My last job was at Amazon, as a QA Engineer. “It was fine until it wasn’t” is one summary. “It was a good distraction from the stress of my dad’s failing health so I could keep balance, but fell apart after other losses and health crap that made me not care about work much” is another.

The “stopped caring” was a big part for me. I tend to do my best software work when I can hyperfocus on what I’m doing and ignore everything else. Over time I got more responsibilities and was expected to keep more balls in the air…which doesn’t feed hyperfocus well.

Anyway, last day was in June.  A bit less than a week later, episode 103 of Productivity Alchemy came out.  The interview was with Star Picucci, talking about her end of full-time employment.  (This bit is about 23:30 minutes into the podcast)

I was a PeopleSoft developer until February, when due to the vagaries of government contracts I was no longer a PeopleSoft developer, and I was aggravated about it. I had hoped to retire in about 2 years, and so I called my financial advisor, I talked to my husband, I crunched a bunch of numbers, and said: Do I have to deal with this bullshit or can I just NOT work?

Star clarified she’s sort of on “trial retirement” while they see if the numbers really work.  What stood out to me, though, was how her reaction was like my reaction when I had been handed an Amazon Pivot paperwork.  Oh, if I leave you give me over 3 months’ severance and skip the PIP? Gee, let me think.   I occasionally have a nagging voice pointing out that I could’ve gone on medical leave and see how that changed things but … too much glee over the idea of leaving.  I was ready to run away.

So yeah, we’ll see how the money goes. I’ve been maxing out the 401(k) and saving a good amount each year. I’ve been using COBRA to follow up on some health things I’d been putting off. I will probably be blogging more here, and I’m sending out some article pitches. But that’s the big thing that I’m coming to terms with.



The company I’ve worked at for the last three years has parties for Halloween & trick-or-treating in the office. I’ve sometimes felt strange, in past years, to be the fat lady handing out candy.  (No cultural baggage there…!)

This is the second company I’ve worked at to do the full-on trick-or-treating. Some years at the old company I stamped kids’ hands with bats and cats, but I gave my rubber stamps away in an uncluttering binge. So I stopped by the party store on the way home Tuesday.


I’m giving out small toys this year. It’ll be different, and the kids might like the variety. Besides, leftover kazoos might be fun.


The National Federation of Independent Businesses, National Retail Federation and National Restaurant Association all operate on the premise that none of their workers will ever be their customers. Customers, they assume, are magical creatures who come from a world in which no one works in a store, or a restaurant, or manufacturing, or the service sector, and so keeping wages lower than low only cuts costs and couldn’t possibly affect demand. And now these poor lobbyists can’t figure out where all their customers have gone. It’s a puzzlement.

Fred Clark at Slacktivist

QOTD: USian Healthcare

From currently unemployed teacher Diana Wagman, writing in the LA Times:

Some 700,000 Americans every year declare bankruptcy because of medical bills. The number in Japan? Zero. The number in Germany? Zero.

And the kicker?  It could be worse.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, my new insurance company can’t deny me because I had cancer.   […]  We’re not poor, I don’t want to suggest that we are, but we will have to make some hard choices if I’m not working and we’re paying $1,300 a month to an insurance company.

In my field, I could make more money in the short term, and probably have less stress, if I were to focus on temping (which includes overtime) instead of being a full-time salaried employee (which doesn’t).  But the full-time salaried job at a big company includes affordable access to better-than-average health insurance.  I have asthma & allergies, which means maintenance meds — and allergy shots.  I am also OMG FAT & have a history of depression, which makes me expensive to insure.  So yeah, I’ll do the big company salaried job if they want me.  At least they gave me a signing bonus (which helped make up for the overtime) and stock (which I try not to count on, because I’ve had employer stock become worthless).

Job requirements

“Put this all together and it means the IRS needs tens of thousands of people who are (a) smart, (b) willing to do really tedious work, (c) for moderate wages, (d) while working for a soul-crushing bureaucracy, and (e) being loathed by all right-thinking people. Does this sound to you like a recipe for disaster? Me too.”

Mother Jones

Wow…to a certain extent this sounds a bit like working in child care, or elder care, or Microsoft tech support.  (To name a few jobs I’ve done that were exacting and received little respect or pay.) But the IRS is probably worse.

“Big data” and hiring

Having job-hunted recently I found this article in The Economist interesting:

Evolv mines mountains of data. If a client operates call centres, for example, Evolv keeps daily tabs on such things as how long each employee takes to answer a customer’s query. It then relates actual performance to traits that were visible during recruitment.
Some insights are counter-intuitive. For instance, firms routinely cull job candidates with a criminal record. Yet the data suggest that for certain jobs there is no correlation with work performance. Indeed, for customer-support calls, people with a criminal background actually perform a bit better.

