Mama CEO

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Why We Should Stop Worrying if Other People Like Our Kids

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Here’s a thought:

It is not our job to make our kids likable by conforming to others’ expectations but to help them blossom within their own uniqueness.

Think about that.

Do you realize how liberating that is – how much guilt it removes when you’re able to do what your gut is saying is right for your child instead of what you know someone else is judging you for doing or not doing?

I remember when my oldest was a toddler. I wasn’t that far removed from being a kid myself, and so many of my decisions about how to raise my children were a constant vacillation between what my instinct was telling me was right and caving in under the weight of well-meaning advice and unspoken judgment of others who believed me to be in varying circumstances too harsh or too permissive, indulgent or strict, or too controlling or lazy in my parenting. I didn’t know it then, but my daughter is what is now called Twice Exceptional (and, no, that does not mean my kid is twice as wonderful as yours). A child who is Twice Exceptional qualifies for special education under at least two distinct and different diagnoses, with one of those exceptions being a gifted IQ (130 or above in most places) and the rest being some cocktail of learning disabilities.

Raising a Twice Exceptional child (or more than one) is usually a daily adventure into the unknown, especially when a child is young – because the exceptionalities are rarely identified that early, leaving parents a bit off kilter as they struggle to understand their child’s unique approach to life. All three of my children were on high speed from the time they awoke until they fell asleep – and they spent far less time asleep than did the children of my peers. They were intense, driven learners – and this usually meant that they wanted to do things that were far beyond their development level, which, in turn led to high frustration and meltdowns. I can say from first-hand experience that there is nothing  quite like a toddler’s meltdown in a museum (or zoo, store, or library) to entice complete strangers to negatively judge your parenting skills.

It wasn’t until I finally hit the wall with an exceptionally bad experience that I finally found my real footing as a mother.

I remember the day well.

My youngest – also Twice Exceptional – was in second grade and just newly accepted into special ed with a long list of learning disabilities including dyslexia, dysgraphia, and auditory processing disorder – although it would take three more IQ tests over four years to finally get him qualified for gifted as well. My son’s teacher that year leaned more towards the highly organized, rigid style of teaching, and it was a terrible match for my kiddo who failed miserably at helping her meet her self-defined goal of curing my kid of his ‘bad habits’. She spent many a day yelling at my son for his forgetfulness and messiness and sent angry emails home every Friday to report another failing grade in spelling. I was still a bit insecure, trying desperately to find ways to help my son learn to memorize his words and feeling guilty as a mother that I’d failed to find a solution that would work.

But in our last parent teacher conference of the year, with my little 8-year-old sitting beside me, the teacher began ticking off one complaint after another. She pointed out every one of his failings with great emotion. And as she detailed each failing on her list, my son sat quietly by my side, swinging his legs and rolling his little dinosaur over and over between his fingers. He did stop and listen as she reported his state test scores but never spoke a word.

When she finally ran out of breath and stopped, I looked at her and quietly asked, “This is all of your feedback?”

“Yes,” she said, still visibly upset.

“Nothing good to say about my son?”

She looked surprised for a moment and then, with a tight jaw, said that no, there wasn’t.

“Not one good thing?” I pushed her again to reconsider.

“No,” she said. “You son is difficult. He doesn’t do his work like the other students. And he says things in class that challenge my authority. He questions what I say – right in front of the other kids. He argues with the facts I share in science. And he is the student. He should be learning from me. Your son is a problem.”

I ignored her and turned directly to face my son. I put my hand under his chin and lifted his head until his eyes met mine. I said, “Do not listen to her. You are not a problem. You are wonderful and unique, and you will one day do amazing things because of your special gifts. Do not listen to her.”

We walked out of the meeting, and my legs were shaking so much I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to the car before I broke down. I buckled my son into the back seat, climbed in our minivan and prepared myself for what I believed would likely be one of the most painful conversations I would have to endure – helping heal the wounds inflicted by his teacher’s words. I gently asked, “How do you feel about what your teacher said in there?”

“I was excited!,” he replied, much to my surprise. With a bit more prodding, he explained. “Did you hear what she said? I was at grade level in reading. Finally!”

It was in that moment that I realized my responsibility to my son. It would be my job to make sure that he learned the lessons life required of him, but that those lessons happened so that my son could embrace his own unique gifts to decide for himself what his contribution to this world might be.

My son is a teenager now. He’s already done some amazing things with his young life. He’s launched his first business. He helped his friend as she organized the first Teen Startup Weekend by teens for teens … the first in the world. He’s designed a plethora of mini games in Minecraft that his friends want to buy, and he’s created several of his own musical compositions. And yet his teachers, for the most part, continue to focus on the problems – his inability to conform to their specific process of turning in papers or his input in class which feels disrespectful or disruptive. One of his teachers recently sent an email asking about my son’s grip on reality – because the teacher just assumed that a child who still can’t spell a word the same way twice in one sentence – much less the correct way ever – could never  have the ability to launch a business at the age of 13 and must be bragging about things that didn’t really exist.

While I am all for teaching our children to respect authority, learn discipline and responsibility, I have also come to understand that it is so not my job to make my kid feel defective because he doesn’t fit in the right box. There are a long list of leaders across multiple industries who all rose to those heights in their careers by not fitting in a box, by not being the “easy kid in class”. While I won’t tolerate bad morals or bad behavior, I am completely over apologizing to anyone for my kid not being some bland version of himself so that he’s easier to manage.

When I stopped worrying whether someone else was comfortable around my kid or liked them, I discovered something pretty magical. I discovered I genuinely like my kid. Just as he is. So I’m pretty sure that I’m the one who’s ended up on the lucky end of parenting.

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Why We Must Change Our View of Who Belongs in Tech

I probably need to get a few things out of the way first:

I am creative – not artistic by a long shot, but most certainly far more creative than tech.
I love words – the nuance of emotion, the ability to convince, rally or even stir up simply by the choice of words.
I like to think big picture, to visualize the intricate web of interactions, choices, and steps required to get there.
I like people, and I like learning who they really are and what makes them tick.
I like to understand the motives behind a problem, because that’s where the interesting challenge lies.
I am passionate about leaving a positive mark in the world, about using talent to do good, to help others.
I have never seen myself as good at math.
Ask me to add two numbers in my head, and I freeze, my mind goes blank.
Ask me to estimate the bill of all the items in my shopping cart, including tax, and I can give you a fairly close ballpark without blinking.

photo-4This, if you got to know me, is just a tiny part of the fabric that makes up who I am, and it is precisely because I came into the world of tech through the back door, without the usual traits or talents that are suitable for technology-driven careers, that I am so passionate about helping to change who we, as a society, see as belonging to the tech world.

It matters who we, as a society, see as a good match for tech, because it affects not only how we see ourselves and how we talk to our children, but it brings diversity of backgrounds, talents and thinking styles to the problems we are solving via tech. When we make tech accessible – remove the steep learning curve and long list of prerequisites –  through tools that empower those on the edge of tech to dive in and get their hands dirty, to build stuff that matters, we change who is allowed to participate in the dialogue driving the entire industry.

Girls are often like me. They don’t see themselves as good at math, whether it’s true or not. For the women who do enter the world of tech, few reach the top levels of leadership. Far too often, instead of pushing against the system, women exit and find different ways to contribute that aren’t so emotionally draining and where the possibility of moving up the ladder is more attainable.

But it isn’t just girls. Many races and groups are under-represented as well. Because of limited access to tech and tech-oriented classes, children growing up in poverty-stricken areas enter the tech world at a far lower ratio than their peers.

