The Importance of Having a Mentor

Happy Holidays! I attended a family wedding over Thanksgiving weekend and stayed at my parent’s house the week after the wedding, so I just got back to California this past Sunday. It was a pretty long wedding since I also attended dinner events for the couple’s close friends and family for two nights before wedding day, but mostly it went smoothly. My parents let me take it easy at home last week since they could tell I was really tired after traveling and attending the wedding. This had the added effect of going easy on my credit card balances. I stayed in my sister’s bedroom and raided her dresser and desk while home; we’re similar sizes so this turned up some nice “new” clothes she let me take. I’m thinking of going back for the last week of December.

Otherwise, I’m grinding away… I took the online traffic school course, just need to confirm that they’ve told the county that I passed. And I rolled over IRA into my 401K, which is why I can zero out the Other Assets category. Fidelity made this really easy since I could just photograph the checks on their NetBenefits app. I’m grateful! Now my remaining IRA is Roth and I will be able to do backdoor Roth IRA contributions next year. My boyfriend has no IRA so I’ve sent him various resources on doing a backdoor Roth IRA contribution and told him to do it THIS YEAR. He’s promised me he will open one by the end of this week.

I worked out 10 times in November, which is quite good considering I was gone for a third of the month. My nose is still alternately stuffed or runny, but I feel better rested than a month ago. The week at home really helped!

I made some progress on my two remaining quarterly goals, honestly I’ll be happy to even finish one of them by the holiday shutdown in two weeks. Speaking with other women in my org this week made me realize that almost everyone else has a mentor. Since I’ve joined my company, I’ve cycled between viewing multiple people as my mentors but circumstances have forced these relationships to deteriorate somewhat. One high-level engineer moved to Seattle, I only see him in person every few months if he visits California. Another mid-level engineer stopped meeting me regularly in order to focus on his own career progression, he’s the one who got promoted in September and he’s super-busy now. And finally the last high-level engineer to join our team became my manager, so she can’t mentor me anymore even though I see her every day. These are the three people at my company who I’ve tried the most to open up to, they know my vulnerabilities the best and they’ve given me countless tips. The guy from Seattle is in California this week and catching up with him helped me shift to a broader perspective. I’ve decided to set up monthly video calls with him. I feel like I’ve gotten into a rut and notice myself repeating the same mistakes. I hope some of the things he suggested me will help me grow out of it. I will take all the help I can get at work right now. How about you? What have you learned from a mentor?

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The Numbers

I started to blog anonymously so I can be open about my job and compensation. I got the idea of a numbers post from HerEveryCentCounts, who in turn credits Leigh’s Financial Journey. All numbers are in thousands of USD. Salary is as of December of the listed year, Gross Income is the income from my tax return. Net worth lists Assets – Liabilities using December Networthshare entries.

My income fluctuates from my salary because some of my compensation comes from RSUs and an annual bonus. I have a small amount of income from dividends and capital gains. I’ve always had generous 401K company matches and I participate in my current company’s ESPP plan as well.

Year Salary Gross Income Net Worth Notes
2015 115 50 48 – 10 = 38  Started 1st job!
2016 115 127 110 – 7 = 103 RSU 1 yr grant
2017 135 155 219 – 5 = 214 2nd job!
2018 140 200+ TBD RSU 1 yr grant

I graduated college and started my first full time job in the latter half of 2015 so that’s when I start tracking. I’ve had a lot of financial help and guidance from my parents so I started off with $10K in my bank account, a Roth IRA with $11K from 2 year’s internship earnings, a car that my parents made payments on for 6 months after I graduated, a company which paid for my relocation to the SF Bay Area and gave me temporary housing for a month, and no student loans.

Frank Career Conversations

I’m back from vacationing in China and it was amazing!!! Not just the country itself, the trip gave me faith in my boyfriend too. I’d gotten a Chinese visa and booked flights a week before I took off so I landed in Beijing with zero preparation. My boyfriend met me at the airport and took care of almost everything for the week we were there. It really helped that I could forget about everything stateside, and focus only on him and what was around us. He noticed how carefree I was too.

I went full speed at work as soon as I got back. I have three goals to finish by the end of this year and I finished the easiest one in October. I unblocked one goal remaining from last quarter in October as well. I’m working on the second goal right now and am making progress, but I’ve been slacking this week so I might buckle down this weekend to make up for it. I paid to do traffic school and plan to take the course online this weekend as well.

