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Marginalization

Community, Diversity, Human-to-Human (H2H), Inclusion, Marginalization, Social Media, Women in Tech

Don’t tweet in a bubble: why & how to diversify your feed

Birds of a feather tend to flock together, but that’s why they call them ‘bird-brains.’ Here’s how, and why, to diversify your Twitter feed.

Twitter Stats & Social Facts

Tech doesn’t just have a diversity problem in the workforce – tech workers and leaders often live in an online social bubble of, well, men. Mostly white men.

When the echo chamber of our tech community continues into our online social communities, it’s too easy to find yourself in a homogenous bubble that is so large and opaque that it eclipses the world outside of it.

And that is dangerous to us as people, as world citizens, as tech makers and users.

Yes, the Twitter feed diversity problem is real.

Not-so-fun fact: Elon Musk didn’t follow a single woman on Twitter until October of 2016 – and only then because a Motherboard article called him out on it. Musk isn’t alone. The Guardian looked at the Twitter accounts of several male tech leaders and found that they followed between 2 and 11 times as many men as women. The CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, for instance, followed 238 men and 29 women at last count (also in 2016).

And that’s just the male to female ratio. They didn’t even touch on people of color or the LGBTQ communities.

When you consider that most founders of tech startups in America are white, and the average white American only has one black friend (75% of white Americans don’t have any black friends), it’s clear that not only do most of us in tech live and work in our bubble – we’re so far in it that it’s hard for some to imagine how to climb out.

I suggest starting to diversify your life and work by inviting in different ideas and opinions on Twitter. No, it’s not going to fix the diversity problem in tech or lead to world peace. But at least it’s a start.

How can you diversify your feed?

As with making most changes, awareness is the first step.

Check yourself

It’s easy to look at the list of people you follow on Twitter and feel fairly satisfied that you do have a diverse group. The human mind is funny that way. We see what we expect to see. Try this app, Proporti.onl, to see how your feed really stacks up. If you’re surprised by your results and feel like you’ve got a long way to go, that’s okay – I’m still working on diversifying my feed, too!

Consider all types of diversity

Diversity doesn’t just mean ethnicity or the spectrum of LGBTQ – it’s also about cultural diversity. People who believe, think and act differently than you. That isn’t to say you should befriend people who don’t share (or who are actively against) your core values. But try to recognize and respect other ways of being.

Don’t just add – listen

James Governor, co-founder of RedMonk, wrote about his effort to diversify his Twitter feed and made a very important point:

It’s not enough to add people who are different than you – you also have to listen to them. And that’s not always comfortable.

“You will certainly find yourself challenged. […] Question your assumptions. Get out of your comfort zone. You’ll be smarter for it, and learn crucial lessons in empathy. Sometimes it’s the little things.”

The benefits are worth the effort. When you listen with an open mind to what different people are saying (and yes, complaining about) you gain insight into how to treat people with more sensitivity and communicate more effectively.

As James Governor also says, “following a broader range of people means that suddenly – surprise! – it’s a lot easier to find amazing speakers for tech events.”

Perhaps, most importantly for us in tech, this is an exercise in empathy. When we have empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another – we build better products, better user experiences, and better relationships in and outside of work.

Not sure where to start? Here’s my shortlist of diverse voices who are sure to add unique, smart perspectives to your feed

Books, Community, Diversity, LGBTQ, Marginalization, SaaS

Summer reading list for building your community 📖


It’s exactly the right time to hole up with a good book.

There’s nothing like spending a quiet summer Sunday morning reading by the pool, in the park, on the beach, or in the hammock in your own backyard. I take a highlighter and pen with me because I’m usually reading business books, but that doesn’t take away from the pleasure of being outdoors and letting your mind wander across the pages.

Lately, I’ve been reading several really good books about building communities and thought I’d share them with you.


Buzzing Communities: How to Build Bigger, Better, and More Active Online Communities
by Richard Millington

Buzzing Communities was written in 2012 by FeverBee’s Richard Millington, whose work on community building is outstanding. In fact, he’s even inspired the topics of one or two of my newsletter missives! It’s a quick read at 300 pages, and that’s because there is very little fluff. You might run into trouble trying to highlight ‘the good stuff’ in this book because there’s just so much of it. He covers community strategy, growth, content, moderation, influence and relationships, events and activities, business integration, ROI and UX.


Community Building on the Web: Secret Strategies for Successful Online Communities
by Amy Jo Kim

Community Building on the Web came out in The Year 2000 (eons ago, right?), but the core of what makes communities work hasn’t changed since, oh, year ONE, so it’s still on target when it comes to the basics. I enjoy reading the insights in here about how the early communities, like Yahoo, iVillage, eBay and AncientSites attracted and retained their followings. You’ll basically meet the grandmamas of the communities we know and love today, and you can see how what worked then has evolved into what works now. Think of it as a history book.


The Art of Community: Building the New Age of Participation
by Jono Bacon

Jono Bacon is a highly respected consultant on community strategy and this book is almost like hiring him to tell you EVERYTHING. Almost. He goes over how to recruit and motivate members to be active participants and how to use them as a resource for marketing and fresh ideas. All while making your community a resource that helps them do their work faster and easier. He also goes into how to track progress on community goals, and how to handle conflict, two thorny issues in community management that can never get enough page time in my books.


