How to Organize a Viewing Party for the Free “Girl Geek X: Elevate” Virtual Conference

We’re thrilled that some of the amazing women and allies who’ve registered for Girl Geek X: Elevate 2019 are organizing their own unofficial viewing parties! How exciting! In fact, they’ve even inspired us to put together this quick guide to help you host your own viewing party.

As the FREE virtual conference falls on International Women’s Day (that’s March 8, 2019!), it’s an excellent opportunity to bring folks together to celebrate women in tech within your organization!

Hosting a viewing party is fun, easy, and rewarding! (And taking the initiative to organize a relevant event to celebrate International Women’s Day is a great way to raise your own visibility and meet more women within your company.) 

Here are some steps you can take to get started:

  1. Register for your virtual conference pass for Girl Geek X: Elevate 2019 – it’s FREE!
  2. Get the word out. Tell your friends and co-workers about the event. In addition to emailing the colleagues you work with directly, consider creating a calendar invite, posting on Slack and to your internal bulletin boards, ERG groups, Chatter, LinkedIn, etc. We welcome all genders and allies – this event is relevant to everyone!
  3. Download the official promo image for use in your posts and emails here.
  4. Familiarize yourself with the Zoom webinar attendee guide. (You’ll be joining the virtual event as a webinar attendee.)
  5. Put it on the big screen. Connect your laptop to a projector or HD television. You’ll need a VGA Cable to connect to a projector. Use an HDMI Cable to connect to your HD Television. Crank up the sound. Connect speakers to your computer so your audience can hear the broadcast clearly. You’ll want to test this in advance to be sure everything works as expected.
  6. Share the conference link ( so those who aren’t able to attend your viewing party IRL can still tune in from their home or office & soak up the learnings!
  7. Take notes during the conference. Start a discussion about topics relevant to your team and your company, and make a note of any that aren’t addressed during the webinar. You might decide to host an internal event to dive deeper into those topics at a later date.
  8. Have fun and make sure everyone feels welcome.

Tips to make your viewing party an even bigger hit:

  • Provide snacks and drinks in a convenient location so people won’t miss any of the content!
  • Invite women on your company’s leadership team to kick off the viewing party.
  • Host an internal Q&A, roundtable, or lightning tech talk during the Elevate Lunch Break, following closing statements, or before the event kicks off.
  • Make it fun! Encourage attendees to mingle and discuss the sessions or ask each other questions.
  • Have name tags available if you’re hosting an event in a larger org where attendees may not have interacted previously.
  • Play some Girl Geek X bingo to help attendees meet each other! Printable cards are available here(Attendees mark off words/phrases as they’re spoken by Elevate hosts & speakers. The game will restart with a fresh card every time we get a winner, and the first person to tweet their winning BINGO card to @girlgeekx using hashtag #GGXElevate during each round will get a gift bag full of sweet Girl Geek X swag!)
  • Take group pictures & get retweeted! Show us your viewing party so we can share in the excitement! Tweet @girlgeekx using hashtag #GGXElevate and we’ll retweet your team!

We hope to see you & your team online with us on March 8th!

PS. If your organization is interested in sponsoring the conference, featuring your viewing party’s webcam during the break, and putting your job listings in front of thousands of mid-senior level women in tech, email us at to get involved.

Episode 4: Imposter Syndrome

Angie Chang: Welcome to another episode of the Girl Geek X podcast, connecting you to the best in tech from women in tech. I’m Angie, founder of Girl Geek X. This podcast brings you the best of Girl Geek Dinners where we’ve been elevating women in tech for over 10 years.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Hi, I’m Sukrutha, CTO of Girl Geek X.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I’m Gretchen, COO of Girl Geek X.

Rachel Jones: And I’m Rachel, the producer of this podcast.

Angie Chang: Today we’ll be discussing impostor syndrome. This is a question that we get a lot of at our Girl Geek dinners and I wanted to get a sense from everyone here. Why do you think this topic gets asked so much at our Girl Geek Dinners?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I remember the first time I heard about it, I felt like they were talking about me and I got super emotional. I’m like ‘This is what I’ve been dealing with all week.’ I wonder if people really, really want to hear more about it because every time they are struggling at work, or they are dealing with a new challenge, they mistake that for failure and so they want to learn how to cope with that and this sort of gives you hope that this is just in your head and you are not actually struggling. What do you think, Gretchen?

Gretchen DeKnikker: Yeah. I think that’s a big reason why it comes up, is because you are always stopping and questioning yourself. And to know that everyone else is sort of going through something similar I think just makes you feel better because everyone else is sort of like the duck on the water and it looks like they’re moving along so smoothly, but underneath they’re like paddling like crazy.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah.

Gretchen DeKnikker: And then I think it comes up a lot because there’s a name for it now. Like I don’t know how many years ago you heard it. I certainly didn’t hear it for the first several years of my career, when I most struggled with it, nor was I around, I didn’t have a community like Girl Geek X to have other people talk about their experiences, so I thought I was like the idiot in the room all the time. But I don’t know. Angie, what do you think?

Angie Chang: I think I don’t hear about impostor syndrome day to day which is why at Girl Geek Dinners, I feel so safe, where people will be like putting a name to this feeling they have experienced and want to hear more about how to combat it so they can improve and not have those moments of pause when they want to be moving forward in their jobs and their careers.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Yeah or even just like what are the hacks, what are the life skills that you can learn from someone else that they … You know, I hear people say “Well I just rehearse and rehearse and rehearse” or I … You know, like for a presentation or whatever, or I go and research every single possible outcome of this so that I can go in and feel confident about what I’m talking about and speak up. But what are those ways … because we’re all going to do it differently in our way of sort of overcoming it and going in and at least looking like a duck above the water and moving smoothly along even if you are kind of paddling like crazy.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah. I remember before meeting someone and I would really, really struggle to like speak up. I’d have so many things to say, but I wouldn’t say anything in meetings. I read about power posing and I started to do that before every meeting. So basically you look in the mirror and you pose fiercely. You feel great.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Another tip that was given to me was to just go into the room before the meeting starts in that room and walk around and that helps. So things like that unless we talk about it, we’re not going to be able to come up with these ideas for what would work for various people because there’s only so much you can do with tips that maybe don’t work for you, right?

Rachel Jones: Yeah. And I think another possible reason for why this comes up at so many dinners is just people wanting to know that they’re not alone in this feeling. They think a lot of what’s behind impostor syndrome as having this idea that everyone else around you is so confident all the time and so capable. So knowing that other people, other women that you admire, even as high as they are in their career still experience this is really comforting to hear.

Rachel Jones: So what is impostor syndrome? Does anyone have like a definition now that we’ve been talking about it?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah. For me I guess impostor syndrome has typically been related to my annual performance or like how much of a leader people perceive me to be and I would always find reasons and excuses for other people to not take me seriously and all of that, I would say is what my experience and my perception of how I’ve gone through impostor syndrome and what’s it’s been for me. What about you, Gretchen?

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think I was plagued, and still am to some extent. I grew up really, really poor. I was the first person in my family to go to college. And so I was living in a world that I’ve never experienced before, knowing that I was very different and trying to learn the ways of well-educated people and professional roles and always feeling like everyone could tell that I was just a girl who grew up in a trailer and didn’t belong in the room.

Angie Chang: Having worked at an all women’s coding boot camp, I heard the word impostor syndrome a lot, both from the students and as well as the instructors who are anticipating the questions that would inevitably come about. The feelings of imposter syndrome that were surfacing in women very frequently.

Gretchen DeKnikker: So for a more official overview of what imposter syndrome is, we’ve got a great quote from Aline Lerner who is the CEO and founder of a company called that helps people prepare for technical interviews. If you haven’t checked it out, you definitely should. Aline is one of my favorite people and she spoke at our Elevate conference in 2018 and here’s what she had to say through all of the data that they’ve collected at over the years about imposter syndrome.

Aline Lerner: So what is imposter syndrome? It means you think you did poorly when you did well. Now, here is the crazy part. If a candidate did well and they think they did poorly and you don’t give them immediate actionable feedback and let’s say you let them sit on it for days, they’re going to get into this whole self-flagellation gauntlet, so they’re going to leave that interview and they’re going to start thinking one of two things. Either they’re going to think ‘man, that company didn’t interview me well. I’m good at what I do and I don’t think that company knew how to get it out of me, so they suck.’ Even worse, what’s going to happen is you’re going to think ‘oh, I’m a piece of shit. Now they know I’m a piece of shit and I totally didn’t want to work there anyway.’ Right?

Aline Lerner: So, what ends up happening is unless you tell people they did well immediately after they did well, you end up losing a lot of good candidates because by the time you get back to them, they completely talked themselves out of working for you, so don’t let this happen. Don’t let them gaze into the abyss and give people actionable feedback as soon as possible.

Aline Lerner: Actually, I saw one of the comments … I want to leave a few moments for questions, but one of the comments on the side was ‘Imposter syndrome is a women’s curse’. We actually ran some data on our platform to see if imposter syndrome is more prevalent in women or whether it’s distributed across both genders. As it turns out, both men and women are equally plagued by imposter syndrome and the other interesting thing that we learned, and we haven’t written about this yet, but we will, is that the better you are at interviewing, the more prone to imposter syndrome you are and the worse you are–There’s the opposite called the Dunning-Kruger effect where you think you did well when you in fact did poorly.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think when I originally heard her say that men and women were plagued by imposter syndrome equally, I wanted to just play it back over and over and over and over again, but I’m curious. Why do you think that is? And maybe this is only in an interviewing context, but I think it’s probably right for a more wide application of it, but why do you think women feel like it is over-represented with them?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I feel like it’s not really the fact that only women feel something or perceive something a certain way, it’s how you deal with it. Right? Like how you deal with that feeling and I think that’s where women are probably different where like, you know? Obsessing about how something went. Over-analyzing. Thinking more. Worrying more. Instead of probably moving on and forgetting and I think that’s probably where women are different, just speaking for myself. I know I definitely think about things a lot more than my male co-workers and my male friends and even my husband. They definitely don’t over-analyze the way I do. I think her quote, in general, really, really spoke to me because she spoke about the two sides, right? She spoke about imposter syndrome and the Dunning-Kruger effect. My only thing is I wonder if it is more about when you’re better at interviewing than you are more prone to imposter syndrome or is it that when you’ve worked harder and you’ve really, really put in a ton of effort, then you’re more prone to imposter syndrome. That’s something I was thinking a lot about when I first heard her talk about this.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: What do you think, Angie?

Angie Chang: I’ve seen … Having trained to work with a lot of male and female engineers that the male engineers do also admit when they’re asked and prompted that yes, they also have imposter syndrome here and there and in our training and orientations, we always welcome the men to share those experiences and they’re like ‘oh, you want me to talk about them?’ And we’re like ‘yeah! We want you to talk about that because it’s very human. It’s very encouraging to your young mentee at the coding boot camp who’s starting out in this career to know that you, too, 15 years ago or whatnot also had similar feelings, they’re completely normal, and to be able to recognize that and move on.’

Angie Chang: I think there’s something to acknowledging that equal-ness that everyone feels these feelings of things we call imposter syndrome, anxiety, a lot of stress, doubt, feelings of failing because you’re not sure often times after an interview or anything whether you were right or not, whether you did a good job or not, so I think that Aline did a great job in underlining the importance of us as people in a community and society to confirm or deny whether someone did well or not and that’s just part of being a good mentor or coach or manager.

Gretchen DeKnikker: It is interesting in an interviewing scenario though, like how do you give someone feedback that they did well or not without over-creating anticipation of whether or not they’ll get the role? Right? If someone tells you you did really well, then you think ‘oh, I’m much’ … And you are a bit closer, but I think it can work in the opposite way too possibly where she’s saying if you don’t get the feedback, then you go home and you talk yourself out of the job in whatever way that you do that, but you may go home and talk yourself into the job, so I don’t know.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah. I remember I conducted an interview where every time they were trying to solve the problem, I would say ‘this is good, but what if …’ and I felt like that probably sent a more positive vibe because I wasn’t making them feel like what they were suggesting was wrong and it felt like they left positive even though they didn’t really meet the bar, necessarily, based off of their experience level. Their suggestions … I didn’t shoot them down, you know? So, I wonder if things like that, as opposed to just saying ‘Okay, you did great’, but you sort of, in a more positive way, tried to pull out more out of them in the interview, if that would help to … But yeah, it is definitely challenging to be like ‘how do I give positive feedback or actionable feedback in an interview that quickly?’

Gretchen DeKnikker: Right, and also if you’re in a non-technical interview, what are you really giving them feedback on?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Mm-hmm (affirmative)- Yeah, that’s very true, but this perspective is really, really interesting because to me imposter syndrome has been largely outside of the interview cycle, right? Like, for me, it’s always been how I’m doing day-to-day and how I’m contributing, but this specific example, specifically because of what Aline works on, you know? Her whole company is around interviewing. It’s been really, really interesting to think of imposter syndrome very focused on interviews.

Rachel Jones: Are there any examples that you can think of of imposter syndrome that you’ve seen outside of the interviewing context in your work?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah. I’ve seen it when people are asking for promotions or asking for raises. Who is the one who asks for it when there are multiple equally competent people or when there’s a job listing and who actually applies for it? So there, I feel like there are instances of imposter syndrome in the people who don’t put their names forward or they don’t put themselves out there.

Rachel Jones: I think it’s kind of the same thing that she was talking about, about going home and talking yourself out of something.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Uh huh.

Rachel Jones: Even if it’s outside of interviewing, you’re thinking about just going for a promotion, before you even try, you’ve had a whole conversation in your head about how you’re not the kind of person who could go for that kind of thing.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah.

Rachel Jones: So I think it’s definitely relevant.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think I’ve seen it with people on my team who you’re trying to get them to work on a project and they come back and they’re like ‘I can’t do that.’ I’m like ‘You absolutely can. I wouldn’t ask you to do it if I didn’t think you were capable of it.’ And I remember that super, super early in my career. It was my first job. I had no background in anything and they were like ‘go out and find a 401k plan’ and I was like ‘I don’t even know what a 401k is’. We didn’t have retirement plans in my family or anything, so at first I had to find out what 401k plan was and then I had to go find one for the company, but they just were like ‘Of course you can figure that out. Just go figure it out.’ And so, I took that early learning from how I was managed early on and sort of brought that in to ‘I wouldn’t ask you to do it if I didn’t think you could do it. In fact, I think a couple days from now, you can come back and tell me more about than I know about it right now.’

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Don’t you think that sometimes when somebody is suffering from imposter syndrome, that also impacts how they’re doing, like their performance? It’s sort of like this awful cycle and catch-22 situation and then over time, they don’t push themselves as much just because they’re so afraid. And then it becomes hard for even their boss to see in them that they can actually do it.

Angie Chang: There’s a common criticism of the tech industry and I’m sure this is a trait of many industries in many places is that managers are often ‘not good’ because that’s a common criticism that you hear, right? Everyone’s like ‘Oh, managers are terrible. They don’t get enough training.’ Even as a new manager, you have maybe two or four years of being a mediocre manager at best, so if people are not being empowered by ‘good managers.’ thatI means there’s always that amount of people who are left wondering and possibly getting hung up on their imposter syndrome and not being able to accelerate their career as much as they could.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think that’s a really good point because if I … You’re making me think that just as you were saying early on when I was a manager, I didn’t really think about ‘how do I pull this out of somebody?’ And now it’s all I think about is ‘how do I get in and get to the root of …’ Recently I was managing … He was doing inside sales calls and he really wanted to go do field sales, but he just kept ‘Well, yeah, maybe next week or whatever’ and I could tell he was really frustrated because the field sales person that he was giving the leads to wasn’t following up on his leads. He was like ‘I should just go there.’

