Jun 24

Re: Women in Tech, Don’t Apologize, Just Recognize

Almost a year ago, a flurry of TechCrunch commenters repeatedly called me the “C word”, insisted that my brain somehow was incapable of quantitative tasks, and one even told me if I didn’t like my female body, I could euthanize myself legally in the state of Oregon. Awesome.

Today Katrina Tolentino put out a brave post about what it is like to network in the heavily male dominated industry that is tech. Basically, some men can be really crass and think they are clever, when actually they are just gross. I know Katrina. She is a good person and really shouldn’t have to put up with that crap.

The typical response to these situations is apologies. Men lament that other men could be so lame and hope that future generations will not have to face such absurdity. As someone who gets this stuff as much as anyone, I’m asking you, stop apologizing. Women are not the only victims here. We all are.

According to studies conducted by Columbia University, McKinsey & Co., Goldman Sachs, and Pepperdine University, research documents a clear relationship between women in senior management and corporate financial success. Ernst & Young rounded up studies that show that women can make the difference between economic success and failure in the developing world, between good and bad decision-making in the industrialized world, and between profit and loss in the corporate world. Their conclusion: American companies would do well with more senior women. Economists at Davos even speculated that the presence of more women on Wall Street might have averted the downturn.

Why? Some speculate that women tend to be more risk averse and instead think of steady, attainable longterm goals. Women also think more along the lines of collaboration rather than competition. This balances out some of the “one-upsmanship” and competitive nature seen in their male counterparts.

I’m outspoken, intelligent, and have worked hard my entire life. When I express myself at work, I’m not challenging you to make you look bad and I’m not just scheming to get ahead. I’m challenging you because I have a perspective you might not have considered that can actually help you. When men see women as victims, they fail to see what invaluable assets different perspectives can bring to any group. THIS is the attitude that needs to stop.

Don’t believe me? Ask Michael Arrington what Heather Harde has brought to TechCrunch, or Larry Page what Marissa Mayer means to Google. Ask Mark Zuckerberg what Sheryl Sandberg brings to Facebook. It’s great to think you can be Super Man, but you aren’t. We just do our best to make sure you don’t fall of a ledge thinking you can suddenly fly.

And the next time you say something crude to a woman at a happy hour, remember that one day, someone could wise up and hire that woman in a senior management position. She won’t be a piece of meat then–she’ll be your boss.

Jan 20

Mr. Shirky, Why Don’t You Act More Like a Woman?

I was a bit dismayed reading Clay Shirky’s A Rant About Women. It’s a long post, but in sum, he feels women do not advance because we aren’t willing to lie, cheat, and steal to get to the top. We don’t overinflate our abilities. And we need to because we have no role models to stick up for us.

Really? Should I want that? As a consumer, do you like dealing with people like that? Do you like bosses like that?

Would you rather this post be some self-fellating post about why I’m right and you are wrong, or would you rather just let my arguments speak for themselves?

I like that many women admit what they know and what they don’t know. I like that most whistle-blowers are women. My favorite co-workers tend to be women who can set aside ego for a mission. There are certainly men like this as well, and I dig them too. They get things done.

I’m not sure why you are going off on a rant about this. If you don’t think your male student deserves the glowing recommendation he has the gumption to ask of you, don’t give it to him. If you stop rewarding this behavior, your students stop behaving this way. It’s a pretty simple equation. By doing so, you will be protecting that student from going out in the real world and getting creamed by someone who will tear them to shreds for being all puff and no substance, or wreaking serious havoc on a company because of incompetence.

I don’t want to be a huge self-promoter. I want to impact positive change and find satisfaction in my work. I promote myself only in that it helps me achieve this. You can find my work here and here. It speaks for itself.

Maybe your rant should be about how people reward shameless self-promoters who tend to be men instead of people who would rather focus on doing a good job than lying, cheating and stealing our way to the top. It could be about how the promotion of self-promoters is dangerous and that we should stop it. You want a solution to your rant–do these solutions work well enough for you?

Love your work. Just trying to help.

Nov 30

Are People Just Fatigued of Your Brand?

Many “social media experts” will tell you to be everywhere. Leave comments on every post pertaining to your industry. Go to every meetup. Network with every professional. They tell you you can’t sleep to network and market yourself effectively.

I know people like this and I generally feel sad for them. I sleep quite well (ten hours if you let me), hang out with friends, and actually prefer going on vacation instead of every marketing or 2.0 conference imaginable so as to “brand” myself with this. Not only is networking everywhere pretty soul-sucking, being everywhere for anyone is actually dangerous for a brand. Now why is this?

It’s the same reason why actors should be choosy about the projects they are in. It’s the reason why Starbucks is now having to disguise itself as local chains to avoid public backlash. Scholars are calling this phenomenon “brand avoidance”. We see one face or one brand so frequently in too many places. I think the less technical, teenager-esque term for this is “trying too hard”.

