Building a community of women who work in technology – hosted by Betsy Speare, Jennifer Marsman & Helene Love Snell

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Perspective from the start up community: how women can win there too…

Wondering what happened to the Women in Tech the last few weeks? Well we’ve been BUSY! Helene and I are both full throttle in the Windows Server team which just released Windows Server 8 Beta! My goodness – it feels like shipping – fun!! There was also a really great write up a few weeks back in the Microsoft News Center with a great picture of me in my PJs with my daughter & nieces… also featuring co-workers Jeffrey Snover and (my boss) Erin Chapple – check it out! Last, I am still looking for GUEST BLOGGERS – male or female – got a topic? Related to tech? Written by a woman? Or about women? That counts. Send me your post.  Love getting the broader perspectives…

This week’s post is introduced by one of the blogs co-founders, Helene, shown below with her mini-me! This is a great post. It lines up nicely with work being done to support women in tech in the bay area by an organization called Women 2.0. It’s cool stuff and reminds me of the book the WLC co-founders read in 2003 called “She Wins, You Win.” It really set the tone for establishing our community and has continued to influence us in supporting each other in our interests and goals. Back to the blog – this is also great for people trying to make corporate experiences for women better – good thoughts on how we may stereotype women in start-ups that apply to corporate as well.


This week we welcome a new guest blogger, and former colleague of mine, Kristal Bergfield. Kristal’s blog Corporate Refugee, discusses her new adventures in the Start up Tech Industry in New York, and her break away from a large corporation (American Express). In her own words, Kristal is a marketer, connector, and deal maker. Today’s post addresses some of the preconceived challenges that moms face at start-ups… or do they?
Read for yourself and let me know what you think….

Helene


I’m Kristal Bergfield. I’m a marketer. connector, and deal maker. I love entrepreneurs, start ups, tech, media & the Oregon Ducks. I run the NYC Tech BD Breakfast Series. I also cook more than most people and possess an abnormally vast knowledge of pop culture trivia.


Moms & Start-ups: Yes We Can!

I’ve been reading a lot of things lately about women – specifically mothers – in start ups and how they shouldn’t do start ups because they want “flexibility”(whatever that is), and can’t possibly work “start up hours” (whatever those are). From Penelope Trunk’s intentionally provocative TechCrunch article telling women NOT to do start ups, to the sexist reaction to Alison Lindland‘s request to the NYTM mailing list to meet other expectant moms at NY start ups, the message to moms seems to be that they can’t possibly be a good parent and an A player at a start up.

So, um, folks: get over yourselves. Because guess what? I (and other moms see: Beth Ferreira, Jane Kim, Emily Hickey, Naama Bloom, Maxine Friedman and many more) are doing it and, frankly, it’s not that hard. I think this is because moms who choose to work at start ups have self selected into something they know they can handle. We don’t want flexibility. We don’t want to work part time. We aren’t just there to make a buck. We’re there for the same reason everyone else is: because we want to build something that matters.

I’ve been a mom for almost six years now. Most of that time, I worked at American Express, a huge company that’s known for it’s family friendly policies. Folks in the start up world seem to think – for the most part – that working there entailed working 9-5 Monday through Friday with unlimited resources, a cushy office and a fat paycheck. And, for moms, we got “flexibility”. Um, no, no, no, no, and hellz to the eff no. Amex has many fine qualities, but it ain’t all wine and roses and none of those things were my reality. For me, working at start ups has been EASIER than working at a big company.

Whether it’s a big company or the scrappiest of start-ups, people choose the life and lifestyle they want. So, if someone wants to work flexible hours or work part time, be up front about it and find the appropriate opportunity (most likely not at a start-up). If you want to work at a start up, as the great philosopher Tim Gunn would say, “make it work”.

So yes, moms can work at start-ups. No, we can’t play fooz ball or go out to lunch as often because we need to get more done during “normal business hours”. Yes, we have to leave at 5:30 a few times a week to relieve the nanny by 6. If we don’t, child protective services will. And frankly, when we arrive at the office at 8:30am after getting two kids and ourselves out of the house, we’re turning on the lights at work. No, we’re not always at work until 10pm (but if needed, we will be), we’re at home on our laptops after we’ve put the kids to bed doing what needs to be done. And yes, we can go to evening events and hell yes we can travel because we jump at the chance to spend a night in a hotel room blissfully alone. Hell, I recently attended a hackathon on a Sunday after baking an apple pie from scratch. How many of you have done that?

