Leading With Empathy & Allyship Show

How Women Network With J. Kelly Hoey

 Leading With Empathy & Allyship promo with the Change Catalyst logo and photos of Kelly Hoey; a White female with dirty blonde hair in white blouse; and host Melinda Briana Epler; a White woman with red hair, glasses, and orange shirt holding a white mug behind a laptop.

In Episode 60, J. Kelly Hoey, author of Build Your Dream Network, shows us how networking can be critical for women’s success and allyship. Kelly and Melinda discuss the strategies to diversifying your network, building a community that will help you reach your fullest potential, and cultivating relationships with people in the era of hybrid work environments.

Additional Resources

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  • “In terms of a good network: it’s a diverse network. It is a network that includes close, as well as acquaintance, relationships. It is a network that includes a range of opinions and experiences. You want to step out of echo chambers. You want to have space to spread your wings. And you can’t do that if you spend all your time with the same people, in the same industry, who had the same life experience, grew up on the same street, etc.”
  • “The only way your network can help you is if you are precise in what it is you need help with.”
  • “Besides needing these acquaintance relationships, it actually takes much more effort— and we should be putting much more effort— into understanding other people and how we can be of service and connect with them because then we’ll build better relationships, have better connections, and have the strong network that we need for our lives and careers.”
  • “A lot of times, male allies are well-intentioned with their advice, but their advice is coming from their perspective rather than saying, ‘Wow, here’s what I could do with my power and my privilege rather than giving advice that is well-intentioned but is going to backfire.'”


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Guest Speakers
Headshot of J. Kelly Hoey, a White female with short dirty blonde hair and a white blouse

J. Kelly Hoey
Author of Build Your Dream Network

Networking expert Kelly Hoey is the author of Build Your Dream Network: Forging Powerful Relationships In A Hyper-Connected World (Penguin Random House). She’s working on her second book which focuses on the unique networks women need for career success. A speaker sought out for her networking insights, Kelly has been lauded from Forbes (“1 of 5 Women Changing the World of VC/Entrepreneurship”) to Business Insider (“1 of the 100 Most Influential Tech Women On Twitter”) and Inc. (1 of “10 Most Well-Connected People in New York City’s Startup Scene”). Not bad for a former corporate lawyer from Toronto.


MELINDA: Welcome to Leading With Empathy & Allyship, where we have deep real conversations to build empathy for one another and to take action to be more inclusive and to lead the change in our workplaces and communities. 


I’m Melinda Briana Epler, Founder & CEO of Change Catalyst and author of How To Be An Ally. I’m a Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion speaker, advocate, and advisor. 


You can learn more about my work and sign up to join us for a live recording at ally.cc. 


All right, let’s dive in. 


MELINDA: Hello, everyone. Welcome. Today we’re talking with my dear friend, Kelly Hoey, author of Build Your Dream Network, about networking, how women network differently, and how we can all be better allies for women with that knowledge. Hello, friend. How are you?


KELLY: I am so well. It is so good to be here with you.


MELINDA: Likewise. Likewise. For those of you listening and watching, Kelly has been a great ally of mine actually over the years. A friend and ally, both. And to my husband, Wayne Sutton, as well. I’m really glad to have had this conversation with you.


KELLY: Well, and you guys have been allies and champions. I’m delighted to call you friends. So, this is wonderful. I want to say it feels like a reunion or full circle. It’s good to be here.


MELINDA: Well, will you start by telling us a bit about your story? Who are you? Where did you grow up? How did you get to be doing what you do?


KELLY: I’ve been thinking about this question quite a bit because I typically look back at my upbringing and think about it as being very unremarkable. I think when you’re up close to something, you look at it that way. 


I grew up in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. I went to public school, went to the local university, went to law school in Vancouver. It felt like a comfortable little conveyor belt, maybe of life and growing up. But when I stepped back and thought about it, how remarkable that type of upbringing is now, to think about being able to be brought up in a single-parent household, go to university, come out without a lot of debt, the access to healthcare, quality public education. But that upbringing didn’t give me a lot of imagination, frankly, Melinda, in what I was going to do with my life. 


I went to law school because getting a professional degree was expected. Or at least of me. My brothers got away without doing that for many years. And then, I moved to Toronto after law school. That was a very practical decision. At the time I graduated from law school back in 1991, the cost of living in Vancouver and in Toronto was about the same, and the salaries in Toronto were double, at least double. This was just a matter of, you know, back to the envelope math. 


Where are you going to pursue your law degree? “Hmm… Toronto because they pay more.” So, I moved to Toronto. As life would happen met someone who was from New York City, moved to New York in 1998, grew tired of my first career, which led to moving into management and then through, I don’t know, proactively taking more control over my career. I ended up where I am now, which is, again, nothing I ever imagined doing.


MELINDA: Well, tell us a little bit about what you’re doing now.


KELLY: Well, as you pointed out, author of the book, Build Your Dream Network. That is finally reflecting back on my entire career from when it started in 1991, and what were the patterns and behaviors I had undertaken to grow successfully in my first career, make career transitions. 


And then, as I like to say, put my career in front of serendipity. So, I am the author of that book. I do a lot of public speaking on networking and network building. All of this has led to an analysis and thinking because Build Your Dream Network is for audiences generally. But really thinking about how women need different networks and a different network structure than men. 


And so, now I’m in the midst of researching for my second book, which will serve as a companion, a sister book, so to speak, to the first one and building upon actually some of the case studies in the first book, but there is some interesting social science research on how women need different networks to be successful.


MELINDA: Awesome. I want to get to that. But first, can we talk a little bit about networking? Why networking? Why have you focused on that? Why is that important?


KELLY: Well, I used to never focus on it, frankly. Not in the way that I didn’t network, but it didn’t seem to me as something that was of interest to talk about. And so, one of the lessons I often say to people is, like, think about what your network asks from you. What do they come to you for? What is that thing you do with such ease that you don’t think it’s special, but it actually could be your special sauce? 


A funny story: A boss of mine back to sort of 2004-2005-2006-2007, you know, somewhere in there — Tim. So, we’re talking a good 10-12-14 years ago at this point. So, Tim said to me when we started working together, he said, “Kelly, you need to tell people what you do. You need to tell people and explain to them how you network because you do this differently.” 


I told him he was an idiot, and it was the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of. Yes, I did have to eat crow and come back to him and thank him in the acknowledgments to my book. But it never occurred to me that I did something in a new and different and special way. So, it was almost ten years after he had made that comment that I finally had that massive desire to write a book and talk about networking. 


The funny thing was, my network turned to me with a big sigh of relief and said, “We’ve been waiting for you to do this.” So, sometimes you catch up to your network as opposed to your network catching up with you. That’s why I sort of started to focus on networking because my network really signaled to me that I needed to do that.


MELINDA: Yeah. I feel that sometimes our networks really push us to go where we should be going and where it may sometimes; people within our networks know us and kind of see our path better than we can sometimes see our paths. So, I love that.


KELLY: Yeah. One of the members of my network or one of my close connections has shared with me that she came to this point during a career change. She turned to her network and said, “What do you think I’m good at?” It’s a great question to ask people in your network because the answer may just surprise you. It is exactly as you say; your network often sees more in you than you see in yourself.


MELINDA: And I think that there are people within our networks that have vantage points that we don’t have to further along in their careers in different parts of their careers where they can see possibilities that we can’t see, too. I think that’s one of the beauties of networks as well, good networks.


KELLY: Well, yes. Obviously, a good network is always a diverse one. And a diverse one based on experience, sector, age, career path, like all of those pieces because we can get in our own little funnel. I mean, the little, I would say, a narrow worldview that I had growing up in Victoria, and my parents’ worldview, I mean, that I went to law school in Vancouver, and heaven forbid, I pursued a legal career in Toronto. I’m a ferocious disappointment. 


I mean, I think they really, really wished at one point in my career that I had gone to university, an undergraduate in Victoria, Law Degree in Victoria, and then got a job in Victoria, you know, didn’t leave the womb that is that world. So, yeah, your network, well-intentioned as it can be, can really put some blinders and really, in being well-meaning, can shelter you from greater possibilities for yourself.


