5 Things I’ve Learned About Career & Family: me in a video; lotta honesty; who needs role models

Hi. Because I have decided to step up this year in ‘challenging my comfort zone’, I said yes without thinking that hard when the BreadWinners* co-founder asked me to interview on camera for their new project.

*Whether it’s essays on topics about the complexities of having a career and family at the same time, or original video content that is actually relevant to your life, this is the long-awaited voice of our generation…our ultimate goal is world domination, but we’ll settle for a world where women feel comfortable taking up space at the table- both in the boardroom and at home.

Yes, usually I’m the one behind the camera, torturing startup CEOs and average (industry) joes to answer questions and look charismatic while doing it. Mwahaha?

Anyway… I did it and it was fun. Here’s the video, and below are my rough cut answers as we prepped for the video. Bonus: if you watch through #4-5 you get to watch my fourth upstage me.

Watch 5 Things I’ve Learned About Career & Family

Read Behind the Scenes

To prep for the video, I responded to some prompts with train of thought answers… which I thought I’d share in addition to the final video since they didn’t all make the cut.

  • ‘Self care’: This is a tough one for me, if by self care we mean stopping to breathe, taking a break, treating ourselves. I think I’m not alone here that a lot of us are the types who, to get everything done, we have to keep moving… stopping would mean a break in the system… it’s a huge problem and I recently experienced what I think was the biggest burnout I’ve experienced during the last nine years of being a career-oriented person crossed over with being a mother. It’s harsh but we’re not allowing ourselves enough. And the hardest part is probably asking for the break – asking yourself for it.
  • ‘Lack of female role models’: When I started my current job nearly four years ago – and this is by far my most demanding job in my career – I spent the first year searching for a female role model. Who was out there, outnumbered by their kids, first time in a management role, working full time, a partner working as full time as I was, no parents in the country – who was like me, but ten years ahead and could tell me it would be ok? It took time for me to realize – STOP LOOKING. I’ll never find another me to tell me it’ll be ok. Instead, I have to hope to find people like me now to tell me they are at least struggling as hard. I’ve found more and more of that as I’ve opened my mind about it. But there aren’t enough role models or mentors. I think we are all still figuring it out – but I pledged and still do to serve as an open book for my peers and the up-and-coming women watching me. (I have an anecdote about being the first woman in my office to need a pumping space and how pioneering that felt and how scary and intimidating it was… but three years later, I’m so proud that we now have options of pumping-secure offices and around-the-clock pumping moms throughout the year).
  • What balance actually looks like: It’s doing the best I can. Some months, it’s terrible. Some it’s better. Sometimes the marriage is winning, sometimes the kids, often the job, it’s not balance… clearly.
  • Relationship with boss: I’ve been really lucky in my career to have very family friendly bosses. It’s a gift, I know it’s not to be taken for granted. I try to pay that forward to my workers. when I’ve had less family friendly or understanding bosses, I take what I didn’t like from that experience and reverse for my employees. Especially when it comes to being pregnant at work. I would never want a hard-working pregnant employee to feel afraid to ask for support – I’d rather she didn’t even have to ask.
  • Male coworkers: There are a lot of good eggs out there… from all generations and walks of life. But specific to my generation – I think men are getting better at seeing this anew. I really do. I’m married to a really great man. In the sense that I don’t know any other guy as supportive of his wife’s career than mine. And it’s vice versa of course. But let’s just say I’m partnered with a guy who gets angry when things like picking up the kids or making them dinner or taking them to the doctor or going to PTA meetings are called ‘mom jobs’. We need to change our vocabularies and support our men if we want change. I look at the men around my office rushing off to pick up their kids and I’m proud of where we are (where some of us are). At least in my corner of the world.  A note about the older guys… I try to filter it through the world they come from. I get really belittling comments. I get called ‘gal’ or ‘girl’ or whatever bullshit. Those guys are older. I shake it off. They’ll be gone soon and we’ll run the place.
  • Female co-workers: I think among the moms, no matter what team you’re on or what age you are or what number kid you’re up to or if you actually like each other or not – there is an underlying thing of, “I get it.” At least I feel that way… I hope others do. I try to be as supportive to my mom peers as much as possible. especially the younger moms.
  • Pregnancy and working: The guilt sucks. I spent a whole pregnancy planning one of our annual global summits and to this day I still look at my daughter two years later and quietly tell her I’m sorry for how hard I pushed myself then, and however that may have impacted her. I spent the night before the big event in agony in my hotel room, berating myself for putting work first before my unborn kid. I’m not sure I did or not but it felt that way. On the other hand, I was happy that my management could look at me ‘normally’ and not get annoying and awkward about working alongside a ‘delicate flower’ of a pregnant woman.
  • Maternity leave and its effects on the job: Maternity leave is scary – whether it’s your first or fourth. I’ve seen things happen I wish I could unsee. The fact is, no matter how loved and appreciated you are at your job, being gone for 3-6-9 months at a time is just going to have an effect. There’s no getting around it.  And I could speak for a full hour about how to survive coming back. Giving yourself time… it takes 6 months in my opinion. The pumping at work. The feeling low. The wondering what the hell you’re doing here. The lack of sleep and its effects. Missing milestones. Missing meetings. Missing both somehow, at the same time.
  • Relationship with kids: My kids don’t know me any other way. For them, their parents have jobs and work hard. They don’t get exactly what I do which is obviously fine, but I do think they are ‘inspired’ by it as much as a kid could be. They are curious… they ask questions… they complain I work too hard. More and more it’s becoming an issue. I’m working on it. First step at least – being aware of it. I let them call me out. It’s the most direct way to make me work on it. I’ve recently admitted to myself that I am addicted to my work and I can’t stop and it’s meddling in my life and it’s time to work that out. I was thinking, wow, if I didn’t have kids, what would I be doing? But not in a fantasy kind of way. In a, how far in could I have lost myself completely? kind of way.
  • Ambition: in my own introverted way, I’ve always been ambitious. My parents instilled a really tough sense of work ethic in us. They’re both career people who care deeply about what they do and that they do it well. I don’t think they were taking us aside and teaching us anything directly, but we learned by example. I appreciate that in other people. And I can’t not be doing something meaningful. it’s not in my DNA.
  • Relationship with husband and how it’s effected by working: Marriage is one tough project. As mentioned, I happen to be married to a good one and I couldn’t have been with someone who didn’t support me having a career and feeling strongly about whatever I choose to do. Is it hard? Yeah.  One thing I will say is. when I took my current job and we just had our third kid, I would come home every single day, throw down my bag, and declare THIS IS NOT SUSTAINABLE. There is no way we can both work full time office jobs outside the house. No one else is doing this. It has to end somehow. But it hasn’t ended… I have no idea what the long term effects are. They may be horrible. But we are definitely bonding over doing A LOT of problem solving together.

