How a Mentor Can Help Your Career

I don’t know about you, but sometimes you need help you with your career. You need someone to help you with a career decision or to even to call you out on your BS and tell you I know you can do better, followed by a huge kick in the right direction!

Last Monday night I had the pleasure of attending DiversiTech312, an evening of networking and speed mentoring for women, people of color, members of the LGBT community and those with disabilities who are interested in a career in the tech sector, created by Mobile Makers Academy, Dev Bootcamp, Ms. Tech and Girl Develop It Chicago.

One point that was continually mentioned by the panel was the idea of rebranding tech. We need to rebrand tech to say “hey you, YOU belong here”. That all begins with people who are already in tech showing up and saying to everyone WE BELONG here and I’m here to help you. That’s exactly why we need mentors and networking events, so we can connect with others!

At the event attendees split into groups with one mentor and up to 4 attendees. Attendees had the opportunity to meet experienced mentors in the community to gain guidance, inspiration, and ask any burning questions they had.

I got the pleasure of being a mentor. You’re probably thinking at your young age and being early in your career what could YOU share? I’m not going to lie I was thinking that exact same thing at first….  After this experience I realized when looking for a mentor age or length of career don’t matter. What matters are your experiences and your willingness to share knowledge and information.

I met with a handful of people who asked really great questions from “how did you decide what to for your career” to “what field should I look into”? It was wonderful to give others guidance and share my resources. But not only did they learn from me, I learned from them too! I learned new perspectives and new avenues to explore from all their questions and experiences. I also learned that at the end of the day you might not find all the qualities you want for a mentor in ONE person. But it takes a village to raise a child, so why can’t you have a team to help your career?

What do you look for in a mentor? Do you think you NEED a mentor?

How We Can Help Girls Get Into Stem

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Last Saturday I had the pleasure of volunteering at “Girls Do Hack” at Chicago’s Alder Planeterium. This was the first time the planetarium held the all day event, which was created to help expose high school age girls to fields in STEM and empower those involved to share their STEM expertise.

The girls began their day with keynote speaker Poornima Vijayashanker, Founder of Femgineer (which you can watch below). Femgineer is a start-up aimed at promoting women in the fields of STEM. She gave a very inspirational speech before groups divided for the day.

Each group had 4 young women and 2 mentors and they selected a variety of workshops and activities to attend within the planetarium. The workshops and activities were developed by Adler Planetarium staff and partner organizations to reflect a cross-section of STEM careers. Some on the workshops and activities included: a 3D printing experience, a mobile phone app lab (the girls could learn how to create their own phone apps), circuit monster workshop (the girls mixed chemicals and created electrical circuits to look like a “monster”), and a lock picking class (the girls learned about the world of physical security).

After all the workshops the girls then got the chance to stand before the other groups and tell the most memorable parts of their day as well as what they took away from the experience.

All in all, we need more events like this for our young women. It was so inspirational to see these young women doing STEM activities and having fun with it. This type of event allows young women to learn more about the STEM world, but it also shows them that there are women like them doing STEM in real life. So what are we waiting for! Let’s get out there and show these girls its real!!

Facebook Has A Case of the Mondays

I’m sure I’m like everyone else that woke up confused because Facebook was messing up! If you can’t post to Facebook this morning, you’re not alone and judging by social media it’s down in several other countries.

When trying to post a status or even like a post an error message pops up. This isn’t just on people’s individual pages this also goes for groups and uploading photos. You can still access Facebook and everything looks normal UNTIL you try to post. And don’t even think about trying to post for a third-party app because you’ll get the same result. NOTHING!

As of 9 am CST Apparently some functionality has returned, including the ability for some people to post to business pages. But I must be one of the few who doesn’t have the ability to post yet because I’ve been trying to post for the last 5 minutes and that’s a no go. Also, commenting is said to still be a hit-or-miss and you can forget about saying happy birthday to your friends because that’s not working either.

Currently there’s no word from Facebook. How are they going keep us hanging like this?! Don’t they know we need our early morning fix? Since I’m not a heavy Facebook user I’ll just continue to use Twitter because that’s where the real fun is now. Until lunch time it looks like a lot of people will be productive.

UPDATE: All is well and working according to Facebook! Facebook finally released a statement saying:

Earlier this morning, while performing some network maintenance, we experienced an issue that prevented some users from posting to Facebook for a brief period of time. We resolved the issue quickly and are now back to 100%.

Well until the next Facebook issue folks….

 

Chicago Women in Tech Are Still Buzzing….

