Brilliant Women in Technology: Meet Jezra Kaye

Hi CuteGeeks! A little over a month ago, I attended a workshop titled “Confident Communications for Women”. I had a personal interest in this because I feel that I do not know how to effectively communicate sometimes. The workshop was a lot of fun and I received so much information that I definitely left feeling more confident (knowledge if power!). I met Jezra Kaye at the workshop because it was hers! – and I just had to ask her to be on our site because she intrigued me so much. If only because of her deep passion for helping women to get to better places – through confidence – or because of her wit, and how she uses technology…actually, I have a lot of reasons why I admire her, but let me let her tell you why she rocks.

CuteGeeks meet Jezra.... -Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background? I started out my adult life as a jazz singer, and worked in that field for about 18 years, supporting myself with secretarial, bartending and odd jobs until, at age 33, I decided that it was time to look for a new career. That led me to corporate speechwriting, which ultimately led me to the speaker coaching business I have now, Speak Up for Success.

-How did you get started in technology, or at your current position? Working in offices all my life, I was an early adopter of some great new technology: The IBM Selectrix II typewriter; the Xerox Mag-Card 6500 (which could hold an entire line of text? in memory, allowing you to edit one line without retyping for the first time in human history); the Wang word processor (the first machine that allowed operators to exchange information through a central server); and, in 1984, that newfangled thing, the personal computer. My first was an IBM XT, which had no internal hard drive (you had to switch 256K floppy discs to change from WordPerfect’s writing to editing functions); my husband and I bought a 40mg. hard drive for $200 (big money back then), and he installed it himself.

This has all come in handy for understanding my tech clients, and for working with technology as a speaker coach. But in terms of how I got to where I am as a speaker coach, the simple answer is, lots of work.

-Was it tougher because you are a woman? The feelings of self-doubt and the persistent suspicion that I didn’t really belong in a high-powered career made it tough; and although men feel those things, too, I think they hold us women back more.

-If there was such a thing as reincarnation, would you come back as a man or woman-holding all other things equal…? A woman. I would never give up the closeness, camaraderie, and emotional expression that women are capable of.

-Describe a "normal" day in your life. I’m a seat-of-the-pants businesswoman, so every day is different. Typically, mine include checking email, drinking coffee, writing a blog post or newsletter or workshop plan or client document, drinking more coffee, doing some chores (I work at home), drinking coffee, relaxing with a romance novel, eating ice cream, and then settling down after dinner for the serious work (writing a book, for example) that’s hard to get done in the day, with its interruptions. Some days I meet with one or more clients, some days I lead or attend a workshop, and once or twice a week I go networking or have dinner with a friend or colleague.

-What's your favorite aspect of working in technology? My favorite aspect of coaching people in technology is how damned smart you all are! :-) It’s wonderful to work with clients who get the big picture, understand the points you’re trying to make, and can improve so quickly between sessions.

-What have been some of your challenges you faced, and how did you tackle or overcome them? I find the hardest challenge (still!) to be self-acceptance. It can be scary to rely completely on yourself for your own career development and success, and there are days when it’s hard to believe that my boss might actually know what she’s talking about!

-Have you ever felt like you needed to hide your femininity or that fact that you were a female? No, for me as a coach, being female has been fine. But there are times when I wish I could hide my age! :-)

-What advice do you have for females interested in getting into your field? Find a good mentor and a supportive community, and get ready to hunker down. If you care about developing a high-level skill set, it’s going to take at least five years to get there — and mastery takes about ten.

-What's one gadget you can't live without? My stovetop espresso maker. Also my Macbook Pro. I can’t believe it took me 26 years to switch!

-Do you have a personal 'mantra' or certain words you live by? “I know how to do this. I know how to do this. I know how to do this. I know how to...”

-And lastly, what drives you? Passion. I love being a speaker coach, and if I can help even one person, that adds another layer of thrill.