Saturday, November 19, 2016

Good networkers are born

I am an excellent networker. In non work situations, that is. I find it easy to converse with absolute strangers on a whole range of diverse topics and even where I know nothing about said topic, I always manage to walk away learning something new about said topic and have a nice time while doing so.
Some of my closest friends are people I met because I decided to say hello and make small talk in situations where on the surface, there was no reason to "talk". 
Let me share a few examples:
I met O at the hairdressers. She was getting her hair done and engrossed in her book. I ended up chatting her up, found out that she is also Nigerian. We exchanged business  cards and I got in touch. 
 We have become close friends and 10 years down the line, my husband and I are godparents to her second daughter. O also now belongs to my lean in circle and we are sharing tips for career advancement. 
A and I crossed paths as I was leaving the library and she was going in. We smiled, said hi, started talking and decided to go grab a drink together. 
Over a decade of friendship has followed and we get along so well including with our spouses. 
A is an amazingly talented woman and she coached me very successfully when I had two key interviews. Being that I'm an engineer, I am not very good at self marketing and her coaching really helped me learn to tell my story better. 
Apart from the fact that she is a fantastic coach, we value her friendship and that of her husband and in spite of the fact that they moved back to the US, we hope to keep in touch more often in the future
When I lived in Moscow, I made two key friendships in this manner. 
The first one was Sergey. Sergey and I met in a bus on the way from Novomoskovsk to Moscow. This was in the spring of 1998. At that time, I was in Russian language school and I could not speak good Russian yet. Sergey saw that I was reading an English book and struck up a conversation with me. He ended up showing me the Red Square for the very first time. We have kept in touch over the years. 
The second person was Alexander aka Sasha. He just randomly started talking to me one day on the Metro in Moscow ( Russians do that all the time " Devoshka, mozhno s Vami poznokomitsa?" Can I get to know you? is a common refrain any woman who has spent a bit of time in Moscow will recognize). 
It turned out he was a photographer and I ended up doing some modeling for him for some sports and car magazines, which was a cool way to make some money as a student.
 I met his family and also developed a good relationship with them. Just writing this brings back memories of tons of shashlik (grill) parties in the forests of Moscow.  Sasha and I are also back in touch thanks to facebook. 

So why am I writing this seemingly  random post? The fact is that I am not as effortlessly adept as I am in Networking on my private time, when it comes to professional Settings.
 I have been giving a thought to why that is the case and have come up with tips that will help you as well if you struggle in the same manner.
1) be authentic: I know it may sound like a cliche, but this is really key. My authentic self likes people. I enjoy learning about people collecting their stories and I am never too upset if they decide not to share. However, in my experience, sometimes we tend to put on 'work personas' which dictate what types of behaviors are appropriate at work and what are not. 
I have committed to being myself absolutely in every networking situation. That means if someone catches my fancy I won't hesitate to try to get into conversation. Just try it and you will see most people are intrigued and you will be chatting on before you know it. This is how I met my best career mentor to date.
2) take the first step: I just read something recently about giving a little first. Many people feel just as awkward in professional networking situations so smile first and say hello first. You'll be surprised at the responses you will get. 
3) make eye contact. Not in a threatening manner, but in an open friendly manner. I find that many times when I'm preoccupied I tend not to make eye contact and it automatically creates a barrier and puts people off from talking to you. 
4) Small talk can lead to interesting discussions, so don't be afraid of small talk. 
5) cultivate a friendly welcoming exterior. Even if you are too shy to take the first step, looking welcoming will embolden others to take the first step in talking to you. 

6) you are as good as everyone else: in certain types of upbringing older people or more successful people are the top of the pack. So younger or more junior people would typically wait to be approached or try to be introduced to them. Shed that behavior and attitude fast. It will not help you advance in your career. Always feel on equal levels with everyone.
Of course I am not encouraging you to be inappropriate, so learn to recognize the thin line between inappropriateness and self confidence. 
If these tips help you, please let me know and share any tips you may have with me in the comment section. 

Stay safe, x.

Read this article on Networking:
Book tip: 'How to work a room. Your essential guide to Savvy socializing.' - Susan Roane

Friday, April 22, 2016

Random musings: on my love of languages

Yesterday night at a work dinner somewhere near the Donau a colleague complimented me on my German. She had been surprised to hear I only moved here as an adult after university. I was tickled, as I am sometimes when German friends calling our house phone are sometimes surprised that it's me on our end because my phone voice apparently sounds very German, lol. I don't think my German is perfect though (lemme write a disclaimer here)writing work emails in German is a painstaking task, probably has to do with having a streak of perfectionism in me.

The Walhalla

I never knew I had a gift for languages while I was growing up. I spoke only English until secondary school. I understood Yoruba, because my parents spoke it at home, but I only really started learning it in JS 1( I did have it in primary 5 where I was even worse than my Filipino friend). I loved learning about Yoruba culture and was absolutely fascinated by Yoruba proverbs. I eventually took the subject for my SSCE and even made an A!

I had French in junior secondary. I wasn't too bad, but I wasn't too good either. I think I got mostly comfortable Cs. I do have mildly fond memories of my French teacher. She was from somewhere in French speaking west Africa, married to a Nigerian man and had a fascinating foreign way about her. I still retain some words, I can say hi and introduce myself and say I only understand "en petit peu" ( a little bit) of French.

So I didn't see it coming that I would become fluent in Russian and German as an adult. I love languages, I love the understanding of a culture and the mentality of a people that comes with knowing their language, culture, history and proverbs. It might also have something to do with the fact that the half of my personality that I got from my dad is absolute extroverted.

If you ask my dad, I got it from him: he likes to tell us the story of how he went for his youth service in the north in the 70s and mastered Hausa in the one year that he was there. So perhaps it's a genetic trait?

My professor in University was a huge fan and widely propagated the fact that African students learnt Russian so quickly so well. My theory is that because most of us grow up bilingual, we have an ear for languages, especially when immersed in it.

The immersion bit is important, or at least has been for me. I have tried learning Dutch while not living in the Netherlands, it hasn't worked as well sadly. I'm just too lazy to study a language just because. I know enough to show off though, lol.

If you happen to live anywhere where a different language is spoken, I would encourage you to learn. You never know when you might need it, plus, frankly it opens up new fascinating worlds.

Friday, February 12, 2016

BT stories

He got on at Halfenbach strasse tram stop. Dressed in a light black summer jacket, in spite of the cold winter rain outside, he immediately caught her eye. 

As her eye ran slowly up and down appraising his light jeans, partly pushed up on one leg to expose his ankle, and the grey with speckled ankle socks which looked like they were stuffed with some material to prevent water or cold air from entering his worn out black and red Nike shoes, she began to feel sorry for him. 

"Poor guy, I wonder if he is getting off at the same station I am at." 
"Perhaps I should offer to buy him new shoes. But how does one approach a complete stranger and offer to buy them new shoes?"

Then she stopped in her mental tracks, struck by the prejudice- the pre-judgement that she had undertaken. 
There could be many reasons after all, and perfectly legitimate reasons too why he was dressed as shabbily. 

"Maybe he is off to the football pitch"she thought, "people sometimes dress down to play football." 
"Or maybe he is painting his new apartment this evening and of course has dressed down to avoid damaging good clothes. Hmmmm, but he doesn't have any baggage that looks like painting supplies. Just a cloth gym bag. 

Perhaps he is a drug addict and spends all of his money chasing that next high. That would explain it, and well I would be willing to buy him new shoes but definitely not give him some money.

As the different thoughts went through her mind, each new thought more ludicrous than the previous one, the tram rolled slowly to a stop. 

" This station is Zurich Central" please be careful when leaving the train" announced the driver as the tram drew slowly to a stop. The doors opened and the young man left the train leaving her with many unanswered questions. 

But she didn't have too much time to brood because the next station was hers and she hurriedly scampered out and promptly forgot about him. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

My skincare regimen.

 Top tips for caring for my oily combination skin. 

I have always had oily acne prone skin. At least since I became a teenager. Since I had my kids, my skin has changed such that it's not only oil and acne I have to battle, but now dry patches of skin as well. Sigh. 
So I've been doing a bit of research on how to improve my skin condition. One of my aims for this year was to go for a facial every 6 weeks or so. Alas with a busy work schedule and trying to spend every spare moment with the kids, I just don't have time to go for facials. So the last time I had a facial was in April or so. 

So here are the basic things I've learnt

1) Never sleep in make up. Unfortunately, I've had to break this rule more than once due to sheer exhaustion. However, it's immediate obvious whenever I have slept in make up. Pimples start to pop up all over. Keep a pack of facial wipes for when you are too exhausted. 

2) have had very good experience using an oil balm to first dissolve the make up before washing it off. I highly recommend Clinique "take the day off" balm. 

You can also make your own cleansing balm, there are many tutorials on YouTube. 

