Thursday, September 19, 2019

Report from Day Three

I got access to the building’s exercise room in the basement. You need a special Datawatch card to use that particular elevator, and then get into the room. It’s not especially sophisticated, but it has anything I’d want to use. Also, the women’s locker room is clean and all the lockers are not permanently padlocked.

At my last employer, the exercise room was the size of two cubicals and every locker in the women’s locker room was either padlocked or full of crap. (In complete violation of the “you can’t leave crap in or permanently lock a locker” rule).

On the beverage front, I found the ice machine and tried the water that was peppermint flavored. It was kind of like drinking a York Peppermint Patty.

Then I brought home a raft of threat intelligence reports, which are fascinating. I can’t believe I’m working for this company.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Day two: eggs and orgs

Turns out that Tuesdays in my employer’s office in the People’s Republic is free lunch day. I don’t know who the caterer was yesterday, but apparently the event was delayed because “they didn’t bring enough food”. From the number of aluminium trays of brioches filled with egg/sausage or egg/bacon, breakfast burritos, fried sweet potatoes, bacon and other miscellanea “enough” apparently refers to a sufficiency to feed an army corps. (The theme was breakfast for lunch.)

Even so, the organizer’s message reminded people to be “portion considerate” for those who couldn’t get there on the dot.

I also figured out both the Peet’s cappuccino and the Nespresso espresso machines in the kitchen, more or less. And I tried the watermelon/lime flavored water. (Meh.)

Workwise, my manager walked me through some organizational things, and I attended a weekly update meeting, which gave me a super introduction to the breadth of cyber security this group covers, as well as to many of the people in the group. Jeez they’re smart.

I like it here.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

First day report

Here’s what I wore for my first day at work:

I thought I’d ease folks in to my eccentricities.

Also, I need to scope out what the “code” is.

My first two levels of management (well, now that I think of it—three levels) were off site yesterday, so I had an HR orientation and got my laptop. And, of course, two factor authentication.

The rest of the day was trying to connect to the printer (which is remarkably slow: >20 minutes to spool and print a 31-page PDF file; seems odd), getting an overview from a colleague and trying to figure out what’s going to be the best way for me to eat this elephant.

Today I'm going to explore the snacks in the kitchen and see if I can figure out the cappuccino machine.

Much to learn, I have.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Gratitude Monday: legacy

Today I’m grateful for the next chapter of my life and how I got here; I report to work as senior product manager at a cyber security company. It’s my aspirational job at my aspirational company in my aspirational field, something a year or two ago I’d not have imagined possible.

I’d thought that my last job would be my legacy gig—running innovations for a non-profit. But it didn’t turn out that way. Instead, I think it was a stepping stone to this new position, an opportunity to do strategic work that positively affects lives, industries and nations; a different legacy. Something happened in the last months of the old place that turned me around, energized me and drove me forward in a way I’ve seldom experienced.

Late in the hiring process, when I was waiting for the offer, a friend who’d been supporting and encouraging me throughout said I should write about it, and it occurred to me that going through and sharing this particular round of job search is another legacy as well. This one broke so many constraints that have described my life and my career; perhaps it can show the way for others. (Not least of whom are those of a certain age—another friend has abjured me to “win one for us older ones” who become invisible, especially in the tech world, once we hit 40.)

So, a quick recap.

The day I posted about my D-Day convo with the program leader, when she announced I would be laid off, I knew this was going to be different. For one thing, those clowns pissed me off. For another, I started reaching out to former colleagues, friends and people I kinda knew on social media. And they responded. JB found a product manager job at his company, made an internal referral, chased up the recruiter and gave me good gouge about the job and people involved. They decided to go with someone else, but the experience was positive, professional and encouraging inasmuch as they clearly saw my skills as valuable.

MGB offered to help, and gave me an internal referral to a product marketing position at her company, which I really appreciated. SM gave me leads and did some LRRP work. JD sent my résumé to a few people he knew and spitballed some companies that might be interesting. SA introduced me to a friend who works at Salesforce, and he gave me terrific advice about expanding the job titles in my search, because solutions engineers there don’t have to be super-techie.

Social media was instrumental in my search this time. In addition to the friends who responded to my Facebook post, I also announced my status on Twitter, both publicly and via DMs.

Because I’ve been following various infosec accounts for years, I got on occasional Friday night frivolous discussions about hair bands, horror movies, 80s TV shows and other pop culture “this the hill I’ll die on” topics. That led me to RF, a security old-timer in Boston, who’s helped me for the past year in matching my skills to job requirements, and giving me connections to companies I’m interested in. The instant I told him about my altered circumstance, he kicked into high gear and showered me with job leads and connections for internal referrals.

