Category Archives: Take this Job…

The personal blog is an important, under-respected art form.

I just got around to reading Anil’s recent post on 15 lessons from 15 years of blogging. Poignant, since I’ve been thinking about what to do with this site.

I’ve been blogging for over 10(!) years, with a few defunct blogger and livejournal accounts before that. The blogosphere has changed a lot since then, but my favourites are still the few personal blogs that exist without a strict adherence to a commercial niche.

I wasn’t sure there was still a place for a personal blog with no theme, direction, beautiful photos or commercial model. And then I realized I was a fucking idiot; there isn’t a rule book.

So, before I delve too far into Anil’s point 9 (Meta-writing about a blog is generally super boring), a few things I’ve been thinking about a lot lately:

  1. Feminism (in tech, and in general). About 8 years ago I held a job in tech where I was – as is typical – one of only a handful of women in the company. One day I was chatting with the (male) CEO about how to get buy-in from a male colleague, and the CEO said “do you ever think some of the difficulties are because you’re a woman?” I was totally shocked, and blurted out something affirmative (because I agreed, but thought I was crazy for thinking so). And then the company pivoted, and I was laid-off about 3 days later, so never got a chance to follow up. That, and other head-smacking stories rattle around my head a lot while I watch the news on all the new-wave feminism.
  2. Working Parenthood. Closely related to the feminism thing, I spend a lot of time thinking about the day-to-day minutiae of being a full-time working mom (because let’s face it – it’s different for dads) and how to strike the right balance. A thing I’ve noticed is that I have orders of guilt: the worst is when I’ve truly disappointed Isaac (which has only happened once), but a close second is when situations come up where I feel like I am not showing the world that I care about being a good mom. Example: talking about life-changing/affirming moments with (all male) colleagues, the dads in the room all cited the births of their children. I did not. Not because I am callous, but because “the birth” frankly left me a bit shell-shocked, and was just one moment on a long continuum of becoming a mom. Of course my justification came in a moment of l’esprit de l’escalier, so I never articulated that in the moment. And so I retrospectively worry/feel guilty about appearing a cold, uncaring parent. And I do not like it.
  3. The first Tiny Christmas. This will be our third Christmas living in the UK, and the first when we won’t return to Canada. We were sick of the high prices for flights, and the large chunk of time it took out of our holiday allowances, when we’d like to travel to other destinations. I am looking forward to the opportunity to start a brand new set of traditions that are about just the three of us, but I am also a bit nervous that it won’t feel “right” or “real” to celebrate what’s normally such a family-centric holiday for us, without any family around. But you never know until you try? I guess?


How much does brand affinity matter?

It’s November. Which means NaBloPoMo. Let’s see what happens when I force myself to blog every day for a month, shall we? 

I saw a post the other day about a bad airline experience, and how it tied into a bad email experience. The point the author was making: don’t send promotional emails to someone you’ve just made very unhappy – hit pause on their marketing preferences for a little while. This is very possible with modern marketing technology, so why isn’t it being done?

Not long after that, I came across the new Virgin America safety video:


And was surprised by my own reaction. I my chest swelled and my eyes teared up a bit. I thought about flying Virgin, and what that means to me. 

We flew Virgin when relocating to the UK. Their brand is tied up with a whole slew of emotions, and we had an amazingly positive experience at a very stressful time, from the check-in person who didn’t charge us for extra baggage to the amazing in-flight staff who were awesome to us and Isaac.

Even hearing tales of woe from friends who’ve had bad experiences on Virgin hasn’t changed that.

Conversely, I have had horrible experiences with United, and mediocre experiences with everyone else.

But what, exactly, does that change? I still book air travel based on:

  1. Price
  2. Points (though I don’t fly enough these days for a loyalty program to sway me much)
  3. (the aforementioned things being equal – which they never are) Experience.

The author of the first article I linked to also doesn’t seem to be likely to change her behaviour based on their shoddy email. She might think less of the airline, but she’ll still give them her business.

I can’t blame her – I do the same.

So why, then, does she think they should change their email practice?

Care & Feeding

It’s November. Which means NaBloPoMo. Let’s see what happens when I force myself to blog every day for a month, shall we? 

