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On being a woman in engineering (again)

July 24, 2019

I’ve worked in engineering for about 12 years now, excluding the one year I tried out business consulting.  All and all, it has been a positive experience, with my most recent job being the best.

Currently, I work with some of the most forward thinking and liberal-minded people in the world.  Most of my work takes place in very liberal  and diverse geographic areas that attract open-minded personalities.

I have a nice selection of female role models. Several leadership positions on my long-term project are women, with women regularly leading up highly technical efforts as individual contributors.  Many of these women have families and children.  The men who with young children frequently mention family related commitments, from being home with a sick kid to having to leave early for some kid event. The work culture is respectful that people have lives outside of work – kids or something else.

I often observe male colleagues acting as advocates/allies during meetings, proactively affirming points made by teammates (including women), and amplifying and giving credit for repeated ideas. I’ve heard people use phrases like “I want to amplify what ___ said”, which are the types of things you might read in a blog post on how to be an ally. There usually is not an argumentative style when vetting ideas.  Instead,  people are supportive and respectful of each other’s positions, even when presenting conflicting ones. This is notably different than the one of the projects I worked on at my Fortune 50 engineering job, where colleagues would have “friendly” technical arguments in a style I have a hard time matching. (I can do it if I have to, but it makes me frustrated and impatient because it seems more about bravado and personality than technicalities.)

Jerks are not tolerated, at least not for long. I had a run-in with an asshole a couple years back. He’d ignored several polite e-mails, so I followed up when I caught him in person. He basically blew up at me and claimed he’d given me all the information I needed. He was extremely rude, condescending, and utterly unhelpful .  His boss was careful to take me aside, captured the incident for records, and let me know this guy was a serious problem they were actively working to replace him. I wouldn’t have thought to raise this incident to anyone (“dealing with it” is expected), but my lead happened to overhear him and flagged the event. It made me feel safe and supported to know leadership didn’t consider rude behavior to be acceptable. This guy was an indiscriminate jerk to men and women alike, but proactively dealing with assholes contributes to healthy culture overall. How women act within their industry can be the canary in the coal mine.  I don’t think of it as a woman-friendly culture, but rather a human-friendly culture.

My smaller project at work last year was lead up by a young woman, who is a fantastic leader and role model. The two of us together were in charge of the project (with her being the ultimate authority), and we were both in varying stages of pregnancy for the culmination of the project. That wouldn’t have happened 20 years ago.

My latest project is headed by a young enthusiastic white guy, with an older experienced (extremely talented) white guy as the project manager. Still, the team is filled with technical women doing various leadership tasks, and the team culture is the tolerant, positive, and welcoming.

I intend to write separately about my experience being a working parent thus far.  The short version is that my work has been extremely supportive, despite the systemic issues with the lack of support for early parenthood on a broader level in this country.

All of this is to say that my experience as a woman in engineering has been overwhelmingly positive, particularly in my current job. I might have encountered more frustration had I stayed on a more traditional corporate path, or maybe I would have found a good team there. The path I’m on right now pays a bit less, in no small part due to the better culture and better work life balance.  This absolutely is worth it to me, but there is a cost for taking a job with temporal flexibility.

Is your field dominated by men or women, or relatively equally?  How about at leadership levels?  Is your work culture friendly to humans?

June Wrap up

July 9, 2019

Net Worth and Money News

Our net worth is climbing again, and we reached another all time high this month.  Hooray!  We’re still too far from financial independence to have a real metric on how close we are, assuming we plan to stay in our current location.

T is getting summer salary this summer, but it hasn’t hit our bank accounts yet since he submitted his paperwork late. Summer salary is a significant inflow of cash.  I set big chunks aside for known bills (property taxes), fill up the buffer account, and generally use it to cashflow home projects.

Spending Bullets (excluding childcare, mortgage, property taxes and car/home/etc. insurance – because I want to). Since I’m tracking my spending again, I figured I’d share a little too!  I haven’t shared any details on our spending in a long time.

