Girl Geek X Lightning Talks & Panel (Video + Transcript)

Like what you see here? Our mission-aligned Girl Geek X partners are hiring!

Connie Fong / VP, Marketing /
Sheila Lirio Marcelo / Founder, Chairwoman & CEO /
Abbey Stauffer / Director, Product Management /
Lauren Lee / Director, Product Management /
Rita Chow / Principal iOS Engineer /

Transcript of Girl Geek Dinner – Lightning Talks & Panel:

Connie Fong: Welcome everyone. Is my mic on? Good. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedules to be here with us tonight. Hopefully you’ve had some great food, you’ve had some fun, and now you’re ready for some food for thought. If anyone knows me I’m always thinking about food, but if you don’t know me at all I just want to do a quick introduction.

Connie Fong: My name is Connie Young Fong. I will be your emcee for this evening and I currently head up the customer marketing engagement group at I am also here to warn you that there will be a couple of gratuitous photos of our kids so be prepared for that and so why I don’t just get that party started. I am in the thick of back to school right now. This is Evan, my middle child. If you can’t see what he says, he says when he grows up he wants to be a dad. My social caption says, “He picked the second hardest job.”

Connie Fong: Moms, you know what I’m talking about. I want to give dads a lot of credit, at least one so, but the last time I checked we get the hormones, we get the weight gain, we go through labor and delivery so I’m a little biased, but in all seriousness being a parent is really, really difficult; taking care of your kids, taking care of your pets, taking care of your home. Dare I say making time to take care of yourself? It’s all really, really hard. That might be the understatement for the year. With or without help, it is really, really difficult, and since 2007 has really been the leading company to take on a lot of these care challenges, not just for families but also for caregivers and for companies and if you think about it, this has implications on our culture, within our society and also economies at large.

Connie Fong: This evening I’m very excited. We have a panel of amazing speakers tonight lined up to give you some perspective on how we manage two-sided marketplace and also share a little bit of insight into their personal journey. I just have one favor to ask of you before we start, is that we will save time at the end. Please make sure to remember your questions and we will have a more formal Q&A at the end of all the presentations.

Connie Fong: Many of us are here because we’ve been inspired by a woman named Sheila Lirio Marcelo. She is the founder, chairwoman, and CEO of and we’re very excited to welcome her tonight to be the first speaker within our panel.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Thanks, Connie. Super excited to be here. I have to tell you. Lately, I do a lot of public speaking. My team is always asking me, “Am I little nervous getting up here?” I am tonight. I think it depends on how much I drank, if I got enough sleep, depending on PMS, sorry we’re in a group of women, and whether I’m hormonal. That was my answer to them tonight, sorry guys, a little TMI. But one of the reasons I often now, when I public speak, I often accept speeches to actually speak at places with more men because I feel like oftentimes when I’m speaking to women where I’m preaching to the choir kind of nod their heads and said, “Yeah, I already know what you’re talking about. I go to that those women’s event and I know what you’re saying.”

Sheila Lirio Marcelo speaking at Girl Geek Dinner.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: But when they asked me to come tonight, I was really, really excited because the challenges we have in technology Girl Geek, yes. It’s tough. There’s a lot of challenges that we face and I’m super excited to be in a room of super talented motivated women despite the challenges of the things that we face.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Today, I’m just going to talk about tonight on what drives each and every one of us and really breaking out into sort of purpose-driven life careers and what’s important and hopefully I can share a little bit about my story to each and everyone.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: First off, I grew up in the Philippines, born and raised. It’s interesting, a lot of people don’t know it’s one of the countries with the narrowest gender gap. In the world economic forum reports actually of the top 10 up there with the Scandinavian countries with the narrowest gender gap, specifically in Asia which is interesting. It’s across the globe in Asia it’s … I went to Japan one year and I was speaking in front of women and many of them had worked in the Asian Development Bank and said it’s so amazing to be in a group of Filipinas because they act as role models.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: I sometimes peel the onion that and thought about why is that because even pre-colonial times in the Philippines women were allowed to be priestesses, to play leadership roles, and they actually were also allowed to own property as sort of part of our culture and I only learned that recently when I went to college and decided I was going to come to the United States to go to Mount Holyoke and really study feminism. Because prior to coming to this country, I never really encountered biases which was really strange for me growing up in Asia. That actually, in the United States is really where I started to encounter biases especially as a female entrepreneur in technology.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Today, I thought I’d share with you something I think about that I think we all need to learn together, is that true journeys of strengthen resilience are actually built upon believing in ourselves and each other.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Oftentimes, we have role models in front of us and we think they’re heroes. We look up at them. What I always say it’s actually the people right next to you and the true authentic stories that make meaningful differences in our lives that inspire us. As women leaders in the workplace we can and must write our own stories and share them with each other so that we can lead authentically with purpose.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: I always ask myself these three questions who, what, and how. It sounds pretty basic. I break it up to say who has influenced you? Many times we turn to our mentors. What impact do you want to have in the world? I meet with a lot of young people asking, “How did you end up at What made you decide to start something like that?” Because there are very few companies that are mission-driven or purpose-driven.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: I’ll talk a little bit about that and how do you stand for what you stand for, which is always tougher. The first question, who has influenced you and what lessons have you learned from them? I actually trace all my influences back to my beginnings and I try and take a little bit of stories of leaders that I run into to incorporate in my life as I met them along the way.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: First, my parents. What’s interesting about us is that ,not surprisingly, one thing is that I have a type of mom, being raised Asian. I’m getting a lot of nodding. Yes, of course being Filipina, there’s a lot of role models of female presidents in government, a lot of female CEOs in the Philippines and nothing like … She always had to dream of sending her six kids to the United States for college and also pursuing professions because my parents were entrepreneurs.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Being Asian, we had designated professions. There were supposed to be the doctor, the dentist, the engineer, the lawyer, but God forbid no one should ever become an entrepreneur. My dad was actually a teddy bear dad. What did I mean by that? He’s the kind of dad who actually never minded ironing our shirts, taking care of us. He is a phenomenal cook. He’s also the kind of dad who would stand at the window or at the door. My parents live with me, to the point of driving away and he would stand there and wave until he couldn’t see me anymore. He’s that kind of dad. You could imagine that these were anti-stereo types of what we’re very familiar with, with gender and those are the parents that raised me.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: But one of the best gifts that my parents gave me in influencing my life and answering that who is that, we came to the United States in the 1970s and I lived in Houston, Texas, for a few years and I then I forgot the entire language of Tagalog. I understood certain things, certain foods that were my favorite, but I completely stopped speaking the language because I came here at such a young age. My parents then decided that they wanted to raise us back in the Philippines and proceeded to send my older siblings to an American boarding school in the Philippines, but decided to send — I’m the fifth child and the sixth — my youngest brother to a province in the Philippines, a tiny little town that my parents were from so that I could learn the language all over again.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: You could imagine a girl at 9 years old from Houston, Texas, saying “y’all,” going back to a provincial school in the Philippines, a very local school and being asked to stand every day to read a book in Tagalog in front of all these kids and how hard that was and embarrassing that was.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: But why was that one of the best gifts in my life that year? Because my parents actually taught me the value of coconut. Like that is really strange, Sheila. Why? Because in the elementary school that we went to, every week we had to clear out all the chairs in the desk and each child was asked to actually help clean. I was responsible for cleaning the floors. I had to get down on my hands and knees and I learned to fall in love with the coconut because that would prevent me from getting down on my hands and knees because the coconut husk had a brush on it that made me sashay so that, I think my mic is still on, where I would literary do this and I’m really good at cleaning floors, really good now.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: But what it actually taught me was not just hard work, but a sense of humility, responsibility and learning and also being so proximate to all these kids from all walks of life that I played on the streets with that year and to learn the language all over again. That probably was one of the most difficult years in my life other than getting pregnant in college and giving birth at a young age but that was really, really hard and that proximity that my parents taught me in a sense of identity of being Filipino was one of the most influential things in my life that drove purpose in my life.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Lessons growing up in the Philippines helped me create my own path, which is especially important after I got pregnant in college, as I mentioned. I started to veer from my parents’ plans. I wasn’t going to follow that designated profession, unfortunately. Tough for my tiger mom. And to think about it, my Catholic parents were very, very upset when I got pregnant between my sophomore and junior year in college and decided to get married and keep the baby.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: My husband and I were pretty much on our own. My parents weren’t speaking to me. They didn’t expect sending me to women’s college would result in my being a young mother. They thought that men were not allowed on the campus at Mount Holyoke College. Lo and behold they were very surprised. Lo and behold, we have 26-year-old today who inspires us every day and I’ve been married 27 years, as of Friday.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: During that time, my husband’s parents were also deceased. We didn’t really have a lot of access to resources. I just had friends from college who visit me recently and we caught up and I remember I disappeared my senior year of college in the sense that I was so focused on raising the baby with our son and we were struggling and we were poor and we just didn’t have a lot of help. That’s really inspired me later to start because I realized I wasn’t alone. But as our careers were taking off, Ron and I found ourselves struggling to balance work and family, really felt that pain.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: And then fast forward when I was in grad school, another surprise pregnancy. Adam who is now 18, lovely gift, I call him. During that time, I decided after HBS that I would join an internet company, and again we needed help because the hours were so demanding that I asked my parents to come from the Philippines at this point. They were talking to me. They wanted to be a part of their grandchildren’s life. They came and then my father had a heart attack while he was carrying baby Adam up the stairs.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: My father is alive today because I said he still waves to me from the window. He’s all healthy, but that was a big struggle for us because the whole point of my parents coming to the United States was actually to help care for baby Adam, and I found myself at 29 years old stuck between child care and senior care and I was also getting catapulted in my career at a young age to join a management team at Upromise, helping family save money for college and I didn’t have great care.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: It was really hard and I was going home working at a technology company but using the Yellow Pages to look for care. Something really didn’t add up, which really led to the next question. When I decided to start my own business, I had to ask myself, what impact did I want to have on the world despite all the difficulty and challenges that I’ve faced so far. The second question is what is that impact?

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Have you ever heard the expression, women hold up half the sky? Yes? Great book. I think that’s not the whole story, though because I actually think women don’t just hold up half the sky, we hold up the whole economy. I think that’s factual. I’m not just making a statement to be controversial. I think it’s actually factual. That’s why we’re so focused on improving the lives of women at

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: If women and men worked equally, from the McKinsey study, the worldwide GDP would grow by $28 trillion or 26% by 2025. Apparently, that’s the size of the combined US and China GDP, if they were just equal. The single biggest obstacle to women’s equal workforce participation across the globe is balancing work and family responsibilities.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: This is where then I found my authentic itself. Not only did I go through my difficulty, but lo and behold, a year after we started, my mother pulled me aside and said, “Did you know that the Philippines is the largest exporter of care around the world?” It suddenly started to add up, why I’ve had so many friends throughout my career, at this point I was still young, coming up to me saying, “I love adobo. I love pancit.” They would say, repeat all these Filipino words to me because some of them were actually raised by Filipino nannies.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: As a working mother, I know the challenge to try and make everything work. The need of care is massive and it’s growing. It touches everyone when we think about the demand for care. I often describe the care economy is this: that if you think about young children, 90% of a child’s brain, 90% of it, compared to an adult brain is developed between the ages of 0 to 5.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: We outsource a lot of this now from many dual income families because it’s about 70% dual income. If we’re outsourcing care, do we just think about physical care or should we actually care deeply about how that brain is developing in terms of the quality of care.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: I remember once, I was speaking at a conference at Milken, a good friend of mine who was the head of finance in the Philippines, I didn’t know he was in the audience, so after I spoke he came up to me and said, “Sheila, I never even knew that. I better start paying attention to who I hire to take care of my children.”

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: People don’t pay attention to that fact that it actually drives and how much debate is there around how much we should invest in education because it impacts the competitiveness of our economy and overall society that if children aren’t learning a certain number of words by a certain age, it impacts them socially, economically, increases incarceration, a lot of these things impact our society and that comes down to care. It’s not merely just a soft issue.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Now let me fast forward it. If you’re thinking about the work environment, right now care is one of the most expensive items in the budget, up there with mortgage and rent. Many of you pay for childcare, some of you who are here tonight and you know what that cost like when you have to outsource it.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: If you want to pay for great care, you got to work, right? You need great work to actually pay for great care. There’s sort of this codependency. Even in our middle period of our life where we’re working a majority of our lives, we also need care to work and vice versa.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Now, let me turn to the end of life, the economic argument for that. We know and we read it all the time in our newspapers, that the key driver of the, health, of the budget deficit is healthcare. We also know that what’s the key driver of healthcare cost. It’s actually end of life. We also know that most people want to age in place at home, about 90%, according to AARP.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: If you want to age in place but you don’t have great care, why then are we surprised that the readmission rates are so high to hospitals and that’s what drives our healthcare cost.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Something so basic of not having great quality care for the elderly is also impacting our economy. I can go on and on, from early childhood and the competitiveness of our society and how we educate them and the quality of care to the work environment, to all the way to end of life and if somebody ever came up to me and said care was a soft issue that has no economic impact, I would look at them and be like, “How do you think about those things?” The reality is it does. Clearly, there’s a growing demand.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: You’re sitting here in the audience saying, I didn’t have care tonight, right? How many of you have kids? Great. How many of you have nieces and nephews? How many of you have been kids? If you’re sitting here wondering, doesn’t ever apply to me. I don’t ever have to think about care. There is a senior tsunami coming and it will impact you, in case you hadn’t thought about it yet. When caregivers to go work, we all can go to work.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Which actually then turns to the issue about the supply of care. When my mom said it’s about the Philippines being the number one exporter of caregivers around the world, how are we also thinking about the supply care? On average, in the United States, caregivers are paid $9 an hour. Golf caddies are paid $17 an hour and that doesn’t include tips. The difference between what we value in caring our children to those that carry our golf clubs. Some of my male friends are so upset with me that I tweet about that, I write about that, and they said, “That’s really unfair that you describe it in that way.” I said, “How else can I describe it?” For people to open their eyes and say, “We have to think about the sustainability and the livable wage that is required for the care force so that we have a real care infrastructure that supports our entire society.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Now that we’ve talked about these things, we have a certain set of responsibilities to families and caregivers that we serve and to also to women around the world which leads me to the third question, I’m onto the third question. How do you stand by what you stand for?

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Through the years, I’ve learned that the same old thinking will lead the same old results. I’m going to repeat this twice because I thought this is an interesting quote, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Most people know is a place to find child care or caregiving jobs. We use technology, certainly, to address universal problem and provide a better more efficient solution than the Yellow Pages or word of mouth. But what happens when we improve the efficiency? Is the problem solved? Are we strengthening families? Are we supporting women in the workforce?

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: When we zoom out, it was clear we could do more as a company, beyond making profit. We ask ourselves, do we stand by what we stand for and we kept building Care@ Work and now companies can provide family care benefits like emergency backup care so that we can have people show up to work and not stress out about it come to events like this.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: HomePay, household tax and payroll services so that caregivers can be paid legally and be paid above minimum wage. Then they get access because as we know in the future work the gig economy is struggling. We need to make sure that they’ve got a social net access to social security and Medicare benefits and unemployment insurance.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Then we also launched Benefits. We provide access to caregivers to have pooled portable benefits, access to healthcare, workers compensation that I mentioned, savings account, budgeting tools, a lot of things, because where we’re headed with the future of work, there aren’t the institutions anymore for gig workers that provides them the access to a social net.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: But we can’t do this alone. I always say building a care infrastructure takes a village and there’s a lot that we’re doing, partnering. As an example, we’re training refugees in Europe to be caregivers but we’re not doing that by ourselves. We’re partnering with International Rescue Commission and Rockefeller Foundation. We’ve launched the Care Institute as a 501(c)(3 )to train caregivers around the country and hopefully the globe and we’ve done that we’ve AARP, as well as Boston Children’s Hospital and I can go on. So many different things that we believe is a responsibility because it’s more than just actually creating profit and leading life with a purpose. There are always moments where what we value is challenged.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Quick story, it was really hard, and this isn’t about my personal politics, but in 2016 certainly the result of the election was shocking. I was at Javits. I was very emotional at night. It took me about a week to speak in front of the company. There were a lot of issues going on the company. We have a lot of women in the company disappointed that we did not have a female president as a result.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: I only shared this story because I have to set aside my personal from running a public company. It took me four days to get in front of the company and stand, and the way that I spoke to them, I stood one side and I said, “You know what, this is Sheila upset.” I was in tears. I couldn’t even hold it back. It took me literally four days before to even come up with the words to speak in front of the company. I stood over here and then I said, “This is Sheila as the public CEO telling you guys you cannot blog about how upset you are because we serve the entire country in the world and people are watching us.” We have to set our personal stuff aside and that’s very difficult to do.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: But the reason I’m sharing this story with you is because two weeks later, I had to go and have a dinner with Ivanka Trump. After all that emotion that I had to go through, because she decided she was going to carry the torch around childcare and childcare tax credits. Guess what? I’m the CEO, the largest platform for care in the country. I had to go to that dinner and represent what’s right for families and caregivers, setting aside anything. I actually found in that dinner was my own biases that was at fault, and I was being too judgmental. I share that to say that sometimes we really have to push ourselves to figure out and set our personal over what’s important.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Then two weeks later, we were also challenged with immigration ban. Then I had to ask myself, “Okay, I feel like a ping pong ball. I feel like I’m depressed over here. I got to go pull it together for this dinner, and then I’m going to sign a letter and want to be the first CEOs to sign a letter on immigration ban, just when I’m trying to develop a relationship with this administration?” I mean, what the hell. I mean it’s tough figuring out what you stand for. It’s challenging in leadership. It’s not easy but constantly questioning the values. I’m still proud that we signed that letter and also really supported DACA and the children that were split from their parents just so much.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Look, in closing, I’m up here talking about values. I’m up here trying to share my own personal story and people always ask me what makes you tick? I get a little emotional because at the end of the day it’s actually just being human. It’s about the people sitting next to you and listening to their stories, giving them that certain level of respect because everyone has a story. Everybody, not just me. Those were the true stories that should inspire you because that’s often those people challenges and it doesn’t matter what level of success you’ve achieved.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: I have the same equal difficulties and challenges that everybody has because it’s about being human and so it’s those authentic stories that we should really rely on and turn to each other so that when we learn about those journeys, we ask ourselves, who, what, and how. Thank you for having me. I’m super excited for you guys to meet our female leaders and I’m looking forward to answering any of your questions. Thank you.

Connie Fong: Thank you so much, Sheila. It feels really good to work for a mission-based organization where it truly is founded on love. It truly is founded on caring for people and that is always good. The other thing that’s always good is actually figuring out how to make some money and to actually be profitable. Next up, we actually have Dominique Baillet. She is our Senior Director who heads up our growth and product development team, and the one thing that’s fun about Dominique is she didn’t show gratuitous photos of her daughter in her interview. She literally brought her daughter to the interview at three months. Suffice it to say she got the job. We’re very excited that she’s here with us tonight.

Dominique Baillet: Thanks, Connie, and hi everyone. It’s not easy to follow Sheila but I’ll do my best. Today, I’m here to talk about how to monetize online marketplaces, which is really important to building a sustainable business. This is something that I’ve thought about every day for the last five years.

Dominique Baillet speaking at Girl Geek Dinner.

Dominique Baillet: Today, as the head of where I’m responsible for bringing more members onto the platform and having them become subscribing members with us. Before that I led business operations for growth and new markets at NerdWallet, which is an online marketplace matching consumers with financial products. This is something that I’ve thought a lot about.

Dominique Baillet: First, it’s important to set the stage. We are living in the golden age of consumer technology. The stock market has been booming. There’s been a lot of investor funding going around and we as consumers have benefited from all of this easy money and it’s been great. I didn’t even know how delightful products could be until Snapchat came around and showed me that I could take a picture of my daughter, airbrush her, put on these funny glasses and freckles and I would fall in love all over again. Or how about, I don’t know if you guys remember the time when Uber was offering rides across the city for $2 or when Instacart was first giving out free grocery delivery, all of that consumer delight was funded by this easy money and these companies grew a lot because of it. But it hasn’t always been sustainable to grow in that way and there’s actually a downside to this unfettered growth.

Dominique Baillet: Case in point, are of you guys MoviePass subscribers? Anyone? Are you guys still MoviePass subscribers? You are? Okay. That’s great. They need you. Yes, well what an amazing product and value proposition, $10 a month to see as many movies as you want, it was incredible. They vastly exceeded their user growth expectations, but they really couldn’t continue to service that. While MoviePass isn’t quite dead, obviously, it is dying.

Dominique Baillet: The lesson here is that while we are so focused on growth that it’s also important to balance the idea of how to actually make money. You don’t have to optimize for making money but you absolutely have to have a plan for it before this easy money dries up.

Dominique Baillet: In a one-sided marketplace, growth and monetization are a little bit more, go a little bit hand in hand. You make a product, you sell the product, you sell more of that product, you make more money. It feels like you grow, you make money, great.