The Body is Not an Apology
by Sonya Renee Taylor

This is my favorite book of the year so far! And its message should be at the core of all communities. 💗

Humans are a varied and divergent bunch with all manner of beliefs, morals, and bodies. Systems of oppression thrive off our inability to make peace with difference and injure the relationship we have with our own bodies. The Body Is Not an Apology offers radical self-love as the balm to heal the wounds inflicted by these violent systems.

World-renowned activist and poet Sonya Renee Taylor invites us to reconnect with the radical origins of our minds and bodies and celebrate our collective, enduring strength. As we awaken to our own indoctrinated body shame, we feel inspired to awaken others and to interrupt the systems that perpetuate body shame and oppression against all bodies. When we act from this truth on a global scale, we usher in the transformative opportunity of radical self-love, which is the opportunity for a more just, equitable, and compassionate world–for us all.


Connecting to Change The World
by Peter Plastrik, Madeleine Taylor, John Cleveland

Nonprofit and philanthropic organizations are under increasing pressure to do more and to do better to increase and improve productivity with fewer resources. Social entrepreneurs, community-minded leaders, nonprofit organizations, and philanthropists now recognize that to achieve greater impact they must adopt a network-centric approach to solving difficult problems. Building networks of like-minded organizations and people offers them a way to weave together and create strong alliances that get better leverage, performance, and results than any single organization is able to do.

While the advantages of such networks are clear, there are few resources that offer easily understandable, field-tested information on how to form and manage social-impact networks. Drawn from the authors’ deep experience with more than thirty successful network projects, Connecting to Change the World provides the frameworks, practical advice, case studies, and expert knowledge needed to build better performing networks. Readers will gain greater confidence and ability to anticipate challenges and opportunities.

Easily understandable and full of actionable advice, Connecting to Change the World is an informative guide to creating collaborative solutions to tackle the most difficult challenges society faces.


Fierce Loyalty
by Sarah Robinson

Building and sustaining a fiercely loyal community of clients, customers and raving fans is critical for success in today’s turbulent marketplace. Organizations, both corporate and non-profit, that are thriving have discovered a secret – the underlying DNA shared by all wildly successful communities. Fierce Loyalty unlocks this secret DNA and lays out a clear model that any organization of any size can follow. Business strategist Sarah Robinson helps you break down the process and gives you clear, specific steps for creating and maintaining a fiercely loyal, wildly successful community and put it squarely in the center of your business plan. Drawing on her own extensive experience as well as her research into the inner working of some of the most successful communities around, Sarah de-mystifies the process and gives you exactly what you need to make Fierce Loyalty happen in your organization.


Systems Thinking for Social Change
by David Peter Stroh

Donors, leaders of nonprofits, and public policy makers usually have the best of intentions to serve society and improve social conditions. But often their solutions fall far short of what they want to accomplish and what is truly needed. Moreover, the answers they propose and fund often produce the opposite of what they want over time. We end up with temporary shelters that increase homelessness, drug busts that increase drug-related crime, or food aid that increases starvation.

How do these unintended consequences come about and how can we avoid them? By applying conventional thinking to complex social problems, we often perpetuate the very problems we try so hard to solve, but it is possible to think differently, and get different results.

Systems Thinking for Social Change enables readers to contribute more effectively to society by helping them understand what systems thinking is and why it is so important in their work. It also gives concrete guidance on how to incorporate systems thinking in problem solving, decision making, and strategic planning without becoming a technical expert.

Systems thinking leader David Stroh walks readers through techniques he has used to help people improve their efforts to end homelessness, improve public health, strengthen education, design a system for early childhood development, protect child welfare, develop rural economies, facilitate the reentry of formerly incarcerated people into society, resolve identity-based conflicts, and more.

The result is a highly readable, effective guide to understanding systems and using that knowledge to get the results you want.


Quiet – The Power of Introverts
by Susan Cain

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts (including me!). They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society.

In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also introduces us to successful introverts—from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves.


If you run across a community building book I should read, please let me know. 📖☕

💗 Check out Nichole’s Services for SaaS startups 💗

Community, LGBTQ, Marginalization, SaaS

SaaS startups: Let’s support LGBTQ communities, and not just for Pride.


This article was originally sent as an e-mail as part of my newsletter, Sunday Brunch with Nichole: A Weekly Missive on Community Growth.


Pride Month is an opportunity to open up conversations about improving inclusivity – not just in our online communities, but for our employees and customers too. As I’ve mentioned in previous emails, I run an LGBTQ community, I am bi, and have been with my girlfriend for almost 8 years. But even if I wasn’t part of the LGBTQ community, I would be advocating for inclusivity, because LGBTQ rights are human rights.

Humans, however, are notoriously flawed, and the road to inclusivity is packed with potholes. It’s not an easy road, even for those of us walking it every day. I am constantly listening and learning from my marginalized friends. I’m constantly making mistakes. And I am constantly trying to improve.

That’s all we can ask, really. To have the desire to be more inclusive, to listen more carefully, and to constantly improve. Personally, I’d write that straight into company policy, if I had my way.

Some things your SaaS biz can do to support LGBTQ diversity and inclusion:

  • Train staff on the full spectrum of sexual orientation and gender identity, including the LGBTQ vocabulary so everyone knows the correct terms.
  • Provide sensitivity training that is up to date, and not just about racism and sexism. Tip: Learn from Starbucks recent foray into sensitivity training what worked and what didn’t.

