While the number of female small business owners keeps growing at double-digit speed, the number of women founders of hi-tech startups seems stuck in the low single digits. What makes the technology industry different?
Meet JJ DiGeronimo, speaker, entrepreneur, President of Tech Savvy Women, and author of the new book Accelerate Your Impact: Action-Based Strategies to Pave Your Professional Path. She is a strategic advisor to venture capitalists (VC), investment teams, and executives as it relates to routes-to-market and repeatable revenue streams—and she’s considered one of the most highly regarded executive strategists to attract, retain, and advance professional women.
Tune into this episode as JJ shares insider tips and resources to help you scale your startup idea from side hustle to full-time gig.
In This Episode
- The different challenges men and women face in business
- How opportunities for women change as you age
- The benefits of producing your own content, including video
- The importance of looking before you leap
Quotes in This Episode
“When you move to your 30s and 40s, the roles become limited, the opportunities are not as available. You have to stretch in new ways to really cultivate the impact you desire.” —JJ DiGeronimo
“What is the value you create? What is the needle you’re moving? And then, how do you stick to that conversation on a regular basis?”—JJ DiGeronimo
“I often don’t encourage women to leap right away. I encourage them to start their initiative off the side of the desk… Go into an existing nonprofit or an existing organization that could benefit from the program or product that you’re considering creating. Test it out before you leave your day job.” —JJ DiGeronimo
“Women who have paved the path unknown to them really inspire me. And I think any story of people showing how they’ve beat the odds to overcome current obstacles to make a difference and impact in life inspires me.”—JJ DiGeronimo
“I never get discouraged by a ‘no.’ It’s just one step closer to my next ‘yes.’” —JJ DiGeronimo
Tech Savvy Women
JJ on LinkedIn
The Working Woman’s GPS: When the Plan to Have It All Leads You Astray
Accelerate Your Impact: Action-Based Strategies to Pave Your Professional Path
Your Network Is Your Net Worth by Porter Gale
Oprah’s SuperSoul Sunday
21-Day Meditation Experience
Riches in Niches by Susan Friedmann
Full Audio Transcription for Episode 4
Welcome to Platform FM, the show for people launching or growing an online platform, a must have for influencers and entrepreneurs, brought to you by the Online Platform Institute. In addition to this podcast, platform builders can get actionable insights and inspiration with the free weekly online newsletter. Join us by signing up at onlineplatforminstitute.com. While there, you can also download a personal platform blueprint to help you create an authentic and successful platform plan. Now, on with today’s show. Here’s Jacquie.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Today’s guest is JJ DiGeronimo. JJ is the President of Tech Savvy Women, an international organization of experienced women in tech careers and organizations. Now, she began her career designing data center infrastructures for Fortune 500 companies, and after a 20-year career in tech, JJ is now recognized as a thought leader for women in tech and girls in STEM. She works now to empower professional women and consult senior executives on strategies to retain and attract women in technology. JJ is the author of two books, including the just released Accelerate Your Impact. Most of all, I am very, very proud to call her my friend, and welcome JJ.
JJ DiGeronimo: Thank you so much for having me.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Well, thank you for joining us. That introduction was very brief and just a smidgen of your history and body of work, but what I love about your story and I’ve known you for a few years is that you are a true work in progress and you’re always evolving. Is that part of your DNA?
JJ DiGeronimo: Probably so at this point, and with the industry changing so much, it really is difficult to stay in one place or be stagnate. You constantly have to get above the fray and it takes different strategies and you’re constantly testing to see what’s going to work.
Jacquie Chakirelis: It’s a really good point. Well, I think one consistency that you have focused most of your efforts on, on really lifting women professionally and personally. As I mentioned, we met a few years ago and I think you just published your first book, The Working Woman’s GPS: When the Plan to Have it All Leads You Astray, and boy don’t we all know that. It was a collection of other women’s stories as well as your story about how to recalculate your life course. What brought you to that book?
JJ DiGeronimo: Well, it’s probably no surprise that once you say all these yeses in life, like yes, I’ll spend the rest of my life here, yes we can have offsprings or adopt, yes we can move to the suburbs, life can quickly get complicated. With an international job and being on the road every week, I wasn’t really prepared for all of the additional responsibilities and goals that I had outside of my work and I found it would be very difficult to keep things afloat initially. I really turned to my network of women that were 5, 10, 15 years ahead of me and asking them questions like how in the heck do you do this? How do you keep it all going? How do you have it all? How do you manage this home and professional life? And that book was really my findings.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Good point. Do you think that as you interviewed all these women, that we all struggle with it, no matter whether we have children at home or not?
JJ DiGeronimo: Absolutely. Women are notorious for over committing, saying yes way too quickly and taking on much more than they have time for and regardless if that’s offsprings or spouses or elderly parents or things you’re doing in the community or even with your religious groups, we can quickly get underwater of the things that we said yes to. I think it’s a great book for women that are trying to get focused on the main things.
Jacquie Chakirelis: I mentioned that you just released your second book. How long ago did you release that? Just this past year?
JJ DiGeronimo: Yeah, just the fall of 2015 or ’16.
Jacquie Chakirelis: ’16, yeah. How has this helped your online platform that you’ve really grown and nurtured over the years?
JJ DiGeronimo: Well it’s interesting. I seem to write about things when I’m in it, and six years ago, when I wrote my first book, I was in the midst of making all of these life challenges and opportunities work for me, and once I moved through that … I realize when you move through your 30s and into your 40s it’s difficult to continue to move up the org chart if that’s a goal for you, or get on a board seat or even start your own business. When I’m in the midst of these challenging situations, I turn to my network and my [inaudible 00:04:43] network to really understand how other people are trying and doing this. The second book, Accelerate Your Impact, are action based strategies to advance your professional path regardless of where you’re starting and regardless of where you hope to go, they are real strategies to make it work for you.
Jacquie Chakirelis: What are some consistent things that you heard from women in developing these action strategies?
JJ DiGeronimo: Great question. There are over 100 articles cited in the book from Fortune, Inc., Wall Street Journal and we really started with the research, is what is the research saying? How do men and women differ in the workplace? What are some of the challenges that women are dealing with compared to what are men? It really comes back to how women feel about themselves and how often they surround themselves with the right people and are able to articulate their goals and align themselves based on where they want to go next. For many women, and I was included, I thought if I did great work and kept my head down and got all my to-dos done, that opportunities would present themselves, which happened in my 20s. Okay, that makes sense but when you move to your 30s and 40s, the roles become limited. The opportunities are not as available and you do have to stretch in new ways to really cultivate the impact you desire.
Jacquie Chakirelis: I’m so glad you mentioned your network because really, your network is going to, obviously there’s a book Your Network is Your Net Worth, which I absolutely believe in by Porter Gale, and really building that network takes a long time and you need to invest in it from your 20s on up so that you can turn to them. They have been instrumental. They’re the reason why I launched this podcast and really the focus of this podcast interview is that network. How important is developing your network? Can you give a few tips for women at all stages on their network development?
JJ DiGeronimo: Yeah, I think this is very important and I think a lot of times it can be extremely intimidating, and I think that the way I talk about in the book of how to align to the right events, how to align the right career catalyst is one. Understanding where you are and what you’re looking to do next, whether that’s just getting better at your existing job or starting a company or getting on a board, really getting some clarity on where you are. Then authentically going about it. I mean everybody can sense out people that are just trying to collect business cards, but really authentically looking how you can help others and often over time, it really comes back to help you, and so I often suggest to women is talk to the people that already in your network. Understand what their goals are, what are problems you can help them solve or people you can connect them to. It starts to cultivate this energy that helps ultimately, elevate you and push you in the direction you hope to go.
Jacquie Chakirelis: With so much content competition, how have you generated momentum online?
JJ DiGeronimo: I think for any person that is … Whether you’re evolving your professional brand and organization or you’re starting your own business, I think really knowing the problem you’re solving for the marketplace. What is the value you create? I just posted another YouTube video a few minutes ago about really quantifying your value and what is the needle you’re moving? Then how do you sort of stick to that conversation on a regular basis? It’s easy to get spread out on all different topics, on all different keywords, but really being diligent and consistent about feeding the marketplace content that is related to the problem you’re solving and the area you want to work.
Jacquie Chakirelis: So important, and you mentioned the YouTube videos, and you really have invested in using video online. How has that enhanced your reach?
JJ DiGeronimo: Oh my goodness, I love it, I love it. It took me about six months to learn the … I use Camtasia, I have my own video system in my office, and it was fumbling the first six months. I will not deny it, but I’ll tell you, video is such an empowering tool for myself to sort of see how it’s resonating, how many people watched, how long, but it’s also unique in the marketplace because many people have to pay to get videos created, and so it gives me a unique edge that I can create my own videos and post them as I please, creating a new revenue and a new way to access people. As many of you know, YouTube is a very hot search engine and it actually gets me many keynotes and opportunities to work across the country.
