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How we (don’t) talk about maternity leave in the tech industry

This morning, Business Insider pointed me to a Medium post by Peretz Partensky, whose co-founder Na’ama Moran is pregnant while raising another round of VC funding for their startup.

It’s a great post, and if you’re interested in this topic at all – by which I mean, if you work in tech you should be – it’s an important read.  It also links to several other thoughtful pieces by women reflecting on pregnancy and work in high tech.

When talking about venture capitalists, Patensky says,

“But just because they aren’t asking, it doesn’t mean the pregnancy isn’t foremost in their minds. It is almost worse left unaddressed.”

This is an incredibly important point, and one that is relevant in general, not just in the venture world.  Somehow, the anti-discrimination laws introduced to protect women during pregnancy have instead created an environment where people are afraid to talk about pregnancy.

I’m lucky, and I know it – during both of my pregnancies and subsequent maternity leaves I worked for people who were open and invested in my successful departure and return.  Most recently, at my current company Infinio, where we’re very direct and everything is discussed openly, and before that at Dell, where I had great management who were somewhat stifled by corporate guidelines.  And that put me in a situation where I find the anti-discrimination laws, at least as they were enforced, a hindrance to figuring out exactly how I would manage being out.

I get it – first and foremost there should be laws that protect women from discrimination while they are pregnant and when they have children.  But right now this is coming at a cost of better – actually, any – dialogue about pregnancy and children in the workplace. People are afraid to say the word “pregnant.”  Afraid to ask about a woman’s plans. Trained not to push a woman to commit to plans after maternity leave.  And thus relegated to making assumptions about women’s preferences and choices that may be completely incorrect.

Like I said, I was lucky.  Before I went on my first maternity leave, my Director asked me if I thought I wanted to come back to the same level of responsibility or something that was less taxing.  (Legally, they had to hold my role at my level for 12 weeks, but he was asking something subtler than that.)   Knowing I wanted my old job back but being open to the idea that once I had the baby I’d feel different, I said, “I think full force, but I won’t know until it happens.”  I will always remember what he said, “No, if you think you want to come back full force, you probably will.”

It was great advice, and he was right.  It is also a great example of the kind of direct conversation that is usually missing in planning for maternity leave.

I’ve written about this before.  Here are my comments on maternity leave, and here are my thoughts on Marissa Meyer.  I also found this post on someone else’s experience being the first pregnant woman at her startup very helpful.

When the New Year comes in September

Tonight is the first night of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year.  apples

Friends often ask, “is that one of the happy ones or not?” and it is!  Themes of spiritual rebirth, seasons, and newness abound.  Rosh Hashanah also begins the 10 days of repentance, which lead up to Yom Kippur.  In that way, there are other themes of confession and forgiveness that begin to build on this holiday.  It’s traditional to eat sweet foods and dip challah and apples in honey.  As a child, my parents often bought me new clothing.  Who’s going to argue with that?

I’ve always liked that Rosh Hashanah falls in September; while missing early days of classes with a new teacher was always tough, there was a nice alignment with starting a new school year and the end of the summer with starting a new Jewish year.  The weather is usually still nice during Rosh Hashanah (although it can occur as late as October), and I have childhood memories of going out to the car during the day-long services for a granola bar my parents left for me, and seeing leaves in brilliant reds and oranges, while not yet needing a jacket.

While it isn’t traditional to make resolutions a la the secular new year, I usually do.  It’s great to make resolutions in September, because you can revisit them just a few months later in December.  If you didn’t start on the right foot, or you didn’t pick the right resolutions, you get a do-over in December.

Last year my main resolution was to straighten out my situation at work.  Check!

This year, the biggest thing I want to pay attention to is exercise. There are a few things I can shift around to make it viable to get to the gym 2x/week.  I need to start actually doing them.

The other “resolutions” are to continue doing some things that are working great in my life – quality time with babyDiva and mrDiva, reading a lot of books, dedication to my job, cooking dinner as much as possible, eating fruits and vegetables often.

Finally, we are attending a new synagogue for this holiday – they have a nice family-oriented service that looks like babyDiva will like, and lots of family-friendly programming.  I am hopeful that we may find a new home at this synagogue and I’d like to go back to participating more in a Jewish community.

נה טובה ומתוקה‎ש

May you have a good and sweet year.

Best Laid Plans

bla bla bla

I’ll get the door, Mama.

Yesterday was supposed to be a productive day.

I had a plan.

On Sunday night, I got ready.  I wrote a blog post for Monday, packed my lunch for the week, packed babyDiva’s lunch for the week, cleaned out my personal email inbox, and cleaned out my work email inbox.  I wanted to be ready for Monday morning.

Top of my list for Monday was to work on some new messaging in preparation for our big tradeshow, VMworld. I also owed some collateral to our Demand Gen Director for last week’s webinars. Finally, I had planned a meeting with Alan to talk about some changes to the website.

That plan imploded at 8:40.

At 8:40, I was emerging from the Kendall T stop, steeling my willpower against the bakeries on my walk to work. The phone rings. It’s babyDiva’s day care. It’s clearly one of two things. One, I forgot her lunch/diapers/jacket/sunblock. Two, she’s sick and needed to be picked up.

You guessed it, it was “two.”

mrDiva was traveling for work, so back on the T I went, back to the bus I went, back to daycare I went, and off to the doctor.

It was the first time I had to miss work for a sick kid. My day was filled with “itsy bitsy spider” instead of messaging, board books instead of collateral, and a walk to the library instead of work on the website.

It’s taken me a long time to adjust to being a mom. For some women it seems to come naturally, for me it didn’t. Mostly, I had a hard time adjusting to a new set of responsibilities where I didn’t feel competent. I wasn’t used to someone relying on me entirely. Like, entirely.

