Give

Today, I was an adult. I got up early (even for me). I wore professional business wear (not jeans). I wore heels for more than 9 hours. I paid for parking, in downtown. I held meetings. I followed up.

And I spoke in front of 250-odd people on the reason why I work with Team Read.

Here is the text of my speech. I flubbed it in a couple of spots, but the sentiment is there. If you can, give: http://www.teamread.org.

Good morning. Thank you all for coming to our Annual Fundraising Breakfast. I know it takes some effort to get up and presentable and into downtown at 7:30am, so well done all of us.

Being, as I am, a technologically minded person, and surrounded, as I am often, with technologically minded people, who all agree on the importance of STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math – in education, it may have been a surprise to some of my friends and family that I chose to invest in, and support, Team Read. After all, this is about reading, right?

Right. Step one, in a long list of steps to a robust and complete education. Without reading, and specifically without quick and thorough reading comprehension, no student will survive that hallmark of third grade math: the word problem. We all remember – a train leaves Chicago going 40 miles per hour, and so forth? Only now they’re multi-step problems in third grade, like this one:

Ashley is 61 inches tall. Adam is five feet four inches tall. How many inches taller is Adam?

So we help students improve their reading fluency and comprehension, paving the way to use reading as a tool for all and any disciplines they need to pursue through the course of their educational careers.

That is only half of the story though, and only half of why I support Team Read.

About two breakfasts ago – I measure these things in food – Kiarra Thomas, a Team Read tutor, spoke here about her experience being a tutor. She talked about how she learned very real job skills – dealing with her charge, budgeting time, being responsible for this student. She spoke about how these skills and this experience helped form her educational and career path, and how it helped her get other jobs. Too often we are given to looking at our teenagers as “just teenagers” – oh, those kids – whereas Team Read provides, to qualified and eager teenagers, a real job, with real experience, and real impact. These teenagers are equal to the task.

And that’s why I am here today. And that’s why you are here today, too.

Team Read relies on the support of volunteers and donors, and I want to thank you for being here this morning, and learning about the good work of Team Read, and sharing your enthusiasm for this organization with others.

So thank you.

On the Naming of Me

My name is pretty unusual, in and of that I’ve been challenged by telemarketers, customer service people, and baristas alike that “That can’t be your name” or “What’s your real name?” (As if the sort of person who gives out a fake name would abruptly turn around and provide a real one). My name is in fact Bobbie, although legally it is Roberta; the only people who call me Roberta are telemarketers, teachers, and attorneys.

Per Wolfram Alpha, fewer than 200 people each year are given the name Bobbie (as a given female name – and yes it does say it assumes Bobbie is female). Less than 1 in 3331 people have the name, and the most common age for a person with the name Bobbie is 76 years. (Roberta clocks in at much the same, with 1 in 1823 people having the name and the common age is 57 years).

So it’s safe to say “Bobbie” is an unusual name, and that is that.

Over the years my name has been mangled quite a bit, from the masculine “Bobby” to the alternative female “Bobbi”. I also oftentimes get the email typo of one more o, one less b; for the most part I choose to ignore these and hope the sender goes away. That said, I wasn’t really particularly particular about how people spelled my name (with the exception of that last) until I read Freakonomics.

Freakonomics has a pretty good chapter on Correlation vs. Causality, particularly around naming conventions. The main anecdote is about a man who named his sons Winner and Loser, and the indication that the son named Loser had an extremely successful life, whilst the son named Winner had an extremely unsuccessful one. There is no causality in naming. However it also had a second anecdote, and a study, around names given to female children. Specifically, names that one would associate with strippers.

The idea was thus: if I name my daughter, say, “Bambi” or “Sugar” or something like that, am I dooming her to life on the pole? The short answer is no, you are not. By virtue of naming your daughter anything like that (there is a third indication of a daughter named Temptress who indeed had a pretty name-similar life) you are not going to ensure she ends up with a job whose uniform consists of two ounces of elastic and slightly more than that of glitter. But there’s still a good chance it will happen. Why? Because the parent who names their kid something like that is also probably not going to make sure she gets home in time for a curfew, or is getting her homework done. It’s the correlation – the fact that a parent who names their kid something like that isn’t likely to be hammering on the grades – rather than the causality that drives the preponderance of “Crystals” and the like to the pasties.

