Hey look, it’s a bonus-ode! We sent our demo to a bunch of friends, and they sent us back, like, a zillion questions. So we thought we’d answer a few on air—and then ask you a question of our own.
> Does it alienate potential clients if I’m tweeting a lot about sexual harassment in tech? Do I care?
> —A listener from San Francisco
As always, we’ve got the show notes—and a full transcript—right here.Show notes
How many bottles of wine does it take to answer your mail? Technically none, but it’s more fun this way.
In this week’s mailbag, we talk about:
Thanks as always to our friends The Diaphone for the use of our theme song, Maths, off the album of the same name!Transcript
JENN LUKAS: 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.
SWB: Hey everyone, today on No, You Go, we’re doing something a little bit different. You see, we sent out our demo episode to a whole bunch of friends recently, and we started getting a lot of questions back from them. So what we thought we would do is go through that mailbag and answer some questions. And we thought, even better, let’s open up some wine, and answer those questions with the mics on.
So, why don’t we go ahead and see what our listeners have to say.
SWB: So, Jenn, what are we drinking tonight?
JL: I have good news for you, this wine is already started. We are drinking tonight a lovely Côtes du Rhône.
KL: That’s fancy, for fancy ladies.
JL: It’s from the wine cellar of 11th Street Liquors.
SWB: I was gonna say, it’s fancy, via South Philadelphia.
KL: That’s right.
JL: The South Philadelphia State Store. Thank you state store.
KL: We don’t mess around.
SWB: Okay, so let’s see what’s in the mailbag!”
KL: So, a listener from Vancouver, Canada asks, “How did you know you wanted to do big things?”
SWB: That’s such a tough question. I spent my childhood and early adulthood feeling really ambitious, but kind of not knowing where to put that ambition—like not being clear what I was working toward. And it was not until probably my late twenties that I had some idea of what I might be working toward in my career. I feel like it was more of a gradual figuring out on my part, to get an idea of what made me tick, what made me feel satisfied, so I knew where to put my energy and wasn’t feel like I was throwing my energy all over the place.
KL: It doesn’t always necessarily feel like big things, but I am always looking for things that make me feel uncomfortable and nervous, and speaking in front of people makes me feel that way. So, I don’t know, this just feels like really good practice, and it’s exciting.
JL: I think I’m with you in that I don’t necessarily think of them as big things, but I guess that’s the same as answering one of those questions like, “Well, my biggest weakness is caring too much.”
So, I don’t want to be cliche here, because, they are big things. I also don’t want to sell anything that I do short, or anything that we do short. I think thought that if they’re things that I really like doing, it makes it easier to then get into it. So I think I just always wanted to do things that I really liked doing, and sometimes if you really want to do something that you love, you have to go big.
KL: Totally. And it might not feel like, oh, I’m going to embark on this huge thing to you, because you like all these things about it.
SWB: I think it’s also, you know, tying back to something we talked about in our first episode was that we really wanted to talk about being ambitious, and what that means. And I think that’s a scary word for a lot of people to use, and I think maybe particularly for women to use, because it’s like, you’re not necessarily socialized to think that what you’re doing should be ambitious. So it’s like, I don’t really think of anything I’m doing as being big things, but when I look at what other people are doing, I think that they’re all doing big things. So maybe I am doing big stuff and I am just not—I’m minimizing it.
JL: Yeah, totally. Yeah, you’re completely right. And we almost get used to downgrading it, and thinking that is wasn’t a big deal, and it almost becomes a self-defense mechanism.
KL: Yeah, like just in case it doesn’t happen, or you fail, or you stumble.
SWB: Or in case somebody out there shits all over it.
KL: Yeah, sure.
SWB: That’s certainly something that I have felt. When I started writing publicly about my work—not writing in my work, but writing about my field—I was very nervous that people would think that my ideas weren’t valuable, weren’t adding anything. Or that they were just plain wrong. I think that a lot of people have that sensibility. You know we talk about imposter syndrome, and feeling like what you’re doing is not that important. And we try to tell women to be proud of their accomplishments. But part of that is a very real fear, because there are definitely assholes out there who will tell you that what you’re doing doesn’t matter, isn’t valuable, or isn’t good. It can be healthy to protect yourself a little bit, and it can sometimes also be difficult, I think, to like, parse out the difference between minimizing your accomplishments because you don’t want to take up too much space, or minimizing your accomplishments because you don’t want to be a target.
