10 Digital Ladies ran an event earlier this month to help female founders better understand more about what it takes to raise their first equity investment. We focused on how to get in front of angel (individual) investors, and then how to make the best possible impression.
The event was hosted by 10 Digital Ladies co founder Nina Lovelace, and 10DL 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year Award winner Jo Osborne. Jo is CEO and Founder of EVRELAB, the company behind SkinNinja, a free app that enables people to discover more about their skincare, cosmetics and personal care products’ ingredients and what the science says about them. Jo and Nina were joined by:
Colin Gillespie, angel investor and champion of women-led businesses. He is also Chief Strategy Officer at All Response Media.
Rachelle Mills, CEO and Co-Founder of KareInn, which helps leading care providers transform their care delivery, making operations run more smoothly and improving elderly resident’s health & wellbeing
Kasia Michalska, Founder & CEO at Ralloo, the UK’s first micro-sponsorship platform. Ralloo matches projects looking for funds with brands that want to support them and
Amber Fraser, Co Founder of Brave Food, a company all about doing the right thing and having the courage to take that exciting, first step towards something better.
Our panel offered some extremely practical, honest and inspirational advice. If you couldn’t make it however worry not – these are our top ten learnings from the night.
Get a feel for whether your best route is angel investment or VC (venture capital) – or you may waste precious time. Said Kasia, “We made a mistake and went straight to VCs… and although we had very positive feedback, it was a waste of time as it was too early. We never heard no, it was always come back in 3 months…. it gets your hopes up. But angels gave us our funding almost immediately.” Although each company is different, a rule of thumb would be that your company is not VC ready until it’s seeking at least 500k of investment, is clear on its business model and return on investment, the panel agreed. Rachelle added, “VCs are looking at things like market size, whether or not there is an obvious need / fits a proven existing need (think Uber vs SpaceX) and the trends of that market space.”
Apply for assurance for the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme and Enterprise Investment Scheme if your company is eligible. These schemes offer offering tax reliefs to individual investors who buy new shares in your company. HMRC advance assurance for these schemes will often be a prerequisite for angels and angel networks.
Develop a punchy, 10 slide pitch deck. Kasia said, “The pitch deck is critical. That’s the thing that gets you through the door. We had lots in the deck but we then slimmed it down so we only had a few key messages. Less is more.” Key slides should cover what problem(s) your business solves, why your business is the solution, your traction/sales to date, financial forecasts, go to market plans and a slide on the credibility of your top team. It’s also crucial to know your competition. Investors see a lot of decks, will know who else is in your space – so how is your company better, and different? Amber added, “Be clear about why you need investment: why now, why this much, and have a clear idea of what this cash is going to help to achieve. Some founders want to ‘raise’ but aren’t able to quite articulate the whys.”
Be careful who you meet. Said Kasia, “Don’t jump into every single meeting with a “potential investor”, do investor due-diligence, preserve your resources. Also, recognize quickly investors who will not invest despite the initial interest.” The panel added that quality angels often make introductions to other angels, and some angel networks can help you meet more individual investors, faster (in return for a fee). Always be ready to pitch however, as you never know what could happen, added Rachelle. “I thought I was meeting to demo our platform, but in the end they both adopted the system and invested in our company because they believe in what we are doing.”
When you get the chance to present, tell a story.“Do not underestimate the power of idea over the robustness of the spreadsheet,” said Colin. “You don’t always need screens to sell your product. My portfolio is so broad – because I invest in people and the pitch. I need to buy into the person before I even look into their spreadsheets.”
You absolutely must be able to defend your financial assumptions, however. Jo said, “Investors want to see the hockey stick (startup growth assumptions) – but you need to make sure you know and are able to defend those numbers.” Angels will want to see a reasonable return on investment over a 4-5 year time frame. Amber added, “Financial plans (pre revenue) are mostly wrong, but the exercise of pulling them together is incredibly important.”
When you start to get interest, “think about taking the smart money, not any money,” added angel investor Colin. The best investors are those who are genuinely interested in your business and who are willing and able to maximise your chances of success. Jo added, “Really good investors…can advise you and offer you access to their network.”
Stay curious in the face of scepticism or rejection, advised the panel. Don’t respond poorly or become despondent if angels pass, said Jo. “Take the feedback as an opportunity (to learn), and try and keep it positive. For example, if an investor gives you feedback and it is something you can correct such as: “you haven’t proven X, that’s why I will not invest” you should bat back along the lines of: “Thank you for that feedback. So that I am clear, if I can come back to you with proof of X, you will invest?”. Kasia added, “A lesson I learnt is to listen to their questions – it’s not always about saying what you want to say. Answer them honestly.”
Just because you are female or identify as being female, don’t assume female focused investors will invest in your company. “They look at merit the same way everyone else does,” said Jo. “By all means, call out the time wasters but also appreciate that there are also many people who are on your side and trying to help you and the industry at large even if they are not prepared to invest in your business at this stage. There are always future rounds and you might want to keep that door open.”
Show up or project yourself to investors in a way that gives you strength, the panel agreed. It is a performance, but it’s not an act. “If you need a power outfit that’s ok. Be who you are, be honest.” said Jo. There was an interesting audience chat after the panel discussion about the balance that needs to be struck between being authentic, but also obviously highlighting your achievements. Pitching is no time for hiding lights under bushels, the panel agreed.
A massive thanks again to our panel for their time and energy, our sponsors Photobox for the venue, and our sponsors Bright Innovation for their help collating this blog.
Remember, if you have any thoughts on women in tech would like to share them with us please comment below or join us on Twitter or Instagram.
As always, we encourage our community to offer ideas for our next 10 Digital Ladies book! If you still haven’t got your copy of our first book, Career Hacks, you can register for a copy here: http://bit.ly/10DLbook.
Nina Lovelace10 Things We Learned About Raising Angel Investment
Entrepreneur of the Year 2018 Award winner Jo Osborne will be hosting the next 10 Digital Ladies event, on how to raise your first angel round, on April 11. Jo Osborne is CEO and Founder of EVRELAB, the company behind SkinNinja, a free app that enables people to discover more about their skincare, cosmetics and personal care products’ ingredients and what the science says about them.
That’s a loaded phrase. Throughout recent history, that was a man’s role. I haven’t looked at why this was deemed to be a ‘man’s job’ – were the doors too heavy or perceived to be too heavy for women? Were the tight, corseted dresses and huge ballooned skirts that women wore back then so oppressive that a woman couldn’t actually reach the door handle? I don’t know…
What I do know is that right now, today, opening doors, for women, is still a problem.
It’s just that now, we are not talking about the literal doors but the figurative ones – many of which seem wedged shut when it comes to female founders raising investment for their company.
I would argue that these figurative doors are just as heavy. No one benefits from this. The women seeking funding for their businesses do not benefit (from lack of capital). The investors don’t benefit (because statistically, female-led businesses perform better). The public doesn’t benefit (because products that ought to get to market to make lives better, don’t).
What can we do about it?
For starters, we stop going to events telling us that we are the problem – that it is our tone of language or the way we stand (I will not name names, but you know who you are if you’re reading this and have imposed this kind of thinking to others). Frankly. It’s bullshit.
Instead, we take practical and meaningful steps to get ourselves the meeting, to be heard and to close the deal – and be the change we want to see. In terms of the armoury you need to do that, it boils down to three key things:
Be the subject matter expert about your business. This means, understanding every small detail from the market need and the competitive landscape, to your numbers (especially your numbers!). You are no doubt already eating, sleeping and breathing this stuff by now anyway; show your potential investors that. They are not just investing in the business, they are investing in you. Give them your ‘mic drop’ moment for the day by being the best, most knowledgeable founder operating in your space that they have spoken to all week. Do not give them any reason to doubt what you are saying. In particular – know your numbers. If you can’t explain your financial model and defend it, you are not investable: so be the expert.
Understand that before you even step fast into your investment round, the term “hard graft” will take on a whole new meaning. This boils down to being the person who is the most visible, the most engaged and the most thorough in following up with each lead. You need to be the person who doesn’t let their contact with angels get lost in their inbox. You can teach Harry Potter a lesson about being a Seeker – because that’s how good you need to be at getting hold of these potential investors and locking in themeeting. The meeting where you will knock ‘em dead and take you and your business to the next level.
Resilience. Nana korobi ya oki (meaning fall down seven times, get up eight). This will become your mantra. Success of your investment round and business as a whole, depends on it. I am not going to lie to you, some days this will feel freaking impossible, but the sooner you get back up, the sooner you can get your round closed, so don’t get too comfortable sitting on the floor. It is not where you or your business belongs. It’s always a choice.
I am delighted to be able to bring together some of my favourite female founders (to the next 10 Digital Ladies event), all with completely different backgrounds, skills and varying business verticals that I know you will be able to gain a unique insight to the thrills and rollercoaster ride that is raising your angel investment round. I am even more thrilled that my own angel investor will be joining the panel to provide a unique insight in what is looked for when it comes to seeking out talent and investment opportunities.
You can join me, and a powerhouse panel, this April by registering for the event here.
10 Digital Ladies and our 2018 Portfolio Award winner Lidia Oshlyansky, Design Lead – Growth Opportunities at Spotify, hosted an event on November 22nd to discuss the perennial issue of work/life balance or blend with 10 Digital Ladies cofounder, entrepreneur and product consultant Nina Lovelace.
