It’s been said that 2016 hasn’t been the best of years. Memes abound of this being the year we’ll want to forget or the year that will now be the answer to most pub quiz questions. For me, it was supposed to be the year of ‘push’; the passing of various people, the results of some public votes and the uncovering of certain truths have pushed us all. Nothing quite knocks you like the Brexit result. ON. YOUR. BIRTHDAY.
Small moments, victories and highlights have kept me going. When our #GirlsinSTEM event trended on Twitter in January. When I spoke in front of an audience of 15,000 at Salesforce World Tour. Recording this MAKERS video and this one. My keynotes in cities around the world. TV appearances (including a feature on Mary Portas’ What Britain Buys) as well as on BBC News at 10. Six weddings – one of which I was Maid of Honour. Being on a couple of digital billboards around the UK. And being the voice of an exhibit at the Science Museum’s new permanent Mathematics Gallery in London was cool too.
Choosing the word “Push” for 2016, I wanted to push myself for my team, my health and to my limits. It’s fair to say I’ve clung to that and done myself proud. The team has grown and are in a very good place; I did a 4 month gym stint which turned into eating healthily after I got back from lots of travelling; I’ve definitely lived outside my comfort zone on a lot of things (e.g. politics). Charting my progress has been made easier by social media and listicles (e.g. Evening Standard, Computer Weekly, Cosmopolitan and Business Cloud) but also by communicating well with my team and key stakeholders in our network.
Stemettes turns 4 in February, which in some circles means that we’re no longer a ‘startup’. Everything so far has been a test for real company life – building a team, providing our services, internal processes, templates and tools – with learning along the way. Organically, we’ve reached just under 15,000 young women across a wide geography with the help of partners and networks. Now, it’s time to scale up.
‘How will you scale?’
This is a question we’ve been asked by all manner of people since the early days of Stemettes. Along with the (now answered) question of ‘Why don’t you have an app?’ – it’s been one that has played on my mind quite a lot. We run free, fun, food-filled events in a Stemettes way and that is our USP. Having others run our sessions hasn’t resulted in good experiences – quality assurance has been the main concern. But small fragments of ideas and happenings have paved a way. We’ve known that we’ve wanted to run ‘Stemettes school clubs’ for a while. We’ve known that particularly passionate young women turn evangelical after attending our events. One girl did an Assembly on her experience, set up a WhatsApp group & started organising trips to STEM events listed in our app, without any prompting.
One morning in Canary Wharf, I was in a mentoring session and it clicked. We had been planning a model for financial forecasting and I mentioned that our real focus is to maximise impact versus spend, rather than income or anything else. An hour’s worth of activity run by the team has a value, as does an hour run by a young woman who has been to a Stemettes event. We needed to leverage more of our alumni, volunteer and team network to maximise and scale impact. Some offerings (like a school club or documentary) are easy for others to do, some are more complex, but we had a model to go by.
That has spurred on a strategy which encompasses the creation of Stemillions (school clubs run by young women for young people) and also screenings for our Outbox documentary. In the new year I’ll also be releasing a guide for anyone to do talks in schools & colleges the Stemette way (inspired by John Stepper’s Working Out Loud presentation guide).
As we become a ‘real company’, we have a proper set of definitions and strategies for scaling. I’m excited.
This is what Scaling means
Scaling means that we’re aiming to reach 2 million young women by 2025. We have a definition for ‘reach’ which works even if the team aren’t doing the work directly. We have a big hairy goal that we are working towards, which makes sense and is countable. For any effort expended, we have a way of quantifying which works alongside our internal measures for impact. This is going to make understanding scale a lot easier for us, partners and volunteers.
Scaling means properly empowering others to work alongside us. We’ve been so used to running events ourselves that we take for granted aspects of our process and the formats we use. Travelling so much has made us realise the value in what we do and also working out ways to ‘bottle’ parts of it for others to leverage. Young women will be able to run clubs; Volunteers will be able to do their bit and anyone will be able to carry the Stemettes message forward – especially after they’ve seen our Eat.Sleep.STEM.Repeat documentary. (Let me know if you’d like to host a screening).
Scaling means automating what we can and batching what we can’t. The team won’t grow much bigger than it is now, nor will it grow in the same way it has so far. We’re reaching more people with the same resource and so need to clear the plates of those in the team to make way for more strategic, scalable work. Part of bottling what we do, means that our processes will be written down and outsourced to bots. It’s been a mini-obsession recently: exploring IFTTT vs Zapier, Automation in Mailchimp and Workflows in Salesforce. We have an entire Trello board of project workflows, automation blog posts and dreams.
I’m an optimist and someone who has only been alive for less than 3 decades so I’ve survived by clinging to my feeling that things will eventually be OK, even if they aren’t now.
Here’s to a wonderful 2017 for you and for me.