It’s the very first episode of No, You Go! Jenn, Katel, and Sara get together to talk about the itch to get out of a professional rut and start something new—whether that’s changing jobs, launching a company, building a side gig, or maybe even…idk….starting a podcast?
Fuck it, let’s just do it. Let’s be unapologetic women asking to do work, and to be paid fairly for it.
—Becca Gurney, co-founder, Design Choice
Read on for more of what we covered, and read the full transcript for all the, like, verbatim quotes, you know?Show notes
First, we tell the story of how No, You Go got started:
Next, we kick off the show—and 2018—by hearing how four women who made big changes last year knew it was time for something new:
Many thanks to The Diaphone for the use of their song, Maths, in our theme music!
This episode is brought to you by Codepen—a social development environment for front-end designers and developers. Build and deploy a website, show off your work, build test cases, and find inspiration.Transcript
JENN LUKAS: This episode of No, You Go is brought to you by CodePen: a social development environment for front-end designers and developers. It’s like a big virtual sandbox where you can build and deploy a website, show off your work, build test cases, and find inspiration. Your profile on CodePen is like your front-end development portfolio. Learn more and create your first Pen at codepen.io. That’s c-o-d-e-p-e-n dot i-o.
JL: Welcome to No, You Go, the show about being ambitious—and sticking together. I’m Jenn Lukas.
KATEL LEDÛ: I’m Katel LeDû.
SARA WACHTER-BOETTCHER: And I’m Sara Wachter-Boettcher.
KL: In today’s inaugural episode of No, You Go, we’re talking about the itch to get out of a rut and start something new. First up, we’ll talk about how No, You Go came to be. Then we’ll listen in as a bunch of badass women tell us how they knew it was time for a change in 2017—and how they made it happen.
Also on the agenda: our favorite CW teen drama, the politics of donuts, and breaking out the Olivia Pope wine glasses.
[Musical intro]How it all began
SWB: One day, I was actually out for a run with Katel. We were up in this really pretty park and it was the middle of all and we were crunching through the leaves, kind of miserably running some—some 10K distance so that we could justify donuts. And I started telling Katel that I had this podcast idea that was all about: how do you go from kind of doing the work, whatever your job is, to being able to kind of like show your work. Like, speak about it or write about it, or something. Like, how do you go from being somebody who’s kind of more heads-down to being more of that like active or visible member of your professional community?
SWB: And I was like, I had this working title, like “Show Your Work” or something like that. And we were like, that sounds like a fun idea. You know, I just had a book come out in the fall and I was really interested in kind of helping other people understand what that process looks like. A lot of people ask me questions because they don’t necessarily know.
JL: Me included.
KL: And me!
SWB: Yeah! Well, and that’s one of the things that we started to want to talk about, is like: how does that whole thing work? And that’s, you know, just one example, right? I mean, it’s not just writing a book, it’s also like, how do you go from working in a field to like, teaching other people how to do it and leading classes. Those kinds of questions. So, I really wanted to start talking about that more, and Katel was the publisher of one of my books, and so I thought she would be like an ideal person to talk about that with.
KL: And I thought that was a great idea. I think “Show Your Work” was actually an awesome name for a show—we should do that also.
JL: Let’s get this one off the ground first!
KL: All right, okay. So, yeah, I am the CEO of A Book Apart and published one of Sara’s books—it’s amazing. And I moved to Philly about two years ago after living in DC for most of my life, and Sara and I became besties really quickly because we had a lot in common. Namely, loving slash hating running and hating running to love donuts, even more. So, one night we were all sitting actually at Jenn’s house, and we were drinking wine and watching Riverdale as we do—we’d all gotten together and [that’s] another thing that we loved and had in common. And we brought it up to Jenn and she got really excited.
JL: To be fair, Sara’s giving me that look like, “I’m not quite sure I’m sold on the Riverdale.”
SWB: No! I was just thinking, can we have a sidebar about Archie’s hair for a second?
JL: Mhmm, Archie’s hair.
KL: And now, did you know Sara’s really into Riverdale?
JL: Ooh! Did you catch up?
SWB: I am super caught up. And Archie’s hair is still ridiculous. And I’m pretty sure that Cheryl Blossom’s lip liner gets bigger and bigger every single episode.
JL: It’s awesome.
SWB: It’s gonna be her entire face soon.
KL: It’s so good. Maybe that’s what I need to do, is just go big with the liner.
JL: I love it. You know, I forget, Katel, if you told me this—I always had a problem with Archie’s hair but then, you brought up that like, it helps if you remember that it’s a comic book and then it makes the extreme-ness of his hair a little bit more acceptable.
KL: Right, it’s like, it makes the TV show juicy, or like, pulpy? I mean… “juicy” is maybe not the right word, but you know what I mean!
SWB: No, no, no, let’s stick with juicy.
JL: No, I do know what you mean! And you know, sometimes we just have to watch an episode of Riverdale after a long day.
SWB: For professional reasons.
JL: But for me, it was super awesome because I just had a child ten months ago, yes indeed. And so, with a child and I’m back working full time—I work as an engineering manager and UI architect down at Urban Outfitters. And sometimes, my lovely friends will come over after my child goes to sleep and we’ll watch Riverdale and talk shop. Which is awesome, ’cause you start to feel a little bit alienated to some extent, from your previous life and you have this awesome new life going one. But then you like, miss parts of your old, so it was really nice to have my friends come to me so that I could keep trying to figure out how to make this balance work. And maybe balance isn’t even the right word, but to like figure out how I can keep doing things that I love along with the new things I love. So, it was super awesome.
