I recently presented ClearSky at the Montgomery Summit in sunny Santa Monica. This was my second year presenting, and it was much more fun this time – last year, ClearSky was still in stealth mode, making it hard to share all the cool things we were building. This year, the show was even larger, with around 1500 attendees, and there was little evidence of a tech bubble meltdown with all the VCs, growth equity firms and entrepreneurs in attendance.
One of the highlights of the show was the first evening, when more than 400 people gathered for “The Rise of the Female Entrepreneur.” This session included some terrific speakers, CEOs, founders, investors and press. My panel was about building a successful tech startup, and the other presenters were pretty outstanding: Juliet de Baubigny, senior partner at Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers; Liz Pearce, CEO at Liquid Planner; and moderator Niloo Howe, chief strategy officer, RSA. The best part was the pre-event planning session, where we had a chance to discuss some major themes and compare notes.
One thing we all agreed on: we didn’t want the panel to be about the typical “women’s event issues.” We had all been on years’ worth of panels in which the main questions always seemed to be, “What adversity have you had to overcome as a woman in tech?” “How is a female leader different from a man?" What characteristics do women have that are better/worse for tech startups?” Although I am willing to believe that the people asking these questions mean well, somehow it put the focus on all the wrong things. And the worst question that inevitably comes up is, “How do you balance work/family issues?”
In my opinion, the best thing that can be accomplished at these women in tech events is for women in leadership roles to talk about the realities of their careers and experiences, and to share ideas and recommendations for the next generation of women leaders. This gives the women who are earlier in their careers a chance to see role models who are working their way through challenges and growth/scaling issues, and to demystify the process – blowing up the idea that there is some “silver bullet” waiting out there to make them successful, rather than the slow, often painful day-to-day reality of building a company.
At the Monty Summit event, the talk was all about the craft of raising funding and making money, two of the most critical responsibilities of a CEO. Along the way, we talked about the importance of building many types of mentors, being transparent with employees when things aren’t going well and being clear about what steps the company is taking to fix things. Also the need to have more than just a “plan B” for tough times – maybe plans C, D and E are also needed.
We managed to make it all the way to the last minutes of the panel before someone asked about work/life balance. It was a sign of the new normal when one of my co-panelists responded briefly, “There is no good answer to that question, you just do the best you can!” Hopefully, the audience came away with the confidence that there are many models for success, and that they can forge their own personal paths to achieve their goals.Subscribe here to never miss a news or event update from ClearSky.