“They told us we need to be ‘color brave’ instead of color blind and it was the whitest thing I’ve ever heard,’ she said, describing a journal and discussion portion held mid-way through the session. ‘Me and my coworkers of color felt uncomfortable the entire time.’” – Alicia, a Starbucks employee, quoted in Time

  • Don’t obligate your marginalized staff to help train employees who aren’t marginalized (it’s not their job!) – but, be open to their input. Being open to input could have helped Starbucks avoid the above.
  • Offer equal benefits packages for everyone. Some health insurance providers don’t provide benefits that LGBTQ employees need.
  • Diversify your network by introducing yourself to people who don’t look like you. This action is on the micro/personal level, but it can have a big impact on who gets hired, recommended and promoted in tech.
  • Become aware of who does the “office housework” (ie. it’s usually women), and create a rotation system. Things like taking meeting minutes, cleaning up the break room, collecting money for a birthday gift.
  • Advocate with amplification. When a woman makes a good point or brings up a good idea in a meeting, often a man in the meeting will say the same thing (afterwards) and take the credit. This happens a lot, especially in tech. So when a woman makes a good point, do like these White House staffers did and build on the idea so it keeps progressing and is properly attributed to its rightful source.
  • Donate to LGBTQ foundations to show your support. Some suggestions below!

Where to donate to support LGBTQ communities in tech year-round:

  • The Body is Not an Apology an international movement committed to cultivating global Radical Self Love and Body Empowerment.
  • Lesbians Who Tech – the largest gathering for women in tech in California, and the largest LGBTQ professional event in the world
  • Trans*H4CK – tackles social problems experienced by the Trans community by developing new and useful open source tech products that benefit the trans and gender non conforming communities
  • Start Out – connects and educates LGBTQ entrepreneurs to empower great leaders and businesses.
  • Out in Tech – provides resources and mentorship to ensure career access for LGBTQ youth and provide web services for LGBTQ activists around the world.
  • Trans Tech Social – an incubator for LGBTQ Talent focusing on providing resources, support and community.

My Pride Month reading list:


This article was originally sent as an e-mail as part of my newsletter, Sunday Brunch with Nichole: A Weekly Missive on Community Growth

If you’d like to receive emails like this one, sign up for my newsletter:

Community, Curation, Diversity, Human-to-Human (H2H), Inclusion, Marginalization, Women in Tech

Delightfully unconventional women-written newsletters in marketing & tech 💌

I’m subscribed to more than one-hundred newsletters – not kidding, I’m a curator. It’s my passion. There are so many newsletters out there for marketers right now. Nearly every startup and entrepreneur in the field has a newsletter to offer. Of course they do. We’re marketers. We know newsletters work as part of our long and glorious sales funnels.

These women-written newsletters are on my can’t-miss list. I try to read them every time. I look forward to reading them, because each one not only has immediately useful value to offer, each one is really fun to read. And, their perspectives are refreshingly unique and unconventional, because these women think deeply about their subjects and don’t shy away stating their opinions.

I love that.

Also, fair warning: I added my own newsletter at the end. It’s all about building communities around SaaS products, and if you’re into that, then hopefully it will make *your* can’t miss list.

Marketing

WordWeaver // Alaura Weaver
I’ve included some of the best copywriters in tech on this list, but what sets Alaura Weaver apart is her unique story-fueled content and copywriting, as well as her commitment to only work with businesses who are legitimately trying to make the world better in some way. Her newsletter is tightly packed with insights into how to use storytelling and powerful language to create human connection that helps businesses sell and grow.

Inkwell // Autumn Tompkins
Copywriter and editor Autumn Tompkins focuses on copy, content, and editing for artists and creatives – a notoriously difficult industry, both to work in and to write for. She brings the stories behind the art to vivid life, attracting clients and building relationships (that attract more clients). Her newsletter includes her best tips for writing creative and effective copy, and it’s so good, that a lot of other copywriters I know read it too.

Copy Hackers // Joanna Wiebe
Joanna Wiebe made a commitment early on to give away her very best information. It’s how CopyHackers began, and why it’s become the go-to resource for professional copywriters interested in honing their craft, or getting a quick refresher on what headline copy works best. Each newsletter she sends contains a mind-blowing insight that you can use right now – it’s how she ‘trains’ us all to open every one of her emails. They’re always so good. Also, notice her writing style. She keeps you hanging on…

Every…

word.

Forget The Funnel // Claire Suellentrop & Gia Laudi
Forget The Funnel is for marketers at product-first tech companies – it’s a weekly series of free, 30-minute workshops designed to help tech marketers “get out of the weeds, think strategically, and be a more effective SaaS marketer.” These 30-minute workshops are not fluff, and you can tell that by their impressive list of workshop leaders, like Talia Wolf, Joanna Wiebe, Ross Simmonds – and oh yeah, me. Really didn’t mean to plug myself, but you’ll see me on the list, and I didn’t want this to get awkward…

GetUplift // Talia Wolf
If we’ve spoken for more than 5 minutes, I’ve probably mentioned how much I LOVE Talia’s newsletters from GetUplift. That’s how much I talk about this conversion optimization newsletter! I’ve used these as inspiration for my own writing more than once, because her writing style is so personal, so fun, so interesting and always informative, pulling insights from her own experiences (which ensures the content is always fresh).

