“Technology is a language that is democratizing access and opportunity around the world and if you don’t know it, you get left behind.” — Aisha Bowe
CEO & Founder at STEMboard
Aisha lives in Washington D.C., she loves speaking internationally about technology democratization to encourage and inspire people to founding their own enterprises. She’s also an aspiring adventure junkie and who from time to time enjoys climbing mountains, hiking, and traveling the world.
Every week we send the same list of questions to a different founder from companies of all sizes. Each week we get new answers, insights, perspectives, and tips on how we all can shine a bit brighter.
1. Work from a source of power
I love journaling and meditation because it allows me to ground myself before I start my day. I see a huge difference when I do these things compared to when I don’t. I used to wake up and run into all of this tasking. It’s very easy to get busy, but hard to be productive. If I make time in the morning to jot down what I must get done that is also connected to who I am, I am working from a source of power, which really helps me start my day right.
2. Advice is everywhere
When I first started, I wanted to do what I thought was right. Oftentimes, your ideas will evolve, and the people you need in order to be successful will provide you guidance. Sometimes they’ll come from unexpected places like meetups or airplane rides! I met a successful startup entrepreneur on a plane once who gave me such great advice and thinking points on a flight to Portland.
In my early days, I might have thought of that just as a great conversation, but these days I absolutely take it in and open myself for any and all opportunities that cross my path that help me meet my goal.
3. Allow others to educate you about their perspectives
After studying aerospace, I went to work at NASA and I was not the most social engineer. Dale Carnegie’s book ‘How to win friends and influence people’ taught me how to talk to people, and the fundamentals are really practical.
Anyone can pick this book up and have a meaningful conversation, which is something I absolutely loved. It really opened my world. I went from being somebody who was fixated on talking about just the things that I studied to letting someone else talk about something they’re interested in and allow them to educate me about their world and perspective to make me better.
This concept is manifested in my daily life. One example is that my company, Stemboard released a STEM kit to help students learn to code. The name of this product is Lingo. This came from a conversation with a product manager in Paris. He told me that in order to learn to code he had to learn English and he learned just enough to code.
The takeaway from that is if he didn’t know the lingo, he would be left behind. So once I released the product I knew we had to call it lingo because technology is a language that is democratizing access and opportunity around the world and if you don’t know it, you get left behind. It was the best ideation session we had in a company and it all started with a conversation.
4. The company grows at the rate that you do
The best investment I’ve ever made was in understanding and knowing myself. As a business owner I found that the company grows at the rate that you do. As a leader you need to know when to relinquish control and give space when needed.
When I first started, I used to think that I needed to do everything and have all the answers. Through the last few years I have made it a point to let others lead and be great, and to be comfortable with saying ‘I don’t know all the answers, please educate me and help me get to where we need to be’. Founders need to understand that it’s not a source of weakness, it’s a source of strength.
I also think my team is the gift that I receive every day. They can do anything with their time and they choose to be at this company and help reach this goal and dream. Without them I wouldn’t have any of these accomplishments.
A key part of every business is appreciative feedback. A few days ago it was my birthday and I told them why each and everyone of them what I like about them and why they make it a joy for me to get up and go to work every single morning. We made the 2020 Inc list of the fastest-growing companies in America and that was without capital, and it’s because of my amazing team.
5. It’s not who you think you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not
We often need to widen the aperture when it comes to what we think is capable in life. Oftentimes, it’s people who hold themselves back.
6. Help others dream big
The emails that I get from people around the world that remind me to keep pushing is what keeps me motivated on good and hard days. On the morning of my birthday, I got emails from people from Israel, South Africa, the UK, Jamaica, and more telling me how my story inspired them in some way to do something they didn’t think they could do. Helping people understand that the dream that they think is a little too big is actually within reach, is what keeps me going.
7. Find your passion
I’m a fan of empowering the underserved.
There is a statistic that I’m obsessed with: 85% of the jobs that people will do in the next 10 years, have not been created yet — because the people who are in school now will create them.
At first I didn’t believe it. But then I thought about my life, about the fact that I started my engineering degree with pre-algebra at a community college. About the fact that I have for the last seven years made up my job, made up my company, made up Lingo and what I do every single day.
As a result, this has allowed me to travel internationally and share the power of believing in yourself with people all over the world to say that you can manifest your destiny. If you want to be someone who transforms your neighborhood, your community, who contributes to your world in a significant way, you can.
I like to use my story and experiences in the hopes of inspiring other people. In hopes of people getting out there.
I’m passionate about diversity when it comes to problem-solving. I want the youth to know that they can do anything even though they don’t think they can. I want them to know that they can free themselves of the limitations in their mind. I want to share with people that they can be key players in the world and for each and everyone to have the opportunity to do so.
8. Surround yourself with the right people
I’ve released negative people from my life. It’s so important as you get older to be careful and guarded to who you expose yourself to. The more I recognized how vulnerable we are of people’s emotions and beliefs, I understood that I needed to protect that part of myself. You need to surround yourself with positive people who believe in you.
I try to start each week and send a message to one person about how great they are and how important and influential they are in my life. Things like that really make all the difference in the world.
9. You can’t do everything by yourself
From my failures, I learned that I don’t need to do it all in my company. In my early career, I thought I needed to be the one with all the answers and that led to stress, doubt, and insecurity.
Once I got to the point of understanding I don’t have to do everything or know it all and let other people in to go further, I knew we could succeed. The third year in, I felt burnt out and noticed some stagnation, and questioned whether I could do this and lead. That’s when I learned I need to change my perspective. Now, I’m happy to let someone lead and teach me their knowledge and educate me in order for us to succeed in the company.
10. Be open to the journey and seek knowledge
I would ignore comments like, ‘Hey, do you think you can do this? You’re not a business major’ or ‘You haven’t raised any capital’ etc. But now I know that if you doggedly believe in your business you will find a way to make it work. I wish I had that feeling early on. You just need the desire for success and be open to the journey, seek out knowledge, find good people, work on yourself and your mental perspective, and take it from there.