Tag Archives: business

Courage to tell the truth

Sometimes telling the truth feels like a very brave and vulnerable act for me. Not everyone wants to hear the truth. Sometimes I do not like to even admit the truth to myself. I am getting better at it. But it takes practice. As I have started “unbuffering” my life, I realized I was trying not to see some truths that were bubbling up.

Truth seems straight-forward. Just be honest. Yeah, and risk offending people? Risk being banned from my tribe? Risk the job I have now, because my soul is telling me my time is limited there?

Today I will have my semi-annual career discussion with my director. At our company managers are required to have three annual discussions with staff: goal setting/planning, career development, and performance. I like it that managers are encouraged to work with employees on career development. It is actually my favorite part of being a manager because I love developing my team.

I told my director in our last career discussion back in August that I do not intend to stay in this position long-term, and that I intend to make a move outside of clinical research. A couple years back, he had thought I may be his successor when he retires, and he just turned 65 so I know he was not happy to hear this. But it is an emerging truth for me, and while I like the IDEA of a promotion to director, I know in my heart that I am done with this part of my career in clinical research.

There is a lot of dysfunction in the division where I work. Large companies (and we are too large now) have a lot of bureaucrazy (spelling choice deliberate) that can be aggravating. I am considering other positions within the company, because I think my networks and professional skills could contribute in other ways. I believe in the mission overall, and that is a big driver for me.

But I am not committed to staying at the company. In truth, I want to be self-employed rather than working for a very large (80,000+ employee) company. But I was recently reminded by my hospital visit that having good health insurance and good benefits cannot be taken for granted. Self-employment takes planning, some savings in case of “dry spells” between contracts, and a lot of self-discipline.

I was a self-employed consultant about 11-12 years ago and I really enjoyed it, until it became clear that I was great at bringing in the business, but not as great at executing it all by myself. Fortunately I knew other consultants and could work with them to get projects completed. Since I struggle with a.d.d., I have to be careful not to get distracted by too many separate projects. Ironically that is part of what makes me successful in my current job though – I am fairly good at juggling a lot of things and switching back and forth.

I take comfort in knowing that my meditation practice has helped me learn how to focus and be more intentional with my time and commitments. But I still have some fear about making the leap. I do not want to burn any bridges – actually there are a number of potential “clients” at my current company that could be a source of business.

Today my goal is to be as honest as I can with my boss, knowing that he may have some wisdom to share with me on the topic. He has told me in the past that the development work I do can be taken with me anywhere, at this company or my next endeavor. But he has spent 43 years at this company, and I know we disagree at where our division’s leadership has chosen to focus.

My real challenge is that I do not know EXACTLY what I want to do next. I have a lot of ideas, and things I am willing to try, but I do not have a clear idea of what that means for me. I have been toying with the idea of a side hustle for women’s leadership development, specifically working with Latina women. I also love the idea of teaching “Design Thinking” workshops while using the Medici Effect to recruit diverse cross-functional teams.

I love coaching and helping people with their career development and leadership development. If HR did that kind of thing at my company, I would definitely look in that area. Maybe what I need to do today is ask for some development coaching in order to discover this “next big thing” that I want to do. I am not sure if my boss would support that, but it is worth asking for, right? The worst that can happen is that he says no, but maybe he will offer an alternative.

If you have any advice on having these sorts of conversations, please weigh in. Otherwise, think good thoughts of courage and bravery in my direction today. Much appreciated!

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Break the internet

Break the internet: a campaign for net neutrality.

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Hello fellow internet-users,

Today’s post is a public service announcement for this issue. I read my daily post from Seth Godin and decided to join the cause.

As a blogger myself, I appreciate the freedom to be able to post whatever I want on my platform and to read what others want to share as well. It truly is a democratizing force, and has changed the way we communicate and engage politically.

I watched a short video to understand more about net neutrality and the potential costs of losing it. If you have not seen it, click here. It is less than 3 minutes. Well worth it.

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Service providers should not be able to dictate which sites or items we are able to see, and internet users may not even be able to imagine this now.

Part of the problem is that service providers could “package” websites and be able to sell you what they recommend, rather than what you choose to see. I doubt this could actually succeed, given what I know about the contrariness of myself and other internet users. However, this video explains what a world WITHOUT net neutrality might look like.

