There is little I find more empowering than being surrounded by legions of professional women embracing each other, complimenting each other (both on their business success and on their fabulous shoes), introducing themselves, and elevator pitching left and right… even in the line for the restroom.
And it’s hard, in the middle of a culture that prides itself on resilience, to find like-minded women who admit that it’s tough to hold all the pieces together but are doing it anyway — women who “get” it, and “get” me. The women at the ninth annual Temech Conference, held yesterday at Jerusalem’s International Conference Center… they get it. They get all of it.
They get the shared experience of trying to fit in a conference call on the way home from the 9 year old’s piano recital.
They get the desperation felt when meeting a midnight deadline and climbing into bed, satisfied but exhausted, only to be awoken 15 minutes later by the toddler’s cry.
They get brainstorming new ideas with a potential client on Friday morning while watching the timer on the challah tick away, covering the sound of punching down the dough by suggesting a new social media channel.
They get the challenge of scaling a small business while watching their bank account dip into bigger and bigger minus, wondering if summer camp costs are going to break them.
A thousand strong from all over the country, speaking English, Hebrew and Hebrish (what — these are not the three official languages?) these are, by and large, Orthodox women who have come together to learn, network and become even stronger. I was proud to be among them.
Simultaneously offering a full day of Hebrew and English programming, Temech brought in some incredible speakers. Here were my favorites:
Full disclosure: I have never before claimed that my favorite speaker at any conference was a rabbi. Temech, as a Haredi organization, always has a rabbi open the conference. In years past, the rabbis have offered a myriad of divrei Torah and topics that highlight the audience as women of valor, or addressed the challenges of a Haredi entrepreneur bringing her business into mainstream society in order to widen her client base while simultaneously prioritizing Torah-based values and keeping true to her identity and morals. These are appropriate topics for this audience, although I never found any of them personally stimulating. But this guy — he didn’t offer wisdom along those lines. Rabbi Burg, a rebbe of NCSY Kollel and the director at Yeshiva Shaarei Mevaseret Zion, signs his emails “MB” rather than “Rabbi anything,” which I found delightfully refreshing. He addressed us with incredible reverence. After admitting that he was kicked out of school in the fifth grade for poor behavior, and explaining that it was only when he found the right mentors who cultivated his self confidence rather than patronizingly and noncommittally encouraging him to “do better”, that he found his place. His confidence. He presented that emunah in yourself is as critical as emunah in Hashem. He regaled us with anecdotes proving that confidence is not an attitude but rather a belief system. Now THAT is an inspirational speaker!
2. Rae Ringel
Rae was on fire. After telling us her story (her family is based in Washington DC, but moves to Jerusalem for a full year every time one of her four children starts first grade, so each kid can get a basis of both Hebrew and Israeli culture — can you imagine moving a family of six back and forth every few years?) Rae talked to us about communication. Now, I figured I might gloss over a bunch of her lecture considering I’m a communications professional… that turned out to be a big fat NOPE. In addition to being incredibly warm, open, and entertaining, Rae presented on how to frame a request that will garner a real answer. She coached us on what qualifies as a real request:
A. WHAT — articulate precisely what you want
B. WHO — specifically state from exactly whom you want it
C. WHEN — dictate by when you want it
D. CONDITIONS OF SATISFACTION — spell out how success will be measured
In order to illustrate her point, she went on to list examples. Even though these might sound like requests, they’re not:
“I’d like to see you working harder.”
“I’d like you to donate a gift to our organization.”
“Please consider me for a promotion.”
But these are:
“I’d like you to consider a gift of $2K to my organization by May 1st.”
“I’m proposing a 5% increase in my base salary by December 31st.”
And what do you do when you get a “non-response”? Non-responses are:
“I’ll get back to you.”
“Send me an email.”
“Sure, be back in touch!”
Rae further clarified her point by disclosing an experience she had, years ago, with her then 6-year-old daughter. They moved into a new house mid-summer, and her kids spied the pool next door. Her daughter saw the homeowner tending to his pool and asked if she could come and swim. “Sure, anytime!” was his response with a flashy, noncommittal smile. The 6-year-old did not accept that. “Anytime?” she asked. “When’s that? Is that now? Should I go get my swimsuit? How about tomorrow morning at 10?”
The 6-year-old wanted a real answer. An answer that would get her in the water. She didn’t accept a non-response, and we shouldn’t either. Push for a real response, even if that response is a “no.” It’s better to get a “no” now than wasting three months chasing a response. Social niceties (“Oh! So great to see you! We should have lunch sometime!”) are for social situations, not professional situations. Get the response you need.
3. Yael Glazer
Yael opened by conceding that this was her first public presentation in English and asked for mercy if she lost a word here and there. But she didn’t — she was spot on and didn’t miss a beat. Yael, who was desperate to start a business with zero capital and felt she “only” had talent and ambition to offer, has enjoyed success as a serial entrepreneur, founding two flourishing businesses after a failed stint as an Israeli Dead Sea product salesperson in an American mall.
Yael presented on “How to Become a Professional Juggler”. I was initially suspicious… what, another session on balancing? But Yael did not disappoint. Her tools were tachlis and interactive — she made us take out a pen and color in a sectioned wheel and a star, determining exactly where our priorities were, knowing and embracing that we cannot do it all, all the time. She asked us to measure how successful we felt in each of the documented areas of our lives (career, family, community, spirituality, friendships, etc.) so we could visualize where we’re falling short. If the wheel chart is uneven, Yael says, it won’t work. She stipulates that it’s better to have a smaller wheel that’s successful than a bigger one that won’t turn, so we have to take from the successful areas in order to buttress the ones which are minimized.
The star-shaped chart was where we were asked to document our (many, many) roles. For each role, we delineated the responsibilities that are dictated by that role, and then were instructed to prioritize and delegate. Yael clearly keeps all her balls in the air but recognizes that she prioritizes some over others (she calls the critical ones her “glass” balls, because nobody wants to drop a child) and shifts around her priorities constantly. I’m glad that Temech prioritized her, and obviously I wasn’t the only one who felt that way since her presentation was packed.
4. Nirit Cohen
Nirit blew my mind when she said that there are fewer than 100,000 new salaried jobs this year, but 19 million new business have been established! Over a third of the American workforce hold a full-time job PLUS a side business. The world of work is changing — production is changing, services are changing and we must change with it. AmazonGo is now a concept store in Seattle, where you can walk in, take something off the shelf, and walk out… because Amazon knows who you are, where you are, and they have access to your bank account (shudder). Apple created a platform for people to use apps, and now they’re earning more money from their share in the app store than they are from selling iPhones! They are earning big money from the work of people whom they do not employ.
The entire world of work has evolved — just 10 years ago, co-working spaces were unheard of — and when the concept was introduced, it was dismissed initially with a hearty “That will never work!” Things that are possible today that weren’t possible even a few years ago, and there will be things possible tomorrow that aren’t possible today. Technology enables these possibilities, and we need to open our minds and stretch creatively to determine what might be feasible next, and then establish it.
The day was deeply satisfying — a mixture of hugs, learning, introductions and lunch with Ima Kadimas, who had specially designated tables. We played “business card bingo” as a way to encourage those among us who are too shy to walk up to a stranger and introduce themselves (okay, I’m clearly not one of those people, but there are plenty who are.) We enjoyed an elaborate lunch (who can network on an empty stomach?) and then all rushed to pick up our kids, keeping those glass balls high in the air.