SWB: Yeah, something Jenn has not quite mentioned, is just how much stuff she used to do in terms of like, speaking and side projects, constantly. Like, when I first met Jenn, every other week, I swear it was like, “Oh, I just started this podcast called Ladies In Tech,” or “Oh, I’m working on this web series called Cook Inside the Box, where we make recipes off the back of boxes.” And it was so cool to see her doing all this stuff, and like a lot of people, it’s really hard to do all of that stuff when you have really little kids and a lot of kind of, responsibilities at work. But what we want to talk about, is, how do we make space for some of that and kind of integrate it into our lives no matter what other stuff is going on.
JL: That’s what was so nice about talking with you two, is figuring out how that can work. And I know you’ve both been amazing soundbars for me. And I feel very lucky to have both of you in my life and I think that is a lot about what we’re basing this podcast on. It’s like, how we can be stronger together with people who support us and figuring out how to do these things. Even if you’re working with new—and I mean, using a stretch here of calling it a constraint—but, we’re used to like, how we work with constraints. And this is just a new, different part of my life, and it’s really nice to be able to talk to y’all about how that works.
KL: This also feels like just a really awesome after school kick-ass club that I’m super excited about. And I feel like, sometimes, you know I don’t have kids and you know that’s a really tough thing to figure into your life when you’re going from, you know, not having them to having them and a career and everything. And I think even for someone who doesn’t have them, it’s like, you’re still trying to manage a bunch of different things and figure out how to like, stay excited, and go outside and like, meet with people and hang out not you know, become a total hermit like I like to do.
JL: Oh my god, going outside is so hard sometimes.
SWB: But I think, this really speaks to the way that I think the idea for the podcast evolved. When we started talking about it with Jenn, what we realized is that, for a lot of us who, you know, consider ourselves ambitious and sort of really interested in our careers but also kind of non-traditional about it. Like not necessarily interested in only ever working at one single company and a lot of us, you know, work in consulting or small companies or we take on side gigs. You can sometimes end up feeling like you don’t have colleagues. And I think that that’s something I’ve heard a lot from—particularly from women the past couple of years. That they were looking for places where they could connect with other people who got their work, even if they weren’t traditional colleagues. And I really look at that as a big piece of what we’re doing here, is kind of taking the place of having that sort of peer group that you maybe used to have at an office. But if you work in lots of non-traditional settings, you don’t have that anymore.
JL: And even when you do work in that, sometimes its you know, you still have a variety of interests. So as you said, I used to do a lot of side projects and that’s totally different than my full time job. So, I think, as we were all sitting on the couch and we were getting more and more excited, that’s sort of where the name of this show came to be. Right?
SWB: Yeah, I think one of the things that was really funny about that, was that—so, I was sitting there as Jenn and Katel were kind of going back and forth, like, getting more and more excited and hyped about the show. And all of a sudden, they’re talking over each other and Katel—always the gracious one—is like, “no, you go,” and waits for Jenn. And Jenn goes, “that should be the name of the podcast.” And she kind of laughs and I’m like, wait, stop, no that is the name of the podcast now. So, that’s how we named the podcast and started thinking a lot more about you know, what kind of things we’d cover and where we’d go with it. So, kind of getting outside of that, just the idea of showing your work—although that’s part of it—but more thinking about, what are all the different ways or paths that people take to satisfy their ambition or satisfy their need to, you know, create stuff in the world. And how could we go about highlighting those and helping other people see the different kinds of ways their lives might look. And giving people a little more support along the way as they figure out what that looks like for them.
JL: I think also, you know, we’ll talk about challenges of being ambitious. I think there’s a lot of things that all people, but especially for us as women, that we always have to balance, right? Being too abrasive versus being too nice and how we manage that in this world—to achieve some of the things that we’re trying to set out to do.
SWB: I was thinking about, one of the other podcasts I really like, Call Your Girlfriend—the hosts on that show talk about shine theory. And for them, shine theory is this idea, like, I don’t shine if you don’t. So, the idea is you’re going to have you know, like, you want the smartest and most accomplished women by your side because actually everybody’s better when your friends are successful, too. And I think about that a lot when I think about this show because I’ve got some like, pretty accomplished women by my side working on it. And I think that that is an incredible way to look at how do we, you know, how do we navigate our lives, and how do we think about ambition.
Because we’re always looking toward these other people that we totally respect and that we can learn so much from, and they’re looking right back at us. And I think it creates this environment where we can be really supportive of each other and also get a little bit more comfortable kind of like, celebrating that ambitious side of ourselves and not pretending it’s not there. Which I think is often what women are expected to do.
KL: Yeah, this actually tied back to, Sara, what you were saying a little bit earlier, about you know, having colleagues and we all work in kind of, I think, different setups these days. It’s not necessarily like, Sara and I don’t even go into an office most days, and we have meetings sort of from wherever. And even though you know, we’re all friends and we have—our professions and our careers are kind of intertwined because we work in the same field or area— we don’t work together physically. But we talk and speak and write about similar things and I think we have passions about the same things. And especially in terms of trying to lift other folks up and finding ways to actually do that. We all work in different setups these days and you know, a lot of us—Sara and I included don’t even necessarily go into offices everyday, but I think it’s really important to feel like you have some kind of camaraderie. Some kind of network that you’re able to rely on in your work and obviously outside of that work. For me, it’s been so critical because I literally work by myself in my home and I have—I work with a lot of team members that are just distributed. So for me to have folks that I can see regularly and talk about things that are related to the work I do is so important. I think I was really missing that from going from a big company like National Geographic to a company that was a small startup. That was a huge shock, that was a big change. You know, working with fifty people a day and then all of a sudden being by myself. So this has been incredibly important. I think being able to extend that and hopefully share that and build a community around that is super exciting.
