#OLCinnovate Reflections

As I was leaving for #OLCinnovate I was feeling a bit overwhelmed as I looked at my calendar. It felt more like my work week than a conference. Almost every hour was booked and in several cases double booked.  As I reflect back on the week however, rather than feeling drained, I feel “filled up”.

The themes for me were feminism and space. As a member of the first ever SDS (solution design summit) we (Laura Pasquini, Mike Goudzwaard, Kyle Johnson, Adam Croom, Michael Atkisson) created a space for interdisciplinary teams of people to brainstorm with stakeholders  and work through the process of defining their problem and ideating a solution. The energy, engagement and enthusiasm in the room exceeded any conference space I’ve been. Beyond the SDS I attended and participated in three days of thoughtful and meaningful conversations. Finally a conference where we practiced what we preach-rather than talking at us, presenters were our guides. Why is it we can’t create that time and space in our offices? Stay tuned for the announcement of the winning #OLCinnovateSDS winning team!

I was invited to speak at the Women Leaders in Ed-tech dinner and share my story of a challenge or barrier I faced. I spent a great deal of time reflecting on what story to share. The question was not really about the story, rather how vulnerable was I willing to be? How much of myself should I share? Whenever I’m having a difficult time, when it just seems too hard and I begin to have that suffocating feeling, the story I go back to is my dissertation journey. I thought if those words inspire me and get me through a difficult time then let me share that piece of me. The reaction I received was and continues to be overwhelming. Person after person thanked me for sharing my story and letting them know they are not alone; that I restored their belief in their ability to overcome a challenge they were currently facing. Women I’ve known for years-told me that I had been their inspiration.  We frequently don’t realize the impact our actions and words can have on another and the importance of allowing ourselves to be vulnerable.

olcinnovate

The next day in our “Women Who Innovate” session (Tanya Joosten, Amy Collier, Laura Pasquini, Jess Knott, Nori Barajas-Murphy) several women shared stories of the impact words of encouragement had had on them. Similar to my story, a person had “planted the seed of an idea” by suggesting they go back for their PhD. There was no pressure just every so often a hint was dropped. I spoke of how my brother was the tipping point for me. While so many people had encouraged me to go back to school I just didn’t believe I could be successful. It was his words that were the tipping point for me. Who will you be the tipping point for?

Here’s my story:

It is hard for me to comprehend that I am at this place already and that the end of my journey is actually here (little did I know it had only begun). In the Spring of 2007 I unexpectedly found myself in a position where I was about to be a single mother of 3 children. During the next several months numerous co-workers encouraged me to get started on my PhD, yet I was not ready to make that commitment. I had heard so many stories about people not finishing and I did not want to be one of them. I questioned how I would ever be able to find the time to do my school work, whether the added pressure and time spent away would have a negative impact on my family and whether I had the intellectual capacity to be successful (I now know this is Imposter Syndrome). My children and I spent that Thanksgiving with my brother and his family. While at his house I mentioned to him I was thinking about going back to school and tried to justify why I was holding back. His response was “Just do it. I will support you and help you with whatever you need. Just take the plunge and register for classes”. This statement was the tipping point for me. I went home that night and began the process.

This was not a journey traveled alone. Without the immense encouragement and support of my children Nicholas, Anjelica and Rosalina I would not be sitting here writing this today (without the immense support of so many of you I would not be standing in front of this room today). They were and continue to be my inspiration and, on the days when it all seemed too much, what drove me to not give up. Thank you to my bother Jim, my sister-in-law Jean, my parents and my closest and dearest friends who told me “just breathe” and helped to lighten my load when I needed it the most.  

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