Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The price of admission

I recently re-watched the amazing "This Is Water" commencement speech by the late David Foster Wallace expertly put to video. Definitely check it out if you haven't seen it.

This is some of the most useful advice a young adult can receive. It's hard to realize at 21, but so much of life is spent in the throes of monotonous routine: commute, dishes, responding to an unceasing deluge of electronic correspondence. It's enough to make you want to unplug for a while.

Of course, this drudgery multiplies when you join your life with someone, and again if you decide to have a child, or 2. More everything: laundry, dishes, cooking, stuff to worry about, school, activities, the list is nearly endless. And this translates directly into less time for yourself to pursue your interests, or just relax.

What about delegation? you might ask. Surely, successful people outsource a lot of the drudgery of human existence. You can bet Sheryl Sandberg doesn't do her own laundry. Yet, as much as I outsource, and it's a lot, there is still the in-between cleaning, clutter management, and housework that piles up daily and consumes a lot of my time.

As I was putting away yet another load of laundry, it hit me. This, putting away laundry on Christmas Eve, is the price of admission. For unlimited access to my daughter's amazing smiles, and her looks of pure delight.

What I paid for this privilege was less time to explore my own interests and to run around rushed on Christmas Eve. The late nights of wrapping, and waking up early, or staying home when she was ill.

When viewed through this lens, it makes my daily activities feel a lot less menial and a lot more meaningful. As Life Is Good founder John Jacobs put it at the Massachusetts Conference for Women, replace "I have to" with "I get to." I get to pay the bills, I get to wrap these presents, I get to put away this laundry. Sounds like a mantra worth repeating.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Where was I going?

'Tis the season for reflection. So, not surprisingly, my mind drifted to my year last week as I was swimming laps in the company pool. Maybe it had something to do with the kick board I was using, Dory from Finding Nemo pondering, "Where was I going?"

Fortunately, I have a slightly better memory than Dory. I recalled my 4 career goals of 2014:
  1. Find a new job that involves design thinking
  2. Get a raise
  3. Speak at an event
  4. Blog 50 times
Research shows that you achieve better results by writing down your goals each year. Therefore, I pick a very few personal goals and a few career-related goals each year. 

So, how'd I do?
  1. I started a new job at my company in April on a team heavily invested in market research and thoroughly understanding customers. I participated in a persona research project.
  2. Not only did I receive a raise exceeding my goal, I also was promoted.
  3. I conceived, pitched, wrote and presented the Quarterlife Crisis in November. It was so well received that I'm planning to present to new groups of colleagues.
  4. Mainly thanks to National Blog Posting Month in November, this is my 64th blog post. I've received well over twice the amount of views I expected for an inaugural year of blogging, and the direction and goals of my blog have evolved. I aim to share tidbits of wisdom and things I've found to enrich my life in the hopes that my readers will benefit.
I still have so much to learn about life. Like how not to wake up at 3:30 am to bake Christmas cookies for today's holiday party at work. My daughter is so much like me (just like the Ben Folds song) that she was up at 5 am helping to decorate. 

Maybe that will be my 2015 goal, to try to relax more and enjoy each moment. That certainly will be a challenge.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Hour of Code

Last year was my first year participating in the Hour of Code. I went to my daughter's preschool class and taught the kids basic programming via an iPad game called My Robot Friend. We had a blast freeze dancing and coding!

If your child enjoys this type of game, then check out the coding board game Robot Turtles, which is based on a similar concept.

This year, I wanted to try something different. Then I stumbled upon this USA Today article mentioning a new coding game using the characters from Frozen. The code is an easy, intuitive drag-and-drop user interface called Blockly. It's similar to the MIT-developed Scratch GUI. I figured that my daughter's kindergarten class would love that, so I emailed her science teacher to see if we could give it a try. She was game, and I was excited! The game itself is so fun that I continued playing long after my daughter went to bed.

The kids had so much fun! We began with a quick demo on the SmartBoard.

Then, we let them try it individually on their iPads. They mastered several levels in a matter of minutes, and ended the session with a freeze dance game to Let It Go.

My company, EMC, thought this was so cool that they profiled my volunteer efforts in a video for International Women's Day 2015! More here:

I'm so grateful to my company for giving us 3 volunteer days off so that I can spend time in my community working on fun projects like this.

It's not too late to bring the Hour of Code to your school! Check it out online at Hour of Code.

Here are some additional photos from the Philbrick 3rd grade's hour of code.

Edited to add additional photos from the Philbrick 4th grade's hour of code.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

MA conference for women

I attended the 10th annual MA conference for women today at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. It was so beautiful out on the walk over.

EMC's excellent EVP of HR, ML Krakauer, kicked off the morning's keynotes.

John Jacobs, founder of Life Is Good, introduced his 2 year old daughter Lucy. He explained that he does not look at things like paying taxes as "I have to do this." Rather, he reframes it as "I get to do this." I love that sentiment and will remember to reframe my first-world problems as such.

I attended an excellent talk by Shelia Heen, who wrote one of my favorite business books Difficult Conversations. Her actionable tips on receiving feedback gracefully will definitely improve my ability to listen and process advice. I plan to read her book on this topic Thanks for the Feedback.

Katrina Alcorn was on the next panel about work-life balance. Last year, I read her book Maxed Out: Working Moms on the Brink, which really resonated with me. I felt grateful to have a cautionary tale to help me avoid many of the struggles she faced. I posted the photo below on Twitter and she favorited it!

After an inspiring, heartfelt speech from actress Lupita N'yong, it was time for the main event, Hillary Clinton.

I've seen her speak twice, here and at the Simmons Conference for Women in Leadership. She is an articulate, polished, passionate speaker. I related to her story about when Chelsea was 2 and sick with a fever, Bill was out of town, and she needed to be at work. Her guilt about calling in a favor to a friend to watch her daughter was palpable as she told her story. It made her so real. I never figured a former Secretary of State would have childcare issues!