Futurist Crystal Washington On The Power And 'Potholes' of Technology

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Crystal Washington knew the value of social media for corporate America early on.  But when she approached her boss about utilizing it, he said to her, “You’re cute and you make us a s***load of money. Stick to what you know.”

She didn’t. And six months later she launched her own digital marketing firm.

Despite her former boss’s remark, Crystal followed her instinct and began working with small mom-and-pop companies.

She recognized that social media allowed businesses, for the first time in history, to have a brand conversation directly with the consumer.

Crystal showed these companies how to utilize social media to promote their businesses. Soon, larger companies began reaching out, and as her business grew, people began asking her to speak at meetings and events.

Today, she is a marketing strategist, futurist, author and keynote speaker. She has worked with companies such as Google, GE and British Airways, as well as with businesses in the energy sector, and she will be a keynote speaker at our GRIT Awards celebration on Oct. 3. (you can attend in person or watch live !)

Given her broad range of experience, Crystal brings a unique perspective to the industry, and she sees enormous potential in the future of technology and energy.

Social media tools create more transparency at companies and can cause them to rightfully rethink women and minorities in the industry. Movements like #MeToo are making people second guess their actions,” she says.

The hope is all of that is leading us toward a more inclusive — and productive — culture.

And how effective we are in reaching that goal hinges on GRIT (growth, resilience, innovation, and transition), which Crystal likens to a game of Super Mario Bros.

“It’s having the vision and the tenacity to carry out the work needed to bring a goal into reality no matter what is thrown your way,” she explains. “Super Mario has a goal. He’s trying to get somewhere, and no matter what happens, he keeps pointing in that direction. That’s grit.”

As a futurist, Crystal’s favorite word in the acronym GRIT is innovation. Innovation will impact energy, she says. It already has with companies like Pink Petro, which is pushing women in energy forward.

But with innovation comes new challenges. Take for example, artificial intelligence.

“AI has been proven to carry bias. Looking at HR functions turning to AI, machine-learning algorithms pick up the bias of the person entering the data. For example, at some companies when AI sees women or female while reading resumes, it automatically loops them in with softer jobs, while it associates men with leadership skills,” she said.

While more women in programming will help, the impact won’t be seen for at least another five years.

Crystal’s advice to women in the energy industry is to “leverage technology yet be watchful of the potholes to make sure that we are not falling in them.”

Another challenge when it comes to innovation is the shift toward transparency as the new normal. Social media plays a huge role in that, and Crystal says energy companies can leverage those platforms to tell their stories and spread their message. It’s all about embracing the possibilities.

And that’s where the real excitement lies for women in energy moving forward. Crystal says now is a key growth period. More corporations are intentionally extending offers to women. At the same time, as with any paradigm shift, there will always be those who fight it. And the energy industry is no exception.

“Women do face challenges,” she said. “But I believe that using strategic actions rather than emotions will help women tactically bypass those who resist change.”

She’s also a big believer in the power of saying “no.”

“Women are socialized to say yes because we are nice. We are afraid to say no,” she explains

But saying “no” helps to draw boundaries, and it keeps you from becoming sidetracked. And if we’re going to move forward, we’ve got to stay focused on the path ahead.

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