High Achieving Women At Work – Pressure, The Patriarchy + A Bottle Of Wine A Night
How do you handle an endless number of meetings in a single day and the pressure to constantly do more? Do you feel like you’re always behind, overworked and undervalued? What if you wake up everyday to head into a workplace that feels toxic and untenable but blame yourself for not handling it all with grace and ease?
If you’re a high-achieving woman at work, the pressures of corporate life can make it easy to buy into the idea that alcohol will help you cope.
It’s a story that resonates with many of us who have walked the tightrope between success and self-destruction, building a career while also struggling with drinking, thinking about drinking and recovering from drinking.
In her book, Exit Interview: The Life and Death of My Ambitious Career, my friend Kristi Coulter details her experience working at Amazon.com for 12 years. She writes about the challenge and excitement along with seven-day workweeks, burnout, a culture driven largely by fear and how she drank to cope with it all (and then needed to stop drinking in order to cope with it all).
And Kristi describes how impossible it is to be a woman in so many workplaces. To contort yourself to somehow present yourself in the “right way” to be taken seriously, but not off putting.
She writes,“[I learn] I should lean forward in my chair far enough to show warmth but not cleavage. That I should stand with my hands on my hips but never cross my arms.
Listen with attentive interest but without nodding or tilting my head.
Speak naturally, but never end on an upswing. Speak assertively, but don’t interrupt.
When interrupted by a man, insist on finishing my thought, but charmingly, so he won’t feel as though he did anything wrong.
Always take credit for my accomplishments but also let my accomplishments speak for themselves.
Dress to embrace my femininity but also to de-emphasize my boobs, shoulders, waist, hips, legs, lips, and hair. And smile. But not too much. Less. Less. Yes, like that. Now hold.”
For many of us, alcohol is the socially acceptable way to cope, and Kristi’s subtle, yet powerful, exploration of her relationship with alcohol reveals the intricate ways we use it to numb ourselves.
From wine clubs to employee happy hours, her story mirrors the struggles of maintaining a facade of “normalcy” in a society where alcohol is a pervasive crutch.
Midway through her years at Amazon she writes about her drinking in a way that mirrors the way I felt when I was drinking a bottle of wine at night, working a big job, raising two kids and feeling like I could barely cope with life.
Kristi writes, “I think about drinking all the time now. I think about what bottle I should open tonight and what tricks I might employ to stop myself from drinking the whole thing and how I know I’ll drink the whole thing anyway.
I think about how much fun it used to be and how strange it is that it’s now no fun at all and yet I keep right on doing it as if I signed a contract or something.
I think about whether drinking this much will shorten my life and how I might not care.
I’m desperate to stop thinking about drinking, not only because it exhausts me, but because every moment I spend thinking about drinking is a moment I’m not thinking about how to be better at my job.”
I love talking with Kristi because the path her drinking took as she climbed the corporate ladder mirrored my own. And when she stopped drinking, Kristi could clearly see everything around her and what needed to change and shift to protect herself and her sobriety.
Her journey from a high-achieving career woman drowning her ambitions in wine to a sober, authentic individual is a testament to the power of self-discovery and self-care.
If you’re a high-achieving woman like Kristi and myself, or if you’ve ever grappled with the complexities of alcohol in your life, I urge you to read her book and listen to this podcast interview.
Kristi’s story is an inspiring reminder that we have the power to choose ourselves, redefine success, and live a life that’s true to our authentic selves.
In this episode, Kristi and I dive into her memoir, Exit Interview, and…:
Why drinking heavily has become the socially acceptable way to manage stress
- The mixed messages women receive at work about how to succeed
- Fear of failure + the difficulty of coping in the corporate world as an overachieving people pleaser
- Kristi’s drinking and how she stopped drinking while working a big, stressful job
- What changed in her work and personal life when she quit drinking
- The role shame and insecurity played in both Kristi’s drinking and career
- Why women vanish from the workforce at higher levels of management.
- Brotastic men, Barbie, bottles of wine, nerf wars, “big swinging dick moves”, the patriarchy and so much more…
Resources related to this episode:
Enjoli essay on Medium:
Belle Robertson Tired of Thinking About Drinking (Book)
3 Ways I Can Support You In Drinking Less + Living More
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Grab the Free 30-Day Guide To Quitting Drinking, 30 Tips For Your First Month Alcohol-Free.
Connect with Kristi Coulter
Kristi Coulter is the author of the memoirs Exit Interview and Nothing Good Can Come From This, a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. Her work has also appeared in New York Magazine, the Paris Review, Elle, Glamour, and many other publications. She lives in Seattle and Los Angeles with her husband and golden retriever.
Purchase Nothing Good Can Come from This
Follow on Facebook:@kristicoulter
Follow on Instagram@kristicccoulter
Follow on Twitter:@KristiCCoulter
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READ THE TRANSCRIPT OF THIS PODCAST INTERVIEW
High Achieving Women At Work – Pressure, The Patriarchy + A Bottle Of Wine A Night with Kristi Coulter
Amazon, women, people, talk, men, feel, wrote, thought, book, wine, job, years, life, company, read, daycare, point, dinner parties, sober book group, sober path, sobriety, selling of drinking to women as feminism, over drinking, tolerate life, hangovers, achieved equality with men, sober curious, patriarchy, opportunity, book deal, sober groups, Hip Sobriety School, Quit Like A Woman, stress, overwhelm, impostor syndrome, expectations, gratitude, memoir, the life and death of my ambitious career, shame, Leadership Development, Exit interview, Nothing Good Comes From This, Drinking, Working, Being A First World Woman, sober, podcast, sober women, Seattle
SPEAKERS: Casey McGuire Davidson + Kristi Coulter
Welcome to the Hello Someday Podcast, the podcast for busy women who are ready to drink less and live more. I’m Casey McGuire Davidson, ex-red wine girl turned life coach helping women create lives they love without alcohol. But it wasn’t that long ago that I was anxious, overwhelmed, and drinking a bottle of wine and night to unwind. I thought that wine was the glue, holding my life together, helping me cope with my kids, my stressful job and my busy life. I didn’t realize that my love affair with drinking was making me more anxious and less able to manage my responsibilities.
In this podcast, my goal is to teach you the tried and true secrets of creating and living a life you don’t want to escape from.
Each week, I’ll bring you tools, lessons and conversations to help you drink less and live more. I’ll teach you how to navigate our drinking obsessed culture without a buzz, how to sit with your emotions when you’re lonely or angry, frustrated or overwhelmed, how to self soothe without a drink, and how to turn the decision to stop drinking from your worst case scenario to the best decision of your life.
I am so glad you’re here. Now let’s get started.
Hi there. Today we are talking to Kristi Coulter, author of the new memoir, Exit Interview. And author of, Nothing Good Can Come From This, a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. And her work has appeared in New York Magazine, the Paris Review, Elle, Glamour, and many other publications. She lives in Seattle and LA with her husband and golden retriever. And Kristi also came on this podcast right when it started. I think she was Episode 18 | Kristi Coulter on Drinking, Working + “Being A First World Woman”. So, if you want to listen to that one it’s hellosomedaycoaching.com/18.
Kristi and I actually go way back. I heard her on the podcast when I was I think 97 days sober. So, this is over 7 years ago. I had heard her on a podcast. So, if you’re listening to this, I actually had people reach out to me all the time, and wrote her founder email, not that I’m a stalker, and wrote her and was like, Hey, you’re in Seattle. I’m in Seattle, you worked in Tech. I work in Tech and I’m sober and never expected to hear from her.
And Kristi, welcome. You wrote me back, like three days later.
Yeah, I was thrilled because I was like, Are there any Sober women in Seattle? I think I had said something on the podcast about like, I need friends who are sober. And there’s nobody here. You were like, Hi, I’m here. So of course, I was going to write you back. Because like, and if we met in person not that long after? Well, this month that we both were pen pals. Belle Robertson Tired of Thinking About Drinking (Book). She was my Coach.
Yeah, she wasn’t my Coach. But I had done the challenge. So, we ended. We were friendly at that point. And she came to Seattle. And we all met at a coffee shop.
Yeah. To Starbucks, in a neighborhood. And then I started doing like Sober women dinner parties, which was so cool. And it was really fun.
Yeah, it was really fun. So, we go way back. If anyone hasn’t read the book, Nothing Good Can Come From This, definitely do. We’re going to talk about it in this interview. But after we met, and I felt like, oh my god, I know a famous person. This article that went completely viral called, Enjoli and like, in every sober book group I was in, people were talking about it and sharing it. It was wonderful.
