Book Review #28: Lean In

A few months ago I posted the following picture to twitter:

And yet, for some reason I didn’t actually start reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg until last week. It’s actually taken me a couple of days to start writing this post, because I was still trying to process the book itself.

My initial reaction is this: you know when you finish reading a book and you immediately feel something’s different? This book will do that.

For those who don’t know Sheryl Sandberg, she is the COO of Facebook. That being said, when I first heard of the book I was a bit skeptical. Clearly the woman has some leadership qualities, or she never would have made it where she has, but what does that have to do with being female?

Needless to say, I am now a believer.

Sandberg goes beyond what has already been said by other authors and uses a touch of personal stories (her own and those of others) to make the book more significant. The focus is not so much on why women get paid less than men, but what women can do to put themselves on a more even playing field, both professionally and at home.

Since I’m still having difficulty putting into words by thoughts on this book, I figured I should share some of the quotes I had highlighted while reading.

Padmasree Warrior, Cisco’s chief technology officer:

There is no perfect fit when you’re looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around. The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO:

When you want to change things, you can’t please everyone. If you do please everyone, you aren’t making enough progress.

Eric Schmidt, Google CEO:

When companies grow quickly, there are more things to do than there are people to do them. When companies grow more slowly or stop growing, there is less to do and too many people to not be doing them. Politics and stagnation set in, and everyone falters. If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat. You just get on.

The Early Child Care Research Network (1991):

Exclusive maternal care was not related to better or worse outcomes for children. There is thus, no reason for mothers to feel as though they are harming their children if they decide to work.

And some of her own:

Whenever a married woman asks me for advice on co-parenting with a husband, I tell her to let him put the diaper on the baby any way he wants as long as he’s doing it himself. And if he gets up to deal with the diaper before being asked, she should smile even if he puts that diaper on the baby’s head. Over time, if he does things his way, he’ll find the correct end. But if he’s forced to do things her way, pretty soon she’ll be doing them herself.

Gender should neither magnify nor excuse rude and dismissive treatment. We should expect professional behavior, and even kindness, from everyone.

At the end of the day, Sandberg’s main message is crystal clear, take a seat at the table, and lean in!

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Book Review #27: #Self

Yesterday I finally decided to pick up my Kobo after a 7 month hiatus and after running the updates, the book #Self: Taming your Inner Online Menace by Carla Madden appeared on my bookshelf.  After looking into it, I learned that this book was a freebie, given to anyone who loaded the Kobo app on an Android device (as I did with my Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 in June). Having absolutely no idea how long the book was (the page numbering was based on book sections, not the book itself), I decided to check it out.

This book basically assumes that if you were around when the phenomenon that is the internet was “born”, then your “online self” must therefore be the same age as this online world, which would put it somewhere around being an immature and (slightly) irresponsible teenager. Once you get past the initial (unintended?) insult, the book actually becomes a useful summary of internet Dos and Don’ts.

From things like lexicons to help understand different online abbreviations to a list of the best sites to use for dating, networking, shopping, managing money, brand management, etc. this work is actually a handy little guide. I even found myself highlighting a couple websites to check out later. Most importantly, this book is really big on netiquette, or the art of not letting your immature online self get you into too much hot water.

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Book Review #26: Millennials Rising

This review will be incomplete for the time being, as I borrowed the book from work, but wasn’t able to finish it before my position ended.

I was reading Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation by Neil Howe and William Strauss. Much like a similar post I made earlier today, this book interested me not only because of the students I work with, but because I myself am considered a Millennial.

Unlike the previous book, I actually found that this one helped me understand a bit more about what makes me a millennial. I’ve said it before (and I’ll say it again), but I’ve always found it very difficult to be lumped into the same category of some of the highschoolers and college/university students these days, especially as I get closer to my thirtieth birthday. Even more difficult to comprehend is the fact that my 11-year-old stepson (born in 2001) is also a member of the same generation.

I found that I was able to relate more to this book in one major way: it was published in 2000, meaning that the events and characteristics it was describing were very similar to the ones I was experiencing myself at that time.  As such, all the little things that drive me absolutely nuts today when millennials are being described didn’t actually apply at the time.

One thing I found quite notable, and would make me really interested in reading a later edition of the same book, is that at the time of publication, the main event named as life changing by those individuals who were interviewed was the Columbine Massacre.  Not to take away anything from that tragedy, but I would wonder how some of the ideas in the book might have changed had those questions been asked post 9/11?

I hope to be able to finish the book someday soon, and may end up going out and purchasing it for myself, but in the meantime, I’ll have to leave my review at this.

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Book Review #25: Inspiration for Resident Assistants

The book InspiRAtion for Resident Assistants: Encouragement Humor & Motivation for Resident Assistants by Resident Assistants by Tony D’Angelo, Amy Connolly & Dan Oltersdorf was a very quick and fun read. I got through it in a little over an hour on vacation while waiting for my stepson to wake up one morning.

Speaking as a Residence Life Coordinator, and not an RA, I still found the book quite enlightening, both in it’s tales of the trials and tribulations of residence life, but also in it’s uplifting message.

This book is filled with tons of little gems for RAs to gain new wisdom, a different perspective, and more importantly, understand that they are not the only ones going through all the craziness, such as:

The ABCs for RAs

A-    Ask for help!  You aren’t alone, and you probably aren’t the expert. Utilize the resources on your staff, in your hall and on your campus. Think of yourself as an “Referral Agent.”  Know when to refer and who to refer to!

B-    Balance is very important.  Remember you are a student first, then an RA.  Prioritize the various commitments you have and continually self evaluate to find out if you are out of balance.  If you find yourself unbalanced, talk to someone about it!

C-    Consistency is key!  If you aren’t consistent, it will come back to haunt you.  Treat everyone fairly and don’t let anything “slide.”

D-    Don’t take things personally.  When residents violate policy, it is not usually directed at you as a person!

E-     Evaluate and assess the needs of your residents.  At the beginning of the year, and on an ongoing basis, do formal and informal assessments to find out what your residents need!

F-     Fun should always be part of the job!  If you aren’t having fun, you need to take a step back and look at what you are doing.  If all you do is policy enforcement, you are missing out!

G-    Get to know your residents, and be sure to remember their names. Make picture flashcards if you have to!

H-    Have a servant’s attitude, but don’t let yourself be tread on or taken advantage of.

I-       Invest your time with care because it is a valuable commodity.  Use a day timer.  Don’t over-commit, and remember how to say the magic word, “no.”

J-      Just be yourself!  Let your residents see you as a person, not just an RA.

K-   Know that you can’t please everybody.

L-     Laugh when things get crazy!  Sometimes it’s all you can do to stay sane.

M-  Maintain a solid front with your staff.  If residents are “dissing” another staff member, don’t join in, even if you agree with them!

N-   Never share confidential information you know about a resident!  If you respect your residents, they will respect you.

O-   Open your door, but know when to lock yourself in for some “me-time.”

P-     Program, program, program!  Plan programs and activities that help your residents to grow, socially, academically and personally!

Q-   Quality time with residents is better than a large quantity of programs. Programs are essential, but be sure to just “hang out” with your residents too.

R-    Remember why you became an RA.  Write down what your reasons are for being an RA, and put them in a place you can refer to on a regular basis.

S-     Study!  In addition to the fact that academics come first, you are a role model for your residents.

T-     Take care of yourself.  If you don’t take care of yourself, how will you be able to take care of your residents?

U-    Understand the variety of developmental levels your residents are at, as well as the various backgrounds they have come from, and the variety of views and beliefs they hold.  Seeking to understand them more completely will help you relate with them and serve them better.

V-    Value this great opportunity to help others!

W-  Working as a team with your fellow staff is a key to success.

X-    Examine your own values, beliefs and background, so you know your own biases.  This understanding of self will help you to better understand others, which is very important for working with a diverse group of people.

Y-    You have on of the most important jobs on campus!

Z-  Z’s! – Get some rest!

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Book Review #24: Diverse Millennial Students in College

I read Diverse Millennial Students in College: Implications for Faculty and Student Affairs by Fred A. Bonner II, Aretha F. Marbley and Mary F. Howard Hamilton over the course of almost 2 months. Though it was an informative read, the distractions of summer (as well as the two MOOCs I decided to take) did not allow me to do as much reading as I was used to in the Winter months.

I had a difficult time starting the book as a few lines bothered me a bit, mainly:

One might assume that today’s college student would be more open to homosexuality and gay marriage, especially since anywhere from 3% to 10% of today’s teens BELIEVE themselves to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or questioning.