My manager is being very frank with me during our 1-1’s and she’s making me realize that as hard as I’m working right now, I still need to get a lot better at work. I asked her openly what was missing between how I perform and how someone at the next level would perform and she answered that there’s 3 things I need to do in order to get promoted:
1. Execute consistently on my tasks and deliver them on time. My manager also added that I should do this independently, not wait for others to hand me solutions. I’ve struggled with this in the past because I would distract myself with one-off things that ultimately were not important.
2. Lead others to complete a project. I’m not too enthused about this one.
3. Take initiative outside of my team by mentoring others, teaching at the company’s new hire bootcamp, etc. I wonder if this is really necessary…
Honestly, I’m thankful that I can even have such open discussions with her. And knowing what’s needed helps me see where I am in my journey more clearly.

I worked out 11 times in October and worked out for 7 days in a row last week, but I’ve been sneezing and having a stuffed nose since late October. I tried taking allergy pills, changing my bedding, upping the heat in my apartment, and getting a couple of massages but nothing’s worked. It’s more annoying than debilitating so I’ll deal.

Financially-speaking, the market tanked and my net worth decreased month-over-month. But more importantly I read the White Coat Investor’s articles on contributing to a backdoor Roth IRA. The article “17 Ways to Screw Up a Backdoor Roth IRA” really laid out the details and gave me confidence to get started. I finally cashed in my Rollover IRA and will roll it into my 401K this year so I can start making backdoor Roth IRA contributions next year. I’m excited!

Renewed Motivation to Work

Time is slipping quickly these days. I’m again uncertain of where a whole month went. As I predicted in August my work-life balance has become more skewed towards work, but not before a whole bunch of life and play happened in the intervening weeks. I exercised on 5 days straight after Labor Day and totaled of 19 workouts in September; it helped that September was wellness month at my company and they hosted lots of fitness themed activities I could easily participate in. On top of that I did end up buying that Fitbit from Craigslist and was able to track all my activity on the Fitbit app. I know it’s a possibility that the Fitbit I bought is one where the seller complained to the company within the 1 year warranty period and got sent a new Fitbit which they sold to me, but I’m okay with that as I consider it a win-win for both me and the seller. In a non sequiter I got my first ever traffic citation, but I’ll try to do traffic school soon to avoid getting a point on my record.

My boyfriend spent early September squaring away paperwork for joining his new company. But more importantly he planned and got visas for a month-long vacation! He had a lot of vacation days accumulated which he is using in one go; he flew out in mid-September. I don’t have so much DTO but I did get a week off so I will fly out and vacation with him next week. Having him gone honestly freed up a good amount of time and mindspace. I used the mindspace to think about my longer-term goals for the relationship, list out questions I have, and do some research about them. I will spend more time thinking about me relationship and how I want it to evolve later this month after I come back from vacation.

I used the time to start a WordPress blog where I ported all my existing networthshare entries (labangel.wordpress.com) and set up Twitter (@_labangel), Medium, Pinterest, and Google+ accounts under this identity. I tried setting up a Facebook profile but my account got disabled! I’m still a little sore over that 😡 These accounts took a loooong time to set up, but then again I go through every single setting and tune it to my liking when creating an account. It is also very easy to start consuming content in all of these websites and I definitely spent a lot of time reading, scrolling through feeds, following other accounts, adding myself to blog directories, etc. My WordPress and Twitter are in okay shape but I will have to spend a LOT more time on this to take it to the next level, which I am not willing to do for a while.

I realized while reading Designing Your Life that I should go all-in on my work, and I have done just that this week. I’ve worked closely with my new manager over the past 4 months and I have complete faith in her ability to promote me now since one of the senior engineers on my team had been putting in a lot of effort for the past 1 year and my new manager was able to secure his promotion! I know that she wants to promote me as well; this is convincing me to do my best at my job. I did a good job against the goals I had set last quarter, but this quarter’s goals are pretty ambitious so I want to give myself space to complete them by planning ahead and diligently making progress on tasks I’m unblocked on. Wish me luck!

Designing My Life, Part 1

I started reading the book Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. It’s an interactive book that gives writing prompts every chapter. In the first chapter they advocate putting together a Health – Work – Play – Love Dashboard as a “You are here” sign to signify where I’m starting from. Here is mine; I’ve rated each area from 0 to 4 and written a small blurb about why.

