059: A Membership Connecting Women To The Best Jobs In Tech – with Allison Esposito Medina

Allison Esposito Medina, founder of Tech Ladies joins Ward to chat about how she helps connect women tech-makers with the best jobs and opportunities in tech via their job board and online community.

✍️ Show Notes

📄 Show Transcript

This transcript is computer generated, please excuse any errors 🙂

Ward Sandler 0:06
Hey, Alison, welcome to Member Maker.

Allison Esposito Medina 0:37
Hi. Thanks for having me. Sure thing.

Ward Sandler 0:39
So what is your business and who do you help?

Allison Esposito Medina 0:42
We’re called tech ladies. It’s a community of 100,000 women and non binary people in tech. And our members work across tech startups and larger companies as well across engineering, design, marketing, basically any role you can imagine in tech. So we have Have people from all over the country all over the world? And it’s grown a lot in the last few years.

Ward Sandler 1:05
Very cool. So it’s a community. So it’s like a, like a discussion group of people to like post messages and threads and things like that or something else.

Allison Esposito Medina 1:13
Yeah. So we basically started as a meetup first. And when that started growing, we moved everything online. The first thing we ever did was start a Facebook group. And then we built out our newsletter from there. And then over the years, we’ve started building resources for this community. So one of the biggest ones is our job board, which is on higher tech ladies calm. And we also have a founding membership group, which is like a paid smaller version of our large community because all the resources that we were building for our larger community got so big you and your community grows that much. So we also do things to help women in tech move forward in their career, like we do a webinar every week. And we have virtual events and basically just like tons of stuff to help them out.

Ward Sandler 1:57
Very cool. So if I’m understanding this correctly, Everything you mentioned except for the paid community, is that all free or no?

Allison Esposito Medina 2:03
Yeah. So like joining tech ladies is free, the job board is free. We want to make that obviously really easily available to anybody who’s looking. We have a free group. And then we have a paid version of our community, which has a little bit more like they have their own portal to login to with perks and discounts. And they get all the webinars for free and they get access to our library of past webinars. But yeah, and the free tier or the paid tier, there’s a lot of resources.

Ward Sandler 2:28
Cool. Cool. So how did you get into this niche? Are you a tech lady yourself?

Allison Esposito Medina 2:33
Yes, I worked at a couple of different startups. And later went on to work at Google. And anywhere I worked. I was like, you know, it’s really good to keep up your network. And it’s really both a mix of like inspiring, but also really supportive to know other women who work in tech. And also not to just only know the people who you work with, but to really build a network outside of that. Those jobs that you have, it can get really either lonely at your job or Really insular. And so having a built in network, when you’re looking for a job, or when you’re looking to learn something new, or when you want to start your own startup, it’s been really great to have a network for that. So it started just me wanting that for myself. And then we started doing these meetups, and then they kept growing. And I was like, oh, wow, this really isn’t just me, who needs and wants all of these things. There’s a huge group of people who want this

Ward Sandler 3:25
so you were kind of going through those feelings yourself of being a little lonely and wanting to connect and you decided to just Alright, let’s just start a meetup.

Allison Esposito Medina 3:32
Yeah. And then I couldn’t believe how many of the things that we were sharing. were happening across different places that people worked and also like to say in the same things would happen over and over. I know that I’ve been at it for four years, five years since we started the meetup. But four years since it really became a I guess you could say like a company in business, that I’ve just seen so many of the same things happening to people whether like, basically things you’re struggling with at work, needing help with negotiation needing help with a difficult boss. I’m just like all of these pain points and how they’re specific for women who work in tech, which is a really male dominated industry, really tough industry in a lot of ways, but also an industry with tons of opportunity, and you just don’t want women and underrepresented people to miss out on this.

Ward Sandler 4:19
Right now, that totally makes sense. Okay, so walk you through step by step. It sounds like the initial thing was scratching your own itch, which is great starting that that meetup and getting some folks to attend. How did it grow from there in terms of the audience, like what was next after the meetup? And when did you start to think about this in terms of, Hey, I’m actually building an audience, and I need to kind of have a strategy around that.

