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Women in Tech

Women in Tech

Women You Can Hire to Speak & Write for You

women

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

There’s a strange trend in the tech community. Tech conference organizers are slowly getting the idea that having women speakers and writers in attendance is a good thing (yay! Progress!), yet, so many of the highly qualified, impressively resumed women speakers and writers I know tell a similarly disheartening story:

They keep getting asked to speak and write for free.

Maybe it’s the HuffPo effect, where big money-making companies expect to get the benefit of hard-won expertise for nothing but “exposure.” Maybe it’s just being cheap and seeing if anyone will bite on your baitless hook. Maybe it’s that women’s expertise isn’t as highly valued as it should be.

Or maybe it’s that women are expected to do things just to be “nice.”

That thought makes me feel very not nice. How about you?

So in the interest of promoting highly educated, experienced, eloquent women speakers, or writers – who speak and write for PAY – I published a form inviting women to list their areas of expertise.

In one month, I received 126 responses.

Without further ado – here is the list of 120+ women you can hire to speak and write for you. There are three tabs: writers, speakers, and women who are both.

If you would like to be added to or removed from the list, please e-mail me. (My e-mail address is available in the spreadsheet.)


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Diversity, Women in Tech

Women in Tech Spotlight: Tiffany Mikell (@mikellsolution)

Women-in-Tech-Spotlight-Tiffany-Mikell

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

“What programming does is allow you to build something that addresses a problem,” says Tiffany Mikell in a 2014 interview from Dev Bootcamp. It’s a philosophy she’s adopted on a much wider scale, creating and collaborating with companies that tackle difficult social issues by using technology and spreading awareness among the tech community.

As CEO/CTO of BSMdotCo and Technology Director of Trans*H4CK, Tiffany Mikell uses her experience in software development, education design, and tech entrepreneurship to improve access to education for adult learners and promote the work and needs of gender non-conforming communities.

I would argue that the nature of technology is to make possible what seemed impossible before. Tiffany Mikell takes this idea several steps further, for the people who need it most.

Tiffany Mikell’s current projects

With BSMDOT.co (formerly BlackStarMedia), she’s built technology and digital media tools to increase the accessibility of education for adult learners, including tools for virtual conferences, virtual hackathons, Twitter chats and virtual business courses. What sets them apart is the focus on building experiential environments that help students engage in distance learning programs.

AerialSpaces™, their flagship virtual learning SaaS offering, is being piloted by the White House ConnectHome digital literacy training initiative. ConnectHome made headlines in 2015 as a pilot program to give free or low-cost internet access to 275,000 homes in 27 cities, along with digital literacy programs like AerialSpaces™.

Then there’s Trans*H4CK, where Tiffany is the Technology Director. It’s a company devoted to creating open source tech products that:

  • Promote economic advancement and financial sustainability for trans, gender non conforming, agender and non-binary people. Since 2013, they’ve had more than 600 transgender developers, designers and aspiring coders presenting at their hackathons and helping to develop products.
  • Promotes attention to and improves services for trans people without homes, who are sex workers, or who are incarcerated.
  • Increases gender safety.
  • And support the overall well-being of the community.

Considering that non gender conforming people are unemployed at twice the national rate (4x for transgender people of color), are more likely to be harassed, discriminated against or fired from their jobs, and one in five transgender people in the U.S. have been discriminated against when seeking a home (one in five transgender people have also experienced homelessness at some point in their lives) – this is life-changing work.

A winding career path

Tiffany Mikell began her career in tech as many great minds seem to – by dropping out of high school. Of her brief stint at a Chicago public high school, she says “the lack of structure and other necessities, such as books, was hugely disappointing.” An autodidact both by nature and necessity, she didn’t let that stop her. She taught herself programming, enrolled in the i.c.stars program, took a 30-day JAVA boot camp and crossed her fingers that she would be hired by Accenture.

Five years later, not only was she an Accenture software engineer, she also devoted her time to the African American Interest Group – which put her back in Chicago public school classrooms as a presenter on her career in tech. She then helped launch Dev Bootcamp in Chicago, one of the first code schools of its kind that gives a complete software development program in 9 intense weeks. She says they had 150 students in their first class, only five of whom were black.

