I asked a man worth $1billion for a favour and he said yes

Edwina Munns once asked a billionaire for a favour. Photo: Supplied

Yahoo Lifestyle Australia’s new columnist Edwina Munns is an advocate for working mothers. She has navigated the Weapons of Mass Destruction Branch of the United Nations, uprooted her family to deep rural France, and tried to learn Mandarin three times. Today, she’s probably doing two loads of laundry and wondering if beans on toast is a nutritionally sound dinner. You can follow her over at Edwina Munns.

Last year I emailed Ryan Smith, the CEO and cofounder of tech unicorn Qualtrics. I’d been up in the middle of the night, feeding my three-month-old, and was craving just the tiniest bit of balance in my deliciously newborn world.

Qualtrics is the world’s leading provider in measuring experience management. And every year they host an insanely exciting conference in Salt Lake City, with keynote speakers including President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Sir Richard Branson.

Ryan speaking at a web summit in 2005. Photo: Getty

I told Ryan it was a dream of mine to one day travel to the States and attend X4, however given my life stage (second round of maternity leave) it would be years before I could afford such an investment into my own career. I shared my thoughts around the importance of women staying connected and continuing to learn during this time in their lives – and said that X4 was the perfect example of such a career-building event. I asked him if he’d ever considered sponsoring a woman on maternity leave to come along.

Then I googled ‘what is Ryan Smith CEO Qualtrics email address’ and hit send. Put the baby back in his cot and snuck in another three hours sleep.

Weeks later I received a reply. ‘I love this. See you at X4.’ And then six months after that, I found myself in Utah. Pinching myself, still in disbelief my asking a favour had somehow become a reality.

What made me reach out to Ryan that night? It’s not like I email CEOs around the world with blue sky requests. The lesson I learned from this whirlwind adventure is two-fold. One – when someone gives you an opportunity, really take it. Express your gratitude by committing wholly to whatever it is they’ve offered you. Give it your all. Besides the obvious benefit of you reaping the reward, their kindness is repaid through your grit.

Two – every time someone asks a favour of you, if it’s within your power, do it. People request things of us on a daily basis, and even the smallest of acts can end up improving someone’s day, if not change their life.

Now that I’m on the other side of the conference I’ll be putting all of Oprah’s hot tips into practice. Sharing the technical learnings with those who are interested. And most importantly, actively looking for favours I can gift to people to keep paying it forward.

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