Family Reunions

There’s nothing like family, and I’ve come to realize this now more than I ever have before this weekend.  I have had the pleasure of hanging out with “both” sides, maternal and paternal, of my family.   Every Father’s Day weekend, my dad’s family has a reunion.  It started out 50 years ago with my great-grandfather’s children honoring him and having a potluck during the first Father’s Day after my great-grandmother died.  I actually found out this weekend that the potluck was my grandmother’s idea.  In February of this year, my cousin sent a mass text to all of the grandchildren and requested our presence at the reunion, which is held in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.  After my grandmother passed last month, I knew that I had to come back to South Carolina and attend the events of the weekend.  I was able to see my aunts, uncles, cousins, and was able to meet some new family members.  (I’m sure we’ll connect on Facebook soon!)  I had a great time; Friday was the fish fry on the family property, Saturday was the banquet, and Sunday was church and the Lowcountry boil and cookout under the tent on the family land.  Needless to say I got some good eating done, as only we Southerners can do!  I even got to hang out a little with my firstcousins, which is always fun in and of itself!

Once the paternal side activities were done, I travelled to Georgia where my mom’s family rented a house for the week.  A few years back, my family decided to travel every other year for a week and rent a house in a different location.  In addition to seeing my mom, grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins that live in my hometown, I was also able to see my aunt that lives in Nebraska, who brought her two grandsons, and my aunt that lives in New York!  And I met my new 2 month old cousin, who is absolutely adorable!  And he is spoiled rotten!  It seems like I came on the right day because one of my uncles cooked out on the grill and I went to the beach with my mom and had some bonding time.  What was supposed to be a day trip turned into an overnighter as I went with them into the city and came back way too late to drive back to South Carolina.  So, as luck would have it, my mom had some extra PJ’s, which I’m tempted to take back with me to DC, and I had a scarf in the trunk, so I slept in one of the many rooms in this house.   We got up and had breakfast together, which was really nice and I knew was going to be good as EVERYBODY in my family can cook!  I’m so tempted to stay another day, but duty calls, so travel back to the city I must.  I’ve never been on the family vacation with my mom’s family, so this was a great experience for me.

This trip has been a nice change of pace for me and very refreshing.  My families are loving, supportive, and everyone has hearts of gold.  Now, I’m not saying that my families are perfect, but when we need each other, we are always there, and that’s what matters most.   Are there any traditions that your family has?  Do you participate?  What’s your favorite family memory?  Please feel free to share.  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city!

Digital Capital Week: Tech Cocktail Party

As I went on vacation with mi familia (and having a blast I might add), my last DC Week event was the Tech Cocktail Party on Thursday, June 17.  I had a great time, was able to get reacquianted with some old friends, and make some new contacts.  The event was sponsored by Bingham Law Firm, who has offices across the country, and Zenzi Communications, which handles various levels of media marketing and was held at Lux Lounge, a premiere location in DC.

Attendees enjoyed complimentary appetizers and received a ticket to receive a drink.  To identify what sector in which you work, attendees were given nametags and stickers; choices included Developer/Designer/Engineer, Recruiter/Human Resources, Entreprenuer, Marketing/PR/Social Media, and Other.  The stickers (and the key) helped you identify who does what and helped in starting conversations with complete strangers.  The first person I met was Renee Turrell of GRT Corporation, based in Atlanta, GA.  With Renee, I came across a first for me, an electronic business card; needless to say I was impressed.  GRT specializes in logos, branding, and marketing for various small businesses and start-up companies.  A friend referred her to the events of DC Week and she was hoping to make some new connections.   Renee even gave me some tips on how I can help build my business; I will definitely be in contact with her to gain some more knowledge!  I also had the pleasure of running into Marcus Finley of Live Liberty, which handles non-profit and social action work.  Live Liberty also works on creating campaigns. Marcus hopes to work begin work on the tech start-up part of his full-time.  He heard about DC Week through a fellow tech start-up “rival”, Mike Romero.  Marcus and Mike, along with some others have a network of small tech start-ups that meet on a regular basis to network and share ideas and events that are taking place that pertain to their industry.  Marcus says there is a little friendly competition among them, but he learns some valuable information.  The second floor was where the Startup Showcase was taking place.  Approximately nine companies were highlighting the things they can do in the tech world for various investors.  (Prior to the event, attendees could complete a sign-up sheet that identified them as a business owner or an investor.)  This was another way that people could network and dialogue on ways to assist each other in the tech world.

