Episode 12 – Getting started with community builder Megan McNally

Episode 12 – Getting started with community builder Megan McNally

NARRATION: I think that too often we worry
that if we don’t do things in the right order or one after another or at the age we’ve been
told we’re supposed to do, then that we think we’re foreclosing opportunity, and — and
we’re not. COLLEEN O’BRIEN: HIMSS18 is the health IT
conference where professionals from around the world connect to gain the education, innovation,
and collaboration they need to continue to transform health and healthcare through IT. SONIA DARA: Microsoft will be onsite in Las
Vegas at HIMSS18 from March 5th through the 9th to showcase the intelligent services and
the trusted platform for solutions that engage patients, empower care teams, optimize clinical
and operational effectiveness, and transform health in the face of increasing cost pressures. COLLEEN O’BRIEN: For more information about
the conference, visit aka.ms/himss18. That’s HIMSS18. NARRATION: You are listening to the Women
in Business and Technology podcast from Microsoft. In each episode, you will hear from women
in amazing tech and business roles, as well as male allies who are helping make the industries
more inclusive. We are diving into programs that promote greater
diversity in the pipeline, and bringing you tips on how to build a successful career in
a supportive community. Welcome to Women in Business and Technology. COLLEEN O’BRIEN: Welcome to Episode 12 of
Women in Business and Technology. I’m Colleen O’Brien. SONIA DARA: And I’m Sonia Dara. COLLEEN O’BRIEN: We’re starting the show in
our Community Connect segment with a conversation that I had with Alysondra Duke, the founder
of Lady Bosses, a community to promote women’s empowerment and badassery that originated
on the social networking site, Meetup.com. SONIA DARA: And then, we’ll jump into an interview
I had with Megan McNally, a lawyer, entrepreneur, community builder, and self-proclaimed rabble-rouser. COLLEEN O’BRIEN: Finally, we’ll wrap things
up in our Cutting Edge segment with a discussion about how AI learns — and even amplifies
— the biases in our society. SONIA DARA: So Colleen, in our last episode,
you were starting to explore a newfound interest in journaling. Has this become a New Year’s Resolution that
you’re actually sticking to? COLLEEN O’BRIEN: Absolutely! And I’m getting some great prompts and a lot
of help from Dona Sarkar’s new book, entitled #DoTheThing. It’s a workbook of sorts that aims to push
readers outside of their comfort zones, and help them to finally pursue that secret goal
or idea. SONIA DARA: Sounds like a good read to keep
you dreaming big in 2018. As many of our listeners know, Dona Sarkar
was the guest on our inaugural show of this podcast. She’s a really inspiring engineering leader
here at Microsoft who heads up the Windows Insiders Program. She also mentors countless people, and manages
a ton of passion projects like fashion design and of course, writing. So, Colleen, what else can you tell us about
the book? COLLEEN O’BRIEN: The book is a series of journaling
prompts that guide you in writing the story of a hero or A Hero’s Journey where you the
reader are the hero. And this journey is broken up into four different
acts, so you’re doing a lot of journaling along each of these lines. Act 1 is The Ordinary World, or an overview
of your current life. Act 2 is The Call of Adventure, or your self-discovery
mission where you figure out what your purpose is. Act 3 is this Refusal of the Call. This is where you make all of the excuses
about what’s holding you back from pursuing that secret ambition. So, for example, if you really want to be
a bodybuilder in 2018, a refusal of the call might be, it’s too cold out to go to the gym
today. SONIA DARA: Is that a comment on my work? (Laughter.) My workout routine right now? COLLEEN O’BRIEN: That might be from my personal
experience. And then finally, act 4 is Do the Thing. This is the point in the story where you,
the hero, emerge and do what you’re supposed to be doing, what secret ambition is. And this book really guides you through articulating
and documenting your strengths, fears, daily priorities, and your accountability tribe. SONIA DARA: I feel like everyone thinks we’re
trying to be bodybuilders now. (Laughter.) So accountability tribe, as in friends, mentors
who keep you on track, is that what she means by accountability tribe? And like people who are coaching you? COLLEEN O’BRIEN: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And in the case that you don’t yet have that
person or tribe, Dona has set up a great Facebook group of people pursuing their goals and supporting
one another. Here’s a quick description of the online Facebook
group community: #DoTheThing is a society of people who are here to help you, cheer
you on, talk things through with you, not judge you, and generally have your back. You can find that Facebook Group page at facebook.com/groups/dothethingyo. And of course, you can find Dona’s book on
Amazon by searching for #DoTheThing. NARRATION: Community Connect, get involved
and stay connected. COLLEEN O’BRIEN: On December 13th, I headed
to the SoDo neighborhood of Seattle with Sonia and show producer Lexi Swanson — SONIA DARA: Shout out to Lexi! COLLEEN O’BRIEN: — to attend the Lady Bosses
