My Decade

I won’t do a full decade recap but today I started reflecting on my journey from 2009 to today and it’s pretty incredible.

In 2009, I worked for a company where I loved my coworkers but hated my job as a manager at Target. I took a leap and went back to grad school to get my MBA and MIS. I sometimes worked 70-80 hour weeks and still had to go to class and do so much homework.

In 2012, I lost my mom to the negligence of a hand full of doctors and legitimately spiraled for 2 years trying to find my purpose.

In 2014, I met my purpose when I met Alissa Pagels-Minor and she singlehandedly made me remember all the things I had dreamt about. She has been my champion and cheerleader and the motivation I need to be better everyday.

In 2017, Alissa and I married in Greece in front of family and friends. My favorite part was that so many folks had never even left the United States but they all took the leap with us.

In 2018, we took a dive and moved to California thousands of miles from our families and really started to become who we’ve always wanted to be. Alissa and I are definitely givers who love helping others find their purpose. California has enabled us to give more generously to the organizations and people we love most.

All in all I am often astounded at how far we’ve come and I cannot wait to see what the next 10 years bring.

Happy new year everyone!

The Secret to Working Better Together

It’s no secret that for any kind of relationship to work you have to be able to work well together. But you can’t exactly work well together without first establishing your shared values, norms, and expectations. That’s where the power of a working agreement comes in a.k.a. the ground rules that define how couples, groups, and teams work best together. 

I was recently reminded of just how powerful a working agreement can be after my wife and I found ourselves repeatedly miscommunicating about the same thing. Naturally, I suggested that we revisit our current working agreement together so that we could not only resolve the issue at hand but set some ground rules for how to address similar issues down the road. 

Since our main issue was miscommunicating around some pretty mundane house chores, we started by addressing how we want to best communicate everyday messages versus a reminder about what needs to be done and when. Once we agreed on the fact that a reminder or message with more urgency around it should be communicated at a time that relates to the task at hand, we were able to come to a mutual understanding on how to best handle our current issue and ones like it moving forward. 

Of course, keep in mind that working agreements can be made up of many different things for many different people. However, there are 5 components every good working agreement should have:

  • It has to matter to everyone involved – buy-in from the team, group or your partner is critical in sticking to any working agreement so make sure everyone is on the same page before you decide to commit to anything. 

  • Keep it simple and direct – the more simplified your working agreement is, the easier it is to remember and stick to it. 

  • Actions speak louder than words – establishing a working agreement is only half the battle. The other half is making sure it’s followed by everyone involved so make it easy to keep it top of mind by sharing or posting the working agreement where everyone can see it. 

  • Don’t just set it and forget – whether you’re integrating a working agreement at work or in your personal life, it can be easy to let things slide when it’s not top of mind just like my wife and I did. So, include pockets of time to dust off your working agreement periodically as a group to ensure nothing has changed.  

  • Hold each other accountable – since working agreements are owned and set collectively by the individuals involved, everyone involved has the right to question anyone not following the rules. 

  • Now that you know what makes a good working agreement, what changes are you excited to add to your working agreement with your partner or team? Share them in the comments below.   

    The Key to Unleashing Your Inner Boss

    “You are the CEO of your life. Hire, fire, and promote accordingly.” – Pawan Bansal 

    I work as a Senior Engineer Program Manager, but the most important job I have is actually being the CEO of my life. That means I’m 100% responsible for EVERY decision in my marriage, my friendships, my career, my health and most importantly my happiness. In other words, it’s not what happens to me, but how I react to what happens to me that matters. 

    What you may or may not realize is that you too are carrying out the responsibilities of a CEO and the organization is…your life. Like me, that means you get to decide what success and happiness looks like for you every single day – especially when life doesn’t always go your way. 

    In fact, the very secret to showing your life whose boss lies in being able to let go of the things that no longer bring you value. Whether it’s a partner that takes you for granted, an employee that’s not doing their job or a toxic friendship – you have to be able to cut ties with anything and everything that’s no longer serving you.