The session was fantastic namely because Lidia and her fellow panellists spoke openly and honestly about their own challenges regarding work/life, leading the audience to also share their own challenges as well as tips on how to try to manage. Lidia was joined on the stage by Melanie Yencken, Director of UX at Patsnap, leading product design teams across the UK and China. In her spare time, Melanie is also the founder and coordinator of LondonTechLadies, a women’s network with 2500+ members. Our third panellist was Amanda Jones Floyd, a digital product leader with over 15 years’ experience. From January 2019 she will be the Product Lead – Premium at Spotify.
Here are 10 of the major things we learnt on the night if you missed this important session:
Work/life balance isn’t just important for women with children. Although the panel agreed that having children was a major life change which had a major impact on work/life as it stirred up strong emotions, everyone spoke about how they all had to manage important relationships such as with partners and also the one they had with themselves.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ to work/life balance or blend. Each person has to work out what tasks or relationships they are trying to balance, why, and how to try to manage those. Melanie says, “Be mindful of what gives you energy, know your values and the balance you need.” She added that as an introvert, she often needed alone time to destress. Lidia said she didn’t do ‘balance’ but did ‘blend’ – sometimes her children attended her meetings due to necessity.
It is helpful however to ruthlessly limit or prioritise what takes up your energy and time. A top tip from Melanie is to “List out your daily tasks and mark them as either depleting or nourishing and try to get a balance.”
Having clear boundaries that you communicate to others can help. Due to time differences across countries Lidia sometimes works different hours on different days to be there for her teams. “I answer Slack messages at midnight. But set yourself some boundaries, you need to be disciplined.” Melanie adds that if you are doing ‘life’ things, protect that, and be fully present. She says, “I don’t think about work when I’m focusing on friends/family events.”
However you need to be realistic. Amanda adds, “Be aware of the company you are entering. If it’s a global business, there may be a requirement for different working hours. You need to make a decision based on where you are in your life.” Travel away from home has become less important to her after having children, she says. “It’s important to know your values and beliefs and see if the job aligns to your motivations.”
Work can also nurture you in ways home life can’t – for example by keeping you networked and enjoying colleagues company, as well as the challenges of the work itself. Amanda says “If I’m going to be away from the children I love, it’s important to go somewhere you enjoy working.” Lidia adds though, “Work is not going to give you a hug when you’re feeling down.”
Technology can be a help and a hindrance, the panel agreed. A show of hands to the audience revealed that most people kept their mobile phone next to their bedside table as they struggled with being ‘always on’. However being able to stay connected and work from home/ be remote thanks to tools such as Slack and Google Hangouts was a blessing, they added. Few said they had got this cracked, but a useful hack mentioned was communicating to your team that you would only reply to emails or other alerts on weekdays and perhaps at set times of the day.
Knowing your limits, and having people around you to help you stick to them and not burn out is crucial. A few audience members shared that their partners had called them out when their work/life balance was having an unhelpful impact, citing examples of overuse of phones and too much travel causing concern. Melanie suggests, “Find your support network of like-minded individuals who can help you find your limits and call you out when you’re blind to them.”
Women can trailblaze for men around work/life, but men may find they face the same challenges women have when they try to set boundaries, the panel agreed. The panel and audience cited examples of men who had taken extended parental leave and been sidelined. It’s no longer helpful however for anyone to assume a woman should be the ‘primary parent’ they agreed when it came to having children.
You can’t always have it all, so don’t compare yourself with someone who appears to. There has to be a trade-off with careers and children, Lidia says. “I think it’s really hard to pack it all in, so let go of perfection. No-one is perfect.” Melanie adds that she used to compare herself to others, but now realises “underneath everyone has imbalance and struggle.”
To that last point, I think everyone is the room was very clear by the end of the session that work/life is a constant conversation we have with ourselves and others, and that sharing their concerns in safe environments is the best way to help tackle them.
The event was kindly hosted at the amazing Spotify offices near Oxford Circus and supported by the brilliant people from Bright Innovation, our marketing partners. We’d like to thank the panelist and everyone who attended, and our sponsors Photobox who help us to resource running our events.
We can’t wait for the next event on 13th December which looks at ‘Why digital innovation needs your voice: How diversity builds kick-ass products’. Sign up now.
Remember, if you have any thoughts on work life blend and would like to share them with us please comment below or join us on Twitter or Instagram.
As always, we encourage our community to offer ideas for our next 10 Digital Ladies book! If you still haven’t got your copy of our first book, Career Hacks, you can register for a copy here: http://bit.ly/10DLbook.
Nina Lovelace10 Things We Learned About Managing Work/Life Blend
In the digital environment, innovation is all around us. The industry is built on the desire to push boundaries. The heroes of the digital world are those whose innovation has literally changed our world whether it’s platforms, products or services. Ask people to name a technology innovator and you may get Jobs or Gates, Brunel or Edison. They could have centuries between them but one thing they will probably all have in common is that they will be men.
However, innovation is changing. It is now less about tools and infrastructure and more about personalised services. Our Innovation Award winner Hannah Bowden led the event trying to uncover the secrets of innovation. Hannah has successfully merged her past experience in psychology, AI and community regeneration to lead innovation at BetterPoints, which designs and implements digital behaviour change interventions for health in the UK and Europe.
Hannah was joined by our two panellists Mike Altendorf, NED, investor and advisor to a range of tech and digital businesses and Adel Du Toit, IT Lead for User Experience at Boston Consulting Group. Missed the event? Don’t worry, below are the 10 things we learned:
You need a mixture of skills, aptitudes and personality types within a team to be able to make the most out of innovation. Hannah added ‘It’s not a women or men thing it’s all about the right mixture of traits’.
Digital needs to be mixed with the human side of innovation. Adel adds ‘it’s all about blending people and technology, that’s when it works best. You need to be able to understand the problem and empathise with it.’
The way we innovate is changing. The MVP, fail fast approach is still relevant however these days it is all driven by the data which means greater insight and less failure. Mike adds ‘Building learning loops is crucial in successful digital innovation and transformation. Discovery, finding proof, growth, getting to market these are the core loops that interact. It’s about reducing uncertainty as much as possible.’
Data, data, data. Data is a very important part of innovation. When you start to see what data means and where it can take you, that’s when it can become something very exciting. Hannah says ‘Understand the data and work out what it means and what it can change. Apply that data into something useful.’
Moving away from the fail first approach isn’t easy. ‘It takes courage to look at the data in a different way. Evaluate why it didn’t it work, and what to do differently next time. It will lead to quick fire development.’ said Hannah.
The cultures in start-ups are changing. Mike says ‘The focus is now about values and getting the right people. Moving away from the ‘just do it’ mentality. There is also a focus on LAU (learning as usual) rather than BAU (business as usual) as a founding principle. You need the right organisational models to make this happen’
We need to invest in the future, children need to be able to learn transferable skills for the upcoming job market. Mike adds ‘We need to ensure our young people are employable.’
Be able to be open about honest with your team and colleagues. It’s ok to show emotion at work. Adel said ‘what I’ve really seen change recently, is it’s ok to bring feelings to work. Its ok to cry (it’s not healthy to hold it in) be more honest with the people around you’ Hannah adds ‘stay honest, stay true to yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. People will respect your integrity.’
You need to be determined in innovation. Whether you are a man or woman. Getting investment for a start-up can be tricky. Mike adds ‘You need to be resilient when looking for investment, you might get a few setbacks.’ Helen adds ‘don’t give up, the doors will open for you.’
Passion needs to be at the heart of innovation.
A final takeaway…“First to market seldom matters, rather first to product/market fit is almost always the long-term winner”. Andy Rachleff, Co-founder Benchmark Capital.
Well…what a great event that was.
The event was kindly hosted at the Bright Innovation offices, our brilliant marketing partners. It was a great event, we’d like to thank the panellist and everyone who attended, and we can’t wait for the next event on 24 January, sign up now.
Remember, if you have any thoughts on diversity in innovation and would like to share them with us please comment below or join us on Twitter or Instagram. As always, we encourage our community to offer ideas for our next 10 Digital Ladies book! If you still haven’t got your copy of our first book, Career Hacks, you can register for a copy here: http://bit.ly/10DLbook.
Nina Lovelace10 Things We Learned About Diversity in Digital Innovation
Although it needs to happen at a greater scale, women are increasingly creating or joining company boards, whether they are founders building their own startup boards, or executives or non-executives joining established businesses. Little debate, however, focuses on how women or indeed men can prepare themselves to build and lead, or join and contribute, to an effective board that both helps drive a business and creates a challenging, fulfilling experience for its directors. The latest 10 Digital Ladies event tackled this subject and more in ‘Healthy boards for healthy directors; Creating the perfect company board for you’ on November 8th 2018. This event was hosted by Nina Lovelace, cofounder of 10 Digital Ladies, with the panel discussion being led by our Inspiring Board Member Award winner Celia Francis.
Celia is a proven pioneer with over two decades of experience leading innovative emerging technology companies. She has extensive experience working across strategy, investment, product development and marketing, and is now setting the direction for Rated People, an innovative online marketplace connecting trusted tradespeople to homeowners. Celia was joined by executive board coach and HR expert Carrie Birmingham.