SWB: Yeah, like I remember when I quit my last real job, which was in 2011, I was working at an agency. And I went from an agency to freelancing and consulting in doing content strategy and UX work. And at first, I will tell you I did not have this kind of network. I was mostly feeling really kind of alone in my work. And I would work on a project and get in with the team on that project but they weren’t really ever my team. And so over the years I’ve certainly like built up this collection of you know, like, really cool people who get what I do and who are just there for me. And that network has made all the difference. I don’t think that I would still be consulting, much less speaking and writing books and stuff like that, if I had not built that kind of community. And that’s something I want more people to experience because I think that it’s one of the only things that can kind of help keep you sane and happy.
KL: I feel like the dream used to be work from home, and like work for yourself and you know, be your own bossa and sort of be the master of your own time. And it’s great, it has so much—it gives you a lot of freedom and there’s a lot of flexibility but it’s also very lonely a lot of the time and you know, I think you need to find something that actually helps you get through those lonely times.
SWB: Yeah, like I want the yoga pants, but I also want the like, deep personal friendships.
SWB: That come with seeing people really regularly. And so, you know, it’s how do we make a life for ourselves that kind of can bring us both.
JL: I got news for you: athleisure. Is my office wear.
SWB: Trust me, I have gone full force into the athleisure lifestyle and I am not looking back. So one thing that I do think about, though, in this whole conversation about kind of finding that community and helping to help others, you know, figure out what their path is, is that Jenn, Katel, and I—we really come from relatively similar backgrounds. You know, like we’re similar age and we’re all based in Philly, and we’re all white ladies with professional jobs. Having a lot in common is really good, but we do know that that could be a pretty limited view of what it’s like to work as a woman. In fact, it would be incredibly limited. So one thing that’s really important to us and that we want to do on this show is make sure that we’re bringing in people with a lot of different experiences and different backgrounds. And make sure that we are getting things from perspectives that the three of us would never have.
JL: You know, speaking of hearing from other voices, I think it’s time we get into our main segment. But before we do, we are so excited to tell you about the sponsor who’s making this very first episode of No, You Go possible: Codepen.
[Musical interlude]We introduce the badass lady brigade
JL: So how do we know when it’s time for something new?
SWB: That’s a question we asked a bunch of women who had made big changes in 2017—job changes, life changes, that kind of thing. To get us started, let’s hear from one of our favorites.
BECCA GURNEY: This is Becca Gurney, half of Design Choice, a graphic design studio in Washington, DC, where we have the aim of empowering women to lead, to get paid, and to be awesome. Our central mission and idea is that we almost make the conscious choice to pay women fairly for the work that they do, and before you can pay them you have to choose them to do the work. So for the four years leading up to this one, I had been freelancing, and I had just fallen into freelancing. I didn’t choose it, I didn’t really go out and take a risk and say hey, this is what I want to do. It was there and I did it, and I just kept doing it. But I had been feeling really unfulfilled and pretty aimless in it. I wasn’t doing great work. I was just doing work, and there was no real point to it. It was awesome that I could make my own schedule and I could go home to make jam whenever I wanted, because I was feeling jammy. But I didn’t think of myself as successful or empowered.
And then the election happened, and I didn’t feel successful or empowered. And I was looking around at the leaders in our industry, which is mostly dudes, and I didn’t feel successful or empowered. The AIGA Census data came out and women in my area at my level are being paid $20,000 less a year than men. And so hey, I don’t feel successful or empowered. And the moments that sparked any sort of a feeling that felt good were the moments that I was with women, talking about being fucking unapologetic women. And how could I do that through design and Stacey Maloney was in a bunch of those conversations, and we said, “Fuck it, let’s just do it; let’s be unapologetic women asking to do work and to be paid fairly for it.” And we started Design Choice.
JL: How awesome.
SWB: I love so much about this. Fucking unapologetic women. I think we qualify, right?
JL: I hope so.
KL: I think so. Let’s get there if not [laughs].
SWB: Katel, how do you know Becca?
KL: We got to be friends when I was in DC. I started working at a coworking space to try to get a little more face time with other human beings when I started this solo thing. And she was just awesome. We became friends really quickly, and we sort of went through some growing pains at this particular coworking space because of management that was not empowering and didn’t make us feel confident about working there, and we moved to a different one. We shared an office. We just really became good friends and got to know each other. Becca is one of those people who, you know that if she says something, that she’s going to do something, she’s gonna do it. She just shows up and she’s such a rock star. I hate using that word, but she is, she absolutely is. She’s creative and amazing and when I listened to this recording that she sent, I almost teared up because I was thinking, oh my gosh, I have felt so similarly—that feeling of like, you’re doing all these things that you’re supposed to be doing, you’re making the money, you’re going to the meetups, you’re doing all the things, but you don’t feel empowered and you don’t feel successful. And like, what is that? And trying to pull all of that apart and get at the root of why, and figure out what you’re going to do to change that, is huge. It’s so huge. And the fact that she came out of that and created this agency, and it isn’t just helping her feel successful and empowered, but also doing really fucking amazing work for companies that should be employing women, is just so rad.
SWB: Yeah, I love this idea of her saying that this company is explicitly about hiring women and paying women fairly. And that’s really built into the fabric of it, and she’s not afraid to talk about it that way. Because I think about it in terms of how I spent my own year.
