Girl Scouts GCNWI Camp CEO 2014

When I was invited to participate in the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago & Northwest Indiana's 2014 Camp CEO, I had little idea what that meant but gladly accepted on the premise that I would be mentoring high school girls. When I was sent a list of items that I needed and saw 'sleeping bag', 'bug spray' and 'rain poncho', I got a bit nervous. Now I am sitting here reflecting on 24 hours that I wouldn't trade for the world, and wondering why I didn't know how much Girls Scouts had to offer when I was in middle & high school.

Photo via @ConnieLeads

Photo via @ConnieLeads

Camp CEO combines a group of highly motivated teenage girls (of those who apply, 25 are accepted) with c-level executives in a relaxed summer camp setting. When I say highly motivated, I mean every girl had a plan for the future, and every plan included somehow making the world a better place for others - I didn't know what I wanted to do until well after college! There is a nice mix of career focused events like creating an elevator pitch and traditional camp activities like hiking and swimming. I enjoyed the blend of formal and informal, as it allowed campers to ask career specific questions and also more personal questions like 'how do you feel about feminism in the workplace' over a hike through the woods.

The beauty of Camp CEO was that we were there to provide guidance and inspiration to a special group of young women, and through that process I was inspired by both those young women and other CEOs. On one hike I was able to talk to a high schooler who is deciding what to do with her non profit when she goes to college. She is still in high school and has already built a non profit that donated over $6,000 to charity last year! Impressive. My mentee wants to work with the loop system in inner city schools to provide a family unit for at risk students, an alternative to seeking that family unit within a gang. I was constantly impressed with the campers, and cannot wait to see all of the good that they do in their lives.

Beyond camp activities and casual conversations, Dream Your Future panel discussions provided a formal setting for CEOs to share their story and leave campers with a piece of advice. These panel sparked questions and conversations amongst CEOs and campers, which led to a great learning experience.

My "Dream Your Future" panel (from left to right) included myself, Phyllis Cochran, Cheryl Burton, Raschanda Hall and Diana Palomar.


Here is a snippet of their advice for the campers. There is no way to sum up the wisdom shared in one blog post, but this is my attempt at the important nugget they left behind.

Phyllis Cochran
Do not be afraid to take the job that no one else wants, which is how Phyllis started her journey to the top of the ladder. She also recommended hiring people that are smarter than you and having a mentor.

Cheryl Burton
Cheryl started her career in sales at Xerox and is proof that if you follow your heart and pursue your dreams you can end up with a career that you love.

Raschanda Hall
"Good . Better . Best . Never let it rest until good is better and better is best."

Diana Palomar
"Whatever you do, bring other girls along and share your opportunities with them."

Thursday's "Dream Your Future Panel" included (from left to right) Angela Hickey, Melissa Preston, Connie Lindsey and Brenda Russell.


Angela Hickey
Angela's story is truly the American dream. She lived in poverty as a child but was determined to make a better life for herself, and is now an Executive Director at a law firm. Angela is proof that determination and persistence can help you achieve your dreams, regardless of your current situation.

Melissa Preston
Melissa took an untraditional path by having the courage to always seize opportunities that presented themselves. She was also confident enough to ask for what she wanted, even when what she wanted was to travel around Africa with the Vice President of our country while at one of her first jobs!

Connie Lindsey
Connie had so much wisdom and inspiration to share that it's hard to pick one thing. The piece of advice that made the greatest impression on me was that your job does not define you. Your job is important, but it's connecting your job with your charitable work and your personal life that make up who you really are. This is incredibly important to keep in mind as you work your butt off to get where you want to go. A job is a means to the lifestyle you want to live, but don't forget to take time to do good, give back and have a personal life.

Brenda Russell
Brenda shared a special story about a spontaneous birthday trip and marathon that took her across the world. No friends or family could make the trip, but the kindness and love that she was greeted with 1/2 way around the world just gave me chills thinking about. Brenda's story was full of life lessons, and to me one of the most important lessons was - don't miss out on the experiences that you want in life because no one is willing to go along for the ride. If Brenda had decided to back out because she was going at it alone, she would have missed out on a memory and experience that will last a lifetime.

As hard as I'm trying, there is no way to sum up Camp CEO in a blog post. It's a special place that lends to invaluable experiences with new lifelong friends. There is so much more that I want to say about the good that Girl Scouts does, but I'll close with some of my favorite tweets from Camp CEO (I especially loved when the campers "took over Twitter" to live tweet their experiences):


An Ex-Techweeker's Take on The Email Debacle

I'm not one to voice my opinions publicly, but as a former Techweek vendor and a female business owner, the discussion around the recent Techweek email has led to many emotions that I would like to share.

First, the good. I can honestly say that without the support of Techweek, I would not have built a successful business that now employs multiple amazing female employees. The gratitude that I feel for what Techweek did for me as an entrepreneur with absolutely no experience is beyond anything that I can express. The Board of Directors is (or, at least was while I was there) comprised of three men and one woman, all of whom helped my career in some fashion. The female member of the board is someone I look up to and respect greatly, and was one of the first (if not the first) females to graduate from Boston University with a computer science degree. Basically, a badass woman in technology who advocates for other women, and who sits on Techweek's board. They were there to answer my questions, offer invaluable advice, introduce me to the right people and give me the confidence that I lacked to propel my company to the next level. This from a group that is now being labeled the villain for not supporting women in technology.

