How Female Entrepreneurs Can up Their Game With Tech Skills By Avery Taylor Phillips


If you’re not learning, you’re already falling behind. Being an entrepreneur is no walk in the park, especially if you’re a woman. The need for more entrepreneurs in the U.S. is undisputed, and though the rewards and benefits of entrepreneurship are enough to put in the effort, you need an extra edge if you want to be successful.

That’s where the tech industry comes in. Technology is everywhere; there’s no escaping it. Instead of fighting it or just learning the bare minimum, why not embrace this field and go all out? This male-dominated industry is ripe for the influence and innovation only a woman’s perspective can bring.

Tech jobs cannot be filled fast enough and many companies bemoan not being able to find enough qualified workers. Through technology, your entrepreneurial options become endless. All you have to do is take advantage of them.

Beauty and the Tech

Believe it or not, women were the pioneers of the tech industry. At one time, they even outnumbered men in this field. In the past, many women gravitated towards majoring in math, giving them the knowledge and skills that were necessary for computer science.

Women such as Jean Jennings Bartik and Grace Hopper made great advancements in this field, though they weren’t given much credit. Perhaps the lack of known female role models in technology was what led to the eventual decline of women in computer science occupations.

Many tech firms now only sport a 30 percent female employment rate. It was around the late 1980s when female computer science majors dropped below 20 percent. Before that, 40 percent of computer science majors were women.

What caused this decline? During this time, personal computers were on the rise. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were all over the news, and people took notice. Soon, computers were associated solely with boys and men.

Male students became the top picks of schools with technology programs, and women were left to pursue other degrees. However, things are changing now that the gender gap is becoming a more recognized issue in public discourse.

Tech 101

So now you have an interest in tech, but what exactly do you focus on? There are so many fields in technology to explore, and although you can’t really go wrong with any of them, here are some tech skills entrepreneurs must have to succeed:

  • Coding: learning some coding basics can do wonders for your website. HTML and CSS dictate how your site looks and works. Java and Python are other options to look into as well.
  • Big Data: Being able to analyze large sets of data and derive patterns from that data is an incredibly useful skill to have. Big data analysis can help you narrow down a target audience and inform business decisions, not to mention getting a leg up on the competition.
  • Online Accounting: Every business needs to keep their finances in order, including yours. Find an accounting software that offer billing and receipt tracking features and anything else your specific business requires.
  • The Cloud: As technology advances, more and more signs are pointing towards data storage in the cloud. That being said, you’re gonna need to learn how to use Google Drive and Dropbox (both are great timesavers and lifesavers). It makes sharing and storing content much easier.
  • Graphic Design: The saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” definitely does not apply to the website of a new business. How your website looks design-wise can be as important as the business itself. Bad website and logo design can be enough to deter many potential customers. So effective content marketing graphics with Photoshop and Illustrator is a must.
  • Mobile: More likely than not, there’s probably a cellphone on your person right now. That being said, you need to make sure your business is easily accessible on peoples’ phones. Once your website is optimized for mobile users, your business will be accessible to a much wider audience.
  • Email: Email is one of the most important tech skills you can have. It is one of the quickest and easiest ways of communication and can be made even more efficient by learning shortcuts and employing automated emails.
  • Social Media: Social media skills are also a necessity to have when trying to get the word out about your business. The benefits of sharing media (such as video) for your business are numerous. You can gather a multitude of useful information from social media free of charge. Plus, it’s a way to better connect with your customers as well.

Tech Savvy Education

As mentioned before, a career in tech entails a lifetime of learning. Fortunately, there are many routes one can take to gain a better understanding of computer science. There are plenty of free resources, such as tutorials, blogs, ebooks and workshops, that are available to gain a basic understanding of a particular subject.

To get a more in-depth education, it’s best to go to school and major in a degree such as computer science. Whichever path you decide to take, it’s best to set some goals for yourself. It’s important to reach the goals you set to not only boost your confidence, but also to grow personally.