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If you live in Chicago you’ve probably heard the screams lately about women in tech, if not check out this article. From that article a fury of responses rumbled about what women should be doing and why we aren’t viewed as a large contributor to tech. (Even I had to respond to that rumbling). Well all this Chicago women in tech “talk” finally was taken to talk radio last week on WBEZ by 3 tech industry gurus (Reva Minkoff, Blagica Bottliegero, and Monica Metzler) who shared their personal experiences and beliefs on the situation. Reva Minkoff is the founder and president of DigitalGroundUp and Digital4Startup. Blagica Bottliegero, founder of Zlato Digital and a weekly online show called Ladies Talk Tech and Monica Metzler, executive director for the Illinois Science Council to talk about the conversation that grew out of her initial thoughts on the issue.

Listen to the radio show and their opinions on tech: http://m.soundcloud.com/afternoonshiftwbez/women-in-the-chicago-tech

Leave me some comments on your reaction to the show. Do you think what the ladies said was valid? Do you think that tech is really becoming the “good old boys club”?

Do YOU Give Back?

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Two weeks ago Amos Winbush III, CEO and founder of CyberSynchs, was on a show on ABC called “Secret Millionaire” (see above if you missed it). Secret Millionaire follows a successful business person for one week as they leave their lavish lifestyles, conceal their true identities, and go to live and volunteer in a poverty stricken neighborhood in America. Their mission is to discover deserving individuals who continually sacrifice everything to help those in need and encourage others to do the same. On the final day the business person reveals their true identities and gives a large amount of their own money which usually changes their lives forever.

In this episode, Winbush, a Shreveport native, spends a week in News Orleans visiting individuals and community organizations using a secret identity. During his visit, he helped at several organizations that touched and moved him in amazing ways, including: St. Paul’s Homecoming Center, a non-profit that’s dedicated to restoring and rebuilding the homes of displaced residents; Hope United Church & Community Center; and A’s and Aces, a program that works with children and focuses on improving literacy, teaching positive behavior and citizenship all while promoting healthy living through the game of tennis. Winbush also meets some strong and determined local residents who change his life in numerous ways. In the end he gives his own money to everyone he interacted with on the show.

While I enjoy the concept of the show it makes you wonder why don’t we give back? Why does it take a show to track you down and TELL you to give back. Winbush commented on his expensive ties and dinners yet when Katrina hit he never mentioned volunteering money or effort and he was effected (his cousins lived in a Katrina hit area)! Let’s reflect this Labor Day, we work so hard to achieve what? Fame, wealth, a great lifestyle? All this is fine but you should NEVER forget there are people in this world/community that needs help. Let’s start taking time to help our communities whether it be via service or money.

How are you giving back to YOUR community?

Women in Tech ARE Here: My Response to Katherine Raz’s Op-Ed

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If you live in Chicago and are part of the tech scene then you probably read Katherine Raz’s op ed piece for Crain’s last week.  I’ve read and re-read (probably about 20 times) to really dig deep into what Raz was saying. A lot of people jumped down her throat immediately saying she was insulting women in tech. That’s not what she meant, but with such a complex issue she couldn’t address EVERYTHING.

In my experience, there are a lot of women working in the tech industry and I believe women’s presence WILL continue to grow in the tech sector, if women want it to. For example, in 2009 all but two of the 19 U.S. high-tech IPOs in 2009 had at least one female officer. Compare that to 1988, when only 4% of the 134 firms that went public in the U.S. had women in top management spots.

Clearly, female presence in the tech sector has grown but what we need to focus on is how to keep this momentum going and how to engage more women (specifically in the Chicago area) to enter the tech sector without hesitation or fear. I think we need to make tech attractive to women again and show them that they have support. A few ways to do that are:

1. Create accelerators that focus solely on developing women developers

There are programs like the Starter League, which has attendees from all over the world. Start looking into programs as such to gain a competitive edge. However, such programs should also take a chance and encourage women but creating programs that would focus on females who want to learn how to program. Many may not take the opportunity but at least you can say you tried right?

Also encourage young girls to take advantage of programs expose them to tech such as Black Girls Code or Digi Girlz. If you really want to start increasing the presence of women in tech, start exposing tech to girls while they are young.

2. Increase networking opportunities with fellow female techies 

Organizations like Ms. Tech and Women 2.0 are doing wonderful events all the time to get fellow female techies to meet up. Let’s start taking advantage of these groups! Stop pretending “you’ll go next time”, start going NOW. I could even take it a step further and show say to show that you really support woman of tech let’s accommodate working mothers and provide child care at certain events. We need to ban together and look out for one another.