Ask What’s Next?

I don’t know. I’m figuring a lot out at the moment. But I know it was fun doing this. I’ve wanted to do this since I forced myself to be the ‘pumping pioneeress’. So if you know of more opportunities for me to bare my soul in an effort to help others, let me know.

If you are interested in participating, or want more content and discussion, check out BreadWinners.

Tell-All: 4 team management lessons from Summit planning

I recently, ahem, was part of a core team running one of the biggest events in startup-Jerusalem each year, in its 4th year. It’s a production put on with a lot of demands, a lot of resources, a lot of professionals, but the core team from within the company are not necessarily production careerists (though a couple of us are definitely).

Before this year, the event planning was fueled with stress, rife with resentment, and even filled with fear. This year was different. And I’ve been exploring why.

1. The revolution will not be televised – and will not happen without a good team. 

For months we joked about filming a documentary of the event prep. We (I) didn’t do it, but if we had, it would have probably been side-splitting hilarious (to us). Something I learned was, any job – even the hardest, the ones that make you feel enslaved, depraved, and unappreciated – are actually awesome if the people around you are fun to have around, genuinely good people, and hardcore team players. That was a real turning point for me; why shouldn’t planning an incredible, complicated event be fun, if the people you work alongside inspire you to do your best possible job? The chemistry was right, the people were solid, and the goal was clear. It was a new level of teamwork we brought out from within ourselves.

