In any job, there is usually “the way” that things are done. You can’t usually get around it, it’s just how people do things. Sometimes it’s not worth worrying about because you’ve already conditioned yourself to take the pain of extra steps (like before I found out how to escape from text editing mode in Photoshop (Ctrl-Enter or Cmd-Enter)). But sometimes….sometimes…you just wish there were an easier way.

The “women having it all” debate isn’t new. Even before Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article, even before I had my own blog post about it, there was this:

When I was a freshman in college, I took a class called “Introduction to the Visual Arts” that was your typical “easy humanities requirement”. We had to do a project that was to make an extension of your body and then discuss what it meant to us. One girl made a plaster cast of her boyfriend’s private part and talked about it. I wasn’t quite that “artsy” yet, so I did the only square thing I could think of, which was to make a flipboard of different “uniforms” and write a cheesy poem to explain it all. How embarrassing. I mean, why would I (someone with a fear of public speaking) make something so difficult for myself?

You can view the pages in the gallery above. I’m not going to read it out loud for you, it would be too embarrassing the second time.

Even back then, I wanted it all. Maybe it was a case of “I’m a freshman in college, I’m undecided on my major, I have no idea what I’m going to do with my life”, but I really think I liked so many things, I couldn’t just stop doing one to focus on another. I even wrote on a college scholarship application that my dream job was to be “an architect-slash-part time cartoonist”, but I couldn’t explain what that meant to the scholarship interviewer and I found myself getting defensive about it (probably why I didn’t get the scholarship :P). But maybe it really was HIS issue. Maybe HE couldn’t understand why someone would want to be one thing and also dabble in something else.

I think that’s partly why this “women having it all” debate keeps flaring up like a bad case of hemorrhoids. People can’t understand why women would want to have a demanding career if they have kids. I think part of the reason why women today have this overwhelming desire to “have it all” is because we were empowered by earlier generations to go to college, to get educated, to work, and we struggle now with either the guilt of letting down generations of women by focusing on family, or the guilt of letting other people raise our kids (or not having kids at all) because we are off being empowered. Most men are ok with having a demanding career if it means less time for family. Most women aren’t ok with that, because they feel guilty that they should be home with their kids. Yes, some women don’t feel guilty, and they end up “having it all” and being ok with their choices.

For the rest of us, we just have to realize that we can have whatever we want, we just have to be satisfied with our choices, and be thankful that we do have a choice.

Last month’s internal IBM comic I did was a salt-on-the-wounds knock on what really happens in hour-long conference calls. Even if you don’t work at IBM, I’m pretty sure you’ve encountered similar things. Here’s a video that’s proof of that: David Grady: The Conference Call

anatomy of a conference call

Anatomy of a Conference Call

There are just some places you don’t even try taking a toddler. Like Carnegie Hall. Or a restaurant that doesn’t have crayons. But there are places that you can’t avoid taking them, like to church.

A few weeks ago the letter from the pastor in the church bulletin was a reminder to everyone that church isn’t a place to socialize and let your kids run free, it’s a place for quiet reverence and prayer. While it was a nice message to send out to people, it really annoyed me how directed and specific the letter was. (Something like “some people have been doing this and some people have been doing that”.) Granted, we only attend one mass out of the week, so maybe the other masses we don’t attend have wild kids running up and down the aisles and throwing popcorn at people and yelling and crying through the whole service. I can only assume however that the letter is directed at me, because there were one or two times my toddler broke free and ran up the aisle, and she still can’t whisper. But since that letter, we’ve spent more time in the entrance vestibule for noisy children than I would like.

The problem here really is my fear of being judged. I see people give me looks when my kids make noise. One of those people probably wrote a letter to the pastor to let him know that my kids were disruptive. She probably didn’t write in her letter about the time before I had kids when this peanut gallery of four old men and women snickered at and mocked the new priest who had a thick Indian accent as he gave his homily. I regret not having turned around and given the look that I often see from (mostly old) people when they think my kids are “out of control”.

People seem to think that “in the good old days”, children were better behaved and parents were stricter and could control their kids better…and while I think there is some tiny bit of truth to it, I think what’s truer is that people nowadays just have no tolerance for others. You keep hearing about people wanting “child-free train cars” or “child-free airlines”…what is next, “child-free mass”? Actually, there is a (mostly) child-free mass. It’s called “get yo ass up at 7:30am and go when most kids are still in bed and there isn’t even a choir to sing the hymns, you have to just read them out loud because no one wants to get up that early”.

I know that once I get over my fear of being judged, I will think of mass more as an educational experience rather than a stressful one. But until then, we’ll be in the vestibule with snacks and toys.

IBM has some “Transition to” programs to help employees prepare for the next phases of their lives or career, like the “Transition to Teaching” program, which helps employees become teachers by funding the education needed to gain credentials. IBM recently announced a special program called “Transition to Retirement” that would guarantee employment through 2013 for eligible employees, and they would get paid 70% of their normal salary for working 60% of their hours.

Of course not everyone has the luxury of retiring a whole year early, but if faced with that decision, I hope I will have saved enough today so I don’t have to think about what to do. Hopefully my kids will be ok with my moving in with them, you know, just in case.

This month’s internal comic strip is about new and upcoming “transition to” programs that I wish were available…


Ah, golf. Whenever I see golf, I’m reminded of lazy Sunday afternoons when I was a kid and there was absolutely NOTHING on tv. Nothing. But sometimes golf gets interesting. Like that whole Tiger Woods drama. Or the recent news regarding the US Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club and the female CEO of a certain technology company.

