Stuck in the Middle

There has been a lot of talk for as long as I can remember about women in the workplace, the low number of female leaders, unequal compensation for women, and harassment. How is this still an issue after so many years? It’s crazy. But part of it is because we let it happen. At least I did.

I knew that I was supposed to try to “get to the top”, but instead of climbing the ladder, I decided to stop on some middle rung and just hang on so I didn’t fall back down. I resisted any upward mobility, and turned down promotions and more responsibility. I let my career stagnate. I accepted lower pay for less responsibility because I believed less responsibility would help me to have what I felt was a better work/life balance. Something I like to call a life/work balance.

I thought I had to stay middle management in order to maintain balance. I put spending time with my family first (just as most employers suspect women will do) and let my career take a backseat, or middle ladder rung, to have that time and balance. And I just hung on while men (and a few women) climbed right over me. I didn’t mind, in some cases I even gave them a leg up, because I made the choice to stop so that I could spend more time with my family.

Oh, how I misled myself. It wasn’t my choice. Hanging out in the middle didn’t give me a better life/work balance. I don’t work any less than my male counterparts with bigger titles and paychecks. I have tons of responsibility. I travel a lot. And worse of all, I didn’t gain any time at home. The only thing I have given up is the title and pay of men doing the same work.

I’ve thought a lot about why I took the middle rung and also how I got there. How I let “the man” keep me down. It hasn’t always been big things. Sometimes it was small things. Like the language I chose to use. I write, and think, “I think” too often. “I think it would be better if…” Fuck that, what I should be stating confidently is that “it would be better if…”. That’s what men do. I often ask instead of tell. Men more often tell. Every time I say “I think” or asked instead of told, I put another nail in the coffin that contains the careers of women.

Sometimes the little thing has been that I have cared too much. I care about people’s feelings and do unprofessional things to avoid anyone getting hurt. I care about other people achieving their goals and feeling fulfilled. I put these things ahead of my own career. I doubt men do that.

But sometimes it has been big things, like the few role models I have had of women in their careers. First problem is that there are few, the second is that more often than not, they are bitches. Real bitches, not just women portraying male attributes and called bitches, but actually not-nice-people who treat others disrespectfully. They think being unkind and uncaring is what it takes to get ahead, and I guess they have been proven right. But that is not who I want to be. So I don’t.

It is up to me to fix this for myself. First of all, I have to want it and be willing to work for it. And I do. I want to be a leader who happens to be women, not a leader who is a woman.

If all else fails, bring a penis to your next meeting. They are available in many stores and online.


Observations Today

At the Gym

I had a friend say to me once how interesting it was that you can look at a baby picture of someone and then at that same kid a few years later and you can see exactly how they got there. The transformation is obvious. But stare as you might at that child, you won’t be able to see where they are going.

And then, without warning, they are where they are going. They are “adults”. In college. No longer a kid. At this point they should know by that age that they are who they are going to be, physically without surgical help, from then until all the horrid old age shit starts to happen. It’s time to lay the foundation for their “grown-up” self if they haven’t already done so.

Yet, so many women don’t take care of themselves in their 20s. They don’t work out or worry about what they eat or drink. It’s easy to lose weight in your 20s. You’re still holding on to some of that spastic metabolism that you had as a kid. (Oh I miss parts of my 20s…. sigh……).

You know how I know this? Intensive market research (insert sarcasm here, I didn’t really do any/much research at all). There are far far fewer 20-somethings at the gym. And I go to lots of gyms and at different times of day. The 20-somethings that do go fall into 2 categories – athletes that are staying fit for their sport and kick ass, and the ones going through the motions, this group sort of sucks.

Mostly there are 30-somethings. Not necessarily athletes, more like women trying to get back in shape. They woke up one day after turning 30 with the harsh reality that something has changed. It’s not drastic, but suddenly they’re gaining weight without any change to your eating, drinking or non-existent exercise regimes. WTF!!!???!?! WHO’S ASS IS THIS???!?!?

Then there are the 40-somethings (and up). There are fewer of us, but we kick ass. And I’m only mostly saying because I am in that group. Really, we do. We’re serious and dedicated and not so much panicked or surprised, we know why we are there and that it is for the long term. We are fighting aging. It is a long and grueling battle.

Oh silly, pretty, thin 20-somethings. Look in the mirror and try to picture yourself at 30, 40, 50… Unlike trying to visualize an 8 year old from a baby picture, you can now see your future. How’s it looking?

Cars (again – one of my favorite topics)

Today, driving home from the gym, a brand new Audi R8 pulls out right next to me. You know, the car Ironman drives. A v10, it sounds beautiful as we pull up together to the red light. You can’t help but look at this $124K car. I mean, come on, it costs more than the median house price in most of the US. And I’m in Austin, TX, not Beverly Hills or Silicon Valley. So, I’m looking.