That being said, I don’t believe it’s my place to comment on the beliefs of an author, and therefore will let it rest.

I enjoyed this book in the sense that it portrays millennials as a diverse group of individuals, and not just a large population of identical people. It was refreshing to see the different perspectives and experiences of LGBT, African-American, Latino/American (etc.) millennials and how their sub-identity groups defined them beyond the stereotypes.

What I would have liked to see more of is suggestions and/or strategies to move beyond the barriers identified, or even best practices for professionals in the field of higher education. One sentence that stuck out for me was:

Millennials may have skills and are techno-savvy and book-smart and streetwise, but they don’t understand what the big deal is if they’re five minutes late

I found this one particularly interesting as I had just dealt with that exxact issue with a student staff member the previous week. It would have been nice to see suggestions on how to address the situation, or how to frame the conversation with the student.

The only advice offered to Student Affairs professionals were the following five implications:

  1. Silence does not mean disapproval
  2. Work that is meaningful to them
  3. Encourage students to create their own solutions but with caution
  4. Mentoring program
  5. Rewards system

Another reason I appreciated the book is that I myself am categorized as a millennial. Though I was born after the 1982 ‘deadline’, I most often do not identify with many of the characteristics often associated with my generation. Though I’m still not convinced, I always appreciate learning more.

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Book Review #23: Campus Confidential

Amazon recently recommended that I read the book Campus Confidential: 100 startling things you don’t know about Canadian universities, written by Ken S. Coates and Bill Morrison. True to form (and because I was more than mildly intrigued by the title), I immediately ordered it.

Contrary to what I initially believed, this book is not a tell-all of all the deepest and darkest secrets of Canadian PSIs, but a refreshing summary (by two seasoned faculty members and academic administrators) of the current realities of Higher Education in Canada. I was even surprised to see a reference to my own alma mater, UOIT in the text (naming it as one of Canada’s newest universities).

The authors finish the book with a list of recommendations which they believe will help Canada top the charts and compete with other world leaders in post-secondary education:

– high quality is the number on assurance of success

– be future makers, not future takers

– specialization works

– universities need to understand better the differences in the student population

– it’s time to institutionalize the two-tier faculty system already in place

– career readiness should be a key policy of the modern university system

– colleges and universities need to integrate their offerings in creative and mutually beneficial ways

– tenure has to go – or at least it has to change

– universities have to move quickly into the digital age

– student choice in first- and second-year course offerings should be scaled back

– competency-based learning is essential

– the approach to the education of international students has to change dramatically

– universities need to lead the digital revolution

– universities need more revenue streams

– universities need to rediscover their universality

– universities need to collaborate to capitalize on administrative efficiencies

– universities need to redefine their expectations of faculty members

– the scholarship of synthesis must be elevated to the highest level of respect and credibility

–  universities should lead, not resist, the revolution in course and program design

– universities need to update and rationalize their governance systems

– universities must stop trying (and pretending) to be all alike

All in all, this was an interesting read, and I would highly recommend it to any student (or parent of a student) currently considering higher education, if only to manage one’s expectations.


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Book Review #22: Alone Together

Well, I’ve finally finished it.

The book Alone Together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other by Sherry Turkle has been all over the twitterverse for several weeks now, and was put at the top of my “must read” list after I watched the following TED Talk by the author:

I was really looking forward to reading this book, but by the time it had finally arrived, I wasn’t so sure. Reading tweets and reviews from some SA colleagues gave me mixed feelings:

All things considered, I decided to try and read it with an open mind.  I agree with Kristen and Joe in saying that part 1 was quite tedious (and a bit weird). I understand the point the author was trying to make with all the different robot references, but I feel as though she could have summed it all up in a chapter without losing too much meaning (and perhaps enticing more readers to “stick with it”).
Part 2 had some good points, and some rather sad examples of how we ( a societal “we”) have let technology “take over”. I felt that the author was jumping back and forth so much in her timeline that it was still a bit difficult to follow. Technology in the 1980s and 1990s was greatly different from what it is today (which is still different from what it was 5 years ago), so having her examples come from almost 3 decades of research made it seem a bit tedious.
All in all, the book wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great. I found the author’s TED Talk much more interesting, and feel that the main points of this book could have been successfully summarized in a research paper, rather than a 360 page volume.

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