The Gift of Warm Introductions

giftThe internet has had a profound effect on business, yet nothing is more underrated than the power of a warm email introduction. In the startup world warm introductions are a life blood, in the professional world it makes the difference in finding the best employment, and in your personal life the best dates or valuable resources to do personal business with. For example I got an excellent broker through a warm introduction. With all the value that can be shared, why are warm introductions so difficult to get?

Warm Introductions are an Investment


Good Things Take Time

Great warm introductions take effort and time. It’s important to ensure they are valuable to both parties. For example, it’s not always proper to fire off an introduction without asking folks first- someone could be going through a difficult time, or they may not want their contact information shared. On the other hand, it’s tough to tell if someone is really ready for an introduction, just because they ask for an introduction on LinkedIn doesn’t mean they are entitled to it.

To add grease to the fire, sadly too few people know how to follow-up to best make use of a warm introduction even when they get it, either letting it fall cold or following up wrong, resulting in a sad loss of opportunity, power and momentum. The worst part about a botched introduction is that it’s a detraction from the bank of social capital — every time you don’t follow-up properly when someone makes an introduction for you it subtracts social capital from the person who made the introduction (who was most likely doing you a favor) and yourself as well. There will inevitably be a conversation about “whatever happened with that introduction?” and in this hyper connected and highly competitive world you won’t likely get a second chance. When you receive a warm introduction, what you do next and when you do it are of critical importance. It’s never to late to learn however, and that’s what this blog is about.


When is an introduction the right gift?

When someone makes an introduction they are offering a small gift by really making a clear connection and usually presenting a clear opportunity. emailintroduction

A personal example comes from last year when I was featured on a project with NPR on the topic of blacks in technology, I looked at the list of contributors and almost fell out my chair when I saw that less than 25% of the participants were women and I was the only one from Silicon Valley. It was a perfect opportunity to help fill a gap and connect good people with a great opportunity. In a single afternoon I introduced the producer to 10 awesome people including women in the Silicon Valley tech scene using the 3 line introduction rule. For the introduction I briefly recapped the last conversation I had with the producer summing up my intent to connect the program with some amazing folks in the Valley that meet the needs of the program, introducing each with qualifying details, in other words- to say why this person is awesome for this opportunity. I used the second to provide more information for the second person about the program, the producer and why it’s a good opportunity for them to jump on it. The 3rd and final line is me getting out the way, it’s the same model found in this forbes article. A great email introduction has a little bit of a gift for each person and ultimately is intended to add value to the individuals being connected.

What struck me about this encounter with NPR was how every person I introduced responded almost immediately confirming their interest and availability and setting clear next steps. That day I really learned how far the power of a warm introduction can go because while it would have been easier for me to provide a list of recommend women to the producer, it would have shifted the burden of effort onto her to reach out to each one of them individually, giving her more work rather than making it easier and it would leave me in the dark as to who was following up. By putting the effort into the warm introduction it put the ball in the court of the people I’d introduced, giving them the chance to form their own destiny and close in on the opportunity. Fortunately everyone introduced knew not only how to dribble the ball once it was put in their court, but they each made a collective slam dunk andturned the introduction from an opportunity to a successful branding event to raise the profile of a critical topic. This leads me to 7 basic rules for follow-up to a warm introduction and how you can ensure your email intro follow-up game is tight.


What to do:

Do move the introducer to BCC – A great opening is to thank the person who made the introduction and announce that you’re moving them to BCC – this shows that you appreciate the introduction and that you will take it from there. The person who introduced you also doesn’t need to ask if you followed up because they will have received the BCC note.
Do confirm your interest & value - Validate your interest in connecting and add further detail or questions but keep it brief. If you have a lot of questions it’s better to schedule a call to get more details.
Do provide clear next steps - No email introduction response is complete without clear next steps. This will likely be a set of dates and times you can meet to further discuss the opportunity.
Do share the results – Especially if the introduction was fruitful you need to make sure you relay that to the person who made the introduction. If it turned into a disaster you should let them know as well so they can improve their connection quality. Everything in the spirit of future success.

What not to do:

Don’t let the email go stale - If you don’t know how to best respond call the person who made the introduction to get more detail. It’s also better late than never- if you get an introduction while on vacation, reply when you get back even if it was a time sensitive thing and the opportunity is past, don’t just ignore it. If you just let an introduction sit that person will probably never introduce you to anyone again. That will suck.
Don’t keep the introducer on the email chain – Unless the opportunity includes collaborating with the person who introduced you then keeping them on the email chain is just cluttering their inbox. If you want to keep them informed for the purposes of coaching use BCC instead.
Don’t be available anytime – The worse thing you can do with busy people is say “I’m available anytime”. When you say this it means one of a few things: You’re time isn’t valuable. You’re too lazy to take the time to check your schedule. You’re leaving it up to chance. When you say you’re available anytime it means you expect the other person to look into their schedule and pick out slots of availability for you. Unless they really really want something from you they aren’t going to play secretary and you’ve effectively erected a barrier to what could have been a great opportunity for yourself.
There is of course a lot more to this as making sure you hit the mark on bridging connections takes a caring and human approach. It’s not all about the next big opportunity. At any rate I highly recommend going deeper into this topic as there are plenty more resources out there. For starters I recommend reading The Supremacy of Warm Introductions by Dave Lerner, for a longer read check out The 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen R. Covey. If this article helped you at all please let me know with a comment and if you are a professional at this make sure you add a comment with any tips I may have missed so you may spread your knowledge as well.

Bullshit We Tell Ourselves to Excuse Our Dreams


Upon finally reading Malcolm Gladwell’s David & Goliath with a great friend of mine and while reviewing the book together, I revealed to my friend a personal realization that despite all my personal and professional success, I was –to be frank– full of shit. If you know me you’re probably gasping right now wondering why someone so accomplished would say such a thing about herself. My friend did the same thing (gasp that is). It took a while to calm the situation down and explain that my statement was not intended to be self-effacing. This realization of my own BS was far bigger than one of Impostor Syndrome, or waning self-esteem. It was a wake up call to the inner yet to be fulfilled desire for purpose.