I would have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the events of Digital Capital Week that I attended!  I was able to meet some great people, see where I fit in the tech world, and find out where I can help.  I hope you guys were able to attend some of the events, especially the events on Friday and Saturday.   If you attended any of the events during DC Week, please share your experiences.  Until next time, I’m just a Southern Girl…in the city!

This Week in the News

As I will be traveling tomorrow, my weekly news post is coming a day early! (Thank God for family reunions and the beach!)  As usual, here are my musings and opinions of noteworthy things that have occurred this week!

First, Game 7 is tonight!!!  It’s a night we all (well at least some) have been waiting for!  Yes, I am a Celtics fan; Kevin Garnett is my homeboy! (We don’t have each other’s numbers on speed dial, but I did meet him as a teenager at my first job.)  Also, I’m just really not a Kobe fan…but in any event, my money is on the Celtics beating the Lakers. 

For those of you who have been living under a rock, BP is still under fire.  BP testified earlier today in front of the House of Representatives in regards to the ongoing oil spill.  CEO Tony Hayward was very apologetic in his opening remarks to the House Energy Committee.  I really try not to take sides here, lest a political debate be started, but this is a topic that we should all keep an eye on.  So the only thing I will say is just make sure that you are doing your due diligence to keep up with the lastest happenings.

While (briefly) listening to the Tom Joyner Morning Show this morning, I caught the “Little Known Black History Fact”, which was about the African-American slaves who built the Capitol building. (Read details here.)  Democratic and Republican leaders were present to honor those human beings who toiled for 7 years to build the exterior of the Capitol building, and a plaque was unveiled recognizing those people.  I’m happy to know that our current leaders are still acknowledging the work that African-Americans contributed to this country.  As someone who likes to keep up with my Black history, I am glad that I can add this important tidbit to my personal library.

Tupac Shakur would have been 39 years old yesterday.  Various stations in the DC area played select songs the rapper made pretty much all afternoon yesterday.  I enjoyed listening to one mix so much that I told my co-workers that we were going to listen to Tupac in honor of his birthday.  Yeah, not such a great idea.  Unfortunately, the online station we were listening to didn’t play any edited songs, so after one too many, mf’ers, gd’s, and other choice words, I realized that Tupac wasn’t workplace inappropriate, so he had to go.  But we did recognize him!

They did it!!! Just when I thought they would be another couple together forever and never get married, Calista Flockhart and Harrison Ford get married!!!  I am very happy for them!  Yes, being the traditional girl that I am, I love weddings, but more importantly, I love marriages! So I say “Congrats” to Harrison and Calista and wish them many prosperous years together!

Ok, folks, so I know there was something that I missed.  Why don’t you share it with the rest of us!  Just a little FYI, I will be attending the Digital Capital Week 140Tech Party tonight, so I’ll share my perspective with you soon!  Have a great weekend!!! Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city.

My Two New “Aunties”

I think we all have special people in our lives who aren’t family.  Someone like a “pseudo” mom or dad or older sister or brother that we’ve adopted (or they’ve adopted us) to show us the ropes and give us life lessons that we just didn’t think to discuss with our parents or were too embarassed to bring up.   Throughout my short time on this earth, I have been VERY blessed to have so many mentors and wiser women in my life to help guide and mold me, in addition to the great work my parents and family did.   In my new job, I have two wonderful women who have taken me under their wings and tell me the things I never discussed with my mother.

