Today we have a dynamite interview with Lena L. West - a woman you should all get to know better. A woman that you WILL get to know better - as she will be appearing on this blog in the near, near future!
I met Lena via email when she wrote to me about blogging. The thing I was so fascinated with - and the thing I think you will find compelling, also - is that Lena, for all her technical knowledge, is as down to earth as they come. She's a real gal, through and through. She loves shopping, she loves meeting new people, she loves her fella, and all the usual girl things. But, it's those not so usual girl things that I was interested in talking about. So, we decided on an interview. Read on to learn more about Lena's Technology Diet.
In my discussions with Lena, and as a result of meeting her in person at Suzanne Falter-Barns's home last month (see note here), Lena will be a weekly contributor to Lip-sticking, on Mondays. She will write about technology - what's up, what's down, what's new, and more. If you are interested in having a weekly Q and A with Lena, to be posted on this blog, write to me and let me know. I'll discuss it with Lena, and we'll see what we can put together.
It's all about you - and your understanding, or lack thereof, of technology. I'm thrilled to be able to introduce The Technology Diet to you, along with someone who can see things from our point of view. Here's Lena...
Yvonne: Women and technology - that's a strange combination. I know I'm considered 'smart' when it comes to technology, but I have no doubt that there is still much to learn. What got you interested in this seemingly male topic?
Lena: First, thanks for adding the word ‘seemingly’ in there. It’s ironic that you ask this question…I get asked this a lot and it’s always amazing to me that after over a decade in this industry, people still ask me this. I always ask myself, ‘When are things going to change? How much longer before technology is not automatically associated – even remotely – with maleness?” I’d like to add that you are PLENTY smart and everyone has something to learn about something. Ask me anything about finances and you’ll get a deer-in-the-headlights look. :)
The short story is I got tossed out of the pre-law program I was in at University of Virginia (long story) and my parents told me I had to get a job. So, I did…at a law firm – which, needless to say, made my parents even angrier with me. During the time I was working at the law firm, we were still using DOS – Windows had not taken over as the operating system du jour (eek!) – so all the other paralegals naturally had problems finding their files, managing their directory structure, etc. I had a knack for it and as a result, they would always call me to help with their computer troubles. I was good at tit and became the de facto office tech peson. Fast-forward some years and here I am!
Yvonne: What kinds of things do women normally shy away from - technologically speaking?
Lena: I’ll give you a good example: I was speaking with a client today. Now, this woman is bright and accomplished by anyone’s standards. But, when she gets on the phone with me she finds it hard to put two words together and she feels the need to ‘speak geek’ and fails miserably in the process – though not for lack of trying. She kept saying that she didn’t know how to talk about “this stuff” (meaning technology). I told her that as long as she kept verbalizing that and introducing that idea to her brain, she would never get it and technology would always be a struggle for her. Thankfully she’s extremely coachable and she ‘got’ what I was saying right away and stopped the verbal self-sabotage.
Anyway…I think for the most part women – who even on our worst day are over-achievers – feel the need to be experts and when they can’t be an expert, they say, “I’m not good at this stuff”, and subsequently shut down. So, to answer your question, it’s been my experience that women shy away from keeping an open mind that they CAN understand technology. Women don’t really shy away from one aspect per se, the whole topic makes most women clam up.
In September, I’m speaking to a womens organization in Connecticut. The topic is ‘The Technology Diet: Stop Technology from Being a Pain in Your Assets’ and it should be interesting to say the least. I love working with women and showing them how to leverage technology to grow their businesses…because once they open up and get it – they REALLY go for it!
Yvonne: Tell us how you came to develop the Technology Diet.
Lena: The short story is I got sick of ‘just getting by’ financially. I believe that small businesses are the lifeblood of the global economy – and if that’s true then technology is the bloodstream. Many solopreneurs want to be able to look at all the exciting ways they can leverage technology for business growth but, many simply don’t have the financial resources to invest in a retainer-based consulting assignment- even if it has been proven to increase their revenue by 25-50%. So, we were starving a bit. (Although we continue to work with solopreneurs who have the vision, make the temporary sacrifice, pay the consulting retainer for 2-3 months and see revenues and productivity skyrocket within the same quarter.)
Now, you must know, that I’m COMPLETELY and UTTERLY jazzed by the whole concept of solopreneur-ism (is that a word?). I wasn’t going to give up on small businesses! So, we had to think of a way to work with larger clients without alienating the small business community that has come to know and trust us. We struggled with this in a major way – for over a year I think.
Then I had the idea that we would target small corporations – now, mostly mid-sized construction companies - for one-on-one, retainer-based consulting and then we’d create a group consulting program for the smaller businesses…thereby giving the solopreneurs access to us at a price point they can manage. I still didn’t know how I was going to do this logistically but, I knew I could do it.
