Why I Give My Time is a new series that explores how and why people dedicate themselves to the growth of others.
Why do you give your time?
I think it’s absolutely important to help people up the ladder—the very image of pulling the ladder up behind you feels wrong and is wrong. We didn’t get where we are without the help of others, so it’s incumbent on us to pay it back.
Whether they’re much younger than me, or my peers, or those who have a lot more experience than me, I think that’s the best way to continuously improve as a person. At the end of the day, surely that’s what we should all want?
What influenced you to begin championing women in tech?
There are so many statistics that prove how women are disadvantaged in the technology world especially. Whether it’s on the investment side (historically, less than 15 per cent of angel investors are women in the U.S.) or the hiring side (less than 25 per cent of the members of corporate boards are women in the UK), people tend to invest in and hire people that look like them.
If it’s mostly white males, then that’s the kind of person you’ll tend to see around a company. That needs to change—the simplest argument is that diverse teams make better business decisions. One of the easiest ways to do this is by letting women in on the career opportunities that often pass them by.
Plus, I never tire of quoting Madeline Albright: “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
Tell me about a recent experience when you gave your time. Why was it important?
I contributed my time to an e-book I wrote with Kavi Guppta earlier this year. It was a project born out of our combined interest in technology, business, and creative ideas that are changing the world. But, significantly they aren’t ideas from the UK or the U.S. where a lot of media coverage already happens. That project was the result of an email conversation with Kavi about a newsletter I write called Other Valleys.
It was an important project because it helped me give a proper voice to thoughts that had been simmering in my mind for a while instead of just sitting on them. The icing on the cake was the fact that we raised funds to help relief efforts in Nepal following the earthquakes earlier this year.
How do you decide where to dedicate your time? What do you look for, and what questions do you ask others or yourself?
I need to be passionate about the things I dedicate my time to, and I have to strongly believe in the cause. Otherwise, my interest just won’t last and both parties will be losers. Supporting women in technology (Ada’s List and Angel Academe are both examples of this), exploring ideas in emerging markets (through Other Valleys) and my love for visual art and photography (I’m a board member at the non-profit Photoworks) are where most of my time outside of work goes at the moment.
From others, I ask or try to assess how focused they’re on the projects that they’d like my help with. Have they thought things through rationally? Do they have enough motivation to move ahead with their vision? Are they passionate about making a change in the world themselves? I often find my enthusiasm feeds off other people’s enthusiasm, so that’s something I look for, too.
Who has given you their time, and what did you learn from that experience?
A lot of people have given me their time and I will be eternally grateful. I particularly appreciate the time that PHD’s Chief Brand Development Officer Hugh Cameron has for me. Every meeting is an opportunity for me to think things through.
It’s a simple thing but doing that with someone else is immensely valuable.
If you know someone who you think should be featured please tweet Kristen on Twitter: @kmarano.