Lessons From The Stage: The Director

Opening night of the show, in my outfit as a caroler!
Later in the show, I transform into a scoundrel that steals from Scrooge!

We had a wonderful run of “A Christmas Carol” this weekend, with a full house at almost every performance, and only a few hiccups during the shows (like the Ghost of Christmas Present finding his missing wreath in the garbage bin?!). As I went through the rehearsals and performances, I saw some parallels to the business world. Today’s post about the director is the first of three with some insights from the stage!

They’re in the trenches, too. The director is the person that tells everyone where to go, when to go there, how to go there, and why to go there. This person touches every part of the show, from the props, to the costumes, to the timing. They’re the boss, just like in the office. Sometimes, it feels like they have the cushy job, sitting out in the audience in nice cool clothes, writings criticisms, and talking freely when the mood strikes. But you have to remember, they’re in the trenches, too! That late night rehearsal that went until 11 pm? The director was probably there until midnight. When you start to get frustrated about the “glory job” of the director, remember that they’re sweating alongside you, staying up late, and generally pulling for the same goal. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that your boss is doing the same thing: taking the 6 am flight to the tradeshow (remember meeting at the airport?), eating the take-out food during a late-night meeting (the boss probably paid for it, too!), and fretting over the presentation to the big client (remember those edits that hit the inbox at 2 am?).

Take the constructive criticism. It’s always hard for someone to tell you about areas that need improvement, but take the constructive criticism to heart. I always have to remember that the director can see the entire stage from where they’re sitting, and I can only see my little part on the stage. I don’t see all the moving pieces, the transitions, and the whole picture, so when my director gives me constructive criticism, I should take it. The same is true in business, as my boss knows the company-wide strategy, the inside information, and has the experience in the industry. I may think I know everything, but I probably only see my function, instead of the entire department.

Timing is everything. With everything the director needs to deal with, timing your requests, suggestions, and complaints is crucial. I’ve seen inexperienced actors come up to the director in the middle of the show with just a quick little question about what time rehearsal will let out. Poor timing! The director usually gives a short answer, no answer, or some other form of being a little bit annoyed, which then makes the actor upset that the director was rude. However, had they timed their question better, all the negative feelings could have been avoided. The same is true with compensation discussions, asking for vacation time, and pitching new projects in the workplace. Are you coming to your boss with a request for a raise right in the middle of a high-level budget crisis, or are you choosing a time when you can both sit down with information to discuss the raise? Are you trying to take vacation just before a deadline for the company’s biggest client, or have you found a time that will minimize the impact for your team? Timing is everything when you have to many people working together, both on-stage and off!

The director is the boss, and they’ve got a lot of knowledge and a lot of responsibility to make sure the show goes well. Check out tomorrow’s post for more lessons from the stage!

Happy Friday!

“Another opnin’ of another show!” Yes, readers, my show opens tonight, and I’ve got 5 performances this weekend! I’ll be singing, acting, and dancing my heart out all weekend, and I’ll have some interesting posts next week. What are you up to this weekend?


In case you missed it, my guest post on Corporette: 360 Review: Dr. Megan Hunt

For those thinking about education and opportunity, via Forbes: If I was a Poor Black Kid and the rebuttals Trolling the Internet

For the internet savvy, via Seth’s Blog: The Trap of Social Media Noise

For those who want to see the show, check out the live stream of the performance this weekend: “A Christmas Carol” live stream


Like the links? Follow me on Twitter for links and blog posts every day!


My Corporate Life

I’m excited to continue the “My Corporate Life” series on the blog. My goal is to bring in some other corporate perspectives and career paths, so that we can all learn from some other corporate areas and environments. If you would like to be featured in the “My Corporate Life” series, please contact me for the details. I’ll be featuring the guest posts as time permits in my regular posting schedule, and I would love to hear from you!


This post was written by Nicole Martin, an HR professional by day, and a fashion blogger by night! You can see her creative outfits and a glimpse into her life at the office by visiting her blog Employed Panache.
What’s your title and industry?

My title is Senior Human Resources Specialist, and I work in the CPG (consumer packaged goods) industry.  In my company, the HR managers and specialists are dedicated to one of the other functions (marketing, sales, finance, etc.)  I have supported a number of functions over the years, but I am currently supporting my company’s sales function.  I am also HR business partner for our summer internship program and sales rotational program, which is great because I get to see new talent coming into the company and growing!


Describe the top 3-5 skills that are most necessary in your position

HR is a career where “soft skills” are key.  It helps to understand databases and basic programs like Excel and Powerpoint, but it’s not a necessity.  That said, here are what I consider the most necessary skills for my position:

1. Time management & organization skills:  In HR, we have a number of requests and projects happening all at the same time.  We try to stay one step ahead, but since our work focuses on the people,  “putting out fires” – sometimes multiple a day – is to be expected.  Part of our time management and organization skills will then also include being able to prioritize what must be done first, and what can wait.

