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Shifts are hard (two)

This is part 2 of a series on sharing methods to cope with five simultaneous career and life shifts. If you haven’t read part 1, head here first. This post shares the context of my experiences and the first practice of emotional agility. Follow this series to learn more about the practices I use to help understand, cope, and reflect.

A Bit of Context

What I hadn’t mentioned in my previous post about shifts being hard is that my departure from Hubrick was traumatic. I was extremely passionate as a Chief Product Officer at Hubrick which was an e-commerce social platform. I fell in love with our potential customers, investors, and my peers. Without a doubt, I brought my passion and purpose to work every day. I worked more hours than was needed. I truly believed we were on to something and before long this effort became my baby. I wanted to build the best platform we could. Not only did I feel this way about the product but I also felt the same about the people. I had inherited a bunch of trailblazers who would do whatever it takes to get our product up and running. Together we hired more trailblazers and this became a family. I enjoyed going to work every day and was often eager to get back when I wasn’t there. I counted on my team and they counted on me. When we went from 20 to 65 as a company, we held an offsite where we shared our company objectives, goals, processes, and generated our values. The amazing part as this was happening, everyone’s own values and mine became one. We all felt accountable to live and breathe these. I couldn’t tell you how proud I was of what I had accomplished and what the team accomplished. I was beaming.

About 4 Months Later

One of the top executives decided to invest in an e-commerce shop. It was making millions already. They must have recognized that what we were building would take an additional 2 to 3 years to start making millions. And so, they didn’t want to wait. They began to move the business and decided I was not part of his plan. (We don’t need to build a platform so therefore we don’t need a product leader). The exec decided to take action. They began to intimidate me during our 1:1s making unrealistic demands of myself and the team. In addition, they claimed I was failing and had made mistakes. Two weeks later we had a company offsite to share our progress from the previous quarter which showed we had about 5k users beginning to use the platform with plans to scale to 25k by the end of the quarter. None of this mattered because later that night they bullied me to tears and demanded I leave. In Germany, you can’t be fired after 6 months of employment. I would have needed to quit. They then told me to take a two-week leave. I consented to it, and during this time we were playing a cat and mouse game. They called and bullied me again. I listened while keeping it professional. They began to stalk me on social media and continued to send threatening messages. I sought a lawyer for a consultation to protect myself and my family. We were in Berlin and on a visa the company was sponsoring. Without it, I would need to leave the country in three months. I was in tears and heartbroken. Finally, after two additional weeks, we mutually agreed to terminate. I was lucky that I was able to negotiate a great deal. The rest of the team was unaware and I was told not to make any contact with them. I could not divulge any information. The exec continued to spread rumors and shared social media pics out of context about my supposed “emotional instability”. Since my team was a second family to me, they reached out to support me. I could not respond. Four months later, they too were impacted. Hubrick folded in July of 2018 and the team was laid-off and the product was no more.

Working with a Career Coach

I decided to first meet with a career coach in November 2018. Meeting with a coach isn’t something I had planned to do. I’m not historically someone who asked for help. I’ve often felt I can just do it myself. Stubborn. But I had received monthly emails about coaching availability. I happened to chat with a few peers who stressed the value they got from their coaching sessions. I had also remembered a former colleague of mine who also went to a coach to clear their head during their job transition. They also had trauma related to their manager and wanted to heal. So, I did the same thing.

My first session was getting to know each other to see if we were compatible. Not all coaches are equal and developing a relationship of trust is important. In my first meeting, I told my coach what I was looking for and what I needed out of our relationship. Several months later, I think she mentioned that it was the first time they had ever felt managed in all their years of coaching. I mentioned the challenges of my previous role and shifts I describe in my previous post. The most important ask was to help me find my passion and purpose at Shopify. At that time, my role did not feel right and I could not put words to it. I was unhappy and I needed help. My coach asked if I was willing to do the work or just use the time to reflect. I said I would do whatever it took.

In our second session, we spent the first 45 minutes covering who I am. At Shopify, we are asked to take a test to identify one’s enneagram. I was type 7, THE ENTHUSIAST; The Busy, Variety-Seeking Type: Spontaneous, Versatile, Acquisitive, and Scattered. We talked about my current experiences at work. She stopped and asked about my emotions. I blanked. My coach was familiar with my personality type. We lack the ability to recognize emotions and/or allow ourselves to feel them. The enthusiast likes to move fast. This was important because at the end of the session she suggested my first practice should be in emotional agility.

I did my homework. Below is my actual diary but with names removed. Take note of my feelings, they are not positive.

Try it!

I hope you can use the patience practice if you find yourself going through similar shifts. It was a great foundation for the next few exercises.

If you are curious about what I took away, re-visit my site to find out what I learned about myself in my next session. I’ll also share the next practice in emotional agility.

*I’ve chosen to share a vulnerable and personal experience in hopes you know you aren’t alone and that these tools can help you. I harbor no negative feelings towards the company but learned so much and has made me the leader I am today.


Emotional Agility Practice #1: Patience

In this practice, recognize how you feel emotionally. Find the word that describes the feeling and follow up with how your body feels.

