Meet Tech Lady Tiffany daSilva, founder of FlowJo Growth Hacking Box

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Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Tiffany! So tell us — how did first come up with FlowJo?

For the last ten years, every time I faced a marketing or growth problem, I found myself jumping online and searching Google for something. Even though I had a specific problem that needed to be solved, I would still get overwhelmed by all the tactics out there. And even if I did find a hack that I liked, I still walked away feeling completely unorganized and wasn’t sure how it fit in with the ultimate growth plan and customer journey.

I started asking around and realized every digital marketing person I knew was doing this, and we all felt like we were wasting our time with little reward. So I created a word document with all the growth hacks I had ever used with steps on how to do them thinking that may help.

To be honest, it felt like just another long blog post. It felt overwhelming and paralyzing, even though I was the one who wrote it.

So I thought back to what helped me be successful in high school and university — I was always creating flashcards to keep insights and facts organized, stay focused, and make it easy for me to use anywhere I was.

I thought that it might be easier if I tried that here. As soon as I created the index cards and started using them away from the computer, I found myself more relaxed and organized. It was nice to know that if I did all of the things in this box, I would see huge results with any company I worked with.

When I gave the box to a group of digital marketers, I noticed how they were experiencing the same thing. They shared cards with each other, debated how they would work in their company and started having those “lightbulb” moments saying things like “I can’t believe I haven’t done this yet!”

These cards were proving to be useful not just to me, but to other people as well. So I took the index cards, turned them into The Growth Hacking Box, added some folder separators inside the box with “To Do,” “Doing,” and “Done” to help stay organized — and Flowjo was born!

I know this a box aimed at resolving challenge, so what was the most unexpected challenge you personally faced during development and how did you break through?

You know what was the most surprising about creating this box? How many unexpected challenges I found along the way. From finding the right copyeditor who understood what I was trying to do, to figuring out how to design the box, to understanding how Amazon fulfillment works — every little step brought along its own sets of challenges that required me to take a breath, sit back, and deal with each problem as they came.

When I look back at it now and see everything I did, I can’t help but feel so proud and that this project gave me the opportunity to learn so much about things I had never even heard about (Freights? Card Stock sizes? Shipping by Air/Ship? What!?)

Do you have a favorite section in the box? What is it and why?

My favorite section of the box is the THINK section because it gives you some really fun and interesting ways to discover new growth hacking ideas and team build at the same time.

One of these growth hacks is called “How to Lose a Client in 30 Days.” Instead on focusing so much on how to fix problems you’re having, you look at ways that you can make it worse. Do you want to gain 1,000 customers in 30 days? Great! But for this meeting you’re going to focus on how to lose 1,000 customers instead. To do this, you first ask your team to individually come up with ideas on their own and then write all the answers on the whiteboard. When they reconvene, discuss why each idea would lose customers and then come up with the opposite of that solution. You will usually find 1–2 things to help gain customers you would have never thought of because you were so stuck. Another reason I like this is because it allows even the quietest members of your group to have their voice heard. Since you’re asking everyone to brainstorm in the beginning and you write down everyone’s answers on the board, you don’t run the risk of only looking at the ideas of the loudest members of the group.

Tech Lady Janine Harper on putting WiFi kiosks all over NYC

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Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Janine! Can you tell us about your role as a support engineer and what you did before this?

LinkNYC is a network of Wi-Fi kiosks that are taking the place of phone booths in NYC. Every day, I am processing machine data and feedback from the public about our kiosks to spot trends and put out fires. Before I was pursuing a career in tech, I was a producer for Japanese TV news.

What’s been the most exciting part of the LinkNYC project for you and why?

I grew up in the Bronx, so having a role in changing the landscape of the city I love so much is not something I take lightly. We are working with a new product and rolling it out in one of the most amazing and famously vocal cities in the world. The most exciting part of the job is that there are new challenges every day and we never know what to expect. We are writing the manual as we go, so I am learning a lot.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to pivot their career into tech?

You can’t let anyone pigeonhole you or discount your past experiences. As a journalist, I used to stop people on the street all the time. This skill helped me when I went out with the UX team to talk to people in Washington Heights about our product. There are so many roles in tech so it is really important to get out, network, and find out where you could fit. My goal every day is simply to try to be a little better than the day before. Accept that it might be a slow process. You’re going to have to put in work, especially if you don’t look like you are supposed to be in tech.

Meet the Tech Lady who founded ClearHealthCosts

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Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Jeanne! Can you tell us what you do and how you came to launch ClearHealthCosts?

I’m the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. We’re a New York journalism startup bringing transparency to the healthcare marketplace by telling people what everything costs.

I founded the company after taking a buyout from The New York Timeswhere I was an editor and reporter for almost 25 years. A year after I left, I won $20,000 in a Shark Tank-type pitch contest in front of a jury of New York venture capitalists to start this company.

On our site and in partnership with other media organizations, we use shoe-leather journalism, data journalism, investigative reporting and crowdsourcing to help people navigate health care, and to be informed about — and have some agency over — their health costs.

We save people money — we saved one woman $3,786 the other day! — and relieve some of their anxiety.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in bringing transparency to health care costs?

The existing health care players don’t want transparency. They make money by keeping you in the dark.

The providers, insurers, Big Pharma, the middlemen, consultants, brokers, service providers, and so on all make money by hiding prices and by taking a dime or a dollar or a hundred dollars out of each transaction. It ultimately comes out of your pocket.

So the incumbents work hard to maintain opacity in prices, and they make money on that information asymmetry.

The Internet doesn’t like it when people lie and keep secrets, so we are using the tools of journalism and the Internet, and making transparency happen against strong opposition from those powerful incumbents.

Why is it important that ClearHeathCosts continues to grow over the next few years?

People should know what things cost in healthcare. For example, sometimes you can get a better price by paying cash instead of using your insurancecoverage.

We’ve learned that when people get educated about health costs, they think very differently about what they’re spending. Much of healthcare is “shoppable,” and we all have to start thinking about that whenever possible.

People may choose not to get a medication or a treatment if they think it will cost too much. We help by revealing those costs, so people don’t have to fear the “gotcha” bill or just delay or refuse treatment.

Often when people ask “how much?” they hear “We can’t tell you what it will cost,” “Did you ask your insurer?” or “Health care is just expensive, sorry!”

We’re here to help.

We should all of us ask these four questions — at the doctor’s office, at the hospital, at the pharmacy, and whenever possible:

  • How much will that cost and does that include every single associated charge?
  • How much will that cost me on my plan?
  • What’s the cash or self-pay price or are there same-day or prompt-pay discounts?
  • Can you please put that in writing for me? If not, take notes — name, phone number, date. That way, if you need to argue, you’ll have information.

Meet Tech Lady Akanksha Vyas, CoFounder of a startup that makes 3D-printed medical braces and prosthetics

Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Akanksha! Can you tell us about your company, Fited, and what you do there?