Katie Martell
Unapologetic marketing truth-teller Katie Martell will be the first to tell you – in a bright red banner across her home page – that this is “the world’s best newsletter about marketing, business, and life.” She’s got some stiff competition there, but I won’t argue. This curated newsletter is really good.

Yeah Write Club // Kaleigh Moore
Copywriter Kaleigh Moore’s first newsletter was A Cup of Copy, which included beautifully-written advice for new and seasoned copywriters on writing better copy, and on building a writing business you love. Her Yeah Write Club is completely different – it’s interviews with working writers at the tops of their fields, book recommendations and even writing opportunities. I love both, but those interviews are fabulous.

Strictly Tech

Sarah Doody
Sarah Doody is an entrepreneur, UX designer, consultant, writer and speaker. Her weekly UX newsletter is a compilation of her personal experiences in UX design, curated articles, UX tips and prompts to get UX teams talking.

Femgineer // Poornima Vijayashanker
Femgineer promotes inclusivity in the tech industry, which is already pretty great (and much needed). The newsletter is an outstanding source of inspiration, practical advice and free weekly lessons for people of all backgrounds learning tech.

MarketHer // Jes Kirkwood
MarketHer helps female tech marketers grow their careers, and the newsletter (hover over the pop-up chat on the bottom right to find the Subscribe button – it’s a little hard to find) shares real stories from women working at companies like Eventbrite, Glassdoor and HubSpot.

Product Talk // Teresa Torres
Product Talk is all about product development – from learning much-needed insights about your customers, to conducting experiments and measuring their impact. It’s not strictly a newsletter, but subscribing will ensure you get their latest posts in your inbox, and they’re all really good.

Women in Product
Founded by senior women product leaders in Silicon Valley, Women in Product is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing diversity and inclusion in product management. Not only can you subscribe for their news and updates, they also have a Facebook community with over 9,000 members (of which I’m one).

Women 2.0
Women2 is focused on closing gender gaps and increasing diversity and inclusion in tech. Their articles often focus on female-founded, early-stage companies, as well as “the future of tech and startups.” One glance at their home page lets you know what kind of content you can expect – topics like “speaking out about equal pay” and “an introvert’s guide to collaboration.”

Whackadoodles // Emma Siemasko
Written by a content marketing specialist, Whackadoodles isn’t strictly about content or marketing; it’s more about living a better business life. It’s a great read for writers, marketers and entrepreneurs.

Other

The Good Trade: The Daily Good
A 30 second read of good things to listen, follow, visit, browse and read—delivered to your inbox each morning. Curated by and for women.

And…mine:

Sunday Brunch by Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré

My newsletter is strictly about building online communities, in places like Facebook groups and Slack channels (to name but two), around your SaaS product and brand. Communities help promote higher lifetime value, lower churn, happier customers, and – my favorite – customer success. But it’s not enough to just invite people to join. Creating a genuine sense of community is a little more complicated – and that’s what my newsletter is about.

Subscribe below! Are you thinking of starting a newsletter? Let’s talk about what makes the BEST newsletters out there. Leave a comment and let’s chat.

Diversity, Human-to-Human (H2H), Inclusion, Marginalization, Women in Tech

20 Women’s Stories on How They Learned to Set Boundaries

I didn’t realize until my late 20s that boundaries were a “thing” you could set. That you could tell someone “no.” Then it took several more years for me to actually start doing it, and only because I was forced to as a result of people hurting me and losing my trust — not because I’d finally gained the ability to set healthy boundaries all by myself.

But we all have our teachers, and those were mine.

Now, in my mid-30s, I can honestly say that I set boundaries.

But I still feel guilty about it.

Someone recently asked me for advice in working with one of their clients, and probably for the first time ever — I declined.

I honestly didn’t have the time. I’ve barely kept up with my own clients in recent months. As much as I love helping people — it’s who I am — I’ve come to a place in my personal and professional life of max capacity. For my own mental, emotional, and entrepreneurial health, I have to say no to things I’d otherwise do without a second thought.

I did feel bad about declining. But I also got over it. And I found that it’s less stressful to say “no” than to sign up to do one more thing on an already toppling list.

As a woman, especially, I think many of us have been socialized to say “yes” and be “nice” and “volunteer to help” when we don’t feel like it. Unless we have a really good excuse, like a broken limb or a fever above 103. That’s how I feel, anyway.

And it shouldn’t have to come to that! Someday, I hope to say “no” without guilt, just because I’d rather spend my day taking pictures of flowers and trees, or scrunching my toes in beach sand.

Today, I’d like to have an honest, open discussion about being a woman and setting boundaries. I asked 20 women to tell me their thoughts on boundary setting. Maybe you’ll find some tips you can use. Maybe you’ll just find camaraderie (because none of us are boundary-setting experts).

And hopefully you will find a bit more strength — because after reading what these women have written to me, I know I have.


Tia Fomenoff, People & Culture at Thinkific

When did you realize that you can set boundaries?
still struggle sometimes with setting boundaries as it’s in my nature to want to help everyone! I have definitely been getting better about this just over the last couple of years — after nearing burnout many times I had to make decisions to not always say yes, and be okay with that. I can’t say I regret any of the times I’ve had to say no so far!

