I just went to my first peer-to-peer meeting at the Digital Media Zone (DMZ). Think of this meeting as a support group for entrepreneurs.
The DMZ hosts the peer-to-peer meetings on a regular basis - monthly, I believe, where we're grouped together with a few other companies (not necessarily related to each other in any way) to do the following:
- provide the DMZ staff an update on our progress;
- look at our milestones and what's coming next;
- discuss any current challenges; and
- inevitably, connect with other entrepreneurs in the space.
I got to the meeting early, not knowing what to expect. I was told about what goes on in the peer-to-peer meetings and as we went around introducing ourselves, discussing where our companies stand, and what our challenges were, I recall wondering what I would say. I didn't know what I could add in terms of where SoJo stood on the business development and financial aspect of things, which is what most of my peers seemed to be talking about. Yet I was able to add to the discussion with the fact that our challenges lately have been a little unique, and that we're looking at adding certain new features to the website and that we're trying to engage our users.
But would I suggest something like this for our users? Absolutely! Why? Because you need to be able to build those connections and talk about those challenges. Though I've talked about support quite a bit lately, here's something new to add to the support piece, especially where the support is mediated by advisors
: other people can provide you with their experiences, expertise, and ideas, which you may never have considered before while
simultaneously connecting with other entrepreneurs who may be at similar stages with you or who you can learn from.
Though I wasn't sure if I could discuss any topics where such expertise was required, we're going back to getting the most we can out of the DMZ with meetings like this. The DMZ is a great resource for us overall; being present and engaged in the DMZ allows us to build the relationships and better access that support and expertise when we need it most.
As you'll find in tomorrow's newsletter*, we're doing a survey to get user feedback. We decided we needed that feedback because we really need to hear from our existing users.
We often meet potential and new users at conferences, speaking engagements, and similar events; though we also meet them in our personal lives when we talk about what we do at SoJo. Sometimes we meet them through email when they contact us about the site and they want to reach out to us. Yet it’s our existing users who really keep us going – especially as we watch them grow from that first point of contact and interest.
Though there are many avenues of user research we could have used, a survey seemed like the best choice. We wanted to make it quick, easy, and relatively painless for you to tell us a little about yourself and about how you use SoJo. If you want to talk to us a bit more, we'd love to chat with you over the phone or in person if you'd like to just some of the faces behind SoJo.
See, it's easy to forget that we started off being our own users. As many of our contributors would attest, you have to scratch your own itch when you start. However, we can’t continue to assume our users’ needs are the same as ours, especially since these needs will inevitably change for both. That’s why we want to hear from you to ensure we're staying on top of our game. We won't otherwise know if we’re actually as effective as we think we are, particularly as we start moving from talking to our audiences to engaging our users as a community.
So talk to us! Click here for the survey
and tell us about yourself, about what you do with SoJo, and how we can improve. If you'd like to have us follow up with a phone call or a meeting, even better. We're listening. *If you haven’t gotten our newsletter before, there’s still time – scroll down to the bottom of our homepage and sign up right now!
Written by ZainabAs we were preparing for AJ’s temporary departure from SoJo, I gave a lot of thought to the support. Because we are in the office the most, I speak mostly from my observations of Jesse, AJ, and myself – especially over the past few months. This is the second post from a two-part series. Click here for my post on getting support within SoJo.
Though we certainly support each other within the organization, we also find support in people outside of SoJo – especially from people who operate in the same capacities we do. For Jesse, that may be other web/product developers in the DMZ because they understand the same technical issues and can learn from each other. For Kanika and now AJ, that seems to be other Founders and CEOs, as they navigate the same challenges at the helms steering their organizations towards particular visions.
Though I don’t know if there are any other full-time editors in the DMZ, I have found that external support mostly in one of the other day-to-day managers. Though Omid's company is about marketing apps and we’re about content, we also deal with some very similar issues as we both ensure that everything is running smoothly at our respective organizations.
You would wonder though what we discuss, considering there are certainly things you cannot disclose (many organizations have non-disclosure agreements). Here are some of the ways in which we support each other by sharing:
- Frustrations. For example, we both have had students working for us, and we’ve discussed what one would do when managing youth, who do not necessarily operate in the same ways we’re used to in the professional or entrepreneurial world.
- Expertise. Because we work in different areas, we give the other tips that can help us improve our own functions at the office. For example, I told him how I don’t feel confident when I’m pitching. He’s in marketing, so he gave me a few pointers and assured me that it comes with practice.
- Company. Sometimes, we may be the only one around for each of our respective companies so we talk, laugh, and usually have a buddy for information sessions or office lunches.
I find that support like this provides me with new perspectives and suggestions, particularly if that person has a similar role elsewhere. In turn, I become a better intrapreneur when I learn from others, both in and outside the organization.
Written by Zainab As we were preparing for AJ’s temporary departure from SoJo, I gave a lot of thought to the support. Because we are in the office the most, I speak mostly from my observations of Jesse, AJ, and myself – especially over the past few months. This is the first post from a two-part series. Stay tuned for my post on finding support outside of SoJo.
At most organizations I’ve been involved with, I have found at least one person who is the pillar of support I automatically turn to. It’s almost always been a mutual relationship and often it’s the person or people you share an office or desk space with, simply because of the vicinity. Though everyone at SoJo is so wonderfully supportive, I certainly have some go-to people – at least one because of the fact that we’ve both been with SoJo for a year, and then Jesse and AJ, because we work on SoJo full-time.
It’s interesting to note that in some ways, you end up sharing a lot with them because you see each other on a very regular basis. You’ll certainly share the life events and the big aha-moments, as well as the day-to-day events that are tiny and just need to be shared, whether they are related to work or not.
I should emphasize that support isn’t always about work complaints or office gossip, though we have the occasional issues and bad days too.
Here’s just some of the wonderful ways we support each other at Team SoJo to help grow our work, our impact, and each other:
- Sharing resources to improve our skills. I once mentioned how working with our development student made me curious about learning coding and Jesse told me about http://www.codecademy.com, a free website to help people interactively learn coding.
- Sharing ideas. AJ and I will often share ideas in the morning when we come in together, because we know that it often helps to just ask someone else what they think about an idea or change from the usual.
- Keeping each other accountable. Marc and I have been at SoJo for around the same amount of time and so we often kept each other accountable for our weekly goals. This month, I know Jesse and I will both be keeping each other responsible for our individual projects.
- Understanding different perspectives. Often, if I’ve struggled with managing the editors, Kanika has asked me to consider other perspectives and encouraged me with ways that I can address the issue at the source.
- Providing validation. Before AJ left, she and I had a few conversations where she imparted her words of wisdom on running SoJo, and how she knew she had faith in me to manage it all with Jesse. I didn’t realize it but those words definitely going to stick with me as we undergo some new activities this month, while ensuring our site is always working in the best interests of our users.
How else do you support your colleagues? Tweet to us @The_SoJo
with the hashtag #support.
Written by Zainab
One of our goals this month is to blog more often here. Before, the blog was mostly Kanika's thoughts, with occasional posts from a few other SoJo members, usually around particular topics or events. The blog already has a certain voice, that of an young social entrepreneur going through the process of taking her ideas into action. Because a blog can take on a personality of its own, SocialJournal.net always seemed like a mini side project of its own. I don't think we ever thought to look at it as part of SoJo's content... until one of SoJo's advisors recently suggested we start looking at it that way.
Though AJ and I have started to blog more due to Kanika's absence, our newer goal for blog posts replaces the necessity approach we had developed with the blog over the last couple of months.
Though I certainly see the value in blogging, I know I realistically cannot write these blog posts all on my own. It also wouldn't reflect the reality that I'm one part of a larger intelligent, passionate, and organized team; each of the members being extremely critical and reflective of their work and impact.
I, therefore, need to see and later share the value in the exercise of blogging to the other team members if I want their input and contributions. Here are just some of the reasons I can pick out, though in no particular order:
- Sharing through our blog causes excitement for our work - we do great stuff and we want you, our fellow users and readers, to join us!
- Blogging outlines the realities we go through; the good, the bad, and the ugly all get coverage here.
