“I think I’m Doing Too Much”

I think I’m doing too much. My family had never heard me say those words. Never. And I don’t just mean my kids – my mom, everyone/no one. Those who know me might recognize that I am a hyper-personality, high spirited, too “damn” perky – pick your descriptor. I have always been busy. I started work at maybe 13, 14 years old. I know in one job, I lied about my age….could never get away with that now!

I never cared much for grades, so it is not that I was one of those over-achieving students. I wanted the knowledge, not the external recognition. Given that I generally scored in the top half percent of the top 1% of all those standardized tests, I was classified as a classic underachiever. You laugh now.

But I became too busy. Personally and professionally. privacy lawyer, silicon valley global med tech company check. BCRs (controller and processor – first ever dual application) check. HIPAA check. Emerging tech check. lawyer check. executive check. consulting check. blogging check. start writing a book (check, but leave unchecked that I finished it) – same with PhD  in dissertation phase for 3 years now. Check check check. Happily married finally. 2 amazing, accomplished daughters. Leadership roles in global professional organizations. volunteering with non-profits. great friends. good books. loving pets. awesome home. 150+ pairs of shoes. Mrs. Scottsdale America. Speaking on a variety of subjects to different audiences. teaching law classes. Mercedes AMG. money in savings. off most lupus meds. I even lost 30 pounds. checking all over the place. BUT….

– I was busy, but things were getting accomplished. Yet for the first time in my life – I was overwhelmed. I mean, hell – I survived things that killed others. I know I am lucky – and I give the praise to the God I trust and worship. But I was overwhelmed. Even my adult ADD wasn’t saving me this time.

I have learned that when you need to slow down, you either do it or you’re forced to do it. 

So I have slowed down. I am able to take stock of my goals and my 5 – 10 – 15 year plan. I kinda sorta had a plan, and executed it immaculately despite myself. I know what it important for me professionally and personally – and everything else. everything. is nonessential to my life.

Face the hard decisions. And face them head on with determination and consideration. Be brutally honest with yourself about what matters – and what is simply busy work, or chasing a dream that you thought you should have, or doing things that are expected of someone in your field. Focus on what matters. And yes, professional goals matter too. We spend most of our waking hours working (which can suck if you don’t do what you love), so don’t knock having professional goals and dreams.

Some of us may not be in a position to be choosy, but if it is at all possible – take a step towards being in a place to choose. One step at a time. My goal, growing up poor in Mississippi was 1) be able to walk into a superstop (quickie mart, 7/11, whatever the local corner store is) and buy a coke without having to balance my checkbook first and 2) go on a great vacation every year. #1 I can do. #2 – my definition of a great vacation seems to be morphing.

I’m still young (I tell people I am 74 and looks dayum good for my age), but I am 47 years old. I am young and in a field (privacy law) that is growing leaps and bounds. I know and love some amazing people, both personally and professionally, and I work for some phenomenal people/companies that I respect and hope to continue those relationships.

And I still need to finish that dissertation. this year.

So being too busy was my come to Jesus moment. And I survived it with some hits to the pocket book, ego, health, and personal matters. Maybe that is what it took. I do not ever want to say or feel those words again. I want to be in deliberate control of my life. Live with purpose.

 

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Stretch Yourself

stretch yourself

photo courtesy of Marc Scott 

What we think determines what happens to us, so if we want to change our lives, we need to stretch our minds. ~Wayne Dyer

Have you ever really thought about what it takes to stretch yourself? Physically, we understand this. But what about our minds, our dreams – a mind and a dream in motion stays in motion as well as a body does.

This wonderful blog by Ron Edmonson provides seven ways to stretch yourself as a leader:

  • Read something different from what you normally read.
  • Hang out with people not like you.
  • Move forward on something with uncertainty.
  • Attempt something you’ve never done.
  • Spend more time on opportunities than on problems.
  • Schedule and discipline time to dream.
  • Stay physically active.

When you consider each of the points, they apply to more than just being a leader. They apply to life. But go further – step outside your comfort zone and reach for something that is a little beyond your limits.

Professionally, reach for that dream job, but do so in a deliberate manner. Reach out to your heroes. I just read an article about a young entrepreneur who encourages her team members to do that – reach out. It’s only an email. It may be ignored and it may yield amazing results!

Personally, take a chance. Now, this doesn’t have to be take a chance with your life or your love – although it may turn out to be just that. Rock climbing is certainly dangerous, as is skydiving, driving a racecar, climbing Mount Everest – but if that is your dream, reach for it in a deliberate manner. Prepare yourself properly. In love, well, I met my husband online and we married within 6 months. 14 something years later – still going strong. And that was a chance for me as I survived two abusive marriages. I felt I was putting my life at risk to try for love one more time, but I stretched myself and had unfathomable results.

Stretch yourself. Reach for that dream – be in personally, professionally, or physically. With all things, prepare yourself properly. And it is scary, most things worth winning don’t feel really comfortable in the effort. Maybe you take baby steps – maybe you throw all in and dare the fates (not legal advice here!!), but challenge yourself to do one thing every day that stretches you in some way.

Every day. Read the news (that’s a stretch for me). Ask the janitor’s name. Give a flower to a stranger. Shake a cop’s hand. Let the other person go first at the 4-way stop. Little things.

Plan that dream vacation and determine how to get there. Apply for that once-in-a-lifetime job. Email your hero. Start that book – chapter 1.

If you want a raise or a promotion, talk to your boss and make a plan. Find out if you have opportunity where you are. Ask to be in on a big project. Identify an issue that needs to be addressed and formulate a plan. Never take a problem to your boss unless you have  a proposed solution as well. Try for a certification. Submit a panel for a conference proposal.  Sit at a table with people you don’t already know. Stretch yourself.

Reach for the moon and if you miss, you’ll still land among the stars!

Executive Women in Privacy – my recollections and reflections

This past weekwip,  I had the privilege to speak on a panel with three amazing women, Ruby Zefo (intel), Sharon Anolik (Privacy Panacea), and Debra Bromson (Jazz Pharmaceuticals) – moderated by Lourdes Turrecha at the inaugural Privacy+Security Forum in DC. Our topic: Breaking the glass ceiling – executive women in privacy.  We have all been to other presentations on this same or a similar topic, so we were determined that we would present candid, authentic, and hopefully inspirational content. I did not take notes, so we are relying on my admittedly poor memory to bring you the best of what I took away – without attribution to the speaker in an effort to preserve the safe environment.

Challenges we faced and how to overcome them:

In privacy, whether staffed in the legal department or not – it is hard for others in the business and in legal to comprehend the impreciseness of our area of law. Privacy means complying with laws/rules/regulations. We all happen to be attorneys, but privacy executives don’t have to be lawyers. Privacy is a fluid, rapidly developing, and capricious field. For us, we have faced the same challenges that most women in law face. We have faced people not knowing what the heck we are doing or aiming for. We have faced the typical challenges of working in male-oriented fields – technology, medicine, etc. And that is a situation that women in privacy face whether they are lawyers or not.

Best advice

  • Be flexible. Be creative.
  • Be business savvy.
  • Demonstrate your value. Toot your own horn.
  • Do not waste 30 seconds in an elevator with the CEO cracking a joke…be prepared with a recent accomplishment to share that contributed to the company.
  • Bring yourself to work, but keep it professional.
  • Be authentic.
  • Leave toxic environments.
  • If you are meeting with executives, be an executive presence. If you are meeting with IT, dress to fit in. You don’t have to agonize over it, but impressions count. Do they see you as one of the gang? Don’t set yourself above them just to make a point.

Is the privacy field an equal playing field for women?

In most part, yes. Some of us have not really seen the inequality in our privacy area, but it still exists within the company. We have met the “Queen Bee” – that woman who rules the roost and is unwilling to help others or share the limelight – but not really worked with such people in privacy. Okay, well, maybe we did, but it’s old school and we managed to change the situation.

In general, our technical counterparts are typically male. Learn to work with them. And in most cases, form a bonding relationship where there is mutual trust and respect (mine was my “at work husband”). Don’t be afraid to ask them to “dumb it down,” but also don’t be afraid to challenge them.

We are often still the only woman in the room. I am unapologetically feminine and proud of it. It does not mean that I am inferior. And we certainly don’t help ourselves with apologizing for being women – which is what we do when we act as if we expect to be treated as inferiors. Do we have to prove ourselves? – yes. But we already earned the position, so we deserve it. which leads to the….

Imposter syndrome

Do we feel like imposters? I do, just sitting on this panel. I am ambitious. I have been an executive and also not an executive – and not in a linear path. I have taken jobs that were a step back in rank in order to step up in expertise. All four of us came from different perspectives, but in general, the tone was that we have earned what we have. It may be a tendency of women to think that we have somehow been put in a position that we don’t truly deserve, but that is our own self-doubt and not something that anyone pushed on us.

