372 MINISODE Marie Smith: Quantum Change

Women Innovating Networking Growing Scaling – that’s WINGS … I’m Melinda Wittstock, my mission is to help women soar to success in business and in life – without tradeoff or apology, stepping into the light to have a transformational impact on the world. So on this mentoring minisode of Wings of Inspired Business … we talk about the nature and pace of change – whether the type of fast-changing technology that is certain to disrupt whole industries with artificial intelligence and robotics – or the type of change that has women stepping into our true value, leveraging our authentic feminine power and lifting each other as women. Change takes time… and it’s uneven. Tech is going quantum yet in tech its rare to find a woman at the table let alone an African American woman leading the way.

Here with us today to provide her insights and inspiration is …

Marie Smith.

Marie is an entrepreneurial force of nature and a founding contributor to nearly 50 media, tech and wellness companies and projects contributing over $100 million in transactions.

Co-Founder and CIO of the fast-growing Artificial intelligence company Data360 Solutions, Marie shares how she’s never let anything stand in her way as an African American women in tech.

Today we talk about how women can survive and thrive despite the tech “bro culture”: Marie says “don’t let anyone tell you who you are” and keep learning. This and other advice gives you a sense of how she navigated her extraordinary career, plus how her current machine learning startup, now 50-strong, is reducing operational costs as much as 90% for companies small and large, including Amazon and Google.

Marie Smith is here in just a moment…

And don’t miss it because when you join us at Wings of the Empowered Woman you’ll get the inside skinny from Marie Smith on how to apply AI to your business to take the guesswork out of your marketing and wildly boost your sales. Honestly, she’s worth the entire price of your four days of luxury and learning. And if this is something you think you don’t have time for …you probably are exactly the person who needs to make time. Because you’ll get further in those 4 days than you will in 4 months plus we’ll show you how to turn time from a scarce resource into a limitless one – we call it “return on time” … so you to have all the time you need for business, love, parenting, friends and fun. Wingsexperiences.com/apply

And now to the inspiring Marie Smith.

Marie’s thirst for lifelong learning and mentorship, her optimism and dogged resilience, and an unwillingness to take no for an answer, explains why this talented African American woman has played such a dominant role in technology, advertising and media in the past 20 years.

Now at Data 360, the artificial intelligence company, Marie and her team are busy changing marketing and advertising as we know it, possibly making email list building and online funnels a relic of the past. Her team can now find 50,000 qualified people a day … with just one employee  … and get conversion rates as high as 40%. That sounds good to me! She says she is also able to reduce operational costs by as much as 90 per cent for her clients.

Melinda Wittstock:       Marie, welcome to Wings.

Marie Smith:                Thank you for having me.

Melinda Wittstock:       I’m excited to have you. I love to talk to other women who are working in AI, as I have for years, too, and I’m curious: what is inspiring you right now?

Marie Smith:                You know, what’s amazing is we’re on this new frontier with all this what people call future tech. I call it present tech because it’s here right now with AI and virtual reality and augmented reality and IoT and all these different robots. What keeps me going is just: the frontier never ends in tech, and it’s incredible. It’s incredible. I never imagined 20 years later, I’d be still doing the same things, talking about the same things and because they just expanded so much and they become whole industries and thousands of companies, hundreds of thousands of companies now instead of five. It’s been an incredible journey, so I just stay excited and stay young just keeping up with the frontiers that’s being built and growing. It keeps me super excited.

Melinda Wittstock:       I love it. Well, no day could ever be boring in that kind of world, so, you know, that’s my kind of world. But, there are obviously challenges along the way, I mean, for a woman in tech and for how these things get applied. There’s so many different interesting challenges and issues around all this present tech, as you say. What are some of yours?

Marie Smith:                Well, you know, it’s very interesting. I remember once I was watching Gloria Steinem and she was talking about the feminist revolution and she was saying something to the effect of, “There’s a reason why Rome wasn’t built in a day. These revolutions are a spectrum of opportunity and they take time,” and so I think the most interesting thing right now is that … and the challenge is some people are just now getting hip to websites and email, and robots are like a whole other thing, and they’re just getting used to the Internet and Google, you know? I always remind people Google’s already 20 years old, and they’re in a massive reinvention of themselves. They’re a partner of ours.

Amazon’s already 20 years old and they’re in a massive reinvention, expansion of themselves, so a lot of these things where people still feel like they’re new … some people are just discovering Prime for the first time and that their whole life can be ordered on the internet, apps. Some people are just leaving the flip phone, so the challenge is: when you look at those … in tech, for lack of a better analogy, we call them laggards. How do you get people to kind of catch up and really accept that there are some things that machines do better and there are some things that machines can free us up to do. I think we’re up for a huge revolution. I think what the next generation’s going to do with technology, we won’t recognize because it will be so creative. And so, getting the older folks to let go … but that’s the human dilemma, right, letting go of the past.

Melinda Wittstock:       Oh, it surely is because change is threatening to a lot of people. It’s like that job that you had; well, if a machine does it better, well then, what do you do, now? And, if your whole identity is wrapped up in it … so, hence change is a little bit uneven in that sense. So, but as a woman in technology, I’m so curious about the challenges that you’ve had along the way. Is it still challenging in that bro culture? I suppose as the co-founder of a company, you have the ability to create a company in a way that’s going to be a lot more supportive of women in tech, but are there still remaining challenges for you and your company and in your career?

Marie Smith:                Yeah, there’s definitely challenges in: you know, there’s still the basic feminist challenges, right: being taken seriously, being believed, all those sort of just really basic career 101 things that happen, even from other women, which sometimes makes you super sad that women would discount another woman even though they don’t want to be discounted. We always call it: they’re sort of mimicking the oppressor, trying to [inaudible 00:05:08] the white male boss guy, right?

