by Anna Walz, CEO, MedEvoke
Every company that has been through a diversity certification process knows how rigorous and painful the application, vetting, and acceptance process can be. After countless hours of completing applications, visiting notaries, badgering my accountant for financial statements, and digging up personal and familial records that hadn’t been needed in decades, I was finally certified by both WBENC and NMSDC.
I received the certificates in the mail and was waiting for the magic to start happening. Nothing. I registered our company on every diversity supplier data base in the industry, I proudly added our new credentials to our website, capabilities decks, and letterhead. But nothing changed. No one contacted me to offer that multi-million-dollar contract I was dreaming of.
I felt disappointed that after all the effort I put into the certification process, there was no tangible way to leverage the credential, so I began to attend various diversity events hosted by WBENC and NMSDC. Those conferences and galas were great; I met amazing people, expanded my network and revamped my wardrobe (a girl has to look good at a black tie, right?). But I still didn’t get any business leads. These events were enormous, and I felt like a small, life sciences-focused agency like mine got lost in the fray.
Somewhat disillusioned I faded out of attending these events, until I received a call from my client about attending the Diversity Alliance for Science East Coast Conference in Newark, NJ. Logistically, it was easy to get to, the attendee fee was more than affordable, and the agenda was laser-focused on life-sciences. I walked into The Renaissance Hotel in Newark (admittedly a bit uncomfortable because I didn’t know anyone) and within an hour I was ready to put my company’s name on the map! I had my 30-second company pitch perfected, wore my new dress (okay, I don’t actually need a reason to buy new clothes), and enjoyed every second of sharing what my company does. After “pitching” all day and walking around the hotel in heels, I needed a mental and physical break, so I purposely chose a seat at a quiet table to have my lunch.
The woman sitting next to me seemed to need a break as much as I did, so instead of launching into my pitch, we talked about general things: family, kids, parents, hobbies…everything but business. By the end of the conversation I felt like I had made my first real friendship at this conference. We promised to keep in touch, exchanged business cards and that’s when I found out I was sitting next to the Diversity Supplier Leader for one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. We kept our promise and did keep in touch. In fact, she made the first move by scheduling a teleconference with me to learn about what my company does. She was optimistic that our services were needed at her company and after 3 years of participating in request for proposals, we finally won that multi-million-dollar contract that I always dreamed of. All these years later we are still working closely with her company and still sharing a friendship that I’m confident will last a life-time.
Sometimes I wonder…If I had known who she was before I sat next to her, if I would have been pre-occupied with pitching instead of sharing a nice moment with another person, who like me, was tired from walking in heels all day. I also wonder what would have happened if I had not chosen to join Diversity Alliance for Science, taking a chance that this organization could bring the success I’d been seeking.