Networking: Texas Style

Networking in Texas

On my mission to build my local network in Austin, I signed up for a speakers’ breakfast club that someone recommended to me.

I got up like a zombie at 5 am to make it for this 7am event (seriously, why so early?!). I drove in the dark to the university where I spent 4 years of my undergrad, got lost with all the construction around the new medical school and finally found my destination near the Football Stadium, which I’ve never been to despite the fact that football is THE thing about the University of Texas.

Anyhow, the event turned out to be pretty full, mostly with very energetic middle-aged people. I met the other young woman in the room. She was very attractive and stylish, with short blond hair and an 80’s style blazer and spoke with the confidence of a CEO of Fortune-500 company. She turned out to be an opposition consultant who recently moved to Austin from DC. If you’re wondering what’s do opposition consultants do, the answer is that they dig up all the dirt on the opposition if one decides to run for public office. “How interesting!”, I exclaimed (imagining a British accent inside my head). But she said it were a really boring job and that she had a bunch of 25 year old dudes locked in a room, doing research all day long. I could definitely imagine it as a scene from Mad Max.

There were around 50-70 participants in this breakfast and at some point they were all asked to introduce themselves. What happened next seemed like a 30-minutes-long infomercial. One after another, people stood up and threw marketing taglines into the audience – “Hi, I am Bob with Bob’s Wood Flooring Co and I hope to floor you today”, “Hi, I’m John with ABC Tech Co and I can help you make technology less scary to use”, “Hi, I’m Jane and I can save you from your financial planning hell.” Some taglines were more creative than others but of course I forgot all of them just equally. It was something from a Woody Allen movie when you don’t know if you should cry, laugh, give them a hug, or buy them a drink.

Just before my turn, a lady introduced herself saying she’s retired but works as democrats community organizer and apologized for being that. Of course I had to step up to the discussion because I can’t keep my mouth shut and said she shouldn’t be shy about this, and I am with her. “How can anyone vote for Republicans in this election anyways, “ I said, looking around the room. “They’re all crazies!” I twirled my finger around my ear to gesticulate. At that moment I realized I was in Texas in a room that was probably mostly Republican so I added “The candidates, that is. Not the voters.” Even though I didn’t really believe it. People seemed to laugh at my boldness and non-PC attitude. Perhaps they were just trying to figure out what would be the best way to assassinate me.

My timing was perfect because it turned out that speaker afterwards was a history professor who talked about the 2016 election and his views on which candidates could win and why. He was clearly not neutral but he did a fairly good job stating the obvious that radicalization and fear factor don’t really win elections in the USA because people like the message of hope. He talked a lot about Reagan and how he won because of his personality and good sense of humor and despite talking all about small government, raised taxes as soon as he got elected because he had to be pragmatic and deal with the budget deficit.

He also pointed out how politicians treat the American people like children; they don’t talk to voters in rational logical manner nor bother talking about real issues because people don’t really care and vote for them anyways. Nothing new there. He kind of contradicted himself saying that Bernie Sanders has no chance because he’s a joke and no one would elect a socialist. What the distinguished professor he was clearly missing was that Bernie is picking up exactly because he’s giving people hope while Hillary is just repeating old mantras. He though Hillary for sure will be nominated but didn’t offer insights for the Republicans. Me thinks I should write some books about this nonsense too and become famous by stating the obvious.

From networking perspective this event was completely useless but from a cultural perspective I was definitely priceless. And that’s why ladies and gents, you should always network.

Just kidding.

Austin Skyline
The Austin Skyline

Brazilian Food, Austin Style

I go to a Brazilian restaurant in Austin and my companions ask me to show off my Portuguese so I turn to the host and ask: “Tem uma mesa para tres pessoas?” (do you have a table for three people?)

He looks at me with bewilderment like I just spoke Swahili to him. Then I try another approach: “Tienes una mesa para las tres personas?”…
Then he understands.

When I asked our waiter if anyone there spoke Portuguese he pointed at the adjacent room and said – “Yeah there’s is one Brazilian, he works in the taqueria.”
In Brazil I would have said: “Pó, você tá de brincadeira meu.”

I ignored the TexMex page and ordered Feijoada because I wanted to make sure that I go REALLY Brazilian. It was ok.