Melinda Wittstock:       Well, yeah, and the way I perceive that is that if we don’t value ourselves, then it’s very difficult to value another woman.

Marie Smith:                Right, exactly. And, a lot of it, I’ll find is it’s self-esteem. Fortunately, I’ve never had that problem, don’t know why, just haven’t, and so, it’s nice. There’s been sometimes where I’m heartbroken and disappointed, right, that people will come with so much bias and so much craziness. Definitely, when it comes to the power structures in the world, I know that a lot of the reason why my career is taking off now versus in my 30s is just because it’s more acceptable for a black woman to be in tech and be in charge of something. Whereas 20, 30 years ago, not so much. So, it was okay for me to be an assistant. It’s okay for me to showcase technology. There was sort of this, “This is okay and this is not okay.” The challenge now for me in my career is: a lot of the things that I do are very akin to some of the more … I would say more infrastructure things, and there are no black women in that field.

Melinda Wittstock:       Wow, so you’ve just broken barriers.

Marie Smith:                [crosstalk 00:06:42] there’s really no women, right?

Melinda Wittstock:       Let alone a black woman, as well. I mean, I look around Silicon Valley. I don’t see a lot of black women.

Marie Smith:                No, and not even a woman. Really, I was just at an event with one of our partners who shall remain nameless, and we went to Bel Air. We had lobster at a raw bar and it was amazing. I was the only woman who was not serving someone. I was the only woman of color. I was the only woman, period, that was not a servant.

Melinda Wittstock:       Wow, even now.

Marie Smith:                It’s incredible. It was incredible, yeah, and it was kind of a who’s who of LA and tech, and my husband and I were the only two people of color, like black people, right? There was zero Latino people. There was like one or two Indian people. The rest of them was all white and male. That was pretty … I was like, “Ugh.” But, you know, my job, I figure, in that circumstances is, one, I enjoy the lobster, and two, I enjoy … I really took the opportunity seriously and so I had a conversation with one of the top engineers in the area who works for one of our partners and I said, “Look, whatever …” he was offering to share resources. I said, “Yes, please send those resources over,” and he did, which was kind of a miracle, because that could have easily gone a different way.

Melinda Wittstock:       Wow. Wow, wow, wow. So, I mean, you’re awesome. So, I mean, I imagine you’ve learned a lot of things along the way, Marie. And, what would be the top three go-to pieces of advice for women in tech, women in business, women who are up against what you’ve been up against in your very successful career? What are the top three?

Marie Smith:                Yeah, I would say don’t let anybody tell you who you are. That’s a big one. Build out support systems, even if they can’t be your family. And, it kind of goes along with don’t let anybody tell you who you are because sometimes people in your life that are very close to you will project their own fears and insecurities on you and try to tell you who you are, and then there are people in the workforce that will try to tell you who you are, and I’ll just say that the counteraction to that is having good support systems that believe you and can tell you you’re great and you can do it despite your challenges and kind of forgive you for your shortcomings. And, once you kind of have a safe space, it allows you to really let the other people who try to limit you roll off, just kind of go away fade into the background, and that was huge for me because I noticed that every time I went to another level, there was always somebody in my immediate circle who immediately became uncomfortable when I went to the next level.

Melinda Wittstock:       Oh, gosh, I’ve noticed that, too, because it reminds them that they’re not playing all out, yeah.

Marie Smith:                Right. Or, you know, that you won’t play into something or the other. You know, especially with women, I think a lot of people think that they can manipulate women into a lot of other things than what they’re intending to do, and a lot of times, that’s true because we are taught to be accommodating and we’re taught to not make a fuss and all of those things, and so we really have to make sure that we really do the right thing for ourselves, right, and make sure that we find our purpose and we find fulfillment.

And then, the third thing I would say is don’t ever stop learning because … especially in tech, it’s crazy. There is no school for what I do every day. There isn’t a school for what I have to learn or how I have to pick it up. I have to kind of be naturally curious and stay curious, and that’s how my career [inaudible 00:11:05]. That’s how I overcome all the challenges. Even when I think I’m not supposed to learn something, I just go ahead and learn it just so I can do well in it.

Even with our company, I learned about real estate procurement and HR, which is not really part of my job, but I really felt passionate about: how can we affect change in our company? And so, me and my co-founders have taken on things that are technically not in the job description just to make sure that we build the company and the culture that we want, and we also help our partners discover new things that they wouldn’t normally discover just because of their culture, right, and so that’s kind of the reason why we’re in their partner program just so they’ve noticed they’ve become too white and tell.

Melinda Wittstock:       You’re right, Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Marie Smith:                They’re trying to figure out how to change, but I’ve seen it from the inside. It’s really hard for those same companies to do something different because they’ve already built it. They’ve already built it the way they built it, and so that transition’s going to be really tough. So, one of the easier ways they do that is through partners. So, I’ve been really happy to be a part of those discussions with some of those guys, and part of that is just learning, just saying to him, “Hey, have you guys checked this out? Have you seen this? Do you know this?” because they get very caught up in their own world.

Melinda Wittstock:       Yeah, absolutely. So, Marie, this is so inspiring. I want to make sure that people know how to find you and work with you with your innovative company and how it advances so many other companies. So, how can people do business with you?

Marie Smith:                Yeah, so, you can always go to our website at data360.solutions. We are in the middle of a pretty massive upgrade this summer, but you can always catch us there and support at data360.solutions. And then, I’m on LinkedIn. If you just type in Marie and Data 360, you will find me. I’m the co-founder/CIO, and those are the two easiest ways to get in touch.

Melinda Wittstock:       Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us.

Marie Smith:                You’re welcome. Thank you for having me. It’s a lot of fun.

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