Last Hurrah at the Garf

Look at this beauty. I’ll stipulate that it’s expensive to maintain and the opposite of energy-efficient. That it contains some of the coldest, smallest rooms on campus. That some nights I would have to warm up my bed with my hair dryer before crawling in.

But just how many 19,000 square foot 167-year-old Tudors are there any more?

Last I read, the recommendation on Garfield House was for it to be razed, and it was going before the historical commission for a final decision.

Sadly, I do not have the billions needed to pay to restore and/or have it transplanted somewhere, and assuming no other savior steps forward, may I present another option, a consolation prize of sorts for those of us who have lived in and loved the Garf:

A Last Hurrah at the Garf.

WWRFC 30th 025

Picture it. That enormous, glorious lawn filled with tents.

Generations of Garfield denizens coming back to Williams.

A weekend to enjoy and celebrate this 1850s classic that has given so many of us lifelong memories.

At my 5th reunion, the 50th reunion class sponsored a fireworks show off the roof of Baxter before it was razed. In a similar way, this could be simultaneously a fitting memorial and a great community-building event.

Imagine if we could get an art/comp sci student to work on some sort of epic VR experience? How epic would a “walking through history” virtual reality module be, where you could go back in time and walk through Williamstown at different eras? See how the campus and buildings are changing, even walk into the future and see the future campus plans? It would be incredible! Lines around the block!

And don’t get me started on the merch opportunities! Koozies are table stakes where I’m concerned, of course, but we could also have a charity auction of historical items and memorabilia. Proceeds could go to a charity or future historical restoration projects—the alumni version of the athletic department tag sales.

Given the chance, I’d be there in a heartbeat, and I’m hoping many others feel the same.

Stay tuned…


First day of Astronomy 102: The Solar System, my freshman year at Williams.

The professor walks into the room, and after a brief info, pulls out a camera. He wants to take a class picture that he can print out and pass around the room for us to write our names by our faces, so he could learn our names.

That professor? Jay Pasachoff, who I would soon learn was, if not already by then, on his way to becoming the world’s foremost expert on solar eclipses.

Image: Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times

And so after enjoying that wonderful eclipse—through eclipse glasses, a telescope, a homemade rig, and a welding helmet—I was thrilled to see Professor Pasachoff on the front page of the LA Times.


I probably didn’t appreciate it enough at the time. Scratch that—I definitely didn’t appreciate it enough at the time. And I definitely don’t remember everything I learned in that class.

But I will always remember that first day, and how this man at the pinnacle of his field cared enough to get to know each and every one of us by name.

Oh, and wasn’t that eclipse awesome?


Hamilton and Me

“I should have known the world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me.”

Ok. So I know there is nothing novel in gushing about Hamilton. But I still wanted to capture here how seeing Hamilton hit me hard on three levels.

Put simply, the first act of Hamilton is nothing short of perfect art. I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t make me want to be a better person.

What I was struck by most was how it hit me on three levels:


At the highest level were the parallels between our country’s beginnings and now.

“History is happening in Manhattan and we just happen to be in the greatest city in the world.”

Change “Manhattan” to “San Francisco” and we are in the midst of a tech/AI maelstrom that is changing life we know it. And it’s great to be in the middle of it.

“Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now”

Damn right.

And the most gut-wrenching parallel of all came during “Dear Theodosia:”

“You will come of age with our young nation. We’ll bleed and fight for you, we’ll make it right for you.”

In the face of a political climate where Republicans openly lie and act in pure self-interest, serving no one, this one especially cut to the core. Will we be able to make it right, and if necessary will I be ready to not just fight, but bleed for it?


Look beyond the face value of the glaring historical parallels, and we come to the central dichotomy of the narrative, Hamilton and Burr.

What struck me most was seeing myself in Burr. “Wait for It” brought me to tears.

“I am the one thing in life that I can control. I am inimitable, I am an original. I’m not falling behind or running late. I’m not standing still, I am lying in wait.”

“Hamilton faces an endless uphill climb. He has something to prove, he has nothing to lose. Hamilton’s pace is relentless, he wastes no time. What is it like in his shoes?”

I want to be a Hamilton, I really do. And everything Silicon Valley prizes says to be a Hamilton. But I have more Burr in me than I’d like to admit. I waited too long to course correct my career, essentially standing still. Or was it lying in wait? Time will tell. But through it all I have treasured my originality, my inimitability.

I’ve had something to lose. I’ve wasted time. With the exception of being a woman, I’ve been graced with every possible advantage since birth. Can I tap into my inner Hamilton in time, and stop wasting time? Or do I make the most of my Burr-ness?


Ah, Lin-Manuel. Now we come to you.

