My recent TEDx Talk at TEDx Villa Campestre, in Barranquilla (Colombia).
Video where the president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, talks about my journey at BABSON, as one of the top colombian students sponsored by COLFUTURO to advance grad studies abroad.
Thanks Mr. President. Honored to see that you considered me to be a case to show among the 7.000 + colombian students supported by COLFUTURO.
Yesterday I delivered a thought provoking session on "women in the workplace" to the National Committee of AIESEC en Colombia - great discussion, nothing to envy to MBA level discussions we have had covering the topic!
It is amazing how small acts make a difference. When I was the age these guys are (19 - 23) I never had a serious thought about gender in the workplace and IN LIFE. More than managers, these guys will be spouses and parents and I was inspired to see how much they start to figure out what stand they want to take to make our society a more fair one for women and men. We talked about the evolution of the role of gender in society, revised key stats about gender workforce participation, deconstructed what feminism (including post feminism!) means and last but not least revised few strategies on how to build households and companies that value diversity and allow EVERY HUMAN being to develop its very own potential and dreams, regardless of gender.
I just can say .... giving back with intention rules!
Can´t wait to see you guys being a case on how to deal with the "problem with no name".
By Oriana Torres
If there is something that women can benchmark from men, is how –consciously and mainly unconsciously- they build effective support networks around them. Recently, while interviewing Babson College new President Kerry Healey around key advice for young leaders she could not emphasize enough on the importance for women to build a support network, defined as a unique group of diverse, loyal and enthusiastic individuals that are not only genuinely willing to invest in your success, that are vested in it and that cheer for you while you get it.
While the concept of network might sound overrated and there are infinite sources of information of what a network is and how to build one, this article is all about breaking mental models and inviting women to evaluate their network. Breaking mental models is all about rebooting the idea women self-sufficiency makes us heroes. Evaluating our networks is about recognizing that while many women might already have apparent core networks in our lives, its composition and motivation might not be ideal.
The ideal support network: ask yourself these 3 questions first!
The 3-question Test
Networks are sets of relationships critical to your ability to get things done, get ahead and develop personally and professionally (Ibarra, 1996). While the definition is very precise and assertive, I would like to “spice it up” with 3 key elements that might be taken for granted when it comes to building a network.
We all have families, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances … but does that automatically make them an ideal network to support our development as women, at home and in the workplace? I invite you to reflect on your own current networks and think about how they rate in the light of these three features.
Question 1 - Are they available to invest in your success?
To have people with a true desire to invest in your success is the building block for network building. People that have the readiness to support you succeed as a woman, must not only believe in your dreams and plans but they should have the availability (time, financial resources, other) and conditions (skills, abilities, attitudes) to help you make them happen. As a personal example, I have absolutely no doubt that my two sisters would do anything to see me succeed. But one of them lives miles away in Europe and the other one is autistic and for obvious reasons can’t support me in certain things. And yes, we are talking about extremely practical things here as picking up my child from school or cook a meal, while I am on a heavy workday in a particular season. This might be an extreme example, but it serves very well to illustrate the point.
Question 2 - Are they vested in your success?
Having someone willing and available to help you succeed (as we saw in the past question) does not imply that they are “vested in your success”. To have a vested interest is “to have a strong reason for wanting something to happen because you will gain from it”. While I do not mean to suggest that relationships should be transactional, the notion of vested interest makes willingness to support more sustainable. A professional sponsor or entrepreneurial mentor might be vested in your success: if you do succeed, she/he and industry, company or cause you both fight for might be better of. Another, and in my opinion the most important example is of course your spouse or partner: if you succeed (under the assumption that you both share what success means), your overall relationship, family and household will become stronger. As Sheryl Sandberg said, “the most important career decision a woman can take is deciding who to marry”.
Question 3 - Will they cheer for you while you get it?
On a day-to-day basis, energy is what keeps us going. If someone is helping you, his/her own satisfaction while doing so should exude. Cheering for you means being there just to listen, to give you constructive feedback, or to simply tell you “I am proud of you” or “Keep going” when it is most needed. You do not need robots that just get tasks done inside your network. You do not need people that despite being available and even vested in your success can’t relate to you and can’t have the level of enthusiasm to celebrate you.
