Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Resolutions 2016

Last year, I wrote this post while drinking some very good wine at the bar at Abe Fisher's while waiting for my family to join me for dinner.  It is a little earlier in the day this year, so no drinks to help me get started, but I guess that shows I don't need to drink to help me get started writing. 

I have decided this is going to be a tradition.  After reviewing my post, I realized that writing down my resolutions did help me be more aware of most of them.  I did forget a few.  I can also go back and see if I did a decent job of keeping them or at least making progress.  I will go back to a word I used - accountability.  Resolutions and goals are useless without having someone to be accountable to, even if it is yourself.  I think I would add some new words - a plan of action - to help me do even better.

So, here is what I resolve for 2016:

-Being nicer to those closest to me.  I will admit that I can be flippant, short, not thoughtful, and take them for granted.  This was on my list for this year and I do not think I did a good job of making progress.  I am putting alot of thought into how I can be better.

-I am keeping not eating mediocre food on here again.  This is the third year for this one.  And this is not about going to the most expensive restaurant or the most sought after place to get a coveted reservation, it is about eating good food.  I believe food is to be enjoyed and paying for food that is sub par is just not something I want to choose to do.  At least if you are going to have a meal with me, you will be well feed.

-I will continue to say yes more often.  I read an article about Amy Poehler in June and she lived by this for improv.  Saying yes to suggestions keeps my negativity from talking me out of projects, ideas, events that can be great for me!  That does not mean I don't assess some of the risks, so don't ask me to jump off a building, but I may be more likely to not stay at home if you ask me to go to a concert on a "school" night or take that speaking engagement.  More experiences are better for me to grow as a person. I talk myself out of too many opportunities.

- I need to get back to learning French and now Italian.  I was not consistent in 2015 so back on the wagon!  I am going to try and find someone who wants to learn with me.

This is a pretty good list and I think I can stick to it.

Here is to a good, exciting, healthy, adventurous, prosperous happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

How Philly Can Be the Capital of Gender Equality in Tech

I was recently asked to write an article for Philly Magazine on Philadelphia and our role in creating a more gender rich tech community.  The original article is here, but if you are too comfortable on this page, below is the article

If you’ve been watching certain aspects of the news over the last 18 months that aren’t focused on the Pope coming to Philadelphia, the race for president, or the opening of Star Wars, you may have heard about the current and constantly increasing shortage of workers in the technology space. The U.S. Department of Labor has been forecasting a shortfall of 1 million technology jobs in less than five years.
Being part of the tech industry has made me acutely aware of the reality that supports the barrage of statistics. My company, Chariot Solutions, is a great example, as we can’t find enough experienced, top-notch software architects to meet demand.

One way to ultimately resolve the shortage of tech professionals would be to get more women into the field. Stats show that only 27 percent of women in science, engineering, math and tech careers are women, while those women who are software engineers clock in at around 13 to 15 percent. If you consider women are currently more than half of the workforce and earn 57 percent of the bachelor’s degrees, there's a major mismatch.

