10 Rules for Surviving Being Laid Off

Being laid off sucks. One moment you’re working away, and the next, you’re being told you’re done. It feels like a breakup. That’s how I’ve described my many emotions to friends and my Spotify recommendations seem to agree. The company I’d been working at for 5 years laid off 60+ people. 80% of my immediate team was let go; 50% of the greater marketing team; and almost 100% were people I knew pretty well and had befriended on some level over the years.

This is the first time I’ve ever been laid off, but I wanted to share some of my survival tips. I’ve tried to steer these away from Moz-specifically, because I’d have these feelings about any job I loved and was at for 5 years. Additionally, Moz’s CEO Sarah and its founder Rand have written several posts on their strategy change and the layoffs, which are much better places to ask Moz-specific questions as they are in-the-know.

1. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.

I can’t repeat this enough — it’s not your fault. Layoffs are always about budget and/or changes in strategy (which usually tie back into budget). Most people affected by layoffs couldn’t have done anything to prevent the company’s layoffs. It wasn’t my fault I got laid off. Even if the inner A+ student, who’d gotten lots of promotions, performance-based raises, and publicity for the company, among others things, rebels against this idea that there was nothing she could do: there wasn’t. Being laid off isn’t the same as being fired. When lots of people are let go, only a tiny fraction and sometimes absolutely zero could’ve affected or changed this fate. Continue reading “10 Rules for Surviving Being Laid Off”

Life Goals 2.9

A lot has changed in the past month. 2012 was a hard year where I reached my limit of many things and figured out what I could and couldn’t deal with. More importantly, what I wanted to deal with. I learned who my friends were and what work, important or otherwise, it was time to pass along to others.

If you are lucky to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it. - John Irving

As of December 1st, I am no longer GeekGirlCon’s president. There are long, complex reasons for this; some which involve things that make me frown and others that involve letting the baby bird fly on its own. I’m still involved in the organization as Director of Marketing. And I think the current reoganization and new leadership will bring a breath of fresh air.

You also may remember that in 2012 I broke off a 5-year relationship (and didn’t tell anyone for 6 months) and had a large redefinition of my job (which I love my new job duties).

That said, as I turned 29 this year, I realized that most of my life goals had been accomplished to one end or another. I’ve:

  • Been published in a book (twice, Chicks Dig Comics and Chicks Unravel Time).
  • Made a large, activist impact on the world to better it for women and other marginalized groups (GeekGirlCon).
  • Helped get a business off the ground and successfully ran it (GeekGirlCon).
  • Lived on my own in Seattle and am able to comfortably support myself.
  • Work at SEOmoz.
  • Love my paying job (SEOmoz).

Those are pretty big things. Maybe some of them I’ll do again, but they’ll probably have a different twist on them and take a different form. Continue reading “Life Goals 2.9”

Change, New Challenges, Shazam! The Future

“The only constant is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.”
— Isaac Asimov

Over the past year, I’ve lived a lot with the future world in mind. With planing for the next step. I made some big life changes in the last six months and even more in the last year. Not all of it’s gone smoothly or without struggle, but for the most part I’m happy and had some great successes.

One of the most exciting things, currently, is how my role at SEOmoz is evolving. I work on a badass, fast-growing marketing team at SEOmoz, and with rapid growth, comes changes. Or in the not-so eloquently put, I worked three different roles on the team and needed to par down my role while still having room for growth. Which meant I had some soul-seeking to do.

Luckily, SEOmoz has been bringing in some awesome personal growth coaches (for everyone, I am not that special), which helped me think a lot about what I fear in my career path and what I value. They smartly combined these talks with it being review time around the Mozplex.

The following is what I found while diving in the rabbit hole of my brain. Continue reading “Change, New Challenges, Shazam! The Future”

Because you’re awesome

Even Cowgirls Get The Blues by Lis Ferla
Even Cowgirls Get The Blues by Lis Ferla

I’m having one of those days when I want to grab someone by her shoulders and shake her until she can tell me how awesome she is. But I realize this is counterproductive, and that shouting is sometimes just shouting into a void.

You see, I run a nonprofit for geeky women. We’re doing amazing work; we’re putting on an convention. We’re 100% volunteers. This means we’re absolutely fucking crazy for the work we do.

But every once in a while, one of my staff members gets discouraged. Feels let down. Feels pushed outside. Feels like they want to pack up their X-Men action figures and go home. Some have. While there are some men on the staff, I do think that it’s still the women who doubt their abilities and their belonging. That even in an organization full of and for women, they still carry around the impostor syndrome and don’t let themselves be heard.