Dominique Baillet: A two-sided marketplace is a little bit more complex. Not only do you need to actually grow both sides of the marketplace, buyer and the seller side, but there’s even a question of what your product even is. Is your product the platform? Is it your sellers? Is it your seller’s products? Is it access to the buyers or is it the underlying user behavior data? Only once when you figure that out can you actually think about how to make money.

Dominique Baillet: If you currently work at a marketplace business or if you’re thinking about joining a marketplace business, there’s three simple questions you need to understand to fund the basis of a monetization plan: who pays, what do they pay for and what do you give away for free.

Dominique Baillet: First, in terms of who pays, you’ve basically got three options: you’ve got the buyer, you’ve got the seller and you’ve got a third party. The key considerations you really need to think about is, who benefits the most from this marketplace and who is willing and can actually afford to pay.

Dominique Baillet: The next question is, what do they actually pay for? If you think about it, a marketplace is still fundamentally a place where someone is trying to buy something or find someone, and so as a marketplace, you really need to think about where you add the most value in that, in creating value for your end users and that can be represented by a nice funnel here.

Dominique Baillet: As a marketplace, you can think about is the value you’re adding actually at the top of the funnel creating access. Think about when Etsy started. It enabled these micro-entrepreneurs to actually open these store fronts, giving access to buyers everywhere of crocheted products. Or think about LinkedIn and the access it created of enabling recruiters to post a job that would go anywhere. That would be creating value in terms of access. The mid funnel is all about leads. Is your marketplace actually set up to curate a set of products or curate a set of love interests and is your value really in the vetting process.

Dominique Baillet: At the bottom of the funnel is transactions. Is your marketplace actually set up to shepherd someone to actually make that sale or make that match? Is that the differential value you’re actually creating? These are things to think about when you think about what are you going to actually ask these payers to pay for. Then lastly is the question of what do you give away for free? Free is really what you when you’re trying to acquire users or when you need the marketplace itself to work. Everything outside of that is really a distraction when you think about what you’re giving away for free.

Dominique Baillet: To bring this to light, I wanted to give a few examples of how these three questions are really interrelated. At, we monetize primarily on the buyer side or the family, so families like mine. When I was looking for a nanny for my daughter, Greta, I had two not great options. One, very expensive, I could go to a nanny agency, spend thousands of dollars. The other option was incredibly time consuming. I would have to source a number of high quality caregivers and vet them myself and interview and do all of that. actually created a ton of value in saving me both time and money.

Dominique Baillet: On the other side of the marketplace, the supply side would be the caregivers. Caregivers are in job searching mode, don’t have a job and maybe have less disposable income if they’re looking for a job, and then also job seeking markets, and typically the job seeker doesn’t actually pay. At, it’s really the families, that buy side.

Dominique Baillet: Then what families, what I was looking for, was really access. When I was thinking about finding a nanny, it wasn’t like an Uber driver where anyone could do. I really needed to have a good personal connection. Having access to a base of high quality caregivers that I could really figure out who is best for me and my family, that’s really what I was paying for. I was paying for access to that market.

Dominique Baillet: In terms of what’s free, as I mentioned, is really only successful if we have the best and the most caregivers. Therefore, we made the whole caregiver experience free. It’s free to set up a profile. It’s free to get a job and really what we’re trying to do is get as many of these great caregivers onto our platform. We don’t want to create any friction there.

Dominique Baillet: We also need the families, the payer side, to have confidence in the platform and to understand that inventory we say we have is true. We also make it free to post a job and free to search the caregiver so you really understand that is what it says it is.

Dominique Baillet: NerdWallet is a different marketplace, has a different strategy, and as I mentioned, NerdWallet matches consumers with financial products. In terms of their evaluation of who pays, that one’s is pretty easy. It’s the sell side who pays. Those are the financial institutions like Chase or Citi or Bank of America. They have a lot of money that they put aside toward customer acquisition and are always looking for new channels to make a sale, to find a customer. They have the money. Meanwhile, the buy side of that marketplace, consumers, like you or I, we can really go almost anywhere to get a credit card these days. We’d never pay for that service.

Dominique Baillet: In terms of what the financial institutions pay for, it’s really at that bottom of the funnel, it’s that transaction. For NerdWallet, it’s credit card business. We would monetize on the transaction and the NerdWallet experience from providing advice, to tools, to making the credit card application process really easy, was all targeted toward helping consumer get the product they want, helping the seller make the sale. Then finally in terms of what’s free, like I said, people can go anywhere to get credit cards, so why would they actually come to NerdWallet? In order for that marketplace to really work, we had to have the consumers. Therefore, NerdWallet invested a ton in great content, in tools, in order to build that trust with users.

Dominique Baillet: I know it’s hard to go through three examples but for the sake of comprehensiveness, I want to talk quickly about Facebook, which I’m sure everyone here is quite familiar with. In terms of who pays for Facebook, it’s really third party ads. No shocker there. Marketers are paying for access and leads in the form of eyeballs and click-throughs and in terms of what’s free, well think about what is it take for that marketplace to work, it really requires having very detailed user information. The product is the social medial platform we’re all quite familiar with.

Dominique Baillet: Facebook also invests in a number of marketing tools, for marketers to get the most use out of that ad platform. The lesson here is these three questions are interrelated and every business has a different business model where you really need to think about who pays, what for, and what’s free.

Dominique Baillet: If I’ve exposed for you in this conversation that two-sided marketplaces are complex, I hope that you also feel a sense of excitement in that complexity. It’s really a game of chess, not checkers and there’s a number of strategic choices that can be made.

Dominique Baillet: If you find yourself building a marketplace business, just remember that growth is important, but make sure you have a plan for making money. Consider who pays, ensure you’re offering them differential value and that they can actually afford it. Know what you’re asking people to pay for and make sure that you’re aligning the value you offer with the value you create.

Dominique Baillet: Lastly, have a plan for what’s free because nothing in life is free. Make sure whatever you are giving for free actually reinforces your marketplace. Thank you very much.

Connie Fong: Nothing in life is free. That’s the second understatement for the evening. Next up, we actually have Abbey Stauffer. She is our Director of Product Management, and she actually manages all of the matches within our site experience. She truly is the matchmaker on our site. Here, she’s also going to give a talk on the art and science of matchmaking.

Abbey Stauffer speaking at Girl Geek Dinner.

Abbey Stauffer: That’s me. I have an important question for you guys. Does anyone here ever feel like Netflix knows you? Yeah? I’m not the only one? The first time I watched Gilmore Girls, I was like, “Oh my God. Thank you, somebody knows me.” Someone can see into my soul by recommending the Gilmore Girls. I love this show and it came to me as a Netflix recommendation. Now, of course that didn’t happen by accident and I think probably being here in Silicon Valley, most people understand that Netflix has invested really heavily in their matching technology. They put millions of dollars and many, many years of work into making the recommendation engine what it is today. Guess what? Their work will never be done. They will never have a recommendation algorithm that is complete.

Abbey Stauffer: I think that’s fascinating. They take hundreds of millions of data points in order to match me up with this wonderful show. They’ve actually even invested further than just their own team. They famously declared the Netflix prize, which was a million dollar prize for anyone who could improve the algorithm by just 10%. That’s pretty crazy and somebody won that, but we’ll come back and talk more about that later. Netflix, they take a ton of data and they give you a recommendation. That in itself is a pretty complex and challenging thing. But in this equation, only I have to like Gilmore Girls. Gilmore Girls doesn’t have to like me back, right? Warner Bros. doesn’t have to want me specifically as a viewer.

Abbey Stauffer: That is the challenge of a two-sided marketplace. When you’re serving the needs of two users, you’re matching challenge gets ever more complex, and that’s what I get to work on every day with We are stewards of not only the families that we serve, but also the caregivers and guess what? The needs on the caregiving side are just as complex as they are for the family.

Abbey Stauffer: While I love this match and I think it was perfect for me, at we get to work on a two-sided marketplace, two-sided match, and I’d love to share with you more about what I do day-to-day in that matching process but also share some other matching methodologies and challenges that I see all around us.

Abbey Stauffer: Matching challenges are not just an online thing. They exist in the offline world. They exist online. They’re old school. They’re new school. Think about organ patients waiting for a donor or medical residents waiting for a hospital match or even the entire college admissions process.

Abbey Stauffer: Now, all of these things, they are matching problems, and they haven’t moved entirely online, but they do leverage matching methodologies. We won’t go into the specific algorithms today but each one has kind of a unique way or unique ways that they leverage algorithms. I encourage you to check up on that. Certainly here in Silicon Valley, we have matching challenges abound. We have full industries that have popped up around getting people to a great match. Looking for love, a whole industry around that. I can’t even keep up with it. Every time I turn around there’s a different app. Looking for a ride. This is super interesting, actually, Lyft has an engineering blog where they give you a ton of information about what they’re working on, things that they’ve tried, challenges that they’ve experienced and they’re really forthcoming with what they’ve done so you can learn a ton from reading their engineering blog and others.

Abbey Stauffer: When they started out, the matching challenge was relatively straightforward, although I’m sure if anyone here works at Lyft, you’d probably disagree with because it took it probably a ton of work to get there, but they were matching one rider with one driver, right? Take a rider, match them with a driver who is nearby and available. Not that hard, right?

Abbey Stauffer: Well, the company was not satisfied with just that match and just with the status quo of their business. They thought, how do we make the service even cheaper for our users? How do we grow our ridership? They started to think about how they could add more people to the ride, how they can add more riders into the match, and this is where things I think got really interesting with their matching challenge.

Abbey Stauffer: This, as you can probably tell, is what precipitated their Lyft Line product when they have multiple riders sharing one driver. At first, they had an algorithm that was serving one additional rider, so two riders to one driver. The algorithm that they had came up with four different, that’s three, four different route permutations, then had to declare the winner for and match up the rider and the driver. That started to go well. Users were responding to it. It was a service that was really taking off. Being in Silicon Valley and being an ambitious company, they didn’t stop there. They added a third rider and a fourth rider, and as they got to that fourth rider, the algorithm was then catapulted from giving them four permutations of a route to 1700. That was their challenge, right, to narrow that down come up with an optimized match from 1700 possible route permutations.

Abbey Stauffer: Now, if that makes any of you feel like you’ve been watching Westworld for too long to think about how to solve that product challenge with an algorithm, then I’m totally with you. I’ve been there. I live that on the regular in the matching world, but don’t worry, there are a number of what I would call foundational things that you can think about if you’re getting started in matching.

Abbey Stauffer: Many of you probably already worked on matching challenges or maybe you’re interested in getting into it and so I’d like to spend the rest of the time talking about what I think are four key things to think about. I need a drink of water. Okay.

Abbey Stauffer: Probably unsurprising to all of you, but you will need data in order to match up users. Data can take all sorts of different forms. Of course, you’ll have your user data, the data that they give you into their profile. This is the most straightforward kind of data to collect. But you can also look at behavior data.

Abbey Stauffer: What the user does and what they tell you is often very different. My favorite example of this is

Abbey Stauffer: Does anyone follow’s findings that they’ve released in the media kind of like Okcupid did, as well? Okay, well, a number of years ago, they took a look at their data and they saw conservative men want to date conservative women. It makes sense, or at least according to the dating profile. Then when they took a look at the user behavior, they found that the conservative men were actually spending a curious amount of time looking at liberal women’s profiles.

Abbey Stauffer: Now, that is a fascinating product challenge right there. I have no idea what they did with it. I have no idea if they put it into the algorithm or if they just decided not to touch that with a 10-foot pole, but I would have love to be there for that product conversation to think about how you pair the data of what the user does with what the user tells you. Oops. Okay.

Abbey Stauffer: Triangulation data. What I mean by this is really looking for external data sources. This can be really useful for those of you that work in more nascent products or new businesses that don’t yet have scale with your data. You can also look at triangulating data from users that are similar to the user that you’re interested in solving for.

Abbey Stauffer: Then finally, success data. This is often overlooked at the start of a matching project. Your algorithm is not going to teach itself, people. Well, it will eventually, but only if you’re giving it success data. You have to give it the information about when it makes a successful or an unsuccessful match. You have to train it and coach it and coax it until it is matching on its own.

Abbey Stauffer: You need to have a metric of what success actually is and that’s a lot easier said than done in many cases. If you don’t own the full fulfillment of your product, if you hand it off to a third party or if your users decide to take things offline and not complete on your platform, then guess what, you’re not going to have that success metric.

Abbey Stauffer: What do you there? You could think about intermediate success metrics or indicators of a good match or you could align as a company on a different success metric and that will probably take quite a lot of internal conversation to agree upon something like that. Just a few types of data. There’s many more that can serve your matching needs.

Abbey Stauffer: Unfortunately, that data could be collecting dust if you do not have a strong data engineering group or data warehousing group. Think of it as a sort of hierarchy of needs, the pyramid about needing food and shelter before you can have self-actualization. The same could be said for data. Okay, first you need the data, you have to capture it, but if you don’t store it in the right way, if you don’t structure it in the right way, that makes it consumable for an algorithm. It’s just going to be collecting dust and maybe your dear data analyst will be able to get some insights for you, but you won’t be able to use it in your matching methodology. Having a strong data engineering team, data warehousing team is key.

Abbey Stauffer: Okay, this brings me to my next point, thought partnership. We’ve covered the science of matching and now we move on to the art. Thought partnership is a key part of being a product manager, right? You have to have relationships with all of the different groups in your company and you have to engage them and get thought partnership from all of them in order to arrive at a good product solution.

Abbey Stauffer: A couple of examples here, who you need to partner with will very greatly by your product and what you’re trying to achieve, but a couple of examples. Your business analytics partner can do a lot to help you keep grounded in sound methodologies and keep you honest if you’re trying to extract a takeaway from some data that’s not actually true, to keep you honest there. And engineering can help you think about building an algorithm that will scale with your product, because, hopefully your product is poised for explosive growth and your algorithm will need to grow with that.

Abbey Stauffer: They can also help you think about building your algorithm for speed to make sure that you are actually delivering the recommendation to the user as fast as you need to. The Netflix Prize that I told you about before, they did award a winner. It was a team of a few people and they got their money, but Netflix never implemented the algorithm because the engineering costs do so was so high. That just underscores the need for both thought partnership and the strong data engineering foundation because having a huge fancy algorithm is not always easy to actually implement and scale with your company.

Abbey Stauffer: User empathy, last puzzle piece. Having a feedback with loop with your users to make sure that they agree that the match is successful is hugely important, and Lyft, we’ll go back to that example. They’ve done a great job at this. They took the time to actually incorporate a feedback loop into their product.

Abbey Stauffer: What they’re hearing from users was, even though the match that they had in the multi-rider match scenario was getting them to the final destination quickly, they hated backtracking, that was the main takeaway. “Please, get me to my destination quickly, but do not make me backtrack and God forbid, don’t do it on a highway.”

Abbey Stauffer: What they found, really, was that users valued having a direct path more than they did, having the fastest path. What a fascinating thing for them to find. Then their task became, how do we bring that back into our algorithm as a success metric and they never would have gotten that if they didn’t have a feedback loop that built into their product or if they didn’t take the time to actually sit down and talk to their customers.

Abbey Stauffer: Obviously, a lot of art and science goes into matching. I love my job because I get to work on that problem every day. This is my favorite match of all. I was a part of a nanny share for my oldest son. It involved five adults, two kids, two pets, two households and a ton of logistics, and somehow it all came together for a really wonderful match that helped me go back to work and really get my career off the ground. This is what I keep in the back of my mind when I work at, is driving towards scaling this kind of match for all of our 25 million members. I hope, I wish that upon all of you to as you work on matching within your own products. Thank you.

Connie Fong: Thank you so much, Abbey. I’m so thrown because I’m so glad she threw up that image of Gilmore Girls, because I looked at that picture of Alexis and I just finished binge watching Handmaid’s Tale so I’m totally blown and forgot that she was in Gilmore Girls. But enough about me binge watching TV and food.

Connie Fong: I’m very excited to introduce our next speaker. Her name is Lauren Chan Lee. Before I do that, I always have to throw in a “Go Bears!” because I found she was a Stanford grad. I’m a Cal grad, so you know. Not that we’re competitive or anything in the Bay Area. But Lauren, she is our Director of Product Management. She focuses on mobile trust and safety products and she will lead the conversation on how to build trust within our marketplace.

Lauren Chan Lee speaking at Girl Geek Dinner.

Lauren Chan Lee: Thanks, Connie. Connie, at the beginning of this evening promised you lots of gratuitous pictures of children so I’m just going to get mine out of the way right away. Here are my kids. Thank you for awing on cue. I love you guys. I show you this picture because they look very cute here. They’re giving each other the spontaneous hug. It’s all great, but sometimes they’re also really annoying. The thing is though, they’re my kids so I love them and regardless of how they’re behaving, I couldn’t imagine my life without them. That really underscores the predicament that I and millions of other families face every day, which is something that Sheila talked about. How do I find someone that I can trust to take care of my kids?

Lauren Chan Lee: The internet has made it so easy for us to find everything online from directions to a restaurant to even finding a babysitter on the internet. But the only problem is, how do I really know who I’m talking to is who I think it is.

Lauren Chan Lee: If the fake news scandal this year has taught us anything, it’s that on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog or even a Russian operative. I’m here to tell you that trust is the key ingredient. If I can’t build trust with my babysitter, then it doesn’t matter what matching algorithms Abby is throwing at me, there’s not going to be a deal that’s happening.

Lauren Chan Lee: Trust is what’s going to get your users comfortable with buying your product. Trust is going to be what gets them to convert faster and trust is going to be what’s gets them to be your customer for longer.

Lauren Chan Lee: Tonight, we’re going to talk about my framework that I use to think about how to build trust, starting from internal to external mechanisms that you can use. This is really not meant to be an exhaustive list of all the things that you can do. We only have time tonight to talk about four things, but there’s certainly a lot more ways that you can build trust. And it’s also not meant to be prescriptive because some will work better in some cases than others. I’ll try to highlight that.

Lauren Chan Lee: Let’s get started on how we think about building trust. The first way that’s really, really common is rating and review systems. Recently, I was looking for a new patch for my backpack. I came across this pink geometric fox on Etsy and it’s $5, it’s super cute, best of all when I scrolled down the page, I could see that it had over 2000 positive reviews for the seller.

Lauren Chan Lee: With such great social proof, it was really easy for me to make my decision, which was, add to cart. Now, I’m not going to be the dead horse when it comes to rating and reviews because I know that you guys have all seen it before. If you’ve ever shopped on Amazon or eBay, if you’ve ever ridden an Uber or Lyft, you’ve probably read reviews, you’ve probably also left reviews.

Lauren Chan Lee: Reviews are really great from a product standpoint because they tap into the wisdom of your user-base, people who are in your marketplace and they also scale really well. Best of all, they create stickiness with your supply because if I’m a seller and I have over 2000 positive reviews, you can bet that I’m going to think twice before I leave your marketplace.

Lauren Chan Lee: Another common way for a marketplace is to build trust is through guarantees. A few years ago, I went to Coachella and a few of my friends decided to join at the last minute. They had to buy their tickets from someone on Craigslist. I think you know how this story is going to end. It’s like a Lifetime after-school special. We’re having a great time that weekend. We found an awesome house nearby the venue. We’ve donned our festival best and we walked up to the gates. What happens? Err, that’s right, they get denied at the gate.

Lauren Chan Lee: It’s just such a devastating feeling when you’ve traveled in to go to this marquee event, you’re really excited to see your favorite bands, and then you don’t get in. That’s exactly why StubHub has a FanProtect guarantee, because they know that when you’re buying expensive tickets, the last thing that you want to have on your mind is, am I going to get in or not? By having this guarantee in place, they’re able to transfer the trust so that you don’t have to trust the seller on the other side of the transaction, you can trust the platform instead.

Lauren Chan Lee: Guarantees are great when the platform is intermediating the transaction, when it’s a high dollar transaction, or when it’s a very rare item. But what happens if your marketplace is not selling a thing but it’s actually selling a service through a person?

Lauren Chan Lee: This is where verifications come into play. If you’ve ever had to answer a question like, which of these addresses have you lived at in the last seven years? Then actually you have had your identity verified. Here’s how it works. Let’s say that I’m listing a house on Airbnb, and this is a gorgeous house in Napa. Unfortunately it’s not actually mine, but if I were to put myself in the shoes of this homeowner, I know that I would only want to rent it to somebody who’s trustworthy, who has provided their identification, and that’s something that I can choose as a host on Airbnb.

Lauren Chan Lee: There’s so much technology developing right now in this area and the cutting edge is AI and machine learning. Here’s how it works, as a guest I actually take a picture of the front and back of my ID. I take a selfie and voila, the magical machine learning algorithms tell Airbnb the chances that I am who I say I am that the ID is real or if it’s been doctored in any way that the face in my selfie matches the face on my ID. That makes me as a host really comfortable knowing that the platform has done this verification on my behalf.

