womenintech

An Early Airbnb Employee Sets out to Create her Own Experiences for Singles

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Kati Schmidt is the founder of Piña Colada, which brings dating back to real life by connecting groups of six like-minded singles over great food in San Francisco’s best restaurants.

Before venturing out on her own Kati was an early employee of Airbnb working on the experiences team, after 6.5 years she decided it was time to pursue her own venture.

Though she was lucky enough to meet her partner on Tinder she realized that online dating was broken and set out to fix it. In November 2017 Piña Colada,  was born. The goal is simple, to create meaningful connections between groups of six like-minded singles over great food.


 

WHAT KIND OF PROBLEM IS YOUR COMPANY SOLVING?

Even though I was lucky to meet my partner on the dating app Tinder, I believe (online) dating is broken and can be done better. Piña Colada brings dating back to real life by connecting groups of six like-minded singles over great food in San Francisco’s best restaurants. With the concept of Piña Colada I was able to combine my passion of connecting people in the offline world and celebrating great food!

WHAT DID THOSE FIRST STEPS LOOK/FEEL LIKE? (FOR EXAMPLE: THE FIRST 6 MONTHS)

Instead of focusing on world class technology and automation or the bureaucracy of starting a business before knowing that the concept is viable, I focused on creating a pilot: the first Piña Colada group dinner. Piña Colada is still in the early days and the matching of groups and many other processes are still very hands-on and manual. My main focus is creating good content, spreading the word, marketing and sales, creating good experiences and engaging with my users before, during and after the dates to learn as much as possible.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST CONTRIBUTION TO YOUR CAREER SUCCESS?

I was an early employee of Airbnb and have learned a lot during my 6.5 years at the company. During my last year at Airbnb I was part of the team launching Airbnb Experiences, which connects people over authentic local activities. This mission and a lot of the learnings have influenced the curation and focus on quality I put into creating offline group dinner dating experiences.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE FAILURE? WHAT LESSONS DID YOU LEARN?

Unfortunately, I have been close to a burn out twice during my career. As an ambitious woman it was difficult to realize that there are limits to my capacity without risking my well being. We need to invest in self care and look out for ourselves first and then for each other. Especially working in tech here in San Francisco/Silicon Valley it can be tempting to go non stop without pausing and reflecting whether the goal that we are chasing is actually worth it and makes us happy in the long run.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE LEADERSHIP? OR, WHAT DOES BEING A LEADER MEAN TO YOU?

Leaders have backbone and are independent thinkers. They call bs when necessary even when it is unpopular or risky to do so.

WHAT SHOULD WOMEN BE DOING MORE OF TO FOSTER LEADERSHIP SKILLS?

Have each others’ back. As a female leader, even though your own path was probably pretty tough, hold the door open for all the aspiring female leaders who are right behind you. Inspire other women, refer, hire and encourage them.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU'RE FEELING "OVERWHELMED"?

When I feel overwhelmed, I reach out to friends, fellow entrepreneurs or communities that I am a member of. When I share my doubts, I can count on them to remind me how I have mastered difficult things in the past. It helps when they tell me that they have been in my shoes as well and how they got out of the situation.

HAVE YOU EVER FELT IMPOSTER SYNDROME, AND HOW DID YOU COMBAT IT?

After a rather corporate career, I sometimes feel like an imposter as an entrepreneur. I was pretty comfortable at my previous job and knew what I was doing most of the time. As a solo entrepreneur, I have to figure out a lot of things at the same time: acquiring new skills and expertise, prioritizing and making tough decisions. This is very empowering but can be overwhelming at the same time.

WHAT IS ONE QUOTE YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE BY?

Just do it. I created most ideas when I had a personal problem to fix: after being diagnosed with celiac disease, I started the gluten free community glutenfreiheit.org, when I was overwhelmed with my relocation from Berlin to San Francisco in a short period of time, I created the relocation blog kaliforniakati.com and when I was single in Berlin, a friend and I came up with the alpha version of what is now Piña Colada.

WHAT ARE YOU READING RIGHT NOW?

