All is Right

It was really cold yesterday. I came back home after the Night Ministry Youth Christmas Party and felt the warmth of my home. I paused for a moment and got this definite feeling that everything is going right with my life. I sat down on the floor, which I like to do in such moments of tranquility, and listened to the inner self again. Everything was right. Nevermind, I am still behind with my Christmas cards and presents, nevermind I have a cold for several days, nevermind work. My life is right. All around.

I was thinking about all the conversations I had at the Youth party, all the laughs, and hugs. I thought about an important presentation Boris is giving the next day, and how great is it that he was invited to present. I thought about my daughter and all the big changes which are coming to her life next year, and I thought about my new hire and how happy I am with his progress even though he has been at work for just a couple of days.


i thought how right it was that I decided to bring my Mom here two years ago, and how right it is that Igor is going to New York for Christmas to brighten his friends holidays.
I smiled when I remembered email my friend Lena sent to me the other day, that she comes on Friday night after all so that we have more time for baking, and that she misses me. And then I was thinking of how she will help me with a couple of house projects for which Vlad does not have time. And then I remembered how Vlad came to visit my Mom last week, on one of his only two days off for the whole month, because he could not make it for Thanksgiving, and grandma was missing him.


My life is right. All around. And I will figure out the rest 🙂

Booth Women Connect Conference

On Friday, I attended the Booth Women Connect Chicago conference. Our CEO asked all the women in the leadership position in our company, whether they want to attend. All of us said – yes! Ten of us for the 60-employee company – I think it’s very impressive!

There were opening remarks and a keynote, which we all attended. Also, there were four sessions when we could select one out of eight different workshops to attend. Choosing was extremely difficult!  

I liked the keynote by Ann Curry. As for the sessions, the first one I’ve attended was a panel, “The Future of Work.” It sounded fascinating, the abstract said:

The transformations facing the future of work will feel like tidal waves disrupting all industries and, subsequently, all career paths. These transformations will span organizations and most of their roles, and all types of business models will be disintermediated. In this panel, we aim to raise awareness of what is happening, why, and how to empower us to be proactive with learning transformations.

So, let’s together redefine “work”! A one-size-fits-all workday is a thing of the past. Automation, artificial intelligence, and other emerging technologies are bringing a world of new products, methods, and experiences to our doorsteps that are far more efficient, but unpredictably disruptive in their impact.

How do individuals empower themselves in the face of all of this change at work? How can we turn this period of technological and human change into an occasion to create more rewarding jobs and build better learning systems and career pathways? How might companies embrace flexibility in a structured way?

Join us for a lively discussion around how technological disruptions have transformed global labor markets, impacted gender parity in the workplace, and created opportunities to redefine what work is. We will share cutting-edge research and discuss how organizations whose employees are empowered to be a part of this citizen-led automation will be the winners of tomorrow. We’ll aim to have you return to your organization better equipped to make your workplace work for you, your colleagues, and your clients.

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Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin – a Book Review

One more from my summer reading: Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder.

I could give this book six stars if this rating were available. Extremely informative, great explanations of all “whats” and “whys.” I know the history of this period better than many, but still, there was something new to me.

Also, there were two historical facts, which I only knew from my grandaunt tellings, but never saw them in writing. Being from a family of the “enemies of the nation,” I learned about large portions of the country’s history from the stories my grandaunt told me. At that time, I was sure that they would never become parts of the official account. But after 1985, and especially after 1991, a significant portion of this history became public. There were several facts, however, which I never heard mentioned officially, so I was not even sure whether I remembered them correctly.

To mu surprise, I found the mentioning of these events in the “Bloodlands.” The first is the mentioning of the nationality-based “cases” in the 1930s. My grandaunt told me than my grandfather was prosecuted”as a part of the Polish Case,” but since it was never mentioned otherwise, I thought I might have imagined it. That was the first time I saw it in print.

The second fact was the description of Polish Jews sent back from the Soviet Union to Poland after the war. My grandaunt was a professor at the Leningrad State University at that time, and she was telling me about one of her students who were afraid to do back.

My grandaunt told her: why? It’s now free Poland without Hitler. There will be o antisemitism or anything alike. She remembered how this student shook her head and said hesitantly: I am not so sure… My grandaunt said, she could never forgive herself that she sent her away. Once again, that’s the first time in my life, I saw these facts in writing.

I gave this book to Igor for his 34th birthday:)

What Does Volunteering Mean?

Last week, I had several conversations, which made me first upset, then angry, and then angry at myself that I got angry:). And now, I am trying my best to abstract from particular conversations and to say what exactly was so upsetting. 

What does volunteering mean? It means that you want to do something with no pay. And this includes – possibly no thanks. You want to do something because you believe that this something is important. That somebody’s lives: people’s, animals’, plants’ – will become better if you will be doing this – whatever “this” is. 

You say: I want to volunteer. Great. By the way, nobody “has” to volunteer. I will never criticize anybody for not wanting to volunteer. A person can only decide by themselves, whether this is indeed what they want. 

But want I do not understand, and what makes me mad – when somebody expects to be rewarded for their volunteer work. When they get upset that they do not receive enough thanks. When they wonder why others do not want to listen to them or utilize their expertise. 

I’ve lost count of how many times I had heard this: I want to volunteer, I offered my services, why “they” are so picky and do not want me? Why am I not receiving thanks for helping out?

For me, it means that this person does not want to volunteer. They simply want a payment of a different kind. Because when you volunteer, you just give. You give and never ask for something in return. Sure, it feels good when you hear “thank you for all your do!” but that is not a reason why you volunteer.

Also, when you do volunteer, you do the whole thing. There is no “dirty work.” If you want to support this cause, you will do whatever is required in the current situation. In many cases volunteering activities are scary. Or at least uncomfortable. That is a part of the package. 

How I Learned About THAT…

In support of those who walk this path alone …

This blog post was originally written in Russian about ten years ago. In the information vacuum of nowaday’s Russia, it was reposted multiple times and hopefully helped a large number of young gay people and their parents to navigate life challenges. 

I thought that at the present moment, this post is valuable only from the historical perspective. But to my surprise, it turned out that many people are still not completely aware of what it means to be homosexual. And I decided to write this post again, this time – in English. Here it comes.

***

People often ask me when did I learn about Vlad’s sexual orientation. The short answer: shortly after he had figured it out about himself. Which was a little bit after Anna suspected that it was the case. At that time, he was a couple of months short of being fourteen, and I’ve noticed that he looked sad and concerned for several days. I was bugging him with the questions, what was wrong, but he brushed off my concerns. That could not deceive me; I was sure that something serious is going on. Finally, I got a chance to talk to him one night when everybody else was out.  

I asked him to share with me what was wrong. He started: you are going to be very disappointed with me. Perhaps, you won’t love me anymore, but I need to tell you something. I think that I am gay. 

Continue reading “How I Learned About THAT…”

Chick Tech Chicago Meetup. RealTalk: Workplace Harassment

I attended this meetup in September, during this crazy week before I left for Helsinki. And although it has been a while, I still want to write about it. Interestingly, just before that, I completed a mandatory harassment training, so everything was pretty fresh. This was the first time I completed such training for managers, which gave me a new perspective.

The meetup agenda said:

In this discussion, we will be diving into a tough topic. Workplace harassment can be very difficult to handle and highly unexpected. We’ll learn from our speakers on real-life examples in which you can navigate situations and how to maintain your own communication through a very difficult situation.

Speakers:
Cassi Hansen, VP of People Operations at Nerdery
Debbie Pickus, Founder and CEO of Team Fireball Inc.
Laura Khalil, Executive Coach at Force of Badassery

I would describe this more like a panel because as you can see from this description, the speakers were the subject matter experts. Each of them had a lot to offer in terms of how to fight harassment at the workplace. We were going through many real-life examples, many of which sounded very much alike to the ones presented in my training.

One of the topics which came up was the question of how women, who are sexually harassed at work can find their allies, how they can stand for themselves when the source of harassment is somebody in the authoritative position.

My thoughts were going in a little bit different direction since the same training reminded me that there are many kinds of harassment, and one in particular, which bothers me a lot.

Then I decided to tell my story.