The lack of gender diversity is not just a social-good issue, it's an economic one. Tapping into this pool to expand the region’s technology and innovation workforce will allow our region’s businesses to grow and thrive. And, remember, technology isn’t just “coding.” It’s game design, cyber security, robotics, multimedia, smart fabrics, medical devices and a multitude of things that we haven’t even discovered yet.
The Philadelphia region is already set up to be a leader in gender equality in tech. A recent study showed Philadelphia as the 9th best city for women in tech, with women filling over 30 percent of the computer occupations and having the smallest gender pay gap. Our community has an incredible amount of resources for women who are looking to be involved in tech, including the largest chapter of Girl Develop It in the country, the Women in Tech Summit, LadyHacks, and of course, my favorite, TechGirlz. Contrary to what we hear about other cities, our tech community is extremely generous and welcoming to anyone who wishes to join.
 But more needs to be done. There are not enough girls coming up through schools to fill the rapidly growing number of positions created by technology. So, what can Philadelphia do to continue to be a leader in gender diversity in tech?
  • Inspire our large tech workforce to share their skills and expertise. TechGirlz is not lacking for girls who want to learn, we are lacking for instructors who have the knowledge to teach our materials.
  • Educate our parents and teachers about the variety of career options available and also why being proficient in technology makes you more employable, even if you think technology isn't part of the career path. This group has a profound influence on the career decisions of young people.
  • Encourage K-12 schools and universities to take a hard look at how they are educating young women around tech. The education system needs to incorporate a curriculum that teaches technology, not just the use of iPads and computers to deliver courses. The curricula must also be inspiring and resonate with girls and young women. This is an issue we hear time and time again from our attendees and volunteers.
  • More collaboration between organizations, for profit and not for profit, whose goals are similar. Sharing resources — space, curricula, volunteers, constituents, marketing — allows us to create stronger solutions. No one person or group owns the problem. No one owns the ultimate answer. One reason for the current success of the girls and women in the Philly tech community is due to our ability to work together.
  • Create more internship and learning opportunities. Although it is an investment for businesses, having internships and hiring less experienced employees will create the next generation of experienced workers. Where else are they going to learn the skills?
  • Work smarter to retain the women who are coming into these tech careers. Companies should look not only at their culture to see if it supports biases, but also at their benefits, work environments and flexibility to keep women in their employ.
  • Women who are in the tech field already need to be much more visible. Philadelphia women in tech should be more proactive and take the initiative to start speaking at more local events, attending events and being mentors.
Philadelphia already has the means to support gender diversity in tech and be a leader in the innovation economy — it just needs the support from a workforce that can execute. We already have all the building blocks in place. Now we just need you. The tech community cannot create this change on their own. We need business leaders, educators, parents, government officials and community organizations to join together and take the actions, those outlined above and others, to spark change. Let’s make the Philadelphia region the envy of other cities by having a large and inclusive tech workforce that drives our economic growth and success.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Everyone Sells

The other day as I was leaving my local Target store, I was asked by 3 young men to help them pay for their college education. They were clearly selling something that was contained in the binder they all held, but I had no idea what it was.  I politely declined before finding out what they had, it could have been something I was in need of.  As I was walking towards my car, I thought about turning around and give them some advice on how to better frame their sales pitch. I figured they may not be willing to listen to unsolicited advice, so I drove home.

But, it got me thinking.  If I had given them some advice, what would I tell them. Even though it was a short ride home, I kept thinking that some of my points could be used in many situations since almost all of us is selling something at some point.  Just because you are not making a living in sales, does not mean you are not selling an idea to your colleagues, a raise to your boss, a change in curfew to your parents.

Tell people what you are selling
Seems simple, but sometimes we forget to state the obvious.  What is being sold.  By starting their sales pitch without letting me know what they had to sell, they had lost me from the start.

It is not about you, it is about them
Because the young men in my story started their pitch with “help me pay for college”, they had lost me from the start. They looked like nice young men, but why did I want to help them?  As good as most people are, when we are buying a product, service, etc, the seller needs to understand the benefits to their customer.  Even if you are trying to get a raise, there still needs to be a benefit to the person you are selling the idea of the raise.

Sometimes you need to listen and ask some questions
Now if these young men had completed a few of these steps, the next piece of advice is to listen to the person you are selling to and make sure you ask some questions. Understanding what motivates someone to what or need what you are selling makes it easier for you to sell it to them.

These are just a few basic things to consider when you are looking have someone buy from you.  I forget about them from time and time. When I review why a sales situation did not go as well as it could have, many times it is because I did not follow my own instructions!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Conversations with your customers & audience through social media - Why you need to be engaged

I know I am treading on already discussed ground, but since I recently saw examples of communication failures by companies and organizations around their social media conversations, I guess it does not hurt to look at this topic again.