As confident and self assured I appeared, it was all because I was measuring myself against other’s measuring sticks. Trust me, it’s impossible to fulfill your purpose when you’re measuring yourself against another person’s image of success. Your success is not my success, and mine is not yours. To further that statement I also came to realize that it’s impossible for me to fulfill my purpose when I’m measuring anything at all. I’ll spend more time measuring than I will being present, being inspired and executing the awesome within. Measurement is not to be ignored altogether, it has its value for sure, but if it’s getting in the way of forming and realizing a vision then it’s bullshit, it’s a trap and it must be set aside for more important work.

In exploring the ideas for what constitutes awesome, I had to set aside much of the programming I’ve learned in various frameworks for entrepreneurship, personal growth and business and reemerge with an ideal so new that it was inherently risky, utterly terrifying and presumed broken by anyone other than myself. That ideal was simple; passion, gut intuition and faith. In arriving at this ideal, in arriving at the edge of my millennial rainbow, which would ultimately lead to my pot of gold, leprechaun, unicorn and genie in a bottle, I had to overcome all the bullshit I previously told myself which sounded something like this…

1. I’m too…
When we spy a twinkle of a shooting star, an idea, a hope, something which we decide is awesome which we must do we can all expect a litany of “I’m too” to come crashing down upon us from within. I’m too fat, skinny, sick, fill in the blanks, they will never stop coming. “I’m too” claims that there are some other priorities that must come before you can catch your shooting star. Achieving these somehow remarkable and definitive milestones will mark your success and worthiness for the true prize of being your true brilliant self. What we need to realize is that nothing is more important than being who we are, and that spark, that hope, that idea and that purpose within you is within your grasp no matter how fat, sick, or skinny you are. I recently read a story about a young woman who was studying architecture when suddenly her freakin’ arms and hands stopped working and she could no longer complete her course work. What did she do? She started doing her work with her nose. HER NOSE. Seriously, any day is a good day to stop prioritizing other bullshit in front of your dreams.

2. I’m not…
This is another face of the demon “I’m too”, but while “I’m too’s” goal is to get you to focus on another goal and re-prioritize your dream, “I’m not’s” goal is to get you to give up on your dream all together. “I’m too” makes you feel so unworthy that you lose faith in your ability to achieve your dream. It sounds like I’m not good enough, I’m not prepared, I’m not certified, I’m not ready or some other blue moon ideal that may never happen. It sucks the spirit right out of you and leaves you feeling dejected and settling for abusive spouses, low paying wages and unfulfilling employment. Remember Harriet Tubman? Yes, that Harriet, the conductor on the underground railroad. Ever wonder what would have happened to America if Harriet had told herself “I’m not free”? This phenomenal woman is known for her quote “I freed a thousand slaves, I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” Many of the folks she lead were previously afraid to go with her, they feared what was on the other side of “freedom”. Those who never took the trek thought things like I’m not “going to make it”, or I’m not “fast enough to get away”. But we all know she never lost a passenger on her railroad and she never let an “I’m not” get in her way.

3. Something came up…
You know when this happens… This happens when you’ve gotten past deprioritizing your dreams, and you believe you are worthy and that your dream is attainable and just as you are on your way… somebody gets gravely ill, or somebody dies, or your department reorgs, or your kid hits puberty and starts acting like they think they are grown, or your significant other breaks your heart and there goes your dream… Lying in wait, gasping for breath as you abandon it just as it was about to get good. Shit happens. Believe me, I know. But I also know that shit ALWAYS happens and it always will. Few people have someone in their lives who will treasure your dreams more than you do yourself. Remember, you were not put on earth to realize the purpose of others, that is their job. You are here to deliver your unique mission in life. It’s okay if you are derailed temporarily, but if your life is so chaotic that being on track is the exception to the rule of being side tracked by “something came up”, you need to get some “get right”. Get right is when you can distinguish the urgent from the important. Your dream is important. It’s up to you to guard your time against unimportant matters that are urgent.

4. I don’t have support…
Support is poison. Reliance on support is a death wish. This sounds brutal but life is hard and chasing dreams is harder. Achieving your dream is a combination of miraculous heavenly intervention and dogged preparation and dedication. Support, especially the form that reveals itself as a cheer-leading squad is a distant third. Remember David in the story of David & Goliath. Nobody believed he could do it. Not even his own family. If David had relied on his family to spur his confidence he would have been sorely disappointed. This is how we must be. It’s not to say that we will never experience support, because we will, and when we get it– it will help, and at times make the difference. However it is a fatal mistake to rely upon support. You must center yourself, find your chi, and have faith that you can do this against all odds.

5. I can’t do this alone…
I learned a valuable lesson from my sister when she moved out on her own, when she went to college and paid for it all on her own, when she graduated, when she found work without any inside referrals, when she authored her first book, when she quit her job and went back to school to pursue a masters degree. She did all this in a kind of jarring solitude, almost in isolation and I didn’t understand why she never asked for help. Seven years later I discovered that it is the amateur who despises isolation and that her focus was on the pieces which she could do alone. Her demonstration of the characteristics of the professional who pursues her work in quiet, being the greatest critic of self, besting herself until she decides it’s time to share her work with others. With this approach it is she who decides when she is done. And in truth, the professional doesn’t need an audience or validation because the completion of work, the completion of their piece is the prize. This is not to downplay collaboration, rather this part, that which is done alone focuses on the initial journey to the MVP, the minimum viable product. The MVP is the definition and execution of smallest releasable product which you can do, even if attempted alone. Ultimately, this is the work which will inspire and attract others who will present opportunities for future collaboration.