Now that I’ve been back at work full time for about six months (time flies!), we’re really feeling the pressure at home when it comes to managing the rest of life.

Weekends end up jam packed with cleaning, errands, laundry and prepping/batch cooking so meals never take more than 30 minutes to get on the table during the week. It makes the weekday grind really feel like a grind.

Also, feeling like we hardly have any time to go out and do things or see people outside taking care of our basic family needs (because we’re scrambling to play catch-up every weekend) is really isolating. Which is funny to me, because I thought getting back into the working world would be exactly the opposite. Turns out, not so much.

So, it’s time to hire some help. And it was really hard to figure out exactly what – but I seem to have it narrowed down to two options.

Option 1: Mother’s Helper

Putting aside the irritatingly gendered job name (that’s what it’s advertised as here), this would be someone who could come in a few afternoons a week. The function isn’t primarily cleaning, or childcare, instead it’s a role for picking up whatever needs doing at that time – basically all the things you haven’t gotten around to – as well as being able to make or start some meals, and do babysitting, picking kids up from nursery or school, etc.

Option 2: Au Pair

The house we’re in right now has a bunch of space we’re not really using; a full guest room with ensuite, plus a decently-sized office. We certainly have the space to put an Au Pair, if we wanted to have one, and still have room for the very occasional guests we get. And after learning a bit more about what they do, it seems like we could expect the same light housework, laundry, cooking, childcare as with a Mother’s Helper, but for a lot more hours, plus babysitting a couple evenings a week (which we’ve really been missing).

What would you do?

So here, gentle reader, is where I ask if you’ve used either a Mother’s Helper or an Au Pair before, and what your thoughts are? The costs, for us, would be about even.

My biggest hesitations are that for the Mother’s Helper, I’m not sure much having someone only on certain days would work with our chaotic lives. But with the Au Pair, I don’t know how much I want another person living in the house (I feel like it’d be 80% fun and lovely, 20% stressful – would that be worth it?).

Any experiences to share?

How to be a Business Grownup: Rules for Autoresponders

In all the ways people can be a competent business grownup (h/t Darren), I think the most abused are communication channels. It’s like we haven’t gotten over the fact that there are Magic! Machines! that we communicate through, and we let our amazement at technology take up the parts of our brain we would otherwise use for communication competence and common courtesy.

The latest thorn in my side is the email autoresponder. It used to be that the worst offense was someone forgetting to turn theirs off after a vacation. But now, thanks to Tim Ferris (maybe? he’s at least the earliest adopter/proponent of this inane practice that I’m aware of), every self-important so-and-so who thinks they’re anybody is setting up a pingback that tells you all the reasons you are not important enough for a personal response. At least not right away, probably not ever.

If you’re not entirely sure what I’m talking about, it’s the practice of someone setting up an automated response in their email system, to reply to every incoming message with a litany of excuses and redirections.


I happened across this piece from Fast Company today, where the featured Very Important Business Grownups share how they use their autoresponders, and what kind of Very Important Business Activities are keeping them from managing their email, as they try to keep it real, man, and not abandon the little people. All while reminding the little people of their Very Importance.

This, business grownups, is not how you ‘set expectations.’

Unless the expectation you are trying to set is that you are so fragile and insecure that you can’t possibly believe the world can function without a response from you – of any kind – for a few minutes/hours/days. Or that the vast majority of the people who email you are so incompetent that they couldn’t possibly get a response/find some information/connect with you or someone else in your company by any other means, ever.

As I mentioned, this has always been a bit of a bugbear. (aside: you can generally tell how much something annoys me by how much my vocabulary resembles an octogenarian curmudgeon) But I find it especially grating after reading this piece about Jeff Bezos and his ‘question mark’ emails. That’s right. The head of Amazon has a very public email address, and encourages customers to bring issues to his attention, without regard to the amount of useless/misdirected/spammy email he must receive.

And I am pretty sure Jeff Bezos doesn’t have an autoresponder telling people where they can find the feedback link on Amazon’s page, or the company directory, or submit speaking requests, or just to apologize for being a Very Important Business Grownup, or Maybe I’m just Playing With My Dog/Kid, So I Might Take a Few Days to Get Back to you, OK?

