168: Growing Your Personal and Professional Relationships with Olivia June Poole

By June 16, 2017Podcasts

 

 

VINA CEO and co-founder Olivia June Poole takes us into her tech world and speaks on the importance of personal relationships, the gender dynamics in networking, and how to make good connections.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The key difference in successful network building between men  and women
  2. A critical overlooked consideration when building your network
  3. How to make new connections stronger

About Olivia

Olivia June Poole is the CEO and Co-Founder of VINA, a company that creates tech products to connect, celebrate, and empower women, including the Hey! VINA app. She also worked in marketing for General Assemb.ly, RocketSpace, and others. She is an expert in user acquisition, community building, and driving consumer online-offline engagement.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Olivia June Poole Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Olivia, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Olivia June Poole
Thanks for having me, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, I understand that early on in your career you had the role of a horse trainer.  What’s the backstory here?

Olivia June Poole
That’s true.  I grew up with horses in my backyard and actually decided around when I was 10 or 11 that I would start seeing if I could get some clients to train their horses and take care of their horses.  And I did, and I ended up building a little team of friends who also worked with me, and we made a small business out of it in my neighborhood.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so cool.  And what did you train the horses to do exactly?

Olivia June Poole
Mostly just to be well behaved – to stand so people would ride them, and I’d give horseback riding lessons, for the most part.  It was a great lesson in learning to one, train people and animals, but also in working with something that’s a lot more powerful than you are and being careful around that.  It’s relevant to all of business, I think.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is well said.  I was imagining you’re 12 years old, horses – those are large and muscular. [laugh]

Olivia June Poole
They are.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly.  Okay, so lessons learned and you’re applying those here and now today with your app and company Hey! VINA.  Tell us what’s the story there.

Olivia June Poole
I started Hey! VINA just about two years ago.  I decided to put up a landing page and see if someone would be interested in this.  And mostly it stemmed out of, I had been working in tech for a number of years and found myself with an abundance of male contacts.  I’d go to networking events and I would leave often times with actually more dates than business deals, and I wanted an opportunity to actually connect with more women in business.

And so I started a social hour and I would call that “Ladies Who Vino” and we’d invite all the women we knew to a wine bar in San Francisco.  And it was just taking off like crazy – every month we’d have 100 or plus more women show up to these events.  And we lightly said it was networking like friends, because at the end of the day friendship is the foundation of most business relationships.  And so, I decided to turn it in technology and scale that experience out to women all around the world.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, and so with the scale, what does the app do?  Is there a, “How do I get wine involved?”, or is it “Wine optional”?

Olivia June Poole
Wine is optional, absolutely.  So, it’s a mobile app; right now we’re available on iPhone and we’re available on Android coming this summer.
Our Android app is launching in the end of June, and so it will be available on iOS and Android all around the world.  And it functions really similarly to a dating app.  And so what you do is you sign up, you create a profile about yourself, you see cards like you would in Tinder for example, and then you swipe right to say “Hey!” and you swipe left to skip someone.  When both people say “Hey!” to one another, we send an introduction to your inbox writing what you have in common and suggesting that you make plans to meet up.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that’s great.  And so you can just sort of swipe many times in one day and potentially make a whole lot of friends.

Olivia June Poole
Yeah.  We’ve had people on our platform say they sat down for their first experience and suddenly three hours later and a bottle of wine later they had a ton of matches and they’ve gone through hundreds of profiles and started to actually build their network.

Pete Mockaitis
That is so cool.  So zooming out a little bit – you’ve got a great app, it’s getting the job done and that’s really cool.  So, could you maybe orient us a bit to your philosophy there, in terms of why is this network of professionals and community so critical?

Olivia June Poole
Something that I found in my career is that often times, whenever I found a new job opportunity or a great business deal, it was through someone in my network.  And we have all heard the old adage of, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”  And we have Tony Robbins out there, whose mantra is, “Your network is your net worth.”  And so we all know that people are the catalysts in our careers, and mostly in our lives.  And so having this tool is so essential.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely.  What’s so fun talking about app folks is that you do so much research, in terms of your users and the best practices and the cognitive neuroscience and all that stuff.  So, I’d love to hear, what are some of the lessons learned and keys that you figured out when it comes to what makes for successful network building, community building efforts amongst professionals?

