I did the Quantic EMBA program, here’s what happened

Many of my best life decisions were made by saying, "Let's see where this goes!" When my husband and I started dating, for instance, I thought, "This will be fun for the summer until we break up; we'll go off to college in different cities and never see each other again." And then that never happened: we were both in New York and the rest is history.

I can say something similar happened when I decided to apply for the Smartly Quantic program. I had just finished paying off 27K of student loan debt and the prospect of going back to school (read: more debt) was not exactly tempting. And the truth is age is a major factor; going back to school in my 30's was going to put a major cramp in my life goals of owning a home and having a child.

I saw ads for what was then marketed as "Smartly" on the train (specifically their fee-free MBA program) and figured it was worth at least throwing my hat in the ring. What happened next was unexpected; I was admitted to their Executive MBA track given my work experience. This track normally comes with a fee and I was offered a full scholarship to cover the one year program.

I honestly didn't think I would be accepted so now that I was, at no cost to me, I had to make a decision — should I do it?
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Why I Can't Read the Googler's Manifesto

I think you may have heard about one Googler's manifesto, but I can't bring myself to read it.

Segmentation Fault
Was I not the only one who wanted to throw her computer out the window after hearing about the manifesto?

Let me preface this by saying that I strongly believe in free-flowing discourse and dialogue. I believe that we should question our assumptions and seek solace in facts and figures. I also believe in seeking out patterns in our past behavior to help predict future actions, or break out of them. But first and foremost, I believe that we owe it to our fellow humans to empathize with their experiences on this earth.

And, from what I understand of this manifesto, the writer doesn't seem to understand the shifts that women have seen in the last 30 years with regard to technology. The number of women graduating with Computer Science degrees is steadily decreasing; as Wired Magazine notes in their interview with Melinda Gates, 1 in 3 women in the 1980's has decreased to less than 1 in 5 earning a Comp Sci degree. Continue reading "Why I Can't Read the Googler's Manifesto"

The importance of feedback in user experiences

I wrote this piece on Medium first about my work as a Product Manager:

I work in a large room that’s offset from a larger and more public area. The room is locked, so that only people who work for my company can enter as long as they have an ID badge with the appropriate permissions assigned. There are two doors through which one can enter the room. These doors can be opened by anyone from the inside of the room, but you must first push a red button adjacent to the door.

Buzzers
Buzz Me by Jen Gallardo

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Let’s Just Start Over or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About the Product and Comfort a Cranky Stakeholder

I wrote this piece on Medium first about my work as a Product Manager:

Last week, colleague walked over to my desk to ask me about the product I just started working on. And by started to work on, I mean I inherited this product in part because there was some significant “clean-up” needed and rumor has it that I’m good with fixer-uppers. His question to me was, “How about we just start over?” In short, stating that he’d almost rather walk away from this dumpster-fire mess than somehow try to put out the embers and make something of the leftover half-burned pieces of fresh garbage. Well, this isn’t exactly what he meant but that’s probably how I felt when I heard the question and realized the hole I now needed to climb out of.

Bonfire at Night
Bonfire #8 by Jen Gallardo

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My 10-Year Test

I use the Pocket app which I love. It allows me to hold on to interesting articles to read (or re-read) later on the subway (where I still often have little signal).

One that I finally got around to reading is titled The 10-Year Test: The Best Way to See if You're on the Right Career Track.

The gist of the article is that, when you feel stuck and you don't think you are making progress, reflect on how far you've come in the last 10 years. I've been thinking a lot about my life trajectory, especially in the wake of this crazy election, but I never really thought of it this way.

The author makes a compelling argument against the constant anxiety around our forward-looking plans.

Continue reading "My 10-Year Test"

#RealTalk Life Advice about Work

At least a few times a year, I'm prompted to think about work. We all go there most days a week but rarely give any thought to whether it still makes sense to be there or if change is needed.

I receive a lot of email newsletters that are focused on career ladies, like myself, and they typically follow the same tired career tropes:

  • Find what you love and you'll never "work" a day in your life!
  • Take a risk and do what you love!