I think something that I did in 2017 is get comfortable with the idea that my work simply was political—that I couldn’t really create an artificial boundary between the things that I care about professionally, talking about a user’s experience of a piece of software or a website, and the things that I care about personally, which is basically all social justice issues. And so that really came out when I wrote my most recent book. It’s called Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech, and essentially I am really taking a direct look at this tech industry that I have been part of for a long time, and highlighting some of the ways it’s gone really wrong for people who are often the most vulnerable or the most marginalized. You know, it was hard but I think I got to a place where I was no longer afraid of saying that out loud, and saying that in front of important people who, in the past, I would have been worried wouldn’t have wanted to hire me for consulting. And now, I’m thinking, okay, I need to find a way to make this an organic and natural part of what I do, because I can’t really live with myself otherwise.
KL: Yeah, I think you’re totally right, and that whole unapologetic thing—I feel like there’s so much to unpack there, and something we’re grappling with it every day in everything we do. And I know for me it’s kind of like, you tear a little bit away and you’re like, okay, I made some progress. And then you’re like, but wait, is this fitting in in the right space? So I feel like hopefully, if we do enough of these, we’re really going to get in deep in terms of how people are doing that.
JL: Becca wasn’t the only one feeling frustration. Let’s hear another story from Jenn Schiffer.
JENN SCHIFFER: At the end of 2016, I was feeling really stuck in a rut. I wanted to do good work, but I didn’t feel like I was in a position to do that. I knew I was going to leave, but I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, and I was afraid to make any changes. But then I was very lucky and very fortunate because Fog Creek approached me about doing community engineering for their new product, Glitch.com. And so I’ve been there ever since, and it’s been great, and I feel like I’m doing my best work, and I’m making an impact. And so I’m hoping in 2018 to keep that momentum going.
JL: Oh, Jenn Schiffer. She’s is constantly always saying such smart things, and I think that’s one of the reasons that I really just enjoy everything she does. I didn’t meet Jenn in person until a couple of years ago, but I started following Jenn a while ago because she was posting a lot of awesome humor-filled development posts, which was something quite unique, and she had a really great voice.
SWB: You mean she trolled dev bros on Twitter?
JL: It was the California Style Sheets post a couple of years ago, which is one of my favorites still, and I think it was awesome and it showed a lot of things, because, yes, being written by a woman, I think a lot of people thought, it must not be humor, it must be serious. And that was—ugh—sigh-worthy. But Jenn was awesome, and I followed that, and was lucky enough to have her on the podcast I used to run, with Val Head, Ladies In Tech, where we’d talk about public speaking and Jenn was a guest on our show. We were lucky to have her. She’s done a lot of awesome things. One of the things I love about Jenn is if there’s a gap or something that she wants, she makes it happen. She was living in North Jersey I believe, and working for the NBA at the time, and there was not a meetup and I think she went into the city for them. And so she decided to start her own North Jersey meetup. And so instead of saying, there’s nothing here around me, she started her own. And I think that’s such an important thing that we can do in this industry. And you can see it now, that she is starting something new again. And I think one of the things that she’s always done is helping people learn. A talk she gave recently she had this great quote: “We don’t learn alone.” And I think that’s true in this industry, but also in many industries where we are just better together and we learn more when we’re around each other.
KL: You really feel like she’s bringing you along in the learning, when she’s speaking about—when she’s giving a talk or doing a demo or whatever.
SWB: I think that’s one of the cool things about this new role that she has. She went from a role where she was doing a lot of programming to a role where she’s the community engineer. That means that she’s doing a lot more of that educational piece, and helping people make use of this tool Glitch, which is from Fog Creek. And what’s really great about it is that it’s a way to not just do the heads down work, but to be doing the showing your work and sharing of things, and making these things more accessible for people. And particularly making these kinds of tools in tech feel accessible to all kinds of folks, right? I think that’s a big piece of how Glitch has positioned itself on purpose, and that’s in no small part to people like Jenn, who are making it feel like a tool that anyone can pick up and use—and not a tool that only super elite programmers from one very particular background can pick up and use.
And so I love that about her, and I hope that continues to be a really good move for her, because that was an exciting “something new” that happened last year. Something Jenn talked about though, which I think is something that all of us can relate to, is that feeling of frustration, burnout, being bored, or just not feeling like you have space to do your best work. That’s something I’ve certainly felt. I’ve felt it at different points over my career, but certainly when I last quit my job, one of the big reasons is that I was working an ungodly number of hours. I was the last one in the office every night. I literally set the alarm leaving the office every day for like a year straight. And I simultaneously felt like I couldn’t get my head above water. I was trying to do so much, and it didn’t feel like I could go anywhere. One of the ways that I got out of that was quitting my job, but it wasn’t just quitting the job. It was also getting a new outlook to my work. One of the reasons that I quit my job was so that I could write my first book, which was like my first real effort to give my community some of my expertise and knowledge. And that was a really helpful reframe for me to get me out of that rut. And so I’m curious, have you guys had experiences where you feel like you’ve gotten burnt out or frustrated, and how did you move past them?
JL: When I left my last full-time job to start consulting, I at the time was doing a lot of public speaking. I was away more than I was home, and I really loved it. That’s really what gave me the courage to quit my full-time job and start something new. There was something I really loved, I knew what I loved, and it was less being frustrated with anything I was currently doing, and more me seeing something that I really loved doing, and figuring out how I could make that happen.
I really loved my job at the time, I was a development director at Happy Cog. But I had been doing it for six years. And it was definitely something I loved, but again, six years is a long time, especially in the tech field. And there was this new thing that I loved a lot. Being able to travel and meet people and teach was something that was super important to me, and for me to be able to full commit to that, it almost forced me—or gave me that boost that I needed—to quit my job at the time and go out consulting and have this freedom to do this thing. So, for me the driver was something I really loved and wanting to do, versus being burnt out or frustrated at a current job.