Olivia June Poole
Sure.  So, one of the things, I studied gender studies.  My background is in social psychology, and I got really interested in gender psychology, especially applied to the workplace, but in all factors of our lives.  And one of the things that we had to really research into is, how is it different, if at all, for a woman making business connections or social connections than it would be for a man?

And so a lot of times what we really realized, and the background to this is that men tend to build relationships and connections over a shared activity.  So, you’re going to do something and doing that you’re bonding.  And so one of the things for women though was that women were more about who you are and what do you think about things, and then the activity came secondary.

And so, it was really interesting in designing this platform because ultimately in the tech industry, as we all know and we’ve heard in the media, that it’s very male-dominated.  And I’m pitching to venture capitalists, it turned out that a lot of my fundraising process was very much about communicating the differences in gender dynamics, when it comes to relationship building and why our product is designed the way that it is and how it ends up influencing people’s lives throughout their life span.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, intriguing.  So that’s one tip right there, in terms of there are gender real influences at work, in terms of how one can go about building a strong relationship.  So, it sounds like you’re saying that as a man if you’re looking to grow a network and expand, you might be better served participating in an activity – playing basketball or golf or bowling or something, whereas as with a woman you might get more traction if you simply propose wine, coffee, etcetera, to talk about the stuff directly.

Olivia June Poole
Exactly.  It was really interesting – they’ve also done a lot of studies about men and women’s effectiveness when it comes to networking.  And one of the things that was discovered is that often times if you compare a group of men who go to a networking event to a group of women who go to a networking event, a man would walk away with the business deal, the contact that he was looking for, whatever it was, would go out there, find, hunt and achieves this thing; whereas women would walk away with a lot of beginnings of relationships, a lot of new contacts and people that they would then follow up and nurture for a much longer period of time.

And so they weren’t necessarily as instantly winning from this event, but they ended up being able to go back to these contacts time and time again throughout many years.  And so it was kind of a tortoise and a hare situation here, where you’d walk away and you’d have to keep on doing these kinds of activities ’cause you’d find the deal and it’d be done and you’re done with that connection now; whereas women have these longer, more nurtured relationships throughout their careers.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s a warning sign for me then, ’cause I’m the hare, I suppose as a man, in this metaphor.  Okay, duly noted to make efforts to extend things beyond the victory, check the box, acquired what I needed.  Thank you for that.  So tell us, as we’re kind of going out and about, meeting people, building connections and networks, are there any particular pointers that you recommend folks bear in mind about finding the right people to support us in the right ways?

Olivia June Poole
Right.  So, I think one of the things that we need to be very conscientious of is often times we’re driven to seek out people who are just beyond you and people that you really admire.  And that’s all well and good but often times those people are overwhelmed with lots of people who are looking to get connected to them.

And one of the things you can best do is actually surround yourself with people that have similar levels of ambition as you, so that way as you progress throughout your careers together, you’re both striving for new things.  And so often times those people will actually be the most useful to you in your career than maybe the person that you super admire and try to go after and they maybe don’t have enough time for you.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so brilliant.  So it’s sort of like the person you’re forging relationships with now might be… I don’t want to use “higher”, “better”, kind of language, but I think you know what I mean in terms of when it comes to career progression and however you care to measure that – by impact or income or number of direct reports in the pyramid underneath you.  You’re saying you’ll get more bang for your buck with your relationship building efforts if you look for folks who might be in a similar spot of power, prestige, etcetera, right now, but have a high degree of enthusiasm for going places because you’ve sort of established that relationship before they were rich, famous, powerful, successful.  And in a way that kind of makes the relationship seem all the more authentic.

