“Your Ableism is Showing: How You’re Missing the Mark By Not Including Accessible Practices”: Erin Perkins, Accessibility Educator at Mabely Q (Video + Transcript)

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Sukrutha Bhadouria: Next up, we have Erin Perkins. Erin is an accessibility educator and the CEO and founder of Mabely Q. She is a deafblind woman who will share her personal experiences and challenge us to think about how we can step outside our own comfort zone and make small, easy changes to improve our accessibility across the board. Welcome, Erin.

Erin Perkins: Hello! Could you last 24 hours without sound? No sound on your phone, not being able to have a simple conversation with your neighbor outside, complete silence. Could you do it for 48 hours? 72 hours? How many of you started to get uncomfortable with it?

Erin Perkins: We live in a world that is incredibly noisy. And having no access to sound, this is actually normal for 350 million people in the world. They have a disabling hearing loss.

Erin Perkins: Did you know that people with disabilities are the largest minority group in the United States, over any other minority group? This group crosses boundaries, such as age, ethnicity, gender, race, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status.

Erin Perkins: So corporations actually need to start prioritizing accessibility from day one. Even if it’s too late to start from day one, you need to start right now. Here are three ways I’m going to talk about why it’s important to be accessible for people with disability.

Erin Perkins: We want to unlearn the assumption that disabled people should be responsible for all of their own accessibility needs, and start accepting responsibility. Why companies should prioritize accessibility and start putting it at the forefront. Why accessibility is better for everyone, not just for people with disability.

Erin Perkins: I’m Erin Perkins, I’m a deafblind woman who I had to face obstacles my entire life with the lack of accessibility everywhere I go, including at my job for 11 years with a boss that always told me she almost didn’t hire me.

Erin Perkins: While I was there, I would often question whether I really needed an interpreter during meetings, or why I couldn’t just answer the phone. I was also constantly told that I wasn’t good enough or experienced enough to be a manager.

Erin Perkins: Despite all of the comments and discouraging, I still wanted the opportunity to move up within the company that I was at, but I didn’t know how, or did I really have the supports?

Erin Perkins: During my time at this company, the American Disabilities Act always weighed on the back of my mind. I thought that the American Disabilities Act was designed to protect all people with disabilities’ rights. But this act, it’s only 31 years old. It’s actually younger than me. And yes, realizing so many companies fail miserably in creating access for people with disabilities.

Erin Perkins: Many businesses of all sizes have this tendency to shift responsibility back and expectation back onto people with disabilities, and that we should know everything about what should be provided to them, what the laws are. This often results in frustration and doubt. The reality is, companies should accept a responsibility on providing support.

Erin Perkins: When we ask for support, don’t question what we need. We know that we don’t like being questioned about our ability. Yes, I can speak. I can hear, but I can only hear with the help of my tool.

Erin Perkins: When I am questioned, that often leads me to doubt my own ability within my disability. I know my own limits. People with disability do not need someone else questioning our own abilities.

Erin Perkins: Now, we also don’t expect you to know everything there is, but also, come to the conclusion that we don’t know everything, especially when it comes to the company we’re working for.

Erin Perkins: We need this to be a collaboration, rather than it being me versus you.

Erin Perkins: It’s also really important to remember that there is no “one size fits all.” Even if you have created something that is supposed to be accessible to most, there just might be that one person it’s not accessible for.

Erin Perkins: Truth be told, I stayed at this company way longer than I ever should have, because I had this internal fear that I would never get hired anywhere else because of my disability. Unfortunately, after 11 years of dedication, I was laid off.

Erin Perkins: Once I got over the shock of being laid off, I knew I had two choices. I could apply to work at another company and go through the exact same thing all over again. Or, I could start my own business. So guess which one I chose?

Erin Perkins: I chose the hard one. I started my own business. As I started my business, I was going along swimmingly. [inaudible] I started in business ED. When I came across my first obstacle, I had purchased this online course, and realized after the purchase that none of the videos were captioned. I wasn’t even making any money.

Erin Perkins: I was bootstrapping. I invested a good amount in the course, and I struggled with the course. And I vowed to myself I would never buy another course again, unless I knew for sure all the videos were captioned.

Erin Perkins: Here’s how I started there. Big companies, such as the company I used to work for, they didn’t really do that great of a job of giving me access. So why should I ever expect a small business to provide me with access? So this resulted in my journey of accessibility education for companies of all sizes.

Erin Perkins: Did you know? People with disabilities are more likely to be self-employed than those with no disabilities.

Erin Perkins: One of the most common reason that people with disability are self-employed because they need that flexibility that cannot be found when working for someone else. Some of these issues can be related to transportation and flexible scheduling. These are usually the most primary region, among multitude of others.

Erin Perkins: I wanted to share the statement made by Ola Ojewumi, she is the founder of Project Ascend. She brings up an important point about disability. “Being disabled is the one group you don’t have to be born into. You can become disabled at any time. So my fight for equality and disability justice should be your fight because you may very well become a person with a disability one day.”

Erin Perkins: The reality is, the world was, and is still, designed for heteronormative white male. Do you realize that people with disability are likely to be the original hackers? We have to hack our daily lives, [inaudible] very little, and [inaudible].

Erin Perkins: For one of my favorite examples that I want to share is to take a look at the deaf community. Within our community, we were communicating via texting in early in 2000s, before anybody else was. Were you [inaudible]? Were you just psychic?

Erin Perkins: We used Blackberry. Now, it’s completely normal to be texting with one another. I mean, there might be some people who might pick up the phone, might question that logic a little bit.

Erin Perkins: I also wanted to share that I’ve been part of this online world, blogging and the Internet, it just became a world that had no barrier to me. Everything was written, everything was easy. I didn’t have to try so hard to understand people, as if I met them in person.

Erin Perkins: I actually continue to stick with blogging. Even as the platform shifted to platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, podcasts, Clubhouse, all these new platforms created to bring people together, and all the different things you can do with them.

rin Perkins: However, I will share, the last couple years have started leaving me with this feeling of being left behind again with the newest and the greatest thing coming to the forefront, accessibility priority are being shuffled to the bottom of the lift once again.

Erin Perkins: Audio focus platform become all the rage again. I mean, you do remember radio, talk radio. So, how do we ensure that accessibility is a priority for a company? We start looking at company corporation that prioritize accessibility.

Erin Perkins: By prioritizing accessibility, it will put them that ahead of other company that don’t prioritize accessibility. The reason being is the company that prioritized accessibility, they attract people with disability as customers, and their peers around them. The employee are more likely to be innovative. And because accessibility would build in from the start, there is less maintenance and upkeep to deal with.

Erin Perkins: I want to talk about a company that do hit the month onto driving to be accessible and possible for the employee, as well as the consumer. Your company that I’m going to highlight, Boeing. They have made disability a huge, enormous priority in their business.

Erin Perkins: One of the things they do is, they do a yearly disability employment tracker. This allows them to benchmark their disability inclusion practices. They also have a defined, a combination policy to ensure prompt responses to employee request. So they really focus on the disability inclusion inside the company, which is incredibly important.

Erin Perkins: We also have Booz Allen Hamilton. They’re dedicated to enabling the next generation of disabled professional. This company host an annual Disability Mentoring Day. This program will pay our employees directly with students who have disability.

Erin Perkins: And we also have Google. They have a central accessibility team. This group ensures that accessibility is incorporated into everything Google does by conducting user research training all teams on best accessibility cost and regularly testing for common online issue.

Erin Perkins: Now I get it. These businesses have deep pockets and all their resources at their fingertip. And other companies should look to them at example, and how they can be better at being accessible for people with disability. They started somewhere and continue to make accessibility a priority for the company and the people around them.

Erin Perkins: I want to encourage you to get out of your own way and stop creating based on the assumption that there’s only one way to do things. There’s so many things out there that are marketed as, “This is the only way. This is the best way to do things.” It’s so far from the truth.

Erin Perkins: We want to shift our focus of accessibility to be more of the inclusive design. I designed that consider the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age, other forms of human differently. So we can, and we should do better.

Erin Perkins: So let’s take a look at what some of thing we can do to improve going forward. We can announce that to work with people with the disability is a collaborative effort. Don’t put all the responsibility on them. Company have to stop chuckling prior accessibility priority to the bottom of the to-do list and start prioritizing.

Erin Perkins: Take a look at where you need to improve accessibility within your own company and starting with your own employee and customers. Understanding and knowing that being accessible benefits more people than it does now. Start shifting your focus. That includes the full range of human diversity.

Erin Perkins: So I just want to share a little quick tip when I was doing the drive one of this site platform to make sure everything ran smoothly. I actually had to do a quick educational session to ensure that this event would be accessible by making sure that the captain would be turned on for the entire event.

Erin Perkins: And this happens more often than you realize. To be honest, people with disabilities are not expecting them to be absolutely perfect. But we do want to have the same access as you, enable body person. And the way we can get there with a little help from you for making this shift to be a more accessible will for both you and me.

Erin Perkins: So I also wanted to share that any company that you guys are looking for and you really want to make sure that accessibility is brought to the forefront, I am happy to do workshops and lecture.

Erin Perkins: It would be a very collaborative thing to make sure that we addressing that within your company to make sure it has more focus. And so feel free to reach out to me at erin@mabelq.com.

Erin Perkins:And here’s the thing, remember, progress, not perfection. So you can connect with me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Email, my website, right? Thank you.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you so much, Erin. That was just amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your story, making us all better at what we do in being able to be active participants and effective allies. For me, at least I didn’t realize this was the largest minority group. So thank you for educating all of us.

Erin Perkins: Yeah. Thank you for having me.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: It’s our pleasure. 

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“Striving to Build a Happier Workplace”: Front Product, Design and Engineering Panel (Video + Transcript)

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Angie Chang: Next, we have a panel of Front women, please join me in welcoming Jill Schweitzer, Kaitlin Fink, and Vrushali Patil from Front. They will be talking about how they’re striving to build a happier workplace from company values coming from product design and engineering. So let’s do some introductions and start with Jill.

Jill Schweitzer: Sure. Hi everyone. I’m Jill Schweitzer. I’m a Product Lead here at Front. I look after our product group that’s focused on our end users who use Front to communicate with their customers on a daily basis.

