Category Archives: Work

Careful What You Wish For… (Working From Home)

I’m very thankful to work remotely for a great company, and there are definite advantages in working from home.  But, it’s just like any relationship.  The advantages can eventually become the disadvantages.

It’s the little things that drive you crazy… like the fact that you can’t control when people mow their lawn, or when a loud truck drives by your house.  It can be disastrous if someone knocks when you are on the phone, so my dogs go in a closed room faaaar from the desk and a sign goes on the door when I have important conference calls.

Working over telephones, it’s hard to tell when the speaker is finished or someone new is going to pipe up, so there is the frequent unintended interruption of your colleagues.  You also have to work a little harder at interpreting meaning since you can’t see facial expressions.

You learn to not have overnight guests during the week since most people don’t really get what it means to ‘work from home’.  They bang kitchen cabinets, get ice from the dispenser, and walk into the room talking all the while risking your professionalism.  They don’t mean to cause trouble; they just haven’t experienced working for a paycheck from home.

The obvious differences are not having to dress professionally and the lack of office socialization.  Working in an office brought some of the best relationships I’ll ever have.  My girlfriends from work have shared many tear-producing laughing spells and gotten me through many crises.  I miss them.  I have to try a little harder to get my regular dose of friends.

It is true that I don’t spend as much money on clothes, shoes, and jewelry as I did when I worked in an office.  The result is that now I never have the right clothes to wear, anywhere.  You see, I hate to shop.  Needing to shop for work clothes got me in the stores, and then I bought all kinds of clothes and shoes.  Now, I just keep putting it off and will eventually be that oddly-dressed lady who generates chuckles.

Wearing comfortable clothes while working brought its own harsh reality when I put on ‘real’ clothes a few weeks after starting the remote job.  It’s harder to notice that you are gaining weight.  I couldn’t believe it until I started realizing that I didn’t walk from the parking garage to the office anymore, from my desk to lunch, to meeting rooms, to the kitchen,…

It’ is great to avoid commuting in rush hour.  But that evening-hour commute gave me opportunities to stop by the grocery store or the drug store.  Now, it seems I’m perpetually out of the basics.  In the old days, I would not venture out of the house without makeup applied and hair done at least a little.  I no longer consider it worth the time to ‘get ready’ just to run to the store.  So, I tend to put off going altogether or pretend I’m invisible and run into the store looking like an embarrassment to my younger self.

In the end, the biggest difference is freedom in where you live.  I’m thankful to the now-friend who offered the original position to me.  It allowed me to move back to the southeast.  Now, I can have a casual weekend dinner with my Mother and Grandmother, and that’s the best advantage.  Now, if I can just figure out what to wear…….



Just do it !

I always say life is short and we need to take opportunities to do the things we want to do now but I haven’t always followed that approach to life.  It’s easy to start thinking that I’ll do this or that when I retire and have more time.  My husband has no problem jumping on any opportunity to go on a trip, meet up with friends and grandkids.  For me it’s been a bit harder because of last minute work travel.  I hate committing to something then having to back out.   That’s resulted in skipping some things I would really like to do.  Not anymore.  I am ready to start committing!  Over the past few weeks I’ve committed to a girls’ weekend at the Ozarks and a cooking class with my friend Karen.

Karen and I have been talking about signing up for a class for years.  You have to sign up weeks in advance or the classes sell out.  A few weeks ago she said, “We really need to do this,” and I committed.   There were lots of options but we signed up for a “How to make pasta 101.”

I love to cook and I love trying new things.   I blogged recently about all the gadgets I have and I have a brand spanking new pasta maker (Okay, 10 years old but never out of the box – which makes it new to me) and while I wanted to make fresh pasta, was a bit leery of the process.  It turns out that pasta making, just like about everything else in the kitchen, is easy.  But it sure was nice having a culinary instructor standing at my shoulder while painstakingly mixing my flour and eggs to make my first batch then coaching me as I was putting it thru the pasta roller several times until it was just right.  Now I’m set.  

Me with my flour covered wine glass in the prep area (class no-no).

It also turns out they serve wine at these things and I think Karen and I got our money’s worth on the class in wine consumption. 

 I’m starting to make plans.  If I have a personal commitment on my calendar, I’m going to do my best to push a last minute trip a day or two so I can make it. 

While I am planning on a great retirement and we have been committed to planning financially for a long and enjoyable one, retirement isn’t a given.  I’m now taking action to make sure I am making my life more enjoyable and letting work be work.  A cooking class may seem trivial but after talking about doing it for more than 2 years it came at a time when I really needed to be reminded that all we may have is now and we better be enjoying it.  And GO STL CARDINALS !!!


My Dirty Little Secret

You know how everyone has a secret?  When you find out, you think, “Really?  She did that?  She does that?”  I have one of those secrets.  It’s dirty.  It keeps me out late at night.  It makes me a little ashamed because it’s not something women are ‘supposed’ to do.  And maybe that’s why I do it.  I shrimp.  Not wanting to be stereotyped helped me pick my college major.  Sounds weird, but lots of people were shocked when they learned I was a chemistry major.  More colleagues and acquaintances than you’d think were surprised when they learned I owned motorcycles.  Anyway.

