• Women Financial Advisor Forum

Christine Renaud Talks with Morgan Stanley’s Kara Underwood about Women and Intentional Networking

The CEO of E-180 shares life lessons and the importance of face-to-face knowledge-sharing.

Christine Renaud is a social entrepreneur and CEO of E-180, which creates web and mobile peer-learning tools connecting like-minded people interested in learning from each other, one-on-one, in person. E-180 seeks to turn events, spaces and cities into peer-learning hubs through “braindates.” Before founding E-180, Christine graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education as a Knox Fellow, focusing on informal learning, and worked as a Podcast producer for New York-based Learning Matters.

Christine was recognized by BizBash in 2015 as one of the Most Innovative People in the Event Industry. Under her leadership, E-180 was recognized as one of Montreal's 10 most innovative companies and was featured in the innovation issue of Fast Company in February 2013. She is a contributing author to the book Knowmads Society and has shared her work with E-180 as a speaker in conferences such as SxSW 2013/2014 and #140edu in New York.

Christine Renaud, Kara Underwood, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management

Christine Renaud, Kara Underwood, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management

She recently sat down with Morgan Stanley’s Kara Underwood, Managing Director and Head of Diversity & Inclusion of Wealth Management to discuss her career, what she’s learned, and the importance of one-on-ones.

Kara: You founded and run a company dedicated to helping people share knowledge and connect. Where did the idea for your company come from—and what is your vision for E-180?

Christine: I studied to be a high school teacher and while I was doing my third internship, it kind of hit me: the way we are teaching is not in line with the way we learn best. I started researching "alternative education,” and came across this quote by Alfred North Whitehead, which has been an inspiration since:

“The mind is never passive: it is a perpetual activity, delicate, receptive, responsive to stimulus. You cannot postpone its life until you have sharpened it.” (Whitehead, 1929:17-18)

My studies on alternative and informal learning at the Harvard Graduate School of Education lead me to become a podcast producer for New York-based Learning Matters, where I began exploring challenges in American education. This was back in 2008, a year where Twitter and Facebook were gaining momentum. I was seeing more and more of my friends using social media to send out requests for guidance in learning something new: "Would someone have tips for me in running my first marathon? I’ll buy the coffee (or smoothie)."

The seed for what became E-180 was planted in my mind.

Kara: You’re a woman running a global tech company in a traditionally male dominated industry. What are some lessons you’ve learned?

Christine: In my experience, I've seen a lot of people with great intentions, who are simply not aware of their own preconceptions.

Here’s an example. I'm helping organize the Technovation Challenge in Montreal (a global competition of girls building mobile apps to solve a problem in their communities) and we had an outstanding workshop presenter discuss revenue models with our participants. The problem-- all his slides showcased young white males as startup founders. He didn't decide: "Hmmm. I will just highlight young white males as startup founders because I believe women can't be founders." He just didn't realize that we have to be intentional about offering these young women models of success in the tech industry. And the girls let him know!

Another very interesting experience was as a pregnant CEO. People (especially strangers) just felt comfortable providing unsolicited predictions about my future and desires as a mother: "Oh yeah, that's what you say now.... But wait until she comes: you won't want to leave the house. We'll see then how you'll feel about what seems so important to you right now... (aka My Business)." "She'll depend on you and you think you'll be comfortable just leaving her behind?!" "You'll be just so tired: just allow yourself to do what is really important to you... (aka definitely not growing a business while raising a child).”

The bottom line is: stay inspired and do it your way. I'm trying to be a present mother, a strong woman, a compassionate person and a thriving entrepreneur: I need amazing women and men around me to make it happen.

Kara: What are one-on-ones or braindates?

Christine: A braindate or one-on-one, is a face-to-face knowledge-sharing meet up. It's intentional networking, where you can learn something new from someone who has been there before.

We've seen that our approach really transforms conferences into peer-learning hubs, where participants are actively connecting and learning from the outstanding minds around them.

Kara: I heard that you have grown your business largely through braindates—in fact we hired you for our conferences based on a braindate we had with you. What advice or tips would you give to our Women's Leadership Summit participants as they think about using braindates as a business development tool?

Christine: Partnerships work best with people we can learn from and who also believe in excellence. When you look through the list of fellow WLS participants, try searching through offers and requests to see who sparks your interest. Put out your own offer to share expertise, or make a request for something you’d love to learn.

Then, when you go to the “meet up,” be yourself and enjoy getting to know someone. A meaningful, authentic conversation gives you a better foundation in the quick chat because you are not trying to sell yourself; you are simply building a relationship with another great person you can stay connected with even beyond WLS.

Kara: Thanks Christine.