But yesterday I was in full-on Mom-mode. Snack, bath toys, sippy cups, sticky fingers (how are they sticky ALL THE TIME?), and Goodnight Moon.

Today I’m back to work.


I moved to Boston because after college everyone I knew was either going to Boston or to New York, and I figured, “hey, I already know New York, let me try Boston.”  I’ve never left.

CT1 Bus, April 22, 2013

CT1 Bus, April 22, 2013

Perhaps there’s something special about any city but when I’m at Fenway and the first few notes of “Tessie” start playing after a win I get chills.  There’s the cash-only red sauce Italian restaurant we wait hours for a seat at, the food trucks that gather at the Sunday market, the parks that our dogs have taken over quasi-illegally, the 5Ks and 10Ks that occur around the city, the Pride Parade, the walk around Jamaica Pond, the first Sullivan’s grilled cheese of the season at Castle Island, the friends you seek out because it’s 4th of July and they have a roof deck – maybe everyone feels this way about their city.  But it feels special.

Now that I commute by bus and train (and/or walking) rather than by car, I feel even more connected to the city.  I knew that my new job would be easier on me and on my family because it was a shorter commute, but I didn’t know that it would change how I felt about Boston.

Commuting this way, I’ve run into neighbors and friends serendipitously, I’ve heard Sinatra standards in Spanish in T stations, I’ve learned about events in the city from ads on the bus, and I’ve seen things in shop windows I’d never otherwise pass by.  I’ve walked by the Make Way for Ducklings statues in different garb, I’ve watched the progress on the Longfellow Bridge project (note: not much), and I’ve walked by the Back Bay fire memorial at Ladder 15/Engine 33 house.

Sculpture in a shop window

Sculpture in a shop window


Guy in Park Street Station playing an instrument I had never seen

Guy in Park Street Station playing an instrument I had never seen


Memorial to firefighters from Back Bay fire

Memorial to firefighters from Back Bay fire

Sure, Bostonians can be harsh and rude, but I’ve seen people give up seats for pregnant women, hold doors longer than necessary, hold a bus someone was running for, and return a carelessly dropped monthly T pass to a certain curly-haired product marketer on the second day of the month.

And on no day of the year does Boston feel better than it does today, Marathon Monday.  In the years before the bombing tragedy, it was hands-down many people’s favorite day of the year.  A holiday just when the weather was starting to get nicer, celebrating…umm…a day Sox game and the marathon?  Not sure we really know what “Patriots” are being recognized today but we sure do love it.  And it’s almost the degree to which Boston loves this day that made our recovery from the marathon attack so strong.  As David Ortiz so eloquently put it, “This is our f*ing city.”

This weekend, the weather broke into beautiful, and Boston was teeming with visitors – many of them running the marathon.  At the supermarket yesterday there were dozens of runners milling around with bananas and coconut water and vying for the last few bottles of Gatorade.  Each year, I look forward to seeing the unique marathon colors in the form of the warmup jackets people get when they register throughout the weekend.   This year, it was a mix of the new blue and orange with many people still sporting last year’s colors.

This morning on the T there were runners headed to the busses out to Hopkinton.  The Marriott whose lobby I cut through had water, granola bars, and bananas out for the runners, and the driveway was full of people packing up cars and getting ready to run or to root.  The Starbucks staff were all in “Boston Strong” T-shirts.

I’m sure there will be days this winter when I am splashed by a bus a la Carrie in Sex and the CIty, when my train is delayed, and when I am slogging the 10 minutes from the T station to my office.  I’ll look back at this blog post and wonder if I couldn’t be this happy in, say, San Diego.  Or Jacksonville.

But I know I couldn’t.

Boston, you’re my home.


I’m glad you found yourself here.

You may know me (and some of this) from Twitter, but to level-set: At the end of January, I left my job in solutions marketing at Dell after 7 years.

kendallAfter a short hiatus, I joined Infinio Systems – a software startup in Kendall Square – as Director of Product Marketing.  There is so much to digest and learn, and there’s no way to share the experience in 140 character chunks.  So here I am in the blogosphere.

So why name my blog “storageDiva’s Tablespace”?  Two reasons:

A tablespace is the abstraction layer in a database that sits between the logic of the database and the physical datafiles it contains.  Basically, you group several tables and indices together and while they are physically stored in datafiles, the collection of them (regardless of physical location) is a tablespace.

I like the metaphor of this blog being a tablespace of interrelated tables, because I plan to share all sorts of interrelated ideas about my experiences in technology, marketing, and life at a startup.  Here’s a swag at what I think the “tables” would be called: 

  • LEARNING: My education around caching, performance, and all things Infinio
  • CUSTOMERS: What I learn from our customers and our not-customers
  • TECH: Thoughts and ideas about our product and the industry at large
  • MARKETING: How product marketing is changing in the Internet/Social Era
  • STARTUP: Life at a startup, especially after coming from a big company
  • XX: What it’s like to be a woman working in technology
  • HOME: Balancing my work life with my daughter(“babyDiva”) and spouse (“mrDiva”, also at a startup)

I said there were two reasons for the blog being called “storageDiva’s Tablespace.”  The second reason comes from Sheryl Sandberg.  In her book and TED talk she relates a story of being at a meeting and notices that the young women are sitting on the periphery of the room while the men all sit at the table.  She urges the women (and the reader/watcher) to claim a seat at the table (not behind it) to ensure their voice is heard.

The phrase “table space” is a reminder to myself that I have gotten where I am by always claiming my space at the table, long before the other Sheryl made it trendy.

I hope you’ll stick around.