6. I can’t measure this…
How many times has someone asked you how you measure success? Let’s be clear, if you are truly attempting your dream then measurement is not for you.  If you are working toward your dream you won’t pay attention to success markers. You won’t pause to celebrate, your very work is a celebration. Every day you don’t give up on your dream is a celebration. Measurement is for others. Measures and metrics are wonderful indicators of progress and success for spectators, not for those who are driving the vision. They help align and hold others accountable to the vision, but they are not for you. Measurement justifies you are on the course you expect. When you are starting out, when you are just beginning to chisel the dream from the mold you won’t fully know what the dream is, let alone where it will go or how to measure it to verify it is going there. You are going to fly by the seat of your pants for a while, and if it feels good you’ll know, and if it feels scary you’ll know even more. If you can measure it, it’s probably not your dream, it’s someone else’s.

7. People don’t like or people won’t accept…
Approval is easy, it’s just rarely satisfying. Dreams are not easy to accept, just as difficult as it was for you to accept your dream, it will be 100 times harder for others to accept it. The reason is because the best dreams are often before their time. You must never forget that people thought Steve Jobs was crazy. There is a key reason why first followers is such a key concept in entrepreneurship. Few successful entrepreneurs set out with an idea they know people will love because if you know people will love it there are probably a hundred other people attempting the same thing, meaning your market is saturated and dude, you’re not really innovating. If your dream is just outside the realm of believable and people need to suspend their disbelief a bit to see where you are going then most people are not going to like what you are doing. That is until the time has come and people start to get it, which usually takes a long time, if it ever happens at all. And if it never happens at all, that doesn’t mean your dream hasn’t come true, it just means your dream may yet be only for you.

Greg McKeown quoted some smart person in his book Essentialism when he said “it is hard if you work easy at it, it is easy if you work hard at it.” I re-read that quote ten times before saying it aloud to myself in response to the need to commit that phrase to memory. The lessons shared above require constant re-commitment. I consider them the seven sins of the meek, and while our David in the Bible was a humble sheep herder, he was also courageous, and smart- he knew his strengths. He knew his gift and he could also spot his opponents strengths and weakness. Because he spent a lot of time alone, in solitude honing his gift by fending off wolves and protecting his sheep in the darkness he was prepared. When his moment arose, David stood up to live the brave dream, not for fame, but because that’s what he was born to do. Let nothing stand before you accepting your gift and realizing your dream, least of all your own mind.

5,858 miles, 100 Developers, 25 hours, 10 days in territory, 5 cities and 5 lessons learned about Technical Sales

Dreamforce, Salesforce's Annual Global User Gala & Conference

Dreamforce is the largest technology conference in the world produced by Salesforce

This time last year a random conversation at Dreamforce lead me to a new career path. I hadn’t set out to find a new job as I was enjoying my role in Product Management with plenty of growth opportunity ahead, however the new role presented a much greater challenge in areas that would truly put me outside my comfort zone. Only one perceived drawback, the role was in pre-sales.

I considered all the pros and cons then decided to take the job, and just like that, a transformation began that changed the perceptions of how I viewed myself and a company I’d worked at for over 6 years. It’s a long story but the gist is I always held fast to the notion of detesting sales people (with the exception of a handful who I held in very high esteem). I can’t lie, I even took some measure of pride in hating sales people as many people quietly (or loudly) do. Bottom line, I was bonafide tech folk and I didn’t do “sales”. I made, created, ideated, worked hard to understand problems, developed solutions and took pride in my DIY mindset. Then suddenly, almost overnight, in the blink of an eye I had joined the ranks of one of the fastest growing sales armies in the world as a Senior Solution Engineer. It suffices to say, I had a bit of a social crisis while struggling to adjust to new perspectives on long held misbeliefs about technical pre-sales.

Change is ScaryThe cinch that lead me to accept the role was the promise that I would be working with other technical folks, CTOs, CIOs, Architects and Developers more often than a VP of Sales. This meant that I would be working with the people who spoke my language, the language of security, scale, agility, bits and bytes, excellence of execution and fresh innovation beyond keeping the lights on. I assumed I would find challenges outside my comfort zone that would keep me excited, but what I found was that the technical part was in general no more challenging than most other problems I’d seen in my other technical roles. The immediate unexpected challenge I faced was how to avoid losing myself in the fast paced energy of constantly churning sales cycles, a highly aggressive & type A culture with an emphasis on “ain’t nobody got time for that!” if it didn’t have to do with meeting a number. Real talk, I’ve always been goal oriented but never with the pure intention of scoring points. My ENFP Myers Brigg rating would have me focusing on quality rather than quantity and while my corporate culture was committed to catering to quality, the consistent pressure and focus on the quota was entirely foreign to me coming from the world of technology execution. So how did I keep my bearings? Well, to be frank, I didn’t. At least not at first.


Photo of Alec Baldwin from Glengary Glen Ross

Quote from Glengary Glen Ross, "It Takes Brass Balls to Sell Real Estate"

I spent 5 straight months drinking from the sales funnel firehouse and it spilled all over me. Yet slowly but surely I picked up on the lessons that would be critical for my healthy adjustment and authenticity. I sank my hooks into doing stuff that I thought was cool and interesting as much as possible and learned from the people around me who demonstrated a strong sense of individuality, thought leadership & sincerity. It was by latching onto the clear vision of passionate problem solving that I was able to turn my back on the image of the slimey, overpromising sales guys who came from downtown for Mitch and Murray. I turned my back on that slick hair greaseball, at least in theory anyway. I still needed to truly test myself. I needed proof that I was growing into a better “me”. I decided venture into territory.

With MacBook Air in hand I foraged in the wild of my territory for 10 days delivering Developer Workshops in 5 cities, San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. I truly put myself to the test and these are the lessons I learned, which I’ve decided to share with you now. I related each challenge of the journey to a lesson learned and included it in my first ever infographic. Read on for details on each lesson I learned. Powerpoint has game, and so does hubspot where I got the template! *wink*

5 Lessons Learned in Technical Sales

Infographic: 5 Lessons Learned in Technical Sales


5,858 Miles, Always Be Discovering

In reality I travelled more than 5,858 miles but the point is that being away from home is difficult. However it also can leave you with a sense of abandon from thinking about things which with distance you no longer have control over back at home. This presents an opportunity to practice presence in a powerful way.

