought that maybe the problem was that I'm trying to do it at the end of the day when I've used up all my willpower, so I've tried establishing the routine in the morning. No luck there, either.

Share your mysteries of the universe- or any answers you have to mine- in the comments!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Surprisingly Profound Kids' Art: Portrait of the Artist and Her Best Friends

Petunia brought this piece home from day care this week. It is a portrait of herself and her three best friends. The four of them have been friends since the toddler room, and the fact that she has such a tight group of friends at day care was one of the reasons we kept her there instead of moving to the transitional kindergarten that opened at Pumpkin's school this year. (That TK program is also only a half day, and they weren't sure that the Y was going to provide before and after care... so the friends weren't the ONLY reason.)

Anyway, the friends are drawn somewhat to scale. Her friend G, on the left of this picture, is very tall. From left to right, there's G, M, L, and then Petunia. L is indeed shorter than M and Petunia.

Portrait of the Artist and Her Best Friends
Artist: Petunia, age 5.5

Portrait of the Artist and Her Best Friends
OK, so maybe this one isn't all that profound, but it made me smile, so I'm posting it.

In other news, over at Tungsten Hippo I wrote about what I do when I finish a book I love, want to read, but am not ready to move on. Spoiler: it involves short ebooks.

Also, last night Petunia enlisted my help in building a home out of twigs for a tiny stuffed giraffe. I took pictures and tweeted them, but I'll be posting them over at Crappy Things I Made to Stop the Whining soon.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Weekend Reading: The Short Edition

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, this has been a very, very busy week. I've got more things still on my to do list for today, so I'm going to have to keep this links post short.

Here's Cate Huston about how attention is used as a currency, and why that doesn't work for everyone.

I'll add that I don't think that expecting everything to be free is limited to engineers. It is fascinating to watch what people will and won't pay for.

And here's an interview with Jessica McKellar, who sounds like a really thoughtful and engaged manager. Anyone who wants to be better at managing people should consider reading it, even if you don't work in tech. She makes a lot of really good points.

This series on an antibiotic overdose at UCSF hospital is really long, but worth the time, particularly for anyone who creates software or sets up processes. I've got a lot of thoughts about it, and they'll probably eventually make their way into a blog post over at my professional site. I just haven't had the time to write it, because... BUSY.

An interesting theory about allergies.

And now, back to my to do list. Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, April 09, 2015


First of all, thanks to everyone who responded to the survey in my last post. That is the only non-suboptimal thing in this post: I was thrilled with the number of responses, and am now convinced there is sufficient interest to go ahead and start developing the course.

If you would still like to take the survey, please do! More responses will help me better define the content for the class, and you can give me your email address if you want to be notified when the class is ready for enrollment.


Last weekend was a very busy one, since it had both Pumpkin's 8th birthday (and attendant party) and Easter. I was so busy getting ready for the party and buying things for the kids' Easter baskets that I didn't really have time to stop and think about the fact that I now have an 8 year old... and I still haven't had that time. No doubt I will eventually freak out about how old my first baby is getting, but right now I'm still BUSY-BUSY-BUSY (as Pumpkin's favorite hamster, Humphrey, would say).

I have a big deadline with my main client and a couple of smaller deadlines on another small contract I picked up. I should be in bed right now, getting a good night's sleep in preparation for a very full day tomorrow, but I miss blogging and wanted to write a post. so here I am.

Obviously, it was suboptimal to have such a full week right after a full weekend, but it couldn't really be avoided.

I am starting to think this small contract I've picked up was maybe not such a great idea, though, and that was something that could have been avoided. The effective hourly rate for this work is significantly less than my usual rate. The work is not hard and is fairly interesting, but it requires time, and I am finding that it is squeezing out the time I should perhaps be investing in more long term growth projects.

It is, however, alleviating some money-related stress, so perhaps it wasn't a mistake. I don't know. I wonder if I might have lost my nerve a bit too soon. Perhaps I should have held out for better paying work. I think that balancing short term money needs, my (and Mr. Snarky's) tolerance for risk, and my need to be investing in projects that can build a more viable long term business is going to turn out to be one of the biggest challenges of this new career path. I'm trying to remind myself that I'm new at this, and be gentle on myself when I do suboptimal things.

Note I said "trying." I don't always succeed.


As stressful as this week is for me, it is nothing compared to the week the mother of one of Pumpkin's friends is having. Due to a staff change at our before school care program, she is scrambling to fix a child care gap. This is not my story to tell, so I will not go into details, except to say that the easy, obvious solution is not available to her because she has an hourly job instead of a salaried one. If she could work 15 minutes less four days per week and one hour more the fifth day, all would be well. But she can't do that, because then she'd trigger overtime pay on that fifth day, which of course her company does not want and will not authorize.

So she is scrambling, and may even be forced to change schools. We're helping where we can, but since the only way we can help is to have an extra couple of kids in our house for our entire morning routine, our help is unfortunately fairly short term in nature. I'm hoping she can find something long term before our ability to help comes to an end.