Our mission at Fited is to make the most accurate, custom-fit medical braces and prosthetics globally accessible. I lead the engineering and design initiatives at Fited. I started the company with Erdem Ay in 2016, and as of this summer, we are testing our braces with patients.

We are creating a coherent digital solution for diagnosis, prescription, design, and manufacturing of these medical devices, and our first product is a Scoliosis brace. Basically, we are teaching computers to replicate the skills of the craftsmen who make these medical devices today, to ensure that the most accurate treatment is accessible anywhere in the world. 3D printing gives us the ability to create new designs that are more comfortable and just pretty.

We want to ensure that nobody has to experience the messy and traumatic plaster casting process used today. Not to mention the bulky and uncomfortable medical devices that would prevent anyone from living a normal life. We are building an app for early symptom screening and artificially intelligent 3D design (CAD) software. With 4 photos and an x-ray, we make accurate 3D printed Scoliosis brace unique to each patient and their medical condition.

Over the last year, I have built the core software platform at Fited. More recently, I have been collaborating with our designer, Michal, and the doctors on our medical board to create the 3D design definition for our medically corrective Scoliosis brace within our software. Over the last two years, I have learned 4 new programming languages, 3 new CAD tools, a host of learning techniques, and more than I ever thought I’d know about the spine. It is a whirlwind of an experience and I love it!

3D printing is such a broad space — what inspired you to specifically move into medical side of 3D printing?

It was quite an accident actually. I stumbled upon this space because I have a background in CAD software and computational design. I actually started my career as an intern at Autodesk Research. In 2012, I started working at a medical 3D printing company in New York City. I had (of course) heard and read a lot about 3D printing, but this was the first time I was truly exposed to what this technology was capable of.

From a technical perspective, 3D printing brings three main promises — mass-customization, new designs that are not possible with traditional manufacturing, and the ability to manufacture in new materials. The first two aspects of this really excite me, and both mass-customization and these new design techniques have tremendous applications in the medical space. These are the challenges that keep me awake at night. And honestly, the potential of a globally accessible treatment solution is huge driving force for me.

Where and how do you see Fited and this particular technology expanding in the future?

Before the industrial revolution, everything was custom. As a society, we realized that machines can do the same work faster and cheaper. The problem was that nothing was custom anymore, and the industry that suffered the most was medical devices. If clothes don’t fit you properly, you don’t look great. If a prosthetic or a medical device doesn’t fit you properly, it can significantly affect your anatomy.

Today, we are amidst a different revolution. We have the technology to teach machines how to create custom products — and that is exactly what we are doing at Fited. We are teaching machines to make products that uniquely fit you. And we believe that our technology will have applications way beyond medical devices, from fashion and automotive, to sports and many other industries.

Meet Tech Lady Bethy Diakabana, the CS student who created a hands-free GPS jacket

Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Bethy! Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you’re working on?

Hi! I’m a fourth year computer science student at Wentworth Institute of Technology. I have a passion for emerging technologies pertaining to human computer interaction, machine learning, and wearables. I’m currently working on a couple of projects. One is the Companion Coat, a hands-free GPS jacket and it just received a provisional patent and trademark, as well as Companion Clothing for future navigation wearables. Along with that I’m working on an affordable, artificial intelligence platform that diagnoses Malaria in developing countries. If this algorithm is incorporated in routine tests, the presence of malarial parasite can be detected without the risk of human error or the expenses of robust medical equipment. It was recently recognized by the National Center for Women and Information Technology, and is scheduled for clinical trials in Congo in the fall.

Where did you get the inspiration for your Companion Coat and how did it initially come to life?

It all started during the winter of my senior year. I would commute to school by taking the bus to the train station, and then taking the train to campus. I live in a wooded area where there weren’t many lights, and I would have to walk about a quarter mile to get to the bus stop. During that time I had to switch buses, and I didn’t know how to get to the new bus stop. I had to constantly look at my phone while I was walking. I try to avoid using my phone in areas that are dark, as I’ve heard stories from friends where they have gotten mugged while using their phone.

While I was thinking about solutions, like reaching out to my legislators about street lighting, I also came across a cool photo of a woman with electroluminescent wire on her winter coat. She commented that walking around with onboard lights helped her feel safe at night. Originally I wanted to mod my coat with EL wires or tape as well, but it was expensive, and I wouldn’t have much control over the brightness.

I had leftover sewable LEDs from an older project that I thought about using instead. With those, I could control the brightness to save battery, and I could control the colors with the right tech.

I wondered if it was possible to turn this into a navigation wearable, where people could use the LEDs to gauge their distance, so I decided to mod my own jacket with the leftover LEDs I had, along with 3D printed enclosures to house them.

The first prototype was born, and was in demand by lots of students, especially women students who sometimes didn’t feel safe using their cellphones or Apple watches to navigate Boston either. From there, I knew this had to be a marketable product.

The implications for this project are huge. How do you hope to utilize this technology and this project in the future?

I hope to release a new, unisex design so that everyone feels entitled to this kind of tech. I modified the design from the original post, so that the LEDs are as subtle as possible, but still noticeable in case of situations of distress. There are wearables that do light up already, but none that take safety into account, especially for women who are more at risk. With this technology, I hope to expand this to pins or wristbands — any way that this technology can be affordable and used by many people as possible. My team has a few potential investors lined up, and are currently considering manufacturers.

Hueman Co-founder & CEO Camille Laurente On Creating Safe Spaces Online

Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Camille! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to found Hueman?

I founded Hueman last year when my social media channels became extremely toxic during election season in the U.S. and in the Philippines (where I’m originally from). My social feed was inundated with hate speech and even violent threats against people I knew. It became so difficult to interact with others on positive and inspiring posts. This went on for months.

I felt trapped and couldn’t really find a safe space that solely focused on celebrating positive moments in everyday life. That’s when the idea for the Hueman came to be. Our team has been working hard to develop the first version of our app, which we’re launching soon.

Apart from leading Hueman, I also contribute to HuffPost and Elite Daily about navigating startup life. Before moving to New York City to pursue my post-graduate degree at Columbia University, I was a corporate lawyer at Baker McKenzie, where I helped set up multinational tech companies in the Philippines.

Protecting users against hate speech is a huge topic right now in social media. How will you use Hueman to combat this and provide a safe space for users to enjoy themselves?

By joining Hueman, our users commit to helping us bring out the best in people when they interact with each other on social media. Our platform has zero tolerance for online abuse.

We’re protecting users against hate speech through our flagging function and our hues feed.

  • Flagging: Hueman counts on the community itself (not an external group of people) to moderate content. Every post or comment has a flag underneath it that users can click whenever they see anything abusive or hateful. When the number of flags reaches a very low threshold, the flagged post or comment will be automatically removed. To prevent anyone from misusing or abusing the flag button, the threshold increases as a post or comment receives more likes. Hueman will ban a user from the app for 30 days if three of his or her posts/comments have been removed through the flagging system.
  • Huesfeed: Users can only share thoughts or images that relate to any of the topics we’ve curated. We picked topics we believe bring people together such as food, travel, love and relationships, health and fitness, daily hustle at work or school, and any random thing that turns a person’s day around. We deliberately omitted divisive topics that can incite nasty behavior online.

If you could offer one tip to those Tech Ladies who want to bring a bit of positivity to their current social networks, what would it be and why?

For the Tech Ladies who are hustling and are maybe overwhelmed with the challenges of pursuing their passion, remember that there must be at least one thing or incident that lifted your mood throughout your day or week. Make sure to capture and share that moment. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big or small win; it can potentially encourage, inspire, or motivate someone in your community. Use uplifting and cheerful language, and help others visualize it with an image.

Meet Jessica Joseph, Senior Digital Strategist of Essence Digital and part-time teacher

Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Jessica! You’re both a senior digital strategist and a teacher at Miami Ad School — can you tell us a little about your roles and your day to day?

So, I’d actually say that I’m more of a strategy generalist. While my current role at Essence Digital is set in the digital realm (primarily on the Google account), much of the work I do ventures outside of that. My main agenda as a strategist is to be the voice of the consumer; understanding their innate behaviors, their desires, what they love, what they hate and applying that to my client’s goals. Once I understand that at the core, I can add a lens of digital media and how they behave in that environment so we can reach them in ways that will resonate with them. At this point, all of us in the modernized world are digital to some extent and the lines between traditional media and digital media are almost entirely blurred. I get to blur a lot of those lines in the other parts of my day where I come up with interesting partnership ideas for our campaigns, both online and offline. As for my moonlighting gig at Miami Ad School, I teach budding art directors, copywriters and account planners on the skill of using strategic thinking to fuel great ideas and campaigns. I only teach once a week and sometimes host office hours to help students along with their major projects. It really forces me to manage my time well so that I don’t get burned out.

How has teaching influenced your professional career?

I must say it’s been the most rewarding and validating experience for me to date; it’s definitely quelled much of the imposter syndrome I struggled with for a while. Having a group of people (small and large) that depend on you to help them build towards a skill or career just validates my own knowledge and what I do each day. The advertising life can stressful because you’re in the business of customer/client service and selling ideas, and everyone around you is trying to be there very best if not the best. So, even when someone tells me I’m doing a great job, being an overachiever, I always think I could be better. Teaching a class, giving my students feedback and seeing them make progress, incorporating what I’ve taught them really gives me the confidence boost to believe in myself, that I know what I’m doing. I go to work each day like, “yeah, I know my s***!” Beyond the validation, the connection that I make with the students — most of whom are my peers — is the biggest benefit. My goal is always to make a positive impact in someone else’s life. Often the most impact comes from the conversations I have with my students after class; they look to me for guidance and advice on their career paths or their progress. It’s such an incredible feeling!

Do you have any advice for ladies considering teaching, whether just moonlighting or moving into something more full time?

If you have a skill, you should pass it on and there are opportunities out there that will compensate you to do it! Prior to joining Miami Ad School, I was teaching my own strategic marketing classes online and it was difficult juggling that and a full-time job. My advice for anyone interesting in teaching is this:

  1. If you don’t know what you would teach, look at what career schools or colleges offer in their curriculums around your field of expertise. When you find something you like, reach out to them, chances are they could use someone to teach part-time or have workshops they need instructors for.
  2. If you already have your own content that you want to teach but don’t want to go full-time yet, look into hosting courses on sites like Skillshare.

At some point, in the next few years, I’d like to teach full-time. Having the experience of teaching for an institution allowed me to better handle different classroom dynamics, gain skills to keep students engaged and ultimately, helps me build up a reservoir of content that I can tap into when I decide to go full-time. I highly suggest going that route first before you do it on your own, especially if you still need to keep a day job. There’s a quote that says, “those who can, teach,” and I truly believe that. The ladies I’m surrounded by in this organization are some of the brightest and most talented and there are people out there who want to learn from more women like us.

Cat Perez, Co-founder & Chief Product Officer at HealthSherpa, Explains Why Prioritizing Diversity & Inclusion is Good for Business

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Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Cat! Can you tell us about your role at HealthSherpa and what you’re currently working on?
 
Sure! I’m the Co-founder and Chief Product Officer at HealthSherpa, a technology platform and team of people helping individuals find, enroll in, and use their health coverage. I also lead up Diversity and Inclusion initiatives and manage a lot of the growth and development infrastructure for our team. Additionally, I oversee the entire support experience, working very closely with the Director of Support and their team.
 
Right now, I’m working on a variety of projects. From a product perspective, we are introducing other types of coverage into the menu, starting with stand alone dental plans that can also be subsidized under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As the landscape shifts based on the government’s plans to modify health care reform, we will continue to be a resource for individuals in this country who are at risk and have many questions around their health coverage. Additionally, we are gearing up to work with Project Include to up our game on Diversity and Inclusion efforts here at HealthSherpa.
 
The intersection of healthcare and tech is particularly unique, as many people view the former as bureaucratic and difficult to navigate. How have you developed HealthSherpa to not only be accessible but modern in its approach to healthcare discovery?
 
Accessibility is one of our core brand values. In serving a primarily low-income population, our mission is to reach these people and give them access to an empathetic experience not just within a self-serving product but also when they call in.
 
This means putting a ton of thoughtfulness into who we bring on as consumer advocates and how they help these people. The majority of our advocates come from non-profit, social work backgrounds and have deep connections and commitment to community, which translates well in the world of marketplace coverage.
 
Beyond support, we spend a lot of time creating additional resources and tools for those who fall into different levels of eligibility, sometimes no eligibility at all. This looks like generating and sharing lists of free or sliding-scale clinics in their area, pointing LGBTQIA individuals to provider tools that can help them seek out a safe patient-to-provider experience, and more.
 
As a big advocate for diversity in tech, how do you balance not only leading product at such an important company but also making time for advocacy and activism? 
 
I will be honest, it is not easy. When you’re a team of 20 and in such a volatile space as we are, there is a constant backlog of items to get to, fires to put out, closed deals to prep for, and a consistent lack of capacity across the board.
 
I would say about 25% of my time is spent on Diversity and Inclusion and People Ops work for our team here at HealthSherpa. For me, it comes down to the value of prioritizing this work. There are 2 major reasons I make the time:

  1. I’ve had my fair share of toxic tech experiences that have certainly threatened my identity and impacted my work. These experiences have driven me to do the work that I do today, not just for myself, but for others who are discriminated against or marginalized in the workplace.
  2. I mentioned above that our market is primarily low-income (people who qualify for subsidies under the ACA based on factors like income and household size) of which 55% are communities of color. When we are hiring, it’s key that our team can not only reach those communities, but we speak the same languages and have a real, genuine connection. A very specific example of this was one cis-white individual who learned Spanish in school, and ran a webinar for Spanish speaking users. After the webinar, we received a series of complaints from the participants because it was clear a cis-white individual struggling through a Spanish demo was unsettling, to say the least. We likely lost some users that day because of that experience.

