Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Entrepreneurs Panel Profiles

I'm so excited about our upcoming panel discussion! I've been collecting more information about our panelists to help you get to know a bit more about them before next Tuesday.

Andrea Ridder, founder and CEO of Levelsix Marketing and Public Relations, has a vision for marketing the truth through creativity and innovation and powerful alliance-based business practices. Her passion is to help companies reach a higher level and truly develop their unique identity to stand out in the marketplace and achieve successes. In 2002, Levelsix began with a strong desire to create positive change through powerful messaging and the development of new business models that support creativity, freedom and growth of individuals. Andrea’s background in media buying/planning, promotional event planning, community relations, marketing and public relations allowed her to see more than enough subpar design coupled with dishonest messaging. She uses her unique abilities in understanding how people think to direct beautifully functional design and create messaging with an impact. Andrea believes in the power of collaboration and strongly encourages all clients to reach out the community, be cutting edge without scaring people (too much) and telling the truth of what you represent.

Kimberly Small serves as the Co-Owner and Vice President of Sales for TEXTBYREQUEST, a company offering clients mobile marketing solutions. Kimberly has a diverse professional background. After graduating from Indiana University in 1995, she served as a paralegal for a couple years with the initial intent of pursuing law school. She discovered an interest in creating marketing and promotional materials and had the opportunity to pursue that by working on an Employee Development catalog for Eli Lilly and Company. Realizing that the legal profession was no longer her career of choice, she later served in roles that allowed her to create events for both business and non-profit agencies while completing her MBA. Small is well connected within the Indianapolis area, supporting many charitable organizations and serving as the President of the networking group Friday Lunch Club Indianapolis, Inc. She and her husband Adam started TEXTBYREQUEST in July, 2007.

Ann Rockley is President of The Rockley Group, Inc, a consultancy that has an international reputation for developing customer-centric enterprise content management strategies and underlying information architecture. Rockley is a frequent contributor to trade and industry publications and a featured speaker at numerous conferences in North America and Europe.
She has been instrumental in establishing the fields of online documentation, single sourcing (content reuse), unified content strategies, and content management best practices. Rockley is co-chair of the OASIS DITA Enterprise Business Documents Subcommittee. Rockley led Content Management Professionals to a prestigious eContent 100 award in 2005. Rockley is also Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication and has a Master of Information Science from the University of Toronto. Rockley is the author of the best-selling book, “Managing Enterprise Content: A Unified Content Strategy” (New Riders Publishing ISBN 0-7357-1306-5).

Ann Clifford graduated from Indiana University with a BS in accounting. She worked for Price Waterhouse and the American College of Sports Medicine before beginning the first of several entrepreneurial ventures in 1987. Active in the local business community, she is a member of Indiana CPA Society, TechPoint, Venture Club of Indiana, National Association of Women Business Owners, CEO Focus, SHRM and HRACI. Today, as the founder of Safari Solutions, she and her team provide on-demand (outsource) recruiting services tailored toward the hiring needs of small businesses. Safari Solutions is an Indianapolis based HR consulting firm providing recruitment process outsourcing services to meet the specific hiring needs of small and mid-size companies. Over 200 business owners have benefited from the expertise of a Safari Solutions recruiting specialist for their hiring initiatives. For more information visit:

Rae Hostetler is the words behind the business at Hostetler Groth Marketing Communications. A former newscaster, Rae has worked in the public relations field for 15 years. She founded Hostetler Public Relations in 2000 after working in the marketing communications offices at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and Resort Condominiums International (the world’s largest timeshare exchange company). She graduated with a journalism degree from Indiana University and has taken classes toward an MBA degree from Butler University in Indianapolis. Rae is a board member of Dress for Success Indianapolis and Women’s Fund of Central Indiana.

I'm really looking forward to learning more about these dynamic women and their businesses and hope you are too!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Women & Entrepreneurship Panel

I've been a bit lax about updating the blog this month. Ah, the eternal juggling act of trying to do everything I want to do. If someone can figure out how to put more hours in the day or get by without sleep, I hope you'll share the secret with me!

Despite my lack up updates, I'm very excited about our topic this month - Entrepreneurship. I know, I have this recurring daydream where I walk out the door, leaving behind this job where I work for someone else, fulfill some else's vision, meet someone else's priorities and strike out on my own. Then I come to and realize that I like the security of having someone else pay me for my work and provide my benefits.

I truly admire those who have successfully struck out on their own. And I still do entertain this daydream, and like to hear about what it takes to be in business for yourself. Who knows? Maybe one day I will screw up my courage and take the plunge.

At our evening Discussion Group on June 24th, we'll hear from some brave souls who did take that risk, start their own businesses and succeed. I'm very excited about our panel. Over the next week I'll be providing more information about each of them. In the meantime, I've listed our panelists and provided links to their websites so you can learn more about their businesses.

Ann Clifford
President, Safari Solutions

Rae Hostetler
Co-Owner, Hostetler Groth Marketing Communications

Andrea Ridder
Owner, Levelsix Marketing & PR

Ann Rockley
President, The Rockley Group

Kimberly Small
Vice President of Sales, TEXTbyREQUEST

I'd like to invite anyone who has a story to share about what it's like to be in business for yourself to post it here. You don't have to be a panelist to share your experiences with our community. I'm looking forward to getting together with our discussion group "regulars" as well as seeing some new faces at next week's meeting.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

June Discussion Topic - Women & Entrepreneurship

Have you ever toyed with the idea of starting your own business? Have you wondered what it takes to strike out on your own and make a success of it? Then come and join us for the June Women & Hi Tech Discussion group meeting on Women & Entrepreneurship.

This month we will be taking advantage of a wonderful opportunity presented to us by Scott Able (aka The Content Wrangler) the organizer of the DocTrain Life Sciences conference. He have graciously offered to host our evening discussion group meeting; providing us with a meeting room, a speaker, and even an invitation to a complimentary cocktail reception prior to our meeting. The location for the meeting is the Crowne Plaza Hotel downtown at Union Station.

Our format for the evening session will be a bit different from our past meetings. Instead of our open discussion, I’m lining up a panel to share their experiences of going into business for themselves. I’m still finalizing the panel, so if you have a suggestion for a participant or if you’d like to participate yourself, please let me know. I’ll be posting profiles for all of our panelists.

In preparing for this month’s meeting I reached out to the LinkedIn community for advice on resources on the topic of Women & Entrepreneurship. I received such great recommendations that I wanted to share them all. So instead of limiting ourselves to one article, we’ll have lots to choose from. I’m continuing to get more responses and will post additional information as I receive it. If you have a recommendation, post it here for everyone to see.

Recommended Resources on Women & Entrepreneurship:

I’ll also be updating the Women & Hi Tech Community Site to add more resources, post discussion topics, and more. Please stop by, join in the conversations and share any other useful resources with the rest of us. I’m currently finalizing our panel for the event so if you or someone you know would like to join the panel, please let me know.

I’m looking forward to leaning more about this topic throughout the month. I hope you’ll share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below as well.

Morning Discussion Group:
Tuesday June 17th, 6:45 – 7:30 am
B Java Coffee and Tea5510 Lafayette Road (corner of Lafayette and 56th) on the Northwest side

Evening Discussion Group:
Tuesday June 24
6 pm – Cocktail reception
7 pm – Meeting
Crowne Plaza Hotel at Union Station
123 West Louisiana Street

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

5/27 Discussion Summary - Women & Leadership

Thanks to everyone who came to last night’s discussion group meeting. It was a very engaged group and a lively, thought-provoking conversation ensued. We focused our conversation around several questions. I’ve done my best to try and summarize all of the comments and contributions below. For those of you who weren’t able to attend, please chime in and share your thoughts in the comments section.

Do women and men have different leadership styles?
Our consensus was yes this is the case. In this month’s article Women and Men, Work and Power, Sara Levinson, President of NFL Properties Inc., said that she asked her team that very question. They told her the mere fact that she had asked for their opinion answered that question. This example was in line with our thoughts. Women were seen as having better “soft skills” and communication skills. Their focus tends to be on team building and relationships. Men tend to be more direct and focus on the goal – winning at all costs.

What strengths do women bring to leadership roles?
- Relationship building
- Focus on consensus
- Team building
- Mentoring skills
- Work together to find solutions to find the best result for everyone
- Can be more empathetic

What challenges do women face in taking on leadership roles?
Ironically, the biggest challenge we identified was – other women. We all agreed that women tend to be harder on other women. Rather than supporting one another and being happy to see another woman succeed, we’ve all seen the tendency to tear one another down. Some of us at the meeting freely admitted to having higher standards for women.

