Being an entrepreneur is hard. Events like The Own It Summit inspire us to keep going, and remind us that opportunities can arrive at the most unexpected junctures.
You Are Not Alone
As a woman business owner in technology, I’m sometimes intimidated by the lack of other women who do what I do. Without a large network of “been-there-done-thats” to turn to, it’s challenging to keep my confidence high. This is why events like the Own It Summit are so critical to one’s progress and ultimate success as an entrepreneur.
On March 28th, 2015, 750 students, parents, professors, and professionals gathered in Georgetown University’s historical Healey Hall to “Own It” at the second annual Own It Summit. I attended along with my “manbassador” and business partner Lee Emmert, for what would be a full day of speakers, panels, exercise sessions, performances, and all-around energizing and engaging activities.
In the words of the founders:
OWN IT is bridging the gap between female leaders of the 21st Century and the millennials who admire them, by shaking up the women’s leadership arena and producing accessible events for college-aged women.
Don’t Skip Breakfast
This story has a happy ending, but I have to admit, I made some fatal errors in my game plan for the day. First off, I skipped breakfast. Waiting in line for registration in 32 degree weather with a jacket that won’t zipper up (#startuplife) just exacerbated my already hangry state. So when I finally found my seat in historic Healy Hall, I was aggravated, but primed and ready to “Own It”.
As President DiGioia took the stage, and my blood sugar began to normalize, it became clear that the Own It Summit really was going to live up to the hype. I think my favorite part of the morning session was when Kara Swisher interviewed Danielle Brooks (Orange is the New Black). Brooks reminded us that opportunities can arrive at the most unexpected junctures, and we have to be open and ready to take big risks to achieve our dreams. This hit me personally, because as an entrepreneur, taking big calculated risks is a central theme in my life!
Next, we proceeded (again cold, no zipper!) to the first panel discussions of the day. Golly, was I in for a surprise. I sat in the second row of standard school room facing an all-star cast of women in tech:
- Megan Smith (US CTO, advisor to POTUS)
- Courtney O’Donnell (Global Head of External Affairs, AirBnB)
- Richelle Parham (VP Chief of Marketing, eBay)
- Jennifer Hawkins (DoubleDutch)
- Jennifer Leung (MSNBC)
- Shelley Zalis (CEO, IPSOS, OTX Founder)
Together, they shared numerous anecdotes from their journeys to become female leaders in technology, and gave advice to several female students, eager to make their way in a predominantly male industry. I personally asked for advice on surviving as an entrepreneur, female co-founder, and COO. Guess what happened – the 30+ people in the classroom actually cheered for me. I’ll never forget that moment, and will be riding on that wave for months to come.
I mentioned earlier the importance of accepting opportunities as they come to you. One such instance came up just after lunch as I rushed back from the dining hall with my tacos, I ran into one of the Own It volunteers and Megan Smith herself. They offered me a seat in Smith’s roundtable session (normally tickets required). How could I say ‘no’?! Another came when Jennifer Jolly, CEO of PDHI introduced herself to me as a fellow entrepreneur and “one of the few”. She’s provided me invaluable advice since!
The day ended with several more panel discussions and interviews–it was decidedly technology-centric. I left feeling more energized and courageous than I have felt since graduating from Georgetown’s MBA Evening program.
The big takeaway: Make time in your life to surround yourself with people who inspire you and will cheer for you. The former can be done for free through Youtube (i.e. TEDTalks), but there is no replacement for the sheer volume of energy brought by a live event with hundreds in attendance. Look around at the smiling faces, absorb the almost tangible optimism, go forth, and #OwnIt.
Spread the Word: