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.

 

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!

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.

What I’ve learned from teaching a corporate class.

I don’t have a huge amount of extra time to kill but I realized that in order to really succeed at my career and at life in general I need to expand my horizons.  I also needed to do that whole networking thing everyone talks about.  Over the last 5 years I’ve found the time to join the Women’s Network at my company and even volunteer.  I also took an amazing series of classes offered by my company on managing my career.  I really found great success with the tools and exercises in the class and it forced me to think about my career and what I want out of it.  What do I want….in addition to my career I always dreamed of teaching on the college level where I can impart the knowledge I’ve gained along the way.

Now to tie in to the title of the post…jump ahead to my more recent past and from networking and really enjoying the class on career development the person who developed the class asked me if I’d be interested in facilitating it.  My first reaction…Are you sure you want me to do this?  The response was didn’t you share in the class you wanted to teach…then why wait for the college level try kicking it off here.  And with that Stephanie Waters the class facilitator was born.  So to really align with the post…what have I learned?

1.) Teaching a virtual class can be difficult.  (Did I mention this was a virtual class environment?)  Trying to make sure those on the other end of the presentation tool and the phone are engaged is no easy feat.

2.) To further build on that. My no fear of public speaking was not enough of a skill set for rallying everyone to be engaged.  It forced me to work on that and I’ve developed some great techniques.

3.) People can be both amazingly positive and others really harsh in their follow up review of you and your session.  (And it’s on file which makes it even more scary.  When they share with you the comments you feel like how it would have been if you broke into the principals office, back when things were not digital, and saw your file.  Miss Smith thinks I’m a bit bossy in class.  Well I never.  I should note I never had a Miss Smith and I do admit I wouldn’t be shocked if bossy was used in my permanent record at least once. And to that I say I’m not bossy I’m just curious, in a forceful kind of way.)

4.) Reading those comments affect you.  I’m not going to lie the bad ones could affect you more. I had a boat load of amazing ones including emails from people in the class, many of which I remain in contact with. I had one really harsh one that that sticks with me.  I know it shouldn’t because you’re not going to make everyone like you. I also prided myself on not caring what other people think.  But who am I kidding, it does.

5.) The bad ones actually can be good.  I dealt with the harsh comment in the only way I knew how. I upped my game.  Of course this comment was after my first ever class and I thought, well there goes my teaching career.  That lasted a second until I said…wait a minute one person’s comment was not going to kill this dream. I’m not going down without a fight.  And so far so good.

6.) You meet some amazing people. Teaching a virtual class allows me to share my story and hear theirs from anywhere in the world.  I’m not limiting this horizon to those in NY but anyone available at that time of day.

7.) It pushed me out of my comfort zone…and that’s a good thing.  Putting myself out there for critique was definitely out of my comfort zone.  I legitimately don’t have a fear of public speaking…but I now know I had a fear of being criticized for that public speech.  I try to remember it’s all constructive criticism and not everyone is going to like me.  If someone says, I can’t stand her voice, what am I gonna do.  You can take the girl out of Brooklyn….

Happy Mother’s Day

Firstly I would have posted this yesterday on Mother’s Day but I was off the grid most of the day relaxing and hanging out with my children. That to me is the best part of Mother’s Day.  A day where there isn’t a lot of demands. We aren’t running from one dance class or school event to another.  It’s just a day where if we want to go out for lunch we can. If we want to just hang out at home and watch a movie we can.  I’m not one for big parties.  If it’s a choice between that or just relaxing at home with my family I’m usually going to decide to relax at home.

Last year (2014) Mother’s Day celebrated its 100th anniversary here in the US.  100 years of thanking Moms for their amazing contributions. In reading up a bit on how this great holiday came to be I found out that its current state isn’t really how it started.  Read this article from National Geographic last year on the Dark History of Mother’s Day.  Not all about the flowers and gifts we see today.  Yesterday there was a further story on Time.com about the founder Anna Jarvis who ended up being one of the biggest opponent to Mother’s Day.  She was staunchly against the commercialization of Mother’s Day.

I agree that all this public shout outs, over-priced flower arrangements, need for expensive gifts or meals has gotten to be a bit much.  Don’t get me wrong I love that my children want to celebrate Mother’s Day so long as that means gifts from the heart (usually hand crafted) and just wanting to go off the grid and spend time together.

Happy Belated Mother’s Day everyone!

A Great Burger Can Be a Real Threat

I have to admit….I had a great burger today.  I know it’s not the healthiest of things.  This was a way too many calories, probably increased my cholesterol a few points but was all worth it burger. While the kids were at class my husband and I get a little more than an hour to break bread together.  We decided to go to BurgerFI.  The BurgerFI Cheeseburger is fresh, mouth watering and doesn’t feel like a precooked hockey puck.

I tend to not leave well enough alone and just savor (literally) in the moment. My brain started working overtime. Do the big chains fear these ever sprouting specialty burger joints?  They should at least for the 35 and up crowd. Yes the big chains are a lower price point.  If you live in a high rent location like NYC however you’re not seeing the low price points anyway.  If I go to a McDonald’s in the middle of Manhattan I’m paying about $8 for a meal. My meal today at BurgerFI was $14 but for me that additional $6 made a huge increase in quality and value.

These high quality farm-to-table locations dovetail perfectly into the healthier way of eating. Healthy way of eating and higher quality specialty shops both seem to be affecting the big chains revenue.  This article on Slate.com “McDonald’s is Finally is Finally Making the One Big Menu Change that Could Save Its Business” shows the changes of testing out having their breakfast menu all day.  Genius really!  Even my most healthy of friends love a McDonald’s Breakfast.  Those who love a fried egg sandwich in the morning can look past the calories, the fat and generally the unhealthiness of it all. What a genius idea of leaning into what they know as a differentiator for them.  This just might, as Slate says, save their business.