CT, who leads a regular careers chat on Twitter, not only asked for my résumé to distribute at an HR meetup, but she caught an embarrassing typo on it and enabled me to correct it before I submitted to the company that eventually hired me. What a champ!

My friend CN gave strategic advice as well as leads. She’s responsible for articulating the change in my approach: #playingtowin as opposed to playing not to lose. That gave me the courage to tell the world not only that I was looking, but what I was looking for. As though I had the confidence and the moxie to find it. (Which, as it happens, I did.) AM (who requested this post) gave me further context about this distinction: playing to win means leading with your strengths; playing to lose is all about covering your weaknesses. I’d been doing the latter most of my life, but that ended in June.

Because I’d smashed the stigma of being laid off, when MW (a champion of diversity and inclusion, whom I’ve followed on Twitter for a couple of years) announced that he’s happy to help with job searches and the best way for him to do that is for seekers to book a 30-minute call with him—I jumped up and down, waved my hand and shouted, “Me, me, call on me!” And he did.

And here’s where the stars shifted into alignment. He gave me concise, pragmatic advice on how to present myself, and made this offer: whenever I found a job I’m interested in, if I sent him the listing, the hiring manager and/or the recruiter, he’d see who in his network could help. Like SA’s friend, he also suggested that I rethink the limits on job titles. And he closed by assuring me, “You got this, girl!”

I spent a day or two redoing my matrix of target companies—all infosec—and then went down the list to see what job openings each one had. Blow me if my topmost company didn’t have a product manager listed, and every single bullet point was well within my capabilities. I’d dismissed the notion of being a product manager in cyber security, because they’re universally heavy on tech bona fides. But not this one. RW’s friend DR, who works in the company, not only made an internal referral, but he dug around until he found both the hiring manager and the recruiter. I created my résumé with matrix matching my skills to the job requirements, and sent that with a link to the posting and the names of the hiring manager and recruiter to MW on a Thursday. His response within 30 minutes: “Notes sent!” The next morning, I had an email from the recruiter asking to set up a call, and the hiring manager had viewed my LinkedIn profile.

Then there was a steady stream of phone interviews—in each of which I felt confident and excited by the opportunity I’d have to contribute in a meaningful way to an important solution for an acknowledged industry leader. Then a three-hour onsite interview in which I refused to worry about what they’d think when they saw that my LinkedIn photo is definitely 20 years old. (Tech is still largely a young man’s game, and I am neither.) But it didn’t seem to matter to them; what they focused on were my ideas and my questions.

And I considered the prospect of living a life of joy.

Throughout the process, I enlisted the support of friends; I invited them to share in the journey, instead of trying to do everything on my own and hiding in case it didn’t work out. In addition to CN, AM, MLD (in England) and RF, the Viking Maiden beseeched the gods and crossed everything as I progressed—even on her vacation in Denmark. CB on Twitter also sent most excellent vibes.

It wasn’t over even when I got the offer, which was quite good. But women (including me) tend not to negotiate offers, so #playingtowin meant I had to counter. Again I consulted with MW, and here’s how I did it: I collected screen captures of what senior product managers in Internet/software in this area get paid, which came to a range of X to X+$10K. (Yes, there were some sources that were lower than X; it wasn’t my job to counter my counter, so I didn’t include them.) And I simply asked, “This is what my research tells me is the range. What flexibility is there to raise the base salary to X+$5K?”

It took a few days for them to run through their internal process—during which I was your basic cat on a hot tin roof—but the recruiter and hiring manager came through like champs. Did you hear me doing the happy dance when I hung up on the call? Probably.

One more star in alignment: I can walk to work.

Dear readers—in the approximately three months since my last day at work, it feels as though my life has changed course. I named—to myself and to others—what I really wanted. I invited help. I received all kinds of support. I spoke easily about what I’ve done and what I can do. I inhabited an atmosphere of joy. I negotiated. I won one for the elders. I played to win.

Here’s the thing: if I can do it, so can others. I’m happy to help. That’ll be my legacy, too.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Drink now

Here’s something else I saw recently at the grocery store:

Look, I’ve been drinking wine for a long time. And Champagne (and méthode champenoise bubblies) is my substance of choice. But I do not believe I’ve ever seen “user friendly” as a characteristic of, well, any beverage.

But hey, I’m just a bozo on the bus.

Thursday, September 12, 2019


I saw this product line at the grocery store a while ago.

