Posts from musings

Graduation Weekend

This past weekend was a whirlwind of activities around our middle daughter graduating college.  I woke up this morning thinking about the delivery room 22 years ago and that feeling of pure joy.  The emotion of having a child grow inside you for 9 months to be taken out to sit on your chest and gaze up to you as they begin their own life is one of the most incredible experiences of my life. It is an emotional surge of love like no other.

graduationI am really connected to our kids.  It is an insane privilege to watch them grow and be part of their life journey.  I am not so much reflecting on the weekend but all it took to get to that podium where she received the diploma.  It ends one chapter in her life.

Another chapter begins and although there is a bit of an outline it is a time of uncertainty.  There is more of a straight and narrow path between nursery school and college graduation.  Navigating the next chapter is about discovering yourself, what it is you want to spend your time doing to fill your dreams, your desires and your intellect.

emsWe told Emily to savor this moment for a bit before she plunges into the next.  Reflection is important and there are only a few times that you get that time to breath.  Grab the breathing moments before the next step into the post-graduation life.

Above is the commencement speech given by Lin-Manuel Miranda.  Truly worth the watch.

Being in constant contact

imgresThere was an article this past weekend in the Style section in the NYTimes about the tyranny of constant contact.  I still remember the days when a phone/mini-computer was not an extension of our hand.

I text and call my kids.  I don’t want to be in their face because I don’t want to crowd their life but I want to be engaged.  It is a balance.  This past weekend I was supposed to connect with our oldest daughter. I had not heard from her after texting the night before and then into mid-morning.  I was concerned because she has always been an early riser.  I was getting a bit concerned.  She finally called me late morning after a late night she had just woke up.

In the land of the past I would have never had that opportunity to even worry because there was not that state of constant contact.  I could have noticed on her Instagram that she was out late but I find myself rarely looking at Instagram these days unless I have some idle time in a taxi.  God forbid I should just watch the scene outside the car window because absorbing myself into the abyss of social media is much easier.  Twitter is a go-to for that.  The best media platform out there.

Sometimes that constant is just so overwhelming.  Sometimes the constant is comforting.  Just as I do try hard to balance the in your face with my kids (who are essentially adults) and the feed of the world that keeps coming at us.  As summer is upon us it is the perfect time to think more about disconnecting.

 

The mother worrier?

imgres-1There was a great editorial in the NYTimes this week named Mom:  The Designated Worrier.  The author 

I do believe that there is more of a shared parenting situation that has taken place over the past few decades.  It is refreshing to see.  More men staying home is one that feels good.  Yet there is always one person who has eyes in the back of their head and a head exploding with the details that need to get done.

I remember a few times that Fred wasn’t paying attention to the kids not out of anything but not thinking.  The time that Emily came down the water slide and he wasn’t exactly right there when she ended.  Our brains think differently.  I was never a worrier but more of someone hyper aware of what had to get done.  He is the worrier.  Worrying has never been part of my DNA.  I think it is a waste of time.  You only create angst by worrying about something you have zero control over.

What does happen is that once you have children with someone that roles begin to take place.  Both of you can’t be ordering the weekly groceries, making sure the kids after school activities are booked.  One person has to take the rein.  Then as time moves forward you start to fall into separate responsibilities around the house.

I would be fully shocked if I came home one day and Fred had prepared a meal for the family.  It just wouldn’t happen.  I took that under my wing a long time ago.  Roles are good.  It makes for great partnerships.  Setting them up from the beginning is important.  Getting lines crossed and blurred can create frustration and resentment.  Truth is, it is like a company, everyone plays a part and roles become more defined as the business grows.

It is interesting seeing our younger friends get married and have kids.  They are the next generation and the lines are more blurred but at the end of the day the roles become defined.  You just have to be happy with your job description.  Someone has to be the organizer, someone has to execute, someone has to worry, someone has to pay the bills, someone has to etc, etc.  Just be clear who has what covered.

“aha” moments

imgresThis question came up the other day that I thought would make a great post.  What were your “aha” moments at each juncture of your career.  I think of those “aha” moments as forks in the road.  I got to a place where it was time to go down a different path.

I have been extremely lucky because I have had so many “aha” moments.  Those multiple shifts are part of who I am, what I have learned and my decision making process.  I love that I have had so many careers.  Who knows maybe another one is in my future.

Here are my “aha” moments in one long paragraph.