I run a tough show and a tight ship. You work and play hard, and you have to find those other things that make success because you’re not getting a paycheck. (Though it’s my belief that even if you were getting a paycheck, you need other reasons to love what you do.) But sometimes work isn’t glorious or full-filling. Sometimes it is shit; and maybe it’s my inner ranch girl, but sometimes you just pick up that shovel and literally shovel that shit.

And when one of my staff starts to doubt herself, I want her to know that she is valued, that she needs to get off the ground because she’s better than this. Because she’s stronger than this. Because this is what we have to do. You have to fight because in a world where nothing truly matters, the only thing that matters is what you do.

So I want you to pick yourself off the floor and dust off. I want you to do what you need to: to shovel the shit and move beyond the shit. Because instead of shaking you, you’re getting support and mercy from your sisters. Because you would not be here if you weren’t awesome and strong and all those other things that you aren’t feeling at the moment. Take a breath of fresh air, sister, and then pick up your shovel.

Dreams of Jobs and ‘Real World’ Skills

Even as a child, there weren’t many jobs that I wanted to do. No, there weren’t many jobs that were possible in this plane of existence and at this time.

A lot of my actual work came by accident. I was an English major in college, not because I set out to be one, but because I took too many English classes. I am a web designer, not because I decided one day I would be, but because I had too much time on my hand as a teenager, Sundays at home by myself, and have always been a self-learner. Instead of going to school with a purpose, I graduated, looked at my list of practical skills, and then started applying to jobs. Sometimes, I think this is a little backwards.

My childhood dreams jobs were largely short on practical skills. A Magical, Fairy Princess just needed to be born into it. No one went to school to get a degree in being President of the United States. Likewise with Ruler of the Universe. As far as I’ve been able to tell, even Writer doesn’t mean you have to know anything or been any good at it. Starship Captain hasn’t been invented yet. Veterinarian was the only occupation that required schooling, and well, I gave up on that when I saw a veterinarian put on a very long rubber glove and stick her hand up a cow’s woohoo.

In school, I liked reading and I liked writing. Science was okay and math was alright to a certain point. I hated spelling, and I’m thankful to have grown up in the era of the spellchecker.

(My maternal grandma always told me that a poor speller was a sign of a genius. Which greatly illustrates the point why grandmas should not tell small children they are geniuses or that they have good signing voices. I am tone deaf and posses a horrible voice, which makes me wonder what else my grandma was exaggerating about.)

While I grew up on a farm, I sadly lacked a entourage of singing forest animals. Though sometimes it was better that neither my cats or my rabbits could talk. Several times, I questioned my mother on my paternity, secretly hoping she’d tell me that my real father was actually a time-traveler who was going to take me away on my 18th birthday to travel to lands unseen. My mother gently reminded me that I have my paternal grandma’s jawline.

Even as my 25th birthday approaches, I haven’t settled on a “real” job. Web design fits me for now. It pays the bills and there are many aspects that I find enjoyable. After all, I did learn on my own time. Being creative is fun and a little showy to my creative friends who are doing data entry. (Which is a wise and noble profession when we all need to pay bills.) Even taking into account for industry changes, I don’t expect I’ll be doing the same thing in 10 or 15 years. Or maybe even 5. I might accidentally pick up some new real world skills.

To this day, I think part of me holds out hope that someone will revel that we’ve been secretly building giant interstellar spaceships and now they need captains.

Happy Thanksgiving

I’ve been on something of a self-imposed hiatus. A gathering of myself. Perhaps a literal gathering at my new lifestreaming hub.

Happy Thanksgiving

Things that make me thankful:

Lord of the Rings — As tradition, I am watching all the extended additions of the trilogy. Jason protested much as we’ve already seen them, and we’re trying to go through our collective movies and watch all the ones either of us hasn’t seen. (We only moved in together in July.) However, now that we’re on The Two Towers, Jason has realized that he’s never seen the extended editions, only the ones that were in theaters.

Both Jason and I are in good health. I was sick for much of October and Jason has been sick for the last week or so. The extended weekend will be good for our health as we get to sleep in and eat lots of good food.

Cooking with Erica — my cooking blog is live. That’s right, you won’t have to read recipe after recipe if you’re interesting in design and my other life thoughts.

Pratchett’s Discworld books — I’ve been listening to these on my iPod at work. I’m on the Sourcery. I’ve been in the middle of some rather monotonous work since October, and it’s nice to feel like my brain cells are dying every time there’s an Excel spreadsheet open too long.

Presents — All my holiday shopping has been completed. Presents are currently being wrapped.