Gala, a party to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Meetup community of women entrepreneurs,
small business owners, side hustlers, and, quote, “anyone wanting to live a more badass
life.” The event featured delicious food and beverages,
raffles, and an ongoing Bingo game to help attendees meet new people. The Bingo grid contained all of these mini
missions to find individuals who, quote, “identify as an artist,” “travel for business,” or “have
opened more than one business.” We sat down with Psychologist, Women’s Empowerment
Coach, and founder of Lady Bosses, Alysondra Duke, who explained why the event was so special: ALYSONDRA DUKE: This evening is celebrating
our one year of being in community as Lady Bosses. It was a vision of mine at first to just create
a community for women where they could come together safely in a way to be able to grow
and thrive together. And we’ve had an incredible growth. What I thought might be ten people interested
has turned into over 1,000 members and followers. And now this is our one-year mark of a party,
and even in this I think I need to work on up-leveling my expectations because I thought
that it would be a small number, and here we are like, I mean, huge numbers of turnouts
for this amazing event. So we’re just celebrating one year of community,
one year of badassery, one year of women being amazing. COLLEEN O’BRIEN: While networking can sometimes
be overwhelming, Alysondra has sought out to create an inclusive and warm community
under the Lady Bosses moniker. ALYSONDRA DUKE: Lady Bosses is created to
be a sense of home, a sense of like community, so anytime that people come to one of our
meetings they are always welcome to even people who run late. Everyone is encouraged to welcome them. They will stop, they will applaud them coming
through the door. So I would say like come. It’s not set up to be some sort of awkward
networking event that makes everyone feel uncomfortable. And we have small groups that meet together,
we’re coming together as a big group. I mean, there’s so much community happening,
people have built all kinds of friendships, new business connections, have gotten all
kinds of like clients and different things that they never even anticipated. So it’s like just take a risk and come, because
it can’t hurt. COLLEEN O’BRIEN: One year in, Alysondra is
energized by the community, and has her sights set high for additional growth and new programmatic
offerings. ALYSONDRA DUKE: I want to see Lady Bosses
continue to thrive and to grow. I mean, if we continue on the trajectory we
have been on, it is just going to be even a more greater force. I want more women involved and engaged in
our monthly meetings. Those will be consistently offered. With that, I want more women to feel like
this is their solid community that they are coming to every month where they know that
there’s a place where there’s sort of like a home, like a women’s entrepreneurial home,
you know, for them to come to. And I want to be offering more workshops,
offering more events throughout the year where large numbers of women can all come together
and meet each other, because we all want to feel empowered and live life that feels really
good and really authentic, and so that’s what I want for women here, and what’s I want a
whole ‘nother year of happening. COLLEEN O’BRIEN: In 2018, the Lady Bosses
meetup group will host programming on finances, relationships, branding, health, self-care
and more. For our Seattle-area listeners, you can stay
posted on all upcoming events by joining the group on meetup.com. Just toggle your search to “Groups” and type
in “Lady Bosses.” That’s two words. For listeners outside of Puget Sound, Meetup.com
is a great place to find communities like Lady Bosses that are closer to your neck of
the woods. Just search for your interests, from tech
to business to film, for an upcoming meetup event or a group that meets consistently. And now, let’s get on to the interview. SONIA DARA: I’m thrilled to welcome to the
studio lawyer, strategist, change-maker, and serial founder, Megan McNally. Megan, welcome to the show. MEGAN MCNALLY: Hi there. Thank you. SONIA DARA: So Megan, Colleen O’Brien, my
co-host, was telling me a little bit about how she heard from you first, and she learned
about you and your work at an event in May 2017 at the Riveter. And we’re big fans of the Riveter. We’ve talked about it on the show a couple
times. It’s a co-working space headquartered in Seattle,
dedicated to women and wellness. And your event was called An Evening of Rabble
Rousing with Megan McNally. What makes you a rabble rouser, and have you
always been that way? MEGAN MCNALLY: Well, I think I probably have
always been a rabble rouser. I think what makes me a rabble rouser is I
have a big mouth, I am not afraid to challenge the status quo, and I’m an open book. And I think really what people wanted to come
hear that night was me tell my story candidly about how I got to where I am, and how that
was not a traditional path at all, and that’s okay. SONIA DARA: So I’m eager to talk more about
your recent pursuits, but what I found so interesting about your career is the pivots
you’ve made along the way. So you spent two decades working in the philanthropic
sector. What are the most important skills that you
honed while working at NPower National, the Refugee Women’s Alliance, the Philanthropy
