Saturday, May 08, 2004

Finished Beyond Superwoman today (see earlier blog). This book has some interesting comments to make about the Valley's most successful women. I heard a wonderful preview of the central thesis by the authors, and frankly, the actual book itself raised only more questions, which I will go back and ask them. In a nutshell, they suggest that the most successful women do not attempt to do it all at once (family, career, social life), they sequence the parts. That's not to say they get married, then divorced when it is time to work harder, but that their key focuses shift. It is NOT about balance, but priorities, and smartly, and fequently, adjusting them. A second theory is that the most successful and most POPULAR women leaders do not pretend to take on male social norms (ie, centralized decision making, dogmatic leadership), but rather lead with their feminine, consensus buidling selves.

Rather than individually discuss the 25 women they studied, the authors chose to mix and mingle bits of their stories into loosely thematic chapters (mentoring, family, etc.). I found this unappealing, as I wanted to get a clear view of each women upfront, and would have liked 25 profiles, reviewing the women against the metrics. I just found their stories muddled in the format used, and found the stories somewhat trivialized. Also, as a keen editor, I found over-repetition of key details and then references to things that had not been discussed before. And the snipets were not always cohesively tied together, the book was obviously written in pieces and not chronologically, something a good editor would have fixed.

Again, though, the main premise is very interesting, and many snipets of the stories are very entertaining. BUT, as an executive woman on the go, this book made me ask more questions than it provided answers:

* All these women went through transitions. Sometimes, they moved into careers after having kids, some changed careers, some started late for other reasons. Few seemed just to ride one big wave (which is rather inspirational to me). But how DID they make the transitions? How long did it take, what obstacles were faced, how were they overcome? To not talk about this missed the IMPORTANT part of the stories for me. The very key to their Superwoman status lies in the transitions and moves these women have made.

One thing did strike me as interesting, and I did not catch it until the very end of the book. The book talks about how these women are all trailblazers by daring to be in technology. I have never considered myself as a trailblazer, or unique, I have gone in to technology to follow my interests, to keep my intellect in top shape, and to play in the most exciting space possible. I guess to the world, I am unique, a trailblazer, and the fact that I have been an executive of a technology company makes me rarer than Sharks tickets during playoffs. The attention paid to me kind--albeit the more successful ones--is a bit disconcerting. I am just trying to make it and follow my dreams.

As the book points out, getting there means crashing through the Silicon Ceiling, like it or not.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

I am an early adopter of social networking technology...the Orkuts, Friendsters, LinkedIns, etc. of the world. Although I am confused by the industry--interpersonal networking has existed since the dawn of time, or at least since the Guilds of the Middle Ages--so who needs a "new" industry for it, and why call it social? I guess that is in social, like group, not social, like fun, although plenty of these groups are purely for that.

I'd been long (Silicon Valley long, perhaps 3 months) been debating the value of these networks, and had joined most of them (Tribe, Orkut, Friendster, LinkedIn, Spoke (the later which I had entirely forgotten until someone saw me on there and wrote me)). I had quickly lost interest in Friendster--so few interesting features and very glitchy--and Tribe--so much bizzare esoterica, posts actively popping up in my face on my page about weird people and way too many parties, and no way to opt out of what I don't want or opt in to what I need.

Orkut took the middle ground, many of my tech friends are on it, most of my friends who are not engineers are not, and have no interest in what they consider a geek's waste of time. I do enjoy the communities, and I occassionally sneak leads, advice, or fun tidbits there. I do not try to actively network with people in my bigger network, since most are there for social good times (I am slightly older and more attached than their obvious target demographic).

LinkedIn has been great fun, it feels exclusive and purposeful and does not encourage silly network groups. I have heard people complain about the lack of network groups, but I quite like it. Of course, the great consensus out there is that everyone is just expanding their network for kicks, and nobody actually uses the system yet. I predict great success to the concept if LinkedIn figures out what to do to add value, and if people like me actually attempt B2B and P2P networking on it.

