Love Story to Us

Amplify Board Members at Dreamforce 17 (left to right): Amy Pannu, Joanna Iturbe, Marisa Lopez, Tracy Kronzak, and Joni Bryan. Amplify Board Members not shown: Jace Bryan, Judi Sohn, and Michelle Regal.

Amplify Board Members at Dreamforce 17 (left to right): Amy Pannu, Joanna Iturbe, Marisa Lopez, Tracy Kronzak, and Joni Bryan. Amplify Board Members not shown: Jace Bryan, Judi Sohn, and Michelle Regal.

My Dearest Girlforce Members, Accomplices, Partners, Supporters, and Friends,

This year was a momentous year for Girlforce in many ways.  A transitional year, in my own life and in the organization’s life. We had our 5th Girlforce@Dreamforce event and I was thinking, if Girlforce was my baby, she would be headed off to Kindergarten -a new phase in her growth and development and a whole new world to look toward.

As one of the founders, and the face of Girlforce since we started in 2013, in many ways Girlforce has been my baby, holding my dreams and aspirations to change the world. It has been a home for me within this ecosystem. It has been a place to tell my story. Naturally, as the face of Girlforce, Girlforce was intertwined with my personal story. It was about the success I found in our first ever study group, and when I became certified.

It was about the community of amazing people to learn from.

It was about being accepted for who I was, and about being challenged to be better.

I bared my soul.

I showed you who I was.

I told my truth with a quavering voice, and doing so both gave me life and began to transform my world.

Girlforce was a love story that I had the privilege of helping to write.

Now, in 2017, Girlforce is not just my story. It’s the stories of thousands of other people - making impact where they are and everywhere they go. I wish I could list the people who have made us who we are, but that list is long and I would invariably leave someone important out of it. As has always been the case, many of the people most responsible for our success have been those women who have worked tirelessly paving the way before us and amplifying the voices of women in the technology space.

What some people don’t know about me is that Girlforce was about failure long before it was the success it is today. I had been trying to start something like Girlforce for a decade before we launched it in the hub. I failed over and over. I think for hard-headed people like me, failure is my best teacher, and as I failed, I learned. I learned about authenticity and being wholly me, not the me I wanted people to see - the “perfect” me. I learned about allowing my vulnerable passion to show. I learned that no one has their shit together. I learned that our stories are more than the sum of our chapters - they are the markers of progress and growth, they are our redemption and, perhaps most importantly - our stories are the way we take back our ownership, sometimes the way we take back our lives.

Since our founding, we have grown from two - Angela and I - to almost 5000 members. We have held study groups and mentoring circles. We’ve shared our skills, written articles, and vulnerably shared our successes and failures. We’ve exchanged hugs and shared beers, and have met new and old friends.

Above all, we’ve joined our voices together to elevate equality and diversity and amplify the power of our stories. This community has changed many of us – because the thing that really changes the world is community -  the passionate people we surround ourselves with.

Over the past couple of years, we have had ongoing discussions about where we are headed and what is next. One of the things we’ve seen as we’ve grown is that we are more than Girlforce. We are inclusive and we are expanding, and we are more and more focused on amplifying the voices that are underrepresented: the stories of women of color, trans and nonbinary individuals, and those who have traditionally been silenced at the table. The word “Girlforce” didn’t seem to fit who we are as much. As a leadership team, we talked about who we are and how to put that into one or two words, and the word Amplify stood out to us -

Amplify each other, amplify our stories, our experience, our voices. Amplify is inclusive of our Allies and Accomplices, too, as they work to make space at the table for us and step back to let us lead. When we formed our nonprofit this year, Amplify was the name we formed under because it really resonated with the mission of who we are and who we want to become.

Since our founding, I have been privileged and honored to be the leader of Girlforce. It has been one of my greatest pleasures to lead this effort, and I am proud of who we are.

There are seasons in all of life, and my season for leading Girlforce has come to an end. This year was full of transitions, and I knew early in the year that it was time to pass the torch to our next leader. I shared at our breakfast how incredibly proud I am of us.

Although I am stepping down as the charge-leader for Girlforce, our new president, Marisa Lopez, is someone I respect and admire, and I believe she will continue leading us in the direction of inclusivity, empowerment, and change. And although I’m stepping down from the role of President, I’ll still be actively involved in our board and in looking for ways we can move toward radical inclusion and love stories.

In the meantime, I look forward to seeing where we go next.

It is with gratitude and love that I thank you all for allowing me this opportunity. When I come to the end of my days, one of the things I will be most proud of is that I helped found this community: thank you for allowing me to lead, thank you for making me a better leader, and thank you most of all for giving me a home.

Joni