Last night I went to hear Dana Perino, the new White House Press Secretary and Ann Compton the ABC White House Correspondent speak at an industry event at the National Association of Broadcasters offices in Washington, DC. I am a bit embarrassed to say that when I got the invitation neither of the names immediately rang a bell. I knew that Tony Snow had colon cancer, I guess I missed his stepping down somewhere between Brownie Cookie Orders, soccer games, and working through the waiting list for before school care.
Of course I googled them both to find out a little more about them. My first thought when reading about Dana Perino was "WOW, she's only 35!" With the end of that thought being something along the lines of what the heck have I been doing with my life, I am pushing 40. She told the story of her career which was a lot about being in the right place at the right time. She talked to someone at a hockey game who happened to know that her Senator was looking for a new press secretary and he hired her soon after. She wanted to move back to Washington and through connections ended up in a press job at the DOJ. Then her elevation the White House Press Secretary came due to her boss' illness. I don't want to minimize her accomplishments in any way but I thought it illustrated the power of networking and being in the right place at the right time.
Ann Compton was amazing to me. She had 4 kids in 5 years while covering the White House. She proudly declared that she managed to have 2 kids in the 1980 election cycle! When asked about work/life balance she honestly said that her network salary made it a lot easier--she had a full-time housekeeper and a physician husband who didn't travel. That allowed her to travel with Presidents and know that there was a parent home in Washington.
I hadn't attended a professional event in many years, perhaps since I left Higher Education. I had been very active in groups for college housing professionals and college administrators but have never found (or really sought) that same kind of professional allegiance since landing in corporate America. First I feel kind of like the odd person out, I manage programs, not really projects and not in a very traditional way so I don't feel like I fit into the project manager group where people and money management rule the day. Last night I was again at the fringe of the group but it was interesting to mingle with other professional women in my adopted home.
The biggest ah-ha for me though was the losing touch with national and international events. I catch some of the Today Show in the morning, I read the local paper, catch the headlines on the MSN front page and I scan blogs from all over the country. I know who is running for president, who is winning the ALCS, that we are still at war in Iraq and that Facebook banned pictures of breastfeeding. I know the schedule of activities for my neighborhood and my school, I've attended school board meetings, I've written letters to keep the state from taxing health club memberships and I took on leadership for the United Way Campaign at work. Last night I wondered about whether my local focus has gone too far. Is my focus on work, family and my local community coming at the expense of understanding the world around me? I am sure my father the social studies teacher, watcher of the nightly news, reader of all the news magazines and champion of all trivia would be appalled at my lack of knowledge of what is happening in the world. I just can't figure out how I can fit one more piece of information into my head without something important sneaking out!
So, if you are on top of the world and national news--how do you do it?