Thank you. That went insane. That was, you know, I slapped that up there to see if I could get a couple 100 reads or something. And like, 8 days later, I was on, like, Radio Scotland. I’ve never had anything like that happen in my life. I mean, most people won’t, you know, it’s just one of those things were lightning strikes. And someone from Medium, where I published it, had the Editor just liked it. And so, they, you know, promoted it. And it just took off from there. It was the craziest experience of my life. Yeah, it was amazing that I think it really it was incredibly well-written, and it was like that perfect blend of like, sarcasm / snarky / earnest, which I’m a big fan of, but right I think it was about that article. Oh, that like resonated with people who were like on this sober path or women and working?
Yeah, I think I mean, I think part of it was that you know, if I, it was overdone. And it was funny, I think which people are not used to when they’re reading about sobriety, it tends to be super earnest. But I think it just hit something in the zeitgeist that I thought only bothered me, which was the selling of drinking to women as feminism.
Yeah. overdrinking, especially you know, that like, oh, drinking means you’ve made it drinking me cheap arrived. And I’ve been sober for almost 3 years at that point. And I realized that I had been drinking to tolerate my life. And so, it’s starting to annoy me that like women are being told that drinking and having hangovers means you’ve achieved equality with men, essentially, because that’s like if you have not achieved equality with men. And also, this is not the kind of quality you want, you know, to like, also die of alcohol related causes. And so, it turns out, a lot of people were also just women were like, Oh, I didn’t realize this is bothering me, but it is.
Yeah. And I had articulated that, and then it also just made a ton of people mad at me, too. Like, men were furious. Oh, my God. Oh, yeah. I mean, the usual men who are just losers, hated me. You know, like, they were like, “feminazis” was thrown at me and, but there were some women who are just curious. It to the point where I was like, Okay, this sounds a little too personal. What’s going on? Right. Thank you protests.
Exactly. I mean, they were just like, one woman was like, I wrote, I’m writing in utter loathing. It was like, Girl, I’m not worth that kind of rent free space in your, in your head, like, what’s going on? Because I don’t even then like, I don’t care if other people drink, like, do what you want. I was not like coming to take your margarita. But yeah, so there was all this anger and like, getting ridiculed, like the New York Post ridiculed me. And I remember my officemate at Amazon at one point, she said, Oh, have you seen Time Magazine today? And I was like, That’s a weird question to ask her. That was like, there’s only one reason you’re asking that, right. No, it’s not in your bio. Like, I don’t know. Right? I would add that with it. Especially growing up in the 70s. You know, my parents subscribe to time. My grandparents did.
Yeah, exactly. It was like, we had time and US News and World Report. And I remember going through Time Magazine, it’s like a 2-year-old just looking at the picture. So, it was really weird. And they were like, time, I mean, it’s time they weren’t like abusive, but they were definitely like, yeah, she thinks that the patriarchy is making women drink. And that’s stupid.
And I just remember being like, This is so strange, but also knowing that being ridiculed in these national magazines, I was like, This is good. Like, this is making it. This is opportunity. And I had a book deal, you know, like, two weeks later, so that’s insane. That’s yeah, so I’m like ridicule all you want.
I have to say that I was in all the sober groups. I had taken Hip Sobriety school with Hollywood occur before she wrote, Quit Like A Woman. I was in a bunch of these. And every woman I knew, I was like, Oh, my God, I fucking love this, like this is, you have to read it. You were passing it around. And you’re completely right. And, and this is related to Exit Interview, your new book, it talked about how we do drink, to tolerate the, you know, death of 1000 cuts of like, micro aggressions, and stress and overwhelm and impostor syndrome and bullshit, and then all the expectations of how you should look and how you should act and, you know, women bond over drinking, when they… Yeah, express how awful this shit is. Right? Right.
Right, because you’re not going to say to someone, oh, let’s have I mean, I might now but you wouldn’t be like, Let’s have coffee and vent about how difficult I totally would. Well, yeah, now I’d be like, let’s just get it out. But you know, you’d have drinks, then you know, I love you. I love you too. And then it’s like, sometimes I feel like an imposter. And then it’s, you know, all that but right at the time you couldn’t it’s funny. There were some. I was just thinking there were some men in sober groups who were really mad at me like women were mostly the sub or women were cool. But there were some men who were like, if you’re expressing anger, that means sure drive drunk. You know?
Oh, yeah, a real sober person would just be grateful all the time. And I was like, Oh, come on, you know, like, it was actually really disappointing that sober men decided to line up on the side of like, men, men. You, my men, it was just funny sarcastic, snarky, because it was so pointed and insightful, like things are funny because they’re true. And memoir on like, the way you see the word or like, why you drink and the clarity that comes when you’ve stopped drinking.
And I don’t know, any woman who has stopped drinking, who doesn’t go through like, the sadness and blaming themselves and like wishing for the romantic version and then feeling other than and then anger like, right, right? Yeah, companies. This is bullshit. Like, yeah, yeah. Anchors real and there is plenty for any woman sober or not to be angry about like, I think these men would say like, the fact that I’m angry about what happened with Roe vs. Wade. They’d probably be like, where’s your gratitude? Well, funnily Gretch, there is no gratitude. You took my bodily autonomy away. So, like, sorry, I’m hoping to thank you for that. And yeah, and I think that that so that was really if your rights then my mother had thank you for now. Like, like gratitude. And it’s funny, I’ve been saying to people, I don’t know if you’ve seen Barbie yet. But, yes, and there were parts of your book that I underlined. That was like, I said, that I texted them to you last night. I was like, yeah, oh my god, this is the speech from Barbie. But it’s so true. And it’s so universal. He was so wild, like the speech about how it’s impossible to be a woman because you know, Enjoli talked about that thumb and then this book, you know, has some stuff in it. But also, I’ve been telling people I’ve seen actually see BBs three times now, which I didn’t plan to, but it keeps happening, that the anti-patriarchy and being anti man are two completely different things. Right? Like, like patriarchy is a system that yes, was built by and for men, but like people keep saying all the movies Lisandra it is. No, it is anti-patriarchy. He has great affection for its male characters, despite the fact that they don’t really do anything.
And I kind of love. Everyone loves out I love Alan Alexander’s little knit romper from tonight, my God. And the skirt. So, other thing I love is I mean, I’m a child of the 90s. Right, you know, graduating high school in 93 college in 97. So first of all, the Indigo Girls song, I was like, yes, love this. I know. Also loved oh my god was it Matchbox 20 The song with the demand. Like,
Casey McGuire Davidson 13:02
I want to push you around. Like, I want to take you for granted. But I loved when all the guys were playing the guitar. Sorry for anyone who hasn’t seen it. And all the Barbies are like looking up with them flutter in their eyelashes like this does apply to the book. And they all stand up and leave the guys and the guys go up to Bruton insecure and I was like, oh my god, I fucking love that so much. Yeah, like, it was amazing. And that song like, of course, I’d heard that song. But you know, I grew up in the ad, so and I was like, Wow, this song was me, the song. It’s a brutal song. It was, but I always loved it. But I never thought about the words. I mean, it’s got a great, but then when you listen to the words, you’re like, holy shit. I was like, Wait a second, and I can see how it’s like, you know it just like people talk about like, in fact, like, there could be consensual violence or whatever. And that’s fine. And it’s possible. But I was like, the way that they’re singing it really, it just sounds awful.
And yeah, that was. I really, honestly, yeah, I love the movie. I think it’s great. When she’s walking. We actually saw the Barbie movie because we couldn’t get tickets to Taylor Swift. So, we went out. Taylor Swift was in Seattle. And it was my daughter and one of her best friends and me and one of her best friend’s moms. So, two moms two nine year old girls and Lila and I always talk about the patriarchy. We talk about diet culture, we talk about the industrial beauty complex, which is hysterical or yeah, I’m like, fun and bullshit. Like yeah, enjoy all your makeup. Unless you feel like you’re less than without it, do it because it’s tough. But like, we talked about the peak like, she is T-shirts, like it’s a beautiful day to smash the patriarchy.
I love it. So, she like, we went in there and she was like, she got it, she completely gotten it. But there were parts where America fear that the woman was talking to all the 40 year old moms. And we, and her best friend’s mother were like, Fuck, I have not seen a movie in ages. That yeah, talks to me this way. Exactly. It’s really unusual. And I see a ton of movies, including like, lots of like arthouse indie, feminist films, and like for a movie like this, this like candy colored summer comedy to talk. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard the word patriarchy in one of these films. Like, directly times.
Exactly. I was stunned. And the first time I saw it, I was like, Well, you know that the explanation of feminism is a little 101 a little basic, but then I was like, Look, get your head out of your ass, Kristi. Like, I’ve taken graduate level. Women’s this. I know, I was going to say like, I don’t know if PhD type stuff on feminists, right? Like, I read, you know, French feminist in the original French, I was like, they are not talking to you. But like, girls and women, grown women who have not been steeped in that stuff. Like, I honestly think in like, 10 years, we could look back at the triad of Barbie, the summer of Taylor Swift, and the dogs decision. As like the moment a spark got lit, and a lot of young, you know, grown women, but also like young girls, I think there will be like ,think pieces in 10 years, I hope. Hope it’ll just fade away.
