That one time I went to Ghana…

So I just got home from an amazing week in Ghana… but before I give you the full play by play, I have to go back to a lazy day at the office this summer. On July 16th, this email came into my inbox:

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 8.09.25 PM

tldr: write a 300 word essay to be eligible to win a trip to Ghana.

Thankfully, I was pretty bored at work and therefore used that time to write that essay. Not sure I would have spent the time at home to do it if I were busy… here’s what I wrote:

I have always had a passion for improving the learning conditions of young girls. Prior to starting at MIT Sloan, I was the managing director of a non-profit organization, Girls in Tech Minneapolis. The goal was clear: increase the number of girls pursuing technology professions by increasing their access to education and strong female role models. Even though I am no longer involved in Girls in Tech, this topic continues to be something I feel strongly about and will continue with once I earn my MBA. Girls all over the world should have better, equal access to education. It is this passion that drives my desire to learn more about non-profit education abroad.

The increased popularity of cause marketing has also turned my attention to the 1-for-1 model of non-profits. I first heard of TOMS through Hanson’s Take the Walk tour, and have been interested in the model ever since. How can we encourage more affluent people to give to those who do not have the same? By participating in this once-in-a-lifetime learning experience in Ghana, I hope to learn ways to apply this model to future for-purpose driven initiatives.

Lastly, I know this opportunity will teach me so much. Beyond learning about education and non-profit work, I will see a first-hand account of how to start from scratch. Adam Braun created something that is truly changing lives. Through this inspiration, I know I can do the same.

I also love the impact CommonBond is making and would love the opportunity to connect further! I am also a lot of fun to travel with.

A week later I got a 7am phone call from CommonBond in NYC telling me I had been selected. Cue intense excitement.

[My essay was also published on their blog, which you can see here!]


Last Wednesday, I took a flight from BOS to Amsterdam solo. Once there, I met up with Natalie, a representative from Pencils of Promise (PoP); David, Michaela and Ali from CommonBond; and Jason and Eryn, the other winners. Looking back, it’s kind of funny because I wasn’t once concerned about traveling to Africa with 6 complete strangers.

Completely unrelated, here is a photo of an Amsterdam Airport Donut:

Good donut.
Good donut.

The next seven hours were filled with wine and movies… but nothing really worth mentioning here. We landed late on Thursday and went to bed soon after we checked in. Early thoughts? — Ghana is hot.

Friday morning we left Accra for Ho early. There, we were welcomed by a great group of students who had been in a PoP school since 2013. After a performance of a traditional dance and the recitation of a poem, we were each presented with beautiful pieces made personally for each of us. Within minutes, rain started pouring and the students went back to their classrooms. We then got to see the inside of a PoP classroom and to observe students learning. The great thing about PoP is that in addition to building sturdy structures for children to learn in, they continue to support each and every community through teaching training and onsite support.

IMG_1960In Ghana, the teachers are taught tools to support active classroom engagement. And by active, and I mean active. The kids sing, dance, and move around because that’s a part of their culture. Outside of recess, I don’t remember ever having that in elementary school.

IMG_1971

The junior high school was a different story. Currently, PoP only supports elementary education, due in part to their focus on literacy and obvious financial constraints. The junior high structure was over 20 years old and was in pretty bad shape. The mixture of rain and a “faulty roof” clearly impacted students’ learning experiences. Here, they are moving their desks so their books don’t get wet.

IMG_1977

I left this community with mixed emotions. On one hand, I was so inspired to meet such great children. At one point, a handwashing station tipped over and multiple boys jumped up to help put it back up. The students even show up early to sweep the classrooms – there is so much pride in learning. That isn’t something I’ve seen in the United States – children just ready to jump up and help. On the other hand, the conditions are pretty bad. I can understand not being able to learn when something as common as rain interferes.

Next, we went to a site that showed an example of the “before” environments. Can you imagine going to school here? Whether your answer is “yes” or “no”… it gets worse…

IMG_1992

On Saturday, we were honored to attend an inauguration ceremony. After a few speeches and being gifted a goat (literally), we got to see the before and after. Saying it is a stark contrast is an understatement.

IMG_2012
A “classroom” under a tree with just a black board and two benches
IMG_2014
The new PoP built school.

Even more touching was the way the children ran and cheered into the new school once the ribbon was cut. After both getting dance lessons from the kids and teaching them to nae nae, we went back to the hotel to drink some beer and tell some stories.

That night, we really got to know each other. Up until then I wasn’t sure if my style was gelling well, but after a few good stories I had at least a few of them on the dark side.

Sunday… just.. wow. We went to a community near Togo where there must have been over 100 community members on site helping build. With PoP, they provide supplies and skilled labor, but require the community to provide the unskilled labor. It both ensures that the community is committed to bringing in the new school and that it is something they truly want. To see 50 grown men giving up their Sunday to literally make 4000 cement blocks to construct a school… I was just in awe. I think football dominates Sundays in the United States.

IMG_0423

After that we got in a small taste of tourism when we went to a monkey sanctuary. We were told a beautiful story about the history of the land and how monkeys came to be as important as they are. Then we fed them and I nearly lost my shit.

IMG_2105

And all of a sudden, Monday was our last day. We visited a commnity where PoP is piloting e-readers. It was so cool to see a classroom full of students on e-readers in the middle of a village with minimal electricity. They were actually in the middle of a sexual education lesson when we began observing. It felt rather intrusive but also really neat that they are learning about that at a young age.

IMG_2173

I left Ghana with such great respect for both the people in the communities and the impact Pencils of Promise is making. The children and families I met have such a strong desire for education and bettering themselves. They are hardworking and kinder than I see most days. Because of this trip, I know I will be a life long supporter of PoP. Beyond that, I formed great relationships and learned about starting a company from a fantastic CEO. I believe I have an even better appreciation for education and am excited to discover how I can impact the next generation. I have a deep understanding of what some lives and cultures in Ghana look like, and I will continue to reflect on the ways life differs in the United States. I believe this experience has even influenced the way I will raise my own children some day. It was the trip of a lifetime and I am so thankful to have been given this opportunity. I’m pretty much pinching myself right now.


 

Update 10/23/2015: a version of this post was also published on the CommonBond blog.

Advertisements

Travel from hell –> Pretty good week

 

60925536

What started as the worst week ever turned fantastic pretty quick.

Traveling back from China was the worst 26 hours of my life. Physically. I’m sure I had worse emotionally, especially when I was an emo-teenager. Something I ate on Saturday, most likely the dinner of dumplings, made me sick. I didn’t realize this until 5am the next day when Victor showed up at my door to take me to the airport. I was still sleeping and hadn’t yet packed, but he was an hour early so I fully believe I would have gotten ready on time had he not been early.

Once in the car, I took out the barf bag I had been carrying around with me all week “just-in-case,” at Victor’s request. It was the mix of the driving around (which was obviously terrifying) and being up so early, and my upset stomach could barely handle it. I did make it to the airport, but the second I was through the door I had to run to a bathroom. Luckily I actually stumbled into one with an actual toilet rather than a hole in the ground.

I cleaned up and went back out to meet Victor and Anya who were seeing me off. Victor wanted to grab breakfast but I was like “omg I will just throw up again” and decided not to eat anything. We said our goodbyes and I made it through security. I wanted to buy a bottle of water because I was pretty thirsty, but apparently it is impossible to buy bottled water at the airport in Kunming. They did, however, have little water machines with paper cups every now and again so I tried to use one of those. I couldn’t make the water come out. I ended up texting Victor and he gave me instructions. It shouldn’t have been that hard.

Having something in my stomach again made me feel ill, so I went to the bathroom. But BAM! there were 15 women in line. So, I left the bathroom and used the garbage can sitting outside, right on the main walkway of the entire airport. After successfully throwing up into recycling (oops!) I made my way to my gate and painfully waited over an hour because it was delayed.

