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Reinvention chronicles


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Reinvention chronicles

  1. 1. thE rEinvEntion chroniclEs EvEryonE’s doing it, and all thE rulEs havE changEd. how a vanguard of the adventuresome and the desperate is forging a smarter, leaner, Zen-er model of reinvention for the post-meltdown Bay area. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? san francisco june 2010 By nina martin portraits by jeff singer 64
  2. 2. Hamid Saadat, the founder of Silicon Valley’s largest and most innovative career- networking group, is a rein- vention role model, starting with his immigration from iran in 1978. “the person who is in the right place at the right time,” he says, “has been to many places at many times.” june 2010 san francisco 65
  3. 3. laura griFFith THEN: Fashion exec who spent 13 years at mervyns. NOW: after toying with the idea of medical tech- nology, retooling as a designer of women’s activewear. HOW REINVENTED SHE FEELS: “25 percent.” she is get- ting her portfolio together and recently scored some freelance work for Marmot. YEARS IN: 1½. WAKE-UP CALL: after private-equity firms bought Mervyns in 2004, griffith could see the writ- ing on the wall—but she ignored it. big mistake. HIDDEN LOGIC: she loves adventure travel and fig- ures that the breadth of her résumé (including jobs at Halston and Liz Claiborne) is an asset as activewear becomes more fashion-y. “i bring that diversity of experience. if you’re at nike or adidas, you’re not looking at run- ways.” COULDN’T HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT: Her father. His optimism as he was dying OVER THE PAST FEW MONTHS, of leukemia “changed my I try not to eavesdrop, less out of politeness whole outlook on life.” MESSY PART: griffith won’t divulge than because such conversations can be painful. her age. “fashion is very I’ve spent a lot of time at Starbucks and Peet’s, Many of these people are either already unem- youth-oriented. there’s a talking with men and women who used to have ployed or clinging to jobs that could evaporate question of how long i can be accepted in this indus- stable careers but now have migraines, insomnia, tomorrow. This is plan B time, and it’s daunting try. still, i’d rather have the depression, and the gnawing realization that most to realize how many people—especially the ones discomfort of this reinven- of what they know about earning a healthy living old enough to have known better—have been tion than the discomfort of living in arkansas.” is, or will soon be, obsolete. Often, during a pause caught without one. in the conversation—maybe we’re talking about In Northern California, of all places, it seems how companies in Chapter 7 bankruptcy don’t odd to think about personal and career reinven- have to offer COBRA, or what it’s like for some- tion as something that can make your skin crawl san francisco june 2010 one with 10 or 20 years of experience in user and your stomach turn. For the past five decades, interfaces or mortgage banking, earning a great reinventing everything, all the time, has been the deal of money, to start from scratch, competing Bay Area’s global brand. The results have some- with kids who will work for peanuts—I look times been paradigm shifting (see: free speech around and notice that the place is full of other movement, venture capital, gay culture, Google, people talking about the same things, in the same YouTube, iPod, iPad), sometimes just gratifying stunned way, trying to pretend they’re fine when and cool. People who don’t fit in elsewhere have in reality, they are scared to death. always flocked here, hoping for a redo. But the 66
  4. 4. gigi ouF, 23 “EvEryonE THEN: nanny and manager of an interior-design firm’s hErE Wants to retail store. NOW: Stylist for gEt BacK to working women. ‘norMal.’ thEy HOW REINVENTED SHE FEELS: “50 percent.” YEARS IN: 1½. don’t Want to WAKE-UP CALL: the day a hEar thE mom ouf worked for as a nanny sent her on a shoe- truth: that you buying expedition and went gaga for the knockout pair May losE your of betsey johnson heels housE. i lost ouf brought back—then enlisted her for an entire MinE in nEW wardrobe revamp. HIDDEN yorK and noW LOGIC: When ouf was in high school, her yearbook WilliaM KanE, 57 livE in a sMall had a section called “shop- THEN: iBm engineer and aPartMEnt in ping with gigi.” “girls would make fun of the way i put troubleshooter with multiple degrees and santa rosa.” clothing together because it was ‘different,’ but months patents. NOW: a China WIllIAm KANE later, they would show up expert in the making. engineer turneD CHina sCHoLar to school in the same types HOW REINVENTED HE FEELS: of outfits.” COULDN’T HAVE DONE “100 percent, if i judge IT WITHOUT: Her blog (“kind it from where i started in of like my portfolio”) and 2000. but i now think rein- her trick of commenting vention is a process with on other people’s fansites no real end. so does that and blogs. “once i tweeted 01010101010101010101010 mean i’m at 99.99 percent 10101010101010101010101 that i was drinking a glass or zero?” enrolled in a China 01010101010101010110101 of wine and reading a book 01010101010101010101010 by the really famous fashion flip side of this penchant for fresh starts and rad- program at stanford, Kane 10101010101010101010101 thinks his next job will prob- writer Katherine power. 01010101010101010101010 ical remixes has been a certain delusion about ably be in asia. YEARS IN: 10 10101010101010101010101 she immediately tweeted what reinvention actually involves: the twists and since his wife walked out 01010101010101010101010 back, ‘sounds like a perfect 10101010101010101010101 evening!’ people see that turns, the sacrifices, the uncertainty, the ulcers. on him; 8 since he got 01010101010101010101010 downsized by ibM. WAKE-UP on my page—what do you 10101010101010101010101 “There’re always so many people doing it here, CALL: twenty-plus years into 01010101010101010101010 think that says about my you can get this unrealistic notion that it’s sup- his ibM career, Kane went [WHEn yOU nEED] credibility?” MESSY PART: back to school to get his to brush up your not being taken seriously posed to be really easy,” sighs a friend of mine because of her age. “i’m marketing Mba. “i found computer skills. in San Francisco, jobless for going on two years. being around young people still building confidence in [try] myself and developing that “It isn’t like the fantasy,” a mid-50ish former who haven’t been affected lynda.coM offers more by life very enjoyable.” tough shell.” tech worker, laid off in 2007, says wearily. “It’s than 700 online training HIDDEN LOGIC: “the joke is courses in dozens of more like, ‘Oh shit, what am I going to do?’ ” that i’m attracted to asian software programs, women, but i’ve come far as well as visual how-to june 2010 san francisco beyond that. i now have a I. THE PREDICAmENT guides on improving your network of people in their sales on craigslist, 30s who are just launching eBay, and Etsy. “There are no jobs.” — sHAKIRAH sImlEY, rEinvEntor careers in asia.” COULDN’T HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT: “school has saved me. i’ve been INDEED, WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO? This uncertainty depressed so many frig- ging times over the years, goes way beyond the Bay Area, of course. The but no one can take away entire economy is in transition, with many sectors what i’ve learned.” 67
  5. 5. aWiE sMit, 41 THEN: Spent 13 years in a dream job in corpo- rate sports sponsorship for Visa international (think: Olympic Games). NOW: Landscape designer for Habitat Gardens, which consulted on the academy of Sciences’ living roof. HOW REINVENTED HE FEELS: “75 percent.” He’s already working for the biggest eco-landscaper around; now he just needs to com- plete his landscape-design degree and work his way up in the company. YEARS IN: 2. WAKE-UP CALL: after being laid off in 2008, smit spent a year floundering. there were some opportunities in his field, but not in the bay area. then he woke up one morning and thought about his own san Mateo backyard, where he’d been working every weekend for years. “it was such a relief to plant that pole in the ground and rally around it” (no pun intended). HIDDEN LOGIC: back in his native south africa, smit had earned a degree in ento- mology and plant patho- logy. “i couldn’t believe i hadn’t thought of the con- nection before,” he says. COULDN’T HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT: His wife’s salary, benefits, and moral support. He spent a year playing Mr. Mom to his two kids, now imploding or restructuring in ways that might career-consulting firm in San Francisco and 10 and 11, and he still handles after-school chauf- not shake out for years, and the country’s return Boston, brings the history lesson forward when feuring duties. “it’s fantas- to booming growth is not at all guaranteed, despite he tells me, “Reinvention has become the modern tic. i will never get that year recent signs of improvement. The changes in how American hero’s journey.” back.” MESSY PART: “Compa- nies are reluctant to hire people work are just as fundamental: gigs rather For people under 40, who grew up during someone my age. they than jobs, a portfolio of careers rather than a sin- the web revolution and so are used to perpetual think, ‘We’re going to train gle employer, multiple revenue streams instead of upheaval, this is still a great place to be a hero— you, and then you’ll go out and be our competition.’” a bimonthly paycheck. A new crop of books sums and as good a time as any to do it. Neither the up the emotional and intellectual traits required rhetoric nor the reality of earth-shattering transi- now: Drive, Pull, Nudge, Shift, Mindset. People tion paralyzes someone who can text, tweet, and whose job it is to help other people reinvent reach Yelp as fast as he can talk. “No one’s going to hand san francisco june 2010 for sweeping analogies to explain the scale of the us the perfect opportunity,” says 25-year-old Sha- current undertaking: The global economic col- kirah Simley, the community-food activist behind lapse is like the fall of the Roman Empire; workers Slow Jams, a Mission-based startup. “We don’t want trying to figure out their new path are like Moses to become victims of this recession. In a way, it’s and the Jews wandering in the desert for 40 years; been a blessing in disguise. There are no jobs, so those who refuse to retool for this new Industrial it becomes, ‘How do we create our own paths?’ ” Revolution will be flattened by it. Mark Guter- To a Bay Area boomer, though, plan B feels man, a principal at, a more like plan Z—your last chance, and it had 68
  6. 6. KathlEEn MCnaMara, 58 THEN: a lead word proces- sor at a heavyweight San Francisco law firm. NOW: “i Was having Buys and sells high-end clothing on eBay and on tightnEss in My her own website. chEst in My old HOW REINVENTED SHE FEELS: JoB. it hasn’t “100 percent. i’m making as much or more money haPPEnEd oncE now than i did working for dianE andErson, 52 sincE i startEd lawyers.” YEARS IN: 6 years of dabbling in the clothing THEN: VP/CFO at a real- doing this business; 8 months since estate and financial- she finally ditched her day management firm for Full-tiME.” job. WAKE-UP CALL: Her firm’s 15 years. NOW: Earning KATHLEEN MCNAMARA reaction to the tanking her master’s in business LegaL WorD proCessor economy was the last management, with the turneD CLotHing straw for Mcnamara after entrepreneur goal of becoming a 28 years in the legal biz. motivational speaker for “they were basically fine, aspiring entrepreneurs. but they saw the oppor- tunity to cut back and they HOW REINVENTED SHE FEELS: “75 took it. they approached us