Episode #62 Women in the IT Workplace with Cat Lam

When it comes to women in the IT workplace, Cat Lam is here as living proof that it doesn’t take anyone especially talented, brainy, or extra-special to go into business for themselves as an independent IT contractor or freelancer. There is a way that you can use your current expertise, make a bunch more money, and have a whole lot more control over your own time and career.

This year marks her 12th year as an independent IT contractor / freelancer. She now call the shots. The day she became self-employed, and got that first contract, she instantly more than doubled her income, and was 100% accountable for her own career. Now, she assists others in finding their own way in that transition.

We speak about her career evolution, how she helps those starting out in an IT workplace, especially women going through the negotiation process, and the value of developing multiple income streams, no matter your industry.

In our conversation about negotiation and income equality, Jen mentioned the 3/5ths compromise, read more about that here.


  • “I’ve actually had to learn a lot of stuff on my own.” – Cat Lam
  • “Being in IT, there aren’t a lot of “people” people, so if you have the soft skills you will be that much better than the rest of your peers.” – Cat
  • “Sometimes being a freelancer with multiple clients is more secure than having one job, because if you lose one of them, it’s not like a pink slip and all your income is gone.” – Jen
  • “It’s so easy online now to read bad reviews.” -Jen
  • “The art of the negotiating to being able to read people and figure out what is important to them in order to get what you want.” – Cat
  • “Pair your passion with money making potential, then you get to do what you love almost on somebody else’s dime.” – Cat

To connect with Cat Lam, follow her on her blog at, and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.

Remember you can highlight any text in this post and share it, give it a try!

Cat Lam 11Cat Lam is living proof that it doesn’t take anyone especially talented, brainy, or extra-special to go into business for themselves as an independent IT contractor or freelancer. There is way that you can use your current expertise, make a bunch more money, and have a whole lot more control over your own time and career.

When she moved from accounting into the IT workplace, it meant a big change for her. When you sign up for Oracle, or any consulting company for that matter, you sign up for 100% travel. It was fun at the beginning. But eventually, you start to schedule your life months in advance. Marriage meant a big change, and a break from consulting to work briefly with her husband and in the fitness industry. She grew bored of that and returned to her previous work as her own boss.

This year marks her 12th year as an independent IT contractor / freelancer. The day she became self-employed, and got that first contract, she instantly more than doubled her income, and was finally accountable for her own career. Now, she assists others in finding their own way in that transition. 

Financial Fluency Episode #34: Line Item Veto

Today’s episode is called “Line Item Veto.” For those of us in the United States, that has a certain meaning. I found out this morning when I was talking to someone in the UK that they had no idea what that meant.

So let me explain it real quick. Here in the United States, we have our House and Senate, the Congress who make laws and make budgets but then those budgets get sent up to the Executive Branch and the Executive Branch has the power of veto. Here in the United States, the president does not have line item veto, they just have full veto which means they have to either accept or reject a budget completely the way the Congress sent it to them.

There used to be something called “Line Item Veto” for the president and currently 44 states still allow their governors to have line item veto. So what that means is Congress puts together this budget, it goes through both houses, if it gets passed, it gets sent to the governor and the governor can then go through line by line, item by item and accept or reject the pieces of the budget without accepting or rejecting the entire budget as a whole.

Well, let’s say they usually accept it. So they can accept the budget but reject a few things. The purpose of this is to get rid of bloated spending, pork barrel projects, things that don’t really belong in the budget for one reason or another.

At the national level here in the United States, they decided to pull that power from the president because they felt like there was too much risk of the president punishing political opponents by line item veto-ing their particular projects for their states and their constituents. For the President, he either has to accept or reject the whole thing.

Sometimes you’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater or you’re taking the baby and drinking the bathwater.

Okay, that was kind of a bad stretch on that analogy but it means that a lot of times things that you wouldn’t necessarily get passed on their own, gets squeezed into a budget either put in last minute or put in in a way that is not quite bad enough for them to reject the entire budget because the budget has to get through, there has to be money to spend but a lot of things go through that some people, at least, wouldn’t want in there.

You can listen in to the full podcast below

So how does this apply to your personal finances? Well, to be honest, it’s a little bit of a stretch except I love the idea of going through a budget line by line. Now what I’m talking about is not you actually making a budget with lots of lines in it, I’m talking about going through all of your transactions over the last month, couple of months, if you’re really ambitious it can even be the whole year, and seeing what you have spent on in the past that you are going to veto from now on. How about that?