Also are observations about trying to gauge honesty and that folks with higher “honesty” scores often aren’t as good at sales.  Ahem?

I was amused at the assumption that folks who use a non-default browser to fill out job applications are better candidates.  I can’t count the number of times a job application form would crash in non-IE browsers!

Thankful Thursday

[An occasional exercise in gratitude.]

It’s Thursday.  I made it to Thursday.

Monday I took 5 hours out of my day for a training class on interviews (with a special focus on behavioral interviewing, joy) followed by working late. Then my carpool buddy and I drove to the 1 post office still open so he could drop off his tax extension.

Tuesday I conducted two 1-hour interviews and a half-hour informational interview and, again, working late while carpool buddy was a morale event. By the end of the day I felt like my brains were mush.

Wednesday I had no meetings, no interviews, just work. One of my team members was out, but I still got lots done, including figuring out a bit of code that delighted me.

Today, Thursday, I had multiple meetings, including my annual performance review discussion with my boss.  Since I’d been promoted to management I had an idea it would go well, and it did. I got a raise, some stock, and a renewed sense of impostor syndrome. Also a feeling of “now what?”

….and then it was off to the Fairmont hotel for dinner with the man of house at his company’s quarterly dinner thing.

I’m grateful that what started as a temp job just over 2 years ago has turned into a place where I’m comfortable, liked, and rewarded.

I’m grateful that my boss and coworkers appreciate me.

I’m grateful that I can direct the raise into saving for emergencies.

I’m grateful that I can go back to work tomorrow and maybe have a normal day. ;)

Quotes: Work

Every time a man expects, as he says, his money to work for him, he is expecting other people to work for him.  — Dorothy L. Sayers

Work is the curse of the drinking classes. — Oscar Wilde

If you don’t want to work you have to work to earn enough money so that you won’t have to work. — Ogden Nash

By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day. — Robert Frost

The biggest job we have is to teach a newly hired employee how to fail intelligently. We have to train him to experiment over and over and to keep on trying and failing until he learns what will work. — Charles Kettering 

Nothing will work unless you do. — Maya Angelou


Weight Talk, Business Travel Edition

I’ve been working with people in the UK and German offices of the company I work at since I started.  Now that I’m a manager, my boss mentioned that a trip to Germany for training may be in the works.

Fat woman with cellphone

Image courtesy of Rudd Image Gallery

…which would mean flying while 400lbs.

In the interest of being diplomatic, I expressed interest and pleasure that I would have an opportunity to meet the folks I correspond with and share my expertise. Then — in the interest of full disclosure — I brought up the possibility that an airline might require me to purchase a second seat if flying coach.  My primary concern was that this may happen while boarding, and could lead to delays if another seat isn’t available.  My boss said she understood that was the whim of airlines, not me, and that she would make sure the company paid for any such additional seat charges.  (She’s also thinking that it would be reasonable for to fly business or first class since the flight time would probably be over 12 hours.)

I am pleased that I did not get emotional. I stayed matter-of-fact and somewhat detached.  I was prepared to be told that this would be dealt with if it happened, or that this meant I would not be able to travel for business.

One side effect of being fat, for me, is that I don’t apply for jobs that I’m qualified for that require travel.  (Usually in the corporate training field, teaching programming or software usage.)  I don’t exactly feel this is a loss given the TSA and how airport air tends to affect my asthma, but I usually have lots of other jobs to apply for.  If I was in marketing, for example, business travel would be a much bigger deal for me.

International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day.  You might want to check out the free album Talis Kimberley created for International Women’s Day:

On Thursday I saw someone tweet that she’d like to celebrate International Women’s Day but she’ll be busy with “precarious part-time work”, housework, and child care.

This started me thinking.  International Women’s Day isn’t all that big a deal in the US, so I will celebrate by working my salaried professional job at a large company that provides me with vacation, sick leave, and medical insurance.  I have been acting as the technical lead on my team; recently I was promoted to team manager.  Some coworkers have said, “Congratulations on getting the job I thought you already had!”   The primary difference is that I’m officially managing people now.  As this is a big company, this responsibility comes with training videos & documents on management duties and expectations.  I am pleased to have these resources available.

Image courtesy of the Rudd Center Image Gallery

Image courtesy of the Rudd Center Image Gallery

I began working at this company as a temp.  The offer to convert to employee included the largest salary I’ve ever had, a signing bonus, and a stock grant.

What does this have to do with International Women’s Day? Besides that at one point it was International Women Workers Day?

For one thing, women—at least in many countries— have more opportunities now, and I benefit from that.