I wish I was reading more. Next up is Trevor Noah’s biography Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood.

ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO INCLUDE?

Thank you! Use the code “STILOBOX” to save $10 off your first Piña Colada group dinner date. Sign up here.

This article originally ran in the Stilobox newsletter, Sign up here.

Inspirational Female Leaders Series #10~ Ritika Puri

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Ritika Puri is co-founder at Storyhackers, a San Francisco based content studio that works with startups, governments, and fortune 500s around the world.

She started Storyhackers as a side hustle and started earning three times her job-salary, at that point she decided to quit her job to become a full time entrepreneur.

She believes “We are living in a pivotal point in our world’s history. This is a year in which women’s voices are becoming louder, more valued, and more important.”


 

WHAT KIND OF PROBLEM IS YOUR COMPANY SOLVING?

My company Storyhackers has been through many twists and turns over its four and a half years in business. As we have evolved, so have the problems that we solve. Our company started as a two-person consultancy, following me spending four years as an independent marketing consultant. That was in 2013, and back then, we specialized in helping B2B companies shorten sales transaction cycles through content. We created case studies, blog posts, whitepapers, and guides to reach audiences with “the right message at the right time.”

As our reputation grew as a company, so did the challenges that we were solving. Last year, we helped a global materials manufacturer break into United States markets with a new type of solar panel, for instance. We also helped innovation teams within the Department of Defense build an internal storytelling/knowledge management program. We work with corporate accelerators to communicate tough-to-measure results to internal stakeholders. We also work with companies that are partnering with global telecommunications companies to build financial inclusion pathways to populations that lack access to financial services.

It was through these experiences that we surfaced the power of storytelling, in all its shapes and forms—through writing, media, data, video, and design—to solve problems that are turning up across media, all over the news. What surprised us was the absence of and lack of value that industries place on the value of storytelling. It is a timeless, human discipline that will outlive automation and artificial challenges.

In 2018, we scaled back our services operations to focus on a problem that we never would have otherwise seen, if it weren’t for our multifaceted client experiences. That problem is the lack of storytelling education and the chronic devaluation of storytelling and communication skills in education systems. We are solving that problem by building a learning hub  that teaches the value of storytelling as a problem-solving tool.

WHAT DID THOSE FIRST STEPS LOOK/FEEL LIKE? (FOR EXAMPLE: THE FIRST 6 MONTHS)

My first 6 months as a full-time entrepreneur were terrifying. Even though I was earning three times my job-salary through my side gig as a freelancer, I was terrified of a potential downturn—that my dream of being an entrepreneur wouldn’t last. I “felt” unemployed, even though I wasn’t, and searched for jobs every day. I second guessed myself. “Other people become successful and achieve their dreams, but I’m not one of those people” was my default mental mode.

At the 6 month mark, when my co-founder joined me, I finally stopped and embarked on a journey of learning how to believe in myself. Two years later, I hit my peak confidence after a series of prolonged, unexpected setbacks. Then, I lost that confidence. I built it up again over another 6 months and promised myself that I would never let go of it again. It was when my confidence peaked again that my co-founder and I made the decision to evolve our business, out of our comfort zone, to build what we spent every minute of our lives wishing to exist in the world—our storytelling school.

In a way, because we are starting a new education business within the context of an already-existing business, we are starting over. It’s like our first 6 months all over again. This time, the process has been more methodical, since we have deeper experience as entrepreneurs—running the whole business vs. contributing to a role at a job.

 This time, we have more knowns than unknowns, have clear product roadmaps, well-developed paths to monetization, a track record as a company, and a team of development partners from around the world, who have mastered teaching skills that we want to see exist in the world. We know how to balance the resources that we have, to a level of precision that I never knew existed.I notice that with this confidence, direction, and energy, we are moving towards a goals, more efficiently, instead of getting stuck in routines.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST CONTRIBUTION TO YOUR CAREER SUCCESS?