When given more responsibility, one women faced quite a few people who asked if she was okay – was she going to be able to handle it? Her response – if I were a man, that person would have said congrats, it will be tough, but you have already shown that you can handle such responsibility. And she told him so.

Take-aways

The points to take away from this panel were that we are accomplished, qualified professionals who happen to be women. We face unique challenges, but being confident in your talents and skills will take you far. How to take that next step? Volunteer. Network. Don’t be afraid to stand up or stand out.

Be unapologetically you. As long as you are not a serial killer.

Life takes you to unexpected places. Love brings you home….

sunsetI’ve been radio silent lately – not only did I switch jobs, but I moved states.

I consider home to be in Arizona – a true transplanted southerner. Although I did not move from Mississippi until I was almost 30 years old,  I’ve made up the time in the states I have lived: TN, AZ, TX, and CA (and a short stint in AR as a traveling nurse).  I had moved to Tennessee from MS in 1996 to work as a registered nurse. and was later I admitted to law school at the University of Tennessee, but had to defer. My then husband had a psychotic break and it was dangerous for us to stay in Knoxville. So I gave the best dog I ever owned (a wolf mix named Elliott) to my attorney, packed the girls (ages 7 and 9), and took a one-way non-stop flight to Phoenix.

What a culture shock.

See, my home town is Meridian, MS, population around 30,000 (50,000 with the surrounding area). Not really small. Trust me, I don’t know everyone there. But there is a certain standard of living that is easy to become accustomed. It was the only standard I’d really ever known. Even TN was still the South, so while it was a change. .. the people did not really change.

In AZ, I went to work for a start-up fabless semiconductor company based out of Canada that was working on streaming video on cell phones – unheard of 15 years ago. Loved it!

and then the technology market crashed in 2000. I had put off law school in TN for a year, but fell in love with Arizona. So I applied way past the due date for Arizona State University. They had no obligation to open my envelope…but they did. I suppose a top 3% LSAT is worth something. Not a scholarship, but late admission. I took it.

I met my beloved husband here. Never thought I would marry again – and he broad-sided me. I had mentioned to someone that I wanted a love that soaked into my very cells, a visceral level of love. And he found me.

Then his job took us to Texas in 2008, and forced me to give up one of the best positions that I had ever had working at the College of Law at ASU in student life and pro bono. What a fabulous way to make a living.

But Texas was good to us. We livedin Plano with the second best school district in the nation. The girls received an incredible education. I got into privacy and security at Concentra. If working with students is my first love, privacy is my second. Once the girls graduated, we started looking how to get back to Arizona…and wound up in San Jose, CA. I never was really good at geography.

Working for Align Technology (Invisalign) in the Silicon Valley as a global privacy attorney – WOW. Not much I can add to that. Amazing colleagues. Amazing company.  And amazing location. We thought we were set.  We bought a house. Done.

But circumstances drove us back to Arizona. My family is everything to me. So we are here. And I was lucky enough to be recruited by one of my best friends into a growing company that focuses on securing mobile communication (voice and text) for regulated industries (CellTrust Corporation). So not only am I the privacy attorney, I am also the subject matter expert for privacy in product and service delivery. It’s quite a rush.

Further, being back in Arizona has worked well for my girls, who are both doing amazing. My husband started working here before I did with another start up that appreciateshis incredible talents. And I am getting back involved in local activities – volunteering for Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education, appointed back to the state bar committee for minorities and women in the law, reconnecting worn the Volunteer Lawyers Project, adjunct teaching at the law school – the fun just keeps coming. We close on a house in Scottsdale next week and it’s a dream house!

My lesson – life takes you to unexpected places. Love brings you home. I am where I am supposed to be.

Go beyond Talking Heads: How to build a panel presentation that Pops

Wanh. Wanh. Wanh.fireworks

No matter how interested you are in a topic, talking heads start sounding like the teachers in the Charlie Brown cartoons. Sometimes, the panel can even put their audience to sleep.

Most people who speak at an event choose to do so – meaning that they have a message that they want to share. I am not a professional or fabulous speaker, but I do speak on occasion at the typical talking heads conference. And while you cannot please all of the people all of the time, there are some basic tips that can improve just about any panel presentation.

My ten top popping panel tips:

1. Create a diverse panel
Whether the diversity is in gender, sector, perspective, opinion, race, title, role – whatever – make the panel diverse. Give the audience someone to whom each one of them can relate.

2. Be creative, but keep it within limits
There are ways that even talking heads can present the same material, but creatively. I have participated in presentation based on the dating game, family feud, a political debate, and more. Recognize that not everyone in the audience will relate to creativity, but the overwhelming majority will like it.

3. Get organized before the presentation
Get on the phone. Speak to each other. Know who is going to change the slides. How will the chairs be organized? Determine if you want to sit behind a long table. Will you rise to speak at a podium? How will you handle too many questions and comments? How will you handle none?

4. Appoint a control person
Someone needs to be in charge of keeping the presentation moving. This should and could be done with ruthless charm. You can disclaim at the beginning how you will handle questions and comments. If time starts running short, the control person can keep it moving.

5. Do a true dry run
You may have everything planned out, but a true dry run – a real one – (cannot emphasize realism enough) should help ferret out problem areas, such as a long-winded speaker.

6. Speak to the slides, rather than read from them
There is not much worse than a presentation with paragraphs of material on each slide. Ugh. The audience will be reading them and not listening. You should have impactful slides that you can easily speak to. You can develop substantive material to submit for continuing education credit, and inform the audience that such material is available, just not what they will see in the panel presentation.

7. Stay on time and on point
Often, panelists have no say in the topic, title, or description of presentations. Yet the audience chooses that session based on those. Panelists should ensure that their presentation lives up to what is promised. I hate walking away from a presentation not having learned what was in the description. For the time, see #4 above on control person.

8. Interact with each other
Have a point person on each topic and interact. Whether in agreement or disagreement, the panelists should interact. Please do not separate the program into evenly divided topics and let one head bobble for ten minutes. Have fun. If you don’t, they won’t.

9. Have questions teed up
Seems basic. Is basic. Do it.
It’s pretty disheartening to save ten minutes for questions and there are none. You can announce at the beginning that although it is a safe environment, anyone who doesn’t want to raise his/her hand can submit questions electronically (in the manner of your choice). If you don’t address the questions during the session, you will at the end.

10. Engage the audience
Yes.

Can you be yourself at work?

Recently, I spoke to an executive coach who says she works with executives for years before many can finally accept who they are – and let themselves be themselves.

I tried to find a really good quote for this – and there were so many on being yourself, yet none fit what I’d like to discuss. This one by Political Animals comes close: “It’s like you put on this expensive tailored suit and everybody tells you how great you look in it, but it doesn’t fit quite right unless you stand perfectly still.”

Frankly, I struggle with this concept. Not that I struggle to be me, but that being me is acceptable to those around me. As an attorney, a certain amount of presence is expected. And of course, I am a woman working in a male-created field – and one that largely remains male-dominated.

The picture below (from the Association of Corporate Counsel annual meeting, Health Law Committee wins small committee of the year) is a visual of what I struggle with.

Do I not fit in … or … do I stand out? Which one of these is least like the others?

I truly struggle with this. I have worked with and do work with amazing professionals – professionals that while I may try to emulate some traits that I admire, I don’t feel that we mesh. Don’t get me wrong, I also have worked with and do work with professionals that mesh very well. scarily well.

When I am comfortable, I have no trouble expressing my opinions on a matter. Have I mentioned that I am ADD? So I am hyper, my logic takes a different path, and I speak with passion, sometimes eloquently, sometimes not so much. I usually wind up apologizing for being me.

Why do I feel I need to apologize? Is this a me thing? Is it a woman thing? Is it an awkward geek thing? Is it a manifestation of my disabilities (which are systemic and do impact affect, emotional lability, and expressiveness)?

Typically, when I feel that I have said something in a meeting that I should explain more or apologize for, I draw on advice that I received in the State Bar of Arizona’s Bar Leadership Institute: Man Up. To be fair, they did not say it that way. But I learned a lot about differences between the genders. In general, women tend to worry about what they may have said  – and agonize, apologize, follow up, bring it up again, etc. (anyone relating to this?). Men don’t. By bringing it up repeatedly, following up to apologize, women actually make it an issue that others then do remember – whereas generally, they likely never noticed it. Please keep in mind that these are generalities and may not apply to every situation.

On the other hand, a female professional I once worked with – on a restroom break during a meeting where we were the only two females in a group of about 20 people – this woman made the comment that the two of us had bigger balls than anyone in the room. Pardon my crassness.