Fun in high school, rose colored glasses off, realized I needed to go to a place where I could get a job once I graduated.  Chose a school so out of my comfort zone but was a wise decision.  Was in a long term relationship that was not healthy and got out.  Was best friends with Fred at the time.  Started a life time relationship with Fred.  Took a job at Macy’s.  Macy’s goes private, not moving fast enough for me, leave.  Took a job in the garment center.  Each year move forward into new jobs because I got bored.  Four jobs in total.  Last stop in the garment center realized it was time to just get out.  Stayed at home with our kids for a few years.  Time to return to work.  Worked a few jobs and decided it was all about the Internet.  Was the number two at Silicon Alley Reporter.  Company decided not to sell so I left.  Chaired Mouse.  Thought it was important for our kids to see us give back.  Left Mouse and stayed home for an extended period of time figuring out what’s next.  Started blogging.  Started investing.  Co-chaired the Women’s Entrepreneur Festival.  Always thinking about the next.  There are a few more ahas in there but that’s the gist.

What’s next?  What was your “aha” moment?

 

Rotary Phones

Starting in high school I worked for the Montgomery County Department of Recreation. It helped keep the local office organized and eventually oversaw it by my senior year in high school. What I really loved was that I coached afternoon sports for the 30+ local elementary and junior high schools in the area. I coached everything from flag football, soccer, softball, and basketball. It was really a great experience.

The kids would show up after school and then their parents would pick them up when the program ended that day. One day a kid was hanging around waiting for his parents to pick him up. At one point I decided we should go up to the principals office in the school and have the kid call home. It was either calling home or calling the parents work because mobile did not exist.

In the office was an old rotary phone. The secretary asked the kid what his number was so she could call them. I piped up saying that the kid was more than capable of using a phone and calling his parents. She looked at me and said “well these kids have never used this kind of phone”. At this point the phones were all push button. I remember thinking how crazy that was. It was 1977.

Looking back at that random event that made me think about how innovation was moving us forward so I got a kick out of the video that Business Insider put up around kids and those old fashioned rotary phones.

Notes?

imgres-1I am starting to hate the notes used for the first round of a companies funding.  The rules just continue to change.

The notes start out with a cap but then it ends up that there are several caps on the same note.  Transparency here would be nice.  So the price you thought you were going to convert at is not the price.  It is a blend of all the notes.  Sucks for the investors.

Now I am seeing notes where when the VC comes in it isn’t about converting the original investors at the cap but the cap is now shifted to be a pre-money price point.  Did I miss something?

I get the reason to do a note.  It is quick, it is easy and it isn’t expensive to do.  Also, you don’t need a lead on a note.  When you have an equity round someone needs to set the price.  The beauty of that is that once the investment is made then everyone knows exactly what they own.  I do like fixed numbers.

There are even a few accelerators who now come in and want everyone to be re-priced so that the cap table looks different for them.  Seriously?

I get the game.  I understand why everyone plays it but I hate getting screwed.  I want to know what I own when I wire.  I don’t want to find out everything has shifted.  That is why I get a side note.  Of course lawyers hate the side note because they are under the belief that it will be hard for the entrepreneurs to get funded later on which is utter bullshit but whatever.

Just going off here.  The first company that I was given an opportunity to invest in did a note.  They had a real business with revenue.  I told them I wouldn’t do a note and passed.  They have gone on to be quite a large company.  I don’t kick myself for that but it did make me think about getting over the note.  So I did.  Now I am really starting to rethink the note.

Many careers

imgresWe spent the week with some very old friends.  It was fantastic.  On the last night our friend said “Who would have thought that we would all be where we are today spending this time together”.  We have known him for 34 years and his wife 32 years.  Although we both raised our families in different parts of the world, we have followed a very similar path.  How we lead our lives, how we raised our kids, the priorities we made, etc.   In many ways nothing has changed yet everything has. Some of our kids are the same age as when we first met.

As someone who has had several careers I have been thinking a lot about different times of our lives.  Our children could live to be 100 years old.  That gives them the opportunity to have several careers.  They could decide to take 10 years off and raise their kids, they could start out in one career and shift to another because life will be long and the experiences they can have are endless.

People will no longer have one specific career.  The world of taking a job out of school and retiring with the gold watch is a thing of the past.  There are so many people who I know that were wading water in their 20’s and started to do something of interest in their 30’s and by their 40’s actually found a totally different career and couldn’t be happier.  That makes for an interesting life.

I know that I am spending time thinking about the evolution of my career.  The Women’s Entrepreneur Festival has been running for 5 years at NYU.  Next year the festival will be running outside of NYU making it into a profit business.  It gives us the opportunity to build it into something else and it has been calling for that for at least the past two years.  It is exciting and many could say it is another career building a new business even though it has been around for 5 years.

I think of Julia Child who at 35 started a career in food when she was living in Paris. Her meal of oysters and sole meuniere was a life changing moment for her and she embarked in a totally different career.  She was way before her time.  We are going to see more Julia Child’s going forward.  She went to Smith College, got a degree and her smarts and curiosity is what kept her moving forward and eventually finding something she fell in love with.  It was all serendipity but it worked.

You never know where the road takes you.  I am pretty sure that the most successful people I know never planned on a particular path but it just happened.  I know that if anyone had asked me at 20 years old that I would doing what I do now…I would have just laughed.