Then, one night in the shower, I started thinking about what small businesses need the most when it came to technology. All of a sudden, in a flash, it came to me….they need a Technology Diet! They need to stop taking the all-you-can-eat approach (buying tech products just because the ‘experts’ say they should) and they need to stop being anemic (getting by on last decade’s technology because they don’t want to ‘deal’). Yes, they need a Technology Diet! I hopped out of the shower soaking wet, ran to my office and reserved technologydiet.com and the next day I outlined the curriculum. We launched last month, the program sold out immediately and we’ve even had requests for licensing!
Yvonne: When it comes to training - do you have to explain things to women, more than to men?
Lena: No way! Like I said above, once women get it, they get it and they’re off to the races! I do have to say that I explain concepts differently to our female clients. I find that women understand more quickly when I provide personal life analogies and men do better with business analogies. Don't kill the messenger, please.
Yvonne: Does technology command your entire life - or do you find time to play? What's your favorite non-work related experience?
Lena: Technology doesn’t command my entire life but, I do love it! My favorite non-work related experience is hitting the beach in Miami. I go as often as possible and it’s my get-away. I disappear to there often. I also have a fulfilling spiritual life and a great guy (Eric – whom you’ve mentioned on this blog!) who is truly my better half. I enjoy reading and especially writing. I recently received a scholarship to Roy William’s Wizard Academy as a result of a short story I wrote so, I have now fully embraced the fact that I’m a kick-butt writer. I’ve even taken on a few copy writing assignments – although admittedly for online sales letters…I just can’t leave technology alone!
Yvonne: So, what's the last book you read for FUN?
Lena: The last book I read for fun was Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins. Deep. As good as Behold a Pale Horse by William Cooper. I can’t say that Perkins’ book was ‘fun’ but, as someone who historically ignored world-relations, I needed the wake-up call.
Yvonne: Who inspires you - today?
Lena: Personally? My Aunt Agnes. She’s not a young person but she’s is so active, ‘with it’ and hip. She’s totally into fashion and is a true gourmand. When I went to a red carpet event at the Waldorf last year, she reminded me to check out the ladies powder room! (Yes, it’s called that.) She’s the cool Aunt that everyone would love to have. I talk to her multiple times a day and visit her often. If she can get up everyday and put on her best, I can, too.
Professionally? Karen Kahn Wilson, Richard Branson, Ann Fudge, Marianne Williamson, Keith Ferrazzi, Anu Shukla, Barbara Corcoran, Sharon Stone, Michael Masterston and V. Cheryl Womack – all people who have built a fortune by doing business their way and kept the sense God gave them.
Yvonne: If you could be the lead actress in a major movie (one already made), what movie would it be, and which character would you be?
Lena: Ha! I’ve always wanted to act and I’m surprised I’ve never thought about this question. I would want to be Sharon Stone in the first "Basic Instinct." Talk about a character that’s beautiful, intelligent AND witty! Triple-threat! She was also probably a murderer but, that’s not the point. :) I’ve always liked Sharon Stone’s style so, yeah, her. I think maybe that every woman wants to be that character…totally in control, financially independent, shapely, all the guys want you…c’mon!
Although my friends think I’m most like Samantha from "Sex in the City."
Yvonne: Back to The Technology Diet - one of the things I see on the site is this question: Do you know what technology your business needs now - and 3 years from now? Hmmm... technology changes so fast, how can we ever know what we'll need 3 years from now?
Lena: Good question! We actually go over this during the program. One of the WORST things business-owners can do is think they have to keep pace with technology. Hey- you don’t buy a new car every year, do you? Keeping-up-with-the-Joneses just isn’t smart (or safe) when it comes to technology. The deal is: develop a strategy (which is what we do during the Technology Diet), stick to it and if something new comes along…STOP and take the time to think about if it’s important enough to revamp or include it in your plan. If so, by all means evaluate it for your business needs before you make the investment. If not, toss the idea and focus on sticking to your strategy.
Yvonne: Last question: your cost for The Technology Diet is outstanding! Should readers sign up soon - or will you be holding this cost for awhile, yet?
Lena: Of course, I’m going to say, “Sign up”! But, seriously…we’re starting the next ‘semester’ and they should get in while the price is good. I don’t know when we’ll be increasing the price – ok, that’s a lie – but, I’m not going to say when here but, we will increase the price soon…and that’s not a marketing ploy…and I’m not saying that to make you think there’s no marketing ploy when there really is…and I’m not saying…oh, wait…I said that already.
Thanks for the interview, Yvonne! This was fun and what GREAT questions! I got to the last question and actually said out loud, "Oh, it's over?"
There you have it, folks. Lena is funny, witty, and very smart. Her Technology Diet is a must for all small businesses. Watch for Lena's posts starting next Monday. Welcome Lena warmly, please! We're lucky to have her on board!