Tag Archives: career

Image vs. Hard Work?

27 Oct

Pretty much everyone has probably read about the McCain campaign using just under $200k to dress the Palins and then put makeup on Sarah Palin herself for a few weeks. $150k towards clothes for her and her family, and almost $23k in fees for a makeup artist for two weeks. The first thing that goes through my head is my goodness, is she really that bad looking that she needs all that to make her look good? My next thought is wow, she really does look good!

Without getting into the political side of things and discussing whether that sort of spending is appropriate in any campaign, let’s discuss the idea of image in the workplace and whether the right clothes, the right accessories, and the right hair and makeup really do lead to better careers. Nataly from Work It Mom has a great post on this topic. She reminds women that, unfortunately, appearance matters. It is not all about hard work and smarts. Unfortunately image plays a big part in your potential success.

I tend to agree – to a point. I think it is important to understand that people judge. They always have and always will. If you don’t look professional, people will judge you. That being said — I think that you also have to embrace who you are, what your company does, and where you come from. Think about Mario Batali and his trademark orange Crocs. If you are running a high-tech company, vs. a financial-services company, your wardrobe will be different. As the CEO of a high-tech company, I know that I can get away with being a little less formal – in certain situations. If I am going to a business meeting in the Silicon Valley I can wear khakis and a nice shirt. But if I am speaking to a partner in Salt Lake City whose focus is education and training in financial services, I need to wear my more formal business suits. When I was younger and in business development at a Silicon Valley start-up, I would ONLY dress up when I had a meeting. And for that meeting I would usually wear one of my white or blue button-down shirts with khakis and not a suit. So I am not saying you must always be very dressed up or wear ultra conservative business clothes. I am just saying that you need to dress appropriately.

So, let’s get back to Sarah Palin. I am sure that Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have spent campaign money on their wardrobes. But we have not heard about it because there is probably not much to hear. John and Cindy McCain are ultra wealthy, so they probably already had a lot of nice clothes, and if they needed more it made sense to not use campaign money and buy their own clothes. I think Sarah Palin has looked great (especially considering she gave birth very recently), BUT she has not dressed appropriately for her image. She touts the working woman, hockey mom, regular gal image. Pretty hard to keep touting that when you have just spent more than most families make in three years on your wardrobe.

So, when you get up to go to work — think about who you are, what you do, and what image you are trying to portray. And then suck it up and buy the appropriate clothes.


Can’t we all get along?

19 Mar

I am a member of the Work It Mom Community. I subscribe to the blog and as I have time read entries. Some of them are relevant to me, some are not. Some of them are interesting, some are not. Some of them are in my opinion intelligent, some are not. You get the point. Recently Nataly, the founder of Work It Mom had to defend a post titled 10 Reasons Working Moms Should Feel Great About Themselves (Reason number one: Working women are happier). The author of the article is also the author of a book that has been controversial as it pits working moms against stay at home moms (or so the controversy goes). I don’t know the book. I quickly read through the article. What I don’t understand is why there is so much venom between women and their choice as mothers?

A few months back I was feature in an article on USA Today called Mommy Wars. You may have seen my post about it here on Mommy CEO. I felt that the worst comments, the most venom I received was from other mothers. Those mothers who have chosen to stay at home with their children felt the need to say some really ugly, really mean things to me about my choice to work. Let me be clear. In the article I DID NOT claim that I thought working mom’s were happier (Leslie Bennetts does claim that in her article). I simply said I was happy, and I thought i had made the right choice for me, and for my family. So why the venom? Can I not have my choice? Can I not have my opinion? Does the nature of me working offend other mom’s so much that they feel the need to get defensive and attack? I thought that as women we were all working together to make life better for ourselves, and our children.