Once on the flight, still thirsty and dehydrated, I got apple juice from the flight attendant when she came around. That didn’t work either so within 5 minutes I was throwing up in the bathroom of the plane. I sat back down again. By now, you’d think I had it all out of my system. I realized this was false when I felt ill again and went to the bathroom, again. There was a line, however, and stupid me didn’t bring my barf bag with me. As I stood there waiting I was carefully evaluating whether or not I could hold it. I eyed the seat pockets of those around me just in case, when all of a sudden I knew I had to reach for one. A seven year old boy had his sticking out a bit, and even though he was at the window seat I leaned in and swiped it. And voilà, there I went again.

The flight attendant saw me this time and brought extra bags for me as well as a small cup of water. Hot water, obviously, because this was still China. I didn’t drink much more than a sip because of my inability to keep it down. I eventually went back to my seat and tried to nap. I wasn’t able to do so, but soon we started landing anyway (it was about a two hour flight). About as soon as the “remain in your seats we are landing now” announcement was made, I needed to throw up again. I felt really bad for the man sitting next to me, no one should have to experience stranger-vomit. Thankfully it was mostly liquid at this point though and therefore wasn’t overwhelmingly stinky. Yay!

He only spoke Chinese but tried to show me some hand pressure points that would help make me feel better. It was hard to hold my barf bag and really do what he was showing me, but at least I tried.

Once in Shanghai, I had to get my new ticket printed and make it to the next terminal. I found my way to the singular Delta counter in the airport and attempted to get my ticket. However, they said I needed to grab my checked luggage first, even though the woman in Kunming explicitly told me I wouldn’t need to. Okay, so I sickly walk to baggage claim 7, where she told me, only to find she meant 1. Once I get to 1, most of the baggage had come out and it was clear mine wasn’t there. This is when I began to cry. I called Joe at $1/minute because I just felt alone without any ability to communicate and sick ans arrggg.

After making sure my luggage wasn’t indeed anywhere, I went back to the counter to tell them so. While listening to them decide what to do, I throw up again. Luckily I had the extra bags from the flight. They had to check for the luggage themselves, obvi, so there was more walking around. Eventually they said “it isn’t here” and finally just printed my tickets. Because I didn’t think I would be going through security again, I bought a water which they actually sell in Shanghai. I knew I would throw it up but I was just so parched.

Once I was in line for security, whoops, I saw some classmates of mine who were stationed in Shanghai for their project. I was just so so so excited to see people I knew and was able to communicate with. I just felt bad they had to watch me vomit while standing in line, but they handed me tissues and were really helpful.

You know how they always have garbages right before the x-ray machines for all the things you forgot you had? Yeah, they don’t do that in Shanghai. So when I get up to the front of the line I find I have nowhere to place said barf bag. I had to carefully hand over a warm bag of vomit to a very nice looking security woman who only spoke Chinese. She then passed it to a coworker and so forth – it finally found a garbage.

For some reason I thought that a skittle would be a good idea. Well, maybe I didn’t even think it would be a good idea but I needed something to get the taste of vomit out of my mouth. While it didn’t get the taste out because it came back up pretty quickly, it was sort of like one of those pills that makes your poop smell good. I still had to go through it but it didn’t taste as bad.

At this point, I was only 6 hours into the 26 hours of travel.

The next leg was a 14 hour flight. Once I made it on board, I warned my seat mate of my “motion sickness” just so I didn’t catch her off guard. I was on the aisle though, so at least she wouldn’t need to get up every time I needed to throw up. Surprisingly I only had to get up 3 times during that long flight, and towards the end was even able to eat some bread and managed to hold that down. Winning!

This flight was incredibly turbulent though. I really thought I knew I was going to die. And, at that moment, there was nothing I could do so I kind of just tried to stay focused and think of happy things. I ended up feeling very calm knowing that I would die, and I convinced myself that I didn’t want my last moments to be in pain so I somehow willed myself to numb away my stomach ache.

I couldn’t concentrate on any movies and I couldn’t read or play cell phone games, so I just sat there and reflected and maybe drifted to sleep once or twice. 13 hours later I’m finally in Detroit and I felt a lot more calm and not as freaked out. I didn’t even care that my luggage wasn’t there either, I just told the agents and they let me through customs anyway.

