Recap: 2015 Lead On Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women

I am bursting with information to share from the inaugural, sold-out 2015 Lead On Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women. It was hands-down the best conference I have ever attended. All the speakers, panelists, and moderators were incredible, not to mention famous. I sat in the same room as future President Hillary Clinton!

While the conference exceeded all of my expectations in terms of content, many of the logistics can be improved for next year. One day is not enough. There was only wifi in certain areas of the Santa Clara convention center. I suggest that the organizers (considering we are in the mecca of techland) serve up free wifi for the duration of the conference to all of its attendees. Those of us with laptops took a hit to our productivity trying to ascertain where the free hot spots were. And what is up with the severe lack of food? Chicken salad and a dixie-sized cup of dessert were all that were served the whole day! Not a single granola bar or piece of fruit could be found. During lunch, I heard at least a thousand women grumble that they were starving.

Poor logistics aside, the conference was highly-motivating and inspirational. Here are the top things that I learned.

Connect offline. Go to conferences. Call your mother!

During a Q&A session, one attendee talked about how she was an entrepreneur, but felt stuck. The speaker told her, “That’s why you’re here. Come to conferences like this. Be inspired. Surround yourself with other entrepreneurs or like-minded people who can motivate you.” She’s right. There is great power in connecting with others. Stop staring at your iPhone and go to a meetup.

Be your authentic self. Share the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

No one likes a Pollyanna. Because seriously, who is perfect? One of the speakers talked about how we tend to compartmentalize our lives and share only parts of who we are: partner at a law firm, Ivy League… Rarely do we talk about divorce or being a single mom or overcoming depression. But what a great service we would be offering up to our communities and to each other if we reflected on our collective past and how that made us stronger? Not only does that convey strength, but it’s also our authentic selves. The speaker encouraged us to bring all of our different personas to the table, and not pick and choose our highlights. Another speaker echoed this same theme. She said that authenticity is at the heart of your power, and that when you bring your authentic self, people will trust you.

“What you might consider your weaknesses can become your strengths.”

That’s a quote from Candy Chang. I believe she characterized herself as an introvert and as a way of dealing with a sudden death of a loved one, she painted chalkboard onto the side of an abandoned building in New Orleans and stenciled the words “Before I die I want to…” It became an art sensation with 550 walls created in over 35 languages in over 70 countries. Through a simple idea, Candy has changed the way people in communities exchange information. She is one to watch as she is doing some amazing things as an artist and a proponent of building more cohesive and interactive communities.

Get help.

I think the most important thing I learned from the conference is that all of these amazing, successful women had help and a lot of it. It seems simple enough, but I think a lot of us try to do way too much on our own. One partner at a law firm said she was always so embarrassed at how many helpers (maids, nannies, babysitters, personal assistants) she had marching in and out of her house, but all of that help is what allows her to succeed in life. Another speaker very quotably said, “When you put yourself first, you put your family first.”

Find it online. 

The conference was $245 which isn’t chump change so I totally understand if people can’t afford to attend. You know what? No problem. If there’s a conference you want to go to and you can’t afford it or it’s too far away, I swear all of that information turns up online. For this conference, just search #LeadonCA. You can find Kara Swisher’s fantastic interview of Hillary Clinton here.

Also, a lot of the speeches were recycled or upcycled Ted Talks.

Here are a few to get your started.

Brene Brown

Candy Chang

There, I just saved you $245. You’re welcome.

Next up, I’ll post on my exclusive interview with the World and Olympic figure skating, and Dancing with the Stars champion Kristi Yamaguchi.

Happy Single Awareness Day

Six years ago, Dean and I met on Friday February 13 at Amelie wine bar in San Francisco, then went out to dinner for Valentine’s the following day, and were engaged within months. We’ve now been married for almost 5 years and have a 9-month-old son. Swear to God, I find it mind-boggling because I thought I was going to remain single forever! I truly thought I’d date casually for the rest of my life, keep on going to Burning Man year after year, and take trips around the world with my girlfriends and gay best friend.

At the time, I had this ‘woe is me’ mentality and cried myself to sleep as if I were the only single person left in the whole universe. If I could go back in time, I would slap that girl silly. I was leading an INCREDIBLE life. I could stay out past last call, sleep in, go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I may not have been partnered up, but I always had a friend to accompany me anywhere. And even if I didn’t, I was perfectly fine sitting at the bar by myself, enjoying a glass of wine. I met lots of guys that way.

My advice to singletons on this contrived day of love: While it is normal to long for a committed relationship, don’t let it get in the way of enjoying the present. Trust that if you were meant to be with someone, that it will happen at the right time.

And in this digital age, how challenging can it be to meet someone…anyone? Back when I was dating, there were only a few sites: Craigslist, Match, eHarmony. Now there’s OkCupid, Tinder, Coffee Meets Bagel, It’s Just Lunch, Tawkify… I’m always curious and amazed to see how many different data apps there are. There’s no excuse.

So what if the dates don’t work out or the relationship ultimately comes to an end? Yes it can be sad and depressing, but there’s something so magical about getting dressed up and going out. Isn’t it nice to flirt and hold hands? I’m still friends with the majority of guys I dated because even if I didn’t end up marrying them, there was still value in those connections! Romance is magical. Seize the moment.