Olivia June Poole
Right, it fundamentally does make it more authentic because it says, “I believe that you’re talented and that you’re going to do great things when we’re both just getting started and we’re both at that similar level.”  And then as you go on to do and achieve, you have those relationships that you can go back to and will think of each other and help each other even more.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’ve seen that, I’ve absolutely seen that with folks that I’ve connected with in high school.  I think about my buddy Muhammed; I was like, “You, sir, are going places.  You’re the one person I know who’s jazzed about his career at age 17 as I am.” [laugh]  So, I just enjoyed his energy and as we’ve been great friends and it’s been fun to be able to collaborate on cool stuff and now he’s really just rockin and rollin in the Middle East.

Olivia June Poole
That’s awesome.  Yeah, so isn’t that so true?

Pete Mockaitis
Mm-hmm.  And so I guess I’m curious then about mindset and principles  at work.  Could you speak a little bit in terms of in the heat of things, when folks that you’re chatting, you’re maybe at a mixer or a cocktail party or just having a coffee chat with someone during an informational interview, whatever – what are some little things we could do – tip and tricks, tactics that can kind of facilitate better connections, empowerment and such?

Olivia June Poole
Well, the first piece of advice I always have is, look for ways that you can sense that you could help the other person.  It breathes a lot of positive connection with that person to know that you’re not just a taker; you’re there to actually be helpful for them and it will make them more predisposed to being helpful for you.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly.  That’s good.  That’s one of the favorite questions I’ve asked, and heard it recommended to ask, is, “How can I be helpful to you?  What can I do for you?”  And when I’m on the receiving end of that, it’s like they’ve opened up the treasure chest, like, “Oh, wow!  Thank you for asking.  I didn’t even come prepared to answer that.  That’s so kind of you.”

Olivia June Poole
Yeah, that question – I have mixed feelings about it, mostly because sometimes it feels like, like you just said, like someone’s just opened up a treasure chest and you weren’t prepared necessarily to ask for that thing or you weren’t ready to do that.  So I kind of prefer the question of, “What is the most important thing to you right now?”  So that way we can actually hear what are they thinking about.  “What’s keeping you up at night these days?”

Because then you can actually secretly get that information of maybe how you could be helpful, but actually it comes from maybe a slightly less direct way of being like, “What do you need?”  And then sometimes you’re like, “Well, I could really use a glass of water.  Would you mind grabbing me one?”
Or, “Hey, will you introduce me to your boss, because I’m really interested in this job?”  So, I think it can be, “What are you thinking about these days?”, “What are you exploring?” or “What’s getting you excited?”
Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is fantastic.  I guess that’s very hare-like or man-like of me to ask the direct question.  But you can often get better results if you ask a broader question, and I love it.  So please, if you have any other best practices or suggestions within that realm – what do you have?

Olivia June Poole
I always like asking people what they’re excited about, to be honest, because it will often times point you in the direction of something either really interesting going on in their field or their careers, and it’s something that you actually might have a great takeaway from as well, and something that you might not be paying attention to these days.

Pete Mockaitis
And so then maybe let’s talk a little bit about the follow-up.  I think this is where a lot of community building efforts fall short, in terms of busyness or distraction or whatever the hang-up is.  But do you have any sort of perspectives on how to follow up really well?

Olivia June Poole
Yeah, follow-up is really important.  Trying to remember a nugget from the conversation you had with that person to refer back to, is really terrific.  And it’s helpful when you’re following up to have either simply a kind, “It was great to meet you.  I will always remember that one piece of wisdom you shared” or, “Thanks so much for referring me to this thing.”  So they remember what you talked about and it gives them context again.

So, often times we’re at a networking event and maybe you walk away with 10 business cards at that time and it’s kind of like drinking from a fire hose – it feels like a lot.  And the other thing is, sometimes time has passed, a lot of time has passed since someone gave you their card, and you’re thinking, “Hey, I cannot reach out to them because it’s been so long, it’s kind of awkward.  Will they even remember me?”  At the end of the day, it’s always worth it to just put yourself out there, because the worst that they can do is nothing, just ignore you.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, and I’ve been there with that situation.  It was like, “Ooh, it’s going to be awkward.  I feel like I should’ve reached out earlier.”  But I think that is maybe also a bit of  prompting to go ahead and do that reach-out sooner rather than later.  And what you’ve said about that one nugget really sort of simplifies things, that it doesn’t have to be some grand reach-out, I could be a LinkedIn note, “Hey, it was really fun connecting with you.  I checked out that blog, that reference, that whatever, and it’s really helpful.”  And that’s it.