While I can see why Ms. Bennetts’ article may not sit well with some people. It is not LAW or FACT. It is simply an opinion – hers. And I do have to say that I do believe it is better for every person to be in a position to be self reliant and take care of their children on their own should that terrible situation present itself. So here is a little story I think is appropriate here:

I have a friend, who is helping a very close friend of hers through an very ugly divorce. This couple (I don’t know them) apparently had the dream marriage. Let’s call them Mom and Dad. They lived happily ever after in a mid west city with their 2 young children. Dad was an executive make very good money, Mom was a very happy stay-at-home mom. Before they got married Dad made it very clear to Mom that he had grown up with a mother at home and that is what he wanted for his children. Mom agreed. She gave up her career (although she has a great college degree and had good career opportunities) while she was 5 months pregnant with her first child. Five years later she is in a terrible divorce as Dad has left her for his assistant (seriously). Dad has now told Mom that he is not going to let her “sit around on her butt doing nothing all day” and that he expects her to go out and find a job. He has wiped out all money from their bank account and she is having trouble paying the bills. She has not been employed for over 5 years and she has no day care options for her 2 very young children. Dad is not letting her get any money right now. Sure the courts are not going to let him get away with this – when they finally get there. Sure he sounds like a class A jerk. Sure, we all know that won’t happen to us. But of course that is what Mom said. And now I can’t help but think that she might be regretting giving everything up and staying at home. Maybe not. But there is a little part of me that wants all women to be able to be able to be self sufficient. NOT that I think staying at home is the wrong choice, or a bad choice. I just worry that it can dis-empower a woman and put her at the mercy of someone else. And that is what I don’t like.

What is the solution? I don’t know. I am not saying everyone should work. I am not saying that working mom’s are happier. I think every woman has a right to decide what works for them and their families. But I do know this – not letting people have an opinion is not the answer. Getting angry and aggressive because someone is saying something you do not agree with is not the answer. I think this is a very complicated situation and one that has not “right” answer. But it does bother me at my core that Ms. Bennett has to feel the ugliness I felt when the USA today article came out. Can’t we all just get along?

Having a Life and a High Tech Career

18 Jan

On Wednesday I had the privilege of going over to the university and talking to some computer science majors about “Having a Life and a High Tech Career.” Unfortunately due to some other class conflicts there were no women in attendance at my talk, but I did have a room of students. As I went through my history, and how I ended up in high tech, despite the fact that I studied history and eduction, the students had some interesting questions. It was fun to be able to put myself back in their shoes, back at a time when your “career” is just a foggy idea in your head, and you are more concerned about how many more papers and projects you have to get done that week before you can go out and party.

I wanted to really hit on the idea that there is no PERFECT path, and that each student needs to think  about what really makes them happy as they choose a career post college. I discussed some of the choices I had made which ultimately brought me to Palo Alto Software, and Eugene, Oregon, and why those choices had been perfect for me, and my situation.

As I talked, and answered questions, one student seemed bothered, or anxious, about my path. He wanted to know how I dealt with the fact that being a woman might mean that other companies didn’t want to do business with me. When he first asked the question, I stood there for a few moments – probably with a perplexed look on my face. I just didn’t quite know what an appropriate answer was (probably telling him to get off his high horse and stop discriminating against women… was not the way to go! ). I also knew that he wasn’t trying to be insulting — that he was simply perplexed.

I regained my composure and just told him that I was fully aware that as a woman I faced challenge. But I told him that because I had confidence in myself, because I am well educated in my field, because I work hard, I don’t feel like my company or my career has suffered because of my gender. I am well aware that discrimination exists – and I definitely understand that going to a business meeting dressed dark ultra conservative and professional does much more for me then dressing in “girl” colors and wearing girly business clothes. But at the end of the day my company does well because it puts out high quality products, markets them well, and is (if I do say so myself) run well. If we had crappy products, or bad customer service, or a shoddy marketing strategy – then perhaps I might try and blame our failure on discrimination.

At the end of the day though – if I am a good business person, running a successful business, people will want to do deals with me because its good for their business — and a good business person won’t care of I am a girl, or a purple monster.

Nepotism vs. Family Business?

17 Oct

I am slightly disturbed by a post on Nepotism on the Harvard Business Online. Although it was written more than a month ago it has been featured this morning on NPR. While I agree with many of the sentiments about nepotism I think there is a distinction to be made between Nepotism and family business. A distinction which Gill Corkindale, the author of the post, does not go into at all. Let me present you with some very strong statistics about the importance of family business in the USA, from a  Business Week article :

  • Some 35% of Fortune 500 companies are family-controlled.
  • Family businesses account for 50% of U.S. gross domestic product.
  • They generate 60% of the country’s employment and 78% of all new job creation.

