Work, and life advice I hope to follow

I’ve had this video from TEDWomen on my to-watch list for a couple of months. I finally watched it after reading the Metafilter commentary on it and this New Yorker article earlier today.

This video features Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook talking about “why a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions — and offers 3 powerful pieces of advice to women aiming for the C-suite”. (Quote taken from TED page.)

You should take the time to watch this whether you’re a woman who works “outside the home”, if you’re home with your family, or if you’re somewhere in between. It’s about fifteen minutes in length.

This video really resonated with me. The three points she talks about are really good career (and life) advice for women at any stage in their career.

It seems that in some circles, there are training programs, mentors and coaching to women (and men) who are on their way up in the business world. These are good things.

What I’d like to know: where are the programs for people (women and men) who are high performers, but not quite management material. The ones who aren’t ready, or (heaven forbid!) don’t have the desire to be in management but want to be high-level individual contributors. What about the people who don’t realize that they would be great business leaders because they are too busy handling their regular job? And because their company is stretched so tight, the powers that be can’t let that high performer stretch beyond their role because they need someone to turn that cog or push that pixel.

How do we develop those people so they feel like they could even climb the next step of that ever-lengthening ladder? Or is the only option that we develop those people so they eventually move into jobs at other companies as the current company simply cannot see that person outside of their current role? How can those high performers help themselves move forward, if being a high performer isn’t enough?

Sorry, I’m getting a little off-topic here.

Another facet of this presentation that impressed me was that Ms Sandberg admitted that she didn’t know the answers and that she was struggling with a lot of the same issues. As a person who has worked as a high-level executive at both Facebook and Google (among other places), I wrongly assumed that she was childless. That she had to sacrifice her personal life to achieve professional success. When she spoke about her children, it reminded me that all parents have the same problems balancing their family, professional and personal lives no matter what their title and salary are. (EDIT: It bothers me that I made that assumption – that the only way to get to the top at work is to sacrifice the rest of your life to your job. It’s unfair to the people at the top and sets unrealistic expectations for those at the bottom.)

I believe a lot of things about the modern workplace are wrong. I’m very intrigued by the ROWE concept. What I’m not sure of is how to fix the workplace to ensure that more people are engaged in their work and producing great things for their companies. I believe that taking the time to think about the points Ms Sandberg makes: staying at the table, owning your success and not checking out before you leave will make me – and anyone else – a happier worker. That will lead to higher engagement and productivity. That benefits company and worker alike.

Why I hyphenated my name after I got married

A couple of days ago, I read an article called “Are Maiden Names Really Worth $500,000?” The link talks about a study that indicates that women who don’t change their name after they marry are perceived as more professional and will end up making more money over the span of their careers.

While I’m not so sure that a woman’s earning power can be predicted based on her choice of name (the author of the study isn’t so sure either, although he is terribly condescending about it), I do know that hyphenating my married and maiden names gave me challenges that I didn’t expect.

Once I was old enough to seriously consider marriage, I was mostly sure that I was going to hyphenate my name. I wanted to keep ties with my father, who has been dead for nearly twenty years. Dad didn’t have any male children, and there aren’t a lot of male children on my dad’s side of the family. When my dark side is rearing its ugly head, I joke that my daddy issues are showing.

I thought about it and my theory was that while I was still part of the family created by my parents, getting married made me part of my husband’s family. I didn’t want to lose my pre-marriage identity, but I didn’t want to ignore my post-marriage identity either. Hyphenating my name allows me to acknowledge both of my families. More importantly, it ties them together.

When I started thinking about all the paperwork I’d have to fill out to update my life to indicate my married name, I thought, “This is a pain in the butt. Why change my name?

A question I was often asked was “If you have a child, would you hyphenate their name?” My answer was always “No – I’m the one that chose to hyphenate my name. Any child I have did not choose that. One name is simpler for a little kid.” I stuck to this when Flora was born, and she only has Mitchell as her last name.

Mitchell is Flora’s maiden name, not Price. If she chooses to hyphenate, change or keep her name if she gets married, she is welcome to do that. It’s her choice to make.

If you are considering hyphenation, here are some tips based on my experience:

  1. Think about how long your name will be. If your name is long, your name may have trouble fitting on ID or on forms. This kink doesn’t apply to everyone but Melissa is my middle name. When I updated my ID to my hyphenated name, some of my ID ended up saying “*FirstName* M Price-Mitchell”. Not having the name I use on my ID causes confusion at important places, like doctor’s offices. (Dear Ontario government ID issuing offices: if you would consider allowing more characters on your ID cards, that would be awesome.)
  2. Do you want any children you have to share your hyphenated name? Or to have your maiden name as a middle name? What we chose to do for Flora worked for us. Your situation may be different. Some couples hyphenate both of their names. There are lots of options. Make sure to think them through so you come up with a decision that works for you and your partner.
  3. Do your initials spell something ridiculous? Like naming a child, you don’t want your initials to spell something silly. I sign a lot of my emails with my initials. “MPM” is neutral. If my name was “Bertha Ulrich-Mitchell”, hyphenating my name may not have been such a good idea. At least not if I still wanted to sign my emails with my initials.

Nearly everyone I talked to about this had an opinion. Some people agreed with our decisions and some people wondered about our choices. Despite the ID issues, I don’t regret adding Sean’s name to mine at all. The other day Flora said to me “Mummy, we’re all Mitchells”. That feels pretty good.

Random thoughts on the upcoming Canadian election

While this post is political in nature, I’ve done my best to keep it non-partisan. I’m not a die-hard supporter of any particular party, so I’m not endorsing any party’s view over another.

This may be my nerdy side showing, but I love voting in elections. Municipal, provincial, federal, student council, it doesn’t matter – they all have excitement. I like watching the numbers go up on election night and seeing who won, whether they’re an incumbent, an upstart or a dark horse.

As much as I enjoy the excitement of elections, it’s hard to get past the cynicism and distrust I have of so many politicians. So many promise the moon to get people to vote for them and then spend their term explaining why the promises they made just can’t materialize into change. I don’t trust politicians who seem to be calculating every move they make and are in it more for their own fame and legacy versus actually being the voice of their constituents. This makes me naive, doesn’t it?

Mom the Vote!I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the #momthevote movement on Twitter and Facebook. Anything that gets people talking about the issues and gets them out to vote is okay with me. Family-friendly policies have become more important to me since I became a parent, and I’m grateful for being able to read in one place about how all the parties plan to treat Canadian families. I’m also enjoying the debate going on and it’s making me think more about the issues up for debate in this election (and the issues that aren’t being debated which is telling in itself).

I don’t understand how politicians who cross party lines (or go independent) midway through their term can keep their position without a by-election. Their constituents may have voted for them for personal reasons, but odds are they voted for them because they were affiliated with a certain party. If everyone in a riding voted for a person because they belonged to Party X, and that person joins Party Y half way through, they may no longer represent the wishes of the riding. If the constituents really like that person, they can certainly vote them back in but I think constituents should be given a choice.

It alo really bugs me when people say “I don’t want my tax dollars going to <something that won’t benefit them directly but will benefit many other Canadians>. I expect my tax dollars to go into a big pool. That pool is then used to dole out money to all the different services and things Canadians want and need. I can’t and won’t use every benefit my taxes help pay for, but that doesn’t mean other Canadians don’t need them. Since we’re a country, we’re all in this together and it takes all of us to pay the bills.

Please get out and vote on May 2nd. Make sure your voice is heard.

Lazy Sunday

Why is it that when I manage to do the following:

  • sort and wash my laundry
  • start Sean’s laundry
  • change the sheets and put the heavy duvet on my bed (stuffing a duvet into the cover is hard, dude)
  • wash my delicates
  • take the kid for her first real haircut (separate post about that coming) and pick up some socks and a toothbrush for her while at the store. Survive the store without using a cart or a stroller and we walked around and waiting in a slow-moving line
  • talk to my mom and sister on Skype (one conversation each) to show off said haircut
  • prepare three meals for said kid, and one for my husband (to be fair, Sean made the hard part of Flora’s supper for his lunch – he made chicken wings – but I still did all the warming/cutting as well as preparing the side dishes for supper)
  • wash dishes (once already, and a second time after I finish my own dinner)
  • run the dishwasher (I may or may not empty it)

it still feels like I haven’t accomplished anything today?

What is the killer chore that takes your day from unaccomplished layabout to kickass homemaker in one easy step? I’d do that chore if it meant I felt like I did something with my day.

Anonymity, Authenticity and Being Brave

Last week, I posted this to my Twitter account:

[blackbirdpie url=”″]

As you can see, I’ve been fantasizing about creating anonymous alter-egos to vent online about stuff I’m too chicken to associate my real name with on Google. The idea of doing that bothers me because I’ve always prided myself on being transparent and “authentic” by curating nearly my entire online presence under my real name.

But really, are my thoughts any more authentic because I’m willing associate my name with them? Should the people out there writing really painful, emotional stuff (or any kind of stuff, really) under pseudonyms get less respect and have their experiences considered as less real just because I can’t find the writer in the phone book? That’s not fair, and it’s an insult to anyone who writes about anything online. It’s an insult to anyone that writes, period.

Even though I write under my real name, I still question if I am being authentic enough. Sometimes I think I sanitize things a little too much. If you know me in real life, you know that I speak with a lot more “dude”, swears and slang than I do here. I believe in the “write like you talk” method, at least some of the time (and a personal website is probably one of the best places to write like you talk). Why am I not using that method more? It’s not like I’m writing incredibly highbrow stuff here.

I want to be brave. I need to be braver. I don’t want to write about every detail of my life. No one would want to read it, and I don’t have the time to write it. I just want to be braver about the stuff I do share with the world.

Do you write with the same voice you speak to your closest friends with? Do you want to?

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
This work by Melissa Price-Mitchell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada.
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