2. Communication skills:  When constantly dealing with people, your communication skills need to be spot on.  This can include anything from e-mail, to presentations, to function-wide announcements.  Where this can get difficult is when you have to deliver bad news or when you need to influence someone to see your side of things.  I’ve got the basics down pat, but I still double and triple check major e-mails and presentations, and sometimes ask others to review them as well.

3. Teamwork & collaboration skills:  Again, going back to the people 🙂  It is nearly impossible for me to make a decision by myself… not that I couldn’t come to one on my own, but it is vital to ensure that my key stakeholders (sales directors, HR colleagues, other business leaders, etc.) are comfortable with the decision made.  The best way to get their buy-in is to show that others are in support of the work being done.  And as they say, two heads (or 3 or 4) are better than one – I find the best ideas come from group brainstorming sessions.

4. Being able to see the whole picture:  I’m not sure how else to describe this “skill”, but in HR, I am often balancing what is best for the company with what’s best for the employees.  For example, while everyone would love a pay raise, it just may not make sense for the budget.  Also, when dealing with conflict, there are multiple sides of the story.  Diving in and getting all the details helps me get to the best resolution.


What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?

The most challenging aspect of my job is adapting my style to fit the teams that I support.  As I mentioned, I support the sales function, and I am quickly learning that the typical personality of a sales person is very different from other functions.  I am, by nature, a laid back person with a quiet presence.  While my direct colleagues/managers know that they can count on me, as I transitioned to supporting sales, I learned that laid back and quiet will not prove (to this team) that I am a competent HR business partner.  Let’s just say I’ve done more self-reflection in the past 6 months than I have in a long time 🙂  As a result, I’ve loosened up a bit and made it a point to get to know my employees on a personal level so that I could quickly make a connection.  Not that I didn’t do this in the past, it just wasn’t a priority.  I am still working on being more forward and aggressive in the right situations, and I know that soon this will all be second nature to me.  Overall, I guess I’m lucky that it’s taken me this long to work with a team where my natural style wouldn’t attribute to my success… but working in HR, this could be the case from day 1!


What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Without a doubt, the most rewarding aspect of my job is seeing people grow from a summer intern through to our sales rotational program, and then getting promoted out of that program into a permanent role.  Interns and recent grads are also so grateful for the opportunities given to them, so these groups usually thank me more than others (sometimes with a handwritten note!)  I know, a bit cheesy, but it’s the little things, right? 🙂  Also, seeing anyone progress in their career who I have personally coached is also rewarding!


What does career advancement look like for your type of position and skill set?

In HR, you have a couple options… you can move up to being an HR manager and then director, where you support a specific function and have a team of HR specialists and/or managers under you.  Or, you can branch into the specialized side of HR, such as compensation, benefits, recruiting, etc.  The difference between the 2 paths is that the specialized teams will often roll out initiatives to the HR managers and directors, and do not have much interaction with those in the business.  This is may or may not hold true for smaller companies (my experience has only been with larger ones).  It is good to get experience on both ends while early in your career, as this will help you determine where you want to focus your career while also building skills and knowledge.  Personally, my career started in compensation, then moved towards recruiting, and then I finally landed a specialist role.  As far as education goes, a lot of HR professionals get their SPHR certification (Senior Professional in Human Resources).  However, if you wish to progress to a manager role or above, having an MBA or masters degree in Human Resources is desirable.


What’s the best aspect of your company culture?

The best aspect of my company’s culture is the people!  My company tends to hire people who are friendly and down to earth.  At my company, you never feel like you’re competing against your peers because someone is always willing to help you out or point you in the right direction.  More often, you are competing with yourself to do better and better.


Thanks, Nicole, for sharing your corporate life!

Because You Have To

A practical outfit for a practical day.

Pants: Express

Tank: Charming Charlie

Jacket: Target

Necklace: NY &. Co.

Earrings: Silpada

Like the outfit? See more details here!

Sometimes, you get up because you have to.

Sometimes, you get dressed because you have to.

Sometimes, you complete the project because you have to.

This is one of those weeks. I just HAVE TO. Yesterday, my husband decided to get up early and make breakfast. While scarfing down this breakfast, I felt like it was wrong for me to sit still, that surely everyone else was out in the world being productive, and I should also be moving around, being productive. I did the dine-n-dash from breakfast yesterday, feeling that I just had to.

