Archive for category Lean In

Diverse Wine…Random Sunday Morning Musings

unexpected_napa_winesHow important is “career” to you?

My daughter commented once that I define myself by my career.  That surprised me.  I grew up in a man’s world, had no concept of “career” and have always been primarily impassioned by my family and closest friends, followed by music and writing.  My number one concern every day was the well-being of my daughters.  As a divorced mom, I juggled a lot of roles. This is not to say that my daughter’s dad was absent in their lives.  But in our day-to-day routines, I was both mother and father, the disciplinarian one minute and the comforter for the same child the next.  Work was something I did  – well, because I had to work to pay bills.   In fact, I often think I didn’t choose my career.  My career chose me.

I never really saw myself as a manager.  My role model for work was more like my dad – a laborer who did the best he could every day in the beam yards of Bethlehem Steel.  My work ethic, my curiosity, my yearning to solve and explain the incomprehensible to others – these are the things that drove me.  My appointment to a leadership position was not expected.  I had mentors (unknown to me at the time) who recognized my capabilities, helped me to groom my skills and who then sponsored me to management.  I am eternally grateful to those men.  (And – yes, they were men.)

And I have loved what I do every day at work as a manager – because I enjoy engaging with a team; I love hearing their viewpoints, listening to their ideas, learning what they know that I don’t know and piecing together disparate and new concepts into solutions.  I love the collaboration.   And because I care about my team, about my clients, I worked long hours while my daughters were growing up; I was available 24×7 if needed, and I have had the (unexpectedly) best work experience – one I could never have imagined as a young girl growing up the daughter of an immigrant mother and 1st generation father.

And, so, in some ways, yes my career did come to define me.  The difference is this:  I don’t define myself by my career.  I am more than what anyone sees when they see me thru their lens.  I can’t be put into a box all nicely, neatly categorized and fitting tidily into one file folder – either by my children, my friends, my colleagues, or my managers.  And there’s the conundrum.  When my children look at me, they evaluate me by the actions and words they see in their isolated interactions with me.  They don’t understand what shaped those words and actions – where my values came from  – how I grew up or what motivates me.

The problem is no different in the workplace – except that in the workplace we have a responsibility to understand and accept these nuances between each other.  How difficult is that when we don’t have the same kinds of experiences or the ability to know what someone else went through on their journey to today?

When I look around at leaders who came before me, they are mostly – not all – white males that had different parents, different experiences, different education, different opportunities than I did.  They have different home life experiences today than I have today.  And their paths to success are paths I could not follow.  (Pack up my family and move to a foreign country?  Not in my realm of possibilities while raising two daughters.) And I think that’s where women and other minorities may have trouble crashing through the glass ceiling.

What I bring to the workplace is unique.  And I think it’s incumbent upon me to help leaders understand – in somewhat the way I would help my children understand – what makes me different and why my differences make me stronger.

Let’s talk.  You talk.  I’ll listen.  I’ll talk.  You listen.

Don’t judge me by what you expect.  And I promise the same to you.

We have come so far in this country in the spirit of diversity.  But it really is time to confront the final frontier — that is, not just an acceptance of, but an appreciation for diversity of thought, character, leadership styles and work styles.  There’s more than one way to create a fine bottle of wine.  And there’s more than one path to leadership.  Make a change.  Let it start with us.

To my daughters:  Hey, for all the things I have done in life, you are the best whine (er, that is, WINE) I have created.

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“Why I am leaving the best job I ever had”

The best job I have ever had — that is, the one in which I have felt most rewarded — was in being a mom. But I want my life to be insightful and impactful and intellectually stimulating outside of my home. The difficulty has always been finding balance between the two “M” words – Mom and Manager.

The expectation that a corporate work week is routinely more than 40 hours is challenging for any parent. Yet, I willingly give those hours because I feel passion and a sense of commitment to my colleagues and to the successful completion of work that enables a better workforce via technology.

