Once an attendee looking for support in the tech scene, our Women 2.0 Programs Manager shares her unique and beautiful full-circle story, and reminds us to pursue our biggest dreams.
By Jin Zhou (Programs Manager, Women 2.0)
Those Funny Words
I still remember that day very clearly. I had just flown back to SF from Beijing for a work conference. I was pretty excited to be back in the Bay Area and was looking forward to connecting with old friends and family. It had been a few years since I graduated from school. I had left the US with just a backpack, and then fast forward 4 years, I was back with a briefcase and a flurry of late night conference calls. The company I was with was a startup in Beijing that was going IPO and I was in SF to manage our booth at Oracle OpenWorld. That night, over dinner with my family, I got those funny words that would change my life. My mom looked at me and said "I'm really sorry... I am really sick. And the doctors say it doesn't look good."
What do you do in situations like these? And how would I know? I was 27 at the time thinking I knew everything. I didn't know anything... I came back to the US and gave up my fancy expat apartment, boyfriend and job. And it was one the best things that had to happen to me, despite being the hell that it was at the time.
My mother was terminally ill. I'm not going to lie and say it was an easy time for me. Yet there is something very profound when you know you only have a limited time to do something. It makes you love, live and achieve more than if you did if you had as much time as you wanted. In dealing with imminent death, all ego melts away, you spend more time on things that give meaning to your life and the people you love, and you learn to appreciate every single joy.
For my mom, we took her to travel the world in her last months: Alaska, Taiwan, China, camping all over California. For me it was exploring entrepreneurship.
Getting Curious Again
I was always a curious child, my first foray as an entrepreneur was selling Hello Kitty stickers to my classmates at Chinese school in 4th grade. Yet somehow I stopped listening to that voice as I got older, but the voice remained persistent. I asked myself a very simple question one day: If I could live any dream, my wildest one which I was afraid to admit, what would that be? And then I started being curious again.
I had heard about these Founder Fridays events that a friend of a friend Angie at UC Berkeley was putting on and started attending. To be honest, I feel really out of place at large social gatherings because I am such an introvert at times. Networking is not something that comes naturally for me, but hey you get used to doing it. The amazing connections with the women I met there just proved to me that magic only happens when you are outside your comfort zone. These are ladies that pushed me to become who I was meant to be despite the hiccups, detours, self doubt that life often throws at us. They were there for me as I launched my first company, these were ladies who made sure I didn't forget that voice inside when things got tough (not to mention the endless tea and ramen sessions brainstorming and connecting dots).
I also participated in Women 2.0 Jumpstart Your Startup Program. Naeem Zafar who teaches entrepreneurship at Haas Business School was our mentor and advocate in the 10 week course. My cohort included brilliant ladies such as Alex Alexa Andrzejewski, who went on to found Foodspotting, Neha Sampat who later started RawEng, Olya Lapina, COO Spinnr, and many others. We were all starting off together and I learned how to pitch and analyze business models like a pro. This certainly came handy as I pitched my first VC just a month later.
Needless to say, Women 2.0 and it’s programs were an integral part of my journey. And I will always be grateful.
Joining Women 2.0
It’s so interesting to be part of the Women 2.0 team today. Oh the places you'll go.
I often think about how life would be so different if I didn’t take that first step, that first little risk to go to a networking event. Now that Founder Friday are City Meetups around the world, I can't wait for the places we'll all go together. I look forward to growing our community and am committed to creating that same authentic spaces at the core of what I loved about Women 2.0’s event when I first attended. It’s all about creating that space to be real, be inspired and take great risks together. Life is an adventure and a gift; live it well. :)
DO YOU HAVE A STORY ABOUT HOW A WOMEN 2.0 EVENT INFLUENCED YOUR Life? Email social [at] women [dotcom].
Photo via Erica Kawamoto Hsu.
When not at Women 2.0, Jin Zhou is an avid bookworm and tea drinker, exploring the cross sections of technology, human potential, wellness and compassion. She has previously led marketing at several startups, including VanceInfo and EventBacker and led events at the Alchemist Series. Has fancy pieces of paper from Stanford, UCSB. Follow her on Twitter @soulcandies.