Monday, December 30, 2013

I Am Not Cool Enough to Dress Myself

After switching jobs, I realized a few things about my wardrobe.  First, I dress like an accountant.  Which was fine at my corporate client-facing job, but not as cool at my hip downtown startup.  Second, I'm in a bit of a style rut.  I tend to find something I like and buy the crap out of it.  I own 8 Calvin Klein shift dresses, 7 J. Crew Jackie cardigans, 5 striped shirts, and 4 pairs of red pants.

I also discovered that I apparently do all of my shopping online at night when I can't sleep.  Now that I've switched jobs, I actually sleep at night, and I started business school, so I have even less time than before.  I used a personal shopper at J. Crew before, which was great, but was very time consuming.   So, I decided to outsource dressing myself to strangers on the internet -- and there were a lot of options!

First, I tried Golden Tote, which has two options.  You pay $49, pick one item, and they will pick 2-3 more.  Or, you pay $149, pick 2 items, and they will send you 4 - 5 more.  There are no returns, unless you return the whole thing.  Golden Tote was originally conceived as an overstock solution for Puella, a brand which is sold at Anthropologie, which is really brilliant.   There were offering a baseball sweater, I had been looking for one for a while, and I also picked a striped sweater.  Because, you know, I didn't have any striped clothes in my closet yet.   In my tote, I received a sweatshirt, a ridiculously awesome striped maxi dress and two tops that didn't fit, which I gifted to friends.  I did the tote a second time, getting a vegan motorcycle jacket and a chunky sweater.  I received an okay striped dress, two striped tops,  and two tops that didn't fit that I gifted to friends.
Verdict:   It was okay.   I was forced to try new things.  However, I received even more striped items, which was not helpful for getting me out of my comfort zone.  The bonus items were hit or miss and both times, I ended up only being able to use 4.  I probably won't do this again unless there were two items I really loved (or one for the smaller tote) and spend money on things I want.

Next, I tried Elizabeth and Clarke.  They offer a quarterly subscription where you pick 1 ($30), 2 ($50), or 3 ($60) shirts.  You get to pick the shirts from a limited selection.  Returns are allowed.  For my first subscription, I picked these shirts:
Shirts I now own

Verdict:  Do it.  The shirts were super cute and really wonderful quality.  Since I got 3, the price was really reasonable.  I wasn't as wowed about the next selection (which I'll get in a few weeks), but they are definitely out of my comfort zone, which is great.
Shirts I'll receive in a few weeks

Next, I tried Stitch Fix.  Stitch Fix will send you 5 items upon request or monthly.  It costs $20 for the box, plus the cost of whatever items you want (you get to subtract the $20 from the cost of the items if you keep something).  You get to tell the price you want items to be at (up to $150 for pants, etc.) and fill out a style quiz.   You return the things you don't want.  The first time I tried this, I kept one item.  The second and third time, I kept all five, though I would have kept four for the second box, but it was cheaper to keep the item, since you get a 25% discount if you keep all five items.  The fourth box, I kept nothing.  Each item also comes with a card showing two looks you can create with the item.  

Style card
Look at me, following instructions!

Verdict:  Do it.  Though this last box was a total bust, they have mostly sent me things that looked great on me and worked with my wardrobe.  

And finally, I tried Keaton Row.  You fill out a style profile including budget for certain types of items, they match you with three stylists, and you pick one.  The stylist will put together several looks or find certain items (jeans, shoes, etc.) and build you a personal catalog upon request.  The catalog includes items from Nordstrom, ShopBop, or Asos, and have free shipping and returns.  There is no cost unless you buy something.  My first stylist fell off of the face of the earth, but my second one, Ophelia, has been fantastic!
Part of my lookbook
Verdict:  Do it.  It's the least risky of the services I tried, and it was super easy -- basically online shopping, but curated personally for me.

Monday, March 25, 2013

I read "Lean In" and I don't get why everyone is so upset about it

We've already discussed how I believe we need more women in tech, so it's probably not a surprise that I read Lean In, written by Facebook's female COO Sheryl Sandberg.  It's been in the news a lot lately.

Before actually reading the book, I read that the book focuses on a certain niche -- better educated women in flexible situations.   Sandberg acknowledges that in the beginning of the book.  I read it focuses too much on what women can individually do, and not on what as a society we need to change -- which again, Sandberg acknowledges in the beginning of the book.   So we're clear, since several articles that I've read about the book seem to have not read the book at all, or not be paying attention, Sandberg writes:
I know some believe that by focusing on what women can change themselves -- pressing them to lean in -- it seems like I am letting our institutions off the hook  Or even worse, they accuse me of blaming the victim.  Far from blaming the victim, I believe that female leaders are key to the solution.  Some critics will also point out that it is much easier for me to lean in, since my financial resources allow me to afford any help I need.  My intention is to offer advice that would have been useful to me long before I had heard of Google or Facebook and that will resonate with women in a broad range of circumstances.  
So with the disclaimers early in the book about what the book is about, I have to say, I go on to pretty much agree with everything she says, and Sheryl Sanberg is my new "business crush".  And this probably has a lot to do with the fact that I'm also in tech, pretty much doing everything she's proposing, and we are reading the same books.  She quotes a book that had a real impact to me, "Getting to 50/50: How Working Couples Can Have It All by Sharing It All" in several places.  My favorite quote of the 50/50:  "The most important career decision you make is who you marry." 

