Wednesday, August 31, 2011

10 reasons you wish you worked at Google

I just spent the last two days at Google for training and team building on behalf of one of my clients. I became intensely jealous of the culture at this massive internet company. Hence, 10 reasons you wish you worked here.

1. Google HQ, where 5000+ Googlers work, is in Mountain View, CA, where the weather is perfect every day.
2. You're never more than a two minute walk from a micro-kitchen stocked with cereal, fresh fruit (even figs!), a wide selection of gourmet snack items (fresh and non-perishable) and at least 30 kinds of beverages, from coffee to Coke to Odwalla smoothies to Hint Water. All free.
3. The cafeterias, which are also free to employees and their guests, feature a wide variety of foods, mostly locally sourced and organic. Seeing the line of South Asians at the Namaste counter, I loaded up my plate with daal, naan, roti and Tandoori chicken.
4. You are asked to dedicate 20 percent of your time to a project separate from your regular duties. It doesn't even have to result in a profitable product launch for Google. It can just be something cool or charitably minded.
5. You can use adorable Google bikes to get from one office to another. Or request a free ride from an on-campus "taxi."
6. If you live in San Francisco, you can catch a free ride to work on a fancy coach-style bus. They leave from various neighborhoods every 10 minutes and there's free wifi on board. Most bus riders haul in bags of dirty laundry and use the on-campus machines to clean their clothes.
7. If carrying your laundry to work doesn't burn off the three meals a day you're snarfing down at work, you can get your exercise on the playing fields, the beach volleyball courts or in the lap pool. And top it off with a free massage--there are dedicated rooms in every building with full-time massage therapists on staff.
8. Make yourself comfortable in the Google bathrooms. The seats are heated, there are bidet functions should you want them, and there's plenty of educational literature pinned up so that no learning opportunity is wasted. And you can be sure that a company that pays for your meals and laundry isn't going to make you cough up a quarter for a tampon.
9. Get inspired. Artwork by Googlers is on exhibit, as is a T. Rex replica skeleton, a 3 foot Android phone and photos from small business owners around the world whose companies have benefited from Google ad buys.
10. Bring your dog to work. I saw countless pups as well as a ton of small children. And according to a Googler I spoke to, the daycare centers are so "amazing" they have a 3 year waiting list. Of course, most kids graduate from day care at age 3, so maybe that's one tiny little reason not to wish you worked at Google. Hah.
11. Okay, I'm won over, but this place is freaking utopia. Everyone carefully sorts their lunch tray leftovers into compost, recycling and trash bins, there are daily talks on self-improvement and knowledge sharing... and to top it off, a pashmina that slipped off me unnoticed during our tour was waiting on the curb 5 hours later.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Doppleganger in the schoolyard

I walked Z to school again this morning (the weather is astonishingly beautiful) and noticed a middle-aged woman standing next to the school doors who looked exactly like my senior producer at work. Same hair. Same face. Same body. Same glasses. Even her posture was the same. I tried to catch her eye, but she looked right through me.

That's strange, I thought. I knew my production manager, Jean, lived in Oak Park, but this woman clearly was working at the school and Jean couldn't possibly hold down two simultaneous jobs. "Who's that lady in the black vest?" I asked Z.

"Ms. S-," she replied.

I was puzzled, but so intrigued I snapped a picture with my phone. Two hours later I was in a meeting with Jean and I asked her "Do you have an identical twin who works at Lincoln Elementary?"

And indeed she does. One of the dozen people on my team at work has an identical twin sister who teaches at my daughter's school, in the classroom right next to hers. I passed my phone around the conference room and everyone agreed it looked just like our colleague.

According to Jean, she frequently gets stopped on the streets of Oak Park by parents who think she's her twin sister Joan.

It's a small, small world.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The first day of second grade

IMG_3427A new backpack.
A new lunchbox, which matches the backpack.
An outfit carefully selected and laid out on the bedroom floor the night before.
Hair brushed. Teeth brushed.
Breakfast? Barely touched.
Z jumped out of bed and began counting the minutes until we would leave the house and start the 15 minute walk to school. Every 5 minutes I got an update and a request to "leave now."

Finally, I snapped her picture and we joined two neighbor families for the inaugural walk. Z, flanked by a kindergartener she's grown up with and his 4th grade brother, led the way, beating us by a block.

The schoolyard was packed with parents, younger siblings, bulky bags of school supplies and teachers in orange safety vests. Z joined her classmates, saying "hi," giggling and bouncing up and down in line behind their 2nd grade teacher--a new hire and a Mister. 

Betcha tomorrow she'll want to take the bus.

Next week: 1st grade
Her first day of kindergarten
Her first day of school
Preschool's back in session
Her first day of preschool

Friday, August 19, 2011

I've been neglecting my blog

I don't know if I've ever gone for more than a week between blog posts, but between being really busy and feeling like I don't have anything interesting to say, I've haven't logged on in a quite a while.

But since I've got a few hours to kill at Boston's Logan Airport and I can only listen to the crazy lady behind me bad mouth all of her friends and relatives and moan about her health problems to someone on the other end of the phone for just so long... here I am.