Jill Schweitzer: I joined Front about eight or nine months ago, most recently from Airbnb, and I actually wasn’t looking to leave Airbnb when Front first reached out, but I was convinced for several reasons. First of all, was the culture and the people.

Jill Schweitzer: I was really impressed by the people I met during my interview process. Lots of great folks across teams and across functions.

Jill Schweitzer: I was really excited in particular about two of the values that Front holds that really came through in my conversations with folks, which were transparency and low ego, which I’m sure we’ll talk more about in just a little bit.

Jill Schweitzer: The next thing that really was important to me was Front is in a really interesting size and stage. So my past experience in product was mostly focused recently on large, late-stage companies, like Uber and Airbnb.

Jill Schweitzer: And prior to that, I was on the opposite end of the spectrum, very small, very new, had my own startup and also joined a Series A company that was about 25 people as their first product person, but obviously very small, very early.

Jill Schweitzer: And so this kind of sweet spot right in the middle, of Front being Series C, about 350 people, and growing rapidly was a kind of spot along the spectrum that I was hoping to fill in my personal experience. So, that was certainly compelling.

Jill Schweitzer: And then actually getting to know the product and seeing it in action was kind of a “seeing is believing” moment. During my interview process, my now manager gave me a demo of the product and showed me how it works.

Jill Schweitzer: I instantly got it. It was kind of like, really seeing the value of what we’re delivering for customers, and also seeing a lot of really interesting product work that I’d be able to help drive with the team moving forward. So those are kind of the reasons that I joined Front. I’ll pass it on to Kaitlin.

Kaitlin Fink: Hi, I’m Kaitlin Fink. I’m a Product Design Manager here at Front, based in San Francisco. I joined Front in August of last year.

Kaitlin Fink: Prior to Front, I had worked at Pinterest and IDEO where I’ve worked on everything from design operations to advertiser tools and redesigning a voting system.

Kaitlin Fink: Similar to Jill, I was not looking for a new opportunity, but the more I learned about Front and met the people, it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.

Kaitlin Fink: One of my main reasons was similar to the company size, especially as a manager and growing in my career, I was really excited to come and grow a world-class design team, recruit and hire and then grow individual’s careers.

Kaitlin Fink: Another piece that kind of swayed me was working for a female-founded and CEO-led company. Mathilde, our founder, is one of my inspirations in leadership and I think her leadership style emulates throughout the company, and it was just too good of an offer to pass up. So I’ll pass it off to Vrushali.

Vrushali Patil: Hi, there! I’m Vrushali. I joined Front around six months ago. Prior to this, I was at Salesforce where I was running engineering for a product called Salesforce Communities.

Vrushali Patil: I came to Front because I wanted to sort of have a change of pace. After 14 years at Salesforce, I wanted to work at a startup that’s well run.

Vrushali Patil: For me, people and culture, similar to what Jill and Kaitlin mentioned, were really important. And I felt I really found, through the interview process, that I would’ve loved to work with the people that I talked to at Front.

Vrushali Patil: And then the other important aspect was the stage of the company, where I felt like Front was going through this rapid growth phase where someone like me could come in and make a difference and help the organization scale up. So yeah, so that’s about the experience, and really happy to be here.

Angie Chang: So it sounds like you all have worked at several companies before joining Front. So in your experience, what are some things that are unique about how engineering, product, and design operate at Front? And Vershalli, I think we’ll start with you.

Vrushali Patil Yeah. I think it really helps when you have transparency and care as part of your core values. Because what I feel is that at Front, we are not afraid to get into a healthy debate.

Vrushali Patil When we need to make product decisions, we’ll get in a virtual room and we’ll express our opinions. We’ll duke it out, but leave the room with a decision. And that decision could be that we are in full alignment, or it could be that we are going to disagree and [inaudible], but the fact that we make a decision helps us move forward and stay really efficient.

Vrushali Patil: And then the other part, which is sort of very core to Front, is this habit of doing retrospectives, and it’s part of our culture. We make decisions quickly, we move fast, we can make mistakes.

rushali Patil: We want to look back and learn from those mistakes. And this goes all the way from our CEO, who does a retrospective of Front at an all-hands meeting, how the past year has been, and down to a team level, where on a weekly basis, we’ll say, “Okay, what’s gone well? What’s not gone well? What can we learn from it?” And it just helps us to reflect and sort of learn from mistakes and then move forward.

Kaitlin Fink: Another thing that’s unique to Front is how we build empathy with our customers. So we all, as individuals, use our product, day in and day out. And this helps everyone within the company, no matter what your role, understand our product and more about what our users are going through.

Kaitlin Fink: And I’ve seen at other companies where maybe PMs or even sales end up being that voice of the customer, and then engineers and designers end up being further away, and it makes it harder to convince the team around what to prioritize.

Kaitlin Fink: So it’s much closer to home, and the product decisions are democratized across all of engineering, product, and design, but we also know that using our product isn’t enough.

Kaitlin Fink: So we need to talk to customers firsthand to hear from them what they’re going through. And we have a number of ways to get customer insights that everyone in the company has access to.

Kaitlin Fink: So we record customer videos with our go-to-market teams, we record our user research sessions, and then we have a shared product inbox that customers and sales and support team members can write into with product feedback.

Kaitlin Fink: And, knowing how important this customer feedback is, one team has even started, at a weekly team sync, bringing in random insights that each team member finds and rotating and sharing them back with the rest of the team.

Jill Schweitzer: And then I think, just adding another thought, on a completely different note, Front also has kind of a fun game culture. Games, kind of being part of healthy competition, and encouraging fun amongst employees. We have a literal gaming culture where…

Jill Schweitzer: Actually board game nights are kind of a long standing part of Front’s kind of after work culture. So we do sometimes host game nights at the office where there’s lots of different board games or card games or various things kind of happening at the same time. It’s super inclusive.

Jill Schweitzer: So, there may be multiple games set up at different tables, but it’s always kind of a, “Yes, come join us.” And if there’s a limited number of people in a game, people kind of sit and watch and learn for a round before hopping in.

Jill Schweitzer: I think this is kind of unique because this kind of enjoyment of games goes all the way up to the CEO. So being able to kind of sit at a table and play a casual game with your CEO is, I think, a rather unique opportunity that I certainly haven’t seen at other companies that I’ve been at, necessarily. So that’s been a lot of fun.

Jill Schweitzer: And I think this also carries through with other traditions. Front is very much a kind of building and Lego-based culture.

Jill Schweitzer: So you’ll also notice in our offices across the globe, there are multiple different Lego sets represented across the office that employees have helped build. We get unique Lego figurines or sets for big company milestones.

Jill Schweitzer: So that’s kind of an interesting part of the culture that brings us together.

Jill Schweitzer: And then finally, I think another kind of unique example of fun and kind of encouraging people to participate is, in our weekly all-hands, which is on Zoom, I’ve never seen a more active chat.

Jill Schweitzer: The chat is literally kind of blowing up whenever anybody is speaking. So throughout the all-hands, through all the different segments, people are chatting away, adding reactions, commenting with emojis or plus ones. A

Jill Schweitzer: nd it’s just a really kind of fun and engaging example of how people are excited about what each other are doing, but also supporting each other.

Angie Chang: Thank you for sharing about the company culture. That sounds very exciting. I love Legos.

Angie Chang: So aside from fun and games, literally, how do you find yourself making tough calls at work? Can you share how you got out of a tricky situation?

Kaitlin Fink: Yeah, I can kick it off. So at the end of last year on our core product team that both Jill and I work on, we had a couple of projects that we thought would be really straightforward and we’d end up… And we were trying to ship them by the end of the year, but they ended up being quite complex and we realized that that end of the year timeline just wasn’t realistic.

Kaitlin Fink: So instead of cutting corners or trying to de-scope the project, we actually took a step back and reevaluated our plan. And I’m really proud to be on a team that doesn’t cut those corners and is really making sure that we’re solving true user problems holistically. So I’ll pass it over to Jill, to give a little bit more detail about that.

Jill Schweitzer: Thanks Kaitlin. Yeah, so basically after realizing this project was way more complex than we had originally anticipated, besides kind of pivoting our course for this specific project, one thing we did was we started introducing new forums for our team to connect, and we made this more a part of our ongoing process for product development as well.

Jill Schweitzer: So taking this project as an example, we realized we would’ve [inaudible] from syncing earlier as a full cross-functional team.

Jill Schweitzer: So even before the product spec was fully written, getting engineering, product design, and our cross-functional stakeholder’s data and research all together and aligned, even at that very, very early stage where we’re still specing it out, would be really beneficial for everybody on the team. So that we’re all in lockstep as we’re exploring solutions, thinking about what potential designs could be, already kind of being aware of possible constraints or possible concerns that different functions might have.

Jill Schweitzer: So now, moving forward, for any project kickoff, we actually kick off a lot earlier and with a larger part of the team before we’re actually getting into specing mode. And that way, design is much better equipped with kind of the cross-functional story, including possible red flags when they’re moving into design phase.

Jill Schweitzer: We’re also making sure to sync more frequently during this entire kind of process before handing off for full building mode. So we are doing weekly project-based syncs, sometimes more than once a week, if… Depending on the project cadence.

Jill Schweitzer: We also set up project-based Slack channels, so we have the right people in that channel for any specific questions and just encouraging people to kind of keep up that asynchronous communication throughout the week.

Jill Schweitzer: And making sure that we’re more intentional about bringing in the cross-functional team, even during phases where they may not actually be needed yet for hands-on work. So I think it’s been a really good kind of eye-opener and opportunity for us to refresh our approach for how we work together on any given project.

Vrushali Patil: I think we have one more example, Jill do you want to set that up?

Jill Schweitzer: Sure thing. So another example of kind of how we’ve been working together as an engineering product and design org was last quarter, my team discovered that we actually had some additional complexity on a cross-team project. So this was not just us involved. We had some engineers from another team within Front who were helping us complete this solution.

Jill Schweitzer: We realized it was clear that we were going to need more time for execution from both our own team and from our partner team.

Jill Schweitzer: What this meant was that we’d actually be impacting multiple teams’ roadmaps in terms of timing and just delivery of other projects that we had committed for the quarter.

Jill Schweitzer: And we had to consider trading off some important tech debt work that was kind of well aligned across the organization that we wanted to commit to that quarter. And both teams that were involved in my team’s project were also involved in kind of completing that technical debt project. So we were in a little bit of a sticky situation. Vrushali, do you want to kind of round it out?.