This weekend, I, along with my amazing team at APPCityLife, are spending our weekend trying to change the perception of who is qualified to use tech and who is capable of helping solve problems through tech. It’s one small step, but it’s a powerful step in the right direction. We met several weeks ago with the team at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) tasked organizing this weekend’s Hack My Ride: VTA’s Transportation Idea Jam, a two-day event to generate ideas and solutions that can best improve the South Bay’s transit experience. I am proud that our company is a sponsor of the event, and that our participation will be in helping individuals who want to get hands-on with their solutions and who want to do so through our mobile platform. Up until now, we’ve used our platform only in-house. But if it is non-developer friendly enough for me, a non-techie, to build apps, then it just seemed like the right thing to do, the best next step for our company, to open our platform to others who might want to see their own ideas come to life, whether they had the right technical training or not.

imageNow I am certainly not proposing that this one platform is the be-all, end-all solution for making tech more accessible to under-represented groups. But I do believe that if each of us who believe that what we’ve created can solve a piece of the puzzle, then by working together, we can create stepping stones for more and more individuals to participate hands-on in the world of tech and help change the solutions that are possible simply through the wider diversity of experience and talent of those sitting at the table.

As I said, I like to think big picture, but I also know it takes one tiny brush stroke at a time to get there. We start painting a new canvas this weekend, and I cannot wait to see the outcome.

 

 

APPCityLife Offering Mobile Platform at Hack My Ride: VTA’s Transportation Idea Jam

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Originally posted on What's APPening®:

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Check out our latest press release:

APPCityLife Offering Platform at Hack My Ride: VTA’s Transportation Idea Jam

APPCityLife is proud to announce the company is a technical sponsor of Hack My Ride: VTA’s Transportation Idea Jam taking place in San Jose, California, this weekend.
APPCityLife is a mobile tech company connecting people and cities through a non-developer mobile platform which delivers cross-platform mobile apps with real time analytics, open-data integration and mobile coupons.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (October 23, 2014)

APPCityLife, Inc., a mobile tech company based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a proud to be a sponsor of Hack My Ride: VTA’s Transportation Idea Jam. Details for the event are online at http://www.hackmyride.challengepost.com. The event will be held at  The Tech Museum of Innovation this weekend (October 25-26) and is hosted by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). Tickets are already sold out. Individuals…

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Four Reasons Every Entrepreneur Needs a Mastermind

It was while interviewing Dale Carnegie for a small newspaper that Napoleon Hill landed a writing gig in 1908 that changed not only his own future but created the concept of the mastermind which became a tool for success for generations to come. The reporter was asked by Carnegie to survey over 500 men – and a few women – many of whom were millionaires and were considered among the most successful individuals in the world. The task took Hill twenty years and culminated in a report that filled several volumes of work and outlined the commonalities of experience and process among those he’d surveyed in hopes of creating a path of success for future entrepreneurs to follow.

While Hill is credited with penning the first published concept of the mastermind, the practice of engaging with a tight circle of trusted advisors dates far before his definition to as early as the legendary Knights of the Round Table who advised King Arthur. And, in fact, many of the innovative ideas put into practice as part of the New Deal which many historians believe were responsible for stopping the downward spiral of the U.S. economy in the 1930’s were the result of the mastermind group which advised then-president Franklin D. Roosevelt.

123Over a century has passed since Hill described the role and value of the mastermind, and still today it is a very powerful tool for entrepreneurs. As part of our goal to empower women entrepreneurs and inspire them to think bigger, bolder and better, my cofounder of Hautepreneurs, Jessica Eaves Mathews and I established a mastermind for our group. We meet with a small number of fellow women entrepreneurs once a month, and I have learned first-hand the value of accessing trusted collective knowledge, experience and creative thinking.

Here is why every entrepreneur needs to be a part of a mastermind:

No Complacency Allowed

As the founder of a company, every day is filled with demands and needs coming fast and furious from a multitude of directions, including customers, employees, vendors, investors and beyond. It is easy to allow your time to be consumed with addressing issues as they arise and to not to push ourselves into new areas of growth – the very thing that must happen if we are to stay relevant and capture more of the market. Meeting with a group of peers who all live with the same level of demands means that you will likely get very little pity or license to go easy on yourself. Whether you are afraid to embrace the risk of growth, face the upheaval of firing an entrenched problem employee, or of forcing yourself to slow down to gain proper perspective, a mastermind group will push you beyond complacency and auto-pilot, challenging you to address problems, step up your game and lead with more authority and courage.