Northwest, and the Pacific Science Center? You have quite a few Philanthropies you’ve
gotten involved with. So what were the most important skills that
you honed in while you were there? MEGAN MCNALLY: Yeah, there was a lot of philanthropy
in those 20 years, it’s true. I think the most important skill that I honed
is relationship building. Much of the work that I did in the sector
was about raising money for organizations and for great missions. And I think people often confuse that with
sales, that if you just have a good organization or people owe you money, so you just go out
there and get it. And it’s not, it’s about building meaningful
relationships with people. And I think an important lesson is that that’s
a long game, right? There’s not one great conversation that opens
up a long term relationship with somebody. It’s consistency, it’s authenticity, it’s
showing up over time, delivering on what you’ve promised to deliver on. And I had an opportunity to do that with a
lot of amazing supporters of great organizations. SONIA DARA: So one of your pivots is you jumped
into entrepreneurship in 2006 as the owner and principal consultant of MDS. So what guided you into this entrepreneurial
pursuit? Did you have any business owning role models
by any chance? MEGAN MCNALLY: Well, I had some business owning
role models earlier in my life. My dad was a gun dealer. SONIA DARA: Ooh! MEGAN MCNALLY: I know. That’s part of my story that people always
think is far more fascinating than it is, but I’m the daughter of a gun dealer. SONIA DARA: Wait, where’d you grow up? Where was this? MEGAN MCNALLY: Florida. SONIA DARA: Florida? Okay. MEGAN MCNALLY: So yeah, my dad was really
an entrepreneur. He was the person who, you know, he loved
to do his own thing and to start his own thing. And one of those was he had a dream of owning
a gun and ammunition dealership. And so my first job was packing shotgun shells
in his gun shop when I was a kid. SONIA DARA: And how old were you? MEGAN MCNALLY: I don’t know, probably eight. SONIA DARA: Oh my. At least you’re learning safety and kind of
respecting the gun. MEGAN MCNALLY: Yeah. Well, I think what I learned is that running
a business is 24/7 proposition, right? Like when you want to own your own business,
you give up this notion of work/life balance, like there’s going to be some boundary between
what you do for work and what the rest of your life is. It becomes a blur, it’s all one, you’re always
working. But at the time that I started MDS, which
is a consulting firm, I actually didn’t start out with intention. I didn’t say, hey, I think I’ll open a consulting
practice. I happened to have done some really great
work with some great people in the community, and they started coming back to me with projects. So I had an opportunity where when I was working
at one organization where a board member from another organization that I had previously
worked for came to me and said, “You know, now I’m on the board of this other organization,
and we have this project, and we could really use somebody with your experience and your
insights; could you come talk to us?” And I started getting more invitations like
that until I finally looked around and said, I think this is consulting, I think this is
what I’m doing now, and so then I started doing that. And then there were a lot of really difficult
lessons at first, like there was a lot of that, but was that really enough for fulltime
work, was that enough to really sustain a business, and how do you scale one person
with advice, what kind of help do you add, how do you build a team around you? And so there were some really fun and some
really painful lessons around that. SONIA DARA: Any notable lessons, though, that
you could maybe share with our listeners, if anyone’s experiencing something similar
where they’ve been providing advice but they’re not quite sure how to scale? MEGAN MCNALLY: I think the most important
lesson was a person is not scalable. And so to the extent that my business was
built on people wanting my advice, my insights from my experience, there’s only one of me,
there’s only so much of that that you can provide. You know, I wish I’d had sort of a better
strategy or understanding of how instead I could have built a team of other people who
also had insight and experience that was similar to mine but different enough that maybe we
had a complementary suite of things that we could offer, and so then there would have
been a there-there that wasn’t just me. SONIA DARA: So in the midst of building an
impressive career in the nonprofit world, you also decided to go to law school at Seattle
University at night. And this is while you are still working, which
is incredibly impressive. What prompted this return to academia? MEGAN MCNALLY: First, let me go back to your
comment, which thank you to say that it’s impressive, but it’s really not. (Laughter.) SONIA DARA: It is. MEGAN MCNALLY: When I did decide to go to
law school, for me it wasn’t an option to quit working and become a fulltime student
at 40 years old. I had no interest in stepping out of my career
stream. I had no interest in trying to build a social
life on campus. I was there for a purpose. And so continuing to work as a professional
during the day while pursuing my degree was to me the only option that really made sense. So I will also say that I am not a person