Today I am at home recovering from appendectomy surgery. So I am kinda free and just sitting here in my p.j.’s. I am counting myself lucky in a way, since I have a little extra time today to campaign for this cause. I hope you can take a few minutes, maybe on a break or a lunch hour to do the same. It’s for all of us, peeps.

If you see other videos or links of interest you want to share in the comments below, please feel free.

 

How do you show up?

How do you show up every day?

I was in Mexico this week to interview candidates for an open position on my team. The first candidate showed up a few minutes early, presented well, and I liked him. My colleague was assisting me on the interviews. We conducted the first half of the hour in Spanish and then, as my colleague had to excuse herself for another meeting, we spoke mostly in English. The candidate kept up and was very engaged in the discussion. I liked him right away and could visualize him being successful in the role.

Delusional kitty

The second candidate did not show up. Fifteen minutes after the interview was scheduled to begin, I asked HR if they had confirmed she would attend. When they tried to call her to find out if there was an emergency or she was running late, she did not answer. I found myself annoyed, but since I had some extra time to work, I finished up a few pending items on my laptop.

The third candidate was not due until 3:30 p.m. and since lunches tend to be on the later side here, I walked outside to lunch with 2 colleagues and were away from the office from about 1:15-2:30. I had a chance to visit with my local CRS and the clinical quality person for a while and finished more work.

At 3:25 HR dropped by to tell me the candidate had called to say she was in a meeting that ran over, but she could be at the interview 30 minutes late if I was still open to receive her. I told her yes. I appreciated the courtesy of the call. True, she probably should have scheduled more time between meetings or scheduled a later interview. But I am human, and I sometimes over-schedule my calendar. I appreciated at least her call and the option to reschedule or to meet her same day.

The interview itself started at 4 p.m. I was pretty tired at that point, and since I had not slept so well the night before (early morning insomnia) I was a lot less focused and engaged overall. My colleague who was helping had skipped lunch and was pretty tired, so we did not present or ask questions in an organized way. I liked this candidate. She was conversational and friendly, but I really was much less focused and present at that hour of the day. So I was less attentive to her answers.

Muerte con colores

The next morning, reflecting on the day yesterday, I was disappointed in how I showed up for that second candidate. True, she was late. And I shifted my schedule for her and my colleague had to stay later than she had planned as well. But I wish I had been able to give her the energy I had for the first candidate of the day. In my own mind, when I compare the two he stood out. But I was fresh then, and I was engaged in carefully understanding his answers to questions (especially since the first half was in Spanish so I had to listen closely).

I started considering what it means to truly “show up” for the work we do every day. How do we show up at our best for what we do? I know for me, I am better when I have had adequate rest, some quiet time in the morning for reflection, meditation and perhaps writing in my journal. Sometimes I have had time for a quick 20-30 minute run. Other times sleep beckons more than my need for exercise.

By the the end of the day, typically after about 3 or 4 p.m. my attention wanes. On a typical day, I make my list of tasks I will tackle in the morning when I am fresh and full of energy. I know this about myself, that I have always been a morning person.  From the time I was a baby my Mom told me that I was all smiles in the morning, happy to greet the day. This has carried over into my adulthood. My husband knows after about 8 or 9 p.m. I am “toast” in terms of brain power.

I am trying to make a decision on whether to extend an offer to one of the candidates that actually showed up for the interview yesterday. My own bias is toward the first one, but I am mistrustful of that bias. For one, I showed up fully for his interview in a way that I simply did not have the energy to do for the late-in-the-day appointment. Another: I am not sure he would be a great fit, he was just the best of the short-listed candidates HR had brought forward.

Rey at Target display

Clinical research is demanding and the medical device field requires a substantial amount of training before a CRS can be fully functioning in their role. It takes 12-18 months of focused training due to the contacts and networks you must develop to be effective. So every hiring decision is a serious one, and should not be taken casually.

I was first hired here as a contract employee. I worked for two years without benefits or paid vacation time. But there was value to figuring out whether I was a “fit” for this employer and for my department. It took me at least 3 months to figure that out as I was learning my role. I wish employers could more often have at least a 2-4 month period before making a longer term offer.