Olivia June Poole
Mm-hmm.  It’s great to just keep it human.  At the end of the day professional networking is very similar to making new friends.  People aren’t just their job titles; it’s very important to say, even like, “Hey, I always remember how cute your dog was”, or something like that.  Or, “Here’s the resource for…”, “It would be great to take our dogs for a walk sometime.”  So find something that’s more human and more personal, that I think actually makes the connection even stronger.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. Okay.  Well then, let’s kick it off.  Can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Olivia June Poole
So one of my favorite quotes is – I think I said it earlier, but – “It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.”  And at the end of the day our personal relationships are so important, and so I think that really connects with both our personal lives and our profession lives.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite study or experiment or a bit of research?

Olivia June Poole
A great one that I read recently – I need to probably find a reference for this – but I read a study that said marriages last longer when people have a strong social friend network.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright, thank you.  And how about a favorite book?

Olivia June Poole
My favorite book is The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  Are you familiar with it?

Pete Mockaitis
I have looked at it before, but it’s been a while.  What are those four agreements?

Olivia June Poole
It’s one of the best books out there.  It really will give you a lot of application, both in your personal life and your career.  But some of the agreements are things like, “Don’t ever take anything personally” and, “Always do your best” and, “Always be true to your word.”  I’ll leave the fourth one for you to go find in the book, but these are actually really applicable to being a really terrific person to work with and having a very fulfilling career.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you.  And how about a favorite tool, something that you use often to flourish at work?

Olivia June Poole
I’m a really big fan of Asana – it keeps me really well-organized and our whole team in great communication.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright.  And how about a favorite habit, a personal practice?

Olivia June Poole
So I have a new habit, where I have created a budget for my time, and basically I’ve tracked every half hour segment of my day, including free time, time with my friends, time with my family, time where I go to the gym, my commuting, my flexible time and the time where I set down my goals – everything is actually set as a framework for every single week.  And this allows me to make sure that I’m staying on track and that actually has alleviated a lot of guilt I have for working a lot of hours, because I know that I’ve scheduled just enough personal hours as well.  So, my favorite new habit is my time budget.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh now, this is fascinating, and I’ve attempted things like this before, so I’ve got to know, how have you pulled this off?  So every half hour.  And what’s the platform – is it Excel or what are you tracking it on?

Olivia June Poole
I literally just have it on my Google calendar, and I think the key to having it successful is sections of your day that are just completely open, that are flexible and making sure you’re sliding those hours.  And so I actually schedule out the number of hours I spend managing my team, to doing outreach for various objectives, to my goal-setting time, to my time to respond to emails, I have my shower and get ready time.  So making sure I give myself ample time for things, rather than trying to overly crowd my day.  I even schedule myself 30 minutes to wake up from the time my alarm goes off.  Realistically I know that I need those 30 minutes before I can actually be functional to do anything.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, certainly.  So it’s budgeted in the sense that it’s all marked on the calendar, but there are also times marked on the calendar with “Do nothing” or “Do whatever”.

Olivia June Poole
Yeah, I just say “Open”, and then I have my friends and family time.  And I only do this Monday through Friday; I keep my weekends open and flexible.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.  And is there color coding involved?

Olivia June Poole
There is no color coding, but I do keep the hours tracked and the percentage of my week spent on various items.

Pete Mockaitis
So, tracked – is that also in the calendar, or is that from a different program?

Olivia June Poole
That’s in a spreadsheet.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright.  So you just sort of look back and see, “Was it what I said I was going to do?”

