The Book Club: Lean In.

I finished Sheryl Sandberg’s much buzzed about book, Lean In, last night.  As I sit here reflecting on the book, Sandberg’s message, and my thoughts, I’m trying to see what value I can add to a whirlwind of conversation that has transpired from her novel.

Before the launch of her book and since the days the book launched, praise, criticism, positivity, scoffs have been shared.  Some have argued why women should read the book and others have rolled their eyes at it.  My favorite criticism was from Simona Covel at Inc.com, “Stop Selling Me Porn” who while I agree that work-life balance books have become the “new porn” for women, I think she missed the message of Sandberg’s book.

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As a young, ambitious, twenty-something, I’ve struggled with being heard and at times I have been overshadowed by my male peers at the same level.  I drew parallels to many of her stories and cringed reading Sandberg’s lesson on hand raising and being acknowledged in meetings (or Sandberg likes to refer to as “leaning in”).  I personally dealt with hesitation and pulled back when I should have been leaning in.  I was lucky to be able to overcome or in my case, forced to overcome it.  Early on I had a great male sponsor who openly asked for my opinion and having provided a dumb response my first time, I made sure not to let that happen again.  I also gained tenure at the start up I’m with and colleagues – both senior and junior staff – started to turn to me for questions and advice and I had no choice but to start contributing to meetings or watch the team backtrack.  Sandberg’s book would have came in handy before I entered the working world.

Depending on where you are at your career and personal life, this book will speak differently to you.  As a twenty-something in the early stages of my career, Lean In offers great, actionable advice I can put in practice to help me steer the next 5, 10, 15 years of my career.  There were many messages, stories, facts that made me reflect, cringe, fume, and nodded in agreement.  Here are the five key aha! moments of Lean In:

1) “A 2011 McKinsey report noted that men are promoted based on potential while women are promoted based on past accomplishments“.  This struck a chord.  I first saw and recognize this in high school and have seen it multiple times since.

2) The most important decision you will make in life will be the partner you choose.  Find someone that will put in 50/50 and be there along the ride.

3) Be your own advocate.  When hard work and results aren’t being recognized, it’s up to you to promote yourself, make the ask, and challenge yourself.  Change the results of the McKinsey report and focus on both your accomplishments and potential.

4) The movement goes both ways.  We need to promote, encourage, and be inclusive to men who choose to stay at home.  Same with women feeling shut out in the office, stay at home dads also face the same barriers.  Openness and inclusiveness need to go both ways.

5) Be authentic.  Be human.  Sheryl Sandberg has been able to capture a following because not only is she willing to raise subjects that are uncomfortable but she’s authentic.  Her experiences, her ambition, her outlook clearly has resonated with millions of women from all ages.

Sheryl Sandberg has been a trailblazer for women in tech.  She’s bringing to center stage a topic that has been shied away from and has been hushed for too long.  As the topic continues its momentum, I’ll be leaning in with a close ear.

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Hello, Influence – A visit to Klout

Last night, I had the privilege to visit the Klout headquarters in the SOMA district of San Francisco as part of the Bay Area Girl Geek Dinner*series.  I’ve been to several of their events before including ones at Yelp, Genentech, and Thoughtworks and had always left feeling inspired.  The events are a great way to meet other females in tech as well as see the host company’s head office and learn more about their culture.

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You’ve been pinned by Klout!

Like many tech companies in the Bay area, the Klout office was vibrant and eclectic – from its wooden, high ceilings to the meeting rooms named after famous celebrities – the office showcased Klout’s dynamic culture.  The event began with Klout’s Director of People and Culture, Katelin Holloway, sharing her take on Klout’s culture and how the process to being a Kloutlaw (a Klout employee) required going through a series of interview to assess your skills and also if you will fit in with their culture.

The dinner went into a series of speaker and panel discussion.  The speaker that resonated with me was Klout’s Community Manager, Sahana Ullagaddi.  Sahana spoke about her move from working in a more corporate setting in New York to working a start up in San Francisco.  Mirroring a lot of what I did when I first moved here, Sahana reached out to influencers on social networks that she found inspiration and asked to connect.

I reached out to anyone who influenced me even if they weren’t in my reach, I still reached out.  I found the less expectation the more invested I was to learn from them.

