There has been a lot of talk recently about the ‘bro culture’ of Silicon Valley. Rather than contributing more negative commentary about the deep downside of this culture, I’d like to add my personal reflection on the ‘wo culture’ of Silicon Valley – that of women.
I have been involved in two startups in my career – the first was an online makeover site I co-founded with another woman in the late 90’s. More recently four other women and I co-founded ReBoot Accel with the mission of training women who have paused their careers to become ‘current, connected, and confident’ to reenter the workforce.
In both my startup experiences, the founders I worked with then and now are women I respect, trust, admire and enjoy spending time with. We get stuff done. We don’t check up on each other because we can assume we’ll do what we say we’ll do. We don’t mansplain, manspread or manhandle. We don’t need our voices and opinions amplified in order to be heard or acknowledged because we value and need the unique POV each of us brings.
We support one another as whole people: co-workers, parents, partners, and friends. In sickness and in health. This means we periodically check in on professional and personal goals because we know the success of the company depends on healthy people experiencing fulfillment in the process. We intentionally express appreciation for the work our teammates do, acknowledge our mistakes, and celebrate our successes. And we laugh out loud. A lot.
Our company culture is something we discussed from the start. We are seasoned women with textured lives and many people depend on us daily. Amongst the ReBoot Accel founders, there are 17 kids in 11 schools, five life partners, 18 pets, and numerous volunteer roles and boards through which we serve our communities. Crafting the right culture was going to be key to the success and sustainability of our startup. Child care and school events, vet and medical appointments, home, health, and ‘life maintenance’ are real things that are acknowledged and accepted – not hidden behind a cloak of secrecy and mystery ‘appointments’. If an errand needs to be run, a volunteer commitment met, or a plane caught for college parents weekend, no eyebrows are raised.
I’m not sure if other female-led companies feel like ours or not, but I do know a culture, whether the company is big or small, is created by the founders. Whether it’s going to a strip club in Korea (as has been reported by Uber employees) or bringing flowers to our colleague after surgery (as we did just last week); the executive team sets the tone and expectations for how to treat others internally, and delight customers externally. Our ReBoot Accel customers often comment on the positive supportive brand and culture we’ve created, which makes us incredibly proud.
Finally, we are energized and motivated by our customers to do more, for more. Why? Because seasoned women who have stayed in, pivoted or returned to their careers add depth and value to the decision-making processes due to their work-life experiences and long game perspective. They are less interested in the workplace as a source of drama or social life, and they are loyal. They have refined, over time, their priorities and values, are quick learners, multi-tasking wizards, expert negotiators, and they get shit done. Because they have to. There are people outside depending on them. These are the people I want on my team. I’m all in for the ‘wo culture’. Maybe the ‘bros’ should take note and hire accordingly.
Chrissie’s career has taken her around the world, from college in the west to an ad agency in NYC, volunteer work in Nairobi, an MBA in LA, and then on to Hong Kong for jobs in consumer brand marketing. Back home in California she joined the exploding world of video games at Sega and started her journey as a serial entrepreneur by co-founding an online virtual makeover site, which went live the day her third son was born. Following this, Chrissie paused from paid work and focused on family and volunteering, writing and consulting on the side. She still travels (check out her travel site www.jamboguides.com) and loves photography. Chrissie has a BA in International Relations from Stanford, and an MBA from Anderson School of Business, UCLA.
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