The Best Kind of Hangover

Guest Post by Olivia Swilley

Olivia Swilley is a Bay Area native who’s dedicated her professional life to representing and supporting local underserved communities. This week, she shares her experience of working with the GUILD.

It’s been a few days since the GUILD’s East Bay launch party, and I feel like I haven’t fully recovered yet. But that’s a good thing!

Welcome Oakland, Berkeley and Alameda!

I spent Thursday evening in the company of a roomful of smart, creative, driven women. They had all been brave enough to click “yes” to an event invitation to spend 2.5 hours mingling with other professional women they’d never met, hosted by an organization they knew little about. Excited by the diversity in the room (cute bangs and no bangs, heeled shoes and Vans, fresh out of tech bootcamp and seasoned veterans) I was reminded of what first attracted to me to the GUILD.

Anne Cocquyt recounts the personal journey that brought her to founding the GUILD to the ladies at the launch.

Back in January, I sat down with Anne Cocquyt and Jenni Jennions and listened to them describe this burgeoning network that is the GUILD: the origin story, their vision for 2017 and the years ahead, and — most importantly to me — their genuine desire to create opportunities for women to engage, learn, and grow. Inspired by their passion, I had one of those “I’ll have what she’s having” moments and jumped at the opportunity to join them on this journey. I was soon scripting engagement strategies, drafting emails, and calling like-minded women in my circle with invitations to get on board. With each passing week, this small team has grown to include student-interns and partners who run the diversity gamut. When all together, we look like a 90s-era United Colors of Benetton ad. That image was reflected back to us at Thursday’s launch party and I am thrilled to know that the GUILD wouldn’t have it any other way!

I can say with confidence that I have never been described as shy. Moreover, I hate the thought that someone would feel too shy to talk to me! For that reason, at events like the GUILD launch party, champagne glass in hand, I am usually the girl hopping from one small circle of people to the next, exchanging names and LinkedIn invites with whomever smiles back. That night, time and time again, I found that within each small circle I visited there was at least one woman who said that, while she enjoys events like these, she finds it incredibly challenging and intimidating to start conversations with others in the room.

I have found that it doesn’t hurt to start by complimenting a woman’s shoes. But I understand that this strategy might not work well for everyone and it’s certainly not a fool-proof methodology to create an authentic relationship, especially if her shoes aren’t actually cute. But this is what I love about the GUILD. There’s room for extroverts and introverts: those who thrive in a room filled with 100 people, and those who camp out near the exit sign…just in case.

While gnashing on a few cupcakes that night (yup, I had more than one) and sipping great wine, I felt like a proud mom, as women in the room shared their excitement in finally finding a network that is genuine and systematic in its approach to making connections on their behalf. With each passing hour the buzz in the room grew more and more palpable. Yes, some of it may have been alcohol-inspired, but it was clear that this night would not be a one-off, but rather a jump-off to unique and thoughtful opportunities for one-on-one engagements, professional development events and philanthropic endeavors.

The GUILD is a young, nimble startup, and we’ll only be as amazing as the women who join us. From the looks and feels that I got Thursday night, we are very much on our way. And I’m still buzzed about it!

Photos by Kayla de Guzman, a freelance photographer based in the Bay Area. You can find more of her work at kdgphotos.com

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