Work and Life

Thoughts on Marissa Mayer


An insight, an idea: Marissa Mayer

Yahoo! got the CEO they wanted. They wanted someone who would put work before family. They wanted someone who would make the company–and employees–toe the line.

So no more working from home, although Mayer has the clout and the capital to bring her home to work.

I do recognize, as Amanda Enayati points out in her CNN opinion piece, that Meyer was hired to turn around a company that isn’t performing. It’s entirely possible that the existing work-from-home policy was being grossly abused, and that this is an effort to rid the company of dead weight.

As this Forbes piece points out, Marissa Meyer has always put a premium on face-to-face interaction–so this move was a surprise to many, but in fact is in keeping with her track record.

But I also believe that it’s not fair to refuse to let people work from home during the day, but expect them to do so at night. And saying “You can work from home when your child is sick” assumes that you’re not taking care of that sick child.

Flexibility matters, as former HP CEO Carly Fiorina points out. Surely there is a middle ground–regular work-at-home days don’t have to mean that a worker is never in the office. And they certainly don’t have to mean that there is no accountability.

And the latest evidence that Mayer is delivering what Yahoo! wants? Her 6-month bonus.

$1.2 million? Come on.

It’s like Yahoo! wants the rest of us to hate them. And her.

Photo by World Economic Forum, via Flickr. Creative Commons.

What Happens When You Get Hit by a Bus?


At my first job, I developed what I call my Hit By a Bus theory of vacation. I asked myself, what would happen if I got hit by a bus? The answer was pretty clear:

  • My project would get completed.
  • The company would stay in business.
  • The world would keep turning.

And I’ll come back from vacation.

Bob Prol has a post on this topic, reminding readers that vacation time is not a gift. It’s part of how your employer pays you. If you don’t take your vacation time, you’re actually getting paid less per year. Don’t get paid less, particularly when you do it to yourself.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of this blog. Let’s celebrate by making sure we all have vacation plans.

And don’t get hit by a bus. No one wins that one. Not even the bus.

Know Your Audience


If you’ve ever driven past North Hollywood Park, you’ve seen scores of people running, walking dogs, playing basketball–the park is a center for all kinds of exercise. That’s why this makes sense:

Outdoor Gym North Hollywood Park

That’s right, it’s an outdoor gym, complete with weight benches, leg presses, and stationary bikes. Do you prefer an elliptical trainer?

Outdoor Gym North Hollywood Park

Have at it. And all of the equipment clearly is designed for outdoor use; it’s mechanical, not electronic, and sturdily built for the elements (and, one hopes, people jumping on it in ways you might not expect in an indoor gym–because I’m pretty sure that’s going to happen).

This wouldn’t make sense in every L.A. park, but it’s a natural fit for this one.

“Know Your Audience” isn’t solely about marketing. It’s also about the product or service you provide. I think this is a win for the L.A. parks department. But I am curious to see how they tell people about it once it’s open.

A Question of Trust



David Meerman Scott has a great post about why it matters whether an employer lets you use social media at work. One sentence sums it up nicely: “When companies ban social networking, the best employees leave. They sense they are not trusted.”

So, if you’re an employer, here are a few questions for you:

  • Are your employees getting their work done on time?
  • Do you let your employees access social media sites at work?
  • Do you let them check their personal e-mail?
  • Will you find ways to incorporate regular telecommuting on at least a part-time basis?

If you answered “yes” to the first question and “no” to any of the others, then I have only one more question for you:

Why did you hire so many people you don’t trust?

Also, you may want to ask yourself if you’re really as good a boss as you think you are.

Photo by Txspiked, via Flickr.

Basics of Business Communication



Guess why no one wants to read this book.

No matter what job we hold, all of us have occasion to share business information with others. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, and forget what the overall purpose is: to make sure that someone gets the information they need. With that in mind, here are a few tips:

1) Know your audience. It’s the first rule of comedy, and it’s the first rule of pretty much everything else. Do not assume that the recipient is going to find your snarky comment funny. And don’t write to a company vice president as if he or she is your co-worker in the next cubicle.

2) Know why you’re writing. Do you want to provide a project summary? Commend a colleague? Point out issues that are arising? Focus on meeting your goals.

3) Keep it short. Everyone is busy, from that VP to that co-worker. Provide necessary context, but get to the point.

4) Check your spelling. Do not rely entirely on Word or Outlook. Get a dictionary, whether it’s in print or online. Use it.

And now, for a few related links:

Write a Complaint Letter Like a Pro: Good for more than complaint letters. (The Consumerist)

E-mail Etiquette 101: Things to keep in mind. (Michael Hyatt)

We’d All Be Better Off if the “Reply All” Button Just Went Away: Seriously, beware. It’s necessary, but it can get you into serious trouble if you don’t remember what “all” means. (Me)

Photo by romana klee, via Flickr.

We’d All Be Better Off if the “Reply All” Button Just Went Away


Seriously, it’s still causing trouble. You’d think by now we’d all have learned to be more careful, but no. Check out this post from Jenny Lawson, AKA The Bloggess (also available at @thebloggess).

I’ve had my own corporate run-ins, although not involving pitches. In the past few years I’ve gone to war with AT&T and TiVo over service and billing issues. I’ve won, and the reason I’ve won is that I was right, and I put social media tools to use. I even told the TiVo supervisor that I was going to do it. Fair warning, I say. So why would anyone broadcast that response regarding a blogger with a huge, devoted audience?

Don’t try to one-up snark with insults. It doesn’t work, and it’ll get out somehow. That’s how it works these days. More of us need to learn that. Yes, we’re all human, and yes, we all make mistakes. But maybe it’s time to retire “Reply All.”

RIP Steve Jobs


Mac Classic Retro

In 1982 or so, we got our first home computer–an Apple II+. It had a dual floppy drive, and we used it to play Zork and write papers for school (dot-matrix printers and pin-feed perforated paper–I don’t miss either of those).

In college I had an IBM clone (one that no one has ever heard of, save the woman I bought it from when she didn’t need it any more) that was portable because it had a handle. It weighed 24 pounds, but it had a handle. But for whatever reason I couldn’t save a paper longer than five pages, so it didn’t last long once I left my undergrad days.

When I got to grad school, I knew I wanted to go back to Apple. The only way to buy one was through the athletic department, and somehow I was able to make that work. But it wasn’t like you went into a store and picked it up–no, you had to order it and wait for it to arrive. So I placed my order for whatever was available at that point, and I waited. And waited. And waited.

Finally, the woman in charge of computer orders called me and said, “Sorry it’s taking so long. But I wanted to check and see if you wanted to upgrade to a Mac Classic. It’s got better memory and it’s cheaper.” Sold!

I used that computer for a long time. When I first got Internet access, it took me forever to set up. Between the out-of-date instructions and dial-up (and only one phone line in my apartment), there was a lot of plugging and unplugging the modem to call for support and then re-connect to do what they said. The guys at the ISP said that while they were sorry I was having so much trouble, it was really helping them pinpoint where their instructions needed to be revised. But even so, one of them finally said (during what was probably my 10th call), “Kathy? Why are you at home setting up Internet access at 9 p.m. on a Saturday?) I said, “I had no idea it would take five hours.” And what I thought was, Sheesh, at least he’s at work. I’m doing this on my own time. Oh, and I could only get text-based sites. Fortunately there were a lot of them. I planned an entire out-of-state trip online, using only text-based sites.

But the Web kept developing, and I had to buy a new computer that would display visuals. Naturally, I stuck with Mac. It helped that we had them at work, and that our license allowed me to install Word on my home computer, so that I didn’t have to buy my own copy (I still miss Word 5.1, by the way. Just saying.) for when I needed to work from home. A few computers later, and I was buying the G4 desktop that we still have at home. It’s old, but it works like a charm. My MacBook works, too–it’s just got that old Motorola chip that keeps me from upgrading the OS, which keeps me from upgrading the software, which means that it won’t talk to my iPod Touch any more.

My new laptop isn’t a Mac. Our budget and priorities have changed, and I just couldn’t justify buying a Mac, much as I wanted to.

Much as I enjoy what I can do on the computer, I’m not really a computer person. But I have fond memories of the Macs I’ve owned. They made technology fun. Steve Jobs did that. I never met him, and I never will, but if I did, I’d just say, “Thanks.”

Photo by fuzzz, via Flickr.

Fire Drill


Fire Alarm
My building is having a fire drill this afternoon, sometime between noon and 5. We don’t know exactly when our floor will go; that way, we’re not all in the lobby when the alarm goes off–we’re actually doing normal things.

Except that as one of my suites “wardens,” I’m hyper-aware that it could happen at any moment. Or not. So basically I’m just sitting around, waiting for a fire drill.

That’s not productive. No one is benefiting from this, not even me.

So, what’s your fire drill? And what else could you be doing right now?