On an invite, I joined Ryze.com two days ago, hearing that it, too, was business only networking, and was given the impression it was up and coming. So I signed up, slogging through an anti-intuitive user interface. Overnight, I had half a dozen strangers welcoming me, and people I never heard of and had no remote connection to asking to be "my friend." Instantly, I decided that Ryze has the distinction of being categorized the CREEPY network, a distinction I had not initially included in my overabundant two by twos I am sketching about the industry. To be blunt, to me, everything more or less stinks about Ryze, despite the fact my homepage there has an easy link to this blog. The network groups are largely unprofessional and unindexed (although I easily found out how to join groups about drinking, weightlifting, various religions). I have strangers writing in a log book that everyone can see. People can write me, but to write them back, I must use the Ryze interface, and manage everything off the web, as if I truly needed another source of messages to check and use. People keep telling me they get great leads there, so I might stay on. I did go to a face to face Ryze party, in the hopes of learning from others about how they maximize value from it. Mostly, I got glazed looks when I mentioned Ryze, and took that to be a bad bad sign about what is out there. As far as I can tell, it is almost 100% a social network. While I personally believe that having some awareness of who you are outside of work helps me connect to you better (ah! you do yoga, eat low carb, knit, love your cats and read all the time, too, good!), I don't need to join you in a dozen networks to talk all day about those common or synergistic interests.

I did relog on to Spoke, and saw it still seemed like LinkedIn without features or people. That, and it tried to load some nasty software that would help me manage my experience with Spoke.

How many tools like this can I use, especially if so many seem to require high touch interaction, or deep sifting, or special software? I can honestly say that at this stage of experimentation, I could easily spend my entire day surfing and attempting to use these sites, and I am not sure I would derive any competitive advantage from that at all.

My early analysis says that something cool is going on here, but of course I said that about pets.com ('cause pets don't drive), webvan (who should have used " 'cause tech geeks don't shop"), and so many others. Mind you, I thought they were cool but I was once the ONLY bearish analyst on dot coms, and I didn't make many friends in 1998-2000. (I would meet people at the constant stream of cocktail parties then, and one of two things happened: I'd tell them I didn't work in dot com, and they'd slink away, or I told them what I felt about their industry, and they'd RUN away). I digress. Like dot com, social networking is cool. BUT unless someone figures out a. how to make money as the company supplying the service and b. tells ME how I can make money (or derive value that I can equate to money, say increase my free time), then this is doomed to be another silly, silly experiment.

All the dot com signs are there--people religiously defending the industry, no understandable business cases in sight, unrealistic quantitites of attention, time, money thrown to the industry by the early adopters. I do not want to predict doom and gloom this time, too, since I like my little GOOD networks substantially more than I liked the concept of dogpoo.com (I don't make this up, there were FOUR competing suppliers of animal waste at one point).

And no industry has made me draw two by twos, SWOTs, and Five Forces analysis--for fun and during my free time--in a LONG time.
It has been a fantastic week on the job search front, I feel like an entirely different person since my last blog.

And technically, not much has happened.

Last Tuesday, I attended CSIX, a group that encourages job seekers to network over lunch. You also announce yourself to the group, and let people know what help you need, and better, what help you can offer. I have long been a fan of giving to others, so I offered a few qualified leads I have. What I had almost forgotten is that in giving, you are far more likely to get. Giving is the source of all obtainment.

I was surrounded by dozens of people eager to talk to me, so much so I couldn't eat lunch. I talked and I talked, and I obviously impressed people. I felt like the belle of the ball, a star, and most importantly, the successful, helpful, well connected professional wonderwoman I once was. In return, a few of these people offered to help me.

I then went to the Marketing SIG of CSIX the next day, where I met an exceptionally engaging, fun, talented, and helpful group of people. I had a blast, and got two qualified and very good job leads, from people I just met. I was actually able to connect with hiring managers at good companies, and am in the process of working those leads.

Returning to CSIX this week, I had several more people surround me, and this time, I made some exceptional, and no doubt long term connections, and much giving, sharing, connecting went on.

In just one week, I feel utterly changed--tapped into networks that care and in touch with people who are interesting to me. I am meeting and talking to many new people each day, and I am busy, excited about the connections, and thrilled to be sharing and helping so much.