I bet he does, however, have some executive assistants monitoring his inbox, ensuring the garbage gets deleted, the mis-routed get redirected, and the things Mr. Bezos needs and wants to see get in front of his eyes in a timely manner. And the ignorable, ignored.

And this, Very Important Business People, is how you manage your email. By setting up your systems and resources so that the people you purportedly care about are treated like people.

If everyone who emails you is really having that much trouble figuring out how to connect with you, or who to contact from your company, maybe add some info to your website (or on your card, or some of the other hojillion places you share your email). The fact that you are this much of a keystone to your organisation is worrying. Don’t you have a competent team? A succession plan?

If you want to stop getting meaningless emails from every Tom, Dick, and Harry, maybe stop replying to them all – via autoresponder or actual email response. Every reply you send teaches them that your personal email is a viable source for that type of information.

If you think giving instant responses to email is unrealistic, then stop doing it. Patience is a virtue. And anyone who truly needs an immediate reply will probably figure out how to get it. Without the links or other contact info you’re firing back. Anyone who doesn’t, will somehow get on with their lives, shocking as that may seem.

And since you can’t talk about Fast Company without some reference to the Church of Steve, Jobs was famous for his email responses – their curtness second only to their rarity. I’m pretty sure nobody doubted his Very Importance.

So, the rules:

When is it ok to use an email autoreponder?

When you are away from the office and not replying to any email communication for an extended period (days/weeks/months – whatever is outside normal absence/delay in your world). Note I said ‘any communication’ – you are letting people know you can’t be contacted right now, not announcing your usual delay in responding.

You may even include details for who to contact in your absence, if there is a particular person handling your urgent issues while you’re incommunicado.

But what about (insert any other excuse here)?



Update: Of course, not long after posting this, I received an email autoresponse. Except, it didn’t instantly fill me with rage. Why not? It was a business email. When someone submits a sales inquiry, it’s definitely good practice to let that person know their question did not disappear into the ether, and set an expectation for when a salesperson will get back to them.

My rant is solely applied to the world of personal emails (or emails sent to a specific person at a business). They are the email equivalent of the twitter auto-DM. Ain’t nobody got time for that.  

Uneven Footing

I am really quite excited to see the resurgence of feminism in the mass consciousness.

I’ve actually been meaning to write more about my nebulous thoughts and experiences around it, but this other thing has been eating at me a bit, so I thought I’d throw it out there and see if I can drum up any discussion, because frankly, I’m stymied.

How do I negotiate prioritising and “leaning-in” to my career in the context of doing what’s best for our family?

At the core of it, Neil’s salary is over 100% higher than mine. This is due to a number of things; but primarily because of a higher overall salary for the work he does compared to what I do, and a more direct career path for him (he’s been doing the same thing for a while, marching steadily upward, while I flitted around and dabbled).

But, while he would never boast about this himself, he also owes a huge amount of credit for his earnings and career success to the fact that he works really, really hard. He goes in early most days. He stays late when he needs to. He isn’t a doormat or a workaholic, but genuinely believes in what he is doing, really enjoys doing it, and works hard to deliver excellent work, all of the time.

His pride, drive, and passion are core to what I love most about him.

And before we had a kid, these rarely presented any challenges. He worked late, I worked late, we sorted it out and fended for ourselves when we had to.

Introducing the tiny human has meant we have also had to introduce a lot more compromise. Generally we’re pretty good at making things work, and Neil really is very involved in the mechanics of making sure we’re all fed, clothed, and reasonably clean. He’s got time booked out in his calendar where he won’t take late meetings because I have commitments. But occasionally, we both need to extend our work days, and we need to make a choice about which one of us has to lean toward the family more than toward our jobs.

So how do you choose who’s going to ‘take one for the team’ this time?

Prioritising Neil’s work means ensuring he can continue to earn the income our family needs to keep existing (we can not live on my salary alone).

But I worry.

I worry that I am going to lose opportunities to increase my own career progression and financial contribution to our family (not to mention my own personal goals and hopes and dreams), by not being able to lean in as hard.

I worry that by taking on the bulk of the household responsibilities, so Neil can continue to thrive and grow in his role as our primary breadwinner, I am spreading myself thin enough that my outside-the-home-work ends up relegated to the position of ‘job’ rather than career.