HOW: Once a day, when you encounter challenging situations or interactions (can be “minor”, it’s all about practice!), note to yourself anything you feel physically (e.g. tension, discomfort, anxiety) and emotionally; at the end of the day, write down your observations, based on the following questions: 


Jan 11:

  • What was the situation/interaction that was challenging for me?
    • Engaging effectively in large discipline sync. This meeting is once a month and often I feel I’m listening or I can’t focus. I don’t enjoy this meeting.
  • What and where did I feel it physically?
    • Leaning forward, head and shoulders, tense. At one point, I had to change my posture to feel more relaxed.
  • What feelings did I experience? 
    • Envy, timid then curious. 
    • After participation, glowing and good.
  • What thoughts was I aware of?  
    • Initially: I could do this, oh wait—this is more complicated than I thought. I don’t understand his language. 

Jan 14:

  • What was the situation/interaction that was challenging for me?
    • All-day presentations. Volunteered for an internal program and an org level team presentation kick-off.
  • What and where did I feel it physically?
    • Nervous stomach, shaky. Tired, lots of yawning.
  • What feelings did I experience? 
    • Insecure, apprehensive, afraid.
  • What thoughts was I aware of? 
    • I want to delay or delegate. Ughh I wish I was sick. I want to flee. (Flight)
    • Post thoughts on the internal program talk was not ideal and a whole bunch of context was shared in 2x speed.
    • The org level team presentation kick-off went really really well.

Jan 15:

  • What was the situation/interaction that was challenging for me?
    • WhatsApp conversation with my y positive support framework.
  • What and where did I feel it physically?
    • Stomach
  • What feelings did I experience? 
    • Shocked and sadness
  • What thoughts was I aware of?  
    • My mind was spinning. Overthinking and wanting to fix the problem right away. Having empathy. Replay over and over. Lost sleep. The group and the system that I thought was working is no longer working.

Jan 16:

  • What was the situation/interaction that was challenging for me?
    • A Design sprint workshop.
  • What and where did I feel it physically?
    • A warm rush of blood throughout my entire body. 
  • What feelings did I experience? 
    • Uncomfortable and embarrassed
  • What thoughts was I aware of?  
    • Silence, and wanting to flee. Why am I here?

Jan 17:

  • What was the situation/interaction that was challenging for me?
    • Trifecta meeting
  • What and where did I feel it physically?
    • Drained, whole-body tiredness 
  • What feelings did I experience? 
    • Irritated and annoyed
  • What thoughts was I aware of?  
    • Why does this person not get it? Do they simply not remember? Why don’t they know this?
    • Impatience on my part.

Jan 18:

  • What was the situation/interaction that was challenging for me?
    • Every meeting was canceled for me
  • What and where did I feel it physically?
    • Lighter, weight lifted and at the same time tired. 
  • What feelings did I experience? 
    • Relieved and dissatisfied
  • What thoughts was I aware of?  
    • Honestly, why are these all canceled? Oh, I should catch up, but I want to go home.

Weekly summary:

  • What patterns am I noticing about the kinds of situations/interactions that hook me into reactive (fight-or-flight) mode? 
    • Flight mode is when I’m put on the spot or don’t want to do something. (happened three times I was asked to present, different outcomes for each)
    • When a direct or lead pings me for context or answers, I get tense. 
  • Is there any emotion or physical sensation that came up more than others?
    • Insecure, apprehensive, lack of confidence feelings  —> flight
  • What did I find challenging about doing this exercise?  What was more challenging – noticing my physical or emotional reactions, or my thoughts?
    • Physical reactions are hard to read or notice. I feel comfortable in my shoes so I never consider how I show up. 

Jan 21:

  • What was the situation/interaction that was challenging for me?
    • Slack interaction on what we are shipping for our conference
  • What and where did I feel it physically?
    • Stomach, eye strain
  • What feelings did I experience? 
    • Apprehensive, insecure and doubt
  • What thoughts was I aware of?  
    • Busy thoughts and spinning.

Jan 22:

  • What was the situation/interaction that was challenging for me?
    • Calm moments and pause after the chaos of the day. 
  • What and where did I feel it physically?
    • Drained
  • What feelings did I experience? 
    • Sadness. Empty and incomplete.
  • What thoughts was I aware of?  
    • Not loving the outcomes of the day or progress.

Jan 23:

  • What was the situation/interaction that was challenging for me?
    • Alone post workday. 
  • What and where did I feel it physically?
    • Stomach, headache, body drained. Feeling empty.
  • What feelings did I experience? 
    • Sadness
  • What thoughts was I aware of?  
    • Why am I here and why am I doing this? It feels pointless. Remind myself of my desire to learn more about data, But so far I haven’t been able to do this. Everything I’ve done here so far, I’ve done before. 

Jan 24:

  • What was the situation/interaction that was challenging for me?
    • Early morning 8:10 a.m. interaction with a direct and unsure of what they are going to say
  • What and where did I feel it physically?
    • Frozen
  • What feelings did I experience? 
    • Nervous
  • What thoughts was I aware of?  
    • Reading a person on my team and they are not positive, their body language is frustrated. I’m cautious about working with them.

Jan 25:

  • Recap the week with the Coach 

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