Vacation time — I had accumulated more vacation time than I’d thought. Which means when my mom and fake daddy visit for my birthday and early holiday celebration, I’ll be able to take those days off and spend them with my family.

Terry Dodson — Dodson has taken over the art in Uncanny X-Men. Which means women are going to have figures like actual women and I’m going to be able to tell characters’ faces apart. There’s nothing worse than a group comic where you’re trying to guess who’s who just by costume.

The Joke’s On You, Webmaster

As a gainfully employed person with a busy social and home life, I often find that my websites are neglected. They can fall into such disrepair that my only notion of ‘updating’ them to current standards and design are to take it all down and start from scratch.

Since relaunching this site, I am making a concerted effort never to let that happen again. Especially when I found myself looking at my homepage and thinking that there was just something about it I didn’t like. Continue reading “The Joke’s On You, Webmaster”

“At Least I Don’t Beat You.” Making a Prosumer Workplace

Growing up, my father was not always the nicest person and had a tendency to be emotionally abusive. I was an ornery child who liked to point out this behavior when it happened, or at least, complain about it to my mother. And while these are issues, I’ve dealt with, one thing always sticks in the back of my mind after all these years: the bad parenting excuse was always, “At least I don’t beat you.” Beating was held up as the worst and most unforgivable action a parent could do to a child, and since I was never beaten (we’re talking severe beatings, not light spankings), I was lucky to have such a wonderful father unlike other children.

(Granted, part of the dealing with the issues and growing up, was realizing that my paternal grandparents were likely Old Testament “spare the rod, spoil the child” folks and believers that no one should tell parents what they can and can’t do with their children. My grandfather died when I was very young and grandmother mostly made pancakes and let me run around in her backyard when I was a child. The spoils of being the grandchild and born in the ’80s, instead their child of the ’50s.)

What does this have to do with the workplace and being a prosumer? And why do I believe that being a prosumer when it comes to your career is helpful for your long-term career satisfaction and our economic well-being?

It’s that I’ve come to the realization since entering the workforce, between jobs I’ve had and jobs I’ve been a candidate for, that many workplaces employ the policy of “At least I don’t beat you” when it comes to taking care of their employees, whether it be workplace conditions, salaries, benefits, or policies. Only it’s called “At least you have a job” or “At least you have health insurance even if you have to pay for part of it and go to our doctors only” or “At least you can wear jeans on Friday.”

Okay, I completely get it that our economy is in the toliet, but that’s no excuse and is certainly not going to keep employees at bay. Especially in an age when they google how much a public company’s CEO makes in a year or can do a little digging on privately-held companies. Like how the CEO’s, of the parent company I work for, total cash compensation for 2007 was $4.8 million and that’s not including stocks and other compensation. Even as a prosumer and someone who strives to contribute meaning the world, it still does feel like a kick in the stomach when, after some simple math, including “raise” adjustments based on those given this year, I find out that if I keep going on this job track, I will never make that much money in my entire life. (I simply use myself as an example since I don’t have others’ information, but use it as an example of a common workplace practice in large corporations. Certainly, Wal-Mart greeters make negative pennies compared to Sam Walton.)

Sometimes, I think while that much money would be nice, I know it wouldn’t make me happy. Researchers suggest that $40k a year, having romance, and a social life is the baseline for happiness and anymore does not really increase it. I would also add that it’s probably an average America salary baseline and that you should adjust for cost of living in your area. For example, NYC, LA, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, etc. are going to be a lot higher. Freedom Ideas argues that money is only 1/3 of our happiness. I really like this article in that it talks about ideals that I would consider part of being a prosumer in the workplace, including doing what you love for living.

Okay, sometimes, a job is a job and you need it to pay the rent and live. Sometimes a job is a stepping stone into a better job: all for the experience. But never let a job make you believe that you aren’t worth it and that they’re a good company just because they don’t beat you.

If their tag line is at least I don’t beat you, they aren’t worth your time and your effort. If they ask you if you saw last night’s The Office and then ask you to come in on Saturday, they don’t get it.

I am not lucky to be employed. I earned my employment through my experience and my persistence and keep my job as I’m contributing to the company. Yes, people are hired every day who do not know how to do their job and they’re even kept on by companies. But it’s not luck, they’re obviously giving an employer something they need, even if it’s not actually doing their job.

Vacation time, sick days, and health insurance should not be considered benefits I need to grovel to a company for and praise their holy name for. In my prosumer workplace, I am not an indentured servant, and one day, these are either going to be rules enforced by OSHA (and some already are to an extent) or we’re all going to be losing, except that 1% at the top. I would note that I do not trust corporations to do this on their own and know that they will need government incentives or penalties to get their acts together.

