Tia CEO and founder Carolyn Witte on using tech for reproductive health education

Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Carolyn! Can you tell us a little bit how and why you came to found Tia and your latest project The Vagina Benefits?

I started Tia in large part to solve my own frustrations with the healthcare system that I feel is not designed to serve women’s unique healthcare needs. It’s fragmented, highly transactional, and over-indexed on treatment vs. prevention and education. When you couple these pain points with the taboo nature of reproductive and sexual health, it’s no surprise that all too often, women are making decisions about their health from a place of fear, anxiety, shame or confusion instead of confidence.

At the highest level, Tia aims to reimagine reproductive health from the ground up with a big, bold, sex-positive brand that celebrates our right as women to our own bodies and own our choices.

As for the Vagina Benefits, the idea first came from seeing the sheer anxiety and confusion so many Tia users have about their basic healthcare, and specifically, the cost of care. In the 200,000 conversations we’ve had through the Tia women’s health advisor app we launched in June, we’ve seen firsthand that women all-too-often don’t go to the doctor because they don’t know what it will cost and fear not being able to afford it — even for IUDs and preventive health services like pap smears that are covered 100% by insurance plans.

When we learned that 1 in 5 millennial women are uninsured right now, and that uninsured women are less likely to get preventive health services like pap smears or STI tests, it clicked for us that we had to paint a picture about why women (or as we prefer to say, people with vaginas) have fundamentally different — and more frequent — healthcare needs than people who don’t and how insurance coverage is the key to getting better care. Failing to recognize this anatomical reality has real implications for women’s health and our wallets.

How did you and your team tackle the complexities of Vagina Benefits to develop a product that is both informative and easy to use?

We believe Tia’s “superpower” is making the complicated mess of healthcare less complicated. Whether that’s explaining what an abnormal pap smear really means, or what the Trump administration’s rollback of the federal birth control mandate actually means for the cost of your birth control, “playing translator” is what Tia is designed to do as a product, company, and brand.

Tactically speaking, our team divided and conquered on the research and design of the Vagina Benefits. With complex topics like healthcare, there’s constantly a tension between how detailed to go at the expense of simplicity. We find when we have one team in the nitty-gritty weeds and another thinking higher level about how the parts all fit together for the user, we strike the right balance.

While The Vagina Benefits’ most immediate use is during open enrollment, where do you hope to grow the project over the next few years?

While there is one time of year people can sign up for health insurance, the need to understand what your healthcare rights are and what healthcare costs you doesn’t go away. Outside of open enrollment, we hope women use The Vagina Benefits to learn what their healthcare rights are and get equipped to demand the care they deserve. More broadly speaking, we view the Vagina Benefits as the first of many efforts to spark a conversation about how insurance and healthcare must evolve to make the essential healthcare people with vaginas need more accessible.

Meet Anamita Guha, product manager for IBM Watson and an expert in all things chatbots

Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Anamita! Can you tell us a little bit about what you do and your new course for IBM?

At IBM Watson Developer Labs & AR/VR Labs, I am a product manager building tools for developers with a specific focus on conversational interfaces: chatbots, voicebots, IoT, and conversations in Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR/VR). I work with a team of product managers and engineers that are strategically creating the next generation of IBM products, platforms, and experiences that developers love. In my role, I recently helped launch IBM’s first Hero Journey module, Chatbots for Good: Introduction to empathetic chatbot. It’s a free cloud-based learning experience where anyone — even those with no prior bot development experience — can use Watson Conversation and Tone Analyzer services to design, test, and build a chatbot. My goal is to expose the course to as many individuals as possible, so that they develop a solid foundation to start building chatbots with Watson to help solve problems of the world.

We’re seeing a rise in chatbot creation right now, which is not without its challenges. For you, what makes a successful chatbot and what is the most important thing to keep in mind when developing one?

The best chatbots sound and read human. People still want human-to-human interaction, so the more you can make your chatbot engage in a conversation in a personalized way, the better. It is also important that the chatbot is created to understand its audience and how they speak, so it comes across as more natural.