If a mom wants to work at your start up, assume she’s been smart enough to do her due diligence and knows that it can be a wild ride and has set up her life accordingly. And if she’s the best candidate, hire her.

Why I Hate Email

“Gasp” will be the response of approximately 300 of my coworkers with whom I spent 7 years with building Exchange 5.0, 5.5, 2000, and 2003. Honestly, I’m feeling a little nervous about posting this one – mostly because it seems sort of heretical after all that email work we did for which I am immensely proud. And, before you read this post, be warned – it’s not my most politically correct post, which is sort of pitiful because it is a blog related to diversity. Anyway – there’s a section in here that is funny – funny like the movie Hangover is funny. So, there’s my confession and your warning. Hope I won’t be burned at the stake. Now you can find out WHY I HATE EMAIL!

Betsy Speare, Principal Program Manager Lead, Microsoft Windows Server, Happy Family member, new Green Lake, Seattle Resident, 15 years at Microsoft, EWU CIS grad and chicken farmer (total 3 now – getting eggs)!

I’ve been threatening to write “Why I hate email” for a while– but really, I use email in all the ways I hate it. So, I thought I would start by discussing…

…Satisfying things about email:

  1. RTFM (where M=MAIL): At work, a chest beating bully indignantly declares “YOU did not tell ANYONE about that!” You don’t even have to answer because someone else says – “RTFM.” On your behalf! THAT is the best.
  2. The one line question: You have a simple, 1 line question. You put that question in the subject line. The respondent replies within 1 minute with a simple one line response. I LOVE THAT. No chit chat, no manners, just Q AND then A.
  3. I can’t remember what I said: But I said it in email. It’s there in black and white and I can refer to it. Great for dates and commitments.
  4. Meeting Requests: electronic sharing of calendars is a beautiful thing if you insist on having more events/meetings than you can keep track of. My Dad would have been disgusted at the ridiculous complexity of my life that requires a calendar like this, but that’s another blog topic. #3 is probably related to this.
  5. Makes the world smaller: there was a time when email was the premier tool for communicating quickly and cheaply around the developed sections of the world. Now there are a lot more, but important to keep that in mind in the benefits.
  6. Forwarding: seriously – is there anything better than when someone makes a hilarious statement or has a great email alias and you can then forward it to your co-worker in a meeting and you are both laughing and trying not to snort? A real example I recieved: “…At least it isn’t the guy I used to know … named takeshi – last name was something like tanuda – alias he was given was takeshit. Almost as good as dong wan kim (who got dongwank) or …”

Zach’s story: Zach is 14 and he grew up next door to me. He’s recently started playing the drums and I was viewing his latest school concert on his Mom’s phone. I asked him to email me his concert schedule. His answer: “I don’t do email. I text or Facebook.” Ok, I now get what the rest of the email technology community has understood for a long time. Email is going to die.

Zach & Alison Wulfman, with my daughter Livvy… the night of the email convo…

I imagined a life without email. I thought about all the crap I have to deal with in email. The never ending days old email threads that never give quite enough context anywhere at the top and require you either read the whole thing or start another thread begging for a summary. The rude “RTFM” attitude (oops), the expectation that email actually replaces human interaction and the communication that never stops! . Ick. Life without email would be AWESOME.

Since it was on my mind, I began noticing that email was never referred to in a positive way. My co-worker, Kenneth, admitted that he had been “using email too long” and just tried to avoid it now. I personally banned laptops in a number of “warteam (now called shiproom, more PC)” so people would pay attention. Ironically (and this really is irony John), that was in the Exchange team. Some people got mad.

Now, here’s the opposite. A great friend of mine, CJ Corbett has recently begun working at Providence Hospital. A faith based organization, they start each meeting with 1 minute of quiet reflection time to leave behind other topics and get focused on the subject at hand. Then sometimes, they have a prayer or short parable to illustrate what they are trying to accomplish. I’m guessing no one is forwarding jokes or reading email in that meeting. Sounds nice.

My brother, Jamie, works at Google. He told me that at Google, people commonly reply to a long email with TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read). Now – that makes sense – I might start that in my group. Of course, I might get RTFM as a response.

