Friday, May 29, 2009

Professional BusinessWomen of California Conference: Session I

I still have so many more notes to post from the Professional BusinessWomen of California Conference, but here is my entry on the first session!

Leadership Lessons from Barbie's Mom: 10 Lessons About Leadership, Reinvention and Redemption from the Founder of Mattel Toys.

Who knew that the founder of Mattel, one of the largest toy makers in the world, was founded by a woman? I didn't. I always knew that Barbie was created by a woman, but had assumed she was just the spouse of someone that worked at Mattel (which is sort of right, as she and her husband did run the business together, but both working in very different contexts).

Ruth Handler, inventor of one of the most beloved girl's toys, Barbie, is relatively unknown herself!

Barbie has had over 108 careers in over 50 years - quite a busy lady! And it all started with a simple idea from Ruth Handler - "Little girls want to play at being big girls."  In 1952 Ruth observed that dolls for girls were all baby dolls. There weren't adult dolls to play with. When she brought up the idea at Mattel, she was told that the doll she described could not be made, that the right materials were not available and no parent would buy a doll with breasts for their daughter.

Now to the part of the story that most of us do know: in 1955 the Handler family was visiting Switzerland when Ruth and her daughter came across a German doll based off of a sexy cartoon prostitute. Her daughter immediately wanted one to play with - so did Ruth. It was the doll she had envisioned, finally brought to life.  She saw many young girls on her trip playing with this doll, which had been simply made as a gag gift for men.  She bought one and took it back to Mattell and told the design department to "make this!"

Three Barbie dolls are now sold every 3 seconds. Wow!

It was not an easy journey for Ruth Handler. Even though she had helped found the company, and ran all the finances, she had to be hidden from view when it came time to talk to the men on Wall Street about taking Mattell public. Literally, while her husband entered the Wall Street office from the front door, she had to enter via an entrance used to discreetly remove garbage from the building. I can't imagine such a thing happening today, so I am so glad for pioneers like Ruth for opening doors for the rest of us.

Ruth Handler was also not perfect - when Mattel hit hard times, following a bad fire in one of their Mexican plants and they were suffering from poor sales in Europe, she wasn't sure what to do to keep the stock price up and keep investors happy.  She was approached by an accountant then who  suggested she cook the books... and she did.

Thirty years later, we all know how these types of shenanigans pan out. You can fool folks for awhile, but eventually the gig is up.  Ruth had lost sight of her goals and values, and for that she served 5 years of 500 hours of community service and was fired from Mattel.

Ruth Handler then found her self struck by breast cancer and had to get a mastectomy. She was so horrified by the "falsies" and at the poor treatment she received from sales associates in department stores that she reinvented herself and started a new company: Nearly Me.

There was so much more covered about Ruth Handler in this talk that I couldn't begin to recount it all here, but fortunately for all of us, Robin Gerber wrote a book on Ruth Handler so we can all learn more :-)

One thing that most stuck with me from this presentation actually came from a comment from a woman in the audience. Her father had worked at Mattel and knew the Handlers well, so she also got to know them and had found memories of getting to test out new toys before they were available to the general public. Her father had received a recognition award while at Mattel and it was the wording I found most interesting: "Companies are made up of men and women and the work they do."

Something to think about.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

OGB TownHall June 1 6PM!

The current OpenSolaris Governing Board will be holding our first Town Hall open forum on June 1 at 6PM.  This event is part of the CommunityOne West events and will be in Room 305 of the Moscone Center.  Hope you can make it!

Discussion on Women in Technology at 49ers Academy in East Palo Alto

Katy Dickinson and I presented on our journeys that led us to careers in technology at the San Francisco 49ers Academy in East Palo Alto on Tuesday. The students had such diverse backgrounds and career goals themselves, which made for quite a fun visit! This particular group is focusing on women in science and technology roles and even keep their own blog, Girls' Tyme!

I talked about my early career aspirations to be a waitress or a record store manager, and why I was so glad I got my degree and moved into the technical arena! There are so many more opportunities - and really, how many record stores are there left? Not a good career path (and while I started my restaurant career, I never got moved up out of the kitchen where I was a car-hop....).

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction - wow!

Wow, what a show! My husband and I caught Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction at the Shoreline Amphitheater on Friday night. Thanks to the resident purchase program at Shoreline, we got great seats - we were surrounded by people with band passes. Perfectly center, front section.. okay at the back of that section, but fantastic all the same!