3) Do not use a soapy/foamy face wash even if you have oily skin. These dry the skin excessively and don't really help the acne problem. Instead, use creamy cleansers. Thoroughly massage your cleanser on slightly pre wetted face and then take of with a face towel that had been soaked in warm to hot water. You will find that your pores open more to get the impurities out. 
I have used creamy cleaners from the body shop, Dawn Lorraine (in the cover photo of this post), Mary Kay etc. I used all may left over foaming or soapy facial washes for my body. 

4) Use a toner after cleansing your skin. In fact, use two toners: a moisturizing and an exfoliating toner. You can also alternate with the moisturizing toner in the morning and exfoliating toner  at night or vice versa. The "lotion P50" from Biologique Recherché is one I can recommend. Clarins Duox exfoliant is also a good one, albeit slightly irritating for my skin. 

5) Use facial masks at least once or twice a week. In addition to clay masks, I recently discovered yeast masks. 
Masque Vivant from Biologique Recherché seems to be a cult favorite. I have tried it twice this week as recommended for acne prone skin: mixed with a bit of water and baking soda. I am surprised at how open my pores are. 

6) At least once a week, use a moisturizing mask, or start using night creams designed to infuse moisture into your skin, especially as you approach your forties. 

7) Cleanse your makeup tools regularly, especially your foundation brush, otherwise you are only incubating bacteria to recolonize your skin. 

8) Let your skin breathe every opportunity you get. For me, that means staying make up free when I'm at home. As I work half a week from home office, that helps a lot. 

9) Last but not least, sleep well and at least 7 hours daily. Sleep is the best facial. Still working on this last tip myself ;)

I hope these skin care tips were useful. Comment below and share your own tips.

Copyright: Tolu Lush

Thursday, October 1, 2015

How to pack for business travels

I have been a regular business traveller for 3 years now. While traveling for work was something I thought was exciting when I didn't have much business travel, I must admit the excitement wears off pretty quickly. Nights in hotel beds is overrated and it's rare to get the opportunity to actually see much of whatever city I'm visiting. 
Anyway, this post is not about the pros and cons of business travel, but about some tips for packing for business travel. 

1) Being a mum of fairly young kids, I want to get fairly in and out, which means that for short trips, I almost always stick to hand luggage.
 Waiting for luggage can cost you precious time, especially if you have a connecting train. 

2) if you are going on a long trip and need to check in your luggage, make sure you carry some essentials in your hand luggage. A couple of years ago, some female colleagues had to attend a Monday morning meeting in their trainers and comfy clothes ( which were not even close to business casual :) because the airline lost their luggage between London and Amsterdam. It took so long to get their luggage that they had to do some clothes shopping. 

3)most hotel chains have good basic toiletries, so most times you only need to take the barest minimum with you. My facial care products, deodorant, toothpaste and brush and make up. I also carry a dense cream or Shea butter in a small repurposed Vaseline tin because I have dry skin and most hotel creams are light. 

4) even if you will be wearing heels for the office, always pack a pair of flats. You never know if you might have to walk a lot. If possible, travel in flats because God  forbid, if there is an emergency, your heels might hinder you. 

5) You can either hand wash your tops or use the hotel laundry service, so you don't need to pack too many items of clothing. 

6) invest in a small card holder for the minimum number of cards you will need on your trip. Always have some cash on hand, you never know where you will need an out of pocket expense. 

6) even if it's an easy going trip, always have a blazer or jacket with you. You can dress it up or down, but it will help you look polished. 

7)always carry a tampon or sanitary towel in your luggage. I am so busy I often don't realize it's that time of the month. I have had cases when Aunt Flo decided to visit when I was away from home. Get some diaper disposal bags for used sanitary products. They usually smell so nice. 
8) always have some hairpins handy. You never know when you might have a bad hair day. For the same reason, also have a small tub of hair gel. 

9) I always take some teabags with me. I love to drink tea. 

10) a silk scarf can be used for many things. I always pack my favorite blue silk scarf when traveling. 

11) fold a cloth or plastic bag and keep it in your luggage. You might need those for dirty clothes. 

12) rather than carry books, you should download an e-reader and buy Ebooks. That will help you save space in your luggage. 

13)if possible, get your boarding passes and any tickets via mobile apps. This saves you lugging papers around or losing your ticket. Some apps I use are passbook, DB navigator, my taxi etc. 

14)since you will be using your mobile a lot, get yourself a power bank. Or at least make sure your phone is fully charged before setting off. 

15) also on the issue of electronics, get yourself a travel charger for your laptop. They are slimmer, can be dismantled for easier packing and the one I have also has a usb connection so I can charge my phone and other devices on it. 

