Onward: Announcing Startup Institute New York

Today I am excited to announce that I am joining Startup Institute as Director of their New York program. Formerly known as the Boston Startup School, this company is reinventing post-grad education and providing a gateway to the startup community by helping young professionals align their passion with their profession through the pursuit of a meaningful career.

For the past year Startup Institute Boston has shepherded students through their 8-week curriculum giving them the skills to have an immediate impact on the startup they join, whether in marketing, sales and business development, product and design, or web development.  The program teaches not just cutting-edge content specific to each track, but also offers cross-track opportunities and fosters the soft skills you often don’t learn until you’re on the job (and you screw up).  I think this is why they have been so successful, and why their students go on to get snapped up by the most interesting and innovative startups. (They have a 94% placement rate to date.)

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New Year, New Adventure

Happy first day of 2013! I hope you all had a wonderful night celebrating the close of one year and the launch of another.  I was lucky to spend it with some pretty amazing women I’ve met in the New York startup community who have become great friends over the last twelve months (Rachel Sklar, I’m looking at you babe…)

As I was reflecting on the year, I couldn’t believe how much I learned, who I met, and what I experienced in 2012. I launched a company, opened an office, raised venture capital, hired a team, got us national press in newspapers, magazines, and television shows, and helped some women feel amazing when they got dressed for work. This was a year of fitness achievements too with two half marathons and my first Olympic-distance triathlon. I also got some quality time with several girlfriends who have been in my life for over a decade, and had the opportunity to join the boards of two awesome nonprofits I adore: Interlochen Center for the Arts and Camp Interactive.

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If a tree falls in a forest, but no one posts it to Instagram, did it happen?

Confession: I have recently been accused of being exasperating online.

The charge, leveled by a former classmate with whom I have not stayed well connected, was that I only share the shiny, wonderful moments of my life on Facebook and he resented the apparent filtering I had applied to my not-so-shiny moments. After my initial thought subsided (“unsubscribe from my updates then”) his comment lodged itself somewhere on my things-to-write-about list and after considering it all week I decided to do so.

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Wetsuits, brunch, and summer camp: prepping for the 2012 NYC Triathlon

On July 8 I am going to willingly jump into the Hudson River. It gets worse, I’m going to get up before dawn, pour myself into a wetsuit (in JULY, remember), and jump into the Hudson River with 2999 other New Yorkers for the first leg of the New York Triathlon: swimming 1500 meters in open water.

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An open letter to my sister on Mother’s Day

Last year an incredibly powerful film was released called Miss Representation, a documentary about how women are portrayed in the media. One of the most powerful statements it made was that “you can’t be what you can’t see.”  For example, for girls to dream about being astronauts or presidents or software engineers they need to see female astronauts, female presidents, and female software engineers in books, movies, and television. (Instead, the number 1 career aspiration for young girls is to be royalty because mostly what they see are princesses.)

I was thinking of this phrase in particular today because it is Mother’s Day, and this Mother’s Day is the first for my big sister, Stephanie. She has the most beautiful 10-month-old son who is the smartest, happiest, smiliest, most perfect baby ever. No, I am not biased. It’s factually true. Trust me. What makes my sister an amazing mom could fill ten blog posts, but what hit home for me was that, for the first time, I could see up close and unpolished what it meant to be a mom. And it blew my mind.

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Yes, and…

A few weeks ago the NYU Stern Undergraduate Women in Business board of directors participated in an improv training session, led by a former-actress-turned-communications coach. This session grew out of an ongoing conversation I’d had with the ladies following their March conference, wherein they had expressed discomfort with speaking up and asking for what they wanted. (Here’s the blog post I wrote following that conference if you’re interested in the background story.)

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The Lion’s Den

Life is hard.

I can say that with utmost clarity. Startups are challenging, yes, let that go on the record. And relationships take work and money can be difficult to manage and probably all of those platitudes are true.

But when you strip all of that away, when it’s just you and the people you love and you are facing uncertainty in matters of life and death — true, end-of-life death — and it just breaks your heart to play out any of the possible scenarios ahead, well, those are the moments that make you want to break a stack of plates. And then maybe jump out of an airplane from 10,000 feet. And then tell the next guy in a hoodie who is “crushing it” to just shut the f up.

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Stop asking permission to be seen and heard.

Two weeks ago I spoke as part of a workshop for the Undergraduate Women in Business conference at NYU Stern School of Business.  The workshop was called “Necessary Conversations” and the overall theme was how to grab a seat at the table, speak up, and have the conversations that matter — whether pitching for an investment, negotiating a raise, giving difficult feedback, asking for a mentor relationship, you name it.

It seems undergraduate women at NYU Stern are facing the same difficulties that women at many top business schools face: they are underperforming their male peers, in large part because they hold back in classroom discussions.  When digging deeper they realized that female students prefer to speak only when they are absolutely confident in their answer or when they feel completely prepared to enter the debate.  They tend to take longer to raise their hand, have shorter and more concise comments, and often self-edit to manage their out-of-classroom image. As a result, these totally awesome women are losing ground before the game even starts.

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The Violence of Articulation

While I was still a student actor in Atlanta I was cast in a production of Bernard-Marie Koltes’ Roberto Zucco alongside a professional actress named Park Krausen, one of two Equity actors cast to mentor the students and anchor the Theater Emory production of what was to be a challenging and complex play. In rehearsal after rehearsal one piece of direction that nearly all students were struggling with was that we were to say our lines as declarative sentences – as emphatic statements that we believed were true – rather than in the questioning lilt so common with teenagers. It seemed a straight-forward note, yet we found it impossible to comply, until one night when Park taught us about the “violence of articulation.”

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It’s all about your frame of reference

I’ve had a rough week. But before we get to that, let me tell you a story.

Two years ago I climbed Kilimanjaro. On January 9, 2010 around 6:30am local time I reached the summit, which is the highest point in Africa. If this were a movie and you started watching at 6:27am you’d see one of the biggest highs of my life over the following three minutes of film. But if you started watching at, say, 3am you’d see a very different Christina. You’d see an extraordinarily strong woman about to crumble like a pile of Girl Scout cookies.

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