When at Work

how to overcome obstacles
When it comes to work, there's no roadmap. Success today does not hinge on following the rules; it hinges on innovation, connection, vision and commitment. This blog is dedicated to helping women think more, think differently, and think collaboratively about work and how to get ahead - to achieve success and to make our mark.

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  • April 9, 2014 3:09 pm

    ".الجيات أحسن من الرايحات
    What is coming is better than what is gone."

    — Arabic Proverb  (via forebidden)

    (Source: aghartta)

  • April 9, 2014 3:08 pm

    "Your teachers / Are all around you./ All that you perceive,/ All that you experience, / All that is given to you/ Or taken from you, / All that you love or hate, / Need or fear/ Will teach you—/If you will learn…."

    — Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower (via howtobeterrell)

  • April 9, 2014 3:07 pm

    "BEING CALLED GORGEOUS is not a bad thing!" says Lupita Nyong’o, blushing over an omelet, berries, and tea (she doesn’t like coffee) at The Carlyle hotel in New York City. "But at the same time, I don’t want to thrive on people’s opinions of me."

    — Marie Claire interview (via yourpersonalcheerleader)

  • April 2, 2014 9:36 am

    Is Love the Opposite of Power?


    Last night I watched Beautiful Creatures. Which I loved. (I was particularly entranced by Alden Ehrenreich. He has such light, such energy, such magnetism, such a twinkle in his eye. He is insanely beautiful - to me, old lady that I am - but he doesn’t seem to treat himself with preciousness.) I was also delighted to see - in the credits at the end, written in this gorgeous, creepy, delicate script, that many of the producers, writers, casting agents etc. were women. Anyway, towards the end of the movie, Emma Thompson (an evil witch) responds to her daughter, Lena, (a good witch)’s question if she ever loved her with a line like -

    "No mother loves her child. Not really. Love was given to women to distract them from power. I want you to have power."

    This statement is what precipitates Lena’s murder of her own mother. But - Emma Thompson’s statement was so intriguing for me. One: I felt - this is not a reason to kill your mother. She wants something for you - she wants you to have what she values. And two: Must love come at the cost of power?

    There are sacrifices that we women make for love - for love of our children, for love of our partners, for love of our parents - sacrifices that cost us power. For our child, we may step out of a career that we loved and that provided us with financial independence or security. For our partner, we may move away from our home/support system for a destination that fits his needs or career. For our parents, we may move home to care for them when they are old or unwell. Women sometimes sacrifice themselves - a piece of themselves - for love. And sometimes, this self-sacrifice is good, and necessary. But it often comes at a cost. Having stepped out of the workforce to care for our child, our earning potential is diminished. Having moved for our partner or a parent, we may give up some independence, some of our freedom, some of our ability to tap into and realize our own desires.

    Are love — or the selfless love where you are willing to sacrifice for another — and power — whether professional, financial, cultural or otherwise — opposite ends of a see saw? When you focus on your loved ones, is there necessarily less of you to focus on your own goals and aspirations? Is this the crux of the working mother conundrum - how to have both — how to advance professionally, while having the energy and time to meet your child’s needs? How can the see saw be perfectly balanced - and ideally not at that middle point - but where both sides of the see saw (love and power) are at their absolute maximum height? Or is the solution what working mothers have been saying more and more lately - “You can have it all. Just not all at once.”

    Argh. I want it all. And all at once. How can we do that?

  • March 31, 2014 4:35 pm

    When Valley-Girl Talk Doesn’t Serve You


    It has been three years since I have written something on this blog.

    I almost forgot about it. This blog. 

    Well, I’m back. 

    And here’s my ice-breaker: A quick thing that I came across today - and that spoke to me:

    Want a promotion? Then don’t UpSpeak!

    By “UpSpeak,” the author means - don’t talk like a valley girl. Don’t soften yourself by turning statements into questions. It makes it seem like you are seeking approval (which you may well be). And if people think you are seeking approval, then they will think that you are not approved — that you are lacking confidence and competence. That’s a turnoff at a bar, and definitely in an office. 

    But - I understand why you might start talking like this, especially if you live in LA, where we all have a bit of the valley girl in us - or next door to us - or in front of us at the grocery store.

    And here we get into the whole - surround yourself with people you admire thing — with people you wouldn’t mind being a little bit like. Find people who stretch you, who challenge you, who talk like executives. I am kind of kidding, but only kind of, on that executives thing. We are social animals. We absorb the behaviors of those around us. When I lived in Paris for 5 months, people thought I was French, well, Belgian - I didn’t quite fool them. But I almost did. Now, having lived in LA for 13 years, I couldn’t fool any French person. But I want to fool my colleagues, and myself, into believing - because it might just be true - that I am executive material. And so should you. Surround yourself with people you admire. And don’t channel the valley girl. It’s not charming. It’s just lite. Like Yoplait Lite.

  • January 26, 2012 10:42 am

    Competition: Good or Bad?

    Flickr CC hinnamsaisuy

    For a few years now, failure has been embraced as a stepping stone to success. It’s been a theme that has resurfaced on blogs, in articles, in books, and recently in Jon Krasinski's talk at Brown University, his (and my) alma mater.

