SugarSync, Shared Folders and a Wedding

We’re in the home stretch of wedding planning for my son Todd.  He is marrying his high school sweetheart and we couldn’t be more thrilled.  We adore Emmanuelle and her family.  But this post is not about gushing about love, romance and wedding bells, it’s about spreadsheets, photo editing, and logistics.

Planning a wedding involves lots of coordination and logistics.  All of this is a little more complicated given modern day lifestyles.  Todd and Emmanuelle (Emu) live in Pittsburgh where they are attending medical school.  Emmanuelle’s parents and we live in the Bay Area near the wedding location but all four parents are working full time – not easy to get together in-person for projects and planning.

The cloud and SugarSync are definitely helping manage in this environment.  An example is the video we want to make for the rehearsal dinner.  Our idea (not original) is to do a photo montage, set to music with photos of both Todd and Emu growing up then pictures of them together.  I set up a shared folder in SugarSync for all the pictures.  We’re all working on our subsets – culling down to a reasonable number (not easy as we like looking at the cute baby pictures but there is some limit to what the guests want to see), ordering etc.  The nice thing is that we can do this at any time, even offline (e.g. for us on the plane home from Italy) and it will all sync.  Working with the photo files and filenames on the local machine is a lot more convenient then pure cloud but in the end the cloud is doing the coordination and synchronization for us.

Spreadsheets, table assignments, todo lists are all being handled the same way. Ditto for copies of budgets, files, contracts.  Using the cloud and SugarSync.  The one thing we are doing via Google docs (to allow for simultaneous multi-person editing of a single file) is the RSVP tracking.  I must say that while it works well for that use case it is a good reminder that I won’t be doing a lot of independent spreadsheets in Google docs anytime soon.  Much less responsive and a hassle work with compared with Excel (more on that in another post) but the comparison was useful.

There are lots of online wedding planning tools but having planned many events including 4 bar/bat mitzvahs and my eldest son’s wedding what works best for me is to use my general work tools Office, iLife, email plus the cloud.  Have you planned any events using the cloud? What has worked best for you?

Luck or Skill?

Several months ago I wrote a post about Performance or Potential.  It was a response to a research report finding that women are promoted based on performance, and men based on potential.

I believe we’re seeing a corollary to that type of thinking in a recent NY Times article about Sheryl Sandberg.  While a good chunk of the article was positive, the following section had a decidedly negative tone:

“Some say her aim-high message is a bit out of tune. Everyone agrees she is wickedly smart. But she has also been lucky, and has had powerful mentors along the way. After Harvard and Harvard Business School, she quickly rose from a post as an economist at the World Bank to become the chief of staff for Lawrence H. Summers, then the Treasury secretary. After that, she jumped to Google and, in 2008, to Facebook.

She is married to Dave Goldberg, a successful entrepreneur and the C.E.O. of SurveyMonkey, which enables people to create their own Web surveys. She doesn’t exactly have to worry about money. Or child care. (She and her husband have two young children.)

To some, Ms. Sandberg seems to suggest that women should just work harder while failing to acknowledge that most people haven’t had all the advantages that she’s had… ‘“I think she’s had a golden path herself, and perhaps does not more readily understand that the real struggles are not having children or ambition,” Ms. Hewlett continued. “Women are, in fact, fierce in their ambition, but they find that they’re actually derailed by other things, like they don’t have a sponsor in their life that helps them go for it.’”

The Atlantic had a great article that pointed out a double standard – why is luck even brought up here when it is rarely mentioned in similar articles about successful men in business?

In addition to agreeing with the content in the Atlantic article, I started thinking about all those “lucky” women (including me) who also went to Harvard Business School. What has become of them?  How many of us are there and what are we doing now?

I went into the HBS alumni directory for my class -‘88 (Sheryl is ‘95) and did a bit of informal research.  The class of ‘88 is about 25% women.  It’s hard to know exactly but judging by how many list a job in the directory it appears that about half of the women are working outside the home.  The next question is how many of that working group have children.  This is tricky, as it’s not listed explicitly.   For my husband Steve and my two sections (where we know and are in touch with many of the people) it seems to be that approximately half of the “working half” have children.

