I’m going to be honest, I didn’t want to write this article. I know deep down I do. But we are 40 Outbox Execs and Stemettes sitting on a train back from Birmingham to London, none of us have slept more than 50% of the acceptable amount for normal functioning and we’re recovering from fighting off a weekend of bro-coders with some old school Stemettes power. When I find myself in this kind of situation, let’s just say that writing doesn’t exactly flow out of these fingertips.
But when I think about all that has happened to leave these 40 girls in an exhausted mess, comfort eating and snoozing on the train… I realise that deep down I want to write about it a lot.
If I walk down the aisle of this train and look at the Outbox Execs, heads in books, fingers tapping away on phones and laptops, headphones firmly plugged in, I know that a whole lot more fills their minds now than it did a few weeks ago. Gone is the anxiety of going away from home for weeks, and in its place is something new.
They’ve listened to up to 20 hours of expert advice given by industry professionals who are at the top of their game in STEM or entrepreneurship. From co-collaboration, to how to network effectively, to VC funding, to how to start a socially good tech startup, to name a few. There’s reams of notes all stored centrally on our Outbox Wiki to show just how much valuable information the girls didn’t want to forget. They’ve got hearts that are brimming with a little more love, having met a whole group of new girls (all of whom had never met before) who have now become good friends. And, we hope, they’ve got a new perspective and a new sense of belonging, when it comes to finding their place in a world of start-ups and business that is still currently dominated by the male sex.
Again, more honesty – the Stemettes team are definitely feeling it after a week. Not because we’ve had to deal with problems or complications. Nor because we’re not used to getting by on this little sleep (we are very used to that). The reason we’re feeling it so much is because the girls we’ve met through Outbox Incubator have just not stopped going. Their energy is boundless, their questions are deeply probing, their enthusiasm bursts forth in overwhelming waves (and makes you wish you could be that enthusiastic person, you know, the one who is a little annoying in their constant enthusiasm), their appetites for learning are insatiable… and actually their appetites in general are never-ending too.
That means the Outbox House is constantly alive. Constantly buzzing. Constantly filled with finished plates of food. It also means that we, as Team Stemette, are rushed off of our feet trying to keep up with all the questions, energy and requests. Then getting our head around the pace that these girls are developing is a whole other ball game. Let’s not go there quite yet.
The pinnacle of this week found us at Young Rewired State’s Festival of Code 2015 in Birmingham. It’s a festival that brings together young coders from all across the UK, all creating products with tech to a particular brief (this year the products have to utilise open data). Five group presentations into the semi-finals and we’ve only seen all-boy teams go up to present. The Stemettes couldn’t have felt more proud of our Birmingham Outbox Execs at this point. They had disrupted any unplanned quietness with chants of “Outbox Incubator”. They had filled up the festivals rooms with rows of girls where there would have been none. They had created app ideas which focused on social good, social need and women’s issues. And the Holler App missed out by the finals by one measly point. It’s very difficult being good sports, even as adults, in those moments…
Thinking about it, I’d honestly be completely content if we made the decision to pack up the Outbox Incubator house tonight. Our first cohort of 45 girls has exceeded all of our hopes and expectations and set the bar exceedingly high for the weeks to come in so many ways. Kind, loving, supportive, helpful, team-spirited, but also driven, motivated, competitive and focused. This magic mix has helped Holler app to be well on its way to seed funding and just in Week 1. The future for the girls in Outbox Incubator seems a rosy one, and there’s no way we’re shutting up shop until the 6 weeks are over.
Special thanks this week go to our wonderful and inspiring session leads for week 1:
Ghislaine Boddington (body>data>space & Women Shift Digital, Founder & CEO), Salma Khan (Encompass Digital Media), Diana Terry (Salesforce), Des Cristofi (EDIT Development), Anne-Marie Neathem (Ocado), Lindsey Bowes (Salesforce), Leigh Brody (Desktop Genetics, CEO & Founder), Thea Zarilidou, Ghilaine Chan (Tech Talkfest, Exponential & consultant), O2 Think Big, Lily van den Broeke (JustGiving), Zarine Kharas (JustGiving, CEO & Founder)