Have Lunch with Me

I often waffle back-and-forth about the value of “soft” networking – where I’m not necessarily wanting something from the other person, or vice versa – but more just a “hey, how are you, what’s new?” A friendly interaction so that I know the cool stuff that they’re doing and vice versa. Defining a value for this is hard, and it does take time – which is one thing I often don’t have a lot of. On the other hand, there are lots of very cool people, locally, doing very cool, very diverse work. There may never be a direct professional reason for us to interact, but does that matter? Lauren & I get together for drinks semi-frequently (or semi-infrequently. Whatever the description, it’s probably not often enough). We talk some shop, but because we’ve been friends for ages, we’re just as likely to not talk shop. I don’t expect to get business out of it, but I do find I often come back from our sessions feeling re-energized about some particular topic or problem.

Being an entrepreneur can be fairly isolating – actually, that was one of the draws for me. I focus on my work, my business part focuses on sales, and magically money appears (where I by magically I mean we work really f’ing hard, but there’s definitely some magic to how it all comes together). But beyond our internal interactions, there’s very few outlets to talk, at large, about business ideas. I can read books, attend conferences, participate in online forums/discussions, but none of those replace good face to face interactions. What’s more, I firmly believe that local markets strongly influence companies – that is, 2 small companies from Vancouver, in different segments, are more likely to have similar issues than 2 companies in the same segment from different cities. Things like health benefits, paying staff enough to afford Vancouver’s exorbitant real estate, life balance, transit, parking, etc. When I meet with other small business owners or consultants elsewhere, we chat superficially, but there’s always this element of competition about our interactions. Lauren wrote very eloquently about defining your own success for BC Business, which I think is a key component when chatting with other professionals. I’m certainly guilty of being envious of colleagues’ successes. But lately, I find myself more able to celebrate their success, without feeling that inner lurch of envy. Possibly because I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished, but mostly I think because I’ve learned that there’s no one whom I need to compete with more than myself. If I can always make my next project better, in some way, than my last, I’m doing things right.

So, loooong digression from the original point of this post aside, I’ve been thinking about trying to “network”. Wherein by “network” I mean “have lunch/drinks with people whom I think are doing cool stuff”. I follow on Twitter a whole slew of locals whom I’ve met here & there at some function but otherwise don’t know. This is often the case – I don’t do terribly well at functions – a room full of strangers – even a room full of friends is a panic inducing thought. But I may well have heard enough to want to know more, somewhen. Many I don’t even know what you do. I often end up with clutches of business cards or new twitter handles, without being able to remember why I even have them. But you seem interesting & I’d like to know more. So I’m going to try something out: I’m going to try & have lunch with someone local whom I think is doing something cool at least once a month. That might not seem like a lot, but it’s a start. I don’t want to sell you on Pencilneck Software, I don’t want to be sold on your company. I just want to meet you and listen to your story, tell you something about mine. Low-key, and spaced far enough part that I don’t stress out about it.


So what I’m saying, dear Vancouver, is that I’d like to have lunch with you. I’m booked already this week, but how’s your next week looking?

Women in tech I admire: Lauren & Emira

So today is “Ada Lovelace day“, a brand-new thing, to celebrate women in Tech, something that is definitely an issue, as many have pointed out when looking at conference speaker lists and whatnot. And there’s plenty of awesome women in tech & design, and I’ve been fortunate to work with several. However, I’m going to tell a story about two in particular, and the two are probably pretty obvious if you know me: Lauren Bacon & Emira Mears

I met Lauren way back when, when the internet was still young enough that we often had to explain to people why they might want a website. I met Lauren in one of those circuitous routes that made it inevitable we would be friends: I had a class with her younger sister, who introduced me to Day, who at the time was working part time at Duthie Books on 10th, and also starting up a small company called “Envolve Communications” with Jason Mogus (Envolve later became Communicopia). Day then introduced me to Lauren, who had moved down from Prince George and was working for Day & Jason when I started working there too. Lauren and I worked together at Communicopia, where we also met Emira. Way, way back in 2000, Lauren & Emira left to start their company Raised Eyebrow. I left Communicopia shortly thereafter to burn-out in a dot-com startup, while they slowly but surely, built what seemed to me an entirely different business model – one that I longed for, but was definitely not convinced it would work. Given that they’re thriving and not only the company I worked for at the time, but all but one of our clients, vendors and partners no longer exist, their business model clealy works ;).

When I started a sideline development company, Pencilneck Creations, I got to work with Lauren & Emira. And let me tell you – I’ve never had better bosses than they. They were patient, but knew how to push me to get things done. They both inspired and were inspired by their clients, and passed that on to myself and other contractors they worked with. They had a zine (Soapbox Girls, now sadly defunct), that inspired me to start blogging regularly some 8 years ago. They fought hard for women in tech to be recognized. They fought hard for themselves to be recognized, and slowly, surely, they were. I don’t think it’d be a stretch to say that they are now one of the most well-known local design firms, particularly in the sector of social-tech and progressive tech.

Lauren & Emira were also an inspiration to me when I left Digitopolis and formed Pencilneck Software with Jeff – I knew how they had worked, and that gave me the confidence to think I could do it too. They were also incredibly kind to Jeff and I, and we did a number of projects together our first years in business.

Lauren & Emira have also written a book, The Boss of You, celebrate International Women’s Day as a stat at their company, write passionately about women in business in technology on their blogs, continue to build beautiful, functional, useful websites, and also reach out to not only help, but promote other women in business across North America. I’ve worked, and continue to work now with a remarkable number of women in tech & design, but really, none are quite as rockin’.

So today, for Ada Lovelace day, I’m celebrating Lauren & Emira.

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