Vrushali Patil: Yeah. And so, Jill and I were really trying to figure out how to move forward here. And on one hand, we had this team that was working on this one project, it had been going on in full swing. On the other hand, you’re getting delayed to start work on the technical debt work.

Vrushali Patil: And when it comes to these situations, it’s often people say, “Oh, just do brutal prioritization, just stack rank.” And it’s not as simple as that because there are so many nuances that you need to consider.

Vrushali Patil: And in this case, we want to think about the impact on the team, of what would their morale be if we abandon the feature at this stage? What would the cost of context switching be? And could the technical debt work be done in some other way?

Vrushali Patil: And there are people coming in from different points, a few, there’s no right or wrong. Everyone has the things they care about the most. And so we, again, we got into this discussion, we laid it out, laid out all our cards, our concerns on the table. And then we ended up coming up with a pretty creative solution.

Vrushali Patil: We found a way to work on the feature that we’re working on, on the technical debt work as well, and we ended up de-prioritizing something else that was lower down. And we were able to come up with this creative solution because we were sort of having that frank discussion and came up with an optimal outcome.

Angie Chang: Thank you for that story. So now, apart from building projects and… What are some ways you find to collaborate. Vrushali, you’re hiring, can you share an example?

Vrushali Patil: Yeah. I feel like one area, beyond making product decisions, where we come together really well is when it comes to closing candidates. In general, at Front, we take our recruiting process really seriously.

Vrushali Patil: We want to make sure that our candidates get the best experience possible. But I think when it comes to closing candidates, we really go that extra mile.

Vrushali Patil: And this is an example from something that happened a month ago, we were trying to close out on a candidate who had done well in that interview round. She had multiple offers, and we were trying to figure out how to convince her joined Front.

Vrushali Patil: And, given the timelines, we had around two hours before the candidate was going to make a final decision. Our recruiter came up with this idea that, “Why don’t we create a video for her? Each one of us saying why we like Front and how this could be a great place for her?”

Vrushali Patil: And it was amazing to see how many people contributed to that video. We had 15 plus people sort of create these two minute clips, including our CEO, and it was a lot of fun putting it together, and that sense of sort of camaraderie that comes in when you are trying to do these things is, I feel, what makes Front so special.

Kaitlin Fink: Yeah, and I still personally remember when I was making my decision last summer, all of the personal outreach that I got from people across the company, all different disciplines, all different levels, reaching out with some personal anecdotes about why they joined and why they’re excited for me to join.

Kaitlin Fink: And now on the other side of that, as a hiring manager myself, I understand how we use our product to collaborate behind the scenes and get all those personal touch points.

Kaitlin Fink: So when we have an offer out to a candidate, the hiring manager and recruiter will send a conversation to the whole company, celebrating the offer, but also sharing some sort of personal details about the candidate, so that anyone who can relate to that can jump in and reach out directly.

Kaitlin Fink: So maybe, for example, this candidate is moving to a new office location and they’re curious about others who have made the move, or they’re going from a large company to a small and are looking for someone who’s done similar, or it might just be something totally outside of the company, like they’re a photographer and they want to connect with other photographers.

Kaitlin Fink: And then you’ll see Frontiers just on their own initiate those reach outs and connections, and it’s really awesome to see how our product can help us collaborate internally and externally to make future Frontiers feel included inside of Front.

Angie Chang: I just realized what “Frontiers” meant! So I think we have one more minute. So I wanted to ask a final question to you all, if you have a piece of parting advice for our attendees today?

Jill Schweitzer: Sure. I think one thing to keep in mind is that there will always be some natural tension between functions, which is totally expected.

Jill Schweitzer: And honestly, it reflects each person caring about what their role is intended to prioritize.

Jill Schweitzer: So I think the most important thing is to have open communication and to stay aligned, or flag when you’re misaligned.

Jill Schweitzer: And then establishing shared outcomes up front so you can align on, for instance, what problems you’re solving, or what success looks like, or what outcomes you’re driving for your users or customers, because those are the things that are ultimately going to bring everyone together and keep you focused, even when each function might have a slightly different point of view.

Kaitlin Fink: Yeah. And to build on that, I would say at the beginning of your time at any new company, take that time to really… The first two weeks, month, you have a responsibility to make relationships and build those throughout the company. And that’s really the only dedicated time where you’ll have that space.

Kaitlin Fink: And go beyond just, “Hey, what team are you on?” But make those personal connections, especially when we’re remote, it’ll help you so much later down the line, connecting with people outside of your team. And then when you do maybe end up going into an office, you remember something that you have in common with one of those coworkers.

Vrushali Patil: Yeah. Plus one to everything that Kaitlin and Jill said. And I think the last thing I would say is, the collaboration between your PM and design partners doesn’t need to be transactional.

Vrushali Patil: Really take the time to invest in that relationship because project deadlines come and go, products come and go, features come and go, and it’s those relationships that will sort of transcend over all of these boundaries.

Angie Chang: Thank you for all that… for sharing.

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“You’re a Sales What? Life as a Sales Engineer”: Melissa Andrews, Sales Engineering Manager at Splunk (Video + Transcript)

Sukrutha Bhadouria: All right. Next up, we welcome Melissa Andrews from Splunk. She is a Sales Engineering Manager and counts sales engineering as her first real job after of college.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: She had no idea what she was getting into when she got hired into Oracle’s Scholar SE training program, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions she made. Welcome, Melissa.

Melissa Andrews: Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. I’m going to need to share my screen here. So we’re going to do a quick little icebreaker.

Melissa Andrews: I’d like if everyone could, in the chat, just pop in your answers to this question, which of these is a Caribbean country? Do you think it’s Guinea? Is it Ghana, Guyana or Guatemala? And I will look at the answers as they’re coming in.

Melissa Andrews: All right. I can see Guyana coming in. Someone’s kidding. Guatemala. Well, you all are correct.

Melissa Andrews: It is actually Guyana and that’s part of my million data points here at Splunk. We use million data points to introduce ourselves to our coworkers and our customers to just make us a little bit more relatable.

Melissa Andrews: So I am, like many of the women who have spoken today, an immigrant. Was born in Guyana, which is the only English speaking country on the continent of South America. Was colonized by the British. So it’s considered part of the Caribbean.

Melissa Andrews: I am a stepmom. This is our Christmas family picture from December and the handsome young man to my left… They’re all handsome. Don’t tell anyone I picked one out, is my stepson.

Melissa Andrews: I also am a music lover. I sang in a choir that focused on singing Negro spirituals, Eight Part Harmony, that was really something fun. Then I had the privilege of learning to play the steel band, which is part of my Caribbean heritage.

Melissa Andrews: I’m a marathon finisher. Though I’m not a runner, in 2018, I had the opportunity to run with an organization called Grip that serves underrepresented youth in Chicago. One of the hardest things I ever did in my life was finish that marathon, but I’m still here. So I survived.

Melissa Andrews: And lastly, just for fun, my movie star twin is Regina King. All right. So let’s get back to the presentation.

Melissa Andrews: Who, what, why, where, what on Earth is a sales engineer?

Melissa Andrews: Well, I went to PreSales Collective, which is one of the largest sales engineering professional organizations. And this is the definition that they have on their website.

Melissa Andrews: Sales consultants are people who work alongside sales representatives and are responsible for facilitating the technical aspects of the sales process.

Melissa Andrews: So you’re probably saying, but Melissa, you told us you’re a sales engineer.

Melissa Andrews: Yes. That is one of the confused aspects of our jobs, we can be referred to as sales engineers, solutions consultants, sales consultants, solutions architects. And then you can add the word pre-sales in front of any of those.

Melissa Andrews: So whenever you hear one of those types of jobs, we’re all doing the same thing. All right.

Melissa Andrews: So what does a sales engineer do? So I’ve kind of divided this into two different groups, they’re customer facing activities, and they’re also internal activities. So when we’re dealing with our customers, this is the bulk of our job.

Melissa Andrews: We do presentations, demos, training and workshops, just to help our customers get familiar with the particular product that our company is selling. So they’ll want to go ahead and buy it.

Melissa Andrews: We also a lot of discovery and technical scoping. That’s how we understand the problems that the customers are having so that we can figure out how best to use our products to help them solve those problems.

Melissa Andrews: Every now and then we respond to requests for proposals and write white papers. We also do pre-COVID, but this is coming back, a lot of industry trade shows, so if you’re in retail or healthcare or the military, they’ll hold various trade shows and there’ll be a big exhibit hall and there’ll be lots of vendors there.

Melissa Andrews: And most of the people manning the booths or womanning the booths will be sales engineers. We provide post sales support help. So a lot of times we are the person, the people that the customers know the best and so when they run into an issue, even after they’ve purchased the product, they’ll reach out to us.

Melissa Andrews: And then we do proofs of concepts, which allow customers to really test drive our products in their environment, with their data. And the internal side, we spend a lot of time doing account planning with those sales reps that I talked about. We’ll look at the territory that’s assigned to us and figure out how we’re going to expand current customers and how we’re going to address white space or areas where our product is not yet.

Melissa Andrews: We do a lot of relationship building. We work with internal support teams. We work with the support organization. We do a lot of work with development and product management. We are the customers’ face to these internal development teams.

Melissa Andrews: We’ll come back and say this product isn’t quite doing what we said it’s doing, or customers want this enhancement. And then of course, we share that information with the customers.

Melissa Andrews: We can work with customer success teams. And we can also work with partners with other companies outside of our own.

Melissa Andrews: We spend a lot of time solutioning, which is figuring out, again, how we are going to use our products to help customers solve the pain that they are having. And then we do training.

Melissa Andrews: So this is training for us. When I started at Splunk, we had two products. We had our core Splunk enterprise product and we had enterprise security. Now we have a plethora of products and we’ve had to continue learning as we’ve released these new products, what they do so we can talk about them to our customers.

Melissa Andrews: We also can build demos and we’re going to this a little bit more, but if you’re at a larger company, there’s probably a group of people that’ll focus on building demos for you. If you’re a smaller company, you may have to do a lot more of that on your own.

Melissa Andrews: So different options there. So if you’re not familiar with the sales process, this is kind of what it can look like. Not always specifically following this route, but generally we’ll go from the beginning, the discovery to the deal closing.

