Category Archives: Commentary

Andrea Smith Women in CE Award

Women in CE 2015 Legacy Awards


Those of you who know me know I began my career as a newswriter and producer at ABC News in the early 80’s and started covering the world of technology sometime in 1994. At that time there very few women in tech, not journalists and certainly not the decision-makers at the tech companies I was interviewing.

Back then, mentoring and “leaning in” was not a trend. There were no women to turn to to ask advice, to help with connections or to propel you forward. This was a journey I made myself, digging in each and every day and trying to prove to people I could do the job.

There were times I was the only woman on a panel of tech journalists, and certainly the only one in the ladies room at tech conferences. That’s why the Women in CE organization is so important to me.

Founded by the amazing Carol Campbell; it lets me give back. There’s not always time for talking with people and sharing my experiences in journalism and what led me on my career path but the Women in CE conference every June spearheaded by Carol is the one event I always make time for.

Women in CE is focused on empowering women, building networks and supporting career opportunities across the breadth of the consumer electronics industry. There are tools and resources for members to interact, exchange ideas, educate, and empower each other.

I have been on panels about mentoring, conducted social media makeovers for women looking to get ahead, and chatted with women who had simple questions or needed a sounding board. My favorite piece of advice that I’ve shared over the years came from my husband, not another women who was helping in my career. He taught me to “proceed until apprehended.” In other words, stop asking for permission to do something and just do it. It’s the best piece of advice I ever got and he reminds me of that mantra to this day.

This year I was both honored and privileged to receive a Women in CE Legacy Award at an event at CES 2015. To be recognized by my peers – a group of women – is an accomplishment I am deeply proud of.

As I said at the event, I’m happy to wait in line for the ladies room at CES. It’s simply another way of sharing the space with a group of smart, talented, professional women.
Eternal thanks to Carol Campbell for all she does for so many people.

Below is a video overview of the event in Las Vegas.

This Mom Melted the Hearts of Fellow Travelers


There are two things sure to bring a frown to the face of an airline traveler; notice of a flight delay and a passenger with a baby heading towards your row. So, when a woman carrying a small baby in a pouch on her chest made her way into the row ahead of mine on a flight last week, the other passengers near me and I all looked at each other with that look; “Oh no,” we said with our eyes, “a baby!”

The lesson she taught me made me realize that I don’t have to wait to be asked to help, I should offer help and assistance if I can. In fact, we could all be a little more considerate and thoughtful of people traveling with young kids, especially during the busy holiday travel season. Read my whole story on the Huffington Post.

What my Kitty Taught me About Love on Valentine’s Day


It’s Valentine’s Day and men and women everywhere are scurrying around trying to find just the right gift or card to show their special someone they care. Some turn to chocolates, some roses, but do you really know what your sweetie loves? Do you know deep down, in your heart, their likes, dislikes, what makes them happy and what they like to eat?

This Valentine’s Day I am one step closer to understanding how to figure that out. Today we said good-bye to our beloved kitty, Gryffen, essentially breaking our hearts in the process. But it was time, and he told us so.

The fact is, in the 14 years we had the honor of having him in our lives, he pretty much told us everything he needed. I like this food, I don’t like that one, I want to go on the porch, I want you to wake up and feed me, I love you. You get the picture. He couldn’t speak to us, but he conveyed his wishes, wants and desires in ways many humans never can.

Or maybe we do and the other person simply isn’t hearing it. When Gryffen didn’t like a particular type or flavor of food, we took it away and gave him something else. And then Matt would write it down so we never bought it again. Spoiled cat? Maybe, but the point is we wanted him to eat. He had thyroid issues and was getting too thin. If he didn’t eat, it worried us.

We came to know his likes which were basically; if I’m on one side of the door, I want to be on the other. If you’re watching TV, I want to sit right between you and cuddle. So we listened for his meow. He loved to sleep curled up in the sun on our screened-in porch. Did he want to go out? Did he want to come in? All he had to do was come into our office, meow once or twice, and one of us (literally) pussy-whipped humans would get up and follow him. If he led us to the door, then out he went. If he went to his food or his water, guess it’s time to eat.

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The point is we were ready and attuned to listen to his cues. Ok, maybe we were slaves to our kitty but he really gave as much love as he got. One whistle from Matt and he would come running like a devoted dog. He slept at the foot of Matt’s bed every night, slept in the bed when he went away to college and then somehow, he knew when Matt was coming home and waited at the window for him. They simply got each other.

Sure, it’s easy to ask someone, “Are you ok”? Not so easy with a cat. Chances are the person you ask might not be able to share his or her feelings with you, or may be afraid to let you know what they’re really thinking. Our Griffy always let us know, and we like to think we were always responsive, trying to meet his needs.

The Internet is filled with cat videos and GIFs of all the ways cats rule our lives. But truthfully, I think they’re just trying to teach us to open our hearts and our ears and learn to listen to each other as well as we do to our beloved pets.

So this Valentine’s Day as we tend our broken hearts over the emptiness in our lives, I’m taking time to open my heart and start listening more to my family and friends. That way we can communicate and know what we need from each other without ever really having to speak.

May you bask in sunshine forever, Griffy!

Sony’s PS4; Perspective From my Favorite Game Tester


In all the years I’ve been covering video games, I’ve had one constant tester in my life; my son Matt. I could always count on him to pop in the latest game and take it for a spin. He told me the good, the bad, the truly sucky, and more often than not declared he needed further testing and had to take it to a friend’s house.

