Law and Disorder

There has been so much going on, stuff that I haven’t wanted to blog about, which is why you haven’t heard from me. But it’s probably time for an update.

After a lot of back-and-forths, meetings, calls, and consultations with experts, we have retained a lawyer and are moving forward with suing the developer who sold us our home. Last December, half of our home flooded which I blogged about here. I won’t go into the details, but we now feel strongly that the developer was at fault and completely negligent with the remodel, and ultimately, sold us a defective property.

The contractor who is currently working to solve the problem told me that there were gaping holes in the wall which resulted in the water intrusion. We have spent close to $40k on the fix (which is still ongoing). The solution consists of a newly-installed drain system around the perimeter and major water-proofing of our home. We have been living in a 1-bedroom with a 10-month old baby who just started consistently sleeping through the night recently. It has been very stressful. I don’t even want to talk about it, it makes me so anxious and upset. Soon enough, however, we will be back to normal and hopefully the attorney we hired will negotiate an appropriate settlement, and justice will prevail.

I feel compelled to add that we are not litigious people. We tried to work with the seller directly and considered splitting the cost 50/50, but after consulting with a civil engineer and professional contractors, they said that the negligence was so obvious that the seller should be paying the full cost of remediation. He balked.

It has been so weird contacting lawyers and trying to nail down the right one. I don’t know anything about the legal system except what I see on TV and the movies. Let’s just say contacting a lawyer isn’t something I ever want to do again. And even though there are a ton of lawyers out there, it seems like a pretty tight network because there were conflicts of interest every which way. Gah! I’m glad I am a business person.

Will My Baby Go to College?

Our nanny is a Michigan alum and is already indoctrinating Franco in the Wolverine way. It makes my heart swell to look at these pictures because Michigan is a great school. I’d be so proud if Franco went to Michigan or Cal or Stanford, but that is his decision to make and not mine. What parent wouldn’t want their child to be educated and graduate from college?

While I am a fervent believer in education, I also do not think college is for everyone, especially now when the expense does not often justify the result!

I tweeted the following last week and it generated such debate that I wanted to bring the discussion here into my blog, given that education is an important topic that I cover.

Here are my personal thoughts:

College is one of the most important investment decisions a student will make. If, as my Tweet indicates, one-third of college grads do not think college prepared them for employment, then what a waste of money! College is not about attending football games or getting trashed at a fraternity party. Sure that is part of the overall experience, but the only reason someone should go to college is to be a gainfully employed citizen once they finish. If not, why go?!

I am concerned that too many high school students are told that they have to go to college. That it’s simply the way it has to be. I laugh when I hear about all these parents who are shepherding their kids through the college application process. I’m sorry, but if your kid cannot fill out these applications on their own, then they should be repeating high school!

College is the status quo and if you want to break out of the cycle (i.e., 9-5 job, 2 weeks vacation), then you obviously have to take risks and do something different for God’s sake!

Oh but Catherine, you’re screaming right now, that’s exactly what you did. Exactimundo. The “status quo” was the right path for me because I love the corporate life. Coming into work every day, in my cubicle office, to stare at a monitor for hours on end makes me happy. I am doing exactly what I set out to do.

I believe college is worth it if you can get into a top school. Highly-ranked schools are competitive, where you will be in class with peers who are driven and motivated. They have massive alumni networks which you can use to your advantage for internships and your career post-graduation. They recruit the best talent in teaching and students, and that is where the donations flow.

Paying the price of private college education at a low-ranked school is akin to flushing money down the toilet. Sure there are exceptions. Scholarships, financial aid, etc., but I question the value of going to Generic University when your chances of employment are equivalent to or even less than going to a state school.

The college system as we know it is unsustainable. This is a new age where there are many different paths to take, and children shouldn’t feel forced into college and saddled with debt. These days, why not go straight to a paycheck? What high-growth startup wouldn’t want to hire an eager high school grad with a high SAT score?! No college diploma necessary!

I compiled all of the comments from my Facebook feed into the first comment below. Great points and worth a read.

Excited to get other opinions. Please feel free to comment.

LuminAID

I tweeted about this recently, but want to dedicate a post to this product as it deserves all the exposure it’s getting.

I heard about LuminAID through my grad school because one of the co-founders, Andrea Sreshta, is currently getting her MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

From the product website: The LuminAID Solar Light is a solar-powered, inflatable light that packs flat and inflates to create a lightweight, waterproof lantern. Safe, Sustainable and ultra-portable, the LuminAID provides up to 16 hours of LED light and can be easily recharged in the sun, ideal for recreational use outdoors or in the home as an extra light source.

LuminAID has huge implications for charitable organizations and bringing light to areas devastated by natural disasters.

Recently, the founders presented the product on the show Shark Tank. They are first up in the episode here. I don’t watch the show, but all five investors wanted to invest which apparently rarely happens. This product is winning awards and getting a lot of recognition. One is on its way to me as a gift for donating to my school. I’ve also bookmarked this as a great, inexpensive present.

Greetings from Sunny California

I’ve got a backlog of photos that I need to share. Given that the rest of the country is in bad shape, weather-wise, I thought to post some sunny pictures of our Golden State. It’s 74 degrees in San Francisco today, but the pictures below are from the Batteries to Bluffs hike that Dean and I did on Presidents Day last month.

I am really itching for a vacation. We are still living in half a home (contractors working on the place now), and both Dean and I work so insanely hard we barely have time to talk to each other.

A friend is heading to Shanghai and I went through my travel journals so that I could give him a list of all the restaurants / art galleries / museums / clubs that I visited when I was there in 2010. I’m nostalgic for those days when I used to travel all over the world. But at least we live in a place like this! Can’t beat these views.

Recap: 2015 Lead On Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women

I am bursting with information to share from the inaugural, sold-out 2015 Lead On Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women. It was hands-down the best conference I have ever attended. All the speakers, panelists, and moderators were incredible, not to mention famous. I sat in the same room as future President Hillary Clinton!

While the conference exceeded all of my expectations in terms of content, many of the logistics can be improved for next year. One day is not enough. There was only wifi in certain areas of the Santa Clara convention center. I suggest that the organizers (considering we are in the mecca of techland) serve up free wifi for the duration of the conference to all of its attendees. Those of us with laptops took a hit to our productivity trying to ascertain where the free hot spots were. And what is up with the severe lack of food? Chicken salad and a dixie-sized cup of dessert were all that were served the whole day! Not a single granola bar or piece of fruit could be found. During lunch, I heard at least a thousand women grumble that they were starving.

Poor logistics aside, the conference was highly-motivating and inspirational. Here are the top things that I learned.

Connect offline. Go to conferences. Call your mother!

During a Q&A session, one attendee talked about how she was an entrepreneur, but felt stuck. The speaker told her, “That’s why you’re here. Come to conferences like this. Be inspired. Surround yourself with other entrepreneurs or like-minded people who can motivate you.” She’s right. There is great power in connecting with others. Stop staring at your iPhone and go to a meetup.

Be your authentic self. Share the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

No one likes a Pollyanna. Because seriously, who is perfect? One of the speakers talked about how we tend to compartmentalize our lives and share only parts of who we are: partner at a law firm, Ivy League… Rarely do we talk about divorce or being a single mom or overcoming depression. But what a great service we would be offering up to our communities and to each other if we reflected on our collective past and how that made us stronger? Not only does that convey strength, but it’s also our authentic selves. The speaker encouraged us to bring all of our different personas to the table, and not pick and choose our highlights. Another speaker echoed this same theme. She said that authenticity is at the heart of your power, and that when you bring your authentic self, people will trust you.

“What you might consider your weaknesses can become your strengths.”

That’s a quote from Candy Chang. I believe she characterized herself as an introvert and as a way of dealing with a sudden death of a loved one, she painted chalkboard onto the side of an abandoned building in New Orleans and stenciled the words “Before I die I want to…” It became an art sensation with 550 walls created in over 35 languages in over 70 countries. Through a simple idea, Candy has changed the way people in communities exchange information. She is one to watch as she is doing some amazing things as an artist and a proponent of building more cohesive and interactive communities.

Get help.

I think the most important thing I learned from the conference is that all of these amazing, successful women had help and a lot of it. It seems simple enough, but I think a lot of us try to do way too much on our own. One partner at a law firm said she was always so embarrassed at how many helpers (maids, nannies, babysitters, personal assistants) she had marching in and out of her house, but all of that help is what allows her to succeed in life. Another speaker very quotably said, “When you put yourself first, you put your family first.”

Find it online. 

The conference was $245 which isn’t chump change so I totally understand if people can’t afford to attend. You know what? No problem. If there’s a conference you want to go to and you can’t afford it or it’s too far away, I swear all of that information turns up online. For this conference, just search #LeadonCA. You can find Kara Swisher’s fantastic interview of Hillary Clinton here.

Also, a lot of the speeches were recycled or upcycled Ted Talks.

Here are a few to get your started.

Brene Brown

Candy Chang

There, I just saved you $245. You’re welcome.

Next up, I’ll post on my exclusive interview with the World and Olympic figure skating, and Dancing with the Stars champion Kristi Yamaguchi.