3. Take advantage of the new work environment

Currently, there are more women in college now than men, and more women than men in the workforce. The idea of “traditional workspace” is out the window at this point. With the creation of virtual offices and other non-traditional approaches to business women should take advantage! More women need to believe that instead of giving up your dreams of balancing a family and work, take advantage of finding a company that has all of these things or finally taking that risk and creating your own company.

4. Showcase our successful women techies

Last week in Chicago there was an event at Crain’s Chicago called Tech Talk Live where a panel of female techies discussed their role and place in tech. Although I wasn’t able to attend I did read live tweets from the event and it was beyond informative and real. We need to have more events like this to showcase that YES! We are women of tech and we exist and YES! We are here to stay.

Instead of arguing over if there’s a lack of females in tech in Chicago, or nationwide, let’s start creating solutions and putting in place programs, events, whatever that will encourage, support, and increase women in tech. I understand there are other factors involved with women like family demands, money, etc, but we can begin by giving women opportunities. Once we have opportunities in place, we can address the additional factors to support women and help them accomplish their goal. So women, if you really want to, we can slowly start taking over the tech world, one company at a time. What will it be women?

What are some reasons you think women are not present in tech in Chicago, or anywhere else? How do you think we can improve the presence of women in the Chicago tech world?

Does Normal Really Get You Nowhere?

I just finished reading a great book by Kelly Cutrone (might’ve seen her on The Hills or know her PR firm, People’s Revolution) called “Normal Gets You Nowhere”. Her book is a painfully honest revolution of why normal really gets you nowhere. After reading this book I felt so inspired to embrace my quirkiness to the world.

Since Kelly was brave enough to share her wisdom on not being normal I wanted to share 5 tips of wisdom I gained from her.

1) Don’t get comfortable with the “norm”

Have you ever asked yourself, “[w]hat do you have to say? What in this world are you called to fight for?”. Well Kelly makes you ask yourself in the first chapter of her book. Stop doing what other people in the world want you to do and follow your passion. Also, quit holding back on your ideas and running away from “weirdos”. Start going towards them and embracing them because insanity (weirdness) breeds successful businesses/lifestyles.

She even goes a step further and says “[I]f you’re going to get in the ring, babe, you better know how to box”. It’s all good and dandy to pursue your passion but if you truly love what you’re doing why not strive to be the best?

2) Stop being comfortably numb to the media

Kelly believes “[w]hoever said less is more was right: the less bullshit and frivolity you have in your life, the more attention you have to focus on what is REALLY going on.”

From reality tv to the news to gossip magazines, society has become comfortable with being exposed to mind numbing garbage on a daily basis. When we see/read new ideas we should NEVER take those ideas as the truth but as a starting point. Instead of becoming numb and believing everything we should research ideas and create our own opinion and thoughts on ideas.

3) Awaken your soul

Have you ever taken time to explore how you feel deep down in your soul? Kelly says the way to really awaken your soul is “Consciousness + Compassion + Love in Action. (Oh and don’t forget to add a dash of ruthlessness)”. I don’t know about you but I don’t think enough of us do these things anymore. I think we can all testify that love in action is something so simple but is lacked in society. Something as compassionate and loving as giving a homeless person change is not even a passing thought anymore. Society has made most people completely ruthlessness. However, tune into these three concepts, I have been and I’ve seen a major change in my life and attitude.

4) Have good people are on your team

We come across millions of people in our lifetime, but some we actually connect with and call “friends”. However, we are so quick to quit a relationship because someone has “wronged” us. We HAVE to realize that everyone is human, no one is perfect. There are things that people will do that we won’t like but we need to learn to forgive. Forgiveness with a heart full of understanding rather than a fist of resentment is the greatest thing you can do for someone else AND yourself.

Just make sure whoever is on your team is part of the “No Matter What Club”. That is “a group of people who are progressive, open, fearless, and courageous enough to agree to truly be there for one another, NO MATTER WHAT.” Is every member of your team in the No Matter What club?

5) Go be a spark!

I love the passion that Kelly illustrates the passion for living life to the fullest. A quote that really spoke to my soul and makes me want to engulf myself in everything I do is…

“[a]ll of us are sparks, and the whole global universe is a fireworks show. How does your spark manifest in the world? Is it progressive or effective? And what will it leave on this earth when it has moved?”

This inspires me to go out and make my mark on the world! I want to leave a legacy behind and be the best me as possible.

Overall, the message in Kelly’s book can speak to the world if everyone would take a chance and listen. What do you think, will you read her book? Leave me a note in the comments!