A few weeks ago I was catching up with a friend about his business when I received a text from my daughter at UC Berkeley “Class is online now.” This simple text unleashed a torrent of changes in my life. The friend I was chatting with was Pete Cipollone, CEO and co-founder of a company called Turazo. He had just finished telling me how their platform makes it possible for students to get career coaching from professionals in 20-minute, 1-on-1 video sessions and how it was a much better approach than traditional “on-campus” career fairs. The timing of my daughter’s text made it clear that all of these career fairs were going to be canceled and students would be left in the lurch. I quickly said to Pete “you guys are in a position to help a lot of students and I’d like to be a part of it.”
It was pretty easy for me to turn on a dime and join them since my plans for the next several months had been canceled. Nearly all of my 2019 earnings were generated from overseas keynotes and workshops. A few weeks earlier I had returned home from a workshop and keynote in Lithuania with the realization that it would likely be my last trip for a long time.
I signed on as Interim Head of Growth and we were ready to go. I recommended that we partner with a group called The Women’s Network for our first online career fair. My daughter, Natasha, is a member and I knew their mission was to prepare women students for their professional careers. In fact, Natasha had just been guided through a major revision of her LinkedIn profile the week before and I was really impressed with her updates. She introduced us to the President of The Women’s Network, Jamie Vinnick, and we quickly agreed to work together. We would recruit professionals from top companies and they would recruit women students from top schools. On April 1st we launched with an impressive group of women from over 70 campuses. This extended well beyond the six campuses where The Women’s Network currently has active chapters. On the professional side, we tapped our networks and were able to attract professionals from companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Airbnb, and many more. In fact, we had nearly 200 coaches sign up.
While we weren’t surprised that the students loved it, we were a bit surprised at how much value the coaches were getting from the initiative. One friend who works in innovation for a major European bank called her sessions “the most uplifting part of my days nowadays.” Another friend wrote, “I was so tired and then I jumped on these calls, felt a strong sense of purpose and was re-energized!” One coach, Sandy Carter, a VP at Amazon Web Services, even wrote an article sharing her experience.
Students shared similar praise for their coaches, “our meeting was valuable and encouraging, as it allowed me to connect with a successful woman in a male-dominated field.” Another student wrote, “I enjoyed being able to engage in thoughtful discussions with my coaches and received personalized advice.” This kind of feedback has energized our team to keep pushing the initiative and to try to reach as many students and professionals as we can to make a difference during this crisis. Both can sign up at onlinecareerfair.org.
For the next couple of weeks, we are putting particular focus on connecting women college students studying STEM with coaches at tech companies. The more we can encourage these students to pursue tech careers the bigger dent we can put in the extreme gender imbalance in tech companies. To learn more about tech’s gender imbalance I highly recommend the book Brotopia by Emily Chang.
In addition to helping with this initiative, I encourage all growth professionals to look for other ways to help during this crisis. Economies and citizens across the world have been devastated by the shutdowns that have been used to battle the spread of the virus. Whether it is reducing pain during the shutdown or helping people get back and productive after the shutdown, we all can play an important role. And I promise that it beats sitting around with idle time during this crisis. Making an impact to help others is a powerful way to feel like you are making a difference.