Once your employer sees you “showing up” day after day and getting the work done, actively learning and making contacts within the organization, it is easier to evaluate  long term fit. Interviews are typically 1-2 hours when you can put your best foot forward. While they are an important first step, they are an incomplete view at best. I will make a decision after thinking through the needs of the office, and my other employee already in Mexico.

You might consider asking yourself now and then:

How do you show up (at your best) in your interactions with people? Are there ways you can be more fully present in what you do? What difference would that make?

connection

 

 

Bienvenidos a México

I am in Mexico City today to conduct three interviews for our clinical research specialist opening in the local office here. I also get to visit with a colleague who is no longer in my group but is one of my favorite people in my company. I am grateful for this opportunity to connect with her, and she agreed to help with the interviews.

It will be a busy Tuesday but I wanted to check in and say: if you have never been to a big city that is constantly alive and awake, come to Mexico City. You think New York City has options? Pshaw! It has nothing on this city. I’m serious! I am in Colonia Napoles which is a nice part of the city, near where my office is located, and the neighborhood of Frida Kahlo, apparently.

novit chocolates

Look at this adorable little bag of chocolates from the hotel. I know, I get excited about small things. But it’s the little things that make me happy, you know?

I started reflecting on the fact that having a U.S. passport is a privilege I should not take for granted. Then I started thinking of all the potential leadership development projects I could undertake with various Mexicanas and other Latinas I know. I got really excited thinking about this possibility and a little chill down my spine.

Oh, I have to pay attention to those signs. And I do. It is good right now that I have a job that affords me the luxury of traveling down here. I do not take that for granted. I’m starting to re-frame what I am doing and think about other ways I can execute my personal life goals in a way that is meaningful to me.

Cheers & have a great week. If you love Mexico as much as I do, check out my previous post on this topic which has better pics. Adios, amigos/as!

Starting over again

Right now I am going through a period of transition related to my career. I have spent over 10 years in the clinical research field, and have general expertise on clinical research regulations in Latin America (but not as much in the U.S., where most of the jobs exist). I keep thinking I want to leave and change fields. It is a highly bureaucratic area of expertise. There is high demand and there is also high turnover.

My current company has added more layers of bureaucracy in its hiring and contracting processes. They have also made it nearly impossible to contract with small vendors or independent consultants. Right now a translator that did some work with us several months ago still has an outstanding invoice and our payment/vendor team is not working with me to fix the situation. They keep passing the buck to another person/department when I ask for help.

So sometimes I wonder if the major stumbling block for me is the incredible level of internal bureaucracy at my company, or the true work of getting clinical trials off the ground, or perhaps those two “squared” or compounded?

Between hope and despair

Photo credit link: Deviant Art website

People complain that the government sector is not very efficient, that there is a lot of waste in what they do. Perhaps this is true, I do not work in that sector. What I do know is that there is a tremendous amount of waste in corporations. It is painful to see it sometimes, the workarounds we have to use because our systems do not work for real people. We claim to care about innovation, and yet we are the LAST to fix the internal bugs that create massive challenges in getting things done here.

I consulted my financial adviser a few weeks ago to figure out a plan for leaving this job, and he suggested getting some recruiters to work on my behalf in finding something new. If I wanted to stay in clinical research, that might be more feasible. But since I want to leave the whole business behind, that seems harder to do. If any of y’all have experience with that, please weigh in, will you?

I really do not mind starting over in some ways. I have done it already a couple of times in my career. I know that fear of the short-term consequences is a part of my reluctance more than a true assessment about what is best for the future. So there is the hope of better things, and also frustration that comes about with not being able to enact the changes I want in this current space.

Then there is a blissful surrender I feel when I consider that I will no longer be propping up a system which is broken and dysfunctional. I feel great relief when I consider that possibility. It almost seems like a an act of service when I look at it that way.

Now, the process of narrowing down what I will do next. I am still getting there, thinking about whether there is a side hustle I can start up in the process before making the break from the full-time job. Starting over in a new field will not be a true start from scratch, since I now have experience in the world that I can apply to the new venture. It will involve re-invention and a creative approach. That is the exciting part. It will involve taking some actions outside my comfort zone. I know I can do that, and I will do it.

Ready.