There are a few things that have helped me. Number one, I am not afraid to fall down and fail—and I am not ashamed or afraid to talk about it. If you think about what me and my co-founder are doing in terms of pure probability, odds of success are against us. Those odds look a little cruddier when you compare what we are doing with what other people do: they raise money from VCs to develop products faster and offset personal financial risk, they set sights on defined liquidity events to make clear financial projections, and they avoid competitive environments. We do none of these things. Instead, we take the emotion out of probability, a construct that is inherently humanless. We seek to outsmart probabilities by taking contrarian, less-than-obvious paths. Failure is one of three outcomes: success, nothing, and failure. None are emotional.

What we do instead is question the impact and trajectory of every decision that we make. That’s number two, and a skill that I learned through constant reinforcement from my co-founder Justin, which he learned through years of experience in healthcare partnerships, data science, and pharmaceutical research—every short-term action has a long-term consequence. We look at everything, major and minor, in terms of their relationship to the company that we want in 2,5, and then 10 years. If something sets us off course, we either cut it from our activities or justify why we are doing it. We optimize decisions for probability.

 The third biggest contribution has been my self-esteem and confidence. I didn’t have any for a long-time. When I was in the workforce, the support of my coworkers, mentors, and bosses fueled me. When that fuel went away, and I no longer had an organization to “protect” me, my self-esteem slowly eroded. Entrepreneurship is a harsh career path, and despite always receiving praise for my high emotional intelligence (EQ), there were many aspects to my identity, especially my perfectionism and intensity, that came close to swallowing me whole. I spent a year learning how to build professional boundaries and how to be happy when things were really, really shitty. Learning how to be my own source for happiness and success fuel were pivotal in pushing me to escape my comfort zone and take steeper-trajectory paths for my business. I’m only 31, and I co-founded Storyhackers just after my 27th birthday. It is imperative that I continue to generate this optimism from within.

 The fourth biggest contribution, and the one that I am working on mastering right now, is the ability to stay calm in any situation. While I rarely show stress outwardly, I absorb it. That’s a terrible way to handle things. I am reprogramming my responses to stressors, which is especially important given today’s political and sociological climate. I want to be a source of positivity and to help others navigate a challenging time in history, too.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE FAILURE? WHAT LESSONS DID YOU LEARN?

After receiving a promotion at my job in 2012, I blew through a $10,000 campaign budget in 2 hours. I have always felt terrible spending other peoples’ money, so telling my boss how much I wasted was not easy for me. To my surprise my boss and his colleagues pretty much high-fived me and told me to “turn it around.” So I did. I turned that wasted expense into a multi-million dollar revenue stream and new line of business for the company.

 Don’t get me wrong: $10,000 is a lot of money, and I don’t advocate for wasting resources like that like that. But I’m glad it happened. For one, it helped me see how much my bosses believed in me and valued me. The situation also taught me to see money as a transactional tool, rather than something that owns me or controls me. Instead of getting stressed or “feeling bad,” I sought to turn the waste into a worthwhile investment. I worked every day to make this vision happen. And the outcome was both lucrative and a good direction for the long-term health of my employer.

 I have since wasted much more money in my own business—an experience that is very, very different. I am bootstrapping my company that makes a fraction of my former employer, a billion-dollar conglomerate. To them, $10,000 is less than pocket change. But thanks to the experience of losing $10,000 in two hours, a complete shock to my system, I am comfortable with that kind of volatility. I am not only comfortable, but I have created financial safety nets to weather them unscathed.

The lesson that I learned is that when you take emotion out of money, you learn to use it as a tool to better yourself as a situation. At least, that was my experience and the guidance that my mentor-base of entrepreneurs offered me. My money-wasting experiences have also taught me how to manage cash flow, for the purpose of growing a business. If you have finance experience (I don’t), you’ll learn that this juggling act is an art. I’m proud to have the skills of someone with finance training, through “hard knocks” experience.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE LEADERSHIP? OR, WHAT DOES BEING A LEADER MEAN TO YOU?

This is a tough question because I struggled with the definition. For five years after entering the workforce, shit you not, I thought that being a leader meant acting like a stereotypical “alpha male.” I once read a study that leaders tend to be bald, tall, and authoritarian in nature. I thought I was doomed because I’m 5’2”, female, have flowy long hair, and have no idea how to live the part of this persona.