Feijoada, Brazilian Food in Austin

Now I Know Why It’s Important to Teach Biology in Schools

So I go to the grocery store to buy my first-ever protein shake. 
 As it’s the USA there are about 50 types of different kinds of powders and liquids, all with shiny letters promising all sorts of benefits. 
Then I see about 30 more kinds in the natural / vegan / gluten free / non GMO/ organic or whatnot categories that cost you 50% more for something that is half the size, all these have lots of green and white packaging that will sure make you feel healthier just looking at it. 

A nice store employee comes and asks if I need any help because I obviously look lost. I tell him that I want to buy a protein shake because I want to gain weight. So he points to one of the shelves and says I should get THAT one but “beware because it has lots of sugar.”

“Strange,” I say, “because it only has 3% daily value of carbs per serving…” (which is about less than half of the carbs in the average yogurt cup). 

“No, you have to look at the calories,” he says, “that shows you how much sugar it has. ”

Now, am I missing something or I learned the wrong things in Biology class (I know it has been at least 15 years since but still…)?

Finally, I ended up getting something that is called Muscle Milk, which has no milk, but has milk proteins (so confusing).


Thank You Ellen Pao

I had an “interesting” lesson lately with Twitter haters. I always like to post thought-provoking articles on Facebook so I posted a few weeks ago an article titled : “Thank you Ellen Pao for teaching more people about sexism in the workplace.” This topic was on my mind as I learned that a friend and her several colleagues were fired right after coming back from maternity leave.

I didn’t know too much about Ellen Pao nor felt any sense of solidarity with her specifically as evidence showed that she was no saint in her conduct. Nevertheless, I reasoned that her case was putting sexism at work at the top of mind for some people so it was a good time to talk more about this issue and share examples from around the world (which the article was ultimately about).

I then tweeted this article and some stats about the lower salaries of women players in the FIFA World Cup (only 2.3 % of total paid to the men) and I was really shocked that I started getting various responses from men. They were upset with me for “supporting” Ellen Pao, and eager to share all sorts of articles about how horrible of a person she is, what an awful husband she married, how she destroyed Reddit, etc etc. On the women player salaries, I was told to “get over myself”.

When I looked at these guys’ Twitter accounts I saw that all they tweeted and retweeted had hate speech against women and attacks on anything they mapped as feminist. It was a deliberate work they did, to find women that tweet about issues and attack them personally.

I, of course, blocked those guys; they have no relevance for my life and I am not going to waste time arguing with someone who has no intention to listen. BUT, their arguments reminded me of other times in my life when I was confronted with blunt sexist comments and was told to keep my “feminist propaganda” to myself when I dared to object.

If  you want to get a better feel for what I mean – check out the #thankYouEllenPao hashtag on twitter.

Lets pause here: I don’t know what your definition of feminism is but mine is that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men. (it doesn’t mean that I hate men, don’t think man are valuable or expect them to get thrown under a bus driven by some hairy and muscular woman)

I am disgusted by this type of aggression but am certainly not surprised. I am happy to say that many young men that I know are just as disgusted by this type of behavior and some of them are actually more actively “feminist” than I.

It was the overwhelming support of the entire scientific community that got Tim Hunt sacked for his derogatory comments about women scientists (claiming that they should be put in separate laboratories because they fall in love with him).

It’s therefore important that we all work together to make sure that our women don’t get discriminated or disrespected by a haters minority, which sometimes can become a majority.

By the way, I found out that one of the things that brought on the great discontent of Reddit users agains Ellen was that she wanted to close forums that promoted hated speech against fat people, women and racial minorities (they claimed she was violating freedom of speech). How ironic.

10 signs you’re in an abusive relationship with your job

bad bosses

1.You work hard and present great ideas to your manager, who rejects them and later on presents them as his or her own

2. You’re constantly asked to deliver things last moment with the excuse that “someone important needs them”

3. You’re told that you should be grateful that you have this job because people “out there” are DYING to work for the company

4. You’re suddenly reassigned to the area that no one wants to work in and told you should treat this as an opportunity

5. You’re told that the company is always looking for great talent but somehow you never hear of interesting job opportunities

6. You often notice that several other colleagues are working on the same task and whoever delivers first gets the praise

7. You’re told that first you need to spend several years proving yourself and only then will you be able to get challenging assignments

8. You’re recently promoted and your peers offer you “helpful” advice that ends up getting you in trouble

9. You’re asked to work on the weekend on a regular basis and expected to answer e-mails / calls at odd hours of the night

10. You’re asked to cancel your holiday vacation so that you can babysit the junior staff while senior management spends time with family

Please feel free to add your own examples to this discussion. #BetterJobBetterLife