I don’t really like doing things because I have to. Who does? But, I think that’s the difference between success and failure. The people who can be productive because they have to, even when they don’t particularly WANT to! It may not be inspiring, passionate, or energizing, but at the end of the day, productivity during “the grind” is make or break. This is one of those hard realities that “adults” talk about… well, now I’m an adult, so I officially have to do things sometimes. There’s no magic in it, until you look back a few weeks later, and realize that, in spite of “having to”, you came out with some pretty great work. Like the outfit? See more details here!

Gift Giving

In case you have been too busy to notice, Christmas is in 12 days! I’ve been running around like a mad woman with Christmas cards, rehearsals for the Christmas show, and getting ready for Christmas travel. One thing I have NOT been doing, however, is shopping for Christmas gifts. Both my family and my husband’s family decided to do something a little different this year, and I think it’s going to become a new tradition.

My husband’s parents live in Florida, and we’d already planned to fly there for Christmas. They suggested driving down to the Keys, in lieu of gifts, and we heartily agreed that this would be a wonderful plan! So, we’re all splitting the cost, with the parents picking up the tab for the hotel, and the kids pitching in for meals and activities. My parents also asked for our thoughts on taking a trip, instead of doing gifts, but since we’re already traveling, we decided that two trips in December would be a little too much. So, instead, we’re doing dinner and a show! My parents are getting the musical tickets, and the kids are splitting the cost of dinner at a nice restaurant. My extended family stopped doing “traditional” gifts a long time ago. For as long as I can remember, we would draw names, and only exchange a gift with one of the many aunts, uncles, or cousins, with a pretty low spending limit. This ensured that we weren’t having to travel with tons of boxes, and we weren’t blowing our entire savings on Christmas gifts for our (huge) family. And, in recent years, we started doing a white elephant exchange with homemade gifts, or gifts under $5, and donating the money we would have spent to a church or charity cause.

So, what does all of this have to do with marketing? Quite a lot, actually! Americans, in particular, have this constant need to buy more stuff, to “keep up with the Jones”. As a marketer, part of my job is to convince you that the stuff my company sells is better than the stuff another company sells. But, when I start hearing that people “need” this trinket or that pair of shoes, this giftcard or that fancy wrapping, it makes me a little sad. We all have so much in this country, but yet we feel the need for more. Many people are working in soul-crushing jobs for soul-crushing hours, just to afford more stuff that they don’t have time to use (on account of their time at their job, after all!) I would love to see more marketers sell experiences this Christmas, sell a good cause, and sell time with family. And, not in the “Kiss Begins with Kay” kind of way, but the “making memories to last a lifetime” kind of way, cheesy though that may be.

Gifts aren’t bad, but when it turns into a stressful, resentful, and generally unpleasant obligation, it ceases to be a gift! So, consider going a little non-traditional this year, if the last-minute shopping just isn’t on your to-list 🙂 And, for the more practical and frugal, here’s a somewhat humorous list of gift-giving tips from the ERE blog!

Math Brain

You know you’ve just finished a statistics class when certain phrases start to creep into your conversation. And, you know you’ve been married to an engineer when certain thoughts creep into your head. A few humorous examples that make me think I’ve got math brain? Take a look:

During rehearsal this weekend, the backstage area was extremely hot. One actor says, “I’ll mention it to the stage manager to get it fixed. (Sarcastically) I mean, it’s not like she doesn’t have 12,000 other things to do, so clearly this is the HIGHEST priority, right?” My first thought? “Actually, adding one more request to a list of 12,000 is really small in comparison to the entire list, and the proportion of people affected by the request is much greater, relative to many of the other requests on the list that only affect one person.” Sigh… all proportions and percentages!

At dinner with my engineer husband, we started talking about the traffic flow at the restaurant and the turn time on the tables at the restaurant. Then, I mention that it would probably be very interesting to see the Poisson distribution or a regression to see the influence of factors like party size, alcohol consumption, time at table, and average check size. You could arrange these in any number of ways to hone your food order, frequency of service, time to drop the check or upsell… any number of ways to increase that average check size!

So, how does academia creep into your daily life? If you’ve got a spouse on the opposite end of the spectrum, do you start to think like them?

Friday for All!

It’s officially the holiday season, and I’ve got a busy weekend ahead. I’ll be spending most of my time at “A Christmas” Carol rehearsals, and trying to finish up addresses for my personal Christmas cards. What preparations are you making this weekend?


For those considering life happiness, via Corporette: How Your Career Affects Your Happiness (or: are there any happy lawyers?) (great comment thread for all industries, not just law)

For those looking for spring internships, via The Daily Muse: Internship Horror Stories (and how to avoid them) (a big thanks to my sister and another anonymous grad for their quote contributions!)