MELINDA: What is a good network, first? Let’s start there. What is a good network? What is a good network? And then specifically, let’s talk about how networks are different, whether you’re a woman or a man, or maybe I think successful woman, in particular, is what you’re looking at.


KELLY: Yeah. I love that you’re using the word network. Just to clarify for everybody that we’re talking about the noun. What is this community you can tap into as opposed to the verb that goes out and network, you know, that activity? Let’s talk about the noun because that’s really what I’m interested in, in how we build a community of people around our lives and careers so that we are supported and enriched, and we can reach our fullest potential. 


People who know us, trust us and love us. They’re the ones who are going to support us and give us opportunities as opposed to random strangers who we toss pitches at and wonder why we don’t get a response. 


In terms of a good network, we’ve hinted at it a little bit. It’s a diverse network. It is a network that includes close as well as acquaintance relationships. It is a network that includes a range of opinions and experiences. You want to step out of echo chambers. You want to have space to spread your wings. You can’t do that if you spend all your time with the same people in the same industry, who had the same life experience, grew up on the same street, etc., etc., etc. 


A good thing to always do is an audit of your network. Does it have enough range in it that you feel that you are able to tap into other corners, where you may want to pursue things, and that you’re getting, I’m saying, a circle of advice that can help you make healthy decisions for your business, your life, your career?


MELINDA: There’s a statistic that 75% of White people have only White friends, and I suspect that also extends into our networks as well. And so, it’s really important on both sides, in terms of White people having more diverse networks of folks really informing us, helping us, supporting us, and also being there for other people within our networks that are from diverse identities and backgrounds. I think both of those are really important. Sometimes that means we have to spend a little more time and energy. Like Kelly said, really go further, go deeper, and find new networks, find new people to bring into our networks.


KELLY: And also, thinking about what networking is differently because we’ve often thought of networking in that kind of hierarchical. Someone who is higher up the corporate ladder or more experienced is who we network with because they’re the person who is going to be able to deliver value, if I put it in that sort of old networking sense, rather than thinking our opportunities and insights can come from anywhere. 


So, for people who need to diversify the network because they do realize that “Egad, it’s filled with a bunch of people who only look like me.” Where can you volunteer? Where can you mentor? Where are affinity groups? Where can you contribute? Where can you be of service because those are opportunities to build new relationships in a way that’s often comfortable versus the old slap on a name tag and worker room kind of thing. But understand by undertaking those activities, you’re building relationships and diversifying your network as well. 


I mean, I love the fact that my network includes people who are many decades younger than I am. Right? I love the fact that I am getting insights from them. I’m thinking of one person, in particular, a woman in tech. She’s like, “My mentor, Kelly.” I’m always paying her back on Twitter and said, like, “What are you talking about? You’re mentoring me?” 


She’s just bought a house and renovated it, and taken on a mortgage. I’ve never been brave enough to do that. So, I’m thinking, who’s the adult in this situation? So, I think understanding that kind of dynamic of networking has been disrupted if we want to use that kind of startup and tech kind of language. And so, when you think about networking, understand that how you undertake it and who can help you on your path in this lifetime could be anyone who is within your orbit. So, kind of being open to those relationships is a smart move.


MELINDA: What are you finding the differences are between women networking than men? Women’s networks and men’s networks.


KELLY: Well, I’m glad you said networking because often enough, that’s the way people ask me the question. And they often think about men are off doing manly things, golf, and sporting events, and, you know, slugging back the beers if we want to be really stereotypical. We think of women and how they gather. People are probably thinking spa days or whatever. 


MELINDA: Cocktails. 


KELLY: Cocktails. You know, chatting, all this kind of stuff. There are actually differences in terms of a preference on how men engage with others versus women. But what is interesting, Melinda is how it relates to the type of network, the structure of the network we built. 