Olivia June Poole
So, I track the categories of time, where it’s basically head down work time or days that I have set aside where I can have lunch meetings, or it translates to open time, if I’m not doing that.  So then I just keep that framework on my calendar always, and then I use my regular calendar and I overlay it to make sure that I’m not impeding into my other calendar.  So I just keep it in the background as a framework for my day, where I know that I have this amount of time where I can schedule things, and otherwise I have to have my heads down, flow state time.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.  And so, are you pretty compliant then with what you have set forth?

Olivia June Poole
I’m pretty compliant.  It gets really tough when you’re traveling, but aside from that if I’m in office, I stick really tightly to this.

Pete Mockaitis
And what have been the most compelling benefits as a result of having adopted this habit?

Olivia June Poole
Honestly, it’s the relief of any guilt I have over time, which I tend to have a lot of time-based guilt for myself.  Because I’m an entrepreneur, I work a lot of hours and if I feel like I’m stepping on my time with my husband, it feels like I’m being unfair to either him or myself, and so as long as I have those hours slated, where I know that I’ve slated enough hours of the day towards my work.  And it also helps me avoid burnout, because otherwise I might be at the office for 14 hours a day, and that’s not good.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you for sharing, Olivia.  This is probably the most follow-ups I’ve ever asked a guest about their habit. Because I’ve tried and failed at what you’re doing on a couple of different mechanisms, and it’s intriguing, so thank you.

Olivia June Poole
Yeah, keeping it simple I think is the key.  And then finding the right percentage, the number of hours you want to spend per week managing people or tackling your emails or working out and giving those times for commuting.  I think that’s the key, is just being really, really realistic and honest with yourself.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes.  And I think I’ve not done that in some ways.  Okay, final follow-up – so we had the illustrious David Allen on Episode 15 – great guy and sort of an inspiration for me in many ways.  And so, I think I have chronically underestimated what it really takes to just process your incoming stuff, in terms of emails and such.  So, would you feel comfortable sharing with us just how much time does it take to do emails and physical mail and text messages?  Managing the incoming stuff and just processing and responding to it.

Olivia June Poole
Yeah, so they’re very spot on.  Everything does take way longer generally speaking than I ever thought it did.  And so, that’s I think one of the biggest learnings of my career, is actually being realistic with how long stuff takes.  So, I slot about an hour a day to emails, and a lot of times those emails are just forwarding them to other people that are better off taking the lead and responding, or CCing someone, so that way I’m not the person that necessarily has to go through them.

We keep all of our team communication on Slack, and then we have been experimenting with two days a week where we don’t Slack, we don’t talk to each other, anything, until the afternoon, so that way everyone can have heads down work time that’s not interrupted by questions or other things like that, and that was really helpful.  As far as the text messages and that kind of personal mail stuff takes, actual physical mail, I tend to save that for my home life time, so I leave them to those hours, and then I slot the other stuff into my open free time.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, thank you.  Alright, now can you share, is there a particular nugget or articulation of some of your messages or key beliefs that seem to resonate with folks – getting them nodding their heads, taking notes, etcetera?

Olivia June Poole
So, the most important thing is, there’s a lot of fears that built up in us in our lives as adults, and all of the impacts we’ve had from social interactions.  But the number one thing you can do for yourself is just to put yourself out there and to force yourself out of that comfort zone, no matter how hard it is, whether it’s writing it on your mirror and looking at it every single day, but pushing yourself out of that comfort zone to meet a new person, to do something you haven’t tried before.  That’s the best thing you can do for yourself.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.  And Olivia, if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Olivia June Poole
So, you can find out more about VINA at heyvina.com.  And you can find us on Twitter @ilikevina.  You can find me on Twitter @oliviajune.  And we’re also all over the Internet as ilikevina.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.  And do you have a final challenge or a call to action you’d issue to folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Olivia June Poole
Put yourself out there and meet someone new.  All it takes is a “Hey!”, and a new friend can really change your whole life.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright.  Well Olivia, thanks so much for this, and best of luck in growing VINA and making a bigger impact!

Olivia June Poole
Thank you.  Thanks for having me.

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