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!

 

Why My First Tweet Said: “finally.”

In honor of its 8th birthday, last month Twitter set up the ability to find a user’s first tweet. If you are on Twitter, it is fun to see.

My first tweet:

My First Tweet

Why on earth would it say “finally”?

Here’s why. Crystal clear. I had worked full-time at Jones Lang LaSalle in consulting until I had my fourth child. Stayed home. Had a fifth. “Worked” at home as a mom but stayed current on all things business, still loving startups, entrepreneurs, etc. In addition, I had a few board and advisory roles. In early 2010, before Google made their offer to buy Groupon, I literally drove down to 600 West Chicago Avenue to sit in Groupon’s lobby to see whether I’d be too “old” to work there! I could see that they were going to be big..and I was ready to go back to full-time work and be part of the changing landscape. I so vividly remember sitting with my old HP12C calculator trying to “back into” Groupon’s revenue model! To make a long story short, I ended up landing a job at Plum District, which satisfied my desire to be in a rapidly growing company and not hide – but rather benefit – from my experience as a mom.

What did “finally” mean back in January, 2011? Here’s what it meant:

I am finally back in the game.

I am finally rolling up my sleeves to jump back in to the crazy frenzy of a venture capital backed start-up in the newly developing space of “daily deals.”

I am finally going to embrace ‘all things social’ even if I have no idea what I am doing.

I am finally going to adapt to the “new” way of doing business: working remote, embracing every social tool required for “social selling” such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, mom blogging community, Twitter parties, social media contests, daily deals, etc; affiliate links; widgets, no phone calls (rather, schedule gmail invites via calendar), onboarding, echosign, docusign, the resumator, Salesforce, Chatter, Intacct, people as dispensable and peers hired and fired with very short runways, churn on steroids, blogging for Patch, manual pivot tables, ExactTarget, dashboards,  Zendesk, webinars, stand-ups, all-hands, customer acquisition, screenshots, Compas, GAN (Google Affiliate Network), Radian6, Klout, social capital, gamification, data analytics, videos, and much more! Phew.

I jumped over the hurdle to get to the other side.

And it feels great.

Finally.

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!