Only 3 hours of waiting and a 2 hour flight stood between me and Joe. I could handle that. I finally had real internet access again, so I watched some Criminal Minds on Netflix while waiting and then slept for the whole flight. Joe picked me up at the airport and we went to file the claim for my missing luggage together. It was actually kind of nice to not have to drag it around. Instead, it was going to be delivered!

Once home at midnight Monday morning, I slept solidly until 4pm the next afternoon. I missed class, but that’s okay in situations like this. I stayed up for a few hours and was able to fall asleep with Joe that night. Jet lag is a crazy thing.

The next day, everything in life was just so much better. My first class of the day was a new class called “Managing in Adversity.” Every class a different CEO or leader come in to share stories of how they, get this, managed through an adversity. First up? Ed Davis, former police commissioner of Boston, who was in office when the Boston Marathon bombings occurred.

It gave me goosebumps listening to the story through his point of view. All the people he had to interact with, all the things he saw and decisions he had to make. It made me want to join the law enforcement it was so powerful.

That night, I had a networking event for Netflix at the Lenox hotel. This hotel was right near one of the blast sites and was mentioned in the case we read in preparation for Ed’s talk. Even though I’ve been by there tons of times since moving to Boston, after hearing from Ed I definitely experienced it differently.

The Netflix event was awesome. I’m so in love with their focus on analytics and how they use data, I just want to work for them forever. They even had more women at the event than men, which adding this to their recent addition of Anne Sweeney to their Board of Directors, it is clear they value women in business more than most other tech companies. It is seriously such a dream company for me, I’m going to really try to pursue an internship with them even though they typically don’t bring us on.

March Reading

So now that March is over, I’d like to give a recap of my resolution to read a book a week during March. Overall, I’d say it was a success. If you add it all up, I didn’t exactly read 4 complete books, but I finished 5 – so… winning.

Drinking, A Love Story by Caroline Knapp (30%) – This ended up being a really good memoir. It is about a woman who is an alcoholic and it follows her relationship with alcohol through the years. It ends with her going to rehab and re-entering life as a sober person. A few lines that really resonated with me:

Over time the drink itself becomes the reward, the great compensation for our ability to keep it all together during the day, and to keep it all together so well. (pg. 19)

 

‘My husband is acting like an idiot.’ a woman said at a meeting not long ago. ‘I have to remember that the resolution is not ‘Get a new husband” (pg. 61)

 

Addictions segue into one another with such ease: a bout of compulsive overeating fills you with shame and sexual inferiority, which fills you with self-loathing and doubt, which leads you to a drink, which temporarily counters the self-hatred and fills you with chemical confidence, which leads you to sleep with a man you don’t love, which leads you to circling back to shame and voila: the dance can begin again. (pg. 137).

Crash and Burn by Artie Lange (100%) – This was the only book of the five that brought me to tears. Most likely because it resonated with me so much. I’m not a closet heroin addict. Rather, I’ve had people in my life lose the battle to drugs and that has really stuck with me. It was so insightful to be in his head and to understand his perspective. I didn’t capture any life-changing or meaningful quotes though, I think because it engrossed me so wholly that I didn’t break out of that mindset.

The Corner Office by Adam Bryant (44%) – This book was full of insights from CEOs and other leaders from large organizations. I took a lot from it. First, it made me really excited for business school. Second, I picked up a lot of good insights that I think I can apply to my own leadership style. And third, I know I’m going to be a really good CEO one day. Here are my favorite quotes:

The qualities these executives share: Passionate curiosity. Battle-hardened confidence. Team smarts. A simple mindset. Fearlessness. (pg. 12)

 

They learn, they teach, and they understand people and the business world, and then bring all that knowledge together to drive their organizations forward. (pg. 13)

 

The people who truly succeed in business are the ones who actually have figured out how to mobilize people who are not their direct reports. (pg. 51)

Drinking and Tweeting by Brandi Granville (100%) – I picked this book because I really like drinking and tweeting both separately and at the same time. Therefore, I figured it would resonate with me. Right after I started reading it, I mentioned it to a coworker, and she knew of the woman who wrote it. I did not. So, having that additional insight was helpful, and gave me even more reason to follow her on Twitter afterwards. The gist of the story is after being married for 8+ years, Brandi finds out her husband is cheating on her, and always has been. This terrified the crap out of me, especially as I’m beginning to consider marriage more and more. It is crazy to think about being able to leave so much of your life in the hands of someone else who can just take it and kill it all if they want to. The happiness she described seemed like perfection, something that meant it was true – how could this lead to such destruction? Again, I was too absorbed in the book to record any quotes. It is a quick read though that I would recommend.

