[00:01 – 01:00] Natural-born leaders have a knack for getting things done. They do this by surrounding themselves with different specialists who are experts in their respective zones of genius. They also know the importance of engineering, the optimal combination of people, processes and technologies as leverage. Hi, I’m Alicia Butler Pierre, and you’re about to hear from someone who’s not only a natural-born leader, but a trailblazer as well. When she didn’t see many resources taking action to increase the low representation of female engineers, she knew she had to do something and she eventually began using some digital event planning technologies to amplify her outreach on a larger scale. And it’s paying off. Those once hidden STEM Gems are starting to shine through. Young girls can now see who they can, one day, be. This is Season 14, Episode 173. Let’s start the show.
[01:00 – 01:22] Welcome to Business Infrastructure, the podcast about curing back-office blues of fast growing businesses. If you’re a business owner or operator looking for practical tips and solutions to scaling your business in a sustainable manner, you’re in the right place. Now, here’s your hostess, Alicia Butler Pierre.
[01:24 – 03:08] Having a tough time, trying to explain ideas over a video conference? Try the ThinkSmart whiteboard. It’s the fastest whiteboard software in the world and allows you to upload flow charts and write on them while your colleagues are watching remotely. Call us today for a free demo. The number is 1-866-584-6804 or visit us online @getmytablet.com. Now that’s smart, ThinkSmart.
This episode is brought to you by Equilibria, Incorporated, the company behind this podcast, where we design business infrastructure for fast-growing small businesses, ready to scale. It’s season 14, and we’re focusing on game-changing technology and joining us today, also here in Atlanta, Georgia is Stephanie Espy. Stephanie is the Founder and CEO of MathSP and she’s the number one LinkedIn top voice in education. Her mission is to empower the next generation of STEM leaders by inspiring, mentoring and coaching them in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics content and careers. Excuse me. She’s also the author of STEM Gems, a book that has now become a movement. And Stephanie is going to tell us all about that as well as how she’s been leveraging Hopin, as her technology of choice for creating her online events and programs and how that’s helping to keep the operational heartbeat of her company pumping. So without any further ado, Stephanie, welcome. How are you?
[03:09 – 03:11] Doing pretty well, thank you so much for having me.
[03:12 – 03:3] I finally got you on the show, Stephanie, as long as I’ve known you. And so the podcast is a little over three years old now, but I was trying to remember like, how long have I known you Stephanie? It has been, at least like, it’s definitely been over five years. So maybe six or seven years now at this point?
[03:32 – 03:39] I lost count but I know that you were at one of my very first events and that was, yeah, that was definitely more than five years ago.
[03:39 – 04:25] Yeah. And, and just so for those who are listening, the way Stephanie and I met each other, I was working with a publicist and she happened to forward an article to me. And what caught her attention was the fact that you were a chemical engineer. And as I read the article, I thought I have to meet Stephanie, for several reasons. One of course, because you’re also a chemical engineer, but not only that, you’re a black female chemical engineer and there aren’t many of us. And one thing I’ve always appreciated about information that you share are those kinds of stats, I might be putting on the spot here, but do you know off the top of your head, what are those steps again for females, female entrepreneurs?
[04:25 – 04:52] I know the stats for women in engineering, specifically for chemical engineering, but women in engineering earning bachelor’s degrees is about 19%. And when you look, when you Zoom in on women of color, or I should say underrepresented women of color is about 3%. So you and I, having earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, represent 3% of engineers.
[04:54 – 04:60] Wow. Now, for those who are listening and they may be wondering, what is a chemical engineer? What is a chemical engineer, Stephanie?
[05:01 – 05:53] So the easy way to say this, explain it is, obviously chemical engineering. This is a combination of chemistry and math. So my two favorite subjects growing up, chemistry, math. So chemical engineering was a natural career path for me. But when I actually start learning more about what chemical engineers do, I like to equate chemical engineering. So process design and process engineering, creating small scale, large scale processes that involve some sort of chemical. So chemical engineers are in every industry. So it’s a wide range of things you can do with this degree, but, and they are very simplistic terms. I would just say, we’re the brains behind creating and designing a process. So go from, you know, a little bit of something to a lot of something
[05:53 – 05:54] Oh, I love that.
[05:54 – 06:46] To take something on a large scale and anything that involves chemicals, which most things do involve some sort of chemical. And also just thinking about how do you protect the environment? How do you make sure there is nothing hazardous in terms of working with chemicals? Lots of things can, can really harm the environment and harm animals and plants, and everything’s like that. So a lot of considerations to be made when you’re designing these processes, that is sort of how I define what a chemical engineer does. And there’s a lot of things like heat and fluids and, you know, all sorts of physics, process design, things that happen. So that’s what we do. That’s what I’ve done in my past. And I think about my friends who also studied chemical engineering, very similar in terms of just really designing processes.
[06:46 – 07:19] Yes. As I always like to say, we are the true process engineers, because, you know, there are a lot of people out there that use that term, Stephanie, and they’re not really chemical engineers and I won’t even go there, but it always, it’s a personal pet peeve of mine. When I see people using that term process engineers so loosely, but, check this out everybody…well first actually, before I even tell them about just how amazingly brilliant you are, Stephanie, I just realized, did I ask you to give a stat about female entrepreneurs instead of female engineers? Is that what I said?
[07:20 – 07:23] I think you said entrepreneurs, but I gave you the stats on female engineers.