What was more difficult for us to pinpoint was the reasons behind this behavior. Pat Heim explores some theories in her book In the Company of Women: Indirect Aggression Among Women: Why We Hurt Each Other and How to Stop. One premise is the “power dead even rule”. Girls growing up are socialized to focus on developing relationships. They play house while boys play sports. There are no winners or “best” house player. Elevating one girl above the others can cause imbalance in the relationships and the other girls try to bring her back down to their level.

Another theory we explored is that many women feel they have to work harder and out perform their male counterparts to achieve the same career success. Therefore we judge other women using these same lenses. When we evaluate women in leadership they don’t simply have to be good or competent in their performance, we expect them to be stellar. This can lead us to be hyper critical of our female colleagues.

We also discussed whether it’s easier to come in as an outsider hired into a leadership role or to be promoted from within. In some ways, we felt that being hired into a leadership role might be the preferred route. You don’t have history with the group and the fact that you were chosen for the role could confer some degree of credibility. However, depending on the organization, if you are hired in as a leader, you could have to deal with resentment from those who have a history with the organization and feel as though they deserved the promotion.

What do women need to do to earn credibility as a leader?
The list we compiled was somewhat daunting. Intelligence/intellect was the first quality mentioned. First and foremost a woman has to demonstrate that she has the intellectual capabilities for the role. Next on the list was the ability to build an effective network. This network should include technical experts, mentors, champions as well as strong ties to senior leaders. Being politically savvy is essential. The ability to build an effective team by utilizing the skills and abilities of others, and delegating effectively was also seen as critical. In addition to building an effective team, it was also important to recognize their efforts and make them feel appreciated. Other qualities on the list included negotiation skills, mentoring, and the ability to make tough decisions.

What are the skills needed to be an effective leader (woman or man)?
- Effective communication skills
- Listening skills
- Ability to address issues as the occur
- Delegation skills
- Hiring smart people and empowering them
- Modeling the behaviors you want your team to demonstrate
- Humanizing employees (seeing them as people and not just “resources”)
- Compassion
- Adapting your style to meet the needs of those who report to you
- Trustworthiness
- Vision
- Ability to implement strategies to accomplish goals
- Ability to teach/mentor others
- Setting your team up to be successful
- Sharing the credit for accomplishments with your team
- Recognizing accomplishments of others

Who are your role models for women in leadership?
Surprisingly, we struggled with this question. There were a few examples shared. One woman talked about the principal of her school. Another woman gave the example of a female director who was well respected by both employees as well as senior leadership in her company. Why was it so hard to come up with examples?

This led us to a discussion of Hillary Clinton. The consensus at the table was that she was not seen as a stellar example of a woman leader. I think the general sentiment was that while she is an intelligent woman, her success came as a result taking advantage of her husbands achievements rather than what she’d done on her own. She is a very polarizing figure. Any other thoughts out there?

By the end of the conversation we did come up with a few names – Meg Whitman (former CEO of eBay), Carly Fiorina (former CEO of Hewlett-Packard), and also Nancy Brinker (Susan G. Komen’s sister who founded Susan G. Komen for the Cure). Not much, but at least is was a start. Please add some more names to this list. We all need role models!

What can be done to mentor the next generation of women leaders?
Fortunately, we had a high school counselor join us at the meeting. Girls need opportunities to lead at young ages. They need role models and mentors who will encourage them, tell them that they can succeed, and help them to believe in themselves.

These are just some of the highlights from our 2+ hours of discussion. If I’ve omitted any key points I encourage those who attended to chime in and add to this summary. Even if you didn’t attend, please share your thoughts as well. Let’s keep the discussion going.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Timing and Leadership

At yesterday’s meeting, we ended up being a group of two. I was expecting a few more but understand how circumstances can sometimes foil the best of intentions. I wasn’t disappointed though and thoroughly enjoyed our one to one conversation. As typically happens at these meetings, our conversation strayed bit from the topic at hand. We talked about our families, the twists and turns our career paths had taken, our interests outside of work. We eventually did wind our way back to the planned topic of Leadership.

My companion shared with me that early in her career her priority was on her family. So, at that point in time she wasn’t interested in taking on the additional responsibilities that a leadership role would require. Now that her children are grown, she wonders if she’d be considered a viable candidate for a leadership role.

Our conversation reminded me of a discussion I had with a friend of mine who’s in HR. He said that in his company, that if you weren’t identified as a candidate for a leadership position before you were 40, then it was unlikely that you’d be moving very far up the career ladder. The way this company viewed it, they didn’t want it invest in someone with a limited number of years left in her career.

This seemed somewhat short sighted to me. (Speaking from the biased view of someone on the other side of 40.) But it does raise an interesting question. What impact does timing have with regard to moving into a leadership role? Is making your mark early in your career essential to future success? I’d be interested in your thoughts and opinions.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

How Is Leadership Defined?

I've been a bit less prolific this month and I can't blame it completely on a busy schedule. I'm always busy and yet I still make time to write. Upon reflection, I realize that I'm finding this topic more difficult than the others we've discussed previously, which has lead to a touch of writer's block.

It's a fact that women hold far fewer leadership positions than their male counterparts. There's lots of research and lots of theories as to why that is so. When women do make it into a leadership position, they seem to be more highly scrutinized. You need only to read media coverage about Hillary Clinton to know that's true. Women who try to act like "one of the guys" are typically not accepted. However employing a traditionally female style isn't always effective either.

I've done lots of reading on the topic this past month and it's resulted in more questions than answers. I think the answers all depend on how you define leadership. Does being a leader mean being the boss? Does it mean being an executive? Being the CEO does impart positional authority, but does it necessarily mean that you're a good leader?

How do you define leadership? What are the qualities you think are required to be a good leader? How should you demonstrate these qualities? Would you demonstrate them differently based on your gender? I'm looking forward to discussing this next week and look forward to hearing other's thoughts either in person or by posting your comments.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Thoughts on Women & Leadership

I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on the premise of discussing leadership strategies for women. Most of the comments were along the lines of leadership skills and/or style should be independent of gender. I’d like to agree and in an ideal world, this would be true. However, we don’t live in an ideal world (or at least I don’t)

Okay, here come all the qualifiers. There is no one “best” leadership style. What is effective at one institution may be totally ineffective for another. You wouldn’t succeed with a participative style in the military for example. An effective leader will flex her style to mesh with both the culture as well as the needs of an organization. A start up will need different leadership skills than an established company. A different leadership style will be needed in a time of crisis than is needed when things are going well. I agree with all of that. Many leadership skills are independent of gender.

Why do I want to focus on leadership strategies and skills for women then? It’s because in my career, I’ve seen so many women fail when given leadership roles. I’ve spent the majority of my career working with scientists. We’re not known for having strong people skills. To compound the problem, people are often promoted into leadership roles not because they’re good leaders or managers but because of their technical abilities. This is a common issue across most technical fields. These also tend to be male dominated fields, so successful female role models are few and far between.

When I posted the question about leadership strategies for women on LinkedIn Susan Robertson sent me the reply below:

One of the biggest differences in men versus women is that women feel like they have to hide any characteristics that may appear to be classified as "weak" or "vulnerable." While men do this as well, for women it is more of a front of mind experience. The kind of characteristics I am talking about are: the more caring side, the relationship side, balancing the people with the logic. Many women have a natural quality of understanding relationship and yet because of fear of looking weak or "not logical" they will hide this quality and actually lose credibility because they are not using the strength of relationship orientation with logic and analytics.

So with women I am usually helping them to open up and become more of their innate strength and feminine power, whereas men, I have to teach them about the relationship and why it is important. Of course, I am generalizing and yet I see this over and over.

One interesting observation she shared is that she conducts a 5-day leadership program 23 times a year and the attendees are predominantly men.

Why focus on leadership strategies for women? Women’s challenges are different from men’s. A woman who tries to adopt a typically male style will not be accepted. While a man might be aggressive, a woman is pushy. A man might be insensitive, while a woman would be labeled insensitive. On the flip side, a typically female style might be seen as “soft”. Let’s talk about this. Where have you seen women fail, and what were the causes? What can we learn from this? Who are the successful women role models and what has made them successful. I’ll be conducting some interviews over the next few weeks and posting my findings, but I hope you’ll share your thoughts as well.

Monday, April 28, 2008

May Discussion Topic - Women & Leadership

This month our Discussion Group will focus on the topic of Women and Leadership. I want the conversation to focus on leadership strategies for women. I want to move beyond talking about the “glass ceiling” and other barriers. Let’s move beyond that and talk about what we can do to set ourselves up for leadership. We’ll use the Fast Company Article Women and Men, Work and Power to get the conversation started.

