Girl Geek X
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Girl Geek X

TL;DR: Girl Geek X Elevate Conference

Executives, engineers & more: PayPal VP Jenny Cheng, Slack Director of Engineering Arquay Harris, Stitch Fix CTO Cathy Polinsky, Salesforce Senior Director Leah McGowan-Hare, U.S. Digital Service Director of Product Julie Meloni, Optimizely VP of Product Claire Vo, Mozilla Director of Engineering Maire Reavy, Mozilla Senior Director of Engineering Laura Thomson, Skillz VP of Engineering Miriam Aguirre, Wealthfront Senior Director of Engineering Rija Javed, Gixo/Evite founder Selina Tobaccowala, Girl Geek X CTO Sukrutha Bhadouria, LinkedIn Staff Engineer Nadia Fawaz, Girl Geek X CEO Angie Chang, eBay Senior Technical PM Shanea King-Roberson, Tableau Software NLP Manager Vidya Setlur, Microsoft Principal Design Researcher Cindy Alvarez, At Her Best Founder Minji Wong, Google Engineering Manager Sarah Allen, CEO Aline Lerner, Lyft Product Designer Samihah Azim, Girl Geek X COO Gretchen DeKnikker, Oath Director of Product Sophia Perl, and Netflix Senior Security Engineer Nicole Grinstead (pictured above).

An ambitious community of women in tech gathered for Girl Geek X: Elevate virtual conference to share insights of career journeys and tactical tips for career advancement in the fast-paced tech industry. Visibility matters in the race to retain and recruit women and underrepresented groups in tech. Inspiration and community are vital to women developing long careers in a fast-moving industry like tech. Here are some nuggets of wisdom shared by speakers at Girl Geek X: Elevate:

“On my first team, I was the only woman but I did find my little support group — I was forever grateful for that.”

Stitch Fix CTO Cathy Polinsky began her career as a software engineer. She shares memorable moments in her life — for example when she revealed to a friend that she was interested in becoming a manager in a few quarters, and he called her with the opportunity she wanted, and her career accelerated.

“The charter that has worked for me is to open myself up to understanding what are the big challenges that my boss is having at any given time, and see how I can make a difference.” - Cathy Polinsky, Stitch Fix CTO

Cathy continues: “What are the big charters, big opportunities we are going after, what are the gaps that I can see, and how can I lean in to make myself available when there are challenges — a new initiative spun up, or someone left the company, someone is moving to a new role and there’s a gap in the org, saying — ‘How can I help? I’d love to take a shot at helping out on these projects.’ Then, build a great team, delegate, and take on more.”

Slack Director of Engineering Arquay Harris talks about advocacy, stating: You are in charge of your own career. You are your own best advocate.”

She emphasizes providing details to your manager about your contributions:

“Every promotion I’ve ever gotten has been me saying, I am operating at this level, I have done all of these things, I think I am ready for the next level and here is why… Your contributions should never be ambiguous — document them! Make a list for yourself outside of work — about what you do, and how it impacts the company.” Then ask and negotiate for what you need.

“Advocating for yourself isn’t arrogance. You are giving your manager details about things you are working on. This is important for your career progression.” — Arquay Harris, Slack Director of Eng

PayPal Vice President Jenny Cheng has cut her teeth at companies like Deloitte, Salesforce and InsideView.

Aside from being an experienced technology executive, she is also an angel investor. She advises girl geeks:

Come to the table with a point of view, and surround yourself with people who can do that. Cognitive diversity helps you not miss the forest for the trees.” — Jenny Cheng, PayPal Vice President

Salesforce Senior Director Leah McGowan-Hare talks about being a familiar face — she gives keynotes, teaches classes for developers. “I often tell people they see my glory, but what you don’t know is my story. Everybody has a story.”

“It’s easy to get caught up in branding, particularly with social media. Take a step back — what is your story? What are you trying to build? What is the story you are trying to create?” — Leah McGowen-Hare, Salesforce Senior Director

U.S. Digital Service Director of Product Management Julie Meloni is passionate about helping “unfuck the government from a technology perspective.” She explains that working at the USDS is “the hardest job I ever loved. It’s hard for a lot of reasons that don’t have to do with technology. Technology is the easy part, complex systems are hard.”

We want to bring top technical talent into public service. If you are super experienced, especially in complex organizations. If you are have high emotional intelligence and want to give back… Take a look at US Digital Service and 18F, and see what might fit for you.” — Julie Meloni, U.S. Digital Service Director of Product & Strategy/Operations

Mozilla Senior Director of Engineering Laura Thomson talked about managing up and managing down.

First, “be kind by telling them [feedback] — kind, direct and prompt.” When managing up, she stressed:

Make them invested in your success. It’s their success too.” — Laura Thomson, Mozilla Senior Director of Engineering — Firefox

Skillz VP Engineering Miriam Aguirre shares: “as someone who has spent the better part of two decades in tech, being mindful of where you spend your energy, whom you choose to mentor and sponsor.” Miriam recommends:

“Be specific, focus your energy.” — Miriam Aguirre, Skillz VP of Engineering

Wealthfront Senior Director of Engineering Rija Javed shares that she’s benefited from and carved out her career journey from learning implicitly from observing other people in the workplace and learning from their mistakes/actions.

Mentorship is not the answer for retention of women in tech — it’s advocacy at the highest levels.” — Rija Javed, Wealthfront Senior Director of Engineering

Oath Director of Product Sophia Perl began as an engineer in her early career and moved to product management after earning her MBA, constantly learning and building new toy projects. Listening to podcasts while driving is a start, but have you considered setting up speakers: in your kitchen or shower? She shared tips on staying up-to-date with industry trends, new tools and emerging tech:

“Please don’t wait for that perfect moment to do your preferred learning method, but be okay with your second or third best learning method. Find a learning method that meshes best with your day-to-day life. Leverage apps for consumption like Overdrive — a free version of Audible which connects to your local library card to download e-books or audio books for FREE. In fact 70–80% of books I was interested in were free on Overdrive.” — Sophia Perl, Oath Director of Product

We are grateful for our mission-aligned sponsors, helping Girl Geek X host over 2,000 women in tech interested in the journey from manager to leader! 💡

Learn about opportunities at Mozilla, PayPal, US Digital Service, Salesforce, Clever, Quantcast + Intel AI is offering FREE AI DevCon tickets. See all these great partner offers for girl geeks here!

We will be updating our conference website soon with videos, slides, etc. Stay in the know with Girl Geek X and join our mailing list! 💻

Our next event: Qualcomm Girl Geek X Dinner May 10 in Santa Clara.



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Angie Chang

Angie Chang

She is co-founder at Girl Geek X and Women 2.0 to connect and inspire women in tech and entrepreneurship.