I got a huge promotion. It's big, scary, nerve wrecking, and for the first week, I was reaching for tums because I was not confident that I could fill the shoes of a formidable expert who had been doing it for the last 10-15 years. It is a job that is rumoured to be difficult and possibly accompanied by challenging personalities. Why me? I prayed for the right direction from God. I asked for peace. I seeked signs from above that this was the destined path that God wanted me to travel down. And one fine day when I was in the throws of decision making and hand-wringing, my Bible app popped up with a notification of the daily verse "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33). I looked for peace and got it. God was telling me that it is going to be difficult but he is going to be right there with me.
Dear Readers, as a working mom, I am often grateful for reasonable employers. I tend to work harder and put in more hours from home because I feel that I own the employer for being flexible. And possibly through the years, I may have made less money because I did not venture to ask for more. Flexibility was currency in itself. There is a sense of indebtedness to the employer and I'll take whatever I can because I am just happy to have a job where the employer understands my circumstances. Why do I sell myself short? I don't know.
Well, for once, I did not.
Prior to accepting the job offer, I asked for a meeting so that I could lay out my requests for vacation and possibly negotiate salary. Going into the meeting, there was even a possibility that I would turn down the offer if things did not go my way. I had nothing to lose and I was willing to walk away (that is a great position to negotiate from). As the conversation turned and flipped in unexpected directions, I decided to be honest and tell the manager that this is a job that many would not accept because it is challenging and I cited my source of information. I listened to his reply before asking for a better offer and more compensation. He agreed to my terms. I accepted the offer.
It took every bit of courage I possessed, God by my side, and a wonderful husband. When I emerged from the boardroom and pulled out my cell phone, I said a prayer of thanks and texted my husband. My hands were shaking and my heart rate was definitely not normal.
The negotiations took the form of an intelligent conversation, well thought out, calm, soft-spoke, yet assertive and strong. I can think of one lady who lived that mantra and I would like to dedicate this blog post to the late Mrs. Bush.
I have a confession -- it is sometimes very difficult to be the only skirt in the room. I was planning a dinner a few weeks ago and the caterer asked me if my guests would like to mingle before dinner. My reply, "Nope, they want to get in, eat, drink, talk business, and be out in 2 hours." She looked a little shocked at my brusque response. I explained that all 27 guests are men and chit chat is the last thing they are interested in. "You are looking at the only woman at the dinner."
"Oh, I see........Steak should be on the menu?"
The world that I live in is primarily occupied by men.... it would be nice if they were men who wore power suits like Gabriel Macht and Patrick J. Adams. In case you haven't figure it out yet, I love that AMC series, Suits. Maybe suits from the The Men's Warehouse, need to comes with a little tag that says, "The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary".
Well, I have news, I do not live in a world high powered attorneys and stock brokers. My crowd were proud chess champions in middle school, math wizards in high school, robotics champions in college, and wanna be chemistry brewers in their basements (maybe). There are guys who do NOT dress to impress. But blindfolded, they can spot the mistake in your algorithm while sipping coffee. Actually..... the crowd that I work with is rather normal and dress much like most midwesterners do.
As for me, I do try to maintain a certain fashionable yet utilitarian appearance while at the office. These are clothes that translate well from suitcase to boardroom in many different countries. Here are some simple tips on how to achieve the look:
1. Basic Colors - I usually do not have more than 2 colors
2. Avoid patterns - something that looks good in North America may not look fashionably in South Korea
3. A plain colored dress can be spruced up with a colored scarf
4. Carefully chosen conservative floral dresses work too especially if you want to skip the accessories.
5. Invest in good shoes. Forget the heels on long treks through airports. Opt for ballet flats or booties in the winter
6. Silk does not travel well. Neither does dry cleaning or 100% cotton. Wool does surprisingly well because it doesn't wrinkle and it regulates your body temperature.
7. I love, love dresses because it is a 1 piece solution - you do not have to match a top to a bottom. Everything is right there. A nice fit and flare design sways as you moves... lovely!
8. Skirts always make you look feminine. And they can be exceedingly comfortable in all types of weather, even the sub zero kind.
9. Underneath everything is good moisture wicking under shirts, tights, underwear. Uniqlo has Heattech for the summer & Airism for the summer.
10. Forget pantsuits. No one on Suits ever wears pants except the losing attorney -- there is a good reason for that. Pantsuits do not flatter (and I know many of you may disagree). Go ahead, do an unscientific survey of the women at work (real life women, not one on TV), compare and contrast pants vs skirts. Which one drew your eye? Pantsuits tell the world that you are in competition with the men. Why be in competition in someone else's ball court when you have your own strengths? Realize that your court is in the ballroom.
Ladies, the idea is to look feminine, be feminine and be proud of your God given gentle appearance.
Lastly Lipstick. I wear only one kind - Revlon Colorstay Ultimate Liquid Lipstick in Premier Plum. Yes, it does last all day.
So, I know we already established that I travel a lot. The last business trip that I was on involved 10 planes, 8 airports and 9 different cities. Now, granted, I merely spent time transiting in some airports, but all in all, it was exhausting. Mostly, people say, "wow" -- I am often unsure if they are critical or if they are just plain shocked. Maybe they are trying to judge if I am a good mom. I don't know.... mostly, I keep it on the down low and change the subject if someone seems uncomfortably. The question that I ask myself is, "How do I make sure that I keep myself mentally strong for those long transcontinental flights and not feel like I have wasted entire days floating in the stratosphere?" Movies don't really do anything for me. But I do love to read... and here are some of my latest fantastics finds:
1. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
- Suspenseful, haunting, psychologically suspense about a woman who witnesses a crime while sailing on an exclusive, high end cruise ship.
2. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas
- Book 2 in the YA series about a special magical Feyre race who are rather vicious in their eagerness to protect, defend, and love. Lots of magic in Royal Courts and quirky, moody, secret ridden mortals who somehow discovery that they are not mortal. Comes with all the angst that YA novels are constantly wrestling with.
3. The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis
- I absolutely love the Popular Psychology genre. Authors like Malcolm Gladwell and Susan Cain, take academic research and tell the story that professors often fail to do. This particular one is about human reason and how our mind works out a perception of reality. Throw in some Big Data and somehow, old research becomes modern and relevant. Love it!
The real deal about what it’s like to be a working mom. I often hear the following phrase, “I don’t know how you manage it all.“ The reality is, I don’t even know. Deep down inside, I’m wondering the same thing about them. I have two kids, a wonderful husband, a normal suburban life. I’ve always been achievement oriented and simply love to tackle things that sometimes make other peoples eyes glaze over… in boredom. I’m a researcher and my view on the technical stuff is that nothing is difficult, merely complex.
Flat Stanley at the Changing of the Guards.