I'm in Boston for work--a 3 day all-agency meeting that was just long enough to require the purchasing of guilt gifts for my children. I ended up buying Z a trendy top and A a two-piece Speedo from the clearance racks at the Marshalls near Boston Common. Which is a touch ironic given that my travel plans prevented me from attending a blogger back-to-school fashion event put on by T.J. Maxx and Marshalls back in Chicago.

Hopefully you'll see more of me in the next few days. I'm looking forward to my mom and stepdad's visit this weekend and we're going to meet Z's 2nd grade teacher (a man!) on Monday afternoon. She starts school on Wednesday

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hooky (a week ago today)

2011-08-03 10.23.15
Last Wednesday I took the day off work and spent it with the family (the girls had a camp-free week and were driving Josh nuts).

Our morning was picture perfect. Josh had a doctor's appointment in Lincoln Park, so he dropped me and the girls off at North Avenue beach for an hour or so.

It was early enough that we missed the drunk crowds of yahoos at Castaways and the beach volleyball courts, but there was still some bottle caps and cigarette butts on the sand (boo). But that didn't stop the girls from soaking up the magic that is any beach, no matter how trashy or fresh(?)-watery.
2011-08-03 10.55.16
The rest of the day was punctuated by whiny kids, temper tantrums and...well, I'm just now recovering.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Revenge of the nerds

With my frizzy hair, AP course load and complete unfamiliarity with pop culture and fashion (I'd been overseas during elementary and middle school), I qualified as one of the geekier members of the Wakefield High School Class of 1994.

And while I'm definitely out-geeked by the first generation Korean-American science genius with the incredible growing jaw that Dr. Youn describes from his teen years in his memoir In Stitches, my success as an ad agency creative director with lovely curly locks is out-shined by his tremendous accomplishments as one of the country's best known plastic surgeons.

Dr. Youn opens his hilarious book with the moment that solidified for him why he'd chosen the right field: he was about to remove a fourteen year old boy's enormous man boobs and give the guy a chance at a normal life. It reminded the young physician of how his skill could change this guy's life for the better, just as his teenage jaw-reduction improved his.

I thought back, trying to remember a moment when I first realized being an ad creative was my true calling. I'm not sure any qualify as true watershed moments, but I recall spending days with my 6th grade friend Diane as we worked on a meticulously written and illustrated "doll catalogue." Then in high school I took a job working at a Hoohobbers boutique for children and I got such a thrill from designing the window displays.

Finally, I took a job as a promotions coordinator at an alt weekly right out of college. I loved putting together events and writing the ads and invites and collateral, but I didn't much like meeting with nightclub owners and beer reps and asking for money. Copywriting and creating without the responsibility of negotiating contracts...that's pretty much the life of an agency creative.

I received my copy of this book because I am a member of the From Left to Write book club. We don't write book reviews, but posts inspired by the book we've read.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Kids say the darnedest things

A has a new habit of holding one finger up next to her eye and saying "Smile!" She then makes a clicking noise and says "I'm putting that one on my blog."

Which is frighteningly reflective until she adds, "I have a real, grown up camera. It's pink and purple and shiny. And it has a blog in it. I put your picture on my blog. But you didn't smile very nice, so we should probably try again."

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Agency Land

Today was Leo Burnett's 76th anniversary, and the theme of the party was "bring your inner child to work." As part of the 24th floor festivities, we posted our elementary school pictures and had a locker/door decorating contest.

My roomie/partner Laura and I created the masterpiece to the left. Unfortunately we didn't win first prize, so we'll be splitting a $20 Starbucks gift card instead of $50 iTunes credit.

C'est la vie. At least there was human bowling, remote control car racing as well as vodka iced tea, candy and Doritos to keep things interesting between client calls.

Dang, I'm realizing now that you can't read all the clever copy, from "Make the logo bigger" to "Make it work with stock photography" to "Susan Credle learned your name."

Friday, August 05, 2011

CDs for budding music fans

I've written before about our general embrace of the Kidz Bop franchise, and they've got another winner in Kidz Bop 20, their latest collection of PG-rated, kid-sung Top 40 tunes (think Now That's What I Call Music for the grade school set).

Z had been pestering me for months, asking when a new Kidz Bop album was going to come out, and she finally has it (and loves it). But before it hit stores, I was offered a review copy of another CD full of kid vocals, Star Rock for Kids. I wasn't sure Z would appreciate it given she hadn't heard any of the songs on the radio--or ever (the CD is a wacky mix of songs from the last few decades). But she proved me wrong, shutting herself up in her room and memorizing the lyrics to her new favorite songs and marveling that "this song was sung by an 8 year old...and 8 YEAR OLD!"

Here's her take on Star Rock for Kids.

She also did a video review of Kidz Bop 20, which you can view here.
And (if you are a blood relation), you might also enjoy A's presentation of her lullabies CD, inspired by her big sister's performance.

Disclosure: I received review copies of both Kidz Bop 20 and Star Rock for Kids. All opinions expressed are mine (or my child's).

The princess and her castle

Z was hard at work coloring in this piece of hand-me-down poster board when I arrived home from work yesterday. Details include a "queen with her baby," a drawbridge, a fountain, a "maid cleaning the roof" and various rooms visible through the windows.