percent.” YEARS IN: 1½. WAKE- with an attitude of ‘you’re UP CALL: in january 2009, going to take this pay cut— when anderson decided it and you’re going to like it.’” was time to slim down—by HIDDEN LOGIC: Mcnamara has 65 pounds—she headed always considered herself for a weight-loss program an “artsy eccentric” with an at Hilton Head, in south interest in fashion. then a Carolina. four days into graphic-design class she the regimen, she realized took for her job confirmed that she wasn’t just unsat- her sense that she has isfied with her body; she a really good eye. WISHES better be brilliant, or you’ll be exiled to Nevada, was unhappy with her whole [WHEn yOU nEED] SHE KNEW THEN: “to trust my where you’ll die bored, resentful, and broke. life. that’s when she decided someone to hold your instincts and go with my Based on my own unscientific survey at job to quit her job and go back hand while you dive talents, rather than settle to school. “i want to moti- into social media. into a secure niche.” fairs and networking groups from Cupertino to vate people to live their [try] MESSY PART: other people’s San Rafael, the chorus of oh-shits is unrelenting lives and have a good time doing it.” HIDDEN LOGIC: “i’ve For individuals: carlos r. narrow-mindedness. “one among this demographic—ironic, given that the always loved coaching,” hernandez, social Media coworker called to tell me same generation pretty much created the concept she says, and she has for the uncomfortable a rumor was going around (carloshErnandEZsF@gMail.coM), that i was about to quit, of personal reinvention (and that its entrepre- worked with high-school volleyball and women’s and Jenny Kahn and she ended by saying, neurial drive made this region what it is today). (linKEdin.coM/in/JEnnyKahn); ‘but i know you’d never softball teams. WISHES SHE For those burdened with 20th-century educations KNEW THEN: “you have to ask for small businesses: be that stupid.’” for what you need in life. if inner architect and expectations, as well as San Anselmo–size (innErarchitEct.coM). you’re at a hotel and need june 2010 san francisco mortgages, child-support payments, and their the gym to open earlier parents’ nursing-home bills, the hurdles to rein- in the morning, ask for it. vention start with the Bay Area’s cost of living, the Harass if you must.” MESSY PART: “since i was used to third or fourth highest in the U.S. “The financial bringing an a-game to my side is seriously difficult,” says 55-year-old math- work, receiving Cs and bs teacher-in-training Penny Mudd, a refugee from in school has been very humbling. every parent a health-industry startup in Silicon Valley. “I’ve should have to do this at gone through severance and savings, said ‘I’m not some point.” 69
  7. 7. PhiliP clarK, 27 shaKirah siMlEy, 25 THEN: Public-policy nerds. NOW: Social entrepreneurs. Clark has a socially con- scious graphic web-design company; Simley started Slow Jams, an artisanal jam company that sources ingredients from urban farms. HOW REINVENTED THEY FEEL: Clark: “70 percent”; simley: “40 to 50 percent.” YEARS IN: Close to 1. WAKE-UP CALL: Moving to san francisco after meeting during the interview for a civic fellow- ship in new york City. “a day after we arrived, i read an article about the slow food festival,” says Clark, “and i remember looking at shakirah and saying, ‘this is so you.’” simley felt the local love, too. “it almost feels like i’ve lived here in a past life.” HIDDEN LOGIC: the oldest of four kids, simley was the cook in the family while her mother studied social work. Clark realized only recently that while he had loved doing art all his life, it was something he could actually do for a living. COULDN’T HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT: the jobless econ- omy. “there’s almost a weird sense of opportunity,” going to touch this or that money,’ and burned setting the bar too high,” concedes Chip Heath, says Clark. “i’m not going through that, too.” Meanwhile, California’s bud- a Stanford Graduate School of Business professor to get a job, so i might as well try something, be get crisis has forced savage cuts in higher edu- and the coauthor (with his brother Dan) of this creative.” MESSY PART: “the cation just as enrollments are swelling. Colleges spring’s Switch: How to Change Things When Change prospect of failure is still and government programs are geared toward the Is Hard. Other experts I talked to highlighted a scary, even for young peo- ple,” Clark says. “terrifying, young, as are career pathways such as fellowships, generational divide created by the speed of tech- in fact.” internships, and apprenticeships. For people at nological change here—a sense, even among those midlife, reinvention “is a do-it-yourself proposi- who spent a decade in the software industry, that tion,” says Marc Freedman, founder and CEO “they aren’t just falling farther behind; they’re of San Francisco–based Civic Ventures, a think falling farther behind faster,” as Guterman puts tank on boomer social-policy issues. “They’re it. After working 70-hour weeks for much of their san francisco june 2010 being forced to make it up as they go.” careers, these reluctant reinventors find that push- Then there are the mental blocks: the fear ing the reset button holds little appeal. of failing or flailing around, which can be a Women, many of whom have cycled in and out side effect of early success and the belief in one’s of full-time work, are more experienced at this ad superior intelligence; the pop-culture examples hoc process. “The idea of being more than one of reinvention, which can intimidate and inhibit person in your lifetime—women have always had more than they inspire. “The stories that have to do this,” says Bay Area demographer Maddy become part of the myth of Silicon Valley may be Dychtwald, author of the new and very good 70