Yeah, but hope it’s so I want. So, I texted you last night. And there were different parts of your book that I was like, Would you be up for? There are these? I want to start with the part that is related to what we just talked about Because it was so right on professional help. But both of them reminded me of this. Well, okay, step back. No one knows what Exit Interviews about Amazon forever, we know each other. So, tell us about your book.
Yes. So, my book is called Exit Interviews. The subtitle is the life and death of my ambitious career. And basically, I worked at Amazon in fairly high level roles for 12 years. And this book is a memoir. It’s a memoir of my entire working life. But it’s especially a memoir of working at Amazon. In an environment, first of all, the Amazon environment, which is notoriously brutal, can confirm what you’ve heard in the news. And also, as a woman in that environment, where at my level, I think it was, like 20%, female, you know, at Amazon, when you start at entry level, it’s about 50/50 gender balance, and then women just disappear as you go up the levels. And by the time you get to, like Senior Vice Presidents, it’s minuscule. I think it’s like less than 10%. So, I wanted to write about that. And when I left Amazon, I was in the 98th percentile for tenure, meaning I’ve been there longer than 98% of all employees globally. And I was not offered an in-person Exit Interview. And that’s that, that it really did not sit well with me.
Well, life. Yeah, as one of very few women and women in high leadership role. And I was just like, you know, I want to have my say, so I thought, well, maybe I’ll just write a book. And they’re like, Oh, God, damn. There was one review on Good Reads, early reviewer.
And she was like, you know, I didn’t like this book, because it’s called exit interview, but she doesn’t get an exit interview.
And that was kind of like, well, that’s the point. Like, I know, I didn’t get an activity. That’s why I wrote it. But I know. And I know there’s all this curiosity about Amazon as a working environment, just because there’s been so much reporting. And but there hasn’t been a really inside story. And I think the last memoir about Amazon was written like, almost 20 years ago, maybe full 20 years ago.
Yeah, I mean, I read it. When I was interviewing for Amazon. It’s by a guy named James Marcus, who was an early employee at a time when it was a very, very different company, a tiny company. It’s a great book, but it was just, you know, it’s a different world. Now, the other thing is, I noticed that women don’t write about work enough. There are not a lot of memories out there really by men either, but especially by women about their working lives. And I thought that was crazy because we spent so much time at work. And work is you know, we meet. Also, that work, we act out like old family dramas, we have friendships. And I just thought, why don’t we write about work? I think the office is really an interesting place. And so, I wanted to, to do that too.
And I read you something that someone wrote me with a podcast, need idea, etcetera. Lincoln, no. And I wrote her back and I was like, I am interviewing Kristi Coulter, we’re going to talk about this. Oh, great. I mean, a lot of your book also mentions drinking. I mean, you drank a lot at Amazon, as I did in all of my places. You talk about drinking a bottle of wine a night, you talk about things, and navigating the workplace without alcohol. So, I want to read you, this email is sort of framing some of what we’re talking about. So, she said, I’m an older woman executive working in consulting for the financial services industry. I find that the culture is quasi toxic. It’s all about upping the ante. doing more with less. I have listened to any of your podcasts. And I think it would be great to have one on how to handle corporate stress, literally, for example, how do you handle an endless array of meetings, as the entire company can book meetings on my calendar, the pressure to constantly do more? The feeling of always being behind an undervalued working on the weekends, dealing with senior management that produces production reports on output? Like, what do you do to cope with these pressures? And not drink? And I was just like, that’s your drink?
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I mean, interesting. I was, I drank for about half my Amazon career, and I was sober for about half of it. So, I had this really interesting like, AB test to tech terms. And I would say, you know, I don’t know that I cope, that much better sober. It’s not like it was a magic bullet to make my work stress go away. When I when I first quit, I kind of was like, I was at a job at Amazon, that it was not the right role for me. And it was also a complete clusterfuck. You know, it was just like, there was no way to see both because of my natural inclination, because it was a disaster. And I thought, Oh, if I just get sober, I’ll have more energy and be more focused, and I’ll nail this job. And about 6 months into sobriety, I was like, Okay, I am much sharper and clearer now. And I know this is a disaster, I could very clearly see what a mess the organization was, and also that it was a bad job for me personally, and I was having a bad day, I was like, what propriety was supposed to fix all this? I’m still miserable, you know. And what I ended up doing was changing roles. And the nice thing about a company like Amazon is it’s huge. There’s always a job somewhere, you know, and they encourage you, you’re there. They welcome people moving around.
So, I actually kind of took a step back, I took a job that was easy for me, most of the time. And I felt really guilty about that. But then I realized that nobody cared like it was okay, if I did that. And I even had coffee with a VP at one point. And I said, I feel really guilty that I’ve done this. And she was like, why everybody has to coast? At some point.
Yeah. And I was like, I really don’t know. How did you feel guilty about like, I’m not representing women by climbing up? Did you feel guilty about like, disappointing people? Like, what was it? Well, it was the first job in my life that I ever the first role I’d ever really felt like, I failed that. I don’t mean when I say fail, like I used to, it was fine. I was doing okay, but there were people who would be better at it. So, part of it was that, like, I was the kind of person who always did even better than people expected. And for the first time, I was like, Oh, I’m not good at this. And so, I had a shame around that. And that I also felt Amazon wants you to feel guilty. If you’re not almost drowning. At every point, you’re not doing enough, unless you’re doing too much.
And I took this job where I mean, I did have to learn a lot of new stuff. And at times, it was really, really challenging. But for long stretches, I was like, Oh, I’m actually a little bit bored. Like, this is yeah, really, really chill. It was in Leadership Development, which operated almost like an Academic Department. So, it was like going from Amazon to a University, like a quiet office. And I just felt like oh, I’m not being a true Amazonian, which was because I don’t want to like go myself or you know, metaphorically Right. And the thing is, nobody was telling me that it was all me. And eventually, I came down to like, okay, but you want to stay sober? Yes. Because you’re going to need this arrest you absolutely. And I thought about leaving the company. But I was like, yeah, if I can take this job and it was set up as a rotational roles, so I was going to be in it for it was supposed to be two years.
I ended up leaving a little before that. I was like, just take this break ticket, I thought of it as, like, an internal sabbatical. And I had basically had to choose myself over being like, the perfect Amazonian, well, depot has to be happier and healthier, right? Like, for the long term? Yeah. I mean, I think so. I’ve seen this so much with the women I work with, and with myself, where a lot of times we drink to tolerate the life that we are living, right, the endless demands, the death of 1000 cuts, the, you know, unreasonable work expectations for a family, you know, all those things. And then you stop drinking, and yes, you no longer have the hangovers, and the extra anxiety and all the shit that comes with it. But you still, like you’re still living the same life you were drinking to tolerate. And so, then you need to shift different parts of it. But you see it clearly. And you realize you’re not a victim. And I have that like, crashing, if anyone knew.
I have a client who worked at a private university and was Dean of Students and went back to being faculty full time without right that I, you know, I have clients who like, switch jobs to like you like an internal transfer. And I did that as well at L’Oréal. But it wasn’t by choice, because I just apparently can’t quit jobs I hate those knows why. But I was in line for a promotion to VP, I talked with my boss about it like multiple times, I basically was like doing her job for a year. And then there was a huge reorg. And I got transferred laterally to a new group that they didn’t consult me on, they took my team away, they gave it to someone who I thought was utterly unqualified, who I’m sure does not listen to this podcast. I was rageful. I was like, I worked here, 3 fucking years, I wouldn’t have interviewed for this job. This is bullshit, yada, yada, yada. Turns out, it was the best thing that ever could have happened. Like, my new boss was amazing. Most of the people are on the East Coast. So, by 4 o’clock, I was left alone. He was like, Wait, you’re going to pay me the exact same money to not be so stressed. I’m waking up at midnight with my alarm to check the numbers like, this is a melee.
Thank you, that did enable me to be happier and to stay sober. And just, I was like, I didn’t know how much lighter I could feel. And this woman saying goes back to say, I can handle a lot of life without alcohol. But when it comes to the endless array of corporate demands, after 5 or 6 days, I crack and drink wine. Sometimes I feel like this pattern won’t change until I can actually change my job. And I don’t think that you shouldn’t wait to your job changes to quit. No. No obstacle, people do stop drinking. And it is way better in a super stressful job. And then you can make changes. So, don’t think I have to keep drinking because of this job. But you are not wrong that, like that job might make you want to drink and that yeah, good information. You know, like I yeah, like, like, I would say to her like that. If you quit drinking, things will get easier. You’ll get her. The job is probably harder than she even realizes because of the drinking. But then also the fact that she’s a Consultant is interesting, because it’s like, is she? How much of this is Corporate is strictly coming from Corporate strength and how much of it is like, does she have too many clients? Is she taking on too much? You know, I don’t know. But these are questions if she quit drinking and just don’t take anything else for a while. Just don’t even. I see women be like, I also gave up sugar and I also give up caffeine and you’re going to fail, like, go get some sugar right now, you know, weights. And don’t worry if you gain a little weight your purse or whatever, just stay sober.