– Sahana Ullagaddi, Community Manager @ Klout

That’s the thing I found when I moved to a new city and had to rebuild a network.  I emailed, Facebook messaged, inmailed, and tweeted at people who I thought were interesting and who I wanted to learn from.  To my pleasant surprise, I had a good response rate.  When you are genuine and authentically reaching out or as Sahana put it, “authentically curious” without any agenda or expectations, people are more willing to reach back out and connect.   I encourage you to send a cold message to someone whose career, lifestyle, beliefs, etc. you admire and see if they are willing to have a 20 minute coffee chat with you.  You’ll be surprised at what genuine sincerity can bring.  And when you’re one day in a position where people are reaching out to you, remember back to those who helped you and pay it forward.

*Girl Geek Dinner is a not for profit run by volunteers that connect female “geeks” together through sponsored dinners at organizations such as Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc.  There are city specific chapters with the Bay Area chapter being one of the largest ones.   It’s a free event however getting tickets to one of the Bay Area Girl Geek dinner can be challenging.  They usually run out within seconds of them opening the event on Eventbrite.  If you’re in a city where there’s a chapter, I highly encourage you to attend an event.

A book recap: Basic Black

“It’s not about whether you can do it all, it’s about whether you can be happy whatever you’re doing”

– Cathie Black, former President of Hearst Magazines

Off of a book list recommended by Levo League, one of my favorite career development sites, I read Basic Black by Cathie Black, former President of Hearst Magazines.  If you ever read any Cosmo, Marie Claire, O: Oprah Magazine, or Seventeen between 1996 to 2010, then you in one way or another have been touched indirectly by Cathie Black.  My saving grace during high school was the now defunct CosmoGirl magazines. #rip

Black’s book was interesting.  For the past two years, I’ve had a growing interest in the career paths and struggles of success women and hers was one that I was only vaguely familiar with.6a0133ed1b1479970b0133ed6a4295970b

Black’s book touches on creating a 360 degree life which she defines as achieving balance in life and creating a life where you get deep satisfaction from all angles – personal life, work, and family.  Throughout the book, she goes through her experiences, her temperament during her early working days, and her strive for success, perfection, and achievement.  As someone equally as ambitious and as passionate about making an impact, I related to her drive and dedication.  When you’re in the middle of the action and all you can see is that ladder and each step you need to take, it’s hard to sometimes step back and look at the situation and appreciate what has been given to you and what you have earned.

I remember when I was in high school, I baby-sat these adorable kids whose parents shuffled them from one activity to the next.  Dance class, track, soccer, tennis lessons, music… it never stopped.  I would listen to the kids go on about their activities in exhaustion.  I barely had time to work part-time and study for chem class, let alone do all those activities on top of that.  Looking back now, it makes me wonder what we, as a society, gain from pushing kids into so many different activities.  While it is so important to let kids explore new and different interests to help them develop into interesting adults, I wonder if we’re raising a generation of overachieving, over-competitive individuals that will view adult life as a rat race.  My generation already feels the pains of constant competition.  We’re one of the first generations where discussions on can women have it all, work-life balance is ongoing.  At the pace we’re going. will the next generation need to have an actual class on this?  Is this the future society we want to create?

Cathie Black’s book dedicates a section on achieving balance.  She asks her readers to reflect on what’s important to them and what they are looking to achieve.  Her advice:  Have your all – not anyone else’s.  What worked for one person doesn’t necessarily work for someone else.

Overall, her book was a great read.  Easy layout so you can flip through to sections that appeals to you the most and it incorporates real examples of her time at Hearst and other publications she worked at.  A must read for anyone in the media industry.

Other interesting read on this topics:

Pursue a Lifestyle Not a Job – Lost Gen Y Girl

Why a Lifestyle Business Could Be a Better Fit For You Than a Startup – Sean Ogle

“Image is power. Image is superficial”

I came across this TEDTalk by model Cameron Russell.  Absolutely loved her message and how open and honest she was about her experience and the fact that her modeling career is a result of genetics and legacy.

A short 5 minute video that’s well worth watching.

How to build a social community in a new city

Moving to a new city is hard.  You leave behind family, friends, familiar places, and a whole ecosystem of support.  I moved to San Francisco last year.  For me, it was a new city in a new country, all the way across the other end of the continent, and five hours away from what I know and what I am comfortable with.  I moved in with one of my colleagues and spent a lot of time with a group of work friends both in and out of the office. Outside of work, I knew no one.  It was around my first few months that I knew if I was to develop connections outside of work, I would have to put a lot of effort into it.  My friends suggested joining intramural or some sort of league  If you’re like me and hopeless at organized sports, then that suggestion doesn’t pan out well.

Starting from scratch, I reached out to my established community back home and worked with that to build a new one.  Here are some methods that worked for me.