SWB: Totally. I loved what you said about, it wasn’t that there was something wrong with what you were doing. Sometimes I think we get stuck in a rut because we’re like, well, I like the stuff that I’m currently doing. But for me at least, part of being happy does really come down to growth or evolution in what I’m doing. So it’s not a matter of me hating anything that came before necessarily, but I want to bring something new into the fold. New people and new experiences. I want something else to kind of keep it interesting. I want to keep it interesting, and if I’m feeling too steady all the time, then I think I’m bored. So I love this idea that it’s like, okay, is there something out there that you’re really excited about, or that you want to be good at that you’re not yet good at that can really drive us to change things up.
KL: I’m gonna be real honest here and say that I’m currently burnt out, and I’ve been struggling with that I think for like the last year.
SWB: Weird, how could 2017 burn someone out. How is that possible?
KL: Yeah, exactly, It’s like, can you just be burnt out just from being burnt out? And I think I’ve worked through a lot of it, not that it’s something—I think at one point I thought, okay, like, this is something else I need to check off my list, getting through burnout. Which is not how it happens and not how you heal from it. It shocked me into realizing that I needed to make some changes in how I approached my scheduling and, you know, my work. But I think sort of related to what you’re talking about, not necessarily saying I need a different job or I need to change career paths. It’s like, before ABA, I would go to work, you do your job. That’s the thing, it’s this packaged thing. And now it’s not like that. A Book Apart is not like that. Granted I’ve been doing it for years, but it just—you start to think, okay, there’s nothing outside of it. Even though there’s lots of stuff outside of it, and I think I just needed to look for it. This is part of it. I think I’m starting to feel a lot less burnt out. I think I also got really confused—or not confused, I got worried, because I started to think that burnout is just fatigue, and it’s not necessarily just fatigue. It could just be you need a fresh take or a new project or whatever.
SWB: Yeah, and I think it definitely says a lot. The key to fixing burnout is not always necessarily career change, but sometimes it’s just like, perspective shift and remembering all the other things that you love. You know, people talk about work-life balance, and I always really struggle with that conversation, because work is really important to me, and it’s so intertwined with so many pieces of my life. So I don’t look at it as, work is over here and life is over there. But at the same time, I’ve lived the life where work was consuming me: “Oh, I’m writing this email at 11:30pm.” You know, when you stop seeing any distinction between those different parts of yourself, I think it can be really easy to get so sucked into work, that when things aren’t going well at work, it means that things are not going well for you. So it’s like, if work goes through a rough patch, your whole life sucks, because there’s nothing else there.
KL: Right, it’s such a big part of what you do and who you are. And it’s something I never really paused to think about, moving from my twenties to thirties to forties, is that, like, that’s an ongoing thing. It’s an evolution. You don’t just figure it out and then it’s done.
SWB: The kind of work that I do evolves all the time, so of course the relationship I have to my work has to evolve all the time to.. That’s only natural.
SWB: I think it’s hard sometimes to remember that, because you think, “Oh, well, this used to work for me.” Well guess what, this doesn’t work for me anymore. I am in my mid-thirties now, and my needs are a little bit different. And there are things that I’m not willing to put up with anymore—thank god.
KL: Right. And you can be unapologetic about it.
JL: Yeah, and along with being unapologetic, sometimes you really need to trust your gut. Let’s hear from Mina Markham about trusting her gut.
MINA MARKHAM: To channel Olivia Pope, it all comes down to a gut feeling with me. When I’m presented with some new opportunity, I kind of do a gut check and see, is this something that I will regret not doing. And if the answer is yes, then I know what I have to do. I have to go ahead and make that change. That’s probably the only thing that can explain how I’ve had so much change in my life the past few years. I’ve had three jobs in three years, all of which required me to pack up my life and move to a new city and basically start over. Each time came with their own instances of doubt or of terror or sometimes just full-on panic, but none of which I have any regrets about doing. So I have learned to trust my gut, trust my instincts to know when it’s time for me to go ahead and make that leap.
JL: Oh, Olivia Pope. Inspires me too, but I’ll get to that later. It just inspires me so much when people have the ability to follow their gut, especially when it involves moving. Sara, you’ve moved a ton.
SWB: Yeah, I’ve moved a lot of times, and I’ve moved across the country, but I still don’t think I’ve moved as much as Mina Markham has.
KL: Yeah, if you’re not familiar with her, Mina was at IBM in Austin at the beginning of those three years she talked about. Then she moved to Brooklyn to work on the Hillary campaign. Now she’s a senior front-end engineer at Slack. So that’s a lot of choices, and a lot of change. And I think trusting your gut becomes really vital in all that. I also think it’s how you get to a place where you actually know what it’s going to look like to have regrets or to not have regrets, and you become okay with it. You kind of can envision it a little bit more. It becomes a cycle that starts to repeat itself, which, that’s how you gain more and more trust in your gut.
SWB: What she said reminded me of this column I read a couple of years ago. It’s an advice column called Dear Sugar that Cheryl Strayed used to run. She wrote a response to somebody who asked, like, I’m thinking about having kids, I’m in my late thirties or forty-ish or something like that, and I don’t know if I should, but I think I might regret it. And this person felt like having kids because they thought they might regret not having kids was a bad idea.
Now, I don’t have kids. I’m not planning to have kids. But this column really stuck with me, because the way she responded to it, she was like, you know, thinking about your future self and what you might regret is one of the only ways that you can kind of make sense of choices. And she was like, this is actually a really healthy way to look at, like, is this something that I’m going to wish I had done later on? Once you do make a decision, then you have to think of it as other lives that you chose not to lead. I think she called it “the ghost ship that did not carry me.” So it’s like this other ship that you could have been on, but you didn’t take.
And that would have been this other thing, and you can wave at it from the shore, but it’s not yours. So I think about that a lot when it comes to choices, whether it’s those big life choices, or the smaller day-to-day work choices: what are the ships that I’m choosing to be on? And as long as I’m thinking about where my gut is, and I’m thinking about what is going to be a positive thing for future me, I usually feel pretty good about it.
JL: I think this is another habit thing, where the more you get used to making these decisions and being okay with them, the stronger you probably feel being like, this is okay and I’m going to go for this.
SWB: Yeah, totally. I think that it’s hard at first to know what does trusting your gut even mean, right? And so I think about, how do I know that I’m trusting my gut? You know, if I start doing something where it’s like, “Ugh, I should really take this project on,” or, “I should really speak at this conference,” and then every time I go to, like, write the email that would be the saying yes email, I get knotted up and I don’t do it, I’ve started to slow down and say, wait a second, why am I sort of hemming and hawing about saying yes to that email? And usually it’s because I have some kind of reservation or misgiving. Versus there are times when people ask me to do something or I am presented with opportunities, and my heart is immediately in it. Now, sometimes I have to say no to those things too, because they don’t fit for one reason or another, but knowing that immediate response of opening yourself up to whatever’s in front of you, versus pushing it away, that means something. And it’s worth taking the time to figure out what your body’s telling you, where that’s coming from. And I think that’s the very beginning of trusting your gut.
JL: And sometimes it’s not just about making a decision by yourself. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to find someone else to help you decide what’s next in your life.
SWB: Let’s hear from Lara Hogan. Lara is an engineering leader who some of you may have heard of, because it seems like she’s everywhere these days. She was a VP at Kickstarter, and before that she was a senior manager at Etsy, but she’s up to something new, too. Let’s hear about it.
LARA HOGAN: How did I know it was time to start something new? In part, it was meeting Deepa, my business partner. She’s just incredible, and with her by my side, I feel like I can do anything. And I also knew that this was the time once I realized, working full-time at a company, I have to do a lot of things all of the time [laughs] that may of course just not be what I want to specialize in. But it occurred to me that as a consultant, I could do the things that I really, really love all of the time, and bring that help and support to a lot of different companies. And that’s just really intriguing to me.
SWB: Okay, first of all, I want a Deepa.
SWB: So, Deepa Subramaniam is Lara’s business partner, and they founded this company called Wherewithall, that is doing consulting work on product teams and engineering teams. But most importantly, me and Katel actually had dinner with them a couple of weeks back. And watching them interact with each other and talk about their work, and the way their faces just light up. It’s so great to seem them coming together and creating this thing that they clearly are really passionate about on the work side, but also just as partners. They really make sense and they get one another. I thought that was so great to see. I’ve mostly worked in different kinds of consulting arrangements. Sometimes, me and somebody else will partner up on a project or teach a workshop together, but I’ve never had that kind of long-term, we-are-business-partners thing set up. And I think it goes back to what we said earlier, around how we sometimes have to make our own colleagues. It’s like they’ve literally created a business that allows them to have that kind of collegial relationship. And I think that that’s really powerful and something that’s kind of scary for a lot of us to do—to, you know, make such a firm commitment. But it’s great when it works, right?
KL: Yeah, it’s like you wish, you know, and sort of dream about finding your soul mates in your life partner and your best friends. And I feel like it’s becoming a lot more, you know, that this happens with work now, and it’s just really cool. Like, you can work on projects where you’re like, these are the kind of people I want to work with all the time. And then you know what that looks like.
JL: Yeah, and I think it’s amazing. But there’s also like, half- and quarter-way points, too, right? So, I think, as you mentioned before, we don’t necessarily traditionally work on the same types of things, but I love both of you, so having chances to work with you is great. And I just remember, like Sara and I, when we were both doing a lot of public speaking, we would go out to happy hour or we would go out to dinner and we would just talk about public speaking things. And even though Sara and I would be talking about completely different things, the business of public speaking was something that we could both talk to and learn from each other. And talk about how we were doing things, how we were organizing, how we were charging. How we were going to do logistics of things—and having someone I could talk to about that was, like, totally priceless for me.
SWB: Yes! You know, I think that there’s a lot of pressure in culture at large and definitely within the tech industry, to kind of not talk about some of this stuff. For example, don’t talk about how much you charge for things and how much you make off of things. And I know that that can be a touchy and sensitive discussion but I really think that only benefits the people who have the most power. And that’s so problematic. That tends to disproportionately affect women and it tends to disproportionately affect people of color, and particularly disproportionately affects people who are women of color. And so I’m really a big proponent of having as many open and honest conversations about topics like compensation as possible. Because I really think that the fact that we haven’t had enough of those is part of the reason that we hear things like Becca’s statement earlier on, where she talked about the AIGA survey. Which is a designer’s survey showing that women at her level were making $20,000 less than men. It’s certainly not the only reason, but part of the reason that continues to go on unchecked, is because we’re encouraged not to talk about it. So I’m gonna fuckin’ talk about it.
JL: Yeah, I wrote a post in, I don’t know, 2015? 2014?—“A Formula for Charging Speaker Fees”—and it’s about…
SWB: Oh yeah!
KL: It was great!
JL: And it’s still, I mean, it’s probably the most visited blog post on the Nerdery. And I mean, that site hasn’t been updated in over a year, but we still get traffic from that post especially. People looking for how to charge, how do I put numbers around something, and so I was thrilled that people are still finding value in that. Because, for me, it was really valuable to talk about it.
SWB: So that’s the kind of thing, I think, if you feel sort of isolated—and it’s not just about money, really—but if you feel isolated in your field, or if you feel like you don’t know who you can trust, then you can never really get to a place where you have the confidence to then have that conversation with the people the really matter.