Health – 4

This is the highlight on my dashboard right now. I’ve been exercising for months and I’m in great shape. I eat right, I move enough, I have a good amount of energy. I struggle a lot with impostor syndrome and disappointment in myself but I’m starting to pay more attention to my mental health. I’m trying to be more mindful, more grateful, more self-affirming. I’m trying to adopt a growth mindset and change the stories I tell myself.

Continue: Diet and exercise routine

Action Items: Develop a routine of self-affirmation, meditation, and gratitude.

Work – 2

I’ve stagnated in this area for all of 2018. I’ve been on autopilot at work through a reorg, a manager change, and a performance review cycle. I excused it by telling myself I was focusing on all the other areas, but now that I’ve made good progress on everything else I want to dedicate more time to my work. It’s not that I’ve been slacking at work, I got an “Achieves expectations” during the performance review earlier this month, but I could definitely dedicate more time, thought, and energy to it.

Continue: One thing I have started recently is to minimize context switching between tasks at work. For example, when I work with other engineers to finalize a design, I try to implement that design immediately after so I don’t lose the context and don’t have to remember the details later.

Action Items: Dedicate more time to my work. I am pretty productive when I do work, but I leave work early to go to the gym so I don’t give myself enough time to actually focus. I need to get to work earlier, or work a little in the evenings or weekends to make up for coming into the office later.

Play – 4

I’m happy with my friends and hobbies as they are. I’ve decided not to worry about actively reaching out to friends who hardly reach out to me. I only keep in touch with friends who reciprocate the effort nowadays. I play badminton and hang out with friends in person often. I’ve spent a lot of evenings setting up this blog and I’m happy with how it’s going.

Continue: Stay close with long-distance friends who keep in touch with me and hang out with people in person. Keep playing badminton. Keep posting monthly net worth entries on this blog.

Action Items: I’m spending a lot of time talking about personal finance in Facebook groups and on Twitter. I also check my account balances pretty often. I can de-emphasize this area.

Love – 3

My boyfriend’s goal for the past year has been to get a new job while working full-time at his current job. I carried our relationship in a lot of ways while he focused on his job hunt by applying to a lot of companies on his behalf, going over to his place so we could spend time together eating dinner, and in general not expecting very much of him. He’s conscious of needing to step up in our relationship now that he has accepted a job offer. I shared a list of how I want him to be more conscious of my time.

Continue: My boyfriend and I care deeply about each other. He is the one who kick-started my physical and mental health improvements, and I’ve greatly improved my communication skills with him showing me how.

Action Items: I should learn to let go since my boyfriend won’t need so much support anymore. And I will keep working on better communication.

Grinding and good news

Whew, the entire month of August has been playing catchup. I was behind on -everything- because of taking so much vacation in July and I’ve been frantically crossing things off my to-do list the past few weeks. For example, I renewed my car registration for another year, paid for six months of car insurance, and paid yearly membership dues to a nonprofit where my membership had lapsed (I checked if I could get a matching donation from my company but unfortunately that organization is ineligible). I applied to reimburse expenses against my company’s wellness program (mostly drop-in fees to play badminton and a DXA scan) which were approved and will be included in my next paycheck, signed up for the badminton email list at my company, and played with them once (there’re some really good players there who can help me get better). I also bought a one way flight to the east coast on Thanksgiving and bought the return flight today. All of this adds up to higher balances on my credit cards.

I had taken my boyfriend’s sister to a small career fair nearby at the end of July and the start of August had me helping my boyfriend set up his apartment, apply to jobs, and prep for interviews. I also met with my college roommate for vegetarian hot pot that first weekend and learned that she had gotten competing job offers from two FAANG companies and accepted one of them! She got an amazing package because she was able to get both companies to compete with each other and I’m so super thrilled for her! The next weekend was National Bowling Day so I met with two friends for brunch and bowling, we also made plans to meet for lunch at my company later. Later in August my boyfriend accepted an offer with a kickass salary from a second FAANG company!! Being his discontent self he continued interviewing at other companies for the two weeks after he accepted 😛 I went to Yosemite the last weekend of August with my boyfriend, his sister, and his cousin. My college roommate and I drove to Santa Barbara over the Labor Day long weekend

In the good news on the health front, I’ve gotten into a routine of exercising four times a week even though I’m still a couple weeks behind with my workouts. My zumba and bosu instructors know me; I followed my zumba instructor on Instagram and stalked my bosu instructor on Linkedin. Guess what? My bosu instructor is a top manager at a nearby company and teaches bosu as a side hustle, how awesome is that! I’d love to be her. On the bad news side, my Fitbit broke just 1 year and 4 months after I bought it. I called their customer support but it’s out of the 1 year warranty so they could only give me a 25% off code 😦 Even though the devices break super easily, I love their app and challenge friends every week so I’m opting to buy one second hand off Craigslist at a steep discount and will hopefully have it tonight.