For example, Georgia Tech’s teaching assistant chatbot, Jill Watson, built on IBM’s Watson Platform, learned from dozens of conversations with graduate students. With four semesters worth of data and 40,000 questions and answers as its backbone, the bot read forums and studied how the students used inside jokes and jargon in conversation. Eventually, the bot filtered these jokes into the conversation. By the end of the semester, students thought Jill Watson was an actual person, not a chatbot.

What piece of advice would you offer to women looking to start their STEM careers right now?

Just start! I would encourage all women to muster up the courage and take the initiative to learn more about a topic of interest through research and discussions with people in those areas. Finding a mentor or role model in your area(s) of exploration is also incredibly important. I’m a firm believer that “you can’t be what you can’t see” — so seek out someone you look up to and ask them questions about their journey. If you can’t find a role model in that field, then that should give you even more willpower to just start, so you can be that person for the next generation of girls.

Self-taught programmer and stay-at-home mom Naveera Ashraf on how to stay curious


Interview by Breanne Thomas

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

My name is Naveera and I am originally from Pakistan, now living in South Africa. I am a Muslim, stay-at-home mother, and we unschool. I created my web identity “The Niqabi Coder Mum” to refute certain stereotypes about stay-at-home mothers and people, especially women, in tech.

I am the owner of Creative Melon, a web and print design company in Johannesburg. I am also the owner/editor/writer at Shift Click educational technology magazine, a first-of-its-kind magazine targeted towards self-learners of all ages.

I have taught myself to program in Python and JavaScript. Currently, I am learning about fundamentals of computer science, programming in C language, digital forensics, and ethical hacking.

I have also learned Arabic on my own and currently teaching an Arabic class for ladies here in Johannesburg.

I am an avid vegetable gardener and I love reading, anything and everything. I also love to bake artisan breads. Fun Fact: I own a 4-year-old sourdough starter named Frothy the Warrior. Frothy because, well, it froths, and warrior because of the number of times it has vigorously revived from near death after I forgot to feed it 😊

What’s been your favorite project or endeavor you’ve worked on recently and why?

There are lots of projects I really enjoy. For example, I really enjoy writing content and designing for my magazine Shift Click. Being an autodidact, I appreciate all the resources and support out there for life-learners/self-learners. But being a parent, I realized that while we encourage people who take their learning in their own hands, we are not extending the same freedom to kids. We still expect them to follow an institute or decisions made by other adults about what should they learn. As an unschooling parent, I have seen the wonders kids can achieve when they are in the driving seat of their own learning, when they are learning to satiate their ever-growing curiosity rather than trying to achieve good grades in a test.

So, in a spirit to extend this culture of autodidacts to kids, I have launched this magazine, which is free for all and can be read online or downloaded as a PDF. It focuses on topics like problem solving and computer science, web and media literacy, design, collaboration etc. These are all crucial skills in a changing world, but are not widely taught in traditional educational setups.

On the programming side, I currently enjoy making chatbots. They bring me into the realms of artificial intelligence. Plus, they are quick to make and as the mobile app gold rush is coming to an end, chatbots are taking over the marketing and communication front.

You’ve mentioned that you love to learn for the sake of learning. What inspires you to continue to teach yourself new things and how have you applied this in your career?

If there is one thing I am certain I am really good at, it’s learning. I was that kid who would read their textbooks before the new school year started. (Yes, Hermione Granger is one of my favorite characters 😊 ) But in the later part of life, what kept me motivated to keep learning was unschooling my kids. Unschooling is not just about how we are educating our kids, it’s a lifestyle. And to keep our kids interested in learning new things and keeping their passion for learning alive, we must cultivate this atmosphere in our lives and our homes.

We are a family of autodidacts and a large part of our day is dedicated to expanding our knowledge and improving our skills. This kind of learning finally enabled me to freelance as a developer and programmer. But more than that, I enjoy discussing new ideas and new technologies with my kids and husband who are my biggest supporters.

Ashley Hedberg on launching Google’s massive open-source C++ library


Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Ashley! Can you tell us about your work as a software engineer at Google and this new project your team just launched?

