New work laptop excitement

At my company, I’m allowed to request a new computer every three years. Given that I have already been at my company for 3.5 years, I decided to put in the request and specify that I no longer wanted a Macbook Air, but rather a Macbook Pro. Although the Air is great because it’s extremely lightweight and easy to carry around, I actually hated using it. Once I had anything more than Chrome, Safari, and Slack running at the same time, the entire machine would run really slowly. If I had Excel running at the same time, the fan would go on overdrive. And don’t even get me started when I had to start using Microsoft Teams more frequently this past year due to customers who can only use Teams for video calls. It was like my computer was about to croak one last time before exploding on me.

So I had the new laptop shipped to me last week, and I spent some time today adding all my necessary applications and files on, as well as configuring it exactly as I’d like. I LOVE this computer. I cannot even believe how much I like it. I don’t really keep track of the latest updates to Apple products and other technology the way a lot of people in my industry do because I can’t really be bothered, but the updates to this computer are incredible. Yes, it’s a bit heavier than the Air, but it doesn’t get mad at me when I have Microsoft Teams running; no fan is screaming at me. And the best part about this new version of the Macbook is that it has a touch button so that I don’t constantly have to type in all my passwords all the time. This is amazing!

On the downside, as soon as I came back from Denver and tried to use my 3+ year old wireless head set, it decided to die on me. So now I need to find a new head set that I don’t hate to go with this new Macbook Pro!

Blessed is she who gets to meet interesting, good-hearted people everywhere

I’ve been in a customer-facing role for the vast majority of my career. It has certainly had its challenges and frustrations, but I would say that overall, the role suits me since I do enjoy (most) people, and I love hearing people’s personal stories. The more you work with people, whether they are internal or external / customers, the more they are willing to open up to you about their own personal stories and what actually makes them unique. I think everyone has interesting stories to share if they are given the opportunity to share them. But you’ll never get to this point unless you build a relationship and ask. Once the relationship is built, you have permission to ask and actually get a thoughtful, real response.

Today, I met a customer I’ve been working with for the last 3.5 years for the very first time in person. He happened to be in town for a quick 36-hour trip and suggested we have lunch together, so I picked a fun lunch spot near his hotel in Times Square. I originally blocked two hours for lunch, knowing he’s a talker, but the lunch actually went over three hours long until I told him I had another meeting to run home to. He’s an interesting guy who clearly loves the people in his life. Last year, he had shared that his best friend, who lives in California, was having a medical procedure done and would need help around the house and with her teenage child. So he drove his car all the way from Virginia to be with her for a couple months and help out. I’d never heard of someone being so selfless.

This time, he shared the story of his three (now grown) children. The first was adopted. He and his then-wife struggled for five years to conceive despite all their fertility tests coming out normal. So they proceeded to adopt, and shortly after adopting, became pregnant (it seems like once you stop trying, getting pregnant seems to suddenly work in so many cases!). They ended up having one adopted child and two biological children. The first two, he almost fully paid for their college tuitions since they qualified for no financial aid. The third got a full ride at her first choice college, and so because he “saved” money by not paying for four years of her undergraduate tuition, he said he would buy her a brand new car, which he did. I was really touched when I heard this story; he wanted to treat all his kids equally, but in the end, because he didn’t have to pay for the third child’s schooling, he decided to “make it up” to her with new wheels.

“I love all my kids equally,” he insisted to me. I believe what he says. “I just want them to know that I love them, and I want them to enjoy life and get the opportunities I never had. And if I can afford it, then why the hell not buy a damn car for her?”

I always hear stories like this and am amazed by people’s hearts and generosity. And well, frankly, I know that if I had been lucky enough to get a full scholarship anywhere, my parents would NEVER have bought me a brand new car!

Unfortunate workplace incidents

Whether you work at an office or 100 percent remotely from home, it’s obvious that there are clear pros and cons to both sides. Neither is a perfect fit, and it really depends on your life and career stage which is going to fit you at any given time. One thing I will say that I absolutely do not miss about working at an office is that while I am remote, I will never have to deal with inane, petty, and childish human resources complaints like I did at my last company, whether it’s someone reporting me to HR because I asked them to lower their voice as they were shouting over the phone in the middle of the open floor plan at the office (yes, this really happened), someone else reporting me for not wishing them a happy birthday (this, sadly, is very, very true), or me catching someone watching porn on their work computer during work hours, reporting it, and then having our HR partner gaslight me and question whether I really did see what I saw (“How do you know for sure that it was porn? Can you please describe the details of what you saw or heard? Can you mimic what you heard? Who else witnessed this?” YES, THIS REALLY HAPPENED, and apparently, my word isn’t enough. You always need other people to vouch for this crap!)).