The reason I call these tired is because we all know that doing what you want, in any given moment, is often more fulfilling than doing what you think you should be doing. For example, sleeping in on the weekend is way more fulfilling than spending those hours doing laundry or cleaning. This is common sense and not worth repeating.

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On Being an Adult: Handling Conflict in Professional Settings

There's a story of some weight unfolding around some people in the tech community who were fired as a result of some offensive-leaning comments made at PyCon. I won't go into too much detail but basically a woman, Adria Richards, overheard some comments which she deemed to be offensive. She tweeted about them and included in said tweet a photo she snapped of the men who made the comments. The men's identity was eventually confirmed by the conference organizers and not only were they booted from the conference but they also lost their jobs. Richards, who tweeted about the behavior that she deemed to be offensive, has also lost her job. Reactions to the story have been mixed. Should the guys have made the comments? Should the photo have been posted on Twitter? Were the comments blown out of proportion? Should anyone have been fired? Everyone has their own opinion and, for better or for worse (I hear Richards is on the receiving end of threats of bodily harm), the right to express that opinion.

I don't want to fan any flames here so I won't go into my opinion on the matter. To be honest, the issue is not black and white so I'm sure we could discuss that for hours on end. My objective is to talk about something that never really gets discussed as much as it should: conflict resolution in professional environments. Continue reading "On Being an Adult: Handling Conflict in Professional Settings"

Where did all the cowgirls go?

I recently read a blog post by Clay Shirky about the difference between how women talk about their own abilities versus men. He wishes that more women would stand up and exert their influence because women are just as talented, smart and capable as their more effusive male colleagues. I wish for this, too.

In fact, many other women wish for this as well. COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg has given many a talk aimed at women. She says that women should take a seat at the table and not count themselves out by default because they want to have a family. Sheryl is living proof that it is possible to maintain a family and still be successful; and she acknowledges the challenges that come with that.

However, she also touches upon the big elephant in the room that many who talk about the disparities between men and women fail to acknowledge. A man who goes for the gold is assertive. A woman who does the same is off-putting at best, and at worst simply labeled a "bitch." Often when I say this, people roll their eyes; Sheryl present a famous Harvard Business school study that proves this is not simply "women getting easily offended" or "being emotional" (which, by the way, is another topic for another day).

It's an issue that permeates regardless of industry. In politics, Hilary Clinton was often given that label. Her wardrobe of pants suits and "attack dog" stance during her campaign gave her a harsh exterior in the public eye to both women and men. Tina Fey of Saturday Night Live commented on the whole thing and turned it into a positive with the saying "Bitches get shit done."

I love that sketch because I sympathize. I am good at my job. I get things done. If that wasn't true, I wouldn't now be earning nearly triple what I was offered upon graduation in 2006 (in a "bad economy", to boot!). However, as a result of my focus on process, keeping on schedule, and GSD (getting shit done), I am sure that there are many colleagues, past and present, who think I'm a bitch. In fact, I can name them (and there are, unfortunately, women among them).

And the truth of the matter is, I'm not a difficult person to work with. Despite going to school for Computer Science, I'm self-taught at a lot of things, lousy at some others and definitely still have quite a bit to learn. This invigorates me to learn more but also terrifies me at the same time; being in technology, I sometimes feel the need to know everything and be on the cutting edge. This isn't necessarily true, but motivates me to keep on my toes and at the very least stay relevant in a few things (and, given current trends, looks like my decision not to dive head first into Flash development wasn't so bad after all).

But the point of writing this wasn't to brag about myself. The point is that yes, women need to step up to the plate more to brag and take credit — myself included. Often times, we shy away or defer to others when we know what the right answer is. This is a problem of self-doubt and wavering self-esteem that perhaps everyone has at times but tends to be more evident among women. However, the flip side of that is let's call a spade a spade. When a woman steps up, do we encourage it? Or do we add to this doubt — do we doubt her abilities because of predisposed notions? Continue reading "Where did all the cowgirls go?"