I worry that by ‘betting on the short-game’ we are losing out on the potential of the long-game, but at the same time, that a focus on the long-game for future unknowns in my career may bite us in terms of opportunities for Neil that could very concretely impact our family now.

None of this is about parenting, or time with Isaac, which I’m really very happy with. Heck, if my salary were higher, I’d consider introducing a maid/nanny/mother’s helper/au pair/household manager into our lives, to make the choices a little less stark.

(Or is the right bet a financial hit to have those resources, so we can start making more time-choices now, in the hopes that it pays off in the future? – see, I can play this game all day.)

My in-person life is pretty much devoid of working couples without massive salaries who make this work.

I know a lot of families with two average incomes, who work to live and rarely exceed the 9-5:30 boundaries. I know many who live on one income, with someone staying at home to manage the household. I know a few where there is one ‘main breadwinner’ income-earner, and the other who has ‘just a job’ and generally makes most of the work-sacrifices to take care of the family. And then there are the Sandberg-esque examples, of two people who already have huge careers before kids come along, where hiring extra help is, financially, a no-brainer.

Maybe you are or you know someone, like me, somewhere in the middle?

Is there anyone out there who has any more of this figured out than I do?

Buckling Down

Thing I am struggling with at work: Focus.

After spending the vast majority of the past 2 years chasing after a tiny human with the attention span of a goldfish, I am now noticing that my ability to focus for more than about 40 minutes at a time in a work setting (or any setting, really) seriously stunted.

Example: I used to be able to get through a novel in one sitting, start to finish, if I didn’t have any interruptions. Now, I have trouble reading a book for more than about 30 minutes.

And it’s not entirely down to distractions. I have tried turning them all off. It helps to a degree, but if I get close to an hour without an interruption, my brain will shift all on its own, and go looking for one.

The ability to do rapid task-switching is definitely an asset in my particular job, when I’ve got many projects on the go, but I also need to be able to dig into bigger things and roll with them for a few hours. The balance is currently all off.

Do you have any favourite brain-stretching exercises for your think-muscle, when you’re trying to get to a place of focus and flow? My future efficiency thanks you.

How much to bring to the office

My first job out of university, I ended up managing a team who brought everything to work. Their joys, their sorrows, their dreams, their drama – so, so much drama (we employed a few underemployed actors; make of that what you will). They loved the fact that they felt like their colleagues were counselors and confidantes.

I hated it.

For a long time, I operated under a model of ‘there are things you do/share/say at work, and things that are for the rest of life, and NEVER THE TWO SHALL MEET.’ As I grew as a person, and a professional, those lines have become a bit fuzzier.

I still believe work is a time for working, and there is a certain level of discretion and decorum that should be kept. And I am still annoyed at and generally uncomfortable around those for whom that line seems to be nonexistent.

But I have also experienced the benefit of becoming friends with colleagues, and making an effort to get to know them as whole people (and letting them get to know me as a person), rather than a series of roles and duties between 9-5.

And then there is the issue of Leaning In, a la Sheryl Sandberg. Of being a professional woman, with a child, who does great work during the day, but also leaves at promptly 5:30pm for those sacred dinner/bedtime hours.

It is more terrifying than I expected.

The company I work at has a pretty young culture. Nobody else on my immediate team has kids. If I had to guess, I’d say 80% of the staff are under 30. I am not always the first to arrive (though I’m generally in early), but I’m almost always the first to leave.

Considering I haven’t yet built up a reputation at this company of hard work and competence (outside of what they think I’m like via the interview process), I definitely feel an internal struggle about putting such firm boundaries around my in-office work time, when I don’t feel that most people here do.

I don’t see any evidence that this would be a workplace in which I’d be penalized or discriminated against, either overtly or systemically, but when it comes down to it, I’m not sure if that’s because it’s got a women/family-positive culture, or because with the company demographics, it hasn’t really been tested yet.

So I struggle with how much to share.

I try to be matter-of-fact (without being one of those ‘sancti-mommies’) about leaving on time, because we have pretty strict schedule needs for pick-up & dinner. To talk about the fun & joy of kids when, rather than just complaining (which seems to be a more culturally-acceptable stance). And to balance that with talking about work and personal non-kid/family things.