10 Digital Ladies and the expert panel tried to uncover the issues in this session and here are ten things that we learned. A big thanks to both Celia and Carrie for their honest and constructive advice.
Boards can look very different within organisations of different sizes. Startups might not call them boards, but they are people that come together to make the strategic decisions to run a business. More rigour is required for more established businesses, however. Celia explains, ’Boards are ultimately responsible to the investors and shareholders and are there to also offer governance and strategy.’
To run an effective board, it’s important to spend time focusing on the important topics and not getting caught up in the little things. Bikeshedding, as it’s known, is spending disproportionate time and energy spent over an insignificant or unimportant detail of a larger concern. Carrie says, ‘Board agendas often try to tackle lots of things in one meeting, Be rigorous about trying to tackle too much in a small space of time.’
For a board meeting to be effective it’s important to have certain recurring topics and review what is driving the business results. Celia says, ‘We cover topics such as the CEO report, CFO report and finance review including budgets and KPIs.’ The best boards often do pre-meeting prep to ensure time is maximised for quality decision making.
A good preparation for board life to to get invited to attend a board meeting as an expertise in your field or department, to present on a topic or project. However, it’s important to understand what is expected from you before you go in. Carrie suggests, ’It’s important to talk to someone who has experience in presenting to the board. Make sure you are prepared, get good at presenting your ideas quickly and prepare yourself for challenging questions.’
Having the right skills and vision are both important to cementing your seat on a board. Carrie says, ‘Ensure you have functional expertise and develop the skills to have conversations in that environment.” She also adds, “Also, what is it that you want to achieve? Have a purpose. Getting on the boards, is not the means to an end.”
You also need to be able to positively challenge others, if you are to achieve either executive or non-executive positions. Boards want someone to ask challenging questions to help them make better decisions. You also need to be able to think strategically, not getting drawn to solving the operational problems of the business, says Celia. You need to be able to challenge and be open to challenge.
Joining charity boards as non-execs or trustees can be good training ground for executive or non-exec board life. For corporate boards you are still expected to have deep areas of knowledge and expertise at running departments and managing teams, the panellists agreed. There is no shortcut.
However, if you want to become a board member don’t be afraid to let people know. Own your career trajectory. Celia adds, “Let everyone know what it is you want, and have the skill set and experience to back it up.”
Who to tell, however? Networking plays an important role in securing a role on the board. Celia says “You need to be friends with and network with venture capitalists – they have access to board roles.” It’s also important to have a strong network of peers you trust around you when you are running a board, to let off steam with.
There is evidence that more boards want women on them as executive or non-executives, but can struggle to find women to take up those roles. Celia and her immediate peer network get regular calls to join new boards but often have to turn them down due to lack of time. Perhaps VCs and other headhunters aren’t aware of the full network of women able to take up these roles or where to find them?
We’d also like to say a special thank you to Claire Davenport, CEO of Hello Fresh, for her excellent expertise and interaction during the event.
We hope that helps if you missed this illuminating event! To summarise our learning, to secure a position on a board it’s important to have the right specialist skills, target the right level of board for your abilities, be able to challenge others constructively, do it for the right reasons – and have a strong network to access the opportunities in the first place. What’s stopping you!
The event was kindly hosted at the amazing Rated People offices in Blackfriars and supported by the brilliant people from Bright Innovation, 10 Digital Ladies’ fabulous marketing partners. It was a great event, we’d like to thank the panellist and everyone who attended, and we can’t wait for the next event on 22 November on Managing Work/Life Blend, sign up now.
Remember, if you have any thoughts on Healthy boards for healthy directors and would like to share them with us please comment below or join us on Twitter or Instagram. As always, we encourage our community to offer ideas for our next 10 Digital Ladies book! If you still haven’t got your copy of our first book, Career Hacks, you can register for a copy here: http://bit.ly/10DLbook.
Nina Lovelace10 Things We Learned About Building a Healthy Company Board
What does it mean to be true to your purpose as you mould your career? What are the challenges in bringing your whole self to work? And what are the rewards? Our September 10 Digital Ladies event was dedicated to exploring this very topic. Co-hosted by Saswati Saha Mitra, the 10 Digital Ladies award winner for the 2018 Specialist Category, the theme for the event came about from a conversation we had about how it was at times difficult to find and keep hold of that ‘red thread’ of what was truly meaningful to us as we navigated our career paths. Time and time again, Saswati came back to the question of how to make a meaningful difference in the world.We set about pulling together a line-up of speakers who would offer rich and varied insights on the topic. Our panel was made up of:
Saswati who leads Uber’s Global UX Research team, delivering high quality strategic insights to Uber’s Product and Business Leaders. With 600+ cities to conduct research in, she also builds scalable processes that allow anyone in the company to become a user expert.
