Sharing Your Voice: Chicago Women in Tech Takeaways Part I

Just over a week ago I had the chance to go to the Chicago Women in Tech Conference. As a woman new to the Chicago tech scene, I was eager to meet the other women there, to learn about their products and companies and hopefully walk away with a few quality contacts. I received all of those things, but what I was not expecting was the amount of support or inspiration I received...that far exceeded my expectations. There was a common undercurrent in that room...that no matter if you were a developer or marketer, founder or inten, we all have a common humanity. The struggles that the panelists talk about showed me that no matter how successful you are or how much you accomplished, we all are just human and we long for two basic things...finding your voice and having the courage to share it.

My biggest take away was this - we all have a voice, we all struggle to share it, but great things happen when we do share it.

So, over the next week I’ll be recapping what I learned in several of the sessions in a series of posts.

Today, I am going to start with my main takeaways from Amy Francetic, SVP at Invenergy. What resonated with me about Amy’s store is her appreciation for technology while not being a developer or scientist...a path similar to my own. She used her value (which is rock solid business skills) to help engineers and scientists get their products into the world. She also shared 4 fantastic takeaways that have been on my mind for the last 10 days. Here they are and what they mean to me:

  1. “You’ve got to make others want you to be successful” - This hit me right between the eyes. Amy shared a story about how earlier in her career, a mentor of hers taught her that it is not enough to just put your nose down and grind...you have to get others to be invested in your success and want you to success. What does this mean? It means building relationships, finding opportunities for others to shine, and bring part of a team versus just a stand-alone superstar. When you invest in others and the success of the greater team, your star shines brighter too. Those who are collaborative, versus competitive, are the people who become leaders and become the people that others want to lead them. Invest in others...share the article that make you think of them...introduce them to someone you think they should meet, amplify their voice in a meeting and credit their idea. Show that you want others to succeed. Why? Because when you invest in others they invest in you. They want you to succeed. They want to amplify your voice.
  2. “Accept imperfection - Be good enough” - I love and hate this one. Of course it sounds great in theory but in practice it is super easy to get caught in the trap of “it's not enough.” Comparison is the thief of joy...and often times for me comparison is the blockade to action. There will always be more you can do. There is more we all can do. But will it really matter in 6 months that your slides were not perfectly designed before you sent them? Will it matter if you had some assumptions in your write up that you had not exhaustively researched for months? Probably not. What matters is that you spoke up in spite of that uncertainty. You sent the email, you shared the idea, you went to the party, you showed up anyway. It can be easy to doubt ourselves and be our own worst critic, often causing us to not speak up or show up for fear that it is not good enough. But what do most of us regret most in life? Not showing up...trust that it is good enough because...it always is.
  3. “Be authentic” - “You do you”...one of my and my husband’s favorite sayings. The times in my life when I have not felt good about myself were the times in my life I have not been myself. Amy talked about leading the life you want - at work, at home, in the community, and privately. That means knowing yourself and spending time doing what you love. You cannot dive fully into one area and completely forgot the rest, and expect to be happy and fulfilled. Similarly, you cannot lead the life you want if you are leading someone else’s life. While it may bring momentary comfort and be a safer bet, it is never as good as what is uniquely yours.
  4. “Be Grateful” - Amy put a huge emphasis on being thankful and appreciative of others. In today’s world where time in the new currency, taking the time to thank someone for doing something for you, for good vibes, for introductions, for anything...is often overlooked. She said thank them privately, thank them publicly, if someone refers someone to you thank both the referee and the referrer. Make them know you are appreciative and most importantly, that you remember.

So what have I done with this information the last few weeks...here is how I applied it and what has helped me:

  • Share what makes my company and approach different versus what makes it the same (easier said than done)
  • Ask for (and accept) help - help with dinner, help with laundry, help with digital strategy and help with accounting. It is OK not to know everything! Its also OK for dishes to be left in the sink.
  • Taking a pause to get an idea of what makes me show up best - good sleep, healthy food, lots of water, exercise, meditation, talking to a friend each day, taking time to read and learn, being social and planning times to visit with friends. When I take care of me, I love my voice more
  • Thanking those that help me and specifically saying why you are thanking them for...it makes a difference
  • Sharing my voice...it is not perfect, but it is pretty good. And most importantly...it is mine

My challenge to anyone reading this is that you take a minute to think through what your own voice is telling you and then...have the courage to listen to it. 

Cheers to a great week!