There are two types of networks. One is stereotypical and is associated with men in terms of its structure and activity, and the other with women. The male network and I talked about this in Build Your Dream Network; the male network is a wide, shallow network. It is one that is usually built on the basis of activity. So, you think the softball league or the getting together to watch the game, or there’s an activity involved. It is typically one that doesn’t have a lot of depth of knowledge about the other people in it. But it is one that is diverse because it typically casts a wider net. It cuts across more sectors and industries, and things like that. So, you think more of an acquaintance-level network. Thinking about it, you can hear the strengths and the weaknesses in that kind of net network structure. 


The network structure that’s typically associated with women is a narrow, deep network. It is a network where we invest more time with fewer relationships. It is where there is a depth of experience and knowledge with those other people. So, if we look at those two networks, you can see with one, if you had an emergency like, “Oops, I got to pull the team together for something tomorrow, and it’s last minute.” That narrow trust network, you really hope that you have that one. If, however, you were launching a new product and needed to get it into as many hands as possible, you’d really hope it had the other network. Shallow network. 


I say build your new dream network. The reality is you need both of those. A healthy network has both of those. But what is really interesting is a growing body of social science research that indicates having those two networks and leveraging them in intentional and specific ways. It is critical for women’s success. 


These studies are showing that successful women have both that broad, shallow network, and in particular, they are centrally located within a broad, shallow network, and information flows within their chosen career or profession. Or when they’re making a career change, they find those networks and make sure that they are within those flows because that broad, shallow network can gather a lot of information for you in a shorter period of time than if you’d had to go on a hunt for yourself. So, finding those things, being within those information flows, being able to readily verify that information without spending hours upon hours researching and digging through stuff. 


And for women getting comfortable with a network that stalls at acquaintance. We like to network by getting to know people. And so, it is a challenge stereotypically for women, you know, the relationships that stolid acquaintance. Then the second network, that narrow, deep network for women. I know women who are perhaps listening to our conversation will think, “Well, I got those.” It’s like, “Hold on. Hear me out here.” 


Here’s what the research is showing: Successful women with that narrow, deep network purposely construct an inner cohort or clique, primarily of other women who have diverse non-overlapping networks. So, this is a group of women that you can turn to with your career challenges. This is a group of women or business challenges. This is a group of women who understand what it is you’re pursuing or trying to pursue. 


This is different than your best friend, who you can turn to and cry on their shoulder, and they tell you that everything’s going to be fine and the world is jerked. This inner cohort and clique may say, “Yeah, the situation sucks, but you handled it completely wrong. Here, from my experience, is what goes on. And this is what you need to do to correct it, right?” We all have people who love us and are going to tell us the world is wrong. That’s not the purpose of this inner cohort or clique. They’re there to really give you insider insights that you wouldn’t get from anybody else. 


I think it’s important that it is, and the research is showing us that it is primarily of other women because we already know our experiences are different. We need people to tell us that we’re not crazy, or we need people to tell us that, you know, here’s why we’re facing this challenge. And here’s what they’ve experienced in a similar situation. Here’s how they successfully navigated it. Or, here’s the insider information that they got from an employer that you’re not going to find from their website.


That’s the two networks. What they find is that successful women really think about this and work those networks. And maybe it’s like things that you’re thinking to yourself, “This is causing me not to perform at my best, or I am second-guessing myself.” That’s what I mean, in terms of the non-medical diagnosis of crazy, but we can end up in situations that are just incredibly frustrating and debilitating for our well-being and our decision making, and we internalize it, whereas having someone from the outside look at you and go, “It’s not you.” It’s the situation. It is incredibly helpful. 


Sometimes our close personal relationships, those best friends, the girlfriends you’ve had forever or sisters, sisters in law’s, mothers, they love you so much, but their advice may not be the best advice you need for your career.


MELINDA: One thing I want to acknowledge to the audience is that Kelly and I discussed before the podcast that there’s a need for networking data that looks at women with intersectional identities because you talked about our experiences are different. Certainly, women of color have different experiences than White women in the workplace too. I suspect there is. And people who are non-binary, men of color as well. So, putting this out there in the world that more research needs to be done.


KELLY: Oh, yes! I mean, more research on this topic generally. It’s interesting these studies that I’m finding, Melinda, there’s a few, and then there’s sort of adjacent studies. Most of them on this success of women and what it is that they need, particularly with networks, typically is looking at it on by industry. Maybe an intersection of industry and geography. 