Gretchen DeKnikker: And so finally, I just kept digging down, and digging down, and digging down and we had this conversation and what I thought was going on is he thought people wouldn’t take him seriously and eventually I got him to admit without saying what I thought it was that he was … He’s like ‘I’m too young. No one’s going to talk to me’. And I was like ‘Okay, well why don’t you just go do it for a day and see if that’s true because you’ve decided that, but you don’t know if it’s true. I would talk to you. I don’t think you look too young to be taken seriously. You know everything you need to know about this business to do well.’ And then he started doing it and I couldn’t get him in the office anymore which is this amazing success story, but …

Sukrutha Bhadouria: That’s awesome.

Angie Chang: It sounds like people really need a good manager or coach or maybe even someone like a therapist or career coach who could be that person to give them encouragement help, talk them through, and assure them that they can make that next step. So in my line of work, it seems like speaking and engagement seem to be where imposter syndrome can rear its head. I remember I showed up at Harvard Business School for a panel and I was like ‘I’m the only one here, on this panel, who didn’t go to Harvard Business School and then run a giant company.’ And I had feelings of imposter syndrome, but I also … I remember speaking with, at the time, Sheila Lirio Marcelo, the CEO of and she mentioned that she felt imposter syndrome when she was at, I think it was Davos or walking down the forum where she was like I’m at this great, grand, global stage and I also felt a twinge of imposter syndrome, so I felt comforted to know that everyone feels this thing called imposter syndrome and they’re able to accept it and move on.

Angie Chang: I think it’s just a matter of addressing it and moving forward and doing the things that you need to do.

Rachel Jones: I think, for me, imposter syndrome comes up a lot when I’m thinking about what words I use to describe myself and what I do. Even just doing podcasts and having that hesitance to say I am a podcast producer or I am a podcaster, feeling like when I actually claim that for myself, there’s some level in that career that I need to get to before I can honestly think of myself that way even though I’m doing so much work in podcasting. I think there’s a separation between the work that I’m doing and I know I can do versus internalizing that and letting that become a part of my identity.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Wow, I never thought you’d say that! I totally look at you as a podcaster, so …

Rachel Jones: Well, thank you!

Angie Chang: We’re going to give you a business card that says ‘Girl Geek X, Podcaster’.

Rachel Jones: I think having a business card would make it feel a lot more real and tangible. [crosstalk 00:19:06]

Angie Chang: I remember when I was working at the women’s coding school, we would give business cards in the middle of the program to all of our students that said their names and the words ‘software engineer’ on it and that way people felt similar to how scientists feel when they put on a white lab coat, that they are that thing. I think we see that if you’re a student, oftentimes you’re like ‘I am just a student’, but everyone else is like ‘well, you code, so you are a programmer’ or ‘you are a software engineer’ and it’s just kind of helping people really hand out their card and say ‘yes, I am a software engineer’ or ‘yes, I am a podcaster’. ‘Yes, I’m CEO.’ ‘Yes, I am this’.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think it plagued me at kind of each time I leveled up in my career. So, I talked a little bit about in the beginning, but then I think the next point where I was really overcome was when I founded my own company and going into these rooms and it’s just next level, right? These are top-tier investors and I’m in there supposedly to market myself and my company and just feeling particularly … You know, these are men … wealthy men. They’ve been wealthy their entire lives. I wasn’t expecting, I guess then I was around 39-40 years old, to have all of that feeling of ‘I grew up poor. I don’t belong in this room.’ to all come rushing back. You know? You think at some point you’ve accomplished enough that that doesn’t flood you with fear anymore, but it did.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah. That reminds me. My first time, I think was when I moved to management and when people don’t like you as a new manager, they just don’t tell you. They just don’t want to do their work and it’s like ‘why is no one wanting to do it?’ I’ve now been on a team where people didn’t like working with me and I don’t think it was so much they didn’t like working with me when I was a new manager, it was just they were still adjusting to my style and expecting me to be perfect. So, I went in one meeting and I was like ‘Hey, I’m not going to be perfect. I’m learning. Help me!’

Sukrutha Bhadouria: And I think that changed things a little bit, but it still took some time until they got to know me and I got to know them and there was a little bit more trust. The funny thing is that I kept thinking that ‘oh my gosh, I’m failing. I’m awful.’ So, I was talking to a mentor of mine at work and he was like ‘I can’t believe you’re saying this because your boss and I met and he said you’re doing amazing.’ I was like well, I guess I should have heard that more from him or I wasn’t listening when he was telling me I was doing good.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I do know that someone once told me that if you’re doing well, you know? People will tell you. If you’re doing excellent, people will tell other people and just hearing it that my boss had told other people made me feel better and I think that I would have to keep reminding myself of it every time I was worried that I wasn’t doing so great.

Angie Chang: So during our Girl Geek Dinner with SquareTrade, Bonnie Shu shared some of her experiences with imposter syndrome. Bonnie is a product compliance manager at Harbor.

Bonnie Shu: Starting out as a really young female attorney, straight out of law school, of course I felt the imposter syndrome, you know? You have these opposing counsels who are really mean and scary and they’ve been in the business for 40-plus years and all they want to do is bully you around because they think they can and they think that’s going to help them win their case. So, really, for me in those moments, I kind of have this tough love approach with myself where I’m kind of like ‘You know what? You’ve got a job to do. You have a client you have to put your full best effort for and you have to separate out those feelings of insecurity and say ‘look, I gotta get this done and I gotta crush it.’ Taking that to tech, where you’re a first time manager, that’s really scary. All of a sudden, there’s people expecting you to know what you’re doing and you’re like ‘Uh, I don’t know what I’m doing!’ So, you know? You just gotta kinda put those feelings aside a little bit and just look at it from a very objective perspective and say ‘I have a job to do and I’m going to kill it’.

Angie Chang: Bonnie reminds me a little bit about the book I’m reading right now, Michelle Obama’s ‘Becoming’ where she was a young female lawyer working in a firm full of aggressive men and I don’t think that Michelle Obama explicitly talks about imposter syndrome all that much, but you can hear it. I think there’s many different words for it, not just imposter syndrome, but the act of becoming all those things that you experience in a lifetime, very well. I actually highly recommend that book.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: It’s funny. When I first found that I was around a lot of aggressive, assertive people I thought I have to be that person too. It’s even more heartbreaking for a new engineer when you see … or a new female engineer and you’re struggling and you see other women also being a little abrasive, right? And not putting out their human side, so what Bonnie was talking about reminded me of my realization that it’s the environment around you that makes you feel insecure and to always be mindful of what environment you’re creating as well. What do you think, Gretchen?

Gretchen DeKnikker: I relate to what Bonnie said. I mean I started in tech, what? Now, 21 years ago? So there was no talk of like ‘we should have more women’, right? It was just assumed that women didn’t want to work in tech and that if you did, that you were going to you know, throw down with the boys and so I think for me it was always like I knew I had to be better and that I knew I had to beat them at their own game. I’ve seen that evolve over the years and it’s definitely great for me because I can chill out, but I can pull out the like ‘Really? Do you want to negotiate this deal like that?’ And I can still pull that out of my back pocket now, but it’s not something I have to lead with anymore to be heard or to move a project forward or anything.

Angie Chang: I think the fake it ’til you make it mentality is also very real in industries today, especially in the Silicon Valley where we’re in this age of hyper-growth and super-big billion dollar companies breaking boundaries that everyone feels like everyone has to act very financey because all the finance bros have come to tech and they are now in our companies doing the sales thing, growing the company by leaps and bounds and also having time to go to the gym adn have these perfect lives afterward and I’ve had several women confide that they can’t keep up with the group yoga afterwards and such, so I think just kind of doing your best and kinda faking it ’til you make it, but also being real and hopefully people can do that and come to Girl Geek Dinners and feel like it’s a safe place for them to say this word ‘imposter syndrome’ and be like ‘Okay, we all kind of feel it’ and we can figure out ways to move on.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I don’t know how to … When I’m going through imposter syndrome and I’m trying to go through that whole fake it ’til you make it, how do I strike that balance and not put myself in danger of falling into the whole Dunning-Kruger effect? Does that happen to you all? That you all are thinking ‘Oh my gosh! I don’t want to be on the other side of the spectrum!’

Gretchen DeKnikker: Like you don’t want to think you did well when you sucked?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah! I want a sense of self and be like ‘You know what? I didn’t do so great. I can do better.’ The reminder than I can do better, not just being like ‘No, no, no! I’m sure I did just fine.’ Even though, like I didn’t do well, being able to correctly assess myself is what I want to be able to do consistently.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I don’t think I’ve gotten good at that, but I have gotten better at ‘Okay, so you did this one thing and you were terrified and it worked out fine and you figured it out. Then you did this next thing and you were terrified and it worked out fine and you figured it out.’ So why is it, if you look at past data that you think the future is not going to replicate that and why are you freaking yourself out right now?

Gretchen DeKnikker: And that’s sort of the … I just sort of go through that cycle and then do a little bit of fake like ‘You got this!’ Like I’m some cheesy coach or something. Then the superhero pose. I’ve never done that, but I’ve seen people do that where you stand and put your hands on the hips. I think it’s awesome and I think it can make you feel powerful, so … I’ve never done it because it didn’t come along until recently that I heard about it and I was like ‘I really need to do that.’

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Totally works for me. It’s a little hard in these shared bathrooms though at work where you’re looking at yourself like that and someone walks in.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I didn’t know to look in the mirror too because I was like ‘Oh, you can just stand in the stall’ awkwardly as a superhero.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Angie, what’s your superhero pose going to be?

Angie Chang: I don’t know if I have a superhero pose. I think it … You can always have like … I’ve seen a show where people are like ‘I have a special tie that’s my lucky tie.’ So, you can have your lucky pin or your lucky shirt that says something witty that you wear under your blazer at work for those important meetings, that little thing that helps you feel like you have an edge on the day. I don’t know if it’s probably power posing. I also have heard of evidence that it doesn’t actually work, recently, unfortunately.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Poo on you! It’s still so fun! [crosstalk 00:28:54] Don’t listen to Angie, anybody! Yeah.

Gretchen DeKnikker: If it works for you, then do what works!

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah. I think it’s the act of tricking your brain into thinking things.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Yeah.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Have you even tried to power pose, Angie?

Angie Chang: I have. I also think there’s many things to be said about sitting at the table with your … with some kind of assertive stance, making sure that your body language reflects the power that you feel in your head.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Yeah. I think, for me, when you’re talking about when you have to do a presentation. For me, if I do it to one person, like one of my closest friends or a spouse or whatever, nothing will be harder than doing your presentation for one person who knows you really well. After that, it’s so easy. So if I’m really, really struggling with something … because they can’t help but smile and laugh at you and whatever. That’s far worse than anyone in the room is going to do, so once you get that out of the way, it makes it easier.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I’ve got different advice for how to deal with imposter syndrome. What’s really worked for you? Is it something where you have to try something different every time because it changes based on scenario? I’m curious what your thoughts are. Gretchen?

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think the self-talk, for me. Going into the rooms with the investors that I was talking about, it was just telling myself over and over again ‘You have worked so hard. You belong here. Even if you don’t belong here, this is your dream, so you’re going to go in and you’re going to make it happen.’ And like ‘You are not going to be your own worst enemy right now. You are not going to talk yourself out of this thing that you’ve worked so hard to have the opportunity to go in and make an idiot of yourself’ if that … You know? At least take the opportunity to do that. [crosstalk 00:30:56]

Rachel Jones: For me, it’s really similar to what Bonnie suggests, just coming back to the objective reality of a situation because imposter syndrome really is a thing that lives in your head regardless of whether you actually know how to do the job, which you generally do. I think, for me, when I start to feel it just coming back to ‘No, I actually know how to do this. I have done this. I’ve been doing this well.’ And kind of self-talking my self out of that place and coming back to just what I know to be true is helpful.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: You know what’s really strange that’s helped me is my to-do list. I look back and I’m like ‘Hey, I did this and I did that’ because I sort it by month. Just being able to go back and remind myself of what I was able to do in the last six months helps me feel confident for the future.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: What do you think, Angie? What advice would you give?

Angie Chang: As someone who’s been an entrepreneur many times and done so many different job titles, I feel like I don’t have time for imposter syndrome because I’m always trying something new and I’m always failing in a way. I don’t really have … I guess through time that imposter syndrome has reared its head was after a successful event. Someone’s like ‘That was a really successful event’ and I was like ‘really?’ It happened. And they’re like ‘Yeah.’ I celebrate it for a minute and then like ‘Oh, right. Gotta have our drinks and dinner and celebrate and recognize we did an awesome job.’ I was ready to move on and tackle the next huge problem on my list. So I think it’s good that people around were able to help me recognize like ‘Okay, that was a big thing we did.’ That was probably my imposter syndrome rearing its head, saying ‘that was not a big thing’ when it was a big thing.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah. Every time you achieve a goal because you were so close to it, you don’t … By then, it doesn’t feel like as big of a goal anymore, right? As you get closer to it. Maybe noting down every goal that we have and then ticking it off when you’ve achieved it?

Angie Chang: I think the reflection at the end of the year, at the end of 2018, I looked back and all the things I did that year, I was like ‘Oh my God, that’s a lot.’ I would never have planned for that, but looking back ‘oh, okay’. That makes me feel good about next year.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, like a self-evaluation–‘exceeded expectations.’

Angie Chang: It’s because I had no expectations.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I passed my own performance review.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: So when we had the Postmate sponsored Girl Geek Dinner, we had Christine Song who’s a software engineer there who gave her own advice on how to fight imposter syndrome because there was a question asked by a new boot camp grad about it.

Christine Song: I think that imposter syndrome is something that specifically plagues boot camp grads a lot and I think a lot of what it is is knowing what it is that you have to focus on. When you’re at a software engineering company, you’re assigned tickets. Forgetting all of the outside pressure that is applied on you, you just focus on what’s in front of you. Your only focus and your only job is to do the things that you were assigned and to do it to the best of your ability. So when people do ask you questions about your work, you can answer those questions and you research everything so thoroughly that you’re confident in what you’re saying.

Christine Song: I think that when you take a step back and you think of the bigger picture, you’re like ‘Oh, crap. I’m a woman. I’m in the tech company. Oh crap! How did I get here?’ You know? Because my background wasn’t technical in any way whatsoever and the only way I am able to get through that fear of ‘I don’t belong here.’ or ‘I’m not good enough for this’ is just looking at what it is that you’re doing and focus entirely on it. Don’t let the outside influences distract you from what it is that your job is. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and cannot do. Just focus on what you’re doing and you’ll be fine.

Angie Chang: I think there’s a lot of possible potential in imposter syndrome from boot camp grads, for sure, because that means that you did not study computer science in university and a working in an industry as software engineers. But also, when you look back, a lot of people who are currently working as software engineers, many of them don’t have a computer science degree. Many of them were self-taught, were hobbyists that become professionals. So, I think it’s important for everyone to be transparent and encouraging from wherever they are in saying that it is entirely possible to transition your careers into engineering, into tech, and it’s not so strange. I mean, I myself have a social welfare degree from college and I’ve worked at a handful of companies where I was on the engineering team, so I feel … Maybe I’m biased in that way that I can see the easy translation of humanities majors to technology companies.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think this sort of comes back to what I was saying earlier about it just affects you differently at different points in your career. So, I think initially, you worry about whether or not you’re good at your job and then you worry about whether or not you’re good as a manager. Then you get decent at being a manager and then you become a manager of managers and that’s a whole new level. So, I think maybe each time you’re feeling it is also like Angie was saying, a time to stop and celebrate, right? Like, ‘Oh! Now I must be doing something that’s harder or new which means I’ve gone to another level. So, maybe while I freak out, I should also be like it’s so awesome! I get to freak out right now!’

