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.

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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

 

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!

It is 7:00pm. Who is minding my children?

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

For my high schooler:

Monday, November 4, at 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, November 6, at 7:00 p.m.

For my grade schoolers:

Thursday, November 7, at 7:00 p.m. [Not on the actual calendar..but you get the point.]

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…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.

This year: enough head scratching. I am not going. Sorry. I happen to be incredibly lucky: there are  fantastic schools in our neighborhood; more importantly, the administrators, school boards, etc. are not only super-qualified but also really nice people and often friends of mine. But I can’t do it any more. I need to 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.

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.

Just DO It: Part II

A few weeks ago I wrote a blogpost about the whole concept of “just do it”..dive in. Embrace this crazy world we are in right now. Since that post, Facebook agreed to purchase Instagram for $1 billion when just a week prior (or was it days?!) Sequoia Capital led an investment round that had valued Instragram at $500 million. OK. So let me repeat: “just do it” !! Things are moving thisquickly.

I am trying my best to “just do it” – to dive in, roll up my sleeves, read as much as I can, ask as many questions as I can, connect with as many people as I can.  Any results? Yes. In spades. I’m “putting myself out there” which can be scary. It is possible my family will disown me out of embarrassment – but truthfully, I do not care. (Ok, I would care, but they won’t.)

I went out on a limb this week by submitting a guest blog for Built in Chicago (“BIC”). Their request? Write about your favorite Chicago start-up – which I did (Dabble is my favorite). Why would I possibly “put myself out there” to a community of entrepreneurs and risk earning a tarnished reputation? Because BIC was giving out tickets valued at $350 to attend “The Art of Marketing” conference – that’s why I “put myself out there”  and submitted a post. I was anxious to attend The Art of Marketing. Lucky me: I won a ticket.

At the Art of Marketing held at the Chicago Sheraton I was able to hear the following speakers, many of whom I have admired from afar as stellar marketers and even brands : Seth Godin (thisissethsblog), Gary Vaynerchuk (The Thank You Economy), Mitch Joel and Avinash Kaushik (of Google); unfortunately I missed hearing Keith Ferrazzi, whose book Never Eat Alone I really liked.) How fantastic to listen to the marketing genius’ of our day! If you still do not think things are moving thisquickly, I can assure you that Gary Vaynerchuk’s ability to use the “F” word over 50 times would have hammered home the truth: things are moving thisquickly. Just DO It.

Upon my return home from the conference I received an invite to speak on the #BBRadio Show hosted by Beth Rosen of 4Keys Media. Even after alerting Beth that I was a beginning blogger (aside from the blogs I posted for Patch.com all last year for my Plum District work)  – she confirmed her desire to interview me. I Just Did It and said yes. Two nights later I was on with Johanna Cook @mommacuisine as hosted by Beth Rosen. Both Beth and Johanna were so nice – once again confirming what I already have felt: the blog world I am exploring is so welcoming. I look forward to meeting each of these moms in July where we will connect in person.

Lastly, not to be left behind, I wanted to try online education firsthand  so I enrolled in Computer Science 101 being offered by Stanford. For free. Through Coursera. I’d like to get a sense for how it feels to take education into my own hands. I may have an MBA but I have never learned a thing about code! In Robin Sharma’s bestseller The Leader Who Had No Title his number one rule of new work (out of 50) is: “You are not just paid to work. You are paid to be uncomfortable – and to pursue projects that scare you.” If I can do it, anyone can. Just DO It.

Connectedchicagomom: making connections on and offline.