I try, strange as it may sound, to act more like a dad. Dads at work get to talk about their kids without someone assuming they should be at home cooking or cleaning or caring. I act with the assumption that moms should be able to do the same.

It sounds simple, but I still get a pang, every time I mention a kid thing. Is it ok? have I undermined my professional impression? Do they think I’m less dedicated? Do they think I am not only a mediocre worker, but a mediocre mum as well, and therefore a total failure as a person?

I certainly didn’t think that of former colleagues, and have no evidence it’s happening now. I’m hoping the worry about this is all just my own brain, manifesting anxieties that could be largely irrelevant.

But maybe, just maybe, finding the balance, and forging this path will mean that someone who walks it behind me won’t have those anxieties at all.

So I embrace the discomfort, and lean in a little harder.

Me & my picnic buddy
Weekends are for Picnics

Faith, Hope and Charity

Apparently this guy REALLY doesn’t want to get some of our work emails. And yet can’t find the unsubscribe button:



[redacted], LUTCF
[redacted] and Associates
317-[XXX-XXXX] fax
Faith, Hope and Charity.

Yah, read that last line of his signature again.

I’d love to actually publish this idiot’s name and business info, but I don’t think that would be particularly charitable.

Oh, Snap!

At this year’s Northern Voice conference, one of the more visible sponsors was TravelMasters, who were obviously using the conference as a launching pad into the world of DIY marketing. Marching in with gusto, and with cookies.

photo from @julieszabo

Now, I will be the first to admit that (being in marketing) my tolerance for campaigns that miss the mark is exceedingly low.

But, of the people I talked to about the cookies, I’m not the only one who was a bit confused and left wanting (for substance, not cookies. The cookies were delicious.).

I want to like TravelMasters’ efforts – they’re branching out into a market that might make sense and they were certainly going in the right direction. But they could have done so. much. better.

If you can’t quite read the picture, the text is:

Kathleen’s Gingersnaps

1. Scoop premium vanilla ice cream in between two Gingersnaps. Roll cookies in toffee chips, wrap in plastic wrap, place in freezer
2. Spread chocolate spread over one cookie, top with slices of banana (sounds funny, but it’s delicious)
3. Mix a vanilla pudding package and 500ml whipping cream together to make “vanilla fluff”. Spread vanilla fluff over one cookie, top with sliced fruit
4. Spice up a roast pork gravy by substituting flour with crumbled gingersnaps
5. Grab a cookie and stuff it in your mouth….they are delicious on their own! Yum Yum!

If we can think to do that with a cookie, imagine what we can do with your next vacation
twitter tag #TMcookies

First, what TravelMasters did right:

• Targeted a conference where it can be reasonably assumed that many of the attendees are worldly, enjoy new experiences and have enough disposable income to take vacations. An excellent departure from the standard places travel agencies advertise (wedding fairs & home shows) and a good way to stand out!
• Provided a snack during the conference afternoons, when people are hungry and looking for a sugar fix
• Added some interest to the packaging to showcase their creativity
• Included a twitter tag to track conversations about the cookies, tying them into the social media part of the conference

Now, here’s how it could have been orders of magnitude better:

Who is Kathleen?! Sure, she makes a tasty gingersnap, but why do I care? Unless she is important to the company and its message (in which case, tell me who she is!), she is a distraction. Just call them “Gingersnaps from TravelMasters.”

Using the bag to tout their creativity is a big win, but the TravelMasters’ team did it in a way that creates a lot of cognitive dissonance (one of the few $3 words I still remember from university). I’m already at a social media conference, eating cookies. Now I’m reading about ways to be creative with the cookies. And out of nowhere: THINK ABOUT VACATIONS, QUICK!

I am not thinking about vacations now. I am wondering where the hell that came from, and wondering what it has to do with cookies or the conference.

How about instead, you put something on the packaging that shows how creative you are about snacks (which I’m already on) and travel, which is what you WANT me to think about?

Five things to do when you travel with our Gingersnaps (and I pulled these out of my arse in about 5 minutes):
1. Stash them in your carry-on when you fly to Paris (not liquid, so they pass the airplane food rule) for a better nosh when those intolerable nut-snacks come around
2. Share the cookies with someone on your bus tour in Auckland, make a new friend
3. Take some downtime, feed broken pieces to pigeons in Central Park
4. Stick your nose in the bag and breathe in the heady, sweet aroma when you’re walking past another open sewer grate in Thailand
5. Combat the munchies in Amsterdam. ‘Nuff said.