Once at one of my previous jobs, a co-worker stopped by and asked whether we could talk in private. When we were behind the closed doors, she procced with saying she is a messenger of other folks. Although I do not like characterizing people by their national origin, it is important for the story. She was a green card holder, and the other folks on behalf of whom she was speaking were from the same country of origin, but they were alien workers, holding the work visas.

She proceeded with the long list of complaints about their manager, who treated them poorly, was mean to them, was presenting their results as his own, and so on. Knowing the situation, I had no reason not to believe. But then my coworker said: they are afraid they will be fired and will have to leave the country. They are afraid to go to HR. And even if you will go and tell HR what’s going on, if HR calls on them, they will deny everything because they are afraid of retaliation. I asked – then what do you want me to do? She said: please go and talk to our director! Maybe he will be able to do something.

I knew that it would be impossible to do something without HR, but I went to my director anyways. His response was as I’ve expected: there is no way around HR.

This happened many years ago, but I still do not know what’s a good way to resolve such a situation. And when I shared this story with the meeup, nobody had a good answer…

History Lessons

I was at lunch with three of my younger co-workers, and one of them mentioned that he probably misuses utensils. The other two joined the conversation suggesting that all of them are not perfect in this regard. I wanted to tell my story about Germany, and a lunch with the Dean, and how I was inadequate to the occasion. So I started by mentioning, that since the upper class was eradicated in the Soviet Union, the skill of using the silverware properly was not taught to children at home.

One of my co-workers asked: what do you mean by “eradicated?” This question took me by surprise, so while I was collecting myself, another co-worker replied: well, precisely that: they were killed. She continued: I do not know that much of Russian history as I probably should, but I now that in the beginning of the 20th century there was a revolution, and people were killed.

Apparently, for two of the three, this was news. Not that I think everybody in the world should know Russian history, but recently I’ve encountered several cases when people made bad judgments and bad decisions repeating history to the letter.

Maybe I am wrong, and this is already an old history, and the new generation should learn from new examples – I do not know.

“Having It All” Then and Now

Anna and Nadia were staying with me last weekend. The main reason was “All kids’ birthday,” but we were also hoping to spend some time together and to do some girls stuff. Which we did, and while the girls were here I was thinking (as I usually do in such cases) about how much parenting had changed since the time I had small children.

It’s also worth noting that I was in the process of listening to the audiobook “All the rage.” In addition to the fact that this book makes you think about gender inequality at home like never before, there was something else.

I always use my own life as an example of “you can have it all.” I used to say that if you plan everything carefully and can distinguish important things from unimportant, you can be a successful parent and a successful professional. And I still believe it is true, but it depends on how you define a successful parent.

Continue reading ““Having It All” Then and Now”

Understanding Our Family History

Another topic of my conversation with Anna was about an understanding of people’s motives and preception of the world around them. That’s precisely the reason I started this blog; that’s why I try to be very honest with myself about the past.

Anna told me that she read somewhere on the internet about her great-grandfather, the one who was NKVD Major General, and about his career in the 1920s. She asked me whether she understood correctly, what he was doing in Middle Asia and Azerbaijan, and I confirmed. I think that it is essential to understand what many people were both the executors and the victims of the Great Terror. That is something I am not going to hide. And as Anna put it, she wants to understand, what was going on the people’s heads, how they could justify within themselves all these actions. How could a highly educated and very intelligent person consciously participate in the “kulak’s liquidation.” I can only guess about him. But I remember what his sister-in-law, my grand aunt, was telling me about her joining the Communist Party after most of her family was prosecuted. And I am going to write about it in the future. 

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Parenting

Anna was asking me how Nadia is different from her at the same age. I replied that she is different because all human beings are different. But I am finding it hard to pinpoint, what are the exact differences.

Our parenting styles are different. When Anna was two, her life was undoubtfully more structured than Nadia’s. There was no question about what clothes to put on, whether to have dinner or not, and what will be served. There was no throwing away food. There were no reading books on the potty. Part of it was survival, me being a single working mom of three in an unstable economy. But part of it was a starting point. 

I was an incredibly liberal parent by Russian standards those days. I didn’t spend all day disciplining a child. I would let them do tons of things other parents won’t. But by the nowadays civilized standards, it was still very rigorous parenting. 

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