Jacquie Chakirelis: That was going to be my next question is, do you generate revenue from the video or is it just what the video opens up for you in terms of revenue?
JJ DiGeronimo: You could do both, you could do both. Right now, the last two years or almost three years now, I’ve been using video to share content, but I use GoToTraining, and I have some online course material I’m in the process of creating. But my real revenue comes from consulting and keynoting, and it’s a great way to elevate the brand and create a platform to share stories. I have many, many videos where I interview successful women across the world and some of their key strategies to pave their professional path.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Right. Well, before we get into the lightning round. You know this program is devoted to helping our listeners break through barriers that are holding them back from taking actions, so I couldn’t think of a better person to have on the podcast today to talk about that. Can you recall a moment in your career, business or life that you really needed to take a leap of faith, and how did you overcome it and jump in?
JJ DiGeronimo: Oh my goodness, so I had a fantastic job in high tech. I was making my way through the executive ranks. I had a fantastic salary, but my heart was pulling me in another direction. and it was years. I mean I had been working on elevating professional women for years, and so I took a trip by myself to Sedona, Arizona.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Really?
JJ DiGeronimo: Yes, and I felt like my heart was telling me one thing, but my head was telling me something else. I needed to get some spiritual clarity to make sure I wasn’t jumping off the cliff unexpectedly or into a hot pool of lava. So, I think for all of us, we get our life indicators different ways, and for me I really look for spiritual guides to help me identify some of the things going on in my head that I feel like I just cannot seem to resolve myself, and so I spent a lot of time on spiritual learnings. I watch a lot of Oprah Super Soul Sunday. I do a lot of spiritual reading and I definitely watch the animals and do a lot of soul searching before I make any key decision, and sometimes it comes quickly and other times, it takes me months.
Jacquie Chakirelis: I’m so glad you mentioned that because I think that people expect either a clear answer immediately, and they don’t realize that it does take time, and sometimes that is in years. It’s not weeks. It’s not days. It does take years to evolve to get you to the answer where you need to be, but I guess the important thing is that you went ahead and you started to grow and open your mind to opportunities so that you could make that leap.
JJ DiGeronimo: I think it’s so important and I think for many women leaping is such a big deal. I often don’t encourage women to leap right away. I encourage them to start their initiative off the side of the desk. I’ve coached many women in going into existing non-profits or existing organizations that could benefit from the program or product that you’re considering creating and testing it out before you leave your day job, because entrepreneurship can be very expensive very quickly, and I think really vetting out the value of the product or service you’re creating before you let go of your consistent revenue streams is an important strategy.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Yeah, you know you never hear that but it’s very true and unfortunately, people learn that lesson the hard way but having a side hustle for a while and testing things out is probably the best way to do market research.
JJ DiGeronimo: I think it’s absolutely necessary for women and I talk to a lot of folks that are trying to recruit women and they’re like, “It takes women a long time to make decisions.” Well they have a lot of things in their life that they’re orchestrating each day, from drop offs to pickups, to errands and other commitments. There’s a lot going on in our lives and it’s very difficult to just jump out and start something from scratch without really knowing your revenue streams. I can’t stress enough to entrepreneurs that if there’s a way for you to figure that out before you jump off or leap off the cliff on your own it’s important … I personally worked on this for five years before I left my day job, and I definitely had revenue streams in place before I switched my career path.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Good to know. Well, we talked a little bit about your current online platform, your videos that you have running. What’s really exciting you about it today and where do you see it going?
JJ DiGeronimo: Oh, it’s so fun. I have initiated a live call every Monday where professional women join from their desk, which is a unique opportunity to have real conversations with women all over the world and I’ve been recording those and clipping them up to small nuggets of information. It’s created a lot of content but it also energizes me each week because I know that even if I have a week in my office where I’m not out keynoting, I’m not out working with the diversity officers, I have interaction with people live. To me, I think really knowing your energizers, and for me it’s people, that you make sure you incorporate that into your schedule so you can keep the momentum going for the days that might be a little slow or the weeks that you can’t seem to get past the first two things on your to-do list.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Good point, and we’re going to ask you in a little bit about where people can find that at the end of the show, but are you ready for the lightning round, JJ?
JJ DiGeronimo: I would love it.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Okay. What was the number one thing holding you back from building your online platform?
JJ DiGeronimo: Confidence. Like to feel like I had enough value to post things out there, that I had enough validity in the marketplace.
Jacquie Chakirelis: What productivity hack helps you get more done and stay focused on what matters?