To summarize, I’m highly motivated to make the time to do this work. When you’re not checking yourself at the door, you do your best work.
 
And when your team reflects your target audience, you’re likely to have success. We’ve seen our efforts positively impact NPS scores and even our bottom line by ~80%. However, the goal is to bring on a full time Diversity and Inclusion leader when we hit a specific growth metric at HealthSherpa. Until then, we will continue to prioritize this work.

Arthur Co-founder Leigh Sevin on Starting a Business (+ the 3 Essential Wardrobe Pieces You Need)

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Interview by Breanne Thomas

Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you came to found Arthur?

There was always a part of me that wanted to run my own company, even before I knew what type of company or what industry. While I was an American Studies major at Georgetown, I dedicated all my extracurricular time to learning about business and trying to figure out what I wanted professionally.

My foray into startups came when I had a summer internship with Levo (then the Levo League) working under the CEO Caroline Ghosn. That internship put me in the mindset to pursue the entrepreneurial life after college, which is why I applied to Venture for America.

As a VFA fellow, I worked for two years launching Zeel Massage On Demandin South Florida. I quickly began to see many of my peers found their own companies and I realized there really was nothing holding me back.

An early idea for a personal wishlist platform brought my co-founder Jinesh and I together in late 2015. Between then and launching Arthur, we played with countless ideas, but always with the goal of finding a better way to navigate the e-commerce space. Thanks to VFA’s accelerator in Philadelphia, we were able to dedicate ourselves to Arthur full-time this past summer and develop an MVP. Now we’re serving clients nationally, providing them with a quick and easy way to find the best options out there by pairing them with stylists.

What’s been the most surprising thing about building a company around personal shopping?
The most surprising thing about personal shopping is how much the real value comes from styling; not just helping our clients find great individual pieces but making sure they have access to the right complements and the right advice around how to match everything.

When we were getting started, we figured we’d follow the traditional model of breaking our recommendations down by product types. We offered our clients collections of pants, shirts, and dresses, etc. However, immediately we heard that what our clients actually struggled with (and where we could be most helpful) was not finding pieces but understanding what to pair them with. Thanks to that feedback, we quickly moved to presenting everything in outfit format and making sure our stylists had an opportunity to provide tips and expertise along with each piece.

What are 3 pieces you think every professional woman needs in her wardrobe?

  • A well-tailored blazer — I know it’s cliche, but at the end of the day a blazer is incredibly versatile and functional. It can make the most casual outfit business casual and also offers a great way to transition from day to night.
  • A go-to LBD — It doesn’t even have to be black! To me the idea of the “little black dress” is just a single item you can throw on that you love. It’s timeless, fits you like a glove, and feels like an extension of your best self. The one reason I stress the dress is that it needs to be a “one piece” that is an outfit all on its own. My “LBD” is actually a navy blue jumpsuit — I’ve worn it to weddings, graduations, and even just a night out with flats when I had nothing else to wear.
  • A stylish watch — I’m a huge fan of watches. I think they’re the perfect combination of fashion and function, and work as great chic and feminine accessories in the most corporate of environments. Given that a watch is not something you need to change up constantly, it’s also a great piece to invest in since you’ll be wearing it all the time.
  • Some runners-up — The fit-everything work bag, comfortable pumps, and a statement pair of flats.

3 Questions with Aryel Cianflone, UX Researcher & Creator of Mixed Methods Podcast

Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Aryel! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?

Hi! For work, I manage a small team of user researchers at Domo, a business intelligence company aimed at being the control center for your business (it’s currently valued at $2B).

When I’m not at work, I love spending time outside! Summer is my favorite season because I can get out and go hiking, climbing, camping, etc. I live in Utah right now, which is paradise for stuff like that.

What inspired you to launch Mixed Methods as a podcast?

I have been using different user research methods throughout my career, but about a year ago, I started working as a researcher for my team. The learning curve was pretty steep and I had a number of questions and no one to ask. The UX research community is pretty small where I live, so I started reaching out to people. I wanted to speed up my learning and get more involved with the professional community.

During his process, I realized that if these conversations were useful to me, they probably would be for others as well. So I bought a mic, learned how to do some audio editing, and started a podcast.

Who would be your dream guest and why?

My dream guest is changing all the time. For a while, it was Jake Knapp, but since he’s been on the show, I had the chance to rethink it. Right now, I’m really interested in speaking with Edward de Bono. He is the father of lateral thinking, which is a method of problem solving that is more creative/less direct than more traditional methods. His ideas have informed an entire generation of UX professionals, and I think it would be amazing to talk to him about his journey.

BroadMic Founder Sara Weinheimer Shares Advice for Pitching Angel Investors

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Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Sara! How did you initially develop the idea for BroadMic?

I hatched the idea for BroadMic in the spring of 2015. Listening to the coverage of Ellen Pao’s legal battle with her former employer (venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers) convinced me that the industry was desperately in need of change. Pao argued that the firm discriminated against her based on gender. She lost, but the trial opened up a Pandora’s box of questions when the ugly truth emerged about gender bias in Silicon Valley.

I’d been an angel investor in women-led, fast-growth tech startups for over a decade and had assumed somewhat naively that it wouldn’t be long before we caught up to men. The overwhelming evidence to the contrary that came out in the wake of the Ellen Pao case galvanized me to research what I identified as a gap in the marketplace: we needed a counter narrative to the media stereotype of the entrepreneur as a 20-something, white male, hoodie-wearing, unicorn-hunting Stanford engineer.

Launching BroadMic was an effort to use tech and media to interview accomplished women entrepreneurs, show that it can be done and is being done, and to scale their advice to hundreds of thousands of aspiring women entrepreneurs.

Who has been your favorite guest to host on BroadMic and why?

It’s impossible for me to list one favorite because they’re all such incredible women with very compelling entrepreneurial stories. However, I empathized with a few in particular because they were similar to my own career journey:

  • Janet Hanson, after a career on Wall St, became a digital social network pioneer as founder of 85Broads.
  • Kathryn Finney, an icon and pioneer in the style blogging community, sold her company and went on to found digitalundivided (DID), a social enterprise dedicated to the success of Black and Latina women tech founders.
  • Stephanie Newby, after a career in Wall St., founded the Golden Seeds angel network and is currently CEO of Crimson Hexagon, a social media analytics company.

