Wendy Glavin, Founder & CEO, Wendy Glavin Agency
Daily, I’m asked, “How did you learn blockchain?” Or, cryptocurrency? Or, artificial intelligence? Or, financial technology, and the list goes on. The answer is simple. I buy books, read, and do research. Instead of just retweeting, sharing or posting, I follow editors, industry leaders, people in other professions to learn. I regularly attend events, sit in the front row, take notes, listen, participate and meet new people.
Why Attending Events is Crucial to Growth
After, one of my business colleagues, Todd Fabacher suggested I meet Fay Shapiro. We had several conversations. Fay asked me to attend some of her company’s industry events. One-thing-led-to-another and I began writing articles for CommPRO. During that time, I listened and spoke to industry leaders, like Paul Kontonis, David Berkowitz (not Son-of-Sam;), Richard Levick, Ty Cobb, John Avlon, Mark Weiner, Shelly Specter, Renee Edelman, Judith Harrison, Mike Paul, Jim Joseph, and many others. I learned about many topics which I may not have learned had I not attended.
I’m honored that Jim signed a copy of his book, “Out & About Dad” and wrote, “Wendy, Share your story!” during the event, LGBTQ experience in public relations. Other events I covered for Fay included, earned media in the digital age, truth on trial, the lack of trust in the media, Black History Month, Daniel J. Edelman’s Vision and Legacy, fake news, why PR pros must have a seat at the table, using social content to drive earned media, the importance of brand consistency, authenticity and loyalty, why companies must be purpose and customer-driven, and the need for diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
None of this was luck or happenstance. Instead, it’s about doing the work and showing up. For example, if you attend an industry event and speak to people, follow-up. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Use Twitter, to read journalists’ feeds. Learn about what interests them. Create a relationship. People are more likely to trust the people with whom they know.
Finally, go to events where the people you want to meet will be, instead of only attending events with like-minded industry peers. Don’t forget to bring business cards.
Becoming a Published Writer
Since I’ve been in marketing communications for 30-years, I write every day. But, somehow, I never “owned” the fact that I was a writer. The cliché is, the more you practice, the better you get. Somehow, that never hit me. But, I continued to write for my clients to learn about their industry sectors and become the voice of their companies.
Subjects I’ve learned include, financial technology (FinTech), financial services, artificial intelligence (AI), mobile apps, crowdfunding, entrepreneurship, leadership, software, cloud transformation (I hate buzzwords;)), Twitter, and many other technologies. Twitter is my platform of choice. Why? Long ago, it took nearly a day to read The Sunday Times. Now, Twitter is like reading the New York Times in an hour.
Using Twitter, I noticed a post from Equities.com asking for contributors. I pitched CEO Nathan Stevenson of ForwardLane, a FinTech AI startup. The Managing Editor at the time, Henry Truc emailed me to ask me to be a contributor. He said, “I’ve seen your writing. You don’t need to apply.” I said, “What about my FinTech AI client?” He said, “We want landscape pieces, not company articles.” I hesitated because it’s a daily, monthly or weekly commitment. Then, I agreed to write one article per-month.
Henry suggested I write about, “Has the Public Lost Trust in Big Tech Companies?” We discussed a mini-research survey about how “the public” needs to be broken-down. Henry published the article. Since then, I write for Equities and have a tech column. I learned a lot from Henry and now, from Managing Editor, Ed Kim.
While some publications don’t pay contributors, many do. When you search on Google, be sure to look for the specific subject or industry sector that interests you. Submissions to reporters expire so it’s important to search the current date. You can find any type of writing, including, technical, scientific, literary, financial, essays, marketing, public relations, travel, poetry, cooking, blogging and more. All it takes is your interest and online research.
We Think We Can’t but We Can
Fay asked me if I could do financial writing. Having been married to a bond salesman on Wall Street for thirty-years, I said, “No. Finance is one of the only things I can’t write about.” Of course, if you know Fay, she recommended me anyway.
In January 2016, I began working with a FinTech startup, a software enterprise company for supply-chain, and a software industry leader in mutual fund trading, data management, revenue, expense management, compliance, and analytics. All of it was financial writing.
Remember the show, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” One of my phone-a-friends was my ex-husband. I called him to obtain a more in-depth understanding about mutual fund trading. He’s great at providing a mini-thesis or telling me where to go to find the answers.
It’s important to have friends in different industry sectors with whom you can call upon to help or point you in the right direction. It’s not about sending emails, IN Mails, DMs or comments, and seeing what will stick. It’s about building relationships over time. “Perception is the co-pilot to reality. You are your own competitive advantage. Nobody can be you like you can. If you bring your authentic self to the table, people will trust you and trust is at the heart of any successful relationship.” – Carla Harris
Eventually, I obtained press passes to cover events. What’s great is you attend global and national events for free. Then, you write an article. Here’s what it led to in December 2017: “Strategic Trends: AI, Machine Learning and Customer Service” was the #9 MOST-READ article in 2017. “From Big Banks to the Underbanked: FinTech’s Customer-Centric Model was the #8 Most-Viewed Event in 2017.
Attending and covering events helped me reposition my career. I gained more confidence, credibility and trust. You’ll find, when you’re helping or teaching others it inspires you to do more.
Reverse-Engineer Your Passion
During Social Media Week 2018, I obtained a press pass. Once there, I realized that it was too late for me to interview people since interviews were set-up at 6-12 months in-advance. How could I have a press pass and not write an article? I looked at all the events and found Jeffrey Lancaster who was speaking about blockchain. I knew nothing about blockchain and decided to attend his event to learn more.
After, I researched all the latest articles I could find. Then, Jeffrey and I met at Decoded in New York City. I came prepared with questions from a Forbes article and we talked. Jeffrey gave me a tour and explained how the company teaches non-tech executives to Code in a Day. Learn to Code in a Day is an incredible opportunity. Since it’s for groups of executives, if you want to join, please let me know. We wrote my first blockchain article, “The Amazing Utility of Blockchain: From Mining Crypto for Charities to Tracking E-Coli.”
Finally, it hit me. I’m a tech writer. Looking back, it’s been the thread throughout my career. Often, people say you need to find a passion. But, if you look back, instead of forward, you may remember previous jobs, hobbies, interests and people you met along the way. Instead of looking for your passion, it may find you as technology and writing did for me.
Why You Should Attend SXSW2020
As many of us are, I’m part of groups on LinkedIn and others including, networking, like LinkedIn Network After Work where I got my first client after launching my agency in 2016. I urge you to find and attend events in your area to meet new people, make connections, find a job or build on your career.
Facebook has many groups. One in which I’m a member is PR, Marketing and Media Czars. A member whom I didn’t know contacted me. She asked me to attend SXSW2019. I knew it was a global event for the film and music industries. I didn’t know it included technology and so much more. After speaking with Adryenn Ashley, I decided to attend.
If you’ve never been, SXSW it’s unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. Imagine going into the biggest sports stadium you know. Then, double that. The entire city is transformed with hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. Beyond a single venue event, it’s the entire city. Sanctioned events are in roughly ten places including, the convention center and hundreds of unofficial side events.
I was only able to attend a few official events. I attended side events with Adryenn as part of her CrytoVixens Investors Lounge. There were panel discussions about data privacy, blockchain, GDPR, sovereign identity, voting, dating, apps, the media and more. I spoke on a panel moderated by Stewart Rogers, “How to Make the Media Love You.” Other speakers included, Brittany Kaiser, Phu Styles, Priya Kuber, Tina Mulgueen, Rachel Wolfson, Anne Ward, and Monika Proffitt. We’ve kept in-touch. I look forward to spending more time with them online, in-person and at SXSW2020.
For me, another revelation there was ageism is a myth. I was 60-years old during South by and it was a competitive advantage. People listened to one another regardless of age, title, background, experience, or any other “data points” used to classify and categorize us. It was a debate of ideas.
If you’re asked to attend or speak at an event, take a leap of faith, even if you’re scared… go, speak and meet people whenever you’re asked. You never know what will come of it. For me, I learned about blockchain, returned to New York City and kept reading and writing about digital trust, data privacy, Brittany Kaiser and her Netflix documentary, The Great Hack, Facebook’s Libra, and more.
I attend a lot of blockchain events and speak with startups, cryto (cryptocurrency) enthusiasts and edit pitch decks and whitepapers. Previously, I edited a few whitepapers. Now, I do both on a regular basis. The number of new people you’ll meet is incredibly exciting and rewarding.
How to Get by With a Little Help from My Mentors
An important lesson I learned is to find mentors. I’ve had many, including my father, a prosecutor, who died at the young age of 67. Others include one of my boss’s Sam Rogers, friends, business colleagues whom I’ve mentioned above, and my three grown boys.
In January 2017, I hired Deirdre Breakenridge as my communications consultant. She helped me to keep moving forward with specific assignments, focus on my writing passion and bring out my personality in my work. Deirdre continues to be an advisor, dear friend and my role model.
I still own my own agency, continue to write and attend events of all sizes. I’ve built upon my knowledge and skillset and have more even more business colleagues and friends. As Deirdre says, “I’m a #ForeverStudent.”
Now, it’s time to for you to think about how you will continue to build upon your strengths at any age and move forward. World-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. discovered a simple but groundbreaking idea: The power of mindset.
In her book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” she illustrates how success in almost every area of human endeavor can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities. She says, People with a fixed mindset are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset; those who believe that their abilities can be developed. Mindset reveals how great parents, teachers, managers, and athletes can incorporate this idea to foster outstanding accomplishment.
My three sons always loved Dr. Seuss, as I’m sure those of you with children do too. I love this quote, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
I’ve laid out the story of my career (although not 30-years) in roughly 2000+ words. My goal is for you to know that the secret behind learning new subjects and advancing your career is not a secret.
As a matter of fact, it’s in plain sight. In the era of Google, you can search for anything. Using social media, you can follow people and learn about topics which interest you. Living in a globally-connected world makes it easy for you to connect and engage with people worldwide, 24/7/365-days per year.
None of this is a secret. All of us can do it. What are you waiting for? Do research. Read a book. Attend an event. Raise your hand, even if you’re shy. People will listen if you try.
Now, it’s your turn … what will you do?