You know, I’ve definitely had—not too bad so far, but—my share of trolls who have come after me for things I’ve written or said online, and a lot of their arguments really boil down to: How dare you? How dare you have thoughts and opinions, and how dare you exist in the world sharing them? How could you not see all of that around you all the time and not kind of internalize that a little bit?
JL: Sara, I think that’s a great point. So, how do you know you want to do big things? Well, if you’re willing to put up with that shit, then I guess you know that you want to do big things, because you care about it even with the potential negatives that come with putting yourself out there and doing big. If it’s important to you enough that you can be like, eff those jerks.
SWB: Totally. Like most days I have that feeling. I can put a middle finger up and get out there and do what I want to do. There are times, though, when the assholes get the best of you. And I think that’s okay. I tend to look at it as like, part of doing ambitious work is also recognizing that it’s not like, one unbroken line of progress. You’re going to have those moments where you’re really feeling capable and you can get a lot done, and you feel confident to get out there and talk about your work, and then you’re going to have those moments where you don’t feel that. And that’s okay. Because it doesn’t mean you’re not going to have another idea or another opportunity to get out there and bring your ideas to the world.
JL: Here’s another question that we got: “My attention is spread thin across so many things.” She wants to know: How do you have time for hobbies? Do you have time for hobbies?
KL: Sometimes I’m not even sure what my hobbies are anymore—we’ve talked about this before—because I feel like there’s a lot of crossover between things you love to do and things you’re doing for work. But I did realize recently that I haven’t read a full book front to back in a really long time. That made me super depressed. That’s one of my goals this year. So I know that’s not necessarily a super glamorous hobby, but you have to prioritize it.
SWB: Well I also think, you know, what counts as a hobby? Is this a hobby? On the one hand, I think that this podcast is a super-serious part of my work, in the sense that I am putting a lot of focused time into it, I’m taking it very seriously, we’re thinking about things like sponsorships and producers, and we want this to be something that is polished and legit. On the other hand, it is also an opportunity to hang out with some of my closest friends, and drink wine, and order Thai food, and laugh—and that’s a good social activity. And so where does this sit? Like a lot of things in my life, I feel like it sits somewhere halfway in between. And I’m okay with that.
That said, I think, you know, we talked about this a bit in our first episode, and you do have to have time that is not work time, and you do have to have things in your life that are not work things. For me that includes lots of physical activity; I really like to make sure that I go running and I go to the gym and lift. And it also means that I spend time reading books, and I don’t read all of the professional books that people around me seem to be reading. I sometimes do read books in my field, but I spend a lot of time skipping those in favor of picking up fiction, because I feel like that’s a healthier choice for me.
KL: I just want to say that I do read the books that I publish. Just to any authors who are listening, I just want to make sure that you know that.
JL: Do you know the last book that I read? It was called Solving Child Sleep Problems.
KL: Sounds accurate.
SWB: So, a really fun hobby.
JL: It’s really great. I actually listen to the Audible book when my child wakes up at 2am, and I nurse him.
KL: Is there a hobby that either of you have that you used to do earlier in your life that you wish you could bring back into your life?
SWB: Not exactly, but there is something that I used to do way more of that I realized a little while ago had fallen by the wayside a bit on, which was cooking. I have always liked to cook and I really like to be able to make things from lots of different types of cuisines, different types of foods. And for a long time my husband and I would cook pretty much every night. Originally, we couldn’t afford to go out to eat all the time, and we still liked to eat interesting and good things, and healthy things, and things that come from vegetables, and so we would cook them. Over time, you know, I found that we would have more disposable income and it would be easier to go out more often, and that’s fun, but I was starting to really miss the feeling of setting down my work and doing something that was a complete shift in my brain and doing something with my hands. And so I have been trying to make sure I set my work down earlier more often, and really spend a little bit of time on the whole chopping, cleaning vegetables, prepping things, sautéing things—all of those little bits of cooling that are not necessarily fancy, but that I want to have a pause to make a meal from scratch. And so I have been really making sure that I am making time for that more evenings than I was for a while.