Each of their stories resonate with me because:

  1. They have been founders and investors in other women founders.
  2. Their successful careers eventually brought them to a point where they could found mission-driven companies of their own.
  3. What they learned from being in the fire as founders informed them and made them better investors in women entrepreneurs.

Becoming a founder has been an incredibly rewarding and humbling experience, and made me a better angel investor. It’s easier to recognize the “red flags” in prospective founders I’m considering for investment because I’ve made so many of the same mistakes myself.

What advice do you have for female entrepreneurs looking to court angel investors?

It’s a really important question, and one I get asked a lot. Angel investors function in a fragmented marketplace that lacks an established protocol. How an entrepreneur approaches mentors and angel investors is not very well understood, and yet it’s such a critical stage of the process.

In the hierarchy of rules to observe, there are two that are super important: 1) recognize that it’s a long term process of building relationships, because angels are betting on the rider, not the horse; and 2) the reciprocity principle should govern one’s approach. Every contact, call, or meeting is an opportunity to learn more about the advisor or investor, how they came to be an angel investor, what motivates them, areas of expertise, and what they look for in the entrepreneurs in whom they invest. It will improve the quality of the dialogue immensely. So ask questions, don’t do all the talking.

Other common sense tips include:

  • Bring an attitude of gratitude and humility (even if you are the next big opportunity, don’t act like you’re doing angels a “favor” by letting them in on your startup idea).
  • Prepare for the meeting. Research the person with whom you schedule a call or meeting and come with specific asks. Preparation guarantees higher probability of potential positive outcomes.
  • Make a gesture of reciprocity, even if symbolic — and definitely pay for the coffee! If you act like it’s a one-way street (“What can you do for me?”), you may not get very far. Just as investors acquire reputations among early stage founders, so do founders acquire reputations among investors — for better or for worse.
  • Just because you obtain a meeting with an angel, do not assume that they owe you more time, more help, or access to their rolodex; all of that you have to earn.

Angel investing is a relationship business, and keeping this in mind as you court angel investors will make a huge difference in your success.

Meet 16-year-old Katie Mishra, CEO and founder of Code Circle

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Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Katie! How did you first get into computer science, and how did that lead to the creation of Code Circle?

I actually used to be solely focused on humanities. When I was 10, I won an honorable mention in a New York book pitching contest, and since then have published 3 books. Going into high school, I was set on becoming a professional writer.

At my school, each grade has an assigned color (the freshman are green, for example). Early in freshman year, I had nothing green to wear for spirit week, so I signed up for Gatorbotics (Castilleja’s first robotics team) simply to get their free, green t-shirt. I had no intention of actually participating in the team, but I felt bad, so I went to the season kickoff in January. Immediately the energy and community of robotics captivated me. The upper classmen devoted their time to teaching me how to code, and I got to work hands-on with the robot, both designing and building mechanisms. For days on end, I learned college level math, complex machines, nitty gritty circuits, and everything in between. During that six week season, the lab became my second home.

After cultivating my computer science knowledge in robotics, I taught Google’s CSFirst Curriculum at Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula (BGCP) last spring in an effort to share my own passion for programming. However, every week I would be disappointed when most of the 4th and 5th grade students begged to play video games instead. So that’s when I founded Code Circle to share my own passion for programming with others.

As a young CEO and entrepreneur, what has been your toughest challenge and how did you overcome it?

I thought that my biggest challenge would be my lack of experience, but it has actually been the opposite. Everyone I’ve reached out to has been extraordinarily welcoming and helpful, and I’ve secured amazing opportunities even at 16 years old. I can truthfully say that I’ve learned more about myself and real-world skills in the past three months of running Code Circle than I have in my entire life of schooling.

Rather, my biggest challenge has been time. I am a junior in high school with rigorous classes, standardized testing, social events, and numerous extracurriculars, all on top of Code Circle. My dad jokes that I’m the absent father of the house because I always have meetings, emails, and work to do. Occasionally, I’ve let Code Circle consume my life and I’ve always seen the negative effects of being a workaholic on my personal health and my relationships.

Therefore, I had to adopt many habits to prevent my business ventures from taking over my life. The first is maintaining a routine sleep schedule — going to bed no later than 11pm and waking up at around 6am. This allows me to be more alert during my working hours and ultimately more productive. I also find my productivity to be increased by exercise, so I fit workouts into my schedule. Finally, I love lists. I have them for everything: school, work, social plans, events — you name it. These lists allow me to organize my life and break down what I need to do, so I can finish tasks more efficiently and take smaller steps toward larger goals.

What do you hope to do once you graduate from high school?

Once I graduate from high school, I plan on attending college to obtain a double major in computer science and business, specifically entrepreneurship. Many entrepreneurs believe that college isn’t necessary because they think can learn all necessary skills in the real world. However, I believe to be a successful entrepreneur you also need a technical skillset, which in many cases can only be truly solidified through college.

If you look at the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, they fall into three categorical backgrounds: business, technology, or both. A handful of extraordinary executives fall into the first two categories, such as Jeff Bezos and Marissa Mayer. However, the majority of successful executives fall into the sweet spot of the third category, with both a business and technical background, including superstars such as Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai.

I want to double major to obtain both a technical and business skills that can be utilized in my future entrepreneurial ventures. In the coming years and in college, I aspire to launch a for-profit startup to solve a real world problem. I don’t plan on attending graduate school, but instead hope that by the time I graduate from college, my startups will have made a significant impact on the world.

3 Questions with Beauty-Tech Founder Keena Newell of Pigment File

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Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Keena! Can you tell us about what you do and how you came to create Pigment File?

Pigment File is a makeup database that allows you to search every foundation out there. My background is in digital advertising and e-commerce, and my first job after college was as the assistant in the advertising department at Barneys New York. I was the liaison between every brand (from cosmetics to men’s suits) and the in-house advertising team. It was creative, but I also managed hundreds of spreadsheets. The combo of skills that I developed there fueled my career — and ultimately — Pigment File.

When I relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina, the cosmetics buying experience was totally different. Stores in Raleigh only carry a tiny percentage of what I know is available. I had to get comfortable shopping online-only for certain categories, and even though I work in e-commerce, I found it tough to buy makeup without consulting several sites. I made a bunch of bad decisions and cringe at all the money I wasted.

Out of necessity, I started scraping websites to build a spreadsheet of every foundation and their attributes. It stripped away the marketing and gave me straight facts. The final sheet was massive and I wanted to turn it into something visually simple that could help everyone. I started building Pigment File in 2016 and published it in February 2017. It’s nearly 500 pages of products, organized by a custom taxonomy that visitors can search.

Beauty and tech rarely collide, but when they do, incredible things can happen like the development of Pigment File! Can you talk about the challenges of integrating beauty and tech and how you’ve dealt with that?