Rachel Jones: It’s super exciting!

Angie Chang: It’s very exciting.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Right.

Angie Chang: Instead of thinking ‘I’m so nervous. I’m so scared.’, I think the recommended thing is to think ‘I am so excited. I am so excited.’ And that re-frames that in your mind when you’re nervous and anxious that you are also just really excited at this opportunity, at this challenge.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: It’s so funny. I think when you get into tech, you learn all these life lessons that could apply anywhere. But yeah, I mean, I guess one would think that it’s mostly boot camp grads that would feel this and perhaps they would feel it more strongly, but I didn’t have a computer science degree. I had an electrical engineering degree, but you know, I did more programming for hardware and as that’s what I studied, but then when I wanted to work, I wanted to work in purely software, so just that whole transition. I didn’t do as many Java coding classes as I wish I had done and then you’re like I ramped up in Java and the interview is in C++. You know? You’re always going to feel like you’re not good enough, so when I have mentored boot camp grads before, I have tried to explain my perspective that, you know, you’re always going to feel like you don’t have exactly the right credentials and the right degree and everyone’s like that, so … don’t let that hold you back.

Angie Chang: It’s so interesting to hear because I would never expected an [inaudible 00:37:51] major to say that because to me, I’ve always like [inaudible 00:37:53] was so hard core, that’s computer science for sure. I never thought about the electrical component being the barrier in someone’s mind.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, it’s all perception.

Rachel Jones: Any final thoughts on imposter syndrome?

Gretchen DeKnikker: I’m against it.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: No one likes it. I remember the first time I learned about imposter syndrome and I Googled it. I found out that there’s several quotes from Meryl Streep doubting her ability as an actress and Sheryl Sandberg and other amazing, amazing women and so I printed posters out with quotes from them that I would look at regularly until I actually decided that I wanted to cope with it and figure it out. So, I feel like just find what works best for you to stay positive and stay motivated because the worst thing that you could do to yourself is come in your own way.

Angie Chang: I think the best thing to do is surround yourself by people who are going to be encouraging to you and whether that’s on purpose or by accident, I felt very lucky when I was in college to have people around me who are like ‘You can code and make websites? I will give you … I will point you to paid jobs.’ And I was like ‘I never thought of that’. So, definitely surround yourself with as many encouraging, smart people that can give you the right pieces of advice whether it’s encouraging or not and sometimes they’ll be like ‘You need to do this thing’ and they’ll point you in the right direction because you don’t know what you don’t know and they will help you get to a better place whether you have to learn Java or C++ or just … It doesn’t even matter.

Gretchen DeKnikker: One final way to sort of look at it is … ‘If I look five or 10 or 15 years in the future, will I regret not taking this opportunity?’ And sometimes it’s just framing it that way and putting it into perspective, will keep you from holding yourself back or from self-sabotaging in whatever way because no one ever lays on their death-bed and is like ‘I really wish I’d never gone for that promotion.’, but they definitely will ‘I really regret not taking that opportunity because I was just too afraid.’

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Wise words.

Rachel Jones: I think it’s really important just to know yourself and figure out the kind of things that can help you personally combat imposter syndrome. Some people, having that affirmation from other is helpful. Other people, no matter what anyone tells them, they’re still gonna doubt themselves.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Sukrutha.

Rachel Jones: So knowing just what works for you. Are you the kind of person who needs to just talk yourself down? Do you need to reframe and focus on what you have accomplished? Yeah. Just do some work to think about just how it works for you personally.

Angie Chang: Well said. Thanks for listening to this episode of the Girl Geek X podcast. We’ll be back soon with more advice from women in tech.

Angie Chang: This podcast is sponsored by SquareTrade, the top-rated protection plan trusted by millions of happy customers and offered by top retailers. This podcast is also sponsored by Postmates. Postmates helps people unlock the best of their cities and their lives with insanely reliable, on-demand anything network. Launched in 2011, Postmates pioneered the on-demand delivery movement in the US by offering delivery from restaurants and stores previously only available offline.

Rachel Jones: This podcast is produced by me, Rachel Jones. To learn more about Girl Geek X or buy tickets to our next dinner, visit You can also find video and full transcripts from the talks we went through today. If you’re interested in hosting a Girl Geek Dinner, contact


30 Female CTOs to Watch in 2019

By Angie Chang

From growing early-stage startups to large publicly-traded companies, here are 30 female CTOs to watch in 2019 — You will find household names like Nest, Starbucks, Gap, Intuit and Stitch Fix have chief technology officers that positively inspire the next generation of girl geeks!

Apptimize CTO & co-founder Nancy Hua

Nancy Hua is the Chief Technology Officer at Apptimize, a mobile experimentation startup. Prior to founding Apptimize, Nancy was an algorithmic trader. Nancy studied math with computer science at MIT and led the MIT fencing team. Nancy holds a B.S. in math with computer science from MIT. Follow her on Twitter at @huanancy.

Breaker CTO & co-founder Leah Culver

Leah Culver is the Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of Breaker, a social podcast app. An author of OAuth and oEmbed API specifications, Leah is a Swift and Python developer – and former founder of Grove, Convore, and Pownce, which was acquired by Six Apart. Leah holds a B.S. in computer science from University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Follow her on Twitter at @leahculver.

Compaas CTO & co-founder Lisa Dusseault

Lisa Dusseault is the Chief Technology Officer at Compaas. She has built her career solving complex technology problems. After Microsoft, she led internet standards groups at the IETF, and engineering teams at Linden Lab and Stubhub. She founded tech startups Cathy Labs, Klutch and ShareTheVisit. Lisa holds a B.S. in systems design engineering from University of Waterloo.

Confluent CTO & co-founder Neha Narkhede

Neha Narkhede is the Chief Technology Officer at Confluent. Prior to founding Confluent, Neha led streams infrastructure at LinkedIn, where she was responsible for LinkedIn’s streaming infrastructure built on top of Apache Kafka and Apache Samza. She is one of the initial authors of Apache Kafka and a committer and PMC member on the project. Neha holds a B.E. in computer science from University of Pune and a M.S. in computer science from Georgia Institute of Technology. Follow her on Twitter at @nehanarkhede.

Democratic National Committee CTO Nellwyn Thomas

Nellwyn Thomas is the newly-appointed Chief Technology Officer for the Democratic National Committee. She has worked both in political campaigns and the tech industry (Facebook, Etsy). Nellwyn led deputy analytics for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016. Follow her on Twitter at @nellwyn.

Gap CTO Rathi Murthy

Rathi Murthy is the Chief Technology Officer at Gap. Prior to Gap, Rathi was at America Express for almost four years, most recently SVP/CIO for Enterprise Growth. She held engineering leadership positions at eBay, Yahoo, Metreo and began her career as a software engineer and QA lead. Rathi holds a B.S. in electrical engineering from Bangalore University and a M.S. in computer engineering from Santa Clara University.

Ghost Foundation CTO & co-founder Hannah Wolfe

Hannah Wolfe is the Chief Technology Officer at Ghost Foundation, an open source publishing platform. Prior to launching Ghost, she worked as a software engineer at Moo and Engine Creative. Hannah holds a M.S. in international business from Nottingham University Business School and a B.S. in computer science from University of Nottingham. Follow her on Twitter at @erisds.

Greo CTO & co-founder Elizabeth Davis

Elizabeth Davis is the Chief Technology Officer and co-founder at Greo, a social video platform that graduated from Y Combinator’s accelerator program in 2017. Prior to Greo, she interned at Pinterest and Google. Elizabeth holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Stanford University. Follow her on Twitter at @lizfordays.

Intuit CTO Marianna Tessel

Marianna Tessel is the Chief Technology Officer at Intuit. Prior to the promotion, she was Chief Product Development Officer at Intuit. Prior to Intuit, Marianna was SVP of Engineering at Docker. Prior to that, Marianna held VP of Engineering roles at VMware, Intacct, Ariba and General Magic. Marianna holds a B.S. in computer science from Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.

Kapor Center for Social Impact CTCO Lilibeth Gangas

Lilibeth Gangas is Chief Technology Community Officer at Kapor Center for Social Impact. Prior to Kapor Center for Social Impact, Lili worked at Accenture Technology Lab and Booz Allen. Prior to that, Lili worked on software and hardware solutions at Raytheon. Lili holds an MBA from New York University Stern School of Business and a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California. Follow her on Twitter at @lilsg31.

LimeLoop CTO & co-founder Chantal Emmanuel

Chantal Emmanuel is the Chief Technology Officer at LimeLoop. Prior to founding LimeLoop, Chantal worked as a software engineer at SYPartners and Red Clay. Prior to learning to code at Dev Bootcamp, she worked on various community programs in New York. Chantal holds a B.A. in english from State University of New York at Binghamton. Follow her on Twitter at @chantalemmanuel.

MarketInvoice CTO Rija Javed

Rija Javed is the Chief Technology Officer at MarketInvoice, a UK-based finance platform. Prior to MarketInvoice, Rija was at Wealthfront for over four years, most recently Senior Director of Engineering. She began her career as a software engineer at Research in Motion and Zynga. Riya holds a B.S. in electrical and computer engineering and a M.S. in computer engineering, both from University of Toronto. Follow her on Twitter at @rijajaved.

Meetup CTO Yvette Pasqua

Having been the Chief Technology Officer at Meetup for three years now, Yvette Pasqua has led initiatives at the company to tackle 15 years of technical debt, create a more diverse and inclusive engineering team, and bring product improvements to market. Prior to Meetup, she held engineering leadership roles at Tinypass, AKQA, Possible and Schematic. Yvette holds a B.S. in biological basis of behavior from University of Pennsylvania. While in college, she gained work experience as a webmaster and networking computers at the medical center and hospital. Follow her on Twitter at @lolarobot.

Mode CTO Heather Rivers

As Mode‘s CTO, Heather Rivers leads engineering, product, design, and security. She has been writing software for 15 years, from games on her graphing calculator in high school, to computational linguistics in college, to tech companies like Yammer and Microsoft. Heather holds an A.B. in linguistics from University of Chicago. Follow her on Twitter at @heatherrivers.

Moxxly CTO & co-founder Santhi Analytis

Santhi Analytis is the Chief Technology Officer of Moxxly, redesigning the breast pump for today’s mobile mom. In 2017, Moxxly was acquired by Olle Larsson Holding, parent company of the Medela pump. She holds a PhD and M.S. in mechanical engineering from Stanford University and a B.S. in biomedical engineering and latin american studies. Follow her on Twitter at @dranalytis.

Nest CTO Yoky Matsuoka

Yoky Matsuoka is the Chief Technology Officer at Nest. Prior to Nest, Yoky was a founder of Google[x]. Prior to that, Yoky was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Washington. She developed robotic devices for rehabilitating and assisting the human body and brain, earning the MacArthur award in 2007. Yoky grew up assuming she would be a professional tennis player, but instead holds a B.S. in electrical engineering and computer science from UC Berkeley and a PhD in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT, where she was a postdoctoral fellow in mechanical engineering. Follow her on Twitter at @yokymatsuoka.

NovoEd CTO & co-founder Farnaz Ronaghi

Farnaz Ronaghi is the Chief Technology Officer at NovoEd, providing online learning for busy professionals. Farnaz holds a B.S. in computer engineering from Sharif University of Technology and a M.S. in management science and engineering from Stanford University. She designed and developed the first version of NovoEd during her PhD studies at Stanford University. Follow her on Twitter at @farnazr.

Nylas CTO & co-founder Christine Spang

Christine Spang is a co-founder and the Chief Technology Officer at Nylas, handling over 100 million API requests per day. Prior to founding Nylas, she worked at Oracle after the company acquired Ksplice, where she was working as a key member of the team. Christine started working on free software via the Debian project when she was 15 and holds a S.B. in computer science from MIT. Follow her on Twitter at @spang.

One Medical Group CTO Kimber Lockhart

Kimber Lockhart is the Chief Technology Officer at innovative health care company One Medical Group. Previously, Kimber co-founded Increo Solutions, a document collaboration company that was acquired by Box in 2009. She was at Box for four years in a variety of roles, most recently Senior Director of Engineering responsible for Box’s web application. Kimber holds a B.S. in computer science from Stanford University. Follow her on Twitter at @kimber_lockhart.

Pilot CTO & founder Jessica McKellar

Jessica McKellar is the Chief Technology Officer at Pilot. Prior to founding Pilot, Jessica was a Director of Engineering at Dropbox, which had acquired her company Zulip, where she was co-founder and VP of Engineering. Prior to that, Jessica worked in engineering management at Oracle by way of Ksplice acquisition, where she was working as a software engineer. Jessica holds a B.S. in computer science and M.S. in computer science, both from MIT. Follow her on Twitter at @jessicamckellar.

Redfin CTO Bridget Frey

As Redfin‘s Chief Technology Officer, Bridget Fey leads the software engineering team of over 150 engineers in Seattle and San Francisco. Prior to Redfin, she held management positions at Lithium Technologies, IntrinsiQ Research, IMlogic and Plumtree Software. Bridget holds a B.S. in computer science from Harvard University, where she graduated magna cum laude. Follow her on Twitter at @SVBridget.

Starbucks CTO Gerri Martin-Flickinger

Gerri Martin-Flickinger joined Starbucks in 2015 as the Chief Technology Officer and has led the technology organization through significant transformation (mobile order and pay, voice ordering and social gifting). Prior to Starbucks, Gerri was CIO at Adobe, VeriSign, Network Associates, and McAfee Associates. Gerri holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Washington State University. Follow her on Twitter at @gmflickinger.

Stitch Fix CTO Cathy Polinsky

Cathy Polinsky is the Chief Technology Officer at Stitch Fix, an online subscription and personal shopping service that went public in 2017. Prior to Stitch Fix, Cathy was a SVP of Engineering for Enterprise Search at Salesforce. Prior to that, she was a Senior Engineering Manager at Yahoo and began her career as a software engineer. Cathy holds a B.A. in computer science from Swathmore College. Follow her on Twitter at @cathy_polinsky.

SurveyMonkey CTO Robin Ducot

Robin Ducot is the Chief Technology Officer at SurveyMonkey. Previously, Robin spent five years as Senior Vice President of Product Engineering at DocuSign. Prior to that, she was the Vice President of Engineering at Eventbrite. Robin holds a B.S. in computer science and art history from University of Massachusetts, Boston.

Swayable CTO & co-founder Valerie Coffman

Valerie Coffman is the Chief Technology Officer at Swayable, using data science to craft accurate, persuasive political messages. Prior to Swayable, Valerie was CTO at Xometry. Valerie holds a PhD and M.S. in theoretical condensed matter physics from Cornell University and a B.S. in physics from John Hopkins University. Follow her on Twitter at @valerierose.

tEQuitable CTO & co-founder Heidi Williams

As tEQuitable‘s Chief Technology Officer and co-founder, Heidi Williams is scaling a work culture platform that resolves conflicts with ombuds. Prior to co-founding tEQuitable, Heidi was VP of Engineering at Box for 4 years. Prior to that, she worked at Adobe for 17 years. Heidi holds a B.S. in computer science from Brown University. Follow her on Twitter at @heidivt73.