As part of this chapter in Freakonomics, there is a list of the top 10 names found amongst strippers at time of publication. The name “Bobbi” – with an “I” – is on that list. The name “Bobbi” with an “I” has a common age of 39. That means those Bobbi’s were born in 1975 or thereabouts, and Freakonomics was published in 2005, with data from studies probably the year previous, and so I think it’s entirely reasonable that their stripper population was about 29 at the time.

Since reading that I’ve made it a point to educate people on the value of the “e”. I don’t look good in glitter.

Dabble, Dabble, Toil and Babble

“Your biggest problem”, he stated flatly, “is you’re a dabbler. You don’t specialize in anything. You are not going to succeed because you do not focus on a given talent; you just dabble in this and that.”

This was actually stated, to me, in a 1:1 with my boss at the time. He was a financial services guru and I was his personal and executive assistant, so assigned because I was technically inclined and could type fast. In short, I was good enough to be his e&pa because I dabbled.

Despite initial reaction, this was meant to be a positive speech: it was going to Incite Me To Action and I was going to Make Something Of Myself. Instead, I quit the job, moved back home, and dabbled some more.

I dabbled my way into SQL.

Then I dabbled my way into ASP.Net. Then I dabbled into VB.Net.

Then I dabbled into SQL some more, and into project management. And the dabbling continued, through business development, communications, operations, and back into development (but C# this time).

“Which one of your degrees does this job come from?” wondered my stepmom one night in Spring when I told them I had acquired this one. “None of them!” my dad said wryly.

My old boss is correct: I am a dabbler. None of the things I have done, have I truly specialized in. There are better people at SQL out there than I am, there are certainly better people at .Net and BusDev. But there are damned few who can speak those languages and are willing to translate them, painfully, carefully into shiny PowerPoints and ROI-laden SWAT analyses.

A few months back I had my midlife crisis, it lasted 36 hours and was of the vein  of “what am I DOING with my life? Where will I go next?” And I realized that every other time in my life I’d been faced with that question things unquestionably got better, more exciting, and more rewarding.

I have friends who went to college for what they ended up being in life, they seem happy and fulfilled. I have friends who picked a field and stuck with it, and will have a decent retirement to speak for it. My own parents offer four different examples of picking a road and trotting down it come hell or high water and they’ve all done fine.

I do not believe, though, that diminishes any success by a diagonal route.

Forming an Opinion

I have a really hard time with form letters and emails that are poorly written and researched. Normally I just shine it on and ignore them, but today I was in a special mood and so I leave you this (edited) email exchange. The only piece redacted is the company I work for because it’s not really about them. I’ve also put it in chronological order, as best as I can figure this guy is in Texas somewhere. Honestly, it needs to be completely rewritten, but that would be doing his job for him. Oh, wait…

—–

From: Jason Walker [mailto:jason.walker@bizzdatabase.com]
Sent: Thursday, March 14, 2013 2:51 PM
To: Bobbie Conti
Subject: Building a strong Brand

Hi Bobbie,

Hope you are doing well!

You being the Director, Content Management of MYCOMPANY, Inc., it will be my pleasure to introduce our self as innovative marketing management service provider that helped marketing oriented leaders and professionals build strong brands.

We have more than 100 million consumer contacts including email id and phone number and 50 million + B2B contacts worldwide. We could provide you with contacts across any verticals and industry.

  • Custom List: We can provide you the contact list of all your target audience based on target industry, target geography and job titles / age, income, interest and other related parameters.
  • Optimizing digital assets: We can help you in creative design of Photos, Documents and Articles that can be leveraged for Social media marketing.
  • Ranking in local search results: Creating a local presence online is now more important than ever, especially for targeting a local customer base.
  • Online Customer/Client engagement: Marketing is no longer a one-way communication.  Brands and Customers/Clients are engaging in a two-way dialogue with word-of-mouth playing a larger role than ever.
  • Web Banner Ads: We will also help you with Web banner ads in a creative manner.
  • Online campaigns: We can help you in doing PR campaign, worldwide campaign for your new launch and offers etc.
  • We also can help you with the contact database of Distributors, Wholesalers and Retailers etc. within your target industry.

We also have other end to end marketing services. Kindly let us know how we can help you and your company to grow more in terms of revenue.

It will be great if we could have a quick discussion over the phone for creative marketing activities.

Thanks,

Jason Walker

Customer Sourcing Consultant – Marketing

Direct: 713-481-7746 ext: 4315

Locations: USA, UK, EMEA, ANZ, APAC, LATAM and all Countries and Cities.