[07:24 – 08:04] I meant engineer. I’m telling you it’s been a very long day. So forgive me for that. But for those of you who are listening right now, let me again, just break down just how brilliant Stephanie is. So she has a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from MIT, a Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley and an MBA from Emory. Stephanie, wow! Now I’m curious, how long did you work in industry before you pursued your MBA?
[08:05 – 09:03] That’s a hard question to answer only because I count, like, internships as part of, like working in industry. So, you know, if I had to tell you it all up, explain all the differences, ‘cause I did internships as early as high school, really, but definitely all throughout college and when I was in Graduate School. So, before my MBA, I worked for let’s say three years or so. I, and let me, let me tell you how I decided to make that transition. So, when I was at Berkeley studying Chemical Engineering, I was introduced to a program called MOT, which stands for Management of Technology. And it was a joint program between the Business School and Engineering School. And I’m not sure how exactly I heard about the program, but, but I heard about it in some kind of way. And then I decided I was going to take, you know, to actually go for it.
[09:03 – 09:54] It was a certificate program. So it’s not like I earned an MBA or anything, but it was nice to sort of mingle and mix with the business school students or have them mingle and mix with the engineering students. So I decided to take the classes that I need to take in order to, to achieve that certificate, earn a certificate. And that was my first experience to business, anything business that was like the introduction. My first class was just unbelievably foreign. It was very different from an engineering class and just the way the engineering classes are structured and the way that they’re runs, a lot of lectures, a lot of note-taking a lot of taking tests and doing a lot of problem sets and things like that, where, where the business school was almost, it felt like the complete opposite. I felt being in another world.
[09:54 – 10:38] It was a lot more project-based work. Of course, in engineering, I had a lot, I had my lab work, so I was doing projects in the lab, but this was more like kind of working in teams and doing presentations and, you know, case studies and it was just different. And so anyway, that was my introduction to business. It was sometime in those years that I started thinking about, huh, this MBA, I wonder how that would add to my skill set. And I remember talking to my dad about it, who is also an engineer, but also has always thought I would make a great leader. I had done lots of leadership things when I was growing up. I was my, you know, in high school, I was the class president of my senior class. And I have always been sort of a leader of my high school.
[10:38 – 11:34] So he always felt like I was a strong leader in that business school and those skills, you know, add to my life in a lot of different ways. So he encouraged me to consider the MBA. And so at that point I was like, huh, should I do this whole like, PhD, MBA thing. Or, you know, it was like a lot of decisions to make at that point, but that’s sort of how the idea of getting a business degree even came on my radar. Prior to that, I had no interest in business and no interest in entrepreneurship, whatsoever. And that experience really changed that for me. And so shortly after I finished Berkeley, I took a couple years and did some very interesting things. We can talk about that product, another conversation. And then I decided to apply to business school. So I did have a break in between Berkeley and then applying and attending Emory.
[11:34 – 12:13] And I had some very unique work experiences and experiences in general at that time that really had nothing to do with chemical engineering, but it was, it didn’t prepare me for what was to come. And then while I was at Emory work, my MBA, I did a internship at Merck, which at the time was like my dream job, my dream company to work for, and then accept the full-time offer from Merck and worked full time at Merck for, I think, two plus years, and then eventually left Merck to focus on my business. So that’s sort of how that was.
[12:13 – 13:10] And it’s so interesting hearing you say, Stephanie, that you were doing work that had nothing to do with chemical engineering, but it probably did because engineering sets a foundation for critical thinking, which I know is what Math, your company, MathSP is all about. Teaching those critical thinking skills, problem solving skills. And I tell people all the time when they look at me, like, how on earth did you go from chemical engineering to business infrastructure? First of all, what the heck is business infrastructure? But I tell them, I always tell people it’s all about process. And I treasure my chemical engineering background so much because it taught me how to think and how to problem solve and how to think through things logically and methodically. So I, you know, I, you just can’t put a price on that. You really can’t. So, you start MathSP and tell everyone what exactly is MathSP?
[13:11 – 14:18] So the SP part is, yes, it is a play on my last name, SP stands for Strategies and Problem solving. So it does have a meaning there. So Math Strategies and Problem solving or MathSP. So I started MathSP because as an engineer, as a female engineer, as an African-American Engineer, I did not see a lot of women and a woman of color in chemical engineering. And you know, this is both in college, in graduate school and in the workplace. And when you, when we talk about the numbers earlier, I mentioned 3% number for women of color in engineering and 19% for women in engineering. So when you look at the numbers, obviously, you know, the experience that you had, if you’re fortunate to be surrounded by women engineers, you’re pretty lucky to work for a company or to be in an environment where you see a lot of women or a lot of people of color, because, you know, nationally, it’s just, the percentages are just really, really low.
[14:19 – 15:18] So it definitely depends upon where you are and who you’re working for. So, but I didn’t see a lot. And I wonder why I was like, why don’t more people consider, why don’t more girls and more people of color, consider engineering. Why I love Math and Science. I loved it. So why don’t people love it as much as I love it? What’s the challenge there? It’s lots of challenges there. And how is it that I came to love it so much so, that I was excited to study chemical engineering. Whereas again, others don’t have that same love and passion for it. So, MathSP was started to really help people to love Math and Science. Like I do. I figured I could get high school students, middle school students to love Math and to love Science, to understand it better and so apply it, what they’re doing in the classroom to real-world, to things they care about.