My Favorite App

A great tool to do this, my favorite tracking app which I personally use, There are a lot of different tracking tools out there, what I like about Mint is that you can put all of your different accounts in there. I hook them up to everything, personal and business alike, so I can see this as the one place where I see the whole of my financial picture all in one place at one time.

I have my mortgage in there, car loans, our credit cards are in there, business accounts, personal accounts, anything that we own that I can put a value to. I did even put in values for other things, different collections of different kinds, anything that had a significant value if we were to liquidate it, that’s kind of how I use it, I put in there because it also gives you your net worth which is great.

In terms of this line item veto that I want you to do a really neat function that has is that you can hit an “All Transactions” button and it will show you all your transactions across all accounts and all categories, chronologically. What’s neat about this is I feel like sometimes when people look at their personal and at their business and at different categories and different budgets there are ways that some transactions can hide when you’re only looking either at one account or one category at a time that you may not take into consideration when you’re looking at the whole.

So this way, if you go onto, hook up all your accounts; retirement accounts everything, let’s just see everything in one place at one time and then hit that “All Transactions” button and you can either print out the downloadable Line Item Veto pdf, download the PDFs or if you want to be old school, just take out a legal pad, and start going through every item line by line, every single transaction that you’ve made; deposits, spending, credit cards, everything.

KonMarie for Finances

Now, this is where I’m going to go a little off the beaten path. I recently read a book called, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” It’s by Marie Kondo. They call it the KonMarie Method and I’ll be honest, I have not managed to completely KonMarie my house, I would love to and it’s definitely something I want to work up to.

I have two kids and two dogs and a husband, yes I will get there eventually but I’ve managed to do it in little segments so far, like my jeans. I KonMarie-d my jeans. But the point behind it if you haven’t read the book, one of my favourite parts of this book was the idea of systematically taking every single thing you own, every item in your home, holding it in your hand and seeing if it sparks joy. Now that might sound a little esoteric, a little “woo-woo”, a little emotional for you and it doesn’t quite exactly apply to finance because there are some things that may spark no joy whatsoever, but which we still have to do for one reason or another. Regardless I still like having that criteria in there.

Here is what I want you to do. As you go through item by item, transaction by transaction through your “All Transactions”, I want you to take a look at each line and ask yourself:

  • Is this an absolute necessity for my family?
  • Is it keeping us warm and fed and healthy?
  • Is it doing something important which would cause my life to be significantly diminished without it?
  • Is it something that helps me make money in some way?
  • Does it support my job, or my business?
  • Is it a tool that I use?” and then the last criteria I want you to take is,
  • Does this spark joy?

Looking at those three basic things (do I need it, does it help earn income and does it spark joy), really if it does any of those, it’s a “yes”. If it doesn’t do any of those, I want you to take a good hard look at it, think about that item. The items that I want you to write down are the ones that don’t fit into any of those three criteria. So if it does not sustain your family in some very significant, real and positive way, if it does not help you to earn income in some way and if it does not spark joy in your life, ask yourself, “Do you really need it?”

If it’s something that recurs and you don’t need it, cut it right now while you’re doing it, just stop, go cancel that subscription, change that thing, get rid of it right now. You’ll feel a new lightness come over you. You just decluttered a financial drain on your system. If it is not a recurring charge, if it’s something you bought once but regret, is it something that you could return to the store and get a credit for it? Is it something that you could sell on eBay or sell in some other way? Is there some way you could get rid of it and recoup some of the cost?

Is It REALLY Worth Your Time to Sell it

This one can be a really tricky one. I did an episode a while ago with Lisa Sharp from the Clear Calm Space and on the episode I brought up this idea of selling things as you declutter them and she said there’s a fine line because sometimes people think that they will be able to recoup some of the money and that makes them hold on to it. They put it in a closet, thinking,

Oh one of these days, I’ll get time to list it on eBay and do all of that

But they never do which means they have a closet of clutter. They’d be better off just getting rid of it. As you do this, if you find any purchases that you regret, ask yourself, “Will I feel better just getting rid of it or do I want to go ahead and try listing it, try selling it, try doing something? Is it worth my time? Will I be able to recoup enough of it to not only be worth some of what I paid for but really just to be worth the time that it’ll take to photograph and list it right now?”

Could you make more than that doing something else? Like if you’re going to sell some books on Amazon, how much do you really get for used books? Are you going to spend 25-30 minutes, taking pictures, writing the description, listing it and then get $3 for the book? That’s not worth it, just give the book away, just take it to Goodwill, take it to a used bookstore. Give it to someone as a present if you think they’d like it.

