May 03 2013

Women in the Workplace

Category: Uncategorizedpodrey @ 2:27 pm

I’ve just finished Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. It has stimulated some thoughts that have been churning idly in the back of my mind for awhile now.

Women in the workplace, workplace trends in general… These topics fascinate me. Women want to be liberated and to have the freedoms that men do, and to a large extent, we do. Women do better than men in college admission and college graduation rates. However, more often than not, women are still choosing not to pursue certain arenas, and thus, those arenas are still dominated by men. Specifically – top business positions are still occupied largely by men.

Why is that? Sandberg examines this question and determines that the answer is, of course, complicated. She points out there are pervasive cultural norms to battle against. Little girls who are aggressive are called bullies, while little boys who are aggressive are driven, dominant, or ambitious. Men can be angry or cross at work without being accused of being bitchy or on the rag. Men who do well at work are liked by men and women. Women who do well at work are disliked, by both men and women. There is a cultural factor to all of this. And when confronted with it, most women do not choose to lean in and challenge it. They opt out.

That is Sandberg’s challenge to women – lean in more, to all aspects of life, but she’s focusing on careers.

Sandberg is a successful woman in an executive level position. She’s the COO of Facebook. She left a high position at Google to take it. She’s one of the only people who could say such a thing and have people listen to her. If a man had said, “ladies, you need to do more if you want to be noticed,” he would have been crucified for daring to suggest it’s our fault. Such a statement implies that women haven’t done enough. But coming from a woman, it’s bearable and possible to listen.

Sandberg doesn’t say that all women need to try for executive positions. She does suggest that all women need to lean in more, sit at the table. Literally. One study showed that in a conference room where there aren’t enough chairs around the table, it’s the women who volunteer to sit at the edges of the room. Another study showed that women will still sit at the edges even when there are enough chairs for everyone at the table. They physically remove themselves from the heart of the conversation. Attitudes like that are the things that need to change culturally before women have a chance to close the gender gaps at the top.

Sandberg has been criticized soundly for some ideas in this book, but i found nothing to be critical of. It is one woman’s story, along with a whole bunch of interesting research.

Other reading i have done on this topic:

  • Two posts by Penelope Trunk, whom i admire and have strong reactions to (positive or negative). I do think her perspective on careers, and women in business, is right more often than not.
  • An essay from The Atlantic on why women still can’t have it all. Linked to from one of Trunk’s articles, but worth a read on its own.

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Apr 25 2013

Eye Hate Rebates

Category: Uncategorizedpodrey @ 8:20 am

acuvue

Every year, i go to the eye doctor and go through the following boring ritual:

  • Eye exam
  • Eyes dilated, which i hate and i think is overkill. She’s looking for cancer behind the eyes, right? Wouldn’t once every other year be often enough to check for this?
  • She pimps a different contact lens solution every year. (I’m convinced she’s getting rewarded somehow for these endorsements.)
  • I get chided for wearing my contact lenses for longer than two weeks at a time. I hate this part because it makes me feel like a child. I know the real reason they only want me to wear them for two weeks – so i’ll have to buy more contacts sooner. I generally ignore them and switch contacts when my eyes start to feel tired. It works fine, but the price i pay is the annual lecture.
  • They give me the rebate forms. Which i also hate.

Rebates are annoying because, well, because they are. It’s the company’s way of trying to be the Good Guy by letting you get some money back, but they make you jump through a whole lot of hoops in order to get the extra money. Why don’t you just make your product $25 less expensive? I know why – because then everyone gets the money, whereas with a rebate, a large percentage of people won’t go through the hassle. Tip: when you make something a hassle, customers aren’t pleased by it.

Lance and i switched to AT&T U-verse for internet access and our switch “entitled” us to a rebate. Woot. But guess what, you can’t file for your rebate at the time they tell you about it. You have to wait until the first bill comes, then gather the form the installation guy gave you together with the first bill, multiply 17 numbers and then do a somersault before you can submit the rebate. Then you have to wait 17 weeks to receive the rebate in the mail (because rebates stubbornly refuse to be digitized, since that would make the process too easy), being careful not to throw it away because they put it in an envelope that looks like junk mail.