And then she might start to be able to say, Oh, well, I actually do need to have 10% fewer clients. And can I afford to do that? And how can I make that you know, and then you can make these small tactical changes. And I think often, people are waiting for some huge mindset shifts that will make it easy. Like now, I’m empowered. It doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes it’s like small tactical changes that you make, like she starts declining meetings that happen after six, or something, you know, small shifts you can make based on your own personal life and talking to people. And I do want to talk about how that worked for you at Amazon, because I know it’s a deeply bruising culture.
So, I work in Seattle, I worked in E-commerce for years. And every time I mean, I’ve been here 23 years, every time I change jobs, you interviewed at like eight companies. So here are the typical ones like Amazon, Microsoft, Expedia, Starbucks, like you just interviewed all of those. So yeah, yeah. Amazon five different times. That’s right. Allison in 2004, and 2008. ever took the job or never kept going in the interviews. I’m sure someone’s them. Some was me. But couple of things that I thought was interesting. I mean, I have tons of friends who’ve worked at Amazon, a lot of women, some, one or two stay 10 years most lasted two.
But, you know, I went through one interview loop. And I knew someone who knew the team, right. So, I had the inside scoop. And it went really, really well. And then this one guy came in and was just a complete and total dick to me, and you talk about this, our razor. No, hurt, like no smile, no, like positive response, just a blank slate. And then my friend called me, and she was like, he loved you. And I was like, What the fuck? Hold on contradicting me. And she’s like, Oh, we do that, to see how you handle negative feedback. And I was like, how am I God? He’s, I don’t fucking want to work there. And do it. And that is not like, that is not policy. Like, who likes not? Yeah, I was a bar raiser. I mean, you know, the policy. And of course, in a company of, you know, 100,000 people, or one or million people like, policy doesn’t mean that much. But like, No, you’re supposed to every client is like, every interview candidate is first of all, they’re probably a customer. Second of all, they have friends who also are in the workforce. So you’re always supposed to make sure they have a good experience to you. No, no, I’m not surprised that happened, because there are people who interpret borrowers that way, but like, I was a bar raiser, and the way that I got the best information out of people was to make them comfortable.
Casey McGuire Davidson
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Yeah. You know, including some candidates, like some guys, who were just total total jackasses. And the way I could keep them talking, which is basically be like, Oh, tell me more about that, you know, and they were just telling me these terrible stories about themselves. That just had me like, horrified. But I’m not surprised that happened to you. Because I do think there is this culture where I mean, I Okay, there was a woman who worked for me, this younger woman, who was amazing, like she will be, we’ll all be working for her someday. But at one point, she said, Well, you know, of course, when I’m bar raising, I never smile. I just make sure that it’s total poker face. And I was like, All right, it’s okay to be nice to the candidates. And she, she’s very young. And she looked at me, she’s like, really? And I said, Yeah. How are you going to get a good performance out of someone? If they’re terrified? You can put an interview with Amazon. It’s stressful enough. Yeah, you know, without being hostile. And you could ask people tough question.
Like, I used to love to ask people, we’d have these competencies. And one of the one of the things Amazon values is being able to be vocally self-critical, partly because like they just like people who like to beat themselves up. But it’s actually valuable to be like, Oh, I can see where this went wrong. You know, rather than trying to hide mistakes, just to actually be like, oh, yeah, here’s where we fucked up. And here’s how we can fix it. And so, if I were to ask people that in like a hostile way, there, they wouldn’t be able to give me an answer. I had to sort it out. I’d always be like, so here’s why we care. And here’s like, a mistake I made just this month, for example, how about you? And then they could kind of be like, oh, yeah, because like it wasn’t like some bean lady trying to make them cry. But, but yeah, it is that time like, it’s funny. I’ve been gone for five years. I’m still mad that that happened to you. And I’m like, I need to call. How do I fix this? Right? Well, I’m reading your book and I’m mad about like 1000 things that happened to you. So, Oh, yeah, get started. Let’s read. Let’s have you read the, you know which one, I lost the Professional Help. That one. And yeah, this was when you were just sort of getting us started. Yeah. All right. Yeah, I think this comes like probably six months into my career. Okay.
The title of this chapter is called Professional Help.
My day I learned Amazon. And at night I seek out articles and listicles and Ted Talks on females in the business world. Just in case there are tips or hacks or something that could help me do it better. This is how I know I should lean forward in my chair far enough to show warmth, but not cleavage, but also sit with my shoulder blades against the chair back and my feet on the floor. That I should stand with my hands on my hips that never crossed my arms. Make eye contact for at least two seconds that never more than five. Look at its forehead and eyes, aka the business triangle that never his nose or mouth, the social triangle. Listen with attentive interest, but without nodding or tilting my head. speak naturally, but never end on an upswing speak assertively, but don’t interrupt. When interrupted by a man insist on finishing my thought, but charmingly, so he won’t feel as though he did anything wrong. Don’t volunteer to take meeting notes, because it will seem secretarial, but do volunteer to take meeting notes. Because it’s the only way to make sure my contributions will be captured. Do negotiate for more money. But don’t let all that money motivates me. Be an advocate for women at work plural, but not for myself as a woman at work singular. Always take credit for my accomplishments, but also that my accomplishments speak for themselves. raise my hand for new assignments to be helpful, not eager dress to embrace my femininity, but also to de-emphasize my boobs, shoulders, waist, hips, lead that and hair and smile. But not too much. Not love. Yeah, like that. Now hope.
I mean, it’s just like a Barbie speech. It’s too hard. It’s contradictory. It’s too ridiculous. The women have to twist themselves into a pretzel to not threaten men, not offend men, but not be called a bitch or ambitious or be seen as wishy washy or too timid, or whatever the fuck it is. It’s ridiculous. I mean, there’s all these rules and what I mean, I don’t, there are very few books for men on like, how to stand. You know, here’s how to correctly when I hear about a vocal Upswing or vocal fry. People get so mad about it. And I, I understand that there is something in the way of excellence, I’m uncertain. But I also know that we all know by now that it’s just a speech pattern. And I truly think if men were the ones who ended sentences on an upswing, nobody would care. We’ve decided it’s wrong, because it’s the way women talk.
Yeah, they’ve decided like, you know, the, the model for a successful executive has and continues to be met. So, like, women are held up like, Oh, if you want to be a VP or a GM, or whatever, you have to act like this. When our entire lives and we’ve been socialized to do something different. Yeah, yeah. It’s just, it’s, I mean, I was at a company that was run by older British men. And I got promoted to this director level position, because I did really good fucking work. I’m sure I was like, better than all the men because they wouldn’t have promoted me otherwise, trust me, right. The only reason I got promoted was a bunch of women who were at a higher level than me actually went to the SVP of marketing and was like, Are you really going to lose her? Over this? Right, right. You need to hire her because he was. No, she’s too young. She’s not right, whatever. But I was told I talked too fast. And I’m too excitable and I was just do that passion and I end up with is Director of Product Marketing for fucking entertainment imagery we’re talking Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. And I’m just like, I am the target market. Exactly.
Exactly like, I know what’s needed here. Yeah. And it gets to the point where you just can’t be natural. You know, I think about when Hillary Clinton was running for president, there were all these things like she seems stiff, she doesn’t seem authentic, you know, Bernie Sanders, he thinks authentic. And I’m like, well, because he can be like, he could show up in his fucking windbreaker and being like, Rabbi that, you know, like, I heard, I hear people criticize her speaking voice. And I was like, Well, he was not exactly mellifluous, either. But it’s alright, because he’s a man. And, and, and meanwhile, if she’d shown up sounding and looking like that, she would have been like, grind. And but she shows up in her pants suits and very polished, and she’s fake. And I was just like, I don’t know what the fuck she’s supposed to do. There’s no, there’s nothing she could do that they talk about it at a bar after they’ve been like slighted for the 17th time. Like we always talk about how men fail up. You know, the Yeah, yeah. They’re like, Oh, he sucks at this. He must have management potential. Like, what?
Like, how it women? I’ve heard this actual data on the summer, but women get promoted based on their accomplishments and men get promoted based on their potential. Really, it should be somewhere in the middle for everyone. Right, right. Yeah. And it’s just it’s infuriating. And I actually I, we have a company in Seattle, I believe it’s called Taxi, taxi. Taxi. Textio. Yeah. They’re amazing.
