When I hear all the talk about the glass ceiling I can't help but smirk. I have never thought in terms of labels being limitations or of having “unique challenges.” How could anyone be stopped by something that is invisible?
How have I thrived in technology? It's pretty simple: failing or my gender being a barrier never even crossed my mind. Not once.
What glass ceiling?
This article isn't your typical “how to run a business” covering the basics and staples that are required for success. There are plenty of guides about that online for you to chose from. So, let's assume you have all that covered. What I am going to share with you is my story and how your gut, mindset, dedication and passion can and will make the difference between success and failure.
Truly, there is no glass ceiling if you look right through it.
Confidence and vision
I have fond memories of my first 4800 baud modem and logging onto CompuServe. I can still clearly remember that modem sound as if it were yesterday. That was over 20 years ago. I was known for talking about this “internet thing” with anyone who would listen. When I did, eyes glazed over.
In 1995 I knew where this internet thing was going. It was going to be life-changing and transform how business was conducted … forever. So what did I do? I opened my Internet Studio in my sleepy little town's downtown district before there were internet cafés.
Glass ceiling? No. It was flaky plaster laid long before the internet made its debut.
I knew having a physical location would give me an advantage — and somewhere potential clients could come and talk in a relaxed and comfy environment.
I painted the walls warm brown, had black computer stations, lots of plants and a big welcome sign.
When I first opened my business, an older gentleman opened my studio door, stuck his head in and said, “You really think this internet fad is a thing?” I responded, “You betcha!” He just shook his head and closed the door.
I have clients who walked through that very same door and are still clients to this day.
That was back in the day when most folks didn't know what email was and thought the internet was only good for credit card fraud and porn. Having a physical location would build trust — and it did.
At that time I also decided that I would not recommend a product or service unless I was using it for my own sites. That would be the only way to be a true advocate for my clients and know for sure that providers lived up to their hype.
Back then, and unfortunately still to this day, many technology sales pitches take advantage of what the target customer doesn't know just to make a sale. No matter the affiliate income potential or benefit, if I haven't used a product, I do not recommend it.
I was a bit ahead of my time and won't say it wasn't frustrating at times. There were days when I couldn't understand why folks didn't seem to care all that much or were not as excited as I was.
Faced with challenges or opposition, I kept my focus onward and upward!
Time to evolve
The excitement was wearing off. Working on static HTML sites, adding static pages and developing static HTML sites had become boring. Not just boring — I had become disinterested. I noticed that almost overnight it seemed that everyone was calling themselves a “webmaster” using FrontPage software to create web sites (back then it was two words).
I had always hand-coded and never used a WYSIWIG like FrontPage. That set me apart.
I decided to dive deeper into programming. Yes, most of my counterparts and mentors were male.
But I never thought I couldn't code because of my gender.
I stepped up my game and opened a new office in a business park closer to my target client base.
It seemed “web designers” outnumbered the number of websites! It became evident that once a business had a great website (and that description was subjective), they didn't know what to do with it. eCommerce has become about so much more than slapping up some fuzzy photos and generic descriptions, thinking that’s the path to riches. This is business after all.
I knew I could be differentiate myself by using all my skills and experience to coach folks on how to do business online, including the maintenance and marketing of their sites.
Neither my gender nor the evolution of technology limited my personal desire or capacity to change direction.
I closed my office and became a member of a high-end virtual office center to have phone and administrative support. Nowhere to go but up!
Knowledge and skill acquisition
To a person, none of the folks I've worked with over the past two decades were limited by gender — only by their ability or inability to embrace change and learn new skills and strategies (then apply them). Almost every day.
Never think you know it all just because you know more than the people who surround you.
I remember doing a talk at the local community college. All guys. They were all younger than me — and a couple were overly confident in their knowledge and challenged me in front of the group. I didn't take it personally. I was confident in my skills and experience and educated them with a smile.
Afterwards their professor thanked me and said “good job” with a wink. I knew what he meant and was appreciative. I didn't take the male students’ challenges or the wink as gender-related or offensive. Never crossed my mind.
None of that matters with technology. Have an idea? Work it! Have a service to offer? Do it! Have a personality that sets you apart? Display it for the world to see!
Yep, evolved again
See a pattern forming?
I realized I couldn't help everyone and therefore was no longer going to try to be everything to everyone. That sure set me apart.
In my world, the customer was not always right.
Not all who came my way appreciated that point of view, but my gut was talking that up and I went with it. If you work with me you could eventually get my "@!#% or get off the pot" speech (a phrase my father was known for saying) which is kindly, genuinely, sincerely, given with your best interests at heart. If I can't help you to succeed, I don't want your hard-earned dollars. What?! Say that to a client and see what kind of response you'll get.
Do what you enjoy … a lot
By only working with those I know I can help, I'm enjoying what I do again. I moved off the grid to a plot of land in Mississippi and am back to working out of my home. I have a bunch of great clients who I know personally, and a handful of my own sites that I truly enjoy managing.
WordPress and blogging have allowed me to easily manage my passion — writing about what folks need to know and do to succeed online.
It's all about mindset!
Look at the folks who succeed online. They are bulls in a china shop (cows just doesn't sound as cool). They don't wait for permission. They aren't lemmings; they are leaders.
Gender has nothing to do with having a viable product, an interesting blog, or a product or service folks really want or need.
How can anyone not be bursting at the seams over all the potential and opportunity that technology offers every single person with the desire to go for it? It is a level playing field if you follow your gut, enjoy what you do, work hard, continue to learn and apply — and evolve. I'm a big fan of Napoleon Hill, who believed that what the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve. In one of his writings he states:
“All you require to be successful is the desire to achieve success and the determination to stick with it until you reach your goals.”
What glass ceiling?