I know. Pulled pork sandwiches and brisket sound southern, but they have a place, and plenty of fans in Chicago. If you have never tried brisket (minus the vegetarians and vegans), do yourself a favor and go get some. Chicago is a city of foodies and they are not disappointed, especially in the realm of BBQ. I recommend two places. The best place to get some good BBQ is located in Avondale. It is Pork Shoppe, which is known for beer, bourbon and BBQ. The meat is so tender and juicy and mixed with the tangy BBQ sauce, it really is one of the best sandwiches, nay, meals that I have ever had. Just get one sandwich and you might not be able to finish it.

My foodie evening began with a stop at Reeds Local to plan a party. Yelp does not lie. Reed’s Local has nearly five stars. If you see a red head, her name is Melissa and she is the co-owner and one amazing woman. Reed’s Local is a full-service bar. But there are so many good food spots nearby that the lack of food is unnoticed and even welcome when throwing parties. After having a drink there, I went to catch Bus 77 Belmont back to the east side of Chicago.

I was standing outside, and I smelt it. The BBQ. I looked beside me, and there it was—Pork Shoppe,conveniently located behind the bus stop, litterally a few steps away. I looked at Pork Shoppe and then swung my head in the opposite direction. There was no bus coming. The woman hugging herself next to me to keep warm said she had been waiting for a bit. It was confirmed, I had to go in. I went inside and basked in the welcoming warmth, following the sweet and savory smells. It took a good 15 minutes to prepare my pulled pork sandwich, so be willing to forgo the next bus if you take public transport. For me, my meal was bagged and ready to go at the same time the bus came.

The runner-up for best Chicago BBQ is Smoque BBQ. They are serious about BBQ. They have a manifesto. Smoque BBQ is in the Irving Park neighborhood right off of Pulaski. The second that you park, you can tell this place is casual. There are no waitors. You go to the counter to order, you fill up your cup at the soda fountain. Grab napkins because it’s about to get messy. BBQ is afterall all about the sauce. The brisket you are about to enjoy has been waiting for you for over 13 hours. I went here on a date, and I had never heard of brisket before going. So, for all of those on the same page, brisket can either be beef brisket or veal brisket. It is derived from the chest area, and because of the connective tissue, has to be properly prepared to reach true tenderness. People love this place. At times the restaurant forwent additional customers in the name of quality BBQ. So, dear foodie, I invite you to try what the Zagat, Chicago Reader, Gourmet, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and Chicagoist have all raved about—Smoque BBQ brisket.

Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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Ne-Yo ‘Non-Fiction’: The Private Concert at AT&T Michigan Avenue

The AT&T on Michigan Avenue did something remarkable and they did it well. One Friday night as my friends and I were waiting for a table at The Grand Lux Cafe, we wandered next door to AT&T to charge my phone. While we were there, they announced over the loud-speaker to come to the front to claim free Ne-Yo tickets. The solicitation was real and the journey to get them was not only achievable, but fun.

The AT&T employees handed us bright, orange ornaments and gave us 20 clues to solve for a scavenger hunt. We only had to solve four of them. Then,we had to take a picture with the ornament and the location and post it to Twitter with the hashtags: #spon, #magicalgifts and then, tag: @ATTMichiganAve. Our prize: two Ne-yo tickets per winner next Saturday night (December 6, 2014). We had to do this.

The AT&T Scavenger Hunt:

On a cold December day, my friend and I met at the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel, the first clue, and then mapped out our journey to the other three locations to end up at AT&T on Michigan Avenue to claim our tickets. From the first clue to the last, it took us 40 minutes.

First Clue: Navy Pier Ferris Wheel

Second Clue: Trump Tower

Third Clue: American Girl Place

Fourth Clue: Water Tower Place

If you missed the scavenger hunt, you could have still won tickets at the Magical Gifts event Friday morning before Saturday’s show. Of course, you could also win a Michigan Ave. shopping spree while you were there. Later, we saw the free tickets selling for $75 to $200 on Craigslist.

Ne-Yo ‘Non-Fiction’: The Private Concert:

Saturday was the big day for the private concert. We decided to bring friends to the show. We started the evening with dinner at Panera Bread, and then walked past the ice skating rink at Millennium Park and took pictures next to every Christmas tree on our way to the AT&T on Michigan Avenue, which is near the very end of the street.Ne-Yo 'Non-Fiction' Performance

There was a huge line and people were rocking dresses or keeping it cozy in jeans and jackets. The energy was amazing. About 150 fans showed their tickets and staked their table or gathered around the stage. I was at the table next to the VIP lounge and Ne-Yo walked right past me. This is when I discovered that Ne-Yo is short—stylish and talented, but short.

