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?