Catatan Kuliah: Enterprising Women

Hari ini Nyo ikut course yang topiknya cukup menarik, yaitu mengenai ‘Enterprising Woman’ dan sesi ini dipastikan hanya ada para wanita pesertanya (female only, sorry :p). Mungkin mereka mengadakan course ini karena ingin lebih banyak lagi melihat founder perempuan yang lahir dari ekosistem kampus. Sebutlah sekarang kamu adalah PhD students atau Post-Doc, akan ada tiga opsi keluaran karir yang memungkinkan saat keluar dari kampus/selesai studi.

  • Opsi A: Karir akademik (riset dan pendidikan)
  • Opsi B: Business start-up
  • Opsi C: Bekerja di perusahaan / organisasi yang sudah besar/well-established

Pilih yang mana? Terserah pribadi masing – masing tentunya. Jika memilih opsi B, mungkin perlu diperjelas mengenai perbedaan alumni start-up, academic spin-outs dan spin-off. Apa tuh?

In terms in academic, spin-outs artinya perusahaan yang didirikan beradasarkan riset dari univeritas (masalah IP – Intelectual Property, paten, dsb semuanya berkaitan dengan universitas), spin-off lebih ke membagi perusahaan ke beberapa bagian bisnis independen, sedangkan start-up biasanya terlepas dari riset universitas, bisa sebagai alumni dan dari ide sendiri, juga dikembangkan di luar (tiba – tiba start-up jualan cupcakes gituh, padahal riset soal biomolekular, misal :p).

Tentu sebagai perempuan, ada banyak yang dipikirkan, seperti who’s gonna taking care of children? and family? and do the house cleaning? But, a survey showed that companies with women in board tend to have a healthy internal culture. Perhaps, it is a woman’s nature, better at thinking about other people and negotiating.

There are several traits, personalities, and characteristics that a woman entrepreneur should have. Amazingly, all of us came with some ‘stronger’ words like being courageous, independent, ambitious, and RESILIENCY. Yes, as a woman, you are kinda labeled to push harder bringing yourself into business, especially transforming from scientist to business-woman. Bringing research to industry is still a big challenge.

Sir Richard Branson pointed out the key enterprising skills that woman (and man) should have:

  • The art of delegation
  • Risk-taking
  • Surrounding yourself with a great team
  • Working on projects you really believe in

In contrast, most women have a greater level of fear of failure than men (how about risk taking then?). Well, I think as I’m getting older, I do admit this, especially when you have kids then you start yelling “no don’t do that” “no don’t do this” xD. And Yes, you have to work on the idea that you really believe in. You have to love and confidence on your idea! Don’t work on something you’re not sure about.

According to the Global Enterprise Monitor (GEM) 2012, female entrepreneurs appear to show reluctance to scale their business. Meaning that, they only stuck in small business. Why not grow and expand your enterprise? Interestingly, despite of high education levels among women entrepreneurs, they are much less likely to believe they have the capabilities for entrepreneurship. The more-educated women, the less confidence in entrepreneurship? Hmm… Maybe, they have more (or no) career option by being researchers of academics (self-thought)?

Then how? How can we build the confidence of ‘these’ women? Surely, we are not talking about raising skill levels (because they are already fed-up with everyday training) but it is about boosting the confidence. Yes, women need to be encouraged! You can try to go to networking events searching women mentors as role models. Or, get in touch with experts to talk about your ideas. Social media presence is also important nowadays. Last, practice makes confidence! You probably prepared for ages for your first pitch, but once you’re done and succeed, then you will be more ‘relax’ than your first awkward pitch. You can record how many times you have your successful pitches and note them, as they can re-boost your confidence.

“Don’t aim to please, aim to respect” – Linda Hudson, CEO of BAE System

              Mentoring. Mentoring helps with the business. Try to pick not only one mentor but more than one mentor. A variety of people can help you running your business. For example, if I have problem in training and development, maybe I will pick a mentor from university. Or pick mentor from local network to help with marketing. It is about who can help?

How to find a mentor? The best way is don’t say straightway to the person, ‘Will you be my mentor?”, it is kinda like ‘would you be my mommy?’ (You know, they are busy and  they have very limited time to take-care of you). But, make connections to them and ask thoughtful questions, such as “Could you help me…? I am doing things in my business and… “. If you are success then don’t forget to ‘pay-it’-forward’ by helping others out too 🙂

“I mentor when I see something and I say ‘I want that to grow'” – Oprah Winfrey

               Networking. This is the most difficult part for me (T_T). But, IT IS extremely important for every single thing in your life. But, for this enterprising skills, you have to be prune: choose which networking that is good/useful for you or not. Don’t forget to carry on your humble business card (I never have one, now thinking of having one :p). It is essential so that people can re-contact you (if they are interested).

Some networking events can be very awkward. There are several tips:

  • Don’t be afraid (confidence with what you offer)
  • Know who you want to meet (who’s gonna be there? When, where, what to ask?)
  • Find good points to stand (near food counter xD) –> Never be a wall-flower! (haha, I experienced this a lot, just leaning on the wall watching people talking to each other).
  • If you don’t ask, you don’t get!! So please, just grab that jackpot point and being a bit opportunistic, ladies…

There were also guest-speakers from female entrepreneurs in Imperial (two PhD students from chemistry-biology who won the biz competition and successfully bring their Fungi Alert technologies into the market. and a PhD student with her social enterprise). I am still amazed on how  they can manage their PhDs while doing their own businesses  (and raised quite impressive funding for full-time employment later). The answer is ‘a-lot-of-work‘ and:

Resilience.. resilience… resilience… and believe!”  – FungiAlert’s co-founders