Women entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland, women in middle management in Germany. You will find studies particularly relating to women of color or, Black women in the workplace in the United States. You’ll find some of those studies, but a sort of a multi-layered intersection on this. I have yet to find that. I would be delighted if someone did, but I have yet to find that.


MELINDA: It’s needed. Given that we need those. What is it called? Inner Circle? Is that what you said?


KELLY: Yes. 


MELINDA: How do we build that as women? And secondly, how can women be better allies as our people in our network build this?


KELLY: First of all, to understand everyone’s situation is unique. And how you construct an inner circle and how you choose to interact with it is going to be unique. There’s not a single formula. That is a pattern I am definitely seeing women who are constructing these inner circles for temporary purposes for longer-term purposes, those who have a regularity have a format in terms of when they meet and how they engage with their entire inner circle at the same time, and others who create their sort of personal board of directors, and individually tap these people but know what they need. 


The important thing is for women to think about their careers, and right at this very moment, what is it that you need? Where’s the advice or the guidance that having unfiltered, blunt, similar personal experience would be helpful. And then thinking about where are the right people to get that information from. 


I think for women, we need to understand, to be that ally, to be helpful to other women’s careers, what we need to do is respect the work and contributions of other women. We don’t need to become best friends. 


I often say when someone has hesitancy in reaching out to someone. I’m like, “What’s the hesitancy? I’ve had this so many times. They say to me, “Well, they don’t like me.” And I’m like, “And that’s relevant for what reason? Are you reaching out for a date? Are you looking for a marriage proposal? What’s the problem here?” 


Do they respect your work? I think that’s the question we need to ask because I think often enough, as women, I generally find that that’s a stumbling block for us asking for the help we need, and also a stumbling block for giving the help that we should be giving. Do you respect the work the person is doing? Do you need to invest the same amount of time in terms of knowing everything about somebody’s life? Absolutely not. You don’t need to do those things to be a great ally and help someone else with their career.


MELINDA: Yeah, I would say that I am not good at asking for help. I have really benefited from some men but mostly women who and a few non-binary folks as well actually that have reached out and said, “Hey, I want to help you in this way.” Or, “Would this be helpful?” And usually, they are. They have different networks, and they are opening doors to those networks for me in one way or another.


KELLY: Well, I think always having clarity of an ask in the sense of right here right now, what would be helpful? It doesn’t need to be the biggest goal in your life. But you know the step of a small milestone that can get you closer to a greater goal. And having the clarity on that, because you’re really pinpointing something. Your networks want to help you. But they can only help you if you tell them what it is precisely that you need.


MELINDA: I think you need to say that again because I think a lot of women need to hear that. Say that again.


KELLY: I think probably a lot of men need to hear it as well. The only way your network can help you is if you are precise in what it is you need help with. So, have your networking ask like, you know, lots of people make a to-do list on a Monday morning. All right? Or Sunday night for the week ahead. On that, put a line item. If my network wants to help me this week, what do I need them to help me with? And write that down. So, if someone says, “Hey, what can I do for you?” You can just roll off your tongue. The more precise you are, the easier it is for your network to help you.


MELINDA: You have a chapter in your book called #NetworkingFail. What does failure look like for women?


KELLY: I think when a White woman fails, all women fail. All women get that brushstroke. A White woman starts a company, and it fails, like women can’t be CEOs. But I think if it was a Black woman who failed, it would be like, “Well, of course, we can’t trust Black women to lead these things because she’s just failed.” I think there’s sort of that waterfall of privilege in terms of stepping away from it. Whereas men, generally speaking, have the luxury of making mistakes and recovering from them. The other piece on this, and I think there is something for us to learn and us being women us to learn from men is, and maybe it’s from privileged White men is, not carrying on and continuing to sort of bear that failure and that mistake.


MELINDA: Not dwell.


KELLY: Yeah. An example and this is from back from my work life. So, it’s a very minor one, but I think it illustrates it. Someone is showing up for a formal event in the wrong attire. I remember this attorney showed up to a formal event in his khakis and his rumpled collared golf shirt. If his dates could have killed him with a glance, she did. You could tell that she was absolutely livid. The guys I know looked at him and said, “You were such a jerk for not reading the invitation.” And then laughed at him and got over it. 