Beauty brands have to face the challenge of using tech to duplicate the entire in-store shopping experience, instead of just supplementing it. There should be easy ways to answer every question we have about a product without walking into a store. Building Pigment File as an outsider helped me realize that the industry still has a ways to go.

Pigment File, fingers crossed, will be a very transparent authority. Sometimes, to display one line of information, I had to aggregate 20 sources. The info should be much easier to find.

Right now Pigment File is your MVP — where do you hope to evolve it next?
Lots of content, more brands, and a really simple color indexing system. There’s actually a list of a dozen features I want to add, but those stand out. It’s ambitious and I’m excited to get to work.

Claire Suellentrop, Founder of Love Your Customers on how customer-first marketing can save your startup

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Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Claire! Can you tell us a little about what you do and how to came to work with SaaS companies?

Sure! I work with high-growth SaaS companies on their “product marketing” — an umbrella term for many efforts including customer research, product messaging and positioning, and more.

This work comes on the heels of my time as Director of Marketing at Calendly, where I wore all these hats at various stages — and fell completely in love with the customer-focused model of marketing.

Many SaaS companies focus all their marketing efforts on acquiring new customers, but when you consider the fact that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%, and that 80% of your company’s revenue will come from just 20% of your customers, it becomes clear that the real money comes from the people who already know about you — not strangers.

So I help companies tap into that group of people — the ones who are already on their website and in their app — to learn more about what’s really going on in their worlds, and maximize opportunities to convert those people into happy, long-term customers.

Plus, I share everything I know (and everything I’m learning) with the folks who subscribe to my Love Your Customers newsletter.

What is the #1 thing tech companies misunderstand or miss completely when it comes to their customers?

There are two huge things tech companies misunderstand when it comes to their customers:

#1. If the copy your visitors read before signing up is weak (e.g., on a landing page or across your website), you are definitely leaking money right now.

#2. As a founder or early-stage team member, it’s impossible to unlearn everything you already know about your product — you’re inherently biased. And building a signup or onboarding flow from that biased standpoint results in terrible adoption rates because your new users just don’t have all the information in their heads that you have in yours. So instead, they’ll struggle to use your product successfully.

If a company wants to see the 25–95% profit increase that comes from higher retention rates, it’s crucial to get out of your own company’s bubble and experience firsthand what your customers are actually doing.

That’s why I’m such a cheerleader for Jobs To Be Done customer interviews(which I conduct for companies, and which I teach companies how to conduct themselves long-term). And it’s why I believe every company selling products online needs a way to watch what people are doing on their website. FullStory is a great option for this.

Where do you hope to take Love Your Customers in 2017 and beyond?

In 2017, I want to work 1:1 with a bunch of high-growth SaaS companies to amp up their product marketing and get more value from the people who already know about them.

I also want to teach marketers and founders what Jobs To Be Done is all about, and how it can help them (which I’ll be doing in June at Unbounce’s Call To Action Conference).

Beyond that, I want Love Your Customers to play a major role in tech’s shift toward customer-focused marketing. It’s too early to know what that will look like yet — maybe it’ll become a series of workshops? A conference? A community? A library of “how to” resources? Who knows!

How Tech Lady Tiffany Taylor went from Art School Dropout to Product Designer at BloomNation

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Hi Tiffany! Can you tell us what you do and what you’re working on currently?

I work as a product designer for a startup in Santa Monica called BloomNation. We have a small team, so as the only product designer, I get to do a variety of design-related tasks from user experience to visual design. It’s also my first job working in Los Angeles, so after 7 years in San Francisco, it’s exciting to experience a different part of tech outside of Silicon Valley.

When I’m not working, I also enjoy studying Japanese, photography, travel, and playing with my pets (I have a dog and two guinea pigs).

What has been the toughest challenge you’ve faced working in tech and how have you dealt with it?

The toughest challenge I’ve faced is the lack of diversity in tech (especially in the design world), and the feelings of isolation and uncertainty that come with that. I am a self-taught designer with an unconventional education background and career path. I am also a Black woman. I didn’t finish college and I worked my way up to a designer position in my first startup after being hired as an office assistant.

Sometimes, I’ve felt that I’ve really had to prove that I deserve to be a part of the design world because I am not what a designer usually looks like, and my path to tech was not typical. When I looked at a companies during past job searches, no one else working there looked like me. That can be very disheartening.

So the way that I have dealt with it is to make sure that my work and portfolio speak for themselves. One way that I’ve done this is by finding design mentors and communities that can support my design goals while relating to my experiences. My mentors and support communities share insightful advice with me. In addition to general career and design advice, they also provide advice for coping with sexism, racism, classism, and discrimination — all things that can pop up while working in a world where you don’t match the mold.

An example of a supportive community is Tech Ladies! It’s been so helpful for me to have outlets where I can get career guidance and feel safe expressing my worries and concerns, so I really suggest anyone feeling isolated in tech to seek out a support system.

I read in another interview that you gave that you initially got into tech after designing websites and playing around with CSS and HTML when you were younger. What advice would you give others who are just starting out and aren’t sure how to turn their passions into a career?

My advice is to be flexible and to find side projects. While knowing HTML and CSS was extremely beneficial for me becoming a designer, it’s not how I actually got into tech.

At the time, I was an art school dropout who loved writing, drawing, and photography but couldn’t afford to stay in school. So after I was hired as an office assistant, I saw an opportunity to use a skill I had (HTML/CSS) to provide a service to my job (designing pages for projects the actual design team was too busy to take on) and leapt at that chance.

Take a look at the things you’re passionate about, as well as your natural strengths and skills. Once you understand what you are passionate about, be proactive and offer your services to help fulfill a need. It doesn’t matter if you’re unemployed, in school, or already working — you can find side projects anywhere.

Things like redesigning part of your company/school/friend’s website, researching how to help a friend’s personal business improve their SEO ranking, or learning how to fix a coding error on your site that no one else in your office or job has time to fix are all examples side projects that could help you start understanding what you enjoy, what you’re naturally good at, and what you don’t like.

Meet the Badass Neuroscientist/Designer who Created Beyond Curie

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Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Amanda! Can you tell us a little about your background and how you came to develop your project Beyond Curie?

I am a neuroscientist turned designer turned design strategist (clearly a big fan of the career pivot). I feel really fortunate to be part of the design strategy team at Capital One Labs, working to redefine the relationship between people and finances. We all want to make things that matter, so to be able to solve problems that impact people in one of the major spaces that can dramatically change society is very exciting.

Before design, my first passion was science. I actually got into neuroscience through dance and was a ballerina for many years, until I had a terrible skiing accident that tore everything out of my knee. After my surgery, I couldn’t believe how much my sense of balance and coordination had changed. So I studied neuroscience at Columbia to understand why I couldn’t move as gracefully as I used to.

I moved on to conducting Alzheimer’s research at Columbia Medical Center. While I was there, I had an epiphany. I realized that, as a scientist, I was ill-equipped at communicating the vital urgency of my work to the general public. So I decided to do something about it. I quit doing research, got my MFA, and last year I founded The Leading Strand, an organization that brings scientists and designers together to co-create experiences that translate scientific research in rigorous and visually compelling ways. In my TED talk I share that the key to understanding science is storytelling, which brings us to Beyond Curie.

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Like many people, I was feeling pretty upset after the election, and thinking a lot about how I could get more involved. One of my friends who had worked on the Hillary campaign suggested I pick a cause I care deeply about and support it in a way only I could. With Beyond Curie, I want to share stories and visuals that celebrate the rich history of women kicking ass in STEM fields — to show that our world was built by brilliant women, not just men, from all backgrounds. I want to inspire the next generation of young women to go into STEM fields and to show them that there are heroines out there that they can look to and many of them.

Of the 32 women you feature, who is the most personally inspiring to you and why?
When I read about Rita Levi-Montalcini in the 4th grade for a book report, she definitely became one of my heroes. Her story is one of grit, tenacity, and brilliance. When Mussolini barred all non-Aryan citizens in Italy from academic and professional careers, she set up a makeshift laboratory in her bedroom and continued to do research. It was in these conditions that she discovered nerve growth factor and won the Nobel Prize for this landmark achievement in 1968. I always remember her story when I face hardship and disappointment, and it helps me bounce back, get creative, and keep going.

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If we’re talking about next-level badassery, I have to tell you about YouYou Tu. Before 2011, she was pretty much forgotten and unknown. She’s responsible for saving millions of lives with her discovery of artemisinin, a compound used to treat malaria that is isolated from the sweet wormwood plant. When others wanted to abandon the research, she found the key to isolating the compound from a millennium-old recipe. She also first tested the compound on herself! YouYou also has no postgraduate degree, no research experience abroad, and is not a member of any Chinese national academies. I love her bold, ‘all-in’ spirit and unconventional methods. Her story is such a great reminder that success doesn’t have to hinge on specific degrees and affiliations.

How can people support Beyond Curie and download your posters?
The best way to support Beyond Curie is to share the project. The world needs to know the names and stories of these amazing women! We can start to change the white male paradigm in STEM by increasing the visibility of these badass ladies. Anyone can download the March for Science posters here. The posters are also available on beyondcurie.com.

Meet the Tech Lady who launched a coworking space with on-site childcare

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Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Eva! Can you tell us what inspired you and the 13 other parents who launched Women’s Business Incubator (WBI)?

I knew I possessed valuable talents as a software engineer, and I always expected to be a full-time working parent. But like many mothers, my life turned upside down when my children were born. The only thing I knew for sure is that a 40-plus-hour corporate job was not working for me anymore.

I started a freelance software consulting business, and fell into a group of like-minded parents who were also looking for a more flexible work life without paying the financial and emotional toll of full-time childcare. One visionary member of our group had been trying to start a for-profit coworking space with on-site childcare, but the startup costs for a childcare business were prohibitive and did not offer a good return on investment. So together we pivoted, and created WBI as a non-profit organization with an expanded mission to help women in business and working families face some of their major challenges — including childcare, access to funding, mentorship, networking, and education.

We now operate a coworking space with a flexible, drop-in preschool in Seattle, along with monthly networking events and business workshops. Any parent can use our space: entrepreneurs, small business owners, freelancers, new parents gradually transitioning back into their full time jobs, or any parent wanting to send a few emails in peace.

What has been the most challenging part about forming as a non-profit tech company?

Fundraising! WBI’s success depends on being able to raise the funds it needs to operate, and being on a non-profit board means you’re constantly looking for funds.

As a previously introverted software engineer, finding ways to reach out to potential donors is a unique challenge for me. At first I was totally stymied by even having to explain the concept of coworking with on-site childcare and why it’s important. But realizing that people get it right away, especially parents, has given me the confidence to hone my pitch and to reach out to everyone I know!

Another fundraising challenge is reaching the right people at the right places. I believe there are corporations out there that want to be inclusive, support working families, and retain employees returning from parental leave; yet reaching the corporate decision-makers in charge of philanthropy presents a variety of challenges. I know a lot of corporate software engineers, but they are not often able to introduce me to the person at their corporation that would champion our cause. We’ve got a long way to go to spread the word, but the team and I are getting better at it every day.

In a dream scenario, where do you see the incubator in the next few years?

In the more practical near future, WBI will be self-sustaining through memberships, including hourly punch cards, monthly memberships, and employer-sponsored WBI memberships.

We’ll continue with events and workshops and we’ll connect small businesses with funding. The incubator will operate in a larger, dedicated space adapted to both business support and childcare. We’ll have a salaried executive director who manages the daily operations of the coworking space, and the licensed, on-site and drop-in childcare for infants through pre-kindergarten.

Ultimately, I want to see coworking and childcare become as common a childcare option as daycare centers and nannies. People will wonder how we ever got along without it. I want to see the WBI expand to multiple locations in multiple cities, partnering with existing coworking businesses, and inspiring other businesses and government to offer creative, flexible, and affordable options for working families.

How Meg Athavale, co-founder & CEO of Lumo Interactive, dropped out of high school and forged her own highly-successful career path

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Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Meg! How did you first enter the world of interactive design?

I entered the world of computer graphics almost by accident. I drew a lot of pictures as a kid, and I knew I was good at art. When I was in high school I started teaching myself traditional animation. I dropped out of high school in Grade 11, choosing to live on my own and work instead. Although I found odd jobs as a freelance artist, art is a pretty difficult career path and the traditional animation career landscape was moving into computer graphics. At the age of 19, I decided I needed to up my technology skills.

When Red River College in Winnipeg launched their Computer Animation Specialist program, I enrolled using a forged high school diploma (I have always been great at Photoshop). When I graduated, I spent a few years as a computer animator/compositor for a studio in Calgary. After a few years, I decided I wasn’t really that interested in linear storytelling, so I started designing small Flash games, and really enjoyed bringing characters to life through interactive media. This required me to learn to code, something I might not have otherwise learned.

I spent the early part of my career creating freelance digital media projects, VJing for a variety of bands, and working to develop and support a digital media literacy program for the Province of Manitoba. Eventually I wound up at a small interactive design firm and that’s where I met my co-founder Curtis Wachs. In our spare time, Curtis and I started developing what would eventually become www.lumoplay.com, an interactive display software platform designed to help any artist create an interactive display experience using readily available sensors.

Lumo Interactive has made so many engaging and unique displays over the years. If you had to pick a favorite project of yours, which would it be and why?

It’s really hard to pick a single project out of literally thousands. Lumoplay.com is my baby, though. The custom installations we’ve done for customers like McDonald’s and Google have all been uniquely challenging, and they’ve given everyone in our company a chance to learn how to do things like manage research and development projects, organize vendor relationships, and execute public events. But at the end of the day, the thing I’m most proud of is our platform. Knowing that we created something that thousands of people around the world are using to make interactive environments is deeply satisfying.