  8. 8. “i caME FroM a vEry highly chargEd EnvironMEnt in danny gaBrinEr, 25 THEN: analyst for CnEt. an inhErEntly NOW: Bread baker who volatilE just got a scholarship to the San Francisco industry to Baking institute. onE that is HOW REINVENTED HE FEELS: nurturing By “5 percent.” the goals of his company, sour flour: naturE—and turn 100 fellow san fran- daMnEd iF i ciscans into bakers by teaching them for free; didn’t rEally sell 1,000 loaves within nEEd it.” four months and give away another 1,000; attract PENNY mUDD investors; pay himself at teCH Vet turneD least $15 an hour; open MatH teaCHer PEnny Mudd, 55 his own bakery by january 1, 2011. YEARS IN: 1½ since THEN: a 20-year veteran he realized he wanted to of the tech industry, most start a business involving recently as the European food. WAKE-UP CALL: after a program manager for a series of “cook-offs” with medical-device startup. friends, gabriner began NOW: training to be a experimenting obsessively, middle-school math eventually concocting a teacher in Santa Cruz. signature sourdough starter. HIDDEN LOGIC: bread was HOW REINVENTED SHE FEELS: practically the only thing “70 percent.” she has a he would eat as a child. few more classes to take (“i had vegetabilitis,” he before certification, then says. “part of it was my she has to find a job in stubbornness. it became an era of severe teacher [WHEn yOU nEED] a thing.”) plus, “bread has layoffs. YEARS IN: 2½. WAKE- to give your brain been around forever, every- UP CALL: Mudd was enjoying the kind of workout that one eats it, and it’s both Influence: How Women’s Soaring Economic Power Will some well-earned relax- jolts action. simple and very mathe- Transform Our World for the Better. But this prospect ation after getting laid off [try] matical.” WISHES HE KNEW freezes those boomer men who have long defined from an “exploitative” com- artist Mary l. harden THEN: “i probably should pany and assumed she’d offers classes through have lined up some finan- reinvention as yet another, better-paying job. With easily land another tech job. the san Francisco cial security before quitting that prize now as rare as a pension plan, they have then “the real recession” hit, Botanical garden society my job. people told me and she discovered that her (MaryhardEndEsigns.coM); that, but i never listened.” been left feeling crushed by the sky-high expecta- former company had denied Jennifer Burke’s adult MESSY PART: “How do i pay tions of what constitutes the comfortable Northern her the stock options she art classes (WEstsidEstudio the rent? good question.” California lifestyle that they still feel obligated to felt she deserved. “i thought, .sQuarEsPacE.coM) are filled provide. “Men around here often can’t describe ‘instead of taking wine with parents amazed by appreciation, i need to sign her work with their kids. what feeds the fire in their belly or even what they up for beginner’s algebra.’ ” liked about their last job,” says Bart Penfold, exec- COULDN’T HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT: therapy—and Cabrillo Com- june 2010 san francisco utive vice president and managing director in San munity College (“if i have Francisco for the executive search firm DHR any money left when i die, International, who has done hundreds of inter- i’m giving it to them”). MESSY PART: “experienced teachers views with high-achieving men. “They will just live for the light in the little spend 45 minutes explaining why they lost it.” darlings’ eyes. i’m not expe- Men and women, excited and freaked out—I’ve rienced yet, so i don’t see that. My kids are still trying talked to dozens of people in various stages of to figure out, ‘Where’s my reinvention, voluntary and not, from kids in their real teacher?’ ” 71
  9. 9. 20s to boomers old enough to be grandparents. My goal was to tease out what it takes to rethink your future in a Bay Area that no one pretends is predictable. Given that everyone and her mother now has to deal with reinvention, not as a fantasy or luxury but as an inevitability, it wasn’t hard to find smart people with up-to-the-minute lessons to impart. I met a reassuring number who have already managed to acquire or invent satisfying new jobs. But I met many others who are strug- “onE rEcruitEr gling: a few who thought they had found new told ME that careers that would sustain them, only to discover lEigh oshiraK, 41 dEsPitE My that the fit wasn’t right; others who still don’t have aMy EschliMan, 37 stanFord a clue what they can or want to do. Pretty much everyone complained of feeling invisible and pow- THEN: High-powered EnginEEring erless at some point, cast adrift in a world whose Williams-Sonoma execs. NOW: mothers and new dEgrEE, i Just rapid changes they were too busy or too comfort- authors, while still on Wasn’t ‘it’ able (or too in denial) to grasp. Surprisingly, the the job. anyMorE. that’s sanest people weren’t necessarily the ones who HOW REINVENTED THEY FEEL: “100 percent,” given that WhEn i KnEW have figured out their path but those who forged their goal is to further the i nEEdEd to ahead nonetheless, with no career experts or how- cause of working moms. to books (most of which are sadly outdated, any- their hilarious book, bal- go and Find way) to guide them. ance is a Crock, sleep is for the Weak, came out in out aBout thE The biggest takeaway: In the Bay Area, rein- april. YEARS IN: 6 to 7. WAKE- intErnEt.” vention is no longer a transition between “before” UP CALL: “When we weren’t CARlOs R. HERNANDEZ and “happily ever after.” How could it be, with newbie moms anymore, engineer turneD foaming at the mouth, soCiaL-MeDia CoaCH the economy in metamorphosis and no secure, we started seeing teary, old-fashioned “after” on the horizon? No, rein- self-defeated mothers at vention has become a long-term condition—and, preschool and decided to organize a ‘moms gone once you get used to it, it’s not a bad way to live. wild’ night with dinner,” says