Real Talk: I’m not down with the A.B.C. (“Always Be Closing”) mentality, but I’m definitely down with A.B.D. – “Always Be Discovering”. Being on the road makes discovery easy to practice because well, everything is foreign. Seeing things with a new eye reveals insight in problems around us all the time, city to town, taxi to uber, airline to airport. Being present and engaged with what’s around you offers invaluable opportunities to learn about your customers, customer’s customers, and what makes a great experiences vs. a poor one. Keep your eyes open.


100 Developers, Developers are Diverse, Engage Them

In those 10 days I engaged with over 100 of my clients or prospective clients developers. The best part about that experience was that they were all different. Even in the same room their backgrounds varied from analyst, to admin, to developer, to c-level and the challenges they faced varied from the need for speed and agility to integration challenges and beyond. With such diversity abound it’s very important to realize that not everyone shares the same level of knowledge, even and especially when working with smart developers.


Real Talk: There are hundreds of platforms out there ranging from languages to frameworks to services and no one is an expert on them all. This means it’s best to start everyone off on the ground floor with the basics. In other words take people from 0 to 60 when exposing them to a new platform no matter how experienced they are, this enables everyone to be engaged through the process and learn as much as they can to walk away with value in their time spent.

25 Hours of Developer Workshops, Facilitate Exploration

Being a strange person in a strange land is hard. But in this line of work you have to be strong and confident even and especially when you don’t have home court advantage. Just be careful how that confidence shows up. Let me ask you this… What do you do when someone shows up acting like they’ve got all the answers and they’re going to solve all your problems? If you are anything like me you start rolling your eyes. The sad part is the “typical sales guy” does just that when he starts offering solutions before the problem has even been articulated, trying to discover the problem you have that fits their solution. Man, that’s the blind leading the blind. Lucky for me the folks who came to my developer workshops reinforced in me the importance of facilitating exploration. They showed up with their open eyes, looking to see, touch, and lastly hear what I had to say. I did my best to talk as little as possible and instead facilitate and enable them to explore as much as I could.


Real Talk: Once someone gets their hands on a tool they’ll use it to solve problems on their own. In Technical Sales we’re just here to help you find the tools to prioritize for exploration. Bottom line, people’s time is valuable so shut up and help folks get their hands dirty so they can do their work.


10 Days in Territory, Relate, Correlate, Tessellate

One of the biggest challenges in introducing a new platform to a group of people is the answer to the question “What can I do with it?” It sounds like a simple question right? Imagine for a moment, looking back to your childhood when someone first dropped a box full of tinker toys, legos, or some other abstract platform for building “stuff” in front of you. Remember how you couldn’t imagine what you could build at first? It wasn’t until you tinkered with it for a while, or looked at things built by other people did visions begin to emerge, and by the end of the day you probably had built a bunch of things that connected with your imagination in powerful ways. Platforms are just like that, tools for delivering a vision. Steven Pressfield said it best when he said “The professional dedicates himself to mastering technique not because he believes technique is a substitute for inspiration but because he wants to be in possession of the full arsenal of skills when inspiration does come. The professional is sly. He knows that by toiling beside the front door of technique, he leaves room for genius to enter by the back.”


Real Talk: The balance between tools, technique and innovation is scary and unpredictable. No platform has the answer to everything. And on top of that innovation is hard! It becomes especially difficult when businesses are pressuring their teams to tow the line and just make it “good enough”. This is why stories are so powerful. The practice of sharing a story of innovation where the product your audience is touching right now played a key role sparks the imagination. The story or stories you tell must either “relate or correlate” to the challenges or conditions of your audience, that enables them to “tessellate” bits and pieces of your platform into their vision of a complete and innovative solution and gives them stories to tell to help sell their vision to the higher ups who would settle for “good enough”.


5 Cities, Stay Hydrated & Reflect

After meeting clients in 5 different cities there was one scary thing I found they all had in common. Each event had one or two attendees that posed a question or two that I didn’t have a good answer to. Getting stumped in front of an audience is no fun at all, and if handled incorrectly can be terribly embarrassing. By the way, the first thing someone taught me when I started this job was how to deflect difficult questions. Most of the deflection tactics centered around delaying the answer or trying to convince them that they are asking the wrong questions and suggesting a “better” question for them to ask. I hope I am not the only one who thinks that is a terrible strategy. As a matter of fact, question deflection is one of my personal pet peeves so there was no way I was going to internalize this strategy with my own clients. This is why I say “don’t deflect, reflect”. It took me a while but I learned to put special emphasis on reflection when I don’t have the answers because my mother taught me at a young age that “it’s sad not to know, it’s a tragedy to not want to know”. Let me be frank again, if you knew the answer to everything you’d be developing high frequency trading systems for Wall Street or cashing in like Paul Tudor Jones. No one is perfect so do everyone a favor and don’t try to pretend to be.


Real Talk 1: Good engineers (in sales or otherwise) enjoy breaking down complex problems and are not too proud to bring an interesting challenge up to someone in their braintrust when they don’t know the answer. There are many ways to reflect on a challenge; you can pose it back to the person who asked, or offer it up to others in the room who may have experience with it, or discuss it openly for a moment before putting it in the parking lot for research or follow-up later on. To quote John C. Maxwell “Leaders who fail to prune their pride will meet demise. That’s not a guess, it’s a guarantee. With pride, it’s not a matter of ‘if’ we will fall, but ‘when.’ There are no exceptions.”  Reflecting is a great way to “get right” when you already know you are most likely wrong.


The second part of this lesson is staying hydrated. Traveling to all these places is hard on the body and hard on the psyche. At the end of some days I just wanted a stiff drink. But I resisted the urge. Why? Because the instant gratification of a shot of whisky can too easily become a crutch or a distraction from what you are really seeking, which is good health, sound mind and security. Usually a glass of water and a phone home to someone sweet does a better job and keeps your immune system strong.


Real Talk 2: Stress on the body can make you sick. Since our body is 65% water when we consume diuretics like alcohol or sugary drinks our bodies have to work even harder to stay hydrated. Drinking water, coconut water, and working out in the morning goes a much longer way in alleviating stress than a stiff drink.


