Women in Blogging: Sydney Carver, Summer Wind

Sydney Carver

Sydney Carver

Tell us about your journey to where you are today.

I grew up in a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA. In 2008, I attended school at James Madison University. During my 4 years at school, I studied Public Relations, Communication and Writing. I also joined Zeta Tau Alpha and was Historian on the Executive Council. I worked hard and made both Dean’s List and President’s List. I graduated in 2012 and moved back to Pittsburgh where I started a career with a luxury event planning company. I am an event coordinator and also handle all of the social media for the company. We do everything from nonprofit to corporate, private parties to weddings and everything in between. I really enjoy what I do!

As for Summer Wind, I started blogging in 2009 after my freshman year of college had ended and I had a lot of time on my hand for the summer. When I started, I had no idea I would still be going at it in 2014! But blogging is truly my passion and I am so proud to call Summer Wind ‘mine’.

How has your life experience made you the individual you are today?

I like to think I have lived an incredible life thus far. I’ve had my fair share of trials and tribulations, but I feel very blessed in that I have great friends, a supporting family, a career that I truly enjoy and Summer Wind, a creative outlet where I find passion.

Why did you become a blogger?

I started off reading blogs for about 6 months before I started my own. Once my classes had ended and I had some free time, I thought ‘why not’. I was majoring in PR and writing and I thought this would not only give me a chance to write everyday but it would also be a creative outlet for me.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your time as a blogger?

Hmm…this is SUCH a hard question. I think overall, the people I have met and formed friendships with and the people who I may not have met in person, but have created a relationship with through social media/e-mails is truly invaluable. It is a really amazing feeling when someone e-mails me and lets me know they enjoy reading Summer Wind and that we have something in common.

I also really enjoy getting to attend events and parties. Going to New York Fashion Week was definitely something amazing. Not only was the entire experience fun, but I am proud that I got myself there on my own, with my hard work and dedication.

As for challenges… I hate to talk about them because I never want to seem whiney, but there are definitely a lot. I think the #1 challenge for me is trying to find a balance. Working a high stress, intense job that requires long hours every week plus blogging 5-7 times a week is a lot. I often find myself a little bit sleep deprived and stressed, but when I seen the results of my projects both at work and with my blog, I know it was all worth it.

I also think that as a blogger, it’s really neat because I get to wear so many different hats. One minute I am a PR person pitching ideas and sending out media kits, and the next I am a graphic designer laying out all of my favorite shopping finds of the week. Then, you’ll find me as a photographer taking some photos for my blog and then a ‘model’ (I use that term VERY loosely) in front of the camera where I show off some outfits I put together. The challenge comes in when I really only went to school for PR and writing– not graphic design nor photography and I’m most definitely not very good in front of a camera. But, not knowing pushes me to teach myself. I YouTube, Google and read lots of books on photography and graphic design and a lot of other things I need to know. It’s a lot of work and time and effort but it’s fun, too!

What advice can you offer those looking to start their own blog?

I get asked for advice on starting a blog all of the time. When I started in 2009, the market of fashion and lifestyle blogs wasn’t nearly as big as it is now. I think now, it is really tough to break through the market. But, with that said, I would never discourage someone not start a blog. I always tell people who ask me for advice: start a blog, but not for the money or the ‘fame’ or the praise or the free stuff, but start it for yourself. If you start it for yourself and keep going, your true self will shine throughout your blog and people will be interested and will come back for more!

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

In the previous question I kind of touched on how hard it is to maintain balance. At times, I truly get overwhelmed. When I am sitting at work and I see my blog e-mail count getting higher and higher, it stresses me out. It’s hard to go from being on a computer all day at work, to getting home and being on a computer until I go to sleep. Not to mention, it’s even harder to add in a social life between work and blogging!! Somehow, though, I make it all work. I stay up late, I don’t go out one night a weekend… etc. As tough as it is, I enjoy it and wouldn’t have it any other way. I am a busy body. If you asked any of my friends, they would tell you I am always on the go!

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

I think overall, women are fighting a tough battle in the workplace. With unequal pay still an issue in 2014, and women trying to start a family, I just think it’s all around tough.

My friends and I are always chatting about how busy we are and how we cannot imagine having to raise a child, too. I think being a mother is an incredibly hard job and I always ask my mom ‘how the heck did you do it’?!

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In book and movement?

I truthfully have never read Lean In. I listened to her Ted Talk and I think she is an incredibly intelligent and successful woman. I also think she has a very valid point that there are just not as many women at the top. I admire her for pushing women of the world to push themselves to work harder and to make it to the top.

As I haven’t read Lean In, I can’t really speak too much on the book, but the entire movement is inspiring. I am all about supporting other women and supporting women in business– I actually work for a woman run business!

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

I think everyone needs a mentor… I think a mentor can be anyone at work, a family friend, etc. I think the people who have mentored me throughout my life have pushed me to work harder and be the best person I can be!

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

I really admire Tory Burch for building her empire. She is beautiful AND smart and has a family, too… she really does it all!