Lead On Watermark’s Silicon Valley Conference for Women

A few weeks ago, I wrote that my word of the year is Rejection. To remind me, I purchased a customized ring on Etsy yesterday. The jeweler had all these samples of her work, engraved with words like Love, Peace, Believe, whereas I emailed and asked her to customize mine with Rejection! Ha! There’s no silliness involved because my laser-focus on rejection is working.

I’m thrilled to report that I’ve been selected to be part of the social media team for the inaugural Lead On Watermark’s Silicon Valley Conference for Women on February 24 at the Santa Clara convention center. It’s going down in two weeks.

The one day schedule is jam-packed with keynotes, workshops, panels, and roundtables led by experts on leadership, career advancement, negotiation, personal development, social media, small business, and entrepreneurship.

Check out just a few of the speakers. Hillary Clinton…Swoon! You all know how much I love Hillary, right? #Hillary2016

Kara Swisher? Love her. There isn’t anywhere else I’d rather be than this conference.

I believe there are still tickets available, but the conference is definitely going to sell out soon.

I will be live-tweeting the event with VIP access. Mark your calendars Tuesday February 24th and follow me here. #LeadOnCA

How to Land an Apartment in San Francisco

In the dog-eat-dog world of San Francisco, it’s not about finding an apartment (if you can afford the rent), but whether you can convince the landlord to pick you out of a stack of rental applications that read like Silicon Valley resumes.

As landlords, Dean and I found ourselves in the unenviable position of playing with housing destiny as our rental unit has recently become available. There were four very interested couples that were each so amazing that after every interaction, I told myself, “Yes they’re the one!”

We were so torn that Dean and I ended up rank-ordering each couple on our own, handed our list to the other, and laughed because our top pick was the same–whereas the other couples ranked differently on our lists. Dean said he felt like we were on a reality TV show. I agree, it was very Bachelor-like.

Now that we’ve gone through this and seen some incredible people, I know what it takes to be the top candidate on any list.

In this ultra-competitive market, let me tell you how to land an apartment in San Francisco.

1. Be prepared.

One couple nailed it with their preparation. They had a packet with their smiling faces on front including a brief summary. That summary included their places of employment and in parentheses their annual salaries. BAM! I know right away their names, where they work, and how much they make. Music to a landlord’s ears. In the packet, they had credit reports, offer letters, and a landlord recommendation. Hello! No need to fill out an application. They had every detail I wanted and more.

Do this. Put together a rental package and include W2s. Staple your business cards to the package.

While everyone else was wasting their time filling out an application, we had more time to chit-chat. Serial podcast? Bring it! You love wine? So do I! I LOVE YOU GUYS!

2. Have a connection.

Securing an apartment is akin to rushing the Greek System. You have to connect with the people in the fraternity/sorority otherwise you’re toast. Don’t just fill out an application, then leave. First ask smart questions about the apartment. Then talk interests. “The backyard is perfect because I can see myself out there barbecuing and drinking a glass of wine.”

This is the area where Dean and I struggled with the most because we had a connection with every couple. I especially liked one couple. She was from Beijing and he was from Shanghai, and the two of them debating the merits of each city (when I asked, “If I was going to China for the first time and I could only pick one city, which should I choose?”) had me cracking up. By the way, I’ve traveled to Shanghai and loved it, except for the fact that I got tea-scammed. Haha! They had a hoot over my story.

3. Be aggressive.

Be aggressive. Be be aggressive. And here, my friends, is why one couple landed at the top of both of our lists. Granted the texting and phone calls were a bit much at first; in the end, their genuine love of the place and willingness to commit could not be beat. When someone says they’re coming over with a check, I mean, you can’t turn that down! Kudos to them. We’re happy for them, but we would have been lucky to have any of these couples as our neighbors.

This whole process made me realize…well actually, I already knew this, but the process only validated the fact that there are really cool people living in San Francisco. Cool enough that after a 20 minute conversation, you want them to come over for BBQ and wine. This city and its inhabitants are the best ever!

Now go forth and find your happy place!

REJECTION!

There’s too much going on in my life right now to come up with resolutions. Besides it’s already the end of January! I’m barely keeping afloat, but there’s a philosophy for living my life that I’ve latched onto recently, so much so that I’ve decided to make it my word of the year: rejection. That’s right. I’m all about getting rejected.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve gotten so many job-related rejections which would be totally depressing if it weren’t for the fact that I’ve got four interviews lined up over the next two weeks. BAM! I’ve been talking about getting a new job for a while now since I’ve been in the same department for the past seven years. All talk, no action. The problem is, I actually like the work I currently do. I also enjoyed being a product manager and working for a startup…so I am just really confused and torn. I am researching career coaches and hoping to work with one soon, as I am at a major crossroads with my career.

Here’s what holds a lot of people back. They simply don’t ask. Want a raise? Ask! Want to go on a date? Ask! You’re a small business owner (i.e, blogger) and want to work with a major brand? Just fucking ask!

It’s not hard, it’s just that the majority of people fear rejection. If, instead, it becomes part of your mantra and every day, you set out on a quest to get rejected, then every so often, someone is going to say yes and you will be floored! If the blind squirrel can get his nut, you mindfully-advanced human, can have your desires granted.

This is probably my favorite of all TED talks. It’s given by Jia Jiang on 100 Days of Rejection. Changed my life.