Anyway – bottom line is that mail might be more efficient, but it’s not more fun. People are fun (unless they aren’t – I guess you could make an argument in some cases that email was better than talking to some people, but I digress from my fundamental view of life). If we are using email to increase the number of topics & people that we can communicate TO because it’s more efficient, I wonder if we are losing track of what matters in human terms, and that the is the RESPONSE, not the reply.

What I’m going to try:

  1. I’d like to listen and talk to more people and read less email.
  2. I would actually like to read more comprehensive documents (with a good summary) and quit wasting time hitting delete and scanning for valid information (Sinofsky has some good thoughts on this, but now I can’t find the post… might be an internal only one).
  3. I’ll keep using email as a calendar and notes to myself system.
  4. I’d like to quit getting the “RTFM” look, so I’m going to quit giving it.
  5. I’d like to say: I enjoy learning about what my colleagues are doing. I’m not deluged with minutia
  6. Play around with the new tools more – I keep getting pointed to www.pintrist.com.

So I’m going to give it a shot. I’m going to change my expectations of email and see how people respond. I won’t be perfect, because it’s a hard habit to break – but this stuff is evolving quickly and we need to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. Actually – I’m excited to see where we end up. People like Zach just have an expectation that instant communication is lightweight, convenient and on his terms. You can see the pieces coming together – texting, facebook, twitter, pintrist – it’s time for email to really evolve. Can’t wait.

Should Women In Tech Get Special Treatment?

We are lucky to return to Anandi  this week as  our guest blogger —  remember her awesome post ”  Your dream schedule in a tech company – it CAN be done! Four steps to find the schedule you want!.” I have to admit that my first reaction to this blog was less than enthusiastic.  The beauty of owning the blog is adding my own editorial and even changing the title (which I did  – Anandi title kicks off the blog article). 

On a bit lighter note,  over the holidays, my family launched a new website in remembrance of my Mom, Chef Char Zyskowski – it’s 1200 of her best recipes and I can tell you they are all soooo good.  The site is all about enjoying food and friends.   Take a minute to check it out www.AppleCharlotteCooking.com.   Next rev will include menus she created as well as another big bunch of recipes…

However, its a conversation that is at the root of this blog even being in existence – a special blog just for women in tech.  I guess the point is, women in tech do not have the leadership or decision making positions at the same rate as most other white collar industries.  You can point to the “math problem” (girls not encouraged to do math) and the “pipe” problem (not enough women with technical degrees) – but it’s hard to not to admit that there is something inherit in the corporate software industry that discourages women from staying in software as well as a culture that doesn’t promote them at the same rate as their male counterparts if they do stay.   So I say – YES!  We should be doing something different so that women will stay.  For example, building community for women in technical companies enables them to connect to conquer the isolation that drives  them away is good.   Identifying sponsor and mentorship programs that teach our male leaders to be aware of stereotyping is powerful and connects women with coaching – it’s is all good.    The examples Anandi gives seem more like recruiting tools  that are  more superficial “rewards” offered to women who participate – as in any scare resource.   I heard from the interns at MS this year that they got a private concert with Dave Mathews – wow – and that’s both men and women.  What’s that saying?  Scarcity breeds “over-the-top?”  We can’t pick on MS for this though – every company, college, business, government in the world relies on this premise.  So, your read it, and let me know what you think!  use the comments!

Betsy Speare, Principal Program Manager Lead, Microsoft Windows Server, Happy Family member, new Green Lake, Seattle Resident, 15 years at Microsoft, EWU CIS grad and chicken farmer (down 1 chicken due to racoon)!

To follow the Women in Technology Blog – go to https://womentech.wordpress.com/feed/

An-web (2)Blog post by Anandi Raman Creath, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft Corp.

Empowering or Separate But Equal or Unfair Advantage?

I originally posted this on my personal blog, House of Peanut, and have revised it based on some of the insight I got from the discussion with friends and coworkers that resulted.  I know “good blog posts” are supposed to have a strong opinion, but I am conflicted on the topic, so  I’m putting this out there as a collection of viewpoints and would love to hear *your* thoughts on the topic.

When I was accepted at Caltech in 1991 (yikes, that was a long time ago), the offer of admission came with an extra surprise. Not only was I invited to attend Prefrosh Weekend, which was a way for prospective students to figure out if the school was a good fit, but Caltech would PAY FOR ME to attend, simply because I was female.

