Having it All

Many working parents are trying to figure out how to manage their work/life balance. Everyone is trying to figure out how to have it all. I remember after working a hard day at the office, prior to having kids, collapsing into bed and stating to my husband “I don’t know how people with kids can do, we don’t have kids and this is hard”.  After having kids, I thought I figured it out. You smash more into a day by sleeping less. After a few years of pure exhaustion, I realized that wasn’t the way to a happy life. I started to see the light when a friend told me, “You can have it all, you just have to define what all means to you”. It took awhile for the meaning of this statement to sink in but once I realized that I have the power and the right to define what I wanted, life got a lot easier.

Permission to Say “No”

I discovered I could give myself permission to say “no” to things. That those evenings out with acquaintances that I felt I had to accept because I might upset someone, when sleep was so much more important, I had the ability not to accept the invitation. That saying “yes” every time someone asked me to contribute to a committee, to donate time to this objective or to help out at the kid’s school, was not a requirement. I had the power to choose. I could choose the things that were important to me and fit into my schedule. I could say, this is important to me but not this year. I could say, I would love to but I just don’t feel like I could give it my all because I would be overextended. I had a choice. I could prioritize what was most important and I could define what “all” looked like to me. We have choices, some choices have consequences that are difficult, but we all have choices. We need to empower ourselves to make those choices, accept them as our choices and create the life that makes us happy.

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Being a Team Player

Throughout elementary, junior and high school I was always involved in some team activity, whether it was girl scouts or sports. I love the camaraderie, the laughter, the support. I love that as a group we could accomplish more as a team then anyone of us could achieve individually.

 One important lesson I learned, after determining out that I wasn’t a very talented athlete and I did not have the passion to become one, is that there was still a role for me to play for the love of the game and team. As a second-string varsity basketball player, my role was to push, challenge and drive the first string to do  better. My role was to prepare them for the next game. And this role, was extremely important, because I was helping them win something for all of us, the team.   Everyone on a team has a role to play, we need to embrace the role, own it and use it to propel the whole team forward.

 

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Modern Parenthood

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the hardship women have in learning how to breaking through the glass ceiling, as well as, negotiating for equal pay. What hasn’t been discussed are some of the benefits we have compared to men. Society has placed an expectation on women being the primarily caregiver at home with only a nod to the men who wants to stay home or contribute to the family as well.  With this societal expectation, women have been given choices that the men are wishing to have.  While women may struggle to be seen as equals, we should applaud that we also have choices men do not when it comes to work/life balance and spending time with our kids.

Enter the Working Dad

It starts at the very beginning. It is acceptable by society to ask a women while she is pregnant – are you going back to work? A women has a choice when children are introduced into the family to take a step back in their careers or to give careers up completely. It is a conversation that is ‘normal’. However, have you ever asked a man “are you staying home from work when the baby comes?” Typically, you don’t even ask, “are you taking time off when the baby comes”. At most, the question is “ how much vacation time are you taking when the baby arrives”.

In the last ten years, I have seen more men want to take a more prominent role in being part of their kids lives, and with this is the same constant push-pull and shall I say it, guilt, that comes with balancing out work and family.  In addition to the challenges men have with trying to balance their work with their kids, they have the additional pressure of being looked at as being in the wrong place when trying to participate in their kids lives. What women hasn’t at least thought at a school meeting, “what is he doing here” or “wow, a dad showing up”? Instead, the room should be filled with fathers and the mothers should expect them to be there.

Merging Family and Work

I have been in many situations where I have had to say “I can’t attend that meeting at that time because I need to go to my child’s X”. But I have very seldom heard a father say the same thing. Not because they aren’t thinking it but because they are afraid to say it. I have known several dads to state after the fact, “I missed my child’s event because of this meeting”.   For women, while we may have to work twice as hard to get places on some days, we have been given the opportunity to create a balance as best as we are able, even if it means leaving work early to take our kids to the doctor and then logging back on after the kids go to bed.

Modern Parenthood

In a 2013 study by Pew Research Center titled “Modern Parenthood” of the 2,511 adults polled, 50% of the men said they struggled with juggling work and family, this is not far behind the 56% of the women who stated the same thing. In addition, 50% of the men said they would choose to stay home if money was no object. A benefit granted to women by society norms in many situations. It is acceptable for a women to say – I am going to take a step back in my career in whatever form that looks like. Women have the ability to choose. A girlfriend of mine decided recently to make a decision to step back from her managerial position because she wanted to have more time with her kids. This is a choice to self-select out a leadership role. It is a choice that other women would applaud however if a man made that same decision he likely would not receive the same response.

Women may have limitations placed on them that we need to overcome, but we are also granted choices that others do not have. We should be thankful for these choices.

 

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The Risk of Falling in Love with a Deal

How can you do everything right when putting together a deal (or any project or product for that matter) and still get to the wrong answer? By falling in love with the deal.  Even when the deal is set up appropriately from the beginning, it meets all the valuation and other qualifications to enter the deal process, there are many other factors or information that can be discovered during the remainder of the deal process that could and likely should require you to walk away from the deal. However, after spending endless nights working on it, engaging large teams of individuals, spending several tens or hundred of thousands of dollars on attorneys, accountants and advisors, convincing the board to do the deal and potentially telling all key stakeholders that the deal will be closed, its hard to see the facts through the emotional tie of wanting to reach the finish line. Somewhere along the way facts can turn into emotions.

Turning a Blind Eye

I encountered this turning a blind eye to the facts by CEO’s several times in my career. The most memorable was when the head of corporate development and I went to the negotiation table to complete a deal to acquire a software company. We agreed with the CEO upfront of the negotiation parameters and at what point the deal stopped making financial sense for us.  During the negotiations it became clear that the other party was intent on changing the initial terms outlined and the deal metrics would no longer be accretive to our company. We walked away from the table. Ultimately, we were scolded by the CEO about how important this deal was to him and we were to go back to the table and accept the terms the acquired company had now outlined.  Ultimately, under this directive, the software company was acquired and never became accretive.  It became a black-eye on the company’s ability to make acquisitions and we were penalized in the public markets by our shareholders.

 There are several ways to ensure that a deal stays true to the initial strategic and financial objectives.

Ensuring that the objectives of the deal are well known and understood by the deal team and key stakeholders. Create alignment on key strategic and financial metrics. Agree to guardrails as to where the deal can go off track and should be scrapped. Understanding the key financial metrics necessary to be achieve for a successful outcome.  These metrics should include not just the acquisition target’s post-integration financials but also the costs of integration including team retention but also opportunity costs. What is the cost of the deal and integration teams to do manage the deal? What other strategic objectives could they be moving forward instead? Continually updating and refining the deal metrics as information is gathered.  As the deal continues to evolve, the integration teams are starting to meet and the acquisition target team members are sharing more data and information, ultimately new facts emerge and assumptions can be modified. Creating an integration plan upfront to ensure timelines and costs that are included in the financial metrics can be met.  Developing the integration plan during the deal process with both side’s teams provides  the opportunity to learn about what can be eliminated and leveraged post-integration and in what timeframe. It provides the chance to validate initial assumptions and project roadmaps. Create an integration team that made up of individuals that will be responsible for the financial, product and customer outcomes.  The integration team should include the operators of the business that will be required to meet objectives post-integration in order to ensure integration plans are consistent with current operating processes and procedures and to obtain buy-in from the operators as they will have to live with the results. Vital information regarding the time and cost of integration will also come to light. Understand the culture, motivation and morale of the acquiring company’s team and how these will impact the deal metrics and integration plans. The acquiring company founders and key team members may have different objectives and motivations once they have sold their shares. Teams may have different personality types, way of interacting and collaborating, and leadership styles all which could led to difficulties integrating the businesses. Plan to have an executive sponsor spend significant time at the acquired company post-acquistion. Providing on-site facilitation of the acquired company’s assimilation into the culture, way of life and processes of the acquiror will help accelerate the integration process. Create a retention plan for key team members, that is included in the deal metrics. There are typically several team members that are required to ensure a successful integration and ongoing support of clients and the products. Review each team member for their importance and how long they are required to stay with the company for the financial objectives of the deal post-integration to be achieved. Develop a retention plan, preferably that is customized by person, to encourage them to stay through important milestone dates. Be willing to walk away. Maintain an open state of mind that the deal may not be consummated for multiple reasons and that failure to do the deal is likely to be deemed a success as the acquirer will not be saddled with financial obligations which will not produce sufficient returns. Create a debate team.   Have a team of independent advisors, either from your internal team or paid consultants, for the deal that are focused on keeping independent and bringing to the forefront issues with the deals that could have the deal go outside the originally agreed upon guardrails.

 

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Learning From Everyone You Meet

Life has always been filled with people who want to be better than the next person, who think they can only get ahead if someone else is pushed down. I do not think it’s about being better than the next person, I think its about being a better person. I have been blessed with knowing and working with talented individuals throughout my life and I have learned something from every one of them. How to do something better, learn something new, do something differently and just as important learning not to repeat some of their mistakes. I found that self improvement, learning, evolving and growing was my personal challenge. That someone else could set a higher bar for me to achieve because there will always be someone better than me in some aspect but the only person I needed to better than, was the person I was yesterday.   Competing against another team member can be destructive because someone has to lose, but competing against myself, allows me to be a team member that can encourage growth in the full team.