I work on Abseil, which is an open-source collection of C++ library code designed to augment the C++ standard library. We’ve been using these libraries at Google for years, and now we’re releasing them for the larger development community.

I’ve been at Google since August 2015. I started on an infrastructure team, but I’ve spent up to 20% of my work time contributing to Abseil since July 2016. These so-called 20% projects are a great way to explore a project or team completely orthogonal to your primary assignment. I liked it so much that I transferred to Abseil full-time in September. Turns out that I’d rather fix low-level C++ libraries than build a network proxy!

What was the most difficult part in launching Abseil and how did your team overcome it?

The scale of the project was one of the most difficult parts. A significant chunk of our pre-release work involved changing the filenames and namespaces of the most common C++ libraries at Google. For example, we had a file “base/time.h” containing the class base::Time. We wanted to move the file to a new directory, giving it the name “absl/time/time.h”. We also wanted to move it to the absl namespace (i.e. absl::Time). In a smaller codebase, this wouldn’t be so bad — move the file, rename the class, and update users of that class in one set of changes. However, Google has ~12K developers working on ~250M lines of C++ code. Atomically updating the entire codebase for each of these renames was completely out of the question. (Furthermore, we had a team of ~15 people doing these sorts of large-scale changes!)

If we wanted to migrate the entire code base from base::Time to absl::Time, we’d have to do it incrementally. My teammate Jon gave an excellent talk on how we do this at CppCon, which I highly encourage those interested in this topic to watch. Briefly, we used type aliasing to rename the libraries we wanted to release while allowing users of those libraries to continue using the old names. Long-term, we don’t want to maintain multiple sets of names for the same thing, so we’ll be performing a number of automated refactors this quarter to clean up the old names.

You mentioned the project got a great response at CppCon when it was announced. What makes Abseil so important and exciting for community at large and why?

Short-term, Abseil provides some libraries that we hope developers are interested in using. We provide C++11-compatible versions of C++17 types like std::optional, so that developers can use them even if they’re not ready to transition to a C++17 compiler. We also provide alternatives to the standard (such as absl::Time and absl::Mutex) that better serve some use cases.

Longer term, Abseil is committed to stability over time, much like the C++ standard library. But we’re doing this differently from most open-source projects — we’re not using semantic versioning to avoid breaking our users. (Semantic versioning doesn’t actually avoid breaking users anyway, since anything can be a breaking change; I highly recommend our tech lead Titus Winters’ plenary talk at CppCon for more on this issue.) Google has been living at head for years, and we’re asking our users to do the same. If we want to make an API-breaking change, we’ll ship an automated refactor to migrate external users. We haven’t worked out all the details yet, but we’re excited to see C++ as a live-at-head language expand beyond Google.

CG Artist Rachel Denton shares her tips for breaking into the industry


Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Rachel! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you first got into computer graphics?

I am a fairly recent graduate of Falmouth University — a really picturesque place to study down in Cornwall, where I did my degree in Animation and Visual Effects. I’ve always been heading down the design route even since I was young, so I had a very fixed and determined idea that art would be my career as a child. This wasn’t without some uncertainty; I wasn’t sure whether I could really make a living in art so I looked for an avenue with a slightly more commercial angle. Originally, I had my heart set on illustration when I first heard more about design and the creative side of the entertainment industry. So, I researched further and found out about concept artists and character modellers, and from there, I really immersed myself in the digital design scene.

Then, after many job applications and working at a job a little outside of my intended path, I started working at Reach Robotics in Bristol, UK as a CG Artist. It is an amazing feeling to know I am finally working in a role and industry that I am so passionate about, combining both illustration and design.

What’s the most interesting or unexpected thing about working in computer graphics and why?

I think the unpredictable and exciting nature of CG art is the most interesting part. For example, working on MekaMon, my responsibilities can change each day. There are so many different areas of the game and styles to work on — it certainly never gets dull. Sometimes you need to be rigidly working to a specific style or criteria, but at other times, you have miles of creative freedom — even so far as designing brand new characters and exploring new styles. Seeing your own artwork and designs visualised in 3D and working in the game can also be very exciting!