Ahead of the Curve by Philip Delves Broughton (30%) – A book written about a man’s two years at Harvard Business School. Although it’s just starting to pick up, it has A) made me happy I’m not going to Harvard and B) made me hope that MIT is at least a little bit different.

  • Apparently there is something called the Priscilla Ball at HSB. The men dress as women and the women dress as “sluts.” Seriously. And people have to pay $120/person to attend anyway. And people wonder why business school has such terrible rates of females.
  • “It felt as though HBD has two modes, deadly serious and frat boy, with little in between” – I’ve heard this elsewhere about HSB and other schools. I know it is partially the reality of business school, but I hope the people at MIT take it seriously too. And like to have fun, are cool and not misogynist. Just sayin’
  • The English journalist who wrote this book has an impressive vocabulary. I’ve learned 10+ new words all ready. High five.

Here’s to a month of no Caribou… Just kidding, turns out April is writing in my journal every day. Not really sure why I thought it was the former.

Harry Potter, the time has come

I didn’t read Harry Potter as a child, mainly because I was rebellious and didn’t want to conform to the image that society had created for me. It also seemed like a series completely out of my realm of interests and for years the first-generation hardcovers have sat on my bookshelf. Now that I’m in my upper-twenties, I’ve decided that I’ve been in the dark too long… So, I’m reading it now. And, by “reading it now” I mean “Joe is reading it to me.” Because there is nothing like being read to sleep every night.

Another reason I never read the books is that I don’t read fiction. To some, this is like saying “I don’t drink water” or something similar on the crazy scale. But, it’s just the way I roll. To avoid thoughts that I’m illiterate, I’m half way through The Corner Office, and it is a great read. I’m going to be the best non-fiction-reading-CEO ever.

The moment of no return

So let me begin by saying “uh-oh.” I may have found a new hobby/addiction. We all know that I am in love with Google… so today I went onto eBay to search for Google memorabilia. This all started with my friend Laura whom I recently stayed with in DC. She mentioned that she has a Google water bottle due to a project her company did with them. I was like “omg, that’s the coolest thing in the entire world.” Sadly though, it was at work so I was unable to bow to it (aka, see it). I was having a difficult time coming up with stuff on eBay though… there were too many Google phones and computers and people trying to sell you the ability to make your website appear higher in Google… until I came upon a wooden block puzzle. Inside the description it said “not found at the Google store.”

What?!

A Google STORE?!

So I trudged my way on over to The Google Store where I proceeded to spend the next hour adding everything in the world I would ever want Google branded.

I’m not trying to spend money I’m not trying to spend money I’m just getting my credit cards paid down I don’t need to be buying this stuff I don’t even work there yet and when I’m CEO I’ll get all this crap for free so don’t even look at it okay…. Is what I had to repeat over, and over, and over in my head.

Once I knew the specifics of what I was looking for though, I went back on over to eBay to search for cheaper prices (as if that would happen). On this second time around though.. I found something I missed before. An entire realm of products… collectibles… happiness that had previously been hidden to me. I found.. the world of Andrew Bell Android Collectible Vinyls. Were one to create something with only me in mind, it would combine my two favorite things: Google and miniature figures. Holy crap, I can’t even make this stuff up. I’m going to go broke and this isn’t even funny.

Searching for more information only led to me finding this blog, which informed me that I am missing AndroidCon 2012. This doesn’t even sound like a real thing but it sure makes me sad I won’t be going to Comic-Con this year because my Booth program overlaps and I’m a sad Sally. Reasons 514-516 why I need to go to Stanford.

Day 2: Business Trip

So, the next day was even better than the first. I woke up early, found a lovely Caribou Coffee only a few blocks away and awaited the rest of my crew. We were to be at the vendor’s at 9am so my crazy ass waking up at 5am had a long time to wait.

