Lightning talks

In addition to my day job I offer my time and expertise to the Women’s Network at my company.  This provides me a wonderful opportunity to attend some amazing events and sometimes I can even say I get to develop those events.  Feb 28th was one occasion where the committee I co-lead orchestrated a great event that will be a benchmark.

We co-sponsored the event with another firm in our industry and brought together speakers from both sides with different experiences and roles in a lightning talk format. The evening spurred many questions for our speakers and the conversation continued over drinks.

I couldn’t be more proud of the event and everyone who put it together.

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Want to learn the art of negotiation…read this book!

Late last year I had the chance to attend an event to hear from an expert in negotiation, Natalie Reynolds.  I finally had some downtime to read her book, We have a Deal: How to Negotiate with Intelligence, Flexibility and Power.

I really should have made time sooner as I highly recommend this book.  Not only did it help me see where I needed to work on my skills but I learned that it’s often not a winner take all situation.  Especially if you want to work with the person on the other side of the table again.  Everyone needs to understand the art of negotiation.

What I wish I knew earlier in my career?

This year I’ve had the amazing opportunity and pleasure of running fireside chats with senior leadership of Thomson Reuters.  In addition to my day job I co-chair the programming committee for the Women@Thomson Reuters NY Chapter and this is part of our networking and employee engagement programming.  With each additional session and person in the hot seat I think more about things I wish knew earlier.

I’m a pretty confident person particularly confident in my skills.  I only wish I was as sure of myself early on.  We often say how women are more critical of their experience when looking at a job posting.  The theory that women have to have all the requested experience and skills and our male colleagues take the risk if they don’t have every single one ticked.  I agree with this theory so I’m not only making every effort to quiet that critical voice in my head but I go out of my way to offer advice and encouragement to my younger colleagues.  One of my favorites is ‘you’re your own best cheerleader’.  It’s a skill and an art to be able to give yourself props without seeming like you’re bragging but it’s a skill everyone needs.

My only daughter turned 10 this weekend and I’m spending more and more time teaching her to be confident.  Hopefully when she’s entering the working world she won’t come with the same baggage I carried around for far too long.

 

Our 9th year

October 2nd marked our 9th time getting dressed for the weather to trek out to the Autism Speaks Walk on Long Island.  Our son Troy who has autism is at an age now where he knows about his condition and he’s pretty open about it.  It’s incredibly cool actually how he can sometimes be so comfortable in his own skin.  He talks about having autism and he really appreciates all the friends and family that come out or donate to support him.

I did a rough addition of the money we’ve raised over these 9 years and was amazed it was over $11,000.  Not too bad but 2017’s walk is going to be super special.  It will be out 10th and Troy will be 13.  Go big or go home I always say and 2017 is definitely going big.  Stay tuned.

Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting

This post is in honor of tonight’s lighting of the Rockefeller Center Tree.

I’m one of those New Yorkers who sadly hasn’t done many of the touristy New York things.  Have I been to the Statue of Liberty? No.  Top of World Trade Center.  Unfortunately no.  I have been to the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting, once.  Okay okay it was by accident.  It was my freshman year at NYU and I was living on campus.  My friend Amy was going home for a few days so I offered to travel with her to Grand Central so she could take the MetroNorth.  We didn’t realize that it was the night of the lighting.  We were near Rockefeller Center and saw the crowds and thought lets follow these folks to see what’s up.  By the time we realized what it was we were too deep into the crowd to get out.

We were positioned around the corner from the view of the tree.  I thought this is great (sarcastically). We’ll get to hear everything and see nothing.  As soon as the first song began the crowd pushed forward and we were along for the ride. It pushed us in perfect view of the tree and the performers.  The view was glorious.  I’ve always been a fan of New York during the holidays.  My favorite however is always the large snowflake hanging above 5th Avenue and 57th Street.  That day, however, the tree was magnificent. It was probably the excitement of the event, the fun crowd and the nip in the air but it did seem like a magical Christmastime moment.  I didn’t plan it but I’m glad I had that experience.

With that I found a great article online today with the Seven Things You Never Knew About the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree from NBC 4 New York.  They were all sweet but that first one got me.

Enjoy the tree lighting everyone!

Memories of Christmas past

To continue in the theme of memories of Christmas one of the other holiday memories I have is one Christmas morning when I as a small child in Brooklyn woke up crazy crazy early as most of us do. I couldn’t wait any longer to see what Old Saint Nick put under the tree.