who does well with extra time. SONIA DARA: What do I do with this? MEGAN MCNALLY: Like I would waste it. SONIA DARA: What is this amorphous thing? MEGAN MCNALLY: I would waste it. And so working fulltime while going to law
school meant that — and I was working a fulltime executive job. So I was working 50, 60 hours a week. SONIA DARA: Wow. MEGAN MCNALLY: Then I would go to campus,
I would sit in class for several hours, and then I would go home or go to the library
and read case law until the middle of the night. And I didn’t have any time to waste, because
there were no margins. And so I just plowed through and did it. I never had the luxury of saying, gee, should
I do my homework now or put it off until tomorrow. That wasn’t an option. But what inspired me to go to law school,
it was not the first time that I intended to go to law school. I had twice before come really close, and
then something amazing happened that took my time and was a higher priority than school. So I always knew at some point that I would
probably go back to school to start, and then finish my law degree. But this time around what it was is in my
consulting practice I had the privilege of working on some really cool social sector
projects that were testing the boundaries of what a charitable organization is and what’s
a business, and how do those ideas come together, and what are these hybrid organizations, and
is there an opportunity to have a bigger impact or make a bigger difference if we step outside
some of the known models. One of those projects that I was working on,
we were fortunate enough to have donors working with us who said, “I don’t need a charitable
write-off for this gift. So tell me how you need the capital. What kind of capital do you need? What would really make a difference?” And it was amazing to be able to work with
people like that who wanted to put their wealth to work making a difference. And it was frustrating to then have to hand
them off to a law firm to figure that out. And so I was spending a lot of time with friends
who are tax lawyers and business lawyers trying to figure out what those options were, and
how to do that, and along the way decided that those were skills that I wanted to add
to my own toolset. SONIA DARA: You mentioned two opportunities
that came along the way that kind of kept you on your career path as opposed to going
to law school. What were those opportunities? They sound pretty big deals. MEGAN MCNALLY: Yeah. The first time I intended to go to law school,
it was just that I was not ready to be a grownup. SONIA DARA: Are we ever ready to be grownups? I don’t know. MEGAN MCNALLY: There’s a spectrum of people
who are sort of like ready and not ready, and there’s not ready and there’s really not
ready. And I fell into the really, really not ready
category. And so when I left undergrad, I actually walked
away, I hitchhiked from Mexico to Alaska, and I decided that I had more important things
to do than go to school. And that was about experiencing life and really
I think figuring out who I wanted to be, and that was not in a classroom. So that was the first time. And then the second time it was that I got
hired to work for NPower, which at the time was a nonprofit that had just been founded
with some founding money from Microsoft. Microsoft was one of the four founding funders. The organization was built in 1999 to help
the charitable sector deal with this coming wave of changes in information technology. And I was the tenth employee that was hired
there. SONIA DARA: That’s awesome. MEGAN MCNALLY: And it ended up being this
amazing experience. We leveraged Microsoft’s $25 million investment
to grow to nine communities around the country, and I think really made a difference for nonprofit
organizations across all sectors and across the country. And my boss, Joan Fanning, who was the founder
of NPower, just saw something in me and believed in me, and gave me opportunity. And the five years that I spent with that
organization was far better than law school at that time. It was an opportunity to grow daily, to learn,
to get to take on new levels of responsibility and kind of figure out what did I really have
to offer an organization. So that kept me away from law school the second
time. SONIA DARA: Yeah, I don’t blame you. That sounds amazing. That’s an awesome opportunity. MEGAN MCNALLY: And I’m a believer that law
school is always going to be there. I think that too often we worry that if we
don’t do things in the right order or one after another or at the age we’ve been told
we’re supposed to do, then that we think we’re foreclosing opportunity, and we’re not. I knew it would be there at another time,
and I knew that when the time was right, the time would be right. SONIA DARA: So you ended up going to law school
at the age of 40. MEGAN MCNALLY: Mm-hmm. SONIA DARA: That’s awesome. MEGAN MCNALLY: There are smarter birthday
presents you can give yourself for your 40th birthday than law school. SONIA DARA: I’ll say. (Laughter.) Right. So yeah, you’ve definitely been putting your
law degree to work since graduation, to say the least. In addition to serving as the Director of
Advancement and the Chief Development Officer for the Washington State Bar Association and
Foundation, you founded your own firm, Doyenne Legal. Can you describe what your firm specializes
in and what you set out to achieve with Doyenne Legal? MEGAN MCNALLY: So we’re a full service business
