Just as the old adage about waiting ages for a bus only to have three turn up at once goes, I found myself in a similar situation this week with a number of interesting events taking place on the same day – all of which I would have loved to attend but found myself having to choose… Women 1st hosted one of their networking events at Fable Bar (a venue I’ve been dying to try out), Women Work ran a PIE workshop, Red Magazine ran a digital masterclass at the British Library Conference Centre, and we (the Sodexo team at UCL) hosted one in a series of cookery classes at UCL for the Vegetarian Society, a group I have been working with for the last few months.
I try to attend the Women 1st networking events as often as I can – the networking opportunity is fantastic, and there is always an interesting guest speaker. The events never fail to inject a bit of a buzz, especially if you need a bit of motivation, and I find myself challenged and inspired after attending these. The cookery lessons we run at UCL are similarly rewarding – we run a series of these sessions with volunteers from our chef brigade and it’s been fantastic getting to know the students and engaging with them around food, something both our team and the students are passionate about.
But as I mentioned, these were both taking place on the same evening, at the same time as each other and at the same time as the event I finally did decide to attend – Red’s digital masterclass. I read about the digital masterclass – How To Build Your Digital Confidence – a few months back and immediately signed up. My current role involves extensive use of digital and social media so this workshop was both pertinent and timely, given that this time a year ago I’d never actually used an iPad, wasn’t on Instagram, had a dormant Twitter account (having tweeted possibly just once, ever) and was still using an old mobile phone which was so long out of contract it could barely serve as a telephone, let alone an efficient social media device.
Fast forward a year, and not only am I actively running my own social media accounts, but I look after all the social media for the Sodexo outlets at University College London (under the Food Federation banner). I also write this blog, of course, and during working hours, am rarely seen without two mobile phones and my trusty tablet. How things can change in a year! I’m certainly way ahead of where I was – digitally speaking – but the landscape of digital and social media is vast and I still have plenty to learn. So the digital masterclass seemed a fantastic place to start.
It took the format of a Q&A session with 3 inspiring women who all use digital and social media very differently but – crucially – very effectively. Janvi Patel, founder of Halebury, a law firm that operates solely on flexible working hours, spoke about how she used digital media to build an organisation fit for this generation, one which allows her to divide her time between London and Los Angeles and still run a company remotely while raising three children.
Ella Woodward – aka DeliciouslyElla – is a blogging sensation whose nutritious recipes have led to two million hits a month, as well as an app and most recently a recipe book, which hits UK bookshelves this month. She gave some great insight into how she has used different social media on her journey, admitting that she wasn’t “tech savvy in any shape or form” when she first started out. She is clearly passionate about what she does, and says the key to her success has been to express her personality authentically, and to interact and engage with her followers.
The final panellist was Anne-Marie Imafidon, founder of Stemettes, an initiative to inspire girls to enter the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). Anne-Marie has an incredible background which includes holding the world record for the youngest girl ever to pass A-level computing (aged 11), passing Maths and ICT GCSEs aged just ten, and being one of the youngest to be awarded a Masters’ degree in Maths and Computer Science by Oxford University, aged 20 (aimafidon.com/about/). She spoke about Stemettes and about how it uses different social media for different audiences, and gave some fantastic tips on keeping our own social media feeds interesting as well as how and where to learn more about social media tools.
It was a thought-provoking discussion and of course I now follow them keenly having heard their individual stories.
Luckily, the PIE workshop took place earlier that afternoon, and had been condensed into an hour session, so I was able to attend that as well. It ran as a webex but as One Southampton Row is walking distance from UCL I joined the group there, a good way to get out for a walk and get some fresh air, and also to meet some of my Sodexo colleagues who I hadn’t met before.
As far as pies are concerned, I’m usually first in line, but this was not the pastry sort (though far more beneficial and significantly lower in calories). PIE stands for performance, image and exposure and is a personal branding model which focuses on the balance of these three elements, and how they contribute to professional growth and the brand called You. The session took us through the various elements of the model, how they relate to each other, and also that they don’t necessary lead to success in isolation; even if you have a fantastic image and exposure, if you don’t perform excellently – consistently – the rest doesn’t mean as much as it has the potential to. There are still a number of sessions planned in the coming months, and I urge you to register via the Women Work page and to dial in or, if circumstances allow, join the delegates at One Southampton Row. It has definitely made me ask questions about my own personal brand, and I’ve been working on my elevator talk ever since!
Although they were somewhat different events, I came away from each with the same message – be authentic, and be consistent. Whether it’s your brand or your blog, your image or your Instagram, trying to be or portray something you’re not will wear thin eventually. This message isn’t new by any stretch (see my post about last year’s Women Work conference where the underlying theme was much the same) but it’s interesting that despite the proliferation of social media, people still buy into people and still want to connect on a one-to-one basis.
So while I didn’t get the chance to hear about New Year Networking at the Women 1st event, or taste any of the UCL students’ vegetable biryani, I have taken on board so much new information from the two events I did attend that it will all take a while to digest.
But since when is so much freely dispensed information a bad thing? I urge all of you to open your eyes and ears to the vast array of opportunities around you. I was lucky that both my events were walking distance from where I work, so they were easily physically accessible. I know that’s not always the case, but if I learnt one thing from that hectic day it is that digital media has opened so much possibility that distance certainly isn’t the barrier it once was (spoken like a true digital media convert!)