JL: I keep going on the opposite spectrum. We now have an Instant Pot, and we do not do as much.
KL: Hey that’s not shame, that’s all game.
SWB: Instant Pots are great. I love my Instant Pot. Can we just do like an Instant Pot episode?
JL: But yeah I don’t mean to keep bringing it down, but I’m going to be honest: no, I don’t have time for hobbies. That’s just not a thing I have time for anymore. So I do sort of as Sara was saying consider this a hobby, because it’s not my 9 to 5, and I really enjoy this. So I guess it is how you define hobbies. If hobbies are something you choose to do that doesn’t necessarily pay your bills, then yes, this would be a hobby for me. I like, seriously schedule every hour. I don’t preschedule it, but every hour of my day it’s either at work, or with my 10-month-old, or sleeping. So every hour I’m spending not trying to catch up on sleep is I guess a hobby. So then this would be a hobby. But other things I keep struggling to try to make time for. I don’t exercise or cook as much as I want to. To go to a yoga class, oh my god.
KL: It takes planning.
JL: And the yoga class near me is an hour and a half. Who’s got an hour and a half?
KL: That’s so much yoga.
JL: It’s like, so much!
SWB: I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I hate yoga.
KL: I love it, but those are long classes.
JL: Yeah, they’re real long. So then I try to do online workout videos where I can, but even then, you have to do it when your kid’s napping, and I think, if my kid’s napping, then maybe I should be napping. Everything’s a choice now.
KL: Yeah, and you’re like, don’t hop around and thud around on the floor.
SWB: Well okay, so I know that when you have a small child, that becomes so painfully clear that everything is a tradeoff. It is definitely easier for those without small children to make some of those choices about how they spend their time. But all of us are making tradeoffs about how we spend time, right?
SWB: A lot of it has to do with what gives you energy, what makes you feel good. And for some people, they need more of that pure downtime. And other people, myself for example, kind of lose their shit a little bit when they have too much downtime. So like, if you take me to a cabin for a weekend in the mountains, and you’re like, let’s all hang out in this house all day, I’m like, that sounds awful. I am going to die here; when are we going outside for a walk? And other people don’t feel that way. So I realized, for me, I need less of that really downtime stuff, that stuff that’s really relaxing for other people, I need less of that. And that having something like this, that is sort of a creative outlet, and I’m making something, but is sort of low-stakes—that is very positive for me and that feels good in my life.
JL: Let’s get another question!
KL: Yeah, here’s one from San Francisco: “Something I’m interested in lately is the notion that when you’re on the corporate career track, there are clear “stages”—early career, mid-career, senior level, etc.—that are tied to titles and responsibilities. When you’re in a smaller company or work for yourself or as a consultant, that sense of being on a track isn’t so clear. What does it mean that I’ve been a consultant for 10 years? How do you talk about that or even THINK about that?”
SWB: I have the same question; I’d really appreciate if someone could answer that question for me.
KL: That is such a good question. I think that is actually an issue, a little bit, in companies in general where there aren’t necessarily clear tracks everywhere. And I think that’s also just because the way we work has evolved so much in the past decade, five years.
SWB: Yeah, and I think, Katel, you’re a CEO—which is, first off, badass. Katel’s a CEO, I like to tell people that. But secondly, okay, well, you’re not getting promoted. Which is cool, because you’re in charge, but what does that mean for what growth looks like, or what the next level looks like for you? How do you know what that is in your job? And it’s unclear. You have to define that in new ways that we don’t necessarily have vocabulary for.
KL: You do, and I think that is one thing that I learned along the way. I sort of had to take a lot more ownership of it than I kind of expected to. I had to—not necessarily decide, but navigate, and say, okay, I think it’s time to make some sort of progression upwards or to over here, and try this new responsibility out or whatever. And I think you kind of have to forge that ahead a little bit for yourself. And if you’re at a company that has more team members, get people who are going to advocate for you to make that happen.
