Monday, February 22, 2010

Day 179 & 180: Dream On

Ski week is over and the kids are back in school. Sunday drizzle is over and it is sunny again today. I participate in a women entrepreneur webinar today and meet other people running interesting businesses. As many were saying, the downturn in the economy has forced many of us to become more creative about how we do business. It's encouraging to see that there is a network out there to help and support us, because it can get lonely. Tomorrow, I have coffee with another entrepreneur in my village. Working alone is both nice and lonesome. We agreed to meet up once in a while for coffee, to create our own watercooler exchange.

On Skype this afternoon, my partners are preparing for a full day of meetings with prospects. It's great to have different talents pull together like this.

And so, here we are at the end of my 180-day transition from a salaried employee to an aspiring entrepreneur. It's been great to know that you have stayed with me through this journey. I hope to see you and catch up with all of you in person soon.
You know where to reach me, and if you don't, post a comment, and I will find you.
Thank you for keeping me company while I dream on.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Day 177 & 178: Emerson

The JETRO event was fun. Close to 300 people attended the clean tech event. Did you know that 40% of clean tech patents come from Japan? The common theme repeated at the event is that Japan is excellent in the technology side of things, but not in the marketing and business development side of things. This reminds me of business school. The Japanese who have so much knowledge, but very limited means of expressing and sharing this effectively. As I sit next to my classmate from business school,I realize that this is a theme that repeats itself. I remember being wowed at his delivery skills 15 years ago, and realize I am still wowed today. After the first panel session, Scott, raises his hand to ask a question. And how eloquently he does this! He states his name and affiliation, thanks the panelists and JETRO for the event, and then puts in a nice little advertizement for another classmate who has just published a book on solar energy, and proceeds to ask a question. Not an iota of brashness or sleeze. Pure elegance. It's like watching a perfect performance in figure skating at the Olympics.

Friday evening finds me in front of my PC on Skype again. 2 hours into the call, my new pink Blackberry pings me with a text message from Aya. Ah! I have an epiphany. I text her back for a nice chilled glass of wine. Ping! "Ya." Ping! "White?" Camille arrives with a glass of white wine. The tip is a piece of gum. Who needs an intercom, if you can text? Thank you Verizon for unlimited texting.

Saturday morning is for yoga. My husband and I drag our stiff bodies to class, and come out undulating flexibility. There is something to be said about good yoga instructors.

In between all this, I work on a few presentations. I hear commotion in the household as my husband decides to beautify the house all of a sudden. If you have ever read the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters, you will know Professor Emerson, the Father of Curses. My husband never curses, but in all other ways, he is like Emerson. Therefore, I ask my Ramses to close the door,and put earplugs in my ears as I work away.

I have put together a hobby site this week. Check it out if you can. Offer up a fairy story when you feel like it.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day 175 & 176: Yoga mat

I have a yoga mat right next to my desk, which is right in front of my bed. I try to stretch once in a while to relax my lower back. Sitting in front of the computer all day long tends to make my back hurt. This morning, Charlie decides to plunk himself on the yoga mat to groom himself. He also does a couple of "down dogs" as well as "side dogs" and " I am bored dogs".

To some of you reading this blog in your office cubicles, it may sound like an idyllic setting to work in. Fluffy slippers on my feet, yoga pants, old sweater, no make up, yoga mat and dog. To tell you the truth, it's not bad.

When the fog lifts, I will hop into my batmobile and drive into the city for a JETRO event on green tech. My brand new business cards from vistaprint will come in handy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Day 174: Fog Horns

Through the night and during the morning, the fog horns blow across the bay. As the sun rises over the East Bay, above the fluffy white fog, I feel like intoning "Ra!"

The kids entertain themselves with activities - walking the hills, peering into their computers, building a fort for their upcoming sleepover, chatting, swimming, going to the library... At the library, I borrow books on leadership, building a business, using the internet for business, etc. All these books that I used to shun as BORING, I now read for clues on how to do it better.