 

 

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Valuing All My Role Models

I often get asked the question “Isn’t hard to be a female executive without any significant female role models to support you”.  I have to admit, I am always surprised by the question because it never occurred to me that I didn’t have role models in my career.  As I look through my career, it has mainly been men who have made me see that I could do more, achieve more, and contribute more. They have helped me by believing in me, creating opportunities for me, giving me expanded experiences and by teaching me.  They have taken chances on me, supported me, led me and followed me. They have taken me aside and given me great coaching advice. They have let me lean on them when I have made mistakes. While, there are experiences that I have shared and learned from other female executives, I have had lots to learn, and I have been blessed by having strong roles models – regardless of gender.

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Key Strategies for Networking as an Introvert

 

I have a confession, I am an introvert. Being an introvert doesn’t necessarily make someone shy, it refers to how one generates energy. An introvert gathers energy by being alone and has their energy drained by social and large settings. I call it being “on”, when I have to have on my best face, give talks and speeches, ensure conversation is flowing and create connections.  Extroverts on the other hand, are the opposite, they gather energy when interacting with others and find alone-time to be draining. This state of being, can make introverts hesitant to network because you know you are going to have to gear up to foster energy and in the end, you will be depleted.  Just the thought of networking can start the depletion of energy.

 

Strategy One: Focus on Smaller Events

I have found that I am able to help create my own ease of mind by being selective of which events I attend and what my goals are for the event.   For me, the smaller the setting the more comfortable I am in the setting. There is an added and significant bonus at networking at smaller events because there is a greater opportunity for more in-depth conversations where you can build a relationship rather than just conduct small talk.  If your goal of networking is to get enough people to know who you and your company are so that if they hear of something within their company you come top of mind, than focusing on building a connection is vital. Unless you are trying to hit some quota, a goal of the one who goes home with the most business cards wins, is not a valuable strategy. People need to know more than just your business card to be effective, your image needs to be invoked when a need is recognized.  Smaller events foster not just building a high value network but also don’t seem as daunting.

 

Strategy Two: Set Small, Achievable Goals

My second key strategy is to establish a small, achievable and non-scary goal of  meeting 2 new people per event. For me, meeting someone can look like being introduced to someone by someone else or  gathering the courage to just  walk up to someone and say “hi, my name is….”. It is helpful to have a clear thread on some current events, sports, news or otherwise so that you have a lead in for a conversation. After a few events, you will find you know one person at the event and they can introduce you to the one person they know and it gets easier.  Networking was a learned skill for me, it was really hard at first but it got easier with time. I have now increased my goal to go beyond meeting 2 new individuals per event, to making a connection with at least one of them. I will continue to work my way through a stepped process. I have found as I get more comfortable at each stage, my energy levels are no longer as depleted as they were in the beginning. I now look forward to seeing my friends at these events.

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Reinvent and Be Disruptive Everyday

I have spent my career working in the technology space, working for companies that are looking to be disruptive, to break through with the latest innovation to drive customer engagement and ultimately generating revenues and profitability. In several of the companies, we were competing against old guard companies that were selling the same thing they were selling yesterday, creating an opening for us to take. This week I encountered a new scenario as an enterprise SaaS based software company that was a follower into the market referred to the first mover in the market,  whose product has been in market a couple of years  longer as having mature, older technology.

 

disruption

It was a lesson, that regardless of the fact that you were a disruptor in the market, in an environment of rapidly changing technology that becomes less expensive each day, customers becoming more demanding and looking for personalized interactions and competitors that are always looking for ways differentiate, you can never rest on your laurels.  In order to move towards the future, you can not define yourself by what you did in the past, you have reinvent and be disruptive everyday.

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10 Ways to Bomb an Interview

Having worked with strong recruiting teams throughout my career and conducting many interviews with all level of talent, I have found there are 10 key attributes a candidate can do in an interview that for me shuts down the interview and has me ready to continue looking.