SWB: And you know, for me, I think about this listener who says she’s been a consultant for 10 years. I haven’t been a consultant quite so long. But it’s been over six years, long enough to ask myself some of these same questions. Like, do I just keep doing this forever? And for me, what I’ve found is that I look for constant reinvention. Am I changing up what I offer to my clients? Am I changing up how I spend my time? Writing books is a big piece of that. Not that that is a right answer for everybody, but that being an author is a different kind of role and a different kind of work, and that has allowed me to grow in different ways than doing consulting alone would. And also looking at, am I feeling like I am gaining in some fashion? And some of that is like, am I gaining in influence? Or am I able to have conversations with a different level of person in the companies that I am working with than I was originally? And I try to take stock of those things and see if I feel like I have growth on those fronts. And for me I have found that to be a really helpful way of looking at it.
KL: I love that. And I think you have to take it on to craft that into your, you know, quote-unquote story, in terms of what you tell people that you do, and how you tell that.
JL: Yeah, I think when I was consulting, I would go back to my resume or my LinkedIn, which some people may not use, which is fine, but whatever you’re using to track what you’re doing. And I would add new entries. I mean, I was consulting the whole time, but I would mark projects that I was doing. And sometimes having a form to fill out, where you’re forced to list what you’re doing, and like your accomplishments, will help you start writing down the things. Like, oh yes, I did this this year, or I did this side project. And when you start listing them, it’s a way to make sure you’re—my mom would always say this—“are you keep track of everything that you’re doing?” And I’m like, “yeah, mom.”
KL: Yeah, you’re accounting for it.
JL: Yeah. So some sort of place where you can track that, whether it’s your personal portfolio or your resume or LinkedIn. Something where you’re actually writing down what you’re doing, whether you’re trying to get more work, or you’re trying to move into some other position at some point.
SWB: I also think that some of this comes back to the way that women particularly are socialized, right? Because so often we have been taught to not make too many waves, the idea of advocating for yourself and stating what path you want to be on, and saying, “I want these responsibilities, I want to go here”—that is not something that many women are practiced in, or that many women feel safe to be able to do. And so I think part of that makes it more difficult for us to put ourselves out there and kind of stake a claim and say, “Look at all the things I am doing. Here’s the direction that I’m going in.” And it’s more comfortable to say, like, okay, is somebody else going to define my next job title for me, my next role for me. And it’s hard, because on the one hand work has changed so much in the past few years, as Katel mentioned, and obviously gender norms are changing, too. But we still have so much historical baggage around them that they definitely have not caught up with the way that work is changing. That can just make it extra challenging for women, and I don’t think that we can resolve that, but I do think we need to be able to talk about that. And I think creating the space to talk about that is really important, because it’s a real thing.
KL: Yeah, and I hope that more people, more women will feel like, at least they can practice talking about it, and I think that’s a big step, too. Even if you can practice talking about it with a friend or a colleague, that helps a little bit.
SWB: Yeah, totally. Well I think that kind of bleeds into the next question that we got from a listener, which is, how do we blend “professional” and “personal.” Imagine there are definitely finger quotes around both of those. She says, “does it alienate potential clients if I’m tweeting a lot about sexual harassment in tech?” And then also, “Do I care? How do you figure this out, and what are the tradeoffs for that?”
I love this question. I love this question because I have thought this question in my head a hundred different times. Nothing gets better if you can’t talk about it, and I’m tired of feeling like I can’t talk about the things that matter to me, and so I am navigating the ramifications of that.
JL: Yeah, and I think on that note, you can choose how you want to tweet about things, you can choose how you want to talk about things. You don’t have to say, well I can never talk about politics, I can never talk about sexual harassment. But you can choose how you talk about those and you can talk about those respectfully. And I think that’s sort of a way you can navigate it. And you don’t have to do that either, you can go out there swinging, if you want to. It’s just a matter of what feels comfortable for you and how you want to represent yourself. But to be honest, yes, I think you do have to assume that anyone at any point can read what you are writing if you’re putting it out there, and that people will make opinions on you based on that. Of course, that can also win you work and friends and relationships, also. I mean I think there’s two sides of that.
SWB: I also think that what might be safe for me to do is not going to be safe for everybody. I mean, I’m relatively established. I have a pretty strong network. I have a name behind myself. I’m also from a certain class, you know. I went to college! You know, for me, the tradeoffs don’t look the same as they would for somebody else.
JL: You also a have a book, and this is like, something that we know you’re passionate about. So I’m not going to see your Twitter and be surprised reading it there.