How do you set boundaries in your personal and/or professional life?
I don’t so much worry about this in my personal life — I find it’s easier for me to decide what’s important or not. If I’m ever put in an uncomfortable situation, whether at work or personally, I make sure to be direct, but kind and understanding, as early as I can now. When I was younger, I would often let comments or issues that bothered me slide off to the side instead of deal with them head on, because I felt that was easier. I know now that’s not true — that addressing your concerns quickly helps you avoid the negative snowball effect that can crop up because of unclear communication.


Val Geisler, Systems Strategist for Freelancers

I’m still learning to set boundaries and I find they get tighter the more I practice them. Running a business, being a mom, working online… all of these things required me to set boundaries.

However, I only actually set boundaries when I decided that my personal happiness and wellbeing was the main driver of all of those activities. If I can’t show up as my best self, I’m letting everything drop.

When I set boundaries I’m happier. I’m taking care of myself and, by extension, everyone around me.


Joanna Wiebe, Author, Copywriter, Creator of CopyHackers& Co-Founder & Head of Growth at AirStory

Actually my first reaction to your question was a chuckle — not sure I’ve learned to set boundaries or even realized they’re mine to set. I feel the need to justify my boundaries. As if others have more say over what I do than I have. Setting boundaries means saying no, and I still struggle with that in a major way. So I’m not sure I’ve arrived at a place where I know I can set boundaries. I need to work on that.


Kaleigh Moore, Copywriter

For me, setting boundaries is an ongoing process that I’m still working on. I have a lot of room for improvement.

In my personal and professional life, many of my boundaries are around my time. I’ve become much more protective of how I spend/invest my time — and with whom — so that I’m only doing things that I truly see value in. Often, that means saying no to opportunities, putting hard lines around my availability, and being less of a “yes” person in general. The power of no is incredible for establishing boundaries, and saying it more often has helped me become happier, healthier, and more sane.


Shayla Price, B2B Marketer

I set professional boundaries by stating and reiterating my expectations. In the work environment, it’s important to stay consistent in your actions. Someone will always test your boundaries. So, don’t waver to please others.


Crystal J. Allen, CTO of HausCall, Multicultural Media Wizard

As the CTO of HausCall, it was really important for me to create boundaries for my own sanity. Before I had a team of engineers, it was not uncommon for me to work around the clock on our product. In some ways, that can obviously be good for production — but as a manager, this can easily be a terrible habit to create. When I hired my team and realized how responsible I was for their career growth during their tenure with our company, I felt comfortable establishing healthy boundaries for their success and mine.

Using messaging tools such as Slack allows me to still stay on top of things without work requests, questions and concerns coming directly to my text inbox all the time. The ‘do not disturb’ has also had its fair share of value here!


Emma Siemasko, Founder of Stories by Emma, co-host with Kaleigh Moore of Ask Content Gals

I am REALLY anal and crazy about boundaries, in my personal life and in my business life. I realized I could set boundaries about a year and a half into running my own business (late 20s). I was super burnt out, THOUGHT that I maintained solid boundaries, but kept feeling bulldozed by clients. I just wasn’t very good or deliberate at managing my relationships.

One of the things I did was start creating processes that all clients had to follow. For example, I won’t work with a client unless they schedule a 15 minute call with me first. It seems small, but unless I get the client on the phone, I won’t know if they’re a good fit or if the project is a good fit. It’s also a quick compliance check– if they can’t follow my process at the very beginning, I probably don’t want to work with them. One of the other things I did was only take client meetings on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and never after 4:30 pm. This means that I have “meeting” days but that Monday and Friday are reserved for quite working, or working no my own business.


Kristen Hillery, Editor of the InVision blog

Here I am in my early 30s, and I didn’t realize I could set boundaries until pretty recently. I’ve always equated being a good friend, teammate, and family member with doing whatever anyone asks of me. If someone needs help, you help. If someone’s having a get-together and invites you, you’d better be there. Saying no is rude, so never, ever say no. I think this is a common thing we teach little girls — always be polite and take care of everyone else before you take care of yourself.

The thing about that is that, eventually, you run out of energy. I realized this when I barely made it through the day without falling asleep, because I’d taken my neighbor to the airport at 4am that morning.

She’d texted me the night before: “Hey. Can you give me a ride to the airport tomorrow? At 4am?” Three grimacing emojis.

I said yes, of course, and I showed up at 4am on the dot with my trunk popped. She got in my car and said, “Wow! I can’t believe you actually said yes. My husband is mad at me for asking you because he thought it was really rude. But I told him you said yes!”

I couldn’t stop thinking about that the whole way back home. Why did I say yes? Well, because I thought I couldn’t say no. It was that simple.

The fact that even the askerwas surprised I said yes made me think pretty deeply about my personal boundaries and that they were basically non-existent.

Would saying no to someone result in something terrible happening?

Would it make someone swear me off as a friend? Of course not.

Others say no all the time, and it’s fine. I gave myself “permission” to say no to things I don’t want to do — things that won’t bring me joy or things that just don’t interest me.

It was honestly very difficult to start doing this, but I quickly realized that it meant I had more time and energy to spend doing things I loved. It’s so cliche, but life is just too short to waste your time doing things for the sake of doing things.


Sarah E. Brown, Director of Marketing, Service Rocket

I realized that work boundaries were important in my mid-twenties when I began doing consulting. Learning how to set healthy boundaries with clients and boundaries with others in my life in order to maintain balance as a sole proprietor was incredibly valuable.

