Alone Time in Sin City

jonathan-petersson-607955-unsplashSitting here in my hotel room in Las Vegas, contemplating my professional life. I know how funny that sounds. A personally know several dozen people who would tell me my priorities are screwed up and I ought to be out right now, enjoying the night life here.

Eh. Vegas isn’t my favorite city in the world. The incessant ding-ding-ding of the slot machines the minute you get off the plane, the faint but lingering scent of stale cigarette smoke, the couples pushing baby strollers at 2 am, the cost of you-name-it here, the sparkling pasties attached to DDs on the Strip?  Eh.

I mean, God love Donnie and Marie, Celine, and everybody else here who has or ever once had a show.  The shows are pretty good. And I do love me some Cirque du Soleil. I make a point to catch at least one of those every time I come. But that was Sunday night upon arrival.

Now it’s Tuesday.  Tonight I need a little me time.

Besides, we may be back in the spring with the kids in tow! This is not a place I would normally prioritize bringing them, but the hubs is in conversations about teaching a master class at a university here so we all might tag along since his portion of the travel is a work expense. We do try to show the kids every little thing about the US so I guess it’s time to open their eyes to Vegas.

I’m sure the pasties will make an impression. Good thing we are up front and talk to the kids about everything. We don’t hide too much from them. We try to explain what the world is really like so they’re prepared for what they’ll see and encounter when they’re on their own.


Enough of that.

I came for a three-day conference on, get this: ethics and compliance. In Vegas. Isn’t that funny? It’s not really a town known for….ethics.

The conference is good stuff. Hearing the speakers lit a spark in me. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but honestly I could have spoken on a few of the topics. I’ve known that about myself for a while, 20-30 years at least. I used to teach our consultants, a few clients, and fellow auditors in the region when I worked at Protiviti and PricewaterhouseCoopers, so this isn’t an epiphany.

It’s simply been a while since I’ve done it and being here reminds me that not only should I teach classes again, but also I should do it on a national level. Besides, speakers often get comped for the conference fee and lodging, so why not? It’s a quick way to get known nationally for your work, and that is incredibly helpful especially during recessions and times like now when whole industries are being disrupted.

And so far, the blog is fun but it doesn’t pay the bills.

Besides, our CFO told me I would make for an awesome college professor because I can take an esoteric topic and make it tangible. Yes. Yes, I can.

Forget for a moment whether I’m doing that in this blog. I’m just sitting here typing tonight, stream-of-consciousness style, because this stuff is on my mind and I needed a little alone time in Sin City.

Sigh….the thing is, it’s been far too easy to just sit back, learn a few things, and passively collect my continuing education credits at these conferences but I get incredibly antsy if the speaker is bad. Or if they pull a bait-and-switch on the topic, like the one session that was supposed to be about artificial intelligence but turned out to be a 101-level class on data analytics for compliance purposes.

I can’t just sit there and listen to drivel. Nor can I just walk out all that easily. Truly, I’m there to learn (ethics and all….) but by the time I get up and try to find another worthwhile session, I’ll miss the crux of the conversation, so I stay put.

Sometimes you can get a nugget or two out of the talk. But sometimes you can’t. It’s situations like that when I start making a personal list of what groceries we need, what tasks I need to tackle for the kids if only I was home, what updates I should make to my LinkedIn profile, what work emails I need to send, and what I should be doing to market myself better.

And that leads me to my final point of the day.  One of the interesting tidbits that came up this week, echoed in recent conversations at work too, is how valuable authenticity is, especially to Millenials. And let’s face it….the torch is passing right now from the Boomers straight to the Millenials so it behooves a “middle-child” GenXer like me to pay attention to what Millenials need since they’re the economy of the future.

Millenials don’t want posturing. They don’t want fluff. They want people to be real with them. And I think I’m a pretty down-to-earth realist. I don’t try to sugarcoat. I DO try to be positive, though. So why shouldn’t I be me, and use humor to teach people the business concepts I work with every day? Why shouldn’t I share the knowledge I’ve gained? I’m a woman who understands technology, risk, and ethics, and I have a knack for communication. Why shouldn’t I give that a go?

Doesn’t this world need new leaders to step up? I’m not a new leader but it is time to step up. Time to roll the dice.

Photo by Jonathan Petersson on Unsplash

 

 

 

An Introvert Speaks

Reprinted from a Facebook post two years ago today.

I had a pretty good day today and so many emotions are bubbling up inside. Bear with me while I sort through it all.

neonbrand-258972-unsplashSeveral weeks back I was invited to speak to a group of internal audit leaders from across the country as part of panel at a big bank in Cleveland. I won’t say the name of this bank because something tells me that the inner workings of Facebook are sneaky, as in, “Here’s what others are saying about XYZ…” and what you think is a private post to your friends somehow gets surfaced for public consumption. So if you happen guess the name of this particular bank in response, I will delete your post! lol Not that I’m saying anything truly private, sensitive or controversial here; these are just my reflections on the day and on my career relative to where I started out in life.

I was surprised to be asked to participate alongside chief audit executives from another sizeable bank and a major insurance company, entities you may very well know. My immediate gut reaction to being asked was excitement and “YES!” followed immediately by fear, genuine puzzlement, and “Wha? ME? Oh surely they don’t mean me. I mean, my department is relatively small and our audit work isn’t nearly as regulated and sophisticated as anything in the financial services industry, and yada yada yada. How could you possibly compare my audit department with this group of banks?! Why would they ask ME? Who thought to call me?”

And maybe they just called me because we represent a local, iconic American brand and it comes with the territory of working there. Or…. there are two influential people I work with today who have a strong connection to the bank, who could have suggested calling me and that is entirely plausible too. I don’t think I’ll learn how it came about but that’s ok. Not really the most important part of the story but definitely part of the story.

