Five Questions For … WatchHerWork Founder and CEO Denise Hamilton

Houston—Technological innovation is sometimes rightly criticized for how it automates work, creating uncertain economic futures for many people.

Denise Hamilton has decided to focus on how, as she puts it, technology can instead “inject people” into processes, amplifying their efforts. That ethos underpins the work she’s done recently to help victims of Hurricane Harvey, for whom she helped create the my.haveyneeds.org website. That site is designed to connect those in need of assistance with those who can provide it.

That philosophy could also be applied to her startup, WatchHerWork, a website that features women offering testimonials of their experiences navigating a variety of workplace issues. It’s a way to help women expand their network by finding mentors they would not otherwise meet.

After a three-week hiatus due to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, we are resuming our regular Friday feature, “Five Questions For.” This week, the spotlight is on Hamilton, who speaks about making sure she’s not her startup’s weakest link, the three-fifths compromise, and being on the “Arsenio Hall” television show. Here is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.

Xconomy: Who do you admire and why?

Denise Hamilton: I really admire—this feels so cliché—Oprah Winfrey, in a couple of different ways. She’s kind of the unlikely hero. She didn’t look or sound the part of somebody who should have been successful in media—she was even fired early in her career. You can take strength in the idea that, if you’ve got a level of giftedness and you’re willing to share it with the world, and have the courage to extend yourself, the universe comes up to meet you. She’s just a gleaming beacon and example of that. And I would also extend that idea to the formulation of OWN [the Oprah Winfrey Network on cable television.] I remember how many people were saying, ‘This is going to fail. Who do you think you are? You, as a black woman, can’t start a TV network.’ The channel is thriving.

Whenever I get that question or energy from people, that’s the example I have in the back in my head. I’m Denise Hamilton and I can do whatever my giftedness allows me to.

X: What’s your biggest fear?

DH: This would have been a different answer last week. Right now, from a small business startup perspective, when you’re in a natural disaster like this, [you ask yourself], ‘How do you survive and get on the other side of this?’

My biggest fear is that I will be a cap on my business. I believe that an organization doesn’t grow past its leader so I’m constantly learning and growing. I don’t want to be the reason my business doesn’t succeed because I make decisions … Next Page »

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Angela Shah is the editor of Xconomy Texas. She can be reached at ashah@xconomy.com or (214) 793-5763. Follow @angelashah

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