Adding the suggested twitter hashtag was also a great tie-in to the conference, but it’s a bit empty without a reason for me to tweet about the cookies. “If you build it, they will come” only works in Kevin Costner movies. You can’t just say “here, take your social media and get to it” – give me a reason to engage.

Along with the tag, ask me what other ideas I have for the cookies, or where I’d take them. Better, tell me to share my idea and enter everyone who shares into a contest for a travel perk or accessory.

Finally, maybe give me a reason to engage with your website. Put up a page where I can download the recipe (and while I’m there, remind me why I need you to book my next vacation).

And speaking of wanting me to think I need you to book my vacation, have a reason (beyond the cookies) for me to think that way!

I wandered up to the TravelMasters table at the conference and asked what made different from any other agency, and they gave me the line every other travel agency has ever given: “our agents have all traveled extensively, we have access to exclusive deals, we… (I tuned out).”

They had a captive audience in a pretty specific niche. Tell me something that matters to me and will pique my interest. I’m a tech-savvy person at a blogging conference. Set me up with a free travel blog, with a template customized to my destination. Give me a list of wireless hotspots in the city I’m visiting. Promise me one of the Lonely Planet iPhone apps for my destination. Something that shows you care about me as a customer, and understand me better than any of those other agencies who weren’t smart enough to show up at Northern Voice.

And on the chance that TravelMasters is monitoring for social media mentions and finds this – I’m going to New Orleans next week (first time) and Las Vegas two weeks after that (seventh time) – what would you suggest I do there with the cookies?

Nobody Has Shown up Naked to Work Lately…

The company I work for is in the HR/Recruiting industry, so I find myself floating around a number of online HR forums.

I found this absolute gem this afternoon (via The Business Insider) – if you have any interest in HR or workplace cultures, give it a look:

The company I used to work for was well on its way to fostering a culture like that. Focus on results. Foster innovation. Hire superstars. As far as I know, they are still walking that path. They didn’t always succeed and there were bumps in the road for sure – it’s not easy to maintain that culture of trust and innovation when there is a failing economy raining crap down on everyone’s heads everyday. But they tried. They try.

And I can speak firsthand to what an incredible experience it is working for a company like that. I had trust and freedom from my manager. I was encouraged to innovate. We all worked incredibly hard to get things done, but it never felt (at least to me) like a chore. If the joy in accomplishment and excitement for future projects was any indication, I don’t think anyone felt like it was much of a chore. Of course there were also bad days – it’s not a job if they don’t need to pay you to show up – but the culture as a whole was designed to foster success. I learned more and accomplished more in a little under 2 years there than in the 5 years previous.

The company I work for now is one of the procedure-driven risk-averse companies mentioned in the slide-deck. It’s not bad, but it’s certainly not incredible. Innovation and excellence are more difficult. I manage. And I’m incredibly glad to have had the experience I did. Knowing the importance of not settling into mediocrity keeps me going.

And I hope that these examples of success are what keep driving corporate culture into the future. Every employee should have an experience like that.

I often note that, from a business trends perspective, HR (specifically recruiting) is today where marketing and marketing automation were three years ago.

In marketing & PR the message these days is to not be so afraid of giving up the “command and control” style of push marketing. Because you don’t actually have control anyhow. Giving up control and instead building trust and engagement will be the keys to excellence and success gaining customers.

I hope HR departments and executive boardrooms get the message soon that the same tactics will work for winning excellence & success from employees.

Case of the Mondays

I rarely blog about work, but this was too good not to share.

I work for a company that sells HR/Recruiting software. This is what came back as a response to one of our outreach campaigns:

We are not as technical at [huge US company] with our recruiting process as you would think. since we hire anybody who fogs a mirror we use the standard Monster, local papers and yahoo jobs tools to find talent to interview. …[E]ach each district office handles it’s own recruiting which are as unique as thumbprints for some areas. [Huge US company] headquarters provides no real help towards recruiting besides radios adds every now and then, which hits the wrong audience we are looking for.

Sounds like somebody has a serious case of the Mondays!