SWB: No, but in fact to write that book I had to have already made this choice. I had to make the choice to say, huh, I might alienate some tech companies that might otherwise hire me by writing this book. Am I okay with that? It was an uncomfortable choice that I still have fears about, but I guess—we talked about this in the last episode—but I realized that I was going to be unhappy if I chose the other option, if I chose not doing this. That was going to be something that I would regret. And so I decided that I was going to be really honest with myself, like, this might cause me some problems, but I am going to do it anyway, and I’m going to navigate those as they come, because it’s that important to me.
JL: And finally our last question: “Who inspired you? Who made you feel like you could step up and be visible as a speaker, writer, etc.?”
SWB: So there’s obviously lots of people who have inspired me over the years, and I think that’s true for all of us. None of us can boil it down to one thing or one person. But somebody I’d really like to mention, particularly in relation to the previous question about the personal and the professional, and how do you blend them, is Karen McGrane. So, Karen McGrane is known in the mobile content strategy and UX fields. She’s a wonderful speaker, and I used to see her at conferences and just think, what a badass. And I was so impressed by her work. And I remember one day, I used to edit a magazine called A List Apart, and we got a piece from her. It was supposed to be a column—she was a kind of regular writer—and it was entitled, “Give a crap. Don’t give a fuck.” And I remember getting that and thinking, like, oooh, can we publish this? And I think she kind of asked that question when she sent it, too. And she talked about how being great means being vulnerable, and it means not giving a fuck what other people think. And it was this kind of really intimate piece of writing, and it took me aback a little bit, because it was so good, and it was kind of unexpected from somebody who I thought had paid so much attention to crafting that professional profile. And I think that that’s when I first realized that maybe I could have some of that, too. Maybe I could bring intimacy and vulnerability into my work and into my writing, even writing writing about my work, and still be perceived as professional and still be perceived as credible. I went kind of like whole-hog that direction, and that kind of led me to where I am now. And so I’m super thankful for that, and I think about that a lot as a really inspiring moment in my life.
JL: When I worked at Happy Cog, we had reviews every few times a year, and one of our goals was being, like, a thought leader in the industry. And so, we were all really encouraged to put our thoughts out and share. And that was one of the things I really loved about working there, this whole idea in the mid-2000s of really sharing what you were doing, and that it was just a community. And so I think between Jeffrey Zeldman and Greg Hoy, I had a lot of support of like, getting my thoughts out and putting myself out there and really talking to different people and trying to submit to conferences. And I did my first conference talk—it was a group talk—but I co-presented with Mark Huot. I did front-end and Mark did backend, and we were constantly pairing together, and so he was always super supportive of me. It was easier to get started with a friend, so that was an easy way to break in. Like, how do we do this? Well let’s do it together. And it feels way better to have had that person standing there next to me—literally next to me—while I was presenting. I made Mark go with me to every talk I was doing.
SWB: He’s here right now.
KL: Hey Mark!
JL: Hey Mark!
KL: On that note, I just want to say that both of you inspire me. I know that’s cheesy, but—
JL and SWB: Awwwwwwww!
KL: You do, because you’re both so smart and creative and funny, and I love being around you, and you just inspire me to try new things, and I’m just so grateful.
JL: That’s awesome.
SWB: Thank you, Katel. You inspire me, too.
SWB: There’s a circle of inspiration now.
KL: There’s a rainbow flowing across the sky right now.
SWB: Well, before we spend the next 45 minutes talking about how we each inspire the other over and over again, I think we should move on to our very final question, which is actually a question all of you. We’d really love to hear who—and what—you want to hear on the show. Are there people you’d love for us to have on as guests? Are there topics that you’d really like us to tackle? Are there things that you’d like to be able to do, whether that’s getting up on stage and giving a talk, like Jenn was talking about, or writing a book, like I was talking about, or anything else that you would love us to talk about or bring experts on to talk about. If you have an idea, let us know. You can go to noyougoshow.com to send us a message, or tweet us @noyougoshow.
JL : 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 Maths by The Diaphone. You can find us online as Sara mentioned at noyougoshow.com, or on Twitter @noyougoshow. We’ll be back next week with another brand-new episode.
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