In the afternoon, our daily morning Skype turns into a 3 and a half hour discussion about transactions, strategies, and miscellaneous items. I wonder if this will be the future of businesses. Virtual communication amongst partners with the local touch for clients.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Day 172 & 173:Ski Week

It's ski week here - a one week break so Californian kids can go to Tahoe, Aspen and Whistler to ski. Rather decadent.

My kids aren't going anywhere, as their parents are too busy working. Instead, the sun is out and we go swimming. Julien, who never takes a day off from school, has a high fever, as if on cue. Poor child. It seems that his body knows when school is off, and only then, does he get sick.

My partners are all working hard, carving away their already short sleep hours. I try to think strategically with the advantage of distance. What is our best strategy? How can I help from this side of the ocean? The first step is really hard for start ups. Once we get in the groove, it should be easier. I am in awe of the power, talent, and tenacity of my partners. One gold medal here, please.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Day 171: Spring

It is only mid-February, but I greet lunch time in a tank top. This is why I love California. After a light paddle at the pool, we head out to Sausalito for lunch on the waterfront. The place is packed with people turning out to welcome spring.

In Tokyo, my partner is preparing to pitch a client for more business. In Vancouver, the winter Olympics have started. Funny how we live the same day differently.

In between chores, I translate a website into Japanese for my husband. The Japanese version is much shorter than the English, he says. True. The cultural differences between American and Japanese is interesting. A literal translation doesn't sit well in Japanese. What sounds like an assertive description of achievements and accomplishments in American English sounds so self-serving and arrogant in Japanese. This is why Google translation will never replace human translation.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Day 170:TGIF

Drive the "babies" to school - Freudian slip again, and miss the middle school turn (how can my baby daughter go to middle school?!). Loop around the hill to drop off 1 middle schooler. Drop off 1 elementary schooler with big trombone. Drop off batmobile at dealer for check up. Get a ride from husband, drop him off at office, zoom uphill, pat Charlie, go online for info requested by partner in Japan. Zoom up north in rain to Costco to pacify family ("Mommy, there is NO fruit, NO contact lense solution, NO lunch material, NO meat,NO Nequik, etc."). Screech into parking lot for a nice lunch with friends, stop by Trader Joe's for wine and orchid, unload van, pat Charlie, jump on Skype while sipping wine, ask questions that make people squirm, drink more wine, tumble into kitchen to prepare dinner, drink more wine, chat on Skype, send another email that will cause sensation, drink more wine.... duration 12 hours.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Day 169: A Dog's Life

My dog is strange. Every morning I wake up, he is outside my bedroom door waiting for me to emerge. As I step out on the landing, he does a "cat cow" and then a pristine "down dog" and "up dog". Then, as I go downstairs to kiss my husband and the kids good morning, he sulks. Finally, when he gets his share of kisses, he looks content.

Charlie happens to be very handsome and good natured, but "working like a dog" to him, means very little. All day long, he sleeps or day dreams next to me. Sometimes, he comes to snuggle up, and give me a hug. He now even puts his paw on my lap to give me a kiss. In a couple of years, I have a feeling he may do the "two kiss" kiss French style, with a scarf around his neck. When I go on Skype to talk to my partners, Charlie joins in and groans.

I find him very cute, but am glad he is a dog. If Charlie were human, he would be in his 40's. He is very hairy, with whiskers around his mouth. He travels from leather couch to leather couch all day and night, leaving hair on the cushions. He never cooks, but is always there when you are enjoying a meal. He complains about his food. He is extremely jealous and possesive. He doesn't work for a living, and expects you to love him. If he were human, he would be absolutely intolerable.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Day 168: Yuko

The highlight of my day is a visit from a college friend. It is quite frightening to think about how long we have known each other, but it is great to think how much we know about each other, too.

