Saturday, September 21, 2013

Riding the Alzheimer's rollercoaster

It's Saturday about 11:15 and every time I don't know what our next 3 hours are going to be like.

My mother-in-law has Alzheimers. Not the advanced kind. She knows who we are, remembers our names, and remembers a lot from fifty years ago but she doesn't know what day it is and what she wants to eat for lunch -- and we don't know who she is going to be each day.

Today I went to pick her up for our Saturday lunch date. She was in bed and she didn't want to get up. She hadn't eaten breakfast and needed to eat (not eating makes doing anything else tough) and I knew if I listened to her and left, as she was telling me to, she'd lie in bed and cry, because I'd left. So I got her up, cleaned her up, dressed her, cheered her along in the car as it poured down on us, and took her to meet my husband Bret at one of her favorite restaurants... but today she decided not to talk to us at lunch. No idea why, but she wasn't going to talk.

Last Saturday started out the same, but once I got her to the restaurant she picked up, was cheerful, and, had you joined us, you would not have known she's been struggling with her mind. But because she was well she remembered the week before...

That week, two weeks ago, Margit and I went out to lunch with my father who came along to help me. He likes all my attention, but understands when I am with her that I need to be focused on her to make sure she's OK. To hold her hand, to help her when she decides to wash her steak in her water, or put ice onto her pasta, or confuse her plate with her food. And that week we ran into my company's lead investor at the restaurant. He also commands my attention, and expects me to be brilliant and together and a CEO, which is hard to be when your attention is already torn two ways. But I did give him 5 minutes of my attention and then paid for it.

As I took her home my mother-in-law decided to punish me. She told me I wanted her dead, and I wanted to hang her from a tree until she was dead, and maybe I should just hang her from a tree because clearly I didn't care about her and just wanted to dump her back in "that place". She was angry that I was going back to my father (who was leaving for England the next day) and decided to lash out - until I got her back to Sunrise and hugged her and told her Bret would be there on Tuesday, and  I'd be back next week and then she told me she did appreciate that we were taking care of her.

It's a roller coaster. A never ending cycle of good days, bad days, cruel days, sleepy days, demanding days and on every day we're with her I watch Bret watch her with tension in his face and sadness because even if you've never had much of a relationship with your parent, watching them struggle with their mind and be deeply unhappy is so very painful. But he's decided he's going to take care of her - she's one of the lucky ones.

Here we are in the center of technology, with miraculous advances every day, and yet we can't stop our minds deteriorating. I know we're not alone. Every family that experiences Alzheimer's experiences the roller coaster. It's awful. Surely if we can invent the smart phone, and google glass, and an electric car that can go 300 miles, surely we can find a way to prevent Alzheimer's? Seems to me all those ad dollars could go to better use than selling sugar water.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

TechCrunch, TitStare and a Tale of Two Silicon Valleys

This weeks spectacular display of bad taste by TechCrunch Disrupt has lit up the Twittersphere with more analysis of how hostile tech is for women. In case you missed it, TechCrunch Disrupt opened with not one, but two awful presentations (awful unless you are a teenage boy). An app designed so you can capture people staring at other people's breasts, TitStare, and a demonstration of on stage masturbation (male masturbation of course), with an iPhone app counting the number of times you can shake your iPhone in 10 seconds. We have such a long history of bro-dom in tech, and such a lot of material, that the Atlantic has written a poem to it.

What I find so bizarre about this week's particular brand of puerile presentation is that it is still going on. Are these guys living in a time warp?  Do they actually work in Silicon Valley or not? Twenty years ago I would have expected it, but not today!

In the real Silicon Valley today most people are so busy building products, users and revenue they don't have time to make fun of women, or their breasts. If it doesn't make me money, leave it out. Enterprise software is back in fashion, the Cloud and Mobility are turning the world on it's ear - who has time for sexism any more?

In the real-world of Silicon Valley now we have strong sexual discrimination laws. Woe betide you if you work for a real company and you harass a female employee or create a hostile environment. And if you work for a real company pay attention - you can get fired in the blink of an eye if you put the company at risk by hitting on the women you work with, or worse yet who work for you.

In the real-world of tech we have more and more women in power - Meg Whitman and Marissa Mayer and Ginni Rometty and Christy Wyatt and Mary Meeker and Theresia Gouw and Arianna Huffington and many more, including me... and I sure hope the tech frat boys are smart enough to keep their breast interests outside of our offices.

In the real-world of tech we have women changing the way we think about sex. Cindy Gallop is changing the world through sex and challenging the way we even think about sex in today's society. As she posted in Facebook "You're absolutely right TitStare doesn't get a thumbs up from me". But in contrast the boys of Hacker News defended TitStare with "I don't see the problem. Pornography is perfectly legal and big business." At least they equated it to porn, which it is, but pretty boring and tasteless porn.

Two contrasting views of how tech power views women have been emerging for the last 10 years and there are two Silicon Valleys - two worldviews within the tech industry. First, there is the tech world 95% of us live in. Intense work on powerful technology, long hours, explosive markets, serious investors, growing revenue and creating long lasting products and customer engagement. Some gender bias in graduating degrees (yes I write often that we need more women in STEM), little gender bias in the workplace, no misogyny in the office.

And then there is the tech world that attracts press and discourse because it drives traffic -- the world of the tech boy culture so perfectly captured by TitStare. But it's rare. It's now almost as unimaginable as a politician sending a text photo of his penis to a woman via social media -- but wait, that was real too! Some people's (lack of) intelligence boggles my mind.

But if you do run into the second tech world, the misogynistic one, and it makes you angry, remember: don't get mad, get even. Smile and take over. Whether you are female or male, don't tolerate the behavior and it will, eventually, die.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Your customer needs more than an email

It's an old saying "people buy from people" but with our dependance on digital communication sometimes salespeople forget and rely too much on email and texting. It feels safer, you can plan and think out what you are going to say and you won't surprise the person you need to communicate with. But it's just not effective, even in a world where we are all fast iPhone typists - as the WSJ wrote last week: Bosses Say "Pick up the Phone".

The reality is, despite our growing dependency on text and email, you can't sell that way - well not enterprise level solutions anyway. Big deals, thousands of users, game changing applications - they are sold through human relationships and at many levels of relationship.

For example, you can't develop a champion in email. Champions help you get the deal done and they help you get it done on your timeline. They help you because they believe in your solution, and just as importantly they help you because they like you. They learn to like you based on your voice and some personal exchange as well as professional from and/or in person interaction, not text. Even better an in person meeting -- they are your champion because you connect at a human level and so they'll go to bat for you.

You can't develop a coach by texting and Tweeting. Coaches tell you the lay of the land, who has what political agenda, what the buying process is going to be and who's going to approve it. Coaches tell you things you probably should not know, and that they would never put in writing, but they'll tell you in person over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine because they think what you're doing is good for their company and they want to see you win. People don't take risk for people they've never spoken with or met.

You don't get referred up and across a Fortune 100 in email. In a big company up-and-coming players know the power of face time. If they are going to take you to a CxO or GM they are going to do it in person, and that means they need to know you're presentable and going to make them look good. That means they've spent enough time with you to trust you. Can you imagine being referred to the CIO of a sister division of a giant global company by someone you've never talked with? Trust isn't built digitally.

So if you want to be a killer enterprise sales rep pick up the phone, or better yet get in the car or on a plane, because there is simply no substitute for meeting in person, although you probably don't have to get as close as Donkey.

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