“It was a wakeup call for me because I believed it was all about access. If we can lower the access barrier to technology careers, make it a shorter experience than a 4-year computer science degree, then we would see an increase in diversity. But it has more to do with the culture of traditional educational spaces, and how people of color feel in those spaces. I started to examine the problem of how to create inclusive learning environments and an educational pedagogy that speaks to people of color, specifically.” (Listen to the rest of this interview here.)

That was when Tiffany and BSMdotCo Co-Founder Kortney Ziegler decided to focus their efforts on the technology of education. Her most recent project is creating a series of virtual collaboration tools to make online learning more engaging for all users.

It’s this winding career path that perfectly paved the way for Tiffany to become an “education disrupter,” finding ways to help people teach themselves skills – no brick-and-mortar classroom required.

I was happy to have a Q&A session with Tiffany to gain more insights into her incredible work.

How do your experiences in education vary and overlap with your experiences in tech?

As a self-directed learner, I’ve always rejected the idea that educational opportunities should be limited to classrooms and traditional institutions.  As a young independent scholar, technology was incredibly important to me as both a research and communication tool.  Later in life, the industry itself provided the creative autonomy and flexibility I’d come to demand in my career.  My curiosities and interests drive the projects I start and to which I contribute; very similar to the how I designed educational programs for myself.  Additionally, the constant learning required to stay relevant as a software engineer was ideal for my “always be learning” attitude toward life.    

What are some things that you’ve learned, and some ways that you’ve grown as a person, as a result of being the CEO/CTO of @BSMdotCo and the Technology Director for Trans*H4CK?

Oh wow.  This is a huge question.  I often say that 1 year of running a startup is the equivalent to about 3-5 years in any other professional setting.  It’s amazing how much I’ve grown as a person since the almost 2 years since the launch of BSMdotCo (Formerly BlackStarMedia).  One lesson I’ve had to learn has been to guard my time/mental energy with as much force and intentionality as I do acquiring customers.  Both are equally as critical to my startups’ success.  In my role, I have to say No a lot more than I want to – I’ve learned to do so often and as the default response.  

What was the inspiration for @BSMdotCo and how does it bridge the B2B and educational tech worlds?

Because my cofounder Kortney and I both have extensive education and technology experiences – we wanted to explore creating accessible and inclusive learning environments for people of color specifically.  We started by creating an online learning model similar to that of General Assembly and/or CreativeLive —  for a specific niche of students.   

Although we built traction for our brand, we struggled to successfully monetize our “courses” – as the MOOC space has been saturated. We decided to structure our curriculum in a “virtual conference” format and had a MUCH easier time selling conference tickets than selling course access.  

We then began to evaluate technology that would allow us to broadcast an entire conference online. None of the products we tested served us well, so we hacked together an alternative in a period of 3 weeks.  

Our conference attendees and speakers alike were blown away.  We sold more tickets in the first hour after we opened the doors to our virtual conference center than we had in the entire month prior.  We received several requests from individuals and organizations interested in hosting their own virtual conference on our platform. It was one of our biggest moments of validation.

After months of experimenting, we’ve been able to not only create radical models for delivering education, but also develop a technology platform that is being used by our customers to shift the delivery of education in ways that matter to them.

What are some of the products that have been created as a result of Trans*H4CK?

Trans*H4CK has become the hub for transgender visibility in tech and entrepreneurship. Our hackathon and speaker series has traveled the country fostering visibility for trans* technologists. As a mini-incubator, we’ve launched dozens of new applications used across the globe; had over three hundred transgender developers, designers, and aspiring coders attend our hackathons; help secure tech employment for 15 attendees and helped to birth several startups and social enterprises: (Some of which are: Trans*Code (UK); TransTech SE (US); RadRemedy (US))

A sample of the apps developed at Trans*H4CK:

  1. YO Restrooms: Send a Yo to YORESTROOMS and find the closest gender safe bathrooms using REFUGE Restrooms data.
  2. Who Did I Miss: Simple to use form site that contacts conference organizers to encourage and recommend diverse speakers.
  3. An app that lets people bypass web filters to access sites about transgender issues and only transgender issues. Check out its feature in WIRED.