 So what is this persona?

 It goes back to what I have learned, through feedback about me from third-parties, as I analyze my successes and failures. I’m a nice person, I care about others’ successes, I make good decisions that serve the best interests of my team first and foremost, I get shit done, and I lead people towards tough-to-grasp targets. These are all the best and worst qualities about me. What stinks about being nice, for instance? People take advantage of that. What stinks about caring for others’ successes? Sometimes, those same people don’t care about me back or fail to see me as a fallible human like he or she is.

Being a leader means knowing my weaknesses and repositioning them into my biggest strengths. Leadership, to me, means elevating others to lead too. And knowing when/how to let go.

WHAT SHOULD WOMEN BE DOING MORE OF TO FOSTER LEADERSHIP SKILLS?

As an American woman with South Asian ancestry, and as someone who self-identifies as an individual with equal parts eastern and western perspectives, I feel as though we are living in a pivotal point in our world’s history. This is a year in which women’s voices are becoming louder, more valued, and more important. But as we become louder, I see so much anger and divisiveness—particularly towards a “patriarchy” that has created glass ceilings for us. We need to see ourselves as empowered rather than victims and to fight alongside individuals we perceive to be in opposition to us. Anger can only take us so far.

It’s amazing how much perception can change when we put ourselves “out there” as individuals and when we allow ourselves to feel uncomfortable and challenged. We can do this diplomatically. I once received feedback from a boss that my leadership skills were not strong enough. I responded, calmly, that perhaps his perspectives would be different if the company’s board and senior management had representation from women. He was quiet. I could tell he was shocked because I knew his personality.

 He gave me feedback with intent to support me, not hurt me or tear me down. Up until this point, he had promoted me numerous times, brought me to meetings with strategic partners, and exposed me to knowledge beyond what I thought I would ever learn.

It may sound weird, but I accepted my boss’s feedback with an open mind and heart. Of course I wasn’t a good leader--he was right. But it wasn’t because of the company or overt sexism. It was because I didn’t believe in myself.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU'RE FEELING "OVERWHELMED"?

Someone gave me this advice a few years ago, when my founder anxiety was new and extremely challenging for me to manage: I stop whatever I’m doing, and I go exercise. As hard as it feels to pull away, it’s important to do. Caught early, the feeling of being overwhelmed is correctable and possible to keep calm. Bubbled up? That can knock you out for days.

 I have become better at noticing physical symptoms of stress. Now, if I notice that my resting heart rate is higher than my average heart rate (thanks for the data, Fitbit), I take things easy until my heart rate is back to below-average. I am learning how to identify and squash stress before it has a chance to manifest into physical symptoms.

ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO INCLUDE: 

Imagine how different things would be if more people, men and women, stopped trying to conform to standards of others. What if instead of saying, “I wish I could become a leader,” we said, “I am a leader.”

Instead of waiting to become a leader, assume that you already are.

Life is short, and we only have one chance to live it—and to make something out of it. I feel happiest and most at peace when I lead. Rather than waiting for others to create those opportunities for me, I take those steps myself.

 I said earlier in my response that it’s an amazing time to be a woman. It is also challenging. I am scared every single day, living in a nation in which political rhetoric has turned so ugly, in a way that spawns continued violence. It is hard to keep a smile on my face some days, listening to what politicians (and everyday people) say about women.

 One thing that has helped has been to embrace these fears/concerns as legitimate and open up to other women. It’s amazing how much we learn from each others’ lessons in therapy, for instance. I learned that what we call imposter syndrome, for instance, stems from the fact that we have always taken a backseat to dudes in professional spheres—of course we are going to be scared because all women paving new paths in leadership are doing so for the first time in history. But that doesn’t mean that dudes don’t experience “imposter syndrome” either. Talk to a few, on an emotional level, and you’ll learn that they can be just as scared and insecure as the rest of us.