Likewise, as a web designer, having the latest technology and access to the materials needed for my job is not a luxury. I should not be hunting down standard fonts on BitTorrent because a company doesn’t want to shell out $30 a font when annual net profit is up. I should be considered an expert in my field, as that was why they hired me, and when I mention that the company should take advantage of the latest and greatest web marketing technology such as Facebook, Twitter, social bookmarking, or even revamping the site to make it rely on CSS, I should not be ignored or treated like the internet is a passing fad.

Every prosumer requires something different in a job and to make a prosumer workplace. Someone may need a company softball team to make them happy. Someone else may think that free beverages and Friday breakfast make the company as a perk that takes the job from just another job to a career. Someone else may need flexible hours or the work from home to take care of children, parents, partners, or themselves.

The biggest career mistake I ever made was compromising my standards and not doing my research about the company. (For full disclosure, I’ve worked for five different employers full-time since I was 17-years-old, and no, I’m not going to tell you which one I’m talking about.) It was not listening to the tiny voice in the back of my head. This has set my entire career back about 25% from my peers, who are my age and in my field. It was not having the voice of experience to give me a better idea what the workplace was like; it was not knowing what I know now. Part of the reason I have this blog is to grow, learn from my experiences, and retain what four years of expensive elite private college did not teach me.

So what does an employer get out of creating a prosumer workplace? An excellent employee who will be happy and excel at his/her career. An employee, who might not come in on Saturdays, but will maybe stay a little longer during the week. An employee who will not feel the mighty self-esteem blow of fear and will feel empowered by the workplace. Having confident, happy employees that tell people they love their jobs is so much better for everyone, and it just might, actually be better for our economy and well-being as a nation and world. Imagine that.

On Being Tired

I’m rather tired. Just a deep bone-tired. I get why bears hibernate.

I have dreams, but they stay vague. I try to tease them out. I had this art professor who used to say that your most frustrating days in the studio, where you don’t get anything, turns into the ideas that flourish.

It’s interesting when I go on vacation. When I come and everything’s still there. I still need to call Comcast about my bill. I still need to go to work for my paycheck everyday. I still have a fridge full of vegetables from my grandfather’s garden to turn into food.

But then everything just kind of means shit.

Maybe it’s just the rain talking.

Lessons in Design: Redneck Wedding

My mom’s getting remarried in two weeks. I like her fiance Rob, so that’s all good. The only not good part has been that I’m not a fan of weddings and all the heteronormative activities surrounding them, and I’m my mom’s maiden of honor.

Of course, I’m a good daughter, and my mom may have pulled the “I gave birth to you and supported you through your expensive private liberal arts education where you majored in creative writing and then you stayed so far away in Seattle, don’t you love your mother?” But I don’t remember as this was back in January.

Instead of buying them something for their wedding, I agree to build them a wedding website. Now while, they never managed to provide me with a lot of content for it (and the Big Day is fast approaching), I did manage to bring together what I consider a pretty solid design. And I pulled off some Photoshopping that might have gone a little too far since I removed some of Rob’s childhood scars. Who knew?

The Daiker/McGillivray Wedding Web Site

As with any new web site, I made some inquiries to friends to view the site on their computers and their browsers. (There’s only so many times I can open it in Firefox, IE, and Safari on my Windows XP PC at work and at home.) And everyone’s comments were: OMG, the colors! They burns us!

Belatedly, I realized I should’ve put the disclaimer that those are the wedding colors. Those are what my clients wanted. While, they wouldn’t be the colors I would’ve chosen, they were the requirement. I tried to put as much white space as I could to rest one’s eyes.

Compared to other wedding websites, it’s definitely brighter and less somber/classy. But this is my mom’s second wedding (and she’s had three children), so we’re dropping all the virgin-white subtext, and Rob wants to basically have a big party. Heck, the best man and my brothers, who are giving away my mom, are wearing Wranglers. Yeah, did I mention there’s a cowboy-theme underlying all this and how the reception is going to be in my mom’s new barn?

Design isn’t always what the designer thinks is best, even though we push our ideas, outlines, and platforms. Oh, don’t worry, there are always some client ideas we stop before they get out of control. Sometimes, it’s all about the client, the context, and the product. Especially if I’m building a wedding website for my mom as a gift. I’m just going to bite my tongue and ask her if she likes it. Which she does.

Now if I can get out of e-mailing her back over if she should get hot pink and black cowboy boots or hot pink camouflage-print cowboy boots to wear under her wedding dress.