Category: Presentations

An Outsiders Perspective on the Women in Tech Movement

03/06/2017
During the month of February, Echo-Factory planned, promoted and hosted a series of Women in Tech panels at Apple stores in Old Pasadena and Santa Monica. These events, featuring major local tech players, including Renée LaBran, senior advisor to Idealab, Max Powers, senior vice president of business operations at TeleSign, Natalie Sun, creative technologist and founder of NextArt, and Anna Barber, managing director at Techstars, centered around the advantages women bring to the industry, along with advice for tech companies looking to include more women and for techy women looking to advance.

  

The Women in Tech Movement

Before attending these events, I hadn’t considered myself the right audience for Women in Tech. While I can get behind any cause that champions diversity, I’m not angling for a Google offer or prepping my resume for Facebook. Yes, I dabble in HTML and do a whole lot of SEO work for our Echo-Factory clients, but I consider those duties to be technical things I do in a non-tech job. I’m also living in a “fairness” bubble, working in a company with male and female owners, alongside men and women in positions of leadership, which has left me somewhat removed from the battle for inclusion that continues to be waged. However, I have come to find the Women in Tech movement is less about the field and more about the shared struggle women continue to endure to gain entry to sophisticated work environments.

The Women of Women in Tech

Both mornings, the Apple store felt closer to prime time rather than 8 a.m. on a Wednesday. The audience, made up of women and men, was alert and ready to engage our panel. As our speakers warmed up the crowd with introductions and personal anecdotes, I found more shared experiences than I had thought possible. The smiles and nods of knowing agreement around the room seemed to indicate that our audience did too. Despite discussions of obstacles, the conversation didn’t devolve into a man-bashing pity party. Instead, everyone exuded positivity, taking note of the good advice of our speakers. You could feel how excited we all were for the not-so-distant future of the tech world.

After a short Q and A, a back area was opened for attendees looking to engage the speakers in person. A surprising number of women swarmed our professionals, all with their own tales of assistant mix-ups and coffee requests, along with the techniques they’ve personally used to circumvent incidences like these and navigate male-dominated workplaces. In this arena, I met small business owners, entrepreneurs and techy women—all with the aim to shine, not in spite of their male counterparts, but because of a desire to do their personal best.

Secrets from a Panel Insider

After our Women in Tech series ended, I met with Dea Goldsmith, the moderator, Echo-Factory co-founder and chief creative officer (a titan herself), to discuss the events in more detail.

Traditionally, Echo-Factory has done more marketing-focused events. What made you want to pursue this topic?

We work closely with a number of tech companies, including those in the clean tech sector. Our job is to help them tell their story in a way that is relatable to those outside of the industry. My team and I work closely with technology to make this happen. Echo-Factory also works closely with Innovate Pasadena, a group that brings together tech startups and investors in the city. Having this exposure, coupled with my own history in a traditionally male-dominated and managed profession, made this movement feel very relevant and one of personal interest.

What was most surprising about these events?

Our tech panel had one major commonality: They entered the tech world without asking permission. They brought their own backgrounds, all of them non-tech, and became self-taught experts. They didn’t wait for the ideal job or until they had the perfect skill sets—they created their own opportunities. And, when they discussed their own moments of doubt, instead of buckling under fear, they developed strategies like seeking out mentors, books and any other constructive resources to help them surmount obstacles.

Our speakers also knew they were part of something bigger and, while that movement wasn’t always Women in Tech, having that larger goal really allowed them to push through difficulties. This has been an effective strategy I’ve personally used with great effect. When our goals are too small, that means they are often just about us. It’s easier to fight through a situation when you know you’re doing it for a larger reason.

What did you view as some of the best advice from our panelists?

I really loved the idea of creating your own seat at the table. Sometimes the elements that make women such excellent teammates and collaborators can leave them behind when it’s time to shine. These powerful women share many of the same fears and self-sabotaging habits as our audience—they’ve just figured out ways to overcome them. The advice from the panel on controlling negative emotions, their call for us to step out of our comfort zones and the importance of finding colleagues for extra support, seem so obvious now, but were a great reminder.

I also really appreciated the tips for those in positions of power. Creating a work culture that truly embraces diversity, not just in word, but also through active initiatives and critical evaluation, is the only way to ensure that, once women get through the door, they stay.