Come in unprepared, not having researched the company. This can be in the form of not knowing what the company does, to not knowing the services/products the company provides or not having a prepared list of questions for the interviewer.  If a company is going to think you are worthy of the position, you need to put some time into the interview. Research who the company is, what they do, and who they service. It is all on their website, if you can’t take the 10 minutes to do this research than you are not showing that you are interested in the position. Talk in clichés. The answer to “what do you want to do next in your career?” should not be, “I want to make an impact” or “ I want to be someplace I can be of value”. Everyone wants that. Be specific about how you will make an impact and bring value to that specific company, that specific role and team. Provide vague examples and details of your experience. If you state you can do something, provide specific, detailed examples of how you accomplished the achievement. The interviewer is looking for demonstrated examples that you can do the job you are interviewing for and that you accomplished what you state in your resume. Even if your past experience does not tend exactly to the present circumstances show how what you have done or learned could be applied to the requirements for the position. Show lack of confidence in your ability to meet the requirements of the job. If there are qualifications in the job requirements that are not something you have specifically done, saying you are have never done them and are unsure of your ability to do them, does not provide confidence to the interviewer. Provide specific examples of how other experiences can lend you the ability to take on new challenges successfully, be a quick learner or by adding up past accomplishments, this opportunity leverages all these skills. Lie.  You will be found out. Today’s transparency online and connections between people, makes it very easy to back check information.  State the truth in the best light possible. Don’t connect with the interviewer.  Work is more than just your skill set, it’s about relationships. It goes beyond not being rude to the interviewer, its about creating a thread of connectiveness that shows you can be a good member of a team.  Don’t look the interviewer in the eye.  Avoiding eye contact gives the impression you are not interested in the interviewer and at worse, that you are not being upfront about your skills. Looking the interviewer in the eye, showing interest in the meeting, and being engaged in the conversation, shows that you are interested in the position. Say that you are perfect because you have no weaknesses and have made no mistakes.  Wrong. We all have them, so be upfront about it. You don’t have to pick your worse ones, in fact pick something that you have been working on and have improved upon. Demonstrate that you have self-awareness and have made improvements. Talk about a  mistake not in terms of what you did wrong, but what did you learn from it and how it has added to your skill set. State that you are the perfect fit for what they are looking to hire. Really, why? Do you know their business, the team and skills sets they are trying to round out, the personalities on the team? Don’t assume you know what they need, tell them confidentially what you bring to the table and how it could benefit them, based on the information you have. Talk badly about your prior boss or prior company. If you are willing to talk badly about where you were, what are you going to do when you leave the company you are interviewing to go to? Everyone wants to know they will treated fairly and not disparaged afterwards. Talk about your prior company/boss in light of what you learned from it and the experience you gained.

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Close-up of woman hand holding credit card in payment terminal

Investing in Women is Investing in the Economy

Ignoring the financial value of women on our economy has influenced the continuing viewpoint by certain individuals that women do not have a large enough voice in the purchasing decisions and availability of the wallet of a household , that women do not contribute as much as men and therefore should not be paid as much as men and that women can not be as strategic and influential as men in leadership roles. However, there is clear evidence that this viewpoint is based on faulty rationale.

Woman Drive Purchasing Decisions

Women drive 80% of the purchases in the United States and 70% of purchase decisions by consumers in the European Union based on a study conducted by Lois Joy, Nancy Carter, Harvey M. Wagner, and Sriram Narayanan. If women are driving these financial decisions,this would led to a hypotheses that if women were paid more for their equal contributions that more money would flow back into the economy. This is further supported by studies and the results of micro lender to women, Opportunity International, whose CEO, Vicki Escarra has stated, “More than their male counterparts, women have proven to be great credit risks for lenders. Of the more than $515 million in our loan portfolio the repayment rate is at a healthy 98%”. This is largely in part because women grow businesses to invest back into their families and their communities.

Woman on Boards Drive Financial Health

Adding further weight to this data, there have been numerous studies that have proven diversity on boards is critical to a company’s sustained performance and higher returns. The “Mining the Metrics of Board Diversity” study by Thomson Reuters in July 2013, found that companies with no women on their boards underperformed, on average, relative to gender-diverse boards. In fact, when Fortune-500 companies were ranked by the number of women directors on their boards, those in the highest quartile in 2009 reported a 42% greater return on sales and a 53% higher return on equity than the rest. The financial return of a diverse board was further validated in a separate study where an analysis of FTSE-listed boards found that operational performance and share prices were both higher in the case of companies where women made up over 20% of board members than those with lower female representation.

Women make up approximately 50% of the population and depending on the area of study women can graduate at higher rates than men from universities. The market reality is that our labor markets are becoming constrained with insufficient labor to meet market demands as the current workforce ages and retires. Companies can significantly increase their recruiting pool by attracting more women to their ranks through greater pay and growth opportunities..

The data is clear, woman matter.

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