Gemma Carver who, as Digital Director for Pentland Brands, is responsible for growing the digital footprint of a portfolio of globally recognised brands such as Speedo, Canterbury, Mitre and Berghaus while also nurturing young brands such as Seavees (trainers) and Endura (cycling), and incubating new brands and innovations.
Emma Prest who oversees the running of DataKind UK, leading a community of volunteers and building understanding about what data science can do in the charitable sector. Emma also sits on the Editorial Advisory Committee at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
Penny Jones who enjoyed a brilliant 15+ years in digital media, performing a variety of business development and strategy roles. Far more interested in people than platforms however, she recently stepped down from her role as global strategy director for Conde Nast International to launch a career coaching practice, From the Middle, helping early and mid-career women create careers in which they thrive.
Here are the 10 things we learned from our speakers:
What’s your purpose? If you know your overall purpose – you have something to guide you along your journey. And so, when life happens, you can adapt to the changes needed, without going too far off course. Penny said, ‘My purpose is to help people, I looked back over my career and the best bits were when I was helping the people in my team. I woke up in the morning and felt confident because I knew what I was doing.’
We spend about 60/70% of our waking time at work, that’s a lot of our time and energy. Saswati said, ‘I want people to be able to say “I am proud of the life I have led, and it really matters to me where I spend my time and energy”’/li>
Plan ahead (as much as you can) and set goals. ‘I didn’t know this in my 20’s, but you need to think ahead for the next decade,’ said Saswati, ‘By having a longer term plan aligned to your overall purpose, it gives you enough time to make mistakes along the way and correct your path’. Setting yourself some realistic goals helps to give focus and structure to your career. Try having some short term quick wins and longer term goals to aim for.
It’s ok to be yourself. In your early 20s when you first join the professional workforce you don’t always know your true self. Gemma said ‘It’s taken me nearly 20 years to realise you don’t have to flex and mould to the role around you.’
Do your research. Figure out the roles and industries that interest you. Then find people already in those roles, talk to them about the positive things about the role and also the challenges, and work out if it’s really for you.
You might not always need a change of role. Sometimes you can be in the right role just not the right company. Gemma shared, ‘I once worked out I was in the right role, but it was more of the people change that I needed.’ It’s important that you work for a company where the values align to your own personal values.
It’s ok to be scared. Emma said, ‘I was terrified when I applied for the job at DataKind UK, and I was probably still terrified for about a year and a half. It took me a while to feel like I knew exactly what I was doing and that a lot of the time I was the expert in the room.’
Labels are for clothes. We often label ourselves with the company or roles we are in. Penny said, ‘when I left The Guardian, I wasn’t Penny from The Guardian anymore. I jumped straight into another job to give myself an identity again.’
Have meaningful conversations. You need to have the right conversations with your employees to make sure they’re engaged and fulfilling their potential. Penny said, ‘you work hard to get the best people in your company, you want to be able to keep them and inspire them.’
Careers are long and winding. It’s a marathon, not a sprint: Penny said, ‘career paths won’t always be linear… and it’s ok to change your mind.’
Stepping up and being true to yourself takes courage – and that can feel scary, especially when the path forward isn’t always crystal clear. Sometimes it’s about believing that the way will unfold; using your inner compass and trusting that you will get there.
Thank you to Photobox, our brilliant hosts for the evening, and also to Bright Innovation who have been doing amazing work helping 10 Digital Ladies reach an even wider audience, as well as doing our event write ups!
Nina LovelaceHow to Align your True Self with your Career: Using Purpose as your North Star
The latest 10 Digital Ladies event tackled the question ‘How to embrace ambiguity and uncertainty in a fast-paced digital world?’ In an ever increasingly fast-paced digital world, where the widening technology landscape and technology breakthroughs are causing business models to change and adapt faster than ever, how do we as humans embrace the ambiguity and uncertainty that comes hand in hand? We were joined by Anne Simmons, this year’s winner of the 10 Digital Ladies Technologist award 2018, and expert panellists, Reshma Shaikh, Chief of Staff to the COO at Springer Nature, Lindy Stephens, independent consultant and leadership coach in the software industry and Lindsay Ratcliffe, innovation and experience design leader and author.
If you missed the event, don’t panic…take a look at the 10 things we learned at the event.
One of the hardest things is to stay resilient through change. Anne says, “I have had to get better at embracing ambiguity, I don’t find it easy”. Some people find it easier than others but that’s ok. You can learn some tricks to help you cope.