For those balancing the budget, via Give Me Back My Five Bucks: The Cost of Doing What You Love to Do

For those needing a work culture change, via The Richards Group: The Peaceable Kingdom

For those wondering how lazy colleagues survive, via Forbes: How to Get Paid to Do Nothing


Like the links? Follow me on Twitter for links and blog posts every day!

My Corporate Life

I’m excited to continue the “My Corporate Life” series on the blog. My goal is to bring in some other corporate perspectives and career paths, so that we can all learn from some other corporate areas and environments. If you would like to be featured in the “My Corporate Life” series, please contact me for the details. I’ll be featuring the guest posts as time permits in my regular posting schedule, and I would love to hear from you!


This post was written by Anna Runyan, publisher of Classy Career Girl, a blog that provides advice to young professionals on how to be classy as they climb the corporate ladder. Her blog covers topics such as business chic fashion, career motivation, personal development, networking, and office etiquette. Connect with her and learn more about how to network at www.classycareergirl.com.


A Day in my Life: Grad School Student/Consultant

6:00AM: I struggle to get out of bed, only two snoozes this morning. Fill my travel mug with coffee and quickly grab some breakfast. While I am getting ready, I check and answer emails. The day begins early since many of the people I work with live on the East coast meaning that I have way too many emails before I even make it into the office. You would think that would mean it would be slow at 3pm but nope; my client lives on the West Coast so I still have to be available into the evening.  I catch the latest news on the Today Show over breakfast and I am out the door.

8:00AM: My client is already calling me. I answer his questions on my way in.  Don’t tell my dad, he hates it when I talk on the phone while driving…

8:30AM: Telecon with our team in DC.

10AM: Answering emails and getting new emails.

10:30AM: Work with my client to help prepare him for an important meeting.

12PM: Finally leave the client site and head back to my office. I still have a lot to get done today! Looks like another lunch at my desk day.

1PM: Meeting with my co-worker to give input on my co-worker’s assessment.  After the meeting, I touch base with my study group to review a paper that that is due this week.

2PM: Meet with another co-worker to figure out how we are going to handle an urgent data call that we just received.

3:30PM: Finalize my expense report for my last work trip and make my travel plans for my trip in a few weeks.

5PM: Head to dinner at the Rady School of Management at University of California, San Diego.  Fortunately for me, the fully employed MBA program provides us with dinner before class so I grab some food and try to figure out last minute answers to the homework that is due today. I finish reading the case study I meant to finish during lunch.  Dinner is a nice break to forget about my mounting to-do list at work and to focus on learning something new. Who knows, maybe I can apply it at work tomorrow!

6:30PM: Class starts and for the next 3 hours I focus really hard and stay awake!

10PM: Home for the night. Catch up with my husband and American Idol before I go to bed. Thank God for DVR or I would not be able to keep up with work discussions tomorrow!

11PM: So much more I need to do but I know that if I don’t get some sleep, I will never be able to make it through tomorrow’s meetings.  At least I am one day closer to the weekend and to graduation!  Good night!


Thanks, Anna, for writing about your corporate life!

The Rut


Trusty black skirt + silver and teal accents = predictable outfit!

Skirt: Ann Taylor LOFT

Cardigan: Target

Ruffle Tank: Target

Belt: Target

Necklace: NY & Co.

Earrings: Silpada

Flats: Payless

Like the outfit? See more details here!

You ever get in a rut? I feel like this outfit, though I love it, is kind of a rut. The silver+black+teal pairing works well for me, but I wear it all the time! Sometimes I feel like that in my designs at work, too. I’ll beat my head against my desk staring at a white screen, and every configuration I come up with just looks terrible. That was how I felt yesterday afternoon while working on a design for an ad. I flipped through an industry magazine and saw so many great, inspiring, ads, but when I sat down to make my own, it just fell flat.

I think sometimes the rut happens because doing what you’ve always done has shown good results. I get compliments on this type of outfit, and I feel good in this type of outfit, so what’s the harm in wearing the same combination over and over again? This ad style has been approved by management, so why not keep putting out the same ad? I think the rut is the place where you settle for “good enough”, and never push beyond it to get to “great”.

I’ve found that getting out of your usual physical space helps you get out of your mental rut. My husband and I really enjoy different types of art, and I’ve found that live music or a museum can really jump-start my creativity. Outside stimulation increases the inputs into the brain, and more inputs usually means a different output. That’s also kind of the point about the community around style blogging. By getting the outside stimulation from other bloggers, you effectively get out of your style rut. I’ve had a few ideas recently for some creative outfits (again, for me, but still pretty tame by most standards!), so I’ll be posting those up in the coming weeks.

How do you get out of your ruts? Any recommendations for inspiration? Like the outfit? See more details here!