We can see that family businesses are extremely important to the US economy, and are part of what makes America what it is today. So how do you reconcile a family business and these negative attitudes towards nepotism? You can not pass a family business from one generation to the next, unless family members work and run the business. Family succession planning is very important to the health of a family business. Good family succession planning means the difference between a healthy business that keeps growing and running from one generation to the next, and a business that burns out and fails, or worse gets sold out of the family (often times for bargain price to be dissolved for assets).

I am a little sensitive about this issue – as I fight against the negative connotations of nepotism in the course of conducting business. I am CEO of Palo Alto Software, a business my father started and still fully owns along with my mother. I am the family member that will take the business though the next generation. Why? Because I am my father’s daughter? Well, yes of course – otherwise it would not be a family business. But I have also worked hard, and earned this position. I went to an Ivy League school, and then spent 7 years working in technology, outside the family business. I then spent 6 years working at Palo Alto Software proving myself to my parents and to the rest of the employees. Then I became CEO. I feel that I have earned the respect of all my employees, and that they all know that I have the skills, talent, and smarts to keep this business running and growing.

I think there are right ways to bring family members into a business, and there are wrong ways to do it as well. But I don’t agree that all nepotism is bad, and that family members should never hire other family members. I think its a strategic dance, and it has to be done for the good of the business, but it can be done well. And when it is done well it means the difference between the life or death of a family business.

Newsweek’s “Women in Power” issue

11 Oct

The October 15th issue of Newsweek features 11 “Women in Power.” While its great to see women on the cover of a serious magazine, I wish that it didn’t always seem that to be really successful in business you should stick to a “women friendly” industry like, food, music, acting. Its a good article, and its always interesting to me to see the perspective of a woman in a leadership role. But can’t they find a more balanced list?

I actually prefer the the Fortune article about the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business. It has a greater variety of industries and features women leaders in some very large traditional companies. The Fortune article just makes me feel like women really have broken through the male business world.

Read both and let me know what you think!

**** Addition to my post****

I just read the blog post At IntLawGrrls titled “Newsweek Women and Power, Is that all there is?” and am amazed to see how similar my post is. I guess great minds think alike!

1, 2, 3 or more?

9 Oct

My husband and I have 2 beautiful boys. We have often talked about whether we want 2 or 3 kids, and lately I have really felt that given a few years to recover from 2 pregnancies in a row, I would like to have a third. My husband isn’t totally sure – but he isn’t opposed to it either. Nataly over at Work It Mom Blog posts about whether your job influences your decision to have a certain number of kids. She references an interesting Wall Street Journal article called appropriately, “The Juggle” about this topic as well.

Due to the fact that both my husband and I work, and both of us work together on our own company, I have often thought about what a third child would do to our schedule. Luckily though, my husband and I have an excellent working arrangement that allows us to work and run a company of 40+ people, but still have time for our kids. We live in Eugene, Or which is a nice small town. We have no commute (It is less than 5 min between office and home) and my family is in town to help take care of our kids. Every Friday my mom takes the kids. If we need to travel for business, we either take the kids with us, or leave them with their grandparents. I can go to work early and leave earlier, my husband takes the opposite schedule. We are both home every night for our 6pm dinner.

Choosing to move to Eugene was a hard decision for us. When we moved we did not have kids, but were ready to start a family. We lived in London, and before that San Francisco. We loved big urban places and were afraid of the smallness of Eugene. But in the end we knew that this town would afford us a different lifestyle a better lifestyle when we had kids. And we were right! We chose to forgo an urban center with lots and lots of restaurants and night life, a place where we had lots of friends and a very busy social calendar, and a place where we needed to commute an hour plus every day. And instead we get a beautiful (albeit rainy) town with tons of outdoor activities, affordable housing, no commute, grandparents a few blocks away, good neighborhood public schools (yes public!), and a family business with flexibility and support.

The downside: running a family business means we are ALWAYS working. At the dinner table in between discussing what my 3 year old did at preschool, and singing songs with my 1 year old, we talk about work. When we drive to the mountains to take the kids to the snow, they nap, we talk about work. The very few times my parents babysit on a Friday night for us to go out to dinner, we talk about work. You get the picture.

