Work Culture

SimTower Taught Me Fundamental Truths About Office Life

This sounds crazy, but a lot of what I learned about work culture and marketing strategy came from playing SimTower as a child.

I will never forget the wrath of my SimTower tenants when I created hastily placed elevators with no schedule. You want to piss people off? Make an elevator that follows no rhyme or reason during rush hour.

Until I recently revisited SimTower on Wikipedia (rabbit hole!) I didn’t realize elevator management was actually a key component of the game:

SimTower, which was built around an elevator simulation program, places a strong emphasis on good elevator management.


I was a kid – I didn’t understand the concept of rush hour, but I quickly learned to understand the complexity of society. Playing the game planted that seed that everything in an office is connected in a careful, deliberate manner.

Every department in a company can easily fall into a silo, and often one of the most surprising schisms is between sales and marketing. Only at one company (one!) have I joined a marketing team that frequently talked to sales.

I had a manager a couple years ago who literally forbade me from talking to sales. He said “they’ll figure it out” and it was a “waste of time” talking to them. Well, as a web manager I need to talk to sales! How else do I know if I’m sending over good leads (among many other things)?

This manager was eventually fired and it turned out, no, we were not sending over quality leads. Only when we were able to work closely with sales were we able to give them what they needed.

In the ten years of my career I’ve reminded myself to keep in good contact with Sims from every department, and I think this has served me well.

Shifting gears here, I read a piece in the Times this week about the future state of elevators in busy office buildings in the era of COVID-19 and beyond. The challenge is getting all of those people up in a non-petri dish way.

SimTower never had a simulation for a pandemic, however, they threw enough disasters our way to prepare us for anything. As Carrie Bradshaw would say, “I couldn’t help but wonder” when I read this article what a SimTower of 2020 would look like.

Would there be a SimZoom expansion pack, complete with Sims who can “see you but can’t hear you” or Sims who join the meeting a week late?

One can only hope.

Discrimination Work Culture

A Gross Gesture of Me Too Failure

In my past there was an incident where a man in a very senior position explained how I was soon going to have data flowing down my throat, which he demonstrated with a gesture mimicking himself jerking off into his own throat, mouth wide open. 

I was deeply uncomfortable and grossed out, but honestly I was unsure if he understood how truly heinous that gesture seemed in a closed room with a female mere feet from his nasty face. 

I never had much contact with this man, so I can’t be sure if something like that would have happened again. He is a highly conservative, very religious man who holds President Trump in high regard. Making assumptions, I’m guessing he’s not on the lookout for inappropriate behavior in the workplace. However, this also doesn’t mean he had ill intentions here.

Incidents like this aren’t easy to articulate, and I feel the Me Too movement still hasn’t given us a clear answer on how to handle this stuff. Does he deserve to be fired for doing something like this? Does he deserve to be reprimanded? Should it even be mentioned if there is no other indication of harassment? Is it simply a question of him being completely clueless of his own actions? 

The thing is, I NEVER hear men tell stories like this. I have never heard a man tell a story anything remotely like this. I am guessing that even if this disgusting gesture was completely accidental, he would somehow refrain from performing such a gesture to another man. 

Ultimately, I didn’t do anything about it. From my perspective at the time, there was nothing I could have done about it. Even though it’s my belief that he didn’t intend to harass or offend me, I still felt grossed out every time I looked at him and always wondered if there was more to it. 

In day-to-day life, I don’t believe Me Too has changed much for the average American working at the average company. Most men don’t believe they’re at fault, because they would never assault or rape someone. And it’s true – most men wouldn’t. But I haven’t witnessed any real action to get men to understand how uncomfortable it is when they make jerking-off-down-your-throat comments. You don’t have to be a rapist to be inappropriate and make women uncomfortable. 

This is where Me Too has failed. Anyone and everyone lost their livelihoods in the face of unchecked allegations, and it’s a shame because it’s a serious problem that still needs serious conversations. 

Photo by Mihai Surdu via Unsplash

Discrimination Work Culture

Combat Racism by Having Uncomfortable Conversations With Family and Friends

I had an encounter with a coworker over racism in 2016 that’s stuck with me and resurfaced in my mind since the George Floyd murder and protests.

I’d read a piece in the Harvard Business Review talking about creating a more diverse workforce and how it isn’t as simple as bringing in more minorities and women to interview. The premise was that if you have five white men and one black person to interview for a job, it’s a phenomenon of difference. People are generally more comfortable choosing something from the majority than an outlier so the minority is still unlikely to get hired. If you have multiple minorities or women to interview it’s less likely they’ll suffer from this “outsider” phenomenon. 

I repeated this to my team simply because I thought it was interesting, and with the company HQ being an hour north of a small city, the workforce was very white. The developer who happened to be sitting nearby somewhat aggressively said, “Well what if all the best candidates happen to be white?” 

This guy was typically soft spoken and not what I’d characterize as an aggressive individual by any means. I was taken aback by his reaction.

I calmly explained that I didn’t think there was anything wrong with our current skill set in the company, and in fact I really love the company. It’s the only company I’ve worked for that is very active in employee appreciation and engagement. However, I was used to working in London, which is highly diverse. One of the first things that stood out when I moved from a major city to a small town was how white the workforce and leadership tended to be. 

BUT. When you don’t have people from different genders, cultures, races, etc., how are their perspectives supposed to be heard? As a global company, how can we truly be global if our workforce only represents the rural Midwest?

The developer got angry. He repeated that there was nothing wrong with people in the county where HQ was, and why should they be punished if they happen to be the best for the job? 

I didn’t know what to say. I hadn’t encountered this type of underlying racism suddenly and aggressively thrown out into the open. He was extremely offended at the thought of outsiders taking jobs away from the hardworking people he’d grown up with, and couldn’t even begin to see the benefit a different perspective could bring to a business.

Fast forward four years, and here we are having these same conversations. It’s so encouraging that for the first time, much of the population seems to get it now. My main concern is what happens when the fire calms. What happens when people stop sharing lists on what books to read, where to donate, what black businesses to support?

It’s not enough to educate ourselves and donate to causes. We need to learn how to have uncomfortable conversations with people we love, work with, associate with. I don’t think most people are ready to do this. 

Anecdotally, what I’m seeing on social media among friends and family (as opposed to large-scale “detached” social media like Twitter) is a continued lack of willingness to confront the many forms of thinly-veiled racism. Many of my friends are posting about Black Lives Matter, but they aren’t confronting the people who are posting racism masked as conservatism. 

I have one friend in particular who is white, hyper-conservative and posts only about black people who say there is no such thing as white privilege and discrimination. He’s one of those people whose persona is “see, here’s a black person saying this is fake news.” He’s outraged about the riots but completely unconcerned about the murder of black people or George Floyd. 

It’s not OK. It’s fine to have differing political views and not want to make waves with friends/family/coworkers, but allowing this sort of racism to continue to flow around us is not OK.

I’m not saying we need to start fights with these people, but we do need to start conversations and use our collective voices to let them know it’s unacceptable. Staying silent negates every financial contribution and book read.

Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash