Contain yourself

This is an unusual post for this blog. It is personal. My husband and I had dinner last night and I felt out of place with my blue hair down and tattoos exposed. He asked was I not comfortable with what I had made myself? Yes, but hyperaware of how others perceive me, especially in my role and having to frequently go into an office space. My thoughts…

It is that tough time of life when you cannot completely identify yourself with the business man or the kid just experimenting and having fun, seeing what life brings his/her way. It is time to suit up into the high collared shirt. Tattoos play peek-a-boo at the collar. Suck up that gut and button up well-tailored pants. Layer on top a crisp black, tan, or navy suit jacket and heels costing half your monthly salary. Despite the formal wear, blue hair is brushed back into a tight bun on the top of my head.

I am in-between.

Here I am the chameleon. The suit is a way to conform to the space that gives me the security and title I need to ensure my family lives an easy life. We can travel and see the world and expose our children to new cultures. We can buy our teenager a new dress for her first middle school dance. I hear my footsteps in the office hallways – clack, clack, clack. I did not think this would be me.

The suit begins to act as a piece of armor hardening for protection and serving as a way to keep the creative, the different, from seeping out too much. Tell me what start-up companies or other freeform culture companies will accept a woman into the their top management ranks. My husband left his job as a VP because he wanted to work for a place that had the same spirit as he and he found it. Few women are within those ranks. Where could I do what I do now and wear Havaianas, my crazy spectacles, and the occasional blazer?

The suit contains me. I won’t rid myself of my personality so quickly, but I won’t fight. I learned my lesson in my 20s that fighting was not the spirit that made ideas accepted and moved the rock up the hill. Instead, I will wear an under armor of patience and grace to prevent the suit of conformity from becoming a straight jacket squeezing every last drop of individualism from me. I have so much to give. Let me be me. Let me learn to contain myself and what part of myself when appropriate. I long for the day when we can drop the suits and facades and see people for who they really are.

Know I wear the suit to conform and protect you. Look beyond these trappings and see the free spirit trapped in the frame seeking an opportunity to break out, blue hair and all.

Be present

As you scroll through your social media feeds, you may notice people around you choosing one word or three to represent their goals for 2016. This practice is beautiful and if it can be maintained, may become a brilliant habit. We should set aside time for similar reflection and practice into our work lives or businesses. Knowing what your customers have been doing or predicting what they will be doing is extremely important and not to be discounted, but what are your customers or communities served doing now? Are you addressing their current issues to ensure a happier and healthier day and tomorrow?

If we can get the small daily details of service and experience design improved or solved, this is BIG news to your customer and communities. What may seem small and insignificant annoyances in the current customer journey are extremely important now to your community and will impact if they continue to choose you. We (you, companies, vendors…others) talk about the customer journey – Remember, it is just that, a journey. Along this journey we must progress and course correct as needed. As you plan your activities for the new year, think about how you can be present and accountable.

Reflections from Women’s Leadership Day at Dreamforce 2015

I am struggling to write this post because I am not sure of the relevance. Many women have written and continue to write about equal opportunity and pay of women, particularly within the tech sector. I have purposely stayed out of these discussions and most other gender related industry conversations because I didn’t want YOU to notice I was a woman. Now, even as I write this post, I know that concept sounds ridiculous. I am obviously female, but I have not wanted me to define me as a woman or for women’s issues before they considered my brain and what I could bring to the table.

A former CMO described me as full of vim and vigor. In my 20′s, I took pride in my passion, but learned quickly (actually, it took me over ten years to put this into practice) to place a lid on those extreme high and low emotions if I wanted to climb the ladder in the corporate world and make my mark in a male dominated tech industry. I have been running away from emotion for several years-allowing feelings to fester below the surface in exchange for detachment and compartmentalization. I move on. I adapt. I accept the challenge. I have discovered I do not necessarily want to be ‘The Guy,’ but the guy ‘The Guy’ counts on-or in this case, the woman.

Perhaps, as a result of recently reading The Innovators by Walter Isaacson and my eyes being opened to the history of women in the digital revolution, I was (dare I say it?) more sensitive to the conversation around the Women’s Leadership Day at Dreamforce 2015. I hesitated to attend any of the sessions dedicated to the topic of women. I didn’t want to be a part of the male-bashing or female-bashing extremes of conversation. But I can no longer ignore the conversation. As a person who was part of the tech industry, now a consumer of technology, academic researcher, and mother of two tech savvy daughters, I am a part of the conversation too.

There is no denying there was a visceral reaction to the Lean In movement. I struggled then to write a review of the book that my husband was the first to read and discuss publicly. Even then I didn’t want to compromise the charade I had concocted in my head-if I didn’t acknowledge I was a female or discuss domestic issues, I could be one of the guys. I would then have a future in corporate America.

I sat in Dream Park yesterday watching Kara Swisher interview Chairman and CEO, Marc Benioff, and Salesforce co-founder, Parker Harris about the Salesforce priority of hiring and elevating  top female talent. I won’t dismantle the interview with my opinions or insert my own stories-a mixture of confabulations and truths influenced by my fear of not being enough. I found Marc and Parker genuinely think they have made strides in making women a priority for the future of Salesforce. The jury is still out on whether the changes being made by the fourth largest software company will have an everlasting impact. What struck me (and kept rattling around in my head all day) was Marc’s answer to Kara Swisher’s question about why women had not previously been a priority at Salesforce or in Silicon Valley. Marc said he was not aware of the disparity of issues until they had reached extreme conversation levels. He kept referring to the software industry as male dominated and created by men.

In fact, the software industry was created by women. Prior belief was that power was in the hardware and thus dominated by males and software or programming secondary and the work of a female. Despite the great talent and feats of Jean Jennings, Frances Bilas, Grace Hopper and others, it was not until Bill Gates struck the epic software deal with IBM that software took the throne within the tech industry. Our generation has given birth to amazing minds-some of them featured in celebration of Women’s Leadership Day at Dreamforce. It boggles my mind we still have these conversations about the differences between men and women in the workplace. Our world has changed so much, yet diversity and inclusion are persistent topics of unrest.

I don’t know what the solution is. I don’t think we can expect change if we only address the symptoms and not the root or fundamental issues. What I think each of us can do immediately is acknowledge and rewrite the history books to give credit to the females who came before us and forged the path allowing us to voice our concerns and passions. I don’t know if I’ll be embracing ‘I feel’ statements in the boardroom anytime soon and opt to wield patience and grace instead.

We need to share the stories of the females who have raised our voices. We need to share these stories with each other and our children. We owe it to the women before us. We owe it to those who will make be making the decisions long after we have left our offices.

I need more space

11218188_10153384409850218_1303557751318412164_oI am constantly trying to cultivate a beginner’s mind. It is so easy to coast and get caught up in the monotony and easiness of doing the same thing again and again. OK, well it might be easy for some. Not me. Many of the conferences and continuous learning sessions I attend do not push my boundaries of comfort or learning. My itinerary last week was the exception. I didn’t just step out of my comfort zone, I jumped out of myself and created a new space for me to digest and reflect.

Last week, I joined a collection of over 90 museum professionals and artists at Museum Camp 2015. This is where everyone was trying to up the weirdness factor. I usually stand out like a sore thumb in a conservative room of suits. Not this time. I blended seamlessly into a group of people I felt comfortable referring to as my tribe by the conclusion of the weekend. I refrained (or hope so) from being a fan girl when I finally met Nina Simon in-person. As I have stated before, Nina’s book is one of the reasons I decided to reclaim my path as a museum professional. She did not only get me excited about the museum industry, but about my current area of expertise.

The Santa Cruz Museum of Art & Natural History and staff reflects Nina’s enthusiasm and understanding of the Santa Cruz community. The atmosphere of the museum was laid back and inviting. The staff and interns were warm and inviting – each person had a unique personality and style. I am sure I was not the only one who felt both uncomfortable and envious of the workplace.

I could not refuse the call to Museum Camp 2015 when I found out Nina would co-lead the event with Beck Tench. Beck is the antithesis of Nina. Whereas Nina cultivates the abstract thoughts and extroverts, Beck is a complex thinker who speaks to introverts and puts them instantly at ease in unfamiliar environments. Nina and Beck complimented each other well and facilitated a weekend packed full of activities focused on the importance of space making.

The weekend included individual and team activities studying the impacts of creating and maintaining spaces devoted to ourselves and the communities we serve. I am bummed I did not take part of the camping experience at the museum, but the introvert in me desperately needed my own space in the evenings to recharge and reset. Many of the activities during the day required an openness and trust that was draining. This is not a negative observation. Conversations with like minds challenged me to bring my A-game to truly listen and think before I speak. I met such talented artists and laid the groundwork for some great friendships. Nina and Beck were free with their knowledge and lessons learned. Before Museum Camp 2015, I dreamed of working with Nina and Beck in some capacity. Museum Camp 2015 only amplified that desire!

I came back to Boston with ideas about how I could apply what I had learned and practiced over the weekend to my current job / industry and my PhD studies. I was looking for and attempting to identify all spaces (or the lack of) space around me. The time in Boston was brief because I jumped on a plane to the Happiest Place on Earth – Walt Disney World. From one coast to the other in a single week, my main objective was how to amp up my creativity levels. I was lucky enough to score a seat in the new Creativity and Innovation class at the Disney Institute. The class is loosely based on the book Creativity, Inc. (I gave this book to friends and team last Christmas) and the successes and failures of Disney over the past five decades. The class explored how to cultivate and implement creative ideas and included a behind-the-scenes look at The Disney Event Group. After the class, I explored the Magic Kingdom and challenged self to look for and identify as many different spaces (as defined in Museum Camp) as I could. I discovered there aren’t many easy-to-find spaces cultivating stillness!

