Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Launching a New Program: Savvy Geek Chix Case Study

Jerri Barrett, from the Anita Borg Institute, is back to tell us about a new program they have launched. What? A new program in this economy? Yes, because if you are not constantly examining your programming and figuring out new ways to serve your members, your organization will quickly become obsolete. Especially in this economy. Managing cost is a key theme in this article. Enjoy! Bunnie

Launching a New Program: Savvy Geek Chix Case Study

By Jerri Barrett, Director of Marketing, Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology

In early 2009, Deanna Kosaraju, the VP of Programs for the Anita Borg Institute, called a meeting to discuss a new idea. How do we take all of the great information we’ve gathered from our other programs: the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing and TechLeaders and create a series of affordable programs? We were all keenly aware of the impact the economy was having on our community – both the fact that travel and training budgets were being slashed and that many of our constituency were either experiencing layoffs or were worried about being laid off.

After doing some research on what else was being offered in the marketplace, the decision was made to offer a low cost program that would address directly some of the issues that people were facing. Our first step was to come up with a name. After much debate and many versions the name Savvy Geek Chix was arrived at – savvy because our program attendees are smart, Geek because we work with technologists and Chix because we work with women and the word Chix is often used in the tech world.

Once we had a name we started working on content for our first event. Given what was top of mind for most of our constituency – layoffs and job security we knew that "Weathering the Economic Storm" would strike a cord. We wanted to not just focus on what happens at a layoff but what you could do to better position yourself in your company before a layoff and what you should do after the layoff takes place.

After the name and general topic were established, many different activities around launching the program began to take place simultaneously. Kim McLeod, Program Manager for Savvy Geek Chix, began the process of recruiting panelists and building content for the program. Early on we decided to repeat a very successful activity from our 2008 Grace Hopper Celebration, the Resume Clinic. For the Resume Clinic I recruited a wide range of recruiters from tech companies and recruiting firms to provide 15 minute resume critiques. Sort of a speed dating for resume review. Attendees could sign up for a 15 minute slot with one of the 15 recruiters. This would be the first hour of SGC. At the same time a networking reception was taking place in another room. Kim built a diverse panel made up of people who could speak to the list of topics we’d developed for the program.

Our VP of Business Development, Jody Mahoney, simultaneously had to go out and find a host company for the event. The host would provide the space for the event and the refreshments for our attendees. SAP agreed almost immediately and a date and time were set for the event.

Once we had all everything in place recruitment of attendees became our number one priority. Given the low admission price ($25 for the first event) we realized that we couldn’t do expensive outreach. We focused mostly on promoting the event through our newsletter, our communities and through our personal networks. We encouraged everyone who registered for the event to announce it to their own networks on Facebook and Linked In – helping us carry the word as far as we could. And of course we worked with other non-profits as well.

The actual event itself took place on March 24, 2009. We had 87 paid attendees, 15 recruiters and the ABI Staff in attendance. Measurement is a critical part of every program the Anita Borg Institute offers. We found that 70% of the attendees had not attended one of our events before, showing us that these low cost programs opened a new niche for us. 97% of the attendees said the program met or exceeded their expectations and 98% agreed or strongly agreed that they learned useful skills, concepts and techniques to retain jobs or survive layoff.

These results clearly indicate that there is a strong desire among our constituency for shorter and low cost programs that focus on skill development in key areas. Planning will begin soon for our next Savvy Geek Chix program.

Contact Jerri at

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