As the light turns green he effortlessly pulls away and weaves through traffic and around the corner. My 1994 Saab 900 S Convertible (with the top permanently down, without working heat or AC and worth nearly $2K) pulls around the same corner and slows to a stop next to the R8 at the red light. This goes on for a number of lights until he arrives at his destination at the same time that I do.

This is not a tortoise and the hare story. Slow and steady would never win this race. That R8 is going to kick my 900’s ass at everything (but having the top down) all day long. What struck me was that for $122K more, I could have gotten to the same place in the same amount of time looking and sounding like $80K cooler. That guy got totally ripped off!

Are you funding my music habit?

I have done my part in the past to support the music industry. In the early 80s I slept out on the streets of New Haven and Hartford, CT for tickets to metal bands.

I bought albums and spent extra on the special, limited edition versions.

I bought my first CD player in 1985, an NAD system (which nostalgically I still have) and replaced my album and cassette collections with CDs.

I bought extended dance versions.

I went to Glastonbury Music Festival, twice. I’ve been to Austin City Limits Festival, and South by Southwest.

But like you, I don’t buy CDs anymore. Neither do I buy my music at $0.99 a pop. I listen to Pandora. And yes Pandora, “I am still listening”, but I am not looking, so your ads are wasted on me.

There is no way in hell I’m going to fork out $250+ for a ticket to try to see a band live only to end up with my face pressed into the sweaty back of some hairy stranger and watching the band on a large screen next to and above the stage I can’t even see.

I don’t buy t-shirts, mugs, posters, lunch boxes, or notebooks with my favorite bands’ faces emblazoned on them.

I go to small venues and see mostly unknown local bands, mostly for free.

If I am the typical music fan, the music industry will soon be looking for a bail out. In the meantime, someone is funding my music habit and I would just like to say thank you and keep it up kiddo, you’re doing a great job.

PS – I am going to save this blog post so that in 2 years I can do a cut and replace for films.

Everything I know about Social Media I learned from Open Source

Marketing has finally made the transition. “New marketing techniques”, social media and community development are now common job requirements as these tactics are driving more comprehensive strategies that focus on the user. And yeah, I may be years behind on this, but I haven’t looked for a job in a while and last I looked, marketing job requirements included messaging, marcom and product launches.

There is quite a collection of talented unemployed people in the circles I travel in. And while each of us have different backgrounds, experiences and passions, we find that we are all looking at the same jobs. We shouldn’t necessarily be competing for these positions, but 3 different job titles have gotten all mixed up with a common list of requirements.

  • Community Management/Development – Requirements are to know how to use social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, forums, etc to communicate marketing messages, but more importantly to create 2-way conversations with the user. Manage and/or create and engage a community. Create programs. Advocate for that community inside the company.
  • Social Media – Some companies are looking for “social media marketing”, or “social media experts”, or social media is listed as a requirement in the job description. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc… In other words, see above.
  • On-line Marketing – Which is the idea of using Web 2.0 tools, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc… Deja vu.

How did these things get intermixed? Here’s an excerpt from an interview I did with whurley about it and how I think it happened:

Everything I know about social media I learned from open source.

… All communications (in open source communities) were done openly and publicly to help the project grow and get adopted. (Community Manager) was not a very common job title, and one a person earned, not got….


… (Open source developers) were miles ahead of the word-of-mouth marketing phenomena we have today. Open source developers were implementing social media before the term existed, disseminating information through public blogs, searchable e-mail forums, and online discussion groups. My role in marketing became figuring out how to scale what they were doing, encourage it, amplify it when necessary, get myself and the company out of their way when needed, and to advocate on their behalf….

This theory that open source started the social media “movement” started with a discussion I had with James Governor (@monkchips) of RedMonk a while back. 5 years ago when I started working in open source, my use of a blog, forums, email aliases to communicate publicly with about the community I was working with would have been (and was) called community management. Today, using those same tools, plus some new ones, is called social media.

Where open source and social media are divided is in what the communities talk about. Open source communities talk nearly exclusively about the code. There isn’t a ton of personal discussion that goes on. Social media communities talk about anything and everything or even nothing. The pendulum swings one way for open source communities and fully in the other direction for social media. Somewhere in the middle is the use of social media to engage with a community around a brand.

Whether these job titles will all merge into one or whether they will become more specific and differentiated remains to be seen. For now, there is demand for talented community managers, social media experts, and online marketing geniuses. We just have to look a little more carefully to find the right one for us.

A Day in the Life

I’ve been unemployed for a week. What have I done with my days?