And now I know, they do analysis of job specifications, job descriptions, and performance rating, you know, template to strip out that masculine language, but like, you know, they’re all these terms were that are basically describing a stereotypical man’s attributes. Right? And aggressive, relentless. Yeah. And so therefore, people are being hired by like, oh, do they seem aggressive and relentless, and XYZ? Meanwhile, the data shows that women and people with some of the stereotypical building consensus bringing everyone along, you know, champion people strengths, whatever it is, actually have better revenue performance or Right, right.
Yeah. No, and it’s funny, the woman who runs Textio actually worked at Amazon for just a couple of years. I think she’s a Data Scientist by Trade, I think and like, and we actually ended up I mean, I think every company like the org, I was in some using their products, and we did run our job descriptions through the, their, their feeders to see and we taped things, you know, we have things like, you know, aggressive and relentless and just words that it’s not even just that, that only men are going to be drawn to them. I actually think a lot of men who are like maybe a little older, and our families are kind of over that said, you know, I remember reading internal job descriptions when I was looking for a new role at one point, and it was like, it was like this after sober, but it was like, you know, we have fear Tuesdays and coin wars. And we have nerf wars. And I was like, you know, I have a 46 year old mid-career woman. I don’t give a fuck about your Nerf war. I don’t want anyone firing projectiles at me. Tell me what my opportunities are going to be and what are you going to pay me? And I thought, you know, it can’t just be me. And it can’t just be women. Who like that is not the I know. I mean, I can see like, men.
Yeah, mid-career men who are like, do this. I think in the book you describe like the bro-tastic. I liked other parts of your book. I like to use the term, protest grotesque.
And any book that uses the term big swinging dick move, I’m always like, Oh, you’re a big swinging dick, aren’t you? Oh, yeah, yeah, that would be rude. But like I’m like, yep. And their times like you want like you want like a divorce lawyer. That’s probably who you want. You know, like your son. You want those people, but you don’t necessarily want to hang out with them. We used to say at IBM these meetings that Amazon with, you know, like 15, high ranking men and like to other women, and we’d be like, Oh, here’s the point in the meeting where they’re all going to get their dicks out and put them on the table and have to measure it.
And you can just see it coming. We know based on the document we’ve written, we’re like, here’s a, here’s what’s going to happen. And we kind of look at each other like, Yep, here it goes. And these, these guys weren’t even like that. I mean, he’s a pretty high ranking man. Like, they’re serious people, for the most part, like, this is misconception about this is like Amazon and tech, the people who work at them are idiots. Oh, no, I don’t think that at all. You know, it’s funny how often you’ll see people be like, Oh, those tech people, the executives don’t do any work. And I’m like an Amazon at least, like, there were people who are probably worth $15 million, who are still working 80 hours a week, like, there’s just something in their brains. It’s like this nature nurture. I don’t know what it is that they kill themselves. Oh, but they just would have to, they would just have to measure it against each other. Like, I just thought it was such a strange thing, you know, that they couldn’t just not interesting when we talk about you put your job descriptions through that filter is Amazon has these leadership principles. I know about them too, you know, from having friends there. But some of the leadership principle are gendered and foster this culture. So, you wrote about the Amazon leadership principle, have backbone, disagree, leaders are obliged to challenge decisions, it says respectfully, but whatever. Even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting conviction, tenacious, do not compromise for the sense of social cohesion, you know, then commit wholly healthy conflict, better ideas, but then you practice, it tends to be used as a cover for loud, rude men who talked before they think, and weaponized against anyone. enculturated not to act like a loud, rude, man. Right? Isn’t that just what we are?
Yeah. Yeah, I mean, you pick this great principle, like, it’s true. Like, if you have a company where nobody will disagree, you’re going to end up doing mediocre work, you know, so like, yes, men or women, or when America worked beautifully, you know, and I was on teams work really well. But I remember, like, I saw, I’ve worked overseas sometimes. And the first time I went to Japan, I was meeting with some leaders to say, like, you know, what, what would do? Here’s my goals, what do you think my goals should be? And they all were like, Oops, you can do to get them to speak up more like, they’re just, we don’t hear from them. And we know they have good ideas, and, and they just seem to go along, get along. And so, I was like, Yes, I’m going to do that. And I get there. And I’ve been in Japan for like, all three or four days. But I’m like, This is crazy. This is Japan. This is a culture where for hundreds, if not 1000s of years, people are milder manner. There’s, there’s not the same emphasis on arguing even that your average American would have, and a lot of them were women and who covered their mouths, and they laughed, and it was just like, you, they were asking me to get people to go against like, they’re not just their corporate culture, their entire way of life. And I just thought this is ridiculous. And so, I started focusing on like, well, what are some ways I could get them to speak up more, because we did want to hear from them that they would be comfortable with, you know, I’ve sort of tried to sort of nudge them for I found the ones who were a little more Western and attitude who were more willing to speak up. But I would leverage them to be like a spokesperson for the group and things but there was this expectation that we could just somehow be like, don’t be Japanese anymore. And there’s nothing that they can’t bring out their best work unless they act like Zion.
Exactly, exactly. That they couldn’t be that unless you were acting like, not just a Western worker, but Seattle tech, bro, you’re not going to be doing great work, and they weren’t doing great work. And I also found so after I got sober, I had always been told in my performance reviews that I was too nice that I needed to argue more I needed to disagree more. And I would always say, you know, every time I have a disagreement, I do speak up. Like I’m not sitting there dying to say something. I’m not saying it. I’m just, I’m not perfect about it. And, and I would feel like I was supposed to be arguing just to argue, which I just couldn’t bring myself to do. But after I got sober, I did become more direct person. I started to speak up more when I disagreed. I started to be a little blunter because I just felt more solid and myself. And like people did not like that. It wasn’t like it’s hard to to admit I was still me. You know what I call on it it? And then he did it. They were like, actually, yeah, I’m going to criticize you. Yeah, like, why was that sweetheart before? And and it was just funny because I think I changed maybe you know 20% I went from like, a mildly reserved person, not barriers or up to like a mildly outspoken person. And yeah, I had people like one of my performance reviews said, she doesn’t suffer fools gladly. And that was like, how am I supposed to suffer fools gladly, like, how do you know it was? Them? Was it in the like areas for improvement?
Because be a compliment? Right? Exactly, exactly. I mean, we all know people who don’t suffer fools gladly, in a way that actually is mean and abusive like that. I’m pretty sure that was not me, because it’s not my temperament. But yeah, it was it was a, it was an area for development to basically be more patient with dummies. And at that point, I was just like, you know, what, I, I already knew I was kind of on my way out, I was sort of like, I need to blow this pop Stan. And I was like, I am not. I am not going to, like, try to change my personality again. And I have friends, women, friends who were, you know, more male in their communication style, like very blunt, kind of blunt, I could never be who were called, like, abrasive, and you know, the words like that, that men just don’t get called. So, it was absolutely a double edged sword. And here’s the danger with a place like Amazon is most of them that I worked with. I think that they think they are egalitarian. I did not work with many men who would be like, Yeah, I don’t think women are really suited for these jobs. I think most of them that I work with are probably like, Well, yeah, when you do this, too, but it’s a meritocracy. And they think meritocracy is a neutral thing. You know what I mean? Like, they don’t understand that it’s someone built that system or decided what counts and what and what should be measured.
So, if you say everyone should argue productively, they’re just like, well, we shall do it. And there’s not this understanding that it doesn’t work out well, for women to do that. So, when women don’t do it, they’re like, well, they’re not a culture fit. And when women do it, they’re like, Oh, they’re abrasive. Oh, my God, there was the section of your book where you talk about the gender split, and how it works. When it goes up. And then this conversation you had with all these men, and I read it out loud. Buck, and yeah, a couple rounds to figure out exactly what I was pissed about. Like, yeah, like, well, this will this and it reminded me have exact, I mean, my husband’s awesome, yada yada, you know, all the things, but like, I was like, You were not getting wind pissed about that. So, in the book, you talk about entry level, gender split is roughly equal manager level, women have shrunk to a third. at your level, they were quarter. And higher up. It was even, like 20% or, and it just go.