For another, it shows how far we have to go.  I know that women are more likely to be underrated technically and underpaid compared to male peers in my field. That’s an industry problem.  On a broader scale,  the US is one of the richest (if not the richest) country in the world to not have universal medical care.  How many people in the US die from lack of health insurance?  How many are tied to employers for the benefits?  I grew up with good healthcare (thanks to the Teamsters negotiating my father’s contract) and I had a good public education, but not everyone does. I lived at home, worked part-time, got loans, and completed a computer science degree before starting full-time work.

My parents were working class. Mom completed 8th grade before getting her first full-time job as a maid.  Dad graduated high school and worked in a warehouse; Mom ran a home-based child care business for most of my life. Working in software meant I was making more money than both my parents combined in my early thirties.  I’m a professional who’s brushing against upper middle class, despite being fat and dressing casually.  In some ways I have a charmed life, even though polls show some would rather “give up life or limb” to avoid my life.

I’m not sure I’d have the life I have if I’d been born earlier.   Yes, women have always worked.  Some inspiring women, for me, are  Dorothy Sayers, Dorothy Stimson BullittGrace Hopper, Anita Borg, Mary Gates, and The Rt Rev Barbara Harris.  I’m not sure I would have had the moxie to do what they did.  Then again, I don’t have to.


Updated to remove screencap and twitter name of locked tweet that I did not realize was locked.

Thankful Thursday

[An occasional exercise in gratitude]

It’s Thursday and I’m thankful for….

  1. I belong to a church where women wearing pants to church is common.  As are women in leadership
  2. 1-year anniversary at work.  My signing bonus is now all mine, instead of something I have to pay back if I leave.  Also I get another week’s vacation next year.
  3. My own office, without a roommate.
  4. Upcoming 4-day weekend.
  5. Letting go of other people’s “Oh, but you have to do ________ for Christmas” and focusing on what I want to do.
  6. The man of the house, who has been supportive through work craziness in October / November.
  7. Splurging on things from tees to office toys because I can.
  8. Did I mention an upcoming 4-day weekend?
  9. Memories of a fun weekend of musical crafty goodness.
  10. Discovering that yes, washing the bed linens weekly (including the mattress pad) really really does affect my health.  (AKA “This week’s stuffiness, headaches, and increased inhaler usage is Proof that the laundry is not make-work, damn it.)

What is a job for a morbidly obese woman?

Image courtesy of the Rudd Center

Courtesy of the Rudd Center image gallery

This showed up as one of the search terms used to get to my blog:

what is a job for a morbidly obese woman?

Let’s see…”morbid obesity” is usually defined these days as having a BMI value of 40 or higher.    The BMI Project includes photos of multiple folks who are, officiallymorbidly obese.

So, what sort of job is good for a morbidly obese woman? How about one that she has the skills for? One that she enjoys doing?

Dr Regina Benjamin is fat and the US Surgeon General, though I don’t know her BMI. Melissa McCarthy, Rebel Wilson and Dawn French are actors.   Beth Ditto is a singer-songwriter.

Courtesy of the Rudd Center image gallery.

Courtesy of the Rudd Center image gallery.

But what about in everyday life?

Fat women are doctors. Clerks. Nurses. Programmers. Saleswomen. Lawyers. Engineers.  Housewives. Writers.  Bosses.  Janitors.  Baristas. Fat women are everywhere.  And we may not look as fat as you think we do.

So are fat men.

Even so, fat people, especially fat women, are less likely to be hired (there are fewer fat actors for a reason). Fat people are also often paid less and harassed more than similar-qualified people who are thin. As noted in an article in the California Law Review,

“highly obese” women earn 24% less than thin women while the so-called moderately obese earn 6% less. A Harvard Public Health Study found that fat women have household incomes $6,710 lower than thin women. Fat women also have a 10% higher rate of poverty.

I didn’t know all this when I was in college.  I knew that I didn’t fit the late-80s “Dress for Success” look, and that being fat didn’t help, but I didn’t realize that weight discrimination was being studied.  I knew I wouldn’t look like the stereotypical Seattle programmer , but I majored in computer science anyway.  I’m  likely to be paid less than others in my field, but at least it’s a field with above-median pay to start with.

Are there jobs that fat people can’t do?  Probably not jobs where being small is part of the job, such as being a jockey.  Weight Watchers refuses to hire people for certain jobs that don’t maintain their WW-determined “Goal Weight”. There are also jobs that fat people may not WANT to do — I’m afraid that individuals do tend to be individual about their wants, needs, and skills.

What do you think?  Stupid question?

Things to Read

The first thing that makes me wonder about the supposed “skill gap” is that, when pressed for more evidence, roughly 10% of employers admit that the problem is really that the candidates they want won’t accept the positions at the wage level being offered. That’s not a skill shortage, it’s simply being unwilling to pay the going price.
Peter Cappelli

I’ve noticed a tendency to want 10 years of experience but to pay for 1.