Lauren Chan Lee: Last but not least, we come to certifications. This is something that’s external to your marketplace. If I think back to the summer of my junior year of high school or the summer of SAT, I can still vividly recall every day after summer school, riding the MUNI to go to my summer job and I would open up my Cracking the SAT book or flip through my SAT flashcards, and all of that effort was done in the hopes that I would score really high on SAT and be able to get into the college of my choice.

Lauren Chan Lee: Many of you may be able to relate to that, so the SATs are actually a way that colleges use to be able to compare high school students, apples to apples across the country, regardless of what school they went to or what classes they have taken. It’s an external standard.

Lauren Chan Lee: Similarly, Upwork has created their own test and certification so that when you’re on their marketplace for freelancers, you can easily search across and see if people meet the needs that you’re looking for.

Lauren Chan Lee: Now that I’ve been giving all these talks, I think that I need a website. I’m looking for a graphic designer who can help me do that. I’ve come across Rose R’s profile, and I can quickly scan down and see that actually she scored below average on principles of graphics design. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like she has the skills that I need, but I can learn that quickly and move on to look at other candidates who might be a better fit. Certifications are a great way to build trust because you’re able to look at these external standards across different marketplaces and things.

Lauren Chan Lee: Today, we talked about a couple of different ways, starting by looking within your marketplace to the power of your own users with things like ratings and review systems, then going to channel the power of your marketplace itself with guarantees and verifications, and finally looking external to your marketplace with things like certifications.

Lauren Chan Lee: My call to action for you guys is, as you’re going back to your day jobs tomorrow, think about how you can build trust strategically by thinking internally and externally.

Lauren Chan Lee: If I haven’t convinced you yet, I have one final example. It’s Zappos.

Lauren Chan Lee: In 1999, they launched with almost no revenue in a very crowded space. Think about all the places online that you can buy shoes, or offline. Over the course of 10 years, they managed to build hockey stick growth until in 2009 they reached over a billion dollars in revenue and sold to Amazon.

Lauren Chan Lee: What was the secret to their success, thank you. You’re making me work for it. Trust, that’s right, trust is what customers knew that Zappos stood for. You could return a pair of shoes even up to a year after purchase. They even took a customer service call that lasted for 10 hours. Customers knew that they could trust Zappos with anything, practically even their life.

Lauren Chan Lee: If you’re a fan of hockey stick growth, if you want to monetize and match, and do all these good things, I urge you to think about, how can I build trust. Thank you.

Connie Fong: Thank you, Lauren. Our last speaker this evening is Rita Chow. We’re very lucky to have her because she has a great experience from startup companies to working to large organizations like Apple. We’re very fortunate that she’s here tonight to share with us what it’s like to be a female engineer.

Rita Chow speaking at Girl Geek Dinner.

Rita Chow: Thank you, Connie. Hi. I’m a mom of two sons who drive me crazy. I’ve been a software engineer for about 19 years. When I was asked to speak at this event, I thought about when I’ve been in the audience at events like these and what I usually appreciate most is hearing about personal journeys, struggles and challenges. Tonight, I’ll share with you my journey, which started in China Town, San Francisco where I was born and raised.

Rita Chow: I grew up with the older generation that wanted a son to pass on the family name. You just get a sense that somehow boys were more special. Growing up, Chinese New Year’s was my favorite time of the year because we receive our envelopes filled with lucky money to bring us good fortune.

Rita Chow: I remember one time when I was eight or so, my brother got more lucky money than I did from a close family friend. I asked my dad about it and he joked that it was because he was a boy. I thought, “What? That’s not fair. Gender wage gap already?” That’s when I decided I wanted to be a feminist when I grow up, but as it turns out the family friend was my brother’s godmother, but that feeling of wanting things to be equal for boys and girls stuck with me.

Rita Chow: When I first got to college, I had no idea what I want to do or study, but I loved math. Some friends suggested I give computer science a try. I did and loved it. In my engineering class, there were not very many women. Today, UC Davis said there are almost 25% women in computer science, but when I was in school, it felt like it was less than half of that. But this wasn’t something I cared about, my focus was just completing my degree.

Rita Chow: When I started working, I was typically the only female engineer or maybe one of two. Being outnumbered didn’t bother me, but some comments started to. There was a male engineer who would say things like, “Hey, I heard you get special treatment from the boss because you’re a girl,” or “I heard that you don’t get yelled at because you’re a girl.”

Rita Chow: Seriously, when I hear this kind of comments, I try to see where they are coming from, but part of me feel defensive. If it was so easy being a girl in a male-dominated field, why aren’t there more of us, and more importantly why do we as women still feel differently? Even though I felt defensive, I was determined never to let people’s biases stop me from doing what I love.

Rita Chow: Sometimes biases have been less obvious. I remember there was a meeting, mostly men. The guy running the meeting picked my female co-worker to take notes. I didn’t really think too much about it at that time because I would have offered to take notes if needed, but my co-worker was upset. She felt he was being sexist by picking her instead of any of the guys.

Rita Chow: Today, this stood out to me when I was taking a women’s leadership class and we had a case study similar to this situation. The purpose of the study was to point out that everyone has biases and they wanted us to think about how we would handle the situation when a male colleague picks you, a woman, to take notes when there’s a room full of men.

Rita Chow: After this case study, I realized why my co-worker was upset. One suggestion given was to say, “I’ll takes notes this time, but maybe someone else can do it next time.” Fortunately, these situations didn’t happen too often for me personally, but I guess, like in college my focus was just to do my work well and enjoy what I do. More than gender bias or treatment, I’ve personally found one of the biggest challenges of being a woman in tech is balancing work and life.

Rita Chow: After I had my first son, I was very sad to return back to work after maternity leave. I just started getting the hang of taking care of a newborn and I was going to miss my son very much. When I returned, I was exhausted all the time because I was still waking up in the middle of the night taking care of my son, feeding, pumping, changing diapers.

Rita Chow: Before I knew it, he was old enough to ask me to play with him and then mommy guilt hit me. Putting down my computer was an emotional tug of war between wanting to finish my work and taking care of my son. I thought, “Should I stop working or should I find a part time job?”

Rita Chow: Well, I did neither, but I started to try to make some rules for myself. For example, I only work near my kids so that I can drop them off and pick them up or be ready to get them in case of emergency. I told myself I should not feel guilty for leaving work to pick up my son or bring them to appointments or take time off to go to their fieldtrips. When I get home I would not do work until I was there for my kids first.

Rita Chow: Another common challenge I hear from parents is finding affordable quality caregiver or daycare for moms to return back to work or during school breaks. Some decide to change to part-time, some would leave the workforce and some stay but are very stressed. In this regard, I was lucky because my mom was nearby and free to look after my sons until they were about three, but a lot of people don’t have this luxury.

Rita Chow: Even so, when they were approaching 3, I also had to start planning for preschool, school, and care during school breaks. It can be stressful because you want what’s best for them. It’s expensive and it takes a lot of time and effort because this challenge is so common and relatable, I was very drawn to’s mission to help people find that best care in the easiest way possible. Maybe if finding care for your loved ones is made easier, less women in tech would need to leave the workforce.

Rita Chow: From my experience as a female software engineer, things that kept me here were, not letting people’s biases stop me from doing what I love, keeping a work life balance, and knowing I am not alone in struggling to do what’s best for me and my family. Thank you for listening to my story.

Connie Fong: I love that final thought. Don’t let anyone stop you from doing what you love. I really want to thank you for your attention tonight. I know we’re running a little bit over, but we’d like to open the floor for some Q&A for the panelist, if you can please come back up to the stage. Who wants to go first?

Audience Member: First of all, this is so fantastic. I’ve been through a lot of these challenges. Thank you. It struck me when you’re talking, Sheila you talked about the gig economy and that you guys are a unique place where you’ve been thinking about the gig economy for years and some of these other companies. This is an open-ended question, but are there any other insights about where you think the future of work is going and was it really important to support massive workforce [inaudible].

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: I think … Is this working? I think there’s a lot that we can do. What’s interesting and we’re sensitive about when we talk about it on the branding side when we debate, we don’t really label a lot of our efforts as a gig economy effort because if you think about caregivers, we’re trying to be advocates to professionalize caregiving and sometimes gig suggests that we’re not valuing and respecting the profession that they’re entering into by calling caregiver a gig worker, but the reality is gig worker should be respected in general whether they’re part-time or full-time.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: We are in the space even though we don’t label ourselves that way and the way we’ve been thinking about it is if we could be at the forefront of developing products and platforms overall to create more stickiness because if you think about it, Dominique talked about this, right?

Sheila Lirio Marcelo speaking on a panel at Girl Geek Dinner.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: It’s how do you define products but also addresses the same business strategy and if there’s ways to monetize that, but our way of monetizing it is that, as she described, if we’re attracting caregivers for free and we provide them benefits and we’re investing in it, it’s not only the right moral thing to do, but it’s actually the right business investment that we need to make.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: The way we think about it at, whether it’s the gig economy, whether it’s the trust, or whatever it is that we’re investing in, we’re always asking ourself is it true to our values and balance that with, is it the right business decision to make, as well. That’s what makes us unique is that we can actually bring the two together.

Audience Member: Thank you.

Audience Member: To start, yes … Is it on? Oh. To start, thank you guys for sharing. All of your stories are awesome, but one of my questions, and I don’t know who can answer this, but as far as your guys’ growth being relatively new, what are some of the biggest challenges that you guys are facing and scaling when it comes to adding on new service providers and users of the platform. Like what are some of the biggest challenges that you guys are looking to overcome right now?

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: We have the head of growth, Dominique.

Dominique Baillet: Yeah. I mean there are so many things that I can think about, but I think fundamentally what it takes for our company to be successful is to always be the best place for caregivers to find a job because families come to our platform if we have the caregivers. But one of our inherent challenges is actually that we have … We are constantly trying to make sure that we actually match supply and demand.

Dominique Baillet: In different markets or in different geographies, we might have more families relative to the number of caregivers we have and then other geographies we might have more caregivers relative to the other families.

Dominique Baillet: We have to balance supply and demand and we have to do it at a regional level. Always figuring out how to manage those dynamics in the right way, I think, is one of the challenges, while still creating really a great experience for caregivers and to also create a great experience for families, because like I mentioned the families are the ones that are paying, but they’re paying because we have the caregivers. I think that’s one of the inherent challenges of a two-sided marketplace, but absolutely that’s one of the things we’re always trying to figure out.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Let me add to that. I think it’s hard to build marketplaces without patience. We kind of want to jump to that balance right away, so for the first five years, our focus was really more on density than it was on quality because when we polled the users in the early days other than the 8 and a half by 11 sheet that you got at your local church that you peeled off that little ear with the phone number or the YWCA or YMCA or your next door neighbor, there was really wasn’t a lot of places to go for care because the classified ads were going and maybe there’s Craigslist, if again, as Lauren pointed out, trust is really important.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Back then, we really prioritized choice and density and we knew the plight. When you post a job you get 200, sometimes a 1000 results if you lived in New York City. Back then that was great because when you’re looking for care anybody would with a pulse was better than not. You didn’t have a lot of access to care.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Nowadays, with smartphones and what Uber and Airbnb and Lyft and everybody’s really reset customer expectations that it’s about quality, it’s about the algorithms, it’s about the match that Abbey talked about, and that’s changing. And that becomes a challenge with also organizational shifts around priorities, because you’ve been focused so much on acquisition free, just get volume, volume, volume, but now you really have to invest in the product overall. It’s a shift also culturally on how we think about things.

Connie Fong: I think I’ll suggest, Dominique talks about the complexity of the two-sided market place, and then the complexity actually becomes exponentially more complex, because if you think about the caregivers who provide care, there’s a very wide spectrum of people who do that.

Connie Fong: We have a lot of college-aged care providers who are very different than your experienced care providers, so you have two very disparate sub-segments within just the supply side. And similarly on the family side, people who need childcare, their needs might be very different than people who need care for their parents.

Connie Fong: You can imagine two-sided being complex in and of itself, but when we think about from a marketing perspective, understanding the right message to the right person at the right time, the audience has become exponentially more complex within each side of the market place.

Audience Member: Thank you.

Audience Member: Thank you all for the amazing talks, by the way. The thing that really struck me was you’re all women in prominent leadership positions with kids at home and I recently took on a very demanding leadership role at my job and I’m wondering what tactics you’ve put into place to help draw the boundaries between your work and life balance that might help you maintain a better balance and a healthier life.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Rita?

Rita Chow: As I mentioned, I started to make rules for myself. I think it is very understandable that family is very important, and I think usually at the work, in the office people will understand that.

Rita Chow: I would make rules for myself life, like I said, when I go home, it’s hard for me to put down my computer, but I want to see my kids grow up, so I will take care of them first before I would do my work.

Lauren Chan Lee: I’ll take a stab at this one, as well. I think for me there’s three things. One is just straight up quoting Sheryl Sandberg, “Your partner has to be your partner.” For me, having a husband who is supportive is a really key thing and we really try to balance our home responsibilities.

Lauren Chan Lee: The second, like Rita said, is setting boundaries. One thing that I always make time for is, I always pick up my kids, and that’s just one thing that pretty much always stays the same except when I come to Girl Geek Dinner.

Lauren Chan Lee: The third thing for me, is you really have to like pick and choose where you want to have like your perfection and quality bar versus the things that you want to let go. One of the areas where I don’t maybe hold myself to as high of a standard as other people is just in terms of like the meals we eat. We eat a lot of repeat meals and left-overs throughout the week. I can’t cook every night, that’s just not going to happen in our house. We also have somebody come in and help out with like cleaning on a periodic basis.

Lauren Chan Lee: There are things where you just have to find help. It’s a village and so you figure out which things you’re going to value and do yourself versus you can find help on to help you do it.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: I’m a very great, professional muffin buyer that we take to school. They’re happy that they bring muffins to school.

Connie Fong: I think women in leadership positions, we are here because we have high expectations of ourselves and I love that. I would never say lower your expectations. I remember this conversation I had with a roommate and she was like, “Connie, the sooner you realize you can’t have it all, the happier you will be.”

Connie Fong: That was like the most depressing conversation that I had with her after Sex in the City, but basically, I didn’t want that to be the path that I wanted to take, but I think the balance is, it’s fine. Have those high expectations, that’s great, but I think to balance that is also be kind to yourself and forgive yourself when things don’t happen the way that you think they’re going to happen and it’s like my house is crazy.

Connie Fong: I have three young kids under 7 and is my house perfectly clean? No, I just take out my contacts and call it a day, like I will forgive myself on that, but you know, you do what you need to do to sort of do the best that you can and have your high expectations, but really just be kind to yourself.

Audience Member: Again, thank you for doing this.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Thank you for being here.

Audience Member: I’m a co-founder of the leading internet care platform in Turkey, so we went through some of the same challenges you did, so it’s amazing to hear story. My question is about growth.

Audience Member: When did you, when was the tipping point for This probably goes back a few years for you guys. How did you realize you’d get there in terms of growth? How did international expansion have an effect on your growth and for future growth, how do you see international expansion having an effect?

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: You know, our co-founder Dave Krupinski is here. I would love to turn it to you next. Yeah, I’ll let you answer it first. He’s trying to hide there in the shadows and I noticed him.

Dave Krupinski: Thanks so much for the question. I think the first part of your question was when did we experience sort of significant growth in our history?

Audience Member: Right.

Dave Krupinski: I often tell this anecdote, but I think it was at the time of the financial crisis in 2008, because while other companies were pulling back on marketing and really taking a very conservative approach to spending, we had the opportunity because we were a young startup, recently funded, to really do some experimentation with various marketing channels, especially mass marketing channels like television. We were able to produce some low cost, low budget ads but get out there buying remnant ads through Google TV’s program at the time and really begin to explore what it’s like to run a national mass market TV campaign, optimize the creative, optimize the experience when someone comes to the site, and that gave us the confidence I think and also sort of set us up for a national scale.

Audience Member: Thank you.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: At the time, to add to that, there’s a lot of things that we do that people say that’s crazy because in 2010, being a very young startup, people thought why would you spend any money on television? That’s only for big companies and profitable companies. But we were always very experimental. We would try, test a small budget, figure it out, but we had a different thesis and that we call today the McDonald Principle. At that time, I had this thought that if in fact, I was wondering, why are all these kids going to McDonald’s and yanking their parents to go to McDonald’s when it’s unhealthy food. Something was working with virality with children, something was also working that was drawing them in to McDonald’s, right? What was it? It was that …

Dave Kopetsky: Happy Meal.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Happy Meal and that feeling of like, satisfaction. When we started doing TV ads, we had a rule of thumb which was everything that we do, and Connie knows it, I repeat it all the time is, is it memorable? Is it memorable? Is it memorable? Is it memorable and then the second thing is we’re going to go market and market and market, how great a service this is to kids. Because, it’s a simple message and kids get it, on a TV ad, and, in fact, anecdotally we hear it all the time. If you haven’t heard the story whereas you’ll go out to party or you’re having dinner and you’re saying, “Hey, we’re going out on a date tonight,” and the kids will pipe up and say, “Why don’t you go to” We hear it all the time.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: The only reason I raise examples like that is actually tipping points are all about experimentation and testing different theories and studying analogous industries and understanding the behavioral psychology, how do you grow certain businesses? We’re constantly asking ourselves that.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: The move to quality, I said to the team recently, was when we definite it, how does Airbnb define quality now? It’s actually putting shampoos, folding the towel a certain way, tucking the bed. If we think about an Uber car, bottle of water, a little candy, the driver being super nice and saying, “Everything good?” Is the air quality good? You feel like you’re in a limo. When are you getting one of those? But, look at that definition of quality, it’s actually now defined in an offline way.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Constantly, we look at analogies in how we run our business and try different things and never always just assume what the rule of thumb for how we run our company should just apply. If we did that, we would have never, to Dave’s point, create an opportunity, the tipping point that built the brand from the get-go. Take risks, experiment and don’t have anyone tell you, “Well, this is the way we just do things.” I just … I would say, “Well, why?”

Audience Member: I lost my train of thought as I was raising my hand.

Audience Member: Here, pass it over. I’m sorry.

Audience Member: That’s fine. Oh, no, no. Go ahead.

Audience Member: Thank you for this. This is amazing. I look up to Sheila so much as a Filipino-American in tech so thank you for that and everyone is just amazing, senior leaders. I’m releasing a book on augmented and virtual reality, that’s the space that I work in, in March of next year. I’m currently a part of Oculus Launch Pad working on an app to release some multiplatforms. Shameless plug. I’m not trying to work here but I think you have an amazing company.

Audience Member: My question is like, thinking about outside of values of diversity inclusion, Rita, you talked about what keeps you here. For many junior women and other senior women that I’ve talked with, if they’re not founding a company within the AR and VR space, we constantly talk to each other about, “Well, what’s the culture like at the company? What are the values? Why would I work there? How would I be challenged?” These are questions I keep in mind because I decided to stop angel investing and blockchain on the side and potentially take another gig. But I’m overwhelmed.

Audience Member: I think with Silicon Valley being the buffet of options of like you can work at Apple, you can work at Google and it’s … I struggle with paradox of choice and I think looking at senior management and leadership, people like Sheila, like, “Oh yeah. I would totally work for someone who I can identify with or that looks like me.” What are the … I guess like top three values about what choices you’ve made in your career and outside of working here at that you think you could impart on us here, whether we are junior software engineers, people who are thinking about working at a company and why, just largely besides being purpose-driven, how you are challenged and why you stayed, choose to stay because I think, picking a company is very challenging when you are a senior woman engineer, like everyone you’re getting hit up all of the time. I’m wondering what made you choose here other than, say work life balance and that keeps you challenged. That’s my question.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Very competitive to hire each and every one of these leaders and I think this is a great question. I’m going to turn it over to Abbey first.

Abbey Stauffer: Prior to a couple of jobs ago, I worked almost my entire career in education in some way. I was never actually an educator but I worked in the tangential education space. I worked for Kaplan. I worked for an ed tech company that delivered coaching to college students and what kept me in that industry was the people were just so wonderful because everyone was grounded in a shared mission of wanting to help students and it wasn’t just a mission that they just emblazoned on the wall.

Abbey Stauffer: People really lived it and that really helped me feel energized in my work in hard times and in good times. I would say that was like looking for mission-driven work was what grounded me at the education point of my career but then as I moved out of that industry and into other industries I looked for that common thread because even if I am not working in education, I stepped into finance for a few years and now I’m here at Care, there has to be a common thread of really good people who are all truly committed to the mission that we’re working on, not just a motto on their T-shirt, but something that people really embody, that’s what’s really grounded my career.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Lauren, anything else?

Lauren Chan Lee: Sure. Well, I joined Care in January and before joining Care I was at StubHub for about eight years and when I was looking at what my next step was, I was looking at a lot of marketplace companies because that was a clear fit with my skill set.