IBM is a sponsor of many sporting events, so it’s not a big surprise that it sponsors the Masters. The golf club that hosts the annual event is a mens-only club (that allows women as guests). As a gesture of appreciation to its corporate sponsors, the club extends membership to executives of those sponsoring companies, and it just happens that in the past, all those executives have been men. But not this year! This year, we have Ginni Rometty, the first female CEO of IBM. The question on everyone’s minds is…will she get a green jacket?

The tournament was held earlier this month, and while Ginni was seen at the Master’s without a green jacket, no one knows what the official word is. There hasn’t been a peep from Augusta or IBM on the subject, and I’m sure everyone is just keeping quiet about it until the next big golf scandal comes along. There have been many blogs that mention sexism and how IBM should pull its sponsorship if they don’t bestow a green jacket upon Ginni. The only words I have to say about that are: WHO CARES?

This isn’t about sexism. This isn’t about being politically correct. This is just the media blowing something completely out of proportion because it has the potential to make one or two parties look bad. That’s just what the media does, isn’t it? If I were Ginni, I would respond to that Tech Crunch blog post above and say, “If women can’t be strong enough to be excluded from places that don’t really matter to them, then we’re never going to get past any of these gender gap issues. Being a strong woman and a role model to young girls doesn’t mean pushing your way into every place a man has been first, it means working hard and being smart and pushing your way to places that no one has ever been.”

I’d like to think that this is how Ginni responded to the Augusta chairman’s membership invitation and honorary green jacket:

Strong, confident, and smart. And a woman.

My favorite pencil (since the days of architecture studio in college) is the General “DRAUGHTING” pencil. The lead is dark and soft, which allows for such variation in shading. I do some sketching with it, but usually use a lighter pencil if I know I’m going to ink over it. It’s a pencil that just doesn’t demand to be painted or inked over.

I was commissioned to do a pencil sketch of the new IBM Fellows that were announced this month. Of course, knowing the company, I had to double-check to make sure they knew I specialized in “cartoon-y”, not realistic. Although, I could do realistic if I wanted to, it’s just not my forte, and I would probably end up using a Photoshop filter on a photo to make people think I drew it. I remember when we had to copy a photo of Meg Ryan in art class in high school, and the girl next to me accused me of tracing mine. People are so rude. Anyway…the person who commissioned the sketch wanted a parody of “The Magnificent Seven”, because there were seven Fellows, with giant caricature heads. Ok, I can do that.

But…”pencil sketch” eventually turned into a full color ordeal. I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to color it, since I usually color things that have hard lines or are vector, and in Photoshop/Illustrator, it’s just a simple click with the paint bucket and voila, color. I really didn’t want to redo the whole thing as a watercolor, since my watercolor skills are elementary (even since the time a professor scoffed at my attempt to watercolor some plans in studio, and said, “I thought you knew what you were doing!”). I figured, there has got to be a way in Photoshop to use my pencil drawing and just color on top of it. I found this site that taught me the wonder of Multiply.

I scanned in my drawing and tweaked the exposure a little to make the background whiter and the pencil darker, but not dark enough that there wasn’t still variation in shading. Then I set the layer mode from Normal to Multiply, and the white parts just disappeared. I added another layer and started “painting” with the stylus. I used the regular brush to apply color and highlights/lowlights, and use the “Mixer Brush Tool” to blend stuff together. I would have liked the highlights to have a hard edge like watercolors, but I was ok with the way it turned out, especially since you can still see the pencil.

Here it is! Click for a larger version.

It’s too bad the picture didn’t get published on the internal news article, but at least each Fellow got a printed copy of it.

Internally at the company I work for, we use our own product called Connections for doing social business. What exactly IS social business? Don’t let people catch you saying that Connections is “Facebook for the enterprise”…because I often describe it to non-corporate people that way and it is just frowned upon. Basically, it’s…well…it’s LIKE “Facebook for the enterprise”. Not sure how else to describe it so normal people will understand.

One of the big deals recently inside the company is that our new CEO began using Connections internally to communicate, through blogs and postings on employees’ profile boards. Somehow being CEO of a giant company is like being a famous celebrity…people are afraid to communicate directly with you, but everyone wants to follow your updates and see what you’re doing. But what would it be like if being an upper level executive didn’t mean you were like a celebrity? Part of being a social business is breaking down those hierarchical barriers and bringing everyone to the same table. In theory, of course.


I got my first hate mail today about this comic. It was described as “the lamest and biggest waste of time” in the person’s entire career. I know “haters gonna hate”, but I just think it’s funny that people think they are somehow forced to look at things on the internet and blame others for subjecting them to it.

Working from home sucks sometimes. I love the flexibility and the fact that I don’t have to dress nicely (although you could argue that I never dressed nicely to begin with :P), but sometimes it’s lonely when you’re alone at home.

I used to work in a group where everyone sat together in a big lab space…no cubicles, no personal space, no private phone conversations. It was easy to get up and go talk to a coworker about stuff you’re working on and hash out issues without resorting to long email threads or trying to explain over the phone. Working with people in a single location has its benefits, but I don’t believe that we can’t achieve that sort of productivity and collaboration without being in a single location.

Now if we can just find a way to email cake, then I’ll be all set.


Here is the comic I did for IBM’s internal news website for February. We are celebrating Watson this month so the editors thought it would be appropriate for me to do a Watson-themed comic. And of course, nothing is funnier than inanimate objects having thoughts and a voice! Although, Watson already technically has a voice (and although it’s a male voice, Watson is technically an “it”).



(I had another more cheeky version of this, if you click on the image above, you can see it. Very subtle change, let me know if you spot it!)