The Breakfast Club #9
Nobody Knows What They're Doing: Inside Stories from a Tech Entrepreneur
Presented by Avery Swartz
March 21st, 2017
Avery Swartz is a firecracker of a tech entrepreneur. She founded Camp Tech, which offers tech workshops for non-technical people (in 3 cities and counting). She also co-hosts the Gather North retreat for women who make the web. She runs her own studio, regularly makes media appearances talking about tech trends, and acts as digital advisor for various charities.
Oh, and she's hilarious.
We're really excited to have Avery as our next Breakfast Club speaker, and wanted to give you a chance to get to know her. We're sure you'll want to meet her in person too!
What inspired you to start Camp Tech?
The inspiration for Camp Tech came from the client work I was doing in my small web studio. I work primarily with small businesses and charities, and saw a real need for practical tech skills education. I envisioned fun workshops taught by friendly instructors who were industry leaders, sharing tips and best practices they learned as they mastered their tools.
Camp Tech isn’t coding school, and we’re not training people to become digital professionals. Camp Tech is teaching business owners and marketers how to use the apps and tech tools around them in a more efficient way.
I had a hunch that this kind of training would be well received, but I had no idea how popular it would actually be until we got started. And as more digital tools emerge, we can run more workshops. It’s a beautiful thing!
You’re a self-professed conference lover. You and Warren (Plank’s Founder) met at Owner Summit (a gathering place for digital studio owners). You’re also the founder of Gather North, a getaway for women in tech. What makes an amazing conference stand-out from the rest?
The best conferences I’ve been to have felt inclusive and special, kind of like a really great dinner party. The setting, the mood, the other attendees, the schedule, the meals, the activities… it all requires careful planning and thoughtfulness to achieve that perfect balance. The most amazing conferences stand out when you look at the details. Did the conference organizer think of interesting ways to make people feel included? Did they make sure it was a safe space for everyone? Did they keep something up their sleeve as a special surprise to delight attendees? Hosting a successful conference is really like hosting a great party - there is an art to it.
You’ve admitted that “Nobody Knows What They’re Doing.” How has embracing the art of winging it made you a better business owner?
I used to have pretty bad imposter syndrome. I thought everyone around me knew that they were doing, and that I just hadn’t figured it out yet, or I wasn’t good enough. After years of getting to know successful business owners and industry leaders, and “seeing behind the curtain” of who they really are, I realized that lots of people feel that way and nobody seems to really know what they’re doing. That gave me a lot of confidence and reassurance, and took the pressure off my desire for things to be perfect. Now I’m doing the best I can and winging it, just like everyone else!
I’ve just started listening to your Camp Tech podcast. Why did you decide to jump into that world? Do you have any tips for people who want to get started with podcasting?
Oh gosh, now I’m embarrassed! I can only listen to the podcast once per episode, just to make sure there are no technical errors. Then I can’t hear it again - listening to my own voice is so weird.
But seriously, podcasting is a lot of fun. I mostly did it just for fun, and as a way to reach people who wanted to learn some quick tech tips on the fly. I kind of think of podcasting as a form of content marketing, almost like blogging. I tried having a blog for Camp Tech for a while, but found the writing to be a bit of a chore. So I decided to try podcasting instead.
I wrote an article about podcasting being the new blogging for The Globe and Mail. It has some tips in it. My biggest tip is the same for just about anything - it’s never going to be perfect, but you have to start. So just get started!
Camp Tech, Gather North, working with non-profits, podcasting, plus running your own web design business...You’ve got your finger in a lot of pies, so to speak. What energizes you to keep all these things going?
I think people have a natural pace that they like to operate at. Too fast and it’s frantic, too slow and it’s boring. It really is a fluke that my natural pace seems to be around 700 miles per hour. I just like working fast and having a lot of stuff on the go.
It’s not sexy at all, but I’m a big fan of systems. We have documentation and systems in place for everything at Camp Tech, so it runs pretty smoothly. I also surround myself with fantastic people who are at the top of their game, so we feed off each other’s energy and get stuff done fast.
I’ve tried to shed some commitments over the years, and there have been some I’ve happily let go. Now I’m pretty comfortable with my work setup, and I have a fair amount of freedom to try new things and go in new directions. The possibilities of what can be done and what I can achieve are what energizes me the most!
We want to thank Avery for chatting with us, and for coming all the way from Toronto to speak at the Breakfast Club.