Thank You For Keeping Me Smart

Thank you 2015

In my constant quest to stay smart I’d like to wrap up 2015 by thanking:

Gary Vaynerchuk for ‘walking the talk’ and hustling like no one. #genius.

Michael Moe of GSV Capital for publishing #AtoApple which I read religiously each Sunday evening to understand market analyses and perspectives on innovation.

Wayne Breibarth for his free LinkedIn tips and constant value.

Twitter (Lists) for the ability to save me TIME in organizing my information so succinctly. Here are the 111 VCs I follow daily.

ChicagoInno for keeping an ‘ear to the ground’ on the Chicago innovation scene.

Kendra Olvany, my Up n Running Co-Founder and co-researcher/curator for The RUNDOWN for her insights and attention to detail.

Built in Chicago for a thoughtful, organically  grown community covering this great city of Chicago.

Technori for impactful monthly pitch nights here in Chicago and for recognizing that people still want to get together in person.

theSkimm for bite-size but intelligent supplements to my daily news reading.

The Muse for its ‘Companies Hiring Like Crazy’ emails and Sunday Inspirations. Even though I am not looking for a new job it is critical to see who is hiring, where they’re hiring and why they’re hiring.

Business Insider for ’10 things in tech you need to know today’.

Mattermark Daily for its compiled Sunday Weekend Edition.

Medium for daily digests and to see what is trending.

Re/code Decode Podcasts by Kara Swisher for fantastic in-depth interviews with tech leaders. I listen while bike riding or walking and always learn something meaningful.

The Information to fill in gaps.

Blue Sky Chicago for attempting to cover innovation in Chicago (part of the Chicago Tribune).

Kellogg Insights for research coming out of Northwestern’s Kellogg School.

McKinsey Insights for the occasional alert/report on technology and the internet.

The Broadsheet from Fortune mag for boiling down c-suite female news.

Simply Measured which provides valuable insights on Instagram trends with meaningful industry reports.

Skillcrush newsletters and the brilliant Adda Birnir for reminding me of the importance of coding.

Lastly, the obvious ‘go-to’ reads: Wall Street Journal, Crains  NYTChicago Tribune (special shootout to Scott Kleinberg who always shares social media tips.)

It’s been a great year of growth and staying smart. Here’s to a 2016 of keeping up!

Dear Jordan Spieth’s Mom and Dad:

 

picstitchDear Mr. and Mrs. Spieth:

Thank you.

You have restored dignity to the game of golf.

You have demonstrated through your son’s actions and demeanor that it is in giving that we receive.

You have reminded the world that there are givers and there are takers. Be a giver.

You have reminded the world that there are many Ellies who need love and need to be understood.

As a mom of five who not only competed in golf in my youth but also currently have sons who compete in the game it is refreshing to see a golfer come along who simply “gets it” – for all the world to see.

Parents are never really provided much in the way of feedback. I speak for most of the world when I say this:

You are just what the world needs to see in parenting.

Thank you.

 

Your Attention Please. [Case Study: Jewel Food]

[Note: This is a post that was written two years ago and was updated following the news announced yesterday about Jewel’s new coupon app.] “Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” ― Mary Oliver I have always noticed … Continue reading

It is 7:00pm. Who is minding my children? (Second time around.)

These are the opportunities (school and parent-related topics) that were “available” to me this week:

For my high schooler:

Monday: at 7:00 p.m. Lecture by NYT best-selling author Ron Lieber on parenting teens.

For my grade schooler:

Monday:  at 6:30 p.m. Sports banquet (with child).

Wednesday: at 7:00 p.m. 7th grade informational Springfield trip meeting (with child).

Thursday: Nothing. (Thank goodness: the kids are out snowblowing the neighbors’ driveways!) ….but you get the point.

Not included in the above list: regular sports practices and activities, parent work meetings, etc.

How did we get here?

Said another way: Who will mind my children?

How on earth did we get to the point whereby working moms, “stay at home” moms, working dads, “stay at home” dads are asked to be somewhere on school nights at 7:00pm? As if jobs, school, sports, and extra-curricular carpooling are not enough, we are being “asked” or “invited” to evening “opportunities” out of the home. In no way am I suggesting that the 7:00pm meetings and opportunities are not meaningful or important…it’s just that I am scratching my head. Why? Because I am a rule follower and it’s hard for me to not “do the right thing.” When someone tells me that I should come hear a great speaker on successful parenting that the school is sponsoring…or attend an informational meeting on the Springfield trip even though I’ve attended it already for 4 children…well, I should do it. It’s “what you do” as part of being a good and supportive parent; it’s “what you do” to be part of the school community.