Which for me, having the husband I picked has helped me take risks I wouldn't have otherwise considered.  Prime example:  I'm in my first trimester with my first child.  My husband is about to finish business school, getting an MBA full time.  We own a house, and I'm supporting us fully.  And I'm miserable at work.  Incredibly miserable.  Working 80 hours a week.  Traveling 40% of the time.  And I hate my job.  Crying every night when I come home at the end of the day hate my job.  Also, I'm exhausted and want to throw up every moment of the day because I'm pregnant.  My husband points out that this can't go on.  I reply that I'll have the baby, take maternity leave, go back to work for a few months, then start looking for another job.  My husband does the math and says, "So you'll be happy a year from now?"  I started looking for a job that night.  I started a new job three weeks later.  Switching jobs while pregnant wasn't my fantasy situation, and I wouldn't have even considered it had my husband not brought it up.

I've done things in my career which sounded ridiculous on paper.  Came back from maternity leave to a large project, deploying software that didn't exist yet for my employer's largest client.  (Thought I remember having at the time:  "This will either be amazing and I'll be able to write my own ticket here, or I'll need to get a new job.")  Managed a 24/7 support team, pretty much being on call 24/7 myself, and had a second child while I was at it.  Joining a startup while my husband is also at a startup--and starting MBA school in the fall.   (My reaction to getting accepted to an executive MBA program on the 8th day of my new job, a consideration I didn't think to bring up to my new boss during my whirlwind interview:  "Well, I have a month to decide which will allow me to see what this new job is like, and I can defer for a year, so I can postpone this if I need to."  My husband's:  "Obviously, you're going.")   To quote Sandberg, "if I waited until the timing was exactly right, the opportunity would be gone."

But with all these crazy, risky, stupid on paper decisions that my husband has encouraged, my career has skyrocketed.  I made choices that allowed me to grow my career quickly, which Sandberg encourages in the book, quoting Eric Schmidt, "only one criterion mattered when picking a job -- fast growth."

Sandberg also has a lot of discussion about working hours throughout the book, which is timely for me.  Starting a new job means I have to renegotiate with myself and my new company what working looks like, and it's been something I've been thinking a lot about.  As one of the first people at work at my old company, I was surprised to find people actually at my new office at 8:30 in the morning.  My husband and I have an agreement that I can work all I want as long as I'm home around 5:30-6pm and focused on the kids until they go to bed, and I'm leaving work when lots of people are still in the office.  Sandberg outlines her post-baby schedule at Google, including some creative calendar blocking, and summarizes the experience, "I realize that my concern over my new hours stemmed from my own insecurity."  Or as one of my own mentors said to me, "Don't worry about this--they didn't have you before, so what you are bringing to the company is more than what they had before."

It made me wonder, does my husband worry about work-life balance?  Apparently not.  (Another quote I highlighted in the book, "As Marie Wilson, founder of the White House Project, has noted, 'Show me a woman without guilt and I'll show you a man.'")  But he is still annoyed at several 5 pm meetings I accepted at my last job.  "It's 5 pm.  You need to come home.  I'm not sure why you accepted these meetings -- I decline meetings that happened at noon.  Noon is lunch time."  My response, "The meeting was with my boss' boss' boss.  It's not like I could say no."  His, "Why not?"   I still would accept the 5 pm meeting, but point taken -- be choosy and fierce about my time (the same advice I give my team members) and don't feel the need to apologize for that.  

I don't want to be the only woman in the room.  Lean In, people.  Lean In.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

I Am Not Cool Enough for: Christian Loubontons

So, at some point, I convinced my husband that if I got promoted, I could celebrate by getting a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes.  In case you aren't familiar with the iconic, red-soled shoes, they are ridiculously expensive shoes, generally 4 inch heels with a 1/2 inch platform with a red sole -- and the red sole is patented by Christian Louboutin.  While there are different styles, I had my eyes on a classic black patent.