I feel like a new person. I am thinking this is going to be highly beneficial in things to come.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

I did it. I went back to Bernard Haldane today. I thought a. I might learn something (since they were doing a resume review for me), b. might learn how to better handle crooked people or c. be highly amused by throwing them questions that were far enough off script as to generate funny responses. I came closest to c.

I must say, they used virtually NO games on me today at all, and did a bad job selling me--as a marketing professional, I was rather disappointed in their pitch. They reminded me that they liked me, and that I have a great background which will land me a job in no time. Sort of like a friend would say it. And that is about it.

They started me off after that with a soft sell. They had done some research, but refused to tell me on what job title they searched, to create a salary range for me that started at $15k above my last base, and ended a whopping $65k above. I think we were taking a long walk off a short fantasy pier here, since at my level, a bonus of 25% min is not uncommon, and that would push the package into Silicon Valley up and coming CEO (or division lead) range. Maybe I *am* that but I am not so certain.

They then went on to breezily tell me what they do. Resume rewrite. Marketing piece production. Interview and negotiation coaching. Personality and skills testing. Resume blasting to 3000 hiring managers through some exclusive network of theirs. Contact with hundreds of people in several industries. They really pushed the blasting and the contacting, all of which they swore they do for you. The list of contacts did seem to be hundreds if not thousands of people long. It was not clear who they were though--former clients of career services, or ?? All the online reviews suggest these names are far out of date or people who refuse to talk to clients.

As most of you can guess, most of these services are worth $100-200 (resume writing, blasting), to about zero (personality tests, for example, can be done online for free, for example, my online IQ test puts me at 135, and my MB is, well I forget, but virtually split down the middle on all four categories). There could be some value add in the network, but the quality of the contacts is unknown, and based on reviews, it appears they never once contact people for you.

They then tried to sell me on the positive outcomes of several clients who had landed jobs, showing me handwritten forms (in impressively similar handwriting). Most seemed to love the service, and many landed impressive jobs with good money. Some forms had check boxes in which the client had to mark what BH service got them the job (most did not). Most people avoided filling it out when given the chance, highly suspicious. Then most people checked resume writing, or taught me how to network. NONE listed the blaster or BH contacts. Incredibly, a person supposedly landing a CEO job checked learning how to network as what helped him the most. I found this really kind of funny. Anybody who has made it to CEO has networked plenty.

They then threw (literally) a contract at me, showing me how at the range of salary I *would* get, I would be at their highest service fee, $9975. I pointed out that my previous base salary was THREE categories below that (more like $6000). They refused to address this. So out came the fun questions.

I asked them what would happen if I only got offers for say $90k. They told me, without hesitation, that this *would* not and *could* not happen, that it has *never* happened where someone got a job paying less when working with them. Now, we all know several things. One, this cannot be possible. Two, more money is not all one should be looking for. I loved how they basically told me I couldn't take a lower paying job.

I then told them I could not sign a contract without talking to a recent client about their experience. They outright refused, saying absolutely no way (not just NO). They claimed confidentiality, and not wanting to bother their now really busy former clients. On confidentiality, I wanted to point out that they just shared client write ups with names, company names, titles, home addresses, and salaries (including offer letters!). My photographic mind now has exceptionally personal information about a dozen people.

At this point, the lady burst out saying "are you going to sign this contract today?" And I said NO (stiffling the WAY). She actually told me that she was through with me and said goodbye.

So, folks at BH, I'd never sign a contract for $10,000 when you had so many awful spelling errors in all your materials. Hewlett Packard does not include an i. My favorite, though, the repeated error on Professional. It has ONE F. If you cannot spell it, then you are not one, and I do not want anything to do with you. Bye Bye!!!


Monday, April 19, 2004

What a day--so far!

I had the misfortune to hear about a county/state/somebody's job center, the sort of place I normally avoid. But I decided to give an advanced class a shot. I called to take the resume CRITIQUE class, and had to beg and plead to get in and avoid the pre-req resume 101 class, which I gather was about what a resume is and why we might have one. I was told if the coach didnt like look of my resume, then they would not review it and send me back to 101. I of course took my chances. It meant somebody was going to review my resume!

