February 22, 2008

Prius and Proud

Posted in green living, silicon valley at 4:22 pm by siliconmom

My husband is on a business trip to Europe this week, so that means I get exclusive use of the family Prius. Yeeees! No cajoling, no negotiation. Zip. Since we bought it last summer, we both like it so much there’s almost a daily battle over breakfast: how far are you driving today? Whoever is going further -or says they are (!)- gets to sit behind the wheel and enjoy the heady sensation of watching the miles per gallon counter hover around 45.

Now before you accuse us of being smug environmentalists with a tree hugger’s adoration for all things green; I have to confess we bought the car because it would save us oodles of commute time by driving solo in the carpool lane (Oh CA lawmakers, I kiss your feet on this one!) They say: Time is money, but time is also sanity when you’re waiting for your road warrior to arrive home so you can get dinner going for a pair of rambunctious kids! But owning a Prius has also had some unexpected consequences, some good, some bad…

For starters, my best single girlfriend nearly had a fit when I told her we were buying a Prius. She says she’s sick of Pasadena’s ubiquitous Prii and even used a nasty four letter word: UGLY! Another Prius driving friend gave it up and bought a Lotus instead. But I paid no heed and now I’m so smitten with mine, my retort also has four letters: SEXY!

OK, it may not be sexy in a Maserati type manner, but I feel pretty sexy driving it. There’s something sexy about driving a car that purrs almost silently through the neighborhood. I sense envious eyes following me down the street…I see friends in their gas guzzling Suburbans and Expeditions and can’t help feeling a wee bit special (and lucky too, especially with the gas prices rocketing up). A CEO I interviewed recently at the paper told me he gets his Prius kicks gliding in from Berkeley to Silicon Valley in the carpool lane. Hey, I ask you: what’s sexier than coasting past red Ferraris snarled in traffic?

But of course there are downsides to Prii…with the MPG display on view for all to see, my outspoken passengers, especially my son, now monitor my driving “performance.” Hey mom: low 40’s – you’re not doing so well today, heavy on the gas pedal, heavy on the break eh? I scramble for the right reply


February 5, 2008

Waiting for the IPO

Posted in silicon valley tagged , , , , , at 4:14 pm by siliconmom

Waiting, just waiting
Why life “on hold” doesn’t work for families



From the Mercury News Column Archives
by Alison van Diggelen, July 2000

I must be one of the few people in Silicon Valley who breathed a little sigh of relief when the stock market started to fall earlier this year.  The good news is that a lot of Silicon Valley-ites may have got a sound reality check.  Net worths are lower, but homes and families may be happier.

The “deferred life plan” may work well for the young and unattached.  Their life is their work, and their work place an extension of college life, a social club.  As Bill Gates said of his young software programmers, “if they want, we will give them a sleeping bag, but there is something romantic about sleeping under the desk.  They want to do it.” For them, “all nighters” are a form of team bonding, something to brag about. 

But for workers with partners and kids, trying out the same strategy may not work.  They may wake up one day like Rip van Winkle not recognizing their kids, their partner or themselves.  It’s hard for “deferred life planners” and happy families to co-exist in the new economy of Silicon Valley.

Sure we’d all love to share in the technology gold rush, but the problem is that all work and no play don’t mesh well with sound family life.  You may be willing to put your life on hold for a few years, but kids are different, they won’t be put on hold.  Like it or not, they grow up fast, arguably at a faster rate than it takes stock options to vest. 

Up until recently there’s been the feeling that the market can’t wait, you must ride the wave today or it won’t be there tomorrow.  But it’s only the stellar news you hear about, not the nineteen out of twenty startups that fail to scoop the jackpot.

I recently read one of my favorites Dr. Seuss books to my kids: “Oh the Places You’ll Go!”   The double page “Waiting Place” stopped me in my tracks when I read it to my kids last week.  To me, it sums up the lives of many of us in Silicon Valley.

“…You’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space
headed I fear, toward a most useless place.

The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting..”
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting, perhaps for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break”

And for us in Silicon Valley, I could add,
for that first demo
or the big trade show,
or the I.P.O.
or the ratio
of the P to E to grow and grow.
Everyone is just waiting.”

I’m not suggesting people are sitting around waiting, on the contrary they are furiously pursuing some grand ambition, but are so blinded by the “gold”, the technology or their peers, that they neglect what’s going on at home.  They are working and waiting.

In “The Monk and the Riddle”, a new book about entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley, author Randy Komisar of Portola Valley, says that the passion for work is often missing, replaced by some monetary dream. He says of some entrepreneurs; “They see their enterprises the way an eight-year-old sees vegetables: you must eat your peas before getting your pie (i.e. the jackpot).”

Tiffany Carboni, an associate editor for a glossy Bay Area magazine resigned her position in February due the allure of stock options at a dot-com.  When the market took a downturn in March, it made her do some soul-searching, “I decided that the goal of getting rich fast wasn’t as important as my happiness.” Her change of heart was quick enough that she came back to her old job, where her passion lay, and was welcomed back with a promotion.

So, if the market downturn hasn’t made you or your partner see the light and come home in the daylight, maybe it’s time to treat your family to a copy of Dr. Seuss’ classic, earmarked at the “Waiting Place” page and see if the Doctor’s timeless wisdom can permeate the thick Silicon Valley skin of stock-option-filled dreams.

© siliconmom