law firm. And when I set out to create the firm, I had
this idea that I wanted to be the place that any entrepreneur could walk through the door,
share their idea, and be taken seriously. So we really pride ourselves on being welcoming,
on being inclusive, on being lawyers who provide legal advice that’s grounded in the real world,
and an understanding of how businesses and organizations really work. We strive to be what we describe as utterly
human, which means we don’t bombard our clients with legalese, we don’t give them answers
or information that isn’t helpful, we aren’t aiming to bill the most time that we possibly
can with each client, we actually aim to be a thoughtful partner to people as they build,
scale, and run their businesses. And when I launched the law firm, I actually
had a vision of building more than a law firm. My vision was that I would build three interrelated
organizations, Doyenne Legal, Doyenne Strategy, and Doyenne Capital. Because when you decide to build an organization,
whether it’s a nonprofit, it’s a small business or it’s a venture scale startup, you need
legal advice but that’s not enough. SONIA DARA: Right. MEGAN MCNALLY: You also need business strategy
and support. And so I thought we could provide that through
Doyenne Strategy. And even with those things, you can’t get
very far if you don’t have access to capital. So I wanted to build a capital fund that would
also ensure that there were resources there for people who really did have a viable idea
to going forward. And the law firm has only been in business
a year now, so bringing those other two arms of the sort of overall organization just hasn’t
happened yet. SONIA DARA: I know that Sara Blakely, the
founder of Spanx, was part of your inspiration to start Doyenne Legal. You heard an interview with her and were frustrated
to hear about her struggle to get ideas patented. We’ve discussed patenting on the show before,
specifically the stats from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, which demonstrate
that more than 81 percent of patents include no women inventors, and that women aren’t
expected to reach parity in patenting until 2092. How can we move the needle on that number
more quickly? MEGAN MCNALLY: I don’t know that we can move
it quickly. I don’t want to create false hope that we
can move it quickly, but really moving the needle requires consistent effort over time. And for that particular needle you’ve got
a number of issues that are important. We have to continue to press to make STEM
fields places where women want to pursue learning as well as a profession, right? And then we have to do the same thing with
the legal profession, which is not a very welcoming place for women still. Even though at law school more than 50 percent
of law students are women, we see women leave the profession five to ten years into legal
practice. The opportunities for advancement aren’t there. So a lot of the same challenges that you hear
about in the technology sector also play out in the legal sector. So if you want to see more women patent attorneys,
and if you want to see more women who are actually creating patentable ideas, then we’ve
got to create professional spaces that actually make room for women to come in, drive forward
their own ideas, and succeed. SONIA DARA: In August of 2017, while serving
as the principal attorney of your law firm, you also founded RheaMedia where you’re serving
as the CEO. The primary product of that company is Diana,
the first streaming network dedicated to women sports. Are women sports another area of passion for
you? And how far along in the company journey are
you guys right now? MEGAN MCNALLY: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I love sports, and I love people who
love sports. I love to watch sports, I love to play sports. And I am tired of being a sports fan who can’t
find the sports that I love. There are 35 million fans of women sports
who are either completely ignored or wholly misunderstood by the existing sports landscape. So when I set out to build RheaMedia, it’s
because we recognize that there’s an opportunity right now, there’s a moment in time where
people are turning way from cable TV towards streaming media, that gives us an opportunity
to aggregate and bring sports together into a place that’s much more accessible and actually
creates a sports media experience that fans of women sports want to watch. It’s been amazing. I would encourage everybody at some point
in your life to step into a space in which you have no real knowledge or expertise. Naiveté is powerful, it is liberating to
just step in there and say, so I have no background in sports, I have no background in media,
but I am the customer I’m solving this for. And then to drive into a question without
any preconceived notions about what the answers are or what’s possible but to really just
dive into it with curiosity has been just an amazing journey over the past few months. So where we are is we’re pretty close to having
a live demo that then we’re going to get to play with and get to spend some time really
working on the fan experience. And hopefully we will be launching to the
public early next year. SONIA DARA: That’s awesome. What’s the inspiration behind the name, Diana? MEGAN MCNALLY: That is such a great question. The truth of the matter is the name was a