Overweight people face bias in many areas of the working world, from job interviews to performance evaluations. For example, studies have found that if two job applicants have identical qualifications, the one who is overweight is more likely to be rated negatively and less likely to be hired.
Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity

Yes, there is research supporting this.  Since most people cannot permanently lose significant amounts of weight, this puts fat people at a disadvantage.

[T]here’s a century of research establishing the undeniable fact that working more than 40 hours per week actually decreases productivity.

— Geoffrey James writing in Inc

I work in software, which likes to pretend this research doesn’t exist.  I’ve been known to take longer lunches to maintain sanity.

Things to read

From Jezebel’s Work-Life Balance Isn’t Just for Moms:

The basic point of all of this is that whether you have kids, have a partner but no kids, or are living alone, working too much sucks. It’s no way to live, and we’re not dummies. So at some point, most of us realize that we’d rather do something that allows us to actually have a life, rather than commit every waking hour to a job, no matter how fulfilling we find it.

This is why I’ve been avoiding startups.

Jezebel also had a good post from Lindy West on an Adipositivity Project  photo being used as “a joke”.

Can you believe fat people? Just existing willy-nilly all over the place, sometimes without even the courtesy to cloak their terrible bodies in heavy smocks and caftans.

Why, they even expect their copyrights to be respected?!?  It’s as if they think they’re people!

Why Obesity is NOT an Eating Disorder:

An ED is a serious emotional problem/illness and obesity is a measure of height and weight. …  The comparison between obesity and eating disorders is [akin] to comparing an apple with a chair. You can’t sit in an apple and you can’t eat a chair!

This sort of armchair misdiagnosing does not help anybody, especially not those with actual eating disorders.

Five Things Makes a Post

  1. New job! I have a new job.  The place I was temping hired me in late December.  I’m not doing exactly the same job, which is both “new and scary” and “cool and interesting”.   It’s also been interesting to note that the things I was looking forward to ending with the contract (the commute, say) are now things I’m stuck with, and the things I was thinking I’d miss (the walkability of the neighborhood) are now things I get to enjoy longer.
  2. According to the New York Times, my household is in the top 48% for the Seattle-Everett area this year (based on my unemployment for the first 3 months + contract for 8.5 months + signing bonus + hubby’s temp gig.)
  3. Asthma has been kicking my butt lately.  My nurse practitioner upped my dose of Advair and OMG I had so! much! energy!  this! week!   I have been enjoying it but also crashing harder at the end of the day.
  4. A coworker was floored that I am able to pick up my father’s wheelchair and load it into my car.  I pointed out that once I remove the back and seat, it collapses into a big flatish bundle.  “But isn’t it heavy?”  About 40lbs, really … which doesn’t seem all that much to me.  So I guess the weightlifting is doing me good.
  5. I have been reading more about caregiver stress and considering support groups.  I feel a bit strange about doing it, since I’m not doing the daily hands-on care.  But I am taking him to doctor visits, making medical decisions, getting his mail, managing his money, and being a supportive daughter.

Bonus: The new blog banner is a chocolate doughnut with chocolate frosting and Sounders green and blue sprinkles.  These are sold by at Seattle Sounders games.

Office Breakfast

The man of the house had picked up a variety pack of instant oatmeal for a trip.  We didn’t eat it then.  Monday I brought it into the office with me.

2 packets in a coffee cup + hot water = hot breakfast.   I don’t eat it every day, but when I was too rushed to eat at home it’s a nice option.

Usually with instant oatmeal I only get my favorite flavors, and even then, they’re often too strong.  Since I have a variety pack I’m mixing flavors – today was raisin & spice with maple & brown sugar.  I generally don’t like those flavors alone, but together they were fine.

Spoonful of oatmeal

Spoonful of oatmeal

QOTD: Nutrition, exercise, and sleep

It’s a stressful time in my household. Both I and the man of the house have temp gigs after months of unemployment.  A relative is ill, needs to move to an assisted living situation, and I’m organizing most of it.   The to-do list is long and getting longer.

But I need to take care of myself, too.  To do this, I’ve been focusing on getting enough sleep, some exercise, time with my “nucleus” and close friends.   So this bit on a reducing stress during times of change was rather reassuring:

[N]ow, more than ever, you must respect your body. Give it the best fuel you can, exercise it well, give it the rest it needs to run at its best. Nutrition, exercise and sleep are not luxuries; they are necessities.

Also essential in life is our humanity. We need to create bonds with family and friends to feel happy.

I also liked found this proportion-making:

Friendship, laughter and that human connection have no cost, yet they are priceless.

We need shelter, water and food for survival. Most Americans have access to all three. We have no war in our country. Our children enjoy opportunities many of the world’s children can’t even imagine.

I also periodically spend a bit of time taking deep breaths and reminding myself that it doesn’t all have to be done at once.