Do you have any advice for those Tech Ladies building companies outside of major cities on how they can improve their chances of getting funded?

I’ve approached dozens of investors in Canada, the United States, China, and most recently Russia. Aside from the obvious roadblocks around where the company is based (Winnipeg), we also face the statistical improbability of women-led companies being funded at all, and being greatly underfunded when they are.

My strategy has been to pursue funding that seems likely: I’m always open to conversations with investors, and I have a deck, a business canvas, and diligence materials on hand at all times. However, our first priority is growing organically. We’ve never depended on funding. Our company was launched with a few small business loans and a tiny bit of angel investment, and we worked our butts off to break even as quickly as possible. We’ve also done well with small loans and support from organizations like IRAP, SR&ED, and the Canadian Media Fund.

That said, my advice to any founder regarding funding is to be aware that fundraising is a full time job, and the outcome is very much outside your control (especially if you’re a female founder). While you’re fundraising, you won’t be doing any other job (like business growth or marketing) very well. If you have a team to focus on growth while you focus on fundraising, and you’re confident that your company will grow exponentially with funding, it’s probably worth the risk. If not, you might want to focus on the stuff you can do without funding.

Chatting about chat bots with Megan Berry, Head of Product at Octane AI

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Interview by Allison Grinberg-Funes

Hi Megan! You work at Octane AI, a great company in the artificial intelligence space. Can you tell us about what you do and why you became a Founding Member of Tech Ladies?

I joined Octane AI as Head of Product in November. Octane AI is a venture-backed startup that allows anyone to easily create a bot. More people use messaging apps than social media, so bots are a huge opportunity to engage with your customers and audience where they already are. I’m hugely excited to help build best practices in this new industry. I think in the next year or two we’ll see that bots became an essential part of a company’s marketing arsenal, just like newsletters.

I’ve been a member of Tech Ladies since last July and have gotten tremendous value out of the community! I’ve been working in startups since I graduated from Stanford in 2009 and I’ve also consistently had more male than female coworkers and male bosses. It’s nice to have a community of smart, talented women in tech as a go-to for moral support, advice, or simply just to feel part of a larger community. I became a founding member of Tech Ladies to further support this community that has helped me.

Chatbots are a hot topic. What are some key things we need to know about how this new technology will affect the tech industry?

I think the big change you’ll see this year is a shift from a pure technology conversation to a focus on how businesses can create engaging content and experiences for their audience on messaging apps. If your users are there (and they are), then companies should think about what presence they need on messaging channels. I think you’ll see the same shift that happened with Facebook — first people question if they need to be there and if there is ROI to this “new thing.” Then, as it becomes clear that the audience is there, the conversation shifts to how to be effective and the best strategies to succeed.

Bots are here to stay. It’s not a question of if businesses will use them, but about what bots will be most effective and engaging for their audience.

You head up the product team at Octane AI. What is the biggest challenge you face leading your team and what can other Tech Ladies working in product do to remain competitive?

I work with an incredibly talented, all-remote team. Everyone is a self-starter, very motivated, and excited about what we’re building together.

I focus on doing three things:

  1. Ruthlessly prioritize. Everyone is so excited and there are so many ideas floating around, it’s important the team is always clear on what will move the needle the most at any given time. There’s always more we want to do, but we only have so much time in the day.
  2. Make the “Why” clear. When you’re working with talented engineers and designers, the worst thing you can do is to make them feel like they’re working on tasks but don’t understand why they matter to the business. I make sure each ticket has a “Why” clearly in it. This provides two benefits — it allows engineers or designers to be a part of the creative process and come up with better ideas of how something could be done (i.e. if they know why we need something, they may have a better idea of how to do it then what I was thinking. I LOVE getting those ideas!) and it also helps clarify the value of the work they’re doing.
  3. Celebrate victories. Everyone works really hard, so I try to make sure I am celebrating successes. It is all too easy once something goes live to just quickly move on to the next important thing we need, but we also try to take a moment to give props to the person who worked on it. We use GrowthBot in Slack to help highlight these moments.

I’m constantly trying to get better at what I do and always try to be very open to feedback from everyone I work with. I think my biggest learning is that no one is perfect, so take all the help and advice you can get, wherever you can get it.

Also, remember to take care of yourself. As a product manager I think it’s super important to always be a motivated and positive force on the team, but you can only do that if you’re taking care of yourself. You’re much better off going for a 20 minute walk than getting on a call when you’re frustrated.

3 Questions with a Tech Lady: Cynthia Bell, Sales Operations Manager at Industry Dive

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Hi Cynthia! What are you working on these days?

A little bit of everything! For my day job, I’m constantly looking to improve my Salesforce skills. I’m currently learning Apex (which is an object-oriented programming language, a bit like Java) so that I can automate processes for my team. I’m also hoping to take and pass the Salesforce Admin exam in the spring.

Outside of work I’m teaching myself (slowwwly) a bit of HTML and CSS so that I can host my own website on Github Pages. That has been a ton of fun. I also just received a sponsorship to participate in Microsoft’s Codess and Microsoft Professional Program, which is a 6 month online course that teaches you the basics of data science.

Can you tell us about the Microsoft Codess sponsorship and how you found it on Tech Ladies?

Codess is Microsoft’s initiative to create a community for female coders and help promote diversity in the field of computer engineering. This specific sponsorship is focused on data science — a cohort of us will be going through the 6 month online program where we’ll learn the the basics of data science. We’ll also be paired with a mentor from Microsoft who will assist us with questions related to careers in data science.

I found the application for the sponsorship through the Tech Ladies Facebook group. I think I was just scrolling and reading posts while taking a break at work and I saw it posted as an #OFFER to apply. I’ve been thinking about taking a class to improve my data skills and this seemed to just fall in my lap! I took it as a sign and applied that evening. This is the great thing about being connected to a community of over 8,000+ awesome women — resources and opportunities are constantly presenting themselves.

What’s some career advice you would give to your younger self?

My first piece of advice would be “Take a deep breath, it’ll all work out.” I have gotten way too worked up over things that ultimately worked out. Worrying and stressing does nothing.

My second piece of advice is just because you’re not seeing progress/results right away doesn’t mean you’re not on the right track. The journey of getting from where you are to where you want to be is usually a long and winding one (reminds me of this image), and as long as you feel you’re moving slightly in the right direction then it’s usually fine. I was a fundraiser at a non-profit for 3 years prior to my journey into tech. It’s been 17 months and I’m now finally feeling like I have some clarity. Seventeen months is such a short period of time but when you’re caught up in the moment it’s easy to beat yourself up and feel like you’re doing nothing. When that happens, I recommend taking a deep breath. It’ll all work out.