placeholder the week that we were working on the business plan, Wonder Woman came out,
and we said this is an easy one, and really thought it would just be an placeholder name,
that we needed something to call it because “over the top streaming network dedicated
to women’s sports” was too long to keep saying in every conversation. So we needed — SONIA DARA: OTP network, yeah. MEGAN MCNALLY: Exactly. So we needed a placeholder. We chose Diana. And that name started to invite really interesting
conversations for us, and I think people started envisioning or visualizing that this project
is a project that was about a woman. And I got some great advice from somebody
who said, well, remember Diana is a goddess; go with the goddess. SONIA DARA: This has probably become clear
to our listeners by this point, but you are an incredibly productive individual, to say
the least. Are there any secrets to your productivity? Is it bullet proof coffee, specific apps,
philosophies? Like what’s your secret? Like you barely sleep, like one hour, like
micro naps? MEGAN MCNALLY: I’m a boring, sober vegan who
doesn’t drink coffee, so there’s not a product that I can swear by. I would say first of all, it’s not very smart
to try to launch a whole bunch of things in short amount of time. You run the risk of not doing any of them
well if your priorities are really divided. I wouldn’t say that this is a great model
to try to emulate, like start something, and then a few months later start something else. And if that’s going well, start another thing,
right? But that’s kind of what happened. And for me I think sometime in the past year
and a half, sometime last year, I decided that life is short, and I was ready to pursue
my own ideas. And I have confidence in myself that I’m a
smart person who’s good at figuring things out. And I don’t have all the answers, but I have
enough to get moving, and so I started to get moving. And what I found is that when you do that,
you get traction. And when you get traction, it’s kind of addictive,
you want to keep going, right? So I want to keep going until I can’t or until
somebody stops me. SONIA DARA: What I really admire about your
career is that you’re making space for so many other women to find success. While launching Doyenne Legal, you also started
building a network of women called The F-Bomb Breakfast Club. I love the description of this group. It’s an F-ing fabulous community of female
founders who cuss, cavort, and collaborate. I love it. This community is only a year old but has
over a thousand members. And your monthly first Friday breakfasts are
always the talk of the entrepreneurial town here in Seattle. Can you tell our listeners a little bit more
about the F-Bomb Breakfast Club, and did you realize that what you were building would
become such a phenomenon? MEGAN MCNALLY: I had no idea. It’s been a fluke. I wrote a blog post a little over a year ago
during Seattle Startup Week. It was the same week that I opened doors at
the law firm. And during Startup Week I talked to so many
women who had experiences that were similar to mine, experiences of being in the boardroom
and you share an idea or you make a point, and it seems that it’s not heard, but then
your male counterpart says the same thing and it’s heard in a different way. Or you’ve been minimized, underestimated,
marginalized in decisions. And particularly in the space of wanting to
build a business law firm, I kept having the experience where people would say things,
when I would tell people I’ve finally decided to go into practice, I’m going to open my
own practice, and they would say, “Oh, family law?” Like their assumption was if you’re a women
opening a law firm, it must be family law. And I would just look at them and say, you
know, what it is about me that makes you think — SONIA DARA: Yeah, why do you think that? MEGAN MCNALLY: — that I would — right. So I wrote this blog post and said, you know,
if any other women were having these experiences, experiences similar to mine, and you want
to get together once a month, and just talk through some of the strategies of how you
build a company or you build a business in a space, and particularly in male dominated
spaces, I said, I’ll provide the space, I’ll provide the coffee and donuts, you just have
to get up early to come meet with me, because I’m in a hustle, you know, once the business
day is under way. And so our first meeting in January, I had
no idea if anybody would show up. I hoped it wasn’t just going to be me alone
in the dark eating donuts. And about 20 women came. SONIA DARA: Wow. MEGAN MCNALLY: And it took off from there. And we’re now at almost 1,500 actually members
of the community online. SONIA DARA: That’s great. MEGAN MCNALLY: And about anywhere between
100 and 150 that come in person once a month. So I did not sort of like MDS, like my consulting
practice, I did not sit down and write a business plan for this. I thought there was a need, I offered a solution,
and people showed up, and it grew from there. I think the smartest thing I did was in the
very first meeting was look around the room at who are the other women in this room who
can help this become something. I didn’t want it to just be just my idea. It’s not the Megan show. And so I tapped really smart people like Keita
Williams who came to that first meeting, and started asking her, what do you think, how
