60 Seconds with WITS Southeast Speaker — Sarah Glova
Sarah Glova is the Director of Growth & Communications at RIoT. Her session at WITS Southeast is Piloting a Smart City Project: Who’s Done It, and How.
Why is speaking at WITS important to you?
I fell in love with WITS a few years ago. I was running a startup, best friends with imposter syndrome, cautious about calling myself a “woman in tech,” and desperately in need of a tribe. But that year at WITS, I heard a speaker who changed my life. She talked about imposter syndrome and how women in all industries can see themselves as women in tech. She helped me embrace aspects of my skillset and background that I’d previously thought of as weaknesses.
I’m dedicated to giving back to WITS — I still run a company and also work as the Director of Growth & Communications for a tech nonprofit, RIoT. I am always telling women about WITS, encouraging them to apply to speak, and nearly begging them to attend. The event sells out every year, so it’s not that WITS needs my help — ha! But I feel like I owe the conference so much, I want to do everything I can to give back to it.
Speaking at WITS is important to me because, over the years, I’ve learned things about tech, about career development, and about leadership that I want to share with other women. I want to continue giving back to this community that has given me so much. But I also want to continue learning in my own career! And I know by attending WITS I’ll have an opportunity to learn from some wicked smart women from across the country.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by authenticity. It’s hard to be authentic these days; there’s pressure to be Instagram-filter perfect, cool-Mom work-life balanced, humbled yet with hustle — there are so many things pulling us in different directions, I’m finding myself inspired by people who are choosing to practice authenticity. People who know who they are and what they value seem to be doing a better job of saying “no”, of identifying opportunities that are right for them, and of making conscious, intentional choices about their daily lives. I’m observing that people who choose authenticity are brave enough to tell their real stories, to get to know others, and to help make space at the table for new ideas.
I don’t know if it’s something you can do all the time, but if I think of authenticity as a practice, then I’m really inspired when I see someone practicing authenticity. This could be someone who meets you to meet you, not to learn what they can get from you. Or someone who can admit to making mistakes, who doesn’t mind trying new things — someone who can fall but get back up and try again.
I find myself looking for these kinds of practices lately, and I’m inspired by their wholeheartedness and their confidence.
Most useful article you’ve read in the last month
Hard to pick… the most useful tech article was “Choosing the Wrong Lane in the Race to 5G”, by Jessica Rosenworcel (@JRosenworcel), a Democratic commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission. It was featured in Wired magazine this summer and does a great job of highlighting the potential rural/urban divide within the race to 5G: https://www.wired.com/story/choosing-the-wrong-lane-in-the-race-to-5g/
In leadership and professional development, HBR’s recent “How the Best Bosses Interrupt Bias on Their Teams” by Joan C. Williams was excellent — highly recommend not just to bosses but to anyone. https://hbr.org/2019/11/how-the-best-bosses-interrupt-bias-on-their-teams?ab=hero-main-text
When you were a kid what was your dream job?
I wanted to be a journalist just like Rori Gilmore! Gilmore Girls wasn’t perfect, but when I was a kid, I loved thinking that someone as school-nerd as Rori could achieve big things while also being silly. (But don’t get me started on the reboot…)
Tell us something about your session
Thanks to this 4th industrial revolution, the Internet of Things, we’re moving into the data age — the age of putting sensors on almost everything we can, and collecting data about the world around us so we can improve our experiences in it.
Some of the biggest candidates are cities — cities that can better track energy usage, traffic flow, and citizen needs — and there are so many companies (startups and multinationals) with innovative solutions.
But if you have a great product for a city, how do you get started? Every city is different, but thanks to working with RIoT, I’ve seen some really successful pilot studies get off the ground.
In my session, we’ll be looking at strategies for piloting a project with a city, and I’ll share some real examples from companies (including startups!) that are doing it successfully.