Allison Esposito Medina 4:39
Well, first I was I’m based in New York. So I was doing the meetup in New York. And then we would notice that as our little community grew, people would relocate for to go to San Francisco or do something different or get a new job. And that’s when it became obvious that this isn’t just a New York thing like this is we want to stay in touch with these folks when they move so that’s when it kind of told me like okay, This is something that needs to be everywhere. So it shouldn’t really just be this thing we do in person. So from pretty early on, it became clear that we should do something to stay connected. And so we started this online community that grew really, really fast and was super helpful. And we basically just told people like how to use the community, you know, like, here’s the proper way to ask for something, here’s the proper way to offer something. And, you know, be a good member of the community. Don’t, don’t just ask, but also try to offer something and be even eventually built out things like an anonymous post where people could ask anonymous questions if they didn’t want people to know what was happening at their specific job. However, they didn’t want their boss to find out or something like that. And then from there, we grew a newsletter. And then from there, the really obvious thing became well, so many people were using the network itself to find jobs and look for their next job and kind of network into their next job. So that’s where it kind of naturally grew out to be that we would help companies to at the same time and still are really struggling with trying To find women who work in tech to apply to certain roles, so we help them with recruiting for that as well

Ward Sandler 6:05
understood. And when you say online community, which is what you did after the meetup that was a Facebook group or something else.

Allison Esposito Medina 6:12
Yeah. So our first community was a Facebook group, and it’s still going strong and has like 35,000 members in there. It’s very, very active. And that’s our free community still to this day. And it’s funny because a lot of people actually find us on Facebook still in 2020, like as the first place where they might hear about us. So that’s been interesting. But, you know, there’s obviously lots of limitations to Facebook groups. So for our founding members group, we have another like offshoot group that’s sort of like built up a little bit more from scratch using mighty networks.

Ward Sandler 6:44
Gotcha. So for that initial Facebook group community, you said that you started by being real clear about like the guidelines and how to structure questions and things like that. So you were really laying down like a culture really for the community, just like you have to do that for a business. So I think that was Really smart to do that? Was that sort of something You knew? intuitively you had to do? Or were there some issues at first in the community? And then you had to create rules? Yeah, well,

Allison Esposito Medina 7:10
actually, we kind of just went like overboard with rules early on when we didn’t even really need them. Because just from learning from seeing other communities, like get out of hand online, and just from having grown up being like a nerdy person who’s been in a lot of communities online myself over the years, from a very early I think, when you’re just a couple hundred, you can kind of to some degree, sort of self regulate some, once you hit, I don’t know what the magic number is. But once you’ve got like a couple thousand members, you really have to have those like rules in place. And so we have a really strict code of conduct. We have really strict posting guidelines. The point is to keep everybody on topic, which is discussion, like how can we just keep everybody discussing like, we don’t want people promoting anything. We don’t want people recruiting and trying to poach each other. Like that’s not a really great thing to happen to The group either. So if I were to say what the one thing that it has in common to having these posts and guidelines, it’s to encourage discussion, but then also, to protect members of the community, we have this really strict code of conduct that you would normally see it’s something like probably a conference. And so we have that all written up and posted everywhere. And that that also serves as like a guideline for if there if we ever did have to kick somebody out of the group or tell somebody why a posting wasn’t approved. It’s all in the code of conduct for how to follow it. So it sounds super strict, but it’s actually really helps to just have those things written and posted somewhere because there’s at least a fraction of people who read it, and they tell everybody else about it.

Ward Sandler 8:41
Right? And like people who are your most active members will enforce it for you, right? And if somebody does do something that’s you know, over the line or doesn’t follow the rules, you can say, look, we had a posted here. So this is why we’re taking this action against you. And it really helps instill a certain culture right because if you just kind of let thousands And thousands of humans interact online with no boundaries and no guidelines. It’s gonna turn into chaos and get really weird really quick, I would imagine.