would you like to see this grow, how would you like to see it evolve, and what role do
you want to play, and doing the same thing with other women in the room, and I think
we grew it together as a community over the course of the year. And it’s still amazing to me what a phenomenon
it has become. I have experiences where I’ll walk into the
grocery store and people will come up and said, “Oh my god, you’re the F-Bomb lady.” I think like — SONIA DARA: You should make a shirt and just
wear it around. MEGAN MCNALLY: — number one — we have shirts,
we do have shirts — SONIA DARA: You do? MEGAN MCNALLY: — that say, “Get Up and Swear.” I mean, of course there’s some ego in it,
right, when people come up and say, “Oh, you’re that lady,” but more importantly it’s just
amazing to think how many women we might have touched as a community, and how many women
we’ve inspired. Our community is open to women anywhere on
their entrepreneurial journey, so whether they are still employed but trying to gather
the resources and the courage to quit their job to launch their business, or they’ve already
exited multiple companies, are on a third or fourth startup, whatever, everything in
between. And so we want to be an inclusive space for
all of those women. And the magic is what happens in between the
meetings where two women meet each other and show up for each other and actually help each
other in some meaningful way get to that next business goal, get the connection that they
need, solve some particular business challenge that they have in scaling their company. It’s incredible to watch what the women in
the community are doing for each other. SONIA DARA: In addition to your entrepreneurial
and community minded efforts, philanthropy has remained a consistent part of your life. You served as the board president for the
Puget Sound chapter of Girls on the Run, you’re a volunteer attorney for Wayfind, and you
served on the boards of the University of Washington Advisory Board, the Association
of Fundraising Professionals, and the Initiative for Diversity Governing Council. How do you determine the causes you want to
dedicate your time to? MEGAN MCNALLY: Yeah, a couple of things. One is that how I choose what effort I’m going
to give my volunteer time to is, number one, I care am I really going to make an impact. Is this a board that if I join it, they actually
have a need that I can fill, right, that my skills or my experience or my connections
are going to make a difference, and that has to be true. The second thing is it has to be a cause that
I really care about. I’m not interested in serving on boards just
to sort of accumulate board service experience. It really has to be something that I’m personally
passionate about, because when you’re talking about your volunteer time on top of your professional
time and all the other things that you’re doing, you’re really talking about the tradeoffs
of family time. So if I’m not going to spend that time at
home, it better be something I really care an awful lot about. And so that has to be important, and that’s
been the case with each of these. And then finally, I have to have capacity. Having been the person that’s staffed boards,
and knowing the difference between a board member who really shows up and is really helping
advance an organization from the board member who just kind of phones it in and you always
have to beg for their time, I really care about being able to be that board member who
truly shows up and is really making a difference. And if I don’t have the time and capacity
to do that, I think that I’m getting better at saying no and being really choosy about
the opportunities that I agree to. SONIA DARA: You were recently interviewed
on the Success Bully Podcast with Keita Williams where you spoke about your daughter as your
North Star, a reminder to live as the role model you want her to have. But you mentioned that every North Star needs
a keel. What exactly do you mean by that? MEGAN MCNALLY: Let me say first of all that
I probably mixed some metaphors there, so I don’t know that that was the best way to
phrase that, but here’s what I mean. To me a North Star is your vision, it’s what
guides you. It tells you what direction you’re headed,
and it’s aspirational. But if you really want to get there, you’ve
got to keep your ship upright. And to me that’s what I mean by every North
Star has to have an even keel. Because you need something that keeps you
functioning and headed that direction, or you won’t ever get there. And I know who that is in my life. It’s important that I know both who’s that
North Star, but also who’s the even keel that’s keeping this all together, because it’s not
me. SONIA DARA: So do you have any other advice
for women considering entrepreneurial pursuits? MEGAN MCNALLY: I think the first one is to
just start. As women in particular we tend to think that
we have to have all the answers before we trust that we’re the right person to do this. And there won’t ever be all of the answers,
so just start. And then once you start, be prepared for really
hard work and surround yourself by people who can help you. With RheaMedia we decided to form the company
a few months ago and get started. I made a very intentional decision that instead
of keeping the idea too much under wraps and keeping it behind an NDA, I decided that I