If it’s something like, say, a handbag and you keep thinking, “I’m going to use it” or a dress that doesn’t quite fit right but it was really expensive. If it’s something that’s brand name enough, do a quick search, look up what people are getting for them, especially if you’ve not worn it much and see is it worth it? Could you get $100 for it? Well $100 is probably worth 15-20 minutes of your time to go and take some photos and list it. If it’s less than what you get paid or pay yourself hourly then really question whether if it’s worth the time. You might feel better just getting rid of it.

Now that you’re doing this, try at least once a month. I recommend doing at least every quarter if you can and if you’re super ambitious, go through a whole year. Even though in some ways it might be depressing to see the things you’ve spent money on that you don’t now think were worth it, it also can be really liberating because you can put that information to work from now on and not spend that money on those things anymore.

The problem is that a lot of times we have those experiences, it’s unpleasant to realise that you made a purchase that you regret. So rather than thinking about it and being intentional about it in the future, we just kind of ignore it, push it aside, try to pretend it never happened, just put it somewhere else. But then I think that makes us susceptible to that same kind of purchase again in the future.

We ALL Do This

Have you ever bought something again that you once regretted for some reason? Anything? Courses, clothes that don’t quite fit, things you’re going to grow into.. You know, I feel like we all have these things, maybe, weight loss programs. I’m thinking of myself here. I have done a lot of things since having babies to lose those last few baby pounds and a lot of them didn’t work.

I kind of wished I hadn’t spent that money and yet I would do it again another time and then another time I’d try something else. I don’t do that anymore. I’m stopping because the results that I’ve gotten have not been worth it and the money that I’ve spent, in the end, you know, I could have put that to better use.

If you have anything like that, maybe it’s online courses. A lot of people do repeatedly buy online courses now because it’s such a huge industry. We all want to be learning things all the time and we can learn a certain amount from books but with the courses, there are these specific things that we want to get from them and the sales pages can be so persuasive, they can have so much influence over you that you get in there and once you’ve bought it, once the purchase is made, the money is spent, you might get distracted.

A lot of the courses have great material but what you’re really buying is the experience of going through it with the other people in it and getting some of that attention from the person leading the course, right? You want to learn directly from them and a lot of them give you lifetime access so you’re like, “Well, you know, some things have come up. I’ve not been able to really keep up with it but I can always go back.” How often do you go back? If you’ve bought courses before and haven’t gone back, stop and go back now. Go back and take stock of them, look at all of them.

Ask yourself how much ROI you got on them, how much return on that investment. Could you get more? Could you go back right now and squeeze more out of that investment by revisiting that course?

Do that before you buy another course. Make sure you get something out of it, enough out of it and I’m just speaking from experience here myself because I’ve had a few times where something’s come up, one of my kids have gotten sick, I haven’t been able to finish something and I think I’ll go back and do it and some of them I’ve never gone back to. So, that’s some of my decluttering that I’m doing right now is I’m going to go through and get rid of the things on my hard drive, things I’ve downloaded.

There’s so much information out there now that there are times when free stuff that just takes up space somewhere isn’t worth it either. It isn’t worth cluttering up your space with something just because it’s free and might someday help you.

Just In Time, Not Just In Case

One thing that I really like from some of the productivity books that I’ve read is this idea of “just in time” instead of “just in case” and it came from looking at the Toyota model for manufacturing where they set up the companies where the parts that were needed and the things that had to happen, these different process used, things would arrive just in time for the next thing to happen.

That way, they wouldn’t keep tons of inventory just in case they needed it and that saved them so much money both on buying the extra inventory and then on the storage for it and then if it was things that perished like rubber pieces, belts and tubes, they wouldn’t lose the money on the items perishing. So it saved a lot of money, it cut out a lot of the waste and bloat in the U.S car manufacturing industry and the U.S car manufacturing industry learned from that, they learned a lot from the Japanese model. Again, that takes us back to this cutting the waste, cutting the bloat, line item veto.

You’ve got the information. If this sounds like something that could help you out, do it, go and do it, do it right now. Sign up for, print out the PDF or get a legal pad or something with enough pages that you can really go through and write all those things down and ask yourself how much you’re getting out of this. Yes, you’re investing a little time in this but you might make some really good discoveries and take some really good action that can save you a lot of money that will be worth the time of sitting down and going through all of your transactions, one by one.