Lauren Chan Lee: You actually nailed some of the key things that brought me here. One was being in Silicon Valley at a company with a woman founder and CEO is a huge draw. It’s not something you see every day.

Lauren Chan Lee: The other component for me, especially being a working mom, is that I’ve always been very passionate about how we empower women. When I was at StubHub, I was one of the founding members of our women’s group there and I was the president for a couple of years.

Lauren Chan Lee: This was a passion area of mine and I saw an opportunity to align that mission with the work that I would do every day at Care and it’s great to know that my work is actually helping both sides of the marketplace, women being empowered as working families as well as caregivers. Those were two really major components of my decision to join.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Connie? I thought it’s such a great question for everybody to answer.

Connie Fong: Yes, what was interesting to me when I joined this company is how altruistic everyone is. I don’t know if you’ve read my background, but all of my career before coming to Care was in omnichannel retail and I had worked for Sephora for several years and the Williams-Sonoma, Inc. company.

Connie Fong: For me, I’ll be straight up. I wanted to work for the number one business in the space that I wanted to be in. From a marketing perspective, Sephora was clearly number one in the space. From a care perspective, was clearly number one in the space.

Connie Fong: When I thought about also what was important to me, I majored in psychology and business and so for me, I wanted to be in a space where there was always irrational demand for the product. At Sephora, you’re dealing with human vanities. There’s really like uncapped potential there, and in the care space, I mean you really can’t put a price on the care for your children and how important that is. That was another, I was looking at the love space, whether it was dating, whether it was weddings, I mean, I was very strategic into thinking about what type company would make sense for me.

Connie Fong: I wanted to be number one. I wanted to have an irrational demand for the product, and for me, having three kids, like literally, the logistics and like the practicalities of finding something that would work from … I was commuting over 3 hours a day and that was just not sustainable for me. That was one logistical element that was very important. But figure out what your passion points are and figure out who the best is at it and that was my guiding principle.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Rita, do you want to add anything more than what you shared in your talk?

Rita Chow: It’s just mostly location. The thing I am working on is very interesting and being able to have a work life balance. I guess it’s what I’ve really said earlier.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: That was great. Dominique?

Dominique Baillet: Yeah. I’ve actually made a lot of career moves in my life. I’ve had a number of different professional jobs, when I was earlier in my career and where I am now, I’ve always made choices based on where do I think I’m going to learn the most and where I’m going to grow the most.

Dominique Baillet: What’s interesting is that what I need to learn and grow has changed as I’ve gotten older. When I was … Earlier in my career, it was all about skill development. Where can I learn transferable skills? Where can I learn the most from mentors about like how to actually do something?

Dominique Baillet: A certain point in your career, you actually check the competency box and then you migrate over into a territory of, now you just need to be really confident and you need to be able to walk into a room, command that room and there’s a different level of skill there.

Dominique Baillet: Actually, like many people up here have said, one of the reasons I joined Care is, I’d gotten to a point in my career where I could check the competency boxes, have the degrees and all of that, but I was in environments where when I looked above, I didn’t really see examples of leaders that felt like, that’s the type of leader I can be. I found myself feeling like, wow, in order to continue to rise, I really need to change my style. I really need to do something different and it felt uncomfortable. It felt like that one is going to be hard for me to do in an authentic way.

Dominique Baillet: Coming to Care actually and being able to learn from Sheila and seeing, not only Sheila, but other executives in more senior positions than me and being like, “Yeah, I get them and I can get there with the style I have or with the skill I have and there’s other things I need to learn,” but still feeling like it was possible, and for me that was really important to continue to get that next level of confidence to truly believe that with what I have I can get there, and that frankly was just a lot harder if I was in environments where I couldn’t look above and see examples of leaders like me.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: I’ll just add to this, it’s so competitive in the Bay Area in lots of different areas but even more so here, you get recruiters are pinging you the time. There’s just so many opportunities, they’re pitching the next startup and I think … or company, some great companies.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: I think the thing that I’ve been focused on in my career is long-term relationships.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: I probably interviewed once and updated my resume from one of my first jobs and I haven’t since because I just kept moving from company to company, following leaders that I believed in that actually gave me opportunities and continue to help grow me and believe in me, because that’s difficult to replicate.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: There will be plenty of startups, there will be plenty of sexy new technology, there will be plenty of great, great opportunities, recruiters will always pitch you. If you follow the opportunity in the pitch, sometimes you luck out. It’s going to be great and then you could retire young, which there’s a lot of potential of that in the Bay Area, but then there’s also what the journey of life, which is who do you want to be around.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: There’s definitely purpose, but I think, there’s also just the richness of where we spend most of our time, majority of our time in our lives, and so, if in fact, you enjoy the people that you work with and you found that tribe, I’m always encouraging people to say try and stick with that tribe, move from company to company and there’ve been times when I’m completely fine when somebody says, “Look, we’ve worked together. I’m going to leave for a little bit” and we’ve had people boomerang back or we work two or three companies later together. It might not be the next one.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: It’s just something to think about as you look at opportunities, is to actually look at the people in your life. Who is helping continue to sponsor and help you grow and catapult you to opportunities because they know you well and that’s really want to do in your career, would be my just a small piece of advice.

Connie Fong: Thank you so much for all of your questions. I know we’re running a little bit over time but we’re actually going to stay for a little bit so you can definitely come find us to ask questions. We really want to thank you for your attention, your engagement, your questions this evening. It was a great opportunity for to be here tonight and thank you again so much for taking the time.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Can I just say, thank you for the entire Exploratorium staff. Thank you so much. Thank you to Erin and the entire crew in white shirts who just made this beautiful. I mean we get to up here represent, but thank you so much. You guys made this happen. Thank you.

Like what you see here? Our mission-aligned Girl Geek X partners are hiring!

Girl Geek X Quantcast Lightning Talks & Panel (Video + Transcript)

Like what you see here? Our mission-aligned Girl Geek X partners are hiring!

Quantcast girl geeks: Esther Hsu (Staff Software Engineer) on machine learning in real-time bidding; and Malvika Mathur (Senior Software Engineer) on transitioning from Microsoft corporation to a 700-person startup like Quantcast; and Brittni Gustaf (Senior Software Engineer) on prototyping customer solutions at an internal Quantcast hackathon at Quantcast Girl Geek Dinner in San Francisco, California.

Dorothy Tse / VP, Product / Quantcast
Esther Hsu / Staff Software Engineer / Quantcast
Malvika Mathur / Senior Software Engineer / Quantcast
Brittni Gustaf / Senior Software Engineer / Quantcast
Somer Simpson / Head of Product Management – Measure / Quantcast
Disha Gosalia / VP, Service Operations & Support / Quantcast

Transcript of Girl Geek X Quantcast Dinner – Lightning Talks:

Dorothy Tse: We are so thrilled to have, hosting all of you tonight for Quantcast’s first Girl Geek Dinner. My name is Dorothy Tse and I lead product management for our Advertising Solutions here. Hopefully, you had a chance to mingle a little bit and do a little bit more networking. I certainly did. It’s just so fantastic to get to know some of you here and your like-minded interest as women all together in a single room. So it’s really fantastic.

Dorothy Tse: We have a number of exciting talks to share with you today. And up first is Esther Hsu, talking about delivering ads with machine learning. And then we’ll have Malvika Mathur, speaking about what her experience has been like transitioning from a corporation to a startup. And then we’ll have Brittni Gustaf, talking about what it’s like to hack into the customer experience, and then followed by Somer Simpson to talk about how a small team can impact an entire industry. And this is the GDPR piece. And then we have last but not least, Disha Gosalia, speaking about her experiences of how she navigated her career as a shy engineer.We’ll close with some Q&A for all of the speakers and continue with more networking and drinks, if you’re still up for it. All right.

Dorothy Tse: One of the things I’d like to do first is to give you a quick intro on Quantcast. Here at Quantcast we believe that AI will fundamentally change every company, industry, and customer experience. Well, that’s not something to fear because in the 21st century AI is more designed around how to compliment and boost human learning rather than replace it. We’re on a mission, as a company to help brands grow in this AI era. The way that we do this is we help brands and marketers make sense of all the data that’s out there, to understand and make smarter decisions faster. We started in 2006 as a company, as an audience measurement platform, helping online publishers understand their audiences as well as their web traffic — this is called our Quantcast Measure product.

Dorothy Tse: And over the years, our technology and our business has grown and we now measure over a 100 million web destinations across the globe and some of those web destinations include what you see here on the screen. Our technology track things such as site visits, keyword searches, content categories, just to name a few. We process over 30 petabytes of data in a single day. That’s kind of hard to quantify so it’s trying figure out what is a good way to give a visualization of that — that’s essentially, think of 600 million four-drawer file cabinets filled with content. It’s a lot of data, but many people say they have a lot of data as well.

Dorothy Tse speaking at Quantcast Girl Geek Dinner.

Dorothy Tse: What we’re particularly good at is our ability to make sense of this data. We’ve been working on Q. It is the world’s largest AI audience behavior platform for the open internet. We utilize the measure platform data to help us drive up predictive models as well as AI optimization to score audiences in real time. As a result of that, there are several capabilities that we provide as a suite of solutions for brands and marketers to help them with growing their business.

Dorothy Tse: First, we offer real-time audience insights. And these help to uncover who our marketers’ target customers are as well as what motivates them and how to influence them. We also provide predictive targeting and our predictive targeting allows us to target the right audiences at any point in their user journey, even before they’re in market. And then we also have comprehensive measurement. This is our ability to, in real-time, share audience level and campaign level insights that inform optimization decisions and decisions about how they want to better market to their target customers.

Dorothy Tse: This is really exciting stuff for our 700-plus employee base here. We’re a global company. We span over 10 different countries and have 20-plus offices across the globe. We are hiring, so definitely talk to us at any point. First up is to thank you so much for listening and again thank you all for attending today’s Girl Geek Dinner. First up is Esther Hsu. Thank you.

Esther Hsu speaking at Quantcast Girl Geek Dinner.

Esther Hsu: Hi, everybody. My name is Esther and I am a staff software engineer on the targeting team here Quantcast. Today, I’m going to talk to you about how we how we use machine learning here at Quantcast specifically in the context of our ad targeting product. This will not be a lesson in machine learning and I’m sorry if you were expecting that.

Esther Hsu: What do we use machine learning for? We use to reach a specific audience. Each of our clients is running a display advertising campaign and they all have a specific goal in mind. That goal can be anything from raising brand awareness or driving certain actions. Like clicks or purchasing products or anything like that. We use machine learning to help our clients target the right people at the right time in order to accomplish that goal.

Esther Hsu: For you to understand what it actually means for us to target people, you need to understand what real-time bidding is. Real-time bidding or RTB is a mechanism to deliver ads by auction on an impression by impression basis — impression meaning, like, ad view. With real-time bidding, we can target people at an individual level and we can also buy impressions at individual level. Hopefully this illustration I’m going to go through is going to clarify what that actually means.

Esther Hsu: Let’s say you’re this little gray stick figure and you go to a website. A lot of things actually happen before you see an ad on website. And the first thing that happens is that a request is fired to an inventory supplier. And what this inventory supplier is is, there are several inventory suppliers out there, some examples are Google, AppNexus, PubMatic, but what happens there is basically a milliseconds-long auction, where the inventory supplier asks all of their bidding partners, how much are you willing to pay to show this person an ad? So what happens is they would send out bid requests to all their bidding partners, requesting a bid. And Quantcast is one of those people doing the bidding.

Esther Hsu: This a blind auction. Meaning that none of the participants know what the other people are bidding, but everybody sends back their bids and just like any other auction, the highest bid wins. Then the inventory supplier will then choose that ad and that’s the ad that you end up seeing. I know all of you were surprised that this happens because it happens in literally 10 milliseconds so you probably have no idea.

Esther Hsu: How do we actually use machine learning to do this well? The part that machine learning has in this is that we need machine learning to understand how valuable each one of these bid opportunities are. We use machine learning to basically come up with an optimal price. What this means is that we train machine learning models and we use them in real time to understand how we should price each bid.

Esther Hsu: What does this model training actually look like and what are these models trained off of? Like I said before, all of our clients have a specific goal in mind with their advertising campaigns. And usually in the most common case, they are trying to drive a certain action, which, a lot of times, was represented by site visit or a certain page. For example, a shoe supplier or shoe company might want to drive shoe purchases, in which case they would choose the thank you page or the shopping carts, which indicates that someone actually bought the shoe or expressed interest in the shoe. Where an insurance company might choose the request a quote page and in any case the client will tag the page and in that way we can then label our data.

Esther Hsu: Our data, like Dorothy was saying, is coming from our Measure network, which is made up of more than a 100 million sites, and from that, we have this really rich data set of user behavior and really interesting things, that we can actually then label as converters and non-converters or the baseline. And then this is very simplified, but then we run a supervised learning algorithm and we produce a model. And that model will then tell us what does someone who converts actually look like.

Esther Hsu: We process about 30 petabytes of data a day. A lot of that is because of model training. We built infrastructure to train thousands of models a day, process again lots of petabytes of data. And that way we have up to date models for all of our clients at all times.

Esther Hsu: Now I’m going to go over an example what a model actually looks like. We train a lot of different models, but this is just like a very old example with a curated set of features. But basically this is an old model that we trained for an online dating service, who was a client of ours. You can see that the green coefficients correspond to features that mean that you’re more likely to be interested in an online dating service and red ones mean you’re less likely to.

Esther Hsu: You can see that a lot of these are actually very intuitive and make a lot of sense. For example, you’re looking for online dating, you’re probably going to register for online dating. And if you’re looking for baby care, you’re probably too sleep deprived or too busy to care about dating. But something more a little less intuitive like, fantasy sports, does that mean you’re single? I don’t know. And if you like books, maybe you would rather meet people in different ways. I don’t know. But The point is … Thank you.

Esther Hsu: The point is that even if you’re an expert in your product or your market, machine learning is going to pick up on all these signals, event that no one would normally be able to find. And normally, models have millions of features. This is just like a very curated set.

Esther Hsu: How do we use this model in real-time bidding? When we get this bid request from the inventory supplier, we have to retrieve the user data that we have for this particular bid request, futurize it, and then basically score it against the model. And from that, we can calculate a basically a number that tells us how likely is it that this person is going to be a converter or someone who’s of interest to our client. And then based on that, we can calculate a bid. And I realize that’s very simplified, but on very, very simplified terms, the bid is calculated from both the score and also several different control signals that we have, which indicate how much budget the client needs to spend and things like that. But very simply, if you’re more valuable, they’ll bid higher. And also this entire process again, happens in less that 10 milliseconds. And we do this for about a million bid requests per second. That’s kind of like an overview of what happens right now.

Esther Hsu: What are we working on in general or what are we continuing to work on? Scalability, obviously, always an issue for any engineer. How do we make sure that we can do this for more clients, more data, more complex models or just more bids? And then also ad tech is a very dynamic industry. It’s relatively young. Things that our clients care about from one year might be different the next and because of that we have to adapt quickly. We have to always be updating our models to be optimizing for the things that our clients care about. And even besides that, if our clients care about multiple things, how do we make it so that we can optimize for different goals, balance those against all the constraints that we have as well. And that’s it.

Dorothy Tse: Thank you Esther. That was a great primer on machine learning at Quantcast. So next up we have Malvika Mathur, who’s going to talk to us about her experiences moving from a large company to a smaller one.

Malvika Mathur speaking at Quantcast Girl Geek Dinner.

Malvika Mathur: Hi guys. Before I start off, I just want to say I’m really nervous so if you don’t get me, that’s not my fault. All right. So I mean working in the tech industry is hard. Like long working hours, keeping up with the latest technology, all that weight that you gain from eating the free food. I mean I did.

Malvika Mathur: Hi, I’m Malvika Mathur, and I’m a senior software engineer here in the Data Platform team at Quantcast. And today, I’m sort of going to talk to you about my journey of transitioning from a big company corporation to a start up. And I’m hoping by the end of this talk, you guys can take away some pointers on what you can do to evaluate the right work environment for you and that can be even within the same company that you’re at right now or somewhere else.

Malvika Mathur: Where was I before this? I joined Quantcast January of 2017, but before that I was working in Microsoft for five years in the India headquarters at Hyderabad. And I joined as a 21-year old, right out of college. And I was like, “Damn it! That’s it. I’m done. I’ve accomplished everything that I need to.” So happy with myself, but the 21-year old in me was really naïve as well. So the first years with Microsoft were really great. They had this program where they give you the opportunity to go between … to go in different teams and different business units and sort of get a feel of what it is to work in these different roles. I got the opportunity to work as a developer. I got the opportunity to work as a tester. I got the opportunity to work as a program manager. But then I decided to work as a developer, continuing that because I really like problem solving.

Malvika Mathur: I joined my new team and I’m there a few months and then my then-manager comes by he was like, “Hey, we have this project. Would you like to join?” I’m like, “Yeah. Sure. Secret project. Why not?” So the task for us was sort of like reinvent the entire calibration process for the entire company. Like, “Okay. How do we do that?” And the other thing that we had to do was we had to deliver this in a really, really short time. That meant for the next three months, we were working nights and weekends and everything. It was super exhausting. But the good thing about that was that is forced me to have like a really steep learning curve.

Malvika Mathur: For the next three months, I was working with great engineers. I was working on the latest cloud technology that Microsoft had to offer. It’s like, “Awesome. This is great.” But then, early 2016, my husband and I decided to relocate to San Francisco. I was like, “Well, okay. Microsoft has offices here. There are teams here. I’m just going to stick and go to one of those teams.” I was in talks with recruiters and figuring what I need to do next and then I decided to talk to one of my mentors and he asked me something really important. Something I never thought I’d ask myself.

Malvika Mathur: He asked me, “Why do you want to stay?” I was like, “Why is that even a question? I mean like it’s my dream company. The pay is great. All my friends are here. I like the work. Why would I want to move?” But then he asked me again, “Why do you want to stay?” And I thought about it. It turns out the answers for both these questions are not the same. I thought about what I’ve done so far in Microsoft. I thought about if I move to a team here, what would it mean for me?

Malvika Mathur: And I realize that it’s going to sort of slow down my growth trajectory, and it’s something that’s really important to me. I mean it’s great to be learning new technologies, but I realize that as a developer, that’s not all I wanted to do. I don’t want to just go in and write code. I want to do something more. Contribute more in the work that I do. Suddenly, life out of Microsoft sort of became an option. Since I was moving to the Bay Area, working at a start up was suddenly on my shortlist.

Malvika Mathur: I started looking for jobs. And looking for jobs is hard — it is exhausting. And I realize that subconsciously that was one of the reasons I didn’t want to move out — I was in a stable job, I was comfortable, I have my friends around. I don’t want to move because of that. But in the whole process of not looking for a new job, I ended up ignoring the whole process of what’s right for me and my career at that point. So I started to evaluate that and I started to sort of like give that a lot of focus when I was interviewing in all these companies.

Malvika Mathur: They’re asking me questions, but I also made sure that I was asking these guys the right questions as well. Because I wasn’t that girl anymore who joined a big company, who was excited with any project. I wanted to sort of do more things. And I wanted to make sure that wherever I went I got those things. Whenever I go and talk to these people, I started checking on like, “Hey, what’s your technology stack, am I going to learn something out of that?” Right?

Malvika Mathur: What are the sort of projects the team is working on right now? What are the projects they’re going to work on later? What’s a big problem that the team is trying to solve for the company or the industry that they work in? And as I started asking these questions, I realized that I am sort of leaning towards working in a start up environment. I think that’s something that’s really important. Whenever you’re trying to find a place that you want to work at, it’s really important to sort of know what challenges you and what excites you to work there. And that’s how I ended up at Quantcast.

Malvika Mathur: I joined Quantcast January of 2017. The last year and a half has been a rollercoaster. I like roller coasters, but it’s one of those Six Flags Magic Mountain types. Well, initially when I joined, I had this really bad habit of just comparing everything that’s done here with how I used to do it in Microsoft. I do that sometimes still, but I try not to as much. And the more I compare, I realize that there’s a pattern. And the pattern is that in these big companies, particularly like what I was doing in Microsoft, work is more divided. Responsibilities are divided. Teams are more siloed. You know exactly what you’re supposed to do. When I go in as a developer, it would be like, “Hey, these are your things to do today.” And you just do that and walk out and that’s it. But here, I was involved in stuff from ground zero. Like I was there at the conceptualization of ideas and while we’re building the feature or while we’re doing the system. And I’ll see it through. And then in the end, I’ll be responsible for taking care of it when it’s in our production.

Malvika Mathur: Another thing was the technology stack. Microsoft was all .NET, here it’s all open source. I mean the first day I walked in, these guys gave me a MacBook. I had never worked on a MacBook before. My first few weeks here were so frustrating. And then after that, they’re just like, “Hey, we have some systems here that are written in Ruby, Java, Python. You own them now.” Right. It was challenging, scary, challenging, but in a good way. So while I was ramping up and figuring out all these differences, I realize that the biggest takeaway is that it doesn’t matter how a company operates or what technology stack they have. The biggest thing that matters is your appetite for learning and where you can get that in a work environment.