No matter what gender we are, we cannot accept glass ceilings as “the way things are” for ourselves. I live life with the assumption, even though this assumption is untrue, that glass ceilings do not exist. I reject them as being real—even though they are real, I pretend that they are not. And I feel free to achieve any goal that I set my sights to achieve. Yes, I weird people out and catch them off guard sometimes.

 ...Why not? 👊

 

This article originally ran in the Stilobox newsletter, Sign up here.

Inspirational Female Leaders Series #9~ Tarlon Khoubyari

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Tarlon Khoubyari is the founder + content creator for a platform called "Is Anyone Really Listening?"

She shares her insights on data, technology, beauty, and so much more. She's a proud plant mom who likes to consider data as a form of storytelling because of it's ability to bring people, backgrounds, and new perspectives to the table.

She founds her mentors by cold emailing people who inspired her and asking them for advice.

WHAT KIND OF PROBLEM IS YOUR COMPANY SOLVING?

My platform "Is Anyone Really Listening?" is aiming to be an authentic platform for women in technology or really anyone to gain insight on technology, social media, beauty, etc. Basically, I want to highlight the multifaceted person in all of us.

WHAT DID THOSE FIRST STEPS LOOK/FEEL LIKE? (FOR EXAMPLE: THE FIRST 6 MONTHS)

I’ve been very lucky to grow quickly. By grow I mean I am engaging with people on social media, other content creators, and been able to expand my platform. I launched in January and since then I think the biggest lesson I have learned is trusting myself and the work that I do. It’s not easy because when you’re your own boss it’s easy to get lost in what everyone else may think or what is considered to be quality. Trust yourself and remember that you can always go back to edit your work.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST CONTRIBUTION TO YOUR CAREER SUCCESS?


My support system. This may sound super cliche but if it weren’t for them to continue to push and inspire me I wouldn’t be where I am.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE FAILURE? WHAT LESSONS DID YOU LEARN?

My favorite failure would have to be my mental health setbacks. I think when dealing with mental health, it’s important to take some steps back to focus on your health. The lessons I learned were to put myself first sometimes and give myself the permission to do so. Also it’s okay to seek help when you need it and to also rely on your support system a little bit.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE LEADERSHIP? OR, WHAT DOES BEING A LEADER MEAN TO YOU?

Leadership, to me, more than a role or a title. We give power to these titles when really it’s just a word. Leadership is making sure everyone has a seat at the table and everyone is heard, understood, and empowered to do amazing work. Being a leader is a position that people shouldn’t take for granted because people are trusting you to guide. I think what makes a good leader is someone who is able to empower their team members or the people around them to do amazing work without them fearing failure. When people are empowered to do good, they will be good.

DO YOU HAVE A MENTOR? HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT ACQUIRING ONE?

I have a few for different reasons. Professional mentors have been from previous jobs or roles I’ve been in. Finding a mentor is a relationship building task. I spent the time to send cold emails to people that inspired me and through that organic conversation they guided me.

WHAT SHOULD WOMEN BE DOING MORE OF TO FOSTER LEADERSHIP SKILLS?

Support one another, help each other, and aim to work with other women. Also, seeking/receiving feedback is another big element. Being able to offer constructive criticism or knowledge share would encourage women to do the same.

HAVE YOU EVER FELT IMPOSTER SYNDROME, AND HOW DID YOU COMBAT IT?

YES YES YES. All the time. Whether it be my age, my gender, or based solely on ability. I always ask myself “Did I really deserve this? What if I fail? What if I’m not good enough?”. This added pressure we place on ourselves can be hard to overcome sometimes. I just try to tell myself “there is a reason why you’re here. If you don’t know something, it’s okay just learn and do better”.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU'RE FEELING "OVERWHELMED"?

I take a step back from whatever I am doing if I find myself getting too overwhelmed. I am a big list maker and sometimes when I write things down it makes everything I need to do less intimidating. I take those moments to really go through the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. I ask myself “why am I feeling this way? What can I do right now in the next 10 minutes that can help me?” and try to stay proactive with whatever it is. Or just taking a break from it all.

WHAT IS ONE QUOTE YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE BY?