First thought was “OMG, I got in?!”. Next thought was “Hooray, a trip to California!” since it was a cold April in Pittsburgh. But having never thought about it before, I was puzzled by why they’d fly me out for free, since I did not need financial assistance. Of course, I soon understood it was because of their 4 to 1 male: female ratio, and the fact that they wanted to increase their ‘yield’ of admitted female students accepting the offer.

I went to Caltech, I made lots of friends both male and female, and it wasn’t terribly hard for me to adjust to life in a skewed-ratio environment. I didn’t feel like being female was a disadvantage or that anyone was discriminating against me for it, so I never felt the need to seek the services of the Womens’ Center, all-female housing, or other women-only groups, which were all available to me.  I had one professor make an asinine remark about women not being able to visualize 3-D space, but it was, thankfully, an isolated incident.

One of my best recommendations I got for my graduate school applications was from a male professor who was involved in the decision to admit women to Caltech (only in 1974!).  Grad school and my subsequent job at a Big Five consulting firm were pretty much close to a “normal” gender ratio.

And then I came to my current company, a very tech-focused environment which seems to have the same male: female ratio (or worse) than Caltech, at least on the product teams I’ve been on. I’m frequently the only woman in a meeting, and in our last team meeting, I counted maybe 3 women in a room of 40.

This is typical, but doesn’t bother me. I’ve never felt like people were treating me differently for being female.  Except when guys apologize for using bad language in front of me – that drives me up the wall. I know they mean well, and I tell them I am fully capable of swearing like a sailor and then it’s all good.

My company sponsors a Women’s Conference, which is open to all, but typically it’s 98% women who attend, and the topics are mostly focused on women in technology, how to navigate office politics, work-life balance, etc. We have several active womens’ groups at different levels of the company that offer training, host social events, and meet regularly to work on various initiatives, like sponsoring STEM events for girls. I’m guessing men aren’t explicitly excluded from these events, but they don’t attend.

And there’s my dilemma. I’ve taken advantage of the special training sessions and conferences offered by these groups, because they’re really great opportunities that others pay a premium for externally. I like to go to the social women’s’ networking events to see former coworkers and meet new people.

Some of these events have an undercurrent of “us vs. them” and “we women have to stick together” that makes me uncomfortable. I also feel guilty because I don’t feel like I *need* special treatment or training just because I’m female. And I wonder if I’m somehow saying with my actions that we women “need this kind of help”.

And at the other end of the spectrum, to borrow a term from the Caltech Honor Code, sometimes it seems like I’m getting an “unfair advantage” by being offered these things, when most of my coworkers are not.

Some men in technology fields are socially awkward and not savvy about things like office politics and networking. They may be from other countries and don’t “get” the way things work in our American culture. I bet they could benefit from the same training opportunities as well.

When I think back to the Prefrosh Weekend trip to Caltech, I know my parents would have sent me anyway, even if they had to pay for it. There may have been guys who didn’t go because their parents didn’t want to spend the money. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of my attendance being more valuable just because of my gender.

And yes, I’m really, really lucky that I don’t have to deal with overt sexism, and that I haven’t felt that frustration. I know it still exists, even in the land of technology where I’d like to believe it’s all about intellect and efficiency. It’s possible that at my worker bee level of the hierarchy, deals and promotions are not being forged on golf courses or sports bars, but at higher levels they are. But even if that’s the case, it’s theoretical – I personally don’t feel like I’m being limited because of my gender.

Do I continue to take the opportunities offered to me? Do I respectfully decline them because I don’t feel like I’m at an inherent disadvantage and maybe someone else does? Is it like going to church, where some people need that kind of community support more than others? Am I naive and being discriminated against more than I realize?

When I put these questions out to my peers on Facebook and my blog, I got some surprising answers from both men and women.  (I love social networking!)

I had a few people say they were strongly against what sounded like “affirmative action” and “special treatment” based on gender alone.  They were all engineers, two female and one male, different age ranges, so no generalizations to be drawn there.

Several people commented on the studies done re: the inherent advantage men have in the workplace re: pay inequity, perception of male parents vs. female parents, and even getting through an interview process (swapping a male for female name on the same resume, etc.)  So there is a feeling that sexism exists, and it may be very subtle.  It may be worse in different parts of the country (or world) and can be dependent on the average age of the workforce, too.

What I didn’t expect was that nearly *everyone* encouraged me to continue taking the opportunities presented as long as *I* found them useful.  A few men and one female coworker presented it as something companies do to attract and retain underrepresented groups.  Another Caltech alumnus and Amazon engineer (male) pointed to an article about Scott Page, an economist who did quantitative research showing that diverse groups are better for organizations.

Someone made a good point – these programs exist and may give me an advantage, so why wouldn’t I grab the opportunity, for my own career development.  Because most certainly others are doing so, and these are the same people I’m ranked against at performance review time.  Pragmatic, but true.

More than a few said that I could assuage my guilt by sharing the knowledge with others on my teams, both male and female.  I like that idea a lot – building community and spreading out the benefits from these targeted activities to more than the intended group.

I also noticed that the discussion seemed to delve pretty quickly into *why* there’s an underrepresentation of women in STEM fields, and it’s pretty easy to rathole and speculate on why that is (cultural factors vs. biology).  But I think that’s too large a topic to address in this post, so let’s keep that one separate, please.

If you’d like to look at the original discussion and read the comments verbatim, here’s that post.

What’s your take on this?  Do you think we still need programs to encourage and support women in technology?  Do you take part in them, even if you don’t feel you are personally at a disadvantage?  Does the question of “fairness” enter into it for you?

And I heard a woman say…

This week’s blog post is the perfect post for the first of the year – inspirational for both men and women.  I keep threatening to write the “why I hate email” blog post but you were saved once again by a much better topic.  I suspect you’ll see a lot more of  guest blogger Stacey Sargent on this forum – I already can’t wait to see what she writes for us next!

BTW, don’t miss the big blog improvements this week – we’ve got facebook and twitter buttons! Whoo hoo!

Betsy Speare, Principal Program Manager Lead, Microsoft Windows Server, Happy Family member, new Green Lake, Seattle Resident, 15 years at Microsoft, EWU CIS grad and chicken farmer (up two chickens, now laying eggs – thanks to the Macleod’s).

Guest Blogger – Stacey Sargent.  This awesome post is all you need to know (oh, and there’s more at the bottom about her…)

Last fall I had the opportunity to attend two women’s conferences in a row. The first was the Grace Hopper’s Celebration of Women in Computing in Atlanta, and the second was the Women’s International Network (W.I.N.) Global Leadership Conference in Paris.

There was one message that resonated from both experiences.  It seemed to follow me where ever I went, hanging there like a brilliant star in the forefront of my mind.  I couldn’t ignore it.  At first, I felt the message might be shining just so I personally could see it and learn from it.

What I realize now is that everyone needs to hear this message – especially women.  Women who thirst for more in their life.  Women who aspire.  Women who want something challenging AND meaningful.

The message was articulated precisely by Pascale Dumas, of HP France, at W.I.N.  When asked what she would do differently if she had to do it all again, she answered simply (with a beautiful French accent of course), “I would take more risks.”

I would take more risks.

And then I watched two different panel discussions, each containing successful women leaders who echoed the same message.

I would take more risks.

For me, it translated into the present tense: take more risks.  Now.  Period.  End of sentence.  No caveats.  No additions.  No stipulations.

Take more risks.  NOW.

With this new bright star message in my mind, it is now illuminating everything and I see the need for it everywhere.  Opportunities to take more risk.  Openings to define what risk might be for me.  New ways to look at what taking risk gains for me or what is truly at stake if it goes awry (usually what might go wrong is less than I imagine).  And I can see it in all of the women I work with – their struggle to have the self-confidence to take risks. .

In a recent interview at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit, Ginni Rometty, the new (and first female) CEO of IBM, talked about the importance of self-confidence in taking risks.

“Really early in my career, I can remember being offered a big job. And I can remember [my] reaction to the person who offered it to me. I right away said, ‘You know what? I’m not ready for this job. I need more time, I need more experience and then I could really do it well.’

So I said to him, ‘I need to go home and think about it.’

I went home that night and told my husband, and I’ve been married 32 years now, and he’s just sitting there. As I’m telling him about this, he just looked at me and said, ‘Do you think a man would have ever answered that question that way?’

……What [that] taught me was you have to be very confident even though you’re so self-critical inside about what it is you may or may not know. And that, to me, leads to taking risks.”

I believe taking risks is an important life lesson that we all must continue to learn and practice.  To practice self-confidence even when we have doubts.  To lean in and take more risks, and see what happens.

I have been practicing this art (not science) of taking risks more frequently and here are a few things I have learned:

  • I am very often much more      successful than I think I will be (read this as “don’t believe everything      you think”).
  • When I take the risk, something of      value ALWAYS comes out of it.  Aligned      with  what Rometty said, this is      when I learn the most and gain valuable experiences.
  • Taking risks doesn’t get      easy.  It is getting a bit more      manageable, but I have accepted that it will NEVER be easy or simple.
  • Having support through my friends,      family and colleagues helps me bear the challenge of taking risks.  But it only works when I SHARE it with      them and talk to them about what I am trying to do. The icing on the cake      is they are all there cheering for me regardless of result.
  • It pays off.  By taking risks I’ve had higher and higher      degrees of accomplishment (my definition of accomplishment, not anyone      else’s definition).
  • It can have an exponential effect      in many ways.  More risk taking      (with both success and survival) leads me to take even more risk.
  • I now have real data that shows my      success rate and the reality of what being unsuccessful feels like.  I’ve learned that I survive the risks      that don’t turn out well.  I might      be disappointed or sad, but that doesn’t last forever.
  • A critical component is to      PRACTICE my self-confidence (more on that in a future article!).

In my leadership and development work, which I do predominantly with women in technical companies, I see the challenges in building self-confidence and taking risks.  It can be a battleground.  But I have also witnessed a large number of women who continue to learn, grow, and RISK.  What a privilege to be part of the tribe of women who forge this path every day.

Best of success (which means, best wishes in your learning)!

“Growth and comfort do not co-exist.” ~Ginny Rometty

Stacey Sargent is the founder and principal at Connect Growth and Development, a leadership and people development company that works with individuals, teams and organizations helping them create definitions of authentic success that can be leveraged to gain more satisfying and fully-connected results. Stacey has a passion for working with women who aspire to combine achievement and meaning in their work and life. She works with clients and groups at Microsoft, Amazon, Expedia and more offering long term growth programs, workshops, facilitation and coaching. Clients value Stacey’s ability to bring a supportive yet challenging nature, an approachable manner, to ask right questions and bring focus to what really matters. The company tagline, “WHAT REALLY MATTERS” is Stacey’s focal point for bringing her passion and support to her clients, in the places and ways that matter. She can be reached at Stacey@ConnectGD.com or at www.ConnectGD.com.

SEO Yourself… Grow Your Career and Brand with Online Advocacy

SEO = Search Engine Optimization  – so how do you make sure people see what you want them to see?  Katrina Klier’s blog post is very interesting and gives some practical tips on how to be relevant on line!    The fun part is that I made up her bio below based on what I found when I searched for HER (including the pic) – I was hoping to find some dirt, but to no avail! 

Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving – we’ll be taking a week off unless I get really motivated post-turkey to write something up – or you do! – Bets

—-

Betsy Speare, Principal Program Manager Lead, Windows Server Microsoft, Happy Family member, new Green Lake, Seattle Resident, 15 years at Microsoft, EWU CIS grad and chicken farmer!

What I found out about Katrina via search:

Katrina Klier is the Senior Director [for] Worldwide Digital Marketing at Microsoft.  She is the co-VP of Professional Development for IABC Seattle.  What She Does Best… Build new markets, grow channels, create brand synergy across multiple media, drive profitable growth, work with and learn from other amazing people. She is literally on every social media outlet I could think of plus some I wasn’t aware of like Quora.

PLUS – she has a GREAT BLOG!

Katrina's photo

SEO Yourself… Grow Your Career and Brand with Online Advocacy

With more than 2 billion people in the world active online, the first encounter someone has your personal brand starts with a simple online search of your name. Like it or not, your personal brand is primarily your digital brand, and further conversations with you will happen (or not) based on what people learn about you online. Advocating for yourself online is more important than ever, especially if you work in technology.

So how do you stand out? How do you advocate for yourself online? Well it is as simple as doing search engine optimization or SEO for yourself.

A few simple steps will have you on your way: Plan, Research, Engage and Focus your impact. Here’s how it works:

PLAN:

First you need to decide the top 3 things you want to be known for by anyone doing a search on your name. What are the most important things for people to know about you? List 3 things in priority order.

As an example, my list is:

1. I have an amazing track record of building new businesses with high profitability that is useful for my current and prospective employers.

