Meet Meghan Wilker (@irishgirl). She’s a spectacle-wearing, kick butt tech and content strategist and sometimes Bollywood dancer. During the day, Wilker oversees the planning and execution of web, mobile, and application development projects as the COO of Clockwork Active Media - an über-hip, Minneapolis-based digital design/communications/interactive agency. Wilker and her Clockwork colleagues excel in solving clients’ complex problems with smart and engaging strategies.
Pretty cool, right? But there’s even more to this Lady Geek of the Week. She’s the co-author of Interactive Project Management: Pixels, People, and Process (New Riders 2012), and was named a “Woman to Watch” by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.
Wilker’s also co-founder of the Geek Girls Guide, a blog dedicated to making web technology accessible and exciting and cultivating a movement of tech-energized women (and men!) online.
Oh, and Wilker’s resume is chock-full of public speaking gigs. She’s on a mission to change how people think about interactive work while empowering her fellow lady geeks.
Wilker took an unconventional path to the amazing career she’s carved for herself today - which included dropping out of college. Check out her interview with Being Geek Chic and she’ll tell you more!
Q: How did you discover your passion?
A: For me, it was a long, slow process. My passion is partly about technology and geeky stuff — but I also have this innate ability to see what needs to be done, and make it happen. It took me a long time to realize that those were a unique combination of skills, and that I could make a career out of it.
As a kid, I was exposed to computers (I remember playing on a Commodore 64 at our kitchen table) — and I took all of the computer courses offered in high school (okay, the ONE course offered at my high school), but I don’t come from a very technical family and didn’t really have anyone around to direct me down a more technical path. I was always very strong at writing and communication, though — and among my friends, I was always the organizer: the kid who decided we should all go to the mall, and figured out whose mom would drop us off, who would pick us up, and when.
As technology evolved and the internet emerged, I started becoming an avid user of technology. I especially loved the ability to connect with people from all over the world and in the late 90s spent a lot of time in Yahoo! chatrooms and on IRC. But, again, I didn’t really have an understanding of how I could turn what I was doing into a job.
I dropped out of college after less than a year. After spending a few years working, I went back to school and was planning to become a copywriter. During that time, I was working as an account executive for a marketing firm. The project I was working on involved working with a team of developers and end users. I was writing documentation to help the developers understand the changes I wanted to make to the database and user interface. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was writing use cases and creating information architecture documents. I knew what I wanted to accomplish, but I didn’t have the language or formal education to know that what I was doing was an actual discipline. I was just doing it by instinct at that point. I also worked for a boss who had really high standards for communication and precision; she helped my hone my attention to detail, which was invaluable.
While I was at that job, I met Nancy Lyons, who at that time was the President of Bitstream Underground — an ISP and web development shop. She gave me my first job in the interactive industry and that really changed the trajectory of my career. All of a sudden, I felt like I was home — like I had found “my people.” Suddenly, these seemingly unrelated skills that I had — a love of technology, an understanding of the end user, the ability to figure out what needed to be done and do it, good communication skills — all fit together like puzzle pieces.
I’ve had many job titles in the 13 years since then, but the core of what I do has remained the same: I help lead teams that get things done, and have fun doing it.
Q: In addition to co-running Geek Girls Guide and excelling as the COO of Clockwork Active Media, you also lend your smarts and speak at various events. What’s your favorite topic to discuss with your fellow lady geeks? How do you empower them?
A: I think one of my favorite topics is probably also the thing that makes people feel empowered, and it’s that you don’t have to have everything figured out. Sometimes our career path is a long and winding road and the most important thing is to listen to your gut. When I took that first job at Bistream 13 years ago, it was a step down in pay and in title. Not only that, the dot com bubble had just burst, so the industry that I was about to move into was in the throes of a major bust. On paper, the decision made no sense. But I knew, in my gut, that I needed to take the job. And it was the best decision I ever made — it was a literal turning point in my career.
Q: When did you discover you were “geeky?”
A: I guess it depends on how you define the word geek. I’ve mostly just liked what I like, whether or not the people around me agreed. (Translation: I was really not cool in high school.)
Q: You can choose one superpower. What is it?
A: Okay, so being a project manager-type person you have to know that I really pondered this question and (of course) had to do some research to make sure I was picking the best possible choice. This list kept me busy for a while.
And while teleportation is really tempting, I didn’t see the superpower I want on this list: the ability to operate without any sleep. That way I could do more stuff, but not be tired.
Q: What would you tell your 13-year-old self?
A: Stop begging your mom for a perm.
Emma Bauer is a Being Geek Chic Contributor. Clearly, she’s got great taste. She is a PR enthusiast, history scholar, tea drinker, fashion devotee, and of course, aspires to Be Geek Chic. Follow her on Twitter: @emmalynnbauer
The lady geeks we feature here each week always answer our questions with brilliance, courage and excitement. It’s always great to see what they each have to say. But there’s one question that always brings out the best answers: What would you say to your 13 year old self?
I decided to pool the advice of the ladies from the last 6 months and compile it in a visual format - as a reminder and a boost of confidence. The truth is, the things we say to ourselves when we’re 13 are still true when we’re 30 or older.
This is one of those cool things I get to make from time to time. I worked on this video for a client, but I wanted to share it with you because it combines so many of the things we talk about here: science + art + music + inspiration. Oh, and NASA. In this case, NASA’s global temperature data.
Dan, the student featured in the piece, is a welcome reminder to scientists everywhere that thinking more creatively about the presentation of dense data and scientific analysis can be beautiful. He took NASA’s temperature data and charted it to music, which he could then play on his cello. He named it A Song of Our Warming Planet. And it’s lovely.
Shameless plug time: If you know of someone in need of video services, please direct them to my business website: lizgiorgi.com
Editor’s Note: This is a RERUN from the Being Geek Chic archives. I’m taking a bit of a break this week, so please enjoy these classics from the BGC archives while I’m away.
The editors at TechCrunch and writer Penelope Trunk knew they were going to start a flame war when they posted this article last night: “Stop telling women to do startups”.
The basic premise?
“We need to get more guys who are running tech startups instead decide to be stay-at-home dads.
What do you think of that? Stupid, right? That’s what it sounds like when anyone suggests that we need to get more women doing startups.”
This is Trunk’s assertion. Her article goes on to infer that TEDxWomen might as well be TEDxGhetto, but that’s neither here nor there.
Here’s a new rule: Women should do what they want, but they also shouldn’t be prevented from succeeding because they made a choice (in all likelihood in consultation with a partner) to create a family.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes me “happiest” in life. Is it writing? Or directing? Or manicures? Or a stocked Kindle full of unread books? Or lazy Sundays? These things should fill up your life. And together it reminds me of the wise words of Abe Lincoln:
Of course, it seems cliché and yet it isn’t at all. They are words to live by. Here’s five other totally cliché phrases that are totally true:
5. It’s What’s Inside That Counts.
You can buy that incredibly true print from The Calm Gallery, a fun UK store with more screen-printed goodness than you can imagine. Take a lesson from these dolls: a pimple isn’t the end of the world, you are still you. Because deep down, if you are a rotten, burning lump of coal - you need to work on that. But if you are a gallivanting fox baby sharing your refreshing water with the neighborhood squirrels - then you are certainly a good person and let’s be friends.