2. A team is the sum of all its parts.

A few years ago I had this revelation. I was wondering why people would pay me to write for them. I knew practically why, but it was a symptom of impostor syndrome, and I really didn’t get it. I asked the question on twitter, and got a response: because they can’t do it themselves. They actually aren’t equipped with the skills.

Ever since then, I repeat this to myself. I’m not a logistics person; someone else is not a brand-builder. I’ll never run the finance department; someone else won’t be writing compelling invite copy. And so I build this appreciation every day for the people around me, diverse skill sets and frames of minds. Different career paths leading to this project; different life experiences to lend. I wish more people could appreciate how we all have something to contribute. If we acknowledge healthily what we lack and promote with vigor what others contain, we become a stronger force – with better results.

3. Ditch the dead weight – from your mental load

When working on such a massive, months-long project, it helps to leave behind the haters. The ‘this has nothing to do with me’ attitude of colleagues. Feeling held back by a need to convince everyone or try and infuse inspiration into every single colleague is not going to help me do a better job. I found staying focused on the end result was the right way – more calming, more productive. And luckily, from previous experience, we had the confidence to know we could keep moving forward and that we were right: it was going to be successful, amazing, and even better than we ever imagined.

4. Putting the ‘der’ in leader. 

Ok, this is going to seem obvious but shutup it’s been three years and I still don’t always get it.

I find managing a team challenging. I freely admit it because I think it’s healthy and it prompts me to work harder to seek out mentors and case studies to learn from. I’ve had no direct mentor, and frankly, not always the best examples to learn from. So I’m winging it.

This was the first year I felt properly equipped to run my part of the event as far as personnel. So I knew I had no one to blame but myself if I mess it up. And there were plenty of pitfalls – delegation is still rough on me. But as the heat got turned up, I knew it was manager do-or-die – if the team doesn’t get to take the wheel, then what is the point of joining for the ride? I lose them now, I lose them in the future, too.

Last week I learned what it truly means to let go – of the doubt and fear – and felt such a new pride at this smart, proactive, flexible team I somehow found the insight to put together. The right people – true team players – seek out opportunities to grow and stretch their skills. They don’t just take orders but they own their roles and figure it out. We need to surround ourselves with people like that – at work, at home, in life. It’s what makes a manager a leader.

There’s so much more I could offer insight on – and forgive me, it’s been quite a hiatus from thoughtful posts in the last few months while I was running around, well, learning. For that we’d have to get a cup of coffee or maybe just a humble facebook chat.

After all, there’s still event followup to put together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you heard of Facebook?

It’s mid-2005. I’m sitting across from the CEO of a growing startup in what I hope – as a 23-year-old leaving the path of a journalism career to actually pay some bills – is the last interview for the job.

‘Guerrilla marketing’.

The CEO is kind, but my mind is racing as he now asks me to give some examples of the ways I’d engage in guerrilla marketing; ideas I could bring to the team. I’m racking my brain for a semi-intelligent answer – suddenly I realize how young I am – and the next thing I know I’m saying –

“Have you heard of Facebook?”

I still remember that day fairly vividly. It was the day I became conscious of something I think I’ve always done but never realized I was doing it: using personal experience to guide my actions, and the spirit of experimentation to create new opportunities for myself. For years, my CEO (and mentor) would remind me of how I blew his mind that day, as I logged in to my infant Facebook account right on his computer. There was a profile pic, the Wall, ‘too close for missiles, I’m switching to guns’. Facebook, just over a year from its own creation. Playing a random and active part in my career’s creation.

In a Jerusalem tech tower, there we were: 22-year-old me, a successful and recognized entrepreneur, and my contemporary, Mark Zuckerberg.

What I have pulled from that experience, which was the foundation of six years at Answers.com and the rest of my ongoing career, is that if you manage to become self aware enough, you can figure out how to use your own personal experience, worldliness, perspective, and spirit of experimentation as your guide. Shhh – do you hear that? It’s you, with the ability to feed your gut feelings. To build an idea into action. To learn a new trade. To become an influencer.

That day I opened a door for myself. And I got the job. And became a guerrilla marketer for as long as that was in style. Then a social media marketer, a content marketer, a marketing manager, a community manager, a brand builder.