carlos r. hErnandEZ, 53 oshirak (above, right). the II. THE PRECONCEPTIONs book came out of these THEN: Senior sales engi- wine-fueled group-therapy neer at a big industrial- sessions. HIDDEN LOGIC: “We’re manufacturing company. know-it-alls and felt like NOW: a consultant special- “Faced with stories of doctors who other people could bene- izing in “social media for become chefs, real-life human beings the uncomfortable.” fit from what we learned,” eschliman says. COULDN’T are bound to feel inadequate.” HOW REINVENTED HE FEELS: HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT: each — CARlO sTRENGER, Psychologist “100 percent,” though he other, their shared com- hasn’t made much money mute, and their willingness yet. YEARS IN: about 3. WAKE- to give up exercise. recalls [WHEn yOU nEED] UP CALL: “one recruiter asked HERE’s THE FIRsT lEssON I lEARNED: Success today oshirak, “We drove to work Face time with other me why i left the dates off comes to those who think small. It doesn’t most days and spent every people who want to my résumé. i said, ‘because weekend at starbucks in save the world. sound all that radical, until you consider that guys like you do the math.’ ” Marin City, where they had [try] HIDDEN LOGIC: being older the Bay Area’s makeover fantasies tend toward free Wi-fi.” MESSY PART: “We san Francisco green makes you wiser online, extremes—the Montessori teacher who starts a thought the book would drinks (, too. “there’s a place in the culinary revolution, the Silicon Valley superstar require 8 extra hours a a volunteer-run nonprofit, world for people who can week, but it was more like offers green networking, speak with nouns and verbs, who takes on Sacramento. We think reinvention 20,” oshirak says. education, and volunteer which many young people should be fueled by passion (“Do what you love, events around the Bay. can’t. older people bring and the money will follow”), and we award extra the ability to stop and think before they open their points if it happens quickly, especially in midlife, mouths, both online and off.” because by the time someone’s that old, she WISHES HE KNEW THEN: “that i should know what she wants. didn’t need the security of san francisco june 2010 paychecks twice a month, Not only does reinvention rarely work that the company 401(k) match, way in real life, but the fantasy itself can hold the pension plan, and the people back. “When people get caught up in the new car every two or three years.” MESSY PART: Hernan- bigness of all those changes, they become para- dez’s decision to downsize lyzed. It can fry your brain,” says career consul- and reinvent himself was tant Guterman. Or, as Israeli psychologist and a compelling factor in his divorce. philosopher Carlo Strenger wrote in the Harvard Business Review in 2007: “Faced with stories of 72
  10. 10. doctors who get up one morning knowing that fashion and the outdoors by becoming a designer they want to become chefs [and] housewives who of active- and outerwear. Even this less dramatic have a sudden vision of the empires they are shift has required enormous determination—“I about to build…real-life human beings are bound had to teach myself six new computer programs to feel inadequate. They have fears, doubts, and in the last year,” she tells me—but she’s certain vague ideas at best, so they’d better stick to their it’s more sustainable. knitting.” Civic Ventures’ Freedman doesn’t even The more I look around, the more I realize like to call the process reinvention; he prefers the that radical midcareer reinvention is so rare as less intimidating redirection. “You’re still the same to almost be an urban myth. The Bay Area is too person,” he says. “This is just another chapter.” competitive and expensive a place to pull it off In many ways, my friend Laura Griffith is (unless you have Meg Whitman’s hundreds of mil- a poster child for the next-chapter approach, lions, and even then, it’s no sure thing). The same though she came by this realization the hard holds true for younger people: A reinvention that way. When she lost her fashion-exec job after at first glance seems sudden and extreme usually Oakland-based Mervyns went bankrupt in 2008, turns out to be incremental or a return to roots. she decided to make a 180-degree turn into the Passion is another false siren in the reinvention field of cardiovascular technology. She had good fantasy, despite its enduring allure. Not only can reasons, including a deep personal stake in the it burn out, but it burns people out, too. Given technology (it saved both of her parents from the high degree of difficulty here (and all the potential heart attacks) and decent job prospects churning emotions), reinventors need something in the Bay Area. But she soon discovered that a more steady to power them over the long haul. In MEgan BournE, 50 radical reinvention has some major downsides. Guterman’s view, purpose is much more funda- THEN: Freelance event With all the community-college cutbacks, wait- mental: “It helps you answer the question, ‘What coordinator for tech cor- ing lists, and prerequisites, the two-year training am I here to achieve?’; it gives you the basis to porations. NOW: Full-time program she found would take her closer to five build a plan; and it gets you past the rocky parts.” executive assistant for the Fine arts museums. years, and when she graduated, she’d be lucky In Silicon Valley, “passion was for crazy artists,” to earn 50 percent of her former salary. And the Penny Mudd says. “Someone would say they had HOW REINVENTED SHE FEELS: “75 percent, though i prefer to job itself would involve “being in a dark room all a passion for accounting, and we would roll our call it ‘evolved.’ ” YEARS IN: 1½ day long running a sonogram machine, not really eyes.” When it comes to teaching, “I don’t really since her last contract job. engaging with people,” she says—not a great fit feel all this highfalutin passion stuff. It’s more a WAKE-UP CALL: just showing up. “i’d had two interviews for a woman who’s hiked Patagonia, kayaked the question of ‘where do I fit into the world? Where and hadn’t been hired, but Inner Passage, and can’t stand to be cooped up can I do good?’ ” Bestselling author Daniel Pink one day someone called to and bored. Most important, it felt wrong to throw describes purpose as one of the main components see if i was interested in a temporary position there— out so many years of being good at what she did. of Motivation 3.0, aka Drive: the intrinsic urge starting that day. i jumped So, a few months into her reinvention, she went among employees that is replacing the carrot- in the shower and was back to the drawing board and decided to build and-stick approach top-down employers used there in an hour. What worked was being ready, on her existing skill set, combining her love of to invoke to spur innovation. “The most deeply not dithering in any way.” HIDDEN LOGIC: Has had an eclectic career, including stints at radio Disney, at a boutique radio company, and at tulane university (as alumni director)—all jobs that involved “thinking and doing on the fly; working with fun, driven people; and managing multiple tasks. and it’s never the same two days in a row. i seem to thrive on that.” COULDN’T HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT: Linked- in’s profile section, which litEraturE For thE lost forced her to construct a dynamic story “that con- veyed my real identity. peo- ple tend to hide behind a june 2010 san francisco Composing a Life, Mary CatHerine bateson (1990) : feminist classic for men struggling with the idea that life isn’t fair. résumé, but it’s much more this is getting old: Zen thoughts on aging with Humor and Dignity, susan Moon (2010) : for millennial reinventors important to lead with your- who wonder what their parents are going through. We are the new radicals: a Manifesto for reinventing yourself self.” MESSY PART: “in such a and saving the World, juLia MouLDen (2007) : for boomers who can’t remember what they used to be like or figure out scary and competitive envi- ronment, people can sniff why millennials are so jazzed. transitions: Making sense of Life’s Changes, WiLLiaM briDges (1980) : business classic out your fear like a dog.” for those who believe that the quicker they reinvent, the better. a Whole new Mind: Why right-brainers Will rule the future, DanieL H. pinK (2005) : for people who think their brains are just fine the way they are. shop Class as soulcraft: an inquiry into the Value of Work, MattHeW b. CraWforD (2009) : for people trapped in the stanford-berkeley/“menial labor” is for peons/community college is for my immigrant nanny axis. 73
  11. 11. isaBElla guaJardo, 38 THEN: Staffer at East Bay youth-services nonprofits. NOW: Owner of the thriving, two-truck moving and home organization busi- ness Girl with a truck. HOW REINVENTED SHE FEELS: “100 percent.” YEARS IN: 4. WAKE-UP CALL: after a decade as a do-gooder, guajardo felt exhausted and frustrated that even as a college-educated professional who’d pulled herself up from east L.a., she’d never be able to own a home. then everything changed, she says: “i got laid off, my brother died, and i was forced to move. the one thing i had left was my 10-year-old toyota tacoma pickup, and i started moving friends. the truck had never let me down.” HIDDEN LOGIC: in addition to the “brain and brawn skills” she had acquired when fixing up and running youth centers, guajardo had secretly wanted to be a cheerleader when she was in high school. “now people let me into their houses and trust me to clear up their chaos, and i cheer them on to do the hard things that will make them happy.” WISHES SHE KNEW THEN: that it’s possible to make money without a “dog-eat-dog, sink-or-swim” motivated people—not to mention those who are as an assistant to Stephen Sondheim and Wendy mindset. “i will never lose most productive and satisfied—hitch their desires Wasserstein and earned her MFA in playwriting the community/nonprofit way of thinking.” MESSY PART: to a cause larger than themselves,” he writes. from NYU.) But, she realized, “what really gets “i felt a little ashamed at But passion and purpose are not mutually me going is collaboration, planning, synthesizing first. people said, ‘oh my exclusive: “Purpose creates a feeling that people information, working with creative talents to make god, you’re a mover.’ so i just tried to grasp onto the think of as passion,” says Susan Hanshaw, who things happen. That translates to a lot of indus- positive ones.” spent 20 years in direct marketing, then reinvented tries for which there may be an interest but not a herself first as a self-help author and motivational passion.” Tannor had been friendly for years with speaker, and again as a San Rafael–based social- the folks at Veritable Vegetable, a San Francisco media consultant. “It’s what we are good at, the organics pioneer; this month, she starts work there skills we have, what we like to do.” Case in point: in an as-yet-untitled role. “What I do well is man- san francisco june 2010 Shira Tannor, who until recently was the manager age people,” she says. “That’s what I’m bringing.” of legal resources in San Francisco for legal giant Tannor’s headline-worthy reinvention—legal Skadden Arps (she spent 22 years at the firm). eagle shakes off golden handcuffs to sell lettuce Tannor, now 50, started thinking about making a and peas!—isn’t remotely startling once you dis- shift several years ago—she liked the people she sect her process. She made the switch on her own worked with but not the megacorporations whose terms, after much thought and discussion. Neither bidding they did—and her mind naturally drifted passion nor disaster played a role; that makes to her first love, theater. (In her twenties, she was her the ideal reinventor for the new era. In good 74