I had a funny feeling, pulling off an unfamiliar exit in San Jose, that things were not going to go well. Driving by burned out buildings, I got the sneaking suspicion I should just turn around and go home. Being a trooper, I went in. When I arrived at my session, I realized in horror that I was walking in on a lecture, not a CRITIQUE, making it all the worse.

The teacher was leading everyone in learning how to give themselves a public introduction, making them state their name, job title (former or desired) and stating what made them unique and special. I instantly recoiled in horror, especially when I realized there were 20+ people in the class, it was already 15 minutes in to it, and she had about 18 people to go. Just for this. The rest of her agenda, bless her it was professionally produced, discussed what a resume was, how to write one, what style to use based on your situation, and THEN included a critique. It appeared, with introductions included, and her slow way of speaking, to be a 1.5 hour agenda before the critique, leaving about 1.25 MINUTES per individual for help. I already had a lunch meeting to go to, and was planning on leaving after my resume had been reviewed.

My skin started to crawl, and I am not normally that uppity. But as she went around the class, utilizing a kindergarten teacher sing song tone of encouragement, I started to sweat. She made people repeat the name of the person they just heard, as if it mattered to me, and she made us do it multiple times per person. "Hi, Roberto!" If that was not enough, I had NO idea what anyone's name was, mainly due to shy muttering of people who have never spoken in public before. People could not PRONOUCE job titles for jobs they HAD. Making matters worse, and making myself sound more like a judgemental jerk, I was the only non-blue collar person in the class.

I felt misplaced, and surely, misinformed about the nature of the event. What the hell was resume 101, if this was the post-resume 101 class? And the promise of getting 1.25 minutes of somebody's time was not worth it.

There was no appropriate strategy for leaving gracefully. When she asked, all sing songy and thoughtfully, "isnt this sooooo hard to talk about yourself?" and I thought NO, are you kidding?, I literally went slightly wild. I picked up my stuff and ran out the door. I mumbled sorry to the teacher, who was continuing to talk. She didnt flinch or acknolwedge my leaving. I think she guessed I was in the wrong place. I was accosted on the way out by another person, as if leaving was not allowed, and just explained I was in the wrong class, had to go. I LITERALLY RAN out of the building, and through the parking lot.

I felt horribly shameful for acting like this, for giving up, for running out. I feel judgemental and afraid I sound hollier than thou. I am not, but I feel lousy.

I spent an hour just getting through this whole thing, having friends remind me that I already knew it is pronounced reh-zoo-may, not ree-zoom, and that I would have taken valuable time away from those who needed help if I had stayed. That said, maybe I am feeling class-aware.

Sure I want a new and better job. But I am not the people I met today. No matter where I am now, I have had the benefits of being born upper middle class, speaking English, having earned degrees, and have rode the corporate ladder of success. There are people who do not have these advantages, who I do not compete against in any way, but drive a large part of the society I depend on. Perhaps I just wasnt ready to stare that fact in the face today. I am in career transition, and lucky to be in one, most of these people were struggling to find $8 an hour jobs, and the fear of what might happen if they did not was blatant.

Eye opening...

Friday, April 16, 2004

OK, I take it back, today is purposefully a bit of a dull day.

I *did* hear from HR of the CPG company in Cleveland (and learned how to spell Cleveland), which means the hiring manager who called me yesterday liked my resume enough to pass it to the HR department (I know, that sounds backwards of SOP, but trust me, it makes sense). I hate to say it, but there is some draw to leave behind technology for a while, and open my horizons to "classic" business. That is why I have applied. That, and the hiring manager is a very interesting person, and I enjoyed talking to him. I sensed I could learn a lot from him, even in a short conversation.

Interesting to see the rest of the country appears to be hiring, and is upbeat about good candidates. Here in the Valley, people are still full of arrogance when hiring (oh, this is not precisely exactly what we want, we dont want to talk to you, even to tell you what our company does). In fact, the amount of snot and vinegar I had at a recent job fair made me really skeptical about making my way here again. But this week has affirmed that I do have the right stuff, and people in fact will seek me out AND be nice to me in the process.