    I think we all get it - in order to take risks, you have to be willing (and resilient enough) to fail, and then to get back in the game. It’s a good lesson to learn and internalize.

    But it’s time for a new meme, and it may just be - “Competition ain’t so bad.”

    I think back to my (all-girls) high school. All 364 of us girls had one mission: to get into the best colleges we could. There was pressure, there was stress - and sometimes, I, and others, got a little bit disconnected from our true selves. The race that each of us was running was the race that everyone was running. Finding your true self and living that path wasn’t the mission, staying at the front of the pack was.

    That’s competition. You get on a path (in that case, to get into the best colleges we could) and then you try to stay ahead of the rest to achieve that goal.

    In high school, it was a little nerve-wracking. Partly because the race was externally dictated.

    Now, 15 years later, I’m beginning to see the good in competition again — if you’re on the path that is your true path.

    Being with other people who are achievement-oriented can up the bar. You just have to make sure that bar is the bar you want to be striving for - and that the path to success is a path you’re ready to take. If so, then competition can make you sharper, quicker and nimbler than the comforts of solitary pursuits. And who doesn’t want that?

  • December 12, 2011 3:32 pm

    Considering a career change? Insight & tips

    Fork in the road 
    Flickr CC jkbrooks85

    If you’re considering a career change, you’re not alone. Statistics indicate that today’s professionals will change careers 7 times before they retire. But how can you know which career to transition into without first trying it out?

    Interview the experts.

    In an effort to get more color on 3 popular fields, I interviewed 3 women I know and respect deeply about their industries: Education, Therapy/Counseling, and Communications. I chose these fields because they are creative and relationship-oriented. (Two elements that I crave in my work.)

    What are the hurdles? The rewards? The outlook for each field? Read on.


    • Key skills: Creativity and effective collaboration
    • Outlook: Promising

    Read more about Education


    • Key quality: A desire to keep learning and evolving
    • Biggest reward: Seeing people make positive change

    Read more about Counseling


    • Key skills: Building relationships
    • Outlook: Social media is changing the game

    Read more about Communications

  • December 12, 2011 3:10 pm

    Education: An insider’s take on the field

    Ana Mejia has worked in education for 8 years, progressively taking on more and more responsibility while exploring different arenas within the field. After excelling as a teacher in the classroom, she transitioned into coaching, where she advises teachers on how to inspire and lead students. 

    She shares insight and advice for those considering a career in education:

    What do you do & since when?

    I am currently a Title III Teacher Coach for LAUSD.  This position was designed to ensure that all students have access to rigorous core curriculum. I have been in the field of education since 2003 as a high school English teacher, dean of students, and curriculum coach.

    What attracted you to this industry/field?

    My initial attraction to the field of education was my passion for English literature. I basically needed an excuse to continue expanding on my literary knowledge so I thought teaching would be ideal, and it was. I quickly found that more than loving my subject, I truly enjoyed working with the youth.  I developed a passion for every aspect of teaching and now coach teachers on effective teaching practices.

    What is the most important quality/skill for success in your field?

    The most important skill for success as a teacher coach is creativity and effective collaboration.  It is crucial to remain creative simply because teacher coaches serve as trouble shooters in the classroom.  A teacher coach must gauge what is working and what is not in order to refine a teacher’s practices. A teacher coach must model creative lessons that engage students, are relevant and rigorous, and tap into different learning modalities.  Being able to effectively collaborate with others is also extremely crucial and requires the building of trust and effective communictaion between coach and teacher.  The improvement of teaching practices must be a  collaborative effort between coach, teacher, and student.  

    What are the biggest challenges of your field?

    The biggest challenges to being a teacher coach in LAUSD is the lack of teacher resouces and overcrowded classrooms.  As a teacher coach, I must always respect that teachers are working with some limitations.  Many classrooms do not have the computer technology that is required for teachers to stay current and better relate to their students. I am also challenged to revamp strategies that do not lend themselves to overcrowded classrooms, such as collaborative student groupings or kinesthetic lessons.  Being a teacher coach requires that I support teachers in tackling problem areas without always being able to fix the real problem.

    What are the biggest rewards?

    The biggest rewards to being a teacher coach is seeing the success of students due to teacher improvement.  Student success is teacher success.  When struggling students have those “a-ha” moments because something was taught in a way that finally made sense to them, I know we have accomplished our ultimate mission.  The biggest reward for me is to see everyone succeed, teachers and students alike.

    What is the outlook for your field?

    The outlook for my field is promising as low test scores have given way to new state mandates.  Many of these new mandates require that low achieving students and English Language learners become focus students in our LAUSD schools. For too long, many of these students have been lost in the shuffle and we have failed to meet their educational needs.   The Title III position was intended to support these students and ensure that they have access to a quality education and academic success!

    Do you have advice for those considering going into education?

    The best advice I can give anyone considering education is to remain flexible and passionate!  Education is ever-changing and requires that people change with the times.  Students change year after year and so must our practices. The ability to be flexible will ensure that you continue growing within the field.  I also believe that you must nurture your passion for your subject, your students, or your duties. Education can be a hard sell if you are not truly passionate about what you are doing.  If you believe in the significance and value of your work, students will too.  Being in the field of education has allowed me the opportunities to make a difference eveyday and impact the world in ways I may never know.