I think at the time on the ES team, which is the name for the people who reported directly to Jeff Bezos, I think there was one woman out of like, 18 people at the time. So, it just we did it’s like a reverse funnel, you know, we just do stuff here. And, and we use the data as the teaching exercise. And, and, and the men were just, I still have that with a female friend on the team about how long it would take someone to say, well, we need to be teaching, you know, preschool girls how to code. Oh, my God. It’s great. We stopped betting eventually, because it was like, What’s the point? We both know, they’re just going to take it right away. Men love to say this, because it’s like, first of all, no one’s going to say no, like, no, let’s not do that. But it also kicks the can down the road like 20 years, like someday these 3-year-olds can maybe get tech jobs. They never want to talk about how to deal with the women who are there today. It’s always about these cute toddlers who are going to learn to program computers, and will also like, Yeah, but at entry level. It’s a 5050 split. Not that we aren’t getting enough women in the drawers. They’re leaving their unit like you wrote the questions you asked where are we leaving or just getting passed over for promotions in demand? When we leave? Are we going to other companies are dropping out of the workforce entirely? Well, Let’s, I’ll separate for external female versus male candidates. Like, right. Those were the questions and when you ask the men, yeah, they didn’t come up with any of those. No, I mean, I was, you know, Amazon’s so data driven, I just I was like, give me more more data. And I wanted to know all this stuff. And the man just, the other thing they say a lot is like, Well, women just have different priorities. This is a way of saying we don’t have accessible childcare in this country. And men don’t do their share of the parenting. So, you know, most of the women that I worked with who were in leadership, a lot of them just didn’t have kids like me, you know, that certainly simplifies things. But there was, there was, they didn’t say like, well, we need to have accessible daycare, maybe on-site daycare at Amazon, it was just like, different priorities. And then they would fall back on Oh, my favorite women are too smart to want these jobs.
Yeah, they’re so hard in the thing I wrote. Ha ha ha. You know, rightfully, because it was like, my point is not everyone wants these executive level jobs like we do, honestly. Yes, sign of superior intelligence that women decide to do something else with their lives. Ha ha, ha, ha, ha ha. Most nauseating thing, like these men will kill each other to get these jobs. And, and it was like, you’d have guys who be like, Well, I’m VP of whatever team and my wife is CEO of our house, you know. And it’s like, in these guys, wives like they had like Harvard law degrees. Like these were women who had been like, serious achievers until they had a child. And then they’d always be like, we just decided it made more sense for her to be the one to stay home. And it’s like, why? I mean, I can see if you’re breastfeeding or something, but it’s like, beyond the first few years, does it automatically make sense for the woman to be the one that seems to me is that when Mike and I had kids, I was making two to three times what he made. He’s a great teacher at a private school. Oh, wow. Yeah, did have that discussion, because for a couple of years, we would probably be paying not as much but close to as much in daycare because it’s crazy in Seattle. But the question was, would he be happy? It wasn’t those couple of years, it would affect his ability to get additional job. It will Yeah, his whole career. Yeah, what he wanted. And we were like, No, we’re going to pay for daycare. Because yeah. But like, of course, that is a financial choice. We were lucky enough to be able to make 100 Yeah, like, if you can’t afford daycare, that’s a totally different story. But the Amazon shit is like, you were saying in the book, like, there’s no information on whether people were parents or not like you’re assumed, right? And then the other thing you wrote, which cracked me up was, it’s like, the guy’s like, Amazon doesn’t support work life balance for anyone. It just affected him differently, because we’re moms. So Right. And I wasn’t a mom. Oh, my gosh, this is what the question was like, What can we do to support Healthier Work life balance for everyone? Oh, my God, that reminded me of like, oh, Lives Matter movement. Right? It was like very all if you’re not like, there are 20, we go from 50% to 20%. But like, all lives matter, what about Healthier Work life balance for everyone? And I’m like, that’s an
issue, right. And it was also what we would call an Amazon boiling the ocean, you know, when like, the question we posed them was like, what, like, levers would you polled? If you wanted to start solving this? You know, what are some good tactical things? Like, would we have onset daycare, and they were like, well, but we would need better work life balance. So it’s like when people talk about gun control, and they’re like, we just need to become a more of a less violent society. And I’m like, well, good luck with that. How about if we pass a law that like, you know, it does away with X, Y, or Z if people you know, people don’t want to solve a problem, when they go straight to like, we need to erase hatred from society, you know, instead of like, let’s legalize, you know, automatic weapons or something. And so, they didn’t want to talk about like, a thing we could actually do. It had to be about how do we solve this for everyone? And it was very much I remember, there was a point where diversity became a real sort of broad topic at Amazon for a while, you know, not just women, but people of color. I mean, there’s a lot of people from India who work at Amazon and a lot of people from Asia, but not a lot of black people. Not a lot of Latin X people and so within like two days the phrase thought diversity had been introduced. And I was like, what does this mean? But diversity and I, because I’d never heard it before. And I was like, You got to be fucking kidding me. And all the men, just all the white men just picked it up. They’re like, Hey, as long as there stop diversity, we’re good. So, I will say, you could be from Stanford, or MIT. Either one is fine, as long as there’s diversity. And it was just a way and they all just logged on to it. It’s like, well, we don’t need to worry about whether we have people who’ve lived as women or black people, or whatever, as long as we thought diversity, not realizing like thought diversity comes largely from living different lives.
Yeah, like, like it’s and also that women make the majority. I mean, Amazon is not just a retail company anymore, but women make the majority of household purchase decisions. And like, it was a little weird that we didn’t have more women running the West as customer advocate, so yeah, there was a lot of just men wanting to kind of feel good about themselves. And I think men don’t have the ability to depersonalized and I saw this is some of the reaction to Barbie, you know, like, wow, there wasn’t a man I could feel good about in the movie. And it’s like, well, so like, just man to something bad, it doesn’t mean that you’re bad, you know, kind of like with me to the not all men acknowledgment. men did not want to step back and think, Oh, I could be part of the system that is excluding a lot of valuable contributions. So, they would just sort of close their eyes and say, Let’s just teach the toddlers, when you’re in this environment where you feel like you can’t keep up your strengths aren’t valued, you are second guessing. And overthinking how to sit how to act, how to hold your hands How to modulate your voice, yeah, that we are, you know, the easy button is to drink, right? That’s the socially optimal way to numb yourself out. And in this book, you know, you talk about it a lot, but in subtle ways that are completely and totally related to where you’re waking up at 630 in the morning, waking up afraid, because it’s a Tuesday, and you’re making a smoothie to cancel out the bottle of wine from the night. And then later, couple chapters later, you said my wine consumption is ticked up to x glasses of wine a night porins from this point forward, please add to however many classes I drinking.
I was like, Yep, I feel that, you know, just like doctors, apparently, too. They’re talking too soon. People are lying by like one or two or something. Oh, my God. Like, please head five bottles to however many glasses of wine. Yeah. So put that in my chart. Yeah, and I am. Because it was very subtle like that. And also, I was starting to make like a lot of money. And like wine is a very, it’s a rich person habit. You know, it doesn’t have to be, but like, if you want to spend a lot of money on wine, you know, it’s a passion. There’s education, you could do like all the stuff and just by the way, all right, let’s Yeah, yeah. It’s all marketing. genius marketing ploy.
Yeah, yeah. So, like, I was in like wine clubs. And you know, I could just throw away lots of money on wine. And I really liked it. You know, I think wine is really interesting. But it’s not that interesting. No, but there’s there. Like there was a VP at Amazon who always had like, really amazing scotches like expensive Scotch is in her office and what like she’s sitting there in the middle of the day, like sweeping it put you would go places and like, bottles of liquor, were just on people’s desks, like in the design studio. And my last role there. There was just a bottle of tequila, like, on one of the tables, and I don’t even remember ever seeing anyone open it, but it was just there all the time. And I remember thinking, This isn’t normal. Like this is not normal for an office to just have like, liquors. Like cocaine sitting around actually is in a bunch of workplaces. It’s true. Like for employee morale, you know, companies have like a beer cart that goes round at four o’clock.
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Or like the taps of the kitchen to craft beer taps or and it’s just I don’t know I think it’s great like there’s nothing wrong with like, yeah, employee happy hour and hour then you know, it’s not like that’s inherently evil. But I think the worst like employee, the of team bonding event I ever went on was it was a wine tasting afternoon. And in their defense, like I had joined the team after this was already planned. But we went for voiceover.
I was sober. Yeah, I’ve been sober for years at that point.
But we went to Woodinville and went to three different wineries. And, and I actually wasn’t the only person on the team who didn’t drink either, like my boss didn’t drink. And so, the two of us were kind of standing around while people tasted wine for like four hours. And I was so bored. And so, I always say to people now, like, just think about things like that, like the best team building I’ve ever saw, I could do without team building events completely, like the best one I ever went on was actually, first of all it was during the day.