[15:19 – 16:20] Then maybe they will start to see what I see. What you saw, right. Because you also, there was really a really trying to be transformative in thinking through how do I solve this problem of getting more girls into engineering, getting more people of color into engineering. Okay, well, I have to help them with the basics, the foundation, because you cannot decide to go down the engineering pathway. If you don’t have a passion for Math, or if you don’t have a good foundation in Math, if you don’t have a curiosity and interest in Science, right, you’ll never want to go down this pathway. So it starts early in K through 12 Education, and I wanted it to just really connect students who were struggling or just didn’t quite understand and didn’t have a solid foundation if I can help them with that. Or even students who do have a passion or do have a solid foundation, does really help them to keep that foundation firm, and to keep that passion strong throughout their K through 12 Education.
[16:21 – 17:12] So that’s how it all started. And I also want to, I need to point out my mother as well because growing up my mother, who’s also a chemical engineer. Yeah, she has a degree in Chemical Engineering as a, she retired as an Environmental Engineer, but I used to watch her on the weekends, helping kids mostly, I guess, in the neighborhood or maybe her coworkers’ kids, or, and I don’t know exactly how she found these kids. And I say kids, I really mean, you know, middle and high school students. I used to watch her, help them on the weekends in Math, in different Math subjects. And they would come over and she would sit down at the kitchen table and she would tell us to stay off the kitchen, over like peeking in listening in, like, I just wanted to know what they were doing.
[17:13 – 18:22] And she would just, you know, for hours she would meet with different kids and help them in Math. And I just remember year after year, you know, seeing her do this. So ultimately I ended up doing it myself. So essentially as soon as I could. So I guess in early college, I started tutoring and helping high school students with Math and Science. And so when it came time to start Math SP and I leaned on that as well, I had so much experience helping students with Math and Science, just throughout my undergraduate years and my graduate years. I always had tutoring jobs. In addition to being a full-time college student, it was just a great way for me to mentor younger people and to help them with things that I just love to do. And so I wanted to do more of that. I wanted to, again, focus on girls and people of color, and really not just help them with the material and getting their homework done and studying more tasks, but like connecting it to real world, making the connections, introducing them to careers, letting them know that they too can be engineers, helping them understand what engineering is all about.
[18:22 – 19:28] You know, just really taking that another step further besides just completing a homework assignment or studying for a test, but connecting, making those connections to their everyday lives. Just everything around us has been designed by an engineer. And a lot of people haven’t thought about that, the same as if you haven’t been to a business school, if you haven’t studied marketing, then you don’t, you know, if you think like a marketer, just remember before how you thought, when you didn’t have any insight into what marketing was in how customer insights and how decisions were made. And then now that you are a marketer, a business owner, now that’s all you think about, right? So it’s true that that line of thought is transformative. When you’re starting to see the world in this lens of like, wow, like this is all created and designed by engineers, you know, they had paved this chair I’m sitting in right now is made of certain materials that had to be selected and crafted and to make the chairs sturdy enough to withstand a certain number of pounds, you know, weight.
[19:28 – 20:13] And it’s just all these little things that we take for granted that we don’t necessarily think about. But when you start thinking about it, you start seeing the world in a different way. And I wanted to help these kids to see the world in a different way and see the beauty in that as well. So that is the Genesis of MathSP and how I figured, I could change the world and increase these numbers by starting with the basics, the foundations, and making the connections with kids early on, because, you know, if you’re choosing these careers, there’s a whole nother set of challenges went in terms of like support and sticking with it and all that. But you have to get to the point where you’re choosing it. There’s so many options that exist in the world and engineering is one of so many different options.
[20:13 – 20:52] So, how do we get more girls and people of color, people of color to the side, this is what I want to do. And then of course, once they decide that, then it’s a whole nother world, okay. Supporting them through that decision into their college years and, and, professional years. So that, there’s a lot of work being done in all areas of the spectrum, all levels. But I focus on just getting them interested, getting them to choose STEM, like choose it. And here’s why choose it and connect and make those connections and then support them through high school and into college as well.
[20:53 – 21:55] I remember reading, I don’t remember if it was an article that I read or it may have even been a documentary that I watched, but I remember seeing, or reading this somewhere that for young girls, the change, the switch usually happens sometime around sixth or seventh grade. So basically middle school where they may have a really strong interest in Science and Math or Technology and Engineering, STEM basically. But somewhere along the way in middle school is when the switch usually occurs. So I’m curious, Stephanie, with MathSP it sounds like you have different programs and events that you’re doing to help give exposure to these students that you’re talking about, how young are these students that you’re working with and are you offering these programs and events and things like that, as part of your outreach program or outreach effort, I should say.
[21:56 – 22:53] Yeah, I’d start with students in middle school, to say fifth grade and just say, I haven’t worked with younger students, but I target middle school and high school because those are the years where things get tough, right. Those are the years when you start having a lot more homework assignments and tests and things get more challenging in terms of the content. There’s a lot more practice problems you have to do on a daily basis. And it just gets real. And then in addition to getting real in the classroom, of course, those are the years that kids go through puberty and it’s all sorts of societal pressures and peer pressure and things that happen in middle school. So, I like to start in middle school with kids when things really, really get challenging when parents no longer can help their children, right. Cause most times parents haven’t seen the material, their kids are learning in years and, and since they were themselves kids.
[22:53 – 23:42] And so oftentimes, you know, elementary school level work, parents can handle that for the most part, they can help their child add, subtract, you know, round, et cetera, or there’s lots of different options that exist to help children on that level. But when you start getting into middle school and you get some more advanced concepts and definitely in high school, when you get to, you know, your algebra and geometry and trigonometry and calculus, and a lot of physics and chemistry, a lot of things, again, parents really just don’t don’t remember these things from their own school and their own time in school. So this is when we step in and we can say, we know this material inside and out. We are STEM professionals. We love STEM. We love Science, we love Math and we know the material and we want to help your children excel in this material and make connections to the real world and connections to their own lives.
[23:42 – 24:28] So we pick up, we start with students in middle school and high school and even into college. And then the other thing I’ll say is, you mentioned just like different events. So, one of the other things that I do with MathSP is help students with the next step post-high school, which for a lot of families, is College. You know, college is not for everybody, but for a lot of people, it is their next step after high school. And my goal is to help them achieve their dreams specifically and hopefully, you know, going into a STEM profession. And though you do not need college to go into a STEM profession. Again, a lot of people choose to go that path. And so I want to help them accomplish their goals. So part of that is the whole college admissions process of, what does it take to get into college?
[24:28 – 25:28] What does it take to get into the college of your choice with money, right? To get financial aid or scholarships. So you’re not having to pay a ton of money for college. So another part of MathSP which is what I call “Knowledge for College” is helping families with that college admissions process. So we have a lot of events when I say we, I mean my business partner and I who have started “Knowledge for College” together, host events for families all the time. And we helped them with this college admissions process. So I focus more on the academic side of it, and what’s important academically, as well as what’s important when it comes to taking standardized exams, like the SAT or the ACT, and my business partner has a background and pretty much everything else, helping students to write their essays and tell their personal story, helping them to choose their, the best-fit college for them, helping them plan out.
[25:29 – 26:26] You know, they’re thinking about their future in terms of careers, including, you know, my contributions to STEM careers. So together we are, we just provide a lot of knowledge, a lot of information that really helps parents to, to navigate this process for their child. So we do a lot of events where we bring in different speakers and really just try to make this process less daunting and less intimidating. And so with that, we do a lot of in-person events, but because of COVID, we’ve transitioned of course, to doing a lot of virtual events. And, you know, that’s kind of where virtual events and in different platforms come in because before the pandemic, we did not do very much virtually. It was really all in person because there’s nothing like that. In-person, that human connection. So we did in person, we would go to different schools.
[26:26 – 27:44] We do meetings and presentations at PTSA meetings at, you know, for teachers, we would do meetings at people’s homes. You know, like a loop of a group of parents would, come together in a certain community. We would meet at their home and do sessions with them, working sessions. We were just out and about everywhere. We were all over the place. And when the pandemic came about like, and I, and to be honest, like I’m a, you know, I’m an engineer, I’m a technology person in general, but I just, I think I was, I did not believe that was possible to have the same interactions virtually. I just, it never crossed my mind to do a virtual event because I didn’t feel that it was going to be the same level of interaction. And, you know, I didn’t see how you could mimic that virtually. So when you have no choice, when you have to pivot no other choice, you’re forced into a corner where it’s like, either you do or you die, and either we’re forced to do this, we can no longer have these knowledge for college sessions, or even with STEM Gems, same thing.
[27:44 – 28:22] We could no longer have the STEM Gems sessions and meetings and summits and things that I do with STEM Gems, unless I pivot and now move into a different space. So that is the transition from in-person events with MathSP, meeting students face to face with knowledge for college and working with families and helping them navigate the college admissions process. All of that in person will be all that virtual and then with STEM Gems and the summits and the workshops and the summer programs that we do, all of that pivoting completely to a virtual space. That was a huge, huge transition for (inaudible.)
[28:22 – 28:59] I’m sure. I’m getting exhausted just listening to all of the different programs because I’m thinking of all of the behind-the-scenes work that has to take place to make that type of a transition. So I know your technology of choice is Hopin. And I know from some previous conversations I’ve had with you earlier this year, I remember you doing quite a bit of extensive research on different online event platforms and you eventually settled on Hopin. Can you tell us a little bit more about Hopin and why that was ultimately the platform that you chose?
[29:00 – 30:20] So it actually was not the platform that I chose, but I say that only because of…I love Hopin and I love everything it could do. It’s one of those platforms with so much to offer. And I decided that’s almost my dream platform instance, right. But when I transitioned into doing the virtual summit for STEM Gems, which is a lot more moving pieces than a Knowledge for College webinar or virtual session, let me just start off by comparing the two. So the Knowledge for College sessions that we’ve been doing throughout the years, my business partner, and I have been a lot of interaction, a lot of talking with parents, answering their questions, giving them information, having guest speakers here and there, but we’ve been the experts that have been able to provide the information. And we’ve done that with, with, in a way that allows us to have a lot of feedback and back and forth conversation with parents and that we can do in a very simple tool, like Zoom even, but I will say Zoom was a big transition for us, even though it’s so commonly used now, in the beginning, it wasn’t at least for us.