  • Monthly spend (excluding some major categories as noted above):  $2389.  We spent WAY more on restaurants this month, mostly due to a work trip where T and LO tagged along  We ate out for each dinner, and only my portion of the meals were expense-able.  (We don’t get per diem, but instead are reimbursed for what we spend up to a maximum.)  We also spent a bit on travel expenses for the same trip, as we naturally have to cover the personal days.
  • Highest single transaction that hasn’t been featured in a previous 2019 month:  $193.30 for one night in a hotel.  This is more than I’d usually pay, but I tacked on an extra day to the work trip and paid the “going rate” for my booking. Since T and LO tagged along, I chose an extended stay with a separate bedroom area and living area, plus a fridge to deal with baby food and milk.  If we didn’t do that, we parents would have to hide in the dark hotel room (with the baby in the pack-n-play) during nap time and bedtime.
  • Smallest single transaction:  $2.01 at the grocery store while we were traveling.  I think this was possibly for baby food (prunes).
  • Most annoying expense:  $25 for a replacement work ID card.  They used to be free….
  • Expense that brought the most joy or utility: $25 for an entrance fee into the national park on our work trip.
  • Donations (for accountability):  $100 for RAICES and $10 for a animal shelter charity for a friends birthday “fundraiser” on Facebook.  (I checked and there were no extra fees for donating via FB.)

House Projects

T did tons of work in the yard, as usual.  He also painted the trim on the nursery window (many more windows to go).  I think we are planning to paint the whole house (DIY) this summer…  That will be a big project, but it needs to happen.

He also scrubbed the outside of all of the gutters, because they were dirty. This…. was not something I considered a high (or even medium) priority project. I have a hard time channeling his project energy into my specific priorities sometimes….  He also cleaned out the garage a bit, and we finally brought our patio furniture up from the garage for the season.  Yay!

We rearranged furniture and discovered we had some water damage on our hardwood floor (almost surely my fault). T repaired it with a $160 trip to Home Depot for the correct tool and a few other supplies. This was very annoying, but at least it turned out to be relatively inexpensive.

I didn’t contribute much to these projects, but I kept the inside of the house together (with his help) and kept the baby alive (with his help).

Work

Finally!  Good news!

I’ve been waiting forever for new projects to start, and a few just kicked off.  Hooray!  I have a role on one of them already secured.  The team is super great and the project will be an interesting challenge.  I’ll finally get to do a role very similar to the role I was initially hired for, with the two people that hired me. A few other great women are in leadership roles, and the team overall is great.  My role is also almost purely technical (albeit a lot of coordination type technical work).  This is a nice change of pace from recent projects, where I did project management combined with technical. I’m still signed up to be backup for the (very experienced) project manager as a training role, but it sounds like he’s able to do the heavy lifting.  We also have great person doing financial/schedule support work. This was lacking on the projects where I served as the project manager, and it makes a huge difference.  Project travel shouldn’t be too extensive, and likely mostly within California. There are some cons… The project is only guaranteed for 1 year, and we already have some technical challenges to work through.  Still, I should learn a lot and will get to work with some great mentors.

There is a second project with another role I’m interested in… but I haven’t talked to the project manager yet (nor has he sought me out). I’ll find out more soon. I can’t take on two new projects without quitting my long-term project. In fact, I may not be able to take on both projects even if I do quit my long-term project. My long-term project is slated to end in about 1.5 years, but I could bow out early with coordination. This is my Colorado based project. My travel there has significantly reduced, but it still is hard to not work with a local team. Still, the whole team there have been really great and accommodating for the past several years. Once I know a bit more, I’ll chat with my boss there to see what their preference is. They may be itching to pull my role in-house anyway, or they may want as much of my time as I can give – I really don’t have a good sense for that.

In any case, things are looking good.

Other life stuff

I missed the 8 month baby update, and at this point, I’ll just combine it with 9. But she is pretty much the cutest and sweetest, and still only very slowly mobile (army crawling).

I had my first post-baby business trip, which I mentioned above. We decided that T and LO would tag along, for a variety of reasons. The LO did pretty well, although she was squirmy on the flight.  T did great at being a Stay-At-Hotel-Dad for the week, and we took a day to drive to a national park. Having her along simplified the milk situation and also made it so I didn’t miss her too much.  This was her third round-trip plane ride.  While we were there, she went with T to the grocery store, which was her first grocery store visit.  Haha. We plan to travel to the midwest around Christmas (just booked tickets with miles) –  but I don’t have any other flights planned with her yet.  