KL: Or if you’re just starting out.
KL: That’s a whole group of people who—like, I wouldn’t even know where to start if I was doing it for the first time and I just had no idea. If I had no idea what to base it off of. So if I found a resource that was helpful like that, it would be so valuable.
SWB: Yeah and I think, you know, especially since things like money conversations—it’s like if you try to have one and you’re not that confident about it and you don’t really have any context. If you get pushback, it’s really easy to believe that you’re getting pushback because you were asking for too much. And you don’t have a frame of reference. So, anyway, I think building those relationships to give you more context and get more insight and feedback and, just like you have someone to bounce everything off of—it’s so valuable. I’m really happy to hear people like Deepa and Lara are teaming up because I think that the more of these kinds of powerful relationships between people that exist out there, the stronger any industry is going to be.
JL: Completely, yeah. I think that finding advocates in your peers and finding that partnership is so important and valuable.
SWB: A lot of the folks we talked to—they were kind of moving from working at a company to starting their own thing. Or otherwise kind of shifting gears in that more consultative way. Jenn, you went from consulting to going back in-house and then you had a baby, so you had kind of different sort of year with a lot of new stuff. But I’m curious: what did that look like for you and what made that work for you at this moment in your life?
JL: You bring up a good point, Sara. I think a lot of times, we often say like, “oh i’m starting something new,” and it’s always about quitting your job. And I did that, as I mentioned before.
SWB: Quitting your job can be great, let’s not lie about that. But it’s not always great. And it’s not always what you want.
JL: And it was what I wanted for a really long time. And I think one of the hardest things for me, because of the vision that comes along with that—the freedom, the working from home, the yoga pants, the ability to do anything you want, essentially, is awesome. And then for me to recognize, you know, what was also awesome, was going back to a full time job. I started consulting for Anthropologie and I worked onsite a couple days a week and I was really enjoying it. I enjoyed the work I was doing, I enjoyed being in-house again, and I really enjoyed working on product as opposed—it was a different change from agency life. And I thought that that was such a nice change—and there was part of me that was really hesitant to go back full time. And, they’d offered the full time work, I still wasn’t sure, and I think part of it was just because I thought what I was supposed to do, was stay consulting. You know, I’d already quit my job—why would I ever go back!?
And then, I realized for me, that the full time job gave me a lot of stability, in that, in order to try new things such as: BABY.
JL: For me, I always like to have at least one or two maybe, super stable things in my life when I try something new. When I first quit my job, I had a very stable relationship—now with my husband, also stable friendships, a lot of stable colleagues, that were really allowing me to try something new. Now I had again, this stability, that was like, ok, I feel pretty great—maybe I’ll go and try this new-fangled baby thing that I hear people talk about. And it was really great to have the support of the people that I work with, also, at the time, figuring out things like maternity leave, figuring out how to make the balance before I went on maternity leave. And so, going back for me, was like a little bit of a hard move but something that I knew was right for me at the time. And something that I really wanted to see through. Will I be full-time forever, I’m not sure! But for right now, I’m enjoying a lot about it.
SWB: Yeah, I think that when people start a business or move to doing consulting or something like that, that’s often this sense of like, if they ever change course from that, I think it gets perceived—or there’s a fear that it’ll be perceived—as failure in some way. Or like taking a step backwards. And of course, life’s not really like that, right? There are times when something makes a lot of sense and times when it doesn’t. And I think that’s part of the thing I’m really interested in exploring more in this show. How do we figure out the next steps that are right for us, that allow us to continue to grow. And to try not to buy into some of those bullshit stories about what it means to be successful. For example, none of us have a goal of being tech company founders who go out and get a bunch of venture capital so that we can be the next unicorn company worth a billion dollars. I mean, I guess having a billion dollars sounds—no, I’m sorry, having a billion dollars actually sounds awful. It sounds truly terrible. Because I look at the people who are making that their kind of dream they’re chasing—and I think, would I be happier? I don’t think so. Would I be creating a better world? Probably not. What is really the draw of that except for the idea that it’s what a picture of what success looks like. And I think what I’m hoping we can do here is really talk about of different types of success.
JL: Yeah, it’s like, when is the right time for you to do these options that we have. And you know, we’re so lucky that we have options, especially in the tech field where you have a lot of abilities to work agency, to work product, to go consulting. Lots of different options. So I think it’s as you said, not a one size fits all and not always a one size fits all for this time frame forever.
SWB: So I know that having a baby was a big new thing, but I also know something that you told me when you were still kind of getting embedded in that job was that it was—and I think you mentioned it a little. You said it was a chance to work on product, which you hadn’t done before. And it you were telling me a lot about some of the challenges of working at scale at this big e-commerce company and all this stuff that was a little bit new. And I’m curious, do you feel like—not only did you create this stability for your but have you also been growing professionally in this new job?
JL: Yeah, sure. I think one of the things that was really neat, as you mentioned—working not only at CSS architecture at scale, but also taking on management responsibilities. So consulting, I managed myself, and sometimes some other members of teams. But generally now I’m in a position where I have direct reports. I’m working more in the engineering team and helping people with their career paths again, is really interesting to me and definitely a new challenge. Managing is hard.
SWB: People! You know?
KL: People are wonderful, and hard, and wonderful, and hard.