Recently I cut my 8 inches of my hair to donate to Patene Beautiful Lengths program.  The program takes hair donations and creates human hair wigs for women cancer patients.  Most people are familiar with Locks of Love, another great program, but their donations go to wigs for children.

Now, it took me around 5 months to get my hair to the desired length, I had a pretty good start on it. I don’t tell you this because I want to brag about myself, but to illustrate a point.  A lot of time and effort went into this endeavor, as well as lot of conditioner!  When I told people about my plans, almost everyone asked me if I was donating to Locks of Love. I chose Beautiful Lengths for two reasons, they only require 8 inches of hair versus 10 inches for Locks and I like that the hair goes to women.

This is the second time I have made this donation. I did it about 7 years ago, before social media was a thing. Beautiful Lengths is not as well known as Locks of Love, even seven years later. This time when I visited the website to find the address to send my donation, I notice they had a hashtag.  Being the good social media person I am, I knew I would Instagram, Tweet and Facebook my transformation and maybe get a couple of women to think about a donation of their own.

A bunch of pictures were taken of the actual cutting process and of course of picture of the final product, and I was good to go. My hairdresser is on Instagram and of course I gave her a shout out.  She responded on my post. Nothing from Patene.  I posted on Facebook so my friends were not too surprised of my new look. I received a lot of likes and comments. I posted on Twitter. More likes from friends.

But total silence from Patene.  Think of the conversation they could have had with me.  Besides a thank you, we could have discussed how easy it was to grow, what a great experience it was, why did I do this, how much conditioner I used.  The company is doing a great thing by spearheading this initiative.  They have a great web presence, but if people do not know about the program, how many donations of hair will they get.  I had a story to tell and they missed out on the conversation.

I contrast this with two experiences I had in my business life. The first is at Chariot Solutions.  My marketing assistant posted a picture of one of our employees dogs with a cute saying and the #officedog.  We are trying a campaign to attract employees by showing our culture.  Imagine our surprise when Purina, retweeted the photo, with a new caption.  It was a fun way to engage with us and our audience in an unexpected way.  The photo was then taken by one of the dog’s owners and put on Facebook for an extended reach.

The last is about the non-profit I lead, TechGirlz.  I manage the twitter account, I still can’t let that go. We get a decent amount of mentions and retweets.  Most of the time, I am retweeting or liking others posts, but there are many times when I am answering a question or participating in a group conversation.  Recently, I had to answer one of our parent’s questions and their disappointment about their child not being able to get into one of our TechShopz.  After a little cyber stalking, I realized I had a chance to appeal to him to be a potential teacher.  We had a good conversation on twitter, which drove home the point that TechGirlz has too much demand and not enough instructors. 

Our conversation allowed him to understand why his daughter was not able to get a spot and convinced him to help us out! Without engaging him, this never would have happened.

These are just examples using Twitter. Knowing that there are multiple social media outlets can make this daunting, but having a plan, a process and a "voice" to your responses and engagement should help.

Some items you might want to consider:
-How time sensitive do you want to be in your responses?  A product or service that is needed by your customer may need you to monitor your notifications more often
-Does your social team need advice from experts in your organization before they answer?
-Can you create stock answers to frequently asked questions?

Do you have other suggestions?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Thoughts on the passing of Dave Goldberg, Sheryl Sandberg's husband

It is funny, I did not know the name of Sheryl Sandberg's husband until this weekend when the news of his sudden passing hit my news feed on twitter.  Up to that point, all I knew of him is Ms. Sandberg's recounting of how important his support of her had been in her career and how her advice of choosing the right partner had been a key to her ability to lean in.

His passing at such a young age made me think about a few items which I think are important for all women who are married, especially with children.