The bars have dates in them so I’d never buy one, but I thought the last ingredient was interesting:

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Keep shining

The Mother of Parliaments is shut down while BoJo the Clown tosses his toys out of the pram. And Cadet Bonespurs is omni-raging against investigations into using his office to prop up his failing businesses, against hurricane Dorian not following his instructions to strike Alabama, against the Afghanis and the Taliban not serving up an opportunity for a Nobel Peace Prize, against John Legend a and Chrissy Teigen for no particular reason and against his (now) ex-NSA adviser, John Bolton.

Also, it turns out that the CIA extracted a valuable asset high up in Putin's government in 2017 because it was clear that Blabbermouth 45 was likely to tell the Russians all about him. Meaning the intelligence community decided more than two years ago that the occupant of the White House cannot be trusted with confidential information.

Seventy-five years ago the Anglo-American alliance spearheaded the destruction of on eof the worst dictatorships known to the planet, and here we are in 2019, both of us in crazytown.

I’ll say one thing about this: it’s interesting that the Tories—for all their toffee-nosed elitist classist bullshit—have decided that there is, in fact, a line, and they won’t cross it. BoJo is in the soup as a result of not reading the lapsang souchong leaves in his Wedgewood cup, and discovering that his Conservative brethren are actually chordates. Would that the GOPigs here could find even cartilaginous backbones and give the Kleptocrat even the tiniest kick to the cojones.

Well—I’m not going there. A couple of days ago a friend posted a video on Facebook in which he sang a WWII standard in memory of his recently-deceased brother. I can’t give you that one, but here’s Vera Lynn singing her signature piece.

We can all look forward to—and work toward—some sunny day.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019


A while ago I saw these two cars parked fairly close to one another somewhere around Northern Virginia.

I don’t know whether they share owners, but they’re both Benzes, they have the same Virginia license plate design and their messages are remarkably similar.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Gratitude Monday: fresh colors

Someone on the cluster board must be looking to sell their townhouse, because there’s been a lot of talk about “more updated lighting” and “freshening up cluster colors”. I don’t know what’s going on with the lighting, but they’re apparently serious about the paint. We’ve been bombarded by missives from the management association to go take a look at the samples painted on two units and vote for our preferred colors.

So this weekend I walked over to the two townhouses and here’s their idea of “freshened-up”:

The thing that popped into my mind on seeing them was the faux “seaport” cluster of shoppes that surrounded the Queen Mary in Long Beach. I would prefer they paint my house jungle camouflage than anything calling itself “Boone Nut”, “Weimaraner”, “Chambourd” [sic], “Dinner Party” or “Mysterious”. Pretty sure I’ll lose this, tho.

Nonetheless, I’m not here today to kvetch about the cluster board’s utter lack of taste, but to tell you about what I found on my way across the common property to the Palette of Pretension. Because one or more young person(s) apparently has a palette of chalk, and has used it for the good of humankind. Viz:

(I’m not entirely sure what that long rectangle represents, but it must have had meaning for the artist.)

And today I’m grateful that I happened to cut across the tot lot while these drawings were still intact, because they lightened my spirits and we all need lighter spirits.

I just wish the cluster board had consulted the kids about color schemes. I’ll take “Tree of Life” or “Flying Saucer” over “Boone Nut” or “Mysterious” any day.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Online help

Back in May, when I met up with a Twitter friend in the National Gallery in Dublin, she kept her two kids amused by letting them watch YouTube videos. I commented, “How did we ever live before YouTube.”

Her reply: “We packed bags of coloring books and crayons.”

But we got onto the topic of YouTube as a source of tutorials, and I remarked that one of my colleagues does all kinds of car repairs by looking up symptoms and watching videos on how to fix them. Even I was reassured when I first started making pizza dough when I checked and, yes, dough crawling up the dough hook is totally within normal parameters.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, the arm to the handle of one of my toilets broke, and I finally got round to trawling Google for how to replace it. Sure enough, there were plenty of videos. Looked pretty easy. So, I dropped by the Home Depot and perused the plumbing aisle. One of their staff members asked if I needed help, and I said I needed to replace a toilet handle assembly. He asked where the handle was located; the side. Then, what brand toilet it was.

Well, naturally I had no clue. But he pointed to a Koehler product and said that one works for most. I picked it up and he asked one more question.

“Do you know which way it turns?”

I totally was ready. “It’s reverse-threaded.”

His face lit up and he patted me on the arm. “Very good!”


So I went home and followed the video instructions, et voilà:

Turns out it is a Koehler, so totally hardware compatible.