Author Archive

  • February 23, 2022

    They say hindsight is 20/20. So when I recently sat on a panel that asked what I wish I’d known ten years ago, it got me thinking about how my own professional journey might help to illuminate the paths of others. 

    Ten years ago, I was technically in the same role as I am now: VP of marketing. And yet, the role and how I operate in it is wildly different. 

    Lesson 1: Don’t get hung up on job titles: It’s not about the title; it’s about what you’re doing. Does the position bring you joy? Is it satisfying? Titles can indicate possibility, but they don’t dictate the reality of any given role. So much of it is about the place you’re at, the people you’re with, and what you bring to it.

    Ten years ago, I was in New York and at a career crossroads. I was in the process of negotiating a new position that offered me an interesting opportunity for growth with a larger global company. When I gave notice, my current company made a counter-offer — a first in my career. Instead of getting angry or frustrated about my departure, they posed the question many employees long to hear: What would it take for me to stay? 

    Lesson 2: Get internal clarity before you seek external change. When asked what would compel me to stay, I realized I hadn’t really even considered this option. Their question forced me to get clear about what I was seeking. What did I value? What did I need to be happy? To thrive? If I couldn’t answer that for myself, how could I expect any employer — whether my current one or a new one — to deliver? 

    It can feel a lot easier and more comfortable to run to another employer instead of figuring out how to grow in the position you’re in, but that isn’t always the best path to career advancement or personal fulfillment. Back then, I just assumed my employer would not be willing to provide me with opportunities to elevate my career, only to realize that the duty fell on me to speak up for myself and voice my desires and expectations. My employer is responsible for telling me how our expectations may or may not align and what I need to do to get to where I want to go. But it’s a dialogue, and we shouldn’t assume they just “know.” 

    Lesson 3: Be your own best advocate. Because I had another opportunity in front of me, I got bold in a way I hadn’t previously. But you don’t have to wait. You never know the answer to what might be possible in any given situation until you are brave enough to initiate the conversation.

    In hindsight, if I had been willing to confront my boss sooner, before I was already halfway out the door, I could have saved myself an enormous amount of time, energy, and stress. These conversations require a level of trust and bravery, but, as I discovered, the short term pain is well worth the long term gains.  

    After some difficult-but-honest conversations, I ultimately decided to stay in my current position on the condition they would invest in me doing an executive MBA program. For two years, I poured my heart and soul into that training, which opened the door for me to become COO of that company and later take on other positions and responsibilities I otherwise never would have imagined. And this all came to pass because I finally pushed myself to be brave and ask for what I needed. 

    Lesson 4: Initiate crucial conversations early and often. Don’t avoid the difficult conversations; embrace them. The longer you wait, the harder it is. Do what you need to emotionally prepare so that when the moment comes, you can approach it with poise and confidence. The more often you do it, the easier it gets – and your relationships will be stronger for it.

    Sometimes you can have all the conversations in the world, but someone still comes to you with an amazing offer that’s hard to pass up. Over the years, I moved from one exciting opportunity to the next. It was not unlike “dating around.” Breaking up and moving on to a new prospect can be very seductive. And just like with dating, experiencing diversity can help clarify what you do and don’t want in your position. 

    When I was finally asked to consider what it would take for me to stay, I realized they were asking me to commit to a real relationship, rather than simply dumping them for the next exciting thing. To answer that question truthfully, I needed to get clear on my core values: 

    1. I wanted a place that valued both marketing and me. Knowing I could be offered a seat at the table moving forward was important to me. 
    2. I wanted to operate in a culture of learning. Training programs, coaching, and deep conversations in everyday exchanges signal it’s an environment that is looking to develop the whole person. 
    3. I wanted work with a purpose. I need to be doing something that matters, something that makes it worthwhile to go to work in the morning.

    A huge reason why I landed at XL is because it ticks all of these boxes. 

    Lesson 5: Align values and expectations. Even a company with the best intentions or the most success in the marketplace may not be the right fit for you. Define your values and cross check them against your current or prospective employer. 

    Even once you land at a company you love, in the role of your dreams, your work is not done. That’s at the core of embracing a growth mindset. Yes, you’ll accumulate a lot of knowledge (and hopefully a bit of wisdom) over the years, but the learning never stops. If you’re flexible and approach every day as an opportunity to grow, your ability to expand and advance — often without ever changing companies or roles — is limitless. Someone else’s journey is not your own, so the more you mindfully forge your own path, the happier and more fulfilled you’ll be. 

    Lesson 6: Commit to a growth mindset. Getting the job is just the beginning. You don’t have to follow some linear career path you read about or saw someone else follow. Make your own way through insatiable curiosity and perpetual improvement.

    These lessons brought me full-circle: from a position as the VP of marketing to another position as the VP of marketing. Along my winding path, I’ve had the opportunity to oversee not only marketing, but IT, customer service, HR, and business development. I got an MBA and challenged myself to get clear about who I was and what I wanted — and then ask for it. 

    Accumulating those skills allowed me to return to my heart and soul — marketing and communication — with a totally different skillset and mindset. It’s the same-but-different position that I never would have recognized or imagined ten years ago. 

  • December 20, 2021

    I ventured back to my hometown in Upstate New York the week prior to Thanksgiving. The trip in and of itself was a bit of an adventure. Pre-pandemic, I traveled frequently; hopping on and off planes was as easy as riding a bike. But in the last couple of years, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve flown, and between all the new rules and my lack of practice, I found I’m a little rusty. Packing took longer; passing through security with all the new rules was a bit clumsy; and I felt like a tourist trying to navigate the now-unfamiliar airport terminal.

    That weekend I did something else that I haven’t done in some time: I took my parents out to see a movie. Yes, at an actual movie theater. It’s the first time they had been to one in more than two years and only my second in as long. It was eerily quiet, with just seven people in the whole place. While I want to say it felt novel and luxurious to have an entire movie theater practically to ourselves, in truth, it was a bit unnerving.

    As we settled in, I felt a wave of nostalgia as old familiar commercials like those M&M’s ads played across the giant screen. But I quickly realized something was amiss: Every commercial was in black and white, and I was fairly certain it wasn’t intentional.

    I wandered out to the front desk to share my concern. The manager was terribly apologetic but, interestingly enough, not the least bit surprised. She explained that the theaters had only recently reopened, and when they finally fired up all the projectors after such a long hiatus, they hadn’t yet been able to get the before-the-movie commercials — which are delivered via satellite feed — to come through in color.

    “We’re still dusting off the cobwebs, I’m afraid,” she said, assuring me the movie itself would be fine. And it was, every bit of it in full technicolor glory.

    These experiences signaled to me that we’re likely going to be doing a lot of dusting as we head into 2022. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

    A Holiday Respite: Time to Slow Down

    To say this year has been A LOT is a bit of an understatement. As we head into the holidays, we all need to collectively pull off the highway to rest and recharge for a bit.

    Be deliberate and intentional with this precious time and really reconnect with yourself. Create a “downtime wish list” of the non-work-related things you want to do. Note this is not a to-do list; there is no pressure to check everything off. Rather, this is the list of simple gifts you want to give to yourself that will bring you joy and help you rejuvenate. My list includes reading a stack of books, going for a hike, finishing up that pandemic puzzle I started last year, and lots of baking.

    Pluck one or two of the things off your wish list each day and whether you get through one or all of them, you will have accomplished the objective: to reconnect with yourself and put yourself in a healthier mindset, ready to approach what’s next with a clear head.

    Charging Crawling into the New Year: Plan Your Warmup Routine

    We need to treat our transition into the new year – and all the change it may bring – like returning to the gym after a long break between workouts. It will take some time to regain our strength and stamina and if we don’t take it slow, we could actually do more harm than good.

    After you have enjoyed some quality down-time – but before the end of the holiday break – carve out some time to complete some small but impactful activities that will help you ease into the new year and set yourself up for success:

    1. Identify your intention. Get clear on what you’re trying to achieve in 2022 before hitting the ground running.

      It may help to create a couple of lists: one for “wants” and one for “don’t wants.”
      For example, I know I want to build / rebuild relationships with colleagues whom I haven’t had a chance to interact with outside of video calls over the last couple of years. I don’t want to sacrifice my personal health and well-being in the process. My working objective, which I will continue to hone over the holiday break, is to create a healthy balance between connecting with others and connecting with myself next year.