ThoughtWorks CTO Dr. Rebecca Parsons

Rebecca Parsons is the Chief Technology Officer at ThoughtWorks. Before ThoughtWorks, she worked as an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Central Florida, after completing a director’s postdoctoral fellowship at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Rebecca holds a B.S. in computer science and economics from Bradley University and both an M.S. and PhD in computer science from Rice University. Follow her on Twitter at @rebeccaparsons.

Thrive Global CTO Cheryl Porro

Cheryl Porro is Chief Technology Officer at Thrive Global, Ariana Huffington’s wellness company. Prior to Thrive Global, Cheryl was at SVP of Technology and Products at She began her career as a quality engineer before entering engineering management. Cheryl holds a B.S. in chemical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic University. Follow her on Twitter at @cporro_sfdc.

Token Transit CTO & founder Ekaterina Kuznetsova

Ekaterina Kuznetsova is the Chief Technology Officer at Token Transit, enabling riders to pay for the public transit with their phone. Prior to founding Token Transit, Ekateria worked as a software engineer at Meteor, Akamai, Google and Appian. Ekaterina holds a B.S. in math and computer science from MIT. Follow her on Twitter at @technekate.

Transposit CTO & co-founder Tina Huang

Tina Huang is Chief Technology Officer at Transposit. Prior to founding Transposit, Tina worked as a Staff Software Engineer at Twitter for four years – and subsequently sued Twitter for promotion bias. Prior to Twitter, Tina worked at Google and Apple. Tina holds a B.S. in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT. Follow her on Twitter at @kmonkeyjam.

Stay up-to-date with Girl Geek X! To get notified of future events and news, join our mailing list! You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, 2019 with thousands of fellow girl geeks!

Girl Geek X Elevate Virtual Conference for Women in Tech on International Women's Day 2019

Girl Geek X: Elevate is back, and we couldn’t be more excited!

Our first FREE virtual conference last spring was an overwhelming success, with more than 2500 mid-senior level women in tech logging on to connect and learn from each other… and we’re gearing up to do it again in 2019!

Join Girl Geek X: Elevate on International Women’s Day (that’s March 8th!) to celebrate inspiring women in tech with the Girl Geek X team, 20+ speakers, and 1000s of girl geeks around the world!

Learn first-hand from technical leaders sharing successes, challenges, tips and tricks with thousands of fellow girl geeks in attendance. You’ll hear from accomplished and relatable leaders at companies like: IBM, Intel, LinkedIn, Splunk, and Zendesk!

Here are pictures of Elevate speakers

Each speaker will be sharing her best leadership advice and insights to help you tackle your career development head-on, avoiding mistakes that many of our speakers made in their own careers.

You can expect to learn:

  • the latest advice and trends in data science and career development
  • how the skills & technology you already have can be used for good beyond your current role or org
  • how to come out with your head held high when your ethical boundaries are challenged at work
  • how real women have navigated their most challenging career moves and risen to the top of their organizations
  • the latest tech trends from top experts
  • … plus much more! Check out the conference agenda here.

Connect virtually and network with fellow girl geeks before, during and after the event… and take advantage of opportunities to ask questions with real-time Q&As! #ggxelevate

Register today for your FREE conference pass to Elevate on March 8th to take your career to new heights! Together, we will advance faster and further as leaders.

Reserve your seat for Girl Geek X: Elevate 2019!


Girl Geek X Elevate Virtual Conference for Women in Tech on International Women's Day 2019

Episode 3: Learning

Angie Chang: Welcome to another episode of Girl Geek X Podcast, connecting you to the best in tech from women in tech. I’m Angie, founder of Girl Geek X.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Hi, I’m Sukrutha, CTO of Girl Geek X.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I’m Gretchen, COO of Girl Geek X.

Rachel Jones: I’m Rachel, the producer of this podcast.

Angie Chang: Today this episode is all about learning. We hear all the time at Girl Geek dinners that women are looking to learn new things, they’re asking how to do that, how to do that best. Do you do it on the job, off the job? To me, learning means narcolepsy. I remember sleeping through every class at Cal, and nowadays I love listening to podcasts while driving in traffic, or listening to a YouTube economics lecture while doing something like washing dishes or cleaning, to make up for the fact I don’t plan on going to business school.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: For me, learning is basically a necessity, no matter how I get it. Because when you’re in tech or you’re an engineer, you are out of date very, very quickly. What about you, Gretchen?

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think I’m one of those read all the books and take classes, especially taking classes, because I like the structure. It helps me not procrastinate. I’m definitely a go-find-those-things-that-way, outside of work, for kind of extended learning.

Rachel Jones: I am definitely a learner for learning’s sake. I just love to take in new information. For things like starting a career as a podcast producer, I’ve had to do a lot of independent learning outside of the workplace. Today we’ll be diving into topics like where learning happens, how to fit learning into your day to day, and how to hack your brain to learn new things.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: How do you know when you need to learn something new?

Angie Chang: I guess this is by necessity, right? When you start seeing the signals from people where you’re like these are the things I need to learn because nobody else is doing them, I think it’s different for people that work in bigger companies because it’s more clear what those things are, or you have a review process that will constantly tell you what you need to improve on. When you’re at a smaller startup, you always have to keep your ears open, and try to hear from your colleagues or customers about what are the shortcomings that you have, so that you can address them.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I find when I’m getting bored at a job that I tend to start taking classes, or start looking at different things. I find that there’s some part of my intellectual stimulation that I need to go get from somewhere else, whether that’s taking a class at City College, or signing up for some crazy workshop somewhere that just will completely take me out of my comfort zone.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah. I mean there’s always that great reading resources, too. I always ask people for book recommendations, and I most recently was reading A Hard Thing About Hard Things, again, because I really like the takeaways from that, especially when I’m going through like difficult decision making situations at work. How about you, Angie?

Angie Chang: I’ve learned a lot by reading books that have been referred to me, also reading about other amazing women. For example, last year I read about the Molly Bloom story, which I thought was very interesting, about how she kept trying to stay relevant in her business. I’m always asking people what podcasts they listen to, what newsletters they subscribe to, how do they get their news, how do they get their learning, to kind of make sure I’m doing the best I can to learn, aside from occasionally watching some business economics YouTube videos, which I feel like make up for the zero business and economics classes that I’ve ever taken at a university.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I’ve been really listening to a lot of podcasts that are tech related, and tech news, and interviewing tech leaders, like Masters of Scale has been a really good learning for me as well. Do you all listen to anything on the go, or audiobooks, anything like that?

Rachel Jones: I listen to so many podcasts just because I do consider myself a lifelong learner, and I love to learn. One thing that I learned about recently is kind of the difference between learning just for learning’s sake versus learning with intention. Because when I think about learning and approach it, it’s not all specifically tied to my career. I think it was interesting you were talking about listening to podcasts that are specific to tech. I listen to so many random things that have nothing to do with my work, but I still think that’s valuable, just like the process of learning. What do you think about that, like having intention behind learning?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I think that’s great, because when I’m trying to learn a new programming language or anything new in technology, I find that I learn best when I know that I’m trying to build a project, or make something, and I’m learning for that purpose. I definitely pick it up much faster. How about you, Angie?

Angie Chang: I definitely think it’s very smart to think of it as learning with intentionality. On a side note, what I thought of immediately is sometimes we get our inspiration in the oddest places, and I feel like watching something like the West Wing now has actually been one of the more illuminating things I’ve done. Watching the West Wing isn’t something you would tell somebody to go learn, but you learn so much by watching the scenarios you learn about with the American work culture, and as someone who was a first-generation immigrant you’re like okay, I get it now. You understand things more, things people say, why they do what they do. It made Imposter Syndrome seem less scary. I think learning comes from all different unexpected places.

Gretchen DeKnikker: A agree with Sukrutha on kind of if I’m trying to learn something with intentionality then having a way to put that into practice right away is helpful, but then kind of tying back to what Rachel was saying, and I think we might agree on this, is that sometimes I go learn something brand new that’s like for no fricking reason, other than to take me out of … Like I went and took a Taiko–like a Japanese drumming class because it was just so far outside of anything I’ve ever done. Also, I’m a terrible drummer, if anybody is wondering. You will not be coming to one of my shows anytime soon. It’s something so different that you have to put all your attention into learning that one thing, and while I’m putting all that attention into one thing I can’t think of all the other crap, so it freshens me to go back and tackle the other problems that I have.

Angie Chang: We’re not necessarily learning, but we’re optimizing for future learning.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Or just like optimizing for your brain being fresh enough to absorb the information that you’re trying to take in right now.

Angie Chang: We do need breaks. I do find that sometimes when you’re just working on a really hard problem, you need to take those steps outside your usual realm.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, you’re teaching your brain how to learn. This topic about learning is so fitting right now, because we’re always competing with ourselves, or with the situation around us. You want to be doing your best, and you’re wanting to put yourself in a situation where you’re constantly either learning or growing.

Angie Chang: This learning topic came up at one of our Elevate panels. We had a learning development expert who used to work at Facebook, Minji Wong, talk about being intentional and learning.

Minji Wong: In my thirteen plus years of experience, having worked at various tech companies, eCommerce companies, retail, and various industries and sectors, I’ve managed several leadership programs and experiences with high-performing individuals. In my conversations with them, what do you want to do, what do you want to be, oftentimes the response I’d get is I just want to develop these specific skills, or I want to be able to explore, kind of learn and develop myself in my career. I rarely actually had a response that would let me know this is who I want to be, and this is where I want to go. It’s super important to realize that and recognize that because if you don’t have that end goal or that end destination, anything and everything you do may not necessarily contribute to that end goal. I realize nothing is ever static, and in fact things are dynamic, things can change tomorrow, or even yesterday. Again, highlighting the importance of having an end in mind, knowing that that can change is very important. When we think about this learning journey, oftentimes, and in my background having spent 13 plus years in leadership development and learning and organizational development, I oftentimes hear people say I need to develop the skill, let me go to this training, and then I’ll be cured and I’ll be healed. The reality is a lot of our learning, 70% of our learning actually occurs on the job. That’s through the stretch assignments, that’s through the cross-functional work, that’s through being thrown a new project that you have very little experience having really managed through and learning literally in the trenches. 20% of learning actually occurs through conferences like this, where we can hear from amazing and incredible women in the field, and where we can learn and develop community and connection from each other. It’s also through coaching and mentoring.

Rachel Jones: It’s interesting that Minji says 70% of learning happens on the job. Has that been your experience?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I agree with that. I definitely saw myself, I felt like I got better at my job from the skills I picked up at work. You can’t learn everything in a classroom, but you learn practical skills that you will need just by doing some of it, doing some of the work. What do you think, Gretchen?

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think I’m definitely an experiential learner. I’m definitely one of those start in the middle kind of people, and then I go back and read the directions if I haven’t figured it out.

Angie Chang: I absolutely think that a lot of the learning happens on the job, from learning new ways to do things from other people, but also there’s a fair amount of work that goes in after work,trying to just find new things to learn, going to different events to try to figure out what’s coming, and definitely there’s maybe 70% on the job, and then more after work.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think what’s always attracted me to startups is that there’s the opportunity to learn so many things, and to get your hand in so many things, to get in over your head all the time, because there’s not really anyone on the team who knows how to do something, so anyone–it just has to be done, and so there’s a lot of learning that can happen there. For me, sort of that get thrown in the deep end and figure out if you can swim kind of learning is really the kind that motivates me.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I feel like when you’re working in tech, your skills become out of date so quickly, and you have to relearn something new. I find that just the stuff that you learn on the job is just learning how to learn, and that to me for sure is more valuable than anything you could pick up anywhere else. That–it’s been similar for me, where I learn more on the job.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think that’s definitely one way that I do see a value in seeking additional bits of knowledge outside of work, of taking a class or even considering going back to school. I think it’s always a really good mix. You can’t get everything from one source.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I find that when you’re in a larger company there’s so many organized trainings and organized programs, but there’s also resources now that you could take advantage of outside of work, if you work at a smaller company that doesn’t have these programs. I suppose if you were more intentional about it, like Minji has mentioned, if you knew exactly what you are learning it for, it will make it easier to identify what these resources should be, because I feel like now there’s so many resources, just picking which one is going to work best for you is what’s the first challenge. Being really specific about what your end goal is once you’ve acquired this skill …

Angie Chang: It’s great advice. I’m a terrible learner. I’ve never been good at all.

Gretchen DeKnikker: She’s lying, people. She’s lying in podcast land.

Angie Chang: I’m much more of a learning by doing is I suppose the best thing I could do, is finding opportunities to either say I’m gonna write three times a week, as I did at Women 2.0, or saying I’m gonna write one blog post a week or a month is more realistic. By doing things over time you get better.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think there’s sort of the different sources. When you’re trying to gain a skill, a class is a really great thing. Way back in the last century, when you had to go learn Excel and Word, and Access, go look it up on Google, it was really cool, now there’s Airtable, there was sort of that skill gaining that you do earlier in your career, and then there’s sort of the management training, which maybe you can get from a classroom, but I really find–Angie talks about reading people’s biographies and stuff, and I feel like I’ve learned more … Like I read Jack Welsh’s book, way way back, and it still influences me. It’s been like twenty years since I read that book, and it still influences how I think about people and managing things, and sort of how things interrelate.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think it’s different for everybody, sort of the type of thing that you can tap into, that will resonate with you, particularly when you’re trying to learn about being a better manager, which is essentially learning about being–more about yourself.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: For more technical learning, I do find it helpful if there are the online courses. I can go back even if it’s something I learned in college, I can go back and go through those problems again. There are various resources now that sort of make the classroom experience a little bit easier, because you can go back and learn. I still feel like you have to go out of your way to get more information, and learn more, and improve. I suppose if you do have a full-time job, balancing what you’re trying to learn with that can be difficult. In our last Elevate conference, Sophia Perl did talk about how she does the balancing act between learning and life, basically, balancing it with her day to day. She’s a director of product at Oath, and has formerly worked at Yahoo and eBay.

Sophia Perl: I think we all have learning methods that really resonates well with us, meaning when we learn through a certain method the content sticks a lot. If it’s something similar to what I go through, that’s usually like reading a book or taking a class. I would love everyone to open up your minds and think about, look. You could either wait for that perfect moment where you dedicate a lot of time and maybe energy to do your preferred learning method, or you could actually–I would say get your second or third best learning method. Think about finding opportunities where the learning method meshes more well with your day to day life, instead of finding that perfect moment where you have to dedicate a lot of time to learn about something. That’s something to keep in mind. I’ll give you an example. The one that actually sticks out the most is Overdrive, which is like a free version of Audible. Audible is the monthly subscription that you get on Amazon, you pay $15 dollars a month to access a bunch of audio books. Overdrive is actually connected to your local library, so if you don’t have a library card already I encourage all of you to go get a local library card, and then hook it up to Overdrive. What Overdrive allows you to do is to download eBooks or download audiobooks for free. I actually did a sort of a side-by-side comparison between what I could find at my library and what I could find at Audible, and I found about seventy to eighty percent of the books that I was personally interested in, I could find for free on Overdrive. Consider leveraging apps to help make it easier to consume information. In conjunction with leveraging apps, you want to think about what devices you want to be using, and for what–when you would use those devices. In the morning, I have an Echo Dot, I have two waterproof speakers, and I have an iPhone [inaudible 00:17:24]. This is in the shower. I don’t do this all the time, but I have been known to watch YouTube videos of people lecturing or different workshops. I have it pressed up to the glass of my shower door, and then I listen to the talks while I’m in the shower. If you think about it, what times do you have where you could actually listen to content? For me in the shower, I’m spending fifteen, twenty minutes in the shower. Then you could read the rest driving, and in the evenings. In the evenings, it’s great for me because I’m actually not multitasking as much. After I’ve put my kids to bed, and later in the evenings, that’s when I find time to meet with people who are more flexible in terms of meeting late evening. I have my laptop and phone, so I usually do hangouts and so forth.