Funnily enough, Yuko is the reason why I find myself in finance today. She went to Columbia, I went to Stanford for business school. She was a year ahead of me. Being quantitative and smart, she landed a job in derivatives on Wall Street. I just wanted an excuse to visit her. So, I signed up for an interview in NY for a summer internship in derivatives. "Just say you love derivatives.", she told me the night before the interview. One thing led to another, and I landed a job in derivatives despite the fact that I am not that quantitative. Now I find myself a veteran in finance.

My first job out of business school, I started when I was 7 months pregnant with what has now become Aya. The first month on the job, I stayed at her apartment on Columbus Circle and had so much fun. On Saturday, she would run to get croissants for us. One day, we walked up and down Madison so much, that I almost delivered Aya 2 months ahead of time.

Throughout my career in NY, we would go for lunch to compare notes, celebrate triumphs, complain about work, and simply have fun. I don't miss New York, but I do miss not being able to see her as often.

Four and a half years back in the Bay Area have restored life in me, but New York doesn't seem as bad just about now.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Day 167: Maslow

I find my spirits restored after chopping vegetables and creating a new dish to go with the miso-marinated salmon tonight. I also re-arrange my orchids old and new and apply new methods to revive them thanks to the folks at the gardening store. I have renewed confidence in the fact that I was meant to be a lady of leisure. Simple things like gardening, cooking and generally making sure my family are well-fed and well taken care of, give me immense pleasure.

Life is interesting in how it twists and turns unexpectedly. I was chatting with someone in her mid-thirties recently. She has an infant and is hoping to have one or two more children. But, it's not easy as a working mother. I recall my mid-thirties. I felt older than I feel now. All bogged down with the physical, financial and emotional pressures of life. My late twenties were similar to that. I suspect it was motherhood and compounded motherhood that brought on pressure, fatigue, and subsequent growth. After dealing with physiological needs, I hope to have advanced to the self-actualization phase in Maslow's terms. But, life gyrates between the physiological and self-actualization needs. I hope to fulfill both.

Day 166: Musings

Recently, two of my friends have secured full time positions and are poised to return to work at large corporations. I am very happy for them, and at the same time, wonder, just a teeny weeny bit whether I shouldn't be looking to do the same.

But, we are making headway at our new enterprise. New contacts and new opportunities present themselves. It's all very exciting and rewarding to see how friends and contacts have reached out to help make things happen.

I know that for now, for me, I need to continue down this path. There may come a time when I think differently, but right now, the thought of returning to a big corporation does not appeal to me, other than the REGULAR PAYCHECK, the BENEFITS and the regular WEEKENDS and the PAID TIME OFF!!!! Just kidding.... It sounds great, don't get me wrong. If only I could have the fun of enterprising and the security of being employed...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Day 164 & 165: Super Bowl Sunday

The weekends no longer feels like weekends. Work continues with additional things to deal with because everyone is home. Saturday rains and Sunday shines. Julien has a permit, so he drives me around to deal with errands. In the do-it-yourself spirit, we go buy car wash material and wash the batmobile for the first time in months. It feels good to have the "green" wash material and buckets instead of driving into the car wash. I see visitors gathering at our neighbors'. All the wives are tall, slender, with long shiny hair from afar. I secretly regret having chosen to wash the car the very same afternoon in my ragged outfit. But, it's too late. I tell myself that beauty is only skin deep, and that work builds character.

To reward ourselves, Maxime and I drive down in the clean-looking batmobile and go for a dip at the pool. Now, we know why people are gathering. It's Super Bowl Sunday. I suppose we yet have to become American. Here they are - families eating burgers and drinking beer, all watching TV. My husband returns from the gym with local gossip. Super Bowl Sunday has a proven high wife beating frequency in the US. Sad.