When we got there, there were cones out front saving us the most awesome parking spaces. I technically took a picture of it because it was awesome, but I also don’t want to give away where we were. So, let’s just say, it was definitely first class service.

Inside, things were even better. The office was located in an old warehouse and it was really neat to see how they had updated it. I loved their technologies and energy, the day was fantastic all around.

At lunch, I somehow snagged a seat next to the CEO (or rather, he snagged a seat next to me) and we began chatting a lot about what I do at work and how I got here, where I want to go next, etc. I told him about my awesome Mary-Kate and Ashley website from back in the day and… I’m pretty sure he was impressed. It was so inspiring though to meet with the guy that started it all and had this drive to just get stuff done. I asked him about his path since undergrad and really appreciated his candor.

By the end of the day, I was pretty much in love with the company. From wanting to use their technologies to wanting to join their team, it was really an eyeopening experience. That night at dinner we went to this super awesome restaurant. We even had a private room that had floor to ceiling windows facing into the kitchen.

The first appetizer that they brought out was a plate of raw meat. I was all creeped out, thinking “hell no is there anyway I will be consuming completely uncooked beef tonight.” Turns out I was correct because I got to cook it myself on a stone they provided. It was seriously the best piece of meat I have ever tasted in my life.

Throughout the meal the vendor employees kept moving around to get acquainted with us. I met some really fantastic and experienced people. Their entire team was people I felt that I could bullshit with and get to know on a pretty real level. First a man sat next to me and he was pretty funny. We started talking about being Native American and some of my experiences at work. After awhile he got the table’s attention and said that he was at the good end of the table because I am pretty funny. That felt good. One woman was the COO and she shared a lot of advice. Another woman, whom I particularly liked, talked with me for quiet awhile about her experiences through business school and working at a large company for such a long time. What I took away from that conversation was 1) don’t get married to young and 2) leave a company when you feel you are no longer being challenged. She felt she waited too long and she loves what she is doing now so much that she feels she may have missed out.

This is my really awesome salmon.

After bringing up my lava cake ordeal from the night before, they pulled some strings to get a lava cake for me (the restaurant didn’t carry it… but somehow made it appear.) 

After the fantastic meal we had we went out to the club. Seriously. I’d never been clubbing with a vendor before (or danced with a CEO) but I tell ya, that’s the way to go.

My bestie Drew was actually able to meet up with me too that night, and him and I got to catch up like awesomesauce and I think he might even be coming to visit me in August. That would make me the happiest person in the world mostly.

Writing a book

So last night I had a dream about how bad my GMAT scores were and that I should probably retake them. This morning, I woke up with even more anxiety about getting into Business school, where I want to go, how to get in, etc. At work, I Google “How to get accepted to Stanford” and was directed to this blog: How to get accepted at Stanford or Harvard or how to get a job at Google or Facebook. It was almost like this blog was written for me, because obviously I’m the only cool kid with dreams of going to Stanford and being CEO of Google.

In the blog, it suggests doing something to stand out. One of the examples? Writing a blog. What’s bigger and better than writing a blog and something I’ve always wanted to do? Writing a book. So, I’ve decided that I am going to write a book. Before September specifically, because, well, applications are due in October.

For starters, I’m going to ask my friend Mollie to be my editor/guide/supporter. She is great at those things. I eluded to asking for a favor of some sorts on her Facebook wall, along with this link: Facebook Murals. If the idea of owning Kate stock sometime in the future doesn’t appeal to her, I don’t know what will. (And by Kate stock I mean a certain % of all book sales of course).

UPDATE: There is then of course stuff like this. People are awesome and inspiring and I love it.