Years go by, and my promotion happened!  And then before it could be announced, the company I was working for got acquired.  Which was . . . something.  And after a little more than half a day of dealing with the announcement, my office mate decided the best way to handle the stress was a quick trip to Neiman Marcus to pick up the shoes.  Conveniently, our office was at a high end shopping mall!  So we went!  And I bought the most expensive shoes I own.  And it was incredibly exciting and they were so pretty!

And while still in the store, I realized they were incredibly uncomfortable.  Really uncomfortable.  I wore them around the house with athletic socks for a week trying to stretch them out, which did nothing.

And so I hate wearing them.  I mean, they are gorgeous, they really are, but if I have to say, like walk, or stand in them, or an any way use them as "shoes", I'm miserable.  They are by far the most uncomfortable shoes I've ever worn.  I can wear them for 30 minutes tops.  And then I start thinking, well maybe if I start drinking the pain in my feet will go away.  And then I'm tipsy and wearing 4 + inch heels, and I'm an incredible klutz, so it's a dangerous combination.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I am not cool enough for: Mad Men

I don't watch Mad Men. But you really think I would. I have gone to both Mad Men Banana Republic collection opening parties. I've bought clothes from both collections. I love late fifties and early sixties style and have a great shape for that. 

And Christina Hendricks is my style sister  She has big boobs and the hair color I would choose if I wasn't busy trying to be a responsible adult.  We're practically twins. 

I watched part of the show once. I was bored. So bored. With the new season starting, I Facebook polled my friends to see if I should jump in midstream, and consensus was I should start from the beginning.  I set the TiVo to record it anyway. It didn't record for some reason and I just assumed it was a sign. 

I'm not watching Downtown Abbey either. I really want to be entertained by TV--not educated or otherwise get cultured. I don't have a lot of free time and I'm getting choosier. It's got to be fun:  How I Met Your Mother, Happy Endings, GCB. I've even grown to like New Girl, with Zooey Dechanel, the world's most annoying person.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I Am Not Cool Enough For: Running Into Celebrities

While we were in San Francisco, another exciting thing happened.  I had a celebrity run in!

Husband was off getting a shave at the Art of Shaving (yes, we went to San Fran so I could run a half marathon and Husband went to the man spa.)  I jumped in the elevator to head over to meet him at the Art of Shaving, after a nice hour of Doing Nothing, something I don't get to do at home with two kids and a husband who likes to have every moment of free time planned.

Gabrielle Union, as seen on Wikipedia.
You know I did not take this picture
And in the elevator was Gabrielle Union (and some other woman)!

My first reaction was to say, "HOLY SHIT!  YOU ARE GABRIELLE UNION!  YOU ARE TOTALLY GORGEOUS!  YOUR SKIN IS AMAZING!  WHAT SKIN LINE DO YOU USE?" which would have been somewhat hilarious since she was at the Half Marathon as the Neutrogena spokeswoman as well as embarrassing for yelling at poor Gaby.

My second reaction was to be embarrassed by my outfit.  I was wearing a leopard print cardi over a white tank and jeans--and leopard print flats.  Somehow when packing, I had convinced myself that the leopard print flats would go with all my outfits and they were the only shoes I packed besides my running shoes.  I tend to overpack, and so I make an effort to remove unnecessary items from my suitcase when traveling, and I clearly had not thought that through enough.

I should point out that I have no memory of what Gaby was wearing.

My third reaction was to be a little smug about the fact that while Gaby is skinnier and more beautiful than I, I am taller.

I managed to pull myself together and stand silently in the elevator.

But before we left the elevator, it stopped on the second floor.  I have zero sense of direction and was momentarily confused as to what floor the lobby was on and I sort of peeked out the elevator doors.  Gaby said, "Sorry, that was me.  I pushed the wrong button."  And I said something like, "Oh, no worries."

So here's the thing.  When you see a celebrity, you have two options:

1)  Go all out.  In my scenario, I would have shouted in excitement at Gaby, possibly yelled at her to "BRING IT!", and taken a picture with her with my iPhone.

2)  Actually not care.  This would have involved me not updating my Facebook status while walking to the Art of Shaving, then announcing to EVERYONE in the store that I was on the elevator with Gabrielle Union.  Instead, I would casually mention it quietly to my husband between courses at dinner.

Because I'm easily embarrassed, I try to do option 2, but I'm not cool enough really to pull it off.  Nor do I have the balls to go all out with option 1.  And that's why I'm not cool enough to really have celebrity run ins.

(And some other time we'll talk about the time I danced with Matthew McConaughey)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I Am Not Cool Enough to Hate on the new Girly Legos

I was very excited to start seeing articles about the new Lego Friends in December, as the lack of pink and purple Legos is very annoying to me.  I bought my daughter a Star Wars Advent Calendar for Christmas (which she loved), and though she's mostly still a little young for Legos, she helps her dad build the Lego Architecture sets we give him for Christmas and his birthday.  