Seriously, three times in the weeks leading up to the event where I was coordinating logistics with them, I wanted to graciously bow out. I had to give myself the pep talk and restrain myself from cancelling. I was concerned I would let them down, that my perspective was small potatoes relative to what they deal with. Their coordinator so effusive and bubbly with anticipation about my visit and thought of every last detail. I wondered if I was out of my league, and whether I should put them in touch with an international conglomerate or two in town.

And then I kick myself for discounting who I am and what we do…and specifically what I have done in my career. Humility is a very good thing – and although you may think differently about me – I frequently let it consume me. However sometimes humility needs to get kicked to the curb so that confidence and leadership can reign in a world where both are desperately needed.

Yes, I know I can do this. I know I can knock it out of the park both in terms of content and delivery. Yet part of me likes sitting quietly in the corner without any visibility or notoriety. And part of me wonders if people think I’m full of hooey so what right do I have to speak up? What do I know? And yet another part of me wonders if there are people who are surprised that I even have this internal struggle. And I KNOW there are people who just don’t care at all and consider all of this to be mindless blither and drama. (And….you have a point there. I have amazing capacity to do just that.) And then I circle back to the part of me that thinks about how I know what to do and I love helping you figure out if what we do would help you too. After this exhausting analysis, I end up with that as the lingering thought.

So there I was today, part of me just thrilled to participate as this is the first in a long while – 7 or 8 years – that I’ve had a public speaking gig. Granted, it was a relatively small but national audience but they were a bright and engaged group and it was fun. I even got to use my line in response to “how’s business?”, which is, “we’re jamming”. (My company makes jam and jelly among other food items.) And they all laughed…..”Thank you, you’ve been a great audience, be sure to tip your waitstaff!”

True to style, I didn’t go in with a boring Powerpoint, either. I introduced some flair. Not exactly Steve Jobs-slick but commendable nevertheless. Ha! Flair and internal audit don’t really go together, but honey that’s part of the bling I bring to the profession.  I told you this was a GIANT nerd alert. But you’re still reading, so we’re good!

I didn’t know what to expect but it was a very cool morning. It was interesting to go through the security process. Nothing like pulling into a parking garage under the careful watch of a machine-gun armed guard. You could either be really nervous or feel pretty good about that. I didn’t even see the entrance to the garage, and here the wall opens up and the on ramp into the building unfurls like a rug. Who knew? At least I had a parking space among all the downtown St. Patrick’s Day revelers, and I’m comfortable that my car isn’t laced with a bomb unbeknownst to me.

As soon as the session ended, a couple of people approached me immediately to talk further, and then some of the women in the bathroom made a point to say they really enjoyed my remarks. That was gratifying, I’m not gonna lie.

The organizers liked what I had to say enough that one of them approached me about speaking at a sister bank location in Dallas later this year, if schedules align. The speakers they’ve invited in the past were chief audit executives at a major airline and a major home improvement store, the very people who were among the keynote speakers at the 1,300+ conference I attended last week, kind of the “stars” of the audit world. So while that was one guy’s opinion, he placed me in the company of some very talented people. Even if a follow-up gig doesn’t happen, I’ll say my thanks as that was a very nice compliment!

I think I would enjoy more speaking gigs. I have a lot to say – practically and academically – on the topic of audit, risk, and control. Perhaps the time has come to grow my career that way. God knows if it’s a way to network, abandon the safe route of sitting in my quiet little office, and let my career move in directions I never could have imagined, then so be it. I always wanted to be a teacher…and clinging to what is safe can be foolish as I’ve already learned the hard way.

Like Liz Gilbert says, fear should be acknowledged and it is allowed to have a seat on the bus but it isn’t allowed to drive. I am trying to treat fear just like that. Who knows where the scenic route leads?

As icing on the cake today, we panelists got a tour of the facility which was loaded with amazing architecture, art, and other features such as a three-story marble lobby with all kinds of architectural symbolism, Warhols with the silk screen dollar signs, the largest albeit no-longer-operating vault in the world protecting 9′ thick walls which was an incredible sight to see, a $100,000 bill, and all kinds of beautiful old currency. I wondered if I looked like a geek gawking at all of it…and if the financial services guys were going to be all Joe Cool about what we were seeing because they’ve seen stuff like this before. Yet they were geeking out over how cool all of it was too, so I felt pretty good about being in the club, so to speak.

So why am I sharing all of this? 1) There are so few people that I ever open up to about this sort of thing. Yet this is Facebook, you know, my online diary, haha, and you’re my friends. And if you hung on and read this to the end, I appreciate it. 2) Guys just don’t even debate this kind of stuff. They just do it and they don’t give it a second thought. They’re probably wondering why the hell I am dissecting this situation to this degree. But I do. 3) To know that I grew up unable to carry on a coherent conversation with people I KNEW let alone speak publicly on a professional topic to a bunch of people I don’t know….well, it still blows me away what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it. And every step along the way, you chop away at the fear so that you can, for example, progress from where I was to where I am. Maybe that’s being a bit too vulnerable for all of you to see but it’s true. 4) I like to write. This is what struck me today.

I had a pretty good day today.

PS…A few times over the years, people find out where I work and then they ask if I brought any free samples, as they did today. I good naturedly shrugged it off like a “my bad” oversight. I should have asked them if they had any free money to hand out as samples. Darn it. What a missed opportunity! That only seems fair, right? I can just imagine the scene unfold:

“BRR…BRR: security? We have a suspect identified. 5’4″, a brunette/blondish wannabe…we’re not really sure what hair color she was shooting for as it doesn’t appear in nature…with a deer-caught-in-headlights look on her face. She swears she was joking…”

Image courtesy of Neonbrand on Unsplash.com