Maintain Engagement with Feedback Loops:

I’ll end this with the reason why I wrote this in the first place. In 10 days I met over 100 people and many of them I spent a significant amount of time with and will spend more time with them in the future. That means it’s more important than ever to keep the lines of communication clear and open. Whether it’s to recommend a client for a pilot, or to deep dive into a challenge they are having or to learn about some cool tech thing that they do, keeping the channels of feedback clean and clear is critical. Many people are hesitant to reach out to others for help, they don’t want to waste anyone’s time, or it might take too much effort to explain a challenge over email, and it takes some people a long time to develop a rapport where they feel comfortable picking up the phone.

Real Talk: These days it’s important to be available in a variety of ways whether that be linkedin, twitter, email, Chatter or skype chat, frictionless communication is one of the keys to building lasting relationships. That said, if you read my lessons learned or enjoyed the infographic I hope you’ll join in and give me some feedback. Thank you!



What no one at #IGF2014 is courageous enough to address about #childsafetyonline

Internet Global Forum was developed to discuss public policy issues related to key elements of Internet governance “in order to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development of the Internet” (among other key activities) through engaging with multiple stakeholders from internet users, NGOs, industry and government.

For more information on IGF please refer to the Fact Sheet: “What is IGF”

The key themes of the forum were Internet Access in developing nations such as Africa, maintaining an open & free internet, childhood safety, rights & protection, governance and implementing a multistakeholder process to continue to develop the internet in it’s growth and expansion to +7 Billion people in the world.
Well, my being a mother tunes my ears to areas related to human rights & equitable access and my passions were powerfully drawn to the topic of child safety online. When it came to child safety online the key messaging from panelists was quite boilerplate: Childhood safety is the parents responsibility. Sadly what key participants in IGF missed is the opportunity to rise the social responsibility of not just ISPs, but every corporation that benefits & monetizes off of the internet, especially those with engineering teams focused on technology that influences end users behaviors based on the highest bidder. This isn’t simply relegated to the Google’s and Facebook’s in the advertising industry, but any company where providing recommendations, or identifying the user is a key activity in maintaining their business’ competitive edge and profit share. Sadly panelists who did address this all seemed more concerned about taking a defensive angle for these companies than being honest and saying: We must ask for stronger collaboration & partnership with these organizations on this issue to make it a priority in innovation.


The perspectives and participants in the discussions on child safety were highly varied, from young people to parents to NGOs and industry. Unfortunately the conversation lacked vision, and dare I say, lacked ambition as well. We’re not talking about my internet, my internet was AOL & Compuserve and parental controls was that annoying tab that you didn’t really care if your parents ever discovered because there were 100 different ways to get around it from proxies to irc to peer to peer sharing or even email and my favorite, google translate. We’re talking about an internet where kids are connecting to unknown private servers hosted under the desk of some UNIX admin working inside a colo where he cannot be traced or detected. Let me make this clear, YOU cannot sanitize the internet!!!  You couldn’t do it when I was a kid and you most certainly can’t do it now. For the parents who REALLY want us to try I just want to reach out to hug you and whisper gently in their ear “you can’t control the internet…” Because. You. Just. Can’t. I’ve spoken to parents and youth in a variety of settings on this matter and my message hasn’t changed from day one. You can’t police the internet AND trust me, you don’t want some government doing it for you either.

One powerful topic raised by many of the young people participating is that children have rights as well and that they ought to have the right to go online and look up information on any topic. Now what a parent allows in their house goes without question, but the internet is far beyond the doors of your home and always will be. Unfortunately the discussions at IGF seemed stuck on trying to drill this one simple concept into the heads of parents and parental advocates and sadly it wasted a lot of time. Time would have been better spent on discussion around the opportunities for industry to innovate and prioritize the needs of youth in their engineering roadmaps. I don’t mean blocking and filters, I mean the power of recommendations.

Right now industries are putting a ton of research, man power and machine power into developing powerful recommendations and identification engines. The need to generate a single unified view of the household, customer or user is pervasive throughout every cloud company out there. It’s the holy grail of opportunity. While some consumers are hell bent on not being identified– let’s be honest, it’s a losing battle because more and more we are willfully (albeit unknowingly) giving up our private information, unifying accounts and data, and saying to corporations “Hey, hey! Lookie! Lookit here! Here I am and these are all the things you can target to sell me!” And by the way, you aren’t the only one giving that information away, your friends, or your children’s friends are giving that information away about your child to these companies when they send a text, a kik, a snapchat, a tweet or any other measure of information over the web. And companies are increasingly developing methods to monetize this data ala Facebook messenger.

Here’s a question… What would happen if parents, NGOs, and advocacy organizations demanded that children’s eyeballs not be sold to the highest bidder? OR! What if we demanded that when our kids are being sold as clicks, they are being sold responsibly? What if we demanded that a code of conduct be instituted among corporations around recommendations and other behaviors and actions when the user can be identified as under the age of consent?

We’ve barely scratched the surface on the need for corporate responsibility regarding child safety online. The incredible engineering power behind companies that have monetized the internet is an incredible partner to addressing this challenge. We need a mandated partnership & collaboration between the businesses that generate and host the content that attracts young people. In short, if they can figure out how to serve an ad to a users based on the highest bidder, they can also ensure they are recommending healthy resources & information when the audience is a a youth.

These are the kinds of questions I wanted to see addressed at Internet Global Forum. I was fortunate to be able to raise them as a remote participant but I hope we can have more variety on the theme at next year’s forum and the ongoing multistakeholder convenings of the Cross Collaboration Group at ICANN and subsequent activities with the Internet Society.  I want to see more representatives of youth, parents, NGO and industry stand up and demand a definition around social responsibility of corporations when it comes to technology usage as it related to young people.

If I missed something here or if you have opinions please let me know in the comments cause it’s important to get this right for the next generation inheriting the internet and this earth.


IGF2014 Session References:

#BITTechTalk episode #57 with guest Leah McGowen-Hare

In this episode of the Blacks In Technology podcast, Greg and Ayori speak with Master Technical Trainer at Salesforce  Leah McGowen-Hare.