We also deliver technology education and product showcase opportunities on the Trans*H4CK {Collaboration} LOFT– a collection of virtual spaces developed internally and designed specifically for collaboration, sharing and building for the trans and gender non conforming community.  Recaps from recent virtual events can be found on our blog.

Who are some of the educational speakers that have been featured at Trans*H4CK and what ideas do they have to share?

Our speaker series has featured the stories of leading transgender executives, innovators, and emerging leaders–stories which were previously absent from the tech landscape.

Here are videos from the online speaker series which profiles transgender developers making important moves in tech and entrepreneurship:

  1. Lynn Cyrin, Founder of Quirrell
  2. Harlan Kellaway, Developer of Refuge Restrooms for iOs
  3. Dr. Vivienne MingScientist

What do you think others can do to help create spaces for transgender tech innovators and entrepreneurs? Are there other communities that we can support in addition to Trans*H4CK?

It’s critical that we support transgender technologists and their work financially.

Trans*H4CK and other communities like it are so important – what are some of the reasons that you think they’re important?

Shortly before deciding to start a company together, I had the opportunity to work with Kortney Ziegler as a Trans*H4CK volunteer when he brought the hackathon series he founded to Chicago. Although I’d spent several years working as a software engineer at the time,   I was blown away by the inclusivity and collaborative (vs competitive) energy felt during the 4 day event. I had never attended a tech focused event that was as warm and welcoming.  Trans*H4CK provides a safe space where individuals from all walk of life can bring their skills and life experiences to the exciting process of building solutions that matter to them through the use of technology.  Trans*H4CK teaches me every day that intentionality and empathy can be the catalyst for shifting the culture of entire communities in incredibly short periods of time.

How do you think the tech community can help amplify the voices of Trans*H4CK community members?

Attend our virtual events.  Engage with us on Twitter.  Support our organization financially.

Here are a few reads that were significant to Tiffany during the last few years while venturing:

  • How To Be Black, Baratunde Thurston. I’m such a huge fan of Baratunde’s career. He too follows his passions and is able to bring such a unique and multi disciplinarian approach to digital innovation, problem solving and storytelling.  
  • The Personal MBA, Josh Kaufman. Hands down one of the most useful business books I’ve ever read (and re-read).
Women in Tech

Women in Tech Spotlight: Violeta Nedkova (@VioletaNedkova)

Women-in-Tech-Spotlight-Violeta-Nedkova

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Violeta Nedkova built a reputation as one of those online marketers who were so good at thinking outside the proverbial box, that they used it as a stepping stool – also known as a Growth Hacker. Startups were her specialty.

“Meeting so many entrepreneurs with big dreams who are hustling, you’re inspired. But after a while, you have to find something that’s a better fit for you.”

Today, if you ask Violeta what she loves most, it has nothing to do with Silicon Valley.

“More than anything I love polar bears, time travel, and Gilmore Girls.”

Embracing her multi-passionate side, she now helps “creative rebels” to build businesses that feel true to them and authentic to their audiences.

Meet Violeta Nedkova, one of the most brilliant women I’ve known in Growth Hacking and outside of it. What inspires me most about her is her journey from doing what so many of us do – driving up numbers by living on the cutting edge of marketing and technology – to thoughtfully crafting a business that is purely her own. This is her story.

 

author pic for guide

I am Violeta Nedkova, a multi-passionate writer /marketer / solopreneur, who likes to make friends with and help fellow creative rebels – people who know who they are and how to use that to create a lifestyle and brand, which are as unique as they are.

Meet Violeta

You’ve had an interesting journey from working with startups to working with creative rebels. What are creative rebels, and how did you decide that you want to work with them?

Well, first of all, I work with people who know who they are and who don’t want to do things like everyone else. Followers do not fall under the “creative rebel” description. The creative rebel’s motto is pretty much “Do it your way.”

The people who come to me are similar to me in that they have many passions and ideas, but are finding it hard to come up with a business model that encompasses everything they want to do in life. Or maybe they’re on the cusp of change and in need of clarity.

I offer my experience and marketing expertise to help them, or rather coach them, to a place where they feel comfortable with their business, meaning they feel like it’s a part of them. I also encourage people to develop personal brands, not just business ones. I call it authentic marketing.

