Networking – Don’t be Cold and Calculating

Came across a great quote the other day.

I’m not going to change the way I look or the way I feel to conform to anything. I’ve always been a freak. So I’ve been a freak all my life and I have to live with that, you know. I’m one of those people.
John Lennon

You can be “normal” and like everyone else. Merge and become one with everyone else so no ever loves you or hates your guts or talks about you or … you can do all the crazy things that your heart tells you are right and be FREAKINTASTIC. Let haters hate. Just means you are a strong enough personality to get to them. The lives you touch and the one genuine smile you bring to someone is the war more than half won.

Having said that …

My friends from GIST just completed their 2 week dream trip to the US where they went to Silicon Valley among other places. I was green like anything but at the same time am immensely proud of each and everyone of them. They worked incredibly hard and deserved to be there.

Speaking of Gist, my friends tell me the person who most benefited from GIST was me. I won’t say I benefited more than others but I did better than some. People attribute it to my “networking” skills. Not true. Networking is great but it needs to come with honesty and sincerity. A genuine interest in the other human being. While others network, I make friends.

Let me give you example from GIST …

At Abu Dhabi during the semi-finals we were asked to randomly pitch to a bunch of people around the room. While most were drawn to names from Google and Etisalat I went up to whoever was free at the mo. The young 20+ girl standing in a corner was my first choice. Not a big businesswoman … not at all. She was working on her startup. But more than giving her my pitch we just stood there and chatted about the challenges of running startups. I told her if she needed any help I was happy to assist since I had worked with several startups. After the trip, she wrote. She became my first client from the UAE.

I went around the 50+ startups in the hall (GIST + MITEF-PAN ARAB) and just spoke to them about what they were doing. Recorded short videos of everyone on GIST. In Dubai, for the finals, met co-founder of one of the Malaysian startups whom I had recorded. We had GREAT fun chatting, joking, sharing knowledge, exploring Dubai. He became my first client from Malaysia.

The shy young boy from Malaysia with a killer app for social media mapping and that I had great fun chatting with sent me another client from Malaysia. She runs one of the hottest startups in Malaysia and is coveted by Silicon Valley. (Did I say “Malaysia” enough times there?)

Yeah … none of these clients came to me coz I was looking for them. I wasn’t trying to impress and get them to give WDL business. They were just friends or people that I found interesting to chat with. It was these people that put their trust in WDL enough to not only work directly with me but also refer WDL to others.

I was sitting with Scott Gillespie, leader of the Jigsaw Group, which is a startup accelerator program. He is also a VC but above all he is just a great guy with a wonderful sense of humor. At lunch one day someone asked him, “Oh, you are a VC. You never said so”. And he replied, “Yes, ‘coz I am a human being too”. 🙂 Those 2-3 days I met him, never once did either of us broach the subject of capital. We chatted about running a social enterprise, how he was involved with one called Yacht Aid Global, stories from his life and it was all fascinating.

Bottom line …

cold, hard, calculated networking never works. You can always tell when someone is after something. When you open up and take the other person as a human being with a life and challenges of her own (or his own) that’s when you make “relationships. And relationships are the real takeaway of life itself and not just business mixers.

OK BYeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee


Helping women in Pakistan

Helping women in Pakistan.

Women’s Digital League made headlines on She Says, a global network for women providing free mentorship and networking event to women in business. Click on the link to read more.

Happy reading.

OK BYEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Power of Networking

Networking is very important. Don’t let ’em tell you otherwise. At times, knowing the right people and connecting with them can make a huge difference in making your startup take off. I didn’t have a clue what networking meant until this spring during Project Artemis and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Program. The professors and management team kept telling us to perfect our 30-seconds commercials or what is also called an Elevator Pitch. The idea is to summarize what you do, why you do it and how you do it in such a way that it acts as a hook – something so exciting and interesting that the person gets hooked onto it and wants to hear more. For example, my elevator pitch went like this:

Hi! My name is Maria Umar. I am the Founder and President of Women’s Digital league which is a virtual shop providing digital services such as data entry, content writing, transcribing and email plus calendar management etc to clients. The entire team comprises of educated, skilled Pakistani women working from home.

So in just 30-seconds or the amount of time it takes for an elevator to cover two landings (unless it’s the elevator at the US State Department in which case it’d be 10 floors in 30 seconds) I told the person what I did, how I did it, and gave them an interesting concept for a startup … women from a country like Pakistan working from home on their computers earning a living.

So you swap business cards and if you’ve done a good job of it, you can be sure of getting an appointment to talk in detail about your venture.

People have been asking me why I went to a fashion event I attended recently. A friend sent me the passes and I was intrigued. But more than that, I saw it as a networking opportunity. I am helping manage the Hunza project now and we have big plans for it. I thought what would be a better opportunity to spread word then attending an event crawling with the media? So I went. And I am glad I did. For one, it was a new experience and was very entertaining. Secondly, I met a lot of interesting people, told them about my work and got some very positive response.

Another good way, besides attending networking events, is Facebook. You have no idea how many random people I have added to my friend’s list over the last 3 years … I only have a handful left now but it was worth it. These few people have been immensely helpful despite the fact they don’t know me at all. But they took the time to listen, to follow my activities, to answer my questions, and much more.

So ladies, keep your business cards on you at all times, don’t hesitate reaching out to a person you think might be a good connection, be genuine, take interest in the other person’s ‘story’ as well, offer help when you can, give people a chance …

OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee