Don’t Quit: The Footie Report

On June 8, 2019, I’m celebrating a milestone. I’m one year into my footballing career. Now, considering the level of women’s soccer in the US, I doubt I’ll be called up for the World Cup, but I’ve spent the last year reclaiming an identity I put down after high school: athlete.

My Footie Life

My Footie Life

We all have a vision of soccer moms—they drive minivans and pack snacks and cheer their precious pumpkins on to victory. I suppose that’s me too, sort of. I drive the carpool (but not a minivan!), and I’m all about the good snacks and the pump-up songs (Metallica rolling out of the parking lot anyone?), but I got tired of sitting on the sidelines. I’m a method actor—I learn by doing. And I really can’t back down from a challenge.

My life is so distributed, I have a house in one place, by my work travel time means I don’t have a traditional community in my hometown. I’m fortunate to be connected to a worldwide community. I’ve watched a whole lot of soccer in the last few years as a newcomer to the sport—my footie fluency has even impressed more than one cranky Brit. I really enjoy the beautiful game.

But how do you move from the couch to the pitch? Enter a friend with a challenge. She’s played for years, and she invited me to an over 40s, no contact league Seemed safe enough for a beginner. Admittedly, I’ve practiced with my girls for years, and I have the good fortune of an in-house coach who is a lifetime player and a great teacher. I’ve even coached when no one else showed up. I’ve always taught my girls to show up and help when you can.

 

Slipping on the socks and the boots for the first time is very very different. People are watching. Most of them have played for 30+ years at this point. They have no idea why you look like a spastic giraffe who panics when you touch the ball. But I kept practicing, I kept showing up, I kept working. Get up, dress up, show up. For me, slipping on those soccer socks (I have 3 pairs, hot pink, electric yellow, and my Chelsea orange ones—life is too short for boring socks), which I only wear on the pitch, transforms me. When I wear them, I’m a footballer just like everyone else.


So why am I sharing all of this? What I’ve learned over this year on the pitch has been as important as anything I’ve done in the second half in my life. I can still learn new things. I’m building a local community of people from around the world. I’m a better parent to young athletes because I KNOW EXACTLY HOW THEY FEEL when they have a rough practice or game. They don’t doubt me when I say I get it. 

My OG Coach

My OG Coach

Mud happens.

On the precipice of my anniversary, I’m getting coaching from two of our veteran players. They come early and stay late to teach me. Mentoring feels the same at work as it does on the pitch. It’s amazing and I’m so grateful for it. So my unsolicited advice for anyone still reading at this point: don’t quit. I’ve wanted to walk off the pitch. I’ve wanted to cry. I’ve wanted to burn my beloved Adidas.

Ice Ice Baby

Don’t quit. Be brave. Find a way to get better. Work hard. Try something new. It is an amazing gift to reinvent yourself in the middle of your life. Find something challenging and go after it. I believe in you. I know how to drop a ball to my feet now. I can receive a pass and turn. And I’m a striker at heart, surprising no one who knows me—goal hungry and left footed, willing to run off the ball until the opportunity to score strikes. My first goal? Everyone on the pitch celebrated with me. One year in, I’ve had two hat tricks.

When things are rough at work, or as a parent to two brilliant teenagers, I can slip on those socks and claim my other secret identity.

Footballer.

The First Annual #vSoccer!

Don’t quit.

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You Say You Want a Resolution

It’s that time of year again: time for resolutions. I’m a fan of the exercise, even if this makes approximately the fifth year in a row I’ve resolved to do a single pull-up without succeeding. The process of deciding what matters and the struggle to achieve something new is worth it.

To that end, I have many job counseling sessions with colleagues across the industry who want to make a change, who feel stuck, who are frustrated at the plateau they’ve reached. We have the pleasure of hearing success stories on the Geek Whisperers podcast every week, but we get to hear the journey stories as well, the questioning, the doubt.

So here is some free and unsolicited advice I received during my first career pivot, maternity leave. My boss at the time (a father of four), understood what I did not—my life was getting ready to change dramatically and it was an opportunity.

Here’s the secret: Decide on a task to put down and don’t pick it back up upon return.

doge_albatross

Rime of the Ancient Mariner, rewritten in Doge

Sounds too easy, right? How could this work?

I’m a realist, so you can’t put down the pager if that’s your role, or quit expense reports in a dramatic pull the inflatable slide and jump way, but there’s something that you can put down or manage differently. What is it? What is the extra weight you’re carrying that is keeping you from going where you want to go in your career?

Will you need to pick something else up? Absolutely, but now you have a free hand to do so, and you’ve left an albatross behind.

Maternity leave forced me to do what I hadn’t been able to do on my own (twice)—let go of less important work and focus on more important and more fulfilling work. I shifted from traditional publishing (10 years of my career!) to technology after my second maternity leave, which gave me more growth opportunities and led me to work and an industry that I love.

Ask yourself what work you do that both makes you happy and serves the company you’re working for right now. It can be an uncomfortable question, full of lizard brain roadblocks about how “they’ll never let me do that.” Or “if only,” then . . .

New Year’s Resolutions are meant to challenge you. If you move incrementally closer to personal and professional happiness at work, mark that in the 2016 win column. Why wait? What’s your resolution?

 

The Next Chapter

So changes are in the air. At the end of 2014, I’ll be packing up the unicorn and bacon show and heading over to SolidFire as Director of Influence Marketing. I’m excited. I’m terrified. I’m quadrupling the number of times I’ve ever been to Colorado in my life.

New year, new pairing.

New year, new pairing.

First, huge thanks to the innumerable amazing colleagues and friends at Cisco, and to the tech community at large. It has been a lot of fun these last few years.

Just like on Engineers Unplugged, not every unicorn was beautiful, but they were all special.

Unicorns

From humble beginnings, vBacon, WaffleStack, BaconIT, and many other community events grew from a few beers with friends to a tree of bacon.

From a Tower Grows a Tree!

From a Tower Grows a Tree!

Apparently there is such a thing as a bacon seed. I have had the privilege to get to know so many amazing technologists, to ask questions, to document, to learn.

We have come a long way.

We have come a long way.

But now it’s time to take a leap, to practice what we preach on the Geek Whisperers every week, and to challenge myself to something new.

Shhhhh, the Geeks are Whispering.

Shhhhh, the Geeks are Whispering.

Why SolidFire? The community answered that question: great people and a great culture. I’m a fan of smart and nice. Simple words, huge impact on daily life.

Great mentors. More on that in a later post, but when I made my decision spreadsheet (and yes, I made a spreadsheet), I included a row for mentors and champions. I believe in the apprenticeship model and having a champion makes all the difference in being effective. You can’t go into battle alone.

Unicorns Beware! It's Game Time.

Unicorns Beware! It’s Game Time.

New challenges. Large vendor to small start-up—yes, that should keep things interesting.

I believe you should never run from, but go to—that is certainly the case here. I’m thankful for an extremely supportive management chain in my current job at Cisco, and one of the best co-workers in the business. They will rock 2015. Congratulations to the incoming class of Cisco Champions. I’ll be watching with pride.

Community FTW! #feartheears

Community FTW! #feartheears

Lastly, another sincere thank you to the many many people who have taken the time over the last 4 years to break bacon, go on camera, shoot a ridiculous selfie, answer a serious question, share an opinion, hold a purse (#feartheears), and generally be awesome.

With that, I raise a SolidFire pint glass to you all in 2015. 😉