The word networking is enough to raise anxiety levels amongst the most extroverted of us. Hands up who hates the thought of walking into a room of strangers and having to make small talk and swap business cards, even with a confidence boosting glass of wine or beer in hand? Yep. Thought so.
I don't mind having a chat to new people but most of the time you walk away with very few meaningful connections and a fist full of business cards that end up going straight in the bin. Familiar?
There are better ways.
A little while back, not long after I moved to Singapore, I was dragged along, sorry invited to attend an ICE community breakfast. This involved getting up quite early on a Saturday morning, putting on lycra and riding my bike. Now those of you who know me well know that none of these things are me.
Getting up early. Putting on lycra. Riding a bike.
Nor did I know what this "ICE" thing was about.
But it turned out, as with many things, it was better than expected and was a great morning. You can read about it here.
So what is ICE? It stands for International Cycling Executives. It's bascially a networking group with a difference. The community focuses on building real connections in a healthy way. The membership is made up of Senior Executives with little time to spend on ineffective networking and an interest in connecting through cycling.
So along with meaningful networking its a way for senior people to also get some excercise in, learn about some business ideas and be inspired by other cylcists (often pro-cyclists) and their career. There is actually many parallels between building and maintaining an executive career and that of a professional cyclist. The expected performance levels and hours of committment are high.
So you may be wondering why I'm talking about this? Well I actually like cycling (not in a ride 100km before breakfast kind of way) but in the way that is fun and active. Cycling reminds me of the fun I used to have riding a bike when I was young, and it's a great way to see parts of Singapore before it's too hot and the city is teeming with people and traffic.
If only the cycling nut in my household would let me have a basket on the front of my bike!
The first ICE event I attended in Singapore was the first time I connected with other expats and locals, when I was feeling like I wasn't part of much on this little red dot. I really enjoyed the business presentations at breakfast and hearing the career stories. And I liked chatting with others out on the bike heading along East Coast Park beside the ocean.
Is there anything I don't like? Well every time I attend an event there are lots of MAMIL's, (this is not the bit I don't like. I like men even when they are wearing lycra). They come along to network and learn and I always have a great time. But where are the women? There is usually about three of us. Luckily I have some experience being the only woman in the room but this is a less than ideal situation.
I hassle Ryan O'Neill, ICE's CEO and Founder, every time I see him about this. Unfortunatley the membership of ICE tends to reflect the percentage of women in Senior Executive roles. Or maybe women are scared to don some lycra and get out and about on a bike in the morning, even with a promise of a hot cooked breakfast. Whatever the reason the situation is woeful. So with Ryan being fed up with me whinging about the lack of women, he invited me to be on the Singapore Advisory Board so I could do something positive about this sitution*.
So here I am readers.
ICE is a fantastic group of Senior Leaders who connect over a shared interest in cycling. Men and Women in Senior roles are welcome to apply to be an ICE member and attend the events. Or maybe you want to become a sponsor. All the information is here.
Women of Singapore! We need you! I promise I'll look after you! Here are some tips for everyone interested:
- You don't need an expensive bike (though many members do). You do need a working bike. I have a fairly basic commuter bike which works a treat. You could borrow one for your first time.
- You don't need to wear cycling kit straight from the Tour de France (though many members look a bit like this). I wear padded lycra shorts that make my bottom less sore and a t-shirt or work out top to keep as cool as possible. Regular shorts are fine.
- You don't need clip in shoes and pedals (though many of the members do, and let me tell you they look like demented ducks walking to breakfast). I wear regular trainers because I look bad enough without looking like a demented duck at breakfast. I also had an incident when the cycling nut in my house decided I needed clip in pedals. A close call with concussion and a second incident resulting in a very bloody knee and tears beside a very busy road, cured me of clip-ins.
- You don't need to be super fit. You do need to be prepared to have a go and have some fun. I always ride in the "Steady & Social" group which is mostly not on the road. For a breakfast ride it starts at 7am (just as the sun is coming up in Singapore) and is slow enough to be able to keep up a conversataion regardless of fitness. The ride is only an hour and then you get coffee and food! Sweet.
- You do need a helmet. Most bike shops will have relatively inexpensive ones or borrow one.
- You do need to be willing to have a go and enjoy a different kind of networking while improving your health.
What else? The next ride is Saturday 3rd June and we need more people to come along. Paricularly more women. Don't leave me hanging girls! I would love to speak to anyone interested. I'm happy to give you more info over email or phone or coffee or wine. You can get in touch here.
Can't wait to see you there!
*I may be a little excited about this