That’s the part I missed in the startup world, the human element. I tried to “educate” startup founders about the benefits of authentic marketing, but they were not a good fit. They’re under a lot of pressure, which is not quite the same in the solopreneurship world. They wanted frameworks, methods and blueprints, and “growth hacks” were more important than the people-centered approach I prefer. I got tired of marketing, what it stood for, how people viewed it. And I was angry that I was good at it, even though it wasn’t really me. But I was also viewing marketing as everyone else was – I was following those frameworks, methods and blueprints.

But over time, it became clear to me that someone’s business should be as unique as they are, and their marketing should be as unique as they are too. That’s how I got into marketing coaching and eventually life coaching.

Now I’m in LOVE with my clients; they enrich my life as much as I do theirs. New clients can see what The Authentic Marketing Blueprint looks like and then book a FREE session with me.

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What advice do you have for people interested in authentic marketing?

Go with your gut when everyone tells you you’re crazy.

Make the risks that take you closer to who you are and what you want to do in this life – the kind of contribution you want to have.

Who are two or three of your favorite creative rebels and why?

I have an entire list on my blog, but let me tell you about two groups of creative rebels that I ADORE. The first group is the “celebrities.” Some famous creative rebels I follow and worship are: Gary Vaynerchuk, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Sophia Amoruso. They’re all rebellious and unique in their own ways, and inspire you to be yourself, fight your demons, and get shit done. 

They’re people of strong convictions who don’t make excuses and fight.

The other group is the “peers” group. They’re not famous yet, but give them a couple of years and everyone will know their names. We creative rebels know that money and fame is not all there is to success. My creative rebel peers are: Jen Carrington, Sian Richardson, and Ash Ambirge.

They, each in their own unique way, inspire me with their content, thoughts, ideas, and openness online. They’re brave in what they say, generous in what they share, and make no excuses or justifications about who they are. They’re leaders, not followers.

One of your new ventures is training – tell us about your “From Fans to Friends” course!

It’s my first course! It’s not officially launched yet, but it’s everything I want marketing to be. But not in a vain, kind of naive, rebellious way. I’ve taught myself modern marketing, as a result of which, I have learned everything there is to it. I’ve taken methods from different industries because I’ve worked with writers, artists, startup founders, and all kinds of business owners.

After I learned everything there was to know about modern marketing, I almost had a falling out with it because of all the things I didn’t like about it. But THEN I realized, I didn’t have to do every kind of marketing, just the kind that works AND fits with my personal style.

Now I’m helping people find what that means for them – what THEIR kind of marketing looks like – and this course helps them to develop their own unique marketing formulas, as well as build their happy and engaged tribes of raving friends online. 🙂

You’ve also mentioned a 30-day challenge, what is that about?

I’m jumping the gun a little bit here, but I can tell you that this challenge will be the first of a series of challenges. I like how challenges engage people on a different level and help them create and build habits that will hopefully stick with them for a lifetime.

As you know, I’m both a marketing and a self-development person, and I’ve always worked on habit-formation and self-improvement in a way, but only for myself. Now I’m working on the same things with other people, and I think the challenge will be a great start for that.

Also, people complain too much, and if you ask me, there’s no excuse. We have more tools and opportunities now than ever, so complaining is just pointless.

The challenge is simple: To stop procrastinating. The habit is simple: Get things done instead of putting them off. And part of the challenge format is to have a community of supporters who will help you stay accountable.

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You often tweet about #GirlBoss – tell us about what it is and how it inspires you.

This book is a revelation! Sophia Amoruso – the author – has had the most fascinating life – from dumpster diving and shoplifting to rising to be the CEO and creative director of this rebellious fashion empire called “Nasty Gal”. At first I wasn’t sure I should read a mainstream bestseller, as they don’t always deliver, but this one was SO worth it. I even got a hard copy!

I think Sophia is the perfect example of a creative rebel – she took what she was passionate about and good at (photography, fashion, etc.) and turned it into this successful brand. She didn’t start out to be successful or make tons of money, but she ended up achieving it because she was true to herself and gave free reign to all of her crazy, creative whims and ideas.