The Struggle Isn’t Just in Our Heads

After one of the events, a gentleman approached our group (a small mob had formed around Max Powers as she answered questions). He was concerned about her team management methods and, instead, suggested we treat others like our always beaming, coddling first-grade teacher. He thought it might be best for Max to return to more traditional methods of approaching the tech sector (you know, with cookies and a polite smile and a hope that those in charge might let us in). Max politely said she’d consider it (while it was clear she would not), and the group quickly worked to turn the subject back toward one of productivity. But his comments served as a good reminder of why this conversation needs to continue. In a room with predominantly likeminded people, it can feel like the discussion has maybe run its course. Clearly, there are still minds that remain to be changed, and there is work that needs to be done. Luckily, we have the women for the job.
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IRobot Inventor Shares 3 Things VCs Look for in Robotics Companies

12/09/2016
robotics companies illustration Creator of the technology behind the iRobot vacuum, Paolo Pirjanian, is also the founder and CEO of one of the most awesome smart robotics companies yet, Embodied, Inc. He recently spoke at Innovate Pasadena’s Friday Coffee Meetup, a group co-organized by Echo-Factory, and I (one of the writers on the team) had the chance to interview him for an article on Huff Post. (more…)

The Importance of Proofreading

11/03/2014
Proofreader's books and resources Election Day is almost here! For several months, candidates for public office have engaged in high-profile campaigns, speaking at colleges, chambers of commerce, town hall meetings and fundraisers, telling people the reasons to vote for them. Their words and actions have been scrutinized, dissected and analyzed. Having a solid platform may not be enough to win votes – candidates must consider their public image and the way they present themselves as well. How would it look if a candidate came to give a speech or engage in a debate with his tie askew, a mustard stain on his shirt, and mismatched socks? No one would take him seriously, to say the least. He might have spent hours preparing his remarks and studying the issues at hand, but his appearance may distract his audience and detract from the importance of his message. In a similar way, any final product you send into the world must also be carefully reviewed and polished. If you’re in business, how you market yourself impacts your relationship with customers, potential customers and partners. In short, you want to do your best to look your best. A marketing agency can help you craft your message and your image. Copywriters help you say what you mean in an engaging way. Designers give you a look and feel that reinforces your brand message. Creative directors make sure that all the work is on target to meet your business objectives as well as help you stand out from the competition. Last, but not least, proofreaders are your quality assurance experts. They make sure every t is crossed and every i is dotted so that your message is communicated effectively. A proofreader is not only skilled in grammar and spelling. She also checks for the coherency of ideas and consistency of facts. Her arsenal of tools includes The Chicago Manual of Style, The Associated Press Stylebook, the dictionary and Wikipedia, to name a few. Proofreader's desk and markups She works with graphic designers to make sure the copy and design are well-integrated. It’s best to bring in the proofreader at every stage of the revision process, so that by the time you are ready to go to press, everything is nearly perfect. The last thing anyone wants is to make major changes right before an approved project is going to print or going to go live. The proofreader is not there to be critical, although she must look at things critically. It’s her job to make sure the agency and/or client presents the best work possible. She ties up all loose ends. She polishes and tidies up. She makes sure that the first impression, and the lasting impression, is a good one. She is, in other words, the champion of the work. Don’t be afraid to ask her questions. Trust in her vast knowledge and experience. Maybe you got all A’s in English, but it may have been a while since you had to determine whether to use “which” or “that”. These things you may not notice, but she does. And she bets that someone, somewhere out there, may notice, too. An error-free presentation may be a pivotal point of doing business. Details matter, whether you’re on the campaign trail or presenting to potential investors or customers. That’s why having a proofreader in your corner is indispensable. Once a creative agency puts together all the components of your marketing strategy and materials, the proofreader comes in to make it all shine. Just make sure to get your suit pressed and you’ll be ready to go!

Join us at Connect Week 2014

10/15/2014
connect week, innovate pasadena

Innovate Pasadena hosts a series of independently organized events on emerging tech and design trends across the city

Ever since we moved to Pasadena, we’ve been taking in all the city has to offer. One of the many reasons we chose Pasadena for our new company headquarters was to connect with the innovation and startup community. Our very own president, Mike Schaffer, has been involved with Innovate Pasadena for many projects in the past year, including co-organizing Friday Morning Coffee Meetups. In the tradition of Los Angeles Innovation Week, Innovate Pasadena is hosting Connect Week 2014, October 20-26, with 30 events over 7 days. Join seminars, workshops and social events hosted by businesses and institutions in Pasadena. It’s a chance to learn more about design trends, open data efforts, crowd funding, emerging biotech, 3D printing, successful entrepreneurship and innovation in the City of Roses. Whether you’re the founder of a startup, an entrepreneur, an investor or an average, curious John or Jane Doe, there’s something for everyone at Connect Week. Get an inside tour of a gaming company at the Business Technology Center. Learn practical tips for early-stage startups at Pasadena City College. Come along for a tech crawl in Old Town Pasadena and network at Barney’s Beanery. Ask questions of a panel of entrepreneurs about crowdfunding sources at Caltech. Attend a job fair (no suits, no ties) and mingle with some of the top tech companies looking for top talent. Immerse yourself in a CSI experience at Pasadena Bioscience Collaborative. Join the Envision Summit, the first of its kind in Pasadena, where experts and innovators will convene to share their insights on the future drivers of innovation for the next 20 years. There’s much more, and you can bet we’ll be there. This is a not-to-miss opportunity, and it’s happening right in our neighborhood! For more information, visit connectpasadena.com. We’ll see you there!