Street Sweeper Social Club opened - very reminiscent of Rage Against the Machine, which I understand there is some membership overlap. Very cool, very interesting opening band.

I was very surprised when the next band was Nine Inch Nails - I guess since Jane's Addiction had broken up so long ago, I expected them to be the opener.  All the same, Trent and the rest of the band were AMAZING.  It has been way too long since I've listened to my NIN albums. I had forgotten how I just get swept up in the lyrics and can't help but dance.  My desire to enter a mosh pit was nearly overwhelming, as was my desire to write code. Odd that the two emotions were so intertwined. ;-)  I was happy that they did Head Like a Hole and Hey Pig. It's also cool knowing that Trent Reznor is one of the nicest guys in rock and roll. I got to meet some people sitting around us that knew him, and an old friend of mine from Chicago, Stella Katsoudas,  had recorded some music with him in the past (while I got to hear the tracks, they were never officially released by a label).

During the NIN set, I noticed a familiar face rockin' out one row up and a few seats to the right - Matt, a man I used to work with in my first job at Sun. Something like 20,000 people in that amphitheater and I run into someone I know. Small world!

Jane's Addiction surprised me by doing nearly completely revamped versions of most of their songs - many I didn't even recognize until I'd catch myself singing along to the words! Musically they were completely new songs. Much harder, more intense - a surprisingly excellent follow-up to NIN.  Perry Farrell also promised to not let one jerk ruin the show for everyone, which I can only guess was in reference to his old propensity to leave stage if someone threw something up onto the stage. As I had my first Jane's concert ruined by a jerk who threw a show at Perry, I was relieved to know he had learned more patience in the last 15 years. They seemed to have the classic line-up as well.

Jane's Addiction closed with a fantastic classic rendition of "Jane Says", complete with the steel drums and acoustic guitars.  The show started on time (7PM) and the bands made quick time of changing equipment. NIN and Jane's played hard and long - with the show going solidly til 11:30PM.  It is such a relief to actually get my money's worth from a concert where the bands are working together like well oiled machines - no screwing around, no stopping and starting of songs. Just good music, played well and played with passion.  Of course, someone should've told Perry that we weren't in San Francisco ;-)

Other than Matt, did any of the rest of you catch them this time around?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Free Solaris and Java training

This is pretty cool - Sun Learning is offering a Career Stimulus Learning Package for free - there are some Solaris system administration classes, some Java and JavaFX classes and resume templates on the site. If you're a Sun Alum who has left the company within FY09, there are even more classes and some discounts offered.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

vishing?!?! vishing?!

Okay, I learned a new word today - "vishing", which means using "voice" to "phish" data from people.  Am I the only one that couldn't stop laughing after reading this word in the CNet article on vishing?  It's good ol' fashioned social engineering, folks. Tele-scam.  Nothing new, really, autodialers have been doing this nonsense for decades.  And really, any old phone phreakers see the irony in "vishing" being the word associated with *phones*.  Please tell me this won't catch on. I can't imagine the outrage in Beige-ing. ;-)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Just finished reading Restaurant Confidential

Restaurant Confidential Restaurant Confidential by Michael F. Jacobson

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
A friend lent me this book, and it has ruined my blissful ignorance of eating out in restaurants, though may save my life down the line. I had no idea how many calories those "snacks" in the mall had - they aren't really snacks at all, but full meals (and in some cases a full day's worth of calories and two day's worth of fat!)

Really, I did learn a lot about how to choose more healthfully off of a menu and how to keep my heart healthy. Still, I'm going to miss eating cheesecake!

View all my reviews.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Community One West

I've just registered for CommunityOne West on June 1-3 in San Francisco's Moscone Center! I am actually excited about my first CommunityOne event, and my first chance to meet directly with community members since beginning my term on the OGB (OpenSolaris Governing Board).

The OGB will be doing a Town Hall on Monday at 6PM, so please come over, get to know us, and tell us what's on your mind!  You can see this event and many others on the detailed schedule wiki. I am happy to see some security related talks! There is one by Dr. Christoph Schuba, a fellow Boilermaker, on Role-Based Access Control and the Cryptographic Framework, and another by Scott Rotondo and Secure Programming.

I'm not sure when registration closes, so if you want to go, sign up soon!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Professional BusinessWomen of California's Conference - Morning Keynote!

I was so fortunate to get to attend the annual Professional BusinessWomen of California's (PBWC's) 20th annual conference in San Francisco at the Moscone Center last week.  It is a one day conference, but so jam packed that I felt like I was at a week long event!