[30:20 – 31:27] And so we do have to transition from, okay, how do we do this effectively in Zoom, right? How do we create this environment and Zoom? So that was a big deal. STEM Gems events are that time to the 10th power. There’s a lot more moving pieces. There’s a lot more speakers, a lot more of a dynamic experience where you are a participant listening in, to all sorts of information from speakers that are all professionals in STEM that are sharing their knowledge with the audience. It’s, there is some interaction with forms of questions, but not as interactive as our knowledge for college sessions are, with MathSP and working with parents. So, with STEM Gems, Hopin was the platform that I was like, this is the goal. This is my, this is where I want to be in the next two, three years is to be able to access everything happened, stands for, so they have, excellent interface where, you know, you can have the presenter to talk through, you know, to show slides and talk through there’s, you know, share their story and present information.
[31:27 – 32:29] And, you know, you have that same piece that you have in Zoom, or in other platforms, but you have a place for sponsors or partners to exhibit. And the reason why I did not choose Hopin right away is because of that piece. So I’m transitioning from in-person to virtual in the past. I had not taken advantage of sponsors and partners in that way. And so I didn’t need that part of the platform. However, the goal now is to have partners and sponsors. And so that platform will allow the partners and sponsors to showcase their companies and showcase their work in a way that a Zoom cannot, at this point, can not do or other platforms. So, Hopin’s the platform that after researching, getting, attending lots of their live demonstrations, I was like, oh my gosh, this is phenomenal. This is giving me something to strive for.
Stephanie Espy discussing STEM with a group of young girls.[32:29 – 33:36] It really allowed me to see all the things that it could do. The ways that you can really engage in a way that I had not done, you know, in person. And I had not done it on the Zoom platform, but you can do it on Hopin. So I, anticipating that and to, not in 2022, but by 2023, we will move our summit, our virtual summit that happens every March for Women’s History month to the Hopin platform. That is the goal because that’s the platform that does allow so much more. And if you have a lot of moving pieces, you know, you have a speaker, you have exhibitors, you have the partners and the sponsors and all the, and they have the participants. You have parents, you have educators, you have the kids, you know, the girls, there’s so many different communities coming together in this summit that Hopin provides a place where all of those things can happen. You can really maximize the interaction more so than what we can do. And when we have our summit via Zoom. So it was one of those, like in two to three years, this is where we’ll be. So how do we get there? What do we need to do?
[33:36 – 33:38] Got it. Yes.
[33:39 – 34:15] In two to three years, we can convert our summit to the Hopin platform and take advantage of everything that it has to offer and make this experience, that summit experience extremely interactive for each of the different target audience groups that we target, including the parents, educators, and the girls themselves. And that’s how the STEM Gems, I’ve been talking about two different things. I want to make sure this is for the STEM Gems Summit that happens in March, which is different from, you know, the MathSP and Knowledge for College that I mentioned earlier.
[34:15 – 34:46] Yes. And I’d love to, this is actually a great segue. We’re going to take a break, but when we come back, I definitely want to, to just kind of have that exploratory discussion with you, Stephanie, about what, who are the people, and the processes. We know the technology that you’re aspiring to, but who are some of the other people that you need to get behind the scenes to make all of this happen? And what does that process look like? So I’d love to, to have that conversation with you, but first let’s take a quick break so that we can hear a word from one of our sponsors.
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[36:09 – 37:01] Okay. We are back from our break and Stephanie, you were telling us about Hopin and all of these amazing features that it has and how that is the online event platform that you all at MathSP and with your STEM Gems, the STEM Gems work that you’re doing that, that’s the technology that you all aspire to use, hopefully in the very near future. I’m also familiar with Hopin. Not that I’ve organized an event using Hopin, but I’ve been a participant in several different conferences, very much like what you were describing. So I definitely have seen the exhibitor spaces, the spaces where speakers can kind of hang out in a virtual lounge before it’s their time to speak and just the opportunities to be able to network with other people.
[37:01 – 38:12] And I’m always a little, a little leery about that, you know, virtual networking, but it’s really interesting how that platform is able to pull it off. So, you know, I’d love to have this conversation in the framework of business infrastructure. And for those of you who are listening to this show for the first time, business infrastructure is a system for linking your people, your processes, and your tools and technologies to ensure that growth happens in a profitable and sustainable way. So, Stephanie has MathSP she also has the work that she, the movement behind her STEM Gems book. We haven’t even talked about this STEM Gems book, but we’ll make sure we, we do, we do give you an opportunity to talk more about the book, but there’s these two communities that are very much STEM-centered and focused. MathSP, you’re doing a lot of that work through Zoom. Also STEM, the STEM Gems Summit is taking place via Zoom, but with the goal of being able to transition into a platform that can handle the speakers, the sponsors, the exhibitors, moderators, all of the people that are needed, that whole entire ecosystem, right, Stephanie?
[38:10 – 39:10] Right.
[38:10 – 39:13] That’s what happened. So, if we could talk about this again from a business infrastructure perspective. So, all of the people that are needed behind the scenes to make something like this happen. So obviously, and I know when you did your first online summit last year, you already got a taste for the need for having something as simple as a moderator. So when you have speakers and, and you know, the chat is going and it’s, it can be very distracting for a speaker. So it helps to have that moderator who can read and kind of regulate the conversation, extract the questions that are actually being asked in the chat, and present those questions to the speaker. So, who are some of those people based on what you’ve learned so far in conducting that very first STEM Gems Summit? So we know there’s the moderator you need, and overall, I guess you would say producer, right, of the event? And who are some of the other people?
[39:14 – 40:17] Yeah, I think that, I’m glad you said producer because that is probably the most important. It was the most important for me to have sort of a “run of show”. So, a very clear vision of how things were going to go hour by hour, even minute by minute, especially when you, when you’re bringing together so many different people, so many different speakers and sponsors and presenters. And so you need to make sure everybody knows exactly what they’re going to do and exactly when they’re going to do it. And then, on the actual day of the event, you need to make sure that you have a producer that is able to keep everybody in line and check on when it’s their turn to speak and make sure they’re ready to go and make sure there’s no glitches with the actual run of the show. And so this sounds when you do an in-person event and when I’ve done in-person events, yes, we’ve had the same sorts of things we’ve had, you know, very clear idea of when things were going to happen. It’s somewhat a little bit easier to meet in person because everybody is already there.
[40:17 – 40:17] Right.
[40:17 – 41:11] People are where they need to be. You can see them, you know, they’re, you can have those conversations when you’re in a virtual space. You don’t always know that right. People are in different, they’re in their different places remotely. And you have, you know, you don’t always know they’re at their computer when they need to be there, or they can say, yes, I’m here. Then they can step away and forget to come back or, you know, different things can happen. So a lot more things that can go wrong. I think in a virtual space, then when you’re in person, you know, everybody, every physical body that is part of the show is there, physically there. And so it’s easier to just make sure things happen the way they’re supposed to. And it’s also easier to kind of pivot. If you need to, if somebody is running late, you can have someone speak longer or shorter.
[41:11 – 42:09] And it’s easy to do that in person. Doing this virtually was, for the first time, definitely, you know, a bit of, more planning, more ensuring that everybody knows exactly what they need to do, and also making sure that everybody knows how to use the technology. Not everybody’s familiar with Hopin, it’s the platform that is relatively new. And so even for me, it was, it was new, to, you know, so even Zoom, it doesn’t matter what the platform is. There’s always a learning curve for, for people, when they are not used to using it, or they haven’t used it in a while. So you have to train people on how to use a platform and how to share their screen and how to, you know, how to turn the volume on everything. And so the producer’s role is just so critically important and just making sure that people are where they need to be, that people have with a need to do, what it is they need to do.
[42:10 – 43:05] So that role is very important. And then you also mentioned the host or the moderator. So that’s the person that’s making announcements. And, it’s moving the program along, right. To make sure there’s a lot of energy in the room, that everybody’s, you know, participants are, you know, commenting in the chatbox and, you know, asking the fun questions and just keeping the energy going throughout the day. So that person is also really important to just get things, kick the meeting off, kick the summit off and keep it going and, and bring that level of energy that, you know, in a half throughout the summit or throughout the conference. And then on top of that, you have, of course your speakers, and depending upon the size of the event, you know, you can have, you know, anywhere from one speaker to hundreds of speakers. And so with STEM Gems, we usually have 12 speakers.
[43:05 – 44:14] We have 3 that are scientists, we have 3 that are technologists, 3 that are engineers and 3 that are Mathematicians. And then often we may have a few extra, if we have a sponsor or a partner who has an announcement to make about something or a welcome. So you could have, you know, your main speakers plus you have just different people that may be there to, to again, give some sort of announcement, or you may want to spotlight a certain organization or company or a university, or what have you for some reason. So there’s, again, there’s lots of moving pieces here. You want to make sure that the presenters know what their role is, when, what time they’re speaking. making sure they’re ready to go when their time comes. And then on top of that, you have your participants. And because STEM Gems is really all about getting more girls into STEM careers and helping them understand what these careers are and how they make a difference in the world, how they help people.
[44:14 – 45:13] It’s important to not only talk to the girls, but also talk to their parents because oftentimes, you know, parents are, parents are the biggest influencers in the girls’ lives, as well as educators and the teachers that they see every day. So having these three different groups of participants, and giving them each what they need is that extra level or layer that you have to consider when you’re doing these events. And there’s something for each of these different groups. So when I did the summit this past year in March, it was challenging because I wore a lot of different hats. And behind-the-scenes, I was in front of the camera, behind the camera, you know, you know, on-screen, off-screen, making contact with different speakers. You know, we had participants who were trying to get into the room, emails coming in with questions on, what’s the link for this, or you just, it was a lot happening at one time.
[45:13 – 46:05] So definitely I definitely I’m so appreciative to those people that were ensuring that, you know, that things are running smoothly behind the scenes. We also had challenges with the speakers. we had speakers who did not, were not there at the designated time. We had to send emails and even text messages just to make sure they were, you know, they didn’t forget they were on their way. We had to, we had speakers who did not know how to change their background because, you know, on these different platforms, you can use it. We had a signature background that was, you know, just for the speakers. So we wanted all the speakers to have the background and otherwise it would just be a little odd for all speakers, but one to have this, the background. So we had some that had the challenging, that challenges getting the background up.
[46:05 – 46:59] So we had some delays in that, that we, you know, didn’t entirely predict because again, you may make some assumptions that were not in the end. We’re not, we should not have made it. And then we had challenges with people accessing the tool from their computers, and they had to use their cell phones at the end of the day because their volume wasn’t working properly or something. So there was a lot of things that can, that can happen when you have just so many bodies involved in a big production, and you really want to make the investment in having a, as you mentioned, I think having a producer that can help with anything that may happen on day of, and then leading up until the actual conference or summit, having that person is going to keep the body energetic and energized and just bring the energy.
[46:59 – 48:07] So that could be the host, or it could be a designated speaker or whoever to just, if there is a lot of time, if there’s a delay that person fills in that gap is not just complete silence, right, on the spot. And then just a really detailed run of show. So everybody knows what’s happening when it’s happening a cam score, how important that is not only for the event planner, but for every speaker and every person involved in the production and know what’s happening when it’s happening. So, yeah, I think those are another thing. And again, going back to the platform, there’s just so many cool things. You mentioned a lot of them that you can do just to keep that level of engagement and interaction between all these different groups, between the speakers, between the participants, between the different target audiences within the participants. So there’s a lot of really cool things you can do to make the experience so much more. It’s almost like being in person as closely as you possibly can be. I think they’ve done a great job with making that platform extremely interactive.
[48:07 – 48:58] Absolutely. And on the process side, you know, we’re being, that we’re both process engineers, it might be unfair to ask, you know, well, what, what’s the process, Stephanie, for putting something like this together. But I think if we could just maybe very quickly touch on some of the things that you absolutely have to think about, in terms of capturing some of the key processes to start sharing with all of these people that are working behind the scenes to make sure that your event goes off without a hitch. So, as you’ve been talking, I’ve been thinking of some different things. First, you mentioned, run of show. So obviously it’s very important to put that run of show together. And when we say run of show, we’re talking about from the moment the event begins to the moment, the event ends, a detailed account of everything that’s happening from a time perspective.
[48:58 – 49:53] So if your event starts at 8:00 AM in the morning, what is the first is, is there a keynote? Is that general networking? Online registration is what’s happening at 8, from 8:00 to 8:30 and then from 8:30 to 9:30, that might be when the first keynote speaker speaks. So, one thing that I think is always helpful too, Stephanie, I don’t know if you agree with this, but I like to save programs from actual in-person events that I’ve been to, conferences and just looking at how they pray. You know, again, that’s just how my mind works. I’m always thinking, what went on behind the scenes for them to have, to be able to produce, even, even this, this beautiful, full-color booklet that accompanies this conference. What went into putting something like this together, you start thinking about all of the planning and how far in advance did they have to do all of this planning.
[49:53 – 50:34] So speaking of planning, that’s the other thing, how far in advance do you recommend people start planning an online event, especially if it’s going to be something like, you know, as large as the STEM Gems Summit, where you have several hundreds of people. And I know it’s only going to get larger because it is virtual. Now you can open it up to literally anyone, anywhere around the world. So I definitely foresee you having thousands and thousands of people attending the next STEM Gems summit. How far in advance are you going to start planning for the one in 2022?
[50:35 – 50:37] Well, actually I already started.
[50:37 – 50:37] I’m sure you have.
[50:40 – 51:47] Right now, I’m in the sponsorship phase. So this is where I’m reaching out to potential sponsors to get them on board. Because oftentimes you have to ask, you know, six months ahead, a year in advance because they only have, but so much funding available that they give. And so, you know, there’s a process with that, right? So this is the time where I am reaching out to potential sponsors. I’ll do that in October, November with the deadline to have sponsors locked in by early January. At that point, I’ll know who the sponsors are. I’ll know how many speakers will come from those sponsoring organizations. And then I’ll then fill in the gaps with additional speakers. So if we have, you know, say five sponsors and each sponsor is going to, you know, we’re going to have a speaker from each of the sponsoring companies that will let me know how many additional speakers we need, as well as what type of speakers we need to fill in the gaps to make sure that the program is, you know, as we want it to be.
[51:47 – 52:41] And then we will reach out to additional speakers in January, secure additional speakers, and then be ready to start promotion at the end of January, beginning of February timeframe for March. So, yeah, there’s a, I mean, this is, it starts now, again, it did not start this early last year, because last year was the first year we actually thought about sponsors and we did a little bit of outreach, but it wasn’t this early, we kind of waited probably too late to start seeking sponsorship, which is why this year we sort of learned from last year, starting early. And now that we have all the documents that we need to seek sponsorship, we, you know, that we did from last year, we can tweak it and get it ready for this year and start sending it out. So that’s what I’m working on right now, as it pertains to the summit that happens in March, is getting sponsors on board.
[52:41 – 53:18] And then I’ll, I’m also making a shortlist of potential speakers as well. People that I am thinking about reaching out to, not a hundred percent sure yet, because I don’t know who the sponsors will be. I don’t know if, you know, I don’t want to have two of the same type of speaker. So, you know, a shortlist of people that potentially we’ll reach out to in early 2022, just so that when the time comes for that part to happen, I’m not scrambling at that point. So that sort of happening simultaneous to looking for potential sponsors.
[53:18 – 54:20] Yes. And you know, as far as resources, I know we have to start wrapping up now it’s already eight o’clock. Can you believe it? We’re having too much fun, Stephanie, but we definitely cannot wrap up without you actually talking about the STEM Gems book, which I have my autographed copy here with me. It is a beautiful, full color book, STEM Gems, how 44 women shine in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and how you can too. This is the book that started the STEM Gems movement, which includes the summit that Stephanie’s talking about along with the host of so many other wonderful programs and events and conferences where Stephanie has a very major presence, not just here in the Atlanta, Georgia area, but nationally as well. So, Stephanie, please, we must talk about your book, but we have to do it a little quickly. I’m sorry.