So, you’re not having to take extra time, we took a glassblowing workshop, I’ve done them as a team. That was fun. Let me tell you, they don’t let you drink there for good reason. There’s no drinking. You’re too like, whoa, I’m blowing glass to be like, worried about anything else. And I was like, Oh, I actually do something new. So I was like, do something with your teams. Or just keep in mind that like drinking is not an activity like that is not a full social activity. Well, and I think it is, again, shifting right with this. So whole, sober, curious movement with I mean, there, I got interviewed for an HR Company Magazine about like, how to make holiday parties for companies more inclusive of people who don’t drink. So, it leaves on the agenda now, whereas it used to be, I mean, not that, but it used to be like a get super ship, paste, and do inappropriate stuff, which, right? It’s definitely changed. And like, even in my last board at Amazon, like I think Enjoli came out after I’ve been there, like six months, it basically got to the point that like this entire org of like 800 people kind of knew it, you know, like I have total strangers be like, Hi, read your article. So that the SVP of disorder who is an absolute doll, we would have these it was for Amazon Go, we’re launching this huge thing. So, we’d have these celebrations, sometimes for big milestones. And I noticed they just quietly had like their feet, champagne on one side of the room. On the other side of the room, there’d be sparkling wine, like whereas before, it would have been maybe some cans of Coke. It was equal, you know, and I’m not someone who cares about like fake sparkling wine, like I was happy with that coke. But I was like, that was a really nice thing to do. And they didn’t make a big thing out of it. They just have, they were like, here’s the champagne. here’s the here’s the nonalcoholic stuff. And I started to notice that, you know, especially at a tech company, there were a lot of people who didn’t drink. There were a lot of people who’d grown up like Muslim or Hindu had never had a drink in their lives. And then some who, who had started when they came here, but I’m just like, right? There’s people who, and a lot of people from Utah who grew up Mormon who just didn’t drink. I was like, there’s people who just don’t drink and I never bothered to find out. These people existed. Yeah, yeah, as a drinker. So, I suddenly had all these new friends who are like, you know, all from like, Bangalore, so I’m getting to know them. Because like, I was like, Oh, I can talk to you. You’re not shipped this. And it was great.
What one point you talk about when you were stopping drinking, and I think that most people can relate to this, because I’ve seen it in myself and my clients like the back and forth, rationalization and contradiction. So, you start in honor Barry’s saying about drinking all the time, what bottle I should open, what tricks I can employ to stop myself from drinking, how I can stop myself from drinking the whole thing. And then you’re in the same paragraph. But I’m desperate to stop thinking about drinking. So, I’ll just stop the rumination and just be a carefree, thoughtless drinker, like my clients have told me. I’m tired of thinking about drinking, maybe that’s the problem. So back to drinking and not try to stop and that’s going to be the solution. Right?
Yeah. Yeah, I totally fell for that. And there’s this idea that I think it’s true in a lot of ways that women can overthink sometimes. So, I was like, oh, overthinking? And it’s like, yeah, I was overthinking in the wrong direction. What I had to do the way to stop over drinking was just to take alcohol out of my life. And I think it was like that paradox of choice. You know, when you have too many options and you just can’t like streaming TV sometimes like I end up watching nothing because I can’t decide between seven things. It was kind of like that. And I, the way I found out about Belle Robertson is. I googled the phrase tired of thinking about drinking. That was the name of her website. I mean, that’s how I found it. And I, yeah, I was desperate not to worry about it anymore. And I think something in me was just like, I’m not going to let you stop worrying about this, because it’s going to kill you at some point. You know, my body was like, No, the brain is going to keep remembering that this is a problem. But, and when I finally stopped trying to moderate, which is like, the worst, you know, just taking it off the table, with the biggest freedom, it was kind of like, if I, you know, had negative gastrointestinal effects from a certain kind of food, but I liked it so much that I kept having little bits of it and getting sick. Like if I were suddenly like, you know what, I’m just allergic to this, I can’t have it, my life would get much simpler. And that’s how it was with alcohol. So, people are going to want to know how to do it right? You got this woman wrote me you have this intense pressure job, nothing is ever enough, tons of stress. And by the way, your love to drink slash have become dependent on whether it’s habitually or is your way to relax or whatever. So yeah.
How did you stop? I, you know, I had been tiptoeing up to the idea that I needed to stop. I knew about Val’s 100 Day Challenge, I’d emailed her and said, I drunk and so they might be ready at some point soon. And she just emailed back and said, We’ll be here when you are, you know, and, and I woke up one morning with a hangover. My husband was out of town for a week. And I was just like, that’s it. Yeah, it wasn’t even the worst hangover than usual. I just thought I just, I’m going to do this now while I’m alone. So, I can just go into the cave. And I somehow I mean, the first week, I mean, maybe not. Yeah, I was working. It was the week. And that was the weekend that I was working that week. And I got through the first is horrible. That’s terrifying.
I went to lunch with my best friend that day didn’t say a thing to her about it. I just didn’t tell anyone. And, you know, I somehow got through the first two nights. And I did take a sleeping pill the first night, I was terrified of not being able to sleep. And I was like, well, because you’re like, I can’t come soon. Right? I was like, I have to sleep. And I was like, if you’re not addicted to pills, that’s fine. Like, you don’t have to make this like Trainspotting. Like detoxing in a jail cell or something. And once I’ve gotten through to night, let’s see. I mean, I’m at work that day, that first Monday, just being terrified, because I would just think, Oh, my God, I can’t drink tonight. I can’t drink tonight. And I think I arranged that week to be out of my house a lot. Like, I went to a couple it was, hey, it can’t be some pets not having children. And our dog was boarded that week, I think. And I go to a 5pm movie, you know, just whatever was playing to look like tolerable because I was there, and I could, or I got to a bookstore. I go to yoga, like I had to get myself past like 8pm. And somehow if I could do that, I would. I was like, Okay, I’m going to make it to the next morning. And then every morning, I would feel like the biggest success in the world because I got through another day without drinking. So, you’d like more like a daily bottle of wine girl for a while? Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Yeah, like a bottle of wine or a little more? Yeah. Oh, yeah. For sure. on a Tuesday.
Yeah. And I did, like, throw out anything. I didn’t even want to touch the wine in the in the fridge. I just didn’t even touch it. And like, by the end of the week, I was already feeling like to have like, I think it was like seven days of not drinking under my belt was huge, because I literally did not think I could do it. So, I was just high on that. Yeah, I wasn’t like disappointing myself anymore.
And here’s the other thing. And this ties into like, the work thing is, I was able to be a success every day, if I just didn’t drink. And Amazon is a place where you’re, they really don’t want you to ever feel like a success. Because like, it kind of runs on fear. You know, your fear of, I’m not enough, so I’m going to work harder. Plus, let’s face it, even in an affirming workplace. You know, you’re not going to feel like you did something great every day, like a lot of days are just like, Yep, I went to my meetings. It was I didn’t break anything. You’re not going to feel like a superhero ordinarily, but I felt like a rock star every day because I just didn’t drink and so I got really hooked on that feeling. I had to lower the bar for myself really to just be Like, this is success for you. And that goes a long, long way. I also realized I had to be nice to myself, which I had not done in many, many years. I mean, Amazon again, discouraged you, discourages people from being nice themselves. But I had already started that, like, you know, they, they knew they picked me for a reason. And so, I started just like five minute little treats or magazine or even a dumb little thing, getting a manicure. And I was like, Oh, this might be nice. So, it became this virtuous cycle. And that’s basically how I did it.
I remember the first time I had to go to a work happy hour sober.
I was working in Amazon publishing, and we had like, 70 Mystery authors or 50 Mystery authors or something in town. And publishing is very boozy writers. And we had this big happy hour at the Westin, and I was just terrified that people would notice, I wasn’t drinking that I’d have to talk to people. But I had to go. And so, I basically was like, Okay, you’re going to stay in our head, you’re going to work the room, you’re going to make a goal to talk to I think I said, like, one of the people or something. And I realized a couple of things right away one with it. Nobody cared or noticed if I was drinking. I went and got the club soda. And this is before the mocktail era, you know? And also, I know, we’re like old school, man. We’re like, oh, yeah, no good. There was like fucking old jewels in cranberry and soda or ginger. I mean, people do not have any idea how bad it was, you know. And I actually from the beginning would have photo theaters. You know, bitters are pure alcohol, but it’s like a couple of drops. So I never felt like that was risky for me. So that gave me one option. But it was so bad out there. Like it’s it’s a golden age. I was offered a smoothie once. It’s like, cool. It’s better than like tap water. Yeah, yeah. So sad. Oh, my God. I was like, that. You’re like, it was so bad. It was off. I was driving with Lila today. And she was like, so you didn’t have texting when you were little? Like you didn’t have? I was like, Dude, we wrote fucky letters. And she Yeah, yeah, I don’t understand. And I was like, I was like, we wrote notes at class. And we wrote letters. And we talked in person. And like, so it had dials. You had to dial like, seven numbers that it was just like, anyone getting sober now. It’s like you have a cell phone and content. Yeah. I had like, stamps. Right? Exactly, exactly.