The day started bright and early, I arrived about 7:30AM - in time to get some breakfast and tour the exhibit. I was disappointed to find breakfast was just cake and danishes, nothing healthy other than orange juice - so I had to go to the site's vendor and get myself a bagel.  There was a quick stretch program sponsored by a local gym, which was a good way to get centered and ready for the long day ahead.

The morning keynote started with a beautiful poem about the strength and endurance of women by Roshawnda Bettencourt, 2008 State Poetry Out Loud Champion, followed by a welcome from PBWC President, Ann Barlow.

Ms Barlow looked back at the history of PBWC and how far women have come since its inception, but was careful to point out the gaps that still existed.  Women are still paid less than men for the same work. And not just a little bit less - a lot less. Barlow noted that a woman needed to work from January 08 to April 09 to make as much as a man did in just 2008 alone.  In addition, only 15% of board positions are made up by women, which is not representative at all for the number of women in their various industries.

After Barlow, we were welcomed as well by Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Joannie Greggains. By this time, I was feeling *really* welcome ;-)

Kavita Ramdas, President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, gave us great insight into how much more women are impacted by poverty around the globe than men, which is devastating considering this is the same group that is most impacted by war, famine and violence. In fact, currently 80% of the world's refugees are women.

Ramdas reminded us that research has proven that when girls are educated it results in lower birthrates, lower infant mortality, and greatly decreases the spread of AIDS.  Yet, when econmic downturns happen parents must often choose which of their to feed, which ones to educate,  Globally, it is most often the daughters that are kept home, only to repeat the cycle of poverty once again as they grow up ignorant and impoverished.

The evidence Ramdas presented continued to be in the favor of educating women and hiring them into higher positions. For example, she noted that banks that had at least 30% women in strategic positions were less likely to have recently invested in the bad home loan market.

The goal of The Global Fund for Woman is to provide the funds where it is needed when it is most desperately required. They keep a very low barrier to entry for fund requests - they accept proposals in any language, in any format: email, documents and hand written notes.  Ramdas knows that this funding can make a world of difference for woman around the globe, and she sited many examples from Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Nicaragua during her talk.

The morning keynote session wrapped up with Patrick Lencioni, author and President of the Table Group, giving us a high level summary of the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team.  He noted that there are way more than 5 ways to run a successful team, but these five things will quickly squash any good work that is happening. Unfortunately, the summary was so quick - we only really got the first four :-)

  • Absence of Trust

Vulnerability based trust is so critical. That is, the ability to apologize, ask for help, and be honest about mistakes.  If even one person on the team can't do this, it will impact the dynamcis of the other team.

  • Fear of Conflict

This does mean personality conflict, but about ideas. All members of the team must be willing to weigh in on discussions and even disagree. A good leader should be able to bring this out of his or her team members, because it will lead to successful buy-in later on by all team members and insure there are no unresolved issues that will inhibit the team.

  • Lack of Commitment

If anyone on the team is not really committed to the success of the team, it can end up infecting all members who will not want to pull more than their fair share.

  • Lack of Accountability

Teams need to have peer-to-peer accountability. That is, not going around each other to the leader or boss to report on other team members.  A troublesome sign is when someone says, "I don't have the time and energy for this." Lencioni sees this as an evasive manuever which will lead to trouble later on.

There was a fifth one, but I guess I'll have to read the book to find out more! This was one of the most intense keynote discussions I think I have ever attended, and it really set the tone for the rest of the fascinating day.

Did you make it to the conference? Was it just me, or did Lencioni really get you thinking about your own teams and perhaps some of your own behaviours?

More on the sessions later!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Garden is planted, PBWC was attended!

With the amazing help of my mother-in-law, the tomatoes (cherry, Better Boy, Roma and Early Girl), basil, parsley, oregano, marjoram, basil, parsely, sage, jalapeƱos, yolo wonder bell peppers, serano chilis, and marigolds are in the ground or in the Earth Boxes! (and for you Simon & Garfunkel fans, the rosemary & thyme from last year are still prospering) Most of those were started from seed in little peet pots, except the oregano, marjoram, Roma and Early Girl tomatoes.

I went to the Professional BusinessWomen of California Conference yesterday in San Francisco at the Moscone Center. It was intense! What a wonderful program! I will have several blog entries from that event over the next week (based on my 13 pages of notes - double sided!)