Some questions I’d like for us to explore are:

  • Do women and men have different leadership styles?
  • What strengths do women bring to leadership roles?
  • What do women need to do to earn credibility as a leader?
  • What are the key skills needed to be an effective leader?

Are their any specific challenges for women leaders in scientific or technology fields?

I also want to focus the discussion on leadership as a skill, not as a position. I don't believe one has to be the CEO to be a leader. Think of all the ways women demonstrate leadership in business, academics, community service, encouraging and inspiring others, and countless other ways.

I’d like to briefly focus on one skill I think is essential to leadership – communication. You may have noticed a new link on this site to The Eloquent Woman Blog a site dedicated to providing resources to help women speak in public settings. Denise Graveline is the author and was one of the many people who answered the question I posted on LinkedIn. If you want to be a credible leader, the ability to speak eloquently in public is an essential skill.

I also think that written communication is critical. This past weekend I attended a blogging conference and came away convinced of the power of this medium to establish oneself as a thought leader. It was a fabulous conference and yet, there were no female keynotes, only one female session leader (out of 15 sessions) and the majority of attendees were men. Let’s do what we can to encourage more women to get out there and make their voices heard. Are you blogging? Send me the link and I’ll post it here.

I’ll continue exploring these topics throughout the month and want to encourage you to share your thoughts here as well.

I do hope you’ll be able to join one of our sessions:

Morning Discussion Group:

Tuesday May 20th, 6:45 – 7:30 am
B Java Coffee and Tea
5510 Lafayette Road (corner of Lafayette and 56th) on the Northwest side

Evening Discussion Group:
Tuesday May 27th, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
D’Vine A Wine Bar
5252 East 82nd (corner of 82nd and Allisonville Rd) on the Northeast side

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Summary of 4/22 Discussion Group Meeting

It was another great meeting Tuesday night! Everyone who attended was very engaged and enthusiastic. Given the challenges experienced at the last two meetings with trying to keep the discussion on topic with a large group and a public venue, this time I came prepared with discussion guides. Each sheet had questions related to our topic – virtual networking. I asked everyone to write down their answers to the questions and then use them to guide their small group discussions. I then collected the sheets at the end of the meeting. I’ll summarize the responses from the sheets as well as from the discussions in which I participated. This approach seemed to work well, so I’ll continue to use this format for future meetings.

What networking sites do you currently use?
LinkedIn – 5
MeetUp – 4
Facebook – 3
Naymz – 2
Career – 1
Google – 1
MySpace – 1

How do you use networking sites?
The majority of our attendees use the sites primarily for social purposes, staying in touch with former classmates, friends and family members. One of the reasons I left sites like Facebook and MySpace off of my list of sites to try out was my perception that these are primarily social sites and my focus for this topic was how these sites could be used for business purposes and career development.

I’ve read in several articles that Facebook is currently looking at how its platform can be used for business purposes. Interestingly enough, two of the attendees at the meeting were working on a project to develop a social media tool for their company. Of course, the goal for this project will be focused on business applications – making people and information easier to find. They are looking at Facebook as a potential tool for this application.

Many of the people at our meeting came to find out more information about these tools and how they could be used for professional/career development purposes.

What is your favorite site?
When asked about their favorite site, most people had no opinion at present since few attendees were actively using any of the sites. However, the most consistent response was “I don’t have a favorite site yet”, which indicates to me at least some degree of interest in learning more and trying out the various sites.

Only two attendees indicated that they had a favorite site and both chose Facebook. However, as mentioned above they were primarily using the site for social and business purposes.

I was asked what my favorite site is but before I share my opinion, I want to stress that your choice should be driven by your goals. My goals for this project were to 1) find tools that would make it easy to identify manage my network contacts 2) identify resources to help with projects, and 3) expand and build upon my current network. Based on these goals, I have 2 favorite sites – LinkedIn and Smaller Indiana.

LinkedIn makes it easy to upload contact information from existing address books and data bases. In addition, they have a great search function that makes it very easy to find former colleagues. So this satisfies my goal of managing my network contacts. As I’ve mentioned previously, the “Answers” feature has been a fabulous tool for identifying resources and also expanding beyond my existing network. Based on some really great interactions with individuals who responded to questions I posted, I’ve now added them to my network.

My experience with Smaller Indiana has enabled me to “meet” individuals locally which had provided a great source for potential resources as well as expanded my network. A side benefit was the introduction to Ning and their free networking software. I have completed a basic template to launch a Women & Hi Tech community site and will be sending out initial invitations to past attendees of our discussion groups. A number of people have asked about a way to maintain contact with the women they meet at the discussion group meetings and this can be one way of doing so. If people like it and invite others to join, it will expand everyone’s network.

How often do you log in and/or actively participate on these sites?
Our Facebook users were the most active, logging in several times a week. The majority of people only logged on to sites in response to an invitation from someone else. Like anything else, you will get out of these sites what you put into them. There is no one “right” answer about how often one should participate. It will depend on your goals. My experience has shown me that tapping into my network on a more regular basis can yield impressive results and ultimately make it easier to connect to the resources I need.

If you’re not currently using online networking sites, why not?
You can probably already guess the number 1 barrier – “I don’t have time”. If you are starting from scratch, researching sites, creating your profile, adding contacts, establishing your web presence, this does require a time investment. However, if you start small with one or two sites, create a basic profile, and build your network gradually you can do this with a minimal investment of time. Look at it this way, investing time in building a network will make it easier for you to connect with resources and information in the future thereby saving you time and effort.

Set goals for yourself and work toward them one step at a time. Review and refine your profile so it will reflect what you have to offer. Join in conversations, ask questions, and share your experiences. Once you begin interacting with others, you’ll want to check in regularly. Use these interactions to establish new connections and continue building your network.

Another source of concern was making your personal information public. That’s always a concern, especially for women. As with anything else, you need to go to trusted sites, don’t reveal information such as your address or phone number. And be cautious when interacting with people you don’t know. I can share that even after putting profiles up on a lot of different sites, I haven’t had any negative experiences.

A related concern is that people may not always be genuine in what they post on line. There are ways to verify the information that’s out there. It’s amazing what you can find out about someone by just performing a simple Google search. If you’ve never done it, I recommend doing a Google search on yourself just to see what’s out there.

I had a great time researching and working on this month’s topic! I’ve learned a lot and also realized just how much more there is to learn. While I’ve seen some short term pay off, I want to be able to gauge the longer term benefits. So I’d like to have a follow up discussion on this same topic in 6 months. Hopefully by then, many of you will have your own stories to share. Stay tuned, and I hope you can join us again in October for Virtual Networking – Part 2.

As always, I hope those of you who attended this meeting will share your thoughts and insights from your discussions.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Reasons to Network

When is the best time to have a network in place? Before you need it. I've been talking to a lot of people over the past few months about networking. While no one would argue that networking isn't important, I did hear quite often that people didn't feel as though they had the time to network.

I also know quite a few people who are networking like mad right about now. Unfortunately, they're doing so because they learned that their jobs are going away. This is a rather extreme example, but it illustrates the point. If you need assistance right now, how many people could you call upon? Look at your rolodex, your address book, your database, how often are you in touch with those people? What if you had the tools to stay in touch? What if you had the tools to reach beyond the people you already know? What if you had the ability to demonstrate your abilities and expertise and attract new people into your network.

These tools do exist. I've taken the time to explore a few over the past few weeks. More than that, I've had the opportunity to greatly expand my network and I will continue. What are my goals? I want to have resources to call on when working on future projects both for Women & Hi Tech as well as other projects. I want to know about potential career opportunities before I need them. I want to establish my expertise beyond the small group of people I work with and interact with regularly. I know I need a network, and I want to have it in place before I really need it! Any time I devote to expanding my network is time well spent. How about you?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Update from April 15 Discussion Group Meeting

What a wonderful way to start the day! We had a small but very enthusiastic and engaged group that met yesterday at B Java. The best coffee in town and stimulating conversation - it certainly started my day on a positive note and kept me going all day.

One of the benefits of meeting at BJ's place was the free WiFi, so I could do a show and tell of the sites I've been playing with all month.

The first question that came up was how much time did I have to devote to my online networking efforts. The honest answer is quite a bit. Probably a couple of hours a day. However, that included research into articles and blogs reviewing the various tools, some trial and error on my part, and setting up and creating all my profiles. The maintenance time will be much less.