But sadly, at each annual success and sales kickoff, whether it was at my former company or current company, I always hear about unscrupulous incidents that happen which inevitably involve HR intervention or sexual innuendo that I want no part of. Some people blame it on the presence of alcohol; I blame it on a bunch of so-called professionals who claim to be mature adults, but attend these official company events as though it’s their time to do whatever they want to do and not recognize that these events are actually WORK EVENTS, not personal parties. You may wear more revealing clothing or higher heels at these events. You may drink more at these events than if you were at an office. That’s no excuse to think these are “pickup” events where you can “score” with your colleagues as though they are random people at your local bar.

All the annual President’s Club awards were announced, and a number of colleagues I work with were declared as winners. I made my way around, wishing them congratulations. But one of them was particularly odd. First, he accused me of writing up multiple bullet points of negative feedback about him “that he would forgive me for.” Then, he insisted that “something went wrong” between us and that he didn’t know what happened. I was confused, as I never wrote anything about anyone. Then, before I could even ask additional questions, he suggested that I be his plus-one at President’s Club weekend. This was not only completely ridiculous, but totally inappropriate. I told him there was no way that was going to happen, and he asked, why not? What’s wrong with that? I asked him if he was joking, and he said, no. Then, he insisted that I be his plus-one, and said that there were rumors going around that our camaraderie was more than just colleagues, and that he knew there was something between us. I told him that was insane and wrong, and before I could walk away, thankfully a colleague came by to check up on us, and I left with her. And as I told her what happened, a few other female colleagues came by and shared that this same male colleague had accosted them about negative feedback in the last day. No one had mentioned any sexual provocation, though.

“Something between” us made my stomach turn. We worked on two accounts together. We saw each other in person only twice ever (at this kickoff and last year), and while we have been friendly over Slack and text, I could read through all my Slack messages and texts and see zero flirtation. This guy was crazy. Not to mention: if you want to try your luck and score with one of your female colleagues, maybe, just maybe accusing them of talking crap about you behind their back is not the best way to convince them to join you on a long weekend trip paid by your company….?!

Even at the best companies, there’s always going to be one or two slimy, awful people who you never want to interact with ever again, and you’d want to keep away from anyone you cared about. And only time will tell how this situation unfolds.

Customer fire drill at 6:45am

I was really sore this morning from yesterday’s workout, so I shut off my 6am alarm and decided to lie in bed and rest another hour. What I was not expecting was a call at around 6:45, when I got out of bed, from a customer who had recently signed a contract with us. I was not happy to see this, as I knew a call this early could only mean something really terrible had happened.

I was brushing my teeth and saw the missed call. Then, I saw the text from the same customer: “Check your email. We need an action plan ASAP.” Something about their technical configuration had gone wrong, so my morning basically got derailed. I couldn’t do my planned workout when I wanted and had to help troubleshoot and calm the storm. I came late to another customer call. It was definitely not a highlight of my week, but I think my team and I handled it pretty well. I think we were also able to adequately calm our customer down.

“You really managed her so well!” My boss’s boss told me, five calls and who knows how many emails and text messages later.

The truth is that after having worked full time for over 15 years now, with almost all of that time being spent in customer facing roles, I will say that there’s really no such thing as an emergency that could mean life or death, so while I may be tense, I rarely show my stress on my face with customers or colleagues. Our “emergencies” have urgency, but no one’s life is on the line. And I always keep that perspective every time chaos like this crops up.

Random request for a job referral

In the three years I’ve been working at Udemy, I’ve referred about five people for roles. All have sadly been rejected. Two I personally knew and could vouch for, one was a friend’s friend, one was a former colleague’s former colleague, and one was a current customer’s acquaintance. My general thought about referrals is: I will only refer people that I can either vouch for, or if they are people I do not know, I can vouch for the person who is asking me to refer them. I think it should go without saying that if I don’t like you or think you’re terrible at your job, I will definitely not refer you.