I’ve just filed for the Acuvue rebate for my contact lenses. I was able to do it online for the first time this year, without submitting a dozen tiny pieces of cardboard box tops. An improvement, on first glance. But then, before i could submit my rebate, they required me to sign up for the “AcuMinder tool”. AcuMinder is going to email me to remind me when to change my contacts. You know, so they can be sure i’m not getting full 3-4 weeks usage out of them and i’ll need to buy more contacts sooner.

I’ve spent 5 minutes searching the site trying to disable the reminders. Any site where it takes me 5 minutes to find anything is either very poorly or very cleverly designed. Of course, they’ve made it difficult on purpose, so i’ll put it in the clever-but-extremely-annoying category.

I think i’m done with rebates. I’m pretty sure i can ask my eye doctor for a prescription and get it filled online without any of this rebate crap.

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Apr 23 2013

Stats and Beer from Gatlinburg

Category: Uncategorizedpodrey @ 10:17 am

Gatlinburg is over. It was an exhausting but extremely fun week. I was properly impressed with the massive number of brackets in the knockouts. We landed in Bracket 5 most of the week; one event we were in had 26 brackets. Lance calculated some stats for us as the week progressed, and here is the final tally, from our partnership perspective.

  • 6 days of play
  • 17 sessions played
  • 216 hands declared
  • 179 hands defended
  • 163 partscores
  • 204 games
  • 28 slams
  • 1 hand passed out
  • 2 fights entered into with the opponents (one by each of us)
  • 1 recorder form filled out (on Lance, for psyching third seat white on red.)
  • 5,148 tricks played
  • 20,592 cards counted (probably less – my counting got a bit lax late in the week)
  • 1 midnight KO played
  • 67.23 master points earned

One of the more fun things we did was go to a nice restaurant Saturday evening for dinner – the Smoky Mountain Brewery. We decided to try the 9-beer sampler in order to decide which home brew to order, and since there were four of us, we ordered two samplers. The beer was arranged on an informational placemat, which was quite clever.

beer

Team photo featuring all our beer samplers:

I’ll miss you, Gatlinburg! This was a really great tournament, very well-run. It had to be, in order to handle this many people. I would definitely go back.

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Apr 19 2013

P is for Pupton

Category: Uncategorizedpodrey @ 8:06 am

I miss our puptons! They are having a big time at the vet’s boarding house while we are in Gatlinburg.

 

Isn’t she a pretty girl, with bows in her hair? Can’t wait to get home to both of them.

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Apr 17 2013

Gatlinburg

Category: Uncategorizedpodrey @ 8:35 am

We arrived Sunday in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, for one of the biggest bridge tournaments in the country. It is the biggest regional tournament, and even at just seven days in length, it ends up being bigger than some national tournaments, which run ten days.

This is my first trip to this little town in the Great Smokey Mountains. It is something else. Like Myrtle Beach without the beach. We have counted seven (7!) Old Tyme Photo places within walking distance of our hotel. Are people really chomping at the bit to get a tacky black and white photo?

i do love the uniqueness of the shops. There are some chains here, but there are a whole lot of interesting albeit weird restaurants and stores. Pancake houses abound, clearly run by individuals. The hotels and motels are all un-chains. We are staying in the Sydney James Mountain Lodge. The Sydney James is a bit run down, but has cathedral ceilings, free wifi, balconies, an indoor pool, refrigerators in the room, a loud mountain stream to look at and friendly staff. And is cheap cheap cheap. I think our rooms are $49 per night.

We are here to play cards, and I am excited and proud to say this will be my first real professional gig as a bridge pro. We have a client who pro asked lance and I to play on a team of four with her and her favorite partner  all week. Lance has done this with her before, and he organized this whole thing, but still, here I am and I am excited!