From: Bobbie Conti
Sent: Thursday, March 14, 2013 4:56 PM
To: Jason Walker
Subject: RE: Building a strong Brand

This has absolutely nothing to do with my job. Thanks.

—-

From: Jason Walker [mailto:jason.walker@bizzdatabase.com]
Sent: Thursday, March 14, 2013 2:59 PM
To: Bobbie Conti
Subject: RE: Building a strong Brand
Importance: High

Hi Bobbie,

Thanks for the response.

I will be more thankful to you if you could refer me to someone who can take initiative on this.

Regards,

Jason.

—-

From: Bobbie Conti
Sent: Thursday, March 14, 2013 3:24 PM
To: Jason Walker
Subject: RE: Building a strong Brand

Well, considering that you’re pinging me about client lists ([MYCOMPANY] has its own client base), optimization for social media (we have our own Social Media team, too),  SEO (ditto), etc., I can’t really in good conscience forward this. It doesn’t look terribly well researched, to be honest.

Also, I’ve taken the trouble to edit your form email below. There are some grammar issues, was this perchance written by someone who is not trained in marketing communications, or someone for whom English is a second language? Note that I didn’t have time to correct everything, but you will want to pay attention to capitalization consistency (e.g., “Custom List” vs. “Optimizing digital assets”), possibly providing some statistics to back your claims (e.g., “Creating a local presence online is now more important than ever”…Why?), and formatting consistency (your last bullet should have a blue header to match the others). I’d also suggest changing the vibe from “we can help/we can also help” to “we do”, as active voice works better in marketing.  Finally, your form email keeps referring to my “target industry” – you should be able to figure that out and pop it in, so rather than consistently referring to my “target industry” you need to put something like “within the Travel and Tourism Industry”.

Thanks,

B

“Hope you are doing well!

You being As you are the Director, Content Management of MYCOMPANY, Inc., it will be  is my pleasure to introduce our self my company as an innovative marketing management service provider that helpsed marketing oriented leaders and professionals build strong brands.

We have more than 100 million consumer contacts including email addresses id and phone numbers, and 50 million + B2B contacts worldwide. We could can provide you with contacts across any verticals and industry.

  • Custom List: We can provide you the contact list of all your target audience based on target industry, target geography, and job titles / age, income, interest and other related parameters.
  • Optimizing digital assets: We can help you in creative design of media, including photos, documents and articles that can be leveraged for Social Media marketing.
  • Ranking in local search results: Creating a local presence online is now more important than ever, especially for targeting a local customer base.
  • Online Customer/Client engagement: Marketing is no longer a one-way communication.  Brands and Customers/Clients are engageing in a two-way dialogue with and word-of-mouth playsing a larger role than ever.
  • Web Banner Ads: We will also help you with creatively design Web banner ads in a creative manner.
  • Online campaigns: We can help you in doing create (or by “in doing” did you mean “execute”) a local or global PR campaign, worldwide campaign for your new launch and offers. etc.
  • We also can help you with the a contact database of Distributors, Wholesalers and Retailers etc. within your target industry.

We also have other end to end marketing services, available here (and link to where they are listed, maybe your website?). Kindly Let us know how we can help you and your company to grow more in terms of revenue.

It will be great if we could I’d love to have a quick discussion over the phone for about creative marketing activities opportunities.”

Lufthansa FTW

[from the flight two days ago…]

I’m sitting here in what *should* be the most awkward seat in flightdom: in this A330 the first row of economy-class seats past the bulkhead, left to right, is a line of 2, a line of 4, and then a line of 3. I’m in seat two of the four (so, middle-ish) and this wouldn’t be “awkward” but for the fact that, in the bulkhead row ahead of us, there are only 3 seats.

So there are only 3 video screens.

For 4 people.

I’m still not sure how it works completely but about an hour into the flight I managed to figure out I do not control the videoscreen to the front-left of me, but the front-right of me. This leaves it as an exercise for the class as to whether the person on my starboard side is screenless or owns the far-right screen, and the person on THEIR right thereby gets none?

Ergo, awkward.

And yet it totally has not been.

In a supreme display of German efficiency, although the plane boarded late we departed on time and are tracking ahead of schedule. Dinner (which was good!) was preceeded by drinks, had drinks, and complimentary after-dinner drinks (Bailey’s on ice, yo!), the wine came with an actual cork. In Economy.

I admit the leg room is wanting but I’m 5’10” and all my height is below the waist so it’s a bit unfair to judge.