Rachel Jones: Have any of you ever had trouble balancing learning with your day to day?

Angie Chang: The word balance kind of throws me off because I imagine like a world full of balance, where I get to go to my job, and go to yoga and a spin class. I don’t see a problem balancing things. I see more just jumping in, and if there’s a problem at hand working to find the solution. If there’s a project that needs to be done, or if there’s performance management that needs to be done, just doing those tasks. The issue of balance hasn’t been something on my radar.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think I’ve definitely struggled, and I think the times that I’m struggling most in my job are when I’m not carving out that time for learning, whether it’s learning a new skill, or just some random thing, or whether it’s sort of reading a book, like a management book, that’ll help me sort of step back from my day to day, and just get out of the weeds and see things from a higher elevation, or just learning more about something that I’m struggling with, that’s very directly relevant to work. Certainly the times when I’m most overwhelmed, a great thing for me to do is to go use a different part of my brain.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I can relate to that, for sure.

Rachel Jones: Is there anything you heard from Sophia’s suggestions that you think would be helpful in fitting learning into your daily life?

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think for me one thing that came up, I totally get shoving all the things in, and trying to sort of maximize a convenient learning schedule, but when I was hearing Sophia talk about doing it in the shower, I also thought about having–while we do this stuff and we try to fit learning into everything, we don’t leave time to be alone with ourselves and our own thoughts. For me, the shower is sort of that time, and but I think wherever you want to do your learning, but always just keep in mind that it doesn’t always have to be this input from outside, that being alone with your own thoughts is also a super-valuable use of time.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I love how she has different styles of learning, depending on time of day. To me, I realize now that I have something like that, where it wasn’t intentional, but it’s just like listening to something that’s more audio in the morning, but being able to watch stuff after work, so that sort of thing definitely spoke to me.

Angie Chang: Absolutely the timing thing was really interesting. Actually I drink coffee in the morning, therefore I can do certain things in the morning versus at the end of the day.

Gretchen DeKnikker: But you’re like a night-worker person, Angie.

Angie Chang: I know.

Gretchen DeKnikker: She’s like Slacking me at 10:30pm and I’m like I don’t care, this is not my learning time.

Angie Chang: I think there’s different times for everything. Late night, I like to write good blog posts. During the early day, I get to do more of the things on my list of things to do.

Gretchen DeKnikker: And also not talk to people. Angie does not like people in the morning.

Angie Chang: No.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Just hearing everyone talk about learning and the various resources we can find, it makes me think this topic is going to be really valuable for our listeners, too, because I’m sure everybody who’s gonna be listening is going to have their own methods of learning, and their own resources that are always great to share.

Rachel Jones: Once you’ve actually set aside that time, or figured out how you’re gonna work learning into your day to day, how do you approach learning things that are kind of outside of your comfort zone?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I find that I’m more open to learning when I convince myself I’m going to be amazing at it. I’m just like I’m gonna be great, I’m gonna ace this. For example, I redid this algorithm class on Coursera, and I traditionally had struggled with it because it’s a pretty tough class, and the turnaround time for the assignments is really short. I just had to motivate myself and coach myself to feel like this is time I’m gonna set aside regularly, and I convinced myself that I had to look forward to it because it was going to be awesome getting a good grade on it. I found that I’m just not open to learning when I feel like I’m not going to do a good job, so kind of both ways just opening your mind up to being ready for learning is what I try.

Angie Chang: That’s an awesome idea about pumping up yourself to be excited to learn. I don’t know how to do that myself. I don’t learn as much.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I’m going to punch you for saying that. It’s so not true. You spend so much time poking around learning about little, little things. You’re not even allowed to say that anymore.

Angie Chang: Little things, but it’s like I don’t take, I think the problem is I don’t take a class…

Gretchen DeKnikker: No, you spend all day learning a ton of things.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: There’s different kinds of learning.

Angie Chang: I guess, yeah, I just spend a lot of time pecking around the internet, and figuring out what I need to read, so it doesn’t feel like learning, just kind of like constant exploration.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I guess you’ve turned it into fun, which is why your mind is open to learning.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Which is why you don’t need Sukrutha’s pep talks. You’re just already into it. Although now you need her pep talk to convince yourself you’re awesome. So, yeah. I think I need structure, and so I specifically do set things up in a way where I have to go, or I have to finish something. I just took a few short courses at City College, they have a whole diversity and social justice certification. I purposely took the courses for credit, even though I’m not looking to, and they encourage you not to take them for credit, but I was like I will put so much more into this because of course I have to have an A, of course. Nothing else is an option. I’m gonna spend even more time doing it. Like to Sukrutha’s things some of these classes, I took the racism and sexism one, and those required me to pump myself up in a different way, of like this is gonna be hard and challenging, but you’re gonna come out knowing a lot more than you did going in, but you’re gonna be so fucking uncomfortable the whole time that you’re there, and being open to that, and so a different kind of pep talk to open myself up to the learning.

Rachel Jones: I’ve definitely had experience with how much the way that you’re thinking about what you’re gonna learn affects your ability to actually learn that thing. I believed for my whole life that I am not good at math, so that just really sets me back from approaching any math. I think your brain has so much power, and when you are really thinking about the mindset that you’re bringing to learning it makes such a big difference. I think it’s interesting even, Angie, how you don’t think of things as learning, even though it’s definitely learning. That might actually be better for you, your mindset is just like oh, I’m just poking around the internet …

Gretchen DeKnikker: It doesn’t feel like work, or something.

Rachel Jones: Yeah. It lets you take in that information a lot better than if you had been saying oh, I need to go learn this thing, let me sit down and do it. It’s more of a natural part of your process. I think, yeah, the mindset that you bring into learning makes a huge difference, and that really ties into something that was shared at our event with Postmates.

Angie Chang: When we were at Postmates for a Girl Geek Dinner, we heard from Christine Song, who is a software engineer, and she talked about hacking her brain to realize that she could become an engineer from a philosophy major in college.

Christine Song: When you look up learning how to learn on the internet, you get a lot of really cool techniques to hack your brain, but I think the precursor to all of these learning how to learn techniques is the idea that you have to change your relationship with your brain. I started learning how to code about a year and a half ago, and when I first started learning how to code, I came from a purely non-technical background. I was working in the restaurant industry for about five years before this, and that entire time nothing that I did was had immediately transferrable technical skills over coding. When I decided I want to learn how to code, this is kind of what my brain told me. The moment it thought of engineering, it thought immediately of math.

Christine Song: Historically, my experience with math is not the best, and so the moment I associate anything with math my brain kind of went into a haze, and it started thinking incompetent, because you never in your past have ever been good at math, so why do you think you can do this now, which immediately leads to I can’t do this, and when I realize that I can’t do something I like to default to three different modes to alleviate my stress, which is either one, screw this, I’m gonna move to the woods and live off the land. It’s a very real fear, I’m not kidding right now. Or I’m going to meet up with friends, or I’m going to go on a Netflix binge. Up until this point, I have always felt like what my brain told me, it had the culmination of all my experiences I’ve ever experienced in life, and so if my brain is going to tell me I can’t do something it’s probably right. Right? Wrong. Your brain is a tool. It’s not something that can tell you what it is you can and cannot do. What you do with your brain is you learn how to learn, which is why there are so many cool techniques about like hacking your brain, thinking about the ways that you can hack your long term and short term memory, using mnemonics to remember things. So I tried it again. I was like all right, look, what I’m doing right now isn’t working, so I’m gonna try and equate engineering with something that I’m very familiar with. Up until this point in my life in college, I majored in philosophy and my emphasis was in logic. Logic looks just like math. You do proofs with Greek symbols and variables, and you do proofs much in the way that mathematicians do proof. Once I realized that my fear of math was completely irrational, I ended up learning more about computer programming, and now I’m a back end engineer here in Postmates. The things that you think you are capable of doing, if you keep thinking those things and you give power to that thought, and you let it dictate your actions, it’ll become true. If you are able to take a step back and realize that isn’t the definition of who you are, and you can do whatever you want because you do with your brain what you wish to do, then you can like me go from a completely non-technical career into being an engineer in the field.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I definitely think when I shut my mind to opportunities I’m obviously not going to be as receptive to learning or improving. This is really fascinating to me how she went through this whole mind game basically to convince herself of why the emphasis being on logic would then help her be better an engineering. I find that this is probably something that a lot of young girls must go through, because it starts so young in middle school and high school, where they feel like they’re not the right fit. This is really an interesting perspective. What did you think, Gretchen?

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think there’s sort of the two parts, sort of how she hacked her brain to develop the capacity for this learning, but the other part is sort of the stories we tell ourselves, and so even Angie is saying earlier I’m not much of a learner, and I threatened her with violence, and Sukrutha, we’re just like no, that’s so not true, but I think that’s maybe the deeper part of this, is how do we get in our own way, and keep ourselves from learning things just based on even Rachel saying I believed I wasn’t good at math, so I wasn’t good at math, and questioning even just those baseline assumptions that we have about who we are and what we’re good at, and have we challenged that, any of it, recently. I love math. Just tell yourself that every day. Math is so great.

Angie Chang: You don’t have to be great at math to do things that you thought needed a good math background. I had an English and Social Welfare degree, and my first jobs were in engineering. I never thought that would hold me back, but that’s also because I had experience as a web designer and a webmaster, and people tied the dots for me, they’re like oh, yeah, you could totally be an engineer. I was like, really? I thought I designed websites. They’re like no, you can do engineering. I’m pretty grateful to people for making that connection for me, so I could get those jobs.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I think that there’s also a variety of things, you might think you’re not good at something just because it was not taught to you the right way, or the resources just didn’t work for you. I know a few people who I work with now who didn’t actually do that great in their first computer classes. I know it took me awhile, but I definitely gave myself a lot of chances. Be patient with yourself, I guess, is what I would say. For sure, when you hear the story about math being really hard for Christine, and she says everything, all of the Greek symbols made it complicated for her, I remember feeling that way too. But I think just staying positive helped me.

Angie Chang: I think going with the expectation that it’s going to be hard is probably a good one, but no one ever did anything that was easy, and a lot of things we learn are very hard.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Also not starting anything without first questioning why am I learning this? Because I have to? Because someone else said I should? Because I have this idea that something requires it? If you really are like–no one enjoys doing something that they really suck at, and then also do I really need to know how to do this? Like there was a really short time while I was a founder where it was like I’m technical enough of understanding how everything goes together, what’s a coding language versus whatever else, but I thought for awhile maybe I should try this Python class online, and then it’s like as a founder is this where I’m really going to add value in the company, or is it all the things that I’m already good at, and I’ll maybe just leave this to the engineers, but it sort of subscribed to this idea in Silicon Valley like everyone needs to learn how to code. Actually no, you don’t, not everybody needs to.

Angie Chang: That’s a good point.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah. I struggle with this. Do you try to improve your weaknesses, or should you be focusing on strengthening your strengths? It’s a fine line.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think so. I think early in your career you should be trying to sharpen your weaknesses, because you don’t know if there are weaknesses or just a knowledge gap. As you get older, it’s like you know what, I’ve always sucked at that, I’m never really gonna be good at it, and I’m in a position where I can hire people on my team who are awesome at that, and then they can excel at it, and I don’t have to touch it, and everybody is happier. Right?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Totally.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Angie, what are you gonna take away from this little time we spent talking about learning?

Angie Chang: I’m taking away that learning happens all the time, and is not just taking a class. It’s being aware and taking in inputs throughout the day, and to surround yourself with people that are able to help me see that.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I feel like for me I learned that everything is difficult for someone. There’s always gonna be someone better at something than you, and you’re always gonna be better than someone at that same thing. You know, keep your mind open, and that’s when most learning will happen, I think.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think I’m going to be thinking about, Christine’s story really struck me, and it’s like what are the stories, like is there another story I’m telling myself about something I’m not good at, that’s keeping me from or something else about it, or that’s not an open path for me, and really be like okay, what foundation is that assumption based on?

Gretchen DeKnikker: Rachel, what do you think?

Rachel Jones: I think my takeaway is I should go take a math class. It’s not too late for me.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yes. Maybe that can be our next conversation.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Next podcast, Rachel’s learning on math.

Rachel Jones: Check in on how that’s going.

Angie Chang: Thanks for listening. Tune in next time.

Rachel Jones: This podcast is produced by me, Rachel Jones. To learn more about Girl Geek X, or buy tickets to our next dinner, visit You can also find full videos and transcripts from the events we discussed today. If you’re interested in hosting a Girl Geek Dinner, email

Angie Chang: This Girl Geek X Podcast was brought to you by Postmates. Postmates helps people unlock the best of their cities and their lives with an insanely reliable on demand anything network. Launched in 2011, Postmates pioneered the on-demand delivery of movement in the US by offering delivery from restaurants and stores previously only available offline. The company now operates in 550 US cities, as well as Mexico, and provides access to over 200,000 merchants.


Girl Geek X Podcast Hosts:

Angie Chang

Sukrutha Bhadouria

Gretchen DeKnikker

Rachel Jones


Girl Geek X Podcast Guests:

Minji Wong, At Her Best Founder

Sophia Perl, Oath Director Product Management

Christine Song, Postmates Software Engineer


Girl Geek X Podcast Sponsor:


Episode 2: Career Transitions

Angie Chang: Welcome to another episode of Girl Geek X podcast, connecting you to the best insight from women in tech. I’m Angie, founder of Girl Geek X, and this podcast brings you the best of Girl Geek Dinners, where we’ve been elevating women in tech for over 10 years.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Hi, I’m Sukrutha. CTO of Girl Geek X.

Gretchen DeKnikker: And I’m Gretchen DeKnikker, COO at Girl Geek X.

Rachel Jones: I’m Rachel, the producer of this podcast.

Angie Chang: And today we’ll be sharing advice on navigating career transitions.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: This is a really interesting topic for me, because I have always struggled with having this five year plan or ten year plan that actually I could relate to. Sure, I would create one, but I never really stuck to it. What did you all feel like, after listening to topics about career transitions?

Gretchen DeKnikker: My career is just … I’m 46 years old. I’ve never had a five-year plan, and since I’m in the middle of like my midlife crisis of like I don’t know what I want to do with like the third wave of my career, I sort of wonder if maybe I should have. Maybe you can help me, Sukrutha, write my five-year, like, here’s what you should do with the last few years of your career. I think I’ve always just followed my heart and I’ve always sort of followed the next thing that felt like the right thing. And that’s advice that I give and sometimes, lately, now that I’m in this cloud of, I don’t know what I want to do next. I wonder if it’s good advice, but I’ve always given the advice of, don’t be afraid to take a left turn. Have a plan, have a good understanding of where you’re headed, but don’t be afraid if something comes up and it doesn’t fit the plan that it feels like the right thing to go explore that. Especially when you’re younger where you really can’t screw up. You really can’t, any career thing you do, particularly in your twenties, you really can’t screw up any path, you could just find new paths and new passions by leaving yourself open. Because you really don’t even know yourself as well as you’re going to as you get older, so you don’t have to have it all figured out when you’re 27, or even 32.

Angie Chang: It was at a Girl Geek Dinner that I had met some very inspiring women in tech who were doing things like having a kid and writing iOS apps on the side, or women who were product managers at really admirable companies, and they would tell me how they were still interviewing for new jobs and opportunities and always keeping a door open and looking for the next best thing. That always surprised me but also made me realize how we have to be on top of our own careers, even when everyone else thinks that we have a great career already, there are those women who are already thinking about what’s next as well. So, we’re always having to be open to going to networking events, talking to more people, and looking around the corner at what’s coming because we are in the silicon valley, of defining the next role, the next field, the next industry, is our responsibility we have to take upon ourselves.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I wonder if you’re more likely to make a career transition when you have no options, or when you have a backup option that’s not scary.

Gretchen DeKnikker: That’s a good point. Yeah.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Because I remember reading about this. It’s not a ladder to the top. It’s like a jungle gym, right? There’s so many different parts to go to the top, and every experience you’re gaining is gonna help you in the long term. But with career transitions, they don’t necessarily have to be a lateral move. It could be that you’re taking two steps back to take one giant leap forward, and it’s just thinking about that in a way that it’s not detrimental to your career. It’s what will make it easier for you, I think.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Do you have an example of what you mean when you take the …?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah. For me, after 5 years in my first job, I wanted to change jobs because I felt I wasn’t learning. I could’ve stayed as the big fish in the small pond, but I recognized that if I stayed I would just not grow.

Angie Chang: And just personal context, I remember when I met you, you were a software engineer in test end dev quality engineering and I was always asking you about that, and then you made the transition to become an engineering manager.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: That’s right, so what happens when you make a move like that is that you’re putting yourself into a situation where you’re a beginner again. So you’re having to prove yourself again and you would think, oh my gosh, that’s gonna take longer, that’s gonna cause a delay in my growth, but growth means so many different things. You have to decide what growth you’re after.

Angie Chang: Absolutely. I think people should always be looking to apply to new opportunities and roles you never thought about, just to have those interesting exploratory conversations of how they might have value to other industries and companies and who knows, you might get a really interesting offer, you might make some good connections. Maybe increase your salary.

Rachel Jones: During our panel on engineering leadership, a few women actually shared thought exercises that they’ve used to help chart out their careers. Sukrutha, could you tell us more about that panel?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, so Angie and I met Arquay Harris, and she is a Director of Engineering at Slack. And the really, really fun tidbit we learned about her that night was that she got her job at Slack through a Girl Geek dinner that she attended a few years ago. We hear great things about her. She’s a terrific manager, her past experience includes Google and CNET, and at the dinner we asked her about what she thinks about her career at engineering leadership and how she thinks of it at that Girl Geek Dinner. That evening, we also met Kimber Lockhart, who is now the CTO of One Medical. She’s spoken at a past Girl Geek Dinner when Box sponsored it while she was a VP of engineering there. Consistently she’s given great advice about framing your career and thinking more about the challenges that you might face, and working around it, and building your career path. Here’s what she had to say.

Arquay Harris: I try to think about it in terms of what is the highest aspiration that I have for myself? And a lot of people think about five year plans and if I look back at my life five years ago I probably would not think that I would be in the position that I’m in. But what I mean by highest aspiration is, is it to be CEO of a company? Is it to be CTO of a company? Is it to just continue to be director of engineering? And knowing that helps me figure out how to chart my career. It’s like the north star. So for example, if I said, I wanna one day be CEO of a Fortune 500 company, I would probably make different career decisions. I might try to get bigger and bigger teams, I might move jobs more often, I might have different goals. Up until very recently, my aspiration for myself, I like the director of engineering level. I like the ability to mentor people on a one-to-one level. I like that human interaction, and I feel that in some roles, like if I’m CTO of a company that has 10,000 engineers, it’s probably difficult to do that in the way that I would like to do that. Not that it’s good or bad, that’s what I see as the highest aspiration for myself. But I think, though, I would say if you had asked me that today, maybe that answer is different, right? And so understanding that and knowing that as my experiences change, that that aspiration maybe changes, and then maybe I’ll have to think, maybe I should do things differently, I should network, maybe I should do things like Girl Geek Dinners, right? So you get more exposure, whatever that happens to be, I think understanding what that north star is pretty important.

Kimber Lockhart: I occasionally give a workshop on career paths and thinking about career paths. And one of my very favorite exercises from that workshop is that we draw three different pictures of things that could happen that might be dream career moments. And so I draw, for example, well maybe I’m gonna quit my job and join a venture capital firm, and go interview a bunch of heads of engineering, and write a book about everything I just learned. Wouldn’t that be fun? My other one’s, I’m gonna be the CTO of the US and won’t that be very exciting except maybe not right now. The point of the exercise isn’t so much the crazy visions, but the part where you look at of those visions and say, what about this can enhance my career right now? So I did that crazy vision exercise around writing that book, and I said, you know what I wanna do? I wanna get my ideas out there. I want to start writing. And so about a year ago I said, I’m going to make time to start writing essays, and started posting on Medium, something anybody can do, and found that it was a wonderful way to grow my career in a direction that it hadn’t been before. It wasn’t just about aiming for what is the next level up in the management chain, but rather, what is another dimension that I can add to my career today?

Rachel Jones: So have exercises like what these women suggest been helpful for any of you? Sukrutha, I know you mentioned creating a five-year plan.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: That evening, when I heard Arquay talk about her highest goal and her highest aspiration, that made me go home and think about, what is my highest goal or highest aspiration that I want? And do I want to continue where I am or what my north star is, like she said. I try to chart it out that way but it’s not always that I will follow it exactly to the tee. But it makes it easy if I have multiple options like Kimber called out, right? Think about three different options for yourself and design according to that. I’ve found that it’s been a bit easier for me to take risks because the one thing that I try to avoid is to just stay where I’m comfortable, because then I’m not really growing. What do you think, Angie?

Angie Chang: I think having those three different scenarios is a really great exercise. I’ve heard people who invested in having some professional coaching have mentioned having this framework or exercise of thinking through at night, what are these three diverse things that could happen in your life? So that gives you not just one point. If you don’t succeed in becoming a CTO, you might wind up being a really great security leader at a different type of company. There’s different ways to think outside of that very rigid box of what we see as success.

Gretchen DeKnikker: For some reason this is also making me think about when people talk about going back to school. People are always seeking advice. Particularly, going to business school and getting their MBA. And I think the advice I always give is, well what are you going to do afterwards? And if you don’t have a clear goal of what the outcome is, what the thing is that you’re gonna get, then there’s no reason to give up two years of income and two years of your life, and then business school is hard anyway. It’s great, it’s fun, but if you don’t have a specific outcome that you’re looking for, and this would apply to school in general about not doing it. And I think that Kimber’s way that she looks at it is one of those lenses of oh, well what if I went back to school? It’s something I think about all the time. Mostly because I just think oh, I don’t wanna work anymore, and then I think, okay, so you’re gonna give up how many years of income and run up a whole bunch of debt probably? And then what, exactly, is the job that you’re gonna have afterwards? Are you just kind of looking for an academic vacation?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, so I had to actually go through an exercise similar to this when I was thinking about what I wanted to do next when I was still an engineer. And so I worked with a career coach that was assigned to me through a work program and she asked me to think about my three options, so I said, all right, so I want to stay in tech, I know that. I could be an engineering manager, I could move in to product management, or I could remain an individual contributor and engineering leader. And so she asked me questions like, what is it about that role that you think you’re going to like, and what do you think you’re not gonna like? What do you think you’re going to be really, really good at, and what about those roles do you think you want to be good at? So just working through an exercise like that really helped me.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Angie, you decided to kind of go from your pioneering Women 2.0 days, and then you made the transition to work at Hackbright. What was your process there?

Angie Chang: You have talked about going to business school, and many people I know that go to business school wind up becoming product managers. As someone who’s been a product manager twice, I found that it’s not necessarily about the title, but it’s about the work that you do. And I was very attracted to the idea of Hackbright, which was outside of anything I’d done before. Joining a very tiny crew of people who are trying to do an experiment called teaching adult women to code and get jobs in tech sounded very exciting. So I jumped for that, wound up being a good decision and a good pivot in my career, because I was able to also change what I had been doing. Because previously I was in product and engineering, I also was writing, and then through joining a place like Hackbright I was able to join the business department and work under the CEO of my first official business role. And from there, after four years, I continue to bring that business lens to Girl Geek X and to my next career, and so it’s been a great pivot that I didn’t plan, but just followed the opportunities as they came. And in fact, I remember that the founder of Hackbright came to a Girl Geek Dinner, and said, hey, this is my idea, and I was like, interesting. And the fact that he dared to come to the Girl Geek Dinner and be an ally and pitch what he was working on, and I followed through and visited the campus, I was like, okay, this is legit. This is a really good initiative. There’s good people here. So I think you have to really just open yourself up to these opportunities and follow through with them if they turn out to be right opportunities.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: That’s great.

Rachel Jones: It’s really helpful having these tips for ways to think through what you wanna do in your career, but how do you know when it’s time to actually start taking those next steps?

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think for me, because I’ve always done really early stage companies, there’s usually the coming to terms with my current role and how I feel about it, and then what do I want to do next. The first part of it, for me anyway, is when you start finding yourself unhappy and you start thinking about, okay, what are the ways that I could change this, right? Do I need to change the role, do I need to learn some new skills, do I need to try to have a different manager? What are the ways out of it? And for me, particularly in small companies, there aren’t a lot of those opportunities and options. So then it becomes okay, am I happy more days than I’m not, and then when you get to the point where you wake up and you’re like that was three days this week that I woke up and went, ugh instead of thinking, oh my God, I have twenty things to do and hopping out of bed because you want to get them done. And so then coming to the all right, so what do I like about this job that I would like to do at my next job, what do I not like about this job that I don’t want to do at my next job, and starting to look at it that way.

Angie Chang: And oftentimes I think the scariest thing is just starting and being able to say to your friends when you’d see them for brunch and saying, I’m gonna be open to new opportunities. Please let me know if there’s anything interesting that comes along.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Oh, come on. Last time you posted that on Facebook! She was like, not happy. I was like, wow, that is bold. She was just like, hey, I’m opening some new stuff.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Contact me. I think that was really, really, really gutsy and awesome.

Gretchen DeKnikker: It was amazing!

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I would do that, too. Tell everybody you meet what you want. Someone will make it happen. Because that’s basically you making it happen.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I made a list one time one time of 25 people I was gonna have coffee with, and by the time I was done with the coffees I thought I would have a plan. I was doing customer development for my life, right? And by talking to all these people, a pattern was going to emerge and by the end of it I was going to know what job I wanted. It didn’t totally work out that way, but I had a very good sense of what kind of company I wanted, what kind of leadership team I wanted, what kind of space I wanted to work in, and now I’m still kind of trying to apply that plan, but the process was very worth it. And you get to talk to people.

Rachel Jones: It can be scary thinking through giving up a job that you have to take the next step, even if you are unhappy or you feel like you’re not getting the kind of growth that you need. So how do you navigate that and know when it’s time to move on?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I think I’m a little bit more risk averse than I should be and so my whole thing is, what’s the worst case scenario? Is staying at my current situation the worst case scenario? Then that’s fine, you know? And so if that’s being without a job, or with a job that I hate, is it okay to just put up with it for two more months? Or is it better to be without a job? That sort of thing is what I try to think about, but it’s not always easy, I’m gonna say that. So, I don’t know how you do it, Gretchen.

Gretchen DeKnikker: So I let myself get to a point where I’m really, really unhappy and then, because I’m in such a state of unhappiness I have a very hard time thinking about what I want to do next because I lack that optimism or the mental space to be able to dream and imagine. So more than once I’ve left a job without another job and not in a good financial situation, but just knowing that that was sort of the forcing function and that that was the only thing that was actually going to make me move forward was to close that door. Because then you’re like, there’s no net! There’s no net! I better get some wings and start figuring out how to fly. I don’t know that I would give that advice to other people. I just know it’s really the only thing that I’ve–

Angie Chang: I think some of the women that I have admired for their careers, they’ve always took time out every year at least once or twice to take a day off and really explore new opportunities even though they had a perfectly great company and job title at the time. So I think when I look at people that I admire but I haven’t done that level of self-investment but I really aspire to do that.

Rachel Jones: I think this conversation about risk relates a lot to a story we heard at our dinner with Quantcast. Angie, can you tell us some more about that?

Angie Chang: A senior software engineer at Quantcast, Malvika Mathur, spoke about moving from her cushy job at Microsoft to a relatively unknown tech startup called Quantcast. And she talks about her thinking on the matter here, this quote.

Malvika Mathur: 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, right? So happy with myself. But the 21-year-old me was really naïve as well. So the first three years were really 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 gonna stick and move to one of those teams. So I was in talks with recruiters and figuring out what I need to do next, and then decided to talk with one of my mentors. And he asked me something really important, something I never thought I’d ask myself. He asked me, why do you want to stay? I was like, why is that even a question? 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 here? And I thought about it. Turns out the answers for both these questions are not the same. Thought about what I’d done so far in Microsoft, I thought about, if I move to a team here, what would it mean for me? And I realized it’s gonna slow down my growth trajectory. And that’s something that’s really important to me. It’s great to be learning new technologies, but I realized that as a developer, that’s not all I wanted to do. I didn’t wanna just go in and write code. I wanna do something more. Contribute more in the work that I do. And suddenly, life out of Microsoft became like an option. Since I was moving to the Bay Area, working at a startup was suddenly on my shortlist. So I started looking for jobs. And looking for jobs is hard. It is exhausting. And I realized 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 had my friends around. I didn’t want to move. 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 give that a lot of focus. When I was interviewing at all these companies, they’re asking me questions, but I also made sure I was asking these guys the right questions as well. Because I wasn’t that girl anymore who joined a big company and was excited with any project. I wanted to do more things and I wanted to make sure that wherever I went, I got those things.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think the really interesting part of Malvika’s story is her manager asking her why does she want to stay and really making sure that she understood it’s almost that thing of, if you were re-interviewing for this job today, would you still want it, right? It’s sort of like that. And having someone who will force you to go through that process of really evaluating, you know, if you were gonna buy a house would you buy the same house that you’re in, or whatever the decision is, to make sure that just because it’s fine, is it great? Is it the thing that’s gonna get you where you want to go. I spent the past few weeks with one of the girls that I’ve been mentoring over the years and she was approached. She’s fairly happy in her current role, but she was approached by another company and they came to her with three undefined roles that she might be good at, and she was really struggling. She didn’t know which one she wanted to pick, and I was like, that’s because you don’t know what you want to do next. So she’s like, and it feels like one is too small, and another one is like one-and-a-half roles. And I was like, okay, well then you need to deconstruct all of these things that they want done and then maybe rebuild the job listing for yourself. But in the process, what I was really hoping she would do was take that and figure out what she wanted to do. Which is, over time, eventually what she did, which was cool, I Jedi mind tricked her into figuring out what she wanted to do next. And then it turned out that she decided she wanted to stay. She saw more positive things in her current role than she saw in the beginning just by contrasting it with the roles that she had going.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: That is such an interesting way of looking at it. Would you chose the situation you’re in now if you had more options? Would you seek out those more options? I think we don’t put ourselves in those situations mentally to think about it until it’s an extreme situation where someone’s asking you, are you having a life event that’s making you think about other options. But it’s really good to evaluate that.