In case I wasn't clear in my post about women in tech, I'm all about encouraging little girls to be interested in math and science, having once been a little girl and went to a math and science high school and work in the tech industry today.  And I don't discriminate between "boy" and "girl" toys for my daughter or my son.  My daughter had a Transformers theme birthday party this year.  My son prefers the Disney Princess sippy cups we have.  If they are interested in something, we encourage it.

Immediately after the Lego announcements came out, people who have more time than I began hating on the girly legos, updating their Facebook statuses and writing on the Lego wall talking about how girls don't need these sets.   I'm really wondering who these people are because let me tell you, these Lego Friends sets look like fun, and I can't wait to play with them.  I mean, for my daughter to play with them.

Here's my favorite of all the set, girly Lego scientist:

It's so cool!  See the robot!  And there's a microscope!  

But let's pretend for a second that my feminist nature rejects Lego market research, and instead, I want to buy my 5 year old a "regular" Lego set.  Let's explore the options:

Comes with trees on fire.  I'm not kidding.  See them above?  The red thing is "flames" according to the description.  Do you know what kind of conversations I'd have to have if I bought this?  "Mommy, what if the fire plane doesn't get to the trees in time?  Is our house going to burn down?"  

According to the website, the goal is to capture the dino with a tranquilizer gun before it escapes and attack the city.  Yes, dinos attacking the city--that will not keep my child up at night.

I do not know what this is but it looks freaking scary.  

While no offense to people who make an honest living picking up recycling, I hoping my daughter will aim a little higher on the career ladder.  

I'm not kidding.  That's the actual name.  I'm not buying my child any toys named "Bikini Bottom."  

There's also a large assortment of Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, and Cars (the movie) legos available in case you just want to re-enact movies and not use your actual imagination or anything.  

While I'm a girl (I guess) and therefore the target market for the Lego Friends toys, I have to say, I totally want to play with them.  I have zero interest in the Lego Architecture sets my husband gets.  The Advent calendar was an exercise in frustration to me as the diagrams to put the Legos together make no sense to me.  They might as well be instructions from Ikea.  We have Cars and Thomas duplos and I'm really not that interested in them either.  But I'm all about building a lab, a cool pink house, or vet clinic.  (I do totally question this Stephanie's desire to have an outdoor bakery.  Buttercream melts!)  

So Lego Corporation:  I salute you and your marketing research for Lego Friends.  Mission accomplished, as I can't wait to buy them.  May I be as bold to suggest you put similar efforts into your other product research so attacking dinos, fire, and bikini bottoms aren't the other options to choose from?  

Friday, December 9, 2011

My Karmic Debt to Lance Armstrong

In 2005, Lance Armstrong announced that he would try for a 7th Tour de France.  He had won a 6th and implied that was his last.   And then came this announcement.

We took this picture of Lance on our trip
In the spring when the announcement was made, Husband and I were both working for tech companies, and Husband had decided to start grad school in the fall.  I had never been to France.  We were cycling then (because we didn't have kids) and loved watching le Tour at home on TV.

One thing you should know about me is that I'm not spontaneous.  I'm a certified project manager.  I like to budget for things and plan.  So, when I heard the news, my immediate thought was, "We are SO going!"  and this was not like me at all.

Husband at the Col du Solour
We weren't budgeting for a fancy trip to France!  I decided this was not a problem.  I was traveling a lot for my job, so I could get us plane tickets using miles. I had previously worked for a tech company that had gone public.  I had bought out all my vested shares 4 years earlier and as the company wasn't public at the time, I thought I would never see that money again.  And while it wasn't a lot, because I had joined the company so early, it was a 400% return on what I originally spent.  We could cash out and still have an emergency reserve while Husband was in graduate school.

We were about to go down to one income.  We owned a house.  Going to France was a ridiculous decision.

It was the best trip I ever had.

We flew into Paris, took a train to Lourdes, rented a car, and drove across France. We stayed in 5 cities and 6 hotels.  We saw a mountain stage, a start, a finish, the time trial, and the famous final loop at the Champs-Elysee.

I was so sad to come home.  France was wonderful.

Husband went to grad school and everything was fine.

And a few months after I sold all of my stock, the stock was delisted.
At the Champs-Elysee

So, thanks to Lance Armstrong, I had a wonderful trip and cashed out at the right time.  As a result, I feel I owe him a karmic debt, and try to raise money or participate in Livestrong events when I can.

So, I've decided to run the Austin Half Marathon in Feb 2011 as my next event and raise money for the Livestrong Foundation!  I'm obligated to raise $500, but I'm aiming for $1000!   The Livestrong foundation provides support to guide people to through the cancer experience, bring them together to fight cancer, and work for a world in which our fight is no longer necessary.  I hope that you'll support me while I train for my next event!