But at the end of the day the choices that we made allow us to raise our kids, and not be restricted by career when we plan our family. I know we are lucky. I know not everyone has these choices. But I think that there are always compromises that can be made that will help you accommodate both career and the family you want. And maybe one day we will live in a country where all businesses will be family friendly and will help parents with the ever present work/life balance.

Cute AND Smart?

8 Oct

This weekend I spoke at a conference on the topic of The “5 most ridiculous myths about working women.” One of the myths was:

You can’t be cute and smart

I just read a great post on the Huffingtonpost.com by Marie Wilson about “Valuing Female Brains as Highly as Female Beauty” that discusses how today females in the workplace still trade on their beauty. I strongly agree with Marie, and wish all working women would read her post.

While I understand that many women (particularly younger ones) will use their beauty to help get ahead in their career (and I am sure it works) I strongly believe that as women we are better off doing the opposite. Dressing more professional, and less “sexy” so that the men around us judge us for our business skills and talent, and not for what we look like. What we as woman should strive for is to break through the barrier that prevents women from joining the business “boys club.” The more that we can prove our business savvy through pure talent, intelligence, and hard work, the less we will ever need to rely on our looks to get us by.

3 nice letters for your resume?

4 Oct

I often wonder whether I should return to school to get an MBA. I work in technology, work with entrepreneurs, and I run a company that deals with business planning, marketing planning and business strategy — all big topics in MBA programs. Brazen Careerist, Penelope,  writes today in her post about whether MBA’s are becoming obsolete. It’s interesting to see that perhaps other people may begin to see the MBA as superfluous as I have struggled with whether an MBA would be worth it to me.

Don’t get me wrong – I would love to go back to school for 2 years, and spend some time studying. I would love to do an Executive MBA, but there are no good ones in my area. I have looked into programs like Duke and UT which have Executive MBA’s that you can do from far away, but they still require about 3 weeks per semester on campus.  While running a company, and being a mommy to 2 young children all those options are just close to impossible. I have thought about perhaps getting an MBA once my kids are a little older, but even so its a tough proposition for me at this point in my career.

The other problem is that I feel that I would be getting the MBA just for the 3 letters. Not that I wouldn’t learn anything, but that after 12 years in the business world, many of those years focusing on entrepreneurship and business management, I look at many of the class offerings and feel like I would not get as much as I would like to from them. I feel like being in class with people with only 2-5 years of business experience would not do as much for me. Obviously an Executive MBA program would put me in a more “equal” footing with my classmates, but as I mentioned, even those programs seem almost impossible for me to manage at this point in my life and career.

It would be interesting to hear more from people further on in their careers — who have or have not done MBA’s and hear their thoughts. For someone who did one later in their career – was it worth it? Did you learn a lot? Do those 3 letters mean more then just the prestige and potential salary increase?

Very few things in life are black and white

3 Oct

Mommy Wars

In today’s USA Today there is an article entitled “Mommy Wars” that features me and my kids. At the time I am writing this post there are over 100 comments on the story, with people flaming each other and making very strong accusations about what is best for children. It was hard, but I refrained from commenting and instead am posting here. I think the big picture that people sometimes don’t see is that decision for a mom or a dad to work or not work is never just back and white. What is good for their kids is never just black and white. People are all different – everyone can live with that reality right? So why is it that when it comes to deciding whether to work or stay at home with your children their is supposedly only one answer?

There is a comment on the story that I find particularly compelling:

WHOA!!!! I have been a working mom since my 2 children were born. My husband and I took extreme care to find a person that would care and love them. (and boy does she!) Fast forward 3 years: My son just started preschool for the first time this month. His teach told me last week that he is one of the smartest, most polite and well-adjusted children she has ever taught in her 20 years of teaching preschool. My point is that there are amazing stay at home moms and not so great stay at home moms. There are amazing working moms, and not so great working moms. I do not believe working or not working is the key factor in raising happy children. It is about so much more than that. I LOVE my job, and I LOVE my children. What kids need more that anything else is to see happy, loving, parents who provide a safe and loving environment to them. Can a kid have too many people that love them?. I don’t believe so. I am proud that my daughter will see that a woman can raise a happy family, be a great mother and accomplish great things for herself at the same time. If you choose to stay at home because that is what YOU choose to do, then I truly salute you. But it in no way makes you a good mom based solely on that principle alone. What make one a good mom lies so much deeper.

