Networking as a Woman (A Man’s Perspective)


By Larry Chiang (CEO, Duck9 & Stanford University EIR)

I see patterns. Pattern recognition is a critical skill set for VCs to master. The pattern I see is that networking as a tall Asian engineer with Supermodel looks is uber similar to how a female founder should network. We both can’t get to and meet contacts if there is a slew of people just monopolizing our time (because they want to bang us).

You see, I say the things that others won’t say (or write). I risk this because in my opinion, there are some insights I have that others do not. We as women need to play with the idea of…

-1- Networking in Rooms We Aren’t Invited Into

We as women need to learn this advanced technique of networking. Wedging into rooms we are not invited into is a time-honored tradition. Back-rooms don’t hand out golden invites. Men crash.

Mastering this is tough. I blogged about it under my guacamole recipe series for entrepreneurship at CNN.

Mastering the crash is difficult, but trying to do this is critical.

Remember if we can’t crash a room, how can we build a new company that disrupts an industry. How can we “crash” a new company or organization? Trying is critical.

-2- Women Need to PRACTICE Bossing Around Powerful Men.

I calculate that in order for more of us to be CEO, we need to boss around men. Powerful men.

Boys learn this at an early age. They learn this via sports. As captain of every baseball team I have been on, I bossed around my coach (1-6% of the time) and learned how to simultaneously be alpha, beta and gamma male.

The mentor mentee dynamic has a push pull dynamic. By ebbing between alpha, beta and gamma (and delta) we take moments to be momentary alphas especially when we have some certain expertise.

Let’s practice bossing around a powerful man. Text me @6502838008 something to do and I’ll do it.

-3- Learn From my Dog

Look happy to see someone and sniff out bullshit quickly.

I got mentored from a Shih Tzu. His name was Baxter and he helped me to give presentations, moderate panels and even crash board of director meetings. Anyway, he greeted people really well and he listened really well.

-4- Learn How to Work a Room

I wrote a book report at GigaOm about “How to Work a Room” by Susan Roane.

-5- Goal: One Best Friend Forever

Quality outflanks quantity all day long.

Seek to get just one person that you will remember at each event you go to.

For example, I will try to meet a person at an event and promote whatever they are promoting. Sure, I’d like more but I want to meet and remember one person and have that person remember me.

-6- Find and Locate your Balls

  • Everyone is shy.
  • Practice meet-n-greet.
  • Promotion, practice.

I will be your enforcer. Think of me as your virtual party crashing companion. I want to transition you from no balls to some balls.

-7- Promote a Friend’s Startup

As a female founder, you probably are perfecting a product. Don’t.

Get out of the ready, ready, aim, ready, aim, aim, ready pattern. Yes, women do this. Yes, supermodel men do this. Yes, minorities do this.

Instead, go promote a friends company or similar project. You can even promote a competitor.

For example, I’m CEO of Duck9. used to be a competitor back when we did peer-to-peer lending. I promoted ProsperAss. It was stripper to stripper lending.

Promoting a competitor exercises your promotion muscles. Promoting a competitor gives you market insights and let’s you pivot before you even launch or found a company.

Question: Larry Chiang, aren’t I breaking copyright? Or is this legal?
Answer: Hey, sign up for Yelp and do a review! I’m promoting Yelp.

I didn’t break any laws or infringe. If you wanna be uber safe, get them to email you permission. Or locate your balls and just sign 2-4 people up for your competitor on your laptop as you stand over them.

Question: Larry, what if people get confused about my confounding something I didn’t?
Answer: People do think that if you promote it, it’s yours. Get over the “imposter syndrome” and promote it.

The truth is that it’s yours only if you legally own it.

-8- Separate, Extend and Escape Someone Who Wants to Bang Us

We are at a work networking event to grow our network. I hate it when people look to want to hook up with us. I guess it’s a hazard and symptom of being hot.

When I am getting hot boxed by someone — I separate, extend and escape. I don’t wait for someone to save me. I don’t wait for someone to pull the ripcord for me. I escape.

Good phrases to use:

  • “I’m headed over there. Nice to meet”. I point and then walk.
  • “Excuse me. I have to take this text message”.
  • “Hold that thought. I have to wrangle someone into this event. He is lost and won’t ask directions”.
  • “I’m peeing”.
  • “My bladder is about to explode”. Turn, walk and leave.
  • “Look, you have a fabulous mind and I like your ideas. We can meet up or talk or do both, but know that we will never bang” is my personal fave.

INSIGHT: if you’re young, people are intimidated by your youth and recent attendance of college

If you’re not young or new to a field, read my next post :-)

Editor’s note: Got a question or answer for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.

About the guest blogger: Larry Chiang is CEO of Duck9. He scandalously uses his company’s credit card product to lead generate CS major founders by ‘selling’ a credit card that actually pays CS major undergrads called the “Larry Chiang” product. His fund is called “Larry Chiang Stanford G51 Fund of Stanford Founders”. He teaches ENGR 145 at Stanford as an EIR. Follow him on Twitter at @LarryChiang.

  • Guest

    Women (and men) are told constantly that in order to succeed, they have to act in a traditionally masculine manner. Be controlling, be bossy, “find and locate your balls” (ug). And yet when women do act this way, they are seen as bitchy, cold, commanding (in a bad way). I’m tired of seeing men give the advice of “Just be more like us! As soon as men forget you’re female, you can fit in with us.” and not understanding the complexities of the situation.

  • Larry Chiang

    I think you’re right Re improper use of phrase balls.

    Did you get zero value out of this article that took me five hours to write?? Have you missed out on networking events because you needed a more solid invite? What do you recommend in flexing women’s boss-muscle while balancing the complexity of the situation? I am interested in your path in all of this

  • Kimberly Dillon

    I thought this was great! I personally think the room crashing advice is critical. I recently pushed, nudged my way to pitch a top investor who was speaking at a conference. At the end of the day, people are already going to take notice of you inherently because you are a woman, or a 6ft Asian guy. You might as well own it, and go get what you want.

  • Bridget

    Screw it! Be bossy and find your ovaries (balls). So what if we’re called bitch and cold. I realized that if more women do this, it will eventually be the norm for women. I’m a bit put off by women who complain when they’re called aggressive or over-bearing. (believe me I complained too). But if you really really really want something you have to do whatever it takes. So what if some dude calls you bitchy? Do you really want to do biz with him? Move on. This article was totally valuable to me and I appreciate a male perspective on Women 2.0. Thanks, Larry!

  • Lisa C. Clark, MBA

    Hi Larry,

    As a marketing strategist, venture advisor and product designer recently returned to the Valley, I’m getting a huge chuckle out of your blog and would like to off that:

    #1 is a necessary constant.
    Ditto #2.
    #3, great example of the kernels.
    #4 takes dedication, decision and dexterity.
    #5 I agree with your focus on quality and depth.
    #6 is well expressed in Bridget’s outlook. From T100 experience, “aggressive” can be the highest compliment paid.
    #7 means your eyes are open, you’re scouting, you’re not afraid to recognize and put forward value and quality wherever it occurs.
    #8 include my first exposure to “hot boxed”, and it’s happened. A personal fav that always works is, “I’m hungry and headed to the buffet.”

    Perennially observing how differently men and women operate at events (especially if one of the objectives is funding).

  • Nicole Le Maire

    Larry – thank you for such a powerful article.
    I do not see anything wrong in what you have written – I think it is a generation difference though. I started working in a male environment, I stayed woman. However I became more powerful by being aggressive and ‘bitchy’ which was a compliment as I was able to deal men – actually men become protective of those they feel can handle them – to be honest the best status to have! Was a wonderful boss and they knew that I had their back.

    Look forward to your next article.

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  • Katerina


    Brilliant article. Thank you.
    Ladies, do you really think Meg Whitman, Hilary Clinton or “Iron Lady” got to the tops by being all the time a ‘woman’ and presenting their feminine side?? I do not think so at all.
    I am extremely shy by nature. I am very polite and considerate as well; but I am tired of it. Men in the room see me as this ‘cute young lady’ until I start speaking up and they realize I am not a ‘foolish cute girl’ – screw this. It takes me a glass of wine to start ‘working the room’ and networking, seriously (not that I am not self-confident – not at all!), rather it is just my personality that I am trying so hard to work on. That’s why Larry’s post is very valuable for me.
    Haven’t you noticed though when being aggressive, straight-forward and ‘masculine’ woman in that cute dress and hills, with a huge smile on your face men immediately accept you in their ‘team’ and notice your competency? It is natural for men when seeing a beautiful woman first notice her looks (and think if they can bang her – yes, I often see this in men’s eyes during the conferences I am visiting)and forget about the business; our confidence and ‘balls’ are tools to put men back and make them view us as an equal partner in conversation rather then as an opposite sex.
    I general I think it comes down to a healthy balance. Every situation requires a different approach. We, women do have advantage over men, we just need to learn how and when use all the tools we possess: ‘masculinity’, aggressiveness, ‘balls’, smile, feminine sides, etc.