I remember I was about 6 and we lived in a railroad apartment in Greenpoint.  My bedroom was next to my parents and it was the second to last room in the apartment.  I was extra quiet so as not to alert my parents to my plans.  I slowly walked through my brothers room which was the gateway to the living room.  As I entered the glorious presents filled room it seemed like a wonderland with miles of wrapping paper and ribbons of all colors covering boxes of all shapes and sizes.

I started to snoop around to see which had my name on it.  Unfortunately that year Santa must have run out of name tags so nothing was marked.  I sat there for a moment and tried to figure out how best to resolve the situation. I could have gone back to bed.  Nah what fun would that have been.  I could have woken up my brother and/or parents but they would have just told me to go back to bed and again what fun would that have been.  So I went with what I determined to be the best option.  I opened up all the gifts just enough to determine if it was for me (or if I liked it) and then moved on to the next one.  Needless to say when my parents arose to find every present ripped open they were less than pleased.

How was I supposed to know that Santa also dropped off presents for my Dad’s 5 brothers and sisters and their families, and my grandmother.  That does explain why some weren’t Barbies.  What did I learn from this experience? Make sure Santa is fully stocked with name tags and that my mother was a special woman since she let me live that day.

Times to remember

This time of year I always think of all the wonderful experiences around the holidays I had growing up.  Not every year did we have lots of money for gifts but every year and in every memory we were rich in love.

I know that sounds a bit contrived especially coming from girl from Brooklyn (the old Brooklyn not the shiny one of current days) but I’m serious.  We had a couple Christmas’ where money was very tight or something went very wrong but we found a way to make the best of it. I’m going to share a few posts with stories from Christmas pasts to both warm your heart and maybe even give you a laugh or two.

Today I’m going to dedicate this post to a story that always reminds me of my mother.  She passed away 24 years ago today and this story has always been my all-time favorite.  It shows how she always gave of herself and was always looking to save someone.

A few weeks before Christmas 1986 my mother decided that we were going to adopt a less fortunate family to give them a wonderful holiday.  There is a great program in NYC in partnership with the USPS, Operation Santa Claus. Participating post offices you can pick a letter and buy for the family.  Now due to privacy you drop off the items back to the post office but back then you were given the address and you dropped off directly at the family.

I went shopping with my Mom and Dad and we bought clothing, coats, toys and even food to give this family a Christmas they would remember. My Dad felt he was finally blessed at his job and we had the money to do it and we should.  We went to A&S (yes the old store) which also had a yearly bear or mascot each holiday.  I had told my mother I wanted to get the A&S bear that year for the holiday. With that my Dad bought one for me and one for my mother and added 2 more for the 2 kids in the family we adopted.

After all that shopping we headed home to our apartment, exhausted. Dad parked the car in a spot on the street a couple blocks away and we were too tired to drag everything out of the trunk.  We settled ourselves down for a long winter nap.  The next day Dad and I left the house so he could drop me off  to school on the way to work.   To our horror the car was gone and so was all the stuff we bought for our adopted family.  The car was found but it was stripped and everything was taken. Even my favorite roller skates that were in the back seat floor. They were dirty and warn out but someone still decided to take those because apparently an entire trunk of new gifts weren’t enough.  I’m not bitter.

We immediately thought what do we do now? We bought everything again! It wasn’t the family’s fault so we didn’t punish them.  Days before Christmas we managed to find everything again except the A&S bear was a limited edition so they only had two.   I remember my Mother and I both decided to take those two bears and give them to our adopted family.  They would appreciate them more than we would.

Getting back to the difference with the program, back then you had to drop the items directly off with the family at their home.  I remember driving to their home on a cold winter day.  My Mom and Dad parked in front of their home and they left my sister and I in the car as they walked up to the door.  We couldn’t hear what they were saying but I remember seeing the family tearing up and being so appreciative.  My mother also got emotional and there was also hugging and shaking of hands as my Dad brought everything from the car.

From that day I decided to continue that process of giving.  It always brings a tear to  my eye and a warm feeling in my heart when I think about and retell this story. I hope everyone takes this holiday season to jump start a process of giving either via donation of money, items, time, compassion, love, or generally of yourself.

What I’ve learned from my son with autism.

The first Sunday of October I’ve been in the same place for the past 8 years.  I can be found at Jones Beach on Long Island.  Not to swim in the ocean but to walk with thousands of others to raise money for Autism Speaks and to raise awareness of Autism.  My amazing 11 year old son was diagnosed Sept 21, 2007 when he had just turned 3.  At his yearly physical exam in August I noted to our pediatrician that Troy was showing signs of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) that combined with his delay in speech started our family on a journey which had (and will continue to have) many twists and turns and loads of highs and lows.  Going to this walk provides me a time of reflection and what I always come back to is, what have I learned?