Dreams can come true

So last night I could not get to sleep. I did a GMAT practice test after work and pretty much nailed it. Getting a score so high caused me to think of all the things that could happen if I actually scored that high on the real GMAT. And just when I had finally begun considering Carlson…

Which business school to attend has been an internal debate for a while. Say I get into somewhere like Booth, I have the option to either leave my job and leave the state for a few years to get my MBA, or remain in MN, go to Carlson and keep my job. There are pros/cons to each, which I have talked about extensively in all my MBA posts, but the gist is this: if I plan on settling down in Minnesota anyway, it would be a lot more beneficial for me to stay in MN, continue to expand my network and get my MBA from Carlson. Therefore, the only reason to go to another school is if 1) it is really awesome and 2) I want to live somewhere else for a while. As of Sunday, I had mostly decided that MN would be a better option.

Then a high score happened. As I was lying in bed last night I remembered back to a car ride when I was 13. I was sitting in the back seat, my mom and her friend Susan were in the front. We had just left my house and were crossing the bridge near the end of my driveway, on the way to meet a “client.” My mom and Susan were discussing whether they should begin selling pictures of me online to men that pay me to dress up in different outfits. Their logic concluded that because I would always be dressed, there was nothing perverted about it. The idea was ultimately vetoed, but I remember sitting in the back seat thinking that it wouldn’t be a smart venture for me to be involved with if I were going to get my MBA from Harvard and be a CEO.

I’m not saying this thought has prevailed my every decision (sadly), but it is one of those things that I have always said. You know, the sure things that you just know (feel in your gut) and never consider not to be a possibility, until they don’t happen but then it is still okay. (Self fulfilling prophecies?)

My list of sure things:

  1. I was reincarnated from a woman who was killed in the Great Chicago Fire. I think I had been claiming this before I even realized what, when, or where that happened.
  2. I’d go to Macalester.
  3. I would live in an awesome apartment downtown while working my awesome corporate job right after college (I even knew I’d have a dog named Chrome!).
  4. I’ll never get married and I’ll be a spinster without cats.
  5. I’ll go to Harvard for my MBA.
  6. I’ll be CEO of some company and give tons of money to tons of people/orgs after buying my penthouse apt.
  7. I’ll write a memoir.
  8. I’ll die too young from breast cancer.

True or not, those are just random things about me. You can imagine how, after nearly taking Harvard off my list of possibilities, it was exciting to revisit the idea of what that would do to my life. Life on the east coast? Meet some of the most fascinating and influential people ever? My resume stating: Education: Harvard Business School, MBA.

Mih, this girl’s gotta dream… eventually I took a Benedryl and went to sleep.

Presentation fail

So, over a week ago, I gave a large presentation at work. I had prepared for it pretty hardcore and felt that I was going to do a fairly decent job. I had literally spent 2 months creating the deck, practicing it in front of peers and managers, and reviewing it on my own. I knew what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. I wasn’t super worried, but rather a nice confident nervousness consumed me. Finally the day had come.

Then I blew it. Obviously. It sucked my will to live and I basically just wanted to leave work right afterwards and not come back till after I became heavily intoxicated (and of course gave myself time to sober up). Actually, this isn’t true. Directly afterwards, I was just relieved that it was done; it wasn’t for a few moments until I began listing the things I did wrong.

  • Had lame slides
  • Went out of the order I had practiced
  • Moved on stage too little
  • Got dry mouth
  • Became nervous faced/red-faced
  • Rushed through main points
  • Spoke to quickly
  • Didn’t smile enough
  • Came off as nervous

The list could have gone on forever, but luckily I was stopped when I received the feedback sheets from the 5 evaluators that were there (you know, the people who determine my review score and merit increase). According to the circled scores, my performance averaged about 3 out of 5. That was pretty much when I lost it.

Flash to later that night and I was still inconsolable. Even the email that I got from the directors that said “Awesome job! Way to go…” made me cry, because I knew they meant congrats to everyone but me. Looking back, I feel bad for Joe as I’m sure he couldn’t stand his weekend. I cried and moped and don’t really remember much more than that. Even on Sunday I still just sat around the house not feeling like doing anything and wouldn’t really let Joe leave my side either.

Monday was a little bit better. I was starting my new role and thankfully could avoid the fact that I can’t present and will never be CEO of anything in my life because I suck. The week came and went, and really, I think this had a lot to do with why I’ve posted so little. I just have no drive or desire to do anything.