I was a few feet away from him as he waited to go on stage. He first did an interview with Leon Rogers from the radio station, WGC 107.5, as fans asked Ne-Yo questions via Google+. Then, he did a meet and greet in the VIP lounge. We sipped on our Cokes and danced to the DJ set. The momentum was building. It was nearly 9 pm and we had been there for about an hour.

IMAG8725[1]It was finally time for the performance. Wardrobe change. Ne-Yo walked past me again. As he waited to go on stage, he blew me a kiss and did a signature Ne-Yo dance move.

Ne-Yo can perform. He didn’t need any back up dancers. He had us all swaying our hands in the air to throwback songs like “Because of You”, and then dancing to songs from his upcoming album, Non-Fiction, which debuts this Tuesday, January 27, 2015. The set was about 45 minutes. It was a great way for Ne-Yo to resurface and it was an exciting Saturday night in the city.

AT&T Michigan Ave. hosted a lot of events in 2014, and they have done a great job with adding to festivities for Michigan Avenue shoppers and Chicagoans alike.

Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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“Doesn’t he look like Don Draper?”

“Yes, he does,” I replied.

And Your Name Is:

It’s six o’clock and while most of us are preparing dinner or finishing the last bit of work for the day, we are already eating and eager to start a new project. While we politely cut our Lou Malnati’s pizza (or not), there’s an uproar of conversations—all dimmed when the group leaders, Derek Eder and Christoper Whitaker approach the projector.

I’m in a room full of…well we shall see, shall we? Eder says we all have to say “hi”. So, like in middle school when you would go around the room, we all introduced ourselves—from the ambitious environmentalist concerned about recycling programs in residential buildings, the students learning to code, project managers, software developers, representation from the Mayor’s office, and the list goes on of brilliant, data-driven minds.

Opening Presentations: 1871

Open Gov Hack Night is an opportunity for coders, designers, strategists and anyone interested in civic projects and data to use their talents to solve issues through technology.

To start off the night, representation from the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team, including Paras Desai and Daniel Riff presented on tracking data and improving communication between six community service centers. You can view the full presentation here. One component they addressed was figuring out how to take fragmented data from different platforms and pull it to one platform.

Data: Oh, The Things You Can Collect:

Next were a few mini-presentations highlighting civic projects. One was Crime and Punishment presented by Whitaker. Another, by Tom Schenk, Chief of Analytics for the City of Chicago, who showed data collected from city water sensors that track the water temperature at various beaches. Here are the results. They have been tracking since Memorial Day this year. Eder also showed us data about a New York City’s taxi driver including routes and money made. To visualize the day in the life of a taxi driver, click here.

Civic Projects:

After the main presentation, everyone breaks off into groups according to areas of interest. Groups included: New Coders, Hack Night 101/Orientation, Education, City Data, Transportation and Environment.

I joined the environmental group. While we were all passionate about varied issues like water purity, we settled on bringing awareness to recycling programs in five or more multi-unit residential buildings in Chicago. Currently working in property management, this piqued my interest. Plus, one of my best friends from high school implemented a student-led recycling program at our school that I was proud to be apart of. We started with one question:

Who does not have recycling in their building?

All eight of our hands went up. One person said he had recycling in his building, but it was grossly inadequate. Bins were always overflowing. The group surmised that landlord’s don’t care about providing this service because of the expense, while the tenants don’t know that the law states landlords have to provide recycling to 5 or more multi-unit residential apartments. We decided to develop an app that would create awareness to residents about the lack of recycling in buildings. At the moment, we are still coming up with an ultimate goal for our application.

All in all, it feels good to take action about civic problems rather than simply talking about it.

Every Tuesday night, Open Gov Hack Night meets to work on issues in Chicago. The event is always free, just bring your passion and mind (and maybe your laptop).

Notes:

Event Location: Merchandise Mart, 1871 (222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza, 12th Floor, Chicago, IL)

Event Host: 1871, Open Gov Hack Night

Event Date and Time: Every Tuesday, 6-10 pm*

Discovered Through: Eventbrite

Bonus: Insight

*This post re-caps Tuesday, July 15, 2014 meeting.

Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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Confession: You have a limp handshake.

Connections are just as important as talent. I am looking at you, Rahm.

While the last networking event addressed confidence in our talent, Jen Lemerand, SheSays Chicago’s organizer, took the conversation to the next level—knowing the right people to show your talent to.