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to yourself at the start of your career?

One of the most important things I would go back and tell myself now is to absolutely have faith that you can make it in this industry. It will always be very competitive, but your portfolio is continuously improving and you are growing as an artist, so really it is only a matter of time before you find that employer with whom you just click.

There were times after graduating that I would feel incredibly demoralised and disappointed, mostly after yet another rejection after a job interview. Realistically, you’re going to have to send off a lot of job applications before you meet any amount of success — so many companies don’t even reply, let alone accept you to an interview. But that’s alright. Use the time you have to construct your portfolio, learn new skills, and get workplace experience working in slightly different fields — even if it’s not truly your dream job. Basically patience and perseverance will be your greatest assets!

Founder and CEO Nancy Shenker talks about the shift in marketing and introduction of AI


Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Nancy! Can you tell us a little about what you do and how you ended up there?

I run my own marketing consulting company called theONswitch and am a content strategist/writer and professional speaker. I spent the early part of my career as a marketing executive for big brands — the classic “executive woman of the 1980s.” After reaching the C-level I decided to start my own business, providing start-ups and small businesses with the same quality of marketing that big brands enjoy.

I’ve always been fearless in terms of technology innovation and how tech can enhance and streamline both business and life. When I decided to launch my next book/website, AI, machine learning, and robotics seemed like a natural — they will change every aspect of our lives over the next decade — much the way social/digital media transformed marketing.

You’ve been in marketing for a long time and have seen many of its iterations. What has been the most significant shift you’ve noticed, whether in the industry at large or on a smaller, more personal scale?

A.I. will be the most significant shift we’ve ever seen. Marketing will change with A.I. in ways that we must embrace — from skills needed, to hiring, customer experience, content, social media and more. But prior to that, the biggest change was the “democratization” of technology. As devices, user-friendly tech, and worldwide Internet proliferation put the power into the hands of consumers and business leaders outside of the tech industry at a rapid pace.

What advice would you give to other Tech Ladies in marketing who want to embrace emerging technologies like AI or AR/VR in their own work?

Stay current. Every day, new developments emerge. But also learn to differentiate between “AI-washing” and real artificial intelligence. Lots of people are slapping the term “AI” or “robot” on a product or service to increase its appeal. Beware the posers.

The future of AI also depends on the intelligence and engagement of the humans behind it. Like all technologies, people need to look at each invention/development and ask the critical questions, like “Will this improve the quality of work? Save money? Make more money?” Knowing how to communicate the value and benefit of technology is as important (if not more important) than the technology itself.

How to pivot your career in your 40s with Amy Evans of Mooncake Consulting


Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Amy! Can you tell us a bit about what your do and how you ended up founding your own consulting business?

I’m a customer experience strategist. Recently, I joined forces with my partner in crime, Sophie Jasson-Holt. We help companies answer an all-important question:

“What customer job are you solving with your service/product?”

This question goes to the root of customer motivation, and the emotional and social reasons for using a service or product. Through our handcrafted research process, we listen deeply to customers and become ridiculously passionate — verging on obsessed — with our clients’ business. Recently, we launched a new service: our service design blueprinting pop-up. This co-creation workshop generates ideas and gets everyone on the same page. We walk through a customer scenario, step-by-step, and discuss the people, systems, and policies that deliver the customer experience. Together, we transform what can feel like a wild and freeform brainstorming session into actionable plans.

A little bit about how I got here. I founded Mooncake Consulting when I moved to NYC in 2000 with only my bags, no job, no apartment, and a hefty dose of optimism. As a child, I had a strong will and an entrepreneurial spirit. My parents were small business owners and they succeeded against tremendous odds. Now was my chance to go for it in the Big Apple. I found my first job through cold calling — by flipping through the Manhattan Yellow Pages.

As someone who has been in tech since the 90s, what challenges have you repeatedly run into and how have you handled them?

