Archive for the ‘Familly’ Category

Lean In

I’m coming out of retirement for a short review of Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In.

As a newly working mom (a couple years now), I was looking forward to reading this book. I had read an article about Sandberg in the New Yorker, and I liked the fact that she championed finding your career first before having children.

The career advice in this book is beneficial to both men and woman. Make sure your voice is heard. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Make sure you have a seat at the table. Be an advocate for yourself. Don’t be your worst critic. According to Sandberg these things are essential for a woman to advance their career. The short answer is of course this is sound advice.

On the other hand, there are huge things to consider before embarking on this approach. I myself have struggled from making $12 an hour to a good job as a Senior Software Engineer. I can’t stress enough that this was not an easy trajectory. And here is what I think needs to be emphasized. You can do everything that Sandberg recommends, and you can be an extremely talented person, but if you are in the wrong place it will fail spectacularly.

I have worked at least two places where being frank, bold, talented, smart, and outspoken worked against me rather than for me. At least one of these places was like this due to sexism. There are some work places that will resent you more for your talent. It seems bizarre. You would think most work places would want talented good employees, but some dysfunctional places would prefer a subservient employee who knows their place than a bold super performer.  Odd, but true. So here’s my advice. When you discover yourself to be in one of these places, get out. Don’t try to change them. Find a new place and hope to find one that is more amenable to your success. There are a lot of bad places out there. Don’t burn bridges but keep moving until you find a place that appreciates your talents. That is the best place to grow.

It’s been written already, but Sandberg focuses a bit too much on what women are doing wrong rather than the deficiencies of the system. I have known timid men who don’t get ahead. It’s not about characteristics of women that prevent them from getting ahead. I have known both men and women who have failed to get ahead due to being too afraid to lean in. So failure to “lean in” can’t be the only problem. I think Sandberg gives men an easy way to say, see we don’t need to change. It’s women who need to be bolder. That fails to take into account women who are bold but still experience the glass ceiling.

Not everyone can be a leader. Note to readers I am not a leader. This book is no secret formula. Some people just don’t have it in them to push ahead (lean in). They expect their talents to be noticed but don’t go out of their way to get themselves noticed. I think this usually happens due to some people being raised to be humble. Humility does little in the workplace.

I always use the Keanu Reeves example. I read somewhere that he dissed Kenneth Branaugh’s Hamlet to Branaugh’s face. Think about the character of Reeves. He’s one of the worst actors ever but he sincerely doesn’t know it. Think of all the people along the way that have noticed his extreme lack of talent. High school counselors, agents, directors, fellow actors, parents, friends. Many helpful people probably told him that he should pursue another interest. He didn’t listen. He became a successful actor. With no talent. Humility will prevent a good actor from getting ahead. Lack of humility can create a Keanu Reeves.

Sandberg’s chapters on men sharing more of the household work are spot on. Many of the couples I know now including myself are pretty equitable, so the good news is that this is a realizable goal for women.

A lot has been written about Sheryl Sandberg’s privileged and why this book fails to acknowledge that her experience is hardly transferable. True. She doesn’t exactly help herself by telling us Larry Summers approached her about being her adviser at Harvard. Then there was the treasury job with Summers. Then there was the job at Google and then an offer from LinkedIn. It’s a little tone-deaf because how many of us are going to even get in for an interview at Google or LinkedIn the startups with no experience. She had no experience.

And yet that is not the most tone-deaf part of the book. It comes when she talks about how important it was for her and her husband to stay in the same city so that they could raise their children and how her husband was struggling with flying from L.A. to the Bay Area on the weekends to be with the kids. Well readers when such a thing happens, don’t despair. All you need do is find a job at a new company and move that company’s headquarters to the Bay Area. Hear that? Work for Boeing and live in Bakersfield? Have Boeing move their company headquarters. Problem solved.

But wait there’s more. Sandberg’s husband’s company was SurveyMonkey in Portland. They are now based in Northern California. I live in Seattle. I like the Pacific Northwest. I don’t want to live in California. Maybe some SurveyMonkey employees felt the same way. So moving to NoCal might have helped Sandberg’s family, but possibly at the cost of some pretty decent Portland families. Yeah, life sucks sometimes.

Finally, Sandberg says you can continue the discussion by finding the Facebook Lean In page. Well guys, guess what? I’m not on Facebook and I’m not going on Facebook. So there you go. My review stays here.