Photo by Night Owl City, via Flickr.

How Much Privacy Do You Have?


You are here

What does privacy mean in an age where so many of us share everything in public? If you don’t want everyone to know everything, here are a few things to take a look at:

Geolocating and photos

First, check your camera. As this Webroot post explains, newer cameras include geolocation info in the metadata. If you don’t want people to know where you are, turn that feature off. And if you’ve got a smartphone, for these purposes I’m including that in the category “camera.”

Privacy settings

You’ve probably seen your Facebook friends (including me, if you’re friends with me) post status updates about changes to privacy settings. Go look at them again and make sure that what you share is going only to those people you want to see it. In the upper right-hand corner, you’ll see “Account” with a drop-down arrow. Select “Account Settings” and then go through each of the categories on the left to make sure that you’ve properly limited access to your account. Remember to remove apps you’re not using. Then go back to that drop-down menu and select “Privacy Settings.” If it seems like you’re repeating yourself, that’s okay–it’s good to be thorough. Do this on other sites you use, too. The organization may be a little different, but the overall issue is constant.


One of the circles on Google+ is “Public.” I think it might behoove Google to come up with another label for that circle, because any time you choose “Public” rather than “Friends” or “Acquaintances” or “People who also have lhasa apsos” (or whatever circle names you’ve invented), that post is going to wind up searchable via Google’s main page. What happens in Google+ may not stay in Google+, so don’t select “Public” unless you’re okay with the whole world seeing it. Because they just might.

Your whereabouts

Geolocation games and services like foursquare and SCVNGR can be a lot of fun, but pay attention to who knows where you are. It’s not that hard to track someone’s movements throughout the day. When that’s not just a pattern but real-time, it’s worth thinking about how much of that you really want to share, and with whom. Remember that kid in junior high who you thought was your friend, but turned out to be the jerk who stole things out of your backpack? Chances are good that many of us still have one of those friends–we just haven’t realized it yet. And do you know everyone they know? It’s not paranoid to keep in mind that you don’t actually know everything about everyone–so why does everyone need to know everything about you?

Start with the idea that it’s possible for people to find you and your words and photos. And then consider how much you want to hand to them directly. It’s a personal choice–just make an informed one.

Photo by Quasimondo, via Flickr.

Verizon Wireless and Twitter Success



I’ve been a Verizon Wireless customer for seven years. For most of that time (maybe all of it), I’ve had LG phones. They work well, and I really like the way they organize contacts so that I don’t have to scroll through every single number a person has.

When I started texting, I realized that I wanted a full-keyboard phone, and at my next “upgrade” I bought the LG EnV. I love this phone (see above for someone else’s picture of it). It’s compact, the keyboard is easy to use, and the screen, while small, is pretty clear. The downside is that getting to the camera functions is a little cumbersome, but I don’t use the camera on this phone that much anyhow.

But it was starting to get a little bedraggled, and it seemed like the battery wasn’t holding a charge for as long as it used to. And then Verizon Wireless started calling me about upgrading.

So I got the LG Cosmos Touch. And pretty much from Day One, I hated it. This is the LG Cosmos with a touch screen, and wow, is that one annoying touch screen. It was unresponsive, except for when it was hyper reactive. I never knew when it was ringing–I keep my phone on vibrate, and for the first time, I could neither hear nor feel it when it would go off in a bag I was holding. And it kept pushing things at me–buy this app, link to this site, use this function. That’s not what I want when I unlock my phone so I can make a call. I want to make a call, for crying out loud.

It probably won’t come as a big surprise that when I lost the phone, I wasn’t terribly sad about it. No, I just went to my nearest Verizon store to scope out replacements. And that’s when I realized that not only would I have to pay full price (because I’d already gotten my two-year upgrade with the hated Cosmos Touch), but the cheapest phone I could buy was the regular Cosmos. The sales rep said that the push marketing was “probably” because of the touch screen, and that shouldn’t be a problem with this one. Of course, he also said that the cheapest thing for me to do would be to add another line to the account, when a really basic round of division told me that doing that would be more than twice as expensive as replacing the phone.

So I snarked a bit on Twitter and went back to work. On the way home, I found that Verizon Wireless had found my tweet–which didn’t even contain a hashtag (so, nice searching, @VZWSupport!) and responded. An exchange or two later, and I had my solution: I charged and reactivated the EnV.

And now I like my phone again. I even know when I get a call or text. Imagine that!

Photo by tjshirey, via Flickr.

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