If you like this episode, if you like any of the episodes, please subscribe to the channel so that you’ll get it every week and I would love for you to come over to our Facebook group. Join the group and join the discussions there. I’d love to hear what happened when you did this, how it went for you, did you discover you’d forgotten about or make some connections you’ve never realised, have an “a-ha”, I would love to hear it. So, join me over on the Facebook group and I will talk to you soon!

Financial Fluency Episode #30: Mind The Gap

Today, I want to talk about a book that I’ve been reading recently, or rather, just a chapter really. The book is called, “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown, the chapter that I really like is Chapter 5, it’s called “Mind the Gap” and it’s looking at the gap between aspirational and practiced values.

What she wants people to do in this chapter is pay attention to the space between where they’re standing now and where they want to be and aligning their values with their actions.

I feel like having children has made me more acutely aware of when I spout something off to them, some kind of high-value type of thing and then inside of my own head, I start worrying about them seeing me do something where I’m not living up to that value that I just espoused to them.

Before having kids, you know you can kind of get away with these things, having values, maybe your actions are a bit different but you’re not really being witnessed as much. You may witness yourself but you can also ignore it yourself.

With those two sets of eyes watching almost all of my moves all the time, it really makes me aware of my own hypocrisy and it also really makes me want to change it.

It makes me want to be the person who does all the things that I tell them they should always do, right? And I’m sure I’m not the first person to say this. I think a lot of people feel that when you have children and you’re trying to teach them values, it makes you more acutely aware of whether or not you’re living up to those values.

You can listen in below and Tweet it out hereTweet: I'm listening to @jturrell talk values and finances - join me here:

So, How Does This Relate to our Finances?

Here’s how it relates to our finances. Money is our culturally accepted system of valuation and it’s a perfect place to examine the difference between our aspirational and practiced values.

So one way, I think, is a great way to look at this is to ask yourself, “What things do you believe to be most important in life? What is most important to you?” Take out a pen and a paper and write at least your top 3 things down. For me, the things that pop straight into my mind were family, creativity, and contribution. Yours maybe something more like security, spirituality, eradicating malaria, you know, like the Gateses, maybe.

So anyways, whatever those first 3 values are that pop into your head, write those down and now let’s go to your money tracking app. If you don’t have one, quickly download or something like it, hook up all of your accounts and then let’s go through your recent transactions.

I think it’s great to do this both with your recent transactions and your calendar

Our time and our money, those show what we truly value in our life regardless of what we say, where we’re putting our time and our money, that speaks volumes. Tweet that

Looking into those accounts and this isn’t about guilt or shame in any way, obviously, we’re talking about Brene Brown, this is not about shame. It’s about releasing shame and releasing guilt to make sure you don’t feel that guilt and shame when we’re looking at your transactions.

Pretend for a moment that this is the transaction of somebody else, some other person and you are trying to find out about them. Pretend that you are in a mystery movie and this is what you have to go on to figure out what kind of person this person is, maybe you’re the detective, that’s a great idea!

So, you’re the detective, you find this sheet of transactions and you want to know what this person is all about, what are they like. So go through transaction by transaction, set up some categories for your top 3 values and see how much goes towards those.

When you’re looking at it too, what other big categories are coming up? What are your big areas that you’re spending in? And when we look at transactions, it may be hard to decide exactly which categories some go in, but I see things as like saving and investing and putting stuff towards retirement, that is you valuing the future, your family, your stability.

Here’s A Common One

For a lot of people, a big category that comes up is “Debt”. Again, no guilt, no shame, let’s just be scientists, explorers, detectives and look at what does the debt get you? What are you getting in exchange for the debt that you’re taking on.

For a lot of people, the biggest debt that they take on in life are things like their home which could be again, family, security, that kind of thing. Cars, most people need cars in order to get to and from work if they work on any kind of job that’s outside of the home so that could be going towards your income capacity, your capacity to earn income and that’s pretty important.

Another thing that a lot of people take on debt for is their education. And again, education, in some ways there’s a measurable ROI in terms of if it leads directly to a job. So say you go to Law school, you become a lawyer, that has a measurable ROI. You’re going to pay that off through the job, potentially. Becoming a doctor, you know, there’s a lot of things like that but education has so many other benefits and facets to it.

I went to a Liberal Arts college, I went to Bryn Mawr College and I was a Creative Writing Major. That has not had a directly measurable ROI in my life but it has really gone towards one of my big values, which is creativity. I do like to write, I like to write songs, I like to write music, I like to do podcasts, I like to write articles, I like to write books even though I have not yet finished one on my own.