So today, out of nowhere, I got a message from a former colleague at my last company. In the LinkedIn message, he says only this: Hi! Can you please refer me? And then he links the job posting for my company he’s interested in. No niceties. No asking how I am or feigning that he’s interested in my life since we worked at the same company. It’s not that I thought this guy wasn’t good at his job, but frankly, the memories I have of him are that… he’s a creep. He used to get really weird and flirtatious at all our company sales and success kickoff events with any woman he could get a little attention from. I still remember he used to always put his arms around my shoulders and waist when I’d get near him at events. And once, in a real attempt at going too far, he tried to put his hand under my shirt from behind while drunk. I didn’t make a big deal of it since I knew he was wasted, so I pushed him away and shrugged it off. But well, I still haven’t forgotten how gross he was, especially given that at that same time, his wife had recently just given birth to their first child.

So no, he’s not getting a referral from me. I have very little power in the industry I am in. So when I do have this little bit of say, I will use it when I think it’s right. Referrals are not a free-for-all just because you happen to know me and want an interview at the company I’m at. That’s not the way life works.

The food styling contest that did not work in my favor

My team had a virtual offsite the last two days (budget cuts in a sad economic environment), and one of the “fun” activities we did was a food styling/photography contest. At first, I didn’t think much of the contest. I wasn’t even sure I was going to enter it because I couldn’t be bothered to cook and style something this past weekend, but then I remembered all the other food photos I had styled over the years, and I decided to go back to them and see which one I might enter. So I chose a photo I had spent quite a while on: apple cider donuts. It seemed like a good idea given we’re now in September, so it would be very appropriately seasonal. I spent a while figuring out how to style the photos before you even factor in how long it took me to make and fry all those donuts! I even added some props: I put the donuts on a warm brown cutting board, added a mug of hot apple cider, and made a festive background of autumn squash and apples. I figured: this has to win SOME award; it was shot really well in perfect light, not to mention I used an Adobe program to do some light editing. I posted it on my food handle on Instagram over three years ago, and people really liked my shots.

Well, there were three categories where you could be considered in this team contest: most stylish, tastiest, and most likely to be eaten on our team. I did not win a single category. In fact, I later got told, when I revealed that the apple cider donuts photo was mine, and YES, I MADE those freaking donuts, that more than half my entire team (we’re about 33 people) thought that my photo was a “fake”: they thought it was a card stock image that someone threw in as a joke to confuse people, and there was “no way that anyone on our team could take a photo that perfect.”

This is what happens when you are good at something: you end up getting penalized for how good you are, and it gets used against you. I guess it’s the world we live in, so what else is new?

The deluge that is a four-day work week after a Monday holiday

I cannot speak for other countries since I’ve only ever worked or lived in the United States, but I can say, without hesitation, that four-day work weeks after a Monday holiday are always brutal. I think about days like President’s Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day, all federal holidays that land on a Monday, and historically how my work weeks have felt when I return on Tuesday. And I can say: I never feel great after. I feel like one day has just been taken away from me to be productive and just get shit done, and now, I need to scramble to make up for the day of productivity that was taken away. Not only that, but everyone else feels that way: everyone’s scrambling to get what they would have finished on Monday done, and what’s worse: When you have Type A people you are working with, whether it’s internal or external, whether they realize it or not, they’re taking out all their work-related angst… on you. What I thought would be a pretty uneventful week now has meetings up the yin yang and things that will likely bubble over by week’s end. The joys of being part of the rat race…

April Fool’s pranks at work

April Fool’s Day jokes are one of those things that some companies really embrace, and others just tolerate. For the last 2.5 years, I’ve been working at a company that truly embraces them. Some departments/teams literally start thinking about NEXT year’s April Fool’s Day joke as soon as this year’s April Fool’s Day has passed.

Last year when I came back from maternity leave in May, I was sifting through all the work emails I had missed while I was out for 20 weeks. And I I was trying to flag all the “mandatory trainings” I had missed (I do work at an online learning company, after all, so we do have to eat our own ice cream, too). After my company went public in 2021, we had to do a lot of new required trainings as employees of a publicly traded company. It was a necessary evil we all had to do. So when I saw this email in my inbox from our legal team that said we had to do a 96-hour long training as a newly public company, I completely balked. WHAT – 96 hours, and I still have to catch up on all my ACTUAL day to day work?!! I even complained to Chris about it over text when I was reading the email. And then, minutes later, it suddenly dawned on me the date/time stamp of the email: It was April 1, 2022. I just got angry and made a big fuss about an April Fool’s joke that got me.

UGHHHHHHHHHHH. I blamed that on mommy brain.

This year, I knew I was not going to be taken so easily. April Fool’s Day fell on a Saturday this year, but as soon as I saw the email in my inbox, I KNEW it was going to be a prank. Once again, the email came from our head of legal, and the email was to convey the message that all employees’ feedback have been gathered. We want to be one company and operate on one time, so they proposed everyone, regardless of where you were in the world, had to be online for the exact same set of hours for each quarter of this calendar year. This quarter, we’d start with India time, so everyone had to be online for standard India-time work hours from 8-5pm.

Ummmmm. No. There was absolutely NO WAY I fell for that. I already thought it was a prank before I opened the email, and when I saw the idea of everyone being on “one time zone” regardless of what location you were in, I smirked to myself. I also thought about all the parents of young babies and toddlers gettting infuriated about this, not realizing it was a prank.

I did see a lot of the replies in Slack, though, and I laughed out loud at the number of people who actually fell for this and did believe this was real. 😀

Workplace utopia

This year marks 15 years of being in the workforce full-time. In that time, I have seen and experienced quite a bit. I’ve had experiences with people who gave me great advice, people I’ve looked up to, people I’ve admired for their tenacity and how they’ve climbed the ladder. I made many friends along the way, and one of them even became my husband. I’ve also had experiences with people who define “uncooperative,” and contribute to poor, toxic, and downright nasty workplace culture. It’s been a mix of both good and bad, and I’ve learned quite a bit about the “real world” of work in the U.S.

It’s taken a while to get to a company where I actually feel people are overall, all genuinely good and well-meaning, though, where everyone for the most part not only has the best intentions, but also assumes you also have the best intentions. That’s huge, especially in the competitive environment that is the technology industry. Sometimes, I catch myself in disbelief when I see how helpful people are at my current company. How is it when I post a request in the marketing or content or product Slack channels that someone not only immediately responds within two hours, but if they don’t know the full answer, they’ll cc someone else who may know, and THAT person not only has the answer, but also supplemental information that I could potentially find handy? People are proactive about joining meetings when and where they could add value. They are eager to hop on a Zoom or phone call to better explain (since so many things get lost easily over text on Slack or email). Sometimes, it really does feel like a utopia working where I do. Why are people so eager to help — all the damn time?! Maybe it’s because of the type of persona that an education tech company like mine tends to attract. People are less bloody and evil. Maybe they are less cut throat and just have bigger hearts. Who knows. All I know is — no where else I have ever worked has been this positive. It only took 15 years to get here. But exactly how positive and helpful people are here is also a reminder to me of all the past trauma I’ve faced and exactly how unhealthy and unproductive my previous work environments were.

I’m grateful to be working where I am, especially in this current economic climate, and at this time when many other tech companies are laying their employees off left and right. Though it is funny to say that this is the most positive work environment I’ve been in — and I’ve been 100 percent remote this entire time.

Working in an office vs. working from home

If you asked me before the pandemic and baby if I would ever consider a fully remote role, I would have given you a grossed out look and said I never would consider it. Why would I want to be alone all day? I’m a social person. I love seeing and talking to people all day long. I love having that comraderie and driving office culture. I love the free lunch (well, I used to have that), snacks (hehe), office supplies, and all the other little freebies and perks that go along with working at a tech company. But once the pandemic came, Pookster was born, and pumping breast milk became part of my life, my perspective on working from home and having that level of flexibility totally changed.

Now that pumping is over, I still feel conflicted about working in an office once again. It’s not that I have the opportunity to given my current company has no New York City office, but the thought at this moment really does not entice me at all: the commuting, the dressing/getting ready every morning, not having as much flexibility with my own non-work life. I don’t have anyone keeping tabs on me to see when I am coming in, going out for breaks, or leaving for the day. There are no spies watching or reporting back to some losers who care. There’s no office gossip. Going into an office every day feels very… ugh. I got this question a lot while at kickoff last week, and my general answer is… no, I don’t want to be in an office again. I’m happy with what I am doing now and the flexibility I have.