The sun is setting. It encompasses the bright, blue room we are in and stings my eyes as I divert them to the cozy patchwork of pink and orange ottomans before me.

I was just encouraged by the ladies to try a bao from Wow Bao. “A what?” Good-bye pizza and beer, it’s interesting food for interesting people. Accommodated by the worlds largest PR firm, Edelman, I would expect nothing less.

We went mic-less tonight. It was a close group of nearly forty of us. Two of the four panelists had already been hugged by Julie, the girl who created stickers to use as an ice-breaker.

The panel included: Senior Vice President, Health at Edelman, Erin Gardiner (@erinmgardiner), Director of Recruitment at Edelman, Travis Kessel (@traviskessel), Independent Communication Consultant, Barb Lack (@barb_lack), and CEO and Co-founder of Morsel, Kris Petersen (@krispetersen).

Networking: How To

The discussion began with the tacit question, “Where do I start?”

Nix the sales pitch for a moment. “Focus on being interested, not interesting,” Travis implored, “Go to events with the mindset of giving and not taking.”

We all have our reasons for networking. While easier to grow a pile of cards than a handful of solid connections,”there is a lot of value going deeper verses shallow,” Travis advised.

Barb chimed in, “I find people I won’t run into on a typical day to expand my circle of influence.”

Since we tend to congregate in groups based on our fields rather than going to the groups that need our skill sets, Jen noted, “If you are a freelancer, find people who are looking for your skill set.”

Then we got to the heart of the matter:

“Introverts, Extroverts, and The Socially Awkward”

One main goal of networking is to find new clients or land a job.

“How do you transition from one field to the next?”

“Reading articles and keeping current,” offered one audience member, “Techies love to talk about current events or the newest apps.”

Another suggestion was blogging about your passion or having something tangible to represent your aptitude. Side note: I always look back to the scene of “Rebound,” an awful romantic comedy with Catherine Zeta-Jones, where she pulls out binders full of sports statistics and projections she had tracked. She landed the job.

LinkedIn: Do you really know that person?

Then, we got entangled in LinkedIn. When to add someone. If we should add someone. How to grow our network.

Travis, the recruiter mind you, said that LinkedIn professional groups are one of the best places to network and meet people in your field.

Some people have rules including only adding someone if they get coffee first. Others look at the message you send with your request to join one another’s network, imploring, “So, tell me why you want to add me?”

Peronsonal Brand: Social Profile Judgement

People will look at your profile with the question in mind, “Are you someone I want to work with?” After all, we do spend a lot of time working. Are you going to be the person with the jokes, the news updates, or that favorites everyone’s comments? Twitter is telling, isn’t it?

Companies are looking for talent with the “right fit”. Travis added truth to the trend, “More important, you are not the right fit because of how you portrayed yourself on Twitter. How you manage your brand is important.”

“Be careful of the language that you use and how you write, just because you are in a casual environment, you still need to watch your professional image,” noted Barb.

Networking: It’s Not Storage

“Networking is a líveable thing.” You have to continue to grow and nurture your connections. As we all thought about the untouched pile of business cards shoved into some drawer, one guy asked,

“If you haven’t stayed in contact with them in awhile, is it socially awkward when you reach out again?”

The answer is that it doesn’t have to be. Be honest that you haven’t been in touch, but would like to. You can always drop the line, “Has it really been five years?” and add a status update.

One person sets reminders to send one note a LinkedIn contact each week to keep an active relationship.

Recruiter Advice Tangent

Travis was wonderfully candid throughout the night. As he and Erin had playful banter about cover letters. She likes to “weave her story.” He said the ten seconds or less he spends on your resume isn’t getting cover letter time (but sill have them), noting that “a hiring manager might spend more time [looking at it].”

As for your resume, Erin and Travis agreed that verbatim and examples are the best assets. State that you grew sales by x percent.

Note about notes: Handwritten notes still carry value. Travis shared, “I have saved all of the handwritten thank you notes. That’s my art [in his office].”

Networking: Who do I talk to?

“Reach out to the people you want to meet,” said Kris. “Most people give back in some form. At the end of the day, they are just people. Pick who you want to meet and do legwork.”

Kris did research on someone and found out that he wrested. So, he put the title in the email to him. I later received an email from a connection at SheSays about Cinderella moments, for instance, because I was wearing a yellow dress.

When you don’t fit with the big group, you can always make your own clique just like in high school. Erin shared that she was part of an organization where she connected with two other members. They met up and started their own dinner party group.

So you’ve made connections, now what?

This is the part where the label maker type and organizer can truly benefit.