Angie Chang: Now, ten years later in my career, I’m like, maybe people should actively bookmark a day or two in their lives to go and seek new opportunities, despite their happiness level at their company, just to make sure they know where they’re gonna be going in the future.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, I think that’s great, to do that regularly. My thing is that, just thinking about this, I  feel like I should make a plan to continuously mentally put myself in that situation of looking for other opportunities, even if I don’t need it, because I might discover something.

Angie Chang: Maybe it’s not even a new opportunity as in a new full-time job, maybe it’s also joining an organization, starting another–There’s so many women’s professional networks that are growing these days, I’ve noticed there’s a lot of women in product, women in data science, women X. There’s so many women that are starting to speak more, there’s so many things you can do.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: That reminds me of what we go through with Girl Geek. We thought about this. Things were going great with the dinners, we were getting great feedback, and we wanted to more, so then we thought of the virtual conference, and then we thought about a podcast. Maybe applying that to ourselves as a self-growth mechanism would also be a good way to do it.

Rachel Jones: Yeah, thinking of it as you don’t have to be in a dire situation or have no other options before you start thinking about ways to move forward is really important.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Yeah, we always tell everyone at the events, build your network before you need it, and this is build your path before you actually want to walk on it. Those two things can definitely go hand-in-hand.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Or even before you think you need to walk on it, right?

Gretchen DeKnikker: Before you’ve even got shoes.

Angie Chang: Yes.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: How well in advance can you be a planner? But you have to be willing to adapt well, too, because every plan you make may not be a plan that you can follow to the tee.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I’m a terrible plan follower.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Oh yeah, I’m pretty bad too. I think it’s that thing, the January 1st is when all gyms are so full.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Hit January 15th, it looks the same.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: No one.

Angie Chang: Yeah.

Gretchen DeKnikker: When you’re thinking about when is the right time and what’s gonna be that forcing function, I think it changes in your career, what that thing is gonna be. Malvika’s story was fairly early in her career, right? She was still in her early 20s when she was talking about doing this, and so she made the decision from a place of the role, and then obviously she had this desire to work at a startup, so she was willing to leave this company that she’d always wanted to work for and she felt really proud of working there into something else. For me, my 20s was about gaining skills, my 30s was about becoming a manager and getting to know myself better, but 40s is my way of learning how to be strategic and how to get all of these things to work together where you’re a manager of managers and you can only give so much instruction, but you have to do it in this strategic way that people are going to figure it out and be able to follow. And that’s required me, every single step of the way, learning more and more about myself, and then more and more about what motivates different people. But particularly understanding what you bring to the table, your biases, your weaknesses, and how to hire around that, also, and hire people that balance your weaknesses. And that you’re finding the right people for your team that aren’t necessarily always the people you wanna go have a drink with, but they’re the people who bring something to the table that isn’t already there. So this segues really great into our next section featuring two speakers from Dominique is the Senior Director of Growth and Product, and then Sheila Marcelo is the CEO and Chairwoman at and just an all-around general badass that we were so excited to have speak.

Dominique Baillet: So I’ve actually made a lot of career moves in my life. I’ve had a number of different professional jobs and 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 gonna learn the most, and where am I gonna grow the most? And what’s interesting is that, what I need to learn and grow has changed as I’ve gotten older. And so 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 how to actually do something. At 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. And so actually, like many people up here have said, one of the reasons that 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 could be. And so 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 was gonna be hard for me to do in an authentic way. And so 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 Marcelo: I’ll just add to this. It’s so competitive in the Bay Area. Lots of different areas, but even more so here. You get recruiters are pinging you all the time, there’s just so many opportunities. They’re pitching you the next startup or company. There’s great companies. And I think the thing that I’ve been focused on in my career is long-term relationships. 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 continued to help grow me and believe in me. Because that’s difficult to replicate. 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. And if you follow the opportunity and the pitch, sometimes you luck out, it’s gonna be great, and then you can retire young. There’s a lot of potential of that in the Bay Area. But then there’s also the journey in life, which is who you wanna be around, so 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’ve found that tribe, I’m always encouraging people to say, try and stick with that tribe. Move from company to company. I’m completely fine when somebody says, look, we’ve worked together, I’m gonna leave for a little bit, and we’ve had people boomerang back, or we work two, three companies later together. Might not be the next one. So it’s just something to think about as you look at opportunities, is to actually look at the people in your life who’s helping continue to sponsor and help you grow and catapult you to opportunities because they know you well. That’s really what you want to do in your career would be my just small piece of advice.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think what was interesting about what Dominique and Sheila had to add was in contrast to Malvika, who was earlier in her career, Dominique is really talking about the challenges in your mid-career where you stop looking for skills and really start looking for other growth opportunities. And her advice I found myself just nodding all the way through when she was speaking. It really resonated with me. And then Sheila really just talks about finding the right people and sticking with them. And prioritizing the people that you work with over other things because there’s always that great thing that comes out of it when you have solid team that can really, really deliver things.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, so, listening to Sheila’s talk, I wonder if it’s more likely to be women who choose the people they work with over the actual technology or their role or the responsibilities they have been given. I wonder if that would make you less risk averse as a result, because you’re choosing a happy community over uncomfortable situations, maybe.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I totally see why she gives that advice, and on so many levels, I agree with it. I think the only part I feel may be similar to you that how much are you growing if you’re always with these same teams and you’re essentially somewhat in the same role. I’m sure that you’re getting, as your director leaves and they become a V.P. somewhere else, then you come in as a director, things like that. I think there is something about it. I think the other part that I thought about when she was talking about it was, if you stick with these teams, this is sort of how we end up with a lack of diversity. We end up with a lack of cognitive diversity. Having the same people that obviously think similarly enough that you can function very effectively as a team, how much are you growing even just as a human when you always have the same set of people at the table? You see this a lot in Silicon Valley. Teams move around together. But I also think that’s a little bit part of the problem. Or maybe a big part of the problem, I don’t know. But it’s hard to prioritize that versus as an individual I do want to be happy every day and I don’t know that I can change the world by having this job, and should I go take a job where I’m super uncomfortable in this hopes of changing the world, right? And I don’t have an answer for that, but it’s definitely something to think about.

Angie Chang: I’ve always gone for work that was interesting. I never particularly thought about people. I love you all. It’s not a first, right? You do good work and there happens to be good people there, but I’ve never looked at it as people first. I don’t know if that’s a masculine or a feminine trait or anything.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think it’s whatever it is that makes you happy, right? If I’m around a bunch of people I can’t stand, I’m miserable 24/7, even if I’m solving a really interesting problem, but that’s just something I know about myself. I mean there was definitely one company that I stayed a little bit longer than I really wanted to because I felt like I loved the people there so much and there was still the opportunity to change the role and have it evolve so that it became challenging again, versus trying to go find someplace where I loved the culture and the people that I worked with so much, and that there was that opportunity to change that one piece that would be less difficult than going and trying to find that magical formula that I wouldn’t even have known how to replicate at another company.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Right.

Rachel Jones: Yeah, how important to you in thinking about new roles you might take on is the culture of the place where you’d be working? Versus what you would be doing there?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I feel like, for me, it depends. It depends if it’s a culture that I think I can improve or I can learn from. And of course if the work is interesting. Then I will pay attention to the culture. But if it’s 100% toxic and I just don’t enjoy the work challenge, either, then I’m not even gonna try.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think at this point in my career, in my thirties it definitely had to be a super interesting problem and the people really mattered, too. But I think at this point in my career, it’s so important, particularly because the roles I do, I end up working directly with the CEO, and having that relationship be really solid. And at small companies, the CEO really dictates the culture. And so I think those two things go so hand-in-hand. And those two things have to mesh really, really well or I’m miserable and I can’t even be effective at my job because of that mismatch in styles or whatever it is. That’s honestly maybe the most important thing at this point.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Is it fair to say then that the best metric to choose to measure an opportunity by is how effective do you think you’re gonna be? Never mind everything else. Do you think that’s a good single metric that we can pick?

Angie Chang: I feel that’s very idealistic. I always want to be effective and I always want to do things that are impactful, but that’s really hard to measure.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, I wonder how much you can measure of that before you take the job.

Angie Chang: They’re always trying to sell you, right? You’re only getting the best parts.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: So how I can see how if you already knew someone who was in that company or in that team you could get more insight, so if you already have that connection. Like Sheila talked about.

Gretchen DeKnikker: And I think that there’s, particularly with your manager, because your manager’s really gonna make or break your role. People don’t leave companies, they leave managers. It exists. It’s a saying for a reason, right? And I think if there’s anything that comes up in the interview process where you’re like, that’s probably gonna be an actual thing later. It’s usually just a little sign of what’s coming. It’s kind of that first date, where you’re like, is he a jerk? Should we even go on a second date? Where you’re just really evaluating the basics of making a mental note of that. If we come back to that later and he still seems like a jerk, he’s out.

Angie Chang: So career transitions has been an awkward topic for me, personally. I always found myself, when I start to peter at a job, I found myself not actively self-sabotaging, but not working extra hard to pick up the pieces. And instead focusing my time on my side projects, like Girl Geek Dinners, or Women 2.0. And then almost pushing myself to the point that I would get, laid off with severance, and like, yes, I can pursue my new opportunities now! And I think hindsight’s 20/20, and we always come up with this great advice that we end up giving other people, such as actively seek out coffee conversations, or actively seek out x, y, and z. And we do that, and that’s great, but we should probably also follow that advice that we give other people.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Just talking through it with all of you has made it so much easier for me to think about what I want to do on a regular basis. Just like everything else, this is a muscle. You need to keep reevaluating what it is that you want out of your career, you want out of life, to be prepared for the sudden changes that might come about.

Angie Chang: I feel like people come to Girl Geek Dinners oftentimes, they’re often coming from work, they’re very stressed out from their work, and I can see them listening to the speakers and they’re kinda crunching through their head what they have to do, but also taking into account what these women on stage are talking about and thinking through is this the right time to stand up for this or that? Or should I go talk to a recruiter about this really interesting role here? And it’s a constant game of checking in with ourselves, as well where we want to be, and looking at new opportunities.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: How about we end this with a commitment. Like a takeaway. What are each one of us going to do to help us with career transitions. Help ourselves. So I definitely, definitely want to think about is this the role, is this a job that I would chose now? And I wanna commit to this annual review. Keeping time aside every year to think about, is this exactly what I wanna do? What do you think you want to commit to as we end the year?

Angie Chang: I think definitely committing to the asking yourself is this the role that I signed up for originally and where I wanna go from here? Where do I want to see myself in a year? In five years? What is the best case scenario? What is the worst case scenario? What’s a good doable scenario?

Gretchen DeKnikker: I feel like a jerk, but I don’t know that I have a commitment to myself, just because I’ve been literally living in this two year career transition right now of trying to figure out what I want to do next. So I feel like I spend so much time thinking about it, that I don’t know what to commit to.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I think I struggle with choosing something based off of will it make me happy? Because it’s so vague, for one, and then the other thing is that for me, it’s like exercising. While I’m doing it, I don’t like it. When it’s done, I’m glad I did it. I’m not always loving what I’m doing at that moment. I just learn to enjoy it at some point.

Angie Chang: Thanks for listening to this episode of Girl Geek X podcast. We’ll be back soon with more advice from women in tech and our two cents.

Rachel Jones: This podcast is produced by me, Rachel Jones. To learn more about Girl Geek X, or buy tickets to our next event, visit You can also find video and transcripts from the events we went through today. If you’re interested in hosting a Girl Geek Dinner, email

Angie Chang: This Girl Geek podcast is brought to you by Quantcast. Quantcast specializes in real-time advertising and audience measurement. As the pioneer of direct audience measurement, Quantcast has the most in-depth understanding of digital audiences across the Web, allowing marketers and publishers to make the smartest choices as they buy and sell the most effective targeted advertising on the market. This podcast is also brought to you by! Spanning child care to senior care, pet care, housekeeping and more, provides a sweeping array of services for families and caregivers to find, manage and pay for care or find employment and manage their careers. Headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts, has offices in Berlin, Austin, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Angie Chang: You can find video and transcripts from these events at our newly redesigned website. Go check it out,



Girl Geek X Podcast Hosts:

Angie Chang

Sukrutha Bhadouria

Gretchen DeKnikker

Rachel Jones


Girl Geek X Podcast Guests:

Arquay Harris, Slack Director Engineering

Kimber Lockhart, One Medical CTO

Malvika Mathur, Quantcast Senior Software Engineer

Dominique Baillet, Senior Director Growth & Product

Sheila Marcelo, Founder, Chairwoman & CEO


Girl Geek X Podcast Sponsors:


Episode 1: Mentorship

Resources mentioned in this podcast:

Breaking All the Rules & Finding Your Own Way: Girl Geek X Guidewire Dinner & Panel Discussion

Scaling Sustainably: Girl Geek X AppLovin Dinner & Panel Discussion

Lean in, Geek Out: Girl Geek X SquareTrade Dinner & Panel Discussion


Angie Chang: Hey, it’s the Girl Geek X team you know and love from a decade of over 200 Girl Geek Dinners, hosted at companies like Google, Facebook, Pinterest, Dropbox, Stripe, and many more Silicon Valley startups. I’m Angie Chang, founder of Girl Geek X and one of your hosts for this Girl Geek Podcast.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Hi. I’m Sukrutha, CTO of Girl Geek X. By day, I’m a senior engineering manager at Salesforce. I’ve worked as an engineer for over a decade now.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I’m Gretchen, COO here at Girl Geek X. I’ve been working in software startups for over 20 years from founding employee to being a founder myself.

Rachel Jones: I’m Rachel, the producer of this podcast. My background is in media and nonprofits so I’m hoping to represent for women outside the tech space still looking for advice in navigating their careers.

Angie Chang: Each week, Girl Geek X puts women on stage at different tech and STEM companies as speakers, role models, and leaders. We’ve been hosting Girl Geek Dinners in the San Francisco Bay Area for a long time and we’ve been hearing from people that they are now less inclined to go to an event after work. Maybe they have kids or a nice hobby like marathon training or regular self care or gym-ing and yet, these women want the content of industry women sharing advice and insights from the trenches, and this Girl Geek X Podcast idea was born.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: When we talk about women at work, we undeniably get a lot of audience questions about mentorship. What we’ve done for our first episode is collected the best of from female executives, engineers, and leaders who have spoken at various dinners this year. Both questions and answers we’ve heard over and over again at dinners, and we’ll tackle those questions for you and give you the cheat sheet.

Rachel Jones: I think the first question that comes up thinking about mentorship is how do I find a mentor? Do you have any thoughts on that?