Every time there was a formal event after that, the women would bring that incident up again. Like, that guy committing the same mistake every single time. And so, I think we need to realize how and when things should just, all right, a mistake was made. Acknowledge it, move on. I’m not saying that to the person who made a mistake. I’m saying that to those of us who observe it. 


MELINDA: Interesting. Interesting. I mean, I think that women and people with underrepresented identities, in general, tend to sit with failure longer and deeper. I think there’s a lot of reasons for that in society. We have had to work harder to get there usually. And so, it feels like I have a deeper fall, a falling further as a result. And also, that over our lifetimes, we may have been told thousands of times that we are going to fail. And so, we do it, and then we believe it. Men with privilege tend to, you know, this is definitely a generalization. We tend to grow up, and it’s okay to fail. And that’s how you learn and grow and succeed.


KELLY: Because that’s what they’re told – that message, and I agree with you 100% with everything you said, but think about how much of our failure gets compounded by other people, I will say, reliving the failure.


MELINDA: Yeah. I don’t know if we want to go here. I’m just thinking about how there might be something to take away in cancel culture there too. What do we do there when we continue to bring up failure over and over again rather than allow people to evolve? Interesting. So, most of us have men in our networks as well. What is their role in all of this?


KELLY: Well, we should have diversity in our networks. Include everyone and particularly that there’s a lot of men who are in decision making and in the power seat. We don’t want to kick them out of our networks too quickly. 


I think, though, my comment is directed more to the men in those positions. I think in terms of being an ally to others, some of their well-intentioned advice needs to be something that they choose to act upon as opposed to dishing it out as the Gospel we should follow. 


For example, one affinity group I was speaking to over this past year on a Zoom, and one of the men said, “Hey, how can I be a better ally to the women I mentor?” And I said, “How many times have you had a situation where one of your mentees has had a problem with a manager or a director who is a guy who kind of looks like you, and you’ve given advice that is sort of just go in there and do this and stand up for yourself and blah, blah, blah?” I said, “That doesn’t work, right?” 


All of a sudden, the woman, the minority, is looking like they’re being difficult. They’re being angry. They’re being strident. They’re being shrill. They’re being aggressive. They’re not being confident. I said, “On the other hand, if you, the mentor, went into your peer’s office and said, ‘Here’s what I’ve observed. You’re being a complete jerk. And here’s what I would recommend you do to change your behavior because this is what I have observed and seen – not cool.'” 


A guy can go in that. They can go into another guy’s office and as appear, say, that sort of thing. The way that men can toss things at each other and say insults or feedback, and they kind of go, “Oh, really? Why do you tell me I was being a jerk before?” They can do that sort of thing without the same emotional or career repercussions. But I think a lot of times, male allies are well-intentioned with their advice, but their advice is coming from their perspective rather than saying, “Wow, here’s what I could do with my power and my privilege rather than giving advice that is well-intentioned but is going to backfire.”


MELINDA: That’s a great point. Great point. How is networking different right now? I mean, we’re in this pandemic, and a lot of us are still living in a very virtual world. Some are living in a hybrid world and probably will continue to go more hybrid over the next few months. How is networking different now in this virtual/hybrid world?


KELLY: The biggest problem for all of us right now beyond internet connections, right, and perhaps too many Zoom calls, she says teasingly, is going back to what we discussed earlier in our conversation about the two types of networks. That broad shallow, that wide shallow network, that acquaintance lever network. That’s the network that has shrunk for all of us. 


MELINDA: Interesting. 


KELLY: That’s the dynamic where maybe you saw someone three times a year at Lunch & Learns at your office, or maybe it’s the people you saw annually because you all go to the same industry conference. Maybe it’s some folks from another department or in the co-working space. 


That network, we may not have realized before, not only does add strength and diversity to our network because of different ideas and the non-overlapping nature of those networks, it also adds to our well-being, our mental health, and our happiness. I think a lot of people have realized the importance of that network. 