Malvika Mathur: In different stages of our career, we have different needs. And it’s really important to cater to those needs. When I started off, everything inside in me, I didn’t care, it’s big company, awesome. But then as I grew up, I realize that I wanted something more specific. I want to do certain things and I tried to find the right fit for me.

Malvika Mathur: I think one thing all of us should do when you go back today is try to figure out why you are where you are and what would help you make the right career move in the way that you want to go to. And that’s something that could be within the company that you’re at right now or outside. Thank you.

Dorothy Tse: Thank you Malvika. That’s fantastic. I’m sure there’s a few of us in the room who can resonate with a story like that, going from a large company, a small one, doing all the comparisons. Pros and cons. So thank you for that. So next up, we have we have Brittni Gustaf. She’s going to speak to us about hacking the customer experience.

Brittni Gustaf speaking at Quantcast Girl Geek Dinner.

Brittni Gustaf: All right. Hello. So I’m Brittni Gustaf and I’m a senior software engineer here at Quantcast. And I’m on the Measure team. So you guys have been hearing a lot about advertising, but I’m in the other side of the company. So I’ve been here for just over four years now and since I’ve started, we have lot of changes on the Measure team, especially on how we go about creating products and features, how we design them and then how we actually implement them. And it’s improved for a lot since that time. So I’m going to kind of get in to why, like how we’ve made those improvements and, yeah, bring my leader’s knowledge to you guys, I guess.

Brittni Gustaf: Okay. Measure has kind of been neglected since I started. We’re not the side of the company that brings in the money. We provide the data that provides … the side that brings them the money, but it’s really hard to quantify features that we’re doing it and for it to actually having an impact on your company or not. Because we are focusing so much on what will make the company grow, Measure kind of got passed to the side. We didn’t have a lot of people looking into what features we should have to continue to improve Measure. What we did instead is we kind of came up with what we thought people would want. We didn’t really ask them very much what they wanted, we just kind of, we’re like, “This would be cool and probably would help. Let’s create it.” As you can probably guess, that didn’t work super well.

Brittni Gustaf: We spent a lot of engineering time creating products that no one actually really wanted. And that was pretty disappointing when you spend all this time as an engineer and you’re like, “Wow, I made this.” And it was like, “Wow, no one wants that.” You’re like, “Okay.” The company, soon after I started was like, “All right. We’re doing this wrong. We need to change something up.” We did a reorg. And I remember the day after we announced that we had to reorg really well, we had our full day meeting with our new leader of Measure. His name is Sam. And one of the things that stuck out most to me during that meeting was he started telling a story about his acquaintance that he had previously. Don’t quote this to him by the way, I am doing this from my memory, from a long time ago, but I think I have it pretty well because it was so kind of terrifying to me.

Brittni Gustaf: What he told us was like, he had an acquaintance and what this acquaintance did was he went and created, spent the least amount of effort he could to create a prototype and then went out to find customers for his prototype, selling it as a product. And he would be like, “Here. Look at this awesome product we have.” And the customer will be like, “Wow. That’s really cool. It would be really awesome if it had this feature.” And he’d be like, “Okay.” He would spend the bare minimum amount of time implementing that feature into his prototype and then he’d keep going back to clients and being like, “Look at this awesome product we have.” Until he got enough investment into his product to then actually create the product. And I was like … While he’s telling me the story, I’m just like, “What is happening? Like this is super sketchy, are we going to be lying to our clients here and telling them we have products we don’t actually have?” Well, he quickly assured me that that was not what our goal was, but that we should have a client-first sort of approach to things, where we create, we spend minimal effort, create a prototype, show it to the client and get feedback before we waste all of this time on it. And that was this mindset that led us to the Measure Hackathon.

Brittni Gustaf: How the Measure Hackathon works and how it’s totally different from other hackathons is that we would actually get all of our … Well, we try to get a diverse and key clients into the actual office and we just brought them in and in the morning, we spend three hours with them, just asking them questions about what they do in their job and how could it be improved. And then trying to come up with ideas for how our software could improve it. So after these three hours working with them, you’ll probably recognize a lot of these from one of our earlier slides because they’re the big ones, right? After this three hours, we actually … they went and got on a bus and went to go do fun clienty stuff and the engineers got stuck in the office for 24 hours to try and put this idea into an actual functioning-ish prototype. That is at least demo-able.

Brittni Gustaf: This creates two different experiences. So yeah, the clients come here. They’re like, “Oh, here are my problems. All right. Cool. You guys work on that and we’re going to go up and get literally, wined and dined and party it up until 24 hours later.” Which they’ll come back and then hopefully we have solved all of their problems. On the other hand, you have the engineering experience. Not quite as glamorous, as you can see. You get a really creative with what kind of seating you’re going to sit in. I love this because it’s like, how many different seats can you try, but you need to be comfortable for 24 hours and it takes a lot of work to be comfortable for 24 hours programming. And then you also gain a very unhealthy dependency on caffeine so that you can function throughout the entire time.

Brittni Gustaf: All right. I don’t know who I’m kidding. We all love hackathons and we all know it. Luckily for us, the company literally butters us up and they give us tons of stuff while we’re doing our hackathon. They’re like, “We love you guys for working. Here, have all your favorite things.” And I feel like they literally catered this food to me. Like sushi, they literally bring in sushi chefs and they make sushi for us. They give us acai bowls, which are my favorite thing in the world. Pizza, it’s like amazing. And they also give us tons of other stuff, like swag. I was going to wear my sweatshirt because it’s really nice, but it’s way too hot. And we get massages.

Brittni Gustaf: One of the best things that we get is that you really get to know people who work in your organization that you don’t really work with. It’s a lot of bonding when you’re trying to solve these problems really quickly and you’re all working in the same code base for 24 hours on the same thing.

Brittni Gustaf: We also like to take breaks, keep the brain lubricated. We’ve gone midnight drinking, which is always a lot of fun. So the client wins, they get wined and dined. The engineers win, the company’s trying to butter us up a ton, and the company wins, as well, because we’ve had a lot of really successful features come out of this.

Brittni Gustaf: Here we have something that came out of our first Measure hackathon, actually. Oh, I forgot to tell you how you win. So the clients, they get a hypothetical amount of money that they can spend on each prototype, so each project, and whoever gets the most money, we actually try and turn into a functioning feature on the website. This is our first one. And it’s one of the most successful products now at Quantcast. People really like it. Yeah. And then if you guys are interested in learning more about how you should prototype things, be customer first, you can check out our blog post. We have the last two years up there and it has some cool videos that give you a full feel of the entire thing. Not 24 hours on, just five minutes, but yeah. Thank you.

Dorothy Tse: Thank you so much, Brittni. I can attest to the comparison of the hackathons here at Quantcast to the hackathons at Facebook. And I’d much prefer the hackathons at Quantcast. So up next, we’ve got Somer Simpson to talk to us about how a small team can impact the entire industry.

Somer Simpson: Thank you. You guys still doing good?

Audience Member: Yeah.

Somer Simpson speaking at Quantcast Girl Geek Dinner.

Somer Simpson: All right. Awesome. So we have a pretty significant success at Quantcast. We’ve been on a lot of industry news over the past, it’s only been two months since May. And that’s like the marketing story. That’s like the cleaned up version. What I wanted to do is kind of give you guys the story behind the story and that’s really the interesting part. And also because I’m like super proud of my team because they seriously seriously kicked ass with a really really complicated problem. We’re going to talk about GDPR. Raise your hand if you’ve heard GDPR. Excellent. That makes my job easier. Cool. And I hope you really paid attention, as well, to the first presentations because it gave you a really nice clean overview of what the ad tech sort of industry looks like. So you kind of know the area that we’re going to have to play with.

Somer Simpson: So what is GDPR? I’ll give you the short version. So it is the General Data Protection Regulation. I have other words that I plug in for those those letters occasionally, but that works. So anyway, this is a law that was passed by EU regulators a couple of years ago. It went into effect on May 25th of this year, which was an incredibly fun day for me. It’s actually an addition to a previous law called the ePrivacy Directive that was passed a number of years ago. And basically, all together what it does is it says that companies who access users’ devices and they set cookies and they collect data on individuals and they process that data, they have to have consent from users to be able to do that.

Somer Simpson: When ePrivacy Directive was passed, there was no sort of like definition of what does that consent mean. Like what do we actually have to do? So it’s open to interpretation. All across Europe you see all these banners that pop up on everybody’s sites that say things like, “If you continue navigating the site … “ And often it’s like really tiny, down in the corner. “If you continue navigating the site, that means you consent to us using your data for any reason that we want and we’re not going to tell you why or how. And by the way, you’re first-born is ours too.”

Somer Simpson: What GDPR did, when they realized what was happening, it actually says, “Okay guys. All right. So first, here’s some rules around what consent means. It has to be unambiguous. You actually have to have somebody like click and take an action that says yes or no, I can send.” Everybody in ad tech, just about anybody on the web sets cookies. Everybody does some level of tracking. You go to a website now, everybody’s got plugin, browser plugins that show you just how many cookies are being set. We’re being tracked a lot.

Somer Simpson: If you can imagine, if every single one of those companies individually had to ask a user if they can consented or not, now when you go to a website, you’ve got 50 pop-ups happening in front of you, asking you for your individual consent. That wasn’t going to work.

Somer Simpson: We knew that disruption was going to be inevitable. But this is tied to revenue. Disruption is not an option, but neither is business as usual. We have to respect consumer privacy. We’re all consumers. We value our data, we value our privacy, and it’s important that the companies we work for and the companies that you work with do that as well. We set out on a project to deal with how we were going to deal with GDPR because we had significant business in the EU and it was important to us, being a privacy-first company to begin with, but to also address this and stay up to date with the clients.

Somer Simpson: We have been working with IAB Europe, Interactive Advertising Bureau, IAB Europe. They have had this working group going for a number of years. That started out mostly with the lawyers talking and trying to debate and understand and figure out what their thoughts were on it. And we kept getting closer and closer down to the wire of May 25th. And then last minute, they pull the engineers in and they’re like, “Hey guys, we need a technical solution for this. You’ve got three months. Go.” Yeah. That was mildly entertaining. We knew that we needed a solution, if that’s the solution to every problem.

Somer Simpson: What we did was we, at Quantcast made a bet on an industry solution. This was the only way that we were going to be able to prevent major fragmentation in the marketplace and still, as an ecosystem, be able to work together and at the same time, not just be compliant with the law, but actually really respect consumer privacy and listen to what their preferences were and actually honored those signals. A number of companies work together. A lot of competitors. Not only were we trying to solve a common problem that we all had, but everybody was coming to the table with their own agenda. It was a lot like herding cats. When I got pulled into these conversations, I’m a little blunt. I have a little problem with patience sometimes.

Somer Simpson: I went through two of these calls, actually three. They were happening weekly. Same set of people and we just talked about the same thing every single week over and over again and never made any progress. We had four potential solutions that had been proposed and we were basically debating like the most … The most ridiculous minutiae of each one. And trying to figure out which one we were going to do. Everybody got impatient. We’re like, “Okay. Fine. This Friday we’re going to put it to a vote.” And I’m like, “No. None of these work. They’re all awful for some reason.”

Somer Simpson: I went back to my team — and, which Brittni was on our team — and pulled everybody together and was like, “Okay. Here’s the situation.” And I explained everything, pulled our chief privacy officer in so she can answer the legal questions because I don’t have a legal degree and we basically had three days to come up with a better solution than what had already been proposed. And then bring that back to the group and hopefully they buy the idea and then we go from there.

Somer Simpson: This is the team. We had chief privacy officer. We had one incredibly busy designer because they always are. We had an engineering lead, who also had four other teams that he was having to manage at the time and then we had four engineers, who also had other work that they were responsible for and none of them had a legal degree, but had to still be able to understand and operate on that level. We had … Well, the first day was me talking so really three days. But four days to get … Until a group vote was going to happen on this proposed solution.

Somer Simpson: We had one moment of inspiration where one of our chief engineers who we talked to about the problem was out jogging one day and just had this moment of inspiration and came back in and he’s like, “I have an idea.” We pulled everybody together. We had three days to figure this thing out and then an hour to visit the idea and basically change the future of everyone in this working group.

Somer Simpson: The way we approach this, and these are the … It’s kind of the things that I think were what really drove our success, other than the fact that we had a incredible team of super, super smart people. We went consumer vote first. The problem with the working group is they were so tied up in their own agendas and figuring out what they wanted. They were forgetting that it’s all about consumer privacy. And that’s what we had to solve first. We did that, realized none of them were doing discovery and talking to consumers or even talking to very many publishers.

Somer Simpson: I very quickly went out, picked up the phone, started calling people, getting input, and and came up with a framework of what was being asked for. We added the context of that so we all got a crash course in the law and what our interpretation of it was, and then we understood the unique sort of positions of the other companies because they’re the stakeholders, you got to convince them. And then we prototyped this thing in just a number of days. Just so that we could have a proof of concept. Because talking about something and the architecture of something is not quite as valuable and strong as actually showing someone that this will work.

Somer Simpson: That’s what we did. We present it to the team and it was like dead silence and then the leader of the group said, “Do you guys want to vote?” We’re like, “Sure.” And then we all voted and ours won by landslide. I think we had one person who voted against it. The dude from the Daily Mail.

Somer Simpson: What we created was this industry-wide standard, and which allows all the system to talk to each other in the same language. It’s open source, which is something that we absolutely demanded because we didn’t want to get into arguments over who owned what IP. It was publisher-centric and it was consumer-centric.

Somer Simpson: The outcome: today, a little over two months since the 25th, we have a new industry. Consent management platforms. This is this whole new thing. We’ve got a 113 that have launched on the on the IUD framework, which is what we ended up calling this thing. We’ve got 400 registered vendors and growing every single day. You are a part of this framework and talking to each other and sharing consent. 19% of the top 10,000 US and UK sites now have an IAB compliant solution in place on their site. 45.3% of the tools, actually they have some sort of CMP in place, 45% of those are IAB compliant and Quantcast has 69% market share of all of those consent solutions in market. That’s it.

Dorothy Tse: Thank you so much, Somer. That was awesome. Somer and her team have such great impact on this organization in ways that I wasn’t aware. I didn’t realize what happened. And the biggest impact for me is that I was able to hire one of my most senior recent hires because of the leadership industry impact that Somer and her team did. So they … he was very aware of the work that we were doing and liked it so much that he joined the company. Thank you for that.

Dorothy Tse: Next, but not least, we have Disha Gosalia, speaking to us about her experiences navigating being a shy engineer. Thanks.

Disha Gosalia speaking at Quantcast Girl Geek Dinner.

Disha Gosalia: All right. Last talk and given the topic of my talk, I should start from a point of vulnerability or I can’t wait for this to get over so as you guys so we can all get back to our mingling.

Disha Gosalia: I run customer support and operations here at Quantcast. And why do I qualify and why am I here talking about this? Growing up in India, when you’re somebody who’s a straight A student, or academically focused, you’re kind of placed at a pedestal and you always make your parents proud and so it doesn’t matter if you’re a loner out there. I never realized that I was a shy, loner kid.

Disha Gosalia: Imagine my surprise when, after I completed my software engineering degree, Computer Science, and went for my first job as a software engineer, in my first half-yearly performance review, when your boss goes through all the great 10 things you did. But that one area of development that you always think about.

Disha Gosalia: He actually asked me, “So are you an introvert? I never see you walking around the desk of your colleagues or chatting up with them and you actually don’t even talk much in team meetings.” And I’m like, “Hmm. Am I supposed to talk much in team meetings? Well, I’m new. Should I not be listening more?” But that was honestly the first time I realized that my personality didn’t have a part to play in my career.

Disha Gosalia: Fast forward several years. Now, as I parent really sensitive kids who are often called shy and quiet, I grapple with this thought on a daily basis — like how do I raise confident young adults who can accept themselves as what they are but at the same time also has this growth mindset. And so today, I’m going to go through some of my learnings as I’ve navigated my career and hopefully as I share my story, you guys can pick up some tidbits here.

Disha Gosalia: One of my first experiences when I became a new manager, I attended a new manager leadership training. And the instructor actually asked me and actually the class to write down your word cloud. What it meant was what are qualities that you look in a leader that you want yourself emulate. And when I wrote that down, how this helped me is I kind of became sure sure of what I wanted to be, where I want to go. And I stopped actually feeling bad about traits that I saw in other people that I didn’t actually have. And so I think this helped me because the first step for me was to understand what I wanted to be and then everything else became easier. I just had to go get it.

Disha Gosalia: As Gandhi says, “You need to be the change you want to be, but then you need to understand what that change is.” Before I talk about personality inventory, I will share this story. There was a academic incident that was a big learning point for me.

Disha Gosalia: I was in a really big meeting with my colleagues, my boss was there, my boss’s boss was there, and we were discussing this solution, an implementation solution, a complex solution and the person presenting the solution kept going on and on and I didn’t necessarily agree with that idea, but being who I was, I decided not to really call her out in front of everybody and just decided to kind of go one on one later and talk to her about why I thought this was not a great idea. When I did that, she actually accused of being indecisive.

Disha Gosalia: She said, “Why did you agree with me in the first place?” And I was really taken aback. I’m like, “Really? Did I even agree with you?”

Disha Gosalia: It actually gave me a couple of sleepless nights. And at that point what I didn’t realize, which I realized a little later, was that it wasn’t that she was accusing me, it was that my lack of speaking up or lack of objection in the meeting was actually taken as agreement by her, and it was only because we have had different ways of processing information.

Disha Gosalia: Fast forward in the same manager training, they made me take this Myers-Briggs personality test or there’s the Myers-Briggs, the Enneagram kind of same type of personality test and my original thought with these was, these kind of pigeon hole you into specific categories and it’s like, “Do I have to choose between being a compassionate person, like Mother Theresa or being a leader like Martin Luther King. Why can’t I be both?” But being a good student that was, I went with the flow and what I understood was this wasn’t labeling me in a particular bracket, but it was really understanding how I communicated and how can I become a better communicator with my co-workers and team mates and kind of others in my circle of influence. But that’s what it is. That’s basically all this personality inventory is.

Disha Gosalia: Going back to that example, this person, the way she processed was she would talk and think while she’s talking while how I process was like think and then talk. Like I would have these long awkward pauses but she would keep going on and on, and what I realized in actually going through this process was I need to just find a pause and then ask clarifying questions and that’s kind of how to better communicate with her.

Disha Gosalia: Now to contrast that is the growth mindset. I read this really great statement that’s made a big impact on me about this contrast theory. The growth mindset actually tells you that, do you accept yourself the way you are or do you actually try to be more, more than what you are and constantly evolve and constantly grow?

Disha Gosalia: Bear with me for a minute. I want to actually give you guys an example that I read that, again, made a lot of sense to me. And this is about the metal industry and how do they rate the hardness of metals. They rate them from a scale of 1 to 10 from a hardness perspective. A diamond is a 10 and a tin is one. A copper is a three. Tin is the softest and copper is three. Now tin and copper are not found in the same vicinity at all. They’re like found in a completely different vicinity. Somebody decided to take tin and copper and combine them. You would actually think that that would be an average so its hardness would be a two, but no, combining tin and copper gives you bronze, which is a six.

Disha Gosalia: This is what happens, and it’s called the contrast theory. It creates this unique magical combination. And that’s how personality traits are. I mean you could be way over here as an introverted shy person or you could be way over here. Aggressive, type A sales guy. I work with sales guys a lot in this job so I can pull on that a little bit. But if you combine and while you are right here, try to get a little bit of this side, you can be unstoppable. You could be an engineer surrounded by a lot of shy engineers. Try to get more communicator, public speaking skills or even skills to make other people feel special and it will just be going places.

Disha Gosalia: This is … what Sheryl Sandberg says in her book Lean In, always sit at table. Don’t take side seats. And it was really important for somebody like me, who had a very soft voice when I was in meetings and if I wanted to say something, I would think and by the time, sometimes the time’s already gone to speak. But when you’re in that center stage, people can actually see your body language that you want to say and can actually give you a way in. I started showing up in some important meetings where I would know there are a lot of people before time so I could get the right seat.

Disha Gosalia: What this also did was when somebody disagreed with you, they actually had to look in your eyes and do that. I hate conflict. I don’t like that one bit, but when I think of some of the biggest innovative solutions, the breakthroughs I’ve been part of. They’ve usually been through a lot of intense intervention, conflict, and I’ve learned to put myself in those situations. Put your ideas out there, let it be beaten up and you will learn something through it.

Disha Gosalia: Beth Comstock was a leader I truly admire. She’s the ex Vice Chair and CMO at GE, where I was previously before Quantcast, said this: “Conflict is a primary engine of creativity and innovation.”

