Last minute, I received a discount code to MogulX 2018, a conference I knew very little about except minor name recognition. For $80, with neat swag, and maybe meeting who’d get me closer to a new job? Sure thing.
With check-in process a bit of a mess, the rest of the venue ran smoothly, was welcoming and a great layout.
Divided into different tracks, I stuck with the Relationships and Failing Forward, rounding out my day in ‘the Hustle’ with inspirational chats with those known for doing ‘the damn thing.’ I left exhausted for attempting to be on all day, below are my reflections:
FINDING A MENTOR // Tiffany Pham
Building lasting relationships and develop a network of advisors.
At 14, Tiffany knew what she wanted to do, she went to school after asking for entry and ended up with full scholarship to Yale and Harvard Business School. From Chinese descent she’d lived her childhood in France and was moved to Plano, Texas without knowing English before becoming a teenager. Both Rory Gilmore and her grandmother shaped her over-achieving dedication to running her media empire. The coupling of these two inspirations is relatable. An immigrant child looking to TV to make sense of what’s already within her family story and aspire to attain it. That’s only come to me in fleeting waves, elusive in nature, but I respect a consistently lit dream, envy it really.
She juggled the endeavors as a young person, sometimes not sleeping. Working at CBS, some sort of Hollywood company that used star power to raise awareness for causes, consulting with a media company in Beijing and learning to code Ruby at 3 a.m. in order to bring Mogul to life. Noted the sacrifices of not-sleeping, but I also think that it’s fine if you want to sleep and slow down your dreams, in fact, that should be encouraged. She said surprised to find herself on the Forbes 30 under 30 list, but I’m skeptical that wasn’t a subconscious dream of a type A personality. Most relatable, for my experience, she mentioned that each 1st year of school would be her hardest to try academically and stick to her shyness, only making friends and connections in her 2nd year. (Can I get an AMEN?!) When she finally made it out into the world of technology, she says she realized that she simply, “didn’t have a year” in tech to wait that long. (BRAVO! I’m still learning this!) She took the chance and tried to make, learned new things, connected dots and took a leap of faith to reach out to others via COLD emails. Since attending, I’ve started this cold reach out method and will ramp it up in the coming weeks. In return, hope for collaboration and friendship feels much easier than a favor.
“Only by 2085 will women have equal leadership positions to men by the pace that we’re currently progressing.” This brought to mind a contrasting aggressive effort of the Federalist Society’s 30-year influencer on the courts. This fact is currently true, but with 100 women candidates for congress, quickly, will be outdated if efforts for women influence are sustained. #BuildingMaintenance
BUILDING RESILIENCE AMIDST OBSTACLES // Mariane Pearl
Move past embarrassment and humiliation. Pick up the pieces, rise above, and come out stronger.
Mariane is someone I could listen to for hours. On the other hand, I would be terrified to speak in her presence for longer than 30-seconds. She’s so brilliant, passionate and experienced so much that judgment feels like a natural critique. She spoke in a series of stories in her lecture and refreshingly avoided the banal topic description w/ 5-pt powerpoint slides. Her speech meandered through life’s journey, taking stops along the way to visit her family story of heritage; falling in love; moving to a new country as impassioned journalists; assuming acceptance and interest as sophisticates only to be disappointed; fighting her prejudices and developing as an individual with no one as an audience aside from herself; raising a child — you know, LIFE! — before moving on to discuss her takeaways on building resilience. The turning point, having not know her story, occurs when Danny, her husband was kidnapped by al Qaeda and subsequently murdered. She took her time, and such, revealed why she would be such an expert on resilience besides as a self-identified humanist.
She quotes UNESCO’s preamble, “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.” She quoted something specific from Jean Paul Sartre that I can’t recall, but I found this quote instead, “Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you,” which similarly captures her thesis of building yourself. She digressed and chatted about feminism and ideals of humanism while setting up details to her narrative, but before moving on from describing her complete point of view. She guides her audience along, returning often to the last words her father shared with her, “Promise me you’ll accomplish everything that I’ve failed at.”
In the horrific immediate reaction to her husbands death she admits that blinded with rage, she grabbed for a gun. In her telling, her father’s quote, her core humanist values shed this craving for revenge means she’d be no better than those who wanted to destruct her faith in humanity. She decided, “I was going to find faith in humans.” Her accomplishments continue now as a journalist working with women with their dignity in tact. My last notes scribbled on the page: Meaning to life and reality translate in life the to tackle real problems of the work that overcome obstacles that leaders aren’t ready to try to solve.