Saying “no” to a speaking engagement, event, or networking event does not mean you’ll disappear into obscurity forever. On the contrary, it means that when you do show up, you’ll be more interesting because you’ll have had time to actually build things and/or learn. Being a “snob” of sorts will afford you the time you need to build a brand based on your merits, not just on your connections. People will also not get as sick of you as they are as they are of the five pound box of Honey Bunches of Oats that they bought from Costco four months ago.

Think of Apple. They go to absolutely no events, never leave comments on blogs, and yet people literally plan their days around their product launches. It’s not about being everywhere–it’s about being in the right places at the right times.

Aug 27

Marketing Campaigns that Spread Themselves

You know these people. They go to every social media conference. They write books on the subject and speak and get interviewed constantly about it. They network CONSTANTLY and rant about companies that don’t “get it”.

Guess what? They don’t get it because a bunch of people sitting around talking about social media is pretty lame. This is why I never have random tweetups unless there is an actual topic of conversation. It just makes life infinitely more interesting. I also like to promote things *gasp* outside of Twitter, and to people who wouldn’t even think to use such tools.

The cornerstone of every good social media campaign is a message. I am lucky to have learned this from Whurley, who was tweeting before you were knee-high to a grasshopper (well, not really, but he’s been on Twitter for a long time). If you are new to social media or just want a little inspiration, I suggest listening tothis podcast he’s in.

Marketing isn’t about meeting everyone and going to every conference and writing every book on a topic. It’s about sharing your voice and your message with others, and then hearing theirs. If done properly, even an old school TV advertisement can be something customers can embrace and actually champion. If you don’t have a brand or a message people want to share, you will be working a lot harder than you need to reach people.

Rather than go on and on about this for ages, I’m just going to show you three examples of brands that are easy to share:
1.) Hugh MacLeod’s “Microsoft Blue Monster”
Good branding turns into a tattoo
If you can’t tell, that is a tattoo of a cartoon Hugh did for Microsoft. Someone got a tattoo of a marketing campaign. I’ve heard of Apple tattoos as well. Now bear in mind that the first prerequisite to getting your brand tattooed on their ankle is to not suck as a company which is a bit out of marketing’s hands, but having a symbol that people can proudly share with others is key.

2.) Icanhazcheeseburger and the notorious lolcat
Tons of people can talk about building a community. Ben Huh and the gang at Pet Holdings Inc. just do it by uniting people around funny content. You know you have a happy community of users when someone gets this license plate:
This is when you know your brand rocks

3.) Amy’s Ice Cream
2009-01-10 13:44:12 -0600
I actually take pictures of their street signs and tweet them. I posted this pic to Flickr and it was viewed almost 300 times and favorited three times. It’s a tip jar. Rather than containing her employees, Amy lets them have fun with the place. They flip your ice cream like Tom Cruise in “Cocktail” and crack jokes. I know Amy’s Ice Cream is expensive for what it is but I don’t care. The experience, which in part includes the marketing, makes it a place you want to take your friends and family to.

A good brand is a thing of joy you give to someone so they can share with others. It says something people aren’t already hearing and fills a void.

Aug 20

Bowing Out of Twestival Local (Sorry, Folks)

I had a big evil plan put in place for Twestival. I had Stephen from SureFire Promotions plotting music with with the awesome people from Do512.com. I had Drupal developers EmpoweredBy who built a sweet fundraising leaderboard for me and a logo by Dieter Erik von Schramm. After some issues coordinating with non-profits and volunteers, I’m going to have to bow out of this Twestival.

Why would you do that, Michelle? You crushed our dreams.
1.) I had a blast coordinating the last one, but I do think it took it out of me and I wasn’t able to deliver to my clients. Supporting non-profits is a good thing, but so is delivering to your customers. So is making a ton of money so you can pay lots of taxes and generate jobs. If there is anything I want more in the world right now, it’s a client or a full-time gig that lets me do what I do best, which is leveraging the online space to take care of and empower customers so they remain forever loyal to a company. I am tired of good companies not making it and tired of seeing people being laid off. I have a good amount of experience in both hardware and software marketing, and believe this is the best place for my energies to go.

I also found that volunteers were a bit stressed as they had full-time gigs too.

2.) I was unable to hand this to a non-profit who could see it through. Apparently that is against the nature of Twestival. I do not understand this, as the biggest shareholder in a Twestival Local taking off is the non-profit itself. I would think they could make it the most successful.

3.) I found that the non-profits I pursued had their own events coordinated, so I did not want to detract from their efforts by contributing to “cause fatigue”. People only have a finite amount of time and energy. The more events we have, the less time we can spend working, supporting non-profits’ ongoing efforts, or just chilling out.