 

Animal magnetism

Last week while in Miami for work, I was sitting in the courtyard of the hotel, visiting with the facilitator (“G”) we had worked with during our team meeting. We were reflecting on the week, and on our sense of how things had resolved themselves, or in some cases, not resolved. I was feeling a little disappointed with my part in the meeting, a little critical of not being able to bring us to closure in the way I had hoped. We had intended to remove things from the team’s responsibilities and focus in on critical tasks that differentiate our team from others at the company.

Instead I found myself shaking my head at tasks being added to my team’s responsibilities. I had openly reflected out loud this concern during the conclusion of our meeting. As the operational manager for that group, I have responsibility for making sure we deliver on our commitments. But I felt we had set the group up with more, not less. This had been the problem in the first place, and I had hoped we could solve it.

Lizard in courtyard

While in this state of contemplation and self-doubt, “G” and I noticed a tiny little reptile, adorable in her fine detail, approaching us with quick little darts in the courtyard. I pulled out my phone to capture her, slowly and gradually, not wanting to scare her off. I was delighted with her perfect tiny features, and wanted to share this little creature with my husband when I returned home. He is what I call an “animal magnet.” Animals of all kinds: dogs, cats, birds, and other creatures, seem to gravitate toward him as though he possesses some special energy, something they crave. In our household, this could be because he feeds our furry felines every time I travel, so they know they are dependent on his attention. However, it happens with other creatures too, our neighbors’ pets, the cats and dogs of family and friends, and farm animals.

I have always appreciated this affinity he has for nearly every kind of creature he encounters. I consider it a great gift and a great comfort to me, that animals trust him. He is kind, and has a gentle heart, and I am convinced that they are able to sense it. Certainly it is one reason I believe we bonded so strongly when we first met.

Lizard hello

For a few moments the facilitator and I watched this tiny creature, as it darted again, then poised briefly on the edge of my foot. I was amazed! I sat there breathless, trying not to move or react, since I never have had such an adorable miniature lizard perched on me like this.

I remarked to G that this was unusual and that it reminded me of the principle that neuroscientists explain to us, about our “two brains.” We have primitive part of our brain, the amygdala, which responds instinctively to situations. It is fast, it is built for survival and it is one great reason we are alive today, as individuals, and humanity in general. When it comes to fear or danger, this “reptilian brain” rapidly signals to the thalamus that action is needed. In only 12 milliseconds, this trigger is activated, and we are able to do what is necessary in the situation.

The other part of our brain, fairly well-developed in humans, is the neo-cortex, also known as the frontal cortex. It has a remarkable ability to acknowledge fear and name it, but it responds slower than the amygdala, in about 25 milliseconds. That may not seem like much, but the emotional response triggered by the amygdala has already begun triggering the “fear response” which is the body’s physical response to the stimulus, emotional and visceral, ready for fight, flight or freeze. When we truly are in danger, we do not have time to consider your options for long. We must act, run or hide, and this perfectly adaptable. Our brain is very efficient gets the job done.

Humans (and mammals generally) evolved other areas as well that are critical to their survival, particularly in developing connection to others and a sense of belonging. We have mechanisms for building our social connections, for developing trust and living in community. Dogs have these as well. They are pack animals. Cats live in prides (in the wild), and other mammals and birds live in groups, often critical to their survival.

As humans we have the privilege of making conscious choices about who we invite to be part of our tribes. Sometimes we must accommodate, at work or in other groups, where we are asked to interact with those we do not necessarily enjoy. But it is still a choice, and we can do this grudgingly, joyfully or even neutrally, when our neo-cortex runs the show. When our amygdala is particularly active, however, these interactions are not as productive or fruitful. Without trust, there is little ability to quiet that inner lizard that is yelling (internally) “run away! run away!”

Lizard comfy

But when we have the resources, sometimes time or shared experience with other individuals or groups, we can more easily calm this fear response. As we move through the world, we develop some intuition about which people can be trusted, and which ones might require some “reserve” so we protect ourselves. This is necessary and allows for preservation of safety. But it can also be limiting when we are armored up all the time. As a woman, I completely relate to this tendency. I long to be open, to trust and to invite others to do the same. I also know that people can take advantage of this openness at times, and it is okay and reasonable to protect myself.