Throughout my six years there, I learned so much about people. About high tech. About leadership. About startups. About Israel. About myself, as part of a pre-internet and post-internet generation. About early adapters. About humility and learning and biding my time.

My advice is, train in becoming self aware enough not to miss opportunities. But also self aware enough to know when it’s time to watch and learn and listen. That last part helps you know when the time is right to take opportunities, to take the leap of faith, to trust the brainstorm.

Maybe the best opportunities are born from the desperate need to justify your 22-year-old self. Or from knowing you have something to offer; you just need the guts to do it.

It’s time to normalize pumping at work.

I work full time, and there are days when I’m in back-to-back meetings all day. There’s never enough time to get my work done, because if I’m not at work, I’m picking up my kids and starting the second half of my day. And when that’s over, preparing for the next one.

The reality is there are days that I end up with a rushed 20 free minutes midday and I have to make a choice – find food because I’m about to collapse, or pump.

Why am I bringing it up? Because I feel like when we talk about working moms and how insane it all is, we don’t get into the messy awkward stuff. Like boobs exploding in pain in the workplace. Like having an extra personal, physical thing to take care of during the day aside from feeding ourselves. Like feeling disappointed if I didn’t pump one day because I prioritized meetings over having extra milk for my baby. Like getting over knowing that all my coworkers know where I’m going when I walk away from my desk with my bag, and the answer I give is ‘no’ when they ask if I’m leaving for the day.

I guess I’m sharing this because 2.5 years ago I decided I wanted to normalize pumping in the workplace to help the next set of moms coming up under me. It was harder last time around (I was the first and only one doing it, hello freezing server room), but this time I do feel change, both in myself and the company.

Today, my workplace is very pump friendly, and there are four of us now, and though it gets crowded, they keep adding new locks and shades to close off private offices.

So here’s to normalizing pumping, friendly workplaces, and hungry, tired moms overcoming the added daily challenge of exploding boobs.

Next year in… your country.

Something really extraordinary happened at work today. In startup world. In the center of Jerusalem.

We had the pre-Passover הרמת כוסית, or company holiday toast. Our CEO spoke a few words, leading to how blown away he is by how the company is growing, both in team… and in the number of pregnant women.

Then he asked a question that’s been on my mind for nearly two years since I started there: **How do you manage to do it? Work full time, maintain your home, care for kids/manage pregnancy?**

As a woman, a mother, a full timer in the work force, it will never get old for me to hear an accomplished 60yo man wonder about this. Without a patronizing tone. Without cynicism. Pure wonder.

I was raised on a lot of equality talk – the power 80s, Take Your Daughter to Work Day, one day there could be a female president.

But nothing means as much or says as much as raising a glass at a company lunch where the CEO calls for blessing the pregnant team members, hiring even more women, and further supporting growing families.

On the eve of a paid maternity leave courtesy of a family-oriented country… it’s not something I take lightly.

Next year in… your country.

The pregnant working mother perseveres in the face of conf–erence.

Credit: The Real Jerusalem Streets

Credit: The Real Jerusalem Streets

A little while ago, I was approached to speak at a marketing conference for end-of-February in the new Hub Etzion shared workspace.

I was in the middle of other conference insanity, but January Liz was all like, shrug whatevs let’s do it so I agreed. Knowing fully that in another month I’d be presenting a marketing talk about audiences to an entire room of marketers – eight months pregnant.

So obviously last week, end-of-February Liz was like oh crap. I’m eight months pregnant. is that an excuse?!

It’s not. Not for me, not right now. So I’m glad I pulled through and didn’t go the route that comes naturally – opening with a stereotypical female apology, explaining that I need some slack cut considering I’m creating a human, bla bla.

I thought about it. I kept it in my back pocket while developing my talk. But by the time I was on the drive to the conference I knew I wouldn’t go there.

The last time I spoke at a conference, it was when I was pregnant with my second. Interesting, right? It was the beginning, I felt horrible, and was trying to hide it still. So no one actually knew. But I knew I had to pull through.

I’m lucky to live in a culture – especially the Israel -> startup -> Jerusalem scene – where mom-friendly is fairly normal, where even if things aren’t totally ideal, pregnant women aren’t a shock to see presenting at (or organizing) conferences.