  1. 2nd Degree Connections.  I emailed my family and friends and asked if they had a friend or a friend of a friend in my new city.  This resulted in four friend dates with one individual becoming a close friend of mine now.
  2. Facebook Creep.  Being a first generation Facebook college user, I had no shortage of friends on my list.  Mark Zuckerberg has made it incredibly easy to look up your friends and filter them by city.  Through my excessive creeping and research, I discovered a few people I knew that were in the city.
  3. LinkedIn.  LinkedIn has this brilliant feature under Contacts in the menu bar where you can search for high school and college alumni by what they studied, where they work, and where they live.  It was through this tool that I discovered that one of my college classmate and who also happened to be a former roommate of one of my best friends lives in the city.  I’ve also connected with two other alumni through LinkedIn.  It never fails to amaze me how open alumni are to meeting other alumni and chatting with them.
  4. Meetup.com.  Meetup is one of those misses for me but partially due to the fact I only ever went to one.  Many of my friends, however, have met and created strong friendships from people they’ve connected with through Meetup.
  5. Eventbrite.  Luckily for me, San Francisco is a vibrant, bustling city that offers tons of free events, workshops, lectures, etc.  Right away, I took advantage of the environment around me and searched for events under $20 on Eventbrite that suited my interest.  While I haven’t found a friend through Eventbrite yet, I have met some really cool and interesting individuals in my passing.

These are some of my tried and true methods.  As I continue to build my community here, I would love to hear some ideas of other meet and greets that have worked.  Feel free to share them with me in the comments section.

Out with networks, in with communities

There are so many articles and tips on how to network. From how to effectively network to how to get over network-phobia to winning at networking, the internet is full of good tricks of mastering the art.  But I personally find networking to be rather impersonal – more so transactional if you will.  Networking is very much what you can do for me and what I can do for you.  It is such an old school mentality of building connections.

The world has become increasingly connected and information and stories are shared instantaneous.  With the rise of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Path, it’s time to revisit how we network and shift it to building a community.  Focus on creating authentic connections through knowledge sharing, idea transfer, and story-telling.  People are genuinely more intrigued and willing to maintain a long-term connection with you if the initial touch point is authentic.  That you want to learn something from them, not gain something that would benefit you or help them with a future string attached.  Let’s focus less on networking and more on building an authentic community. 

Your 20s is like being a baby: Why mentors are important.

One of my colleague’s wife recently said something that really stuck with me.  We were chatting about marriages and people in their early 20s getting married and she said something along the lines of not understanding that because she felt like your 20s is like being a baby, you’re relearning so much about life and growing so much.

I was struck by her comment because I never thought of it that way, but her words felt true to what I’m facing.  Your 20s, especially during the post-college/pre-successful career phase, is like an infant.  You’re essentially learning how to be an adult – one with loans, real bills to pay, figuring out your own next steps.  It was easy in high school.  You were expected to go to college.  It was easy after college, you were expected to get a job.  But what happens between the time you land your first job and the rest of life?  We no longer have a set four year plan and a clear road ahead of us.  Who is there to guide us and be our backseat driver?

When you’re a baby, your teachers are automatically given to you.  Your parents are there to feed you, change you, teach you how to walk and talk.  As an adult, teachers aren’t automatically assigned.  Instead, you have to actively go look for them.  Many career development blogs, business books, inspirational speeches talk about the importance of finding mentors in your career to help provide guidance and advice as you navigate through your path.

Mentors come from so many walks of life.  Some might be handed to you.  If you’re in a more corporate, formal environment, you may find yourself assigned a coach to help you develop through the organization.  At other places, mentors might be ones that find you or you stumble upon.

Mentors come from all walks of life.  I, myself, have been fortunate to have found solid mentors so early in my career whose advice, encouragement, and criticism have helped shape me during what I consider one of the most pivotal years of my career.  There’s one that I look to for guidance on day to day events and has been a great female role model as well; a colleague who’s senior to me and is always my biggest fan but never afraid to call me out on my BS; a former manager who has some of the best quotes and is not afraid to bring me back down to earth when I’m getting ahead of myself; a career coach from university who has been a great third party listener since my junior year; and my group of friends who while aren’t mentors in the traditional sense, have been nothing but the best sounding board over the last two years.

If you’ve just entered the workforce or haven’t found a mentor that works with your style, fear not, because over time you’ll start to build those relationships and find someone willing to invest in you.  In the meantime, there are so many great books that can provide inspiration.  Levo Lounge, a website community for young women, has a great list of career books they recommend to read.  I’ve ordered half the list and am in the middle of Cathie Black’s Basic Black.  If you’re reading some great books that aren’t on Levo Lounge’s list, share them with me.  I would love to add them to my collection.