I’m noting this here so I see it next month and can report progress… Our #1 goal for the next couple of weeks is to make headway on our trust/will/estate planning. Honestly, I’m probably going to copy a lot of what Revanche at A Gai Shan Life did, because she is smart, througal, and put in a bunch of effort to figure this out for her family.

We’ll also keep going with emergency preparedness and other tasks I noted here.  And maybe a blog post that isn’t just monthly updates…

2019 Goals and Plans

June 10, 2019

We’re approaching the mid-point of 2019… But a baby is the ultimate excuse for being late, right?

Our priorities are mostly unchanged from my thoughts on the bottom of this post, except we’re going to skip the mega-backdoor ROTH IRA and go directly to maxing out 403bs.  This is primarily because I cannot stand to give up any tax breaks, and secondarily because I feel relatively unconcerned about paying for baby’s college. It is also because I don’t want to deal with figuring out paperwork.  This means our money savings will go like this in 2019:

  • Max 457bs and mandatory pre-tax savings.
  • Max out two Roth IRAs, via backdoor.  We did finally move  the <$2k that T had in a rollover IRA.  That makes this straightforward without worrying about the pro-rata rules.
  • Max out 403bs.
  • Consider a small pre-payment to the mortgage (or mega backdoor Roth IRA)

More on that last bullet. Much like Revanche, killing the mortgage can’t be a priority for us right now.  Once I get that far down the list, there is less than $10k to work with – perhaps less than $5k.  While $5k is something, I’m not thrilled about the paperwork of executing a mega backdoor Roth IRA for it. Pre-paying the mortgage isn’t the optimal choice, but it is still a very good choice. And it is the choice of least resistance. And it feels so good emotionally. That is the plan, unless someone can convince me otherwise.

Other money related goals/tasks:

  • Get our crap together on estate planning, etc.  We are actively working this, but I’m feeling guilty it isn’t done yet…
  • Review life insurance and disability coverage. I’m quite sure we need to sign T up for additional disability insurance through work.
  • Open a 529 for baby, although this is just for gifts to her rather than our primary place where we will save for her education. I expect very modest gifts, on the order of a couple hundred (or less) total per year, if anything at all. Still, I we should have a designated place for it.
  • Review asset allocation across all accounts.
  • Give to charity and political campaigns. As in 2017, my target is a measly $100 each month (and lump sums to catch up for missed months). Considering our blessings, this is a very small amount, but a step in the right direction.  This number might increase, as I expect I’ll want to give more politically, but don’t want to shortchange charity.

Non-money tasks

  • Re-evaluate emergency kit and “go bag”.  I put some effort into this a couple of years ago, so we wouldn’t be totally screwed in the case of a big earthquake.  We are a bit less prepared for a wildfire, especially an evacuation via foot, which is likely the quickest way to safety.  This is applicable to work and home.
  • Prep for 24-48 hour power outages this summer. The utility company notified us it is likely they will preemptively shut off power during times of high fire risk.  I’m glad they are being proactive, but it will be annoying to live with. Among other annoyances, this puts my stash of frozen milk for my baby at risk.  We are setting up the inexpensive chest freezer my dad left in our garage for storage in hopes this will help.
  • Work with manager on a promotion/raise. I’m pretty happy with my position and salary, honestly.  But we talked about this last year (he brought it up) and I brought it up again more recently. We agreed to wait on the outcome of a few things, but I don’t want to let it drop.
  • I’d like to have other work-related goals, but I just don’t know what is going to happen in terms of projects. My near term goal is to make it in this job until at least February of next year in order to vest in some benefits.  But that’s a pretty lame goal, and I hope I can do much much better than “survive”.
  • Consider installing a safe at home, bolted to the closet floor. After our house was burglarized, we installed a simple alarm system. The police said it would really only serve to limit the duration of time a burglar would spend in our home, and allow for them to potentially be caught due to the camera. We don’t really have valuables, aside from our computers, which are often not left home alone. We don’t keep cash at home. So, a safe is… maybe unnecessary? But I want to make a final decision on this item.
  • Get quotes for a roof replacement, and (maybe) execute a new roof. I have cash set aside for this project, but we are waiting on the tenure decision.  Also, we need to consider a whole house attic fan and solar as part of this decision.

