Great quotes from #inspiringfiftyno10 mentors about future of women in tech.
In 2009 I picked up an iPhone, downloaded Tumblr from the app store and started blogging. Little did I know that doing so would change my life/career trajectory forever.
For a while now I’ve classed myself as a woman in tech, having carved a path for in the digital landscape. I’m a self-starter.
I’m very lucky that for the past 7-years I’ve had a great deal of support from my family and friends, and also had a brilliant boss at Grow Wild, Candace Moses, who continually pushed me to reach for things that would help me grow, both personally and professionally. Combined they are a fountain of knowledge and experience. And are also very encouraging when it comes to supporting my learning. It was Candace who suggested that I look into getting a mentor to help me progress, career-wise.
For the past twelve months I’ve been looking for the right person to take on that mentoring role in my life. But I’ve been getting mixed signals. I read COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In. In chapter 5: Are You My Mentor? she writes “Chasing or forcing that connection rarely works, and yet I see women attempt this all the time.”
I was slightly alarmed to read that asking someone to be your mentor was a taboo subject and would apparently make me look desperate. “The question is a total mood killer - the equivalent of turning to a pensive date and asking, "What are you thinking?”“ She continues: "The interaction is flattering, but awkward."
And then the nail in the coffin: "Searching for a mentor has become the professional equivalent of waiting for Prince Charming.” “We are teaching women to be too dependent on others." Sandberg finishes off with this gem: "To be clear, the issue is not whether mentorship is important. It is. Mentorship and sponsorship are crucial for career progression.”
So basically, whilst finding a mentor is great and of utmost importance - you can’t come across like a needy Carrie Bradshaw or overly bouncy labrador puppy or you’ll have no chance.
I was doing all that I could. I joined a meetup called W Kollective, which was started by Laurie Wang ‘to create a collaborative community and connect women in digital, technology, and start-ups’. They meet regularly in and around London. I’ve since met some incredible digitally-savvy women working wonders in tech, but still no sign of my prince ahem… mentor.
But then… as I was casually scrolling through my Twitter feed last Monday, whilst at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona with the Microsoft Connects team, I stumbled across the opportunity of a lifetime.
It was an opportunity to attend a mentoring session at 10 Downing Street with fifty incredible women at the top of their game. True leaders in technology. I quickly filled out the online application form and sent it off - crossing all of my limbs for good luck.
I’m a young women amongst a sea of men working in the world of digital. This was THE moment I’d been waiting for. An opportunity to learn from the best, to hear it from the horse’s mouth.
My fellow mentees and I arrived at 10 Downing Street and were ushered into a rather grand state drawing room and given an opportunity to introduce ourselves. We were then taken on a guided tour of the building. We found ourselves walking down the main staircase past numerous black and white engravings and photographs of all the past Prime Ministers. We were then shown into the Cabinet Room - which I’m sure had never seen 40 young women seated around its table - and regaled with stories of the many monumental history-shaping decisions and announcements that had been made in that very room.
We then were invited to observe the #inspiringfiftyno10 mentor’s as they continued their roundtable discussion. I captured a few of my favourite quotes. I wasn’t able to capture quotes from everyone as we joined the roundtable discussion part-way through.
Following the roundtable discussion we were able to chat with a few of the women in a speed mentoring style.
I caught up with Laura Jordan Bambach - Co-founder of SheSays and Cannt Festival, President of D&AD and Creative Partner at Mr. President, who told me that a collaboration early in her career with Rosie helped pave the way for the work she now does at creative agency Mr President and SheSays - a place to help women advance their creative careers in digital.
I then spoke to Baroness Joanna Shields - the Prime Minister’s Digital Advisor, who suggested that a way to progress may be to work in the sustainability or CSR arm of a global brand, so that I can continue doing what I enjoy and also have an impact on the people in the community by using social media as a force for good.
I also caught up with Sarah Wood - Co-founder & COO of video ad tech company @unrulyco. I explained my situation to Sarah, and she encouraged me to experiment with a new channel as a way of being able to give back some of the knowledge that I’ve acquired over the past 6-years of working in digital. Watch this space.
My final speed mentoring session was with Stephanie Hospital - Founder of One Ragtime - an investment fund and start up studio. Stephanie made me smile as she shared her 'No hassle’ approach to working. She’s made a conscious decision to only work with people that she likes. Her advice to me: “Be bullish. Do things. Be nice. Be ambitious, but don’t do so at the detriment of others, then you’ll be recognised as a leader.”
I had a very brief moment talking with Dr Sue Black - Tech advocate and founder of #techmums. I’d love to hear more about her work using tech to empower women in the community.
Another great new contact I made was Victoria Haynes - Founder and CEO of @CapeApp - a smart location app that shows that your friends are in a safe place automatically without revealing exactly where they are. No more worrying if you don’t get a 'I’m home ok’ message. Victoria and I met for a coffee after the event and batted ideas back and forth about her new app venture. She’s looking for investors too.
Want to know more about #inspiringfiftyno10?
- Check out the Twitter list of #inspiringfiftyno10 mentors
- Check out the Twitter list of #inspiringfiftyno10 mentees