Tech has changed so much since the 90s. When I think about my career, a few key beliefs rise to the top:

  1. Take Charge. Be the champion of your career and do not be a passive bystander.
  2. Lend a Hand. Be the person who helps others. Let’s make “paying it forward” a contagious mindset.
  3. Be Curious. Tech is an industry of change. You are part of the change. Let curiosity open opportunities for you. Embark into the unknown, learn new skills, and read a ton.

What advice do you have for fellow Tech Ladies looking to pivot later on in their careers?

Great question. Because I’m actually in the middle of a career pivot, I have something to offer here. At the beginning of this year, I listened to a nagging feeling in my gut that I wanted to do something different. Months later, I’ll be honest and say it is still both exciting and a bit scary. Add to the fact that I’m a mother with kids, have family commitments, and financial responsibilities.

I’ve learned that a career pivot doesn’t happen overnight. If you are considering a pivot, create a plan, be patient, and stay committed. While you are exploring your pivot, don’t lose sight of your amazing kick-ass skills. This is your foundation, your bedrock. Dip your toe into new areas slowly. Learn a little, test it out, and adjust as you go along.

Here are a few pivot tips:

  • Tap into your vast network — there is a diamond here, go find it!
  • Check out books for free at your local library
  • Learn new skills on Lynda.com for free with your local library card
  • Join new online communities in your career pivot area
  • Tag team your pivot with a friend or buddy
  • Take a course or two or three

Good luck to my fellow career pivoters! And to learn more about pivoting, here’s a good book to get you going — Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One by Jenny Blake.

Tech Lady and ex-Apple Exec Patricia Arancibia on how to win despite ageism in tech


Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Patricia! Can you talk a bit about your career and what you do?

I do digital media, creative, content, growth and product strategy. Sometimes independently, sometimes in house. For the last few months, I’ve been acting as Director of Strategy for Social and Experiential at Hudson Rouge, a luxury agency in the WPP family. Before that, I developed a digital ecosystem strategy for a group of startups in the open source hardware space, and right before I worked with the publisher of an international lifestyle magazine on audience development for the digital US edition. That’s part of what I’ve done so far in 2017. It might be a good random snapshot of what I’ve done in 20+ years in digital media, publishing, ecommerce and web product.

I started out as a TV producer and newspaper writer at Clarín, one of the largest multimedia groups in Latin America, where I landed while getting a master’s degree in journalism. Intrigued by the incipient transition from print into digital, I joined the “Special Projects” team — the start of the digital department. Later I became an editor at ELLE magazine, a creative producer at MTV, and a senior editor at Obsidiana.com, one of the first web mags for women, with newsrooms in NY, Miami, Ciudad de México, Sao Paulo, and Buenos Aires — it lasted a year and bursted with the bubble in 1999. I had decided to pursue an education in digital publishing, and came to New York to attend grad school at NYU. The week I graduated, I got hired by Barnes&Noble.com. What followed were 12 years in web product, editorial, content marketing, content acquisition, eBooks, business development and merchandising in the US and abroad that culminated at Apple as Head of Europe, iBooks in Luxembourg. When I came back to my beloved Brooklyn, I became an independent strategist working with clients from small startups to GE.

A lot of people are uncomfortable talking about age discrimination, especially in tech. What has your experience been with that and how you’ve been actively fighting against that silence?

I started to work in media when I was 18 as a production assistant and then a producer for María Herminia Avellaneda, who was the most respected TV director in Argentina. I wish I was older or mature enough to have done a couple of things to make her proud while she was around. She and a few of the big names who worked with her were 60+ when I started at her studio. I had never met more fascinating and hard working people, and got to appreciate the value of working with experienced talent from very early on.