What can we conclude from this?  Well it turns out that the “luck” of going to HBS does not alone make one worth $1.6B while being married with two kids.  In fact, and on a very serious note, it is a minority of those lucky HBS attendees that are even in the demographic category of doing what she is doing – working full time while raising young children, not to mention achieving her extraordinary level of success.

Given the fact that so many of the HBS women graduates are not working, I believe the messages she has been delivering at TED and in the Barnard commencement speech are highly relevant to this group.  Be proud, be ambitious, stay in the game.  I also can’t help but wonder about her point that the successful women are less well-liked then successful men as many of my career-oriented female classmates are not married.  We need to work to change this in our society.

Another sore point for me in this NY Times article is the implication that having a high income means that you don’t have to worry about childcare.  Of course, the challenge is even greater for the working poor and even middle class but I know of no mother, regardless of income level, who does not worry about childcare. Finding the right childcare, dealing with transitions, worrying if all is ok at home.   Managing a high-powered career while parenting young children is simply hard work leaving not a lot of free time or sleep for Sheryl or anyone else.  That’s why I believe that changes in business and government policies such as parental leave for both parents are so important.  Plus, role modeling, showing working new moms that it can be managed and our children can thrive, is critical as well.

In her Barnard address Sheryl said that our generation of women hasn’t broken through to the CEO level in great enough numbers despite the good fortune of education.  The HBS class of 1980 was 20% women and they are at prime CEO age.  We certainly do not have 20% penetration in the large company CEO ranks – for instance only 18 of the Fortune 500.  What needs to change to increase these numbers?  That is a huge topic and inevitably will involve many elements both individual and societal but the suggestions Sheryl makes in her speeches can only help.

I hope I have the humility to appreciate my good fortune and the friends and family who have helped me along the way.  I’ve talked about many of those people, in particularly my husband and parents, in this blog.  My education was a gift from my parents – I hope they know how much I appreciate it.  My husband has truly been a partner in all aspects of my life.  SugarSync is a team effort by all of the employees, investors and executive team.  But nobody but me walked out the door in the morning and returned to work with a six week old sleeping sweetly at home.  Nobody was in my head as I lay awake figuring out how to solve a business problem or woke up with an early alarm to finish a project before getting the kids off to school.  I take pride in what I have done to bring SugarSync to the place it is today and will be proud of us achieving even more success in the future.  I’m even prouder of my children and the people they are.  I hope that the lens through which these accomplishments are viewed will be less biased than the lens trained on Sheryl now.

It is a privilege, and perhaps even lucky, to have professional parents, a great education and generous mentors.  What the numbers and common sense show, however, is that what is noteworthy for Sheryl Sandberg and what is deserving of coverage in the NY Times and elsewhere is not her luck, but her hard work, talent, drive and contributions.

Benefits to Kids of Career Mom (part two)

A key part of parenting is being a role model for your children.  I believe that one of the reasons I have been comfortable with my decision to work full-time while my children are growing up is that that is what I saw my mother do.  I never felt like it was a negative having a mom who worked.  In fact I was (am) proud of her and even felt special talking about her work in school and with my friends.  I think its no coincidence that my husband is comfortable with this situation as well – his mother worked – at first as a teacher, then as an attorney, then as a college professor and part-time judge.  In fact my mother is still working, half of her time as medical-director of a drug rehabilitation program and part time seeing patients in the office.

So part of this cycle relates to our daughters and daughters-in-law.  Do we want them to feel empowered to and comfortable pursuing a career?  Do we want them to be financially self-sufficient?  Independent even if they never marry or something happens to their husband or marriage?

Beyond role modeling there is also the exposure to mom’s specific career.  In my case – with both my parents as physicians that exposure was not as much about business but I certainly learned a lot about medicine.  I learned how doctor’s offices were run, I learned about many diseases and treatments because my parents discussed medical issues, including answering our questions, frequently around the dinner table.  I worked two summers in a nursing home where my dad was medical director.  Had I wanted to be a doctor this would have been a huge leg up.