was going to talk with absolutely everybody who would talk with me about it. And in doing so I was able to figure out who
else is out there who cares about it, who else is working on something similar. I wanted to know if there was somebody else
that was working on the same idea and was ahead of us, I wanted to find them because
I wanted to support them. And I needed to learn a lot in a short amount
of time. So just get going, surround yourself by people,
and talk to people, and you’ll be amazed at how far you can actually go. SONIA DARA: Where can our listeners find you
online? MEGAN MCNALLY: You can find me at a couple
places. You can find out more about our women’s sports
network at Diana.media. You can find our law firm at Doyenne-Legal.com. SONIA DARA: And for our listeners, that’s
D-o-y-e-n-n-e. MEGAN MCNALLY: And you can learn more about
the F-Bomb Breakfast Club at FBombBreakfastClub.com. SONIA DARA: Thank you so much, Megan, for
joining us. MEGAN MCNALLY: Thank you. This was fun. NARRATION: Cutting Edge, our take on stories
in the business and technology world. COLLEEN O’BRIEN: In this episode of Cutting
Edge, we’re going to discuss an article written by Kevin Maney that was published in Newsweek
on December 11, entitled “How AI Learns to be Sexist and Racist.” The subheading cuts right to the chase in
positioning humans and not machines as the problematic factor here. The subheading reads, “If AI learns from human
interaction, is it doomed to pick up our biases and excesses?” SONIA DARA: Mark Yatskar of the Allen Institute
for Artificial Intelligence is quoted as saying that “AI could work to not only reinforce
existing social biases, but actually make them worse.” And the article cites an example of this in
action: A group of University of Virginia computer science students trained an AI image-recognition
software to tie certain scenes to gender. After scanning billions of images, the trained
AI decided that shopping and washing are things women do, while coaching and shooting are
things that men do. COLLEEN O’BRIEN: Yeah, really amplifying the
biases and excesses there. Yeah, and another example of this comes from
Boston University research team that trained AI on text from news articles. They then asked the software to complete this
sentence, quote, “Man is to computer programmer as woman is to X,” sort of like a fill in
the blank. And the AI replied, “Homemaker.” SONIA DARA: So yeah, you may be thinking,
“Okay, these are discrete examples, how will this really impact me in the workplace?” And so Maney documents that both Bridgewater
Associates and Tokyo tech company Ricoh are already recording and digitizing meetings,
and that data that can actually be fed into AI. COLLEEN O’BRIEN: The bright side here is that
computer scientists know this is a problem, and could potential tune AI to detect and
counter bias. Maney reasons that, quote, “Once AI can spot
the worst in us, software might help us be better humans.” SONIA DARA: But there’s an underlying moral
question here that Eric Horvitz, a Technical Fellow with Microsoft Research, calls out:
“When should we change reality to make our systems perform in an aspirational way?” In the absence of a unified societal response
or a legal standard to answer that question, it’s critical that we start making more progress
toward workplace equity before AI learns from casual workplace sexism or systemic bad behavior. COLLEEN O’BRIEN: Well, Sonia, that makes a
dozen episodes, but this is definitely one of my favorites. I think it was really great to celebrate such
a successful year with Alysondra Duke at the Lady Bosses Gala, you
know, to be back in the studio chatting with you about AI and tech trends, and to really
put pen-to-paper on some of my 2018 ambitions with Dona Sarkar’s new book, #DoTheThing. SONIA DARA: Yes, all goodness. And let’s not forget a stellar conversation
with Megan McNally. Her amazing levels of productivity have me
feeling even more ambitious about this year, like really trying to be to her level. If you want to help keep that inspiration
momentum going, we could really use your help to make our show more discoverable. Please remember to rate, review, and subscribe
to the show. And if you know of someone who might love
the Women in Business & Technology podcast, please let that person know! We’d really appreciate your recommendation. COLLEEN O’BRIEN: As always, you can find us
on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, YouTube or wherever you listen to podcasts. You can also find us on SoundCloud, where
we recently launched. And if you have any feedback or questions,
please email us at [email protected], or Tweet us @MicrosoftWomen. SONIA DARA: And finally, your mission for
episode 12, if you choose to accept it, is to volunteer at a nonprofit that supports
women. Catch-a-fire is a website that matches skilled
professional volunteers with nonprofits by aggregating an evolving list of dozens of
projects. To get started, head to Catchafire.org, click
on “Find a project” and under causes, select “Women’s Issues,” and there you’ll see all
of the projects supporting women-centric nonprofits. Whether you’re a great at marketing, grant-writing,
board governance, software training, or whatever, there’s a great way for you to support the
broader global community of women. END


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