CHANGING THE GAME // Molly Bloom
We all make mistakes, but learn how to make amends, reclaim your narrative, and redefine your future.
I had no idea I was awaiting a Hollywood story while sticking around in this Failing Forward track. Most of the details of Molly’s story are captured beautifully by Aaron Sorkin in the Oscar nominated film, Molly’s Game. Bloom’s family dinner table in Colorado was fiercely competitive with two younger brothers designated as genius and athletic, she struggled (admittedly more emotionally than outwardly) to earn her seat of respect. Skiing and school taught her skills she’d use to build her resume and achieve a majority of her story, but the most intriguing skills developed growing up with psychologist in the family. Reading people and the ability to tap into people’s needs leveraged Bloom in poker games and the environments that they sprung from, but also, most commanding yet, in her ability to rebuild herself from the inside out. She’s charming, yet self-important, but all of me admits not with a greedy or malicious intent. She’s a bigger than life version of all of us wanting to stake our claim to deserved achievements and receive those accolades. Her re-brand crafted from her expert story arch into transformation is quite spot on. And heck, if she’s overcome all that, my hurdles are unwritten mole hills. Judgment held in the air afterward, specifically in the formation of the woman next to me who insisted that her talk tells us all to be criminals, which is a ridiculous takeaway that said more about her prejudices than Bloom’s message.
LUNCH // Table: Grind · I met a woman from Germany. I learned about the book publishing industry.
BOOK SIGNING // Tiffany Pham · Waiting in line, I met a young woman named Allison
TRAVEL // Scott Keyes · Get out there and figure out how to have experiences
Discover the world’s up-and-coming destinations and learn how to to see the world on a budget.
FUNDING THE DREAM // Jesse Draper + Arlan Hamilton
Only 11% of venture funding investments are made in female-founded companies. Hear from powerhouse venture capitalists on what they’ve learned from sitting on the other side of the table.
How to get funded panels, fireside chats, q&a’s, blog posts never leave me satisfied. The response is always, “it depends” and “fund the person, not the idea” as repeated tropes. This conversation was no different. I was impressed with anecdotes of repeated attempts to find funding, establish relationships and providing diversity in investments, but again, nothing really stood out to me that separates this conversation from the others I’ve heard, even though it’s been awhile. Learning about Halogen Ventures and Backstage Capital feels well overdue and worth it. I’ll be tuning in.
TRAILBLAZERS // Jessica O. Matthews + Alexandra Wilkis Wilson w/ Tina Exharhos
Hear from top female change-makers and entrepreneurs on how they built their business, the challenges faced along the way and the advice they’d share with their younger selves.
At this point, caffeine continued to pulse through my veins without nutrients to slow it down and I felt drained, but here was the climax of the day, listen to these ladies having done big things, coming from Harvard Business School, and share their wisdom. Better than I expected, but with expectations similar to how to get funded, equally low.
Jessica is a force. I loved her and her open candor with the audience. Alexandra was more reserved and controlled, which I found disappointing, but unsurprising. A golden moment: Tina did the marketing for Jersey Shore, for which she apologized. Snippets that I wrote down or remember a few days later, (quotes may be more accurately paraphrased):
“If you’re talking about an idea you’ve had for more than 3-months, I don’t want to hear about it. Either do it or don’t, but you have to be addicted and willing to commit 200-300% of yourself” - Alexandra
“When feeling overwhelmed, I ask myself, ‘How can I win the hour?’ and prioritize from there.” - Jessica
“At [Harvard] Business School, they teach you to have something to say even if you don’t.” - Jessica + Alexandra
“With that type of training, I now feel confident when talking about almost any subject, especially my business data and market.” - Jessica
“Age ain’t nothing but a numbah” - Jessica, quoting Aaliyah
“LUCK is an acronym. It stands for Laboring Under Correct Knowledge.” - Jessica
“‘My masterpiece is yet to come’ - 98 year old poet” - Tina
“Train yourself to treat feedback as lots of input to create your own vision or market feedback. Listen to your naysayers and grow a thick skin.” - J+A+T
“You want people to ask you the hard questions. It’s fun to win them over.” - Jessica