Reshma shared a top tip “resilience is about personal management, you need to learn what your strengths and weaknesses are”. It’s useful to create a support network around you, with people who can help guide you and give you honest feedback. “But it’s also important to be able to check in with yourself,” added Lindsay “and work out how to get yourself out of the low”
Being able to check in with yourself is very important. Knowing where you get your energy is key. “I like to think of resilience like a bucket; when its full I can handle anything but when it’s empty I feel like I need to hide under a duvet” said Anne. “It’s all about learning what fills up your bucket, and also knowing what drains it.”
Lindy pointed out “You can’t always get it right. Sometimes you don’t have all the you need – so how can you know what is right or wrong?” You just have to go for it and work through it as you go.
During times of change and uncertainty it’s important to be transparent and open. Anne said, “The first thing a lot of people think is ‘what does it mean for me’, -remember people need to hear that”. And be honest. Lindy adds, “If people think you are lying about something, they start to question what else you might have lied about.”
There are many different layers of communication. Reshma said, “It’s important to be able to say, I will treat you like a human, please treat me like a human too”. It’s often easy to forget how other people are feeling through the changes- especially those in a leadership position. You need to understand and acknowledge how people are feeling.
Not everyone will feel the same about change as you. Some people thrive during change, whereas others can fear it. Lindy said, “I love a crisis, it’s my bread and butter, but sometimes I forget people feel different to me.” BY taking a moment to consider all points of view, you’ll be able to bring everyone on the change journey with you.
Sometimes we need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Anne said, “You can choose to think about things in a different way, it’s unlikely that everything is changing, hold on to that and deal with them in different ways.”
As a Leader you need to be present, don’t shy away from the change “make sure people know you care, it can really make a difference” Reshma adds. Present doesn’t always mean you have to be in the room. Call in to meetings, send emails, you can show presence without actually being physically present.
It’s important to remember that you have a voice in this world of ambiguity. Lindsay said, “You as an individual need to ask, is it going to change for the better, do I have a role in this change? And remember, its ok to say, ‘I’m out’. It’s your life – you have to do what works for you”.
So, knowing yourself and what makes you tick is one of the most important things during times of ambiguity. Always remember, it’s your life – own it!
The event was kindly hosted at the amazing new Photobox offices in Clerkenwell and supported by the brilliant people from Bright Innovation, our marketing partners. It was a great event, we’d like to thank the panellist and everyone who attended, and we can’t wait for the next one in September.
Remember, if you have any thoughts on working with ambiguity and would like to share them with us please comment below or join us on Twitter or Instagram. As always, we encourage our community to offer ideas for our next 10 Digital Ladies book! If you still haven’t got your copy of our first book, Career Hacks, you can register for a copy here: http://bit.ly/10DLbook.
Nina Lovelace10 Things We Learned About Embracing Ambiguity
In the past, showing your vulnerability in the workplace would no doubt have been seen as a sign of weakness. But increasingly, leaders are starting to see how embracing vulnerability is key to building authenticity, and ultimately strength. However, whatever stage you’re at career-wise, facing into vulnerability is not an easy journey to navigate – it can be challenging asking for help when we feel most exposed. So at our recent 10 Digital Ladies meet-up, we decided to delve into this tricky topic: how do you work with vulnerability to build your own strengths, as well as those of others around you?
We were joined by Sarah Tan – our 2018 Winner of the Talent Development Award, Eunice Aquilina – coaching and organisational behaviour expert who develops leaders’ capacity to navigate change, and Sara Feldman – co-founder of Dialoguers, a business using technology to bring a form of Scandinavian psychotherapy to people experiencing mental and emotional distress across the globe. Lucia Adams, who organised the event and hosted the panel discussion said, “This is a topic that’s very close to my heart. Having faced into my own vulnerability when I made the jump to set up my own consultancy and coaching business, my work is very much focussed on supporting people navigate the challenges of business and individual transformation – and all the many vulnerable moments that entails.” Kindly hosted at the amazing new Photobox offices in Clerkenwell and supported by the brilliant people from Bright Innovation, our marketing partners, it was fantastic to have such great audience participation on this topic! Here are some of the insights and tips which were shared:
Even today, sometimes vulnerability is not appreciated culturally within an organisation. And that can be really hard for women. “If this is the case can you create a space, small group or forum where people can be vulnerable?” asked Eunice. Vulnerability doesn’t have to be shared with everyone.
For women, there is often a fine line between showing vulnerability without being perceived as emotional. “This a narrative we hear a lot,” said Eunice. We struggle to find examples of senior female role models because they make themselves a carbon copy of male role models, but this approach doesn’t work for many women.
Eunice suggested ways to make yourself assertive without being aggressive. Centre yourself, be really present and breathe. This can often change the dynamic of the situation.