In my personal and professional lives, I try to live by the rule of “full body yes,” which my friend Sue Heilbronner turned me on to. The idea is that if something doesn’t feel right on a cellular level, I don’t say yes to it. It’s kept me from some nice-seeming opportunities that I know weren’t right for me (perhaps at that time). It’s an ongoing practice.


Amy E. Dixon, Press Release Queen

I started setting boundaries when I realized I tend to be more loyal to my companies than they ever were to me. I’d been taken for granted and/or taken advantage of, and then tossed aside. I don’t know if I aged out of sucking it up, or stopped being afraid of owning my wellbeing.


Lauren Van Mullem, Copywriter for Coaches

I used to work late into the night and during weekends — and I’d say the most success I’ve had with setting boundaries is to stop doing that. But I’m not great at setting them across the board. I want to help everyone, as much as I can, as much as they’ll let me. For me, the #1 cardinal sin is selfishness, and generosity of spirit is the ultimate good. Recently though, a relative stranger asked me for help, and I gave her all the help I could, even though I didn’t really know her. That opened the floodgates to her asking me to do more and more things for her, and there was no reciprocation. This is not my first rodeo with a narcissist (I’ve been burned before — over-givers attract them like ants to a picnic!), so this time, I recognized the signs early on. And I shut off the giving. Funny thing — as soon as I set ONE boundary with her, she disappeared. Boundaries are magical things!


Whitney Antwine, Digital Marketing Coach & Keynote Speaker

Setting boundaries is a direct reflection of your self-respect; and for me, that came right around the time I turned 30. I made a conscious decision to work 8-hours a day, not keep work email on my phone, and commit to taking a lunch break every day. I still can’t help that feeling of guilt when taking care of myself over my business, but I understand its importance on my well-being. When I’m taken care of, I’m able to focus productive energy on my work.


Natalie Smithson, Digital Innovation Copywriter

I realized I had to set boundaries when children came along. I was fiercely protective over theirboundaries, and it took me a while to recognize I could do the same for myself. I put boundaries in place for my business, which in turn protected me and showed me how effective it is to use them. Now I’ll put up a boundary quicker than you can say ‘Could you just… ?’ and “No” rolls off the tongue with no effort at all.


Holly Wolf, Director of Customer Engagement, Solo Laboratories

I started setting boundaries when I realized that what I gave wasn’t reciprocated on any level. I used to put in long hours, attend events, go the extra mile, but when I asked to leave 30 minutes early, it was a big problem.


Caroline Zeichner, SEO Specialist at Thrive Internet Marketing Agency

Don’t set yourself on fire to keep somebody else warm! If you’re negatively impacting your own well-being for the benefit of others, you’re just hurting yourself in the long run.


Coral Wulff, Onboarding Specialist at Thrive Internet Marketing Agency

Beauty does not equal weakness and kindness does not equal naïveté. I give people the benefit of the doubt that they will be respectful, but the first time a line is crossed, there needs to be action/conversation on my end to ensure where the line lays.


Marijana Kay, Freelance Writer and Content Strategist

I don’t think I realized the importance of setting boundaries until I burnt out at a full-time job and realized I wanted to work for myself. Months after making that transition into running my own small business, my work life and personal life were spilling into each other. I had to draw a line to stop looking at emails at night and not let non-urgent personal matters creep into my working hours. I’m easily distracted, and that cycle was taking up all of my energy. Over time, I’ve gained the ability to block off time for work and put my phone and laptop down when it’s time to focus on my husband, family, friends and hobbies. It’s still a struggle, but I’m getting there.


Tracy Oswald, Leads with Love, Big Change Coach, Keynote Speaker

For me it’s about not rearranging my priorities to respond to everyone else’s “emergencies”. A lot of the time all we have to do is say “No.”. No further explanation is needed.


Alaura Weaver, Content & Story Editor for Inflectionpointradio.org, Copywriter

Your question got me thinking about how my lack of boundaries led me to getting sick with pneumonia and how our limitations are opportunities to create space in our lives. It took a physical and mental collapse to finally give myself permission to stop feeling like I wasn’t trying hard enough. It shouldn’t have to be that way.


Stefanie Grieser, Global Markets, Partnerships & Events at Unbounce

There’s this quote from Nathaniel Branden’s Six Pillars of Self Esteem:

“People with high self-esteem have strong personal boundaries. And practicing strong personal boundaries is one way to build self-esteem.”

I think to set boundaries you have to know yourself really well and be confident in who you are. Sometimes you only really figure out who you are in your late 20s. I saw Michelle Obama speak and I forget exactly what she said, but she talked about the significance of being true to yourself and how that happens later in life.

I most recently went through an exercise of writing down my core values — which are: integrity, curiosity, adventure, passion and perseverance. I know that if something doesn’t align with those values, my boundaries are being pushed.


Thank you to all the women who gave their unvarnished stories of struggles and successes in boundary-setting.

How are you at setting boundaries? When was the first time you discovered that you could? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!


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Creativity, Diversity, Marginalization

Don’t Wait for the President to Make Changes – Bring About Change All Year

dont-wait-for-the-president

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never found it harder to “not get political” than with this election. Can any two candidates be more polarizing? Can Facebook get any more fraught with zealously divergent opinions? I hope not. But, the election is still several months away, and friends – it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

In the midst of this political mire, it’s easy to forget that we actually have a lot of power to create the changes we want to see. Going to the polls isn’t the only way to vote – and one might argue it’s not even the most impactful. We also vote with how we spend our time, and with how we spend our money.