That’s roughly the 2019 plan for money and other adulting tasks.

May Wrap Up

June 6, 2019

Net Worth and Money

Our net worth fell with the market this month, but we bought more shares of our index funds… So we’re still moving in a good direction!

I’m considering a small mortgage pre-payment this year.  I should discuss my reasoning for this more, as mortgage prepayment has to be a low priority right now.

Spending Bullets (excluding childcare, mortgage, property taxes and home insurance – because I want to). Since I’m tracking my spending again, I figured I’d share a little too!  I haven’t shared any details on our spending in a long time.

  • Monthly spend (excluding some major categories as noted above):  $2004.  Lowest so far in 2019!  Our current projected monthly spend (excluding categories above) is about $3k/month.  This includes spikes for insurance payments, gifts, travel, house maintenance, etc.
  • Highest single transaction that hasn’t been featured in a previous 2019 month:  $119.76 at the grocery store.  I no longer remember why that trip was so expensive. This bullet should get more interesting after groceries and Costco are used up.
  • Smallest single transaction:  $5.21 for a used Pout Pout Fish book.
  • Most annoying expense:  $65.26 for internet to the cable company because the promo I had ran out.  I got a new not-as-good promo for another year, so this will drop a bit next month. I hate how expensive internet is.
  • Most annoying expense runner up: $12 for a new garlic press, which had rave Amazon reviews but broke in less than 2 weeks. We got a refund. Our old (pampered chef) garlic press failed after years of heavy use and I’m not sure what to replace it with. And I’m annoyed that Amazon can no longer be trusted.
  • Expense that brought the most joy or utility: Baby’s playmat, which was an expensive $69.91, but has brought a lot of utility. I didn’t find anything in good condition second hand, and honestly, was a little squicked out by getting this used.  (This is coming from a person who has bought a lot of items used that other people would want new)
  • Donations (for accountability):  Local parks foundation membership for $60 (but this saves us money overall since we don’t have to pay to parking fees with a membership).  Another $100 split between a few abortion rights places (h/t Grumpy Rumbling’s link love for leads on places)

House Projects

We continued with yard work in the never ending clean-up of the jungle yard.  BUT actually, the yard is so good!  Well, I suppose “good’ is an overstatement, but it is very cleared, with some hedges hacked down, trees trimmed back, and ivy pulled out. All the credit to T on that, although I did pull some weeds one day as my contribution.

T also made some makeshift darkening curtains for the room baby sleeps in at nanny share, reusing the IKEA “black out” curtains I temporarily had in our bedroom when the baby slept in there.  (Note: these curtains are definitely not true blackout, but they did what I needed.)

Other than that, just keeping up on the regular indoor chores has been enough, and we haven’t done anything significant.

Work

What to say here?

We are still in a limbo on the new projects. I’m struggling along on my primary project. I’m still figuring out how to juggle work and parent life, but hope I’m getting better.

I got a new office, and it is much better!  Still private, but a proper office rather than a space in a larger room.  A window.  A white board.  Yay!  I put up some temporary blinds on the windowed office door, and now can easily pump in my office. Honestly this the only reason I have been able to continue pumping this long.

Other life stuff

I’ll skip baby talk, since the single thing I’ve managed to do on this blog is monthly parenthood updates.

We haven’t planned any vacations this year yet.  T is going to Paris for work without me and baby. I’m thinking of sitting on that travel money and vacation time for this year.  We haven’t decided if we’ll have another kid, but the only paid maternity leave I get is via sick and vacation leave. So, I plan to be quite protective of it until we’ve made a firm decision.

We’ve been a bit better about meal planning, and tried some new things. Budget Bytes is my current go-to site for finding recipes.  These oven fajitas were an easy hit.  This was good, but could have used a protein like this version.  This also was good.  I made this cilantro lime chicken for cinco de mayo.  We made this pasta and doubled it, and froze half.  We tried Plated via a free box, and it was pretty good – but meal boxes are expensive to do regularly. They also aren’t always that quick/simple, so I order 4 person versions to make leftovers.  We also did a Good Eggs box via a promo.  These meal kits were a little quicker, with slightly more of the prep done for you.  They were also really good…  but even MORE expensive.  I was hoping to find a good alternative to the defunct Munchery, but haven’t found anything equivalent.