Why is that so hard for people to accept? I truly LOVE being a working mom. I truly believe that I am a GREAT mommy. I have friends who are stay at home moms who are great stay-at-home moms. They have made their choice and love what they do. Isn’t it OK that we have made different choices? I live in a place where I have no commute. I work 2 minutes from my home. I can run home and put my 1 year old to sleep for his nap when he is feeling sick, or go to school and attend events with my 3 year old (which I do regularly). My husband is an incredibly involved dad who stays at home in the morning with the kids until 9am, so that he can drop our son off at preschool. I can then go to work early so that I can then be home by 4:30, and my husband stays at work a little longer, but is still home from a family dinner at 6pm every night.

I have built my career around my kids, but I still LOVE my career. I am a happy person which I believe makes me a better mother, and a better wife. But my opinion by no means disrespects those who have chosen a different way of life. That is why it is a CHOICE. As long as a woman can choose what she wants to do then I think that choice should be respected. A bad parent will be a bad parent regardless of whether he/she works. Likewise with a good one.

And lets remember there are millions of single parents who really don’t have a choice. What makes them a good parent has nothing to do with how they bring in the money they need for their family. I teach my kids that very few things in life are black and white. I teach them that they need to make reasoned and informed decisions in life and I hope that other parents will teach their children the same.
Come on after all these decades of debating this topic can’t we all just make our choices without being judged? Sigh, can’t we all just get along? 😉

Rub paint all over the floor – that’s cool

26 Sep

So I usually don’t post this many times in one day — and although I am a recent blogger, didn’t think I would link to the same blog twice in a day. But I just discovered Brazen Careerist and have had a great time reading posts related to her Sept 26th post. I just read her post “Blending my kids and my career” and was laughing out loud which really doesn’t happen often to me when i read something. I am not laugh-out-loud kind of person.

I have 2 kids and have not taken a maternity leave with either one. It just wasn’t possible, as I am involved in running a company. This sounds worse than it is. I work in an office where I brought my first son to work with me from the time he was born until he was 8 months old (ok that way way too long and really just crazy) and my second son into the office until he was 4 months old. I breast fed both my babies and as those of you who have done that know — it means that the baby is basically attached to you permanently for the first 3-4 months. Yes you can pump — but I was never the type that could pump that much milk. In order to breastfeed my children i really needed to do it myself for the first 3-4 months.

The first 3-4 months of a babies life — while hard on me to multi-task baby and office, it was actually easier then it sounds. I used a sling, and would just take the baby in there and breastfeed during calls, meeting, etc. A newborn really doesn’t do that much — and as long as my back could take carting the baby around in the sling day and night — my work really didn’t suffer.

BUT once the baby gets mobile, once the baby gets vocal — watch out! I too have been on calls when I run outside on the back deck — looking at my toddler through the glass doors — hoping that he continues to just do anything to be entertained — as long as its not dangerous. I have literally watched through he glass doors as my son “painted” one of our dining room chairs (with a white canvas seat cushion on it) with his non toxic “washable” paint (lets be honest — nothing that is red and gets smushed into white canvas — is ever coming out).

I read a related post that seemed to be chastising Penelope (from brazen careerist) for her post, wondering why we have to pretend our children are not present, when so many people in this day and age work at home. Sure in the perfect world we wouldn’t need to care if the journalist from the WSJ heard kids in the background. But this isn’t the perfect world. And to be honest I think that its also impossible to be interacting with your toddlers and concentrating on another conversation. And if you aren’t going to interact with a 2 year old for 20 minutes — and you want him to be safe, you might end up with coco puffs all over the floor, or red paint all over your white canvas seat cushions. And when my husband wondered why I let my son paint the chairs — I answered that I was just multitasking (keeping a child safe while conducting a conference call). Duh!