Disha Gosalia: And I’ve learned to accept that, however hard that is. Kind of let that in once in awhile. One other principle that I grew up with was, you do your karma and don’t worry about the results. Other way of actually putting that is you can actually outwork anybody else, you can out prepare anybody else and that’s kind of what I try to do. I try to be double prepared and triple prepared when I know it’s kind of my chance to do things that are uncomfortable.

Disha Gosalia: I use to get really flustered when I would be put in a position by someone or in a spot by someone where I have to give quick responses or make decisions quickly. And what I learned … It was actually a mentor of mine who helped me through this and coach me through this is, you know it’s okay to ask for more time.

Disha Gosalia: It’s okay to say that, “I’m going to need 24 hours. I need to sleep through this. I need to think through this,” and there’s no shame in doing that. Don’t let anybody else put you on the spot and make you give answers that you’re not ready to give.

Disha Gosalia: Let’s bring it all together. Find out what you want and just go for that. Always take a seat at the table, not the side seats. Always be prepared, but if you’re not, there’s no shame in asking for more time. Find a Yang to your Yin.

Disha Gosalia: This is something again, I’ve done when I hosted large events or large meetings, find somebody who is … who can compliment your quiet type of personality. Somebody who’s upbeat and funny and loud. It just makes things easier, and I don’t go to a social gathering where there are too many strangers without my husband who was a talker. There’s like no awkward silent moments. But he sometimes forgets when he’s talking that I’m even around. But that’s a different topic.

Disha Gosalia: Lastly, I think if you remember that all human beings are really at core, alike. And we all like to be respected and we want to perform in our jobs and want to be heard and and listened to. So I think when you remember that, I think everything else is just smaller. That’s it. Thank you.

Dorothy Tse: Thank you so much Disha for sharing your story. So right now it’s time for a Q&A from all of our speakers. Any topics you may want to ask any of us. So if you’re interested and have some questions, you can come over to my right side here and ask a question and all of our speakers will come up and answer any questions that you may have. Thank you.

Quantcast girl geeks answering audience questions at Quantcast Girl Geek Dinner.

Audience Member: This is kind of just general to everybody, but as a female in tech and in engineering and in product, what do you feel like is your biggest struggle and how do you succeed in this role when we are kind of overwhelmed with males in our community?

Somer Simpson: It’s funny when I first stood up here. I mean I’ve been in tech since 1994 and I’m looking out in the audience and I’m like, “You know what, finally I’m looking at what tech should look like.” But having been in tech that long, I learned a long time ago to just not differentiate. Not even admit or acknowledge that there’s a difference and just be myself and speak my mind and be a part of the conversation. Just don’t take no for an answer.

Disha Gosalia: Yeah. I mean I’ll just add in. I think Somer’s really right, what I’ll add is also you know, I’ve always had good women role models, who helped me like when I got first child. How to navigate that and just kind of go through things. So it’s important to obviously not see yourself as different from a man, but then we are different. So definitely try to find somebody that you can follow and who’s ready to like guide you through some life changes.

Esther Hsu: I will admit that it actually took me awhile to realize what a problem it was for women nowadays, and once I did, it was actually looking pretty discouraging. Like you notice all these differences from you to all the people around you and you kind of automatically see it as a detriment. And I think, for me, what made the biggest difference was just having mentors and people who I really look up to — men or women — who really point out all my strengths, and I’ve realized that all my strengths are the things that made me different. As cliche as that sound. It’s like when I started it’s like I hate hearing that too. But it’s like it’s so true. Everything that makes me different that people might see as feminine qualities are what make me a better engineer and a better communicator and a better leader.

Brittni Gustaf: So the thing that probably held me back to the beginning was like the imposter syndrome. I’m sure you guys have heard of it. And I really struggled with that at the beginning. I still struggle with it sometimes now, but at the beginning it was so bad.

Brittni Gustaf: It took me a really long time to realize that there are a lot of people who have very strong opinions and they voice them as fact — but it’s not.

Brittni Gustaf: You sit there and I always at the beginning, I was like, “I’m just completely wrong.” Like, “I don’t think this is right at all, but obviously this guy knows what he’s talking about. He’s so sure of himself.” It took me a really long time to realize that if I’m confident on something, you have to actually bring it up. And then a lot of the times, there are other people in the room who will also be like, “Yeah.”

Malvika Mathur: I feel like whatever I want to say has already been said. But I’ve caught myself in situations where I’m the only female in a team of people or in a meeting and I realized that nothing is bigger than logic. If you have solid points and if you know exactly what you’re saying, it doesn’t matter what gender you are or whatever else. It just like you have a good point and a good point always wins. That’s about it. Just note that. Sorry.

Dorothy Tse: I didn’t realize you were all going around. But one thing I will add is that as a female leader, I try to embrace it. I embrace the fact that we’re bringing a different perspective in a very male-dominated industry and that is an asset to a company. The different ideas that come from a woman’s brain and the types of perspectives that are brought sometimes are very unique and different. So I encourage myself and certainly others to think about just embracing that diversity.

Audience Member: Awesome. Thank you ladies.

Somer Simpson: Just one other thing to add. I think part of my sort of struggling in the journey was, I was fighting more to be queer in the work environment. So being a woman in the work environment kind of like took a side stage.

Audience Member: All right. Thank you ladies. You guys are all amazing.

Audience Member: Hi. I’m Sheryn and I’m a co-founder of a startup. We’re also only females. So it’s really great to see you guys up here. I think all of your stories complimented each other and it’s very nice. It’s a novel of stories that’s set in front of us. My question’s more specific in terms of the hackathon. I’m a UX designer, researcher, and when you talked about the hackathon, it seemed very developer focused. So I was wondering if that’s part of the culture here that the designers are also part of the hackathon or is it very engineer focused? Because you keep saying the users first and we’re the ones that were kind of super obsessed. We made our whole lives about the users. So how does that work here?

Brittni Gustaf: Yeah. I should have probably clarified that better. So it’s not just engineers, it’s definitely product managers and UX as well and all of the designers and we actually sometimes, we like get disappointed if you don’t have the designer on your team in a hackathon because having a designer is like a huge asset because things that look nice and work well for the user, tend to win really well even in your simple prototype.

Brittni Gustaf: So, yeah, they’re a huge portion of it and also a huge portion here at Quantcast at working with the product managers to make sure the design is what customers can understand. And we’ve learned that the hard way because we use to have tests where we would have people run through our stuff and that was just so painful to be like, “Just scroll down. What do you want? It’s just down a little bit.”

Brittni Gustaf: And like people are trying to get to certain paid and they’re clicking everything but the button they should be clicking. So yeah, that was the struggle we had and we’ve become a lot better at that by having both product and design create clickable prototypes and then have the user use it and then get feedback and then make improvements. Which has been really awesome and it’s really improved our products so far.

Audience Member: Thank you.

Somer Simpson: I was going to say that worked so well in the hackathons that we’ve actually reorged our groups to have dedicated teams to each product, that’s made up of a product manager, engineers and assigned UX person and a product marketing manager.

Audience Member: Hey there. The question I have is more specific to Somer’s story, but if it makes you think of stories that you want to share because of what I asked, go for it. My question was about your decision to say, “Wow! All these ideas suck. I’m going to come up with my own and present it and hope for the best.” What was going through your mind when you made that move? What other steps did you take to increase the chances that they’d go for it?

Somer Simpson: The options that were on the table, at the surface, all of them were great ideas. But once you scratch, pull off the surface, they all had problems. For instance, one idea was a centralized registry to store people’s permissions, but that would be one company building a massive database that might hold the trillions of records necessary to do it but all that data would be in the hands of one company. That was bad. And then we had one that was like this pure, what they called daisy bit, which was we just pass this information around.

Somer Simpson: What we ended up doing was we took kind of like the best of the solutions that fit everybody’s needs and were like not quite so controversial and created what we initially called a hybrid solution, but I mean it wasn’t completely my decision. I mean I walked back into the room with the team that’s like, “All these ideas suck.” But it was the team that actually really got together in understanding, in breaking down each solution, took the best out of each and came up with the right thing that ended up working well for everyone.

Somer Simpson: Brittni, you want to give your side of it?

Brittni Gustaf: I think that the other side of things is that it’s really important to bring in other people and get outside perspectives. That was one of the things that disappointed me most about the GDPR implementation is that IAB and all of these people who are meeting for so long, trying to come up with a solution to this. And all it took was pulling in more people with more ideas to be able to get the best one. But we spent so much time not getting there because we weren’t pulling in everybody needed and getting all the different diverse perspectives to be able to come up with the idea that was best.

Brittni Gustaf: I feel like we got a later start than we should have because if it had been … If the correct people had been pulled in sooner then we would have not have such a stressful time trying to get this done before the law was in place.

Audience Member: All right. Thank you so much.

Dorothy Tse: Ladies, thank you so much — and some gentlemen too. Thank you so much for attending the Girl Geek Dinner and we just want to emphasize also that at Quantcast, our greatest asset is our employees and there’s a bunch of folks around the room that are wearing Quantcast clothes as well as all of us up here and we would love to talk to you further about Quantcast. Thank you – we are hiring!

Like what you see here? Our mission-aligned Girl Geek X partners are hiring!

Breaking All The Rules & Finding Your Own Way: Girl Geek X Guidewire Panel (Video + Transcript)

Like what you see here? Our mission-aligned Girl Geek X partners are hiring!

Guidewire girl geeks: Priscilla Hung (Chief Operating Officer), Eileen Maier (Chief Business Officer), Lerk-Ling Chang (VP of Strategic Ventures), Sandia Ren (VP of Professional Services), Roopal Shah (VP of Go To Market Delivery) at the Girl Geek X Dinner held at Guidewire’s offices in Foster City, California.

Roopal Shah / VP, Marketing / Guidewire
Priscilla Hung / COO / Guidewire
Eileen Maier / CBO / Guidewire
Lerk-Ling Chang / VP of Strategic Ventures / Guidewire
Sandia Ren / VP, Professional Services / Guidewire

Transcript of Guidewire Girl Geek Dinner – Panel:

Roopal Shah: All right. Welcome everybody. We are so glad that you guys are here. My name is Roopal Shah. I’m the Vice President for Go To Market Delivery, which essentially is product marketing, sales enablement, business planning, and operations for our Go To Market functions. I’ve been with Guidewire for eight years. That hopefully tells you a little bit about what an awesome place this is to work at. Without further ado I would love to have each one of these ladies introduce themselves, tell us a little bit about what your role is, who you are, and how long you’ve been at Guidewire.

Priscilla Hung: Welcome, everybody, to Guidewire. My name is Priscilla Hung. I’m the Chief Operating Officer of the company. I have been with Guidewire for 13 years and two months. In Silicon Valley, that’s 1,300 years, as you know. I’ve been working in the Valley for about 30 years. This is, by far, the best company I’ve ever worked for. It shows because I’ve been here forever.

Priscilla Hung: My responsibility from a day-to-day basis, basically, is to make sure that the operation work, by design, but my direct responsibilities today include corporate strategy. That includes all the business development, market strategy, M&A, partners, product marketing, Roopal and Eileen’s team, and whatever that entails, including film marketing and definition of the market and product development. What else?

Eileen Maier: Film.

Priscilla Hung: Yeah. Yeah. I did alliances.

Eileen Maier: Influencing.

Priscilla Hung: Influence, like all the IT, IS, and security, cloud operations, customer success. I think that’s it. I really love the company. I love everybody here. I’m so delighted to see so many old faces here. I’m looking forward to have some conversation with you tonight.

Eileen Maier: Hi, everybody. My name is Eileen Maier. I am the chief business officer at Guidewire. I’ve been here 13 years. Today is my 13th anniversary! <clapping> I know! My role is chief business officer; I work for Priscilla. First things first, I do whatever she wants me to, but I’m privileged to lead the team that is actually the voice of the market. In understanding, you saw one of our customers talking about their market needs and what is it that they need to run their business. I have a team that is responsible for really understanding where those market needs are and to translate those into business opportunities for Guidewire. Where do we see a market opportunity by serving that customer’s needs?

Eileen Maier: Then, they work very closely with another member of Priscilla’s team, the product team, to realize that, to make it into something that we can bring to market. Then, I’m also privileged to have Roopal on my team because then it’s her team that does the Go To Market Delivery, so how do we translate that product or that solution into something that our sales people can sell so we can grow our business?

Eileen Maier: It’s been exciting and a wonderful journey to be with Guidewire. This is a relatively new position. I’ve been in it for about a year. I think that that’s something that I’d loved the chance to talk to you about, of transitions within your own company and how you can grow your career without having to change where you work. Okay. Over to you.

Lerk-Ling Chang: Hello, everyone. Can guys hear me? Is my mic working?

Roopal Shah: Yes.

Lerk-Ling Chang: Okay. Awesome. Okay. I’m Lerk-Ling Chang. I’m VP of Strategic Ventures here at Guidewire. My focus is on helping the company grow through acquisitions, through partnerships, and through venture investments. I’ve been with the company now for 16 years. That’s 14 years more than what I thought I would be here, so it does speak to the character of the company and what we love about the company. Encourage you guys to talk to the folks here who are wearing Guidewire t-shirts. Feel free to ask them why are you here and would love to share that with you.

Lerk-Ling Chang: I joined the company when the company was really small, 12 people, the company had just landed the first customer. Had just raised a first round of funding but didn’t have a product yet. They needed a product manager. I worked in one of the six co-founders at Ariba, a previous company where person that I worked at as well. He reached out to me and said, “Hey, would you like to join this startup of mine?” I was kind of in the middle of a transition. I ended up joining. Ken and I product managed the first product. Actually, I worked with Sandia on that one. A couple years later, led up the development of a second product, PolicyCenter. It’s been an exciting journey.

Lerk-Ling Chang: Now, I’m focused primarily on acquisitions, partnerships. Then, in the last few months, I’ve picked up the lead for our venture investments.

Sandia Ren: Hi, everyone. Is my mic on?

Roopal Shah: Mm-hmm (negative). No.

Sandia Ren: Hi. I’m Sandia Ren, and I’m a vice president on our professional services team. We’re the team that goes out to customer sites and helps them implement our product and use our products. We’re the ones who get to travel. I’ve been with Guidewire for fifteen and a half years, so a little less than Lerk-Ling. I actually started as a software engineer. Yes, she was my product manager. I wrote unit tests for our very first product. Now, I’m Vice President of Professional Services. I would love to tell you about that journey. I’ve been very grateful to Guidewire for the opportunities that I’ve had.

Sandia Ren: These days, I look after our specialized consulting teams. These are the teams that work on our products outside of our core systems. This includes our data and analytics products, our digital products, underwriting management, and then competencies like upgrades and testing and infrastructure, all the stuff that people don’t like to think about so that’s in there, the specialized umbrella.

Sandia Ren speaking at Guidewire Girl Geek Dinner.

Sandia Ren: Then, I also look after what we call the Guidewire Services Center. These are our delivery centers around the world that have lots of teams of consultants who help our customers implement and deliver our products remotely. We have four offices now. Our largest is in Dublin, Ireland. Then, we have a team in Pennsylvania. It’s our US team. Then, we also have a team in Madrid, Spain. Then, we just opened an office in Malaysia.

Sandia Ren: For full disclosure, I just got off the plane from Malaysia. If it sounds like I can’t get my words out, that’s my excuse for tonight but I do certainly feel very privileged that it’s my job to travel around and meet just exceptional people around the world who all share our values and are committed to the same goals and our customers. Thank you so much for coming. It’s really exciting to be here.

Roopal Shah: Okay. Awesome. Thank you for that.

Roopal Shah:Let’s start with our first question and this is to all of you. I would love to get your perspective on insurance, specifically there’s a lot of talk about insure tech and what a pivotal time this is right now. What are your thoughts on that? Do you think it’s a pivotal time and what sort of skill sets do you think insurers and insurer tech companies are looking for right now? Anybody want to take that?

Eileen Maier: I can’t speak unless you give me your mic.

Roopal Shah: There you go.

Eileen Maier: I now have control. To rephrase the question, is this an exciting time in insurance? I would say, “Absolutely.” We serve the insurance industry. We are an insurer tech. Within the walls of Guidewire, I’m just so excited because every day, I get to talk about innovation.

Eileen Maier: When I started 13 years ago, today, anniversary, innovation really meant can I improve my business processes? Can I innovate on how I do my business and run my core systems better? That’s still true today. You can see the benefits from that video that we looked at not too long ago but innovation is transforming the industry. When you look around a disruption, it is absolutely impacting the insurance industry. It’s disrupting the way that they sell their products because people are expecting a mobile experience. They really don’t want to buy insurance through a broker. They actually don’t really even understand it. People are looking for insurance actually more associated with the service.

Eileen Maier: I’m sure everybody here is an Uber user. Not too long ago, I got an email in my inbox from an Uber saying, “Hey, with your app, you can rent a car now.” Actually I’m going to rent the car. I’m not even going to think about insurance because insurance is bundled in with that service. We’re thinking every day about what’s disrupting and transforming the industry because we don’t want to deliver products that they just need today. Certainly, we’re doing that. We want to think about what are the products that they need to deliver in the future?

Eileen Maier: I think that if, going back to the second part of your question, what are insurers looking for? They’re looking for creativity. They’re looking for innovation themselves. They’re looking for ways to do things differently because they really don’t want to just continue to do what they’re doing today.

Eileen Maier: Okay. Anybody else want to take a swing at that?

Lerk-Ling Chang: Yeah. I can chime in. I think people can hear me. Insurance is really changing really quickly. In the last five years, it’s probably changed … If you talk to anybody in the industry, they feel like the change has really come at a much faster pace than ever before.

Lerk-Ling Chang: It’s really driven by three things. Eileen talked about some of the things that are coming from consumers. You and I, we all want different things from our insurance companies than we ever did before but it’s also coming from the insurance companies themselves.

Lerk-Ling Chang: I remember 15 years ago, going onto the first customer visit and seeing people still using mainframe systems. It’s shocking but that’s actually a very common system that people still use. When insurance companies are still using that, they can’t actually deliver the kind of service they need to. It’s not because they don’t want to. They’re just stopped by doing that. In that sense, it’s really an exciting time for companies like Guidewire, who have solutions that can help insurance companies provide better service to their customers. That’s been a lot of also additional investment into the industry that then, at least … In the P&C, Property and Casualty technology space, in last year, for example, there’s been a billion dollars of venture funding that have gone into the space. That’s been a lot of startups. We’ve been the beneficiary of that, being one of the leaders here.

Lerk-Ling Chang: The industry has seen a lot of change and insurers themselves are looking for new solutions. It’s one of the best times to be in the industry right now.

Sandia Ren: I thought I’d address your question about what I personally think about insurance. I’ll be honest. When I started 15 years ago, I just followed good people to Guidewire. I didn’t really think too much about the domain or even the product that we were working on, but over the last 15 and a half years, I’ve definitely developed a true, very strong appreciation for what insurers try to do. It’s been amazing to see it evolve over the years but certainly we’ve seen a lot more when it comes to natural disasters.

Sandia Ren: I’m from Houston. We went through Harvey last year. That really hit home when I was hearing my neighbors and that was all that the talk was about in the neighborhood. It was claims and all these terms that I understood. When being in professional services, what I love about it is I get to go out and I get to meet with our customers and understand their business goals. Their business goals are about how to help people like you and me when we’re in our biggest time of need. That’s pretty awesome.

Sandia Ren: In the beginning, we used to say, “Well, insurance isn’t glamorous,” and whatever. We didn’t talk about it too much, but actually I think insurance is awesome. It’s really meaningful. I just wanted to share that perspective because I don’t think it’s something that you really realize until you think about it. At least, it was for me.

Eileen Maier: I actually wouldn’t mind building on that because it’s also the industry itself has changed. One of the more recent acquisitions, the most recent acquisition that Guidewire made was with a company called Cyence. It really is representative of how the insurance industry has shifted because 13 years ago, there wasn’t the need for something called cyber insurance or cyber risk but now there certainly is. Innovation and technology has driven, they actually created a new risk for us.

Eileen Maier: This is really incredible because what Cyence does is they have created a data engine that allows them to sweep up massive amounts of data so that they can use algorithms, detect where cyber risk is. This is completely different type of insurance than the property and casualty insurance that you use to insure your car.

Eileen Maier: I think that there’s this dynamic change within the industry itself because what is an insurable risk or what is risk itself is changing, which means the needs of consumers or businesses is changing and the market has to keep pace with that. The times around us ourselves is actually making it a dynamic time for the industry.

Priscilla Hung: Yeah so maybe I just really briefly round out. I think the ladies will touch on a lot of points already, pretty complete but just a few words. I echo Sandia’s sentiment. When I joined Guidewire 2005 and I joined 100% because of the founders. I’ve known four of them from my previous job. I had no idea what insurance industry is. In fact, when Marcus, our CEO co-founder call me and say, “Come join us,” I was like, “Why do I want to work for a company that serve the insurance industry?” All I thought about is I have to write money to them and when I have a crash, that it takes them a long time to pay me.