    2. Start with the small stuff. Take your time with the transition into the new year. How can you test some things out before making wholesale changes so you can give yourself an opportunity to ease into things and discover what works and what doesn’t?

      In my effort to reconnect with people, I plan on scheduling a couple of one-on-one lunches and coffees over the first month. For me, this will be much easier than signing up for the first big networking event I see and trying to connect with too many people all at the same time. Instead, I will focus on one relationship at a time in a more casual way. This will either serve as a warm-up for bigger events or help me discover an approach to networking that is more effective for me in the long-run.

    3. Set your own pace. Potentially the most impactful thing you can do before you start the new year is to take control of your schedule before it takes control of you. This means blocking time in your 2022 calendar now for you. Literally schedule meetings with yourself for thinking, preparing, working out, or winding down. This will ensure you have preserved the time necessary to slow down on a regular basis and focus on your objectives. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a race.

      In addition to the recurring “me time” blocks I am placing on my calendar, I am also padding my schedule with some extended off-limits periods during the first week of the year. This time is for doing deep pre-work ahead of launching some big initiatives we have planned. This is not a luxury; this is critical for me to be able to get a solid plan in place that sets myself and my team up for success. I fully intend on scheduling more of these throughout the year as needed. The last thing I want is for us to be running towards some distant finish line without taking a breather once in a while and taking stock of whether we’re still on the right path, particularly given the ever-changing conditions. Likewise, give yourself permission to pause.

    Life in Slow(er) Motion

    Things are going to continue to be messy. Our experiment with hybrid work will be just one example. We’re going to have to adjust to new commuting schedules, muddle through the messiness of hybrid meetings, and start navigating networking with humans IRL again. And, as the Omicron variant is unfortunately reminding us, all this will still be occurring amidst the uncertainty driven by COVID. There will undoubtedly be many starts and stops, and we’re just going to have to roll with it. Flexibility is key.

    I challenge us to embrace the uncertainty as an opportunity to slow down. Let’s just acknowledge that things are going to be awkward, give ourselves some extra time to deal with the technical glitches, and have a sense of humor about it. If we can do this, I have every confidence that it will be a more satisfying and fulfilling year — whatever the year may bring.

  • August 20, 2021

    Three SF Bay Area companies with experience in educational design and construction have launched a prefabricated classroom product for California school and community college markets. The TimberQuest concept from XL Construction, Aedis Architects and Daedalus Structural Engineering employ cross-laminated timber to create prefabricated wall and roof panels that can be erected and installed at school construction sites in significantly shorter time frames than traditional building methods.

    Learn more from Construction Dive, “XL Construction launches prefab school building option.”

  • August 20, 2021

    Kelley Cowan, Director of Sacramento Region for XL Construction, says the Sacramento area is seeing projects moving forward, particularly in education and health care markets with K-12 schools, medical office buildings and behavioral health facilities. Cowan notes that over the course of the pandemic, XL did not suffer any project shutdowns primarily because the company’s projects were in essential markets.

    Learn more from ENR California, “City Scoop: Sacramento.”

  • August 20, 2021

    Three SF Bay Area construction industry companies have partnered to launch TimberQuest, an innovative, sustainable and highly efficient solution for building cost-effective, prefabricated “mass timber” classrooms for the California K-12 and community college markets. The partnership between XL Construction, Aedis Architects and Daedalus Structural Engineering combines the organizations’ unique expertise in 21st century learning environments with mass timber design and construction.

    Learn more from Market Insider, “XL Construction, Aedis Architects and Daedalus Structural Engineering Partner to Develop New TimberQuest School Construction Product.”

  • August 20, 2021

    Time is of the essence in the construction industry, especially when it comes to interim and supportive housing. One project team may have cracked the code to complete projects on a condensed timeline. LifeMoves, one of the largest providers of interim housing and services for people experiencing homelessness in the Silicon Valley, has opened its newest community, LifeMoves Mountain View. In just six months, the development team, which included Sares Regis Group of Northern California and XL Construction, delivered 100 units to alleviate homelessness in the region.

    Learn more from The Registry, “LifeMoves, Sares Regis, Construct Purpose-Built Supportive Housing Using Modular, Complete Project in Six Months.”