Between everything else that was going on, I procrastinated all August on my main project at work while staying diligent on my secondary projects. Till now the delay was okay because no one was depending on my work but that main project now has a deadline in late-September so I’m tipping my work-life balance towards work for the the next month (exercise will be my only life). As such I asked my boyfriend to be more considerate of my time and energy last night by questioning why he asks me to do certain things which are not strictly necessary, why he doesn’t anticipate his requests on my time or energy, and why he has put mindless entertainment over actual conversation with me. It was a difficult talk for me since it’s extremely hard for me to talk normally when I’m emotional. I first wrote down all the things I resented, did a guided meditation session to get over feeling angry about the wasted time and energy, and then was able to tell him how I needed him to change. It took all yesterday evening but it worked and things should change going forward.

Europe with friends

I’m still catching up on my routine tasks since I was on vacation in Eastern Europe and Denver for a good part of July but it feels good to be back. Both vacations were great, but the Europe trip was VERY hectic and my style of traveling didn’t mesh so well with how the group traveled. I am super glad to have gone though, as I’ve only taken international trips if I have a others to go with. I had pretty high credit card spending in the past few months as a result of booking airfare for traveling; it’s back under 1K now. 1K is a normal level of credit card debt for me each month if there are no irregular expenses. It’s about to go up again as I plan to pay for my car registration and book a flight to my parents’ place.

My investments are continuing to grow at a nice rate, and I’m pleased with where my portfolio is heading. My aim has been getting to 70% domestic-30% international and I’m almost there. Within the 70% domestic bucket I want to have a 70% large cap-30% smaller cap allocation. I’m currently at 90/10 but any new investments are going into smaller companies so this will get better over the next couple months. I do have some money earmarked for medium-term spending so some of what’s in the stocks column is in cash or a money market fund. Meanwhile my emergency fund is in a high-yield savings account and I’m making a whole $4/month in interest. 😀 My mother has asked me to put trailing stop orders on all my investments but I feel like I would be better off holding them and rebalancing opportunistically, I’m researching this now.

I am having trouble balancing relationships lately. Until now I’ve been pretty good at keeping in touch with long-distance friends, but lately I go hang out with people in person instead. I’m dedicated to working out at least 3 times a week so there just isn’t enough time to socialize with everyone after sleep, work, and exercise. Trust me, I’ve installed the News Feed Eradicator browser extension and cut out other sources of wasted time already. Right now I’m prioritizing: my family, my boyfriend and his family, in-person friendships, long-distance friendships. This way I have time for those who are closest to me and can see the difference we make in each others’ lives. I need to accept that this means I won’t be in touch with as many friends who are farther away. I know my close friends won’t mind either way.

I’ve realized so many gains from working out, it’s really adding up. I actually have triceps now!! Whoop!! My calves look more defined when I show my legs and wear heels. I know I have more stamina since I went on a 20km hike in Europe and wasn’t dead the next day. I wasn’t sore the day after I went kayaking back in April, and I picked up badminton again without too much soreness. In general I don’t get as sore after workouts. I know how stretch to prevent injuries and how to deal with minor aches better. I fit my pants better and don’t chafe on my thighs, but on the other hand I fit my shirts worse and chafe at my arms and chest. I’m more aware of how ergonomic things are and of maintaining good posture. I’m more mindful of my mood and my thoughts. I’m so thankful for my health, I’m going to continue my workout regimen as long as I can.

My boyfriend told me he loves that my lips are the same color as my gums. He’d previously said he likes that my gums show when I smile. I shake my head in front of him but it makes me smile thinking back on it. It gives me confidence that he notices me, takes joy in the little things, that they matter to him. He and his sister moved to a new apartment last weekend and I was amazed at how orderly the move was! Today when I reminded him not to throw cardboard in the trash, he collapsed it, kept it separately, and pointed out that he’s been setting bottles to the side to be recycled. Environmentalism is one of my top values and it means a lot that he wants to practice my values in his home.