Happy New Year (Really)

For the first time in years, I am ending the year with a strong sense that next year will be great. Here’s why:

- I just left my office for the last time. I resigned. I’m done there, forever!

- Next week I start at a new job that I am very excited about!

- The new job is in mobile marketing – technology and services – a rapidly growing, changing industry with a strong NYC base.

- The new job is at a 5 year old tech startup, with an atmosphere that is on the other end of the spectrum from the office environment I just left and in which I had such a hard time.

- After just 3 meetings I feel more comfortable with my new coworkers than some my current ones.

- I will work with technology that I am new to and learn more about using regular expressions.

- The company is small and thirsty for innovative, driven people.

- I get to dress casually most days – even jeans. I will feel like me again!

- My husband just increased his freelance rate by 20% and the main client said sure.

- My skating students are doing well and I’m loving coaching them.

- My own health has improved. I’ve lost around 25 pounds in the last year, and dropped my low density (“bad”) cholesterol by 50 points down to a healthy range.

- After over 3 years of hard work, perseverance, and sacrifice, we launched the beta of our website!!!

(due to pseudonymity I won’t link to our website here, but email me if you want to know what it is)

Our work is paying off. We’re going to have a great year!

On top of the long view, I’m psyched for the weekend because my brother is visiting, he gave us a Kinect for Christmas which is very fun (and generally amazing), and I’m on holiday until I start the new job next Wednesday. Time to celebrate!

Still Looking, and Biding My Time

Since I wrote my last post I’ve still been looking hard. I’ve sent out around 30 job applications since April – its about all I can manage with the full time job, startup company, and lots of time spent with Husband!

I had 3 more interviews, to varying degrees of near success. Two were with a company that would offer an amazing blend of uses for my analytics skills, software savvy, project management abilities, and crafty creativity. The company said they were looking for more experienced people but encouraged me to continue to apply to postings for jobs at their company and suggested that I might fit well once their teams have added some more experienced leaders.

The other went extremely well and appeared to be my dream work environment (a bunch of computer geeks under 35, leather couch and beanbag chairs, huge flat screen tv with Xbox and ps3, and a shared mission I could get behind). The interviewer (a cofounder) even signed up on the spot for a trial of a service I recommended. It was very disappointing two weeks later to learn that they had decided not to hire outside the company. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone so far as to name a service that would help them! Lesson learned.

During all this time, my frustrations at work have increased, although I’ve also learned to deal with them better. I’ve waxed and waned about pushing for changes at work that I think will not only make me happier but also improve office operations, especially for the others in my generation, who now make up nearly half of the staff.

Plugged InOn that note, I recently started re-reading a book that helped me last year: Plugged In: The Generation Y Guide to Thriving at Work. The book is great because it goes over the events and trends that shaped my generation and how older people’s worldviews were shaped and how they view us, and it offers advice for how to navigate the generational gaps and how to find a job you like.

I may write more about this as I find so much of the content useful. On that note, I’d love to hear from my readers about their experiences working together with people who span different generations and have widely varying ways of working. Some of the main conflict points I’ve experienced are due to differences in ways of communicating and using technology, motivations for work, and approaches to hierarchy vs cross-level collaboration.

What did you find most frustrating when working with different generations? How did you make it work?

Looking again

Well it’s a year since I last job-hunted, and here I am ready to go again. I’m eager to move on from my current place, but this past year hasn’t been a total bust career-wise. I’ve learned about a field entirely new to me – environmental remediation. And while there are aspects of it that I am quite happy with, I think when looking at the big picture it’s not the right field for me. The other integral thing I’ve learned this past year is about what type of work environment I want, and what will and won’t be conducive to my happiness.

It has been 10 months since I started this job, and for the past 6 I have been various levels of unhappy with it. It was December when I started thinking I should look elsewhere, but not until January that I really came to a firm conclusion that I want to leave.

My final reasoning is based on what I was looking for when I took this job, which is rather low-paying for my skill set. There were 3 main reasons I was happy to accept that pay:

1) I wanted to learn about environmental engineering and environmental science.
2) I wanted to be making a positive contribution to society.
3) I wanted a job that wouldn’t ask me to be a workaholic.