Rejuvenating your network
When applying the 3-question Test for the ideal support network there is no wonder that family and mentors generally meet all three criteria. Sometimes however, we might be surprised that people in our core network just meet one or two of the three criteria. What is certain, however, is that there is nothing wrong if your network seems unbalanced right now, as long as you are aware of it and you start working on it. For this, you can use some on these quick strategies to start rejuvenating your network:
- “Talk to them”: Explore why some relationships appear so unbalanced. Do they really understand and accept your own definition of success? Are they supporting me out of generic responsibility or politeness, or do they really see this as a “win-win” relationship? If answers are not apparent to you, dare to have these difficult conversations and get to the root of the issues.
- “Use the 3-question filter actively to engage with new people”: You meet people daily and time helps you develop a relationship with them. Ask yourself the 3 questions actively and welcome people that can add value to you. Remember network members come in different shapes. In intermediate cities in Latin America, for instance, neighbors are key network members, so give yourself permission to see beyond the family, co-workers and friends circle.
- “Let people go”: There might be individuals that after deep conscious analysis, you realize were never meant to play certain roles in your life and it’s healthy to let them go. That does not mean you finish or truncate your relationships, but you might now locate them in a completely different place when it comes to supporting your path as a woman to success.
Vulnerability is power
Vulnerability is power. Many women, especially those of us of the “You can have it all” mentality, still can have the misconception that we can achieve “professional-personal balance” alone, by multiplying or cloning ourselves. Men have created for generations an ecosystem around them to advance in careers (being us women as partners and mothers their principal network members!) and now as women is our turn to move from only from being only “supporters” to be the “supported ones”. As the African proverb says, “it takes a village to raise a child”, same way, it takes a village for a woman to make his way into her own definition of success. And this village is your core network. Pick it wisely.
Spring 2013 - Women's Entrepreneurship and Leadership Class at Babson MBA
Today, we had two wonderful Entrepreneurs in Residence of Babson, Sharon Kan and Gail Simmons, who visited a very unique elective class that we have at BABSON called Women's Entrepreneurship and Leadership, taught by Professor Candy Brush. I can just say that this has been one of my favorite classes at Babson and one of the reasons have been all the women we have had as panelists around different topcis in nearly every class this spring.
For those who know me, I am a "quotes" person, so here are few of the amazing thoughts I captured this afternoon from these inspiring women. I know they might not make much sense with out the context of the conversation we were having in class, yet I thought you might still enjoy few of them them as muchas I did.
My top quotes from Sharon
- [Answering to the question: what did you want to be when you were younger?] "A king (yes, not a queen!!)"
- "I always wanted to be with the boys"
- "Accidentally I ended up in the right place"
- "I usually do what I am not supposed to do"
- "For women is hard to say NO, but it seems to be harder to get a NO"
- "Do you remember a time when your mother has shared one of her NO's with you? This is where all starts"
- "If I saved people's lives, I can handle a No" (referring to her experience in the Israel air force)
- "What does it mean/imply when men 'go for drinks'? When we women talk to a man, seems like we have to 'pitch'"
- "If you do not take the responsibility to make a change, it's not going to happen"
- "The generation of our parents is all about job security. On the other hand I have created jobs for myself, that is what I have been doing all this time. The opportunity for me is to create the job I am looking for"
- "Aim for big, it takes the same effort than aiming for small"
- "Your most important professional decision is who you will marry"
- [Answering how to understand/deconstruct legacy] "Legacy is about credibility"
My top quotes from Gail
- [Answering to the question: what did you want to be when you were younger?] "I wanted to be a dental hygienist. When my mother asked why a dental hygienist. and not a dentist, I answered 'dentists are men, dental hygienists are always women!'"
- "Where do you see yourself in years? I hate that question. And that does not mean that I am not organized, but I know that it's all about dealing with uncertainty."
- [Answering how to understand/deconstruct legacy] "Legacy is about integrity"
About Sharon Kan
Sharon Kan is an entrepreneur and a seasoned operational executive. Sharon was a co-founder of Tikatok.com, which was acquired by B&N in 2009. Tikatok was the fourth startup company that Sharon built from its foundation with a group from MIT University. Before Sharon co-founded Tikatok she was CEO of Zoomix, a data management solution provider that was acquired by Microsoft in 2008. Prior, Sharon was President North America of c-Ark, a product lifecycle management company. c-Ark was acquired by SSA (now Infor). Prior to c-Ark, Ms. Kan spent 5 years with Demantra Inc., a leading global provider of supply chain management and established its activity in NA. Demantra was acquired by Oracle in 2006. Sharon is currently Entrepreneur in Residence at Babson College; a mentor at The MIT Venture Mentoring Service, formed to support entrepreneurial activity throughout MIT University.; and a member of the Advisory Board of Entrepreneurship at Simmons College School of Management. She has been a speaker at conferences and educational institutions on the subjects of entrepreneurship, innovation, core values and leadership. Sharon holds an Executive MBA from the University of Bradford in the UK, a BA degree in Business from the College of Management in Israel, and is a graduate of the French Culture program of the Sorbonne University in Paris, France. (Source: Babson Website)
About Gail Simmons
Gail Simmons is a trained culinary expert, food writer, and dynamic television personality. Since the show’s inception in 2006, she has lent her extensive expertise as a permanent judge on Bravo’s Emmy-winning series Top Chef. Now in its tenth successful season, Top Chef is rated the #1 food show on cable television. Gail is also host of Top Chef: Just Desserts, Bravo’s pastry-focused spin-off of the Top Chef franchise, which aired its second season in the fall of 2011. Gail joined Food & Wine in 2004 and directs special projects for the magazine, acting as liaison between the marketing and editorial teams on magazine events and chef-related initiatives, working closely with the country’s top culinary talent. During her tenure, she has been responsible for overseeing the annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, America’s premier culinary event. Prior to joining Food & Wine, Gail was the special events manager for Chef Daniel Boulud’s restaurant empire. Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Gail moved to New York City in 1999 to attend culinary school at what is now the Institute of Culinary Education. She then trained in the kitchens of legendary Le Cirque 2000 and groundbreaking Vong restaurants, and worked for esteemed food critic Jeffrey Steingarten at Vogue. Throughout her career, Gail has contributed to several cookbooks, including It Must’ve Been Something I Ate by Steingarten, Chef Daniel Boulud: Cooking in New York City and The New American Chef, by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page. Gail’s first book, her very own memoir titled Talking With My Mouth Full, was published by Hyperion in February 2012. In addition to her work on Top Chef, Gail makes frequent television appearances on TODAY on NBC, ABC’s Good Morning America, and Fox & Friends, among others. She has been featured in such publications as New Yorkmagazine, Travel + Leisure, GQ, People, TV Guide, US Weekly, Entertainment Weekly, Los Angeles Times, and was named the #1 Reality TV Judge in America by The New York Post. She also appears at the nation’s foremost culinary festivals, including the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, New York City Wine & Food Festival and many more. Gail can be seen in the online video series The Pantry Project on www.kitchendaily.com, where she teaches viewers new ways to cook with the staples, both familiar and unusual, in their kitchens. (Source: Babson Website)
Recently on a casual chat with Rene Rojas, Founder and CEO of HubBog, he shared with me one of the coolest analogies I’ve heard when it comes to entrepreneurship.
Rene and I, both passionate for education, were talking about the concept of “academy” for entrepreneurial context and how it differs from the traditional MBA/business education mental models. So, it was when he told me: “Supporting Entrepreneurs is like being an obstetrician, we are talking about a fragile human being hardly trying to come to life, in a process that is fairly delicate , unexpected and difficult. MBAs in the other hand are full of pediatricians, those who deal with the child when he’s expected to be stable and fit and now it's all about raising her/him healthily” (1)
As a soon-to-be MBA (even from Babson and its differential entrepreneurial approach) I could not agree more with the past point, to the extend that I added that some graduate programs or at least people I have come across, seem to be even “geriatricians”. However in a entrepreneurship movement that eery days leans more towards SCALE UPs (vs. Start Ups) and RAPID GROWTH, pediatricians will be nevertheless in high demand, specially those who hang out with lots of obstetricians.
While many of the greatest things I’ve seen in the entrepreneurial world have risen however from the magic zone of collaborations between obstetricians, pediatricians and geriatricians, such as …
- · Endeavor connecting adolescents (High Impact Ventures) with adult doctors (seasoned executives of Large Organizations and TOP consulting firms)
- · The IBM Emerging Opportunities Program, for Corporate Entrepreneurship
… I still think that everybody needs to be clear of where its natural space it.
The beauty of all this is not to play cool about being one or another; we need the three types of doctors for the economic system to function!
The real beauty is to understand where our expertise, talent and personal culture relies, as a manager or as a “mentor” (I am pretty scared to use the underestimated/misunderstood M word these days) and offer this expertise in the right context. Just because entrepreneurship is so cool these days, does not mean that you have the right skills set to support entrepreneurs or turn into one.
And thinking back in my own business education at Babson, I can truly say the Entrepreneurial Thought and Action DNA of our school is nothing else as an invitation to understand that in today's world, we'll be many times pushed to be obstetricians (weather we want it or not- "you never know when a pregnant woman in the middle of nowhere we need your help!"). That does not mean that every single person that leaves this school will be an obstetrician, but at least we all are aware that pivoting, and testing and dancing with ambiguity (even in the most stable organizations) is the "new forecasting".
(1) These might not be textual words, but you get the idea.
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Social Innovation ...
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Social Innovation ...
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Oriana Torres, MBA Student Babson College
December 20th, 2012
“ENTREPRENEURSHIP ECOSYSTEM? Another academic jargon- you might say. I wonder how many Entrepreneurs know the concept … and if they actually should know it from a technical perspective. Probably not. But what I wonder is, if Colombian Entrepreneurs are aware enough to NAVIGATE such ecosystem and make the most out of it – genuinely and strategically.”
Fist of all, I want to open making the disclaimer that I am not an entrepreneur, although, yes, I opened a restaurant in northern Bogota (Colombia) as a side business back in 2010. The business failed and the reasons why it failed are crystal-clear to me today. I guess this is a “fashionable” thing to share nowadays that our culture finally starts to understand that failure is inherent to innovation and entrepreneurship. But this post is neither about my “low-growth” previous entrepreneurial try, nor about me. This post is about all those privileged, real, High Impact Entrepreneurs out there. And even if I just stated that I am not an Entrepreneur, I have spent lots of time around them to the point that I am more than confident to write the following thoughts.
It’s a good moment to be an Entrepreneur in Colombia, specially if you are a Dynamic, High-Growth, High Impact one – “label” it however you want: it’s a good moment to be a visionary leader, who identifies an uncontested market space, captures the extraordinary value around it and makes sure such endeavor GROWS healthy and sustainably. And it’s a good moment because since couple of years things are changing and a solid ENTREPRENEURSHIP ECOSYSTEM seems to be emerging in our country.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP ECOSYSTEM? Another academic jargon, might you say. I wonder how many Entrepreneurs know the concept … and if they actually should know it from a technical perspective. Probably not. But what I wonder is, if Colombian Entrepreneurs are aware enough to NAVIGATE such ecosystem and make the most out of it – genuinely and strategically.
When it comes to entrepreneurship, I was born and raised by Endeavor. Great parents, I must say. Right now I’m entering the adulthood thanks to the Babson Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Project and Babson College where I am doing my MBA (which included a summer sabbatical at iNNpulsa Colombia, the National Agency for Innovation and Dynamic Entrepreneurship in Colombia). And because I have been a lucky apprentice around those who are trying to figure out how to stimulate a strong entrepreneurship ecosystem for Colombia, I would like to offer you Entrepreneurs some advice on the role that you are encouraged to play in such a booming ecosystem.
Make sure you understand YOU are the center of the model
All the institutions and policies around the topic of entrepreneurship exist for a reason: to make sure more and better High Growth Entrepreneurs scale to a point where - apart from fulfilling their personal dreams - the entrepreneur’s companies move the needle of the economy in terms of economic capital (jobs, contribution to GDP), intellectual capital (innovative solutions, patents), cultural capital (powerful narratives, role modeling), among many other societal benefits. So, YOU, Mrs/Mr Entrepreneur, please remember that you are the end consumer, the ultimate beneficiary of the system. Live your role. Claim your place. Often I see Entrepreneurs rather “intimidated” by the organizations that support entrepreneurship, scared of knocking doors or full of paradigms about how those catalyzing institutions work. Rescuing an amazing quote from Wences Casares, an Endeavor Global Entrepreneur, he said that “Theory is when nothing works & we know exactly why, practice is when everything works & we have no clue why”. You Entrepreneurs are the practice, you are the living proof of what works and what doesn’t, and while the best thought leaders in the ecosystem have been entrepreneurs and/or investors, is it you, Mrs/Mr Entrepreneur, who needs to expose yourself to the system so that it always remembers why it was established in first place. Don’t be concerned about “fitting” in a movement that is precisely meant to understand and catalyze you.
Differentiate the “great” from the “not that great”
An ecosystem is an emerging structure, no matter how oxymoronic it sounds when we say that “we are working to build it”. It’s a living process where at times it’s very hard to answer the question weather if policy, programs or access to capital precede the existence of great entrepreneurs or viceversa. But the point that I try to make is that, because it’s an emerging system there are not “gates” to it and it’s hard to control who is in there and therefore, as an Entrepreneur you will be likely to find “great” and “not that great” actors out there. Use your criteria and be wise. Not every program will be well thought. Not every “mentor” will act as a real a mentor. Not every capital offer will be “smart” for your business. And this advice is particularly relevant since some of the programs out there are extremely attractive because they are easily attainable or “free”, to the point that entrepreneurs feel tempted to just participate in whatever they find as a manifestation of the well known “FOMO” (Fear of Missing Out). Set your priorities, look for strategic fits and be selective in terms of whom you work with.
Good things come with a price, so do the homework
Often I meet entrepreneurs that just do not want to do the homework. As H. Roark once said, "to get things done, you must love the doing, not the secondary consequences". Even if institutions in the ecosystem are doing a great job marketing who they are and how they operate (and in my opinion few of them even “babysit” entrepreneurs!) you must put in the hours to do what it takes to benefit from the system. And this goes from basic things such as following the relevant social media channels of institutions to be informed of opportunities, over doing quality applications that really do reflect the reality and plans of your company, over networking to make sure you really understand what the ecosystem as a whole has to offer. You, Entrepreneurs, are thousands and the leading organizations are probably only tens, so there must be standard procedures in place for these organizations to interact with you and you need, if applicable, to commit to those. It is understandable that an Entrepreneur’s main responsibility is to “take care of her/his company” and that time is the one of the scarcest resources, that’s why the key is to a align with those organizations and programs that really fall into your own agenda, so that they become leverage points, rather than “extra random tasks” in your TO DO list. Be organized and proactive.
Help the ecosystem institutions be better
Here is the catch: Because our country is in diapers in terms of an entrepreneurship ecosystem, many of the institutions that foster entrepreneurship are also start-ups and scale-ups themselves. They might be under the umbrella of strong global brands or even under the government, but things are being “professionally figured out as they happen”, these institutions are pivoting too! That means that YOU, as the end consumer, play a key role offering candid feedback though formal and informal channels to those organizations on how to SERVE YOU better. It’s very easy to criticize when we are upset about the content of an event, or about the requirements or outcome of an application process, but it adds more value for all to come back and express what should -in your opinion- be different. Dare to do that, it’s one of the most important roles you can play.
Something that I admire particularly from the Entrepreneurs of Endeavor is their fierce commitment to “Give Back”. For them, giving back means belonging to a network where they play a role of a “member” rather than the sole role of a “receiver”, despite their clear condition of benefiter. Giving Back in a genuine attitude and manifests itself in many forms and moments. Here is an example. Few months back I was collecting data from entrepreneurs (applying a survey) that was very relevant for a research I was running for iNNpulsa Colombia: the few entrepreneurs that took 15 minutes of their time to answer my questions were giving back to the ecosystem. Yes, surveys are boring, but do you see the bigger picture of what could be accomplished by that and how this can benefit all of us? Giving Back could also be something way more rewarding such as mentoring/investing in a younger entrepreneur, or doing a public presentation telling your Entrepreneurial story to society. Don’t underestimate the power of your narratives, they might well be the only real driver of change an ecosystem has. At this point my message does not go towards what specifically to do to give back (this can be an interesting whole new reflection), but towards the importance of seeing your “residence” in a particular entrepreneurial ecosystem as a two-way process.
One of the things I loved about the last visit of iNNpulsa Colombia to the President of Colombia Juan ManuelSantos was the fact that they brought along Entrepreneurs, whose stories were actually in the spotlight of the meeting. To me, that sent a strong message, which is the same message I felt like passing through this post. You, Entrepreneurs, are the reason for this entire boom. This is about YOU, not about we, that talk about it.
If there is a moment to become and High Growth Entrepreneur in Colombia, it’s now. Dance with the ecosystem, be bold!
Disclaimer: Opinions presented are my own and do not represent the organizations that are named in this article.