I think that’s the biggest change right now is the awareness that it’s not just close relationships that add meaning and resilience to our lives, and our health, and our careers, but this other network does as well. We need to find ways to rebuild those, not the old acquaintance level networks necessarily, but find ways to add those into our careers in our lives because our health and our career depend on it.


MELINDA: Yeah. I think I was thinking about this the other day. I think after the last time you and I talked is that I am missing that. At Change Catalysts, we have all these events, and we do kind of have this very broad network. What I’m missing is the in-person speaking at events. You don’t have the same interactions with people. People don’t come up afterward, and you build relationships. I actually have most of the people in my inner circle I met at an event in one way or another. So, also, I think I’m missing that as well right now. That inner circle hasn’t expanded in the pandemic very much.


KELLY: We say our time is finite. There is an element of networking that before the pandemic, too many of us were put sort of on autopilot. And what the pandemic and needing to be on Zoom and other platforms, we realize how much effort actually goes into making human connections. 


Our brain likes to pattern match, as you well know. Our brain defaults to an easy route because, at the end of the day, it is an energy conservation engine. It has the rest of this machine to run. So, if it can find an easy route, “Oh, look. There’s the same person I talked to last time at this mixer. I will go and talk to that person because that’s less energy.” 


What we’ve also realized besides needing these acquaintance relationships, it actually takes much more effort. We should be putting much more effort into understanding other people and how we can be of service and connect with them because then we’ll build better relationships, and have better connections, and have the strong network that we need for our lives and careers.


MELINDA: So, do you have any tips for how we do that? How do we do that right now? How do we make that happen?


KELLY: I would say take an audit of the Zoom events and activities that you’re participating at. Are you showing up at the same ones? Even mixing up something like that. Even if you are showing up at the same events, pay attention to who’s there. 


We’re always so worried about networking. We’ve moved from the noun to the verb. Network as an activity. We’re always worried about what we’re going to say, Melinda. How are we going to listen and observe? How are we going to pay attention? Because maybe if we started to pay attention more rather than worrying about whether or not we’re dropping our LinkedIn profile in a chat, on Zoom, and telling everyone to connect with us over on LinkedIn, why don’t we pay attention to who’s there? 


Why don’t we watch and see if we’ve seen them before? Why don’t we go and look? Write their name down, think about the questions they’re asking where they were of interest, and then maybe reach out to them separately and say, “Gosh, we’re showing up at the same events. We likely have a lot in common. Maybe it would be worthwhile for us to chat.” 


This is exactly the tactic a friend of mine, Erin Chronicon, who is the founder of The Seeing Place Theatre here in New York City, used during the pandemic that listening and observing in the networking activities she’s chosen to participate in. And she’s made some very significant and managed to grow her network at a time when so many people are feeling the shrinkage. So, what can we do right now? More with your eyes and your ears. More with your powers of observation. More with the tools to learn about other people than just worrying about what we’re going to say.


MELINDA: I think that’s how we become better allies, too is by listening to what people are doing, what people are needing, and finding ways to add value. I would say that what a lot of people that I really value in my network are people that have reached out and said, “I’ve listened, and here’s how I can add value for you.” Yeah. So, is networking changing in the future? What does the future of networking look like as we kind of move into a new world?


KELLY: As I like to say to people, I think we need to be amphibious. We need to understand that this digital way to connect is not going away. Listen, I’ve been saying this for a while. I think there are people who have always looked at building and starting relationships on digital platforms as being sort of secondary or lesser in terms of the quality of the relationship or its ability to add depth and meaning to our lives. 


I think the pandemic is a bit of a wake-up call for many people that we can productively get things done and that we can enhance relationships that we’ve known with people offline. We can enhance those online and vice versa. I think the future is, like I said, being amphibious, being able to bring offline relationships online and grow them, and vice versa.


MELINDA: Well, the last question is, where can people learn more? Where can people learn more about you and your work and follow along as you write your second book?


KELLY: Well, everything is on my website. So, that’s probably the best place to go. That is JKellyHoey.co


MELINDA: Awesome! Thank you, Kelly. 


