OMG what do you do?
So my first big co-attended event rolled round, held at the LinkedIn headquarters in San Francisco. Quite a big event too! It was for a grant making foundation, and all the grant makers and decision makers were in the house for it. Big deal! My girlfriend was one of the grant makers, so she had an important part to play. I was the supporting cast, I suppose. I dressed as a quintessentially British man. Oxford shirt, skinny jeans, desert boots and round framed glasses. I was feeling great. Smart, interesting. I felt good. My girlfriend was lapping up the atmosphere and mingling, often introducing me. Inevitably, the question came. “So, what do you do?”. Well, what I do is nothing to do with Silicon Valley. It has no correlation, almost no relevance to it other than being something the people here might spend their money on. Furniture isn’t high on the list in this area, at all. Yes, people need it, have it and possibly want it, but investment, products, ideas and money are king here. Alas, I love talking about what I personally do, and it actually seemed like a welcome relief for some of the people I interacted with that night. Now, lets talk food. They really went for it! A huge spread. LinkedIn wine, everything you can imagine on a stick. They had it all. I felt slightly guilty initially, not being a member of the foundation, nor a grant maker, never mind not being an innovator or Stanford educated legend. That soon passed, and i noshed a load of those sticks of stuff. Loving life! The wine, however, was not on point. Sorry LinkedIN, you shouldn’t have put your name on that.
During the evening I spoke to many people. Some knew my girlfriend, some didn’t. Some were quite strange, but also charming. I loved the varied styles in the room. I counted one person in a suit. Now, back in the UK, if you weren’t suited and booted, you were out of place. It’s all about who looks good and who doesn’t there. As we all know, us Brits like the pompous three-piece suit, possibly a tie pin and definitely some cufflinks. San Francisco though, don’t iron your shirt bro. Actually, that’s being harsh. I love the way it is. Nobody cares who wears what, not do they care what they look like. It’s all about who you are and what you stand for. What’s your idea? What’s your vision? Who are you working with? It’s never about the dress, bag or shoes. Unless someone is from out of town. So, there was quite a mixture. I felt good and appropriately dressed. It’s a big subject for me, clearly. I took a lot of praise for my girlfriend, which I certainly do not mind doing. She had some big fans in that room. I spent a lot of time explaining my furniture business to people, sometimes even getting my phone out to show them images. People in California are incredibly friendly and I love them for that.
Next up, the speech. The lady in my life took to the stage to introduce herself, her team and the company they had awarded the grant to. I was in the front row, filming, taking pictures, and feeling a sense of pride and happiness about being there to see her do this. A good mix of humor and seriousness did her well, and she nailed a great pitch, even if she did run over the time limit. I had a great view of the lady with the stopwatch and the notepad saying ‘get a fucking move on will you….’ politely. Some aspects of this paragraph may be greatly exaggerated.
The pride definitely swelled up. She did great, and I felt being there to support her, and pull faces at her from the audience. Afterwards, we mingled a bit, but I am aware of the fact that sometimes I have to just let her do her thing. I was present, did my bit, supported her and loved every minute. But I know my place too. I made a quiet exit from the building and made my way to the nearest Irish bar for a little slice of (almost) home. I say this, but we all know Irish bars in the US still show NBA, serve Lagunitas and have almost no mention of Ireland or its surrounding countries. Nonetheless, I holed up here and waited for her royal highness to return. She did, two hours later. Clearly mingling is her thing. She returned beaming after an incredibly successful night, and thanked me, as always, for being there in support.
One person there actually asked me how I felt being there to support her. I can’t remember exactly what my answer was, yet I know it was a positive reinforcement of my support for her, and my belief that she has what it takes to survive and thrive in Silicon Valley, with my support of course. As always, I am aware that this situation would threaten many men, but still I do not understand why. There is a big debate in the world about gender pay gaps, and roles being off limits to women. All of these scenarios are because some men are threatened by strong women. I say embrace them, because they are the future. There are women doing great things in the world, and why shouldn’t they? Long may it continue. I sit there and watch my girlfriend, on stage or in the office, doing great things and pushing the boundaries of her progression, and I love being a part of it. The support structure. The rock. Life is good.