Openness is magnetic, in a very visceral way. Vulnerability, when shared judiciously, can open up possibilities in other people as well as ourselves. It is not weakness, to acknowledge places we have struggled, or ways in which we failed. It takes enormous courage to do this, and to invite others to know our humanity. Brené Brown reminds us: “Courage is contagious. Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver.”

That little lizard on my foot found a warm spot, and she knew I was no danger to her. She perched for a few minutes, and eventually darted off again while I delighted in this tiny lesson. In that moment I realized that my little lizard is always with me, but she can calmly sit even in uncertain conditions, waiting for the next indication of when it is time to move forward. That is what has kept her alive, and will allow her to thrive.

 

Fun with WordPress formats

This week I am experimenting with different WordPress formats. It is surprisingly easy to build a website on WordPress because the templates for layouts are super easy to use. You can import custom graphics and manipulate the widgets for pages very easily.

Even though this is not intended to be an ad for their service, you seriously want to check out what they have to offer if you have ever considered starting a blog or launching a web site.

I may change it up now and then to see how the different elements enhance the overall readability of my site. I appreciate it if you message me and let me know what you think as I figure out the “tech” side of this creative endeavor.

Cheers!

Feminista in bureaucrazy

I am a woman who often “walks” in a man’s world. In the industry of medical devices, there are a lot of engineers, and most of them are men, sadly. In the division where I work, which serves patients in Latin America, I often run up against challenges in systems that do not serve people. I also typically am in meetings where women are the minority (leadership), and Latina women a much tinier minority.

Systems rarely seem to serve people. It is people who serve people. Systems are set up sometimes to automate or provide tools that can help, but of course these are just the inventions of people. Systems serve a purpose, but it seems they can outgrow their original purpose at some point, and they can become inefficient and wasteful, the bigger they grow.

There is probably some natural growth maximum, beyond which systems start to break down and people start to work around those systems rather than through them. Even if the system is truly broken, it is hard to see this, because the people who know the “work-arounds” are there to keep the bigger corporate machine running. Managers and directors are often too far removed from how the work actually gets done. Since the workers bees rarely have much power in these systems, they do “what they have to do.”

bureaucrazy

Large for-profit corporations serve themselves, and work to increase their revenue to invest back into the business, so they can develop more products or services to offer to their customers. Businesses create jobs, and jobs employ people and pay income, so people can spend money and re-invest back into the system. Income is taxed, so the infrastructure that allowed for a stable market to allow job creation in the first place can be maintained, repaired and improved. It seems like a reasonable system, if significant investment goes back into R&D rather accumulating at the top.

Granted, when you make medical devices that are life-saving technology, profit is not all bad. If we re-invest a large portion of profit back into new inventions and technologies that can help people, that creates a “virtuous cycle,” and more new products get created to help more people. As long as not too much money gets funneled into padding corporate executive salaries and unnecessary layers of bureaucrazy, it is good for all, one might argue. (Every time I try to type bureaucracy it comes out with “z” automatically – this is Freudian, I realize…)

This is how basic economics works, yeah? There is the micro and the macro, and I learned much of this stuff back in college half a lifetime ago. Much of what humans do is “rationalized” as logical and a natural consequence of economic factors. However, a large proportion of behavior is not rational, but based on other factors: love, passion, a sense of belonging, a sense of meaning in what we do. It is not so easy to quantify the true factors that drive human behavior. While money is a motivator, especially for those that do not have enough, when you do have all of your basic needs met, many people start to ask: is this all there is?

Humans survived based on our ability to form stable connections and to take care of families and tribes. It is not so surprising then, that when it comes to choosing between things and people, sane people typically choose people. They value the connections in their lives. It is about quality and not quantity, and it is about REAL people, not facebook friends.  We know from extensive research and neuroscience that we are wired for connection, and we are wired for struggle.

Some missions are worth pursuing, like helping patients and creating life-saving medical technologies. Unfortunately the corporate structures that grow to support these goals can be stifling. They can dull our creative impulses and allow people to “hide out” in places where they appear to do work, while being unchallenged and under-utilized. As I consider where I want to use my skills in my next career move, I cannot help but think this time I’m gonna shop small. Cuz this bureaucrazy is killin’ me, man!