Listen as we talk about diversity in tech, demistifying technology, staying relevant in tech and Soul Train lines at home.

About Leah McGowen-Hare:


Leah has more than twenty years of tech experience under her belt mastering roles ranging from Consultant, Developer, Manager and Technical Trainer

Her career reflects the evolution of computing technology. She has worked in mainframe, personal computing, client-server and cloud computing environments. The scope of her work has included systems integration, system implementations and conversions for leading companies in human resources, health care and financial services.

Often a featured panelist, Leah has also been a Dreamforce top trainer since 2009; keeping a class of up to 300 engaged and converting attendees to “Salesforce faithfuls.”

Leah holds a bachelors degree in computer science and a masters degree in technology education. She uses her knowledge and experience to demystify and make technology more accessible to youth, girls, and communities of color through organizations such as LIFE Course, Girls Who Code and BlackGirls Code .

Leah fully embraces an active and healthy living. She was especially gratified by her ability bringing new capabilities to Haiti after the earthquake. Through her role at Salesforce she took part in a charitable effort that involved moving the government of Haiti onto the Saleforce platform to better enable the country to provide social services to the people of Haiti.

Lastly, Leah is a dance instructor, PNBA Fitness Model (Professional Natural Bodybuilding Association) and a lifelong champion for fitness and nutrition.

Follow Leah on Twitter: @LeahBMH BlackGirls Code

Listen Now:

#BITTechTalk episode #55 with guest Alex Miller

In this episode of the Blacks In Technology podcast, Greg and Ayori are joined by Clojure developer and StrangeLoop conference founder, Alex Miller. We discuss creating more diverse tech conferences, functional programming, a day in the life of a Clojure language maintainer, offline computer science, and, yep you guessed it, the StrangeLoop conference.
Follow Alex on Twitter: @puredanger
His blog:

Listen Now:

#BITTechTalk episode #54 with guest Nigel Kersten

In this episode of the Blacks In Technology podcast, Greg and Ayori are joined by CIO/VP of Operations at Puppet Labs, Nigel Kersten. Listen as we talk about the Puppet configuration management tool, diversity and hiring practices in technology, DevOps and much more. 

Follow Nigel at @nigelkersten

Listen Now:

About Nigel Kersten:


Nigel came to Puppet Labs from Google HQ in Mountain View, where he was responsible for the design and implementation of one of the largest Puppet deployments in the world. He’s been a sysadmin for Linux and Mac deployments since before Mac OS became a UNIX, and is currently responsible for technical operations and business optimization at Puppet Labs.


International Day Against DRM – May 6th

On Tuesday, May 6th, 2014, the world comes together to say no to Digital Restrictions Management. See how you can get involved, check out participating organizations, and read publications about the Day.
International Day Against DRM

International Day Against DRM: WARNING: DRM IS TOXIC

As part of the International Day Against DRM several eBook publishers are offering significant discounts.

If this isn’t yet making sense the Electronic Frontier Foundation website explained it well:

What is DRM? It stands for Digital Rights Management, and it refers to any kind of technology that controls what you can and can’t do with the media and hardware you’ve purchased. It can restrict all kinds of lawful activities, such as being able to repair, modify, or re-sell the things that you own. The effect of DRM on your rights has grown thanks to the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which makes it a crime to try to bypass DRM or even spread the knowledge of how to do so. These laws, called anti-circumvention policies, are now being exported around the world international agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

It’s time to fight back against these laws that strip users of our rights over the media and devices we’ve rightfully purchased.

International Day Against DRM

Digital Restriction Management is TOXIC to your freedom

Help Blacks in Tech Fund Startups: Get VUE with Brian Clark

People ask me all the time “Who are the African Americans in technology? What can we do to help them?” I want to highlight one today who is on the grind every day about his business and deserving of our support. As if it wasn’t enough to launch two startups within a year and win 4 hackathons, Brian Clark recently launched a crowdfund campaign to fund his latest startup, VUE. VUE is a mobile analytics tool that provides a new way for mobile-focused teams to effortlessly understand their users. Not only is Brian building something incredible, he’s also giving back by teaching highschoolers how to code at MissionBit, inspiring youth at Startup Weekend Black Male Achievement hackathon and writing awesome blogs about his startup journey.

I encourage you to help a brotha out by doing 2 things RIGHT NOW:

1. Contribute to his crowdfund campaign. Give anything! The lowest VUE is asking is $3 bucks!

2. Share the crowdfund via twitter and facebook and email with the following “Help Blacks in Tech Fund Startups: Brian Clark – : Behavioral analytics for mobile users  @blksintechnology

If you do these two things you can take it as a badge of pride that you are taking a step in the right direction to help build more startups with people of color in leadership. It’s a way to join Brian on his startup journey as not just a supporter, but a contributor. I’ve posted the advice Brian provided in his blog to encourage folks to participate in hackathons as a way to jumpstart their own innovative products. Blacks in Technology encourages everyone to share this incredible campaign and get this funded in the last 10 days!!!

Help Blacks in Tech Fund Startups: VUE

Help Blacks in Tech Fund Startups: VUE

Funding Your Startup With Hackathon Winnings by Brian Clark

I participated in my first Hackathon about 8 months ago, and since then I have won almost $45,000 in Hackathons. Being that VUE was born from winning a hackathon I feel this is a great avenue to share some strategies I’ve used to win hackathons and fund my startup.

1) Know what the judges are looking for

Hackathons are built for hackers, but they’re built by people who are looking for something from those hackers. Whether it’s a unique way to test our new APIs or finding the next best developer to revolutionize an idea that the creators of the hackathon have, they’re always looking for something specific.

Go and talk to the judges (if they’re available).

My best experience with this was from the LAUNCH hackathon. I participated in their second Hackathon this past November, and while we only won a very small prize, it was very obvious what they were looking for once I had pitched to them.

Being fortunate enough to know this, I came to the third LAUNCH Hackathon earlier this year, much more prepared with what they wanted, and took home the grand prize for VUE which is just now moving into private beta.