However, if all you do is just put up profiles and create contact lists, you're really not going to get much from these tools. You need to establish your presence on these sites and the best way to do this is to participate. With tools like LinkedIn and Naymz once you set up your profile and your networks, your level of activity on the site will depend on your goals. With other sites like Smaller Indiana and Twitter you will need to have more regular interaction to get the most out of the site.

I have to say, I love the LinkedIn Answers section! I'm beginning to work on next month's topic, Women & Leadership, and posted a question on LinkedIn asking for referrals on resources for that project. I was completely blown away by the number of responses I got back and the majority of them came from people outside of my network! I got referrals to executive coaches, articles, websites and more. (I can't wait for next month!) This is a great tool that can allow you not only to tap into some awesome resources out there but also establish your expertise by providing answers to others. I really like how this feature has made that particular site much more interactive.

I'm a true fan of Smaller Indiana! This week alone, I've had two phone conferences with people I connected with on that site as well as connected a friend of mine looking for a new job with someone who had an opening. I never would have made those connections otherwise. I've made a point of trying to add something new every day. It may be as simple as adding a comment to an ongoing discussion or adding the W&HT discussion group meetings to the event calendar.

I've had an interesting experience with Twitter. I'm still on the learning curve. I'd initially crossed it off my list of sites to try out based on feedback from my technical consultant, my 26 year old daughter. I'd describe it as blogging for the ADD set. There's everything out there from people sharing the mundane, like what they had for lunch, to sharing really useful information. Since your posts are limited to 140 characters, it does force you to be succinct. I did find a useful blog entry on using Twitter, How to Use Twitter, Tips for Bloggers. Even though the focus is on blogging, the tips are useful for anyone wanting to establish an online presence. I've chosen to only follow people I think post useful information. I was surprised when I looked at my list the the majority are men. I need to do a bit more research and see how many women use the site. So, for those of you out there reading this, do you use Twitter? You can follow me @indyjoyb.

In summary, I am extremely pleased with the results I've seen from my virtual networking efforts these past few weeks. I don't intend this to be a one time effort and I'm currently working on ways to incorporate these activities into my regular routine.

Monday, April 14, 2008

More Insights from Virtual Networking Project

This has been a wonderfully beneficial project for me! I’ll admit to being somewhat lax about making use of the tools out there. Since I began this project at the end of last month I have:

  • Reconnected with several colleagues I’d worked with previously and lost touch with after moving on with our careers
  • Found a great lead for a friend looking to change jobs
  • Learned about a blogging conference, blogIN (hopefully I’ll learn things to make this a better resource)

Got lots or great feedback on how others are using virtual networking tools

I posted a question on LinkedIn asking how others use virtual networking tools and was impressed by the number of responses I received. I received many thoughtful, and insightful responses. Here are some highlights:

From Lisa Mattler (in my network):
The two I use most are Linkedin and DC Web Women (technical web site).

Linkedin is strictly professional. Use that to locate technical expertise that I may need to a project or recruiting resources when there is a job opening (either on a project or internal position with the company).

DC Web women … there is a professional and social listserv. Professional is used to ask technical advice, post positions, sharing of information, offer services, etc.

The social side you can ask anything under the sun from recommendations on a plumber, where to eat or career advice. It is a great source of information. Example: I am getting ready to study for my PMP certification. Posted a message regarding what did most people find the greatest value in – self study or instructor lead courses. Also asked to recommend names of the resources. It was very insightful.

From John Blue (in my network)
I use Linked IN for professional only links, mainly only with people I know. I also use Linked IN to search for contacts in specific industries to invite them to listen to our Truffle Media Networks podcast show series.

I use Twitter occasionally as a follower to see what some key media people are doing. I rarely post on Twitter.

Facebook I have stopped using due to it not being of great value to me. The Facebook interface requires I log in to it to get messages and such, which is kind of a pain.

Ning based groups (Smaller Indiana and Grasshoppers ) I use to keep up with niche groups. The Smaller Indiana group has sub groups that use the Ning platform to share info and to provide updates on meetings and follow up info. The Indy Book Club is a great example of using Smaller Indiana to virtually get together and in person get together to review/talk about business and culture books. See site

I also use the Google platform in some committee groups to share docs (Google docs) and maintain a calendar (Google calendar). This platform is quickest to use as it is easy to setup and use.

I recommend reading Chris Brogan to see how he uses social media tools (he is a master at this).
* Social Media Starter Moves for Entrepreneurs
* What Does Facebook Actually DO for Me?
* Twitter As Presence
* Making Business Sense of Social Media

Two others to follow are Chris Penn and John Wall at Marketing Over Coffee, they talk about how some people use virtual tools and social media tools to get people to coordinate/collaborate/communicate.

From Gary Ralston (in my network)
As a boutique business consultancy, we use LinkedIn to supplement our standard bios. We have embedded LinkedIn buttons on our website so people wishing to learn about us go straight to our profile, which looks professional and reflects our tendency to embrace and exploit new technology. We use no other Virtual Networking sites for business, although I have a Facebook account to stay in touch with university students we support and mentor.

While we keep our profiles current, we have not been active in "working" LinkedIn, and we have seen next-to-no new business from it. For our line of work, we believe it serves to reinforce a client's choice to use Ralston Consulting Inc., or assist in an "internal sale", rather than to introduce new people to us. It seems, instead, that people hire us through referral from a trusted advisor or business colleague.

Bottom line: LinkedIn helps with credibility once you have formed a relationship through other channels. It won't really make you and your business more visible unless you actively contribute.

I also received some responses from people on LinkedIn but not part of my network. Here’s one example:

I use Linkedin as a tool for my writing. I can ask a question and get many answers. I use the answers in my writing. I have also been able to connect some of my referral sources to others who are in my network.

I do have other sites, I use them to keep in touch with my network and as a place to put out my blogs.

I also just signed up for Twitter. I did so based on a recommendation I read in another blog Using Social Media to Build Your Network. It’s an interesting tool. If you’re on Twitter or decide to sign up, you can find me at indyjoyb. I’d be interested in hearing about your experiences.

I have found that there are a number of people who don’t use these tools at all. Some see sites such as LinkedIn as nothing more than glorified address books. One advantage of these tools is that by connecting on line you essentially have access to the address books of all the people in your network. Without such a tool, these connections might well be hidden to you. In fact, this is how I was able to track down former contacts, by looking at the contacts of people I was already connected with. It would have been much more difficult to find them otherwise.

I’ve avoided calling this “social networking” because that term seems to bring to mind sites such as MySpace and Facebook. While I’ve found some articles on how these sites are used for professional purposes, they are most closely associated with a younger crowd.

After all my on line interactions these past few weeks, I’m really looking forward to our “in person” discussions tomorrow! Since BJava offers complementary WiFi, I’ll bring my lap top so people can test drive any sites of interest. I’ll be posting a summary soon.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Success with Smaller Indiana

Yesterday I posted that I was having trouble getting my profile approved for Smaller Indiana. Today I’m happy to report that I was successfully approved. It turns out the group requires that you identify yourself in your profile by using your real name, both first and last. My application only had my first name. So, if you do decide to sign up don’t repeat my mistake. I think this site has great potential and I’ll be providing updates on my experiences with the site.

I’m looking forward to our discussions about this topic in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

More Adventures in eNetworking

Well, I’ve added a few new networking sites to my virtual portfolio based on recommendations. The first was ryze Business Networking. Like most sites, it allows you to create a profile, invite friends, and link with current members. It also has several different networking sites based on interests and backgrounds. I signed up for Women In Networking, which seems to be a very active site. There are postings our there on topics from, asking for advice on successful fundraising strategies to advice on online dating. I just posted my first discussion topic and will be interested in seeing what kind of replies I get.

I’d hoped to be able to post an update on Smaller Indiana. I have been to the website and liked what I saw. I’ve been having problems with getting my profile approved for membership. I’m not sure if there’s a bug in the software or if my application for membership was rejected, but I keep getting the same request to complete a profile. I’ve recently submitted my profile for the fifth (and last) time. I’ll let you know how it goes.

It wasn’t a total waste of time though, since through the Smaller Indiana site I learned about Ning which is a site that will allow you to create your own social network. Since I had a free evening, I decided to go in and do just that! It didn’t take long till the Women & Hi Tech Network was born. We had a lot of discussion about how we could take advantage of our network for mentoring, sharing ideas, etc. This may just provide the forum to do so. I hope you’ll check out the site, sign up, and encourage your friends to do so as well. After all, that’s what networking is all about!

