The other day I started driving Uber because I'm an entrepreneur building two companies stuck in that awkward middle ground of no cash. My first rider was this guy in his 40's and his business colleague. Immediately he is talking about his fundraising round, going into details on his term sheets. How he doesn't think it's a good idea to let people from China invest. How he's being connected to decision-makers at JP Morgan. This guy thinks he's really smart (and in most situations, I'm guessing he actually is).
So I casually ask what his company does (it's a cancer diagnostics company). I then ask if he's using Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning in any way (they have an algorithm). I ask if he's raising his A or B round (it's their B). With a shocked look on his face, he asks me what my background is and what I do, as I'm asking very informed questions.
I tell him about how I spent 12 years working for Fortune 500s in every aspect of CSR. That I left in 2016 because change wasn't happening fast enough, so I needed to go all in. That I joined the startup world and built a network of entrepreneurs spanning five continents.
That I became an international relief worker who's built national public health campaigns in developing countries. Gone into refugee camps, remote orphanages and hurricane zones.
That I'm now co-founder of a company. That I, too, am raising capital.
This man was silent, and after a few seconds had no ability to respond with anything other than "wow - good luck."
His colleague asks a simple question and I give him a reasonable reply. They then go back to talking to each other, and totally drop all discussion of raising capital or his company. They talk about boating. When I drop them off, they thank me.
Two riders later, I was talking to my new passenger who was a smart, hardworking and struggling wealth management adviser. We got on the subject of being underestimated, and I gave him a snapshot of the conversation with my earlier rider. This guy laughed and said:
"Yep - you are smarter than them, and they knew it. But they didn't want to acknowledge it because you were just a girl, an Uber driver."
I have been underestimated my whole life (by both men and women). Seen as this cute, kind, approachable girl. And I am all of those things. But I'm also wicked smart, networked as hell and have the unconditional love of starving children driving me to build a better world.
And I'm not alone. There are so many underestimated women that I know - champions of their companies and causes. Women who dig in and do what is necessary to keep moving forward. Because that's what comes naturally to us.
I choose to see being underestimated as a strength - a superpower - because while they're busy being in their own silo, I'm free to change the world without them noticing. And driving a bit of Uber on the side to pay the bills.
So here's my ask - I want to know your stories. There's magic in being underestimated, and I'd like to bottle that here. If nothing else than to inspire girls that are struggling to reconcile their lack of perceived power. If you'd like to talk, let me know. Thank you.