2) Only “build” what you are going to demo, have a plan to execute, and take shortcuts

Hackathons aren’t about polished code, data validation on forms, or designing an amazing new interface.

Hackathons are about shipping a meaningful vision of your idea.

With VUE we did exactly that.  During the Hackathon we pitched an SDK that could track all user behavior on iOS with one line of code, a powerful dashboard where you can query your data, and a feedback system to ask your users what they were thinking.

So many people couldn’t believe two of us did this in a 48 hour hackathon. we actually did it in just 23 hours.

The key was there was a vision of what we wanted to build, so we spent the first hour hashing out exactly what we would build over the next 23 hours and here’s what we came up with:

  1. Write the mobile SDK for tracking, but don’t build the endpoints to save the data – Brian
  2. Write Python Script for simulating sessions so we’d have a lot of data to show – Brian
  3. Buy a Dashboard template for $10 so it looked pretty – Patrick
  4. Load the fake data into the template with Node/Mongo – Patrick
  5. Write a feedback system that just pings the server on every app load for a new question – Brian
  6. Simulate one possible query by using a for loop – Patrick

This is VERY manageable to build between two people at a hackathon. We built out this list, defined any endpoints where our code would interface, and got to work.

The key here is everything we built would be shown on screen with the demo. There was no user authentication, no form validation, and not even a fully working query engine. Use shortcuts, buy templates, and build exactly what you need to demo your idea and nothing more.

3) Tell a good story

Winning a Hackathon often all comes down to your pitch (and this does not mean a powerpoint).  You generally have 1 to 5 minutes to demo your 48 hours of straight work, make the best of it.

I participated in a Sears Hackathon where I built an app called Instagift. Need that last minute gift for your girlfriends anniversary or mother’s birthday? Scroll through our list of gifts and with one click get one shipped overnight, gift-wrapped, to your door.

With this competition we only had 2 minutes to pitch our idea.

Instead of spending 2 minutes pitching the tech specs of the app and how it was going to make money, I wove a story around how a man named John had completely forgotten to get his girlfriend a present and he had no time left to pick one up and get it gift wrapped, he knew he was in trouble.  I even asked the audience if they’d ever been in this situation and every guy raised their hand.

I would say this was certainly noticed by the judges as I took home $6,000 in prizes from that event.  Even better? I made the app in 4 hours — a scrolling page of gifts with the Sears API, a buy now button, and some pretty graphics.

The compelling, relatable story was what won the hackathon, and the hack was a simple demo of what the solution to the problem of the story could look like in an app.

4) Follow the rules, Build something you want, and have fun!

Every hackathon has different rules, some they’ll check that your API calls hit their servers, others are fine with photoshop templates on a website showing your idea, make sure you know the rules and follow them.

Also do nothing less than build something awesome with really cool people, make some new friends and have a ton of fun. Hackathons are some of the best events you’ll ever go to.

What are your secrets to winning hackathon? I haven’t won every one I’ve participated in but I’m certainly getting better!

Lastly we’re also looking for support on our crowdfunding campaign! Help VUE come to life faster

Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 4.02.41 PM

The Future of Wearable Tech & Why You Need to Care

The term “Wearables” has got to be my favorite buzz word that is “blowing up” all over the place. Everyone is using the term and talking about “Wearable tech”, but like “Big Data” few people actually have a clue what wearable tech REALLY means for industries or our personal lives.  While ABI Research predicts that this year, about 90 million wearable devices will be sold this year mostly in the health & fitness, wearable tech goes far beyond Fitbits and Google Glass.

I took a trip down to Wearables DevCon earlier this month to connect deeper with this community and I’m so glad I did. I can tell you with confidence that throughout the year you’ll hear a lot about Smart Watches, Glass, and other tech jewelry but I encourage you to look beyond these early efforts of commercialization and deeper into the future. Dig as deep into the underbelly as you can and don’t stop at a laymen understanding of wearable tech. Get hands on wherever possible even if you don’t own the devices, find somebody who does and play with it and get out to a conference on the topic if you can! Please don’t underestimate the capabilities of Rasberry Pi’s & LilyPads (listen to the podcast if you don’t know about this) because it’s still early enough to create the next great innovation in your own living room. In getting up off your couch to get hands on with this stuff don’t neglect to research a bit of the back story as there are some very interesting stories about the pioneers of wearable tech like Thad Starner who was the “first member of the MIT Wearable Computing Project, where he was one of the first 6 cyborgs involved.”

The experience of being the Wearables DevCon had me hyped up and engaged in intense debate with members of the community for the last few weeks and confirmed my attendance at other related conferences throughout the year. Interestingly enough I’ve had to hold my tongue in some situations because of the sensitivities that arise (especially in San Francisco) in response to what is considered appropriate to do with wearables. The best part of the conference was the people I met, some of whom I’m exchanging regular emails with now. Read on for my summary and reflection on what I discovered at the conference and feel welcome to peruse my mind map on the sessions I attended.

Human enhancement:
We know that the most critical element of technology adoption is getting users to change their habits. Wearable technology presents an interesting opportunity where the objective is to offer some drastic enhancement in life experience for the user with minimal behavioral change requirements. For example if I want to improve my squats when exercising (as everyone ought to desire to do) I have a few options before me; (1) I could do the squat in a mirror, observe my form and make corrections if I can identify what I’m doing wrong. (2) Alternatively I could ask a trainer to assist me, they could watch me do it and provide me with real time feedback which I can respond to. (3) Right now if I wanted technology to help me improve my squats I’d go to youtube and watch some videos of squats. Each option offers it’s own unique advantages, however the opportunity for wearable tech has the distinct capability of being able to merge all three of these options into a single solution. An example might be a computerized body suit to recognize my body’s alignment and muscular contractions, the computer could calculate with detailed accuracy my squat form accuracy to trigger warnings or rewards. Using that data an audible system or ear piece can coach me in real time and a visual aid (some type of visual display) can be projected into my field of vision to provide me with visual support as I adjust in real time to the coaching. The suit itself could also send pulses to support physical corrections.

In few words, my opinion of wearable technology is that it provides an opportunity for holistic improvements in life through leveraging technology. Let me explain. I’ve wanted to clone myself since I was 6 years old so I could send my clone to the grocery store to help my mother carry groceries while I stayed at home and played Super Mario. It’s a silly (although very real) example but wearable tech tells a story that asks ‘how can I get more done and live a better, more satisfied lifestyle?’ whether that means playing more Mario or doing a better job at work so I can spend more time with my kids. Much like Google calendar has changed my life (thank God for it really!), wearable technology has been changing peoples lives for many decades, some people you may know and simply haven’t realize it. You don’t believe me? Do you know anyone who works in security or is hearing impaired or who wears a prosthetic (limb for example)? I know several and these are real world examples of people who depend on their wearables in ways that few of us can even imagine. In that way the introduction of a wearable market where people can buy enhancing devices the same way that they buy mobile phones or fashion accessories changes the paradigm for personal computing and living experiences in some exciting ways.

Personal Computing != Privacy: Wearable technology provides the capabilities of a far more personal experience but please don’t confuse personal with private. PC stands for “Personal Computer” but most of us with PCs share them with other members of our family (even if just temporarily), while obviously very few of us share our hosiery, socks and underwear with others. Truly we have a non-personal experience with computers and that has been the trigger for more than a few people drama and divorce. For example a quick search on Whisper this morning resulted in several hits for wives who’d discovered their husbands searching for hookers online by snooping their email and laptops. Obviously things aren’t as private as many people would like. Take a moment and imagine a PC experience that is truly “personal”. Wearable technology is the most “personal” a technology device can be as the devices (or software) have the capability of learning about you explicitly, enabling them to become smarter about predicting your needs or behaviors thus providing an overall better, more tailored and truly personal experience. It comes with real concerns as well. The more personal we are with our devices the more data we are capturing about ourselves and the more we expect privacy. I am of the school of thought that says everything in technology can be decoded and therefore privacy is more simply an abstraction of agreements made between people and organizations or systems. Don’t hate me.

Privacy was a hot topic during the Fire Side chat at Wearable Dev Con. I’d caution anyone interested in this field to expect people to be highly passionate about the topic of privacy. There are two very adamant sides of the argument, those who believe that more transparency would benefit society and those who have concerns that lack of privacy equates to a lack of safety. Just get used to it. I have my own opinions on it, if you are interested in mine just hit me up as I always enjoy having discussions on these topics.

 The Opportunity for Enterprise: I get excited when I think about the growth opportunity that is ahead of us for wearable tech in the enterprise. One of my favorite books from last year was Al Gore’s The Future which explored Internet of Things (IoT) and advances in AI leading to a redefining of life on the planet among it’s five core themes. The themes include concern arising around our capacity to create new, artificial life as well as bring back that which has become extinct and has far reaching impact across all our industries from health & safety to finance and beyond. At Wearable Dev conf I met Jeris JC Miller who shared examples of how Hospitals are already engaged in the effort to adopt wearables with the University of Washington being a fine example where nurses are using Google Glass and “talking about what information might be useful in the form of instant notifications, how communication between patients and staff might be improved, and how hands-free information access might improve care and save money.” Take a look at some of their other use cases if the Medical world interests you. Everyone will be interested to know that the Wearable Medical Devices Market is Expected to Reach USD 5.8 Billion Globally in 2019. Truth be told it’s hard to put a finger on granular use cases and the opportunity in the medical market is so huge it has already required a need to be categorized into segments as provided below:

Wearable Medical Devices Market, by Product Types

  • Wearable Therapeutic Medical Devices
  • Wearable Diagnostic Medical Devices

Wearable Diagnostic Medical Devices Market, by Product Types    

  • Vital Signs Monitors
  • Fetal & Obstetric Devices
  • Neuromonitoring Devices

Wearable Therapeutic Medical Devices Market, by Product Types       

  • Pain Management
  • Glucose/Insulin Monitoring
  • Respiratory Therapy Devices

Wearable Therapeutic Medical Devices Market, by Application        

  • Sports and Fitness
  • Remote Patient Monitoring
  • Home Healthcare

Recently I have had several discussions with people working with wearable technology for law enforcement and other safety personnel. I even had a chance to chat with a fire chief on the way their fire dept has adopted wearables related to health monitoring and oxygen delivery. Another interesting use case was explained to me by an engineer at Boeing who managed the intelligence behind highly complex aviation machinery & their maintenance. In aviation locating specific components in engines and other machinery is highly complicated yet critical to the safety of all civilians riding on the aircraft. The industry benefits not only from having connected devices but also providing increased interaction capabilities between field technicians and the machines themselves such as locating problematic components and running real time diagnostics while still inside the machinery.

This is really the tip of the ice burg but getting people to go into detail about what their working on is not easy since so much of it is still experimental. Wearable tech and IoT is an investment area for competitive differentiation. Organizations who are leading the effort today such as Boeing & University of Washington hope to benefit from the investment by getting a jump on their competition across a variety of industries through patents and creating opportunities for commercialization.

Writing this on the heels of attending the Wearable Dev Con means that I don’t have much”downtime” before my brain starts to naturally shift to concepts leading to transhumanistic exploration. That being said you’ll have to excuse the excited and tangential form of this blog. If I did it right you will join the conversation. Please leave a comment on your ideas or questions!

Fantastic key takeaway from @SoniaKoesterer three key words device, context, activity. #wearabledevcon

— BlacksInTechnology (@blkintechnology) March 7, 2014

Devices redefine our social norms, design to enhance social experience @SoniaKoesterer #wearabledevcon

— BlacksInTechnology (@blkintechnology) March 6, 2014

Great session on WearScript by @brandynwhite all about rapid prototyping with @googleglass #wearabledevcon

— BlacksInTechnology (@blkintechnology) March 6, 2014

RT “@dakini_3: @iayori and I at #WearDevCon! This woman is one very talented developer! So glad I met her!

— BlacksInTechnology (@blkintechnology) March 7, 2014