The opportunities for entrepreneurial growth are at its peak, especially if you are a woman. A female perspective is much needed and desired in this industry. Instead of waiting and letting this opportunity pass you by, take the initiative and become the newest pioneer in tech.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Avery Taylor Phillips – Avery is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.  Check out her blog on https://www.equities.com/user/AveryTaylorPhillips

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5 Tips for Older Adults During Tax Season

Photo by: Pixabay.com

Does the word “taxes” make you cringe? Do you have April 18th circled in thick, red marker on your calendar? Tax season doesn’t have to be stressful. Before you roll your eyes in disbelief, let’s review the facts. For those who are over 50 years of age, you are well-experienced in this time of year. You have been through enough of them to know what things to avoid and what things to research. However, it never hurts to take a second look at  the world of income tax to make sure you are in the know this season. As things are constantly changing, let’s review just a few points to keep in mind while you conquer this tax season:

1 – Know Before You Go

Are you familiar with the tax benefits that are available to you? If not, do some research before handing your well-earned money over to anyone else. There are very knowledgeable professionals available to help you (not to mention 1099 software, W2 Software, E-File software, and payroll software), but no one knows your situation better than you. For example, did you know that once you retire if you withdraw money from your ROTH IRA, you do not have to pay taxes on that money? Make sure you are well-informed in all of your applicable deductions before you seek help from someone else or file on your own.

2 – Don’t Pay a Fee If It Can Be Free

Beginning at age 50, you have the opportunity to obtain free help when filing your taxes. Instead of paying out of pocket or paying a percentage of your refund, head to an AARP or TCE volunteer who can help you file your taxes at no additional cost to you. AARP and the IRS certified TCE volunteers are located in cities all over the country, and in some cases, they are reimbursed for their expenses, so that you can be provided with some of the best free help there is!

3 – Have Fun With Your Refund

Alright, maybe our definition of “fun” varies a little from what you may be thinking. Financial stability is probably one of the most relieving, and yes “fun,” things you can do. Use your refund check to pay down your debt, invest it into a promising company, or save it in an emergency fund. Smart financial pre-planning will help you navigate your cash-flow now so that you can enjoy the years to come.

4 – The Medical Bills You’ve Paid Are Just a Deduction Away

Medical bills are expensive; you shouldn’t have to feel the weight of those more than once. Did you know you can claim those expenses when you file your taxes? If you or a dependant uses a medically issued device such as a wheelchair, or if you pay for a nursing home, you may find that to be an advantage during the tax filing process.

5 – Before Your Check Is Spent, Save 25 Percent

If you own a small business to help supplement your social security income, make sure you know which tax bracket you will be responsible for. It is good practice to hold back roughly twenty-five percent of each sale you make, so that you will be able to cover your taxes at the end of the year, without making an unexpected dent in your income.

This can be the most stress-free tax season you have ever experienced. Stay informed about the ins and outs of your tax requirements and stay prepared for your future. Whether you are just coming into retirement or you are a seasoned, senior tax-payer, use these tips to allow your money to benefit you in the years to come.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Julie Morris – Ms. Morris is a life and career coach who strives to help others live the best lives that they can. She believes she can relate to clients who feel run over by life because of her own experiences. She spent years in an unfulfilling career in finance before deciding to help people in other ways.
Juliemorris.org | jmorris@juliemorris.org

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My Scrappy and Resilient – Driving Strong Results Discovery by Mariellie Rodriguez Mundy

 

A few months back I received an invitation to explore an opportunity (I call it my “shiny object”) to join a Private Equity firm’s platform company as their Chief Financial Officer. The role seemed to meet many of my criteria for great jobs in my career, but most importantly it also had a very high degree of challenge and learning opportunities. I felt that my entire career had led me to this opportunity, and I was confident enough to give it my all.

The first step was an interview with the CEO and several key stakeholders. This was a lengthy process that included several phone interviews, in-person meetings and traveling to meet several board of director members at the firm’s headquarters.

As part of the process I completed various assessments. I’ve done many of these in the past, and have embraced the opportunities for self-awareness that they offer.  But something was different this time. This was the first time that I was scheduled to meet with a consultant as part of the assessment, “the guy from Boston” hired to form an opinion about my ability to meet the requirements of the CFO role.

It makes sense that an investment firm would want to do this kind of research before they make a substantial investment in such a key position. Naturally they’d want to know what kind of professional they are getting.

Fast forward a couple of months . . . on a Friday afternoon I was advised that the investment firm decided to pass on both of the two final candidates, including myself.  Ouch! The “shiny object” was gone. Gone, gone, gone. It was a moment where rejection and self-doubt overwhelmed me.

I was alone in my car driving around aimlessly when I decided to just park. As I sat there I decided to challenge my thinking and acknowledge my emotions. The great thing about embracing the fact that I felt rejected and incompetent was the deeper connection to the many “Why’s?”. I felt an irresistable need to find wisdom in this experience.

