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!

3 things this week that make me want to ditch my smartphone

You ever get that nausea when you have too much of a good thing, like candy corn? (which is actually just one. One piece of candy corn.)

I’ve been feeling that way on and off about my smartphone for months. Really the internet in general – I work on the internet, albeit not the Dave Chappelle way – but the smartphone is the root of the overdose.

The first was this striking video that really hit me hard. What’s it like to live in a world where you forget your phone at home for the day?

I’ve felt this way around friends who are worse than I am at phone attention disorder. It sucks, but in my case I’ve dealt with it for an hour or two. The feelings this video conjures up… actually appalling.

The second was this NYTimes article – Step Away From the Phone! – that basically asked a bunch of hot shot public/corporate fashion personalities how they have cut down on their smartphone use, or attempted to reign it in with sneaky tricks. Like:

  • Leave it in a bucket by the door when you come home.
  • Set an 11pm curfew.
  • Don’t take it to bed.
  • First one to look at their phone pays for drinks.

And the third, was of course, the recent Louis CK bit on Conan. Louis has spoken about the evil of smartphones in the past, but he really hit home with relating it to why he doesn’t get his kids phones, despite the fact that “all the other stupid kids have them.” (Therein lies the problem.)

Also, he’s generally hilarious.

So how does someone who works in pseudo-hi tech, sometimes writing for mobile app companies, drastically cut down on smartphone use?

I have a few thoughts… meanwhile, happy to hear yours.

Unicorns, leprechauns, EL AL customer-friendly UX, & other mythical creatures

ELAL Israel Airlines For months, I’ve been trying/failing/procrastinating/trying again/failing again/sighing/punching walls in disbelief/trying again to log in to my EL AL Matmid Frequent Flyer account and handle some points issues. I’ve tried online, I’ve called, I’ve tweeted, my travel agent has tried for me, but nothing helped, and yet on every log in attempt, I’ve gotten an assortment of unclear red error messages, sighed, and moved on.

Apparently, it turns out, despite the depths of my wild imagination, I’m just not creative enough to have figured this one out on my own.

I tried calling again today. After 15 minutes of Hold jingle and Hold lady telling me to Hold, I finally got through to a nice phone rep, and told her my issue. She entered my details and responded that the account looked great. “I’ll send you your password via SMS,” said she, and I merrily hung up and went back to the computer.

It didn’t work.

I called back. Another 15 minute-hold brought me to another lovely rep, who again accessed my account.

“Looks great!” she said.

“I wish I could see,” I said.

“Oh, dear -” she said, in an I’m so sorry you’re kinda clueless voice, “you’re forgetting to enter a number on your account ID; that’s why it doesn’t recognize  it online.”

“What? A number? I’ve entered what it says on all my emails, notifications, etc…”

“You’re missing the mispar bikoret. There’s a 1 at the end.”

0_0

Oooooooooooh. A ONE at the end. Of course! Please hold while I feed my pet unicorn the tears of a hypochondriac dragon, bred on the lush farms of 16th century Icelandic garden gnomes.

A ONE at the end! You know, I had searched every coat pocket, and still couldn’t locate it.

Dear family and friends and readers abroad, allow me to introduce you to the elusive, surreal, magical creature, the mispar bikoret. I don’t even know how to properly translate it into English, and after polling, am still unsure between ‘verification number’ ‘CRC’ ‘prefix’ ‘security number’ and of course, ‘unicorn.’

In Israel, it shows up here and there. Most commonly, it’s on your teudat zehut (though it’s 99% of the time written out as part of a complete nine-digit sequence; I’ve never not had to include it…).

It might be any digit on the numeral palette, but let me tell you now that if you’re missing it from your EL AL frequent flyer account ID, it will put you through absolute airline frustration for MONTHS.

For how was I to know my account number even contained one, when my log in errors and email messages never included it or its necessity in the sequence?

Example 1: Signing in with the right password.

Example 2: Signing in with the right password, and then clicking Forgot Password.

Example 3: The member number written out at the bottom of an ELAL email; I promise that under the blur are six digits, missing the final one.

 

 

 

While it’s true the EL AL website won’t win any design awards post-1996, I do think it’s possible to get a passing grade in usability even if the design isn’t appealing. The website is a major UI/UX fail. It should not have taken a high-functioning internet literate person like myself this long to figure out the login problem.

Another failing grade for accessibility: It’s wonderful to have multiple (and updated!) Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, but what’s the good in social media investment if there is no flood of two-way conversation? Or even a functional  EMAIL ADDRESS for contacting customer support with quick questions?

[When I have been able to email EL AL, I’d get an auto-reply that they’d get back to you within ten business days. Ten? Really? Still using AOL dial up?]

I would like to say though, that I did actively choose EL AL over Delta and United for two reasons, despite the fact that Delta was cheaper, and United was the same exact price. Confidence in their security is one, and the second – I appreciate the way the EL AL staff, from start to finish, handles parents traveling with children. They are the only airline I’ve been on that really gets it. Truly ‘your home away from home.’ Despite some glaring service setbacks, it’s heimish. And as we know, United failed at that the last time I flew with them.

I’m a no-frills kind of gal, so lacking certain perks (or, manners) doesn’t phase me. But I travel alone with kids enough to require the security in knowing I’ll have supportive flight attendants.

So I actively choose EL AL.

Is it too much to ask for a pleasant customer experience before the flight as well?