Michaela Jeffery-Morrison, CEO and co-founder of Ascend Global Media (www.ascendglobalmedia.com), the company behind Women in Tech World Series – the first global events company in the world designed specifically for women working in tech. At the age of 25, Michaela started the business alongside her two co-founders. With big ambitions to change the status quo, Michaela wanted to build a company that would give women the tools not only to progress professionally but to take charge of their own futures and grow personally.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
Ascend Global Media was founded to facilitate equality and progress for our global community of women working in tech. We’ve executed a number of digital and on-site events, conferences, workshops, master classes, and talks for women working in technology or aspiring to enter the sector. We aim to create a sturdy foundation in an inclusive environment that offers many different ways of support and opportunities needed to improve the equality and progress of our community of women. My background is in events and it really allowed me to understand how to best create a successful events company to achieve what Ascend Global Media has set out to do.
A partner to Google, Meta and Microsoft among other leading companies in the tech sector, Ascend Global Media’s guest speakers have included trailblazers and icons, from the CEOs of global banks to Michelle Obama, the former First Lady of the United States. Since launching, the company has won Best Tech Event in the 2020 Conference Awards, Best Tech Event and Best UK Event at the 2020 Eventex Global Awards, and was listed on the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 Index in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
I wanted to build a company that would give women the tools both to progress professionally and to take charge of their own futures. While female representation in STEM roles has increased in recent years, there is still a lack of information and skill-sharing available to support women to do their best work. That’s why I founded the world’s first events company for women working in the technology sector, curated to support and supercharge a career in technology.
How did you achieve awareness?
I believe the best way to achieve awareness is by talking to people, by reaching out to people who we think want to be involved in our events. Events marketing and social media are one of our biggest tools for sharing our message and keeping in touch with our community.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
We’ve organically grown through our events, and we’ve used each Women in Tech World Series event to help build the next one. Today, we attract over 5,000 people to our events all over the world. We’ve created a community of over 250,000 people in over 100 countries. We’re a truly global company, hosting events in London, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Houston and Boston, with a plan to launch in other major cities worldwide.
What are the key successes?
Still being here to tell the story! It isn’t always easy for event companies to exist in a competitive environment let alone thrive and we’re still in the start-up phase.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
The Covid-19 pandemic was a real challenge as our business is built mainly around in-person events. Understandably, we noticed some initial resistance when we returned to in-person events once the lockdowns were over. Rolling out hybrid events has been a learning curve for everybody.
Also, hybrid and remote working have fundamentally changed many of the roles in tech and among our audiences, so we’ve had to adapt our master classes, talks and workshops to reflect that. It was tough at times, but we rose to the challenge and we’ve grown from the experience. I think it’s made us a more resilient, more rounded organisation.
Because the conversation on work and on women in STEM is always evolving, we’ve continued to adapt by partnering with companies and staying grounded so we can continue to empower ordinary women in all kinds of technology roles.
What are your plans now/for the future?
In the future, we plan to launch in other major cities worldwide and grow our community of inspiring women working or aspiring to work in tech.
I’d also like to see our events get back to the large scale they were at pre-Covid-19, and go back to some of the locations we ran events in.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
If you are passionate about something or very good at something, why not do it for yourself.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
According to received wisdom, you should always listen to those around you when you’re starting out and take their advice on board. But this can sometimes do more harm than good. When I set out to build my business, I listened to a lot of people who didn’t have the same approach that I did and I confused what they told me with good advice. What I needed to do was have faith in my own vision, but also recognise that I was trying to do something no one had done before. Others might have been well-meaning, but they hadn’t achieved what I was trying to achieve, so what they were telling me wasn’t that relevant to what I was doing.
Another piece of advice, something I learned the hard way, is never to let go of parts of your business unless you know for certain that whoever you give it to will treat it the same way you do – and that’s almost never going to be the case. As my company grew, I was told again and again that the ‘next step’ was for me to ‘let go’ of this or that, to delegate. And that sounded sensible at the time. But you have to be really careful about taking your eye off certain details and entrusting them to others. The reality is that no one will care as much as you do, and you should never let go of any part of your business unless it’s essential.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
I think I have two – my mum because without her I wouldn’t have had many of the life experiences and opportunities that have been integral in making me who I am and getting me to where I am.
And the former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama – having met her I can honestly say that she is one of the nicest and most inspiring women I have ever met.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?
Michaela Jeffery-Morrison LinkedIn:https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaela-jeffery-morrison-1a590535/
Ascend Global Media LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/ascendglobalmedia/?originalSubdomain=uk
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