I reached seniority fairly “young” (that used to mean in your 30s). I came of age when there were people over 40, 50, 60 working in digital and we, the kids of olde, were still promoted and had room for development. At some point around 2008, people over 40 started to disappear. Especially women. In a bit of a Logan’s Run, open-plan layouts, ping pong tables, and beer became “perks” in lieu of actual benefits. This affects anybody who understands that many beers do not a health insurance make, and it disproportionately affects women who still carry most of the weight of child bearing. Revolving doors brought and took away new managers without management experience who dropped buzzwords and decks, but hadn’t the time or the savvy to understand the role and experience of people who could be stellar but looked and sounded more like their moms than what the manual of the disruptive enterprise dictated as “innovative.” The economic crisis, layoffs, and closings didn’t help. Many senior people were let go.

I’ve been fortunate. Maybe because I’m good with currently fashionable stuff like data, thumb-stopping content, and growth, but I haven’t gotten (yet?) much of the derision and indifference that I see infuriatingly directed at many fab women my age — 40s, practically a museum piece — and beyond. What I have suffered is the curse of the “too senior” a.k.a “overqualified,” code for “would have to pay much more than the low ball figure I want to spend in this ‘senior’ (!) role or the pennies/hour for this big project, I have no idea how to manage you, and won’t try.” It sometimes means “with your savvy, you should do in five weeks a project that requires five months, and don’t even think about OT.”

So except for very few thankfully short-lived silly exceptions, my clients have been great. That is in part because I’ve been picky even when I shouldn’t have. Seniority means that you’ll only be called for large projects involving important budgets. There aren’t too many of those. I’ve been fortunate and I’m grateful, but it can be scary — it is.

I’ve made a point of considering the role of women in an organization as a filter to decide whether to work with them. When people call for jobs or assignments, I look for women in senior roles, ask about it and discuss it. Many times, confronted with reality, you learn that some organizations think or say that they have women in senior roles, but they have some women with senior titles who aren’t part of the circle where decisions are made. Or there is one woman in the brotherland who has been just the first for a decade. What I haven’t seen is a truly healthy, happy culture where diversity isn’t part of the combo at every level.

I’ve been outspoken because ageism, like sexism, is a field in which our community has work to do to foster industry-wide change. The struggles of starting a career are different from those of women in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond who have lost the place they rightfully won, deserve, fought for, and took too long to materialize. Many have been marginalized by an industry they helped build. They matter as much as young women do, and not supporting them is self-defeating because luckily most of us gets to age eventually.

Yet, when senior ladies so much as try to talk about their struggles, they are confronted with a plethora of “what about ageism against the young? We’re told that we’re junior!” First, what’s wrong with being junior? Maybe the problem is that you’re not compensated and treated as you deserve. Maybe seniors are struggling with the same and it’s scarier because they don’t have their lives ahead of them and do have more responsibilities and needs, like families and healthcare. Another thing I see is “youngsplaning,” in which a young person explains to a senior who is trying to talk about her experience that there are other forms of discrimination. That is perplexing because senior ladies, who lived through significantly less ‘enlightened’ times, are diverse in many manners and most have been fighting the good fights for decades.

What can other Tech Ladies do to either speak up about age discrimination or support a more age-diverse workplace?

Love this question! I’m a proud and happy Founding Member at Tech Ladies. Very grateful to Allison for this wonder that she has created, and looking forward to contributing to our growth — go us! We have a lot of work to do until each and every of us gets the opportunity, respect, treatment, and equal pay that she deserves, and can enjoy the right to work free of harassment and gaslighting, safe from sexual assault, and protected from discrimination.

Startups and digital shops aren’t hiring disproportionately very young people because they are without exception better than people over 40. They often do so to keep payroll and benefits to a minimum, and upper management isolated from critical feedback. The Logan’s Run-like ecosystem swallows up the “older” management and will do so with the next one. When people develop enough experience and maturity to manage and move companies to the next stage, they are erased.

When was the last time that you walked into a tech or digital shop and saw a critical mass (say 25%) of people over 40? 40! Of women over 40? In senior roles? For me, in the last five years the number has been zero. I do hope that younger women get to know how things were and how we ended up here, watch Hidden Figuresreadlisten, learn that there were women in critical roles, that tech and digital weren’t the exclusive invention let alone the workof young bros who didn’t finish college.

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


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


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


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


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)


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


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


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.