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Here is a very strange op-ed in the L.A. Times. A man writes a tribute to his now dead father. His father is responsible for his son being able to walk.

He then tells us how he watched his father die when he came upon his dad and another woman having sex on the kitchen floor while his mom was in the hospital. Heart attack. The writer also talks about the time his father bought boxing gloves for him and proceeded to beat his son to a bloody pulp. At the age of 13. Oh and then there was that time when he duct-taped his son to a kitchen chair and then turned on the electric knife and pointed it at his son.

Well I guess we all have heart-warming stories like that to share on fathers day. Not.

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Is it just me or do these guys look just as bad in the “after” pictures as in the before? Sure, it’s a different bad, but…

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BEDFORD, Ohio — An Ohio man who argued with his grown son over a messy bedroom says he overreacted when he called 911.

Ahhh, memories of my youth. Granted I wasn’t an adult like this guy in the story, but I remember being 16 and having to knock through the kitty door in order to get into my house. I had forgotten my keys, something I always did as a kid. Well my dad took my car keys away from me for good for that infraction. So in protest I threw my clothes all around my room. My dad then called my mom and asked whether or not he could put me in juvenile hall because I had gone “crazy.”

Ahh, it’s so funny now.

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I’ve never been wowed by an editorial by Roland Smith on CNN, but this one about international adoption has a lot of interesting points. He starts out by asking why are celebrities adopting foreign children instead of choosing from the many American children that need homes. He then goes on to say:

According to various adoption and governmental agencies, more than 500,000 American children are under foster care, and many of them are waiting for adoption. From coast to coast, babies to toddlers to teens are desperately looking for a home where they can be loved, nurtured and provided for.

Now, it would be easy to blast these celebrities by saying it’s the hip thing to walk around with an international child, but truth be told, we’ve got a serious adoption problem in this country.

Single mothers have a difficult time adopting a child, and several I know personally have gone overseas. And let’s not even talk about the red tape and bureaucracy!

American parents are made to jump through enormous hoops, and the process takes years, instead of months. And all too often, single people and married couples simply grow disenchanted with the process.

I have definitely heard from single women that they are not encouraged to be foster parents. The worry is that they could be (gasp!) gay, and that’s why they are single.

I find this commentary interesting because I hear a lot of people these days talking about the overpopulation of the planet and how it is better to adopt a child than bring a child into an environment already burdened by people. This really is a bourgeois argument. Many people can’t afford adoption. In-vitro fertilization, the most expensive fertility treatment, is still cheaper than adoption. The most affordable way to have a child is the old-fashioned way.

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How is that not welfare?

I’ve been trying to ignore this ridiculous story of one Nadya Suleman who has had 14 children through in vitro fertilization, but this exchange keeps gnawing at me:

In segments of the interview that ran on the TODAY show on Monday and Tuesday, Suleman had said that she does not get welfare despite the food stamps she gets or the government payments for three children with varying disabilities — a son who is autistic, another child with ADHD and a third who is developmentally delayed in learning to speak. She also said she is able to provide for her children.

Tuesday night on Dateline, Suleman said that she is also in debt.

“How much in debt do you have now?” Curry asked.

“Probably 50. Close to 50,” she said.

“Thousand dollars?” Curry responded.

Suleman nodded.

“How is that not like welfare?” Curry pressed on.

“Oh, no,” Suleman protested. “These are student loans. You consolidate the loans, you pay it back. We don’t pay back welfare.”

This is not that uncommon of a phenomenon. A middle class person bemoans the poor and the poor’s dependence on public funds when they themselves are also are living off the public. Does Suleman outright say that she doesn’t like the poor? No, but the mere fact that she is distancing herself from them despite accepting food stamps and public assistance tells a lot. What a pathological lack of self-reflection. We have seen this earlier this year in another “pop news” story, that of Joe-he-ain’t-a-plumber.

I get angry when I read things like this because the poor get a bad rap. The same people who call them lazy, deserving of their position and bloodsuckers are the ones who wouldn’t bat an eyelid about taking public assistance if they fell on hard times. Yet even in such cases, wouldn’t dare acknowledge the similarity of their predicaments. Others are undeserving, but we are different.

Lastly, Suleman is doing herself any favors by talking about how she will get out of her financial predicament through consolidating loans. As the mortgage crisis shows, willfully getting into enormous debt that you cannot repay is not good for you or the rest of the country.

Photo via Susan Campbell’s blog.

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For whatever reason I was thinking about the making of the birthday cake in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.

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