JJ DiGeronimo: Working out definitely and I started taking mindfulness classes to keep me in the present moment and really be conscious of why I’m creating the content I’m creating and why it matters.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Really, really important. There’s terrific resources on mindfulness. I love to see that it’s getting into the mainstream now and it really, really will help. Have you ever tried any of the apps like Headspace or anything like that?
JJ DiGeronimo: I have, yes. I love it.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Good, good. Could you give us a name of an online resource, blog or a podcast that you are absolutely in love with and want to share with our listeners?
JJ DiGeronimo: Well, I absolutely love Super Soul Sunday, Oprah Super Soul Sunday. She interviews spiritual leaders across the world with insight and advice and direction on life’s purpose, so I absolutely recommend that. I recently listened to her and Deepak Chopra’s 21-day meditation. And I think that my workout classes and the apps to make sure I get scheduled a week in advance so that I don’t skip out on me is really important.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Good points. How about a book that you’ve read in the last year that you like to recommend to our listeners?
JJ DiGeronimo: Well, I definitely … One of the books that really helped me further niche my business, which I really believe in nicheing, is Niches to Riches. I really think that a lot of people are apprehensive to niche, because they feel like they want to throw this wide net out in the marketplace, but the reality is nicheing can be instrumental in really increasing your revenue and your value in the marketplace, and helping you get above the fray with content. At first, I was going out to all women all place that I really spent a lot of time in the last 12 to 24 months working with technology companies and technology women and girls in STEM. That for me has really fostered an increase in revenue, but also value in the marketplace because I’m not competing against every coach and every woman advocate.
Jacquie Chakirelis: I think that that’s really, really important and again, as being a person that supports women entrepreneurs and women professionally, I know it’s very easy just to get caught up in this whole … all these women coaches and everybody’s doing it and saying the same thing and what do I have to offer? But I think if you really, really sit down and start to explore your niche you’ll find it, but it is something that people are afraid to do is really, really explore that niche and look for those opportunities. JJ, if you could invite any person, dead or alive to a dinner party and sit next to that person, have a conversation with, who would it be and why?
JJ DiGeronimo: I have a lot. I would invite Gloria Steinman. I would invite Oprah. I’d invite Madonna and I probably would invite, oh gosh, there’s a woman, she’s written 50 books and she’s been a nun her whole life and I find that she would be awesome. Her name’s escaping me but I think women that have paved the path unknown to them really inspire me, and I think any story of people showing how they beat the odds to overcome current obstacles to make the difference and impact in life inspires me. I think almost sitting next to anyone is exciting but if I have my choice, those would be the few.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Those are some powerful women. That would be one heck of a dinner party. Do you have a favorite success quote? If so, how do you apply it to your meaning, to your life, your mentality?
JJ DiGeronimo: My favorite success quote is every no is closer to a yes. I never get discouraged. If I don’t get the email back or if I get it really like, “Hey, thanks so much but we’re not interested.” Or, “Absolutely not, JJ, you’re out of your mind.”, it never impacts me. I’m like “Oh, that’s a bummer.” Maybe next time or maybe our lights will align at a different time, but I never get discouraged right now. I just feel like okay, that’s one step closer to my next yes.
Jacquie Chakirelis: That’s a really, really great point and something that’s really challenging for everyone but especially women to work through is that they take rejections as a personal attack on what they’re doing or their ideas and it really isn’t. It just might be the wrong time.
JJ DiGeronimo: Exactly.
Jacquie Chakirelis: JJ, what’s the best way our listeners can find you and connect with you today?
JJ DiGeronimo: I think the best way is just to Google me, JJ DiGeronimo and you’ll find the YouTube channels. We have active blogs, every single week we’re posting and then also I’m a very active LinkedIn user.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Great. Well we will put those links in our show notes as well as links to your book because I encourage women to go out there and get that book. I think it’s just remarkable and congratulations on all your success.
JJ DiGeronimo: Thank you, and thank you for including me in such a fantastic lineup, and I’m really excited for the reach that you’re going to achieve with this podcast.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Thanks so much JJ. Well we’ll talk soon I hope.
JJ DiGeronimo: That sounds great.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Bye-bye.
JJ DiGeronimo: Bye.
Jacquie Chakirelis: Thank you for listening to Platform FM. You can find show notes and transcripts from the show today at onlineplatforminstitute.com. While you’re there join platform builders from around the globe by signing up for a free weekly online newsletter featuring curated info about content, community and courage guiding you to launch and grow a profitable platform. Now you can also download a free personal platform blueprint to help you create an authentic and successful platform plan.
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