In our house, the dinner table discussions about our day are much more about business – how Steve and I are building our companies, what issues are we facing.  It is a great opportunity for the kids to learn about what life is like in a silicon valley company and how we handle the issues of the day.  In our house they have 2 sources of this information.   As the kids became teenagers these conversations were great for me too as they are discerning consumers of technology!  I’ll never forget the evening while I was working for Yahoo – we had just started hearing the rumors of the impending launch of Gmail with unlimited storage – Yahoo was still offering 5mb (yes the “m” is correct).  Todd quickly pronounced that we would lose all our customers if we didn’t up our offer!

I think it is no accident that two of the very small number of Fortune 500 women CEO’s grew up in the same household as sisters.  They were brought up on a diet of business skills and were encouraged early on to be ambitious.  All of my children have spent time in my offices over the years.  Mostly brief visits – stopping in while I catch up on a few things.  Todd and Margot actually did some office and tech support work during summers – I think this is a great chance to learn about the business world.

More generally, I think my children got an extra dose of independence training – starting young with getting dressed and making school lunches themselves to starting homework and problem solving after school.  I believe their nannies and (in Derek’s case) daycare experiences exposed them to new people and ideas and challenged and therefore developed their communication skills.  At a more subtle level I think that seeing a mom as a working person confirms for children the sense that people—especially women—are multidimensional. Studies have also shown that both boys and girls have more egalitarian attitudes towards marriage, family and men and women’s roles when their mothers were employed which could help their future marital happiness.  Finally, I believe that having a working mom helps prepare children for their future where both they and their spouses are statistically likely to both be working.

Benefits to Kids of Mom’s Career (part one of two)

When we discuss the challenges of balancing family and a career and the desirability for a mother to work full-time outside the home we often hear about the negatives.  In my experience as a daughter and a mother I must say that I see many positives.  I’m not talking about the ones the psychologists study and report on (e.g. that children of working moms have higher reading scores and better social skills – there are negatives on this front as well).  What is on my mind are the specifics – what specific experiences did my children have because of my career.

The one that is most obvious for our family is travel and international experiences.   I was interested in international relations since college and international marketing and sales since I started my business career.  When I started my career here in the valley I wasn’t able to find a position focused on international marketing from the start so I began in product and channel management but I was looking for international opportunities from the start.

I worked quite a bit with the European sales teams at Informix then when Informix started its Latin American division I joined.  I ended up moving to Sao Paolo for six months to open the Informix office and Derek (6.5), Todd (4) and our nanny Susan came with me.  It was an incredible experience for all of us.  The boys got to experience school in Brazil, play on a local youth soccer team and briefly live an urban lifestyle.  We traveled every other weekend all over the country.  The school was an international one so we made friends with people from all over the world.

Steve and his partner Gus Spanos had just formed a company to purchase 2 Miller beer distribution franchises so they were incredibly busy.  Of course the separation was very hard on all of us, especially the boys, but Steve was able to come down and spend 2 weeks with us in the middle.  We took a great trip to the Amazon and several other regions of Brazil.

I wrote previously about my experiences traveling with Margot in Latin America. I continue to take the kids with me when possible.  Margot joined me at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona two years ago and last year Adam, Margot came with me to Tokyo.  We’ve also had innumerable international visitors to our home for dinners and meetings and the kids have gotten to know them.  I believe that there is something different and more educational being exposed to a foreign country and culture when connecting through work (or volunteering) rather than simply as a tourist. You get to know people and about their day-to-day lives – not just the tourist sites, although those are great too which brings me to my next point…

There is that second order benefit.  I’ve racked up literally millions of frequent flyer miles – it’s been several years since I received this card in the mail.  Steve has earned his share of miles as well and that has funded the air part of a good many of our trips – South Africa, Vietnam, Europe, Peru – you name it.  Of course there is the downside to all this travel.  Time away from home is not without consequences – there are things I’ve missed and it’s hard on the spouse at home.  But even that has some benefits – the kids learn a bit of independence and see that Dad is competent to keep them fed and productive and even tucked in with bedtime stories at night.

