Nowhere is the need for a strong and authentic network more apparent than in tech.
With women outnumbered by men when it comes to starting companies and raising venture capital, the strength of your network can mean the difference between success and failure.
But let’s face it, it takes time to prioritize network-building. Throw the working-mom hustle into the mix, and it can almost always seem like something else should come first. But as my fellow networking-enthusiast Kelly Hoey recently said to CNBC: "Start thinking of networking as muscle. Use it regularly in a variety of ways to achieve your goals."
Networking needs to be high priority for women in tech. Throughout my career in executive leadership and sales roles at tech companies, my network has been a powerful tool for creating value and closing deals.
I recently became the Chief Revenue Officer of Voray, a company dedicated to cultivating authentic professional relationships, because I believe so strongly in the need for a solid network of professional relationships-- especially for women.
How do you get started in building your own power network? Here are the three key things:
Set up a weekly quota and automatic reminders.
Organization is KEY when you’re networking! How many times have you gotten a card and tossed it in your jacket pocket, purse, or wallet thinking that you will put it in your files later, only to lose it - and the connection you’ve made? Sure, places like LinkedIn make it easier to maintain a personal CRM, it’s helpful to set some weekly goals around networking.
One story that struck me was that of Alison Mass, a partner at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and co-head of the investment banking group. She told The Wall Street Journal that she sets up reminder alerts on her computer to stay in touch and keeps a list of her important people at eye-view by her desk.
“It reminds me by looking at their names if I haven’t spoken with them in a while,” says Ms. Mass. Morra Aarons- Mele, host of Hiding in the Bathroom Podcast and founder of We Are Women Online, shared that she commits to “10 touches” a week, whether it’s exchanging email, engaging on Twitter, or setting a coffee. Whatever your system, make sure you commit to one.
I’ve always found that networking is 50% getting in the room, and 50% getting in DIFFERENT rooms than the ones you’re in every day. It’s important to meet people - yes, but if you’re always meeting the same people the ability to propel yourself forward and leverage connections will fall short.
Much like in the boardrooms or when hiring for your company, as studies have shown time and time again, diversity is key. Try to meet with executives in other industries, other cities, and yes with men too. The broader your reach, the more access you have to different insights, information and contacts.
You wouldn’t go to a business meeting unprepared. Or walk into a job interview without researching the company. So why would you go to a luncheon or networking opportunity without doing a little digging on who will be there, and what you want to accomplish?
Create an agenda for what you hope to accomplish at the event or meeting, have a clear direction and an understanding of your ask. This will ensure that the time spent is maximized and the quality of your contacts will likely be better than if you go into an event and wing it.
For example, before each Voray, we send guests a list of who will be in the room. Why? We want our guests to have the chance to think about how they can best use their time together. When it comes to professional networking, there’s no such thing as being over-prepared.
Networking takes time, which is something women often feel like they don’t have enough of. But as I’ve found time and again, it’s important for personal development and career development and can’t be neglected.
Brianna Elefant, the CRO of Voray, a company that curates in-person networking dinners with relevant industry professionals, hosted by a thought leaders, and sponsored by a relevant partner. The back-end technology platform facilitates post-event discussion and collaboration, essentially positioning Voray as an emerging and better alternative to LinkedIn.
Prior to joining Voray, Brianna, held leadership positions at several high-growth technology companies (Signal Analytics--backed by Sequoia, Stream57- acquired by
West Corporation WSTC (NASDAQ), and LivePerson Inc. LPSN (NASDAQ)). As she says, her network has been one of the keys to her professional success, and helping others build authentic business relationships is part of what drew her to Voray.