I am not leaving the best job I ever had. But for MongoDB CEO Max Schireson, stepping down to do LESS and allow someone else to step up to do more was crucial. There is no shame in this – and I am personally applauding his choice — and his integrity and passion for life and family.

The question for each of us is how we will make personal balance work for each of us. And the realization we must all achieve is that the question is not just for women.

It is my hope that Max Schireson’s choice will not only inspire more dad’s to chose worklife balance, but more, that it will make it increasingly acceptable for women to be able to shift temporarily into a lower gear in order to achieve Mom-Manager happiness. Can we all “lean in” to that idea?

Max Schireson's blog

Earlier this summer, Matt Lauer asked Mary Barra, the CEO of GM, whether she could balance the demands of being a mom and being a CEO. The Atlantic asked similar questions of PepsiCo’s female CEO Indra Nooyi. As a male CEO, I have been asked what kind of car I drive and what type of music I like, but never how I balance the demands of being both a dad and a CEO.

While the press haven’t asked me, it is a question that I often ask myself. Here is my situation:

* I have 3 wonderful kids at home, aged 14, 12 and 9, and I love spending time with them: skiing, cooking, playing backgammon, swimming, watching movies or Warriors or Giants games, talking, whatever.
* I am on pace to fly 300,000 miles this year, all the normal CEO travel plus commuting between Palo Alto and New York…

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Reputation

A marketing campaign from the 1970s is being credited today with aptly capturing the spirit of today’s social media. “You tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends and so on and so on…” I could not remember the name of the product the campaign advertised until I “Googled” it today – and that’s because it was the theme that resonated with me.

In everything we do personally or professionally, we build our reputation one brick at a time. The best university or the right degree might earn a “foot into the door.” Crowdfunding might provide the impetus to starting your own business. Having friends in the right places might kickstart a career. Credibility is what keeps you there.

Personally, I have been told “not to care so much” (about a project or other effort in which I might be engaged). Certainly, managing what you care about and when you care about it is an art. And there may be a fine line between knowing when to fan the fire and when to put it out. But I choose not to live in mediocrity.

Whatever we do should be done with passion. Passion is noticed. Passion can’t be ignored. Passion puts our own personal stamp on everything we do. Passion is memorable.

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Leader of the “Band” *

He was man of average build with calloused and greased-stained hands and a weathered face.  I feared his anger with a respect that needed no explanation.  When he smiled, his eyes smiled first.  He was a self-taught carpenter and electrician and car mechanic and small appliance repairman and construction foreman and a steel laborer – simultaneously.  He was bilingual, conversing easily in German  and English.  He didn’t go to college.  He didn’t graduate high school.  But he taught me everything I know about life and how to live it.   On Father’s Day, here are five tips from Dad.
LifeLessons

#1 – Good enough is not good enough.  Dad was a perfectionist of sorts who frequently complained about lackluster workmanship done by others.  He built our house.  And when it was done there was not one single thing that was left to finish – no unfinished floors, or half painted windows or pieces of trim were left to be done later.

#2 – You catch more bees with honey.  Dad frequently reminded us that it served no purpose to be rude in return to someone we thought didn’t like us or who was rude to us.  During one summer college break my brother, Steve, held a job at a nursing home where he swabbed floors and cleaned toilets.  This was the 1970s; and my brother’s hair, just brushing his shirt collar, was considered long and “hippy-like” at the time.  One of the other custodians was frequently snide with Steve.  Steve would complain at home that this man was making his life miserable.  Dad would say, “nevermind – you just keep being nice to him.”  Steve listened.  By the end of the summer, Steve’s custodian colleage was a firm supporter and friend. 

#3 – It’s okay to stand up for what you believe in – even if it causes disruption.  My older brother Jim  marched in a peace demonstration during college.  A newspaper photographer caught Jim in his lens and Jim’s photograph, protesting the Vietnam war, was front and center in our local newspaper.  This was the 1970s, remember.  The neighbors were all abuzz quickly jumping to criticism about my brother.  I think it’s fair to say that Mom and Dad were somewhat embarrassed.  There may have been some words about my brother’s behavior protesting our government – although I do not recall the exact context.  What I do know is that when Dad died in 1993 we found that newspaper photograph safely hidden in my father’s important papers drawer.  All along, he was secretly smiling at my brother’s will to be heard.

#4 – Nothing, No One is Disposable.  At my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, my brother Jim gave a toast that summed up their marriage like this:  Mom and Dad threw NOTHING away.  Dad would repair anything, would save pieces of broken electrical cords for re-use and had a garage stuffed with left over wood, nails, screws and car parts – enough to build or rebuild nearly anything.  We never ran out and bought something new.  He fixed it.  This, as my brother noted, was a good metaphor for marriage.  Through unexpected births and steel layoffs and strikes, through raising five children and putting them through college, Dad never gave up.  And today I cringe at the items I dispose – thinking that Dad would try to fix them.

#5 – What makes us different makes life and work special.  My dad worked in the melting pot of the Bethlehem Steel beam yard.  His coworkers were from every country, every region of Pennsylvania, every ethnic background.  He spoke of them in stories and jokes that were filled with respect and fondness for each of them.  He saw the differences – including his own – as interesting, sometimes amusing and, in general, something that made the workday worthwhile.  As a child, I don’t recall ever hearing a racial slur at home.  Later, when my brothers would bring home their college friends — whom other parents of the time might regard as pot-smoking, too-free-spirited hippies — Dad and Mom would sit in the kitchen and talk with them.  And although they both heard things they never thought they would hear in their house (about sex and birth control and how these young people intended to live), they never flinched, they never made anyone feel unwelcome.  In fact, they taught me – the impressionable younger sister — to be accepting of all.

 

Ignatius Joseph Hoffman.  He was born in the U.S. in 1919, grew up thru the Depression, made his own way teaching himself to design and build and create and labor, and became my Dad.  Thanks Dad, for the best lessons in life.

 

*Dan Fogelberg wrote the song “Leader of the Band” for his father.  In 2003 he said of the song, “If I would have been able to write only one song in my life, it would have been this one.” 

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Leaning In to Get Published in Technology

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“How Design Thinking is Making ERP Software Better” is featured on Page 78 in the May issue of CIO REVIEW. After proudly posting this picture on Facebook, one tech friend (@MicoYuk) tweeted in response “YES!! I LUV to see women on top of their IT game. Congrats to @SherryanneMeyer for bng featd in @CIOReview p 78 #WIT http://www.cioreview.com/magazines/may14/SAP2014/ …” I realized – remarkably – that the publication was a bigger deal than my byline. I went back into the magazine to check the conributors. I counted males and females. I was one of only 3 women who contributed to that issue of the magazine.

I want to be clear: I do not think the lack of female contributors is because the editors overlooked female candidates. I think it’s because women who are willing to put themselves out there are harder to find. I have a sense that when women draw attention to themselves it is not well received, and that therefore, women avoid opportunities that may shine too bright a light on them. Being vocal as a female is a fine art requiring delicate and adept balance to avoid inciting resentment among one’s peers. (I don’t know that I have mastered that art yet.)

Mico’s tweet to me made me sit up and take notice to how many of us are not leaning in to speak our minds on the broader technology platform. Nearly everything I’ve been taught has come from textbooks authored by men. Nearly every speaker I have had the pleasure to hear at a technology event has been male. And I checked who I follow on Twitter, and – GUESS WHAT!? – of the individuals I follow (not organizations), the majority are men.

Why is it that women don’t step out, say more, get quoted, write, speak, or publish more? Is it too risky to “Lean In” to put your thoughts in writing? Are we too busy being wife, mother, friend and tech genius all at once?

My Point of View: We need to be heard for the generations of young men and women who follow.

Your thoughts?

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