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!

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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

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

 

My “Stay Smart” Quest: 7 Tech Lessons Learned in 2013 + 7 Goals for 2014

Lessons learned in 2013:

1) Following/learning from/watching Gary Vaynerchuk (aka @GaryVee) is worth every moment. And it’s free. I think he is a marketing genius and is one of the few people who seems to “get” it.

2) Learning to code is important. Duh. It’s where the jobs will be. It’s what our kids need to understand.  If there is one thing to teach your children – start talking about computer code. Learn about toys like Goldieblox, or apps like Tynker, Scratch, Hopscotch, Daisy the Dinosaur, etc. Don’t believe me? Have a daughter? Check out  Girls Who Code.

3) Taking the time to learn to improve your digital literacy (and even code yourself) is worth it. OK – maybe not learn to code – but learn the language! In my quest  – or even mandate – to “innovate myself” I just “finished” taking Skillcrush 101 How to Get Started in Tech. For what equated to about $6/day I enrolled. [In retrospect, my move was not perfectly timed as far as the calendar goes: Oct 21-December 6th…when running a household of 7, hosting 16 for Thanksgiving and prepping for Christmas – a different month might have been better..but I really did not want to wait!] Several online places offer some free coding or courses for a fee: codecademy and general assemb.ly, coursera, and, of course, Skillcrush. In my opinion, the founder of Skillcrush, Adda Birnir, is someone to watch! BTW, Skillcrush uses Mightybell as its community platform (similar to Chicago-based Big Marker) – working in a community platform is a learning experience in and of itself~

 4) TRYING is still the best way to see whether a new technology makes sense. Don’t just read about something new: try it. When peers in my Up n Running group suggested I try several time-saving apps I did just that. As it turned out, Mosaic is now one of my “go-to” apps to create photo books from the camera roll on my iPhone. Even my kids have started using it and creating gifts for their friends. Cost per book: $25.

5) USE Twitter lists – it saves time. I think the lists are the absolute best feature of Twitter. I have spent some time creating several lists and my personal “required reading” every morning comes not only from my go-to news sources but also my Twitter lists.

6) Try something new..and be willing to pay for it. I bought a one month subscription to TheInformation. Why? I want to “try before I buy.” The world is noisy. I read a lot; the firehose of information is coming at me – I am trying to simplify by going digital..but I still like print, too. When I received my Chicago Tribune renewal notice and saw the price increase – I immediately was willing to try spending $ on The Information. Why? Because I hope to “swap out” some expenses (maybe I’ll unsubscribe from the Trib and be willing to pay for a different form – or even type – of news.)

7) Unless I make change a habit it will not happen. When my sister turned 50 last year and we went on a yoga weekend (I had never even done yoga OR meditation) I returned refreshed and willing to change my patterns to include meditation. That lasted only a few months. I tried meditating each morning before the kids awoke. No luck – I found myself praying. And thinking. In my most recent email from Lift I was reminded that 1) I need Goals Beyond Habits  and 2) Finish Lines  – I guess if I want to impact a certain change and make it a habit, I really need to “own it”!

In conclusion, to me, it is all about leveraging myself to save time. We all know time is our most valuable resource.

Goals for 2014:

1) Continue to follow/learn from/watch @GaryVee and I will read his latest book (Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook)

2) I will re-take/review my  Skillcrush material, which is still available to me from prior enrollment – this time, I will sit with a friend and learn together. While I am not committing to building a site per se, I did learn through my Skillcrush class that I am not good at learning technical material sitting alone at my computer.  Thankfully, I ran into a friend who took the same course: this time we will sit together to review the material!  

3) Install 1Password on my computer. Our Up n Running group reviewed the various options for secure passwords and concluded that 1Password is worth the $.

4) Increase my security/identity theft coverage – especially after the Target breach. Whether through Identity Guard or others, I will make it a priority.

5) Get on Snapchat (reluctantly) It’s where kids are spending their time…which means it is where brands will start to be. I need to understand firsthand how brands are using social.

6) Improve my Hootsuite use to save time.

7) Last and most importantly: continue to stay smart; (stay Up n Running) by reading about/curating and trying new technologies, apps, platforms. Reading includes but is not limited to private equity/venture capital reports, blogs, print and online news sources, local magazines, etc. If I do not “own” my skill set no on else will!