Conclusions about the workplace

It’s been nearly 11 years that I’ve been working full time, and in that 11 years, these are the conclusions I’ve come to:

  1. HR is pretty useless when it actually comes to making employees feel heard, appreciated, or like their opinions and feelings matter. They do not exist to protect you; they exist to protect the company, its reputation, and its senior leadership.
  2. White men still have all the power.
  3. Discrimination and bias are nearly impossible to prove.
  4. Even when you work at a company that is, by industry standards, “progressive,” you still realize that there’s an impossibly long way to go and that there’s really no use in comparing yourself to the lowest of the low in life. You won’t feel better.
  5. When recruiters, internal or external, say they are looking for a diverse set of candidates who are truly “culture adds,” they’re definitely lying unless they are actually financially incentivized to do exactly that. And we know none of them are.
  6. As I meet younger and younger people who are just getting out of school and into the workforce, I cannot help but notice how entitled they are to demand salaries that are $100-200K+ just a year or two out of college. Entitlement seems to be a common of those younger than me. But… did people who were in their 30s think that of me when I was at that age…?
  7. Doing your job and doing it well isn’t enough. You have to play the political game to get ahead. That means sucking up in some cases, and in others, socializing with colleagues and higher-ups you wouldn’t otherwise care to be around.
  8. Just because you are kind and friendly and helpful does not mean everyone at work will like you. In fact, there will always be someone out there who secretly, or not so secretly, doesn’t like you, and will make sure you find out some way, somehow.
  9. When your manager tells you that she wants to hear your opinions, she really doesn’t mean that. What she really means is… she wants you to package in a certain way that sounds good to her ears. In other words, don’t be a complainer. Figure out how to do to that, and you will get along just swell.
  10. What you might consider “common sense” in the workplace really is not so “common.” Sad, isn’t it?

Soreness

I’ve been back into a rigorous workout routine for the last five weeks now. It’s been an adjustment for me given that I got pretty sick twice in the last two months, and with the travel of December/early January, my body was out of wack when it came to waking up early and doing my usual morning workouts. It’s been harder for me to wake up early, but I’ve been pushing myself to exercise at least five times a week. I’m sore in a different way almost every single day, but at least I know it’s a good soreness, as in, I know I’m working my muscles and burning fat, as opposed to soreness that may be from an injury pain.

But this weekend marks the first two full consecutive days when I will not be doing any exercise other than walking. I think my body is in need of this two-day rest period. Everyone needs a rest after a lot of hard work.

Everyone is grumpy

It’s been a long and tiring last few weeks at work. A handful of colleagues have left, some voluntarily, others less so. Some new processes have been put in place. A new layer of management has been put into place. It’s been a period where everyone seems to have something to complain and be mad about.

“Feels like almost everyone is grumpy,” a colleague said to me today.

“What do you mean?” I responded.

“Just seems like pretty much everyone in this office is frustrated by something from what I can tell,” he said back to me.

Yeah, that’s probably true. Most of us in this office do our jobs and do it well. When you’re in a remote office, you have to work twice as hard and advocate for yourself three times as much before anyone really cares about anything you do. And that’s been wearing thin on a lot of us lately. Sometimes, you don’t want to constantly yell and advocate for yourself; sometimes, you just want to be noticed for good work you are doing and have someone else call it out for you to the “powers that be” and get you recognition.

In the corporate world, though, even in late-stage tech startups like my own, that can be like pulling teeth. This is the life of being at a pre-IPO technology company.

Bon voyage to a colleague

Tonight, our office hosted a happy hour to bid farewell to a colleague of ours, who is leaving to start a new job at another tech company. To be honest, the majority of us are not going to miss him; he was an HR nightmare with the inappropriate jokes and comments he’d openly make, and what was worse was that he had zero shame and felt like he was being victimized for getting called out for what he perceived to be “normal” conversation and behavior. I heard he was good at his job, so from a competence standpoint, I never doubted him, but from a peer-to-peer standpoint, I really did not care for him at all.

But, hey, any reason for the company to host a happy hour and get us free food and drinks is fine by most of us. Our office manager was told that we actually didn’t spend that much of our “social events” budget last year, so this happy hour is on the company. What better way to get people together than with free food and booze?

Why does the weekend feel so short

“How was your weekend?”

This is the usual question you get every Monday when you go into the office. Everyone has a long laundry list of things they need to achieve and get done for the week. And this question, as generic and as cliche and routinely repeated as it is, is so annoying, even when I myself often ask it.

The way I usually want to answer this question is…. “too short.” Two days off in a week is too short when you have errands to run, an apartment to clean, laundry to do, countertops to dust and disinfect. The amount of time actually spent “relaxing” on my own is so little. Sometimes, you have weeks when even socializing feels like work. And this was one of those weeks.

I want what Adam Grant advocates for: a four-day work week. That would be quite glorious, and I think we’d all feel more fulfilled and as though we were more productive.

electronics playground

This afternoon, I went to B&H in search and research of a new camera after selling my Canon Rebel T3i a few weeks ago. My goal is to find a mirrorless camera that, by definition, is lighter and less bulky than a digital single-lens reflex, but offers better photo quality and more modern features that my dated 2012 camera did not offer. Look at all these things I can consider now: Mirrorless! HD video! 4K video (WHAT?)! An electronic viewfinder! Wi-Fi built in! The options are endless, which can be a bit of a danger since I’m a camera novice, and these days, I’m really over fiddling with aperture and thinking about F-stop, and just want to shoot on no-flash or automatic. The fussiness just wasn’t for me in the end, even though I wanted it to be.

I spent some time playing around with mirrorless cameras from Canon, Panasonic, and Sony. My loyalty in the back of my mind is still with Canon since I’ve had almost all Canon cameras since 2004, when my brother first got me my very first point-and-shoot digital camera. But the Canon mirrorless does not offer an electronic view finder; it’s got its touch-and-view screen only. I’m so used to using a viewfinder that I wonder if that may end up being a deal breaker for me. But you can flip the screen fully around! And you cannot do that with the Sony or the Panasonic screens.. which only tilt half-way, and I’m not even sure what the value of that tilt is in real life when traveling or shooting food/cooking.

B&H truly was an electronics playground full of geeks who knew 100 times more about cameras than I did. Many conversations I overheard were for serious amateur photographers and even professional photographers who owned cameras that were in excess of $5,000, no lens! I definitely felt like a novice in there, though. People really knew what they were talking about in depth.

Sushi Nakazawa

Our indulgent dining continued tonight, as tonight was the last night my friend would be in town. She’s flying back to San Francisco tomorrow. She was extremely generous with us and insisted on treating us to have the omakase at Sushi Nakazawa, a very popular and hard to reserve restaurant where the chef was actually an apprentice of the famed Jiro of Tokyo. While the food and service were excellent and notable, it was a bit annoying that a) they said they usually do not allow men not wearing long pants to dine there (Chris was wearing long shorts that exposed half his calves), b) they served Chris’s sake in a stemmed wine glass (“because we are here in America,” the white server said with a smile), and c) why were absolutely none of the servers Japanese at all? The only Japanese staff we saw were the sushi chefs at the counter.

Presents from Paris

Chris came back from his week-long trip to France and surprised me with Jean-Ives Bordier butter, the famous butter churned in the Brittany region of France that is known for extremely high butter fat (well, all of France is known for that), grass-fed cow cream (resulting in yellower butter), and inventive flavorings. Last October when we went, I packed gallon-size ziplock bags and foil in anticipation of purchasing these special butters and bringing them back home, and it was so worth it. When we tasted these on bread, it was life-changing; the quality of the butter was unmistakable, and the taste could not be compared to anything I’d had here before. This time, Chris brought back five different flavors: smoked salt, which I’d loved and bought the first time, citrus olive oil, seaweed (or algae), espelette chili, and buckwheat. It will be a challenge to figure out how to use each of these, but I suppose the first step would be just to taste them on good bread. The buckwheat butter is especially strange, as the only thing I could think of doing with it would be to top it on pancakes or spread it on muffins.

Wedding catastrophies

Tonight, I had two chats with two different prospective photographers I’m considering hiring for our wedding. One question I like to ask photographers is what is the craziest thing that has ever happened in a wedding that they did not anticipate, and how did they handle it (from a photography perspective). Tonight, I got an answer I wasn’t that prepared for. Usually when I ask this question, I really mean to ask if any spiffs happened with family, if family members were uncooperative with the photographer in getting the family/friends shots, etc. Tonight, a photographer told me that the worst thing that ever happened at a wedding was when one by one, each of the reception table centerpieces caught on fire because of the flowers hanging too low above the tea light candles. The bride had hired a florist who wasn’t experienced with doing weddings as a way to save money, but when the florist made the arrangements and placed the candles around the vases, she didn’t realize she was placing them ominously close to the flowers. So they all caught on fire. As a word of advice, she said to me, try to make sure you hire a florist who is very experienced with wedding florals and arrangements.

And of course, this light show was not photographed.

Late mail and photo cards

During our time in the Southern Hemisphere in December, we set up mail hold with USPS. In 2012 when we did this, we had no problems, and on the first day we arrived back, our mail was already in a big bag waiting for us at the front door. This year didn’t go so smoothly. This time around, the mail arrived a week late after I called USPS and the local post office almost a dozen times altogether to complain and demand that the mail be delivered as originally requested. Frustrating, but I suppose it’s better late than never.

In the mail, I received three “happy holiday” photo greeting cards from each of my three cousins. This is a regular thing that they will be sending probably for as long as they live (or aren’t wrinkly, maybe). This past year, Chris and I sent a few photo greeting cards but limited it to just a few people we thought would appreciate them..and I guess my relatives. It made me wonder whether we will be that family who, once we have children, will send these photo greeting cards, year after year. I tend to keep these because I generally always keep cards and photos for sentimental reasons, but how many of these actually just get tossed every year? Who really appreciates opening and receiving these things? Are my cousins going to keep the ones that I send?

For some reason, I am strongly doubtful.