Make a Connection, Make a Career: Blip

The night Dina Kaplan met two geeks in a bar on the Bowery, she wasn’t looking to switch careers. She was working as a local TV reporter and these guys seemed like ragtag kids. She might never have talked to them, but The Remote Lounge had cameras and telephone handsets at every table to encourage patrons to interact. You could be at Table 4 and think, “I want to see the girls at Table 25.” You could send out feelers without really risking rejection.

Blip

So when the geeks dared her to venture upstairs, Kaplan took a chance. Hey, it was the year 2000. “Okay,” she said. “I’ll come up and say hi.”

Mike Hudack had dropped out of high school to work for a start-up and his buddy Charles Hope, sporting a nostril pierce and dreadlocks flopping halfway down his chest, was an odd candidate to write software tracking ingredients for a kosher certification company. But it paid the bills. The group talked late into the evening, and Hudack struck Kaplan as some sort of boy genius.

Fast-forward five years and Kaplan was still in touch. By then Hudack and Hope had partnered with two other techies they met at a group called “New York City Geeks,” and the guys spent nights and weekends hacking away on an information management program they’d developed, thinking it could form the back-end of a larger company – like a platform for TV shows on the Internet. The hackers knew Kaplan was smart and personable, and they wanted her to be the face of their operation. She could talk to people, help raise funds or bring in partners, maybe turn their project into a business.

Kaplan, who had worked for MTV for four years and been a television reporter for five, could see how Web video might be interesting. “I trust my instinct on big things,” Kaplan says. “I remember the date, time, and moment I had my first Starbucks coffee and thinking, ‘This company is going to do really well.’ I remember the first time I had a Snapple, what I was wearing, and I thought, ‘This company is going to do really well.’”

Kaplan felt the same about Hudack. Though her friends started staging interventions – did she really want to work with these guys? – she was ready to gamble. “If I ever know anyone who’s going to be the next Bill Gates, it’s this guy,” she remembers thinking. “If he starts a company, I’ll drop whatever I’m doing and go work for him.” (more…)

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Not Crying in my Chardonnay

Lots of ladies dive for the escape hatch when women’s gatherings get too plaintive.

One executive I spoke with for Stiletto Network recalled an episode at a National Venture Capital Association event about a decade ago; men and women were mingling amiably when an NVCA rep decided to corral some ladies into a separate room to confer on a report by the Athena Forum about the state of women in venture and private equity.

By Canyon Castator

By Canyon Castator

“The report showed that the number of women had dropped three-tenths of a point, and some woman shook her head and said in hushed tones, ‘This is terrible,’” the VC recounted. “We were just twitching in our seats. I stood up and said I appreciate the earnestness, but if there are a bunch of women with MBA’s making half a million a year while women in the garment industry are slaving away, well… I’m not crying in my chardonnay. Only 2.5% of VCs are women, and some of them made so much money in the bubble that they can retire. So I know the women who changed the number that much statistically.”

Her point? Sure, there are issues, but let’s get a little perspective. And, in the wake of the Ellen Pao scandal at Kleiner Perkins, Anne Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic dirge (“Why Women Still Can’t Have it All”), the debate over leaning in, and the carping over Marissa Mayer’s baby, she had some other thoughts:

“I wouldn’t mind rewinding the clock a few months, when we could just do the work and the topic on everyone’s mind wasn’t gender and work. Is that selfish of me? Anti-feminist? Is the dialogue always supposed to be kept alive, like a balloon ball on a concert floor? As if the collective consciousness says, ‘Watch out! It’s going to fall off the radar! Quick, somebody do something to get everyone talking about the inequities of work/life balance and the perils of being a woman at work again!’ I’m exhausted trying not to think about it and just do it.”

So what’s the answer? How to launch a constructive dialogue without being branded whiners, and without suffering gender fatigue? How much is too much?

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We always conceived of it as climbing a corporate ladder, but it’s more like building a human pyramid, each layer of women supporting the next. Each generation needs the one before. Maybe it’s taken too long to get here from the 1970’s, when everyone was looking at cervixes in the mirror. If you don’t treat everything as a competition, you get so much more than you lose. We’re finally realizing it’s much easier to do this together than apart.”

Abigail Disney, documentary filmmaker and philanthropist

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