Since January, in my efforts to get productive, I signed up for several events in San Francisco and Phoenix. The first event I attended was the Girls in Tech Catalyst Conference, it’s purpose was to enable women to take their next step either in their careers, launching a business, joining a startup, or building their online brand. This event was inspiring because the experts and innovators on the panel were CEOs of their own companies and they were women. There was one high school girl who got permission from her school to attend the conference instead of going to classes. I wish there were programs available where high school girls can attend events similar to the Catalyst Conference so they can see there is a path to reach the top.
I wrote about the second event I attended in my last blog, it was the Women 2.0 Will it Launch workshop. This was great because my business partner was able to go through the experience with me, I learned how to iterate through ideas to figure out which ones were viable, learned how to do a 30 sec pitch, and to network all while getting over the flu. We pitched our idea and got a thumbs up on the project from the panel of industry leaders and investors.
The last event I attended was the Society of Women Engineers Designing Women event. This event was to teach junior high school girls about engineering careers. They spent the day at different work stations doing hands on experiments or projects to learn about aeronautical, civil, computer, electrical, and mechanical engineering. Since I got so much inspiration from the last two events, it was time to give back. My friend sent me the email asking for volunteers naturally I said yes. I was at the electrical engineering station and we did experiments with LEDs, a resistor, and a 9-volt battery. The girls learned to put the LEDs in series and saw how the polarity of the LEDs either allowed the current to flow or not. I thought we were going to be creating circuits on breadboards, which in my personal opinion would have been more fun, plus we could have taught the girls more complicated circuits and measuring current with the flux meter.
After arriving back in Arizona, I asked myself what next? I’m inspired, have the thumbs up to turn the idea we pitched into a business, now how do I put it all into play? After attending a Southwest Job Network workshop on networking, I had lunch with one of my friends and she suggested I take a class on entrepreneurship through the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, she sent me an email to the Fasttrac TechVenture program. I applied for it a couple days later and the following Monday, I received the email that I could start class that evening. This is a 10-week condensed workshop which gives the entrepreneur the tools to develop the skills needed to do market research, find a customer need, start, operate, fund, monetize, and grow a technology business. The advisors also make themselves available for one-on-ones to answer specific questions about your business. Francine Hardaway was facilitating, she knows everyone in the Arizona entrepreneurs community and it seems everyone in the bay area as well, you can find her on Twitter @hardaway. I think with all the tools they’ve given us plus the speakers she’s brought into the workshop, we’ve been able to make more forward progress than if I hadn’t been attending Fasttrac.
The last thing I want to mention is a workshop I “accidentally” attended. I signed up for a workshop on how to manage your finances and creative ways to find money through the Phoenix Workforce Connection. Since they had moved the class locations around, I ended up at the “You and Your Future: It Starts Now” workshop led by Kristi Staab. She is a teaching assistant to Jack Canfield, who is known for his Chicken Soup for the Soul books. After a couple of phone calls, she found the finance class I was supposed to go to, however since I am still unfamiliar with Phoenix, I decided to stay. I learned to push outside my comfort zone in this workshop and through it was able to implement some of the success tools I’ve been using when working in a “real job” into the rest of my life. I will write more on some of the lessons I’ve learned from this workshop separately.
Here’s a quick summary of common themes in all of the workshops and conferences I attended since January.
- Have a 30 second elevator pitch, use Buzzuka to help create a pubic or private elevator pitch on yourself, your business, your hobbies — this is free.
Have business cards
- If you’re out of work, you need a pitch to sell yourself to friends and family so they can also network for you to hiring managers and recruiters. You should answer the following questions succinctly in this pitch, where were you recently, what you want to do, what skills or accomplishments do you have to qualify you for what you want to do, mention your top 3 target companies or industries, and a call to action. An example of a call to action is closing with, “Do you know anyone I can talk to in X, Y, Z companies or is in the ____________ industry?” Fill in your target companies and your specific industry.
- If you are starting a business, you should have a hook on what your product is and explain the benefits or the value proposition. The goal is not to get your audience to ask you more about your business or have them tell someone else about your business so don’t worry if you don’t get to finish your pitch.
People really like helping
- If you’re out of work, attending workshops or networking events requires you to give and get business cards to people you find interesting or who can help you find your next job. Business cards are inexpensive or free at Vistaprint or create your own at home with Microsoft Word and clean edged business cards you can print on your own.
- If you have a business, put your Facebook Fan Page or Twitter name on it to encourage people to become fans, try to engage with the people who fan your Facebook and Twitter profiles to learn more about your customers.
- My friends, colleagues, and people I’ve met at the workshops or conferences have been very generous about giving advice or helping link me to other people. I’m really grateful to have such great people in my life. The key to getting help is to ask for it.