Days later, after I had time to process and understand how this experience was going to add value to my journey, I decided to reach out to “the guy from Boston” for feedback. He had met with me in Florida a month prior, and after four and a half hours of intense questioning about my life journey, he had drafted a report for the investment firm. He agreed to a call to debrief with me his assessment.

And this is where my scrappy discovery took place. The headline of his report to the investment firm described me as: “Scrappy and Resilient – driving strong results, will deliver against all odds”

Scrappy, what did he just called me? I’m scrappy? I was referred to as “scrappy” by a perfect stranger, and this was his professional opinion that he shared with a group of investment professionals! Is that even professional?!!

This man just met me, and after four and a half hours he concluded that I was scrappy. “Scrappy” was not what I had in mind as I put on my business jacket, my best watch, and arrived with confidence to meet the consultant from Boston sent to assess my ability to deliver results.

Many experiences have had a great impact in my life and the day I was called a “scrappy one” is one of those. The more I thought about it the more wisdom I found in this scrappy word. A quick google search for the definition of scrappy yielded synonyms such as feisty, tenacious, determined, persistent, dogged, aggressive, and forceful. Dictionary’s provided the following definitions:

“Having a strong, determined character, and willing to argue or fight for what you want” – Cambridge English Dictionary

“A person who is little, but can really kick some ass” – Urban Dictionary (Yikes!)

I thought I would be clever and write about how impactful this word was to me, but then I discovered an entire website with the intention of connecting scrappy women to each other. Led by Kimberly Wiefling, the founder of scrappywomen.biz, here I found a bunch of women who were unapologetic about being scrappy! I couldn’t stop smiling when I found an entire community of other remarkable, inspirational businesswomen who are not afraid to share their scrappy wisdom with others.

During the past few years I have spent a significant amount of time learning about my role as a servant leader and my effectiveness as a conscious leader. I’ve deeply considered my ability to understand the world around me and my ability to make an impact. Here’s what I am absolutely sure of . . . that there is so much more I still have to learn! And nothing excites me more than looking forward to spending the rest of my life learning – learning from others, learning from past struggles, from success, and most importantly from failures. There is so much wisdom in each moment, and every experience we are given is an opportunity for growth.

I am a businesswoman, and an entrepreneur at heart. I’m sure I was born with a shovel in my hand so that I would be ready to assist my father in mixing concrete when necessary. Ever since I can remember I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up. It was simple to me, “I love construction and playing with the cash register.” I wanted to be a top financial executive of a construction firm! I lived my dream for many years, and my heart still wears a hard hat. That heart with a hard hat is eager to explore the next steps and bigger challenges.

After 20 years of a successful progressive career as a finance executive in the construction industry, and most recently CFO of a large national electrical contractor, I have decided to pause for a moment. I am determined to take the time I need to search deep within myself in order to align the second half of my career with my personal values and purpose. As someone in a field and a role where certainty and risks are constantly being evaluated, defined, measured and accounted for, I have decided to embrace uncertainty and take a risk in order to build a legacy of which my children will be proud. This journey is not shaped by a new job or even a well-defined business plan at the moment. It is a fluid process filled with wisdom and inspiration from many sources.

Today I have chosen to challenge my lifelong thinking of what I had previously assumed success looks like. I’m not sure what the future holds, but one thing is certain in a world full of uncertainty – when you are scrappy, you work very hard and will deliver against all odds! I am committed to continue to be a scrappy woman in business with a big servant heart. And I’m thankful to “the guy from Boston” for sharing his feedback.

For many years now I set my intentions for the year around three words to live by.

In 2017 I’m committed to these 2 words: Create, Connect and be Inspired.

I look forward to continuing to serve the industry I love while creating a legacy for my children, intentionally connecting with the community around me, and finding the wisdom and inspiration in each moment.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marielle Rodriguez Mundy was the former CFO of Miller Electric Company.  She is a business professional, who is scrappy and resilient – driving strong results, will deliver against all odds!!  Currently, she started her new venture, she consults for a family own business assisting with strategy oversight, exit and ownership transition from the CFO perspective.

Mariellie R. Mundy, CPA, MBA
The Mariellie Mundy Company
Mmundy@marielliemundy.com
904-608-0080 

 

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My 3 Biggest Business Mistakes by DeAnna Burghart

DeAnna-close cropStarting a business isn’t easy. I’ve done it three times now – twice as a sole proprietor, and once as a founding member of the ProjectConnections team. The process is fraught with tension, loaded with exciting opportunities, and rife with chances to make mistakes. Thank goodness! How else would we ever learn what works and what doesn’t?

I can’t claim these are the only three mistakes I’ve made in business. (I’ve made more than that since my first cup of coffee this morning!) But these are the three biggest mistakes I think I’ve made in any of those business start-ups. How many of them are you guilty of?

Mistake #1: Analysis Paralysis. I’m good at research. Really, really good. I actually research things for fun. That makes research a very safe place to run away to when I’m not quite sure what to do next. You get conflicting opinions, really smart people are telling you to make a variety of different choices, and you aren’t quite sure which one feels right. Research it!

To. Death.

Sometimes, we feel so insecure in our own judgment and experience that we spend weeks or even months longer than we should on “getting a little more market intelligence” or whatever we want to call our stalling. It’s the start-up equivalent of forming a committee to investigate options. Used properly, research is absolutely essential to success. Used excessively it will yield even more confusion and insecurity, not to mention lost opportunities because your competitors were out there doing things you were just reading about.

Lesson: When your research stops turning up new insights and information, stop! Adding one more voice to the “me too” stack isn’t going to tell you how you feel about the information you’ve uncovered. You won’t be able to take successful steps forward until you understand that critical piece of information, and you won’t find it in anyone else’s books or blogs. You’ll only find it by being honest with yourself about what you’ve uncovered.

Mistake #2: Not Speaking Up. In my adventures in the business world, I’ve frequently enjoyed the luxury of being in a room full of really smart people. I know just how fortunate this makes me, and I revel in it. But there’s a danger as well. When you’re in a room with that many smart people on a regular basis, it’s easy to be a little intimidated by them. And from there, it’s a small step to suppress your own misgivings when everyone else seems so sure of themselves. There’s a powerful temptation to “go along,” and by doing so to seem wise and well informed. This is understandable.

It is also a mistake. Stifling that little voice, or that feeling in my gut, has cost me precious time, money, effort, and opportunities. No one can see everything, so if one person is holding back, the group is missing valuable information – even if the person holding back is you.

Lesson: That little voice in your ear, or that feeling in your gut, knows more than you give it credit for. I’ve learned to listen and to speak up when it’s bugging me. I’m not always right, of course. Sometimes I just need to hear others address my concerns, and the feeling goes away. But it pays to speak up, even when you don’t have the final say.

Mistake #3: Not Listening. This is the flip side of #2, and it’s an easy and dangerous trap. I usually find myself falling into this mode when I’ve finished a few rounds of “I told you so” in my head. Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make proud. Stopping to really listen – to my CEO, my colleagues, my customers, my competitor’s customers – has opened doors that would have remained forever closed if I’d focused on speaking (or worse, on selling).

Lesson: Listen when people talk to you. Don’t spend the time running a script in your head of what you’re going to say in response – you’re throwing away valuable input and connections with others when you shut off like that. Open up, sit back, and really listen to what’s being said. Listen like your business depends on it. It probably does. And note that this is probably a good step to take both before and after speaking your mind.

You may have noticed that all three of these items – communication, intuition, connection – all relate to the so-called “soft skills” (they aren’t necessarily) that women are supposedly so good at (we aren’t necessarily). But as dicey as generalizations can be, I think women who end up in entrepreneurial spaces are often more driven and perfectionistic – and thus more inclined to these particular flaws. Or maybe these flaws are just more visible and damaging in the entrepreneurial space. Either way, they’re mistakes worth looking out for. I continually remind myself to listen to others, speak up about my doubts, and above all to do something! No one was ever successful in business by doing nothing at all.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

DeAnna Burghart is content editor at ProjectConnections.com. Prior to joining the founding team in 1999, she was a successful software training consultant, and helped launch a web design and SEO firm.

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Scrappy from the Start

Written by: Linda Holroyd

Family rumor has it that my mom married my dad as a ticket to America for both herself and her brothers and their families. Whether or not it is true, we find ourselves decades later, all acculturated and productive and full-fledged Americans.

My parents debated about whether my dad should come first to America, to earn money to send for my mom and the four kids. My mom won out and the family, including mom, dad, Continue reading

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