Shouldn’t we be home? That’s where I should be. So should my husband. He should be home. That’s where I am most valued. That’s where he is most valued. Moreover, although I love my computer, I am sometimes tethered to it simply to pay attention (read: not MISS) the important school to-do’s that now come via computer to the mom’s email.

So here’s a start-up idea for someone: grab it. Please create a central repository of Vimeos, (password protected for schools). Every parent in America can stay home on school nights (when not carpooling for sports and extra-curricular events). Yep. Stay home. Cook dinner together. Eat dinner together. Read a book together. Just be together.

After the kids are in bed, mom and dad can take out their computer and “go” to the 7:00pm meeting via Vimeo.

The “opportunity” of a lifetime.

Thanks, but No “Thanks.”

You’ve given your precious time to a Millennial. Waiting for a “Thank You”? Good luck.

Thanks

 

 

It’s time to take matters into your own hands.

 

 

 

I learned the hard way. “Go to school” on me! You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

True story: a few years ago my mom casually mentioned to me a year after the fact that one of my children (plus a few friends) never really thanked her for some substantial time she had invested in them. She wasn’t being rude – but clearly my mom was bothered.

On SO many levels I had missed the “teachable moment” that we all desire as parents, bosses, mentors, etc. Furthermore, the millennial offenders are just fantastic kids! (After all, 3/5 of my kids are millennials). They are our future.

So, here’s how I have solved the problem:

I ask.

That’s it.

“I’ve given my time to you. This is what I expect in exchange.”

From now on, each time I help someone (particularly a millennial!) whether it is in a job search, a resume review, college recruiting support, etc. I use it as an opportunity to explain my expectations. Crystal clear. I am no longer waiting. I do not want to be disappointed. I do not ever want to have the feeling my mom did. Rather, I have chosen to take the matter into my own hands and use it as a chance to “shape” someone in a positive way.

Here’s what I asked of a very capable young woman recently for whom I offered to write a college letter of support:

1) Please alert me as to when I need to complete my letter. (Note: timelines need to be her responsibility, not mine.)

2) Please follow-up with the school to be certain they have received my letter and it is appropriately in your file. (Note: I am asking her to “own” the process.)

3) Please write me a handwritten thank you note. (Note: while it seems so obvious, it’s not. These kids have SO many means of communication. They need to understand that the world is noisy. Stand out with a handwritten note. Period.)

4) Please let me know as soon as you hear of an acceptance, denial or deferral (Note: I am asking her to keep me in the loop; I have invested my time and merit inclusion of information.)

5) Please keep me posted over the next few years. I have taken my time. I care about you, your school career and probably even your post-college career. (Note: while she probably does not even realize it, I am “coaching” her for how to interact when she begins job prospecting. Further, to the extent that she really does keep me posted – it is likely that I will somehow help her!)

6) Lastly, please remember that “in life” there will be people who help you get where you are going. Please treat those people as “people in your life” and stay in touch. Drop them a line every so often. Send a Christmas card. Whatever. (Note: The important thing is that the gift of time comes with a responsibility. I gave her my time. If she plays her cards right, we can have an amazing relationship.)

Postscript: The young lady was denied admission (early admission) to the college she so desperately sought to attend. Not even a deferral. She and I have communicated a few times since her deeply disappointing news. It is my hope that she takes my “advice” and stays in touch. Trust me: if she does just that I would be thrilled to help point her in a direction, introduce her to possible internships, and even help her land a job after college, etc. [After all, she already successfully completed steps 1-4 with terrific success!]

Invest in yourself. Invest in others. Say thanks.

Over 50? Have an MBA? The New World of Work: Get Over Yourself.

James Janega of ChicagoBlueSky, part of the Chicago Tribune,  posed this question with a subsequent article, “What predicts success at a startup?” Education? An MBA?

Not really. Or so he determined through various interviews of founders. Even better, he coined a great term: “humble agility.” In my opinion, Janega nailed it.  What exactly IS the value of an MBA? More importantly, though, what does it take in this day and age to have success at a startup – or better yet – be a successful worker? I just turned 50 – so I am gearing this post to my age group.

For what it’s worth, I have segued in and out of the workplace as my husband and I raise our kids. I have had many roles over the years from co-founding a start-up to working in traditional, Fortune 1000-type to venture-backed fast-paced startups. I also have always worn a business development and sales hat in each role I have undertaken. I prosper in growth mode.

