Q&A Blog

Ask me anything, I'll answer.

Andrea R. Asks...

As a mother and a woman in tech how did you manage it? Any advice for other women in similar situations?

Thank you for your patience while I pondered on this one. I’ve written about 14 different versions of this since I received your email. :)

I’ve boiled my response into 5 bits of advice I’d offer, and while I’ll always have a soft-spot in my heart for moms-in-tech, I believe the reach of my response can really apply to anyone. I'm just another human being making my way in the world.

  1. Live below your means.

    This is financial advice more than anything. My parents raised me to “live within my means.” But I learned later in life, from the ever-awesome Suze Orman/@SuzeOrmanShow, that it’s even better to live below your means. Identify the bare bones of the cost of survival. Do whatever it takes to make that happen. Aim higher. It’s reasonable to live comfortably and have fun but be realistic with where you are and what you want. Most people fall into the ‘make more, spend more’ ritual. Who cares what other people are doing, do what's best for you and your family.

    I’m not *always* a master of this but I can tell you, the more I practice this, the more freedom I gift myself. And the more freedom I have, the more I want, and the easier living this philosophy becomes. I believe this is a really healthy cycle of habit.

  2. Work smarter and harder.

    Here’s another one of those old adage sorts of things, “work smarter, not harder.” For the first time in my life, the past two years have helped me feel like I totally get that. But I choose to interpret as, “work smarter and harder.”

    The value of hard work, and solid work ethic is something that I can't speak enough about. But in terms of working smarter, I have learned over many years to incorporate some seemingly basic things into practice
    , that have improved my ability to spin a fair amount of plates. A few of these things are:

    • Make lists & prioritizing (daily)
    • Say NO
    • Learn how and what to let go of
    • Celebrate little accomplishments
    • Have confidence in self-value

    That last bullet there is possibly the biggest one.  

  3. Respect time.

    I accidentally wasted someone’s time earlier this year. He didn’t say anything or get mad at me, but I knew I did it and even though it genuinely was an accidental mis-scheduling of a seemingly simple 30 minutes. I still feel sick about it. 

    I have tremendous respect for time. Other people’s time, and my own time. And having respect for time causes me, in most instances, to be very careful in how I dole it out.

    I don’t plan out every minute (I hope to post a separate piece about over-scheduling, soon!) But I do make lists, and prioritize. I give freely of my time when I believe I can be of service to someone quickly and effectively. I bill for my time when I know it’s something that requires more effort. 

    But most importantly, I respect the hell out of time. And I appreciate others who do, too.

  4. Gratitude, not excuses.

    Be grateful, every day, for what you have. Think small, and think intricately about what is GOOD. If you do not have the flu today, be grateful. If you have a pair of shoes you can ably put on your feet, be grateful. If you are able to spend 30 seconds in deliberate silence, be grateful. I don't mean to make light of this, at all. In total seriousness, the routine of appreciating the details of every day can change everything.

    I think often we get caught in the undertow of what limits us. I’ve seen myself do it. From a gender perspective, certainly, I’ve felt held back at times. From a mom perspective, I’ve definitely thought about how much easier or less expensive things might be if I didn’t have kids, or if I had more help here or there. But instead of putting good energy into the obstacles, I’ve learned to shift the focus. I think it’s very good to identify obstacles and worst-case scenarios, but instead of saying, “I would but…” or “I can’t because…” I look for ways around. “I can’t because… but I could solve that by, a, b, or c.” 

    One of my biggest peeves is hearing, “I don’t have time.” We all have the same amount of time in a day, we just have different puzzle pieces to work with. Reconfigure those pieces until you find what works. No excuses.

    Identify what is important to you and make time for it. Even if it’s only two minutes per day. Start somewhere and find gratitude for folding that two minute thing into your life.

    Excuses are easy. Find gratitude, instead. You’ll be surprised at how this can shift your world.

  5. Be true to yourself. 
    This one is huge. And I'm going to continue working at this until I die. My dad was a pro at this but it took me a very long time to realize and appreciate it. 

I can feel it deeply when what I'm doing is not aligned with who I am. The most important lesson I've learned is when I feel something off, to take thoughtful stock then act swiftly. 
What I meant by thoughtful stock is, I think there's a period of time where we have an emotional response to something. That is a good thing. I usually split my emotional response into two waves:

I write it all out in a document to be shared with no one.

I wait until the emotion passes then rework the document OR I have a conversation with someone I trust, who can present an angle of grounded, non-emotional insight to the topic.

I believe very much in the honesty of the emotional response, but I am also a big believer in the progress to be made by rational response. It's something I still work to improve, but I think just being aware has helped me a lot.

For example, I may be in a job or relationship that feels off. My emotional response may be to get out quickly. By letting that soak a little, and allowing a rational response to weigh in, I can get a better handle on the position that is true to ME and the direction I want for my life.

There have been a number of life experiences that have brought me to those 5 items as being really useful bits of advice. Experiences of struggle and loss, feeling held back, overlooked, underestimated and completely misunderstood, interlaced with experiences of wonder, joy, freedom and all-out confidence. All 5 of these items are things I continue working on routinely. All in all, I want to be a better person. I want more out of this life. And there's a whole lot more out there to grab hold of. 

Andrea, I hope this offers some value. I would love to hear your thoughts in response, so please feel free to post as a comment or email me directly.  

With gratitude,




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