Who needs Wit when there is Crank

I always know when I’ve been negligent in my blogging when my mom calls to ask if everything’s ok, because I haven’t posted in a while.

Sorry Mom.

But! to make up for the fact that some of you are refreshing this page day after day, or staring woefully at your RSS readers, wondering when they will alert you to the fact that I’ve gifted you with a new way to waste 15 minutes at work (I’m a superstar in my own mind), I give you:

The Cranky Product Manager!

Specifically, The Cranky Marketer’s Guest Post!

If you were ever in doubt as to what I do all day (besides read the Cranky PM – thankfully, she doesn’t update that often, so I do get some work done), this should give you a pretty good idea.

Oh, and for the record, I am a cranky marketer. I’d love to be a cranky pm, but decided to get a fluffy arts degree, because engineering is hard and stuff.


The Universe Giveth, and the Universe Taketh Away

Note that it’s very important to remember that the universe doesn’t always do it in that particular order!

As you already know, on Monday I was laid off.

And on Friday, five short, busy days later I had a great offer of employment on my desk.

How did it all happen? With a happy dose of great timing, the fact that I’m awesome, and the power of the internets.

On Monday I tweeted about being laid off from Company A.

A friend who used to work with me at Company A and got laid off in the first round back in October, and now works at Company B (who we already had a relationship with at Company A – we used each other’s products) pinged me to send him my resume, as Company B was hiring for a position in my area of expertise.

Turns out my resume got in to Company B quite late in the process, but thanks to the relationship between Companies A and B, there were a few people at Company B who know I am highly proficient in using Company B’s product.

At the same time my resume was circulating at Company B, their product manager was talking to new clients at Company C, who were talking about replacing their existing Graphic Designer & Company B product point person with a marketing generalist. Hopefully a generalist who either was, or was willing to become an expert on Company B’s product.

So Company B’s product manager (who I’ve worked with in the context of using Company B’s product at Company A) thought of me and asked me if I minded if he passed my resume on to Company C. I of course said okay.

Clear as mud, right?

Anyhow, that all happened on Tuesday morning. Tuesday afternoon I got the phone call from Company C to come in for an interview on Wednesday. I instantly clicked with the person who’d be my new boss, and had great interviews with the three others I met with. It’s still in high tech, and exactly the kind of environment and role I thrive in. I had another interview on Friday morning, and Friday afternoon I had the offer in hand.

My first day is Wednesday.

I can not believe the good fortune that came out of all this. I’d seen the writing on the wall about the problems with Company A. I was already thinking about what my next move would be, but didn’t want to leave because of the amazing relationship I had with my boss there. I figured I’d ride things out. I even knew about the position with Company B that my resume was originally requested for, but had decided not to pursue it, because I didn’t want to quit my boss.

Then the decision was made for me, at exactly the right time for things to fall into place.

So to celebrate, I bought a new MacBook!

I’m going to be working overtop of my severance, so instead of a sudden belt-tightening, we’re in the fortunate situation of actually receiving a bit of a windfall. Since my existing home computer’s newest component is about 8 years old, it’s something that’s been long overdue. I was resigned to waiting until our debt’s paid off, but now I can afford a new computer, and even give our line of credit a bit of an extra kick with what’s left.

I quite obviously owe the universe a great debt of gratitude, so I’ll be looking to re-align the karmic balance PDQ. If you need any favours from me at this point, now’s the time to ask!

Dose of Reality

Last week was a tough one around chez watercooler.

Generally I’d been a mostly curious observer of the financial crisis. Oh sure, our investment accounts are taking a hit right now, but our fund manager has been great (recommended pulling out of AIG about 6 months before the crisis began) and I’m confident our accounts have plenty of time to recover before we even think of retiring anyhow.

Also, with our variable rate mortgage & loans, the dropping prime lending rate has been nothing but good for us.

But the magnitude of what’s going on hit a bit closer to home last week. Because of the current financial outlook there was some necessary restructuring at work, and a number of my colleagues on Tuesday ceased to be colleagues as of Wednesday. And it sucked. Still does. I’ve been on both sides of “restructuring” before, and it’s a crap situation either way.

There’s a big part of me that gets a huge charge out of the tumultuous nature of these things when they happen in startups – when some unexpected chaos hits and everyone needs to change focus on a dime and pull together and everything gets kindof rough and wavy and frightening and exciting for a while. I do love it.

But then there’s the bit that realizes what it means for those who are no longer in the lifeboat and puts a bit of a damper on the whole thing.

And while (for various reasons that make sense, that I’m not at liberty to discuss here) I’m not nervous about being laid off in the immediate future, I’m not naieve enough to think that with the current global fiscal situation, things couldn’t rapidly swing again – expected or not. So I’m a bit personally financially paranoid, getting slush funds and some padding in order that we’ve been a bit lax on building up, and putting some other projects on hold while we do it.

I’m still not entirely convinced that the world is a scary place, but it’s getting a lot less comfortable these days.

So that’s where I’m at right now. I have a job, that I still love, that’s awfully exciting right now – especially since an incredibly shitty week is finally over. But I no longer consider myself not-quite-affected by the current financial crisis.

How about you?

Two Birds, One Stone

As a marketing professional, I try to be responsible and pay attention to other people’s marketing efforts.

And I’m often stymied by what passes as good marketing these days. I just have to vent about a couple examples of prime marketing stupidity from two companies that I really thought knew better:

Example One: Lululemon

I was picking up some new gym clothes at Lululemon a while back, and along with my $100+ in items, I was given one of their ubiquitous bags to schlep my purchases home in. It’s nice and all, because I happen to like reusable bags, and I’m pleased the company is giving them away (instead of charging a buck or two, like just about everyone else).

But then they went and ruined it all for me. The enthusiastic checkout person gleefully informed me that if I brought back the bag for my next purchase, I’d get FIFTY WHOLE CENTS off!



The cheapest item I’ve seen at Lulu is an $8 headband. In my experience, the average item runs at about $50 (basic shirts, sports bras, shorts) and many items retail in the $75-$100 range (jackets, fancy pants).

If I’m shopping at Lululemon at all, $0.50 is NOT going to incent me to remember my bag. If I’m a regular Lululemon shopper, I might lose more than $0.50/week in dropped change. Not to mention that if I forget my bag, I now get another one for the low, low price of not receiving my $0.50 discount.

Why not say that for every time I remember my bag, you’ll donate $0.50 to an environmental charity? Keep a running tally of how many shoppers have contributed to that particular endeavor by remembering their bags. Then kick it up a notch at the end of whatever year you’re following by matching all those “shopper contributions” – now forgetting my bag costs the charity $1 (and costs me a bit of shame in front of my fellow Lulu shoppers as I check out).

But a lousy $0.50 off for me? Keep it. Use it to hire a better marketing team.

Example Two: Apple

I just just (like 10 seconds ago) got an email from Apple. This is not new. I get emails from Apple all the time. Product updates, iTunes receipts, ads, whatever. I subscribe to them and expect it.

What I don’t expect is blanket “dumb” marketing from a company who’s built a business on being elegant and savvy to a generation of media and tech-savvy consumers.

I got an email inviting me to download the BIG! FAST! NEW! FANCY! iTunes 8! WITH GENIUS!

Great. I did that over a week ago, THE DAY IT CAME OUT.

Not only that, but Apple already knows I did it! I had to sign in to iTunes (with that email address) to upgrade to version 8. I had to sign in to iTunes (with that email address) to purchase the album my Genius playlist recommended.

Apple, you act like you don’t even know me! Sending an email to introduce me to a product you already know I have and have used, that’s like having a one-night-stand, passing that person on the street a week later and not even recognizing them! It hurts!

Why not email me about features with iTunes 8 I haven’t used yet? Why not suggest a billion more artists and playlists I might like based on the Genius data you’ve already collected from me? Why not just act like my interactions with you register somewhere (other than with your accounts receivable department).

In both cases, my boss would rake me over the coals if I so much as suggested ideas as asinine as the ones I encountered. I don’t even want to think about what would happen if those ideas actually made it out of my office to annoy and irritate our customers. (In actuality, my boss is a very nice person who’d diplomatically reject those dumbass ideas – while surely wondering what was wrong in my brain – and suggest better ways of doing things. But you get what I’m saying).

So Lululemon, Apple, sack up and pay attention! I expect better, a LOT better, from you both.