WomenInTech FestivalI’ve been rocking the conference circuit these days, and last Wednesday I attended one I haven’t been to before. The Women In Tech Festival held in Silicon Valley is focused on, you guessed it, Women in Tech.

I had to arrive a bit late so unfortunately I missed the first two panels (which looked really good), but I made it just in time to attend the panel “Entrepreneur Extraordinaire” with Anna Counselman, Jody Vandergriff, Heather Hiles and Kathleen Ryan as the moderator. This panel was my favorite, I literally took 2 pages of notes they were sharing so much knowledge & good advice. Here’s some just to give you a taste…

ps – I was using the wrong hashtag for most of the conference, if you want to search look up #SVFWomenTechFest

“Carve out 5 years of your life, it always takes longer than you think. Be relentless. We refused to accept anything but success. Stop trying to grow a business and start trying to fulfill a true need. Listen to your customers.” – Jody Vandergriff

“There’s no way I could be doing what I’m doing without having Mentors & Sponsors in my corner.” – Anna Counselman

A mentor is someone who talks to you about you.

A sponsor is someone who talks about you to other people. – Anna Counselman

“I think African American women and Latina’s are the canaries in the coal mine. There’s only 12 African American women in the country who have been venture backed. We need to make the unconscious conscious to make the change. One of the problems in this region is that the cliques are so deep, it’s hard to penetrate that if you’re not from here. I advocate being yourself and being authentic and to just do what you do.” – Heather Hines

At the end I stood up and asked a question about whether each of them had ever come up against the Bitch Stigma, and all of the panelists had something insightful to share as a response.

“Wearing your confidence is how you lead the way. I stopped caring about whether someone thinks I’m a bitch. As soon as you start asserting authority it’s going go wrong. I stopped trying to be the loudest person in the room. I was the most successful when I was just being me.” – Jody Vandergriff

“I’m soft spoken and I’d gotten feedback that I should be more assertive. I decided to take it to heart and look at it, to ask myself, is my soft-spoken leadership style going to limit me? So I talked to a mentor and asked if I should think about changing my leadership style to be more aggressive, even though that didn’t feel authentic to me. She said, “If people like the cake you’re baking, those people shouldn’t ask you to change the recipe.” As there is continues to be different types of leaders out there, people will stop thinking there’s only one way.” – Anna Counselman

“People who are arrogant get pigeon-holed and then others don’t want to work with them. Positive enforcement works much better, and I believe that bringing your own authentic, positive approach is the best way to get people to do the best work for you.” – Heather Hines

During lunch they offered a few workshops, and though I hadn’t planned on attending I ended up in the room for “Building a Company That Matters” by Shernaz Daver and I’m sure glad I did! She’s a great speaker, with a casual tone that flows really easily through the content. It was really cool to hear her talk about the many years she’s been working with both big and up-and-coming companies in Silicon Valley and some of the fun stories about guerilla marketing campaigns she’s been a part of.

Here are some of her recommendations for creating a company that makes a big impression on consumers:

Wait for the right hire forever. It’s worth it.

Winning just tastes really, really good! Ultimately every company is trying to win. You have to win. I’ll tell you, being first…there’s nothing like it!

Do you want to be a footnote or a trailblazer?

When a crisis happens, there’s three steps to follow:

  1. Own Up
  2. Move Fast
  3. Change Course

Every company is going to have a crisis. It’s like puberty, if it hasn’t happened yet, just wait. It’s GOING to happen.

If I hire someone totally different from me & respect their opinion we’re going to create something that breaks through in a big way.

Largely, people are loyal to companies that delight them.

Be open to ideas from any direction & look outside of the immediate [project] group for inspiration.

“If it’s a fight worth fighting, keep at it.” – Shernaz Daver

Another great panel was the “Women Leaders & Next-Gen Tech” with Emily LeProust, Gretchen West, Alyssa Simposon & Steffi Paepcke that ended up with a strong focus on Artificial Intelligence & Robotics since half the panel work on both. As usual I had two screens going for the whole event, typing notes on my ipad and live tweeting as much as possible. I managed to post quite a few tweets during this one.

The networking hour at the end was fun & I spoke with women in all aspects of the tech industry. I’m finding that going to so many of these conferences in succession gives an even deeper look into all of the amazing conversations that are going on around diversity and women right now. My optimism for the future builds when I see these discussions going on, and the super smart people that are having them. Obviously we’re a long way off from full gender equality, but some serious progress is being made in awareness and community. And that’s an excellent start to change.

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