Let me introduce myself…
Hi, my name is Oksana. Probably you know me as a business analyst or product management oriented girl who wants to build product mindset in IT outsourcing companies. Or you have attended one of my pitch preparation sessions. Or we have even met somewhere at incubator or Lviv Business School.
If we have not met yet, let me introduce myself then: my name is Oksana, I am from Ukraine, I am mad about tech, innovations and outstanding, inspiring people and I try to be the one. Also, I work as a Business Analyst and Product Manager in one of the biggest Ukrainian IT outsourcing companies, but, I also co-owner of Speak2Me.co — speech preparation company, because I have been working with TEDx conference organization for about five years in a row.
So that is my story in short which made me one of 100 for a year fellow of Young Transatlantic Leaders Initiative from German Marshall Fund. For 16 days I and other 99 #forbes30under30, #bestofthebest #socialentrepreneurs #writers and #brightmindsfromtheeurope (yeah, I was in awesome company) attended a fellowship in one of the companies, incubators or other institutions in the USA. And it was a massive experience because it is one way to see New York through the lenses of Home alone picture, but the other — to go to the “black”region of the Boston and to talk to people about poverty, access to the capital for starting a business and how to change how the things are going. So, I will start.
I will cover here several theses about my trip, and they will be mostly:
1. Personal pitching — how to and why you need it
2. Networking — the USA way
3. Smart people wanna work with intelligent people
4. Kiss-kick-push principle when working with people
5. Boston — city of innovation
6. Things to do in Boston (especially when you are tourist there
Here is a long article about my short YTILI experience. I will not cover here the official part — however, I see that the USA helps a lot to such countries as Ukraine and one reason for this is that they want to create the network of leaders to build next generation society. Hence, I will talk about the moments I saw and which were the most valuable for me. I would love to answer your questions here in comments.
And of course, thanks to Colette Phillips Communications team for my awesome internship time in communications in another part of the world.
Your project and personal pitching
Americans are great presenters and storytellers. This means they expect the same from you. As a person, who help others create pitches I thought that it is a piece of cake, however, after several pieces of training, I understood all the nuts and bolts of hardships of your project pitch preparation. So.
There are several elements of the pitch:
1. The story — the entrance to your project/topic of talk
2. The need — why the listener needs to listen you
3. The competition — are there any such projects already?
4. The differentiator — why you are better than others?
5. The success — do you have any results already?
6. The opportunity — where more results can be searched?
7. The objections — why are you doing this?
8. The close (aka Call to action)
You need to put all those elements to make an “impromptu pitch” to others.
Also, there are some set-ups as well so that you can “tailor” your pitch:
- You need to know your audience
- It is better to write down your pitch
- You need to practice with people. Alive ones. Not Alexa or Siri.
- You need to invest in some flash in your presentation — good appearance — your and slides (if there will be any)
- Don`t be lazy — create supporting materials!
- Network! You need to be heard
- Always follow up (this is my deadly sin of networking)
If you will follow this simple rules and include the above-mentioned elements — you will create excellent pitches.
Networking — the USA way
If I were asked to describe USA in one formula, I would have posted this one:
USA = marketing + networking
By marketing, I mean their way of presenting and selling. By networking I mean networking. But an extraordinary type.
When here in Ukraine we think about networking, we are thinking about the boring guy who vividly talks to almost all the people during the party and to nobody particularly. If this guy speaks to you and you are not in “his profile” -then you understand that he is bored and ready to move to the next person — digging for the “right connections” yuh? Not in the USA (perhaps I have not seen this). Especially it doesn’t work for the people with whom you would like to network.
So I will repeat myself one more time — the USA is all about the networking! But they value deep networks — meaningful ones. That means that you should be genuinely interested in the person to have a valuable connection. To reach this state of the art of the networking, you need to think of every person as of super interesting speaker, and you need to have the will to learn. Don`t push your personality first — listen. This is the way to peoples` hearts. However, it does not mean the Americans are not pragmatic about networking. They might think about the network pipeline and even have personal CRM (right now. Think it is an awesome idea) for the people with whom they work. So you can also take those tips for yourself.
Smart people wanna work with intelligent people
When I was there, I did some external meetings to talk to excellent Product Managers. And I got one vivid point — I was in the heart of MIT and Harvard, met one girl with Ph.D. from MIT — working for hardware startup as Product Manager. I found myself talking to her about the experience in work, and one vivid phrase caught my mind — smart people love to work with smart people. It is not only in Ukraine we strive for the talent — the same in the USA. When you are smart, you always have chances to go either to a big company to work with “normal” employees, or to join the startup and create “next big thing” in a super bright team. Those startups need to give a massive promise to smart people to make them stay for a long time.
So, if Ukrainian companies want to obtain and work with intelligent colleagues — they also should create smart people hubs and opportunities to grow. Otherwise, all the smart Ukrainians will work with intelligent American companies. And I mean it is not only about money.
And one more thing — where to network? The USA is full of events. Go to event bride and find yours. Also, if you want some professional advice.- Use peoples`office hours — you can google it — but be very specific about what you can get from that person because you will have only 30 min. To talk. Read the pitching part to get prepared).
Kiss — kick — push principle
When I was going to the USA I had a lot of personal questions — about how to be a competent manager, how to work with platforms and how to give feedback to colleagues and employees (because here in Ukraine it is usually a disaster). I was lucky enough to get to Boston and to get to the Startup Weekend there.
This startup weekend was a holy grail of wisdom of people, who already tried everything (especially in Product Management). And there was a question — how to motivate people when “hamburger system” doesn’t work? So the algorithm is simple:
Kiss — tell person how much you appreciate his/her work (but it should be genuinely)
Kick — you need to say the situations which person has failed. Be constructive, not destructive.
Push — you need to inspire (and inspiration for each person differs) to make this person solve the cases and work better. It is Call to action, or pusher — to complete with a thick bottom line your feedback session.
For me, it looks pretty similar to what is written in the Tao of coaching book, but here the concept even simpler.
Boston — city of innovations
And of course. Let me talk about Boston.
I was in the USA in some cities before like New York, San Fransisco, Palo Alto, Santa Barbara, and Washington. After NY I thought it is love. After San Fransisco, I realized that it is love. In Washington, I felt that it is also a good city, but Boston is pure real love. It is like you may adore some people, you may be fascinated by someone, or you have heard about the one, and you are lucky to talk with this person (like NY), but Boston is stylish and nerdy friend with brown bricks and English traditions which is super comfortable to spend time with. Just love. Because near Boston you have Cambridge with its Harvard and MIT.
But why Boston is the innovations city?
Imagine, you have about 40 universities in the area. You have 2 top universities nearby with different laboratories, innovation labs and of course Institute of the brain. Each year those universities product tons of bright minds which are looking for the things to get done. On the other side, there are companies which acquire those uni students and brings challenges. On the other hand, there are undefended different incubators and accelerators which are often supported by the state. And when you are going to some state institution — you hear words as “innovations” and “change” and the appearance of those places is like Google office but can be better. Also, city council heavily supports all the ecosystem when inviting foreign companies to the city — with the help of lower taxes. Connections and of course best talent. Let`s take Wayfair — they scaled their business to Boston. Why? Of course because of the things mentioned above, as their Legals recognize.
Also, Boston is best known by its biotech industry. It is enormous. I was lucky enough to get to one of the networking events there — it was done in a pharmaceutical company center. This center looked more as a center from the films about the future, and I was waiting when the robot will come and ask me about how I want to make my crio procedure to wake up in 2090? This industry is super developed there because of large laboratories financed by corporations and bright minds. Why cannot we do this here? Yes, we can.
So if you want to explore innovations in the USA and you are thinking about the city to go — definitely select Boston. Go to “Eventbrite” and choose your innovation event to attend.
Things to do in Boston
And finally, as a bonus I want to share my to-do list in Boston (4 months ago I created this one with my friends all over the world — who live in Boston or have been there):
✔️ stay in Chinatown — everything will be nearby
✔️ walk along the Freedom Trail — a red line of bricks which will lead you through almost all the attractions
✔️ go to Beacon Hill and then to the riverside
✔️ spend a day in Harvard and MIT campuses — feel the atmosphere, go to canteen, go to libraries and visit bookstores (they are insane!!!)
✔️ attend some networking events here, but bring your business cards
✔️ attend lots of startup and product-related events (there are plenty of them)
✔️ go to the District Hall and CIC to see where innovations may happen and how the city can foster communication and innovation through cool spaces
✔️ go to open hours in the offices to meet cool people
✔️ meet old friends
✔️ listen to people and their stories to get inspiration
✔️ walk the Green Way
✔️ go and see the local TV channels — how they work
✔️ eat your lunch near the harbor
✔️ go to Boston Commons park and feed squirrels from your hands
✔️ experience bubble tea! And eat unusual food
✔️ EAT Boston Cream Pie!!!
✔️ go to the rooftop to see Boston in the night
✔️ eat Clam Chowder — local soup with seafood and milk (?). BUT select small bowl rather than big one — the soup is super nourishing!
✔️ est lobster rolls. It is kind of hot-dog but I with lobster. Also try lobster Poutine
✔️ go to super local American cafe (like from Friends series) and eat hot-dog. Don’t do it as I did — ate for the dinner
✔️ go to local theatre to feel the culture and be amazed
✔️ go to local bar with hip-hop music and spend a there night dancing
✔️ eat local pizza — it is super good
✔️ make a photo session in the storm
✔️ experience the tram-like trains in the subway on the green line, experience the subway!
And finally — buy tickets and visit Boston!
And of course, all of this became possible only because of German Marshall Fund and YTILI program which, by the way, has rolling applications.