Friday Feature: Jessica Eggert
We are so excited to feature The Riveter’s first member and our Head of Culture and Innovation, Jessica Eggert! Jessica manages all things culture, programming, events and community development at The Riveter. This week, we sat down with her to chat more about herself, her journey from founding member to Head of Culture and her perspective on diversity in entrepreneurship.
Tell us about your journey joining The Riveter.
My journey started when I moved to Seattle from Florida when my husband transferred to Amazon. Community is huge for me, so I knew early on that I needed to find a space, that wasn’t alone at home, to run my global company. I worked at WeWork for two and a half years, but I found myself spending more and more time outside of the space as it got louder and more “bro-y.” The constant sound of ping-pong balls and the smell of spilled beer on the ground was not conducive to my work environment. I happened to meet Amy at an event and after hearing her vision for The Riveter, I was sold. I knew the space and community that Amy wanted to create was exactly what I needed. I was so happy to be the first member at The Riveter!
After The Riveter launched, expanded into two locations and started to grow in size, there were increased conversations on how we could best support our members and focus on our programming. My background in diversity and inclusion, human resources and culture aligned perfectly with the needs of The Riveter, so I ended up signing onto The Riveter’s team as our Head of Culture and Innovation. I am so excited to help grow a company that completely aligns with my personal mission and values!
What are a few of your favorite things about The Riveter?
As a member, and even now as part of our leadership team, I love the fact that I can walk into The Riveter and start a conversation with anyone in the space and learn about so many different journeys. I feel at home in our community and I love that I can connect to all of our members without feeling like I have to hide any part of who I am. I am a proud mom and entrepreneur; I love to cook for my husband and work hard at what I do. The Riveter allows me to show all aspects of my personality and I feel no shame or guilt in dropping my child off at daycare to come into work. There is no stigma or shame here and that allows me to be open and true to who I am. I truly love coming into work every day and being surrounded by this incredibly supportive community.
Tell us about yourself! Include three fun facts.
I’m a proud Blatina - half black, half Puerto Rican. I have an almost five year old (his birthday is in two weeks!). I grew up as an Army brat and still love to travel (I racked up almost one million miles by the time I turned 28!). And one more for fun–I’m six feet tall, but you’ll hardly ever see me without heels on.
Tell us about a time in your career where you failed and how it changed your life. What did you do to overcome it?
At my last company, I was an executive in the male-dominated industry of technology. I often found myself not only being the one woman, but the only person of color at the table. After I had my child, the stress from work was so much that my milk dried up before I’d had three months of breastfeeding time with my son. I often felt like I couldn’t put my family first. I failed by not setting healthy boundaries for myself, and not living up to my own values.
Over time I realized more and more that this space was negatively affecting me, my home life, and others around me by not being true to myself and conforming to my surroundings. I wasn’t supporting other women on their professional journey, or on their own journey of motherhood. I ended up leaving the company pretty quickly once I realized that I didn’t like the person I had become, and by setting lower expectations for myself it was hard for my company to adjust to me working hard but putting my own values of family first when I’d failed to do it for so long. Now, I look for companies that align with my values because I know that if a company doesn’t respect who I am and the boundaries in my life, it will be hard to find success as an individual.
You mentioned your experience as the only person of color at the table. In Seattle, Black and Hispanics comprise 15% of the population but own less than 5% of businesses. Give us your perspective on this. Why do you think this is?
In Seattle, and throughout the United States, there’s a huge lack of diversity in the entrepreneurship world. A lot of this is because success in entrepreneurship is so much of who you know and for the most part, it is very much still white and male dominated. So when you think about who you’re referring people to and who you see in the industry (what an entrepreneur “looks like”), it’s rare to find someone to identify with as a person of color. People tend to flock toward those who have similar identities as them, whether that be based on race, gender, sexual orientation, education, etc., so when you enter a space that predominantly looks like one type of person, you’ll most likely find them only providing access to people who look like them as well. That is not to say you cannot succeed in entrepreneurship as a woman or a person of color, and it’s certainly not about a lack of persistence or lack of ability to work hard — it’s about a lack of resources and access to the knowledge needed to get that next step ahead. It is extremely difficult to break through those barriers. More recently, we’re finding those resources and opportunity for connections more and more for women, but for women of color it is still very difficult.
How can the Seattle community get involved with changing these statistics?
Everyone, inside the Seattle community or around the nation, can get involved in changing these statistics by reaching out to the people who are different than them and working with them. Not only will this change what the entrepreneur community looks like and who is involved, but it will help individuals build a community of more diverse set of perspectives and ideas that are currently excluded from the conversation. When you constantly surround yourself with people who are similar to you, you’re missing out on a whole world of opportunity! Therefore, we need to build a community of people who are different so we can include these ideas.
When we think about community, it’s not just about gathering people together. It’s about surrounding ourselves with people who make us better, lift each other up, and teach us new things. Why wouldn’t we want to bring as many amazing, diverse people into a community like that?? It’s important to remember that no one walks this world alone, and success is not a solo journey. When we surround ourselves with diverse people and perspectives and keep an inclusive mind, we expand our world, our opportunities, and most importantly— we provide opportunity to others who may not have the same privileges, same access, or same resources to find their version of success.
What's rocking your world this month?
I love that we’ve had the opportunity to bring together such strong such strong, powerful women and their advocates to build a beautiful community at The Riveter. I’ve spent a bit of time in Los Angeles this month preparing for our L.A. Pop-Up and launch, and it’s been amazing meeting so many other strong women working toward building a community of women entrepreneurs in LA as well! I’m so excited for The Riveter’s future and our ability to connect our members in Seattle to entrepreneurs and resources in LA and all over the world.
Stay tuned every Friday for a feature blog post on #TheRiveterMembers! We have an amazing team and members in our Capitol Hill and Fremont spaces and we're excited to share their stories. #TheRiveterCommunity