Posts in Education
Microsoft Ignite

I attended Microsoft Ignite in Orlando to learn about Microsoft's new products, vision and be a geek. The best part, no lines for the bathroom! I chuckled when long lines formed at the men's restroom. Day one, the gender and race gap was dissapointing. Not a lot of women or women of color as attendees or presenters. I wasn't surprised by how many white men were at this conference but I would've believed Microsoft had enough resources and partnerships to diversify their speaker and attendee pool. With the lack of diversity, the conference felt like I was at work again except on a larger scale. Over 30k attendees and the percentage of minority participation was abysmal. Less than 10% of attendees were women or minority. In an attempt to give women a space, Microsoft had a women's lounge and exclusive Women in Technology sessions. These were opportunities for women to connect, discuss business and leadership and get Shark Tank tips from Daymond John -- my favorite take away from the conference besides the technical tips, tricks, Microsoft Kool-Aid, etc. 

Daymond John was a special guest at one of the women in technology sessions. His delivery was passionate, entertaining and informative. While taking us through his journey, his objective was to motivate women to take the lead and think more like entrepreneurs. He shared these Shark points: 

  • Set a goal and make your own decisions
  • Do your homework. You won't create anything new just a better version of what exists.
  • Amor. Love what you do.
  • You are the brand. Market yourself.
  • Keep swimming. Never give up.

After this session I was inspired because these are things I forget to do. In the tech industry it can be hard to integrate your inner entrepreneur. The takeaways most helpful for me were doing your homework and setting goals. Reading and doing research gives you knowledge to branch out on your own or challenge yourself. Creating new widgets is a thing of the past but servicing niche markets with better versions of what exists is what entrepreneurship is about. Setting goals and sticking to them is a challenge. Life gets in the way, you want a social life and sometimes we deserve to bum it. But having attainable goals motivates us to push through and turn dreams into reality.  

I challenge you to explore areas in your life that could use more diversity. How can we get men to attend women in technology break outs to understand the value women bring and their role in bridging the gap? How can we be better CEO's of our life? Are we networking enough, participating in events so there is representation of phenomenal women? There's a lot more work to do, this conference showed me that tenfold. 

MBA, check.

Eighteen months ago I started my MBA at the University of Maryland. The Robert H. Smith school has a superb program and I wanted to be part of it. Business and IT fascinated me but I chose IT as my academic focus early. The pursuit of a MBA was to learn how to create value for others. I wanted to learn finance, negotiation, marketing, data analytics, and entrepreneurship. This accelerated program didn't hold back. I had the same professors and course load as my peers in the Full-Time MBA program and within the first few months I wanted to quit. Class subjects were new, many I'd never explored. Especially with my IT background. Constantly I was challenged and forced to stay up late, learning how to deal with business anomalies and the pressure of looming deadlines. This program turned me into the family member that never answered the phone or returned calls. And the friend that didn't return texts for days and turned down outings because of homework. I had no life. I moved to NY midway into the semester (crazy, right?) and still had no life in the busiest city in the world. 

So how did I make it? Perseverance and three of my wonderful classmates. Texts of frustration, stress, and support were a constant thing. Support and the willingness to make sacrifices gets you through this program. But with anything in life there's always a light at the end of the tunnel. And that light came April 2 when our cohort graduated. 

Seeing everyone again was an indescribable moment. Many of us didn't have a lot of classes together because the program mixes different cohorts together. It's a great networking tactic, especially for a program that is done remotely. We told each other horror stories, what life milestones we achieved and how ready we were for this pain to end! Despite the lectures and long hours, I learned so much. My ability to consume more than IT was astounding and leveraging work experience made some subjects easier to grasp. I was mentally stretched and outside my comfort zone. I expounded my knowledge on collaboration, understanding client needs and creating something from nothing. This program drove home the importance of the balance needed to succeed using quantitative and qualitative data. In IT there's right and wrong. Right code and wrong code. The right solution and the wrong solution. Business is so much more and requires trial and error, teamwork, and creating value. I'm so glad to be a TERP for life and look forward to giving back to my alma mater in so many ways. Thank you to the faculty and staff who also make sacrifices for students like me. It was a journey and I'm glad I chose UMD for the ride. 

After our cohort ceremony (the big graduation is in May), I got time to speak with Judy Frels. The Dean of the OMBA program. She gave well wishes and encouraging words. In parting she said, "During the presentations (which we'd done some hours earlier for our last simulation project), I took notes on everyone. And I want you to know that you are a great speaker, so poised. You kept the presentation moving forward and your presence was strong. You're a remarkable presenter." In that moment, she helped solidify the work I'm doing today. I have a remarkable gift and I intend to continue the path I'm on.