If you are bummed about this, I’ll gladly pass the torch and give you my blessing if I feel that you are doing it for the right reasons. I genuinely don’t care how big or small you make it, so long as you are doing it because you are compelled to make a difference.

May 18

Rock On, @Debutaunt! You Will Be Loved Forever

Not sure if you followed, but my sister, Debby Greer-Costello experienced a leukemia relapse and she suffered for six long months in a hospital bed.

Today, her spirit finally passed. I cannot tell you what a relief this is to know that such a beautiful person is no longer undergoing the pain and frustration that is cancer. Deb was such a fun and uplifting person. When you see such a fun person undergo such a taxing disease, it makes you question the justice in the universe. Seriously.

Although I am sad that I will never see my sister again, all is not lost. In my sister’s blog, she used to give people a mission to people everyday. If I know my sister at all, here are the missions she would give you now that she is gone:
1.) Take care of yourself. Whether you realize it or not, people really love you.
2.) Realize that every day is a gift and that every time you see someone, it could be the last. You will see that every person has worth.
3.) Look out for those who need your help the most. The hope you will give others is immeasurable.

I love you, Debster.
RIP Deborah Marie Greer-Costello
July 22, 1967-May 18, 2009
Steph and Deb Looking All Poor
Deb Feeding Little Me
Deb in Highschool
Deb with the Zo-ster

Jan 07

Seven Things You Probably Did Not Know About Me

Apparently Sara Dornsife, a partner of crime of mine here in Austin, feels either 1.) ridiculously compelled to pass along chain blog posts or 2.) thinks you should know more about me. I’m voting for #1 but humoring you anyway.

So here goes:

1.) I’m the youngest of seven kids. My parents were Catholic and apparently glutton for punishment. I have three sisters and three brothers. I like to think they stopped only when they finally got it right.

2.) My dad was in the Air Force, which meant my family moved around a lot. I’m surprised my parents didn’t completely forget one of us somewhere.

3.) While at Dell, I was notorious for a being on the other line of a man calling in to buy a computer so he could “look at porn”. I figured he could use a fair amount of RAM and a good processor as well as a nice monitor. The call was recorded and the managers all laughed while listening to it.

4.) In college, I was a bit of a hippie and bought my clothes at resale shops aside from underwear and socks. I soon gave up after writing a senior thesis on sweatshop labor and realizing that being a Nike laborer is a lot nicer than working all day in a rice paddy.

5.) I was interviewed by Ananda on MTV. The crowning achievement of my career.

6.) My boyfriend is from another country. Oooh, who is he?

7.) I love writing six real facts about me and one fake one and making you guess which one is a lie.

So now, so the blogosphere really gets to know each other, I’m passing this on. Hugh MacLeod, Cody Marx Bailey, Alex Jones, Ryan Joy, Ed Schipul, Giovanni Gallucci, and Mike Chapman, it’s your turn.

Nov 20

Watch Me Literally Kick Ass at Austin Social Media Club

Ha, I love writing ridiculous headlines to catch the attention of RSS subscribers. Just a note: every time you use “literally” when you are actually speaking figuratively, an angel loses its wings. Sorry, Clarence.

So PR Guru Kristine Gloria put together a panel aptly titled “Women Under 30 Kicking Ass in Social Media” and I am on this panel. For this honor, I must thank my parents for having me in 1979 vs 1978, in which case I would be too old to be able to speak here.

Although we haven’t prepared for this (one of the advantages of a “discussion” vs. a “speech”), I’ve collected some discussion points we could talk about. Social media 1.) facilitates action and 2.) is not merely a means to evangelize–it is a way to listen. I have concrete examples of how social media feel the pulse of a potential audience to better generate ideas. It also 3.) can create rifts between you and your employer, as it requires you to build a brand at a personal level rather than a larger one and 4.) can require you to further examine yourself, as private and public spheres become incredibly muddled.

And now for your viewing pleasure, the ultimate ass kicker, Kung Fu Jesus!

Random, yes. Funny? Definitely.

Nov 03

Remember When You Vote…

Every person has worth to all of us. Every person around the world:

May whoever is elected execute decisions with compassion, wisdom, and grace.

Oct 20

Using Your Talent for Good, Linearb Style

Lynn Bender at GeekAustin (aka @linearb to many other circles) is a phenomenal piano player. He heard about my sister Debby’s financial strife while trying to overcome graft-vs-host disease, and decided he’d like to play to help her raise some money to cover her expenses. Right now her health insurance is over $700 a month and she cannot work because she is too sick. She only collects disability right now. It is so difficult for her to overcome this disease which has killed many of her friends, so finances is the last thing she should really have to worry about.

If you appreciate Lynn’s awesome playing of the organ, please consider donating to my sister’s PayPal account. The link is at the bottom:

Take a look at my sister’s blog if you’d like to get to know the person you’d be helping. Please pass this around as well. On behalf of my sister and my family, thank you and God Bless!