Conversations at the Crossroads.

Be the Catalyst

Last week I attended and spoke at the Girls in Tech Catalyst Conference in San Francisco. It was an engaging and inspiring event, and it was a thrill to return to a city I love a few weeks after I had relocated to the East Coast. I have no doubt this was just the first of many trips back to CA to nurture relationships there, but participating in the conference made this visit a unique one and gave me a lot to think about—before, during and after.

As speakers, we were asked to share “advice and lessons learned” with the next generation. As a coach, the assignment had initially left me feeling conflicted, as I believe that effective coaches should not be in the business of “giving advice” but rather listening intuitively and helping others identify their own paths forward. And so, aiming to support the mission but assuming a different tone, I shared the story of my career transition and my approach to exploring the risks I had faced along the way. I described how the “cautionary tales” offered by others had threatened to paralyze me, and I reflected on how important it had been to define the concept of risk for myself rather than accept what others believed. Fifteen minutes later, I was eager to swap monologue for dialogue as the Q&A period offered possibilities for stronger connection and exchange with the crowd. I later heard from many of the audience members that the topic and conversation had resonated, and that they felt encouraged to explore new perspectives. And when the conference closed the next day, I had a sense that each of us who had been there—speakers and attendees alike—would walk away with a renewed understanding of our potential to catalyze change, in ourselves and also in those we encounter. Not a terrible outcome for a three-day gathering of one thousand. I am sure this is exactly what the Girls in Tech team had intended.

My takeaway from the event? When we share stories and broad ideas, absent a need to “advise,” we compel each other—either intentionally or inadvertently—to examine our beliefs and behaviors with some objectivity and to reconsider what’s working and what isn’t. These are moments when self-awareness expands and insights abound and sometimes we experience a shift. But these moments don’t generally happen without catalysts—experiences that shake us up and “stir the pot.”

If there were any advice to be given, I would state it simply: Keep stirring the pot! Seek exposure to new ideas and perspectives, and share your own with the world. This is how we evolve, when we are open to it.

I was inspired by the Catalyst Conference, and I am thoughtful about what’s to come, and so I leave you today with this:

You have the capacity to be inspired and catalyzed to change by others.

You have the capacity to inspire and catalyze change in others.

How will you use these powers for good?

With support and encouragement for your journey,

Founder, The Crossroads Coach

Published June 29, 2017