Even Thursday when I was at my psychologist’s office we didn’t leave the topic of my presentation failure. It was probably her mistake for asking me right off the bat how my presentation went, but she had also known how much I had been preparing for it. This evolved into her thinking I have problems with accurately evaluating my own work and that I also expect too much out of myself. I hate it when people twist it like that because it I know they are just doing it to make me feel better.

I think what it boils down to though is that I just cannot handle constructive criticism. Before I go further though, here is a recap of the feedback I got:

  • Try to move around a bit more, you positioned yourself in one spot
  • Smile more, it will make you seem more enthusiastic
  • Try not to read the slides so much and engage more with the audience

There were some others, including it being nice that I didn’t look at the slides too much.. but I try not to overwhelm myself with conflicting information.

Now going into my new role, with an impending similar presentation in 3 months, I need to focus all of my energy on not biffing it in front of everyone again. I have volunteered to speak at pretty much every team meeting I could and even went to a Toastmasters meeting today. I hate the idea that me sucking so much could really impact my future.

90 Day Review

So apparently the trick is just to use the word vagina in my posts. It’s awesome(sauce) that my number of page views increased so much after that last one. I could get the hang of this blogging thing.

Anyway, my 90 day review was yesterday. I was nervous as shit for it. I actually took Ibuprofen beforehand because I thought that that would make the truth hurt less. It did not.

I got to the meeting room before my manager- I hate being late. Which just left me alone in a room to psych myself out even harder. I was flipping back and forth between “I’m getting fired” and “I’m getting a raise,” neither of which were really that rational. I even had time to write a little beforehand, which was the only thing that could really take me out of my own head.

Brr, it’s cold in here. They must try to distract me. At least now the dreams where I can’t tell time and I’m 45 minutes late are over. I thought I was being followed by an undercover security agent for when the fired me, so I made small talk with him so he would feel bad and be on my side. (He ended up walking away)

On the flip side, I’m only feet from a garbage for when I need to puke, which I feel very close to doing. I’m shaking and am probably an unnatural color- red or

I was probably going to say white, but my manager walked in. He tried to lighten things up by starting with his favorite probability problem- this just put pressure on me and didn’t really help lighten anything at all. Not the typical result from a math problem, but oh well, we can’t win them all.

He placed the report card just to my right. I tried not to look at it, too scared to see what it said. I tried to focus back to when I saw it without any check marks, so I would automatically know what I was receiving without having to read anything- just glance. This didn’t really work too well, and my manager just kept gesturing to it, so I knew I ultimately needed to look down and just read the damn thing.

There were three boxes next to each descriptor. “Meets Expectations,” “Does Not Meet Expectations,” and “Don’t Know/Did Not Observe.” I received a check mark in the first box for every category, except Manages Talent and Strategizes, which my manager marked “Don’t Know/Did Not Observe.” That’s fine. I don’t manage talent, and probably haven’t been given any projects where I can really show my ability to be strategic.

My opportunities are to improve my written communication by recognizing my audience, and to seek out more challenges. Both are probably true. So, I stayed late at work to get a ton of shit done- which was surprising to me for a couple reasons.

  1. I never take feedback well. I had assumed that I would need to leave work directly after the meeting and start drinking. I surprisingly didn’t even drink at all last night! (Either out of sorrow or celebration).
  2. I don’t remember the last time I was at work past 5 or worked on something for so long. I somehow was able to focus on what I needed to do and just got it done. Usually I sit and think about doing it, think about how much time I have, and if it is too little time, I fuck around because I don’t want to start something I cannot finish. If I have too much time I fuck around for a little bit because I would rather feel the pressure of having just enough time. But this opens myself up to the opportunity of becoming lost in whatever fuck-around-task I’ve found, and then at the end I don’t have enough time to do what I originally had too much time for. Urgle.

Afterwards I realized I clearly didn’t have too much to worry about, but actually still kind of appreciated the fear that I felt beforehand. I’m not in any position where I can be walking into a review meeting without that fear- maybe someday. Maybe someday when I own the company I won’t have reviews anymore, that will be nice. But, then I guess my reviews will just come in different mediums, such as from other CEOs or news people. Urgle burgle.