I’m stating it here because that’s one of my values. I would like to be an author, I would like to complete a book. I’ve done some e-book type writing but not a real actual novel and I would also like to write a book about women and finance. I feel like I’m learning so much on this show, there’s so much fascinating stuff going on that I could see this some day going towards a book.

So, me putting in the time and money to do this podcast besides the fact that I get to interact with so many amazing women on the interviews and get to hang out like this, talking to a microphone. I don’t know, I like microphones. I feel creative when I’m doing this, it’s fun. This is me investing in some of my values.

Is The Debt Worth It?

But getting back to the debt question. So we have the home, the car, the education, those are pretty massive things that people go into debt for often but you’re putting it towards an asset, like a home or a car, you know. Cars don’t last forever but still. We have a 1998 Subaru which is, honestly, we are trying to drive it into the ground, I think it’s going to last forever. We may never be able to replace this car because it is lasting so long but back to the point.

There are other things that we go into debt for and let’s take a look at those because on the one hand, there’s the thing that you get for going into debt. If you put it on a credit card, you’re buying a specific thing, then there’s also the interest that we pay on it. So depending how long that interest goes out, it makes that thing more and more valuable. Valuable in terms of how much money you’ve put towards it because it may be, I don’t know, a $50 item but if it takes you a really long time to pay it off, you could pay $20 more on it which makes it now worth $70 instead of $50. So really, even if it was on sale, by buying it with debt, you’ve gotten a bad deal. So what are you valuing by buying that thing with debt?

  • Are you valuing immediate gratification?
  • Was it something you needed immediately for some reason?
  • Were there extenuating circumstances that made it very time sensitive?

Again no guilt, no shame, let’s just do some exploration here because I put things on credit cards plenty of times. My college credit card story is one that I’m going to tell at some point, I don’t think I’ll tell it right now because I like these solo episodes pretty short and that one gets a little involved but suffice to say that I had one of those first credit card experiences where no one had ever really explained to me how the “magic”, of compound interest works when the interest is credit card interest and not interest that you’re earning.

There are some lessons I wish I’d learned before I got my first credit card. I learned them with my first credit card but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t put things on a credit card since that I wish I hadn’t. I think we all do, we all do it at different times throughout our lives and there are different reasons for doing it.

Elementary, Dear Watson

So, again just exploring, looking at it, if this was a story, if you were a private detective who found this in a hotel room of a suspect and you were trying to determine what was important to this person, to figure out how to follow them and what their next move would be, what would you say were the top three most important things to this person based on their financial transactions?

And once you do that, take a look at how that compares to those top three values that you wrote down. Is there a gap between them? What is the gap between your aspirational values in terms of finance and your practice values in terms of finance?

And the next step after you look at that is to start taking some actions to get them more aligned, figure out what are some things you can do to shift things in your finances? What are some actions that you can take right now and moving forward that would help to align those aspirational values and practice values?

Let’s Keep On Talking

Okay, that is my show for today. I’m going to keep it pretty short. I’m going to thank Brene Brown even though I’ve never personally interacted with her because her book is fantastic. I feel like women and shame and money are such hot topics and Brene, if you happen to hear this somehow, if I share it and you’re tagged then you listen to it, I would love to have you on the show someday to talk about shame and money because I feel like this is one place where a lot of people feel a lot of shame especially around debt and loss and making financial decisions that don’t pay out the way that they think they should.

If you would like to join the conversation about aspirational versus practised values in terms of money and shame and guilt and how we can release it and not attach all of that crap to our money, then go over to the Financial Fluency Facebook group and let’s talk about it, join the conversation. I’m loving that group right now, it’s still pretty small but we’re building and it’s really nice to have conversations over there.

And if you want even more in depth conversations and actual help and content from me, we also have my “Mastering Money Matters” monthly membership group which you can join. It’s relatively low price because I want it to be a pretty easy thing for people to get into, I don’t want you to go into more debt to work with me.

I recently had someone who joined the group tell me how surprised she was to find out that I do actually work with the women in the group. I do a free call for everyone, we have weekly blabs on Tuesdays and weekly co-working hours on Fridays where we all sit down and tackle our financial tasks. No one has to tell anyone else anything about their finances, it’s just that we’re being accountable and we’re making sure that we do the things that we want to get done that we say we want to get done. We’re trying to align our actions with our values.
Thank you.