“I want to practice taking care of myself in such a way where I am not abusing myself. I can do this by taking ownership of what I do and who I do it with”. My therapist and I came up with this and it’s helped me ever since.

What are you reading right now?

Crushing It by Gary Vee. Everyone, get it. RIGHT NOW.

IF YOU HAD ONE TIP OR LIFE ADVICE, OR MANTRA TO SHARE, WHAT WOULD IT BE? 

Be intentional in everything you do and with everyone you do it with.

ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO INCLUDE: 

Just a thank you for allowing me to be apart of this and if anyone is really listening or you feel like no one is, I am and you’re heard. 

~

Keep in touch by following her on instagram @tkhoub or checkout her platform iamtarlonkhoubyari.com

This article originally ran in the Stilobox newsletter, Sign up here.

Inspirational Female Leaders Series #8~ Meral Arik

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Meral Arik is a Founding Team Member at Hello Chava and Founder of DOER Society.

Besides her full time gig at Hello Chava, (a virtual phone line with built-in automation for things like scheduling-over-text and text message marketing) Meral is the founder of DOER Society, a community of entrepreneurial women dedicated to supporting each other.

She jokes on her instagram that she works ALL THE TIME, but secretly loves it and wouldn't have it any other way.

Her #1 piece of advice for feeling overwhelmed is to “PRIORITIZE” and “remind myself that I don’t need to - and shouldn’t try to - do everything on my neverending to-do list “right now.”

WHAT KIND OF PROBLEM IS HelloChava SOLVING?

All the work I do is all about empowering and creating access for entrepreneurs. My startup, Hello Chava, is using technology to empower the rising cohort of independent professionals and the “business of one.” I’m also the founder of a community of entrepreneurial women called DOER Society. I firmly believe there’s never been a better time to democratize resources and lift each other up through genuine connections.

WHAT DID THOSE FIRST STEPS LOOK/FEEL LIKE? (FOR EXAMPLE: THE FIRST 6 MONTHS)

The early days of starting a startup are a hustle and a grind. The key is to try to get as much insight as you can as quickly as possible. Think: lots of testing/learning, and failing fast and often.

Before my team built the first version of Hello Chava, we came up with hypotheses of how to add the most value to our customers- and we tested those hypotheses by using wireframes and even pretending to be the software we’d eventually build.

My team and I used accumulated learnings from those early experiments to build Hello Chava into the product it is today.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST CONTRIBUTION TO YOUR CAREER SUCCESS?

From working at a Mark Cuban company in college to currently being a Founding Team Member at Hello Chava and Founder of DOER Society, the biggest contribution to my career success has been my ability to build a network. More specifically, it’s been my ability to connect with people on and offline, to use my network to find opportunities, and to emulate the behaviors of people I wanted to be like along the way.

 That said, I know that networking doesn’t come as easily for others, and that’s why I started DOER Society. Even in the short time that DOER Society has been around, DOERs have formed connections and collaborations, received and given timely and priceless advice, and have shared tools, life hacks, and best practices with one another. This growing community is taking on a life of its own- and members are really making a difference in each others’ professional (and personal) lives.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE FAILURE? WHAT LESSONS DID YOU LEARN?

 I love Winston Churchill’s quote, “Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been starting small businesses, all of which, in hindsight, have been “failures” in the traditional sense of the word. Of those, my favorite failure was an EDM ticketing company I started during my time at UCLA. I lost lots of time and money on that business, but I gained invaluable perspective and progress in my career. I got a “real-world” head start on learning my strengths/weaknesses, how (and how not to) build a solid team, and how to understand your market and users.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE LEADERSHIP? OR, WHAT DOES BEING A LEADER MEAN TO YOU?

Leaders inspire change. They set direction, guide people, and help people see their own full potential along the way.

DO YOU HAVE A MENTOR? HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT ACQUIRING ONE?

I’ve been lucky to have amazing mentors throughout the course of my life and career, to date. These mentors have come in the forms of bosses, colleagues, friends, and family members.

