I Can Bring Home the Bacon, Why Are You So Interested in the Pan?

Margaret Stewart — who some of you many remember from the Mighty Closet feature I did with her one million years ago — has some solid suggestions for speakers, organizers, and interviewers about how to ease onstage sexism at conferences: What My Uterus Can Teach You About Being a Tech Leader. It’s a good read, have a look.

I’d also add, if you’re balancing genders in a speaker lineup, avoid having more than one woman at your conference speak to the issue of harassment (unless that’s the topic of your gathering of course). That interests me to a point, but taken too far, especially at tech conferences, it can be exhausting and disheartening. It puts women in the spotlight not for their accomplishments, but as the object of threats from a mostly male chorus.

Humin Beta

Update: I’m out of invites, but if you’d like to join the beta you can request an invite direct from Humin.

My friend Lane Wood, who spoke at Camp Mighty last year, is helping make an app I think you’ll want. It’s called Humin, and it takes the contacts section of your phone and adds some of the info and functionality of a social media platform. So now my contacts look like this:

Humin pulls down a photo, employment background, any meetings you have on your calendar with this person, mutual friends, work experience and common friends at those companies, and educational background. I’ve learned a lot I didn’t know about friends, just by opening my phone to call them, and Humin has even alerted me a couple of times when friends are in from out of town. So neat.

I’ve found it indispensable enough that I replaced my contacts app with Humin, so now I make all my texts and calls through the app. It’s exponentially more useful, and frankly prettier, than my old contacts.

If you’d like to try it, request an invitation to the beta right here, and I’ll email you one. Let me know what you think.

The Best Parts of Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath

I found Strengths Finder and its online component very useful. The book introduction outlines an overall philosophy on effort, and then has a chapter covering thirty-four strengths they’ve identified through research. Each chapter gives an overview of the strengths and then offers ideas for action.

You can read the whole book, like I did, or take an online quiz to show which strengths are yours so you can focus on those.

Overarching points:

“…people have several times more potential for growth when they invest energy in developing their strengths instead of correcting their deficiencies.”

“The key to human development is building on who you already are.”

“Most successful people start with a dominant talent — and then add skills, knowledge, and practice to the mix. When they do this, the raw talent actually serves as a multiplier.”

Sample text from a strengths chapter:


Sample information: “If you like to travel, it is because each new location offers novel artifacts and facts. These can be acquired and then stored away… who knows when they might become useful?”

Sample action item: “As you gather and absorb information, be aware of the individuals and groups that can most benefit from your knowledge, and be intentional about sharing with them.”

I found the book valuable mostly because some of the best decisions I’ve made have come from following what felt like the path of least resistance. But that can also feel like a cop out, because I have a lot of internal voices saying, “Overcome your weaknesses! Be a better you!” And so forth. The truth is, the you you’ve got is just fine. Work with those raw materials instead of fighting your nature, and you make more progress.

I have a friend who makes hiring decisions based on the philosophies in this book. I’m curious about whether any of you have done it, and whether you found it useful.

How to Build a Creative Brand

Have you heard of Creative Bug? They make beautiful craft classes and video workshops, and their team made that crazy CRUSH yarn wall at our Go Mighty ALT party:

I know lots of you are small business owners, and right now Creative Bug is offering a 5-week course on Building a Creative Brand. It features coursework by Heather Ross and Lisa Congdon, who spoke at the first Camp Mighty, among others.

The class is regularly $175, but you can get it for $125:

Enter the code BRAND
And boom, $50 off.


This post is in partnership with Creativebug, which was built by people I like. Hi, guys.

Your Personal Pitch: 3 Tips for Answering “What do you do?”

Image by Robert Lindstrom

“You sound unemployed.”

A friend said this to me once, in real life. I refrained from shoving him because he was right.

He’d been standing next to me when someone asked what I did for a living, and I couldn’t move my tongue out of the way to answer. I stammered about how I was in a career transition, entering a field that wasn’t well defined, understood, respected. I felt ridiculous calling myself a blogger, insecure saying I was a writer, grandiose claiming I was small business owner. And then I presumably downed half a gin gimlet and cleared my throat.

In short, I knew what I was doing with my career, but I couldn’t navigate a cocktail party. I didn’t know my personal pitch.

Developing a Personal Pitch

We use words to define and alter our realities, especially in how we characterize our work. When you’re in business for yourself, no one hands you a title, so the process needs to be more intentional.

My friend pointed out that I was doing cool things, but freezing up when someone asked, “What do you do?” It was certainly true then, and over the years I’ve had to rethink my response several times. Today, when people ask about my work there are lots of options. I write a blog. I host a conference. I run a community. So I’ve decided to say, “I own a media company,” and go from there.

The SAP Pitch

If you’re running into the same problem, I’ve developed some guidelines and a terrible pun that can help. When someone asks what you do, your pitch should be SAPpy:

1. Succinct

One phrase or sentence is plenty. If the person is interested in your work, you’ve provided an entry point for questions. If they aren’t, you have a socially acceptable answer ready, one that doesn’t reveal insecurities or force the other person to listen while you reason through your career. The alternative is watching someone’s eyes glaze over as you yammer on about how you’re “not sure whether you can call yourself an artist yet… though you have done paid work… but it’s not at a level where you could support yourself or anything…”

Check, please.

2. Aspirational

Yes, you can call yourself an artist, or a writer, or a business owner, even if you haven’t met your internal standards of what those phrases mean yet. If your intention is to be an artist, just say it. You can offer more detailed information as the conversation moves along.

“What do you do?”
“I’m an artist.”
“Oh! Have you shown in any galleries I might know?”
“Oh no! I’m just starting out, applying to schools and painting between my cash jobs.”

And side note, if you are actually unemployed right now, the answer is “I’m looking for work in accounting,” or “I’m a freelance developer,” or “I’m a DJ.”

3. Positive

Your pitch shouldn’t contain any words that diminish your work. Don’t say you run a “small” salon, or that you’re an “aspiring” singer. Don’t say you’re “just” a mom, or demur when someone tries to express enthusiasm about your work. What’s more, don’t highlight a job you took to pay the bills, and describe your real interest as a hobby. If you say, “I’m a bartender. Sometimes I take photos of all the crazy people at the bar,” then people will ask if you’re available to tend bar at their next party. If you say, “I’m a photographer, I like night-life subjects,” then someone may ask to see your work. Highlight the type of work you’d like to attract, not what you do to make rent.

Take those three guidelines into account and come up with a pitch that puts the best possible spin on your career. With any luck, you’ll need to revise every few months to incorporate all the good stuff that comes your way.

These concepts were part of my entrepreneurship keynote at Square‘s Open for Business. I’ll be fleshing out more points from my talk here this week.

Kickstart This: Makeshift Society, Brooklyn!

The inside of my locker at Makeshift, San Francisco.

Remember a couple years ago when I made the 24 Days Advent Grab Bags with my friend Rena? Well, since then, Rena has founded Makeshift Society, a co-working space and clubhouse for creatives in San Francisco. Now she and my friend Bryan Boyer are starting one in Brooklyn.

If you’re part of the wi-fi workforce in New York, and you’re tired of staggering between coffee shops pining for a free outlet, consider becoming a Makeshift Brooklyn member through this steal of a Kickstarter campaign.

I know the space will be a catalyst — I so admire both Rena and Bryan. In fact, if you’re coming to Camp Mighty they’ll both be there, and I’ll be clinging to them contentedly like a sleepy koala.

This is a good idea, so invest in your careers, entrepreneurs. Brooklyn! Let’s sit down at a table together and get shit done.

Small, Good Thing: My Business Card

(Photo from Oh Happy Day!)

I’ve had a version of these business cards for years, though never as lovely as the ones Jordan made as a gift, above. (Thank you again, sweets.)

They’re blank on the back, so I write in whatever information I’d like a particular person to have. I can put an @ in front of the “Maggie,” write just my phone number, a little note, whatever.

For me, they’re perfect — evergreen information, versatile, google-able only insofar as I’d like them to be, and they double as social cards so I don’t feel like I’m “doing business” at a party when someone asks for my contact information. Yes, I know I am alone in thinking about this. Allow me my WASPy pleasures, they make me feel alive.