16) where possible, book your trips via your company authorized travel agencies. If, God forbid, something happens on your trip, it would make it easier to trace you. Also, it helps establish who you are. I recently forgot my wallet with my IDs and credit cards in my car at the airport in another city, but I had no problem checking into my hotel, because I had done the booking properly and I could even check out without my card as the number was given in manually and I signed off. 

I will be updating this post regularly should other tips occur to me. Cheers. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Obamas welcome Pope Francis and.....

....what instantly struck me about the first set of pictures is that I love the skirt the younger Obama daughter, Sasha was wearing ( I'm not usually this shallow, but I love great clothes ;))
Image credit: Tony Gentile/Reuters
I have since found via Google that the skirt she is wearing is the Kate Spade Colour block skirt. 

Off to search for a warm dupe.....

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

SWM and how to go from idea to actually doing stuff

I started this blog with the idea to have content for mothers juggling career and family. I have had this idea in my head for the longest time, but didn't think I had enough time or willpower to push it through by muself, so I asked a friend to do it with me. She didn't share my dream, so after one post 3 or so years ago, she kind of faded off the scene of this blog. I have tried to keep the blog going, not as successfully as I could be arguably as I really do have a busy life and multiple interests.

So I was delighted and impressed when I stumbled on the Super Working Mum Facebook page over a year ago. From what I can see, she had a similar idea to me, but she actually pushed it through! I was amazed at how large the group became ( over 2500 members and counting, before she moved to the new Empowering Christian Mums group which is also rapidly growing). She had published a Super Working Mum book ( amazing book, check it out on Amazon HERE ), has a paid inner circle of ladies she moderates, holds regular retreats, takes on clients for one on one coaching, does tech and design work and is currently working on a journal, while juggling her family life with two kids! Talk about a Super Working Mum!

I have learnt a few things from why SWM succeeded, which I think might be helpful to anyone embarking on a project irrespective of what type of project it is. 

1) Invest in a mentor/ coach: I had several months of coaching this year and it was really helpful. Coaching and mentoring is something which is done very often in the corporate world and I wonder why many of us do not consider it in our private businesses and day to day lives. It helps you learn from someone who has gone on a similar path before and has good insight. No need to reinvent the wheel from scratch if you can just get a plan to start off from someone else and build up on it. Way more efficient. 

2) Outsource everything you can: if you are reading this blog, you are likely a mother who is also busy either in your career or business. Learn to outsource where you can and focus your energy on areas where you can bring true value. This relates both to business and daily life. There are many e-companies that you can outsource various elements of your projects to. I will do a post on that soon. You should also get help around the house if you can afford to so that you can focus your energy in your family and be able to spend quality time with them. I wasted valuable time designing a banner and logo for this blog. Next time I update, I will be outsourcing the tech bit. Someone else who does this on a daily basis will be able to finish this quicker and faster that I ever could, while also doing a better job. 

3) Define who your target audience is - where many people make mistakes is in trying to be all things to all people. In lean sigma projects you have to define strictly what is in your project scope and what is not. You also have to define what area this will be applied to. If you have a product that can do anything for anyone, it's not likely to do very well. Try to get a picture of your ideal customer and keep them in mind when designing your product. An example could be "Christian mothers that homeschool" or "mid 30s guys who likes to cook" etc. 

4) Pray - sometimes we have desires and it's important to make sure that they are aligned with the perfect will and purpose of God for our lives. Not a ideas need to be given life and we should seek divine insight and guidance in our decision making. 

5) Stop thinking, just do it: this is the area in which I struggle the most. It might have something to do with me being a perfectionist engineer. I always try to remind myself that "Done is better than perfect". There are many project that I have still birthed because of this. 
On the other hand, proceed cautiously and don't birth projects prematurely and without thinking them through. 

6) Do not be afraid to kill some projects: if you are like me and have many interests, you will generate lots of ideas. Some ideas are good and some are bad. Some ideas should never have seen the light of day. You can also finish a project by admitting that it will never happen and closing the page on it. Like that language you have wanted to learn for 20 years, or the quilt you started making 5 years ago or the dead end volunteering you are doing which is not bringing any joy or value to you.  Killing off dead-end projects is like decluttering, it helps you free space for more important things and also helps you breath better.  
Make a list of the dead end projects in your life and start killing them one by one. In fact we should do a "Kill a project today" challenge. Write in the comment box about a project you will be killing today. 

7) Do not be afraid of competition:  As Aloted wrote in the SWM book, the only person you are in competition with is yourself. Have the self confidence to be yourself and "Do You"!

Can you think of any further tips? If you are reading this and you can, please share!