Angie Chang: The way I look at mentorship is a series of coffee dates with people that may be interesting and asking them for their opinions and sharing my opinion on where I would like to go. By reaching out to people cold, you have probably very low pick up rate, but also people that do say yes will be the ones that see the potential in you and then, have those coffee dates, have those coffee conversations and then, see which of these conversations lead to more conversations and an actual relationship and that can be your mentorship. It’s not going in and saying, “I need a mentor.” It’s going out and asking people for coffee, having good conversations, and more conversations on top of that.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think when people come and they ask this question at the events over and over again and they’re like, “How do I find a mentor?” I think the underlying question is how do I have an awkward conversation ’cause I think when you’re younger, you have this idea, everyone just says, “Find a mentor, go ask someone.” In my career, I’ve always worked at teeny tiny companies and so, there was never this formal relationship. There were just women that were sort of my heroes and I tried to emulate the parts of them that I really liked and asked them for advice, but I think if you went to any event today and said, “Oh, you mentored Gretchen back in the day,” they’d be like, “Really? ‘Cause I was just sort of answering her stupid questions,” or whatever, but I don’t think it’s as formal as maybe it seems in the beginning and that Angie’s advice is great of just go ask and have coffee and start learning from these women that you admire.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I’ve been lucky because I’ve worked at mostly larger companies. However, if you don’t learn how to seek out the help you need by identifying the people or the resources you actually need, you’ll never be able to help yourself. Regardless of the programs you might have in the big company that you may or may not be working at, think about what exactly you need, what you want to be, and see who you think of when you think of those attributes that you want to acquire and reach out to them and strike a common balance so that it’s not as uncomfortable and as awkward as you think it needs to be because mentorship in my mind is a two-way beneficial relationship because when I mentor people, I feel I’ve grown so much. I’ve learned so much so I also want to get updates when I’m mentoring someone, how they’re doing and what’s going on with them and it shouldn’t just be that you’ve asked me and set up time and then that’s it, I don’t hear from them.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think that’s a really good point, too, that when you’re reaching out and you’re asking for coffee to make sure that you’re stating why you want to meet with them, not just like, “Hey, can I pick your brain?” which is a really rude phrase anyway, but be more specific because it’s also flattering when someone asks for your advice, but they’re really specific about why they want it. It’s very hard to say no to that no matter how busy your schedule is.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, you want to sign up to be a mentor when you know how you can help someone, right?

Gretchen DeKnikker: Totally, yeah.

Angie Chang: Then after you mentor them for a few years, maybe then you can hire them or have a partnership with them, and they’ll pay off.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a cycle. It just never ends.

Angie Chang: It’s a virtuous cycle.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Rachel, being the youngster in the group, how do you think about mentorship?

Rachel Jones: It’s definitely something that I think that I need. I think the biggest thing about it is having that intentionality and knowing exactly what ways I’m looking to grow through mentorship. I have a lot of different interests and my career path has not been very linear so knowing exactly who’s best to approach and how to approach them is definitely something that I’ve been thinking through a lot. I think having that sense of exactly what I’m looking for before I start trying to reach out and set up those coffee dates is definitely important.

Rachel Jones: This question of how mentor relationships are born came up at our dinner with Guidewire.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I really enjoyed our dinner at Guidewire. The women who were speaking were all super senior. They’d all been at the company for … I think the least amount was 12 years, which was kind of amazing and I think says a lot about the company. In this clip, we hear from Eileen Maier, who’s the Chief Business Officer, Sandia Ren, who’s the VP of Professional Services and Priscilla Hung, who’s the Chief Operating Officer about the advice that they’ve had as they’ve transitioned from mentee to mentor and their perspectives on what makes those relationships valuable and prosper.

Eileen Maier: I think one of the things that’s really important ’cause people say, “Well, you know, I’d like to find a mentor,” and so, “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? 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. 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.

Sandia Ren: We were looking for a manager for the office when we were interviewing, met a number of a number of candidates who had been managing teams for 10, 15 years, built teams from scratch, et cetera, but then we met this woman who … She even called herself a new leader. She’s only been managing team for two and a half years, but as I talked to her, I could just tell that she was really smart, really clued in. She really quickly picked up on the things that we were talking about and she was really excited to learn. She said 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. 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.

Priscilla Hung: Yeah. I think, for me, it’s the chemistry has to work because I really believe in mentorship because I owe my career to my mentors so I think that when you click, you click. Also, the second thing is just like what Sandia said is you will get a sense that whether the person in front of you actually is open to change. If there’s closeness there, it’s a waste of time.

Angie Chang: I really like Eileen’s point to being open to being chosen and kind of being able to signal to executives or managers that you are ready, hungry for more. I think I definitely have written a lot of emails to people where I [inaudible 00:08:33] things to them, I tried to point out things that I’ve done and kind of opened myself up for new opportunities and projects to get more visibility and hopefully some more assignments and maybe that sponsorship.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, a mentor of mine once asked me to think about what I want to be known for and based off of that, I made it known the sort of opportunities that I would want and the universe works together to make it happen if you, like I said earlier, tell enough people that you want something and just knowing what you want to be known for opens you up for opportunities and opens you up for mentors to help you.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I really liked what Priscilla and Sandia had to say about finding someone who was open and who was ready to learn. The women that I end up mentoring, I see something in them. I see a potential in them. I see something really great in them that they don’t see in themselves yet and I really want to get in there and pull that out and help them realize that potential.

Rachel Jones: At our dinner with AppLovin, a few women shared their thoughts on how successful mentor relationships are formed.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah. The AppLovin-sponsored Girl Geek Dinner was super insightful for all of us and for the attendees. Through their talks, we learned what the panel thought about this whole model of how to make a mentorship relationship successful just based off of how it begins. Alice Guillaume is the Director of Marketing and Katie Jansen is the Chief Marketing Officer at AppLovin and both of them talked about whether or not they thought that mentor relationships are better when put together organically or formed intentionally and they answered this based off of an audience question.

Alice Guillaume: I’ve employed assigning on my team, so I look at kind of like what the needs are and I have paired people together, but I also allow them the flexibility to kind of figure out if it works for them. I tend to think if it’s more natural, it’ll work a little bit better, but at least I’m providing an opportunity to that person to try it. The other thing I’ve tried is just observing. So there are natural kind of relationships that form through time just kind of, that’s just how humans are, and if I see that happening, then I can have that conversation with both parties and see if that would make sense as a match. So I’ve tried both ways. I will say the one where I match it has probably had less chances of working than the organic one, but because there’s not always an organic fit, I still have to give it a try, yeah.

Katie Jansen: Probably like a year and a half ago Adam, who’s our CEO, told me “Go mentor, Helen,” which you might have suspected since I was like “Hello, Helen. You’re not on my team. Would you like to get coffee with me randomly once a month at this scheduled time?” But I’ll be honest, it probably took like about a year ’cause for a while, it felt maybe a little awkward and forced, but I noticed in the past probably five to six months, I’m like okay, like this feels like a real … And we’re both getting something out of it, to your point mentor-mentee relationship. It took a while sometimes I will say with the pairings, but you can hit your stride.

Katie Jansen: And then I have a mentor that I met, it wasn’t at this group (it was at Women in Wireless, and that’s not their name now and I don’t remember their name to be honest with you, they’ve rebranded) but it was a Women in Wireless event, and I was on a panel about mentors, and the EVP of revenue over there was just so impressive to me, and so I afterwards sent her a thank- you note for being on the panel, and then two weeks later followed up with coffee, and now she’s definitely my mentor, and it’s been probably three years – and she’s not in the same vertical as me. She’s in finance and rev ops, which is very different, but I still learn quite a bit from her, but it was almost like, I guess I was courting her or something, but she was open to it so it worked out okay.

Alice Guillaume: Sometimes you have to go get it.

Katie Jansen: Yeah, I know.

Rachel Jones: Have you ever been in a mentor-mentee relationship that was kind of put together intentionally by people?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I haven’t been put together with someone as a mentee, but I was approached by someone who said, “Please be my mentor,” and I think before that if they had sort of explained to me what they wanted, what their goals were, it would’ve been easier for me to feel less awkward about it. It felt like this huge responsibility without knowing what the expectations are or even knowing where I would contribute. I think with every mentor, everyone wants to figure out where they will contribute and how they will contribute so maybe lead with that first. I think what works best is when it just happens and you make it happen without it being as awkward as it needs to be when you’re specifically saying pairing people up or specifically telling someone that you want them to be your mentor without giving them the background.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think that’s actually hits on a thing that is the big point that we don’t hear often in the answers at the Girl Geek X Dinners is that you don’t have to go ask somebody. It doesn’t have to be awkward because I think when the question’s being asked, the underlying part of the question is, “How do I go do this in a way that’s not awkward? Do you have some advice?” I think that’s the part that, maybe the myth that we want to dispel today.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, totally.

Angie Chang: I’ve had a few experiences with mentorship. I’ve participated in a program that connects women as mentors. I mentored somebody who was a sales engineer. It wasn’t a very clear fit to me as to why we were paired together and I think at the end of the day, it was the lack of communication from both sides due to our busy schedules that led to a not probably ideal mentorship situation. I also ran the mentorship program at Hackbright Academy where for over four years, we had connected every quarter three working software engineers with one engineering fellow to be mentored, and I think watching that program happen, it made me realize that mentorship is kind of a hit or miss situation about maybe 50% of the time and that you have to continue to mentor not just once and twice, but continue to do it maybe like twice a year and kind of try out different bits because not every pair is going to be ideal.

Angie Chang: We can probably go on and on about whether organic or nonorganic mentorships work. I think the bottom line is to keep trying and some matches will work and some won’t, but in the meantime, we have had a speaker, Claire Hough, who is a strong engineering leader, most recently, the Senior Vice President of Engineering at Udemy speak at the SquareTrade Girl Geek Dinner about engineering leadership and how your job is to grow your team and their output. Basically, she gives great advice about how to balance mentoring others with your own growth.

Claire Hough: I think as an engineer, I think first chance that you get at showing some leadership is how you mentor your more junior engineers. You’re still keeping up your technical skills because you’re still doing your technical work, but you’re reviewing somebody else’s work and giving them advice or giving them good feedback on how they’re approaching problems and all that. I think that kind of builds your skills alongside your technical skills. Then your mentoring skills become like you’re mentoring one engineer, you’re mentoring the next engineer and then, you’re kind of building that and as you take on those mentoring skills and time to mentor, then you are going to do less technical work over time, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not keeping up with technology.

Claire Hough: At some point, you may have a big team such that you cannot keep up with every single thing that everybody’s doing. That’s when you have to kind of let go and trust other people that they know what they’re doing. I think I always tell the first time managers that your success is not about you. It’s about your team. The output that you should measure yourself is output of your whole team as well as the growth of your whole team. You have to at some point change that, change how you’re looking at yourself, but I think there’s a lot of satisfaction in mentoring others. Enjoy that while that’s happening and don’t worry about, whatever, the 20% of time I’m spending mentoring others is somehow it’s taking away from me. It’s not. It’s adding to who you are as an engineer by giving that feedback.

Rachel Jones: You all have shared a lot of your experiences being mentors. When you’re in that space, how would you say you balance that with your own growth as a professional when you’re investing in someone else?

Gretchen DeKnikker: I feel like mentoring at this time and how much time I would invest in it has a lot to do with how I’m growing as person, too. You sort of transition in your career from a point where you’re learning skills to where you’re developing people, and I feel like as you have mentors, they help you grow as a person also, the same way that your team when you’re managing, helps you grow as a leader. The time that I spend with these women is inspiring and it gives me a lot of motivation, and it’s always worth my time because they wouldn’t be people I spent time with regularly if I didn’t feel like we were both getting something out of it.

Angie Chang: 100 sign.

Gretchen DeKnikker: You can’t put emojis?

Angie Chang: One hundred emoji.

Rachel Jones: Do you feel like there was a specific point in your career where you felt like you transitioned from being a mentee to being a mentor?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I do remember when I was looking to move into management and I was taking all this advice from all these great leaders that I would find at work and outside of work, and the minute I became a manager, I had to realize that wait, a minute, now I’ve signed up to be a mentor to my team and I thought I had to have all the answers right away, but I think that’s the part of the learning while I was a first time manager, I was learning how to be a better mentor and in turn, I was learning how to be better at my job.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I don’t think there’s a point where I feel like I transitioned. I’m still both. There’s still women that I learn from and I admire, and I want to spend time with because they can help me understand things in a way that I don’t understand them yet. I think the one realization I had more recently, not just from like, “Oh, my I’m being a mentor now,” but that I set an example whether I want to or not. There’s a woman that worked in … we shared an office with another company and she came up to me one day and she’s like, “Look, I got a tattoo on my wrist because I figured if you can be a badass boss with a tattoo then I can be a badass boss with a tattoo.”

Gretchen DeKnikker: I kind of freaked out a little bit and then I realized oh, she’s not like doing that because I’m doing it. I’m not setting this weird example. She didn’t need to come consult with me on whether or not having a tattoo is a good idea, which I would’ve said yes, do whatever you want, but it was this thing of whether I’m paying attention or not, I’m setting an example and that maybe I want to be a little bit more careful, except for the tattoos, which I’m going to rock until my skin’s too saggy.

Angie Chang: Admittedly, I feel like I constantly think that I should be mentoring people more and that’s something I’m definitely looking to develop in the next year or two is identifying more people to mentor. I think that will also accelerate my growth.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think it’s worth saying, too, that you outgrow some of your mentors. Earlier in my career, it was like, “I want to be her.” Now I am her. There were certain things in this woman where she would get recruited by investors to come in and be a part of a startup, and I was like, “I want that to be me one day.” Now that is me. She still has a lot of great advice for me and I’m still in touch with her a lot, but as far as what I need for the next level, she’s not that person anymore.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: She’s now one of your mentors, but she’s not the main source of …

Gretchen DeKnikker: Yeah.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: … information to get to the level that you thought you needed to be.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Yeah. We’re dating. We didn’t get married. Right?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Right.

Gretchen DeKnikker: It’s not a lifetime commitment. We don’t celebrate anniversaries, yeah.

Rachel Jones: This conversation has definitely got me thinking about how I should be identifying more mentees in my life to reach out to and learn from as well as provide some guidance. It’s a really great conversation.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I think I’ve–now thinking, “I need to have more mentors in my life. I need to go connect with the women that inspire me.”

Sukrutha Bhadouria: It’s so funny I was thinking about how I need more. I want to have more mentors. I want to have more mentees. It’s just the whole experience is so enriching and the good thing about Girl Geek Dinners is we see these amazing women speaking and through that, too, we’re indirectly getting inspiration and motivation, and we’re getting a chance to meet this amazing community of women and so there’s clearly not a shortage.

Rachel Jones: Yeah, I think this has been good to hear, especially just talking about how these relationships are formed because I’ve definitely been hearing, “Oh, you need to find a mentor. You need to find a mentor,” but I think just connecting with people and seeing what happens organically could be a better way to approach it than just identifying someone and saying, “You are my mentor. Let’s make this happen.” It’s been good to hear.

Angie Chang: Thanks for listening to this first episode of the Girl Geek X Podcast. We’ll be back soon with more advice from women in tech.

Rachel Jones: This podcast is produced by me, Rachel Jones. To learn more about Girl Geek X or buy tickets to our next dinner, visit You can also find full videos and transcripts from the events we discussed today. If you’re interested in hosting your Girl Geek Dinner, email

Angie Chang: This Girl Geek Podcast is brought to you by Guidewire – Guidewire software provides for backend system software to the global property, casual and workers’ compensation insurance industry. Also, AppLovin – AppLovin is the platform that gives game developers the ability to market, grow, and finance their businesses. And SquareTrade – SquareTrade is a top rated protection plan trusted by millions of happy customers and offered by top retailers.


Girl Geek X Podcast Hosts:

Angie Chang

Sukrutha Bhadouria

Gretchen DeKnikker

Rachel Jones

Girl Geek X Podcast Guests:

Eileen Maier, Guidewire CBO

Sandia Ren, Guidewire VP

Priscilla Hung, Guidewire COO

Alice Guillaume, AppLovin Director Marketing

Helen Wu, AppLovin Senior Director Growth Partnerships

Katie Jansen, AppLovin CMO

Claire Hough, Apollo VP Engineering

Girl Geek X Podcast Sponsors: