Hello, Influence – A visit to Klout

Last night, I had the privilege to visit the Klout headquarters in the SOMA district of San Francisco as part of the Bay Area Girl Geek Dinner*series.  I’ve been to several of their events before including ones at Yelp, Genentech, and Thoughtworks and had always left feeling inspired.  The events are a great way to meet other females in tech as well as see the host company’s head office and learn more about their culture.

klout

You’ve been pinned by Klout!

Like many tech companies in the Bay area, the Klout office was vibrant and eclectic – from its wooden, high ceilings to the meeting rooms named after famous celebrities – the office showcased Klout’s dynamic culture.  The event began with Klout’s Director of People and Culture, Katelin Holloway, sharing her take on Klout’s culture and how the process to being a Kloutlaw (a Klout employee) required going through a series of interview to assess your skills and also if you will fit in with their culture.

The dinner went into a series of speaker and panel discussion.  The speaker that resonated with me was Klout’s Community Manager, Sahana Ullagaddi.  Sahana spoke about her move from working in a more corporate setting in New York to working a start up in San Francisco.  Mirroring a lot of what I did when I first moved here, Sahana reached out to influencers on social networks that she found inspiration and asked to connect.

I reached out to anyone who influenced me even if they weren’t in my reach, I still reached out.  I found the less expectation the more invested I was to learn from them.

– Sahana Ullagaddi, Community Manager @ Klout

That’s the thing I found when I moved to a new city and had to rebuild a network.  I emailed, Facebook messaged, inmailed, and tweeted at people who I thought were interesting and who I wanted to learn from.  To my pleasant surprise, I had a good response rate.  When you are genuine and authentically reaching out or as Sahana put it, “authentically curious” without any agenda or expectations, people are more willing to reach back out and connect.   I encourage you to send a cold message to someone whose career, lifestyle, beliefs, etc. you admire and see if they are willing to have a 20 minute coffee chat with you.  You’ll be surprised at what genuine sincerity can bring.  And when you’re one day in a position where people are reaching out to you, remember back to those who helped you and pay it forward.

*Girl Geek Dinner is a not for profit run by volunteers that connect female “geeks” together through sponsored dinners at organizations such as Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc.  There are city specific chapters with the Bay Area chapter being one of the largest ones.   It’s a free event however getting tickets to one of the Bay Area Girl Geek dinner can be challenging.  They usually run out within seconds of them opening the event on Eventbrite.  If you’re in a city where there’s a chapter, I highly encourage you to attend an event.

The Art of the Follow Up

I recently moved into a role where I now have a say and influence in the hiring process.  After being on the hiring side of several interviews, I’m surprised at the lack of follow up from those that I’ve interviewed.  The post-interview follow up helps remind the interviewer who you are and offers the chance for you to reinforce your strengths.  Simply put, the follow-up email should be a norm – typical behavior that goes together like peanut butter and jam, thank yous and you’re welcomes, left and right, interview and follow up email.

Think of the follow up email as a way to

  • Highlight the strengths you mentioned
  • Address any hesitations or weaknesses the interviewer may have brought up during the interview
  • Reinforce why you are the perfect fit for the role and the company

And personally for me, the follow-up email provides an opportunity for me to see your communication skills.  If you can’t write a decent email to a first time manager, then there’s no way you can convince me to be comfortable with you writing an email to my manager, to my manager’s manager, or to my manager’s manager’s manager.

For those who raise the point that you may not always have the interviewer’s email address… I call bull.  We live in a day and age of internet creeping.  An easy Google search will pop up the company’s standard email address or you can always guesstimate (john.smith@google.com, johnsmith@google.com, jsmith@google.com, j.smith@google.com, etc.).  If that doesn’t work, try your interviewer’s social networks.  While I prefer not to be messaged via Facebook or Twitter, a nice follow up message on LinkedIn is appropriate.

How to build a social community in a new city

Moving to a new city is hard.  You leave behind family, friends, familiar places, and a whole ecosystem of support.  I moved to San Francisco last year.  For me, it was a new city in a new country, all the way across the other end of the continent, and five hours away from what I know and what I am comfortable with.  I moved in with one of my colleagues and spent a lot of time with a group of work friends both in and out of the office. Outside of work, I knew no one.  It was around my first few months that I knew if I was to develop connections outside of work, I would have to put a lot of effort into it.  My friends suggested joining intramural or some sort of league  If you’re like me and hopeless at organized sports, then that suggestion doesn’t pan out well.

Starting from scratch, I reached out to my established community back home and worked with that to build a new one.  Here are some methods that worked for me.

  1. 2nd Degree Connections.  I emailed my family and friends and asked if they had a friend or a friend of a friend in my new city.  This resulted in four friend dates with one individual becoming a close friend of mine now.
  2. Facebook Creep.  Being a first generation Facebook college user, I had no shortage of friends on my list.  Mark Zuckerberg has made it incredibly easy to look up your friends and filter them by city.  Through my excessive creeping and research, I discovered a few people I knew that were in the city.
  3. LinkedIn.  LinkedIn has this brilliant feature under Contacts in the menu bar where you can search for high school and college alumni by what they studied, where they work, and where they live.  It was through this tool that I discovered that one of my college classmate and who also happened to be a former roommate of one of my best friends lives in the city.  I’ve also connected with two other alumni through LinkedIn.  It never fails to amaze me how open alumni are to meeting other alumni and chatting with them.
  4. Meetup.com.  Meetup is one of those misses for me but partially due to the fact I only ever went to one.  Many of my friends, however, have met and created strong friendships from people they’ve connected with through Meetup.
  5. Eventbrite.  Luckily for me, San Francisco is a vibrant, bustling city that offers tons of free events, workshops, lectures, etc.  Right away, I took advantage of the environment around me and searched for events under $20 on Eventbrite that suited my interest.  While I haven’t found a friend through Eventbrite yet, I have met some really cool and interesting individuals in my passing.

These are some of my tried and true methods.  As I continue to build my community here, I would love to hear some ideas of other meet and greets that have worked.  Feel free to share them with me in the comments section.

Out with networks, in with communities

There are so many articles and tips on how to network. From how to effectively network to how to get over network-phobia to winning at networking, the internet is full of good tricks of mastering the art.  But I personally find networking to be rather impersonal – more so transactional if you will.  Networking is very much what you can do for me and what I can do for you.  It is such an old school mentality of building connections.

The world has become increasingly connected and information and stories are shared instantaneous.  With the rise of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Path, it’s time to revisit how we network and shift it to building a community.  Focus on creating authentic connections through knowledge sharing, idea transfer, and story-telling.  People are genuinely more intrigued and willing to maintain a long-term connection with you if the initial touch point is authentic.  That you want to learn something from them, not gain something that would benefit you or help them with a future string attached.  Let’s focus less on networking and more on building an authentic community.