Other than that, today is clean the house day! IF I ever find a job, then I am going to really regret not finishing the unpacking and organizing of this place back when I "had so much free time." Hehehehehehe.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Never a dull day anymore.

Had two unexpected calls from marketing managers at consumer products companies who saw my blurb on SCIP.org (http://www.scip.org/jobs/wanted_action.asp) (wow, love that URL!). This made me feel VERY good about my background, and very certain that staying in strategic marketing would make me happy. Since I have no CPG experience, I am not sure they'd want to talk to me more, and both jobs required relocation (one to Cleveland, I cant get the Drew Carey theme out of my head), which I am not that keen on, but nevertheless, I enjoyed two positive, fun conversations!

In my sanctum of higher knowledge (my bathtub) this morning, I realized an interesting statistic. Working as an executive team member for a Swedish company had two contradictory outcomes. On one hand, I faced quite a bit of sexism on the job (in the form of a girl-cant-know-nothing-about-semiconductors). On the other, Sweden has the highest rate of executive jobs filled by women. Since I sat on the executive team, despite the fact I was an American I got to be part of that statistic. Hey, I'll say the top isn't always what it is cracked up to be. BUT I SURE MISS IT.
Darn!

My meeting with Bernard Haldane went ... interestingly. I did not like all the weird games they played with me, including good cop, bad cop, best friend, worst enemy. I smelled a rat when they told me only 1 out of 7 people make it past this screener, and some get thrown out in the middle of the interview. The exclusivity thing sounded fake, especially for a firm that charges you to help you. The comment rendered their business model potentially unsound. And I *felt* manipulated as they seemed to be about to reject me, then bring me up, then go neutral...I could feel the pattern evolving, and I knew it was purposeful. The timing was well rehearsed, and I could tell it.

There were a few interesting comments about my resume and the job market. But then the "recruiter" made some disparaging comments about clients, including borderline ethnic slurs. I was getting weirded out, and almost thought it was a test to see how I deal with bad situations. I thought at the time, perhaps intentionally unnerving (sorry folks, not much unnerves me!).

After a bizzare set of questions and comments, including the women refusing to accept corrections as she continually misadded the years of experience I had in each job, I was finally brought way way way up, and surprise! invited back to the meeting where they tell me what they do. I was even told I look like Christine Davis, Charlotte on Sex in the City. Blush blush, I am cute enough to be on TV! She also told me I had a radio voice, which is a patent lie. I have a fine voice, but no voice training, and a bit of a tendancy to uptick when talking, so I know this is NOT my biggest strong point. As she said, maybe my big huge eyes and tiny nose really are perfect. Thank heavens for 10 years of experience and an MBA.

They did talk heavily about marketing me to the perfect job, helping me find hidden opportunities, and basically saying they would do the work for me. Being a bit of a control freak, this seemed a little odd, but maybe not a bad thing if it helped me land a lovely job.

Sensing something wrong, I came home and Interneted. I have never seen so many complaints (www.badbusinessbureau.com, others). It appears the company has YEARS of taking people's money, offering them real help finding a job, but then only providing some resume rewritting (a sample resume they showed me had notable formatting errors with justification, and looked awful), a binder with stupid tips (wear a suit to an interview!), job leads that are often three years old, and a few contacts that apparently refuse to take calls, and are not even clients. They do NO work for you and charge $5000 min (I am sure I will be more, because they are pitching me at a very high salary).

Do I call them and let them know I know their game? Or do I go in and mess with them? I think going back would in fact be a great exercise in reverse interviewing. They also want me to bring my significant other (another notable, and to my independent mind, laughable suggestion). Anyone want to play him, say, someone from the BBB or anyone with a real sense of humor who wants to stage a nice performance piece with me? Not that the real SO doesn't have this, but he's busy next week.

I feel lightly had, and it feels so much like the sensation right after being dumped--when he said he loved me and I was beautiful, did he really mean ANY of it? While I am inclined to believe the flattery portion of the exercise (my nose is really so cute--hire me!), my strengths and weaknesses feel so, so...so cheapened.