We also vote with how we spend our time, and with how we spend our money. Click To Tweet

Here are a few of my ideas for how we can bring about positive change in the tech industry all year.

3 Ways I Choose to Contribute to Positive Change

If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve become more and more vocal about promoting inclusivity and diversity in tech – for people of color, transgender people, and every other marginalized population. But if you’re not the CEO or hiring manager of your company, you might feel like you have limited say in who gets hired or how they’re treated (or, if you’re a contract worker like me, you have NO say). My answer to you is this: Think outside your box.

Join Fund Club

Anyone can support marginalized people in tech at Join Fund Club. When you become a member, you get a monthly email with Fund Club’s new pick: a project, initiative, event or organization focused on diverse communities in technology. You commit to give $100 to the month’s selection, directly to the recipient project (no middle-men taking a cut). Make no mistake – it IS a commitment, and you don’t get to pick and choose who or what gets your money. But, from my experience, each project chosen has been pretty incredible. Example: CallbackWomen’s mission is to radically expand gender diversity at the podium of professional programmers’ conferences.

Sponsor Model View Media

Model View Culture is a magazine about technology, culture and diversity. In fact, I think their description of their latest issue says it best:

“In this issue, we deconstruct the rhetoric of imposter syndrome, cover the implications of artificial intelligence for queer and trans people, and critique claims behind the 3D printing “revolution.” We look at the cost of the Lean In industry on women in tech, and ponder bots and digital dualism. Plus, unpacking the mythology of indie success in the games industry, and a new organization focused on trans women in software.”

And that’s just ONE issue! You can see why I’m excited. You can support them by purchasing a print subscription or digital subscription, or you can donate a subscription for someone who can’t afford it.

The fact that it’s interesting and well-written is Model View Culture’s biggest selling point – but how does supporting it create positive change?

For this, I go to Becca Edwards, Strategy Director at Rallio, who contributed some words of wisdom on the power of awareness.

“I think awareness is key to bringing about change. A friend or mentor pointing out where you can improve and you taking the time to absorb their criticism. Maybe it’s awareness that there can be a better way. Or that an action or mentality affects more than just you. Or that you’re loved and worth love, no matter what you are or what you do, and that you have a safe space to change. That’s when I would evaluate what I’m doing and take complete stock of the situation. I’m a reader, so I’d look for research and writings on the thing I need to change to get a better understanding of it. After that, it’s setting goals (starting with small steps) and reasonable expectations for meeting those goals.” 

Support Projects on Patreon

Without art and creativity, where would the tech industry be? Probably in someone’s garage, or in an uninspired office park. You don’t have to code to be in tech – and you don’t have to have an aversion to numbers to be an artist, writer or creative. Patreon is a crowdfunding platform, but unlike Kickstarter, the goal isn’t to raise one large lump sum, but to fund creators who create a stream of smaller projects. It’s more like a paid subscription. For $2-$7 a month, you can help support someone’s work and get regular “rewards.” Another difference – you get the goods before you pay, which, if you’ve been burned by Kickstarter projects, is a nice thing.

There is a huge range of artists and creative projects, from Cosplay to independent journalism. One project I find interesting is Egyptoon, an Egyptian cartoon on YouTube that presents social and political issues and current events in Egypt and the Arab world with humor and sarcasm.

Then, with a decidedly more techy bent, there’s Why I Need Diverse Games, which sponsors attendance at gaming conventions, promotes game creators who make diverse games, and highlights the work of underrepresented people in the games industry.

Lauren Van Mullem says she uses Patreon to support the work of a writer who traveled to Sweden to record the stories of Syrian refugees. For $2 per story, she gets a unique glimpse into the refugee situation from their perspective.

How Other Awesome People are Making Positive Change

Creating and supporting positive change is a team effort, so I opened up the question to some of my favorite people in the tech industry. But first, I ran across this post from Erica Joy that I’d love to share with you. My favorite sentence (because it’s hilarious):

The Bay Area is full of photographers. Throw a burrito in any direction in San Francisco and you’ll probably piss someone off for getting queso fresco on their brand new lens. 

And, my favorite part (because it’s pertinent):

Making sure diversity permeates all aspects of the business, voting with dollars to support other companies who value diversity, making diversity the first thought in the decision making process, all these things are how a company builds not only a diverse environment, but an inclusive environment.

With that in mind, check out what these people are doing – small scale and large scale – to make the world a little better and a little kinder for everyone.

Ashe Dryden founded AlterConf. She wants to bring about “critical cultural discussions in tech and gaming.” As the Twitter profile for AlterConf notes, “We’re moving the diversity conversation beyond 101. Coming to a city near you!” Check out the many ways you can participate to support AlterConf.

“My favorite charity is Give Directly. It’s a very data-driven and research-backed approach to maximizing financial contributions to improve people’s lives. Being the contrarian that I am, I also love that it works so well despite so many people disbelieving and fearing its impact.”

— Rand Fishkin, Founder of Moz

“1. Get involved with organizations that encourage women/girls and people/kids of color in STEAM subjects. See some groups here.
2. Join HandUp and support unhoused neighbors.
3. Volunteer. Find opportunities here.
4. Continually inform yourself about unconscious bias, privilege, and being an ally instead of expecting lesser-privileged people to educate you. 
5. Talk to others about unconscious bias, privilege, and being an ally often.
6. Speak up when you see discrimination, but use your privilege to make room for lesser-privileged voices if they have the energy to say something.
7. Make it a point to expand your circle of contacts to people you don’t normally mix with.
8. When you mess up, apologize for the hurt caused and don’t focus on your own intent.”