The third level that Hamilton hit me was as a creative.

How do you craft a masterpiece, how do you obsess over every word until it is perfect?

As someone who likes to think of herself as creative, I left wanting more out of myself. I want to create something great. To put something forth into the world that is masterful.

Let’s face it, in the short-term that will probably be a sweet Williams koozie. And I’m ok with that. But I want to shoot for a greater North Star beyond that.

“So so so, so this is what it feels like to match wits, with someone at your level what the hell is the catch? It’s the feeling, the freedom of seeing the light, it’s Ben Franklin with the key and the kite, you see it right?”

Can We Stay Restless in the Age of AI?

daniil-kuzelev-293856Most days I’m excited about the future of AI, but occasionally I’m terrified.

Lately I’ve been thinking about what it will mean for our love of learning, our love of self-improvement. There’s an innocence inherent to the learning process, a feeling of limitless potential. We teach our kids that they can do anything, be anything. And we hope some of the same is true for ourselves. We believe we can always get better, and we work towards becoming the best.

So what happens if that feeling of limitless potential goes away?

Consider this example of a friend of mine who is an excellent golfer. Now, I myself am exceedingly mediocre, but I still love it so much. Because for me there is still so much potential. To get a new low score, to break 90. Suffice to say the room for improvement is limitless.

But talking to him one night about golf, he seemed deflated, like some of the joy was gone. He explained, these pros are so beyond the outer limits of what regular great golfers can do, and the courses they are playing on have been engineered so that they have become inaccessible to even great-but-not-pro golfers like him.

For him, the feeling of limitless potential was gone, because there are these superhuman athletes who have changed the game, moving its pinnacle beyond his reach.

So, what scares me about the future of AI is that we risk losing our passion to achieve our potential. If you know your potential has a limit—and is already exceeded by an AI—how motivated will you be to achieve it? Does it change our human desire to strive?

George Will’s recent column, Let America plunge toward our fast-unfolding future, frames it in the broader context of accelerated capitalism:

In the accelerated churning of today’s capitalism, changing tastes and expanding choices destroy some jobs and create others, with net gains in price and quality. But disruption is never restful, and the United States now faces a decision unique in its history: Is it tired — tired of the turmoil of creative destruction? If so, it had better be ready to do without creativity. And ready to stop being what it has always been: restless.

We’ve always been restless. Will AI change that?

Photo by Daniil Kuželev on Unsplash

The Women’s March


As I was singing Edelweiss to tuck my 5-year-old son into bed tonight, I choked up and could barely finish. Because the parallels between what we face as a nation now and what Austria was facing in The Sound of Music are undeniable.

But what is also undeniable is that today was a historic, happy day. The first true day of hope since the election. I was unable to march with the millions who marched today, but I am so proud of my friends and fellow Americans who did.

When Captain von Trapp gets choked up singing Edelweiss at the festival, and the crowd steps in to support him, the upwelling of solidarity is palpable. Today, as the pics of incredible crowds rolled in, I felt that same upwelling of solidarity. Except this time, it’s massive, it’s global, and it’s personal.

I will hold on tight to that feeling as we move forward in this fight.

Bless my homeland forever, indeed.

Photo credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Muhammad Ali’s Career Advice for Women

Give Me Five

“Where do you think I would be if I didn’t know how to shout and holler and make the public sit up and take notice?”

In its farewell to Muhammad Ali, Sports Illustrated reprinted a first-person piece, Why I Roared, that the then 22-year-old Cassius Clay wrote in 1964 before facing Sonny Liston for the first time.

Fifty-two years later, reading the words he wrote, I was struck by how much I could apply to my own career. How he could give it as a speech at the next Ellevate or Watermark event. The original manifesto on personal branding.

“If I were like a lot of guys—a lot of heavyweight boxers, I mean—I’ll bet you a dozen doughnuts you wouldn’t be reading this right now. If you wonder what the difference between them and me is, I’ll break the news: You never heard of them. I’m not saying they are not good boxers. Most of them can fight almost as good as I can. I’m just saying you never heard of them. And the reason for that is because they cannot throw the jive.”

A man regarded as the GOAT in his profession is saying he couldn’t rely on talent alone. He needed to speak up and be heard.

“I was confident that I could beat either one of them if I had the chance. But I knew I wouldn’t get the chance because nobody had ever heard of me. I said to myself, How am I going to get a crack at the title? I knew I’d have to start talking about it—I mean really talking, screaming and yelling and acting like some kind of a nut. I would be like Gorgeous George, the wrestler, who got so famous by being flashy and exaggerating everything and making people notice him.”

So many times women fall behind in their careers relative to men because we put our trust in meritocracy, thinking that the work should speak for itself. That it will be recognized.