- Writing helps us document our history and our learnings as an organization
- We find validation and support when we write it down; perhaps because I used to blog myself when I was younger, I can say there is a certain therapeutic release that comes with writing it out because the thoughts are all yours at that very moment in time.
But this is where you, the readers, come in. We would love feedback on what you'd like to read about. What are you curious about? Why do you read our blog? What areas would you like our take on? Though we are not consultants, we can certainly share our thoughts and experiences with you, hopefully so that learning about our experiences can in turn help you along your journey. And that
is our biggest mission at SoJo.
Written by AJ Tibando
On Saturday, I'm getting married (yay!). I'm no longer capable of talking about the wedding without adding a little (yay!) afterwards. I'm definitely in the throws of the giddy pre-wedding bridal glow... We've been planning the wedding for just less than a year, but it really only hit me a few weeks ago that its almost here!
We've spent the last few weeks at SoJo developing some new organizational practices to help us organize our work, develop clear goals and timelines and check-in processes to keep us accountable, and the results have been so far so good. I knew coming in that one of my first goals would be to create some more structure around the organization and some focus to the team; but once Kanika left, it became doubly important to get organized, as we were going to have to be the ones driving projects forward and keeping ourselves accountable. Investing the time and energy at the beginning the month of getting those processes in place is starting to pay dividends and not a moment too soon: today is my last day before I'm gone for a month for my wedding/honeymoon. Zainab will be taking over while I'm gone; and she and Jesse will be responsible for holding down the fort and keeping our projects moving forward. They're going to do an amazing job, and after all the ups and downs and changing circumstances we've gone through as a team over the past two months, I know they're well positioned to handle absolutely anything that comes their way over the next few weeks.
As the wedding countdown gets shorter, I know that I'm leaving the team well prepared and in good hands. Good luck guys; I can't wait to see everyone once I'm back!
Chocolates from Kanika for Team SoJo. Thank you!
Written by AJ Tibando
On Tuesday night, SoJo had our first team meeting since Kanika got injured. With our new team members on board, new planning processes in place and a bunch of activities coming down the pipe, we were due for a regroup. We planned it to be a relatively casual meeting: the first hour would be a formal meeting, the second hour a team social at the Jack Astor's Bar and Grill downstairs. I've always helped Kanika put together the agendas and run the meetings previously, but this was the first time I've led a team SoJo meeting on my own. Even though leading meetings isn't a new experience for me, I was surprised that I still got a little nervous at the beginning of it. I wanted to make sure it went well and most importantly, that it felt worthwhile and productive for the team.
It was a great meeting. We started the first hour by introducing everyone; even though most people have been with SoJo for 8 months or more, there were a bunch of new people on the team who were meeting the rest of Team SoJo for the first time. We talked a little bit about our organizational structure and made sure everyone understood where they fit in the organization and how their contribution fits into our bigger goals. We discussed our new weekly meeting processes: we've started having smaller, regular meetings among the teams to increase the sense of team and ownership over projects and promote group problem-solving. We've had a lot of early success with moving to this type of meeting structure, but I wanted to make sure everyone understood why we're starting to organize ourselves and our activities in this way. Our two reasons: to ensure constant momentum to all of our projects and because without Kanika here, its important the team feel ownership and independence over their work to keep it moving forward.
At the end of the meeting, I read a nice little note that Kanika had written to the team and then we went down to Jack Astor's for some food, drinks, and a little team bonding. All in all, another successful Team SoJo meeting!
Written by AJ Tibando
Team SoJo is made up of a few full time paid members, but is mostly run by part time volunteers. We call them volunteers, but 'part time unpaid employees' is really more accurate: they are the backbone of our operations and provide input to decision making and shape the face and the future of SoJo, like any other employee would be. Unfortunately over the past few months, we've had a number of team members leave the family or go on a leave of absence because of scheduling challenges. It's always sad to see people go, but its all part of the job...
The flip side of losing people is the excitement of adding new members to the team. In the past two months, we've added four new members to Team SoJo to fill roles that we've badly needed to fill for some time.
We've been on the hunt for Community Builders - people who are experts at using social media and storytelling to really engage with our users and build a sense of community around SoJo - and found them in our two newest team members, Shauna Trainor and Keerthana Kamavasalam. They've already impressed all of us by diving right into the work and building a strategy, and it's refreshing to have some new voices at the table taking another look at some of our old social media practices.
We've also added a new Research Assistant named Myra Khan to the team who will be helping me with Operations and Business Development. She's going to be researching partners, applying for grants and tracking all of our web analytics to help us better understand what we're doing well, what isn't working and what we should be doing next. Our final new team member is Sabrina Triapani, an accountant by trade who will be joining us as a Finance and Policy Assistant. Sabrina will be bringing new knowledge to the team to help organize our books, develop corporate policies and procedures, and enhance our organizational capacity - something we need to start doing now, so we're well prepared to grow in the future.
A big welcome to all of our new members of Team SoJo!
Written by Zainab Habib
Amongst the other discussions in the blog posts over the last two months, we’ve written about how it’s been working without Kanika to guide us along the way as SoJo’s chief catalyst and biggest ambassador.
Despite this, we’ve continued to keep moving forward in the midst of this unexpected phase of SoJo’s journey. In fact, the SoJo part of the office feels very lively and we have been buzzing with activity
, especially since AJ joined the team full-time.
To be honest, the situation has never been ideal. It certainly has been a setback in many ways. However, while taking on Kanika’s commitments and functions within SoJo in addition to our individual roles, we have started to have discussions about what works and doesn’t work. We’re discovering what really happens at SoJo when she isn’t there as the Chief Problem Solver
. As we now discuss any issues with each other and not with Kanika, this has forced us to ask the harder questions aloud: “why do we even do/use this [task/section/process/tool]?” We have also had to talk about it, because this question has come up in multiple instances, both in our day-to-day operations and with the site overall.
It also helps that SoJo now has new team members to look at operations and community. Because they are used to thinking in more strategic terms and
are just stepping into the organization, they are better able to ask the questions that we had to ask and even to suggest different ways of doing it. They’re using their lack of knowledge about how things have been done before at SoJo to consider our alternatives to tasks or processes, while still working towards the vision and values that we care about most.
To get ourselves off the ground, SoJo had hit the road running. We sprinted at an unbelievable speed and were often “busy” just getting things done. Yet something that throws you out of your routine forces you to rethink previous assumptions and processes. Perhaps you may have been slowed down because you were short on resources (say funding or team members) or time; and so needed to be careful with how you expended your energies, time, and resources in order to make it to your next destination.
Now we’re at a point where we’re trying to check how far we have come and whether we’re on course to our destination or if we have been sidetracked at all. We’re hoping these new questions and strategies allow us to constantly move, shake, and innovate. We can then turn setbacks into opportunities for pulse checks instead.
Written by Zainab Habib
It’s been some time since Kanika has been away from the office. It was right around then that AJ joined us full-time and was thrown into the position of juggling between Kanika’s commitments for the next few weeks and
beginning work on organizational development and outreach for SoJo on a full-time basis
One would naturally wonder how things are going at the office and how we have handled it as a team. This comes at a point where we are continuing to expand our team and focusing on particular aspects of SoJo, as we continue to work towards being the leading online resource that social innovators reference to turn their ideas for social change into action.
Yes, it definitely feels like something is missing. It is certainly not
the same without Kanika here. She may be The Boss but she is certainly not
bossy. Unlike the stereotypical Queen Bee, she has been supportive and she treats each of her staff without hierarchical bounds, allowing most of us to work directly with her on different projects for SoJo and to develop ourselves professionally and personally with her assistance. She is also the face behind the SoJo brand and has been at the forefront of it all. Her time away then has certainly created a shift in how we view SoJo from the inside and out then, knowing that she isn't here.
However, Team SoJo has really banded together to make sure we continue business as usual. Our partners have been very understanding and many have offered their help with whatever we may need. Our core team has continued to work on our individual projects and support the teams within our respective areas. We have also started a routine of working together as a team more formally; for example, we now have scheduled in weekly meetings between the full-time team every Monday. We are also now in the midst of assembling a team to focus on building SoJo’s community.
All in all, SoJo is definitely buzzing with activity. Even if we are missing the Queen Bee.