    And if you can’t quite decide if something is or isn’t adding value to your life, I’ll let you in on another little secret: the answer lies in your gut. What I’m talking about is that sick to your stomach feeling you get when something doesn’t quite feel right. In those moments, it’s important to teach yourself to pay attention to that feeling because that’s also going to be a good clue. 

    But if there’s just one thing I want you to walk away with, it’s this: the moment something stops providing you value is the moment you’ve got to drop it. Because at the end of the day, the quality and happiness of your life depends on what you hold on to just as much as what you’re able to let go. 

    How to Unlock Your Authenticity and Become a Superhero

    What if I told you that YOUVE ALREADY GOT IT! The IT, I’m talking about is your authentic-IT-y. IT is the thing that makes you, you. And IT is the superpower that will pave the way to your ultimate success.

    How can I be so sure? Because my own success is rooted in being authentically me. Easier said than done when your identity is made up of being a lesbian, trans nonbinary, black, cisgender female, Gemini, southerner, wife, sneakerhead, Bay area transplant, and nerd all rolled into one. 

    I know what you’re thinking, but Bethany, how did you actually get comfortable with being your true self? For starters in 2012, I took a hard look at my personal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. And since I’m holding nothing back, it went a little something like this:

    • My strengths were: I’m reasonably intelligent, extroverted, and have excellent social skills.
    • My weaknesses were: I have a lack of confidence in my technical and professional skills, I’m uncomfortable with my sexuality/gender, and I also happen to lack engagement in my work, as well as follow through.
    • My opportunities were: I would love to attend grad school, find mentors, read all the things (newspapers, mags, blogs, etc.), attend local events, and find accountability partners. 
    • My threats were: after spending lots of time thinking about this, I realized I actually have no external threats holding me back.

    Once some of my insecurities and discomforts were brought to the surface, I knew I would have to make some changes and learn some new skills to help me get to where I wanted to go. I decided to focus my energy on creating an action plan that would help me further develop some of the skills I aspired to have. The more I focused on developing these skills, the more I realized I was creating my own secret sauce for success. Want to know the 4 key ingredients? Read on below. 

    4 Key Ingredients to Achieve Success (a.k.a. my secret sauce)

    • Remember to use fear as fuel – did you know that F.E.A.R. stands for ‘false evidence appearing real’? So next time you’ve got negative thoughts posing as evidence, lean into the fear and replace every “I can’t” with “How can I?”
    • Be patient but know your worth – no matter how tempting it may be, don’t let others be the judge of your worth and what you’re capable of.
    • Always lead with facts – when you separate facts from emotions, you can focus on what’s actually happening versus the story you’ve created in your mind.
    • Pay it forward – the more we lift each other up as a society, the more successful we’ll be individually. So, pay it forward with kindness every chance you get.

    Ready, set, your turn! Now make a list of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats followed by an action plan that addresses your main goals and needs. Then take the 4 key ingredients mentioned above to truly unlock the thing that makes you authentically you. And know I’ll be cheering you on every step of the way because remember – you’ve already got this!

    The Many Flavors of Agile: What’s the right one for your team?

    2018 has been my year for stepping out of my comfort zone and working to more consistently share my knowledge as a product manager to the greater tech industry. To that end, I had the great fortune to attend Lesbians Who Tech in San Francisco and talk a little about agile development. 

    The talk was limited to about 10 minutes but it really aimed at dispelling a few notions. The first is simply the fact that Waterfall is always the worst option. The second is that development teams can only use a select few types of agile methodologies. The last is that a team should pick one type of development style and never leave it.

    In my career, I have now worked at 5 different product shops that used very different development styles and were all fairly successful in their process. Most importantly, their bottom line was safe no matter how many times a process might be changed.

    To this end, I actually believe that choosing a development process is really a simple equation. The equation includes: How mature is the development team? How much skill does the development team have? What type of business am I in (e.g. SAAS, insurance, etc.)? When am I expected to provide a delivered feature? Based on this, it becomes much easier to determine which development process might be the most successful for your team.

    I’ve had such great feedback on the talk that I wanted to put it out in the world for attendees. I am also planning to revamp the content for another talk later this year, so stay tuned for more insights!

    Link for video and presentation is here!

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