What is one word that sums up where you have got to today?

Drive. I have an insane drive for success… I’m not sure where it comes from, but I want to be the absolute best version of myself!

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Building social communities: An interview with Mightybell CEO & Co-Founder Gina Bianchini

Gina Bianchini. CEO and Co-Founder of Mightybell

Gina Bianchini. CEO and Co-Founder of Mightybell

Yesterday, Mightybell announced that its platform is now open for any organisations and individuals to create and grow their own smart social networks with their own purpose, people and content. I’ve been using Mightybell for several months now through my role as a Lean In Circle Manager and I spoke to Mightybell’s CEO and Co-Founder about these exciting new changes and what Mightybell hopes to achieve in the future.

Mightybell has been working in a beta phase for the past year with some high profile organizations like Lean In and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. How do you hope that its change of use to allow for all individuals and groups to use it will positively impact upon social communities?

We are excited to be opening up our service to any person or organization to create and grow their own smart social network with its own purpose, people and content. Social media today offers one type of interaction. I post out to my followers, my followers talk back at me and no one is meeting new people or talking to each other.

We envision a world where all small business owners, teachers, people learning to code, new dads, passionate triathletes, etc. have a place just for them, where they can meet and learn from each other. Our belief is that you learn faster with people like you. Mightybell provides the right context for people to meet each other in a way that mirrors what works in the real world.

How have you seen Mightybell make a difference to organizations such as Lean In, and how do you hope they will continue to evolve?

Mightybell has created a unique way for these organizations to more effectively use their content to attract and engage the people most important to them. For example, American Express has been using Mightybell to create a social network for small business owners to meet and learn from each other, and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is working with teachers to elevate and celebrate their profession. They are using Mightybell to create a social network of peer conversations among teachers.

We have found that by tapping content these organizations already have in creating private circles – or groups – of people coming together by topic or location, members are using Mightybell differently.

It’s our hope that these networks will continue to grow and members will continue to further engage and learn more from each other.

What role does Mightybell have in the future of social media?

We have the ambitious goal of ending social media fatigue with a smart social network that provides context to bring people together who are like each other and provide a feature set that gives people everything they need to meet people, organize, plan events, chat, share posts and so on in one place. Many products today are for one thing only and none are bringing everything together for people to meet others that they should know.

What advice can you offer to women who want to make an impact through social software?

Start with a purpose and the people for whom you want to build something amazing. Figure out first how you can do it without needing to raise money or build a technical product. Get it right. This is true for women as well as men and those who are technical as well as those who are not.

Once you have your purpose, follow the bright spots. Just keep iterating against small wins and unlocking more and more value.

That’s where the magic happens.

What are the benefits of community building for women?

We are all – women and men – built for community. That’s where we do our best work, learn the most and have the most fulfilling experiences.

What’s not to love about it?!

What do you want Mightybell to achieve in the next five years?

We envision a world where any person or organization can be a member of a smart social network that feels like it is just for them.

To get there, Mightybell is carving out the core experience of capturing and sharing one new thing people like you are learning each day. We believe this core experience will help people get better faster and have more fun doing it.
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Gina Bianchini is an expert in creating smarter social networks online and in the real world. She is the founder and CEO of Mightybell, where you can create your own social network with your purpose, your people and your content. Before Mightybell, Bianchini and Marc Andreessen co-founded Ning, the largest social platform for communities of interests online.

Women in Digital Media: Christina Chaplin, USA Development Director, Womenalia

Christina Chaplin

Christina Chaplin

Christina Chaplin is a bilingual English-Spanish strategic marketing, communications and development professional with solid experience in product development and positioning, both online and off, in various companies and roles related to career growth and professional education. Born in Boston, she has a BA in International Studies and Spanish Language & Literature from Johns Hopkins University and a MS in Marketing from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain.  She’s been living in Spain since 2005. She is the USA Development Director for Womenalia, a network for professional women.

Tell us about your journey to where you are today.

My life is very much marked by a before and an after. Most of life had been a series of choices that, while rewarding and positive, were more about moving along a path set out for me, going through the motions and doing my best to live up to what was expected of me by my family, my environment and society at large. But in December 2004 I had finished my undergraduate coursework at Johns Hopkins, and I was off schedule with graduation still six months away. I was presented with a unique opportunity. I decided to break with expectations. I picked up and moved to Spain that January with almost no plan in mind and completely abandoning the path that I thought my life had been on up until then – hence the before and after in my story.

It was an adventure. It was a fresh start. It was a chance to do and become whatever I wanted, and to spend more time exploring the path than heading in any given direction. It was an opportunity to allow myself to just live. And that’s more or less what I did for the next 5 years of my life. Explore, live, learn, be open to new possibilities, and most importantly, try to find my own footing in a world where it would have been so easy to just let one thing lead to the next.

I think few people really question who they are, what they want in life and if what they’re doing today is actually helping them to get closer to that goal. Most people need a disrupting event in their life to start to question anything at all.

It’s been nearly a decade since I left the US, and I can’t even imagine what my life would look like had I stayed, but I had a chance to shed the expectational baggage and start anew, and that means that today I am and do what I have chosen for me.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

I’ve been defined by two of my core values. On the one-hand I’ve always enjoyed learning, so as a leader I am driven by an insatiable curiosity and drive to grow. This means that I can be demanding at times (on myself as well as others), but it’s always with the aim of seeing my team grow and learn with me as we work towards a common goal. This also makes me very results driven. You have to be open to the many ways to achieve any desired outcome, so giving the freedom and flexibility to people to take their own journey is important as long as the goal is clear.

The second most important part of leadership for me is a strong sense of self-responsibility, which in many ways goes hand-in-hand with the first part. It’s one thing for someone else to hold you responsible for something, but an entirely different skill to have a strong internal sense of ownership over one’s actions and decisions. With freedom comes responsibility, both for one’s mistakes as well as one’s successes. Mistakes are a necessary part of the learning process but you have to be willing to acknowledge them and learn from them for them to be beneficial in the long-run.

How have you learned from these challenges and successes?

I’ve had to learn to be very self-sufficient since moving to another country. You don’t realize how much of a support network your friends and family provide until you lose it and have to start nearly from scratch and have to relearn even the most simple of everyday tasks.

Living immersed in other culture also gives you a new perspective on everything. You are constantly calling into question (or others are calling into question for you) assumptions about your values, ideas, goals… you end up going through a deep self-redefinition process that I think is invaluable. You have the opportunity to adopt and adapt those values and ideas from your adoptive culture that better adapt to your personal values, and maintain those you prefer from your country of origin.

I have also had to make new friends and get to know new colleagues so often that it has really helped me hone my networking skills!

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Womenalia?

I’d say the most exciting part of being part of Womenalia is the opportunity I have to lead our current platform development project. Not only because it’s a strategic project for the company, but because it’s a project that brings me in contact with the entire team and all aspects of the company at one point or another, so it’s a chance to better understand the business and to help create an well-integrated future for the company. It’s a huge challenge to bring together all the need and ideas from all over the organization into one coherent platform, but it’s extremely rewarding to actually see it materialize and develop little by little.

What are your hopes for Womenalia’s future?

Womenalia is a platform with so much potential to unify a currently fragmented market. There are endless groups and organizations, big and small, for and not-for-profit around women, their careers and their place in society. I would love to see Womenalia be the place in which all the many faces of the professional woman can come together and create a powerful voice that leads to meaningful social and political change as well as being a dynamic and innovative technology platform that reaches the infinitely unique needs of each individual professional woman and helps her find her voice, whoever and wherever she is.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

Time management is key and for me that means formally scheduling in both work and fun into each day. As I mentioned earlier, I’m very results and deadline driven, so I’ve never been one to be held to nor to hold people to any particular schedule. With that being said, it means that coordination and scheduling are key! If my team or any other department needs me in the office at a given time, they just have to schedule it in and I can build the rest of my day around my top priorities. I always make sure to schedule in Me time every day. Whether it’s to go running, read a book, catch up with a friend or try a new recipe it’s important to have activities every day that you do not because someone else wants you to or you feel obligated to do them, but rather because you want to do them.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

While there is certainly data that shows that women are discriminated against in pay, promotions, and social perceptions, I believe that the biggest issue is really our own inner dialogue. I think that too many women censor themselves, don’t truly believe in their own abilities and potential, and often get distracted from their main purpose. I also think that society feeds into these behaviors (and has constructed them in many ways) and certainly doesn’t do much to help women break through these constructs. It’s so easy to get caught up in the million daily tasks and distractions and lose sight of what really matters to you, how best to achieve your top goals and actually go for them.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In book and movement?

I think that Sandberg’s book hit quite a few nails right on the head. There were certainly whole sections that I read through thinking, “Yes, that’s so true!” For me the most important realization was that choosing your life partner is probably the one most important decision a women makes in her career. You and your partner’s values and ideas around gender roles, career expectations, and childcare responsibilities shape a women’s career more than most of the direct career decisions we make along the way. The question couples should ask each other before building a life together is no longer “Do you want to have kids and how many?” but rather “What expectations do we really have around family, career and money?” And as a woman you need to allow yourself to be honest about what you do or don’t want for your life.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

I have had very few formal mentors in my life, but there have been a couple of women that have been great sounding boards for me during my career. More than anything they have helped me discover where my potential lies and opened my eyes to opportunities that I would probably have never considered on my own. The most powerful mentoring experiences for me have been very practical and focused on specific skills and competencies. Mentorship is a powerful tool that women don’t take advantage of often enough though, myself included! Many women think it’s hard to find a mentor but it’s easier than you think.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

I have to admit that I’ve never been someone who turns to famous names or a particular person for inspiration. Each person’s strength and success comes from a very personal set of experiences and sources and cannot be replicated by anyone else. I draw inspiration better from my immediate surroundings and the small daily acts that catch my attention and make me stop and reflect.

What is one word that sums up where you have got to today?

Passion.