  12. 12. JaMEs statEn, 42 THEN: market researcher for a 900-employee com- pany in Foster City. NOW: a record-setting marathoner who will soon become the first person to complete all 14 rock ’n’ roll mara- thons (a popular cycle of races) in one year. HOW REINVENTED HE FEELS: “100 percent,” thanks to combining his profession “i Finally havE clairE Mills, 45 and his obsession. YEARS IN: 7 as a serious runner; 4 BalancE in THEN: muni cartographer as a maniacal marathoner. WAKE-UP CALL: “i had been My liFE BEtWEEn turned jewelry buyer running half-marathons, but thE tWo things turned English teacher in Japan turned aLS fund- i saw the team in training folks at one of the races that i lovE.” raiser turned pharmaceu- and realized i could use JAmEs sTATEN tical saleswoman. NOW: some of that cheering. MarKeter anD Ultrasound technician, also, i lost my mother to MaratHoner hoping to leap full-time cancer, and this seemed into clinical research work. like a good way to honor HOW REINVENTED SHE FEELS: “25 her, since they raise money percent. but that’s just my for the disease. so i got career. personally, i stay addicted.” HIDDEN LOGIC: “i’m the same even though my a type-a personality—just work changes.” YEARS IN: 4 ask my wife.” COULDN’T HAVE (but 20-plus if you consider DONE IT WITHOUT: His job. “i that she has spent her entire know i’ll never make money adult life reinventing her- off of this,” he says, but self). WAKE-UP CALL: selling staten is now the guy his pharmaceuticals in her 30s times or bad, she never stopped reflecting about company sends to meet- was “the worst job i’ve ever ings in marathon cities had. i didn’t see any value what she should do next. Ideally, in Guterman’s across the country. MESSY in the work.” then Mills view, reinvention is (and always has been) a per- PART: the fear that his body switched to a different job will tell him he’s a fool. “if [WHEn yOU nEED] petual process of self-discovery and preparation, advice on transitioning in the same drug company, a doctor tells me to stop helping the fight against not a jolt out of the blue. “Most people wait for running, i’m finding a new from the business world to not-for-profits. hepatitis b, and marveled the pain before they go through the change,” he doctor.” at the talent inside public- says. “These techniques should go on all the time.” [try] health institutions. “i was, jealous of them.” HIDDEN It’s never too late to begin, though, as I discov- affiliated with civic LOGIC: an adoptee, Mills ered from the great majority of reinventors who ventures, provides discovered that both her were dragged into it screaming and kicking. One national and birth parents had phDs in Bay area–specific biology. “you can’t ignore of the fringe benefits of purpose is that it can events and resources. genetics. i even married a june 2010 san francisco function as an important catalyst for people who uC berkeley phD. some- have no idea what they ultimately want to do. Last thing has been leading me year, Laurie McManus, 58, lost her six-figure job to research my whole life.” WISHES SHE KNEW THEN: “i’m a as an executive assistant to a real-estate company’s networker by nature, so i CEO in San Francisco. “I had decided I wanted just needed to find a way to make a lot of money, so I scratched my way up to combine my love of sci- ence and sales.” the food chain, but when I got there I was totally unchallenged and unfulfilled.” She has joined 75
  13. 13. haMid saadat, 55 THEN: Operations manager for tech companies. NOW: runs CSiX Connect, the largest job-networking group in Silicon Valley, while constantly network- ing for his next tech gig. HOW REINVENTED HE FEELS: “70 percent.” saadat found his last three tech jobs through the network. YEARS IN: 9 since he started CsiX. WAKE-UP CALL: “i was tired of sitting at home watching judge judy, so one day i just walked up to a guy outside a Chinese restaurant and asked if i could buy him lunch. it turned out he was unemployed, too, so we agreed to meet the follow- ing week, and it took off from there. i realized you’ve got to mix with people and get out of your little box.” HIDDEN LOGIC: an immigrant from iran, saadat says his perspective makes him a perfect ambassador of optimism. “i tell people, ‘you can talk, you can walk, you can drive, you have edu- cation, you are in the best part of the world to remake yourself. Do you know how many people would give anything to have this situa- tion?’ ” COULDN’T HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT: other unemployed people. “if i’m looking for a job, i’m maybe not see- ing something for me but something for you. and when you talk to others in the same situation, you see that you’re talented and smart—you just got caught in a bad economy.” with a group of other unemployed Marinites to these days is a huge, empty field; the goal shouldn’t organize career education events (under the name be to get across it as quickly as possible, but to Career ReVision) and is ecstatic to be doing some- plow deeply and to plant as many seeds you can, thing meaningful at last. “I will be eternally grate- then wait to see what grows. Guterman explains ful for being laid off. I know it sounds cheesy, but the new goal in language that will sound familiar I feel like I’ve been born again.” to readers of Mindset, by Stanford researcher Carol Dweck, and NurtureShock, by Po Bronson and Ash- ley Merryman. “For those of us who have done III. THE PROGREss this work for a while, it’s not really about reinven- tion,” Guterman says. “It’s about how you build a [WHEn yOU nEED] “It’s less important to figure out your development mindset so that when you need to, to organize a ultimate path than to figure out how to get san francisco june 2010 job networking and you don’t have to go radical, you don’t have to support group. through the process.” —CARlOs R. HERNANDEZ, rEinvEntor panic—you’re ready.” [try] In the Bay Area, Dweck’s research on develop- MEEtuP.coM provides IT TURNs OUT THAT mUCH of what the Bay Area thinks ing a “growth” versus “fixed” mindset is discussed a database of thousands of local groups you can about how to reinvent is wrong. Let’s start with mostly in relation to kids, yet it’s just as much of join, or go ahead and a basic idea, that there is a straight path from an issue for adults here, many of whom think of start your own. point A to plan B. That’s outdated, many experts themselves as being more liberal- and growth- and reinventors tell me. Instead, what people face minded than they actually are. One of her most 76