  • Updated my LinkedIn profile
  • Called, DM’d, Facebook’d, emailed and phoned people who have been wishing me well
  • Went to the gym
  • Turned my resume into a PDF
  • Cooked
  • Volunteered to help out with Twestival Austin
  • Turned my resume into a Word doc
  • Went to the gym
  • Added people to LinkedIn
  • Went to a GeekAustin party
  • Cooked
  • Updated my LinkedIn profile
  • Went to the gym
  • Called, DM’d, Facebook’d, emailed and phoned people who have been wishing me well
  • Cried endlessly over the generous and gushing recommendations people have written about me
  • Attended a Social Media Breakfast
  • Went to the gym
  • Updated my LinkedIn profile
  • Cooked 
  • Cried endlessly over the generous and gushing blogs people wrote about me
  • Asked and accepted to be interviewed for 45 Interviews in 45 Days with Aaron Strout
  • Updated my LinkedIn Profile
  • I have not blogged

For now… we’re eating well.

Getting Fired

I have never been laid off (yet – tomorrow is a new day). But this one time, at a crappy job, I did get fired.

I was working for a start-up in Silicon Valley in the late 90s that had just gone public. We made color fax software. So I’m working in marketing at this color fax software company that had just gone public and one day this guy walks in.

He’s wearing white leather shoes. Turns out, he’s from Florida. Following him in the door is a very large man with an obvious gun in his belt. So we’ve got Miami mafia and his gun-touting bodyguard in our little color fax software office in Silicon Valley. He starts telling people randomly that they are fired (Time lines are compressed for dramatic effect).

Turns out, he had bought up the majority of our stock and he was “taking over”. Or something like that. Miami mafia sat in what was the CEOs office with his white leather shoes on the desk and his bodyguard sitting silently nearby, barking orders at people. He was lovely.

A few days into Miami mafia’s reign as king of color fax software, we received 3 draft layouts for our first annual report from the designers. He starts yelling and swearing and calling us all idiots. “What a fucking waste of money!” “Who ordered this shit?” “Where is that marketing girl?” Yes, he called me “girl”. The bodyguard came out and nodded his head in the direction of the office.

“Yes?” I ask.

“What the fuck is this?”, he politely asks.

“Those are layouts of our annual report”, I state. The large envelope that they had been delivered in was lying face up on his desk labeled, “Annual report”. I’m questioning his reading skills.

“Who fucking ordered them?”, he asks respectfully.

“The VP of marketing.” D’uh.

“Why the fuck would he spend money to have the annual report printed in German?”



“Huh?” I ask with my head cocked to one side like a confused puppy.

“German!” And he authoritatively thrusts the drafts into my hands.

I look at the layouts. The layouts are just that, layouts. Layouts with “greeking” in them. He thinks this is German. I don’t know why he jumped to German. The herculean effort it took to not outwardly laugh, impressive.

“This is not German. It’s called “greeking”…. ” Choke, cough, remember the guy with the gun.

The question about Greek came next.

This exchange ended with him swearing at me and telling me that if I left the building before this was sorted out, I was fired.

And that’s the time I was fired.

7 things you may (or may not) know about me

My good friend Stephen O’Grady has tagged me to blog about the 7 things you may or may not know about me. It’s pretty difficult to have blogged and Twittered about oneself and still have 7 things that people don’t know, so I am searching my childhood repressed memories for material.

  1. I have virtually no baby toenail. Just this horrible little nub of a thing that should qualify me for a discount on pedicures.
  2. I can play any instrument I pick up. I don’t excel at it, but if you show a few chords on a guitar, I can play it. A flute, violin, piano, drums, anything. I get an immediate sense of false talent. I own a guitar that I don’t know how to play, yet I am better at the real guitar than at the Guitar Hero version. My latest endeavor is Dance Dance Revolution, it’s like foot drums.
  3. I suffer from allergies, asthma, lactose intolerance, dry skin, and straight hair. I wear glasses, had braces, and I’m short. I have been told at different times in my life that I look like Demi Moore, Liza Minelli, and my brother.
  4. I have never been convicted of a felony. The evidence didn’t hold up in court. Of course I’m kidding, I’ve never been caught!
  5. I have always wanted to be a blond. I would love to know, first hand, if blonds have more fun. I have a lot of fun and any more fun is probably illegal (see #4).
  6. I got my nose pierced in Sydney Australia in 1991. I wear a stud, not a hoop. Wearing a hoop makes me cross-eyed. I still wear the stud for two reasons: 1, I forget it is there and 2, because the hole in my nose is not nearly as sparkly as the stud. Yes, it collects boogers. Nuff said.
  7. I was abducted by aliens – I don’t know when or where I went or what happened to me or for how long. Nor do I have any scars, marks, implants, or otherwise. Like I said, it’s repressed.

Rules of this game according to SOG:

  • Link to your original tagger(s) and list these rules in your post.
  • Share seven facts about yourself in the post.
  • Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
  • Let them know they’ve been tagged.

I tag:

  1. Maggie Fox @maggiefox Blog
  2. Michelle Greer @michellegreer Blog
  3. whurley @whurley Blog
  4. Simon Phipps @webmink Blog
  5. John Mark Walker @johnmark Blog
  6. Steve Lau @stevel Blog
  7. James Governor @monkchips Blog