As Lufthansa is German-based, the first language everything is in on this plane (think: signage, instructions, videos, etc.) is German. I have learned that Nouns in German are capitalized. So if I were to write in English like one would write in German, I would capitalize Nouns. It’s a bit jarring to read.

I am also getting one more stamp in my passport this trip of a country I haven’t previously been to: Germany. (Hence the Lufthansa flight). I’m stopping in Frankfurt on the way to Rome. As this is likely my last international trip before I must get my passport replaced, this is a nice lagniappe.

In my time with Expedia I have flown to Las Vegas, Chicago, Dallas, New York, Orlando, San Francisco, Geneva, Paris, Lyon, Rome, and London. I drove to Vancouver for one meeting. And yet the bulk of my travel has been in the last two years – there was a stretch of a couple of years where the annual Vegas event was “it” for my work-based travel.

In all that time you think I’d have the foolproof formula to combat jetlag – but I don’t. It’s 4:20pm my time, shortly after 1am the place I’m going, and I know that I will not sleep enough on the flight to make up the delta. I have a day in Rome to purportedly get over this, and I can’t quite figure if I will do that or go sightseeing or lock myself in my hotel room and catch up on work.

But at least the flight in was sweet.

Burn, baby, Burn

As per usual, I find myself horribly sunburnt. As per usual, my son is a light tan color. 

This time we stayed at the Hyatt Grand Cypress, which is gorgeous and had more amenities than we could possibly use (climbing wall, full gym, golf,  bikes, shuttle to the major parks). It had the Orlando-typical waterfall pools (complete with waterslide), great pool service (THANK YOU VONDA AND EDWARD!), and wonderful restaurants. (Note: when the chef comes out of the kitchen and hands your son a chef’s hat that he can keep and then talks cooking with you for like 15 minutes, you feel pretty awesome).

We spent three days at Magic Kingdom, including obligatory Pirate Adventure Makeup and 3 back-to-back turns on Space Mountain, and one day Harry Pottering at Universal. Note: I don’t care how bad you feel about whatever may be going on at work or in your personal  life, it’s hard to not grin like an idiot after 3 rides on Space Mountain.

It was hard coming back home. It was very hard getting on the scale. :p

The Things One Does For Money

Instead of run/walk/limp, Sunday featured a run/walk/run. I managed to complete with a time of 10 minute miles. But let’s be honest, that’s not what you’re here for. You’re here to see how the tattooing went.

The henna was applied on Thursday by Katie Bachand, and she is a lovely lady. She makes the henna herself, and adds essential oils, so instead of smelling all chemically I smelled like a spa. One interesting thing about henna is that when it is applied it is much like a mask: it’s gloopy, then it dries, and then it flakes off leaving little “henna boogers” everywhere. If a booger drops and gets remoistened, it will stain whatever it drops. I will remind you I just got new white carpet.

It’s fine, no henna boogers. I couldn’t resist adding that measure of suspense.

Here’s what was done on Thursday, and how it turned out on the day of the race:

I still have them with me, as the henna will take up to 4 weeks to fade.
 
I was sincerely thinking about shaving my head for an upcoming 3 day bike ride in September, however, it looks like two of the days are not what I though they were, so I backed out. No head shaving for me.
 
Unless I find another just cause.

Late to Class

Everyone has that nightmare: it’s final exam day and you’re completely unprepared and possibly naked in class. Or you’re extremely late to class. Or unprepared in some other way. Or both.

Today I was.

And was again.

I was checking through the site of my nice fancy gym as to which class was available at the time I needed to go today — craziness abounded what with the car coming back from the shop — and discovered a good one about an hour from when I was checking. An hour later I found myself at the gym and went to the room where there is usually the pilates/sculpt kind of classes I go to. When I arrive they’re already in to the routine — there are scary looking poles and bars and barbells and pads and steps and stuff, but it’s all good I can do it. I found an empty spot, acquired equipment, laid down and did some wicked crunches for about 5 minutes…

…and class ended.

I had attended the wrong class.

I left that room and checked the other room that I’m less often going to and sure enough, there were ladies with pilates balls and mats doing interesting stretchy things, and they were 8 minutes into it. So not only was I late to class, but I was late to TWO classes, and completely unprepared. I did my 50 or so minutes, complete with odd twists and turns that make my butt feel (this evening) like it wants to fall off.

This was not as bad as the dream I have where it’s vertebrate histology and they tested us off of six slides on the projector — and actually, that happened in real life — but still. Quite embarrassing.