First, I want to reiterate Ms. Sandberg's position on having a supportive mate.  My husband, Steve, is my second biggest supporter. (Sorry, hon, my mom is still number one.)  All kidding aside, Steve's mindset of sharing child rearing and home responsibilities has allowed me to pursue my career aspirations.   He has also supported my career choices, varied as they have been.  We have both made sacrifices, and trust me, it has not always been easy raising two children with two working parents, but his support has given me the opportunity for choices.

But here are some points that will not be discussed when recounting Mr. Goldberg's death and how it will effect Ms. Sandberg's future - we can be positively certain she will not need to worry about money and her financial future.  This may be crass to discuss at this time, but tactfulness has never been a part of my upbringing.

So take this opportunity to discuss frankly with your partner about life without them.  Do you have a will? And if you have one, does it reflect changes that may have occurred since you first put it together?  When was the last time you looked at your insurance policies? Do you have have enough replacement income to maintain your current lifestyle, not to mention to pay for your kids' college tuition?  Have you looked at your spouse's benefits at their work and are you named as the beneficiary?

And there are probably items I have not even thought about myself.  Trust me, I have put calling my lawyer and insurance agent on my to do list this week. Since I live with my accountant, I will ask him when I get home.

Discussing death is not a topic we want to think about. It is scary and hopefully we will all be celebrating our 50th Anniversaries with our spouses while our children and grandchildren. But, there are some items that are not worth putting off.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Periscope vs Meerkat Bake Off

It is not often that you get to do a truly side-by-side comparison of two new tools, but Gloria Bell (@gloriabell) and I (@twelsonrossman) got the perfect opportunity to do just that with Meerkat and Periscope at the Philly Emerging Technologies for the Enterprise Conference (#PhillyETE) last week.

We used both apps at various times throughout the conference, but at the Day 2 Keynote, we did an actual side-by-side comparison.
The reason we wanted to try live streaming at the conference is a no brainer, this has the potential to be a great marketing tool . The ability to reach more people with good content, is really exciting when you run a lot of events like we do.  

Here are the pros and cons of each with our “Bake-off” winner (and the reasons why) below.


Pros: Easy to set up an account
Easy to give the stream a name / title  
                       Ability to tweet comments in the stream
                       Can schedule a stream
            Ability to save broadcast
                       Can target smaller, more direct audience because no auto link to Twitter

Cons:       Cannot zoom in or increase volume
                      Need a built-in audience to gain viewers  
                      Lack of direct connection to tweet the stream makes it harder to gain audience
                      Hard to manage the chat and hold the phone
                      Need a good cellular or Wi-fi connection to make it work
                      Hard to understand the metrics for viewership during the broadcast and post
                      Lack of documentation on how to use it
           Really need a tripod for a good recording
           No post-viewing metrics

                    Setting up the account was easy
         Ability to save the broadcast
                    Connecting to and broadcasting via Twitter was easy
        Ability to tweet comments and likes in the stream, but can’t easily add
        other Twitter names in the tweet
        Easy to “title” - just like a tweet
        Direct link to Twitter makes for a larger audience but also more possibility for spam

         Can’t switch between Twitter accounts
                    Can only have one account associated with the app
                    Need a good cellular or Wi-fi connection to make it work
         Hard to manage the chat and hold the phone
                    Lack of documentation on how to use it
                    Few metrics - post view metrics much easier to see on an iPad
         Really need a tripod for a good recording

There are a lot of limitations with both apps and we are hopeful there are more features coming that will address the issues we outlined above. Both seem to be good, fairly easy-to-use tools for livestreaming, especially at events. For right now we give Periscope the edge due to its seamless integration with Twitter.  This feature alone will make it an easier-to-use social marketing tool.

It is a slight edge, though.  Even with the limitations, we see these apps as a great tool for events and smaller conferences with small budgets. The video and audio quality will not be great, but these apps will allow for broader distribution of events.  

Check out our next experiments at the Women in Tech Summit on April 18th and Chariot Solutions’ talk on Angular JS on April 22nd.