Facebook’s Tech Women’s Day

& Sharing more

Update from July 2017: I first wrote this in September 2014 but never published it as I decided it wasn’t worth sharing. A year later, I left Facebook as an Engineering Director and joined Stripe. This week, I moderated a panel with some amazing Stripe women — I’ve been lucky to have three of them in my org at some point, and the fourth helped found our new Women-and-Non-Binary-In-Tech ERG. Hearing them speak reminded me how much the next generation continues to inspire me, and is always worth sharing more with.

7/27/17 Stripe WANBIE Intern Panel featuring Alex Cattron, Amber Feng, Preeya Joshi, and Susan Tu

Written in September 2014

This year I celebrated my 5th anniversary of working at Facebook, and this week marks our 4th annual Tech Women’s Day event.

Last year, I was part of the event’s organizing committee — this meant getting up on stage in front of hundreds of women and telling them why being a “Woman in Tech” is important to me, and why building a strong community was worth the time we were all spending together. That experience marked a turning point for me, and forced me to reflect on and share my experience. It also helped me realize that I have learned things over the years that might help or inspire others.

When it comes to “Why is it important to build this community?”, I often struggle to answer this in a way that I think will be meaningful to everyone. Throughout years of leading the Women in Tech group at Facebook, I’ve met many women who don’t feel their gender should or does define them, and as a result choose not to engage or participate — I’ve always been mindful of this, and think it’s very important to understand their choice and not box anyone into something they don’t want to be a part of.

While I similarly don’t consider my gender a defining characteristic of my work, I have realized that regardless of how I might see myself, many others will always see me as not only a “Woman in Tech”, but also as an implicit representative of the community.

Included below is the transcript to my TWD 2013 opening, which captures why it’s so important to me that I represent the community well, and why even unconsciously, we all might be making a difference by just being there and sharing more.

Keynote with my co-organizer Jing Chen at TWD September 2013, photo courtesy of amazing designer and person, Laura Javier

3rd Annual Facebook Tech Women’s Day (Opening Remarks Excerpt)

September 18, 2013

When I first started here at Facebook in early 2009, there was just a handful of women in technical leadership positions, and few, if any, that I knew personally.

Since then, I’ve been really excited to see so many great things happen for women at Facebook — I’ve loved seeing Sheryl become a global leader, there are now female directors in almost every department, and just in terms of the numbers, it’s great to see so many new faces at events like these.

That said, in my 4 and a half years at Facebook, I’ve had 7 different managers* and a few different tech leads, and all of them have been men.

A few years ago, I transitioned into a management role, and shortly after, found myself on the other side of the IC-manager relationship, leading projects and meeting with bootcampers who were trying to pick their future teams. However, it wasn’t until Tech Women’s Day one year ago, that it suddenly hit me — I was now an eng manager myself, and yet, there were no other women on my own team.

To be honest, I was never someone who looked for female role models — I count mostly men on my list of people I aspire to be like someday. But, as someone on the other side, as a mentor and a leader, I wanted to be working directly with other women. I wanted to become someone they could relate to in a way that’s hard for me to put in words. I wanted to become someone they could learn from.

Today, there are 5 female engineers that work on Privacy and the Composer, and I’m really happy to be part of their Facebook experience, and to see how much things can change in just one year.

For me, Tech Women’s Day is all about building an engaged community of women. It’s about helping us find inspiration from one another, and making the road we once took easier to spot and follow for the people who come after us.

Closing note from July 2017: This idea still holds very true for me today. I hope it serves as a reminder that, whether we realize it or not, we all have valuable experiences that can help the people around us understand and see their own path to success.

Questions for the reader: What inspires you? What experiences do you think might inspire the people around you?

Special thanks to Jocelyn Goldfein for starting TWD, asking me to help organize it, and for pushing me to share and do more. And, Jing Chen, @jackson_gabbard, Amal Dar Aziz and @skrug for their thoughtful edits.

*As of 7/17, I’ve had 9 managers** in my career who have all been men. In that time, I’ve also had the privilege of supporting many women as a manager myself, in a wide range of IC/TL/EM roles across teams and companies, including 3 EMs who also managed other women.

*If you’re curious, in chronological order: Ari Steinberg, Mark Tonkelowitz, Serkan Piantino, Josh Wiseman, Andrew Bosworth, Sam Lessin, Mike Vernal, Kang-Xing Jin, Patrick Collison