As I said in my last post, I’ve learned that virtual networking is, well, work. Like anything else, you will only get out of it what you put into it. As Sabine pointed out in her comment to my last post, this doesn’t mean “selling”. Rather, it means interacting, sharing your thoughts, answering a question, providing others with the benefit of your experiences. You don’t want to be an online wall flower. Of course, as Gary pointed out, what you do online will also depend on your goals. If you’re looking for a job, your approach will be much different than if you want to build contacts, get referrals, or promote your business.

Here’s what I’ve been up to in the past couple of weeks. On LinkedIn I was able to reconnect with colleagues from one of my former companies. I also decided to try out the “Answers” tab to send out a question to my network. If you’re in my network, you will have gotten the question. I wrote my first recommendation and will also see about getting some recommendations of my own.

I was thrilled last week when I opened up Naymz to find that I’d achieved a Rep Score of 10 (that’s the highest). My network has grown to 48 and 34 people have agreed to be a reference for me. However, it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. Since I had to start from scratch, I put real thought into who I wanted to invite into my network. I feel that everyone currently in my network can really vouch for me and my abilities.

My Squidoo Lens hasn’t really generated much interest. I’m viewing this as a learning experience, rather than failure. So, what have I learned? Well first of all, I didn’t put too much time into building the site. I may be able to make some refinements to make it better. I’ve also done little to promote the site beyond providing the link in this blog. They do have a great reference tool they call Squidaholc, which provides lots of information on marketing tools and web searches. It’s definitely something I want to review in more depth.

I’m probably most disappointed by the Fast Company site. They boast hundreds of thousands of members but their online community just doesn’t seem to be that active. I have posted to several of the discussion groups but have yet to get a response. I’m not surprised since some of the groups haven’t had a new posting since February. Now, they do have other great resources, articles, links to blogs, etc. I just don’t find it a very interactive site.

Well, that’s all for now. I still have time before our next meetings to do a bit more research and post my findings. I hope more of you will join the discussion and share your experiences as well.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Online Networking - If You Build It, Will They Come?

I’ve been talking to people this week about their experiences with online networking. The most common misperception I’ve run into is “if you build it, they will come”. It’s not as simple as just putting up a profile and hoping that people will automatically be drawn to it.

The other fallacy is the your can use online tools to build your network. You may be able to use these sites to enhance your network but not as a starting point.

Online networking requires just as much effort as in person networking. If you go to a networking event and stand alone in a corner all evening, you’re not going to get anything out of the event. If you go to an online networking site and do nothing to promote yourself, you’ll be equally unsuccessful.

I’ve taken the first step and tried out several networking sites. There are lots of them out there but if all I do is just go and sign up for lots of different sites, I won’t really have much to share when we do get together. So, over the next few weeks, my focus will be on trying to get the most out of the sites where I do have a presence. I’ll be sharing what I learn along the way.

I’d really like to learn from you. Please share your experiences with all of us. How have you used online networking tools? What’s worked for you?

Monday, March 31, 2008

April Discussion Group Topic - Virtual Networking

Morning Discussion Group:
Tuesday April 15th, 6:45 – 7:30 am
B Java Coffee and Tea
5510 Lafayette Road (corner of Lafayette and 56th) on the Northwest side

Evening Discussion Group:
Tuesday April 22nd, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
D’Vine A Wine Bar
5252 East 82nd (corner of 82nd and Allisonville Rd) on the Northeast side

This month’s topic is Virtual Networking. We’ll get the discussion started with an article from The Times Online How To Network Online. There are lots of different tools out there, and it can be somewhat overwhelming. I’ll be spending the next few weeks trying out different tools and sharing my experiences. I won’t pretend to put together an all encompassing list, and invite you to share your favorite tools.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention LinkedIn. I’ve had a profile for the past few years. I think it’s a great way to manage my professional contacts. I’ve been able to use it to track down former colleagues. I like the search functions. I’ve used it to reconnect with people I worked with at other companies. I haven’t used it to actively network with people I don’t know though that is one of the selling points. I’ve opted for the free account, so I can’t speak to the benefits of the membership upgrades. I’d love to hear how others are using this site.

A friend recommended a similar site to LinkedIn called Naymz. It has a lot of the same functionalities as LinkedIn but some nice additional features. I just recently created my Naymz profile and was really impressed by the tool. It allowed me to import all of my contacts from LinkedIn making it easy to send out invitations. The site features a RepScore for each profile. The higher the RepScore, the more has been done to verify the information in the profile. As part of my profile I was able to easily link to this blog, my LinkedIn profile, and other web sites. It only took me a few minutes to create my profile, and send invitations.

One of the tools recommended on Naymz for verifying your online identity is Trufina. By filling out a profile and answering some questions (and paying a fee of $4.95) you can get an on line ID. You can then use for Trufina ID to manage and protect your online identity information. I created by online ID card and will provide updates on how I’ve used it.

The next site recommended was Squidoo. Squidoo lets you create a simple one page website on a topic of your choice. (They call them “lenses”). I tried it out by creating a simple Women & Hi Tech Lens. It took me a few tries to get the lens finally launched and I’m not too sure that I’m all that excited by the result. I’ll need to spend some more time looking over what other people have done before I decide how useful the site really is.

The final site I checked out was the Fast Company site Company of Friends. Since I love the magazine, I was very excited about checking out the site. The site allows you to create a profile, features on line groups, allows you to build a network, and has lots of other features. I’ve signed up for a few of the discussion group and even created a Women in Science & Technology Group to see if there might be others out there interested in joining our discussions.

As I said, I’m just getting started with many of these sites and will be updating my experiences over the coming weeks.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

3/25 Meeting Notes - Developing an Effective Networking Strategy

Thank you to everyone who came out to our Tuesday evening meeting. The size of the group combined with the venue for our evening meetings isn’t really conducive to group discussions, so we break up into smaller groups. Since these aren’t facilitated discussions, the conversations typically veer from the topic at hand. Not that this is a bad thing. There is a lot of value that comes out of these more unstructured discussions. If nothing else, it provides the opportunity to meet and get to know other women you likely wouldn't meet otherwise. So, even if we weren’t necessarily talking about networking the entire time, we were practicing it!

I’ll be posting some of what I took away from the meeting but since I didn’t participate in every discussion, I’d like to encourage others who attended to post their comments to share what they took away from the conversations. In the first group I joined, I met someone who works for the same company I do and even provided IT support to some of our projects. Despite this, it was the first time I’d met her. So, despite the fact that I believe that I’m fairly well networked at work, this experience emphasized to me that there is always room for improvement. So, I’m making a commitment to make more of an effort to get to know those people who may be working behind the scenes and providing essential support to what we do.

One of my other take aways from the meeting was the challenge of networking when you’re different from the rest of the people in the organization. Examples include being significantly younger (or older) than other members of the team, being single when everyone else is married, having a different cultural background, being the lone female – any of these factors can make it more difficult to build your network. It’s not to say that it’s impossible, but you may need to work on different approaches depending on your particular situation.

I was reminded of a past assignment when I was responsible for supporting a group over in Singapore. There were lots of barriers to overcome. The group was primarily male, from many different cultures and had the additional challenge of a 12hour time difference. I quickly realized that if I was going to develop a network in that organization it was going to be up to me to initiate that process. I was able to do so using every tool available to me at the time. I began with lots and lots of early morning and late night phone calls. I keep the communication channels going through utilizing e-mail. When visiting the site, I always made time in my agenda for 1:1 meetings and invited people to join me for dinner or drinks after work in the evenings. Then when they were visiting Indy, I always made sure to return the favor by helping to entertain them during their off hours. Now several years, and several assignments later, I’m still in touch with many of those individuals, even those who have moved on to other companies.

What experiences do others have with working through barriers to build a network? Please share your stories here so that we can all learn from each other. One of my goals in starting this group is to build a network of women who can serve as resources for one another.

I’ve found time to catch up on my reading and ran across an article that inspired a true “Ah Ha” moment for me. I highly recommend tracking down “How Leaders Create and Use Networks” (Harvard Business Review, January 2007). The article helped me to realize that changing the way I approach networking could really transform both my effectiveness and future career success.

Over the years, I’ve had this same conversation with countless women. Why was a very accomplished woman who works hard and consistently delivers passed over for promotion or leadership role in favor of someone else whose chief accomplishment seemed to be the ability to schmooze?

It turns out that many of us may be using the wrong strategy when it comes to networking. In the article they define three distinct forms of networking “operational, personal and strategic.”

An “operational” network is one you use to get your job done effectively. It is typically internally focused within your own company, though can include external contacts such as vendors or suppliers. These are the people who can help you with a specific task at hand. Examples include someone from HR who can help you with a personnel issue, a person in IT to help you with a software problem, someone in Finance who can answer a budget question, etc. If you move to a new position, your operational network will likely need to change. A well developed operational network will maximize your efficiency in your current role.