A big SIGH on the job hunt sigh-o-meter.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

http://www.beyondsuperwoman.com

The website of the authors I heard at Mountain View Chamber of Commerce, Women in Business. Very inspiring authors, telling inspiring stories, for the high technology woman on the way up. It explores what it really means to be a "Superwoman" of this Valley, how woman have balanced and traded off to make it to the top and survive there (including, staying alive and well, not just surviving the corporate battle).

If you are like me, a high level female professional that continually faces challenges because you are a woman, and I mean more than the average amount of challenges one should expect, then you might be inspired by these women. Go hear them speak!

And no, I do not seek special hand holding as a woman on the rise, but I really do feel there are still many obstacles--we are the first generation of women really allowed to succeed in the corporate world to any real extent. I was lucky that my mother, my role model, was a highly successful entrepreneur, a rarity in the world just 25 years ago.
Another day, more opportunities. I was up until 2 am last night having a great time introducing people to LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com), and building my network there. Interestingly, several of my invitations, to people already on linkedin, generated questions about how good and useful linkedin really is. I can honestly say I do not know yet. There has been no harm in it for sure, and it is an interesting way for me to *organize* my contacts. The concept of virtual interconnected Rolodexes is extremely sexy to me.

If you want to link to me, send idarose@sbcglobal.net an invitation, and I will happily sign you up to my network.

I also spent some time on orkut (www.orkut.com). I am trying to introduce more non-uber geeks to the network. While I absolutely adore you folks, my network there is limited when I include only you. Unlike the folks at Google, TellMe, etc., I do not have an office-full of engineers and likemindeds from which to build my friends base. The majority of my friends are NOT on orkut, so I am attempting to bring some of them in, and connect to people already in the network, but it feels a little first grade to ask friends of friends to be my friends too.

If you want to be my orkut buddy, by all means go on and invite me. I have started an alumni group and an orange cat lovers group (the later is highly successful). I think I have started others.

I do not feel like spending much time on silly groups like Pirates, et al, although they are fun. I have found a few groups for jobs, marketing, etc., that might be interesting. Also, in my local group, Mountain View, a very nice Googler posted for people to fill jobs, and we had a very nice talk through this "personal" connection. Of course, sigh, I am too qualified. He didnt buy my attempt to persuade him that he should take overly qualified people if they are willing to work for him, he'd be amazed at the output. Frankly, the job seemed rather interesting, and the young green people he wants might not do all he desires. Alas...

Which brings me to today. I filled out an online survey at Bernard Haldane (www.job-hunting.com), and they called me wanting me to come on in for a discussion. They specialize in coaching higher level professionals in what is obviously a tough job search. I have no clue what they charge, or if it would appeal, but I suspect I might learn something. I always do from connecting with others, and I enjoy meeting people.

I do wonder. After 10 years of experience, an MBA, and a resume with an executive team member position on it, how do I land a job? I do seem overly qualified for many jobs, and underqualified for the rest. At least the man at Google is honest--he isnt willing to take advantage of people. The proletariats should give him a round of applause for this.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

About a month into my transitional job period, I am getting very excited about leaving private consulting for the corporate world. Strengthening my Rolodex and meeting new people, I have found this to be a very busy and exciting time. Hailing from years of high technology marketing on the corporate side, I went on personal sabbitcal by taking on various consulting projects. But I miss the longer term, deeper connections to companies, products, and people, so I am heading back.

Today, I went to the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce Women In Business luncheon. I meet interesting people, and the speakers were very interesting, talking about how highly successful Silicon Valley women have balanced succees with private life. I will post more later about their book.

Today's other big news is this blog. I have blogged a bit before, but was inspired by the description for an event by the SDForum.com, where the blogspot folks are going to tell us why to network with blogs, and perhaps how. I decided to be stubborn and learn about this on my own, although I am sure they put on rather nice meetings. If I am not convinced that I can pull this off on my own, or am feeling like I need some social interaction tomorrow, I will attend the meeting.