It all began last year after I had moved home.  I was single, tired of unpacking and working on the house, and found out the shrimp were ‘running’.  So, I borrowed my neighbor’s net, got a quick lesson on how to throw it, bought a lantern, and recruited my cousin to keep me company.  I got dirtier than I thought possible and caught a measly two dozen shrimp, but I had fun.  I laughed heartily as my cousin squealed trying to get my few shrimp in a container.  That night, I proudly shelled my shrimp and filled two skewers for a cookout with a friend.  One got dropped in the sand and the germophobe in me wouldn’t let me eat it.  Net gain: one dozen small shrimp.

Fast forward a year when I had company for a few days.  In an effort to entertain my guest, I suggested we go shrimping.  We tried it from the ‘backyard’.  No shrimp there, but we couldn’t have caught them anyway.   Then, I found this video illustrating how to throw a cast net.  Success!  So, two fishing licenses, a cast net, bait, gas and five hours later, we had 1.5 pounds of headed, small shrimp.  Only $147 per pound, but those expensive shrimp were good!

Now, we’ve been shrimping several times.  We bought a second lantern, supplies for the boat, a river-suitable anchor, multiple tanks of gas and we’re up to a total of approximately 12 pounds of medium shrimp.

But you can’t put a price tag on all of it.  The sunsets are amazing and make you really appreciate the beauty of God’s world.  Being outside for a few hours is wonderful.  You’re physically moving instead of staring at a computer.  You meet some interesting people.

The biggest pay-off is that I’m going to fix a shrimp dinner for my Grandmother.  I am temporarily living on property my grandparents bought in 1966 when there were alligators, manatee, blue crabs, water moccasins, turtles and all sorts of other creatures here on a regular basis. (Thankfully, the water moccasins have disappeared, but so have the blue crab.)  My Mother and I lived here with them when I was very young.  My Grandfather shrimped in the backyard every year and we ate shrimp all year long.  He taught me to manage a crab trap, fish, smoke mullet and shuck oysters.

I asked my Grandmother if she’s had shrimp lately.  She said she eats them sometimes.  I said “but you don’t get shrimp that come from your yard and that your Granddaughter caught’.  I think my Grandfather would be proud.  Some dirty secrets are worth the tarnish on your image 🙂


Potentially interesting links

Shrimp with Roasted Red Pepper Cream from Southern Living (not as unhealthy as it sounds)

The next throwing method I’m going to try

If you can’t catch your own seafood, but are concerned about the environment, check out these links:

Promoting the Promotion of Women…. Really?

My company currently is promoting the promotion of women in a big way. I find it a bit pointless to constantly receive emails that laud our goal to continue to promote gender diversity and get more women in management positions. Why odd? Because I don’t believe having a “management initiative” that sends out emails, hosts networking and institutes mentoring programs is any way to get this done.

I’ve been at over 10 leading Silicon Valley companies (OK two were not exactly leading) and the biggest difference I’ve seen is that companies who truly promote gender diversity don’t need campaigns to instigate action. That is, they have women embedded in the organization at all levels – from the board, through the executive team all the way down to first line managers.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about this. I’ve worked in Silicon Valley for almost 20 years and was once told to stop asking about women in leadership positions because I was “becoming known for asking that kind of question.” So over the years, I’ve learned not to ask or worry about the promotion of women, but the problem seems odd and I think, is somewhat unique as it occurs in high tech companies.

So what’s the deal? My 2cent theory is that the valley was born as a big old-boys, chip-based network and ultimately hasn’t really grown up or lost that DNA. The thunder and bravado of high tech CEOs such as Larry Ellison, Mark Benioff is a direct descendent of this gene pool as is the fact that you rarely see women leading, or in high levels, of high tech companies (at least for long – sorry Carly).

But here is the twist, I work for a German company and lo and behold, same problem. A 2009 Germany ministry of family study found 3 mindsets among male bosses about women (see article):

  • Those who simply don’t think women are cut out for it
  • Those who think they are, but fear their colleagues don’t and worry about cohesion
  • Those who say that in theory gender does not matter but in practice women who make it “overcompensate” and are not “authentic.”

Yikes! Who would have thunk another culture could be more messed up about the view of women in management?  (BTW, since that article was written, Angelika Dammann has left SAP after only 1 year.)

Given Oracle, Salesforce, and other valley company’s competitive spirit, I wonder if they would be upset that they’ve been out prejudiced by their German rivals? It is clear that none of these mindsets are good… at all. What is a  woman to do?

A colleague from Switzerland and I were talking about what it takes to manage women vs. manage men. She pointed out that women need better, softer management such as encouragement and personable colleagues. Her simplified take gave me pause.

In a funny way, what if it was just that simple, that cultures – both country and company – that encourage encouragement and getting along are able to retain women at all levels? Yes they are “soft” skills and environmental factors, but I certainly don’t need more emails and programs to encourage me and my colleagues to promote women.

Listen up Larry, Mark & my German management…. ultimately, my best jobs were made by having colleagues I enjoy working with and a culture that values enjoying what you do and who you do it with — please don’t forget the good paycheck —  with a little encouragement sprinkled on top.

– Michaela