March 5, 2013 by Tobias Rich
As I write from my living room in San Francisco, reflecting back one year to the conceptualization of Women Inspire Tech (WIT), I can see myself speed walking down Park Avenue to a meeting with the CTO at a well-known startup to discuss two backend Ruby development roles she needed help staffing. As our meeting was wrapping up, I inquired into her career path to becoming the CTO. She responded, “I was actually first asked to help them find one.” She told me about how she had helped her bosses determine the salary and necessary skill set for the position, and after interviewing about 5 candidates for them, she finally suggested herself as a candidate. We shared a high five, a good laugh, and before heading back to my office, she asked me, “Where are the other woman CTO’s?” I listed 5 names that came to mind and turned to leave.
Upon getting off the elevator at my office, I bumped into my CEO, and the words just came out, “Mike, I want to do something for the women in tech.” Mike said, “Great! Do a meeting on it for current events on Friday—I’ll be there.”
When I presented that meeting to my office, I had only 4 months under my belt as the new Manager of our Open Source team. Within the next month, we put on our first WIT event. My mission was to increase the number of women leaders in tech. I wanted to create a meet up where women could open up and leave feeling as if they better knew each other and themselves, connecting role models with professionals of a younger generation.
In order to create a meet up with substance, I created a simple formula that still exists for Women Inspire Tech in every city. After gathering, we kick off with a group member or cofounder reading our vision statement. We sit around the room forming a circle to symbolize cooperation as opposed to denomination. Next, another cofounder presents the article used to promote the round table discussion topic. Some topics in the past have been; Deborah Tannen’s “You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation,” and my personal favorite discussion, the article by The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” Then we listen to a story given by an inspirational speaker, in which she shares her leadership philosophy and how she overcame obstacles along the way. She ends by sharing her short- and long-term goals. This ending is equally as inspirational for the audience as it is for the speaker, as I have found there is something very powerful in voicing your intentions aloud. For example, when Melina Pearson, the manager of Newsroom Systems Development for NBC Universal told WIT that her goal was to become the Director of Newsroom Systems, the group was enthused and inspired when, two months later, she was promoted to Director!
Women Inspire Tech is working, and I am the proof. In January, I accepted a promotion to become a Director for the Talener Group, traveled 3,000 miles across the country to head up our San Francisco office, and I’m not done yet. As Ha Nguyen, VP Product Management at Stella and Dot and speaker at our one-year strong celebration, told us last week, follow your efforts. She made the point that it is important to work hard while you are still early in your career, because it eventually gets easier. If you really want to know where your destiny lies, she said, look at where you apply your time.
I am proud to say that, on the last Thursday of every month, we have Women Inspire Tech meet ups in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Boston. If you would like to join a WIT event, please contact me and I will make sure you get all the details on the next event near you.
I believe that one of Women Inspire Tech’s hidden strengths is simply the knowledge of its existence…even if you can’t make it one month, simply knowing that there are other like-minded women going to the meet up for the same reason, is a reassurance for women everywhere to step up and speak up when the occasion arises.