One attendee has a yellow pocketbook with two sides, one for her business cards and one for others. At the end of the night she files the new cards based on industry.

Others write on the back of the card to remember why they liked someone.

For this event, I took the virtual business card route—Twitter. On the Eventbrite page, attendees could list their Twitter handle. So, I went down the list adding all of the attendees into a “SheSays” List. People will generally be intrigued by you or curious enough to check-out your page when you make the first move on social media.

My experiment seemed fruitful when a guy came up to me at the end of the night and asked, “Are you Rationalization?”

Limp Handshake

Ending the evening, Jen played a clip from Jerry Seinfeld’s show, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”. In the episode, “I’m Going to Change Your Life Forever,” with Sarah Silverman, we were all warned about the limp handshake. In true SheSays form, we were encouraged to shake hands with a few people and disclose if, in fact, they had one.

Attendees stayed well into the night practicing their new-found networking tips. Things got a lot less awkward as we all wine downed.

Notes

Event Location: Edelman (200 E Randolph St #63, Chicago, IL)

Event Host: SheSays Chicago

Event Date and Time: Wednesday, August 27, 2014, 6-9 pm

Discovered Through: Invite

Bonus:Looking down at Cloudgate (OMG their view), discovering baos from Wow Bao, and meeting The Boy Illinois, who just toured with Lupe Fiasco

Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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Did She Just Say She Wants to be a Bad Bitch When She Grows Up?

I am in a room full of color—summer reds, blues, pinks. This must be where the creatives hang out. There is 312 beer, wine, coke, and empanadas. Professional head shots are downstairs. Aurimas Adomavicious, CEO of DevBridge, the company sponsoring the event, is taking them. (Note: He is also the funny panelist for the night). He is also the guy who handed out beers two thirds in the middle of the discussion when we were deciding if we wanted to be the bad bitch at the office. (Must thank him for that). Welcome to SheSaysChicago.

Before the panel discussion began, I found a seat and talked to a few girls individually. The night was nicely broken into three parts: 1. Drink and chat. 2. Open panel discussion. 3. Meet the people who said something interesting in the past hour and a half.

The discussion was about confidence and women, which is fitting because SheSays’ goal is to help and empower women to get to the top and be successful in their careers.

Before the talk even began, the woman next to me disclosed, “I was about to turn around and leave.” She saw everyone in the room and was intimidated. I could relate. When I got in, I wanted to leave. Everyone was chatty, but in cliques, and I was Ms. Bright Blue Dress drinking a Coke for caffeine.

So, here we were about to listen to four successful individuals. The panel included: CEO of DevBridge, Aurimas Adomavicious (@needoptic), Interaction Designer at DevBridge, Alyssa Low (@alyssalowww), Group Creative Director at Digitas, Trina Uzee (@trinau), and Chief Strategist at Compass(x) Strategy, Nancy Goldstein (@NancyAGoldstein).

We were in for a treat because us women, who love to talk, got to. Trina put together topical slides and we all got to chime in with stories and questions. Slides that were inspired by Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In”. They included: “Confidence is not the same as arrogance,” “Are we posers,” and “This isn’t charity”.

We talked about salary. About the difference between being a man and a woman. About being authentic to ourselves. Nancy disclosed a great anecdote about working with a bunch of jerks. She mimicked them and found that she is not that person. She would rather do things with humility than bullying someone into work. “If you cannot be who you authentically are, then that’s a problem,” she said.

The discussion was better. Aurimas encouraged the audience to be able to justify why you are worth a certain amount. “Know your market value,” he said “The work you do has value.”

One audience member was told by a recruiter to go on two interviews a year to check-in on your skills and value and determine if they are where they should be to grow into the next position.

We ended the night (going a half hour over because girl’s do love to talk and the discussion was just that good) with power poses. Note: before doing anything we are intimidated by, we should go to the bathroom, smile in the mirror like an idiot and do a power pose according to the witty and candid, Trina and Aurimas.

The best perspective from the audience was “Creative professionals always think about what is missing. Then we turn that around to ourselves and only see what is missing.”

And about being the bad bitch – though some of us admire her, some despise her, we realized in the words of Trina, “That it’s much better to be highly respected and reliable. You don’t want to be the bitch.”

Notes:

Event Location: DevBridge (1659 W. Hubbard, Chicago, IL)

Event Host: SheSays Chicago

Event Date and Time: Wednesday, July 17, 2014, 6-9 pm

Discovered Through: Email Blast

Bonus: Women were able to get professional head shots (2 to be exact)

Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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