Am I too feminine at some times – yet too assertive at others?

Do men even worry about these things – not the being too feminine part, but how to strike the right note professionally?

Is the real problem one I mentioned earlier? The legal field was built by men. All the expectations on behavior, dress, attitude, work-life balance, etc. were all defined by men. Women, to enter the field, adopted those expectations – wearing black, navy, gray, and brown – working long hours – and in some part, distancing themselves from the idea of femininity (which is not to say these colors are not feminine, just look at the picture above, the other two women are gorgeous and feminine and wearing traditional legal colors). A female professional I know – in the generation before me – wears a tuxedo to black tie events rather than a dress. I think it’s cool. But I wonder if that desire was formed because she developed professionally in a field that is decidedly unfeminine.

Me. Well, I wear purple cowboy boots to work. And ones with peacock feathers. I love pink. and lace. and frills. I laugh too loud and talk with my hands. And my work accepts it. I am hyper, scattered, ADD, some OCD, and frankly, way too freaking perky for anyone’s good. And yet I worry. I worry if I am accepted and RESPECTED for who I am. I am highly intelligent but not scholarly. I am well-educated but not an academic. I am ambitious but won’t sacrifice my family. I am emotional but not vindictive. I am outspoken but not mean. I am honest to a fault but I do love playing with words. I cannot abide stupidity (unless it is truly a case of low IQ and the inability to learn) or people who do not deserve respect (no exceptions on that one). I am passionate and creative. I am not demure or understated.

So can you be yourself at work? I say yes in most cases. It won’t come without some cost. If you are a psychotic killer, I’d say no. Please don’t be yourself. But in general, the average person should know who they are and not be willing to sacrifice him or herself for the job. You might worry if you strike the wrong note, but hiding your personality where you spend a large part of your waking hours does not serve you well in the long run.  In the end, unless there are significant drivers to the contrary, I recommend finding somewhere you can be you. You will be a better professional and perhaps feel like a better person.

There may be some compromises, but they should not compromise your foundation as a person. For example, just because you love 80s rock does not mean wearing Metallica t-shirts and ripped jeans to court is acceptable for an attorney. But if your personality truly demands that freedom and it impacts who you are as a person, choose a career avenue that suits you better (pardon the pun).

 

How does one get into Speaking?

At a recent conference, I was asked by several people “How do I start speaking at conferences?”

There are several ways to do this, but to be frank, I don’t know that I ever approached the activity in a deliberate manner. I have spent some time (a short time) thinking about it and have arrived at some methods- and in no way do I mean to sound cynical at the suggestions, they truly are legitimate ones.

How to start speaking at events:

1) Be employed in a key position at a major company.
It doesn’t seem to matter if you are a good speaker or have something profound to say, if you hold a key position and your company is making headlines (good or bad), people will likely want to hear you speak. Anyone who speaks from Google, Facebook, Twitter, Target (breach-related), etc. are all draws for audiences.

2) Be a major contributor or sponsor.
Throw a little money at the issue and opportunities open up.

3) Speak after you write.
Write something significant or write a lot on topics of interest to people or the field. One of my favorite privacy professionals, Dan Solove, writes the books on privacy. I have had his books/papers on privacy in my library for years.

4) Develop a niche area.
Either through passion or expertise, develop a niche area. You’ll still probably need to write about it to establish that you have some expertise, but niche areas are attractive as long as they are relevant.

5) Become an expert.
Whether in a niche area or a broad area, if you become an expert, people will want to hear you speak. Several people come to mind on this one: Chris Hoofnagle, Paul Schwartz, Dan Solove (listed above), Christopher Wolf, and many many more.

6) Get involved. 
Join industry groups, task forces, action groups, committees. National, international, state, local, tribal. And when you join, be active and involved.

7) Be passionate. 
Get passionate about something. Speak to individuals. Write. Speak to groups. Help solve or illuminate a problem. I just heard a keynote from a lady along these lines: Danielle Citron, speaking on Revenge Porn. Another recent example was Oren Yakobovich with the NGO Videre est credere, which helps people in oppressed areas expose the oppression.

8) Solve a problem. 
or at least work on one towards a solution. Also, many come to mind, but some of the ones that stand out are Jules Polonetsky and Marty Abrams.

There are other ways to get involved in speaking, but these are the ones that stand out to me. I also recommend becoming a good speaker and I will write another entry on my perspectives on how to become a good speaker – or even a great one.