Safe to be Vulnerable

There is this scene in the movie You’ve Got Mail where a famous author comes rushing into the book store worried about the possible loss in business due to a new big-box book seller opening nearby that could mean the little store might be closed before her upcoming book signing. The accountant puts on a brave face and declares, “No difference!” despite it being patently untrue. As an entrepreneur, we quickly learn that it is imperative to put on a brave face, wear our courage with a smile, and push forward into the future with all confidence despite living dangerously close to the edge of failure. We often feel isolated and alone, because we can’t let our guard down and talk about the moments when we are terrified that perhaps all we’ve done is build an intricate house of cards that will come tumbling down at any moment. These are the moments of fear and self-doubt that only another entrepreneur can understand. When members of a mastermind are bound by a legal NDA (non-disclosure agreement), there is an incredible freedom that comes with that level of trust. We can talk about the fear, about how close we’re pushing to the edge, about the level of risk we’re living with. And what we discover is that we are far from alone – that every entrepreneur out there is living with more risk, more fear, more worry and less runway than anyone else might be willing for. And sometimes, in the shared experience of learning we are not alone in our fears or in our willingness to take calculated risks, we can begin to accept that our reality and our choices are not so crazy or stupid as they sometimes seem at three in the morning when we haven’t yet figured out how we’re going to meet the lofty goals we’ve set for ourselves and our company.

Access to Variety of Expertise

The best masterminds are organized with a similar level of success and drive but from varied backgrounds and industries. When you seek the advice of others within your industry, you can begin with a higher level shared knowledge that makes it easier for your peers to understand the nuances of your current challenge, but what it won’t get you is the fresh perspective that comes with entrepreneurs who work within a very different industry and approach your challenge from a unique history and experience. When you can tap into the varied experiences, expertise and talents of successful entrepreneurs in different industries, you’d be surprised at the creative approaches that are suggested that often solve your problem in a way you would have never thought of on your own.

Steel Sharpens Steel

For a mastermind group to deliver the most value for all of the members, it is vital that the group be of similar levels of success with similar goals for growth. If the group includes a mix of powerhouse, highly driven leaders and more casual business owners, the friction of values will eventually lead to all of the members feeling that the group is not delivering enough value for the time expended. The leaders will feel frustrated and those who are happy with less pressure will feel disrespected. When the group is created with careful consideration of pairing the level of goals and intensity of drive among the individuals within the group, and when it is kept small enough for each in attendance to have enough time to feel heard and supported, the members will leave with a clarity of focus that only comes from steel sharpening steel.

Being a part of a mastermind where I can bring the unique challenges I have encountered as our team grows APPCityLife into a global platform – and where I can draw from my own experience to shed new light on the challenges of my fellow members are facing – it has helped me understand the real value of making ourselves accountable, vulnerable and available to our peers. With the right kind of mastermind, entrepreneurs gain a level of support and safety that is rare within the startup world.


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Travis Kellerman: Watch New Mexico Rise

Travis Kellerman: Watch New Mexico Rise

 

Travis Kellerman, Cofounder / CEO Bandojo

A few weeks ago, I went to visit Travis Kellerman, an inspiring young entrepreneur who is pursuing several new interests including Bandojo, LLC, a startup making it fun to learn music through a blending of mobile tech, scientific research and creative play where he currently serves as Cofounder and CEO. As I climbed the steps to his front door, I recalled the early days of APPCityLife when our team frequently met either in my living room or around our dining room table. He opened the door and welcomed me in, and we chatted on our way to the upper floor that is converted into a large workspace. We spent about an hour chatting about his vision for his young company, the challenges he’s faced and the direction of a pivot that needed to happen. The hour went far too fast, as it often does when sharing the dream of an entrepreneur.

A product of rural New Mexico, Travis grew up in Silver City, New Mexico before pursuing a political degree at the University of New Mexico. For someone with most of his life still ahead of him, Travis has already built an impressive resume, initially deeply involved in the world of politics, including stints as Regional Director, Campaign Manager and Field Organizer for big name New Mexico politicians like Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich as well as Majority Liaison for the House Majority to the Senate –  before landing on the management team of a young startup innovating payment systems for restaurants called Lavu, Inc. He spent four years working for the startup, building distribution and reseller networks, operational structure and managing the company’s PR, social media and branding.

About a year before he left Lavu, Travis launched his first company serving as a consultant offering expertise in business and channel development, branding and marketing. Travis also recently joined the Board of Directors of the Coronado Ventures Forum, a New Mexico organization focused on education and networking opportunities for the entrepreneurial and investor communities in the state. Along with his involvement with Bandojo, Travis, like many entrepreneurs, has many passions and interests.

In March of 2014, Travis closed the chapter on his time at Lavu and began building the foundation of his own startup which launched a month later. Travis cofounded the company with Dr. Panaiotis, a talented musician, composer and educator who designed the software at the core of Bandojo’s musical application and website based on his research and experience. And in a city where talented software engineers and programmers are often hard to find, Travis has had little difficulty building an early team of developers – including local developer Andrew Stone, a successful entrepreneur and mobile app designer.

Having cut his “startup” teeth previously with a successful young team before launching into his own startup, Travis comes to the world of entrepreneurship with a deeper level of understanding and experience than many of his peers. Travis often avoids the limelight and would prefer attention and praise be focused elsewhere, and his quiet and unassuming demeanor make him very approachable and well-liked. But it would be a gross miscalculation to interpret his quietness as a lack of the passion required to build a startup. One has only to look at his fast rise to positions of leadership within the political arena at a very young age to understand that behind his gentle smile, there is a strength of purpose and a tenacity that will carry him past many of the roadblocks and difficulties that are almost always a part of growing startups from initial idea to the version which gains traction. Travis Kellerman is a shining example of why we will continue to Watch New Mexico Rise.

 


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Why We Must Help Bridge the Gap For Women In Tech

I remember you; you’re the one we used to bet when you’d fail.

The comment came from a former writer who, like me, had been a contributor for one of New Mexico’s most prestigious publications, The Albuquerque Tribune, a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper which closed its doors in 2008 – only a year before I made the shift from well-known local writer to founder of a tech corporation. And not founder of just any tech company – I launched APPCityLife as a company tasked with forging a path in the brand new industry of mobile.

March, 2010 - in San Francisco to attend MobileBeat 2010, where APPCityLife was named one of the 20 Hottest Startups. I was the only woman in the pitch contest - the first time I realized the immense gender gap I was facing.

March, 2010 – in San Francisco to attend MobileBeat 2010, where APPCityLife was named one of the 20 Hottest Startups. I was the only woman in the pitch contest – the first time I realized the immense gender gap I was facing.

While I may understand why he, like many other former colleagues, believed a quick demise was eminent for a woman taking the leap from writer to tech startup founder, the discovery that they actually took bets on how long it would take me to fail was a bit of a shock. For me, the decision wasn’t any bigger leap than the one I’d already taken from stay at home mom to writer. I haven’t ever waited to be qualified to do something that I wanted or needed to do – not ever. I applied for my first real job the same day the state of Ohio deemed me legally old enough to earn a paycheck – and I got hired from the first store I walked into despite having no previous experience in retail. At sixteen years old, I’d already been babysitting for six years and selling and delivering newspapers (sometimes two routes) for eight years. Yes, eight years. I started selling Grit Magazine door to door to earn extra money when most kids my age were busy playing kick ball or riding bikes. I wasn’t afraid of stretching skills or work, and that was the only qualification necessary to learn the rest that was needed.

Over the past five years as we’ve grown APPCityLife into the civic tech platform it is today, I’ve wondered how many other women would embrace tech if they believed it possible to do so. Tech is so much more than being a full-fledged developer, scientist or engineer, and one of our goals has been to empower individuals on the fringe of tech to not just join the community but change the conversation by being part of it.

The Civic Entrepreneur Bootcamp with 40% Women Participants

The Civic Entrepreneur Bootcamp with 40% Women Participants

We recently hosted our first Mobile App Bootcamp, opening up our platform to the public for the first time. I was overcome with emotion as I looked out across the room of participants and realized that almost half of the room were women. Many, like me, possessed passion, vision, and innovative ideas but hadn’t taken the path of formal education in a STEM degree. And in that moment I realized the true, equalizing power of what we’d spent five years building at APPCityLife – our blend of civic tech and user-friendly access is a gateway for women as well as other under-represented groups to not only embrace but become active, contributing participants in tech.

Our bootcamp is the beginning of a new initiative we are spearheading at APPCityLife – a push to bring access to our platform to individuals and groups all around the world who already have the creativity, ideas and passion to envision valuable solutions to civic challenges within their own community. In fact, our second event is already lined up, and we’ll be opening our platform to participants at a hackathon in Silicon Valley aimed at solving transportation challenges for the region. If all that is needed to is access to a user-friendly platform which bridges the current gap between the non-tech and highly skilled developers, we can make that happen, and that is so exciting to me.

Screenshot 2014-10-09 07.53.48News broke yesterday of Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen and Marc Andreessen donating $500,000 to Girls Who Code, Code2040 and Hack the Hood, all nonprofits focused on bringing new opportunities in tech to women and black and Latino people. And while I admit to being sensitive to the subject after being on the front lines for the past five years, I found it ironic that the top search results for articles about the Andreessen’s donation all focused on Marc, many failing to even mention his wife’s involvement. In fact, the first result to include her name was penned by a woman journalist.

APPCityLife Founder / CEO pitching at the Deal Stream Summit, one of three women to pitch among ten high potential tech startups in New Mexico.

APPCityLife Founder / CEO pitching at the Deal Stream Summit, one of three women to pitch among ten high potential tech startups in New Mexico.

Our team was one of ten companies invited to pitch on October 7, 2014, at the Deal Stream Summit which brought together investors from New Mexico and the region. When I pitched with the group last year, I was the only woman. This year, there were three women presenters – a significant increase. In fact, one woman pitched on stage after having less than 24 hours to polish her presentation after her business partner landed in the hospital with a heart attack. She represented well, especially given the limited time to prepare. But since the event, not one news story published to date has covered or even named a single woman who participated in the event, although one online piece did at least post a photo. And of the women investors present at the event – not a single one was mentioned or included either. Please know that this is not about women wanting special treatment or not celebrating the successes of male colleagues, I do. This is about voicing concern over the insidious gender bias that is still happening today, where the men are taken more seriously, given more credence by the press.

Some days it gets wearying to face the additional challenges it takes for a woman to make it in the world of tech, but on days when it feels like that to me, I pull out the photo of all of the women that attended our first bootcamp. I remind myself how lucky I am to have not only a supportive, proactive spouse and cofounder but two other male cofounders who have all put their faith in a woman CEO and are giving everything they have to help change the possibilities for other women and under-represented groups by building a platform which will deliver access to tech and help bridge the gap. It’s impossible to stay discouraged for long with that much support and when that kind of promise lies ahead. If all it takes is stretching skills, hard work, and the courage to not play by the rules of the boys’ club, whether we’re men or women – we can all do that.

Originally published in Huffington Post.


Saying Goodbye One Day at a Time

It’s an odd, thing, this process of grief. I was prepared to miss my father – and I have. Sometimes it’s a painful hole; others, it’s the quiet understanding that I am a little more alone in the world than I was when he was was here. But there are these odd moments when it still hits completely out of the blue, and the grief hits like a sledgehammer. The tears come without notice – and without the ability to stop them. I wasn’t really prepared for that.

I was recently on a crowded flight watching what is a light-hearted, fun story of a family in the eighties. It’s more about the laughs – and the bad fashion and hairstyles – than about anything of real depth. So it took me quite by surprise when a scene at the end of a recent episode caused me to burst into tears – while passengers nearby looked at me with a mixture of discomfort, annoyance and pity.

Maybe it was knowing that there isn’t a father there anymore to come rescue me. I don’t really know. There are days that the ache for what will never be again is a constant companion, and then there are times that I do ok – only to be surprised by how close to the surface the sorrow still is. All I know is that through it all, I am so grateful to have had a father worth grieving over his loss. That is the real gift in all of this – the understanding that his was a precious presence in my life, and his influence will carry on with me long after my last goodbye.

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