Allison Esposito Medina 9:07
Yeah. And honestly, people like it surprisingly, like you would think that having too many rules would make people say, like, forget about this, I’m just not going to bother. But what it actually does is it keeps people more engaged because there’s like, Okay, well, what is this space about? There’s plenty of places on the internet, you can go that are just like, reckless, like nonsense, you know, that you can just spew and hide behind your computer, you know, like, obviously, this space isn’t for that. And that’s what makes it so valuable. And that’s what makes people be able to get so much out of it is having that moderation. And also, in addition to just like preventing bad behavior, you know, it also tells people how to use it. So people drop into most communities, and then they’re just kind of like, great, I’m here. What do I do? And so having topics and things that we’re like, if you want to ask, this is how you ask and then we also just built things like Yep, I did that, which is this concept like, share your wins share something great that you did that you accomplished that is like a great way for people to practice, you know, talking about their accomplishments. And so just having those, like titles of what we call them for topics has really helped because it tells people like how they can use it productively not just what they can do, but also like, how to use the group and what types of things you might want to be discussing in the group.

Ward Sandler 10:27
Yeah, I think a lot of people don’t necessarily realize that most of us actually like structure, and we actually crave it, even if we might say we don’t, it really helps facilitate, especially a large group like this. Yeah, but Okay, so let’s go back to a different things you’re offering. So there’s all these free elements we talked about, but then the paid community. So number one, how much does that cost? And number two, how do you kind of think about pricing for your business in general?

Allison Esposito Medina 10:53
Yeah, pricing is so hard for communities I think because it’s so hard to say where the value is. For someone so for us how we think about pricing, we have a quarterly and a yearly membership and the yearly version is discounted. And so we would rather have people join for a year and get a discount, because the longer you’re in the paid group, the more likely you are to get that money’s worth. But our goal is thinking about pricing is like, we want someone to get their basically their money’s worth in either by watching webinars, getting perks, going to conferences, including virtual conferences now joining our virtual meetups, and just like some of that, you can kind of put $1 number on like some of that you can say like, oh, that would have cost this person $400, but they got it for free. And then a lot of it is harder to say, you know, how much was that worth to some person? So for us, it’s really figuring out like, milestones like are they getting their value out of the community, at least I mean, ideally like every couple of weeks, but at least once a month. They are getting or doing something that felt really valuable to them and move them forward in their career. And so that’s sort of like our approach to that. As far as like our actual pricing. We’re raising it soon. We’ve had our early bird pricing for a long time. And we’re planning on phasing that out, but after COVID happened, we were like, Let’s keep this pricing for one more round and see how it does. And we actually had a lot of people still joining. So it’s $99 a quarter 299 a year, which basically saves 25%. So that’s been our early bird pricing, that’s probably going to go up soon.

Ward Sandler 12:32
Gotcha. And so that was the early bird. So that was the initial price you launch with or was there different iterations of it?

Allison Esposito Medina 12:39
We’ve basically had that price since we launched it. And in that time, you know, when we launched it with that, like we didn’t have a whole website built, we didn’t have a dedicated community for founding members. There’s been so much investment on our side, we have four community managers now. Have a website for them with a portal that they log into in our perks and conference discounts and like the work we do on our end is really gone up so much that I think that there’s so much value there that i think it’s it’s a good time to raise prices. But that’s been a hard decision too. Because you know, you get, you get stuck in something and you’re like this is working, you know. And so pricing is it’s really hard. But we’re also one of the cheaper communities or more affordable communities. And I think we’re doing a lot more than a lot of them that I see. So I think it will be good to raise that a little bit, still keep it affordable, and for our members who want to join, and we also look for some people that’s not affordable at all. So we do a scholarship where we give about 10 scholarship recipients a free year. And we open that up a week before we open every membership.

Ward Sandler 13:43
Gotcha. So do you have an example of something that you’ve tried in the business that didn’t really work? And do you know why that was?

Allison Esposito Medina 13:51
Yeah, I mean, we’ve tried a lot of things like we, I’d say the biggest thing we’ve tried that, not that it didn’t work, but We’ve sort of learned that there’s a limit to how much you can sort of try to promote to a community even if you really have their ear and that they trust you a lot. So we’ve got our job board, we have a webinar every week. At one point, we were like, wow, our webinars are really popular like, and we have so many incoming requests from people who want to host webinars that we thought, let’s do two webinars a week, you know, like, this will be great, like people clearly want this. And, you know, we kind of realize like, okay, they’re competing with each other. Now, people don’t know which webinar to take, and they’re not going to necessarily take two per week and we don’t even have space in our newsletter to promote to every week in a prominent way. So, you know, just simple things like that, like figuring out cadence for your community, like how much can you be, you know, sharing with them and asking them to do and how much is reasonable for the listening side of things. If your speaking like how much can people actually listen to you? So I think that’s something we learned. We kind of have to find like the sweet spot How much

Ward Sandler 15:02
Yeah, I’ve heard something similar for folks that offer like content like either courses, or you know, videos to watch or things like that. And a lot like I think a lot of people’s intuition is Oh, you need to have more content, the more content the better people will see there’s more value, look at all this great stuff. But in fact, what that can cause for a lot of people is anxiety, because the idea is, oh, wow, there’s all this stuff. I don’t even know where to start. There’s so much things I’m missing out. I’m not attending this webinar. Like I’m not even using this membership fully, like, what am I doing and you’re creating the wrong path. It sounds like doing more of a curated, here’s what we offer. It’s really great. And it’s not too much something you can do within a month’s time. It sounds like that’s more of your approach.

Allison Esposito Medina 15:42
Yes. Yeah. That’s a really good point. You know, we had also launched with like, hundreds of perks, and it was like a menu at the diner where you go and you’re like, theoretically, this feels valuable that they’ve given me hundreds of discounts, but we decided to just totally simplify that we were like people are not using these they feel overwhelming, you know? And which ones are people actually clicking on and using? Okay, those are the ones that our members are interested in. So now we just we handpick them, and we curate them. And we think like, Okay, what are the ones we actually want? We actually know what serve our members really well, and what are the types of things that they want. It’s like co working spaces, educational discounts for learning new skills, things like that are really popular with our community. They’re career focused. And so they’re not as interested in like, I don’t know, a hotel discount or something. Even when we ask people like, what types of discounts they wanted. They said things like travel and hotel discounts, but then nobody in our community was actually using them. So that was another lesson of like, when you ask people what they want, they won’t necessarily it won’t necessarily be the same as what they actually do.

Ward Sandler 16:51
Yeah, no, I think yeah, that’s really important to pay attention to what people are actually doing. Again, it’s one of those like, Well, yeah, obviously that’s what you should do. But You know, following it is a different thing. Because like you and you show that you’ve been doing that, right. You had your meetup, people were moving to other places. So okay, we need to create something digital. Great. Let’s do it. Let’s do a Facebook group. And then from there, you saw that people were trying to get jobs. And then it’s like, Okay, well, naturally, we should have a job board. So it’s all your it seems to me, at least your community, your business has really evolved around listening to what people want and actually watching what they’re doing. And then just offering solutions to satisfy them, right.

Allison Esposito Medina 17:31
Yeah, yeah. And I think like, in the early days, you know, we had built the I had, it was just by myself, I was doing it myself and building out like a Squarespace website, and desperately looking for something like member space that you have now, the time because it was like, Okay, well, how would I just make part of this website for my members, and it was really, really hard to do. And I was like, why is nobody building this? So I’m excited that you have this now. We ended up like Hiring developers and building everything out completely custom but it’s great to see that this is out there.

Ward Sandler 18:05
Yeah Now it’s a definitely needed thing. So alright so in closing here Alison, could you let people know how they can learn more about you and your business?

Allison Esposito Medina 18:14
Sure I’m pretty active on Twitter on tech lady Allison with two L’s and tech ladies can be found at higher tech ladies calm that’s h AI r e tech ladies calm and you can join for free there and if you’re hiring you can post a job there.

Ward Sandler 18:30
Awesome. It was great talking with you Allison.

Allison Esposito Medina 18:33
Thanks so much for having me.