Preferences & Perceptions

My name is Polina Hanin. This blog is about what's in my head at a given point in time.
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Conference season is upon us…. I go to my fair share of conferences and meetups - let’s call it 2 events a month. I see the same people, the same panelists, the same topics. Sure, some speakers are worlds better than others. Sure, some of the attendants are much more compelling. Sure, networking is more worthwhile at some venues. In fact, I feel great that there is an actual community in health tech entrepreneurship. (It’s about damn time!!) But overall, I’m a bit troubled by 2 things:

1. Are we preaching to the choir?

2. Are we really getting closer to “the answer(s)” with all these panels?

Let’s think about it this way… if the attendants aren’t new, who are we trying to convert with inspirational keynotes? Is it just a means for us to stay optimistic about the state of our industry? And for that matter, what use is a panel if there are no arguments? I don’t know about you, but I’m growing tired of panelists being nice to each other. Can we at least get some American Gladiator-style throwdowns here? Can the moderators throw some wrenches into the mix?

The only conference where I’ve seen actual argument was at Harvard’s ITdotHealth conference, where the attendants were mostly academics and are used to others questioning their theories. People discussed topics without being afraid to offend anyone, and guess what, no one was. The audience there knew that without a healthy dose of questioning, we will never reach an answer. 

And on a side note, lately many of the conferences that I’ve been to have had entrepreneurs do live pitches, and once again, they tend to pitch to the usual suspects. With the exception of AARP’s Health Innovation@50+ LivePitch event where the entrepreneurs pitched to actual customers who’ve never seen their products, the audience remains the same.

So I propose the following over the next couple of weeks…

1. Let’s disrupt strangers. Let’s put brilliant, forward-thinking speakers/entrepreneurs in front of people who would never hear them otherwise. Why not talk about all the innovation in this space to people who would never come across it because they don’t read the blogs or go to the meetups? Can’t we put on some of these panels at the really stodgy conferences? You know, the ones that have 25,000 attendants? 

2. And at the events that stay intimate and familiar-community-focused, why don’t we actually argue with each other? Point-counterpoint, perhaps? Random callouts into the audience to force someone to voice an opinion? Or bring in someone who isn’t a convert yet. Who are we afraid of isolating? How are we going to learn anything new unless someone says something absurdly outrageous? Chances are, if you have a semi-controversial thought, someone else does too, and is just too scared to speak up. Grow a pair!

I think we should all start saying insane things. Maybe someone will actually take that insane notion and create a new melody for the choir to sing along to. 

Truth. (Taken with Instagram)

No joke, I was going to post this yesterday but I got distracted. 

Didn’t the Coppertone logo show butt at some point? Comment on how conservative we’ve become or crackdown on child pornography? (Taken with Instagram)

Now if only I brought my vinyls… That’s what goes in a CD player, right? (Taken with Instagram)

I’ve been meaning to write this post for some time, but for some reason either never got around to it, or became too nervous for some reason. After I graduated from business school, I was technically unemployed for 10 months. I did ad hoc projects for old co-workers and wrote freelance research, but was still searching for a perfect full time position. I learned a lot about myself in those 10 months, and just wanted to share that with those who are still on the hunt. 

Before I start, I need to preface this post with the following: I was/am fortunate enough to have been able to search for a career, rather than a job to pay the bills. This is important to know as you read my lessons learned. 

  1. Unemployment for a long period of time can drive you crazy. You pick up weird hobbies because you get tired of meetings, emails, conferences and reading. You’ve exhausted multiple series on Netflix (Mad Men, Gossip Girl). The gym only takes up so much time during the day. So I took up crocheting. I made 2 scarves. They are actually wearable. 
  2. Unemployment screws with your sense of pride. While all of your friends, and what seems like everyone else who has ever existed, has a job, you don’t. Remind yourself that this isn’t true. But that sense of comfort doesn’t give you the excuse to sit on your ass. 
  3. Unemployment makes you forget how to socialize. You forget how to form coherent sentences. This makes interviews more difficult. 
  4. Not everyone likes their job. In fact, most people who you consider lucky to have a job want to slit their wrists. So if you’re actually searching for a career, and have the time and ability to do so, don’t bend towards the first offer you receive.
  5. Unemployment makes you feel unproductive. Unfortunately, I couldn’t pick up and do/create something because my skills are not made for that. In retrospect, I probably should and could have done that. 
  6. You not-so-secretly hate people who never respond to you and you build a renewed sense of urgency to respond to every inane email you receive. But not too quickly lest the other party think you stare at your inbox all day. Which you do. 
  7. Stalking becomes a honed skill. You learn random details about people and try to subtly bring them up in conversations. The subtlety is important because those details can either impress the other person, or scare the living shit out of them. 
  8. You build respect towards those who do what they love and are passionate about it. You strive to reach that same goal. Your unemployment can’t go to waste on a job that you can’t stand. 
  9. Your financial aid advisor’s motto (“If you live like a CEO while you’re a student, then you’ll live like a student while you’re a CEO”) has never been more true. You pick and choose your pleasures (concerts for this gal!)
  10. You find people (friends and new contacts) who actually, and unselfishly, want to help you. You lean on those people and then you pay them back. Success in your new job is the perfect way to say thank you. A round or two of drinks is also perfectly acceptable.

Today marks 20 years since I stepped off the metaphorical boat. FOB for life. 

I’ve learned something recently. My body is amazing. Through sheer willpower alone, I can tell my uterus to stop being pregnant. (Sayonara pesky condoms! Rhythm method? Only if it’s to a good beat!) I don’t need to sleep to be refreshed in the morning. I just need to blink more often. And I can drop 10 pounds without so much as a hint of a juice cleanse. 

It seems to me that we don’t have a Republican vs Democrat, men vs women, religious idiots vs everyone else problem, but rather, this is a testament to how dumb our society really is.

Obama said today “these comments do underscore…why we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making health care decisions on behalf of women.” Totally agree. But we also shouldn’t have politicians making health insurance decisions on behalf of the rest of Americans because government officials have their own insurance plans. Nor should we have non-economists making fiscal policy decisions. But the fault here, ladies and gents, is our own. Representatives and senators are just that - they are officials elected by all of us. And the nonsense that they spew out is unfortunately only a mirror image of what the vocal constituents want, or say they want. 

But reciting headline remarks and platitudes isn’t going to solve anything. In fact, it’ll make things worse. So how about we all take a pact to not say anything unless we’re properly informed about an issue. “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”


#PolinaLifestyle starts now! cc @polinah (Taken with Instagram)

And that’s pretty much how it looked 6 hours later.

This has got to be the most targeted ad I’ve ever gotten. Pandora just invited me to a Chicago Booth event. HOW DOES IT KNOW!?