I met Martha Bitar, a member of the Oracle Direct salesforce, at one of my monthly skill building workshops. The topic was how to network online. Martha wanted to connect with customers online and explore new ways to generate leads.
Martha is a real go-getter who, I am proud to say, told me she has been getting great results from the tools and tips I shared with her and the other participants (win!). During the workshop, she asked me if I would be willing to share my experiences as a working mom with her networking group at Oracle.
This morning, bright and early, I headed down to Oracle (you know, of database fame) and gave a talk to the Oracle Direct Women’s Networking Group.
As a freelancer and former nonprofit administrator, I’ve had very little opportunity to spend time within the walls and on the campuses of corporate America, so I was not only honored to be asked, but intrigued as well. After all, it’s not everyday you get invited to talk about yourself and your opinions for a whole hour!
Oracle is one of those iconic companies that, in part because of its size and brand recognition, recruits from across the country and even internationally. Their headquarters is, literally, a campus complete with tree-lined streets, multiple buildings, and even ducklings.
Visiting Oracle, and meeting an eager new salesforce, left me with a whole new perspective. These are the women who will be tomorrow’s mothers and leaders. They are bright, beautiful beginners with fresh, open minds — one of my very favorite kinds of people.
The theme of my talk was how to bring the freelance spirit into the corporate workplace. By inviting me, the first outside speaker who has presented to the group, organizers showed their own freelance spirit. And, of course, it’s pretty common knowledge that, these days, there are no guarantees of job security — even in an industry with as much wealth and promise as tech.
We are all either current or future freelancers. A freelance spirit can help us maintain a “customer-focused” attitude, even when the customer is an employer. Too, the freelance spirit reminds us that life shifts and changes and that, now more than ever, adaptability is an important part of career and life success.
The Oracle Direct networkers are a mixed group ranging from very young women (recent college grads) to more seasoned sales pros — and one lone gentleman who took the group up on its open invitation to male employees. Despite the group’s diversity, it’s no exaggeration to say that I am as old as some of their mothers!
One young woman asked me about confidence, and how to get it. I told her that it’s great to be young — career life is exciting and new — but that something she could look forward to when she is old(er) like me is the peace that comes with experience (not that I’m a paragon of peace, but compared with my 20s, well, I’ve come a long way, baby!).
It was a real pleasure to have an opportunity to provide my perspective about issues that affect all women, including confidence; work and spirituality; work & life balance; decision-making; and networking and collaboration.
Here are some points I made during the discussion:
- Keep your toe in the workplace. Even if you are planning to take time off to have children, make sure to keep your relationships, if not your skills, vibrant so that you can step back into a job when you need — or want — to.
- Have a checkbook. That advice may sound obvious, but what I was referring to was the importance of making sure your personal financial life is in order even if your marriage is strong. Why? Because you never know.
- Don’t lean in. As a yoga teacher, I made the point that to lean in is to fall over. There are no spiritual traditions that advocate leaning over. On the contrary, Buddhism and yoga both advocate staying upright, which is an embodiment of integrity.
At first they were shy about it, but as a whole the group was quite interested in spirituality and how to maintain a spiritual life despite the pressures of a corporate job. Discussing spirituality in a secular space is not always easy, and it felt great to be able to share my perspective as a yoga teacher and working woman with people who were truly interested.
We talked about “chasing money” versus “spiritual practice” and how to maintain a sense of integrity. Worry about economic security can be a real impediment, not impossible to overcome, to a regular spiritual practice. The reality, though, is that work and spirituality are not separate.
For people who work and practice, one goal is to find the spiritual within work with an understanding that practice itself is a form of work.
Another important part of the conversation centered around the economics of being a working mother. Working moms admitted that it had sometimes been difficult to get back into jobs — and most had to re-start their careers below their pre-baby levels of salary and responsibility.
Together, the Oracle Direct Women’s Networking Group and I covered a lot of territory. The take-home for me was that the freelance spirit flourishes in companies large, small, and solo. Meeting new people, visiting new places, sharing our stories, and exploring ideas together keeps things interesting and fresh.
Thank you, Oracle, for making my world larger by bringing my freelance spirit into your corporate workplace. Together, we created a success story.
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