JL: Exactly. So it’s rewarding in a whole new way and challenging in a whole new way. I haven’t managed since before I was consulting, so it was fun to take that on again. But also just something completely new—it’s nice to see that at this point in my career, these different kind of challenges. But that said, focusing a lot on both the management and the architecture also sort of left this gap where I wasn’t doing as many of the things I was doing before with side projects. So trying to figure out—it’s again, facing this sort of similar thing as I had before, where I’m not burnt out on what I’m doing—there’s just something I love and I miss doing that also. So how do I also get this thing that I love in my life somehow. But not at the same scale as before. Because like I mentioned, it’s that balance. And it all comes down to scale again. Where, I don’t want to quit and got consulting and go travel all over the place again all of the time because I want to be home with some level of stability. But I want new projects also, so talking to both of you was really neat because then the idea of starting something new with this podcast came up. And this, for me, is so exciting, because it acts as an outlet to do a lot of things I loved doing in side projects while still maintaining a lot of this new stability that I found in my life.Fuck Yeah of the Week
SWB: You know when your friend gets an awesome new job, or publishes an amazing article, or finally pays off their student loans, and you’re so excited that you keep texting them in just like all caps and the fire emoji over and over again? Well, that’s the next segment here, it’s called the Fuck Yeah of the Week—and it’s where we share the people and the things that we think you all should be celebrating. Think of it as the podcast form of the 100 emoji.
So Jenn, who is our very first Fuck Yeah of the Week?
JL: Well, Sara, I’m gonna go ahead and say, it’s US! Fuck Yeah, Us!
KL: Fuck Yeah, YES!
JL: You know, I think sometimes you gotta take those moments and celebrate yourself, and I think we should be celebrating ourselves for getting this thing up and running! Here we are, we’ve talked about this idea, and now we are actually in the room recording it, ladies—we’re doing it!
JL: It’s awesome.
SWB: You know, earlier we heard from Lara Hogan about her, you know, new business and all of that. But this reminds me so much of something that she started writing about years ago. She has a whole site about this—it’s Lara Hogan’s donut site, I don’t know what it’s called. But basically, what she does, is she celebrates every career achievement with a donut. And she started doing it because she realized that whenever something cool was happening, like she was getting a promotion, or she was accepted to give a talk somewhere, she would go, “ok, great,” and then move on to the next thing. And she wasn’t giving herself permission to celebrate that. So she started saying, “ok, every time something major happens, I’m gettin’ myself a donut.” And she takes a picture of it and she puts it on this website. And I think that that’s wonderful, because every time she has a new donut thing to celebrate, I’m like, “hell yeah, get that donut!”
SWB: And I love that we’re able to do that for ourselves, too, because, yeah, I think we’re often taught to keep looking forward or don’t let yourself have too much of the limelight. And, I hope that anybody who’s listening to this can kind of give themselves a fuck yeah, too, for the things that they’re accomplishing.
KL: Definitely, it’s so exciting to see how far Lara’s Tao of Donuts, essentially, has spread. Because you see other people taking photos, you know, of their donuts that they’ve gotten after speaking for the first time, or you know, doing a big demo. And that’s so cool, because you know it ties back to this thing that she, talked about, and that’s super cool. I hope that we see lots more photos of donuts, or your celebration.
JL: Our second fuck yeah are these Olivia Pope wine glasses that we are drinking out of today. The Olivia Pope wine glass has always been, for me, my special donut moment. You know, on that show Scandal, when she drinks, and it just was like, “wow, where do I get a glass to just drown my sorrows or celebrate my joys.” Like, that is the glass that holds everything. They sell them at Crate & Barrel. Crate & Barrel is not one of our sponsors, but they could be.
KL: They could be.
SWB: Are you listening, Crate & Barrel?
JL: But! I love these glasses because I take them out when I need to like, either, like, pause and be like, this is life right now, and this is just my moment to just like, take it all in. Be it good, be it bad. But like, here’s just a moment to pause and be like, “Fuck yeah, I got these glasses, and in this case, I got these friends, and I’ve got this wine, and I’ve got this podcast, so, it’s pretty good.”
SWB: You know, if you haven’t seen an Olivia Pope wine glass, first off, it’s going to be in the show notes, but if you Google “Olivia Pope wine glass,” you know exactly—immediately—what we’re talking about.
KL: It’ll be on our Instagram.
SWB: But what’s really key about the Olivia Pope wine glass, is that it’s got a big glass, but it’s also on this long, really slender stem. It’s like a big-deal wine glass. It’s not just like, “Oh I’m having a quick glass of wine.” It’s very much like, “I am having wine now, period.” And, I like that because it does—it kind of creates that space, right? Like, you were saying, Jenn, it’s not just like that you’re going to pour yourself a quick glass. It’s that you’re pausing and taking a moment and you’re allowing yourself to have that bit of joy. And I think that that’s really important, even though, normally I don’t trust myself to use the Olivia Pope wine glass on the regular, but I want them to exist in the world.
JL: That’s why I have six of them.
KL: They’re great, because they have presence, yet they’re elegant.
SWB: So, just like us?
SWB: That’s it for this week’s episode of No, You Go, the show about being ambitious—and sticking together. No, You Go is recorded in our home city of Philadelphia. Our theme music is by Philly’s own The Diaphone, from a song called Maths. In this episode, you heard Becca Gurney, Jenn Schiffer, Mina Markham and Lara Hogan. We’ll be back next week with Episode 2.
KL: Until then, we leave you with this advice from Sam Kapila, a designer and educator who’s always up to something new:
SAM KAPILA: I know it’s time to start something new when I’m a little bit scared….the good sort of scared that inspires me to want to explore something new in a project, or in a job, or scared in a way that you might surprise yourself. It’s also important to start something new when you can’t stop thinking about a certain idea, and it keeps you up at night. It’s in your 3am journal on your bedside, and it’s something that you just can’t wait to start doing and be really proud of. And I think, any time you can be proud of something you are doing, that’s definitely time to start something new.
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