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to Infinity and Beyond (or at least San Jose)

to Infinity and Beyond (or at least San Jose)

by Jeremiah ShackelfordMay 25, 2017

Women in Engineering, International Leadership Conference

Anyone who knows me, knows that leaving the City on any given weekday is NOT something I’m exactly enthusiastic about. That commute, be it by car or Caltrain, leaves a lot to be desired these days. So to make the trek down on the Peninsula to attend a seemingly off-demographic conference being put on by an engineering acronym you’ve never heard of … may seem a little odd [#fairenough]. In this case though it was most certainly warranted, and I hope next year in its 5th, the Women in Engineering, International Leadership Conference (#WIELEAD) invites me to return.

The reality: women have to stand up for themselves. If you want more money, you can’t be afraid to ask for it. Ask yourself, what would Sally Yates do? [#WWSYD] And as former Wall Street executive Sallie Krawcheck pointed out in her closing keynote, until the pay structure and money is equal, nor will the power structure. So then the question becomes, how should [wo]men lead by [a different] example? If male-dominated, tech environments/teams are often toxic, where do we go from here as a collective workforce? If we know that a company with more diversity makes for better business, how then do you create a place where all want AND are able to contribute? Currently (and historically), this has been approached by asking “what women can thrive here?”, and then pursuing the female candidates that are the most … well, male. That is to say, the women who have the highest tolerance for testosterone. That strikes me as a sad mitigation strategy. I believe it is far past time to start insisting that individuals check their testosterone and ego at the conference room door, to do their part to open up a FAR MORE competitive landscape. That may seem anti-intuitive, but it comes down to what type of competition you wish to condone. If you’re an ops or analytics person, we are talking about productivity KPI’s here, and if you are not already measuring your individual and collective performance to an actionable standard of adequacy, then start there. Once you are, ask your employees how they think their work process can be improved upon. If enough women identify the same potential inhibitor(s), why not investigate those issues further? Even if the disproportionately male executive team sees no need, cannot relate, has “more important business-critical priorities” to address, etc … this is how change happens. Only after we acknowledge the blatant -ism’s that exist in many people’s day-to-day reality, can we test for and start addressing them to improve the bottom line. [This coming, admittedly, from a guy that still has a long way to go in improving his EQ across the board.]

Only after we acknowledge the blatant -ism’s that exist in many people’s day-to-day reality, can we test for and start addressing them to improve the bottom line.

Bop ’em

Why then in a world of limited resources should you dedicate some of yours towards changing practices that have existed for centuries if not millennia? Because if we truly are changing the world one line of code at a time here in Silicon Valley, and as the technology sectors expand into all industries, who then is in a better position to do so? I believe no one, and yet we have such a long way to go. You cannot profess egalitarian ideals at large if you take no steps to ensure equality in your personal workplace. Even now, in some ways even more now, as right-wing, mostly-male, dictator-leaning figureheads seem to be popping up faster than in a carnival Bop-Em game; there is no better time for objective, qualified, experienced, cool-and-collected professionals and decision-makers to arise. In my experience, there is significant correlation with those qualities and the female population [come on, Merkel needs some help!]. Zero-sum, winner-takes-all worlds of discontent still dominating your mindshare for WHATEVER reason? I mean come on?! Where has that gotten us? Look around. We have over 7 billion human-beings on Earth, and not only is a large percentage of that population suffering, but collectively all the others that constitute Life on this planet most certainly are. And I have a ‘BREAKING NEWS’ flash for you, WE ARE ALL CONNECTED. As the birds and the bees (and the bats for that matter) die off, so will sizable segments of [wo]mankind. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to approach our existence differently? Call me crazy if you want, but I believe that is true. You really want new faces at the table to solve some of our toughest and longest-lasting dilemmas? Then do what it takes to ensure half of them are female. It’s pretty simple math, in fact, as simple as it comes. If you want to call that feminism, then sign me up, but it’s really egalitarianism at its most common sense inflection point. It will take ALL of us, so we should include ALL of us. This isn’t some kumbaya, feel-good aspiration, IT IS IN ALL OF OUR BEST INTEREST. That is the reality.

Soon your Head of Marketing may very well be your Head of Sales.

Looking for a more tangible here-and-now rationale for why this matters? (Outside of preventing your company from being the next Uber in sexual harassment headlines of course.) How about the shrinking void in-between sales and marketing? Hear me out. Sales is a tough job. Sales can also be a male-dominated, testosterone-laden, work-hard-play-hard obsessed arena where only unadulterated tenacity and AlwaysBeClosin’ mentality appears to be rewarded. Or … it can become an analytics-centric, customer-journey focussed, timed-nurturing exercise where the data successfully predisposes (if not determines outright) rather than a loud-mouthed, slick (even if sharp), sales guy regurgitating the same stats his boss imprinted in his brain the night before at the bar. Instead of revering ‘ABC’ in all its infamous eighties glory, I invite you to explore up-and-coming martech trends like ABM and predictive analytics. The marketing realm (product, field, corporate … take your pick) has come online, and in so doing, is very rapidly addressing the disconnect(s) with any given sales team. The game is changing. I’ll give you one guess who is jointly leading the way in this new, smarter era of selling products and services. Starts with ‘Ms.’ or ‘Mrs.’, ends in ‘Digital Marketer’. Who knows, perhaps in how we think about and approach tech sales there’s a key to a more equitable tomorrow.

I can confidently say I have experienced my share of startup pitch competitions and demo days. What is more important though, is that I continue to enjoy most everyone. WIELEAD’s was no different, and it was exciting to see BabyNoggin win this particular contest. With its admirable goal of screening those newest among us in order to bestow every possible developmental advantage upon them, this is EXACTLY the type of business our world needs more of. And with a CEO like Dr. Jin Lee and a Head of Product like Jonathan Tuttle, it’s a team worth taking seriously. Who knows, perhaps even the type of team we can all learn from.

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[On a side note, this will be my last post for a while. I’m leaving SF for a bit, and will be back East for the summer (at the least). If this or any of the pieces at venturebreak.com/author/jeremiah stand out for some reason, I would like that feedback. Even if it’s ‘your writing is schizo-, but that point about [X] &/or [Y] is interesting’, let me know what you’re thinking.]

About The Author
Jeremiah Shackelford
Jeremiah Shackelford
Jeremiah Shackelford, Business & Market Developer