I’d love to give a shoutout to my current mentor and Hello Chava co-founder, Isaac. Isaac has helped me with everything from structuring my thinking to planning and prioritizing more effectively. He’s also been a huge supporter of DOER Society from day 1- I wouldn’t have been able to launch and run the community without his wisdom, guidance and support!

WHAT SHOULD WOMEN BE DOING MORE OF TO FOSTER LEADERSHIP SKILLS?

Women should continue to be excellent. We are leaders already and we HAVE the leadership skills the market requires today. So, that means we should support and join organizations that are fully committed to paying, promoting, and establishing women in leadership roles. And if a door doesn’t open, we should build houses with as many doors and windows as we’d like.

HAVE YOU EVER FELT IMPOSTER SYNDROME, AND HOW DID YOU COMBAT IT?

To be honest, I feel imposter syndrome every single day. It’s hard not to when I’m surrounded by so many incredible people! That said, I think there are ways to combat its negative effects. I’ll share a recent example:

A few weeks ago, I was approached to mentor founders of tech companies at the Google Launchpad Female Founders Summit. Despite everything I’ve accomplished, to date, my first thoughts were, “They must think I know a lot more than I do. There’s no way I’m qualified.” But thanks to my team’s encouragement, I decided to go for it anyways.

Fast forward to the event, and one by one, brilliant women from all fields and stages of their entrepreneurial careers sat down with me and asked for my opinions and guidance- on topics I realized I actually did know a thing or two about! I was able to provide them with perspectives on product/market fit, user acquisition, digital marketing, and growth- and I was able to point them to resources when I didn’t have the answers. I am proud to say that I walked out with a ton more confidence than I walked in with- and I realized that I WAS qualified to be there in the first place.

 Ditching the imposter syndrome is easier said than done (I’m still working on it!), but I think the formula is as follows: Celebrate your wins, own your expertise, and stop comparing yourself to others. Remember that you didn’t just “get lucky” with each of your successes-- you deserve to be where you are. Remind yourself of these things over and over until you believe them.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU'RE FEELING "OVERWHELMED"?

PRIORITIZE.

As an ambitious entrepreneur with endless dreams, ideas, and ambitions, I often feel like I’m not doing enough, good enough, fast enough, etc. As you can imagine, I spend a lot of time feeling overwhelmed, as a result.

To combat these feelings, I try to regularly step back and remind myself that I don’t need to - and shouldn’t try to - do everything on my neverending to-do list “right now.” Instead, I ask myself the question: “what are the one or two things I *actually* need to get done today?” This exercise reminds me to focus my time on the tasks that will have the greatest impact- and it reminds me that I am in control of my work, my life, and my attitude.

WHAT IS ONE QUOTE YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE BY?

“You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” -Oscar Wilde”

What are you reading right now?

 I wish I had a good answer for this, but lately I’ve been spending most of my days in front of screens so I’ve been consuming wisdom by way of podcast. My favorites these days are The Tim Ferriss Show and Tribe of Mentors!

IF YOU HAD ONE TIP OR LIFE ADVICE, OR MANTRA TO SHARE, WHAT WOULD IT BE? 

Work hard & be nice.

ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO INCLUDE: 

 I’d love to invite you all to check out Hello Chava! Our flagship product is a virtual phone line with built-in automation for things like scheduling-over-text and text message marketing. If you want to modernize your business communications give Hello Chava a try - you’ll love it!

Also, let's keep in touch! Find me on Instagram (@my.startuplife), and check out DOER Society on Instagram, Facebook, and our website.

This article originally ran in the Stilobox newsletter, Sign up here.

Inspirational Female Leaders Series #7~ Aditi Shekar, Founder at Zeta

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Aditi Shekar is the CEO and founder of Zeta, a platform on a mission to help couples master their money.

Their goal is to be an honest, relatable and timely source of advice for young couples everywhere. They offer 1:1 advising to couples - helping them make more informed decisions on how to achieve their long-term goals together.

She lives for imposter syndrome. “I think if you don’t feel like you’re an imposter, you’re not challenging yourself hard enough!”

Her #1 piece of advice is to “Make your own magic. If you want something, make a plan for how you’ll get it.”