I haven’t been into running in a few years, but I think I’m going to make a goal to walk home from work once a week. Due to our carpooling and need to get stuff done in the evenings, it really doesn’t make sense for me to do this, which is why I usually don’t.  But it is a super enjoyable walk, and a perfect way to get some “me” time.

Parenthood: 7 Months

May 27, 2019

I feel like my baby has changed and developed a lot in the last month! She needs some blog initials or a blog name, so I don’t have to keep calling her “baby”.  Maybe for next month.

Routines & Sleep

She’s down to a solid 3 naps a day, which have FINALLY lengthened (from consistently 40 minutes) to 1.5-2 hours on the regular.  She’s still going to bed in her crib around 7/7:30, and usually sleeping through until 4 or 5 am, then again until about 7 am.  Sometimes that is disrupted by teething or illness or no reason at all. The crib seems to be working well for her, and she’s having fewer super early mornings.  We’re trying to widen her wake times between naps so she can eventually get down to 2 naps, but we aren’t there yet.  She’s still having nap issues at nanny share, waking up mid-nap. This is weird, because she doesn’t do that at home. The room may be too bright, so we’re working on a solution for that.

Childcare

Nothing new to report here – it is still going great! We’re still leaning towards daycare starting in August for a variety of reasons, but I feel so fortunate that we’ve been able to give her this time sharing a caretaker with just one other (older) child.  I’m not looking forward to that transition, but it is likely the best decision in the long run.

Eating

We’ve been progressing with the real foods (well, purees), but she still seems to be a bit weirded out by anything with too much texture.  She’s a fan of fruits over vegetables, but we’ll keep feeding each veggie until she accepts them. We’ve introduced most allergens, and I’m starting to think about how to introduce regular food. We’ve also had limited success with introducing water from a regular cup or a straw cup, but it is fun to try.

Breastfeeding and pumping is going okay. I am feeling pretty over the pumping, but haven’t come up with a good reason to quit yet.  If/when work gets more crazy, I’ll probably need to phase out pumping and supplement with formula. I plan to nurse as long as it continues to work out, but I’m not sure how my supply will respond as I phase out pumping during the work day.

Personality / Milestones

So many this month!  She has two teeth!  She can sit unsupported!  She is rolling a lot and trying to crawl, but definitely hasn’t figured it out yet.  She can get around a little bit by scooting and rotating, but she hasn’t figured out how to use that ability to get where she wants.  She does tend to scoot around her crib and squish herself up against the “head” of the crib.  It’s so silly.

She’s generally a pretty happy and easy baby.  When teething, sick, or tired she cries more easily, and I can’t blame her.  It’s her main way of communicating!  She is getting fairly easy to bring places, and we’ve had some success with stroller naps on-the-go once she gets tired enough.

Money

I’ve started buying and making food for the baby.  I realize they can just eat mushed up versions of what we eat (or even not mushed if prepared appropriately), but I find baby food to be convenient for now, and it is a quite temporary phase. I talked myself out of buying a food mill because the cheap ones have poor reviews and the nice stainless steel ones are more than I should spend for an item I have made it this far in life without.

We bought a play mat for her to practice her crawling (~$70), and already had baby gates ($70) set up to separate her from the dog.

We sold the baby swing for $45. I think I paid $35 for it. We also sold the bassinet for about what I paid, $125 (but I threw in some extra bedding that I had bought new). We may have a second kid in the future, but these items are too large to store.  We can rebuy second-hand if needed.

I occasionally shop for baby clothes on Swap.com because it is cheaper, and there are so many used baby clothes in the world and I don’t want to add to it.  Still, I got a few specific things (socks, coat, sweater, warm hat) new on sale because I couldn’t  find what I wanted used online.  (Note from my shopping list that it still has been COLD here despite it being almost June.)  We still have hand-me-down clothes and gifts in her current size, but we seemed to have few bottoms and long sleeve items.

Co-parenting

This is still going pretty well.  In terms of time spent on hands-on parenting tasks, I feel like we are relatively even in responsibility –  aside from the nursing/pumping.  (Which is a big “aside”, but  currently does most dog stuff to try to make up for that.)

In terms of mental energy and decision making, I am definitely the one doing most of the planning ahead / emotional labor / invisible work. This is an extension of our regular life. It isn’t a problem, per se, but it is something we are both need keep in mind, and make sure it does not become a problem.

2019 Spending Estimate

May 16, 2019

I’m back to tracking spending!

I have been wanting to pick up budgeting again, but we’ve not done budgeting in a very long time. My goal isn’t to set limits on any particular category or even total spending.  Rather, I want to really understand where our money is going and how much we spend each year.  With the addition of a baby, I’m sure things look different than the past, but I didn’t know really how they would look.  So, budgeting isn’t the goal, but tracking spending is.

With that in mind, I started looking for an app or service that could help, with the following features:

  • No linking to bank accounts required. This is less because of security concerns and more because these interfaces always seemed buggy.
  • Ability to manually enter transactions on-the-go, from my phone
  • An annual view of the our spending: actual spending for past months and projected spending for future months, both for current month. This is important, as monthly budgets don’t really make sense for how I run and think about our finances
  • Free!  Or maybe a small one-time fee.

I didn’t quickly find anything that met my desires, especially compared to my old system.  It is an excel file with a list of transactions pulled into a pivot table, then some basic formulas to do a forecast/actual page.  The only thing it lacked was an easy way to enter transactions on-the-go with my phone. I figured out how to do that with a Google Sheets form, so I’m back in business!  (I do have to copy and paste info from Google Sheets into Excel.)

I was inspired enough to go back and do my best guess at categorizing all of our past spending in 2019 so far, using our credit card history.  There are surely holes, such as what precisely we bought Costco for each trip (I just said it was groceries) and some cash transactions.  Still, it is a reasonable estimate.

I’m excited about this!  Our current projected spending is the highest yet, with our house leading the list, followed by child care.  This is no surprise.  It is nice to observe how the recast of the mortgage and elimination of the student loan had the intended effect on our yearly spend.  It is also interesting to note that the smallish purchases to accomodate the newest member of the family really add up.  It also reminded me I need to send in some receipts for pump parts to my flex spending account for reimbursement!

I’m happy to have this insight again.

Worst Lyft Ride Ever

May 10, 2019

This is apropos of nothing.  I was cleaning out my draft folder and thought this interaction was too bizarre and concerning not to share.

As I often do, I ordered a Lyft for a ride to BART as I headed off on a work trip.  The driver was an ultra creep.

Driver: This is a great area! Is that your house I picked you up from?
Me: “Yes.”  After answering and hearing his reaction, I realize it would have been easier to just lie about this.
Driver: “Yours? Or your parents’ house?”
Me:  “Mine.”
Driver: “Really, it is yours???”
Me: “Yes. Mine and my husbands.”  Again, I could have lied, but at least have established that I don’t live alone.
Driver:  :::Laughs knowingly ::  “Oh yes, your husband’s house!  Hahaha, yes, that makes sense!”
Me: “It’s mine and my husbands, yes.”  Totally annoyed at the implication.
Driver:  Makes a weird joke about how of course it is more mine than my husband’s, because I wear the belt in the relationship.  (Yes, belt.)
Driver:  Hahaha, but don’t tell him I said that!  I know how loyal women can be to their husbands.”
Me: “… ”  WTF??!?!

We then talk about tacos and what type of food I ate in the Midwest, which seemed to be a better direction for the conversation. Eventually, in response to a question, I tell him I’m flying across the country to the other coast.

Driver: “Wow, you have a long trip ahead of you!  You better sleep on that plane ride!”
Me:  “Yes, I’ll probably try.” I have no intention of sleeping on the plane ride, but this seems like an easy answer.
Driver: “haha, yeah! You can be like, ‘Bill Cosby, I need some drugs!!!’  Haha!
Driver:  “Bill Cosby is funny.
Driver:  “He is so old!”
Me: “… ”  WTF??!?!   Did he just make a Bill Cosby date rape joke?!?

Driver: “So, does your husband get jealous when you go out of town for work?”
Me: “Um… no.”
Driver:  “Haha, I would get totally jealous if it were me!  I’d be like, you need to quit your job and stay home!!!”
Me: “… ”  WTF??!?!

Is this real life?!?!  I was never so happy to get out of a taxi and onto BART.  I don’t know what I would have done if it was a longer trip.