2. I am an expert and executive in digital marketing and want to continue my career here.

3. I like to help people with marketing and career needs.

Your list may include all career items or a mix of career and personal items such as social or community contributions, political activities, or hobbies. There is no right or wrong answer as to what should be on your list. This is a personal choice and you are the only person qualified to make these choices for yourself. So list you top 3 things for people to know and move on to the research phase.

RESEARCH:

To improve your SEO standings you need to know where you are today, so fire up your favorite search engine and type in your name. What comes up on the first page of results? Is it populated with the many contact scraper sites that claim to have your email, phone number, etc.? Does it come back with lots of results for someone with the same name but who does things you do not want associated with your brand? Do any of the things on your top 3 list show up on page 1? Make note of the results, you will need them later on.

If you have a fairly common name, consider ways to make yourself stand out.These include using a middle initial in everything you do or using a nickname (but please nothing tacky or overly pop-culture-of-the-moment) or including a personal tag-line. The tag line is helpful if you have a unique title in your career or you own your own company.

Research the hubs of expertise and content in your top 3 list.Where are the centers of gravity online for what you want to be known for? As an individual, the fastest way to improve your SEO is to go where the traffic is. So look through the top search returns for your priorities; notice the types of sites, ways to engage on these sites and language used. True die-hard SEO has some very scientific ways to target sites and key words, most of which involve a marketing investment, but these simple steps will get you started for your personal brand. Choose no more than 3-5 target sites to focus your efforts so you avoid spreading yourself too thin in terms of both time and impact.

Using myself as an example, LinkedIn is the most prevalent professional networking site for what I do (my first priority); Twitter is a credibility booster (my second priority); and a blog is the best way to showcase original content (my third priority). So these sites became my targets to create my online center of gravity and improve my SEO.

ENGAGE:

First, go back to the search results for your name as they appear today.Look through all the links on the first 2 pages of search results and remove yourself from any lists or databases that do not support your overall top 3 list for your personal brand.

Second, go to your target sites found during your research and add yourself to the mix.Set up a profile on LinkedIn and add contacts as an example. Go all-in and be a full and active participant in these centers of gravity. Fill out your profile completely and double check all your privacy settings to make sure you are comfortable with them.

Third, create cross links in your target sites.It’s called the worldwide web for a reason and the search engines are spiders also for a reason. Spiders can’t crawl unless there is a connected web to maneuver. So… build your personal web. Create links across your profiles and content for yourself so the search engines connect you across the web.

It helps to choose a primary site or home base for yourself where you will direct the majority of searches for you. For me that meant deciding LinkedIn was the primary place I wanted to be found as it most closely supported my number one item on my list. From LinkedIn, you can find my Twitter feed and blogconnected to my profile. From my Twitter profile you’ll find a link back to my LinkedIn profile and on my blog you’ll find both my LinkedIn profile and my twitter feed again. These are my 3 target sites of my digital presence and you can get to all of them by starting at any one of them. So build your web by linking together your chosen sites and make sure you have content in these sites to support your top 3 priorities.

FOCUS:

Contribute regularly to your target sites.If you’ve cross-linked this is pretty easy to do and can be automated to a degree. As I mentioned, my Twitter feed is connected to both my LinkedIn profile and my blog so every time I tweet, the Twitter content automatically goes to LinkedIn and my blog without me having to do anything extra. If you are unsure what to contribute, start by simply forwarding or amplifying others’ content in your target sites. “Liking” or “sharing” within these sites is an easy way to introduce yourself to the community and show that you are a good community member. From there, you can add other outside content or unique content you developed yourself.

If you choose to use pictures in your profiles, make sure they are tasteful and support the brand you want to portray. Also make sure the picture quality renders well on the web and in the sites where you are profiled. This is the first intro most people will have to you so make sure it is of the highest quality. Remember the old saying “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” This is very true in the online world as well.

Check your search results on a regular basis. Continue to remove yourself from places you don’t want to be. Also take note of which sites you have engaged that seem to pop you up in the search results so you continue to focus your contributions in places of impact. Over time, when someone searches for your name, you want the first page of search returns to come back with items aligned to your top 3 priorities. Other ways you can see how your SEO is progressing are through some free tools such as Klout, Identifiedand many more.

Doing a personal brand SEO effort helps you advocate for yourself and have control over what others know about you. Whether you’re looking to build your career or contribute to your community, people will find out about you first by how you show up online. I hope these tips will help you advocate for yourself and let people know what an amazing woman you are.

Good luck to you all and I’ll see you online!

Katrina

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