I think I only got 1 of those for sure, and that one (# 3) was in overkill! Not only are most of my coworkers not workaholics, anumber of them seem to be perpetually in do-the-least-possible-without-getting-fired mode.

The other two I got to some degree, but from what I’ve learned, I don’t think this field will wholly fulfill my needs, especially for challenge, creativity, and connection to the people whose lives I’m working to improve.

I actually think it may be time for a career shift, staying in STEM but moving to a different field and industry. I have a clearer understanding of my needs in a career and in a job, well beyond the factors I considered when choosing a major for my degree. I now realize how much I value community, work culture, location, societal effects, and the structure of a typical workday.

As I explore this further, I’m reading a book about career change, with the major questions to consider in order to determine the career path that is best for all of your needs. I hope to write about this as I ponder these questions.

Career Questions

It’s been nearly 3 months since I last wrote. I did write a post in December, an enthusiastic review of “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” but it was lost when my phone crashed, and I couldn’t bring myself to rewrite the whole thing.

And of course there were the holidays – work to do and visitors and visits to be had.

But there was also the greyness. A feeling of running in a hamster wheel. Days of happiness, excitement, and energy – followed by days of stress, worry, or exhaustion.

I’ve seen the psychiatrist monthly, and I really think my current combo is helping. In a sense, the world has gone from gray to colorful again. It’s merely that I can see intense blue as well as bright yellow.

Work is… Disappointing. I feel less of a sense of purpose and direction than, frankly, ever before. Even as my passion waned somewhat in my darker times, I’ve always known what I wanted, where I wanted to go. And usually I had the determination to work hard to find it, to earn it.

But now, I’m unsure of what I would like next. There are things that call to me, but with each there are aspects that take my excitement down a notch. I know this is common for young adults, but the feeling is foreign to me.

I know that I am lucky that I have so many skills on which I could base a career – and likely a successful one. But I feel equally pulled toward each, but unwilling to yet give up any. As of late I’ve been dreaming up ways to incorporate them all. I may have an idea, but I don’t know yet how realistic it is. But I don’t like to leap without looking. I wish to gather information.

And that’s why I’m writing now. I would like to interview people with knowledge or experience in a number of areas. It could be over e-mail or phone (or in person if you can meet in NYC). I could write a post about it, feature you and links, or I could keep it private or anonymous.

If you have knowledge about or experience in a career in any of the following areas, please contact me!

Figure skating coach – basics
Figure skating coach – freestyle/test track
Figure skating program director
Environmental eng/scientist – government regulator
Environmental eng/scientist – government researcher
Environmental eng/scientist – consultant for private companies
Environmental eng/scientist – consultant for government
Environmental scientist – public interest researcher
Science writer – magazines, news, or books
Science professor – adjunct (lab instructor and early undergrads)
Project manager – web company
Pro blogger
Etsy shop/home business owner
How-to writer

I’m extra interested in hearing from you if you are a mom!

You can’t live on $500k in this town? Bull.

I just read this article in the NY Times, on the effect that a plan by Obama to cap top executive pay at $500k for banks accepting bailout money will have on these executive’s lifestyles.

And I just had to write a post, because nothing pisses me off more than some of this crap. The author nears the article’s conclusion with this:

The total costs here, which do not include a lot of things, like kennels for the dog when the family is away, summer camp, spas and other grooming for the human members of the family, donations to charity, and frozen hot chocolates at Serendipity, are $790,750, which would require about a $1.6-million salary to compensate for taxes. Give or take a few score thousand of dollars.

I read a NY Times magazine article during the election season on Obamanomics, and found that I really felt good about his economic policies, ideals, and views.  His positions are probably the closer to my own than those of any other politician, and certainly any president or even major presidential candidate, ever.  One of the things in the article that stood out to me was the tenet that society functions the best, driving production and increasing economic success, when the top executives of a company make about 25x more than the bottom employees.  So if the lowest employees at the bank make $40,000 a year, then the top employees should make about $1 million.  In that case, the $1.6 million/year that the article is claiming is needed to lead the common lifestyle of a bank executive is roughly 50% more expensive than it should be for all of the employees and the company to perform their best.