WHAT KIND OF PROBLEM IS Zeta SOLVING?

Our generation is struggling with money. We have large debts, stagnating salaries, and an uncertain retirement. We still struggle with the very basics of savings, budgeting and planning. The crazy thing is that the picture gets bleaker for millennial couples. While many apps target individuals, few are designed for couples. As a result, couples cobble together financial plans based on confusing or conflicting advice from friends, family and online bloggers. That means that many of their critical financial decisions, like buying a house or starting a family, are made will little guidance but huge ramifications on their future.

Zeta’s mission to help couples master their money. Our goal is to be an honest, relatable and timely source of advice for young couples everywhere. On Zeta, couples can connect their financial accounts and control how much they share with each other. We then track their money - helping them build a joint budget and see a breakdown of their spending across personal and shared expenses. Lastly, we offer 1:1 advising to our couples - helping them make more informed decisions on how to achieve their long-term goals together.

WHAT DID THOSE FIRST STEPS LOOK/FEEL LIKE? (FOR EXAMPLE: THE FIRST 6 MONTHS)

Because I have a product background, I really focused on making sure I understood the problem I was trying to solve. I spent a decent amount of time doing user research and testing demand for the product in the market. Those first few months were all about user interviews, landing page tests and many, many advising conversations with couples across the US.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST CONTRIBUTION TO YOUR CAREER SUCCESS?

I always try to pick the hardest job possible. I’m a huge believer that the single best thing you can do for your career is to challenge yourself. Do the hard stuff, the stuff no one else wants to do, the things that make your nervous. If I’m not nervous about what I’m doing, it means I’m in the wrong job.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE FAILURE? WHAT LESSONS DID YOU LEARN?

I recently heard Arianna Huffington speak at Project Entrepreneur and really resonated with something her mother taught her - “Failure isn’t the opposite of success, it’s a stepping stone to it.” It was such an awesome reminder that our failures are a constructive part of our work.

 One of my failures actually comes from early in my career. I hired someone I wasn’t 100% fully bought into and let others glowing opinions of this person cloud my own. This person later went on to create havoc in our org and ended up leaving with a mess for our team to clean up. That lesson really resonated with me because it taught me a few things: 1) trust my instincts and 2) hire before you’re under huge pressure to hire and 3) the wrong person can do more damage than you think.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE LEADERSHIP? OR, WHAT DOES BEING A LEADER MEAN TO YOU?

I think leadership is about providing vision and inspiration while staying humble and authentic to who you are. My favorite leaders have always been those who could balance being humble with high-levels of competency and authenticity.

DO YOU HAVE A MENTOR? HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT ACQUIRING ONE?

I never formally looked for a mentor but rather I ended up finding them within my workspaces. In my mind, there are many different kinds of mentors - some who help you with your day-to-day, some who help you think long-term and others who just call your bullshit. Having this ecosystem of mentors has helped me get different perspectives while still giving me the room to make my own decisions.

HAVE YOU EVER FELT IMPOSTER SYNDROME, AND HOW DID YOU COMBAT IT?

I live for imposter syndrome. I think if you don’t feel like you’re an imposter, you’re not challenging yourself hard enough!

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU'RE FEELING "OVERWHELMED"?

I make a to-do list and hug my dog. Usually, one or the other thing addresses that feeling.

WHAT IS ONE QUOTE YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE BY?

“I hate mediocrity.”

IF YOU HAD ONE TIP OR LIFE ADVICE, OR MANTRA TO SHARE, WHAT WOULD IT BE? 

Make your own magic. If you want something, make a plan for how you’ll get it. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. I’m shocked at how few people do this.

This article originally ran in the Stilobox newsletter, Sign up here.

Lunch with ZeroCater ~

We had a wonderful Women in Tech lunch at ZeroCater. It was amazing to see how much ZeroCater is helping to create business for locale restaurants in multiple cities! Thank you for giving us a peek into the world of ZC and for providing such a tasty lunch for us! 😀🍽

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If you'd like to host a lunch or dinner at your company, drop us a line.

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