[54:22 – 55:47] It’s okay. I already gave you a great introduction. So, and as you said, already said, it definitely is what spearheaded the movement. It started with this book, this, this idea of helping girls to, and not just girls, but their parents as well, educators as well to really have a deeper dive into STEM careers and to put a name and a face with all these different careers. So really having representation from a diverse group of women to represent these STEM careers, as well as tangible, actual, actionable guidance and advice. The book is full of that. And so it started with this resource, this book. I wanted to get it into the hands of girls’ parents and educators across the country. And it went from that to now having the summer camp, the book club and the summit and other programming that we’re working on. So yeah, it’s gotten it’s, it’s just so much work to be done in this space that there was just so much opportunity that the book kind of led to, and I’ve just been following just letting things happen as they happen in terms of, I see opportunity as a need. That’s the opportunity, let’s go for it. And so that’s sort of how it happened, but it all started with this initial idea to, to write this book and to help connect the dots between, you know, girls and what they can do if they pursued a STEM career.
[55:47 – 56:55] Because as you always say, you can’t be what you don’t see. That’s right. I tell people about, I tell people about you all the time. Like, well, you know, my friend, Stephanie always says, you can’t be what you don’t see. So that’s why you have to get a copy of this book. I’ve bought this for so many of the young ladies that I personally mentor. I bought a copy for my goddaughter. Even she…she reads it in like a weekend. She did, she did. She loved every single page of this book and it’s so beautifully produced a unique size. It’s like, it’s like a square, it’s a square. So I just, I love everything that you’re doing. Stephanie, I’ve been a fan of yours as you know, from day one and I will continue to support everything that you’re doing. If there’s anything else that I can do, please don’t hesitate to let me know. What is the best way that people can get in touch with you, because I’m sure they’re listening right now thinking, wow, you know, I need to follow Stephanie? I know you’re very active on LinkedIn, but what’s the best way for people to connect with you?
[56:56 – 57:52] Definitely social media. I mean, everybody’s on social media these days, I’m on social media. So if you’re a Twitter user then go to @STEMGemsbook on Twitter, if you’re an Instagram user, go to STEMGemsbook on Instagram, you can also go to @MathSPcoaching on Instagram or @StephanieEspy on Instagram. So again, a personal Instagram page, as well as a STEM Gems book and a MathSP Instagram page. If you’re on Facebook, again @STEMGemsbook, @MathSP on Facebook, if you’re in LinkedIn, again. Perfect. So definitely social media. You can also go to the STEM Gems website, which is STEMGemsbook.com, or the MathSP website, which is MathSP.com. You know, there’s many, many ways to reach me. So whatever works for the listener, I’m pretty easy to find.
[57:53 – 58:48] Very easy to find, Stephanie. She’s being very modest right now, but she has a huge presence online, especially considering the space that you’re representing STEM. So again, I’m just so proud of everything that you’ve done in all of the inroads that you’ve made in this space. Again, as you, as you’ve been saying all along, not just for girls, but for people, for young people of color as well, and providing them with the ongoing support that they need beyond high school. So, thank you so much for the work that you’re doing, Stephanie. I’d like to just quickly, very, very quickly recap some of the things that you shared with us to consider. If we want to use a tool like Hopin to plan our next online event because it looks like this whole pandemic thing isn’t going to go away anytime soon. And all of these digital transformations for many of us, it’s just here to stay now.
[58:48 – 59:40] Even if we do, maybe go back to a hybrid way of doing things where we have a combination of in-person as well as remote or virtual events, but some of the things that you mentioned in terms of people that we need to take into consideration for the, handling those back-office operations, having that producer, the moderator or hosts, we talked about the speakers having that overall event planner and emcee even, someone to make announcements, to kind of help keep the crowd amped because it’s very easy to get distracted when you’re doing something remotely and also the participants themselves. And then as far as a process, we weren’t able to really detail a process, but some of the key things that you do need to think about are the length of your event. You know, how long would it be? Again, when you’re doing things remotely, you definitely have to take that into consideration.
[59:40 – 01:01:01] People tire out a lot quicker than they do if it’s an in-person event. How far in advance do you need to start planning your event? At what point do you start looking for sponsors if you do want sponsors for your event? Also, you mentioned something else really, really, really important, knowing the type of computer or device that a person, speakers are using and participants as well to access your event. Don’t take, don’t think everyone has a Mac or everyone has a PC. They might, you know, there’s a combination of devices that people are using as well as their phones to access your event. And that can definitely alter their experience. And it goes a long way in figuring out how to properly troubleshoot technical issues as they arise. And then also that run of show, but rehearsals doing that soundcheck, the overall tech check, making sure everyone knows how to use the platform. Stephanie, this has been so great. We’re going to make sure we have links to all of your events. The Knowledge for College events, MathSP, the STEM Gems summit happen. All of your social media links. We’ll have all of that available at BusinessInfrastructure.TV. I can’t thank you enough, Stephanie. This was so worth the wait.
[01:01:03 – 01:01:28] Well, thank you so much for having me and thank you for all your, to all your listeners. I love, love, love your podcasts! And I am. I need to go back and listen to some different episodes. There’s so much great information from all of your guest speakers. So thank you, Alicia, for everything that you’re doing, to help business owners like myself, to continue to make a difference in the world. So thank you.