I owe some of that to some of the most family-friendly bosses I’ve had in my career here. Including the CEO of my current company, who routinely encourages expansive working motherhood.

Considering I’m about to upgrade from a couple to a bunch (a gaggle? a murder?) of daughters, I’m going to give myself a pat on the back for spending the last year and a half attempting to figure out this whole nursing working mother/pregnant working mother thing.

By the way, BlueCon 2016 was a great morning spent with peers (thanks to BlueThread Marketing), and Hub Etzion (founded by women!) is a lovely beginning to something positive and encouraging growing in Gush Etzion.

Video marketing: so you *can* teach an old man new tricks

I watched a lot of videos tonight. And they all made me happy. But none so happy as this: Ex-President of Israel (and ex-every other job) Shimon Peres goes job hunting.

I’m extra happy there are subtitles so you can enjoy if you’re not from around here.

5 ways #KahenaCon got me pumped to go back to work

I signed up for KahenaCon soon after registration opened. Maybe even the day it opened. I really enjoy this conference for getting inspired in the kind of work I do, by hearing from others doing it and by the atmosphere we create when we get together. It’s a gathering of marketing professionals within the kind of environment that suits us – plenty of networking time, solid speakers, awesome lunch.

But this year I had an alternative motive – not only get inspired by the work I do, but get inspired to start looking for new work in my field. Looking for your next professional opportunity can be rough when you’ve just released a new add-on (parents, amirite?).

Newborn at home means new job hasn’t sounded as attractive as it should. It’s making me do a lot of thinking. Luckily, a marketing conference had its say today.

Here are 5 ways KahenaCon inspired me in the search for my next digital content marketing opportunity:

1. Ladies, ladies ladies. 

The conference kicked off this morning with two fabulous females: Joanna Lord, CMO at BigDoor and Kate Morris, digital marketing consultant at Distilled. There is just something so welcoming about this when you’re a lady at a conference.

To anyone rolling their eyes (ugh, why do ladies always mention ladies?)… too often in the startup/marketing/hi tech world, we don’t see enough women up there. And for KahenaCon to fly out and kick off with two of the best presenters out of the whole day, who happen to be girls? Makes me feel good about our profession, too.

2. We’re alone but we’re not alone…

A few minor points Joanna made in her keynote session, ‘The Loyalist Advantage’ might be the thoughts that resonated best with me today. They both validated my self-worth as a marketer and offered a healthy dose of nostalgia for when I worked for a larger company:

  • Sometimes it’s lonely when you’re a marketer in a bigger company. But at least we’re all in it together: Can I have budget? *No.* I made something out of nothing! Can I have budget? *No.* I could do this better, can I have a developer? *A developer for marketing?! No.*  
  • We jump in head first while the execs hang back. Someone has to for a company to survive… so there we are. First responders.
  • We’re chameleons – usually the only ones at a company who are evolving… and we also take it upon ourselves to evolve our colleagues and company, too.

3. Second life for the ‘struggling’ writers.

There’s a GIRLS story line this past season where Hannah ‘sells out’ working for an advertising agency and laments her disloyalty to her creative writer self. I totally got that but it’s also incredibly naive; if she moved over to digital marketing, she might see how much room we have to create.

And really, where else would we all be if it wasn’t for this professional space? We, the recovering English majors… the dime-a-dozen MBAs… the disillusioned former journalists (FYI, I qualify as only two of those things).

We got a second chance to be creative and make our own path in an ever-evolving profession. I think we done good and I’m ready to get back to the conference table.

4. My local marketing buddies.

This might be unique to Israel. We’re blessed with an intimate hi tech and startup community, which has created an even more intimate digital marketing community. I genuinely enjoy being a contributing member to this group and seeing my colleagues a few times a year so we can discuss tactics, method, and our dangerous habit of operating Twitter while high on coffee.

5. Pumping breastmilk in a conference room.

True story. A breastfeeding-friendly conference organizer is a sign of a mother-friendly professional culture which points to a wider family-friendly society. And I’m so, er, pumped to be a part of it and know that for the most part, I will be welcome as a working mom as much as the (likely) working parent who takes me on their team.

So… when I get those batteries charged for the daily pumping… time to get back to work!