I'm thinking a lot about how the overtime law that is supposed to protect employees is really, really not helping her. I don't know what the solution is. If we took away the law, I have no doubt that some employers would abuse their employees. I can't think of a way to rework the law that would prevent that while still allowing the flexibility my friend needs.

And now I really do need to get to bed. So, I have no pithy conclusion for this post. Another suboptimal thing!

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Survey: Interest in a Short Online Intro to Project Management Course

Last week, I mentioned that I was thinking about offering a short "introduction to project management" course. The idea is to put together something that would help people who don't have the time and/or inclination to undertake an in depth study of project management, but would benefit from knowing the basics of how a project manager approaches a project. This would NOT be a full project management course, and although I would discuss some tools I find useful for managing projects, it would also not be a training session on those tools.

It would also not be doctrinaire- i.e., I use methods and tools from a variety of project management methods, and would not limit myself to one type of project management in the course.

Basically, this would be focused on practical information that people could use right away to make their projects run better.

I'm still fleshing out the idea, but right now I think the class would be two 1.5 hour sessions, held once per week on two successive weeks. I would probably talk for about an hour (with interruptions for questions welcome), and then open it up for questions for about 30 minutes. These questions could cover real situations you're facing, as long as you don't mind sharing the details with the entire class.

The class would be online through some sort of online meeting software, and I'd send you any slides I use.

That's all I have right now. Here's where I ask you for help! I have put together a short survey to gauge interest in this idea. Please share it widely! And take it yourself, if you're interested in the class.

Here is the URL, if you want to paste that into an email or tweet or something:

You can also just send people to this post.

Any and all responses are welcomed. I can't guarantee I'll take all of the ideas I get from the survey, but I can guarantee I'll be grateful for all of them!

I'm polling for information using this account, because it is where I have the widest reach. The actual class and any marketing of it will be done via my real name account. I'll reference it here to the extent that I can, and will also link to announcements in my personal newsletter. But if you're interested and want to be sure you don't miss the class if I decide to run it, there is a space at the bottom of the form to enter an email address. I won't share it, add you to any other mailing list I run, or anything like that. I'll use it to send you exactly one email announcing the class and directing you to information about how to sign up. So put your email address in there.

Thanks in advance for your help!

Friday, April 03, 2015

Weekend Reading: The A Little Bit Rushed Edition

It is spring break, and Pumpkin's birthday is on Sunday. We're having a party for her on Saturday. I told her she could invite a handful of her friends, but by the time you add in siblings, somehow we have 14 kids coming to our place tomorrow. Yikes! Pumpkin requested a pirate theme and a jumpy. So I ordered a jumpy with palm trees (the pirate ship was too big for our yard), printed out a "pin the tail on Tic-Toc Croc" game from Disney Jr. (Pumpkin still loves Jake and the Neverland Pirates, even though the boys she knows tease her calling it a "baby" show. She actually stands up to their nonsense on this pretty well.) And we're having a treasure hunt, which Mr. Snarky and I planned out last night.

Fridays are work from home days. I usually avoid putting "home" tasks on my "work day" to do list, but today I made an exception, and my to do list included a shopping trip to get treats for the party and baking the oatmeal-chocolate chip bars Pumpkin wants at the party. They're in the oven now.

My parents are here to entertain and watch Pumpkin while I work, but even so, this has been a hectic feeling week. I suspect this had something to do with the fact that we had a birthday gift to buy, a party to finish planning, and Easter baskets to think about (we don't do big baskets, but we do get a chocolate bunny and a couple of small things for each kid).

But, neither snow (did you, California has no snow pack?), nor rain (not recently), nor ridiculously busy weeks will keep me from accumulating links for you, so here they are:

I'm still not ready much about the Ellen Pao case, but I liked this Annie Lowrey article about the sexism you can't quite prove, and  Nitasha Tiku's wrap up of the case is very good.

Susan Decker's reflections on the trial (posted prior to the verdict) are interesting, too.

After reading those links and getting a little depressed, go read Cate Burlington's Things My Male Tech Colleagues Have Actually Said To Me, Annotated, and have a good LOLSOB at it all.  A lot of women I follow were tweeting their "score"- i.e., the number of items on the list they've essentially heard, too. My score is 6.

But hey! Did you know that if you're in a position of authority at a work place, you can do some things to make it less sexist and racist? It is true. This actually quite good article discusses how.

Warning: this letter to the editor of the Indianapolis Star might make something get in your eye.

Here's a post from a 10 year old about attending a disability pride event given by an autistic woman.

Mr. Snarky heard about this study about how babies respond to objects that seem to disobey the laws of physics and liked it so much he came home and told me about it. It does sound pretty cool. And studies with babies are always cute.

A medieval potion seems to be effective against MRSA. I'm going to have to find the paper describing the studies when it comes out, if only to read the methods section.

What's it like having kids?

And in me-centric news: I had a guest post at the blog for the Diversity Journal Club, about how I keep career anxiety at bay amidst all the uncertainty.