First, let me say that I always seem to attract people to me.  I don’t know if it’s my Southern disposition or pleasant personality, but for the most part, I never run into people who don’t like me. (And no, I’m not conceited or stuck on myself; I’m just stating facts.)  My co-workers, Casey and Madeline, are the two newest additions to my extensive list of mentors.  Both ladies have served in the military, are at least 15 years older than me, and are mothers.   These ladies are not shy about anything, which is a huge contrast to me, who can be somewhat prudish at times.  They are always sharing their experiences and giving me advice, especially when it comes to men.  In recent weeks, I have been given advice on everything from how to be more assertive when dealing with men, not being so harsh/mean all of the time, and when to just let men go. I’ve known Casey longer.  She was there when I first started this position and was my first official trainer.  Casey has made sure that I know what I need to know about my job, without stepping on anybody’s toes, and ensures that no one tries to pull the wool over my eyes.  Never one to bite her tongue, Casey shares her own Latina flavor of anecdotes ranging from eating organic foods to “bumping the uglies”. (I’ll let you figure out what that one means.)  And Madeline, whom I affectionately called “my inappropriate auntie” when discussing her with a friend of mine, is a great addition to our office.  A fellow Southern girl, Madeline and I have hung out numerous times outside of work and has even tried to play matchmaker; unfortunately for the guy, it didn’t work out, but Madeline gets an “A” for effort!  Both women say everything my mother and I don’t, or won’t, discuss and we have a great time when it’s just us girls in the office. 

I love my mother immensely and speak to her at least once a day everyday, but it is nice to know that I have so many other strong, educated, and accomplished women in my corner.  So to each and every woman that has touched my life in a positively way, especially my two new “aunties”, I say “Thank you!”  So, what about you all?  Do you have an older person who influenced your life in a positive way?  What have they done?  Do you still communicate with them?  Please share your stories.  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city.

Digital Capital Week: Delivering Happiness

I had the pleasure of attending Tony Hsieh’s book signing for his latest book, “Delivering Happiness”.  Frank Gruber, co-producer of Digital Capital Week, served as the moderator for the event.  During its opening week,  “Delivering Happiness” debuted at #1 on Amazon.com and at Barnes and Noble.  The book mainly discusses how to better create customer satisfaction and how his company (Zappos.com) delivers happiness.

Mr. Hsieh started a pizza making business in college with his roommate.   After graduation, the two friends started LinkExchange.  While they had fun with the company, employees were working around the clock, and it came to a point where Tony dreaded coming to work.   In 1999, LinkExchange was sold to Microsoft for $265 million.  (Yes, you read correctly-265 MILLION DOLLARS!)  He decided to sell the company as the culture went downhill.   The employees were qualified; they just were not good for the company culture.  In 2005 when Tony became the CEO of Zappos.com, he wanted to build a brand that focused on customer service.   Within 4 years, Zappos became the #1 online shoe retailer.  Tony shared that the quality of great companies are a very strong culture and having a concept of a higher purpose.  At Zappos, they have 10 core values, also known as commitable values, meaning that people can be hired or fired based on those values.  Zappos.com also looks out for its employees by providing a comprehensive benefits package and encouraging entry-level hires to work on their personal and professional growth.   It’s Mr. Hsieh’s goal that these new hires can reach senior management level within 5 years.  This young entrepreneur believes it is possible to make customers happy, employees happy, and raise a profit in a successful business.

Mr. Hsieh took the time to answer a few questions from audience members.   He was very forthright and honest with his answers as well, which was very refreshing coming from a CEO of a major company, as one attendee pointed out.  He admitted that his biggest failure was that he hired people to quickly and was slow to fire them, when those should be reversed.  He also admitted that he should have shared his core values on Day 1 instead of waiting 4 or 5 years to share that information with employees.  Another tidbit Mr. Hsieh pointed out was that he encourages his senior level management team to socialize with their employees outside of the workplace.   His experience has shown teams become more productive by increasing their out of work socializing by 10-20%.  Free copies of  “Delivering Happiness” were given to all registered guests; for a donation of $20 to LiveStrong, Mr. Hsieh would even autograph your book!  I had an enjoyable time at the this event and even live-Tweeted from my seat at George Washington University.  One quote that will stay with me for awhile was, “It’s better for co-workers to become friends than friends to become co-workers” meaning it’s not always a good business practice to hire your friend just because they are your friend.  To get more information from Mr. Hsieh purchase the book or visit the book’s site at http://www.deliveringhappinesbook.com.  I know I cannot wait to delve into my copy.  As a budding entrepreneur I would love to hear more of his suggestions on how to create and retain a successful business, be happy, and ensure your employees stay happy.   Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city.