— Michelle Glauser, Advocate & organizer of underrep-ed people in tech

I recommend expanding your social network among marginalized people (especially queer/trans people) and spending time donating money to them when in need and also doing rideshares/car pools to help get them to informed consent clinics for hormone therapy. QT people, especially the younger ones, have so many issues with finances due to homelessness and general poverty and are also gatekept from HRT due to ridiculous and transphobic standards that are found at any clinic that is not an informed consent one.”

— Ramona KnivesRamona Vs. Cis People

“There has perhaps never been a more important year in America to join, help spread the word about, and support TurboVote. Go beyond your own vote to help bring about change.”

— Raju Narisetti, Senior Vice President, Strategy, NewsCorp

A lot of times when people think of change, they think way too big instead of focusing on the micro-interactions we have with people and the change we can bring through 1-on-1 relationships. I personally know that change won’t happen overnight but I personally commit to providing a positive influence and educating people on a daily basis through my personal interactions.

This also means going out of your way to make time. I try to take at least 30 mins – 1 hour each day to personally mentor or provide guidance to those who need it. Also make sure that your avenue of change is something you’re passionate about. It’s much easier to be dedicated to making change when you’re passionate about what you’re doing. We all have issues that matter more to us.”

— Everette Taylor, Entrepreneur & Marketing Executive

“For me, creating positive impact is about making time to help people in our everyday lives. It’s all about the small things for me, but one big thing I’ve done is co-create the Copy Muse Collective, which helps newer writers learn the ropes of freelancing from established writers. I had a tough start as a content marketer, and I’m passionate about making that path easier for others to follow so that more women can define their own career paths outside of male-dominated spaces.”

— Lauren Van Mullem, Founder of Truer Words


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Guest Posts, Marginalization

Transgender Life of Visibility

trans-life-of-visibility

This is a guest blog entry by Ramona Knives.

Transgender Day of Visibility, which was celebrated on 31 March, 2016, has what would seem to be a very important message that is two-fold: to bring to light transgressions and issues that transgender people face while also casting a spotlight on us, as many Americans appear to be under the assumption that they have yet to meet a transgender person. Dig deeper, though, and you will find that quite a number of transgender individuals on social media are actually pretty disillusioned with the idea of the holiday.

While a “holiday” to bring light to our issues sounds like a reasonably decent idea, what does such a day bring to the table for those of us who are hyper visible 365 days of the year? As a black trans woman who is out to the general public, I am extremely visible every single day. When I leave the house, all eyes are on me. Even when I make no attempt to dress up or stand out in any way, I will always be the centre of attention. Not a single pedestrian fails to take notice of me as I walk down the street, and every vehicle that passes by features an uncomfortable glance from at least one of its passengers. That, unfortunately, would be a good day for me as far as public reactions go. I have also dealt with catcalls, physical harassment, bricks and rocks thrown at me from moving cars, and even worse. In fact, during a short break while writing this article, this writer was grossly sexually harassed on a bus stop, when a man stalked me on a corner and repeatedly yelled in my face offering money for sex despite my walking away multiple times. Since the day I first came out last October, I have become acutely aware of just how visible I am in society. It has just become a part of my regular everyday life to suffer through a level of street harassment. I really have to wonder just how much I would benefit from a day that revolves around granting me even more visibility than usual when I would rather just be able to blend in and be invisible for once.

Another thing to consider is just how much trans feminine people need increased visibility on a national scale. Are we not already the talk of the nation? It seems that every “anti-LGBT” legislative bill, which is really just a coded way of saying anti-transgender, bubbles up to the surface of national discourse in a way that never ceases to bring about the most vile of bigoted opinions about trans people. Each day, Caitlyn Jenner says something absolutely ridiculous, which seems to have given cisgender people the excuse to dismiss, misgender, and insult a trans woman when it is not their lane to do so, and this has given these people a way to act like trans advocates at face value while distilling their anti-trans rhetoric in a more easily digestible and accusable way. The biggest fear in America in 2016 is not mass gun violence, or the police state, but the misguided and frankly untrue idea that trans women are just predatory men who want to sexually assault young white cisgender women. Even transgender men are doing their best to hurt our own argument against these outrageous claims by flooding social media with images of themselves in women’s restrooms and playing on those same scare tactics, bragging about how they have to share a woman’s restroom with the wives and daughters of senators.

After the mass passage of gay marriage legislation, which was deemed the most important fight for all “LGBT” people within most of our community, we trans people were assured by cisgender gay community leaders that they would then work on fixing some of the issues that have plagued us forever, like restroom legislation, more access to hormone therapy, easier paths towards transition, and an overall reduction in state sanctioned bigotry against us. Allow me to be one of many trans feminine people to tell you that this has simply not been the case. The fight for our rights has been completely minimized by the gay community, which on its face should logically be our greatest ally. In an age where legal and public discrimination against trans people, particularly trans women, is an an astonishing high, there has never been less support in our favour. Increased visibility of our issues will not help us when no one wants to help us to begin with.

In 2016, we should be fighting for our trans siblings every day, not just one day.