Propelled by Community: Two Months in as Executive Director
I am nearly two months into the job here at PDXWIT, and it has been quite a delightful and action-packed ride so far! My first week on the job was straight up bonkers, and momentum has hardly slowed since. Day one consisted of working with Megan at her kitchen table, covering everything from event management to the entire history of the organization, only breaking for some delicious vegan corn dogs Megan found in her freezer. We were so heads-down in training, I didn’t realize that my face was plastered everywhere from LinkedIn to Portland Business Journal to the Oregonian, announcing my new post. Day two involved the following in this order: 1. Arriving so excited to work that I parked my car in an “official use only” spot without realizing it. 2. Discovering my car was towed. 3. Collecting my car from the impound lot and strategically changing into a dress in said car. 4. Heading to the TAO awards, where PDXWIT won the People’s Choice Award, and Megan accepting it like the boss that she is.
Here are the lessons I have learned in my first couple months on the job:
1. Our volunteers and sponsors are extraordinary but sustainability is key
Okay, I already knew this one coming in, but it has been incredible seeing all of our volunteers in action. I have had the opportunity to meet many members of the PDXWIT community, including the most dedicated (and busy!) team of volunteers I have ever seen. Our volunteers are truly amazing, and an integral part of our functioning, but I also have sustainability in mind. I want to ensure that we have the operational support to continue to cruise at the speed we are moving. Not sure what the support may look like exactly, but my wheels are turning!
In addition to connecting with our volunteers, I have been able to build relationships with many of our sponsors, and even have found some new ones! One of the sponsors I have been able to work closely with is Prosper Portland and I am excited to share that they, along with TechTown, have signed on to be our very first Platinum Sponsor! I am so grateful that they are willing to invest in PDXWIT at this level and provide us with the resources we need to be successful and sustainable in what we are offering to the community.
2. PDXWIT is a recognized community leader: it's time to amplify our message more broadly
One of the very first meetings I had on the job was with PDXWIT’s newly minted Board of Ambassadors, who are offering their time and influence within the industry to amplify the message of PDXWIT. They have already given us great ideas on recruiting more mentors for our mentorship program, creating relevant sponsor packages for larger companies, and ensuring we are tracking our efforts accordingly.
I have also had the opportunity to look closely at the data PDXWIT collected in this Spring’s State of the Community Survey. A tremendous amount of meaningful data came out of that survey, and we are eager to share it out with our community and the public. This data is a starting point for the work that lies ahead, and we plan to outline that work when we release the data to the public. Look out for that in the next couple months!
3. Our events rule—now it’s time to double down on representation
I have been able to attend some truly powerful PDXWIT events in my first couple of months. In May, Amanda Lopez from Ruby Receptionists put together an unforgettable panel of experts at our Women of Color in Tech event at InDinero. We also have had two terrific Happy Hours at Expensify and Simple. At the most recent one at Simple, lightning speaker Padmashree Koneti captivated the room as she gave tips on how to speak our minds with conviction. Our other lightning speaker, Molly Lebowitz, was able to wrangle the crowd of 250 into a partner exercise that taught us about the power of positivity. No easy feat!
Here’s the thing: we still have a long way to go when it comes to ensuring that our events are spaces for every woman and ally in Portland. Many of you have already come to me with feedback and ideas on how we can do better, and that has truly been the highlight of my time so far. These conversations are deeply powerful and grounding, and while I cannot promise to resolve this overnight, I want everyone in our community to know I take your perspectives and feedback very seriously. We have already implemented some changes when it comes to what we expect on the make-up of panelists at our events. I am looking forward to rolling out more strategies I have in mind, and many of these ideas have come directly from members of our community who have been willing to speak up. So please continue to reach out. Please continue to give our organization the opportunity to improve on what we are offering. We can’t do this without you.
Time to get back to work! Thanks to everyone in this community for welcoming me into the fold with such warmth. It’s so great to be here with you all.