I’ve noticed in the last few years he’s settled into a routine. Certain games – like multiplayer – need to be played on the Xbox 360, while others are better on the PS3. Of course some games are available for only one console so that pretty much dictates where they’re played. Since he still enjoys gaming in his downtime, I thought it only fitting to ask for his thoughts on the new PlayStation 4, Sony’s new gaming console.

 

Let me set the scene. I was at work Tuesday evening — working until 11pm — when my mother called me with great news! She wanted to let me know she had brought home the new PS4 with eight games; however I couldn’t’t play any because I was at work. It was as if she was torturing me on purpose. She said she’d wait for me.

 

When I got home that night I immediately took everything she had brought home and with a big smile on my face, hooked everything up for her.

 

At that moment I decided I needed to play every game given to her that night so I could see how the PS4 compared to PS3 and Xbox 360. After all, it’s been seven years since PS3 came out.

 

I hooked it up and got everything connected very easily but then ran into a problem. Where was the power button? I ran my entire hand over the console before bing – a noise associated with the startup of the system filled the air and it came to life. To this day I still don’t know what I touched. Not thrilled with the new positioning.

 

I started with Battlefield 4, a fictional war game set in present day. I was blown away by this game. Get it? The graphics were so crisp and clear. The noises made me feel as if I really was the character gearing up to go to war. Everything this game offers is fantastic. Battlefield is known for its game content in which the entire world is destroyable. No matter what you shoot it will blow up. This along with the sound of the game made for one incredible experience.  

 

At this point I took a break and focused my attention on the console itself. The new controller is by far the best controller they have made so far. All of the buttons work cleanly and everything feels like it’s in the right place. The previous controller felt cheap – as if it would break any second. The new one is wider and it has a little more weight to it. This may be because they introduced a touch pad for extra entertainment during gaming.

 

I am not a fan of the startup menu. It seems very cluttered and there’s no way for you to control what you want and where you want it. The most previous game you have played shows up in front while everything gets pushed back. Finding the settings proved difficult for my mother who wanted to change her email address.

 

I really am a fan of gaming consoles. I’ve been a huge Xbox fan for most of my life. I have that in my bedroom and the PS3 is in the family room since we use the Blu-ray player for DVD’s. PS4 is a vast improvement for Sony over the PS3 and quite frankly over the 360 as well. I look forward to trying that out too!

 

Matt PS4

So there you have it – one gamer’s first impressions. Overall I have to say I like the new controller, it makes it easier for me to use. Sony said a million consoles were purchased in the first 24 hours it was on the market and it’s on track to become one of the company’s most successful product launches. There are reports of a few defective units that Sony is looking into but overall, we’re quite impressed with the new console and looking forward to the gaming companies learning how to create content for the new hardware.

 

 

Congrats Class of 2013, You’re Starting Your Career Already in Debt


Time magazine is out with a sobering statistic for this year’s graduates; the typical college grad will leave school owing nearly as much money as they’ll probably make in their entire first year of full-time employment.

That is, of course, if they’re lucky enough to find full-time work. On average, according to the Fidelity Investments Study, graduating seniors will come out of school owing $35,200.

Balance that with the fact the average annual salary for the graduating class of 2012 was $44,455 and you have a real national problem.

I use the 2012 stats because my son — who is currently living at home — is living the life of the “average” college grad. Yes, he’s lucky enough to have a full-time job and he’s actually working in the sports management field he studied. But he’s living 15 miles out of New York City making less than the average salary given above.

He’s also not getting any benefits since he’s working for a very small business. The saving grace is under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act he can stay on our medical benefits for a few more years. There’s not a whole lot of extra cash left for buying a new car or getting a place of your own.

As the article points out, many kids today are taking any job just to pay the bills. After all, once those loan payments start, they don’t stop for many, many years.

Our son’s girlfriend, who wanted to go on to grad school, is finding she can’t since she already has looming debt from college. She also can’t find a job doing what she studied because most positions in her desired field require a graduate degree. Instead, she’s working full time in retail, making less than she owes.

Indeed, many students need a graduate degree to pursue a career in fields such as psychology and education. But how are they supposed to pay for grad school when they’re already in debt up to their eyeballs? Simply adding more debt is not the answer.

As parents, you want to do everything you can to helps your kids. We paid for much of our son’s tuition but asked him to contribute some by taking out loans so he’d have a sense of responsibility towards his education. And we’re not alone. The study shows 85% of recent grads contributed to their college tuition and expenses. 81% worked during school or over the summer to help out with expenses.

So the part that really burns me about this study is the suggestion that “better-informed students would make wiser choices.” Their research suggests “39% of recent grads said they would have planned differently if they had understood how much debt would pile up.”

I’m just not sure how you can plan differently. When the market tanked in 2008 and people started losing jobs along with their investment accounts, many students looked to state schools to save their parents some money. But when everyone is in the same boat, competition becomes stiff. Financial aid and scholarship money can only be divvied up so many times.

Their suggested “tips” for planning for college include planning (saving) earlier, controlling costs while in school and perhaps choosing a major that will better impact your career goals.

I can’t imagine that in today’s economy, people aren’t thinking about and planning for the skyrocketing costs of college early on. And while it’s always great to choose a major that will yield a higher income, these kids will be working for the next four decades of their lives at least. I think they deserve to enjoy what they’re doing and work in a field they’re passionate about.

I’m not sure what the answer is – I’m still trying to figure out how to co-exist with two 20-somethings who desperately want a place of their own. I do, however, think it’s time for a real discussion about the outrageously high cost of a college education.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.