You recently tweeted, “Spending the day listening to my favorite songs of all time.” What are some of your favorite songs of all time?

Home by Daughtry and Atlas by Coldplay are emotionally precious songs to me. The first one reminds me I’ll always have a home and the second inspires me to explore.

Recent favorites are The Mad Ones and Let It Go, which are definitely songs for creative rebels.

I also ADORE feel-good songs like The Good Life and My Wish (Rascal Flatts).

All of my playlists are on SoundCloud if you want to check them out.

You’re one of my favorite sources of inspiration – who are some of your sources of inspiration (songs, people, books, etc.)?

Elizabeth Gilbert is everything I want to be – wise, original, and brave. She inspires me to the core.

J.K. Rowling is someone with immense strength and wisdom. I also love the way she writes and speaks, and her entire life is an inspiration, too. Plus if it weren’t for Harry Potter, I might have never started writing fiction or dreaming of becoming a novelist one day.

The kinds of books that inspire me are the ones that are written in a beautiful, human, and insightful way. #GIRLBOSS is one, Big Magic another, and I’ve recently also fallen in love with the writing of Ash Ambirge on The Middle Finger Project blog. Her kind of writing is through storytelling, which is the purest kind of writing, and she hooks me every single time.

Finally, I’m always inspired by good podcasts (like The Unmistakable Creative), TED talks, and Marie Forleo’s interviews on MarieTV.

One of your awesome mottos is, “Are you an entrepreneur or not? Stop asking for permission.” What did you observe that lead you to this conclusion?

People come to me with all kinds of fears, and I see those fears online, too. The fact that bloggers address these fears confirms that we are all controlled by them, and one of the biggest modern fears is: Who am I to start my own business? Who’s going to take me seriously?

This fear (along with the fear of failure) stops a lot of people from starting their own businesses. I believe that if you’re an entrepreneur deep inside, you just know it. I like how Sophia Amoruso said in her book #GIRLBOSS: “I became an entrepreneur because I was unemployable. So you see, she did it out of necessity, and so did I. Every time I would try a traditional job or even a remote one, I would end up unhappy about having a boss and being told what to do.

I had no choice because I’m the kind of person who likes to run the parade. But there are other reasons for becoming one, too. I just don’t want people to let their fears stop them from leading the lives they want to lead and becoming the people they want to be.

Like James Altucher says, “you must choose yourself.”

What are your goals for 2016?

My goals are pretty big, and I’ve had to struggle with that a little because big expectations come with big pressure. In the past, I’ve let pressure stop my projects, but now I believe I’ve built myself a pretty big safety net in terms of everything that could go wrong.

If I get bored, I’ll allow myself to move on. If I fail, I’ll forgive myself. If I don’t reach my goal, I’ll accept it. If I don’t make enough money, I have savings.

Basically, I’ve endured so many personal and professional “failures” that I’ve learned a lot. Mainly that you have to have fallback systems like this, and they are as much financial as they are mental. Your mindset can set you free or hold your prisoner.

You do something for a while, you fail, you feel bad, and you look for “that one thing,” but it only comes as a combination of all of those little things you’ve learned throughout your life.

People don’t realize that “the big picture” is only clear after a lot of small failures.

You introduce yourself as a “multi-passionate” – what does that mean to you?

I’ve gone through just about every creative phase you can think of: photography, psychology, writing (fiction, non-fiction, and poetry), painting, design, marketing, and so on. Throughout all of these passions, I learned that the skills I picked up while going through these phases have stuck with me and are now leading me to the next stage of my creative lifestyle.

Some people can choose one thing, one lifelong passion, one dream to pursue. It’s so prevalent in our culture that the pressure to find “that one thing” makes the rest of us feel left out if we can’t.

That’s the beauty of embracing being a multi-passionate – you don’t need one thing. You just need for things to compound and eventually click into this unique thing that only makes sense for you to be doing. And the mistake most people make is to think about what they want and wish for something to happen, but if you don’t work and try different things, if you don’t DO, you’ll never figure this stuff out.

Follow Violeta Nedkova on Twitter: @VioletaNedkova.

Get inspired with her blog,

Check out the absolutely free The Creative Rebel’s Guide to Starting a Business.