    Ana Mejia is a first generation college graduate, born to parents of Central American descent. She has her BA in English Literature & MA in Educational Leadership from Cal State Northridge.

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  • December 12, 2011 3:08 pm

    Communications: An insider’s take on the field

    If you’re looking for a career that will allow you to write, strategize, and connect with an audience, communications may be the perfect fit.

    Patricia (Pat) Aylward is an award-winning communications professional with more than 20 years of organizational experience, a record of national industry and peer recognition, and a lifelong passion for learning. She shares the hurdles and rewards of a career in communications, as well as the outlook for the field.

    What do you do & since when?

    I’m a Corporate Communications manager for a global business insurance company.

    I’m starting my eighth year with this company; however, I began my career in Human Resources (HR).  As an HR director I expanded my role to include the Employee Communications area after receiving a master’s degree in Journalism. I was an HR director for 18 years, and then made the move full time into the communications field when I took my current job.

    What are the biggest rewards of your field?

    I love the creativity and being able to connect with people and having a positive impact on internal and external audiences.  When handling my employee communications duties, it’s wonderful when I hear we have made employees’ jobs easier, while helping build a positive culture. We play an integral part in numerous successful corporate initiatives, making certain that employees receive timely and concise information to ensure a successful deployment. In fact, we recently won three external communications awards for our creative tactics (e.g., videos, an electronic fun quiz, an interactive building graphic showing progress, etc.) as part of a huge endeavor that enhanced the way our company handles claims. 

    When I deal with external customer communications, it’s gratifying to know that we have improved the customer’s experience while supporting our company’s strategic plan.  We’ve created comprehensive marketing deliverables (e.g., flyers, sales sheets, brochures, web sites, electronic newsletters etc.) that showcase our resources and services to assist with our customers’ claim needs.  We support our sales force with the materials they need to obtain new business and retain accounts.

    The biggest challenges?

    Like everyone, I think it is not having enough time in the day. 

    What is the most important quality/skill for success in your field?

    I don’t think there is just one. You need to be able to listen, build relationships, multi-task, prioritize, be strategic, as well as pragmatic, and of course, have strong communications skills.

    What is the outlook for your field?

    It’s exciting, especially with all that is going on in social media. It’s totally changing the way people communicate. We’ve just become active on Facebook and Twitter, sharing facts and tips, as well as responding to issues and providing updates. A presenter at one of our recent webinars told us his attendance tripled when we posted a notice on Facebook and Twitter about his upcoming presentation.

    Do you have advice for those considering going into communications?

    The basics aren’t going to change, so make sure you have a strong foundation built on solid written and verbal communications skills.  

    Patricia (Pat) Aylward is an award-winning communications professional with more than 20 years of organizational experience, a record of national industry and peer recognition, and a lifelong passion for learning.  Pat’s keen intellectual curiosity has also led her to explore diverse cultural perspectives through international travel on six continents (Antarctica cannot be far behind).

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  • December 12, 2011 3:00 pm

    Therapy/Counseling: An insider’s take on the field

    The field of therapy has always intrigued me. What’s more compelling than understanding why people do what they do - or more rewarding that helping them live better lives? So I reached out to one woman I know and admire, who has been in this profession for over 15 years and is now running her own very active private practice.

    Here’s her insight - the pros and the cons of being a therapist:

    What do you do & since when?

    I am a counselor/therapist. Officially I am a LMHC (licensed mental health counselor). I received my degree in 1995.

    What attracted you to this industry/field?

    What attracted me to the field is people and their stories. I never get bored listening to people’s stories. The story of their childhoods and then the stories and behaviors that emerge from there impact so much of how they navigate the world. And of course there is the genetic piece. The two are always interfacing.

    What are the the biggest rewards of your field?

    When you can see a client moving in the direction they say they want to go — that is lovely.

    The biggest challenges?

    It’s very hard for people to make cognitive or behavioral changes. It requires an enormous amount of discipline and willingness to tolerate the anxiety that comes with change. Many people say they want to make changes, but they are often unwilling to do the hard work and opt for the devil they know.

    What is the most important quality/skill for success in your field?

    I think the most important quality is that you continue to work on yourself, keep reaching for raising your own level of awareness and that you continue to educate yourself about new windows in — whether it’s meditation, diet, exercise, breath work, energy work etc. 

    Everything is connected. And being a good listener.

    What is the outlook for your field?

    Mental health is not a priority in this country and with healthcare in general being such a mess. I guess I’d say not great. We seem to be headed in the pharmaceutical direction. Medications can be very helpful but the puzzle has so many more pieces.

    Do you have advice for those considering going into counseling/therapy?

    If you work in any kind of agency or institutional setting, the caseloads are overwhelming (never mind the paperwork) because money is so tight and for me that would make for a lot of sleepless nights. Private practice works well for me, but the down sides are 1) insurance companies keep paying less to providers and 2) mental health benefits may continue to shrink as people try to scramble for more affordable health insurance. The system needs to change.

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