It’s hard to know exactly how these experiences have affected the kids.  I have to believe, though, that given how small our world is becoming, familiarity with other places, people and cultures will only be more important.  Derek and Todd, as physicians will be taking care of people in a country where more than 10% of the population are immigrants – that percentage is certainly much higher for their likely patient populations during residency.  Margot is considering a foreign language major (among many possibilities).  Adam is enjoying Spanish 3-honors – who knows where this can lead 🙂

The “Car Mitzvah”

Last week was a rite of passage in our house.  Adam got his drivers license!  Our former Rabbi at Beth Am used to call this the “Car Mitzvah” acknowledging that this milestone is probably as important to the teenager (and parents) as the “Bar Mitzvah”.  Joking aside, given the nature of our cd copying suburban lifestyle this milestone represents a significant change in the parent/child relationship.  Much more independence for the teen and actually more independence (and worry) for the parent.

Adam has been awaiting this moment with excitement.  He shows no ambivalence on the matter – he wants to drive himself rather than have mom or dad chauffeur.  I, on the other hand, feel a bit more mixed – a little nervous, a little sad that I’ll miss out car chats but, oh my gosh – after being a chauffeur for 26 years…freedom!  I still don’t think I’ve fully internalized this new status.  Saturday night Steve and I were discussing our plans for the morning – my exercise class, his pickup basketball game – I was mentally girding for the “who drives to Sunday school” argument.  I started to explain why I thought Steve should drive that day and he laughed – Adam would drive himself – hooray!

As with many transitions this one is bittersweet.  I like being needed by my children (I guess if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t have had 4 of them).  Car time is a great time to chat – some of the time is mundane but some of the time it is serious and significant.  Maybe the fact that mom is looking at the road (so no eye contact) and that the ride/conversation has a known end time makes it easier to bring up sensitive topics.  But not all of the driving time is so “meaningful” – like the time last month when I needed to leave work early to drive 20 minutes to school, pick him up, spend 5 minutes of driving him to guitar, spend the next hour on a conference call in the guitar lesson parking lot and then go home.  Drives like this are necessary but the parenting ROI is not very high.

So now is my opportunity to make the most of this transition – to enjoy the logistical freedom but pay attention in the day-to-day to have quality non-driving time.

Got Ambition?

“Got Ambition?” as first appeared in http://www.womenonbusiness.com December 13, 2011  Preview here: http://www.womenonbusiness.com/got-ambition/

I recently stumbled upon a women and workplace survey from MORE magazine which raises the question of the ambition of women, and lays out data from the survey related to what we really want from our careers. A few stats especially caught my eye, including “When asked point-blank, 43 percent of women described themselves as less ambitious now than they were 10 years ago; only 15 percent reported feeling more ambitious.”

I discussed this with a fellow (woman) colleague and we both reached the conclusion that from our experience woman are not less ambitious, just giving voice to our conflicted emotions while we seek the ideal work-life balance for our stage in life.

Read more here: http://www.womenonbusiness.com/got-ambition/

Sleep or Football

No, I have not taken up 6:00am Football, nor am I watching it on late night TV.  Despite the irony of my having met many famous pro-football players (more on that in another post) I am blissfully ignorant about the game.  I cheer loudly, take pictures of my sons while playing, chat with the other families, and, most of all, pray for no serious injuries.

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago entitled “Sleep or School”.  The basic point was that juggling parenting and work is sometimes really hard – there are only 24 hours in the day and sometimes that juggle means giving up sleep.  Well our family had a similar issue this week, only this time, I got 40 winks in my bed and my husband got 5 hours of sitting straight up on a plane with his eyes closed trying to approximate sleep.

The situation was not very complicated.  The HBS Health Care Alumni conference started today in Boston.  My son’s high school football game was yesterday afternoon.  My husband absolutely loves attending the kids’ sports events and helps the coach out quite a bit doing the “stats”.  This conference is interesting for him both from a content and networking point of view (he is CEO of a healthcare startup).  Due to lack of human cloning technology the only solution was the “redeye”.  The point being that juggling work and family is not just a woman’s issue.