When you’re a young founder, you always run the risk, no matter how passionate or prepared you are, of being underestimated. So how do you rise above it, and maintain your sense of self and your conviction that what you’re doing is right? This a lesson that first-time founder Amber Wanner recently learned firsthand.
Wanner is the founder and CEO of CandiDate, a 3-year-old Philadelphia-based tech recruiting firm with a twist. Once candidates are placed in the right job, the next step is to help them find relationships.
“The big initiative is how to bring people to our city, [and make it] a place they’re going to work and stay,” Wanner says. “So a job brings them there, and then love keeps them there. That’s kind of the goal.”
She first came up with the idea when she was an undergrad at Villanova, working for another recruiting firm in the same space. Once her clients were placed, they would joke that all they needed was a partner. She brought up the idea to her boss, who thought that no one would ever want to mix the two. But when she did her own research at tech networking events around the city, she found her instincts were correct. Armed with that information, she quit her job. And at 22-years-old, she launched her first company.
Today, Wanner says that CandiDate works with about 80 tech companies in the Philadelphia area and there are thousands of candidates in its database
Three weeks ago, Wanner was working on filling an Android developer position and sent a LinkedIn request to a potential candidate who said in his bio that he was looking for a new job. Though she tends to focus on passive candidates who aren’t actively looking for a new gig, she thought she would get in touch and see if anything came of it.
This is the answer that she received back:
“I am sorry you look to be about 22 years old. Way too young for this industry.
Cute but not worth spending the time.
i wish you the best of Luck.
Modeling would be better for you as a biz.”
She read the note at a family barbecue, and needless to say, it put a damper on her weekend. She says initially, her inclination was to keep it to herself. “I didn’t want to tell anyone at first,” she says, “because — and I know this really weird to say — but I didn’t want people to believe it.”
But after talking it out with a friend who works as a developer, she changed her mind and posted the below response, while also making sure to blur the name of its sender.
“Over the weekend I received a message that really took me by surprise. I’ve blurred out the name and company he works for because I would never do anything to damage someones [sic] livelihood or well being, but I want others to see. This man specifically said he would not work with me because I look too young to be in this industry (tech). First it infuriated me, then I questioned myself as an entrepreneur, but then I picked myself up and realized that I am a 26 year old [sic] female who started a company when I was 22 years old with very little, and am kicking a$$ and taking names. If you don’t like it, then I wish you all the best, sir. Don’t let others bring you down, ladies, and anyone else who has been told in their life that they ‘Can’t’ because you CAN!? #ladyboss”
Wanner says that as a young woman — who is 5 feet 1 inch tall — operating in the tech industry, she is always prepared to walk into a room and be underestimated, but she doesn’t let it deter her. Her thinking is that no matter what egos she might come up against, her work will speak for itself.
“I’ve learned that you can’t control things that are out of your control,” Wanner says. “[Know that] you can’t please everyone, and never burn bridges.”
And her advice for other young entrepreneurs is to go for it regardless of naysayers.
“Don’t care about what anyone says and don’t let any of that stuff get to you,” Wanner says. “I did it. I was 22, I had no business doing what I was doing, going to these tech events. But you can really do anything — I grew up in a tiny town in the Poconos — so don’t let the words get to you.”
Related video: Why the Right Mentor Can Make All the Difference