A “personal” network focuses outside of your current organization. You build your personal network through meeting people with whom you share a common interest. You may be able to use these personal contacts later as a source for advice, referrals, mentoring, information, contacts, etc. It is not always evident how or when you may be able to leverage individuals in your personal network to achieve career goals. However you never know when a causual conversation with an acquaintance can lead to a great referral. By working on building a personal network you can develop valuable networking skills.

A “strategic” network is more future focused. As individuals advance in their careers, their focus needs to shift from being a technical expert and adept at completing specific projects to setting strategy and planning for the future of an organization. To successfully implement change, one needs to garner support and build alliances. This is where strategic networking comes in. If you have a strategic network in place you will have individual who will be able to help you better understand how your proposals may be received by others. They can also help to lobby support on your behalf. By far, this is the area of network most individuals neglect. They may see it as politicking or “playing the game”, but like it or not this strategic network can influence your success as a leader.

Upon reflecting upon the article, I realized that I could (and should) make some refinements in the way I approach networking. I feel that I have an extremely effective operational network. When someone asks me for help, I may not be able to answer the question directly but it’s rare when I don’t know someone to call who can answer the question. I also have a great personal network. I have lots of interests and more importantly, being a single “empty nester”, I have lots of free time to pursue these interests. As a result, I’ve had the opportunity to meet lots of wonderful and very interesting individuals. I count the fabulous women I’ve met through W&HT among those in my personal network.

When it comes to strategic networking however, I realize that I’ve put far less time and energy there. I have been one of those individuals who primarily focused on the task at hand. It’s not that I don’t have people at all levels and from outside my organization in my network. It’s that I’ve never really thought about how to leverage those individuals as part of my future career strategy. Maybe I should.

I have a few more organizations to add to the Networking groups list I began last week. Here are a few more suggestions:
Indiana Health Industry Forum
Indianapolis Hiking Club
Mickey's Camp

We’ll continue the discussion on networking next month but with a slightly different focus. Our April discussion group will look at the topic of virtual networking. There are lots of different tools out there. I’ll be looking into the different kinds of tools that are available and looking for strategies on how to use them more effectively. Any and all suggestions are welcome.

To help you plan ahead, the morning discussion group will meet once again at B Java on Tuesday April 15th at 6:45 am and the evening discussion group will meet on Tuesday April 22nd at 7 pm at D’Vine. I hope to see those of you who have attended in the past as well as see some new faces. All are welcome. If you’re not yet a member of W&HT, please feel free to attend as my guest!

I’m currently working on a list of topics for future meetings. I’d really like your suggestions. Please feel free to e-mail me or post your suggestions in the comment section below. I’m currently working on the following topics: Women & Philanthropy, Women & Leadership, a Reader’s Forum where people come and share their favorite book, magazine or article, Managing Communication Overload, Work Life Balance,

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Notes from 3/18 Discussion Group - Networking

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, and I’ve been somewhat negligent about updating my blog. Before I begin my summary of our discussion from yesterday, I do want to clarify something. Our discussion topic for this month is simply networking. I chose the article How to Network for Introverts because I thought it had good advice on networking effectively for anyone and also because I wanted to be sensitive to the barriers that prevent many of us from building effective networks.

I want to thank everyone who came out to B Java on a rainy Tuesday morning. I’m happy to report that we had a larger group than last month and several first time attendees. I’m quite heartened to see the interest in these forums growing.

Obviously, everyone who attended appreciated the importance of networking. The challenge comes with doing this effectively. One topic that came up early in our discussion was how to network effectively within a company when you are working there as a contractor. Those of us at the meeting had experienced this from both sides; working as a contractor or working with a contractor. Most companies have policies that preclude contractors from participating in company sponsored events, which can limit the contractor’s networking opportunities. While there isn’t much we can do about company policies, there are things those of us who work with contractors can do to make this situation less awkward for all involved. A situation was described where employees were planning an event that excluded contractors, right in front of their contractor colleagues. Paying attention and being sensitive to the situation would have gone a long way in preventing hurt feelings.

Another topic for discussion was whether men and women approach networking differently. I’d tried to find an article that focused on this topic for our discussion but wasn’t able to find one. (If you know of a good reference article, please let me know.) About the closest I came was an article on the obstacles to women achieving leadership roles in the Harvard Business Review (Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership, September 2007). One of the obstacles identified was “underinvestment in social capital”. Studies have shown that socializing, politicking, and having external interactions have been correlated with rapid career advancement and that “social capital is even more necessary to managers’ advancement than skillful performance of traditional managerial tasks.” Women as a whole tend to focus more on job performance and deliverables and less on socializing and building “social capital” to the detriment of their careers.

Another barrier identified is that family obligations often leave women little time for socializing with colleagues and building professional networks. However, time isn’t the only barrier. Especially in fields where women are in the minority, networking tends to center around activities that would preclude women, golf, sporting events, and the like. The recent Wal-Mart gender discrimination case cited examples of managers meetings that included trips to strip clubs and executive hunting retreats. This creates quite the conundrum for a woman. By not participating, she’s excluded from important relationship-building activities. However, her participation would likely make the men feel uncomfortable and could damage her relationships and reputation. Women can hold their own networking events but until there is gender equality in the executive suite, this will only get us so far.

During the discussion, people also shared stories of where attempts to network and build relationships with other people had left them feeling used. We could all relate to the story of being pleased to receive an invitation to lunch only to find that the person who extended the invitation really wanted to talk about job opportunities at your company. Another example shared was receiving an invitation to a colleague’s home only to find out it’s for a Mary Kay party. The point was that people wanted to feel as though others were being up front about their intentions. The person who was invited to lunch would have been happy to talk about job opportunities and would have had a more positive impression had the intent been made clear. So, when utilizing your network, be sure that the person you want the favor from doesn’t feel manipulated.

We finished up our conversation by sharing the organizations and activities we felt had been most useful for us with our personal networking.

Non profit groups: The United Way, Dress for Success, Girls Inc., The American Lung Assn.

Professional Associations: Project Management Institute, Indianapolis Quality Assurance Assn., Indiana Healthcare Businesswomen's Association, Assn. of Women in Science, Central Indiana Society of Women Engineers, National Assn. of Women Business Owners, Network of Women in Business

Community Groups: the Chamber of Commerce, Business and Professional Exchange, Scientech Club, Venture Club of Indiana

Just to show how networking can happen at any time, during this discussion BJ Davis, our hostess and owner of B Java, stopped by our table to tell us about another networking group that also meets at her coffee shop - Smaller Indiana. None of us had heard of the group so I decided to check out their web site. Smaller Indiana makes creative people and innovative ideas easier to find. This is the place for you to share your ideas and engage with Indiana's most creative and inspired souls...working together to build community, culture and commerce. It looks like their web site has some very interesting tools that will fit into next month’s topic on “virtual networking”, so more to come.

Clubs and activities you do for fun are also a great source for meeting new people and expanding your network. If you go to Google and type in the words “Indianapolis” and “Club”, there are hundreds of clubs that that show up in the results list. Another great source to find people with similar interests is It’s a great resource for connecting with people who share common interests.

This is by no means meant to be an extensive list of local networking organizations and opportunities. I hope those of you reading this blog will share your favorite networking groups and organizations.

I’m looking forward to continuing this conversation next week when we meet at D’Vine. If you can’t join us, or if you can’t wait till then to share your thoughts, please post your comments.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

March Discussion Group Topic - Networking

Morning Discussion Group:
Tuesday March 18th, 6:45 – 7:30 am
B Java Coffee and Tea
5510 Lafayette Road (corner of Lafayette and 56th) on the Northwest side

Evening Discussion Group:
Tuesday March 25th, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
D’Vine A Wine Bar
5252 East 82nd (corner of 82nd and Allisonville Rd) on the Northeast side

This month our discussion groups will focus on the topic of Networking. The article I chose to get the discussion started is How to Network for Introverts. I chose both the topic and the article because of an experience I had this past summer. My daughter moved to Chicago this past summer to launch a job search. I jumped in immediately to help by offering networking contacts and advice. However, it took her awhile to embrace this advice and assistance. After some probing, I identified two root causes: 1) she had some misconceptions about networking and 2) she’s an introvert.

For those of you who know me, the admission that on the Myers Briggs personality scale I’m not only an E (extrovert) but I pretty much peg the meter when it comes to extrovertedness will come as no surprise. I talk to everybody, cashiers, waitresses, the person standing next to me in line, people on the street – you get the point. I find walking into a room of strangers to be an exciting challenge and leave energized. However, sometimes I forget that not everyone is like me. This is especially true in my chosen field where I’m mostly surrounded by introspective analytical types. As the article states, those who are introverted would rather have their “head stapled to the carpet”.

