Lauren Maffeo has reported on and worked within the global technology sector. As a freelance journalist for The Guardian and The Next Web, she reported on trends including self-driving cars, digital skills gaps in Taiwan and Brazil, the role of apps in aid relief, and a feared digital dark age.
Today, Lauren works as a senior content analyst at GetApp (a Gartner company), where she shares how technology like AI impacts small businesses. Her writing has been cited by Forbes, The Atlantic, California State University, and more. She has also advised CEOs at pre-seed to profitable SaaS startups on media strategy.
Earlier this year, Lauren served as an advisor for Women Startup Challenge Europe, which was the continent’s largest venture capital competition for women-led startups when it launched at London City Hall in May 2017. Lauren was recently named to The Drum’s 50 Under 30 list of women worth watching in digital. And she is currently co-authoring a workshop on inclusion aimed at CIOs to present at Gartner’s IT Symposium this fall.
How did you get to where you are today?
I never intended to join the tech world. The thought never crossed my mind at school because it wasn’t presented as an option. I had no idea that I could use my love of reading and writing in this sector.
Instead, I was intent on being a journalist and oriented my life towards achieving that goal. Everything from my college major (Media Studies) to internships (at news outlets including NY1) focused on achieving a career path in broadcasting. But as fate would have it, I was a student during the 2008 recession and subsequent shift in ad spending from news outlets to tech companies like Facebook and Google.
Simultaneously, a semester abroad studying at the University of Oxford during college led me to pursue an MSc at The London School of Economics. During my media and communications studies there, I learned more about the corporate structures that govern most global media. I also learned a lot about the lack of gender equity in areas of journalism like war reporting and technology.
As I was preparing to graduate, London’s small but rapidly growing tech sector was starting to boom. During the same summer that I wrote my dissertation, I went to a networking event at General Assembly’s London campus. One connection that I met at this event (Rajeeb Dey MBE) snowballed into another, and before I knew it, I had become networked into the tech sector. I worked as a tech journalist for news outlets like The Guardian and The Next Web after graduation. I also worked as a project-based consultant for London-based tech startups.
Through (a lot of) trial and error, I leaned over time to be confident in what I did well (writing) but adaptable about how I did it (in the global technology sector rather than for one specific news outlet).
What was your toughest obstacle and how did you overcome it?
The concept of job security has never existed for me (or most of my peers, for that matter). Although the world of work is becoming more global, this brings new problems that you have to solve on the fly.
I fell in love with living in London and wanted nothing more than to do it indefinitely. But despite finding a lot of freelance work, I was too young and inexperienced to freelance full-time. I didn’t have the savings cushion or steady income that life in London demands.
So, I moved back to the States before I felt emotionally ready. This is far from the worst thing in the world, and I don’t begrudge where I’ve ended up at all. But when I look back on those years, I see a woman who moved abroad alone at 23 years old, earned her MSc, and started her career in one of the world’s most global cities.
At the time, all I saw was a failure who had to pack up and go home after she didn’t achieve her goal to live the self-sustaining life in London that she wanted. I took this very personally - too personally. So, I’d say that my toughest obstacle has been learning to view my career as a portfolio with its own story rather than putting all my eggs in one basket and expecting that to carry me through life. I’m still working on this challenge, but getting better at with experience.
What’s the key to staying focused & motivated?
For me, the key to staying focused and motivated is to look ahead and see how close I am to achieving my next goal. I’ve realized that I work best when I have a mid-range goal ahead of me that I can prepare for (like speaking at a conference in three months or organizing an event that will take place in six months). The anticipation of achieving those goals propels me forward.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Be confident in what you do well, but adaptable about how you do it. No one actually gave me this advice - it’s a lesson that my career in tech has taught me. The world is always changing in more ways than we know. All you can do is keep up.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to start a new venture?
My first advice is to confirm that no one else is doing the same work. You don’t always have to start a brand new business from scratch to be entrepreneurial. If your competition solves the same problem in a different way that perhaps you disagree with, that’s the time to start considering if you should do your own thing.
But I get nervous when I hear people say, “I want to be an entrepreneur.” Why? Which problem do you want to solve? And are you sure no one else is already solving that problem? Sometimes it takes more creativity to start new ventures in traditional environments, like governments or big businesses. Consider all your options before diving headfirst into the best choice for you.
How do we get more women leaders?
It’s harder for big companies to achieve gender equity because inequality is already so high. After a certain point, you’re making up for diversity debt. It’s easier for small businesses and startups to invest in hiring for diversity and inclusion at the outset.
The sooner that these become strategic goals, the sooner each company will have teams that are more diverse in gender, race, disability, etc.. This can be achieved by setting quantifiable goals that measure how successful each diversity and inclusion effort is.
Finally, it’s important to distinguish diversity (hiring) from inclusion (retainment). They are related, but not the same thing, and each requires its own strategy. To quote Verna Myers, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”