By @SimonCocking

People Connector, Social Media Enthusiast, Friend, Hugger, Mom,@WomenTechSummit Organizer,@TechGirlzOrg Marketing Geek Best way to reach me is via Twitter @gloriabell or @WomenTechSummit

Your background, how did you end up doing what do you now?

I began in the insurance industry handling claims.  On the side I owned and ran several small businesses with friends, including a technology project management company. Running this company made me realize my true passion was working with technology, especially the way technology was changing how we communicate.  At that time, social media and digital marketing were just becoming recognized marketing methods.

I took the leap and left my 20+ year insurance career to start my own business doing social media consulting and working with tech startups.  It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. That one change led to meeting some of my current mentors, working on some amazing projects, doing a lot of public speaking, working with the non-profit, TechGirlz, and co-founding The Women in Tech Summit and an Adjunct Professor position at Drexel University.

How was last 12 months?

An amazing roller coaster ride personally and professionally. I took time off to help care for a sick family member.  It was during this time I had the opportunity to really focus on what direction I wanted the next phase of my career to take.  We had had phenomenal success with the April 2015 Women in Tech Summit in Philadelphia. At the urging of some of our attendees, sponsors and speakers, my co-founder and I decided to take “the show on the road”.  We are expanding The Women in Tech Summit to several other cities. TechGirlz continues to grow and I was invited to teach another two courses at Drexel.

Anything you’d do differently?

In hindsight there are always things we would do differently. The key is working to be self-aware and thoughtful enough to minimize those instances. I have been really blessed and worked really hard to create the life I have and the work I do.  The few small things that I might have done differently helped contribute to where I am now, so I don’t know that I would actually change them.

Tell us about WomenTechSummit and organising TechGirlz. Why did you get involved, and what would be an ideal outcome for you?

We started The Women in Tech Summit 4 years ago to bring together the women working in tech in the Philadelphia area. We wanted to bring together not just the women developers, but all of the women working in different areas of tech – the developers and designers and the business, marketing and human resources people. The conference includes speakers, panels and deep dive hands-on workshops that cover a wide range of topics demonstrating multiple different aspects of technology and careers in technology.

We are thrilled to be able to say that the event has been an outstanding success. We had 125 women at our first event.  At our fourth (2015), we sold out within a week, had 325 attendees and had another 250 on the waitlist wanting tickets. That success is what prompted the decision to take the event on the road.  Each event has a focus on the local community. The majority of our speakers come from the city where the event is being held and each city has its own volunteer organizing committee that connects the event to that city’s tech community and helps identify local speakers and sponsors.

Techgirlz works to empower middle school age girls to be tomorrow’s technology leaders by sparking their passion for technology early. Our free (yes, you read that correctly – free!) hands-on workshops (TechShopz) and week long entrepreneur summer camp show girls the full range of careers in technology. We have also open-sourced our curriculum through our TechShopz in a Box program. Anyone can download and run one of our workshops for free.  TechShopz in a Box have already been run in Raleigh NC, Memphis TN,  New York City and several other cities.

I got involved in both of these organizations because they are working to reduce and eventually eliminate the gender gap in technology.  Finding ways to bring more women into this industry is not only a social imperative but it is an economic one. The number of unfilled technology jobs will continue to grow unless we must begin now to encourage and train a new generation of women (and men) to fill these positions.

The Women in Tech Summit and TechGirlz is bringing not only the education, but the network and inspiration for women and girls who are currently or who have an interest in working in the technology field.  Both organizations work to spread the message that being a women in tech covers a wide range of career choices and interests.

Our ideal outcome would be to eliminate the gender gap in technology, but we have a lot of work to do to get there.  Each time a girl or young woman realizes that a career in tech is for her or a woman makes the decision to continue her career in tech, change to a career in tech or mentor another women pursuing a career in tech, we take another step closer to that goal.

Plans for the future?

To continue growing The Women in Tech Summit and TechGirlz and bring them to other cities.  We already have more girls who want to participate in our TechShopz then we have space or instructors. The more people, in new cities, who run our TechShopz in a Box, the more girls we can reach and the closer we get to reducing the gender gap in technology.

You are active on twitter,  how has it helped you?

Yes, I am very active on Twitter. You could say I am a bit of a Twitterholic. 🙂  I joined Twitter before I start my consulting company solely out of a personal fascination with how technology was changing the way we communicate. That personal passion grew and morphed into the career I have now. I will always be grateful for that and for the role that Twitter played in jumpstarting my career.

My first 10 clients were people that I knew from Twitter.  Several of the speaking opportunities I have been offered have been either from connections on Twitter or from someone seeing my tweets and being interested in my expertise and viewpoint. Some of my closest friends and mentors are people that I originally met on Twitter and developed into off-line relationships. The immediacy and the ability to connect with so many different types of people from so many different parts of the country and the world make Twitter an invaluable part of life – personally and professionally for me. It has given me wonderful opportunities, including this interview!

Scott Eddy speaks about your personal brand being important to your business, what’s your take on this?

I’m not a fan of the term “personal brand”. I guess I am still old-fashioned enough to just think of it as your reputation, whether it is on or off-line. But I do agree with Scott that it is vitally important, especially if you are a freelancer, a consultant or a startup. Many companies, especially those just getting started, are directly tied to the people who start them.  People do business with people that they like and trust – an old adage but still very  true.  Today, a lot of that trust is built via the interaction we have online and the personal brands that we develop.

Blogging, who do you follow / like?

I am not sure that you have enough room to list everyone that I really like. My interests are pretty diverse. Most of the blog posts that I read have come through my Twitter stream and cover a wide range of subjects. There are a few people who are on my must read list every day.  Geoff Livingston, CC Chapman and Chris Penn are just three of the blogs I read regularly.  I’m also a big fan of the posts on The American Genius, all of the Technical.ly Media sites and Tech.co.

Being a big user of social media, how do you manage life / work, and online / offline balance?

I am blessed to do work that I truly love so it rarely feels like work. That often makes finding life / work and online / offline balance difficult. I have had to learn to step away from the computer and put down my phone. I try to schedule time into each day to do things that don’t involve work or being online, like reading a book, working in the yard, taking a walk or spending time with my sons or friends. Fortunately I have really wonderful friends and family that make sure to pull me away from work occasionally.

How do you create space to think / dream and write?

I find most of my creative inspiration when I am not trying to be creative.  A long walk, working in the garden, baking/cooking, reading and, oddly enough, cleaning and doing laundry and ironing are ways that I tap into my creativity. Letting my mind get clear of whatever I need to write, organize or think about by doing unrelated things that I love works best. Taking a “stroll” through my Twitter or Instagram streams are also a great source of inspiration. So many different topics and images will often spark another way of seeing something.

Anything else to add / we should have asked you?

These have been great questions! The only thing I would add is if any of your readers are interested in us bringing The Women in Tech Summit to your city or in running a TechShopz in a Box, please just let me know! The quickest way to reach me is to tweet me @gloriabell .

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