Take heart, my more reticent sisters and brothers. You can be just as effective at networking, provide you understand what networking is and is not. The perception many people have about networking is that it’s all about schmoozing and collecting business cards. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Networking is about building relationships. When you need assistance, it’s much easier to ask someone you know for help. And the corollary is that people are much more likely to assist someone they know than a stranger. You can collect thousands of business cards but if the person you call doesn’t remember you, it’s no different than a cold call.

Networking is as much about listening as it is about talking. This is where introverts have a distinct edge over us more outgoing types. You learn more if you really listen to what people have to say (rather than focusing on what you’re going to say next). Yes, you do need to be able to talk about yourself as well, but if you listen to them you can identify common interests or ask questions to keep the conversation going. However to network effectively, you do have to be willing to introduce yourself to someone you don’t know.

You can greatly lower barriers to talking to a complete stranger if your choose your networking events wisely. I’ve heard people describe networking events where the sole purpose seems to be collecting business cards. If you attend an event where the sole purpose is “networking” it may not be a very satisfying experience. You would be best to focus on events where you’re more likely to have a common interest with the other attendees. Professional association meetings, technology seminars, and educational events all provide opportunities to meet people who share similar interests. You don’t have to limit yourself to professional meetings though. Any recreational activity or club can provide a great opportunity to network. Once you know you share a hobby with someone, a logical next step is to ask them about their career. You never know what you might learn.

It helps to set goals for yourself when attending networking events. Will you introduce yourself to 2 new people at the first event and maybe increase that to three at the next? If you end up spending the entire evening with one person, it kind of defeats the purpose of networking. It sometimes helps to attend with someone you know. You may even want to team up with someone a bit more extroverted than you or who may know people attending the event. They can take the first step, make introductions and help you feel more comfortable. Just be sure you don’t use this person as an excuse not to go out and meet people on your own. The hardest part is getting started, it does get easier with practice.

Remember, it’s not about quantity or the number of people in your network, it’s about the quality of your relationships. It also helps to know a few people who have great networks you can tap into. I have people in my network who I call not because they are the expert in a particular field but because they’re bound to know someone who is. This was especially useful to me this past summer. I can’t say I have lots of contact in my daughter’s chosen field in Chicago but when I asked the people in my network for help, we came up with a fairly impressive list of contacts.

Finally, the most important factor in networking is often the most neglected. You must follow up afterwards. At the risk of sounding redundant, networks are built on relationships and you don’t build an effective relationship after one meeting. The rule of thumb is you should follow up within 48 hours after meeting a new person. Otherwise, you put it off until it feels awkward to do so. The simplest form of follow up is to send an e-mail. Let them know that you enjoyed meeting them. I often take notes on people’s business cards. I jot down what we talked about, common interests, and where we met. This helps me not only for the initial follow up but also when contacting them again down the road or when you see them again at the next event. When I attend a regular event, such as a monthly meeting, I like to review the cards I collected at previous events. That way I can refresh my memory about who I met and what we talked about.

Follow up is more than just a one time activity. It takes time and attention to build an effective network. Share interesting articles. Let people know about upcoming events that match their interests. And you may even want to invite someone to meet you for coffee, lunch, or a drink after work. People seem to think that networking is about what other people can do for you. Yes, we all need to tap into our networks from time to time for advice, a referral, or other assistance. By the same token, the people in our network need to know that the relationship is reciprocal and that they can call on us as well.

I’d be remiss if I ignored that fact that today networking is not only a face to face activity but also a virtual activity as well. I’ll save the topic of using the internet for networking for another day though. What are your thoughts? Should we combine in person and virtual networking in our discussions this month or save the topic of virtual networking for another month?

More to come

Friday, February 29, 2008

Highlights from the 2/26 Discussion Group Meeting

Thanks to everyone who came out for our first evening Discussion Group meeting! We had a great turn out and fabulous discussions. Given the venue and the size of our group, we broke up into 3 smaller groups and switched places throughout the evening. This gave everyone a chance to meet and talk with almost everyone who attended.

The highlights for me weren’t so much around the topic of mentoring but more around the need for this group. The women who attended were hungry for an opportunity to network with other women and discuss meaningful topics.

I also learned that many of the attendees weren’t aware of the history of Women & Hi Tech, so please allow me to tell the story from my perspective. The beginning came when I met Georgia Miller at a meeting called to discuss bringing more technology and science businesses to Indiana. What struck both of us was the lack of women at this meeting. We both voiced this opinion and then struck up a conversation during a break. From this conversation, we decided to bring in other women we knew to continue discussing the challenges that women face in technology fields.

We had a great turn out for that first meeting, which led to another, and another. Our attendance grew with each meeting and we knew we were onto something. Finally came the time to turn these informal discussion groups into a more formal organization and just over a year later in July 1999 Women & Hi Tech was formally incorporated.

Our mission has always been to attract, develop, retain, support, and promote women in science and technology fields. I’d like to expound upon each of those concepts. The first step is to attract women and girls to these fields. Studies have shown that the “weed out” age for most technology careers is middle school. If girls don’t take the right science and especially math classes in middle school, then they can’t take the requisite science and math courses in high school that will prepare them for these majors in college. Then when these young women reach college, they find that if they’d like to major in science, engineering, technology that they may not be able to complete their degree in four years.

Unfortunately, many girls aren’t encouraged to take these classes. They’re seen as too hard and girls may not understand the need to take calculus, chemistry, or physics. Our modern media typically doesn’t portray women as scientists, computer programmers, or engineers unless they’re the homely type.

For the women who do make it through these majors in college, it’s important that they have the support to continue to develop in their careers. With the exception of medical school, the ratio of women in most graduate programs in science and technology can be as low as one woman for every 10 men. These are also careers that seem to promote and reward a macho culture of devoting most of your waking hours to your chosen profession. Many young women will have few female role models and fewer still who haven’t adopted the male style prevalent in these fields.

This is why retention becomes an issue. Women drop out of science and technology careers at a rate of 2:1 vs. their male colleagues. Young women are led to believe that 50+ hour work weeks are necessary to advance at a point in their life when they are beginning to think about beginning their families. So, many of them drop out, either into more traditionally female fields or out of the workforce altogether.

Women in the workforce face far different challenges than their male counterparts. This is difficult enough for any working woman but these issues become magnified when you are in the minority among your colleagues. I believe that few men consciously discriminate against women. However, it happens nonetheless. I’ve attended many a conference or seminar where all the speakers are men. I don’t believe the organizers purposely omitted women but they didn’t see anything wrong with a panel without women. As women we need to support each other, speak up when we see unintentional omissions, help our male colleagues, and superiors understand the challenges we face each day.

Finally we need to celebrate and promote the successes of women in science and technology. Who are the role models for our daughters? As I mentioned in a previous column, the last women to win Nobel Prizes in some fields did so in the 1960’s, though I’d argue that there are many successful women in the sciences despite this. You need look no further than the list of Leading Light award winners for confirmation of this. We can’t wait around for others to shine the spotlight on us. We need to do this for ourselves.

This is why I’ve been a part of Women & Hi Tech all these years. It’s been about women supporting each other through, networking, mentoring, and being the spotlight for one another’s successes. It’s about reaching back to help the next generation of women, to provide role models, and help them learn from our struggles. For me it’s about leveling the playing field for my daughter, my nieces and all the other young women out there.

On a final note, back to our discussion topic for all of you out there who mentioned that you are looking for mentors, please e-mail me. I’ll be happy to tap into my personal network to help you find someone who can help you.

By popular demand, these meetings will take place monthly. The next meetings will be on Tuesday March 18th at 6:45 am at B Java and on Tuesday March 25th at 7pm at D’Vine. Our next topic will be on networking – stay tuned for more.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Notes from Our First Discussion Group

This morning we had a small but enthusiastic group meet at B Java for the first Women & Hi Tech Discussion group. It was a very engaging and enlightening discussion. As promised, I’m posting some highlights of the discussion for the benefit of those of you who weren’t able to join us in person.

So, what would entice someone to go to a meeting at 6:45 on a cold, snowy morning? Everyone who attended expressed a desire to connect with other women in the community who are facing other challenges. These are all women who would like to be more involved with Women & Hi Tech but who found that meeting times and/or locations just didn’t work with their schedules. It is a constant challenge. You can’t ever choose a meeting time and/or location that will work for everyone. I am open to suggestion though. If you have alternate times/days/locations, I’m more than willing to give them a try and see who can attend.

So, now to this month’s topic – Mentoring. We began by discussing the value of finding a mentor outside of your own company. For those of us who work for large companies, we can be a bit insular and not look for best practices outside of our own walls. For those who work in smaller companies, available mentors may be few and far between, so it may be necessary to look outside for the mentoring you need.

Which led us to the topic of finding a mentor. Several of us have had the experience of being turned down when asking someone to be our mentor. You feel like you’re putting yourself out there by asking in the first place, and being turned down can be more than a little discouraging. It can even lead you to give up and stop asking. People who are known to be good mentors seem to be in high demand and tend to get more requests than they have time to support. What would be desirable in that case would be in these individuals could also provide a list of back up mentors. A no wouldn’t sting quite as much if an alternative was offered.

Another interesting topic was when is it too late to get a mentor? If you feel that you have passed up opportunities early in your career for mentoring, can you still avail yourself mid-career? Does there come a point when you should shift your focus from finding a mentor to being a mentor?

One insightful comment was that a good mentoring program consists of a social network of people with the right disposition as well as the interest to be mentors. Not everyone is cut out to be a mentor, no matter how successful they have been in their own careers. Good mentors are genuinely interested in fostering the growth of others and willing to make a commitment to their protégés. In order for mentoring to be successful there has to be a commitment on the part of both people to meet regularly. One member of our group shared a story about having her meetings with her mentor cancelled because something else came up. After a while, she just stopped trying to schedule these meetings. She said that now that she is a mentor, she makes it a priority to reschedule as soon as possible when she needs to reschedule meetings with her protégés.

So, what about the perception that your mentor needs to be someone very senior in an organization? We all agreed that this was definitely not our experience and that sometimes the best advice came from those “in the trenches” with us.

We also discussed the differences between having a male vs. a female mentor. The prevailing sentiment was that women mentors better understood our challenges of juggling work and family obligations. Whereas men will be able to tell you what you need to do to be successful. Despite talking a good game about the importance of work/life balance, most successful men don’t seem to practice what they preach.

We found the concept in the article of having a “personal board of directors” an interesting one. We’d never really thought of applying mentoring outside of our professional lives. That being said, when we began discussing the idea we all realized that we do have advisors for many phases of our lives (financial advisors, spiritual advisors, etc.), we just didn’t think of it as “mentoring” per se. It’s about having a support network we can tap into when we need advise, which is really what mentoring is all about.

We talked about the possibility of Women & Hi Tech being a conduit for matching up mentors and protégés. It would be nice if we could somehow develop a list of people who are looking for mentors in a particular area with people who are willing to be mentors. It would be great if people could sign up listing both their areas of expertise as well as areas where people would like advice and mentoring. As an interim solution, I’d like to invite anyone who is looking for a mentor to post a request on my blog. Let’s see if we can’t do some match-making.

We ended by discussing potential topics for future meetings. I’ve already begun working on March’s topic – networking. More to come on that in early March. Here were some of the suggestions from this morning’s meeting:

  • Handling e-mail and other communication – dealing with “information overload"
  • Invite winners of the recent Leading Light Awards to come and talk about the accomplishments that led to their nomination
  • Hosting a “Speed Networking” event

What do you think? What topics would you like to see us explore in future meetings or online?

I’m looking forward to the meeting next week. I’ve had a good response and there’s still time to sign up if you haven’t done so already. Can’t come to the meeting? Please share your thoughts with us here online. I’d love to hear from you.

Finally, thanks to our hostess this morning, BJ Davis. She opened B Java Coffee and Tea about a year and a half ago. It's been tough since Starbucks moved in an opened a drive-through. She is indeed, the best barista in town. Fortunately, there are people who want to support local businesses. It'd be better if there were more. If you're ever on the northwest side, stop by and check out her shop. You won't be disappointed!

More to come!


Thursday, February 14, 2008

How to Be a Good Mentee/Protégé:

When you talk to people about mentoring, most conversations focus on the mentor. However, for any relationship to be successful, it takes effort on the part of both people. So, just finding a great mentor is only the start. You also need to understand what you need to do to be a good protégé. (I prefer that word to mentee, so I’ll be sticking with it for the rest of this post.)

I’ve been talking to lots of women who are actively involved in mentoring to get their perspectives on what makes a good protégé. The number one requirement is to know what you want to get out of the relationship. Almost everyone I talked to has had the experience of having a new protégé show up and expecting that the mentor will drive the relationship.

So, step one is to define what you want from a mentor. This needs to be very clear in your own mind before you find your mentor because you want to choose a mentor who can help you attain your goals. The more specific the goal is, the more successful you are likely to be. A goal of “I want to be promoted” is a specific goal, however, a goal of “getting feedback on opportunities available for someone with my background and skill set”, will provide a better framework for discussions. While, it’s good to have goals that will stretch you, try to avoid “solving world hunger” types of goals.

Now that you have a goal and a mentor, it’s important to set mutual expectations for your relationship. How often will you meet? What kinds of interactions will you have outside of your formal meetings? What kind of communication style works best for you? Do you want someone who will be “brutally honest” or do you prefer a softer approach? What communication tools work well for both of you – e-mail, phone calls, etc.?

Another requirement mentioned by mentors is the protégés need to be open to feedback. People who are resistant to constructive feedback won’t derive much benefit from a mentor. It’s not just about listening to the feedback, you also have to be willing to make changes in response to the feedback.

Finally, all good relationships should provide benefit to both parties. If you are luck enough to have a good mentor, think about what you can do to give back to your mentor. Pass on an interesting article or recommend a good book. Or just offer a heartfelt thank you. Everyone likes to know that she is appreciated.

On another note, in response to my own challenge, I do have some examples of famous women mentors and protégés:

  • Audrey Hepburn mentored Elizabeth Taylor
  • Warren Buffet mentored Katharine Graham (chairman of the Washington Post)
  • Bob Metcalf (founder of 3COM) mentored Beth Marcus (President of Glow Dog Inc.)

I'll keep looking and post more examples as I find them. Please add to my list.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Women & Mentoring

In preparing for the first discussion group, I've been doing a bit of research on the topic of mentoring. One resource I went to was Wikipedia, which does indeed have an entry for Mentoring. What struck me was when I read through their list of famous mentor-protege pairs, was the lack of female names. In fact in the list of 23 pairs, only one woman appears - Diana Ross as the mentor to Michael Jackson. Here's the link if you'd like to review the article yourself

My first response to the lack of women's names was to be outraged. How could women be left off the list. Why I can think of dozens of examples. How could they overlook ... um ... But there's ...

I'm ashamed to admit that I couldn't think of any examples off the top of my head. I went through all the famous women I could think of and tried to come up with her mentor and came up blank. I then tried to think of who these famous women had mentored and also came up blank.

Why is this? In doing research I've come across the perception that successful women are perceived as not doing enough to help and mentor the women coming up behind them. Theories about why this is so abound. Successful women feel like they had to make it on their own, so others should too. Women feel like asking for help is a sign of weakness. Successful women don't want to be perceived as giving preference to other women. Women tend to have more responsibilities outside of work than their male counterparts and so just not enough time to take on a protege. Women aren't as secure in their success as their male counterparts and may feel threatened by a younger protege. In choosing a mentor, do women gravitate toward men since they see them as holding the "real power"?

Then there is the other side of the coin. Often men are afraid to mentor women because they are afraid that the relationship will be seen as more than just professional.

What impact does this have? Well since we're Women & Hi Tech, lets look at achievements in Science & Technology. Since 1901 only 12 women have won a Nobel Prize in science. During that time a total of 519 prizes were awarded. Two women have won the Nobel Prize for Physics; the last one was awarded Marie Goeppert-Mayer in 1963. Three women have won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry; the last one was awarded to Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin in 1964. Seven women have won the Nobel Prize for Medicine; the last one was awarded to Linda Buck in 2004. Of note, no woman has ever won the Nobel Prize in Economics.

As of 2007, only 13 women were CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Only 1 woman, Angela Braly, was the CEO of a Fortune 50 company. According the the US Department of Labor, only 6% of for profit board positions are held by women.

Is lack of mentoring the only reason? Probably not, but I'm guessing that it is a contributing factor. When I ask the question, "do you have a mentor?", most women I talk to say no. How do we change this?

I also have a challenge. Let's do some research and add some women's names to the list of famous mentor-protege pairs on Wikipedia. Let's change this perception of women and mentoring!

Please share your thoughts, ideas, suggestions. Post them here or come to one of the discussion sessions.

More to come.