Today there is a new world order. In my experience, these are the rules:

New rule:

  • Be Humble. No one really cares whether you have fancy credentials (e.g. an MBA or Ivy League diploma). What employers really care about is your willingness to roll up your sleeves and do whatever it takes to get the job done. The days of having a secretary or analyst or even office space seem to be gone; as in not returning. For the startup world, anyways.
    • My experience: I have a Kellogg MBA for which I am forever grateful. That being said, the best preparation one can get for the ability to roll up one’s sleeves  is good, old-fashioned sales experience. If you’ve ever had to sell/work on commission in order to pay your rent, then you will understand. Why? It’s humbling. As for rolling up your sleeves? If you are a parent you might have an advantage. Why? It, too, is humbling. I’ve spent years rolling up my sleeves. That’s what moms do. As for the MBA? It does come in handy for a mom who segues in and out of the workforce as I have over the last 25 years. I view it as my insurance policy or certificate of authenticity. My conclusion: sales experience + parent  (+MBA as a bonus)= good combo for long-term employability.
  • Be Agile. Be willing to roll with the punches – (and they’re moving really fast.) Stretch yourself.
    • My experience: The world is moving fast. You have a choice to either watch it speed by or try to hop on board and learn along the way. Read. Practice. Our children will have +/- 13 careers in their lifetime. We cannot sit around with an old-fashioned mindset.
  • Continuously learn.
    • As Michael Moe often cites in his GSVCapital reports, “people need to continuously hone their skills to evolve with market demand. We describe this trend as ‘KaizenEDU’, drawing on the Japanese term for ‘continuous improvement’.” Try new tools. If I hear one more person tell me that they “don’t do social media”?! Really? How will you ever know the right questions to ask if you don’t have any first-hand experience??
  • Embrace youth. Be willing to work with employees much younger than you are, whetherGenx’ers,Millennials, or even teens – embrace it!
    • My experience: whether helping my college-grad daughter’s friends secure employment or working for a boss 15 years my junior – forget about the ‘experience-is-better’ adage. Sure, in life I have plenty of experience. In work I have plenty of experience. I also had assistants and analysts complete tasks for me in my “old life”; today, the younger kids are digital natives. They have good ideas, great technical skills and quite often – very disruptive and new ways of looking at old problems. Do not begrudge them; rather celebrate their youth!

In summary – and this is tough to swallow:

Get over yourself.

Go to school on me: once you do, it’s an awful lot of fun..PLUS You’ll be able to keep up with the Joneses in a whole new way!

 

My Upcoming 30 Day “Print Diet”

I tried the ‘digital diet’ thing. Sadly, I flunked.

I really enjoy learning and being online. Moreover, managing a house of 7 requires that I be online; from my experience there’s simply no way around it.

I recently decided to try a ‘print diet’: no Chicago Tribune, no Wall Street Journal, no New York Times, no Crain’s Chicago Business. I suspended all print delivery for 30 days in August.

Newspaper dietI’ll try to go entirely digital and mobile in my news reading. Also, I’ll supplement my digital subscriptions by adding in more “religious” reading of my favorite digital sources via either subscription or Twitter feed:

The Skimm, Business Insider, TechCrunch, Mashable, OZY Media, Re/Code, etc

Why? Print is getting too costly, and I am becoming more aware of the environmental impact of print media. Further, I should be able to digest all of my news via mobile phone.

Before the commencement of my “print diet,” I must confess that I have several concerns:

1) Will my children be bothered that my nose is buried more often in my phone? YES. I’ll need to be super disciplined and awake early as if I was reading the newspapers. Nothing else.

2) Will I miss the “little things” from the Chicago Tribune that I love so much…Mary Schmich? John Kass? Blue Sky Innovation? The obituaries? My daily horoscope? Sudoku? In the NYT, Thomas Friedman? In the WSJ, OP-Ed page and the weekend WSJ?

3) Will I be able to really dive deep into a subject? Will I resort to sound bites and headlines?

4) Will The Skimm, Twitter, etc. be enough to fill in the gaps?

I LOVE and APPRECIATE the “little things”. For example, I want to be able to hug an acquaintance after a loved one passes away; I want to commend a neighbor who is working hard on a start-up; I want celebrate the local kid who advances in his sport. Most importantly: if I miss my kids little things, then I’ll miss everything. If I sense that it is happening, I’ll go back to print.

 

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Robert Brault