Spring is in the air. Some of my kids have allergy. The tree flowers are out - pink and white plum and peach blossoms, and acacias. Soon enough, we'll have the dogwood and cherry blossoms as well. Tonight, as I sit in my tank top and ponder the severe storm on the East Coast, I can only thank my lucky stars.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Day 163: This Much I Know

It's Friday and I am busy. I clean the house, meet with folks for home maintenance, toss the laundry into the machine, clean the house again, work, meet with more people about the house, jump into the batmobile to go lunch with two very cute younger women whom I used to work with and catch up on their generation, head back to the library to pick up the kids and catch up on reading, head back home for a Skype call, supervise Maxime's math, supervise dinner plans with Aya, have wonderfully entertaining and interesting guests over for dinner, and collapse into bed.

I did it to myself. This much I know.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Day 162: Suu Kyi, the Dalai Lama and PJ

I am beginning to identify with someone under house arrest. My house is big, but I hardly venture out of my office/bedroom. All day long, I face my PC and periodically lift my eyes to look at the Golden Gate Bridge, which happens to be at eye level straight ahead of me. It'll be hard to find a corner office with a better view than mine. My office even comes with a bed!

Getting back to the topic of house arrest, I can see after years of confinement, one could start looking like cave woman. I admire Aung San Suu Kyi for many reasons, but right now, I admire her most for not puttering around home in her PJs all day long. After 14 years of exile, one with weaker willpower might resort to comfort clothes, but not she. Despite a leaky roof (, she always appears to be well dressed and well coiffed. I cannot say that about myself anymore.

Still, the rainfall around school bus time arouses even the hard core cave woman. I jump into my waterproof batmobile and zoom around town scooping up my offsprings, and fitting in grocery shopping at the same time. It shows how much of a recluse I have been. Safeway has a new self-checkout cashier! We try it out and find it easy to use. The only thing I don't know about is dishonesty. There is no way to check whether you have declared everything. Most people are honest, but even at the yoga studio (think His Holiness the Dalai Lama), there are thefts. Safeway is more at risk than the yoga studio, one would think.

Today, I send out an invoice for services (yes!), nudge payment for another invoice and deal with various homebound chores. I Skype with Japan, Ireland and Switzerland. There is a reason why I don't have video on my Skype, though.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Day 161: Try

As soon as I wake up, I turn on my PC. As soon as the PC starts, Skype calls. And from there, it is an endless stream of work. I have an assignment which is due tomorrow. Other than an errand mid-day and a quick break for lunch, I have been working non-stop. So have my partners. So has my husband. Entrepreneurs have to work like dogs. I now realize the sense of entitlement I had when I was an "employee". Yes, there were politics, there was an un-level playing field, there was hubris, hypocrisy, and a thick glass ceiling, but there was also a salary and benefits.

I am fortunate to have partners who try, try, try and never give up. I am fortunate to have a husband who tries and never gives up. I am fortunate to have kids who see this and learn about the value of trying and not giving up.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Day 160: Spring and Spam

Spring is officially here - flowers bloom year round here, but today I find daffodils, plum blossoms and acacias in full bloom. It is so much easier psychologically to head to the pool.

My new found internet savvy is proving a little tricky. Sorry for those who received a spam update on my company blog today. I'll try not to do it again.

My life is becoming quite average and routine other than technical glitches. Day 180 will be my last entry. 20 more days of chaos for you!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Day 158 & 159: Rugby and Traction

Sunday, Julien wakes me up before dawn so that I can drive him to the bus that takes him and his friends to Sacramento for a rugby tournament. He makes MVP for his game, but also manages to get a concussion. In the evening, I find myself in the ER. Luckily, he seems OK.

Monday. It's a dry day, sometimes sunny, sometimes overcast. I stay home all day, not stepping out once. After a morning call with my partner in Tokyo, I vacuum clean the house, do 6 loads(!) of laundry, iron some clothes, edit my newsletter, update the website, Skype with my partners in the evening, and cook dinner. This is becoming a routine. It seems like we are gaining some traction. We now talk about real deals and real business, not hypothetical ideas.

I am getting into experimenting with the social network on internet. It's a full time job to connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. etc. I am curious to see how this parallel universe grows.