On Thursday, February 24th, the CIAA Tech Summit House took place in Baltimore, attracting 250+ attendees and covering diverse topics on the intersections of technologies and culture. Hosted by Visit Baltimore, the tech summit focused on new innovative technology trends and leadership that are redefining the landscape of Baltimore and beyond. The event also provided a meeting space for industry experts, start-ups, and the tech community to network and discuss how digital transformation and recruitment from HBCUs can boost business productivity and create a culture that impacts the African American Community and visibility. Our CEO, Jess Watson, was invited to give a fire talk for a session entitled “6 Minutes You’re On.” The talk was entitled “Be Your Own Superhero,” and the transcript is below.
My name is Jess Watson and I’m the CEO and Creative Director for Points North, an award-winning creative services studio based here in downtown Baltimore.
We believe good design can change the world, and we’re challenging the status quo by creating experiences that bring people, passions, and causes together.
Today I stand before you:
- as someone who has been running a successful business for 12 years,
- as the co-founder of Baltimore Women in Tech,
- and as someone who has worked and lived remotely in 8 different countries
- I’m confident, feel limitless, and I truly believe that if you put your mind to it anything is possible.
But, I wasn’t always this way…
No, 13+ years ago, I was shy, I was an introvert, would’ve never thought that I could start a company, and didn’t have any idea what was possible for my life.
We are underestimated, we are often told that we don’t belong in certain rooms and spaces. And as Michelle Obama said so eloquently in her book Becoming, we tend to have a constant question eating at us, “Am I good enough?”
So I’ll never forget, true story, the day I realized that I wanted something more.
Let me take you back to the early 2000’s. I was sold a story that the most important thing I needed was security. Yup, not to believe in my hopes and dreams or find a way to make a difference. So I entered into corporate America and found me a nice desk job. And if I could sum it up in one word, that word would be GREY. Grey cubicle, grey walls, and strange rules about how tall our plants could be at our desks.
But I had a paycheck every two weeks, and I could make do, as long as I kept my head down and stayed in my lane. So that’s what I did for 5 years, and you know where that got me? At the same cubicle, with the same paycheck. I was on a train to nowhere.
And you know what, I wanted more. I knew that at this rate, I wasn’t going to be able to advance forward at that company.
Alice Walker, the author of The Color Purple, once said “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
And so if I could trust a big corporation to have control over my life, security with a side of going nowhere, why couldn’t I trust myself?
Maybe the reason why I couldn’t find someone that looked like me in the room where it happens, is because I was supposed to be the one in that room.
I knew then, I had to shoot my shot.
But you can’t shoot your shot while playing it safe. And the three biggest lessons I learned are:
- LESSON ONE: that confidence is a muscle. You have to work it out. When that voice creeps up and asks “am I good enough?,” you have to fire back “yes I am,” even on the days when your voice is shaking.
- LESSON TWO: no risk, no reward. You are going to fail, or as Thomas Edison says “I haven’t failed, I just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” Failure is a part of the game and the journey. We fall down and we get up. You should never attach more weight to a failure, than you would a success.
- LESSON THREE: Life is best understood looking back. Every mountain that seemed insurmountable starting out, looking back, I see them as small hills with valuable lessons.
Tell me something, do you every get excited about the superheroes you see in movies. Yeah, who doesn’t want to be an Avenger, or the Black Panther? But then you look around and wonder, where are these heroes in real life? Who’s going to come and save you, or discover you, or carry you to living the life of your dreams?
On April 1, 2010, I left my corporate job and started what is now Points North Studio, and I never looked back.
The only person that can save you is you.
You have to take the first step, put on that cape (or panther suit) and be your own superhero.
Because believe it or not … You’re the person you’ve been waiting for.