KELLY: Thank you! 


MELINDA: I really appreciate you. Appreciate all you have done as an ally for me again, and I appreciate this conversation. 


KELLY: Right back at you. 


MELINDA: Yeah. And so, to our audience, I have two questions for you. One is, how will you help someone in your network? And what will you ask your network in terms of how they can help you? What ask will you put out there to your network? 


If you are looking for more ways for women to show up for other women as allies, check out Episode #13: Women Championing Women with Brenda Darden Wilkerson. All right. Thank you very much, and we’ll see you next time. 


MELINDA: To learn more about this episode’s topic, visit Ally.cc.


Allyship is a journey. It’s a journey of self exploration, learning, unlearning, healing, and taking consistent action. And the more we take action, the more we grow as leaders and transform our communities. So, what action will you take today? 


Please share your actions and learning with us by emailing Podcast@ChangeCatalyst.co or on social media because we’d love to hear from you. Thank you for listening. Please subscribe to the podcast and the YouTube channel and share this. Let’s keep building allies around the world. 


Leading With Empathy & Allyship is an original show by Change Catalyst, where we build inclusive innovation through training, consulting, and events. I appreciate you listening to our show and taking action as an ally. See you next week.

About the Host

Host: Melinda Briana Epler

Melinda Briana Epler has over 25 years of experience developing business innovation and inclusion strategies for startups, Fortune 500 companies, and global NGOs.

As CEO of Change Catalyst, Melinda currently works with the tech industry to solve diversity and inclusion together. Using her background in storytelling and large-scale culture change, she is a strategic advisor for tech companies, tech hubs, and governments around the world. She co-leads a series of global solutions-focused conferences called Tech Inclusion, where she has partnered with over 450 tech companies and community organizations and hosted 43 solutions-focused diversity and inclusion events around the world.

Previously, Melinda was a Marketing and Culture Executive and award-winning documentary filmmaker – her film and television work includes projects that exposed the AIDS crisis in South Africa, explored women’s rights in Turkey, and prepared communities for the effects of climate change. She has worked on several television shows, including NBC’s The West Wing.

Melinda is a TED speaker. She speaks, mentors and writes about diversity and inclusion in tech, allyship, social entrepreneurship, underrepresented entrepreneurs and investing. She has spoken on hundreds of stages around the world, including SXSW, Grace Hopper, Wisdom 2.0, the World Bank, Obama White House, Clinton Foundation, Black Enterprise, Google, Indeed, Capital One and McKinsey.

In The Press

Watch Melinda’s TED Talk

Speaking Engagements

Change Catalyst Co-Founder Melinda Briana Epler has spoken across the globe in hundreds of venues and virtual events. Empathy, Allyship, Advocacy, Microaggressions, Inclusive Leadership, and Building Inclusive Teams are just some of the topics Melinda has spoken on. Let us know about your next speaking engagement needs! Melinda has also spoken on how to build organizational capacity to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion, such as how to lead behavior change or how to build allies and advocates.


This show has given me clear opportunities to learn in the midst of 2020’s numerous social and personal challenges, including engaging remote content. I’ve learned new terms, heard new voices, diversified my interests and internalized personal narratives that have inspired me to get more active.

The show shaped my scope of reasoning on the dynamics in the corporate world, brand building, harmony across board with team mates. Your series has helped me feel less alone and less daunted by the challenges I face as a leader at a company that is used to moving fast with decisions and making swift progress across the board. I so earnestly want to grow and deepen my perspective when it comes to diversity and allyship; it’s not always clear how to do it. This series has felt like a path I can follow and revisit and draw strength and insight from. Thank you.

I watched many of your live shows in 2020, and I learned something from every discussion. They were inspiring on many levels. Early on during the pandemic (especially), the show also provided me with a sense of community that I was sorely needing. Thank you.

Virtual Training, Consulting & Coaching Solutions
If you’re looking for a way for remote teams to continue their learning and professional development, we’re now offering virtual allyship, inclusion and leadership trainings. We’ve also continued our consulting practice virtually. AND we now offer hourly coaching. Let us know if you’re interested in learning more!
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