But it’s not enough to just do great work. We also need to shout “I’m doing some great stuff here, people!”

“I said I am the greatest, I am a ball of fire. If I didn’t say it, there was nobody going to say it for me.”

Time to start throwing some jive.

Driverless Cars and the Great American Road Trip

Photo by Doug Kerr via Flickr

I went back to Williams this past weekend for a rugby reunion. Lately when I go back, I like to fly into Boston or New York (vs. Albany which is closest), and tack on an extra day to see friends. In theory this is about making the trip from the West Coast worth it by seeing more people, but in reality it’s just as much about the drive.

The Taconic is one of my favorite stretches of road. The first time you drive it you can’t quite place what makes it feel so different from other roads. Then it hits you: there are no shoulders. Two feet to the right is a curb, and then grass. It makes for an incredible feeling when driving, so little separating you from nature.

Something amazing happens when you take a drive like this. Your mind has to focus just enough on the road and how fast you are driving (because OMG the Taconic is cop city!) that the rest of your mind is free to wander. To drift off into neglected corners, resurface long-forgotten memories, and offer up weird ideas, steered only by the sights out the window, the soundtrack playing, and sheer freedom.

And it got me thinking: what does a driverless car future mean for the Great American Road Trip?

I have taken dozens of road trips throughout my life. The cross-country trips during college from Massachusetts to California and back. The trip that only lasted 10 miles before my Jeep’s engine melted in a freeway-side fire. Down and back up the East Coast visiting friends. The trip where we spilled a bottle of cleaner the first day, ensuring that our Vanagon smelled Fantastik® the whole week. The 15-hour trip from Chicago to my summer internship in Florida where I needed to drop off my stuff at an apartment then get to the airport to fly to a Williams reunion, only to miss my flight by ten minutes. I-40. 70. 80. 90. And I swear I will do the 10 at some point.

“It’s about the journey, not the destination” is often applied elsewhere as a metaphor, but in the case of the road trip, it’s literal.

It’s about stopping to check out the miniature donkeys you just saw a sign for. It’s about finding that great local diner. It’s about just once admitting when checking into a motel that you really have six people, not four – and they offer you a room with three queen size beds side by side!


And when it’s just you, it’s about putting your playlist on shuffle and letting each song unlock and replay an old memory.

So, as much as I’m excited for the time when driverless cars mean I don’t have to sit in traffic or endure a tedious commute, I don’t want to lose the magic that only a long drive can bring.

There is value in letting your mind wander. There is value in spontaneity. And there is value in being present for the actual, literal journey.

How to Explain Machine Learning to an 8-Year-Old

apples Photo by Holly Mindrup via Unsplash
Photo by Holly Mindrup via Unsplash

Loved this question I got at a recent interview: “How would you explain machine learning to an 8-year-old?” Here is my take on it:

Machine learning is about teaching computers to work more like our brains. What’s so cool about our brains is they have the ability to combine information to come up with new ideas.

Let’s say one day in school you learned all about apples.

And the next day at school you learned that if you steamed and mashed the apples you could make applesauce.

And the next day at school you learned about bananas.

Your brain might then get the idea “hey, if I mashed up the bananas I bet I could make bananasauce!”*

Your brain didn’t need to be taught that idea. It combined information it had to come up with that new idea.

Machine learning is about teaching computers how to do just that.


*not a mainstream dish, but tasty nonetheless


Building a Ruthless Culture


Anneke Jong of Reserve gave an epic masterclass on building a great culture at the LAUNCH Festival last week. Wanted to capture the essential takeaways here.

Ruthless Welcoming – all about onboarding and consistency

  1. Everyone meets the foxtato
  2. Make docs for everything – if you find yourself repeating things, write it down
  3. Playbooks for every role – at Reserve, a GM for a new city is given a playbook outlining what their first 3 hires and 25 restaurants should look like

Ruthless Sharing – share the wheel vs. reinvent it

  1. Role-specific national summits
  2. Role-specific weekly video hangouts
  3. Role-specific emails lists and Slack channels

Ruthless Camaraderie – one team, one dream

  1. One-hour values & vision session with each new team member during onboarding
  2. Monthly all-hands town hall – remind everyone of the shared North Star, not just what’s changing but what hasn’t changed
  3. Standardized, easily accessible KPIs sent out weekly (Reserve uses Looker for the dashboards)

Many of these are very simple, straightforward things to do, but when you put them all together they add up to more than the sum of their parts. They help create habits that reinforce the culture you are trying to build, and they help maintain that culture as you grow and bring on new people.

And if you ever get a chance to see Anneke give a talk, do it – outstanding presenter, hope to see her back at the LAUNCH Festival again next year.