When I was new to the bridge world, I was surprised to hear there were people who paid money for others to play bridge with them. But it happens all the time. Retired folks with lots of money, a love for bridge and perhaps an inability to win when playing with their peers, or a desire to play up and win,,or simply a desire to win master points more quickly than they would on their own. I’m sure we are just low level pros, but still, this week we are   Pros! I hope we do reasonably well for our client this week.

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Apr 15 2013

Seeing in the Dark

Category: Uncategorizedpodrey @ 1:11 pm

My car is old. 12 years old. It’s got some wear on it, to say the least. Most noticeably, the paint is wearing off. It gives me kind of a white trash look, but that’s OK. I don’t have a car payment, so nanny nanny boo boo.

Less noticeably, my headlights are very dim. I thought there was something wrong with my headlamps, but even replacing those didn’t do much good. When i turn on the headlights at night, sometimes i wasn’t even sure they were on.

I tried cleaning them, but regular surface cleaners didn’t make much of a difference. I thought i would have to replace the headlight cover altogether, which meant a trip to the body shop, which was too much trouble.

Somehow i ran across someone else with this problem, which led to a google search. There were several sets of instructions involving sand paper of increasing fineness, but that seemed too hard. Then i stumbled upon the fascinating discovery that regular old toothpaste (with polishing on the label) is a great headlight cover cleaner.

I knew i wanted to try this. Not only is it super cool in a science experiment sort of way, it was a way for me to be able to see while driving at night again!

Here’s what you need:

  1. Toothpaste, make sure it says something about polishing your teeth. These types of toothpastes have tiny beads in them (i think of exfoliating facial cleansers here), and it’s the beads that act like a very fine sandpaper on the headlight cover.
  2. A wet cloth to scrub with.
  3. A dry rag for drying/wiping.
  4. A pitcher of water.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Get the headlight cover wet using your pitcher.
  2. Squeeze a single line of toothpaste across width of your headlight.
  3. Use the wet cloth to scrub all over. Use your elbow grease a bit and scrub for about half a minute.
  4. Rinse with water from pitcher and wipe with dry cloth.
  5. Voila.

The results are hard to see in these pictures. Taking photos in sunlight is hard. But one thing to notice is the lack of glare or reflection in the first picture, while there is a clear reflection in the second. I’m pleasantly surprised and pleased at the results.

Before:

After:

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Apr 13 2013

Shoes for Spring

Category: Uncategorizedpodrey @ 10:08 am

 

I love them! And they are actually comfortable! And they were on clearance! It’s a trifecta.

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Apr 10 2013

Believe It Or Not

Category: Uncategorizedpodrey @ 8:21 am

I found a fun link of photos you won’t believe aren’t photoshopped. It doesn’t take long to look, and the images are impressive.

  • The Machine Apparently Made to Saw the World in Half
  • Macaroni Push-Pup
  • “AAAAARRGGHH! EDDIE MURPHY HEAD!”
  • Giant Table or Tiny Bicyclist?
  • “Do You See Those Letters, Uh, Floating There?”
  • If You Look Past The Unsettlingly Tiny Speedo, You’ll See a Huge Freaking Airliner
  • “We’re Moving. It’s the Crab’s House, Now.”
  • A Splotch From God’s Paintbrush
  • If Dogs Played Major League Baseball
  • “Damn Kids!”
  • Body Builder, With Flesh Puppet
  • Freudian Gummy Candy
  • “Looks Like Another Neighborhood Got Sucked Into the Vortex Yesterday.”
  • The “Everything We Could Find” Pizza
  • A Scene From a Michael Bay Movie About Tennis?

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Apr 08 2013

How Not to Write a Resume

Category: Uncategorizedpodrey @ 8:39 am

Every year at my job we hire some summer students to do grunt work for us. At least, grunt work is what i always think i’m going to assign them. Then, when they finally get here, they become real people who need to be challenged and i find myself feeling responsible for their growth.

I’ve been in charge of students for the last two years, and the cycle is now happening again. I get a batch of resumes to go through, and then we select a few for phone screening. Phone screening is basically a check to make sure you’re not a robot, are responsive when spoken to and engage well enough in a basic conversation. I accept the truth that interviews are not predictive of performance. So basically i pick you from your resume, check you’re not a complete aberration, and you’re hired.