Another positive from my time at Techweek is the amazing women that I was fortunate enough to work with, and that I now call my close friends. The former Executive Director, Director of Business Development, Director of Operations and Director of Program Management are all incredibly smart and talented women that I wouldn't have met if I hadn't worked with Techweek. These incredible women all held Director level positions within the organization that supposedly does not support equality in technology, and all of them had men who reported directly to them.

Now, what bothers me. There are two things that bother me most, and I feel that they are much bigger than any individual organization. First, it bothers me that it took prominent men in the technology industry to call out a sexist ad before change took place and media paid any attention. I do not in the least fault these amazing men for supporting the cause, but this isn't the first issue women have had with Techweek programing, yet this is the first time their voices have carried beyond a private Facebook group and social media posts. Why didn't anyone care last year when women were offended by the fashion show? The same women who are writing about the email in Crains were publicly upset by the fashion show last year but that didn't spur any action from the media or Techweek itself. Is it because the fashion show was sanctioned by another female focused media company, or is it because no prominent men got behind the cause? How do we advocate for ourselves if we aren't taken seriously until prominent men stand up for us?

Another thing that really bothers me is the female name calling and fighting. Why must we resort to saying that other women are dressed slutty or to attacking each other for the way we choose to support femininity in a Facebook group? This frustration dates back to last year when I was incredibly embarrassed after a Techweek party when a strand was started in a women technology Facebook group that called out other women for dressing "like sluts" at a Techweek kickoff party. I believe it was something like, 'how are we supposed to be taken seriously when all of these girls show up dressed like sluts?'. Men can wear shorts, pants, casual, formal, a hoodie, a tank top or a tee, and they don't judge each other like that. Why can't we be happy that women showed up to a tech party in Chicago, and supportive of the fact that their style happens to be different than our own? I understand and agree that some of the dresses were tight and short, but I also think those girls looked great, and confident; publicly tearing each other down is not the way to move forward.

I'm not saying that Techweek isn't at fault, I think their oversight two years in a row shows that something needs to be done, and that (fortunately) the good 'ole boys club isn't going to cut it in Chicago any longer. I'm inspired by the group of women that rallied together to ensure change is made this time. I hope we are able to raise the bar to a much higher standard and move forward as a unified community focused on making Chicago an even stronger technology hub for everyone who chooses to participate.

I do, however, think that it's unfortunate that the story of what they do do for women in entrepreneurship and technology has gone untold. I'm proud of the 19 women who made the list of Techweek100 because according to Techweek's Chairman “The reality is, we look across lines; we don’t look at gender or race or anything, we look at leaders...". That means that these 19 amazing women are truly leading the way, doing and building amazing things and leading the charge for women in technology.

I want to reinforce two facts:

  1. The industry needs to change, and I am proud of the women who are working hard to change this every day. Thanks to them, the technology industry continues to improve for all women. Thanks to the men who found the email offensive, the discussion has been elevated to the next level.
  2. Techweek screwed up, but they are also incredibly supportive of females in technology and entrepreneurship. Again, I can honestly say as a female entrepreneur with 100% certainty that my business would not be where it is today without Techweek's support. I think they need to understand their faults, but I also hope that everyone can understand the invaluable support that they provide to entrepreneurs and technologists of all genders, ages and races.

Advice From Karen Finerman at the 30th Annual NAWBO Chicago Achievement Luncheon

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I tend to be weary about keynote speeches during luncheons, because they seem to either be brilliant or capable of putting someone to sleep. At the NAWBO Chicago Achievement Luncheon, I was fortunate enough to hear one of those keynotes that left me feeling inspired. Keynote speaker Karen Finerman is co-founder of Metropolitan Capital Advisors, a permanent member of the CNBC show Fast Money, and the mother of two sets of twins! I couldn’t stop taking notes, and below are some of my key takeaways.

Everyone has their own decision making process, but hearing Karen’s highly logical six step process made me rethink my sometimes rushed decisions. Time is money, but making the proper decision is incredibly important.

  1. Frame the problem
  2. Understand your emotions and take them out of the situation
  3. Know your options – ask questions and explore options to help make a better decision
  4. Look for the 51% solution – surrender to the grey, the world is not black and white so when you make a tough decision try for the answer that will work 51% of the time
  5. Recognize what needs to be decided now and what doesn’t. If it’s a big decisions, you should wait until the last possible second because you might get more information
  6. Cut your losses – clear mistakes where it’s obvious (like wrong hires), just say your wrong and reverse course

A few other random tidbits that I took from the keynote:

  • Just be where you are (working from home is the worst of both worlds; when you’re home, be at home and focus on your home life and when you’re at work, be at work and focus on nothing but your work)
  • Put things in the schedule, even date night! It’s all about writing down your priorities
  • Execute and finish – no multitasking

(image via Tory Burch Foundation Get Inspired)