The article goes on to explain the need to fit in with other bank executives:

Does this money buy a chief executive stockholders might prize, a well-to-do man with a certain sureness of stride, something that might be lost if the executive were crowding onto the PATH train every morning at Journal Square, his newspaper splayed against the back of a stranger’s head?

The man would certainly not feel like himself on that train, said Candace Bushnell, the author of “Sex and the City” and other books chronicling New York social mores.

“People inherently understand that if they are going to get ahead in whatever corporate culture they are involved in, they need to take on the appurtenances of what defines that culture,” she said. “So if you are in a culture where spending a lot of money is a sign of success, it’s like the same thing that goes back to high school peer pressure. It’s about fitting in.”

My response? Ok, but the point is, your bank failed and is looking for a government bailout.  You need to suck it up.  Top executives are supposed to earn the pay that they receive, and banks that need bailouts, regardless of how common that may be, failed in their jobs.  So what’s the harm in instating laws to encourage them to work towards success in order to earn the money they make?  That’s what capitalism is supposed to be about.  When they’re able to give themselves huge salaries regardless of whether they lead their companies towards success or complete failure, capitalism isn’t working the way it was meant to, and I’m pretty sure that’s not the capitalism that people like my father hold so dear.

Even if they’re rare, there are a number of chief executives who lead successful companies without living such extravagant lifestyles.  As far as I know, Warren Buffett, one of the most successful men in the world, is one of them.  Obama’s plan would be hoping to help change the culture of the self-absorbed members, not trying to sink companies in need of a bailout by sinking the self-esteem of their chief executives.  Maybe when they lead their companies to overwhelming success through good decisions and leadership, they can start making over $1 million again.

These people can’t live on $500k in this town?  I live on $50k in this town.  Maybe I should be teaching them a few things.

Becoming a businesswoman?

A month or so ago, I wrote about a pitch I was going to that day.  Some of you commented to wish me luck, and I thank you for your kindness.

Generally, all of the people we’ve connected with either in person or over the phone at least want to know more, and some seemed impressed or excited.  But everything is so slow!

Meanwhile, we’re chugging away at development and meeting with more people in an effort to secure financing.  Right now we’re looking for angel investors (wealthy individuals and sometimes groups who often offer smaller investments than venture capital), and we have our next meeting in which we hope to sell shares this weekend.

I’ve been networking – I’m new at this, but I’d say I’m not half bad.  I remember so well when I was very shy as a child, and in my teenage years I spent a lot of time with alternating thoughts going back and forth in my head. But these days, I often feel clear headed, in control, and confident.  I’m also thankful that I

At one networking event I was at, I walked right up to the keynote speaker and introduced myself.  I’m not sure if that was something I would have been able to do 5 years ago, and I’m glad that I’ve gained that skill.

Sometimes recently I’ve felt very anxious, but it is anxiety over the uncertainty of what’s to come.  As I see it, I am choosing to live with that level of uncertainty. I am choosing to live a very cheap life in order to build a small technology company.  I am choosing to do this, in order to have a chance at having my work directly control my own future, and to have my work days directly controlled by me.

In a way, we’re the techie version of the starving artist – we’re the broke young entrepreneurs. He codes through the night and sleeps until the afternoon; I often match his schedule but doing business, management, and finances.  Except rather than being a group of college buddies, we’re a husband and wife team.  Our entire team also includes 4 other great guys, but we connect over the internet from different parts of the country.

Husband and I live and work together, day in and day out.  And I love it! I really truly do, and we get along so well.  We’re crazy best friends, the type that share everything.  We live this way together, cheaply, striving to build a successful internet company while we scrape together enough to pay the bills with a combination of baby sitting money, research consulting for my old PI, loans and help from friends and family, and soon, my part-time skating coach income.  We survive not on ramen noodles but on staples like home cooked meals with basic ingredients like pasta, chicken, and vegetables. I must admit, though, we do eat our share of toaster oven baked pizza – at 2 for $3, it’s $1.50 for a tasty, hot, and easy meal!