My son Troy made me a better person.  Hands down that’s the truth.  Now I wasn’t a terrible person but certain traits I possessed I couldn’t any longer with having a child on the spectrum.  I loved order and having everything just so. I quickly realized that I couldn’t be that rigid anymore I had to (gasp) roll with the punches and see what happens.  I was not a patient person.  I still have my moments but I have learned that patience truly is a virtue. Compassion.  I’ve always tried to be compassionate of others but when you’re faced with having a child with special needs you start to  see the world through a different lens.  I now find myself smiling at that Mom or Dad in the store while their child has a melt down and giving them the nod so they know they are not alone.  When the situation allowed I’ve engaged with the child to try to help alleviate the stress and to show that it’s going to be ok.

Most importantly I learned that we are on this journey together as a family, including friends and loved ones. We have a far reaching support network and group of people who are touched by our story and who’s stories touch us.  And isn’t that what’s life is all about, all being on this journey of life together!

Inspired

Today is a day that will also be a somber one for me.  I was on Manhattan Island when the towers fell and the world stopped spinning, or at least it seemed.  Now I’m older, and wiser, and today I think about how life has changed.  I didn’t lose a loved one that day but I always thought I lost a part of myself.  Really I just became a slightly different version.

This year more than ever before I’m thinking about that day.  Some things have definitely changed.  Stephanie on Sept 11, 2001 was a single woman who had a different name from Stephanie on Sept 11, 2015 who is a wife, a mom, a seasoned career woman.

Today without even thinking about it I started my day as I emerged from Penn Station on the 8th Avenue side to head to my office in Times Square.  My usual modus operandi is keep your music blaring to drown out what’s happening around you, don’t make eye contact and walk as quick as your fitbit can keep up but today was different.  Firstly, I rarely go that way.  For 17 years I’ve arose via 7th Avenue.  I don’t know why it happened that way but it did.  I didn’t have my earbuds in. It wasn’t a conscious decision I just didn’t put them in.  Today I was greeted by a huge sign on the side of the building with Pope Francis welcoming me.  It calmed me.  I didn’t feel like I needed calming, but a sense of peace came over me.

pope

I then looked up 8th Avenue and saw that place I called home on that day 14 years ago (at least my work home). The Worldwide Plaza.

wwp

It felt right.  I strolled up the avenue to my office going out of my way to be positive.  Smiling more at others, interacting.  No being my snarky self, not today (and I’m going to try better to do this everyday).  I sat at my desk for our 2 minutes of silence in honor of the employees that were lost 14 years ago today.  I teared up. I read some great articles about New York and it has inspired me.

Brand Dilution…Times Square Style

Anyone who knows me knows that I am extremely anti-Times Square costumed characters.  This not only is because I’m faced this with epidemic every work day since Times Square is my work home but I also have children and see how this can change their views of the characters.  My 5 year old son loves Marvel Superheros (who doesn’t) but if he saw some of these poor excuses for costumed characters it would destroy the fantasy for him.

At least once a week while riding the elevator in my building I’m pulled into a conversation about why no one is dealing with this situation. If they’re not committing a criminal violation are they not committing a civil one using brands and images without permission?  Does Marvel not care that some guy who bought a $19.99 one piece hulk costume that ties behind the neck and a plastic mask is completely stealing their intellectual property for profit.  That’s the key isn’t it.  FOR PROFIT.  It’s one thing if my son buys a costume (the same quality someone is asking tourists to fork over money for the privilege of taking a picture with them) to wear trick or treating.  Even if he’s obsessed and wants to eat, sleep and play in it we’re not gaining any profit from it.   If anything we’re potentially generating revenue for the brand when my son either wears it out or out grows it and asks to buy another.

I have to assume that the cost of resources to clean these guys out of Times Square  is greater than identified loss by the brand. I then throw in the theory of dealing with the quality of life infractions.  I spend most of my waking hours in a building surrounded by this insanity.  This lowers my quality of life. I guarantee when Times Square was cleaned up we didn’t think this was the pot of gold on the end of the rainbow.

Plain and simple if the tourists and locals (you know who you are) would stop taking photos with these guys they would go away.  Are there seriously people buying these photos so they can frame it?  It’s one thing to take a selfie as a hoot but that my friend is free.