That makes the resume the most important thing. I looked at 30+. You have to stand out, and you have to not do stupid things on your resume. Here are some tips regarding what i looked for and what turned me off:

Note: this is advice specifically for college students applying for a technical summer job, based on my experience as a hiring manager for same.

  • No objective. Don’t put an Objective section on your Resume. I won’t rule you out for this, b/c so many people have it because it’s in resume templates everywhere. But it is a useless and redundant sentence that takes up space that you might actually need.
  • Cover letter. I was surprised how much this affected who i liked, but i found myself drawn to people who could write 3-4 paragraphs about themselves and why they thought they’d do a good job. It made them come to life, just a little.
  • Formatting matters. It needs to be readable, and words like Job Experience and Computing Skills needs to be bolded and easily findable on a scan. Don’t be afraid to use really big fonts – you’ll have extra room for this if you get rid of the Objective (see above). Also, don’t use bullet points unless you have more than one bullet. This is something i got dinged on in 7th grade and have never forgotten. Looking at a resume with a bunch of single bullets, i can see why – it looks silly.
  • Speaking of computing skills, programming languages need to be featured in a section on computing. This was the first thing i looked for, or the lack of it. I threw out someone who didn’t have any computing-related skills listed at all, then i later i happened to notice some Perl mentioned in her most recent job description. Why make it hard for me? You are applying for a computer job!
  • Don’t list your GPA. Maybe. I don’t even know what GPA means anymore, as i saw many GPA’s over 4.0. What does that even mean? Definitely don’t list your major GPA unless it is higher than your overall GPA. Don’t list a GPA for high school but not for college.
  • High School doesn’t matter unless you went to NCSSM or similar. Please also do not list that you received a “high school diploma” at said high school. You’re in a college. That’s good enough.
  • Limit yourself to one page. You are a college student. You cannot possibly have enough content to merit more than one page. I think this is good advice for much more experienced people, too.
  • Do not list your Availability on your resume. If you’ve applied for a summer job, and you are available from May – August, there is already an implication that it’s a possible fit. If you do choose to put your availability on your resume, put one set of dates. Do not put your Preferred dates followed by your Absolute dates. In general, if someone wants you, we’re going to work with you, whatever your schedule is. Don’t provide a reason for a company to exclude you before they even look closely.
  • List your related coursework. I found this useful and interesting. It provided a place for me to look for questions to ask about your specific experiences.
  • Work experience is important, although less important for college students than others. Anything technical is of course worthwhile. Your odd jobs can also be interesting, but don’t make them more than they are. Your job at McDonald’s does not need three bullet points. If you’re going to list your fast food service jobs, you need to also list the dates you worked. The best reason to list a fast food job is to show loyalty or a work ethic.

None of my students’ submissions were in an interesting format. I guess it is dangerous to try standing out. Despite the following eye-catching resume going viral in 2011, all of the resumes i received were in the same old boring what-you-would-expect format. A final tip for anyone who cares, check out Chris Spurlock’s advice on How to Make Your Resume Stand Out.

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Apr 05 2013

Pictures from Colorado

Category: Uncategorizedpodrey @ 12:37 pm

Catching up with a few pictures from our trip last month to Breckenridge, Colorado.

After skiing only sporadically for 10+ years, last year i went with my family for an entire week and remembered just how much i loved it. I decided i wanted to do it every year if possible.

Lance came with me this year. He has officially learned to ski and even gave hints that he thought it was fun. Here we are at the top of Keystone Colorado. It was a gorgeous view.

breck2

Our last day of the week, we went on a dog-sledding adventure. I was surprised to find that you actually mush the dogs yourself. There were 6 of us, and we took turns sitting in the sled, mushing the dogs, and riding in the snowmobile (where this picture was taken from). Turns only lasted a few minutes at a time. It was exhausting! Any thoughts i had of running the Iditarod myself vanished. But it was awesome to try it for an hour.

breck1

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