As a senior person in business wanting to encourage others to embrace their vulnerability, “You need to have integrity and do what you say you’re going to do to support them,” said Sara.
How do you get people to be vulnerable in a group with their peers? It’s about creating a feeling of psychological safety – if someone says, “I don’t know,” others will follow. You can even plant someone in a group to put their hand up and say, ‘I don’t know’ in order to lead the way. Sarah guarantees this will help break old habits.
It needs to come from the top. Role model vulnerability: if we do it, others might take the risk to do it themselves. Female leaders in organisations demonstrating their own vulnerability help show people that this type of behaviour is OK.
Thinking about vulnerability in the digital space and the pace of change – we may sometimes think, ‘perhaps I should steer away from a particular area because I’m older’, or, ‘I can’t keep up’ etc. But remember that very few people can keep up with every last digital development as it’s changing all the time. It’s OK to say I don’t know or I need time to learn more about a certain subject.
Remember to take care of yourself whilst being vulnerable. “Putting yourself out there can be hard, especially if you’re a natural introvert like me,” said Sarah. “Vulnerability also has boundaries and you shouldn’t be afraid to put them up when you need to.”
Sara shared some of her very moving experiences of working with refugees and victims of trauma. She noted that for people to move forward and heal, they need to open up and discuss what had happened to them. “It is in our vulnerability that we really make human connection and that can be incredibly powerful,” said Sara.
It’s good to remember that when we’re experiencing really difficult times, we may feel like we’re the only person in the world going through it. But in reality, your issue probably isn’t that uncommon, and others will have experienced similar problems in the past or present, or may do so in the future.
So, sharing really is caring! The more we are open and honest with ourselves and those we work with, the more we can progress and move forwards. Don’t be afraid to embrace your vulnerability! Thanks to all our panellists and members who attended.
Remember, if you have any thoughts on working with vulnerability and would like to share them with us please comment below or join us on Twitter or Instagram at @10digitalladies. As always, we encourage our community to offer ideas for our next 10 Digital Ladies book! If you still haven’t got your copy of our first book, Career Hacks, you can register for a copy here: http://bit.ly/10DLbook.
We’re already looking forward to our next event on 19 July 2018, where we’ll be discussing Embracing ambiguity and uncertainty in a fast-paced digital world. You can sign up for the event here.
Nina Lovelace10 Things We Learned About Working with Vulnerability as you Progress your Digital Career
A reminder to everyone that our April meetup will be a sector-agnostic look at digital talent – something that I suspect is close to all of our hearts! In short we want to spend some time discussing and sharing thoughts on digital talent: hiring it, managing it, and being it.
As usual we’ll have a line up of fantastic speakers to share their thoughts and experiences, followed by group discussions and networking. This session is kindly supported by Xcede, a leading recruiter operating in the digital, data and technology sector.
Our first speaker of the evening will be Michelle Coventry, who will be talking about her experience as a recruiter, most recently building Mark’s and Spencer Digital teams. She’ll be sharing her expertise in what to look for in potential hires but also what the candidates are looking for from employers and how to make sure you’re appealing enough in a competitive market!
Managing Digital Talent
Jane Lucken is a marketing professional who has led global teams at Thomson Reuters and HSBC and was most recently CMO at social media monitoring business Crisp Thinking. She has an MSc in Strategy & Leadership from London Business School but this did not fully prepare her for the challenges of managing Millennials! She will talk through what she has learned about getting the best performance from this generation.
Being Digital Talent
Amanda Davie is an executive coach and digital talent junkie. Amanda grew up, professionally-speaking, in the digital industry. She has hired, fired, nurtured, managed, championed, taught, mentored and sold digital talent her whole career. Now an executive coach Amanda helps digital leaders to fulfil their potential. Amanda is also co-founder of Digital Talent @Work, a professional development business that helps individuals and organisations put people at the heart of digital transformation. Amanda will be talking about ways in which you can explore your own potential in the workplace.
Digital Skills Gap
Sinead Bunting is the European Director of Consumer Marketing for Monster and prior to this was a Director at MediaCom, where she helped transform the company’s recruitment marketing strategy with the launch of its Career division. Joining the digital industry in 2000 (or ‘interactive’ as it was known then) Sinead has a real passion for supporting and encouraging women into technology roles and this passion has played a big part in developing and implementing Monsters ongoing Girls In Coding and women in tech focus. Most recently she has drawn together a number of key tech and HR figures and organisations to devise and launch a Tech Talent Charter. The charter looks to address the digital skills gap by rallying organisations to commit to recruit and retain more females and diverse groups into tech roles. Sinead will be sharing why she’d love you to join her in making a diverse tech workforce a reality.
Nina Lovelace10 Digital Ladies in Talent: April Meetup 2016