  14. 14. I met described how changing their lives has first required them to change their brains, to feel not just stretched but deeply uncomfortable as they wrestle with new ideas, master new skills, and will their neurons to be more agile and adaptable— “plastic,” as the scientists say. The good news is that you don’t have to try—or fail at—anything life-shaking to feel that progress. I think of Penny Mudd, whose switch from taking wine appreciation to serious math classes when the economy fell apart made all the difference. “It was rigorous, therapeutic, and humbling. I recommend it like a doctor recommends a powerful medica- tion,” she says. Or my friend Laura Griffith, whose attendance at a botanical-illustration class offered gina cassinElli, 53 by the San Francisco Botanical Garden last year THEN: VP of technology- restored her confidence and confirmed her gut systems marketing at feeling that drawing—designing—was the right Hewlett-Packard. NOW: career after all. “We’d walk around every day and interim executive director of Citizen Schools, a look at each other’s work, drawing on each other’s redwood City nonprofit drawings. It was alarming,” she laughs. “But it that puts together after- was unforgettable: about losing control, about the school programs for disadvantaged kids. importance of collaboration. I would go home and spend four hours finishing up a drawing, com- HOW REINVENTED SHE FEELS: “20 percent.” YEARS IN: 3. WAKE-UP pletely absorbed.” CALL: after 26 years, the Networking is also key, but not in the way you tech industry “just didn’t might think. Mistake one is believing that it’s hold the same freshness and fun,” Cassinelli says. it something you can or should do on the computer. didn’t help that when she CSIX Connect, the most innovative networking looked at herself in a bath- group in Silicon Valley (and the biggest, with more room mirror, she saw her mother gazing back. When than 5,000 active members and nearly 20,000 over an early retirement offer the past nine years), doesn’t even let interested landed in her email one people join online, at; they have to show day, “it took me about 30 seconds to opt in.” HIDDEN up at one of the three or four lunchtime meetings LOGIC: she can run anything. held each week and commit to creating a support- originally, she was brought ive community in real life. “I wanted to have some on board at Citizen schools to help with basic market- reasons to keep them there and talk,” says Hamid ing, but she figured that Saadat, the nonprofit’s unfailingly cheerful founder. heading the organization “There’s something about breaking bread together was a different animal. When her boss left, though, that’s very powerful.” CSIX’s members come from Cassinelli was asked to fascinating findings is that people who believe a wide range of professions, as well as from all over step in and realized that they are innately intelligent (that would be large the Bay Area, which is a big part of what makes her skills were transferable. “you don’t even know what swaths of the Santa Rosa–San Jose corridor), and the organization unique. you know until you’re in a that intelligence is at the root of their past success Saadat is one of my favorite reinvention role new situation.” COULDN’T HAVE (as opposed to hard, hard work), end up avoid- models. Over the past 12 years, he’s learned to DONE IT WITHOUT: the buyout package, plus a one-year ing risk and challenge because they don’t want fly and to drive a tractor-trailer—“I was always road trip to recharge. When to fail—failure being a sign of stupidity or of los- fascinated to see how they back up these big she returned, she got an ing their marbles. Now is not the time to give in trucks to the loading dock”—and now he’s study- encore fellowship spon- sored by Civic Ventures. to this kind of fear or to be paralyzed by what ing Mandarin. Unemployed again, he recently MESSY PART: even though Strenger calls “the myth of midlife decline.” “Peo- met a woman with an intriguing business idea: business-minded boomers ple here need to remember that failure doesn’t making warming socks for dogs with arthritis. often fantasize about a second career in nonprofits, june 2010 san francisco black-mark your record, especially in Silicon Val- It might seem like an off-the-wall direction for it can be a much bigger ley,” says Stanford’s Chip Heath. “To fail here is a tech guy, but he sees a connection with his leap than they think. “the almost a badge of honor. It means you’ve learned operations-management skills. “Networking business world says, ‘Here’s the finish line, get over it something.” should be about meeting lots of different kinds as fast as you can.’ to non- Serious learning is the point. Reinvention has of people and seeing new possibilities for your- profits, how you get there been miscast in some corners as retooling—brush- self,” he says. “The person who is in the right may be more important. so you need new skills, like ing up on computer skills, signing up for a pro- place at the right time have been to many places patience, reflection, and the gram in nursing informatics. Instead, the people at many times.” Adds Julie ContinueD on page 88 ability to slow down a little.” 77