 

 

Don’t stay home too long

imagesSomeone told me the other day that 70% of millennial women are thinking that they do not want to have children for a variety of reasons including their desire to have a career first.  Then on the other hand something like 35% of male millennials are interested in staying home for a period of time to raise their family.  Having it all is impossible at least at the same time.  Something gives and from those statistics it sounds like the millennials are acutely aware of that.

Our daughter Emily just handed in her thesis.  The title is Life Sequencing: A Viable Solution to Work-Life Conflict for High-Achieving Women.  What came across loud and clear is a few things.  The lack of childcare options is certainly one. That many of these high-achieving women end up marrying someone who is in the same socio-economic bracket and because of that they can make a decision to stay at home.  That is the piece I continue to think about.

When I meet women and men I often ask a bit about their backgrounds.  What does your Dad do?  What does your Mom do?  Where did you grow up?  A huge percentage of the people I see came from families where the Mom stayed home and raised the kids.  A tough job and no doubt commendable.  I did it for awhile and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.  Yet many of these women never went back to work for a variety of reasons.

I remember when our kids were young we would go down to DC and visit my Mom.  My Mom had several careers.  The kids would go visit here at her office.  She was an entrepreneur.  It was obvious that she ran the place.  I always left thinking how great it was that our kids especially our daughters saw that my Mom had built her own company and worked hard.  I also used to tell our daughters that you must figure out how to be an entrepreneur or do something where you can freelance so when it comes time to have kids that you will be able to continue working in some capacity to keep your intellectual curiosity going and kids don’t stay small forever.

Mothers are role models for their children.  Telling your daughters to go to the best schools, excel in school, be the best, do anything you want to do when you took off to raise them and never went back to work is not setting an example.  It is saying that at one point you can jump off the train and not get back on.  Then history repeats itself.  How do we break this cycle?  Certainly having more men get off the train would be a step in the right direction.

I hope that the next generation of parents both opt to stay home in some capacity.  If you get off the train for a little bit then get back on.  Trains don’t hang out in the station for long.  Those role models are essential to the future for women leaders in the workplace.

What will big businesses look like in 10 years?

imgresThere was a time when big businesses started acquiring and building verticals that made them huge organizations.  General Electric was one of them.  GE was founded by Thomas Edison and one of the first companies ever traded on the Dow.  Fast forward 118 years it is fascinating to read about the acquisitions that GE has made.  Starting out as a company about electrical properties it has an investment, transportation, healthcare, oil and gas, home and business solutions, aviation, and global research vehicle.  Due to many of the regulations that have been put into place after the last financial crisis, GE has opted to get out of the banking business.

I was talking to a someone the other day who told me that Goldman Sachs is having a hard time hiring kids out of school.  There was a time when recent undergrads and grad students flocked to the jobs at Goldman Sachs but no longer.  Another company that was founded in 1869 and evolved into one of the largest global investment banks in the world.  Will regulations and lack of interest in the next generation to work there change the empire?

Then I saw a business that wanted to change schools with a new curriculum that would turn every person into an entrepreneur.  Where are the artists, the writers, the teachers?

We are entering a new world.  The new college graduates that I speak to want to be part of the new technology economy.   They want to do something that makes them happy.  They want to be able to make a difference in the world.  The jobs are shifting and will continue to shift in the next decade.  More people will graduate with computer science degrees.  Technology will take us to places that we are just starting to think about.  Soon every business will have been disrupted by technology.  A huge percentage of the population will be a freelance worker.

I can’t help but wonder what will these big businesses that have been the economic backbone of our economy for hundreds of years look like in a mere decade?

Salary negotiations?

imgresReddit made an announcement that they would ban all salary negotiations because women do not negotiate as well as men.

There are so many issues with this.  It is a pure knee jerk reaction to seeing women make less than their male peers.  I understand that but isn’t educating people more to the point.

Here is what I would propose.  After hiring someone I would hope that there would be a 3 month follow-up in regards to their performance, culture fit, etc.  That would be the time to say, guess what, you are making this much less than all of your peers.  We think you are terrific but you negotiated for less than what you are worth.  Here is how we are going to help you become a better negotiator and more confident in your skills.  We are going to let you meet with a few coaches and decide which one you think you want to work with.  You will meet with that coach once a week for the next few months to learn how to become a better negotiator, leader, employee, etc.

The shift in the workplace would be significant.  Educating people to hone their skills is a bonus.  It isn’t a union.  It is totalitarian.  It isn’t benefitting women.  It is demoralizing.

Those employees who no longer have to negotiate their salary aren’t learning anything.  How can these people then move forward with their careers without having learned that part of the game.  You can fix those salaries by giving the poor negotiators increases to the same level as their peers but do it with the caveat of having to learn a skill for the next time they have to negotiate something.  That next time could be negotiating a deal for the company with outside clients.

It is a competitive world out there.   Learn how to compete.