I mean, it’s crazy. But I am, it was so empowering to go to the thing and just be like, Oh, I’m working the room. Because the other thing is, it’s not like I was just, like, drunk at company events before, but I would inevitably give a couple of drinks, and you end up just talking to your one little group or to someone. And this way, I was like, Okay, well, I need to gracefully move on from this person to get to this other person. And it’s so sad thinking, so I was actually better at my job. And it also prove to me that like, I could do this, like, I could walk up and introduce myself to people and I don’t have social anxiety anymore. I mean, I have little bits, of course. But despite being an introvert, you talk about that. Right? Right, right. I’m an introvert, but I can talk to pretty much anyone at this point. I mean, I could walk into a room, and I might not be like, delighted, but I’ll just walk up to someone and say, hi, you know, and it’s an I hear people say, sometimes, once I deal with my social anxiety, I want to quit drinking. And, and the thing I want to say to them is like you might need to do it the other way around, because you’re never going to deal with your social anxiety. Until you quit drinking. I think you have to just tell the background for everyone. And I know people don’t want to hear this. But like people will say to me, like, my marriage sucks. Once something happens in my marriage, whatever my husband states are at leave him or I don’t or something marriage therapy somehow works, then I’ll stop drinking. And it’s like with the stressful job or the difficult relationship with a kid or social. Like, you have to remove the drinking first. Right?
Right. It gets better like my marriage. Yeah, that or my perception got way better. But if not, even if it doesn’t, you can see it clearly and you’re capable thing changes and you’re proud of yourself and you deserve more. Yeah, yeah. You if you take the thing out that’s clouding your thinking. Dragging your body down. I mean, it was tiring me out in ways I didn’t even realize you know, like somebody Let’s get better in these ways that I didn’t even think it needed to get better. And also, I mean, you can if you do all that, and it turns out like, nothing gets better. You can always bring the drinking back. If you don’t mind, is going to be there.
Like, yeah, no one’s going to stop. It’s no one’s going to stop you. I mean, but I do think most people who get it out of their lives at minimum even if they weren’t really probably I know people who just stopped because like they were training for a marathon or something, you know, and although I tried drinking, like everyone was like literally triathlons job interview. Oh, my God all morning. Like, you need people who just for some reason like that, and they’re just like, oh, you know what? I don’t? I feel better now. Why don’t you just so you don’t have to be like, even what they would call it gray area drinker. You could just be someone who’s like, oh, yeah, now I wasn’t that much of a drinker.
Now, I don’t want to be drinker at all. Like, there’s no downside to getting alcohol out of your life. It just means it’s going to be uncomfortable for a while. Yeah, guess what those life, you know, like, if you want to do anything hard, you’re going to have to integrate with Slack sometimes. But, and unfortunate, like, Oh, my God, I can do anything if I stopped. I still think that sometimes I’m still like, if you stop drinking, you can do this, whatever this other thing is that you think you can’t do? Because it really is. It’s been 10 years from now. So, I can get kind of far away from what that was like, you know, but I’m on this, this Facebook group. It’s like a peloton sobriety group. And it is the most like affirming place. And there’s all these people on it, who are on like day six, or day 13. And just hearing them and what I love about this group is that it’s not about like, I’m doing this. So, I can lose weight or something. Like it’s actually a real sobriety group. It’s not like I’m going to lose 13 pounds. It’s like cut beer, you know? And, and it’s been so good for me to just read these people and being like, I have to go to my first family barbecue sober or like, my brother keeps teasing me what I do. And I’m just like, oh, yeah, all this. All this new stuff. It’s so hard, you know, forgetting life. In a new way.
Yeah, yeah. But then they come back. And they’re like, I did it. I went to the barbecue. And like, yeah, parts of it were terrible. But it was actually okay. And I let myself leave early. And you’re like you and now you’ve got that under your belt. It’s like building muscle, new muscle, you know, you have to lift heavy weights to build the muscles. And then they’ve got to repair themselves. It’s no different. So, tell me about your hopes for this book. Like, I want to know. Yeah, obviously, like, low back, right. Like, is there? Yeah. There has so far not been any blowback. I was never liked. Is Amazon going to be mad at me? So, you know, but, but I wrote this book, it’s a pure memoir. You know, it’s not a reported book. So, when I needed to go look up a fact or something. You know, I always did it from public sources. A lot of times, I would just go to Amazon Echo press releases to be like, oh, did we have a kitchen store in 2007? I don’t remember, you know, and, and so I knew in my own conscience that I was writing my experience, my story, my truth, you know, and I also, the process of writing, it was hard, because that took me 4 years to write. And the first year at least, I felt like I was writing a failure story. I had a trauma memoir. And so, I always had to write, and I was just like, oh, let’s write about how I failed some more. And I realized that it was the voice of Amazon in my head. That was coming at me about this book. And I, all I could think was like, what are people going to say from Amazon going to say they’re going to trash me, they’re going to whatever and, and it was only in continuing to work on it. And then with a really great waiting group that I started to be like, this is actually kind of a hero’s journey, like, and a coming of age story, that I go through this thing, and then I get myself out. And that really changed things for me. And I also gave myself permission to not try to like an Amazon is all one way. Like, there were so many people in it that I was reading this book who were like, I hope you blow the lid off up place, and they end up in congressional hearings. And I was like, this is not that kind of book like book is not going to. There’s no congressional hearings. It’s our policy book. I don’t as a citizen, I have opinions about this topic. The writer, I did not care. No, I want to write about a month I had. And I basically have a point now where I’m like, I don’t really care. What like if I wrote this book? Well, it could make people a little bit mad at me from many sides of the spectrum. You know, there will be people who are like, Bose is just whining, and there’ll be others who are like, Oh, how could that not see ever work at Amazon in the first place? I mean, I’ve had people call me like a good German, for working at Amazon, you know, like, they’re interesting. I am very curious. For all the blowback you got for on whether you get more or less for this book from men? Yeah. It’s going to be interesting.
So, I normally don’t look at good reads, because writers should not. But my publisher has that. I just I saw, yeah. It’s so toxic. It’s so toxic for writers, but my publisher has a link to it on the Books page. And I spoke with star average was kind of high. And I was like, Huh, okay, go take a look at like the first and people been very kind there. And the first couple of reviews for men who love the book, and I had to sort of assume that men would come after me for this book. And I’m sure some of them will, like, I’m sure some tech bros would be like, well, she just couldn’t hack it or whatever. But, but it was really interesting to see the fascists be like, Oh, that was interesting. And just to see how she reacted, and, wow, there were some gender stuff I hadn’t thought about and, and it was really validating. And then I’ve had, you know, some male friends who’ve read the book who’ve loved it. I am sure there will be blowback. But so, my friend Melissa Debois. I’ll put something on Twitter not long ago, that if you are writing toward like a bad faith reader, you will write badly. So, like, in other words, there are people who are just going to hate this book no matter what. Like, they hate it now when it’s not even out. And some of them are people on the right. And some of them are people on the left. And you know, and they’re just going to hate it. And if I were to write defensively, to try to make with people like me, it would be bad luck with the water dump book. So, I just wrote it for like the other 80%. And, yeah, if people get mad, they get mad. I kind of feel like, I don’t think there’ll be any real reaction from Amazon. I sort of feel like they’ll, you know, like it’s on the site. Send out like a link to your LinkedIn article like that guy, Nick. Right.
And then I did wonder, I was like, after that Jody Kanter story came out, there was some young guy who, who had the famous quote about, like, I saw so many people crying at their desks, Amazon actually, like, trashed him publicly, they actually like, revealed quotes from his performance reviews. I mean, like he was, he was ugly. And I was just like, This is bad. And I remember thinking, Well, I guess they could like, find, like negative quotes for my performance reviews and bring those out. But then it was like, you know, do I care? That one also, like, that’s crazy?
Yeah, I was like, I don’t have any skeletons in the closet. And I think they will ignore it. I mean, I know there’s lots of people inside the company. We’re very curious about it. Some of them have read it. I’m sure that the publisher will, you know, in advance, give a courtesy copy to the company or something. But yeah, it’ll be interesting. Like, in Seattle, where like, everybody has such strong opinions about Amazon. And a lot of people work or have worked. Well, yeah. Okay. We have well, dinner again, and I want to hear yes. So, all the good stuff and the and the drama, because, you know, that’s fun, too.
Yeah, I would love to think I would love it if people Amazon actually read it and took it to heart. I mean, it would be amazing if like, Andy and thought, hmm, could we do some things better, but thank you so much for coming on. I told you I read it and underlined like 50 pages, so I’ve got a million underlines that talk about but that’s okay. That is okay. Same line their own stuff. Exactly. Exactly. Good.
Okay to come with a pen. Yeah, you got to do a book club or something.
Yeah, I should. That’d be really fun. Thank you so much
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