The Persona – Do You Know Your Customers?

05/30/2014
Persona Development

You're Not Reaching Your Customers Because You Don't Know Who They Are - The Persona Is Foundational To Successful Marketing

According to a 2013 Forbes magazine article titled, “Five Reasons 8 out of 10 Businesses Fail,” the number one impediment to success is that businesses are “[n]ot really in touch with customers through deep dialogue.”

Here at Echo-Factory, we agree that dialogue is important, but we’d take the analysis a step further and contend that most businesses fail because they never even knew who their customers were, let alone engaged them in deep dialogue. Sure they might have a vague idea—gender, 10-year age range, region, that sort of thing—but have you ever tried to have a deep dialogue with a 28- to 35-year-old female who is ethnically neutral, is of average income, enjoys the outdoors and lives in the Southwest? By its very nature, this type of broad stroke consumer identification is impossible to engage with any kind of depth. Because this is not a person—it’s a range.
getting setup for the workshop

getting ready for persona development

  That’s why one of the first things we do whenever we take on a new client is research the heck out of them—their industry, their history and their pain points, their goals, wants and needs. Then, after we’ve developed a thorough understanding of our client, we dive into understanding their customers. And not in general terms—we get out the fine-tipped brushes and fill in the lines. Does this woman enjoy base-jumping or bird-watching—or both? It matters. Is this woman 28 or 35? It matters. Is she a resident of Ocean Beach or Newport Beach? It matters. It matters because when you’ve got the details, you’ve got an actual person capable of participating in a deep dialogue. It matters because you now know where to reach her and what she cares about. You can speak to her in her language in a way that will engage her rather than alienate her. We call this process persona building, and it’s basic procedure for us. If you want your business to succeed, it should be basic procedure for you, too. Knowing your customers and communicating with them effectively is crucial, but all too often this vital strategic element is either totally ignored or relegated to the bottom of the list. And it’s a shame whenever this happens, but this misstep becomes truly unfortunate when the businesses involved are innovative, ethically minded, socially responsible, environmentally conscious and human rights driven. We don’t like to play favorites, but the truth is that we love brilliant people who want to do good in the world, and more than anything, we want to see them succeed. That’s why if we ever have an opportunity to share our expertise with a socially progressive company, we don’t hesitate. So when the LA Cleantech Incubator invited Echo-Factory principal, Mike Schaffer, to speak on the topic of persona building for their LACI Design Thinking Series, he jumped at the chance.
design thinking workshop

design thinking workshop

The incubator is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit dedicated to building LA’s green economy through providing affordable office space, mentoring and CEO coaching, and access to extensive investor and customer networks for the area’s most promising cleantech start-ups. The Design Thinking Series features four seminars at which various industry experts lead talks and practice groups on various business-building topics to help young entrepreneurs identify, understand and design products and services that will best serve the needs of their customers. Other companies involved include industrial design firm Pull Creative and creative engineering company Motivo. The series’ working subject was to develop a product that would address the issue of asthma in children who live within a quarter of a mile of a freeway. As persona building is a foundational element to any successful business, Mike’s seminar, titled, “Identifying Personas and Crafting the Ideal User Experience,” kicked off the series. Attendees learned about the importance of developing personas in order to meet their customers’ need, and then they put that theory into practice by conducting market research and developing three preliminary personas to be built upon throughout the remaining seminars. “The three foundational elements we drive with each of our portfolio companies are intellectual property strategies, investment prep and design thinking. The first two are very common in the start-up world but the design thinking side has been undervalued for far too long,” said Erik Steeb, VP of Programs at LACI. “Design is a critical element of any business, and it starts with really understanding your customer. To get the best result, we partnered with the best. The combination of Pull Creative, Echo-Factory and Motivo Engineering has been a great asset to our companies.” We love being involved in projects like these, because we want these socially responsible entrepreneurs to succeed and we know they can’t without the proper tools and knowledge. We want to see eight out of 10 businesses succeed, not fail, and developing accurate personas is one of the first steps to making that happen.