Priscilla Hung: But it’s a little bit of a learning curve for me but very, very quickly I have completely falling in love with this industry because you got a preview of some of the videos that you’ve seen but genuinely, our customer, the insurance carriers, they are generally full of people that spend a life and their career in making people whole. They are learning every day and trying to respond to the market and is an inflection point because it’s only very recently that all of us spend all our waking moments looking at devices.

Priscilla Hung: This morning on Today … I don’t know whether you guys watch morning television. I live by them. It’s one of the morning news. It says that an average person I believe is an adult. It didn’t say age group. It says that it spent on the average of 11 hours on electronic devices and between the age of 50 and 65, 13 hours. I don’t know how many hours people sleep but imagine that you spend so much time.

Priscilla Hung speaking at Guidewire Girl Geek Dinner.

Priscilla Hung: People don’t talk to each other anymore. My husband and I were texting each other the other day. I was like, “We have to stop this.” What the insurance company is trying to do is they want to understand this pattern. They want to understand how you live now because in the past, older people like me buy insurance, they call an agent and they’re all, “You fill in the form,” but nobody talk to people anymore. Most of you don’t have a landline. It is to response to the market, respond to this really rapid change because of what technology has come to play. I’m really proud to be part of this team and provide enabling technology for these insurance carriers to respond to your needs.

Roopal Shah: Awesome. Is my mic on? Can you guys hear me? Oh! There we go. All right. Okay. Let’s switch topics a little bit and talk about careers. What I would love for each of you to tell us a little bit about your career progression, how you got to here, if you made any calculated moves, if you had sponsors, mentors, just tell us a little bit about your journey to where you are?

Priscilla Hung: Me first? Okay, sure. My career journey. You might expect me to say, “Oh, you know, you must plan, you degree that you study and you plan your steps.” Absolutely negative. In fact, I go completely opposite side. For those of you who were raised by Asian parents, I’m sure that you appreciate what I’m talking about. My parents wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer or a doctor or a lawyer, but especially I was pretty good at my grades when I was young and whatnot but I’m terrified of blood. My grandmother said, “Don’t be a lawyer because you will have to represent bad people.”

Priscilla Hung: Any case, so those path are gone. I said, “Meeny meeny meeny moe. So, what I do?” I ended up picking an engineering degree. It’s actually by elimination as opposed to plan. If you really asked me what I wanted to study, I want to be artist. I was a trained ballerina. I play pianos. I was a performer. I wanted to be artist. My parents are, “No, no, no, no, no.” You know how it goes.

Priscilla Hung: I got a degree that I really didn’t want to go for. Then, it’s like I go for a job now. I really stumble into … I finished my degree in the East Coast. I came over here because of a boyfriend. Two months later we ended. That was like, “Okay. All right. I need to look for a job.”

Priscilla Hung: It really, completely out of the blue, I got a call from a friend from high school who worked for Oracle. Oracle, at the time, in 1989, was a very tiny company. They were not in the Redwood Shores, up on Belmont Hills and said, “Come work for Oracle.” I was like, “Why to work for a database company?”

Priscilla Hung: I went through an interview that basically, in hindsight, if I were interviewing me when I was back in 1989, there is zero chance I will offer this girl a job because the interviewer asked me … I’m sorry. Am I running out of time? It’s a pretty long story. It basically is saying that, “So what would you like to do? You have an engineering degree. Would you like to be an engineer?” “Absolutely not.” I was like, “Okay. So, what do you want to do? Do want to be marketing?” “What is marketing do?” Show you how it goes. I thought, “Okay. You got good grades. You know, I’m going to hire you.” That’s when I started in 1989 at Oracle.

Priscilla Hung: In fact, I hop many, many jobs in the first 10 years because I actually didn’t really want to be in the discipline. I want to be an artist, remember? I hop around. I didn’t have a compass but I was fortunate in my career in the last 30 years that I ran into two people, both of them are my manager. Both of them saw that I’m someone that could be cultivated. I followed my first manager to three jobs. I finally, many jobs later, I landed at Ariba.

Priscilla Hung: I met someone that really wanted to develop me. He hired a professional mentor for me. The professional mentor was a retired woman executive. She completely changed my life. She completely utterly changed my life by basically putting a program together, told me five things I need to change, including my voice. “Don’t squeak like this. Don’t talk like a girl, so you have to talk with a certain voice.” This is my work voice. The second thing is, you won’t believe this, is that you smile too much. Stop smiling. I was like, “Stop smiling.” It actually took me a long time to really understand why do I need to stop smiling?

Priscilla Hung: The third thing is when you’re in meetings, talk at least once, speak at least once. Don’t go to a meeting and be in complete silence because if you are complete silence, you become irrelevant. Even if you’re repeating what other people are saying, paraphrasing it. Just speak once, and how you dress, how you present yourself. Now, I forgot what the fifth thing is but it’s five things.

Eileen Maier: Write things down.

Priscilla Hung: Yeah. Sure. Yeah. Yeah. Those things really completely changed my life. I would have to say that my career really started to go somewhere after I practice what my mentor told me. Add, after Ariba, four of the founders actually came from Ariba. Is again because of people I join here. The opportunity that the founders created for me. I got an opportunity to talk, do a lot of things that I have absolutely no experience, zero experience. It’s not planned for. It’s not because I’m experienced. It’s all because you have a new problem to solve. I work very, very hard. I focus on what I need to do, drive outcomes and then, one good outcome lead to another good outcome.

Priscilla Hung: Also, in hindsight, because all the randomness, all the different flopping around. My career actually helped my current job today because right now, I have a pretty wide scope of responsibility. Many of those jobs I actually have done in the past, not because I planned it. I would just say that I didn’t go through the traditional way. I didn’t plan but it worked out. I think it’s because of people that honestly is people relationship I built and people that help me along the way.

Eileen Maier: Okay. Are you sure you’re done? I’m going to start my story differently but then I think you’re going to find some similarities between my story and Priscilla’s story. Wasn’t an artist but also wasn’t an engineer. I got an English degree. I remember telling my father that I wanted to move from accounting to English. That was a pretty difficult conversation, at least for me. He took it pretty well, but it was, when you get out of college and you have a Bachelor of Arts in English, you do struggle a little bit to say, “Where am I going to get a job?”

Eileen Maier speaking at Guidewire Girl Geek Dinner.

Eileen Maier: This is where I think this theme of two pieces of advice. Be curious and also be open to luck. I think my parents felt a little bit sorry for me. I’m trolling around, living upstairs. They’re like, “You need a job.” Again, be open to luck. Take advantage of favors.

Eileen Maier: I got an interview with an insurance company. Really, if you’re an English major in Liberal Arts, actually insurance is a place that will consider. That’s how I entered into the insurance industry. Then, the curiosity kicked in because I was curious about, “Well, what it like to be an underwriter?” I had no idea. Learned that trade. Also saw what other opportunities were available for me within that insurance company. It was Liberty Mutual Insurance.

Eileen Maier: I was living in Philadelphia. I got the opportunity to move up to Boston. I took a role in a training organization. Again, within the same organization exploring different opportunities, different interests. I really started to learn something about myself by trying different things, by being curious. Through that, I got an opportunity to go into risk management. I joined a consulting group. That required me to get an MBA. It’s like these things start to build on each other and you follow a path. There’s something that you do when you get your MBA and you’ve worked for an insurance company for 10 years. You quit and you get another job.

Eileen Maier: That’s when I left and I moved to PeopleSoft. This is where I entered into technology but, again, being open to luck, why PeopleSoft? How could they possibly even consider me? It’s because somebody I went to grad school with. I called her up because I just wanted to get some advice from her. I wanted to understand how she made a career transition.

Eileen Maier: By reaching out and having a learning conversation, she actually wagged her finger at me and said, “I know exactly what you need to do.” We all want somebody to say, “I know exactly what you need to do. Give me the answer,” but she was right. She turned me on to this profession I’d never even heard of. It was called sales consulting or sales engineering. It’s where you have this opportunity to help customers, you’re consulting with customers, you’re understanding what is the business problem that they’re trying to solve. Then, you say, “Oh, well. I have just the thing for you.” Then, you go into a product demonstration and you show them how this product that you have can change their life and transform their world. It’s a little bit of performance. It’s a little bit of teaching. It’s a whole lot of consulting. It requires a lot of courage and empathy. I loved that.

Eileen Maier: I worked at PeopleSoft for quite a number of years. We got acquired by Oracle. I went on that journey too but it was within a couple months that I moved out to the West Coast, another similarity, poor guy. Within two months of being out here, my phone rings. It’s somebody again that I used to work with. He had just joined Guidewire. He said, “Eileen, they’re starting this team. It’s really cool. I’ve met the founders. They’re doing something very different. It feels like PeopleSoft,” because that was a bit of a culture, a cult. He said, “But there is one thing you need to know. Mmm, they serve the property and casualty insurance industry.” He’s pitching that to me like you’re going to have to deal with that. I was like, “David, there’s something you don’t know about me.”

Eileen Maier: With Guidewire, it was bringing together 10 years at Liberty Mutual Insurance, a number of years. I won’t give it to you because then you can figure out my age, at PeopleSoft in technology. Then, I joined here in 2005 and worked with Lerk-Ling because it was PolicyCenter, the second product that I was able to go out and start to build the sales consulting organization.

Eileen Maier: Then, with so many of the opportunities, the same thing that Priscilla has spoken about and you’ll hear Lerk-Ling speak about it and Sandia as well is that just in a growing organization, there’s so many things that need to be done. You start building a sales consulting team. Then, you start building a global sales consulting team. Then, you realize we really need a demo team infrastructure so we need to build that. Then, we really need to enable our sellers better as we’re starting to scale the organization so you start to build that.

Eileen Maier: With a mission and a vision, you start to collect really good people around you. I’m so privileged. I’m humbled by the people that I work with. It really is this journey of curiosity but also being open to luck and go into learning conversations, curious to find out what you might hear but also be transparent with what you’re looking for because you might be really surprised. Somebody might be able to wag their finger at you and say, “I know exactly what you need to do.” Anyway, that’s my story.

Lerk-Ling Chang: We haven’t planned this, but my career, it merged there, was not planned. I didn’t set out to work in a software company. In fact, I didn’t even know that was there was such a thing called software product management. Graduating from college, I had an economics degree. Coming out of college, the two positions that people recruited for was investment banking and management consulting. I picked the one that I thought was most interesting, which was investment banking. Did that for three years. Went to business school. Didn’t hear about product management either. Didn’t want to do investment banking, so decided to do finance. Eventually decided that was not my track. When I moved out to California, I talked a business school friend.

Eileen Maier: Was it for a guy?

Lerk-Ling Chang: It was not for a guy. I was already married, so not for a guy but it was through a business school friend who was working for the startup in Mountain View. I had no idea what a software company was, no idea what even development looked like in a professional enterprise. He just said, “Hey! Why don’t you join this software startup? Got this cool health care tech, monitoring health system,” called Health Buddy. It’s like this cool, little system. “They needed someone to help them with product partnerships. Why don’t you come join? You have investment banking. They’re going to need help us figure out how to put deals together.” I was like, “Okay. Great. Let’s go figure it out.” Anyway, I joined. Pretty soon after, I realized the product was not quite ready for any partnerships of any kind. It needed a lot more work in order to support and not any partner of any sort.

Lerk-Ling Chang: Then, I started talking with the product team and said, “Hey, you know, it needs this, this, and this.” There was only one product manager, who was completely overwhelmed with work. He wasn’t going to have any time to do it. I just ended up deciding to write up all the requirements that I thought would be needed for the product. I didn’t know this was product management. I just started writing out learning requirements, step-by-step flow of what I thought someone would need. Then, just started socializing it with the head of the product team. This guy said, “Hey! Do you want a job? Do you want to be our second product manager?” That’s how I fell into product management. I did that for a bit.

Lerk-Ling Chang: Then, got a job at Ariba after that, where I ended up working with Ken Branson, who is one of the six co-founders here. That’s how I end up here at Guidewire. I did product management at Guidewire for, I guess, it’s probably about 12 years. Then, decided to switch out of that role into something completely different, focusing on corporate strategy.

Lerk-Ling Chang: What that means initially was two things, strategic partnerships and then second is acquisitions. It’s been fun doing that because I worked on acquisitions as an investment banker before, but, at that time, you run numbers. You say, “Hey! You can cut cost here. You can add here. You can the increased revenues by 10% 20%,” but you don’t really know what it looks like.

Lerk-Ling Chang: Now, I’m on the other side of the table where we have to go through systematically to understand, “Hey, can we really grow revenues, work with all the different teams around a company to understand how to plan an integration and make sure the acquisition actually comes to fruition?”

Lerk-Ling Chang: I’ve been involved in all of the five acquisitions that we’ve done. It’s been a really interesting experience seeing that. Now, I’ve had the opportunity as part of this to now lead up our venture investments, which are going to be starting out and doing a lot more of.

Lerk-Ling Chang: It mirrors the careers of these two ladies here. It’s not planned at all, taking the opportunity, taking the initiative when you see something that’s a problem that you think you can help fix, taking the initiative to suggest solutions, and then working with people to see if that can actually come to fruition. That has helped quite a bit.

Lerk-Ling Chang: But the other thing, too, is finding people along the way that have helped me. For example, Ken was instrumental in bringing me here but even in my first job in investment banking, I had a senior managing director who I was able to work really closely with. She let me run a bunch of her deals, which is pretty unusual coming out of college.

Lerk-Ling Chang: Then, now I get to work with Priscilla and Eileen. You get different opportunities and you find people who can help support you and give you new things to do.

Sandia Ren: Okay. Going to be the same themes. Tells you something about Guidewire, but I remember looking recently at my high school yearbook. It has the question like, “Where you going to be in 10 or 20 years,” or something like that. I said I was going to be an electrical engineer and I was going to have two kids. That’s totally wrong. I am past 20 years so you can figure out how old I am but I have a three year old, and I’m not an electrical engineer.

Sandia Ren: Certainly my life didn’t quite turn out the way that I thought it would be, but I did start out on that path. I did get a computer science degree out on the East Coast. Then, I came to California. I actually followed the gold rush because that was during the dot-com boom, but I caught the tail end.

Sandia Ren: When I joined the company that I joined, I think the stock price was at 200. When I got the offer, it was 200. When I actually started, it was like 20. I caught the end so I had to work.

Sandia Ren: Anyway, actually and it’s all about people connections, too. The reason that I actually ended up at that company was because of somebody named Charlie Lee, which some of you guys know from the industry. He invented Litecoin and all of that stuff. But Charlie and I were in school together. He said, “Hey, I interviewed for this great company. You should really come and meet with them.”

Sandia Ren: I met with them and my hiring manager turned out to be the future CTO of Guidewire. I worked with him and had fantastic mentors there who taught me how to be an engineer. I think in school, you learn how to code but that’s pretty much it. I had a mentor who taught me how to work with the requirements, not to just build whatever was given to you but take a step back, understand why and make sure that you feel like this is the right way forward. I don’t think that’s something you learn in school. Just the start of learning from many wonderful mentors along the way.

Sandia Ren: Anyways, really, it’s when one door closes, a window opens. As was happening often there, the development at the company that I was at because they had gone from 200 to 20. The team was getting smaller and smaller. They eventually decided to outsource everybody to India. I was told that I had six months left.

Sandia Ren: I kid you not. That very day I had lunch with former co-workers who had left. They said, “Hey, Guidewire is hiring. Are you interested in coming to meet with us?” Sure. It was my old team, my old hiring manager and all of my great mentors who were over there. That’s how I ended up at Guidewire. Like I said, I wrote unit tests for our very first version of our product.

Sandia Ren: Then, I was a software developer for a while. I thought, “Yeah. This is the path I’m going to do,” but that lasted probably just for three or four years. That was when I started thinking, “Do I want to do something different?” I got enough…it was starting to feel a little routine, so thought maybe a different industry, maybe just needed a change. I actually started looking outside of Guidewire.

Sandia Ren: Then, I remember what pretty much changed my life, it was an email. Again, full disclosure. I am a huge Red Sox fan, being from Boston, so huge Red Sox fan. The year was 2004 and our Liberty Mutual had just gone live with our first product. Our head of professional services said, “They’re so excited. They’re as excited about the go live as the Red Sox winning the World Series for the first time in 89 years,” which is impossible but that’s what he said.

Sandia Ren: A light bulb went off in my head that, “Hey., maybe I can stay at Guidewire but do something different here. Maybe I can move into the services team and it would also give me the opportunity to move back to Boston,” which is what I had been hoping to do.

Sandia Ren: At that time, we were still pretty small. It was 2005. I went to Ken, and I said, “I have this really crazy idea.” I told him about it. Actually, I was working on PolicyCenter then. He said, “You know, it’s not a bad idea. You built PolicyCenter, so you can go implement PolicyCenter when we sell it.”

Sandia Ren: I learned really quickly how hard that was. Lots of lessons learned there, but he was really open to it. Again, just I think that is just a leadership style that I want to emulate. It’s being open to people’s ideas. I really appreciate it he didn’t say, “You know, that’s crazy.”

Sandia Ren: That really kicked things off. I found that consulting professional services worked really well for me because I really like to understand the business side. But I still got to use my technical skills in helping our customers come up with solutions that would work for them.

Sandia Ren: Then, from there on just within Guidewire, I was open to opportunities. I had managers who had crazy ideas, too, and for whatever reason would let me help them implement it. I think there are many times throughout my career where I was given a role that we could have easily hired for externally and would have found somebody who had been doing it for 10, 15 years to do a really good job at it, but no. They let me have a shot at it. I don’t know why but I’m really appreciative of that. I think it’s a big part of our culture as you’ve probably heard throughout, what the other ladies have said.

Sandia Ren: Now, as a leader, as a manager, that’s what I try to do as well. I’m so grateful for all the different roles that I’ve had because it’s given me a really good perspective of the business. That’s the type of career path that I want to give to my team as well. My team really focuses on growing people, development. I highly encourage transfers. We transfer a lot of people between consulting and product development, even over to sales consulting and education all over, but I think it’s a win-win for both the company and for our team member. That’s my story.

Roopal Shah: Okay. All right. Hopefully, that gives you some insight into how these ladies got to where they are. I’m going to do a quick hit, just because I want to make sure we have time for these guys to ask questions.

Roopal Shah: We’ll start with you, Eileen. You’re known for your presentations. Do you have any tips, tricks, anything to share?

Eileen Maier: Sure. No pressure. I’m going to tag off with something that Sandia said because she said, “Start with why.” If you’re doing a presentation, you’re thinking about a presentation. First, have an answer to that question: why am I giving this presentation? One of the questions that I’d like to challenge people with is what is going to be different in the universe after somebody sits through your presentation? So why?

Eileen Maier: In articulating that why, you really want to define for yourself where is the audience starting from and then where do I want them to end up? Then, I can get into a lot of techniques of how you tell that story but I think the most important thing is to also remember that it’s not about you presenting it. I’ve got this idea. I want this idea to get across. I know why I’m doing it but I’ve got this audience that I need to pitch it to. You’ve got to spend a lot of time thinking about who is my audience? Why are they coming here? Why are they listening to me? What do they want to get out of the presentation? What do they want to get out of this meeting? How are they hoping that their world is going to be different after they listen to me?

Eileen Maier: I think that that’s where a lot of people fall down because people get so in their head about presentations. They’re in their head because they’re thinking about themselves. They’re like, “I’m going to embarrass myself,” or, “I’m going to put myself out there and people are going to be judging me.” Actually, they want you to succeed. They’re going to be judging you if you get up and you actually waste their time.

Eileen Maier: Spend a lot of time thinking about why you want to give the presentation and then spend a lot more time thinking about your audience because you want to craft your message at a place where they can meet you because good communication isn’t just about speaking good words. It’s about speaking words in a way that they’re going to be heard. That’s really, to me, the key of a great presentation.

Roopal Shah: All right. Thank you. Priscilla, this one’s for you. You’re on the board. I know, for a lot of people, that’s a goal, for whether it’s to get to the highest rung on the ladder or to actually make a big difference. Would love to just get your perspective on what it’s like and just share with us.

Priscilla Hung: Yeah. Interesting. I think that when people say, “I would like to sit on boards as a goal,” I find it very interesting because I will always ask the question, “What do you think board members do that you want to sit on boards?”

Priscilla Hung: First of all, let me show you what board members actually do. Board members have fiduciary duty for shareholders and also as an advisor to the management team but primarily as a CEO and a CFO and key executive of the company. They show up in board meetings four times a year typically and a little bit more, if you are participated in some varying committees, like compensation committees or audit committees, so on and so forth. Of course, you get compensated for that.

Priscilla Hung: When people say they want to sit on boards, you have to understand just like why do you want to be in a certain job? You want to know the job description. It is work and it is work that it will be fulfilling to you, if you want to be in that role, like you want to be an advisor and you truly, genuinely want to help the management team.

Priscilla Hung: Of course, board members are a prestigious job but the thing is, if the goal of being on a board is…it’s a more of a fame or ego-driven goal, then you would not be a good board member and people can smell it because you got to be interviewed to get on a board as well and management team will seek out attributes from you or your vibes, then, “Why do you want to sit on their board,” and how do you help them?

Priscilla Hung: I would say that people typically seek you out as board members as a reflection of all the hard work you put into your career. It’s typically is the experience that you built, the reputation you built that people will come to you and say, “Hey, you have worked in all these company. You have these experiences. We have a company that, at this stage, would like, it would be lovely if you can share your experience and guide the principals along.” That’s you how you sit on a board.

Priscilla Hung: It’s very difficult to set that as a goal because it’s not something you apply for but again is if you focus on your work, you drive, focus, excellent work product and I would say that sitting on boards is a reflection of all the hard work you put into your career.

Roopal Shah: Thank you. It’s working. Thank you for that. Okay. Lerk-Ling, so you’ve been here for 16 years. Can you share with us or what it’s like to work for a mid-sized company versus a startup and any perspectives?

Lerk-Ling Chang: Sure. When I joined Guidewire, there were 12 people. It’s actually the second startup I’ve been at. I was at a previous startup that was not quite that successful. In fact, similar story. It was dot-com bust years, that raised $20 million and then effectively let 75% of the staff go within a year of raising that money. It was those crazy times. I’ve seen the whole gamut of startup all the way through the mid-sized companies.

Lerk-Ling Chang: Some of the things to think about if you’re thinking of do you want to work on a startup? Should you work at a startup? A few things, a couple things. As a startup, you definitely get a breadth of experience across many, many things. In the very early days at Guidewire, I was not only the product manager, I was also the UI designer. I was also the product marketing person, also did the sales demos, also did desk manager sometimes, was also the scrum master sometimes in the QA. The list goes on. Y

Lerk-Ling Chang: ou just do whatever you need to because they’re just not that many people and there’s stuff to get done. The customer is waiting for you. You just do whatever you need to get done. Great experience. A lot of breadth and something you get a lot more responsibility but it’s also very exhausting. You can imagine. Which one do you prioritize? It’s fun whereas as the company gets bigger, your job has to get more focused. It frees you up to actually focus on the things that are most important.

Lerk-Ling Chang: For example, in product management, personally I was very glad not to have to do demos anymore when Eileen joined, for example. I didn’t have to fly to go. It’s too hard to focus if you have so many things to do.

Lerk-Ling Chang: As the company grew larger and you have people who are much, much better at doing demos than I was ever at, I could then focus on being a good product manager. I focus on really understanding what makes the design, what things we should put into the product and how best to do that. That’s one example.

Lerk-Ling Chang: The other example is about, the other thing to think about … Sorry, but this is mid-sized. I talked about the company going downhill, the other startup that I joined. That was, I guess about 20 years ago, but very few people know that actually Guidewire also went through tough times. We actually had a layoff. I can’t remember when that was. You remember that? I don’t remember that. It’s long gone, but very few people know that. Actually, Sandia probably remember that. It was not great. We had to pull the product out from the market, not great.

Lerk-Ling Chang: As a startup, you’re still trying to figure out what the fine line is. You may have gotten one success but to actually get beyond that first few customers, that jump to the next level customers is actually not that easy. Being able to do that successfully is actually a lot of work. It’s a lot of …

Lerk-Ling Chang: I did a lot of things that as a typical product manager in a larger company wouldn’t get to do but it was also incredibly, very stressful. Just those things to think about.

Roopal Shah: Okay. Then, Sandia, I’ve got a question for you. I know one thing that you’re doing is leading this initiative called GROW. Can you tell us a little bit about that and what inspired you to start that?

Sandia Ren: Yeah, sure. GROW stands for a Guidewire Recognizes Our Women. It is an initiative that we have within the professional services consulting team that is focusing on our female colleagues and how to provide better support for them. I think we know the reason for things like this is because we don’t have that many females in the tech industry. Then, you add on IT consulting and then that number really dwindles even more. It’s something that’s been in the back of my mind. Then, certainly, of course, their current events have raised it to the forefront as well, but I have to say it wasn’t really me. Actually, there are a lot of people on the services team, a lot of women on the on the consulting team, that I think we’re sharing the same sentiment.

Sandia Ren: We came together and our focus, again, is I think most importantly to provide a forum so that we can we can understand what challenges women face in consulting and in IT consulting. Then, hopefully figure out things that we can do to make it better. As part of my own research and development, I have gone to a women’s conference earlier this year. I found that just being within that forum and being able to talk to other women like me was a huge help.

Sandia Ren: To be able to hear that one of the most accomplished people in science felt the way that I do, which is a hot mess a lot of the times, was comforting to talk to other women. I see impostor syndrome right in front of me, like it’s yelling at me, but to talk to other women who also feel that way, that, “I’ve no idea of what I’m doing half the time but I’m going to figure it out.” It was really comforting to me.

Sandia Ren: That’s really what we want to do in the beginning is to at least is to provide that forum because I think events like this, it really helps me to be able to talk to other people who are in similar situations and realize that I’m not alone.

Sandia Ren: Those are the things that we want to do with this is to look at women in our consulting team. It’s hard with the travel, especially those who have families and who have kids that we want to be home with and see what we can do to make things better. Then, second, just as important, is to raise awareness.

Sandia Ren: Guidewire has a great culture. We have collegiality as one of our strongest traits but even so, I think there is awareness that can be raised about the challenges that women face. When I’d spoken to my male colleagues about this, they’ve been very receptive. I’m excited to see what we can do with this.

Roopal Shah: Awesome. Final question. Then, I would love to get some questions. Tell us your most embarrassing moment, professionally.

Sandia Ren: I’m glad you qualified that.

Roopal Shah: Who wants to start?

Priscilla Hung: I don’t have any. I can’t think of … Okay. You go. You go.

Eileen Maier: Where do I begin? It’s funny that you ask me the question, Roopal, about presentations because, actually, my most embarrassing moment actually comes from a presentation, so don’t do this. I’m working for PeopleSoft. We’re doing a product launch and we’ve got, I don’t know, five, 600 people at the Hilton up in San Francisco. It’s a big stage and everybody’s in the audience. I’m giving a demo. I’m doing it with my boss. I’m up on stage. I’m up towards the back. If anybody here has ever seen a product demo. Actually in the audience, you really can’t see anything. You have to use big, sweeping motions and so, “Up here, you know, you see blah, blah, blah and if you look down here,” and with one sweep of the arm, I fell right off the back of the stage. I was just gone. I was just gone. I’m all mic’d up. It’s a tuck and roll. I’m under the stage.

Priscilla Hung: Oh, my god!

Eileen Maier: The one thing that did happen that was actually good about this is that it was right before lunch. Now, everybody is now up. They were like, “Uh!” They’re just waiting because … I’ve got the mic on. They just start to hear, “Heh, heh, heh.” I’m giggling under the stage. I’m sure I’m in total shock. I come out from underneath the stage. I pop my head up. I think the really embarrassing part of the story is that, at the time, I had really short, bleached blonde hair. I think that’s really the more embarrassing part but they see this blonde head out on the suit, climb back up on the stage. I don’t even use the stairs. I just climb back up.

Eileen Maier: You don’t know what to do. I’m like, “Well, I guess I’ll just pick up where I left off.” I try to get back into it. I could just tell I wasn’t settled down, the audience wasn’t settled down. If you’ve been on a big stage like that and you’ve just got like these lights in your eyes, you really can’t see anything. I look out into the dark where I know people are. I just look at them. I pause and I say, “I wish I could say that was my most embarrassing moment.” They’re like, “Oh, okay.” I finished out the demo. Then, I think I went back to my hotel room and I crashed for a good eight hours, but I think from that it’s like just keep going. It can try to keep it out of your head and you just get it done. That’s one of mine.

Roopal Shah: Anybody else willing to share?

Lerk-Ling Chang: Mine is somewhat similar. We have an annual user conference. This was probably about 10 years ago. I was doing an intro to new things in PolicyCenter. I’m talking about all the cool stuff that we have been doing the last year, all the accomplishments. Then, talking about one of the biggest news that we had was a new partnership that we had signed that I completely blanked on the name of the partner. Completely, no idea. Silence for two seconds. It felt more like two minutes, right?

Eileen Maier: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lerk-Ling Chang speaking at Guidewire Girl Geek Dinner.

Lerk-Ling Chang: Luckily, someone from Guidewire shouted out the name for me, and I just try to go on. Lesson there is, as they say, just go on. We all have that moment. I guess the main thing is you just have to keep practicing and hope that your muscle memory eventually takes over. Mine didn’t, so just keep practicing. Things happen. It’s okay. We all live to tell it.

Eileen Maier: That’s right. You’re still here.

Lerk-Ling Chang: Yes.

Roopal Shah: Anyone else?

Sandia Ren: Mine’s not really funny, so I don’t know if it’s a great way to end, but, so in consulting, you get to meet all sorts of customers with different personalities and different thoughts about the way things should be. Anyway, I was involved, working with a customer. We had gone to do what we call an inception project kickoff. We had done that and then we had finished.

Sandia Ren: Then, what we typically do is we go back periodically to check on how … We do what we call health checks, which is to see how the project is going and check in with the team and check in with the customer and such. I guess either this hadn’t been explained to the big boss in charge or he just didn’t want to spend the money because I traveled there. I showed up. I was sitting there at my desk working away. He comes up to me. He just pretty much hovers over me and says, “What the are you doing here?” I just froze. I didn’t know how to answer that. I stumbled a little bit but eventually was able to say, “I’m doing a health check and these were the benefits of it,” and such.

Sandia Ren: He really didn’t buy into it. That was my last health check at that customer, unfortunately, but I think it was very awkward moment. But, now actually my coworker, who was there with me, he tells everybody as a joke because he thought it was just the most hilarious thing ever.

Sandia Ren: We can laugh about these things years later but I think, at least for me, the lesson learned was that actually I think he was trying to intimidate me. I thankfully recovered and just have confidence in what you’re doing. I got through it.

Priscilla Hung: I really don’t have anything good thing. Maybe just like a little while ago, I forgot what was the fifth thing that my mentor said but now, in hindsight, the whole time of thinking what’s the fifth thing. Now, I recover because there’s actually no fifth thing. It’s the four things.

Roopal Shah speaking at Guidewire Girl Geek Dinner.

Roopal Shah: I would have loved to have things to make. You guys have any questions, concerns?

Eileen Maier: There’s one right here.

Roopal Shah: Mic?

Audience Member: Hi. I can hear you. Yeah. Hi. My name is Vera. I’m early in my professional life. I, too, work at Oracle, first job out of college. I’m currently working in online business sales and I’ve been passively or actively looking to move into another line of business. Sales just hasn’t been for me, but I’m struggling quite a bit. I get calls and emails from recruiters for sales positions but not product marketing or product management or customer success, or other things I’d consider. Do you have any advice from your experiences transferring lines of business?

Eileen Maier: Yes. I think that if you have sales experience and you’ve been out with customers and you have had difficult conversations because selling is not easy. Selling technology is actually very, very hard. You’re facing a very skeptical audience. I think that you have incredible understanding and empathy for what that sales process is like. I

Eileen Maier:  think that there’s a ton of jobs out there in what’s called sales enablement and actually going in and saying, “Okay, I’m going to go inside the company but I’m going to think about the processes of what it takes to actually scale messaging,” because you know what it is that the sales team needs in order to be effective. Big marketing decks that have value propositions that start talking about the company first.

Eileen Maier: That doesn’t actually help you sell. You can come in and you can help organizations understand how do I actually make my sales team more effective? I know that there’s a huge hunger within the industry to actually be able to fulfill that. People typically go into marketing jobs and stuff.

Eileen Maier: I think that, given your experience, that’s a really good transition. I think one of the people that you should talk to, after we get done, is this woman over here because she worked with me but it was really her hard work that instituted sales enablement here at Guidewire. I think that we could probably give you a little bit more insight of some other things you could be thinking about, but that would be something I would think that would be worth you exploring.

Roopal Shah: I think there was another question. Yeah?

Girl geek asking a question to the panel at Guidewire Girl Geek Dinner.

Audience Member: My question is similar. I’m actually in sales enablement and I have a pretty diverse background but I want to scale back into marketing and I’m finding that, because my background is so diverse, it’s hard for me to market myself to a particular skill set. How should I go about doing that?

Eileen Maier: Okay. I feel like Roopal should start to answer some of these questions, too. With sales enablement and you’re thinking about going into product marketing or more corporate marketing or …

Audience Member: Corporate.

Eileen Maier: More corporate marketing. Yeah, I actually think that … I’m going to now reverse it but say the same message, which is I think the most important thing is to have empathy for the audience that you’re trying to communicate to. I think when there’s the corporate marketing mandate and what we’re trying to do in terms of increasing brand awareness and do demand generation or just brand establishment, I think that you’re doing it on behalf of the sellers who are out there in the field.

Eileen Maier: I think using maybe that angle of understanding the audiences that you’re trying to deliver value to, I think is really important because I think often times corporate marketing can get a little bit hung up in the brand and the message and lose sight of the connectivity to the people they’re trying to communicate to.

Eileen Maier: Again, going back to what I said about presentations. There’s always two sides to communication. Think about what advantage you bring, what experience you bring in terms of understanding the dynamics of that conversation because I think that you do have something special, having been on this sales enablement side.

Audience Member: I think that interesting observation during the corporate…

Roopal Shah: It might be working.

Audience Member: It’s impressive staying with the company 10, 15, 16 years, which is rare in the Valley not just from a startup perspective but the fact that you stayed with the company. I stayed at Cisco for 14 years. That does not looked very nicely. There’s a negative connotation. “Oh, you stayed too long. You didn’t change,” but then when I look at my career, I started in engineering, went to business, then went into marketing. I’ve done sales enablement. I’ve been through that journey and I lived globally, which has enriched my experience even further given the opportunities I had.

Audience Member: I’m just curious. Two questions. One is it seems like Guidewire did the right thing, at least from a diversity perspective. Seems like they retain all of you for all these years and encouraged your growth. What was the culture like with the founders?

Audience Member: The second question is how do you address the perception issue, which is completely opposite of what we see right now? Any advice or generally think?

Priscilla Hung: Maybe I can take a stab at that.

Eileen Maier: Sure.

Priscilla Hung: There a couple of things. Your observation is spot-on. I would like to go back to your first question first before we address the culture. Of course, we have a very, very strong culture in the company that we really live by. It’s not just marketing slogan. We really believe in collegiality. We really believed in working amount equals. I think that one of the reason why we stay here so long is I think, I don’t want to speak for all of you, but we genuinely are working among friends. We generally believe in the mission of the company.

Priscilla Hung: Also the company is in the last many years, it’s been doing very well progressively. We’re all proud of being the founding building blocks of it. This company really allow a very basically open view for all of us who developed. We all come into different job and end up here in a complete different job and in high places.

Priscilla Hung: It is an environment, an openness to so focus on not what you look like or what gender it is but it’s purely on how hard you work, are you a good worker, and you got recognized. Also, in my particular situation is, I don’t have a lot of experience in doing a lot of things but it’s so progressively I added more and more to my plates because my boss believed in you a competent person, a lot of the problems are … And, in fact, I think I can generalize it. It’s unlike you’re like a rocket science or you are doing something very specific. I think that going to school, it’s a lot more difficult than working.

Priscilla Hung: In fact, in working, it’s every day is your general competence and general problem-solving can go a long ways, of course, with hard work and dedication. The other thing is really dealing with people. A lot has to do with people, people communication. You work with people. I think that Guidewire paved a very, very good foundation for all of us who thrive and not just us, as all our male colleagues as well.

Priscilla Hung: But go back to the negative connotation as, “Hey. If I apply for another job, you’ve been here for 14 years,” but I think it go both ways. If I’m interviewing for someone right now who want a job at Guidewire and that person has stayed 18 years in a stagnant company, has a poor reputation, bad culture, going nowhere and you look at the progression of the companies, within the company, that person goes nowhere. Then, that is a negative thing but if you are looking at a company that has a reputation like Guidewire or other places that is small and going very big, it’s a is a very attractive profile.

Priscilla Hung: I think you have to put things in context in terms of what you mean by you’ve been a dinosaur in a company for a long time. I think the brand of the company and what it represents makes a difference in terms of the perception.

Sandia Ren: Yeah, and I would add to that, that when we’re recruiting, if I see a lot of short stints, that actually can concern me, maybe just because we’re used to people sticking around so long but it’s certainly something that I will ask is because at Guidewire, we do, we invest a lot in people. We all like each other. We want people to stick around and find their career in growth opportunities within the company.

Audience Member: I realize I’m in the audience but I think … I was at Guidewire for five and a half years, left for three and a half, just recently came back. The reason that I came back was because of the people on this panel and Guidewire cultural integrity. It really is a family environment.

Roopal Shah: Here, here.

Audience Member: Okay. I have a question.

Priscilla Hung: Oh. You’re…

Roopal Shah: Lisa Walsh, our Vice President of Alliances. There you go.

Audience Member: And anyway. You guys all talked about the importance of relationships and people in your careers. What do you look for, someone that you choose to mentor? Sort of like start to pay back. What are the attributes of someone that you think could be a good mentor, that you would like to mentor?

Sandia Ren: I can take that. Actually, as I mentioned, I was just in K.L. We were looking for a manager for the office and we were interviewing, met a number of a number of candidates who had managing teams for 10, 15 years, built teams from scratch, et cetera but then we met this girl or, I should say, woman. This woman who was … She even called herself a new leader. She’s only been managing team for a two and a half years but, as I talked to her, I could just tell that she was really smart, really clued in.

Sandia Ren: She really quickly picked up on the things that we were talking about. She was really excited to learn. She says she wants to switch jobs because she wants to be exposed to more people, different people because she thinks that that’s how she’s going to learn. I could tell the ambition was there and just the openness to learning.

Sandia Ren: Now, I’m like, “How do I hire her,” even though she may not be the best fit for what we’re looking for but it’s that eagerness to learn, that passion, I think that goes such a long way.

Lerk-Ling Chang: Yeah.

Priscilla Hung: I mean, for me, it’s just to build on that a little bit. I think, for me, it’s the chemistry has to work because I really believe in mentorship because I owe my career to my mentor, but first of all is you can’t mentor 200 … I mean, it’s the time with issue. I think that when you click, you click. Also, the second thing is just like Sandia said is, you will get a sense that whether the person in front of you actually is open due to change. If there is closeness there, it’s a waste of time.

Eileen Maier: Thank you, because we’ve been talking about this, Lisa. I think one of the things that’s really important is people say, “Well, you know, I’d like to find a mentor,” and, “It’s so important to find a mentor,” but I think this is probably the most important thing you need to know is that you actually get chosen. You can ask somebody to be your mentor but you are going to get chosen. It’s really how do you represent yourself as somebody who’s open?

Eileen Maier: You’re whip smart. Show that you’re whip smart but recognize that that’s how the relationship is going to happen is that you’re going to get chosen by that person because I think that if we think about people that we’ve mentored, it’s because that connection happened.

Eileen Maier: Make yourself available to those people that you’d like to mentor you and see if you can establish that connection in somebody’s … I guess I’m also saying you have to earn it.

Roopal Shah: I think we have time for … Okay. We’ll take these two as the last two. Do you need a mic?

Audience Member: Thank you. I’m really happy to have heard stories from all of you because just today I was feeling a little bit … “I’ve been at my company for 13 years. Am I considered a dinosaur?” Now, I don’t feel so bad because, like you said, I’ve done four different roles at the company. I know I’ve grown with the company. Thank you.

Audience Member: As a new manager, we were doing more focused on execution and planning. As I grew into a director role, it’s more about strategy. What is it at the VP level and at the COO level?

Priscilla Hung: That’s a very loaded question. I would say that, as a COO … I was just joking. Who I was talking to? My memory’s going. I was talking with someone today that I’m actually not really doing much. I’m not saying I’m lazy, but on a day-to-day basis, so my job is I’m thinking all the time. My job is to think about are we heading in the right direction? If we’re not headed in the right direction, how do I direct or influence the team to go to that direction? How do I make sure that people actually work together?

Priscilla Hung: That’s my job but I’m not giving you code. I’m not writing a paper. Sometimes I’m not doing my PowerPoint. Higher you go, it’s more about overseeing people. I would just say that when you’re individual contributor, you are measured on and you probably have something tangible that you’re delivering but as you get higher and higher, that becomes probably not majority of your job.

Priscilla Hung: Most of the time is you’re really thinking you’re working with people, you’re managing people. You’re making sure that you drive productivity in your team. I would just say that you think more and you work less. You produce less from the perspective when you get into more senior position.

Like what you see here? Our mission-aligned Girl Geek X partners are hiring!