Returning to Boston on Friday, I could not shake the Disney fever and took my husband and daughter to explore the new Museum of Science exhibit, The Science of Pixar. In this one exhibit, it was plain to see how Pixar was building spaces for their external and internal communities. My favorite hot spots were the video testimonials of the Pixar employees. This gave the space authenticity and a source of encouragement for any budding animators. All of us are space makers. Museum Camp, D-thinking and the Pixar exhibit encouraged the urban planning principles I have been exploring in digital community-building. I am validated. Inspired. Ready to take on the world. This past week challenged my comfort level and knowledge in ways that no other recent conference or events have been able to and I am thankful.


It has been over a decade that I have been thinking and writing about creating, breaking, and maintaining community. Over the years, I have attempted to define the evolution of community in a networked society. Rachel Happe and my fellow community management professionals comprising The Community Roundtable have (generally) settled on the defining explanation and benefits of community. While I have been responsible for exclusive community networking platforms in the past, much of my community management experience has been the monitoring and engagement (herding) of discrete communities. In written word and when I have had the opportunity to share what I have learned on a stage in front of an audience, I acknowledge I define community management as following the ebb and flow of relevant mentions and conversations whether this happens on a networking channel or exclusive platform.

Even with a sanctioned space, the collection of people does not a community make. [Channeling my Inner Yoda.] To me, 'community' has become an overused term and the responsibilities of a community manager undervalued. Perhaps the frequency of the term 'community' and extremely high (and many times missed) expectations is because many are not (yet) managing communities. Community is aspirational. Brands cannot create a Facebook community or develop an Instagram contest and label the participants as part of the brand community. We are fostering a false sense of connection.

According to Manuel Castells in Communication Power, “Horizontal, multimodal networks, both on the Internet and in the urban space, create togetherness; this is important because it is through togetherness that people overcome fear and discover hope. Togetherness is not the same as community because community implies a set of common values, which is a work in progress within the movement, since most participants arrive with their own motivations and goals and then set out to discover potential commonality in the practice of the movement. Thus, community is a goal to achieve, but togetherness is a starting point and the source of empowerment: Juntas podemos (Together we can).”

Building a community takes time and focus. How are people naturally clustering around your values and topics of interest. Don't reinvent the wheel. Be where your consumers and visitors congregate. How do you become a trusted participant in the already existing communities and conversations? Don't think you will build a relationship with the flash only. Substance matters. Perhaps if we used 'togetherness' as a lens to create content, paid social advertising, and contests, we would discover increased participation and longevity of relationships.



Understanding the digital ecosystem

Last week, I introduced you to a five-step process I am practicing to apply urban planning to online community building and management. It is time to explore the first step and build our foundation and understanding of our digital ecosystem. How many are familiar with the Garter Digital Marketing Transit Map? Cool concept and visual, but the structure is repeating the same structures and silos we have been “talking” about breaking down. Take a close look at this image. Yes, all areas are connected, but none are integrated. Before we can discuss integration, we need to know all of our customer/member touch points (how and where they interact with the company on and offline) and all of the organization’s internal and external support systems and technology. For some, this exercise will be brief. For others, this will be a painful scavenger hunt. As you go through this identification process, I highly recommend you keep track of the business and department owner(s) of each item. This additional information will assist governance outreach.


According to Gartner, the map “shows the relationships among business functions, application services and solution providers.” There are multiple hooks, people, and departments involved in every touch point and technology. It is difficult to display such relationships in parallel transit lines with overlapping stations. Gartner is trying hard to apply urban planning and design with this map design and the reference to neighborhoods on this image, yet neighborhoods that are vibrant are also diversified and dense. This map design looks like it is the product of an organization and not for the use and navigation by humans.

We’re building destination cities. We need human, living cities.” – Cameron Sinclair, founder and executive director of the non-profit, Architecture for Humanity

Just like cities on a map, we are building destinations online. We are building and designing these online structures for organizations, not humans. This transit map from Gartner is a good start to apply urban planning methodology to digital ecosystem strategy to better understand gaps, opportunities, responsibilities, and the integrated role of social media. Take some time to sit down with your team and organization departments and figure out what you have, why you have it, and establish business owners. A simple spreadsheet will work. Create a simple tab for each transit line on the map. For every station, determine if you have this existing in your company, why/why not, and identify business owner(s). Don’t get bogged down into figuring out where these items belong within your digital ecosystem. We will discuss how to craft the ideal online neighborhood and digital ecosystem next.