Women to Watch: Vanessa Shaw of Human Side of Tech

The month of March marks Women’s History month and International Women’s Day on March 8th. Here at The Port Workspaces, we wanted to highlight women entrepreneurs as they share with us their victories, their struggles and the snippets in between.

In this third portion of the Women to Watch series we are glad to introduce Vanessa Shaw, Founder of Human Side of Tech. She works with organizations to improve team culture through design thinking workshops partnering with HR and talent leaders. The goal of these workshops is to unlock people’s creativity and give them the tools to implement changes in their organizations.

Before starting the company, unlocking creativity was a challenge for Vanessa herself: “Somebody told me I was too creative for my previous roles in companies, that it was like being stuck in a box”, she says, “for some reason that message really hit me and made me commit full time to go all in on my business”.

Even though Vanessa was determined to follow the entrepreneurial path, that didn’t happen overnight. She faced a lot of “false starts” before finding the sweet spot where she could really make an impact. “It took many trial & errors to find a client that really understood me and how I was adding value”, she shares, “once I found that one client that got it, I knew I was onto something and it was just finding more of those people”.

With the support from a client and being “a little bit of a rebel”, Vanessa was able to write her own rules. Her “secret sauce” in this path is to always speak the truth, not being afraid to ask difficult questions or be pretty blunt about her opinions:

“Have you ever felt like there’s a lot of bullshit at work? What I love to do is to just slay the bullshit out of business by speaking honestly and truthfully, speaking about my history personally and vulnerably, creating space for an honest conversation. I just want everyone to bring their badass self to work.”

Women to Watch: Bilen Mesfin Packwood of Change Consulting

In this portion of our Women to Watch series, we are happy to feature Bilen Mesfin Packwood. She’s the Principal and Founder of Change Consulting, a communication consulting firm serving changemakers in non-profit companies and foundations in California and around the country. By changemakers they mean the people who are really committed with changing communities for the better: “We often say communication is the secret sauce that people can use to create the vision and the change they wanna see”, Bilen explains.

Bilen is a changemaker herself. She and her team focuses on justice for communities of color and low income communities and on dismantling the barriers these people may be facing. “I really want to see woman of color, black women, getting equitable access to opportunities that they need to create their dreams and make their dreams a reality”, she shares.

Bilen also makes an impact everyday leading by the example. But her path through entrepreneurship was not easy: “As an immigrant and a woman of color being able to see myself as a business woman and entrepreneur was a challenge, I haven’t had too many examples of that out in the world”. This shift in Bilen’s mentality from being a solo consultant to business owner was motivated by her desire to start a family, which would have been more difficult without an established company and a committed team.

Now, Bilen is a proud mom of her one year old daughter, who she’s already learned so much from: “Elyana just brought a lot of clarity into my life, a lot of clarity about purpose, about how I need to spend my time and set the boundaries between work and life”, she told us. But even with setting boundaries, balancing motherhood and career is not an easy task.

“So many of the challenges that we think are personal, are really systemic, and that applies to motherhood as well. We often think that the challenges that we are facing are because of our own shortcomings, but really we have to understand how the system was set up to not really support mothers, specially working mothers. Once we understand that, we can gain power to think about the things we can change, about how to treat other women about to become mothers”.

Women to Watch: Molly Dowd of Wildshore

The month of March marks Women’s History month and International Women’s Day on March 8th. Here at The Port Workspaces, we wanted to highlight Women entrepreneurs with our Women to Watch series as they share with us their victories, their struggles and the snippets in between.

About Molly and Wildshore

We’re excited to feature Molly Dowd, CEO and Co-founder of Wildshore. A creative company that focuses on brand identity and strategy. Wildshore was born out of a series of conversations  about the future of branding and design, a field where Molly and her Co-founders were passionate about innovating.

After working with digital innovation projects in big companies such as Google, Target, Sephora and Tesla, Molly Dowd, along with her Co-founders; Larry Johnson and Chelsea Davidson felt they could use their experience to open their own creative company. Today, the company works closely with founders, entrepreneurs and marketers who are creating products that are impacting culture for good.

“I’m most passionate about the fact that we get to work so closely with other entrepreneurs who are equally as passionate about the things they’re building in the world.”

The path towards where they are now was not easy: “It does take a lot of guts and risk to do it and is also important to remember that success looks like a lot of different things, and for me, just having started a company is a success in itself”, Molly shared.

For her, the entrepreneurial path comes with its share of struggles, so it’s important to celebrate the small victories. “I feel like every single day there’s something new that I have to figure out, so a victory can be like getting in touch with an amazing company we want to work with, launching a new product onto the world or to get home in time for dinner with my kids, there’s a big range of things”.

On balancing motherhood and career.

“Balancing motherhood and career is very challenging. What I would say is for working moms, to be good to themselves – to forgive themselves and to allow some leeway in knowing that not everything is going to be perfect.”

In this case, she believes that having support from the family or from other women can make all the difference in realizing it is impossible to be perfect at all times, and that is OK.

A piece of advice Molly that she would share with her own two daughters is to be bold.

“Be bold in the decisions that you make, don’t hold back on the things you’re really excited about doing. I can say for myself there are some things that I look back and I wish that I’ve done and I didn’t because of lack of confidence, I didn’t think I could do it. More than anything I want them to feel like they have the space, the opportunity to do that, and to be unafraid.”

We hope you feel inspired by our interview with Molly and continue to celebrate your own small victories along the way – and most importantly, to be BOLD.