Melissa Andrews: So discovery, we’ll meet with the customer. We’ll kind of hear what’s going on, understand the work that they do. And then we’ll come back and based on that information that we gathered, we’ll give a presentation and most likely a demo so they can see the product. They can hear the different features that it has.

Melissa Andrews: And then after that, we’ll do some sort of follow up, they may want to hear about other customers who are using the product. They may want us to do a competitive analysis between ourselves and maybe the other top two competitors in the field. They may want us to come in and do a workshop.

Melissa Andrews: So a demo is where I am showing them the product, showing the customer the product, but a workshop is where we actually have the customers hands-on trying the product out.

Melissa Andrews: At some point, we may do one more presentation, one more demo, maybe for higher level people in the organization and then hopefully after we’ve done all of that work, the deal is going to close. So my day can be very different.

Melissa Andrews: I’ll have a set of things that I think I’m going to get done that day, but as a sales engineer, you know that day can pivot very quickly.

Melissa Andrews: So here’s what my Monday might look like. I might give a Splunk 101 presentation to a new customer. I might sit in an account planning meeting. I might schedule a workshop at a customer location.

Melissa Andrews: Maybe a customer has a question about our architecture so I research the answer for that and email that. I have many Slack conversations about many things.

Melissa Andrews: Slack, you’re an awesome, we really love you here at Splunk. I might help my rep understand product features and why one particular product may not work for another customer.

Melissa Andrews: On Tuesday, I might do a completely different set of things. Maybe I start preparing for a presentation that’s going to happen later in the week, I might attend training on a new product that we’re about to release. Maybe I have a customer who wants to use Splunk with another vendor that they have.

Melissa Andrews: So I may need to reach out to that partner and figure out how we can work together. I’ll have more Slack conversations about other things. We might have important meetings where we bring in our CEO or our COO and they’re going to talk to the CIO of the company because this is a big deal and we really need that executive presence. And these dry runs are usually very formal.

Melissa Andrews: Everyone’s got their speaking points and everyone knows what they’re going to say. And it’s a big production because we’ve got to hit that home run. And I may complain, no, not complain.

Melissa Andrews: I may have a constructive conversation with my manager about problems that I might be having with my rep, because those things can happen.

Melissa Andrews: So now that you’ve heard all of this, what do you think? Pop in the chat what you think are the most important sales skills that sales engineers need. I’m just going to call some out as I see them coming in.

Melissa Andrews: Communication. All right. Leading with inquiry. Empathy, very nice. Observer. Good understanding of product. Good stuff. Good stuff. I think I have some sales engineers in here. All right.

Melissa Andrews: So I’ve broken these down into four different categories. I love curiosity in there, Erin. So the first one is relationship skills.

Melissa Andrews: Essentially, you got to like people and people got to like you, right? And it’s all different kinds of people. So your customers, definitely. But then the internal people that you’re going to have to work with, you’re going to have to build relationships with your rep, with the other sales operations people, with development, with support, with customer success.

Melissa Andrews: It’s all about making sure that you can connect with people so that you can share with them and they’ll be willing to share with you when you need to talk to them. Of course, communication skills. I saw a lot of that in the chat.

Melissa Andrews: So yes, being able to verbally communicate presentations and talking are a big part of your job, but then I also have here communicate high and communicate low because during the course of that sale, you’re going to talk to many different personas, we call them at Splunk or roles.

Melissa Andrews: You might start off in the it department with the sysadmin or the network engineer, but you might end up at the CIO or the Commanding General. I support the US army in my career. So had to present to Generals.

Melissa Andrews: And that’s a completely different conversation when you’re talking to the General and you’re talking to the sysadmin, though you want them both to understand what your product does and to go ahead and buy that product.

Melissa Andrews: Third, you need analytic skills. And this is where the curiosity comes in, right? Creative problem solving. Okay, customers’ having this problem, why are they having this problem? Do they just need a software solution?

Melissa Andrews: Or maybe there’s some process stuff that we might need them to fix, or the software even isn’t going to work if they bought it. How are we going to expand in this market? What are the cyber security and ransomware? How can we take those things and apply them to product and help our customers?

Melissa Andrews: And then lastly, technical skills. Now this one is interesting because the technical skills are going to depend on the company that you’re at. And so part of this, again, is the curiosity.

Melissa Andrews: And what I’ll say is being willing to learn technical skills as you figure out what those are. And what I mean by that is here at Splunk, we use SPL, so Search Processing Language to search our data.

Melissa Andrews: But if I went to a company like VMware, I wouldn’t use SPL at all because it’s not related to VMware. I’d start learning about Hypervisors and ESXI.

Melissa Andrews: And if I moved to Dell EMC, then I’m doing hardware, which is completely different, right? And now I’m concerned about CPU utilization and IOPS.

Melissa Andrews: So I do have to be technical, but there’s not necessarily a level set of skills that I can tell you, go get these technical skills.

Melissa Andrews: It’s going to depend on the company that you work at, and you just need to have a curious mind and a willingness to learn. All right.

Melissa Andrews: So if I’ve spoken really quickly here and so gave you a lot of information, but if you’ve been peaked and you’re like, “Well, suppose I wanted to be a sales engineer, that’s something I can do now? I’ve been a developer or a business analyst for years?” Yes.

Melissa Andrews: Absolutely, you can. And I’m going to give you some tips on making the switch.

Melissa Andrews: So if you already work for a tech company that has a sales ecosystem, they have a sales organization that needs sales engineers, and you have experience in another part of the company. Maybe you’re a developer or you’re a professional PS person, professional consultant.

Melissa Andrews: What I would suggest is that you start to network. Befriend some sales engineers, find out what they do, let them know you’re interested in coming over, and start to build those relationships. They can be vocal for you when you decide you want to actually start applying.

Melissa Andrews: And then talk to some SE managers, let them know that you’re interested in making the move. Have them review your current skillset, and they can provide pointers on where you might need to beef up. Regarding that skillset, you’re going to need to strengthen it, right?

Melissa Andrews: If you work in an environment where you are maybe doing a lot more coding and you don’t really give presentations, you want to take on responsibility for giving presentations, for leading problem solving teams, and starting to maybe build more relationships than you have been accustomed to.

Melissa Andrews: Start to network, and then go ahead and apply for a position. You may not get it the first time, but what that will allow you to do is to go through the interview process and kind of see what’s required. And that’s going to really set you up. I know several people at Splunk who have done that, who have come over from other parts of the organization and they went through this process.

Melissa Andrews: If you’re still in college or you’re a recent grad, there are a couple of things that you can do.

Melissa Andrews:First is you can explore internships. I started off way back when several companies, Oracle was one, IBM, Sun, had them, they actually had an SE training program where they would hire you, and then you’d spend several months learning how to be an SE, a sales engineer. Now they do mostly internships, and those are available in the summer here at Splunk.

Melissa Andrews:We’re currently interviewing for interns who will work this summer. So you want to look at the websites, again, start networking, and see when internship programs are open.

Melissa Andrews: Strengthen your non-tech skillset. So take on projects in college that require building relationships, problem solving. You’re going to want to talk about these during your interview and show that you have these skills. And then start researching companies.

Melissa Andrews:So like I said, sales engineers can work for many different types of companies. If you know you don’t like hardware, then you’re going to want to focus, excuse me, on software companies or on networking companies or on cyber security companies.

Melissa Andrews: And start playing around with the tech. Many companies have free intro classes where you can see how their technology works, organizations like Udemy also offer classes on different vendors. Sometimes it may help you to get a cert, but I wouldn’t focus fully on the certs, just kind of explore and play around.

Melissa Andrews: And then it will be very helpful for you to join a sales engineering organization, I’ve listed three of them here, because that’s going to introduce you to other sales engineers and help you start to build that network and then get some references.

Melissa Andrews: If you work for a non-sales tech company or you’re not technical, all of the things that we just said for the college interns, for the college grads, or were still in college apply, but you might have one other option open to you since you’ve already got a job.

Melissa Andrews: There are now organizations where you can take that class, it can run for six weeks to four months, and they will train you on how to be an SE. And most of them say they’ll guarantee that they will get you a job. Now, I haven’t fully researched this, but definitely an option.

Melissa Andrews: So I’m wrapping up now and I have a couple more things to share, to think about.

Melissa Andrews:Travel may be involved in this job. So that’s something that you need to consider. Your territory might be the Southeast… Universities, higher ed. So you might be going to Florida, Georgia, Tennessee. Is that something that’s okay for you? You might actually have a larger territory, if your company is smaller.

Melissa Andrews: Company size. If you’re looking to switch into the field, a larger company is going to work better for you, because they’re going to have more resources. If you’re in a smaller company, you’re going to be expected to do a lot of things very quickly, and that might not be the best position be in when you’re new in the field.

Melissa Andrews:You want to consider your rep and SE ratio. So some companies will have you supporting a lot of reps, again, not a good idea when you’re first starting out. I would strongly suggest not having more than two reps at the beginning.

Melissa Andrews: You want to look at the pay structure. We talked a little bit about pay. SE pay can be very interesting. I’m happy to chat with anyone over LinkedIn.

Melissa Andrews:And then your financial flexibility can help determine whether you can do an internship or you can take one of those classes. Sometimes if you move over, but you take a entry level job, maybe there’s some pay differential there, all things to consider.

Melissa Andrews: But to close, if you like help people solve problems, you enjoy learning, you’re good at explaining stuff, and you can pivot on a dime, sales engineering might be for you.

Melissa Andrews:Thank you so much for listening. I’m happy to chat with any of you. My LinkedIn is there. I’m also in the chat on the Zoom and look forward to sharing with you. Angie?

Angie Chang: Thank you, Melissa. That was a very exciting talk on sales engineering. I’ve always preached it as a possibility for coding bootcamp grads as a good career to get into. So thank you so much for that.

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“Redefining Failure”: Tiffany To, VP of Product at Atlassian (Video + Transcript)

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Sukrutha Bhadouria: So we are moving on to Tiffany. Tiffany’s the VP of Product at Atlassian. She leads the product team for Jira software, Jira Align and Bitbucket. Tiffany joined Atlassian in 2019 and moved from the [San Francisco] bay area to Sydney, Australia, where she resides today.

rutha Bhadouria: She brings her operator experience to support enterprise startups as an advisor and as an angel investor. By the way, we’re going to have to play her prerecorded talk today because Sydney is experiencing weather issues that is affecting the connection for Tiffany.

Tiffany To: When you are introducing yourself, you are inclined to highlight your biggest successes. But given my talk is about how we can redefine and normalize failure, I’m going to set the tone by starting with some of my career low lights.

Tiffany To: So let’s start by rural winding to my second job out of university. When I joined what I thought was my dream company, Silicon Graphics. For those of you too young to have heard of it, SGI was famous in the late 90s for bringing to life the CGI dinosaurs from Jurassic Park.

Tiffany To: At Stanford, I programmed on SGI boxes we named after raptors and I was so excited to be a PM for a company responsible for so much innovation in graphics and super computing. I was building software being used by NASA. So, a girl geek dream come true, right?

Tiffany To: Well, SGI was my biggest lesson in tech and business. This was when x86 boxes from HP and Dell were blowing into the market and SGI’s final move to switch from their proprietary MIPS to Intel’s titanium processor architecture was simply too late.

Tiffany To: While numerous classmates went to this new company called Google, here I was seeing my stock plummet below a dollar. From this brutal failure, I learned a lesson that would stay with me for the rest of my career.

Tiffany To: In tech, disruption happens fast – for even the biggest predators in the food chain and understanding the interplay between technology, innovation and the business landscape is critical to survive and thrive.

Tiffany To: My second failure hit me psychologically more than others because it was the first and only time I’ve been fired. Ever the overachiever, being fired was not a failure that had ever fathomed, but at my first startup 10 years into my career, I put in 110%, thrilled with the startup excitement of working all hours to make impact.

Tiffany To: My job was building a go to market strategy for a new cloud storage technology, launching the product and convincing analysts, we’d created a new product category every CIO needed to buy. Now, my strategy was ultimately successful. The company reached IPO. The market category today is over 10 billion dollars.

Tiffany To: However, the CEO and I had not seen eye to eye on numerous issues, and this experience taught me how important culture fit is. Most startups are under high pressure to succeed and do it quickly. So not all leaders are going to invest in creating a sustainable culture.

Tiffany To: You need to do your diligence to get the real story and understand if it’s an environment you can personally thrive in. I had not, and jumped in without doing my homework. So market success, but personal failure.

Tiffany To: I went on to launch three more startups, including a spectacular failure that purred through 50 million dollars before I came to my current role at Atlassian as VP of product. But I’m the leader I am today because of the lessons learned from all of these failures. And I’m so excited to be here with all of you today, to talk about why I believe embracing failure has the potential to change the trajectory of women in leadership.

Tiffany To: Now, recognition of the value of having female leaders is thankfully becoming much more widespread as study after study proves out the bottom line benefits of diversity. But organizations and women themselves are still struggling to find ways to correct the leadership in balance.

Tiffany To: There’s been a lot of focus on how important the role of advocates play in this ecosystem in supporting women and creating opportunities.

Tiffany To: However, now as a mother with both a son and a daughter, I started to recognize the differences in how society and I, myself perceive success and failure differently based on gender, because of this unconscious bias, I believe there’s an opportunity for a mindset shift around risk and failure for women without deeply examining our personal and collective expectations of perfection in our careers as women, we won’t be able to increase our risk tolerance to seek out the opportunities that I believe will truly challenge us.

Tiffany To: First, do women even want these leadership roles? The answer is yes, BCG and Hendrick And Struggles, an executive recruiting firm, surveyed more than 750 female and male senior tech leaders last year on a range of career topics. They confirmed what I believe we all collectively feel, which is there’s no ambition gap.

Tiffany To: Women in tech want to seat at every table all the way to the top. So what are the steps along the way where men and women deviate in their career paths that results in this leadership divide?

Tiffany To: Well, one of the most interesting stats from this study is around career pivot points, both men and women agreed that changing employers was critical to career advancement.

Tiffany To: But interestingly, while 80% of the male leaders surveyed had been at more than three companies, only 53% of these female leaders had. Why are men making the moves necessary to advance their careers?

Tiffany To: While most female leaders are staying put and trying to earn those opportunities over longer tenures with the same employers. Maybe the answer is in risk tolerance differences. That study also found that there was a 15% gap in risk tolerance between gender, for leaders in R&D functions but interestingly, no difference in the business leaders.

Tiffany To: Maybe this is because women in tech are often fighting this perception that they have lower technical skills. I know I felt that throughout my career, I had to triple check that I was right on anything technical before I shared my opinion.

Tiffany To: But the insidious power of this pattern of upholding perfection then translates into how often we aim for promotions in or inside our company. This same study confirmed that 41% of women’s surveyed went for multiple promotions where they didn’t meet all the qualifications compared to 51% of men.

Tiffany To: So you start to see where that gap opens up. After looking at these stats, are you wondering if I’m telling you to start job hopping, doing a whole stringing of failed startups? Absolutely not.

Tiffany To: Please do not let the takeaway be that more jobs automatically equals more success. You need to take a path that’s true to you, but I’m hoping with this talk that by having more awareness about our views on failure, we can all more consciously consider the opportunities we choose or don’t choose to go for.

Tiffany To: In the last few years, there’s been a lot of discussion about how the most valuable employees will increasingly need to be T-shaped to adapt to quickly changing opportunities and environments.

Tiffany To: Companies need to be more agile as every company becomes a software company, and that means they need their teams and leaders to be as well. T-shaped knowledge means you have this deep level of knowledge in one area and a wider array of knowledge across other areas to support that deep core competency.

Tiffany To: Essentially, you’re a generalist with a specialization. And I think I unknowingly built my career this way because I had a couple key things I understood that I did well early on. And those were areas that I honed with each opportunity I took on.

Tiffany To: And I had a lot of curiosity about technologies and business that I’ve had through the different companies I joined over the two decades of my career. In high school I was torn between my love of journalism and programming, but I went down the CS path. University, I couldn’t decide between software and hardware. So I studied both CS and EE and I realized, I love learning about all kinds of tech and my knowledge.

Tiffany To: As I started working, I realized I was good at communicating complex concepts to many audiences, for example, new technologies to analysts or customers through various roles that started in software development, but then spanned across product marketing, product management, and a bit of everything in startup land.

Tiffany To: I honed my ability to create new categories of B2B products and consider that my specialty or the vertical part of my T. The horizontal part of my T spans technologies that include everything from wireless networking to supercomputers, cloud infrastructure, security and now DevTools.

Tiffany To: I’ve also spanned business models and company types, from huge tech companies like Intel to 10 person startups and rocket ships like VMware and now Atlassian. My startup rollercoaster was tumultuous, four companies in 10 years. And my resume could be read in very different ways.

Tiffany To: Having worked at so many companies can be a flag that someone has failed a lot and a negative factor for recruiters. On the other hand, two of the four startups I launched have reached IPO or multi billion dollar valuations, which is a much higher hit rate than the average of 90% failure.

Tiffany To: I chose to trust my own definition of success based on lesson learned, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t out myself a lot, but ultimately that scrappy startup drive is why the best manager I’ve had in my career recruited me to join him at Atlassian to help scale the company’s growth.

Tiffany To: At Atlassian, I lead a really awesome team of PMs that drive our agile DevOps portfolio of products to help all companies build great software.

Tiffany To: My personal challenge though, in coming in as a senior leader, is that I felt like I was expected to know all the answers to help my team perform at their best. In a startup, managing with ambiguity was necessary for everyday survival.

Tiffany To: My last startup as COO, I handled everything from our product strategy to sales calls and leading our fundraising. I was perfect at zero of these things, but I had to move it all forward to give us a fighting chance. So I just did the best I could.

Tiffany To: In Atlassian, as with any multi thousand person tech company, roles become more specialized and there’s overwhelming amounts of data. As a company, Atlassian is ranked one of the best places to work year after year.

Tiffany To: And what I found is a large part of that is a strong philosophy based on empowered autonomy, built around our core values you see here, that I can attest people live to, every day.

Tiffany To: Teams work as triads, product management, design and engineering. And are expected to build their own strategies, goals, and plans. That means leaders above these layers aren’t directing work or micromanaging their plans. So what’s their job? I asked myself this a lot the first year.

Tiffany To: Wasn’t I supposed to come up with brilliant strategies for them to test and execute? What I found was that empowered autonomy isn’t magic.

Tiffany To: Teams needed to feel aligned to larger goals and understand the bigger picture of where we were going and why. In an agile organization that’s moving fast, coordinating work across all these teams created complex challenges.

Tiffany To: Working with an executive coach and with a lot of support for my team, I’m proud to say I’ve been pushed to grow a lot as a leader at Atlassian and embrace failure in different ways.

Tiffany To: I’ve learned that easy problems don’t make it up the chain.

Tiffany To: I learned I needed to feel comfortable putting out ideas that may be wrong and not measure my worth as a leader by their success.

Tiffany To: Earlier in your career, you’re rewarded for great execution, but as a senior leader, my job is to push for thinking and likely fail a lot as I help my team solve more and more complex challenges.

Tiffany To: I share my experience candidly, because embracing failure is hard I think at every stage of your career.

Tiffany To: When I started working with that coach I mentioned, who has a background in neuroscience and psychology, she helped me better understand the struggle was shared any other female leaders and how much gender can actually play a role.

Tiffany To: Women look at failure sometimes in a different way. We’re the first or the few oftentimes in our company or team, so we feel more pressure to nail it.

Tiffany To: We owe it to the women who pave the way or we’re paving the way, or we think there are others around us expecting us to fail who we need to prove wrong.

Tiffany To: If we choose to have children, we’re often the ones taking more time off during prime career years. So we need to plan our moves out more carefully for an abundant set of reasons.

Tiffany To: My own viewpoints on failure and success were formed at an early age with my front seat view of my parents’ immigrant experience. I picked this Darwin quote because my parents were the ultimate role models for using failure to adapt.

Tiffany To: They were forced to leave their home country Vietnam in 1979, due to a situation sadly not too unlike current events unfolding in the world. And they eventually escaped to America after near death experiences on the open ocean.

Tiffany To: I was born soon after they made it to wintry Minnesota with all their hopes and dreams in a new country. And I saw them start over again and again, every time they saw a chance to do better. Without high school diplomas, they did everything from hourly tailoring work in Minnesota to working at a textile plant in North Carolina, and then relocating to California for the new opportunities springing up in Silicon valley in the 80s.

Tiffany To: They leapt at the chance just to escape East Coast winters. You can’t tell from this happy photo, but my parents hated the cold and it was just the one thing they just couldn’t adapt to.

Tiffany To: My parents found jobs eventually assembling hardware for the first generation of Silicon valley companies, including Amdahl, a big IBM mainframe company. They would sometimes bring home discarded parts for my sister and I to play with.

Tiffany To: And this early presence of computer hardware in our home started my interest in tech, which led to high school programming classes. They lectured me very little though on what classes to take, but encouraged me in every activity or sport I wanted to try, whether it was guitar or math club. I saw in how they built their careers, that mistake failures weren’t things to be ashamed of, but an opportunity to learn and build from.

Tiffany To: They’ve actually became successful, small business owners and funded my pricey university education. But the priceless lesson they taught me was the necessity of failure in that messy path to your full potential.

Tiffany To: One memory that has always stayed with me was a time when one of my uncles asked my dad, why not have another kid? So he might have a son.

Tiffany To: My dad’s reply was that girls and boys are the same in America. From the experiences I know we all share, we know things are not equal yet. And there are many challenges for all underrepresented groups.

Tiffany To: Though progress has been made, there’s still a long road ahead for my dad’s dream to be true and even bigger challenges around the world. But we do need to celebrate the progress we, and all the women before us have made, so that we can keep inspiring each other to push for better.

Tiffany To: So maybe my dad’s granddaughter will experience this equality.

Tiffany To: In this spirit, I ask several women leaders in tech that I’ve had the privilege of working with throughout my career to share their stories.

Tiffany To: The first woman I’m sharing about is Betty Junod, an amazing product marketer I’ve known now for over 16 years, since our day sharing an office at VMware. She’s now to senior director of product marketing there, and her second stint. Similar to me, she had some rocky starts early in her career.

Tiffany To: Betty entered the job market in the initial rise of dot-com boom, but witnessed first hand the graveyard that followed with the crash. She shared that she and her teams were being asked to apply winning playbooks from brick and mortar go to market. They simply didn’t work. Several of her companies went under and the key lesson she learned was that playbooks and tech have to be updated constantly as the markets change.

Tiffany To: Being part of those failures though helped her shape how she built business strategies the rest of her career.

Tiffany To: Her second big failure came much later in her career in the guise of one of the first open source unicorns, Docker. She started there as the VP of Marketing. They tried to do too many things too early from having a developer business, open source community, enterprise business.

Tiffany To: She and her teams were stretch way too thin and didn’t deliver enough on any of those fronts, burning out the team and damaging ecosystem relationships.

Tiffany To: Her lesson learned was that as a startup focus on one thing at a time, test for success or fail fast and then pick a milestone for when to figure out the next business strategy. Wise words.

Tiffany To: The second woman I’m honored to share about is Cathie Metcalfe. She’s a Program Director at Atlassian and my right hand woman. In 2010, she’d already had an extensive career in the banking industry in Australia,

Tiffany To: Cathie then took on an ambitious project to make it frictionless to move between the four main banking institutions that dominate Australia. The idea was to give consumers a lifetime unique address that could move with you, but what started out well then fell apart when one and then all the four banks backed out.

Tiffany To: She showed us a huge learning on how two sided network markets operate and the power of an oligopoly. Cathie needed that lesson for the next time her team took a run at this with a real time payments product, eight years later, with more wisdom and determination from that initial painful failure experience, she and her team were much more successful.

Tiffany To: Sometimes you need multiple attempts at big changes, was her takeaway. So look at that failure as a necessary stepping stone. Then a few years later recognizing the passion she had for tech businesses, she sought to join the biggest tech company in Australian ecosystem, Atlassian. She did her due diligence and even networked with the VPs and execs before applying.

Tiffany To: Unfortunately, there wasn’t a fit with the PM roles open at that time, but she was offered a program manager role. She initially wasn’t sure if it would be right for her, but she ultimately decided that the learning she would do in Atlassian was more important than the job role or title and she took that job.

Tiffany To: Cathie ended up tripling her team over the next two years and is an amazing chief of staff to me and our business unit of over 600 people at Atlassian. I also couldn’t live without her. So I’m so thankful she didn’t stop at her initial job application failure.

Tiffany To: What a privilege for me to be able to share Betty and Cathie’s stories and what great examples of how failure can actually drive success throughout your career. I can only imagine how many more stories we have in this audience today.

Tiffany To: So I want to end my talk by encouraging all of you to help me in redefining and destigmatizing failure by telling your stories.

Tiffany To: We must crush these expectations of perfection we put on ourselves as women in tech by showing the full picture of how we’ve arrived, where we are through the scrapes and bumps.

Tiffany To: I’m not talking about citing every little failure you’ve made and being hyper critical of yourself, but share when you’ve learned something from a failure and normalize these critical parts of our career growth.

Tiffany To: During job interviews, highlight what you’ve learned from failures, not just the successes.

Tiffany To: Second, I want all of us to be more aware of how fear of failure plays into our risk tolerance, ask yourself how you can play it less safe, whether it’s small things or big things, take a small but habit forming risk.

Tiffany To: Make it a point to share your ideas in a forum at work that scares you.

Tiffany To: If you love your current company or role, ask for more responsibility or more visibility, for example, a one-on-one with a leader in your company, other than your manager.

Tiffany To: If you suspect you may be approaching a plateau where you are, start mapping that T for yourself and actively network to build relationships that you can tap into for future adventure.

Tiffany To: As women in tech, we all know innovation requires failure. Your career is about innovating the best of you. So embrace and welcome failure into it. Thank you so much for having me and I look forward to connecting with many of you.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Hi, everyone. Thank you so much to Tiffany for sending us this video over so that we could like make sure that we didn’t have problems despite all the weather issues that she was dealing with. 

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“Afternoon Keynote: Break the Bias, From Work to Mission”: Leyla Seka, Chief Operating Officer at Ironclad, and Jiahan Ericsson, Senior Director of Engineering at Ironclad (Video + Transcript)

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Angie Chang: It’s time for our next session. Now that we have grabbed our refreshing second or third cup of coffee, tea, or chai, and we’re refueled for the day, let’s welcome our afternoon keynote speakers. Please join me in welcoming Jiahan Ericsson, Senior Director of Engineering at Ironclad, who will be interviewing Leyla Seka for the keynote this afternoon. So, welcome Jiahan and Leyla!

Jiahan Ericsson: Hi, thank you so much, Angie. Jiahan here calling from Berkeley, California. I’m super happy to be here celebrating International Women’s Day with all of you and just hearing from so many inspiring speakers and panelists.

Jiahan Ericsson: I’m a Senior Director of Engineering at Ironclad. We are the leader in digital contracting, which helps companies execute smart agreements faster.

Jiahan Ericsson: I lead a few areas in engineering that support both the contract lifecycle management product, as well as our embedded click to sign product. As part of the engineering product and design leadership team, I also help lead and support the strategic and operational needs of the organization, especially as we continue to scale.

Jiahan Ericsson: Before Ironclad, I spent over a decade at Salesforce where I worked in both IC and leadership positions in core infrastructure, platform, mobile and Trailhead.

Jiahan Ericsson: I am super happy to be moderating this fireside chat with Leyla Seka, who is a familiar face to many of us here, I think. And also someone I really tracked in my career, both at Salesforce and Ironclad. So Leyla, come introduce yourself.

Leyla Seka: Hi, Jiahan. [inaudible] just too amazing. She’s very understated. She’s really amazing. We sound very similar, so here we go. I’m Leyla. I’m calling in from Berkeley too, which happens to be my hometown.

Leyla Seka: I am the COO of Ironclad. So I’m the chief operating officer there. And you now know what Ironclad does because Jiahan already told you. Before Ironclad, I was a venture capitalist for two and a half years. I also started a nonprofit, which we’re going to talk about a bit. Sort of started.

Leyla Seka: And before that, I was at Salesforce for 11 and a half years. And at Salesforce, I ran the AppExchange. So I was on that team sort of from its inception all the way through to it becoming the powerhouse that it is. I then ran a couple other things I think we’ll get into so I can chat about that. But I spent a long time there.

Leyla Seka: And before that I spent my whole career in product management. So I can’t code. But when I grew up and when I came into tech, product management meant he spent half your time with engineering, right?

Leyla Seka: Trying to figure out what you’re going to build. And a [inaudible] we released once a year. It was a different world, right? On a gold CD. Yeah. All of you’re like, what? But that used to be how we did it. But the role then was half the year with engineering and half the year with sales and marketing. So I liked it. That’s sort of the way my brain works.

Jiahan Ericsson: Cool. Awesome. I know we’re in the middle of this conference, lots of hours of Zoom already, but very excited for this Leyla energy, so let’s get to it. Actually, a lot of things you mentioned there, I think we’re going to unpack a lot of your professional journey in this conversation too.

Jiahan Ericsson: So this year’s International Women’s Day campaign theme is break the bias. And I think, Leyla, you are someone who’s really broken the bias throughout your life wherever you are, both as an individual, you never acted like anyone else and very authentically Leyla. Right?

Jiahan Ericsson: But I think more importantly, you also are really successful at effecting change through your advocacy that broke the bias for many others. During your time at Salesforce, you were the executive sponsor of BoldForce, which is Salesforce’s equality group for black leadership and development.

Jiahan Ericsson: You co-launched the annual Trailblazing Women’s Summit, which I’ve been attending since year one. So super exciting.

Jiahan Ericsson: But most memorably, of course, you pushed for equal pay to close the gender pay gap at Salesforce and really started the conversation to transform the industry. So for today’s theme, I think that’s a really great place to start. Tell us about your journey pushing for equal pay at Salesforce.

Leyla Seka: Sure. So, I told you all, I grew up in product management, right? And the same was true at Salesforce. For the lion share of my time there, I was one of two or the only woman sort of leading product line or doing something like that. Things got better, obviously, through time, but initially it was a lot like that.

Leyla Seka: And for me, it always came down to fairness. I just didn’t like it when it wasn’t fair. I’m fine to lose. Okay? If we’re both running the same race and starting from the same line.

Leyla Seka: But I don’t like losing when you get a head start and that makes me mad. It should be fair. That’s what my parents told me America was. My parents are from different countries. They’re not from here. That was the whole reason they came here. That was the promise.

Leyla Seka: So that’s always been deep in me and who I am. So look, I’m working at Salesforce. I’m doing really well. I started as a senior director, I get promoted to VP. I go from VP. I go to SVP. I’m cruising up. And they talk right before this, I loved everything she said AND totally related to it.

Leyla Seka: I was very ambitious. I still am. I love to run it. I like it. I like being in charge. I like telling people what to do. My kids always laugh about that. But so, there were a lot of things that happened. A couple, I’ll tell you specifically.

Leyla Seka: I was in the product all team room, and this was all male executives And me. Right? And we were waiting for the boss come, and I came running in from BART and I’d throw my bag on the table.

Leyla Seka: And I sit down and I realize they’re all talking about how they had just bought Teslas. Okay, so this is back when a Tesla cost like 250K a pop. And that was the only kind you could buy. And the wait list was super long, right? And you had to play around to get them or whatever.

Leyla Seka: And so they were all talking about it. And I was sitting there at my computer, ticking away at a deck or something. And I started thinking, “Okay, I could buy a Tesla.” But that would be so stupid with how much money I make. Like not to mention that I’m a terrible driver, and I don’t really want to spend that much money in a car.

Leyla Seka: But outside of that. So that got something in my craw. Why are they also flippantly talking about it? And some of them I was performing better than because we ran revenue, so we knew what numbers, it wasn’t just engineering. We had numbers, we hit numbers.

Leyla Seka: So I put that in my back pocket. At this point, I was running a division called Desk, which was customer support for SMBs and low-end mid-market. And I had four direct reports: two men in two women. All super senior people worked at the company for a really long time. Five years, had done very well. Two men, two women. Okay?

Leyla Seka: We had a banner year. We did very, very well. We outperformed like crazy. So when the time came, which is like, okay, promotions and money and stock and all that stuff that you do as a manager, I went back to the corporate and said, we really outperformed. I really want a lot. I want to give them all a lot. I want it to be really great.

Leyla Seka: Salesforce was awesome. Here’s a ton, go do your thing, Leyla. So then I got this chunk, and I was like, “Okay, what do I do with the chunk?” And I thought about it for a second. There was one person I thought, maybe this one person should get a little more, because they were my COO. They were really running the business with me all the time. But I didn’t.

Leyla Seka: I said, “No, it is really, it is a team effort. I’m giving everyone the exact same amount.” My assistant sets up the performance meetings, just happens that the two women went first, right? Just how schedules worked out and whatnot.

Leyla Seka: First woman comes in, great job, banner year. Here’s this giant amount of everything more than you’ve ever gotten before. And she was like, “Oh my gosh. Leyla, thank you so much. I love my job. I’m so happy.” I was like, “Me too, this is so amazing. I can’t believe how lucky we all are that we love each other.” Just all this great stuff.

Leyla Seka: Second woman walks, in same thing. “Oh, I love it. It’s so fun.” The first man walks in, and I tell him more money than anyone’s ever gotten by a bit, right? And he leans across table, and he looks at me and he says, “I want more.” And in my mind I’m like, “Ooh, I need a new head of product. I need some help. This is not working.”

Jiahan Ericsson: Yeah, I got to start [inaudible].

Leyla Seka: Right, I’m running that. But I’m also trying to like keep a boss face on. Well, what do you think you deserve? Whatever, totally in my head, like, [inaudible]. And then I sit down with the one that was running the business with me, which happened to be a man. Right? And I sit, again more money than any of them had ever gotten, more stock, a big, nice, yummy chit, right? And I sit down with him as my COO, and I give him know the talk and he leans in and he looks at me and says, “I want more.”

Leyla Seka: And luckily, I was so close with him. We really were really close business partners and also good friends that I sort of said, “Oh, okay, stop. Stop the performance review meeting. We’re not having that meeting anymore.We’re moving into a dialogue right now.” I was like, “Why are you asking for more money? Why, what?”

Leyla Seka: And he looked at me and he said, “I always ask for more money. What are you talking about? Don’t you?” and it was literally, Jiahan.

Leyla Seka: It was like someone was punching me in the face. Because I remembered every promotion, every additional opportunity, everything that had come down and keep in mind, this is seven years ago.

Leyla Seka: Things have gotten better, so everything I’m saying, I’m old, this was a while ago. But I do think people are trying to do better at this, but so context. Because it has been a while since this happened.

Leyla Seka:All I ever said was, “Thank you.” But that’s how my mother raised me. Right? I mean, if I had anything but thank you. Even a gift I don’t want, my mother would’ve pinched me or something. It was just not the way I was taught to perform.

Leyla Seka: And I also had a really interesting perception, was they were giving me something, versus it being something I earned. Right? And that took me a while to sort of unpack.

Leyla Seka: So anyways, all of this happens, and my good friend, Cindy, becomes the head of HR at the same time. And I go to her and I’m like, “We got to do this. I got something going on. Spidery sense, tickle, tickle, crazy. Something’s happening.” Something’s happening.

Leyla Seka: And so what basically ended up happening is for a year we did research. As much as you can do research around this topic, because at that point, no one talked about equal pay. This wasn’t going on. Right? So we talked to a lot of people.

Leyla Seka: We got a lot of advice from lots of people. Some people were worried that we shouldn’t do this because we were a public company, and it put the company at risk, and we were seeing your executives. And so there was just lots of dialogue.

Leyla Seka: And ultimately she and I put together a plan, and she had a one-on-one with our boss, Marc Benioff. And so I came. We went to his house because he worked out of his house and he had a work house, so we went to the work house. And I’ll never forget this day for the rest of my life because we went there and he was in a step off with Michael Dell for the American Heart Association.

Leyla Seka: So he was supposed to walk a whole bunch that day. And I was like, “No, no, no, you can’t walk for this meeting.” We’ve been talking about this for a year. This is not a walking meeting.

Leyla Seka: So Cindy and I donated money or something and he sat down, but we had this conversation with him, and we basically were like, we don’t think the women are paid the same as the men, and we want to look into it.

Leyla Seka: And then Cindy said this thing, which was, if we pop the hood and we find a problem, we have to fix it. You can’t slam the hood down walk and be like… (sings) At that point, you can’t just pull millions of dollars out of a public company operating budget. It’s not how that works.

Leyla Seka: So we talked about all that and then the other two things we wanted were we wanted a mentor program for women in product and engineering because we felt like sales had a lot of female leaders and they seemed relatively well mentored and so did some of the other departments, but we wanted to do a bit more in engineering and product.

Leyla Seka: And the third thing was the women’s conference, which was actually Molly Ford’s idea. She worked on this with us, but she brought it to me, and then I brought it in there and that was the first time a software company had ever done a women’s conference. Okay.

Leyla Seka: There was Fortune, Most Powerful Women, but that had never happened before, that we’re taking a whole day of programming in the middle of our user conference and only focusing on women. It sounds super normal now, which I’m so happy about. But at the time we were cutting. Right?

Leyla Seka: People were like, a day devoted to women? This is a software conference and there’s lots of dialoguing. I will say we had a real sisterhood, me and Cindy and Molly Ford, and we linked arms and we just pushed. And we got some great stuff done. So yeah. That’s that story.

Jiahan Ericsson: Yeah. I think there’s so much goodness there too. Just, it’s easier to do these things when there are other women, part of the sisterhood doing it with you. Because all of this is really scary, right?

Leyla Seka: Listen, I mean, here’s the other thing. Cindy and I, I don’t think we knew what was happening. I mean, you guys will appreciate this because you’re sort of technical. I was doing product management.

Leyla Seka: I was like, what’s the next best action? Right? Because what actually ended up happening was Marc realized at one point that everyone in his executive room was male. And so he started this thing called the women’s surge. So he looked for high profile females inside there.

Leyla Seka: No one liked the name, whatever he looked for high profile. We all talked about [inaudible]. In the org and he really raised them up. And that’s how I got the job at Desk – is I was in the room and heard that job was open. And I was like, “I’ll take that job.” That’s running a whole division, full P&L. Not quite like that.

Leyla Seka: I was sort of intimidated at the time, but eventually that came across. So after that and getting promoted, I went into product management mode and was like, what’s the next best action? And that was when I heard the guys talking about the Teslas. And then when those two guys asked for money, and I was like next best action. So I see it like product.

Jiahan Ericsson: Yeah. That’s awesome. It’s incredible too. I think in a way, even though for you, it’s this personal journey, right? A lot of times this is how it starts, where it’s like we are doing a thing in the place where we are. But then it becomes a catalyst for transforming, introducing these conversations in the industry and that is really powerful.

Leyla Seka: But I never knew I was doing that. Right? I wasn’t like, “I want to go…” Actually, I did have a coach at the time who told me that I should stop just thinking about changing Salesforce. I should try to think about changing tech. And that was an interesting framing for him to give me because I did then all of a sudden, just…

Leyla Seka: And I did say to Marc at one point when we were pitching him, I think I told [inaudible]… Actually this is funny. I told him he’d be on the cover of Time magazine. And he was like, “I don’t want to be on the cover of Time magazine.” Now he owns it, which is sort of funny.

Leyla Seka: But I was like, we can change something much bigger than ourselves here. And by the end of that year of work with Cindy, I saw, and then a month later, Patricia Arquette got up at the Academy Awards and started screaming about equal pay and then everything. And then things went really crazy for us too. But, yeah.`

Jiahan Ericsson: That’s awesome. Cool. There’s definitely more to talk about during your Salesforce stage, but I want to move on. So three years ago, you left Salesforce and became a venture capitalist, a slightly different journey than the one you’ve been on.

Jiahan Ericsson: Tell us a little bit about your motivation for joining Operator Collective and also co-founding Black Venture Institute in 2020 in this pandemic.

Leyla Seka: Yeah. So back to fairness, I helped Salesforce acquire a lot of companies because I ran the AppExchange. So every time we acquired a company, I had to be involved because it normally had some impact on the channel. Right? And the ecosystem.

Leyla Seka: So I watched a lot of people get acquired and come into Salesforce and stay for a couple years and then spin out and be a venture capitalist. And then they start calling all the same male execs who were buying those Teslas to join their BLPs and invest in this or advise that and get shares of this or give me money for that.

Leyla Seka: And no one was calling me. And so for me, all of a sudden I started sort of hearing the money those guys were making. And I was like, “Oh this is some more income inequality just shoving up here organically that no one’s noticing.”

Leyla Seka: So one of the founders of Desk left and when he left to go become a VC, I was like, “You will call me, and I want in.” And so he did, and I went into his fund and he went early into Robinhood and we made a lot of money. Right?

Leyla Seka: So all of a sudden, venture became this thing that I got in interested in. Then my friend, April Underwood, and her friend started this thing called Hashtag Angels out of Twitter, where they basically wrote a Medium post and were like, “We’re angel investors,” to see if people would allow them to start angel investing. And they did.

Leyla Seka: And they sort of started this wave. But venture is very white and very male. I mean, we think sometimes that way about tech and then venture, you go there and you realize just how much that is prevalent.

Leyla Seka: I do think things are changing. And I think that’s what Operator Collective was. My partner, Mallun, came up with that. And the fund was, we raised $50 million to deploy into enterprise B2B. Obviously, that’s what we do. That’s what I know.

Leyla Seka: But we raised it from operating executives. 90% women, 40% people of color, 20% people that didn’t originate in the United States. That was just a way to really bring investing home to people as an option for how they can think about their money. Right?

Leyla Seka: Because money makes money, if you feel comfortable doing that. Now, the whole gambling, be careful. All that stuff, safe harbor aside, but there is a lot of interesting stuff, and you can meet founders, and you advise, and it’s fun. Right?

Leyla Seka: So I joined Operator Collective with Mallun and we launched it, and we invested in like 35 companies in the two years through the pandemic.

Leyla Seka: And so look, when George Floyd was murdered, it happened to be right around the time in the Bay Area when the fires were so bad that the sun didn’t come out one day. It was really spooky.

Leyla Seka: I was working and I came out at 11 o’clock and it was like it was 11 o’clock at night. And I just was feeling very hopeless and pandemic, locked in the house. My kid hates… I had a 10-year-old. My 14-year-old’s fine. A 10-year-old didn’t do well on Zoom. He was like, “This sucks.”

Leyla Seka: So it was just hard. And I had said to my husband, when I first started Operating Collective, “I wish I could just go to a class and learn about venture capital.” What is all this? Why do I care about information rights? What’s pro rata? What does this mean? What does that mean?

Leyla Seka: So I sit on the board of the Engineering School at Cal, and I called the dean. I said, “I know we have a class in venture,” and we put together what became Black Venture Institute. So we essentially built a program with Cal, Salesforce and Black VC that brings 50 black executives through a two week intensive course on venture capital twice a year.

Leyla Seka: When we started, there were less than 95 black check-writers in venture. We’ve already graduated 150 and a good number of them have started doing all kinds of really awesome stuff, which is amazing.

Leyla Seka: I mean, again, next best action, ladies. I just saw a problem and had had the problem myself of how do I break into venture and figure out this language and these people and how they talk and connect with each other because it’s different than operating. And so, yeah.

Leyla Seka: And I’m super proud of it. It’s probably one of the things I’m most proud of. Outside of my family and equal pay, Black Venture Institute is super high up there.

Jiahan Ericsson: Yeah. Yeah. It’s so interesting, I think diversity and representation in venture is such a less frequent explore space. And I remember you said this once, right?

Jiahan Ericsson: Money is math and math is easy. And I think going back to your points about fairness, it’s a very practical and easy way to see what is fair and, who gets the opportunity to be in. So yeah.

Leyla Seka: I mean, I think that’s why I landed on equal pay. Because trust me, there were a lot of other issues I was pissed off about it. But math, really hard to argue with math.

Jiahan Ericsson: Yeah. Yeah. I really hope you have other talks and just go into your VC journey way more because there’s so much interesting things there. For the sake of time, I do want to talk about what you’re doing right now.

Jiahan Ericsson: So last year you went back to your operator roots and joined Ironclad as COO also during the pandemic. I know the two of us joined actually around the same time.

Jiahan Ericsson: And so what was special about Ironclad that lured you out of your VC life? Why Ironclad, how has that been so far?

Leyla Seka: Sure. So look, I loved being a VC, and I learned a ton. I found it a bit lonely. What I realized about myself is that I love the community of work. Right? I really love operating with other people. I get a lot of enjoyment out of it.

Leyla Seka: So Ironclad was a company that I invested in. It was one of my first investments out of Operator Collective. Mallun and I had both met the CEO separately and then agreed that we were both going…

Leyla Seka: I was going to go in as an angel, and then we just came in as the fund. Very special company. And I firmly believe that contract life cycle management is probably… Here’s the thing.

Leyla Seka: In building the AppExchange, I had an interesting purview, and I watched a lot of these companies be built. And my fundamental problem with most CLM vendors is that they initially relied on some other experience, like the sales experience or the procurement experience.

Leyla Seka: They never thought of the contract as the core object. But yet all of those other experiences, the core objects change constantly. So the data is hard to keep track of, as all of you know better than me, probably.

Leyla Seka: So what I love about Ironclad is the data is rooted in the contract, which is by its very nature, not a document that changes very often. So the power we can bring to business insights and the way people run their company, run their sales team, run their engineering team, run procurement, run marketing, allows for a different level of visibility.

Leyla Seka: I also was very interested in building a different kind of company. I think that’s what you and I talked about even before we went. I see the potential with this company to do something really special and build something really special.

Leyla Seka: And I missed building stuff with smart people.

Jiahan Ericsson: Yeah. Awesome.

Leyla Seka: Why did you join Ironclad?

Jiahan Ericsson: Why did I join? Well, first of all, I echo everything you said, and I’m going to say we had a couple phone calls before I decided, and that made a difference too. For me, last year I was very clear.

Jiahan Ericsson: I was ready for a new opportunity, and I really took my time for the majority of the year to explore options. And partly because I am who I am, that’s how I do. I want to prepare, be really prepared for everything.

Jiahan Ericsson: But also because I was at Salesforce for over a decade, right? So I don’t know what I don’t know. And I wanted to take my time, not only to land at a really good job that I love at the end, but also learn from that journey and figuring out, “Well, how do you interview? How do you evaluate companies?”

Jiahan Ericsson: So what it ended up for me was really around opportunity and community. I think opportunity was fairly straightforward. Ironclad is a rocket ship startup that found great product market fit and is building a successful business around it. It’s in the legal tech space, which is something I’m personally really interested in. So there’s a lot of purpose in what I would be doing for me personally.

Jiahan Ericsson: From an engineering leadership point of view, it’s really interesting that join the company at this phase of our growth, because we’ve had a system in place where it served the team well so far, right? We’re also not fully mature.

Jiahan Ericsson: So there’s a lot of need for transformation to support that continued growth of both the product and people. So Arquay’s keynote this morning, she talks about decision-making gets really, really hard at scale.

Jiahan Ericsson: And that’s my jam. That’s where I want to learn more. That’s why I want to excel at, so this is a really sweet spot to come into Ironclad at this time.

Jiahan Ericsson: And lastly, personally, I was at a phase in my career where I was really looking to stretch myself and just learn different aspects of not just engineering leadership, but also business success.

Jiahan Ericsson: To your point, I think as we continue to grow, we really need to understand the business better. Kind of like, is there a class to go learn about these things? Right?

Jiahan Ericsson: So I wanted to learn some of that through work and needed to be in a place where all the functions fit really close together and collaborate constantly.

Jiahan Ericsson: And at Ironclad, I felt like that was not only possible, but pretty crucial. So I think that was really good fit.

Jiahan Ericsson: But take a step back. I think all the best opportunities on paper kind of mean nothing if you don’t have the right conditions and support to help you to succeed. Right?

Jiahan Ericsson: So for me, the work community is everything. I’m a very connections-driven person. And I experienced a lot of like people magic sauce when I was talking to Ironclad, both at the company level and just through connecting with individuals.

Jiahan Ericsson: For companies, I always want to know what the company values are. And Ironclad’s values are intent, empathy, drive, and integrity, which matched really well with my personal values, so that was really good.

Jiahan Ericsson: And also making sure that there is a mature exec leadership team, so there’s some level confidence – that I trust the leadership team to not only realize the company vision, but also can operationalize these values beyond just saying they’re important, and we have them, right?

Jiahan Ericsson: Practically, it was really important to see other women leaders like myself across all the functions. Again, I think talking to you made a really big difference.

Jiahan Ericsson: I was invited to listen in on the women leader panel at the biennial company kickoff. And that made a really big difference. I think, again, we’re by no means perfect. Right? And these are just glimpses, but it gave me a level of confidence that I’m not going to be alone in my experiences here.

Jiahan Ericsson: Then lastly, this is something really important to me. And I think actually Kristen touched on this in the previous session for Career Growth for Humans, which is, it’s very important for me to be in a working environment where we recognize that there are many definitions of what success can look like.

Jiahan Ericsson: For example, for me, I’m a parent of two young children. And while I still feel really confident in my ability to perform, I also need a lot of flexibility in my day to support my family and deal with emergencies.

Jiahan Ericsson: And for me, the pandemic really highlighted that what we bring to this camera is such a small sliver of the life that we live. Right? I would literally be like trying to keep my cool here when a blowout situation is happening right before my eyes.

Jiahan Ericsson: It really highlighted the importance to have a work environment where you feel safe to bring as much of your life to it, so that work can support you back. And make work work for the rest of your life.

Jiahan Ericsson: So I think that’s where I saw really a lot of good signals. Just people being generous and patient and make space for each other, so that even though we work differently, we can still work well together.

Jiahan Ericsson: In fact, the two of us are really different people, but we figure out how to work well together. Right? Even just preparing for this conversation. And another example, both of us know Jason, the head of engineering, who’s my manager. He is a dad of three children under five. Don’t know how he deals with it, but just seeing him being an equal partner at home. Right?

Jiahan Ericsson: Having a baby’s butt occupy 70% of Zoom screen all the time, but also say, “Hey, you know what? I need to step away because there’s a situation.” I think that kind of modeling in the leadership is really important and also tells me, it’s also important for me to bring myself like that to the workplace and create a safe place for other people.

Jiahan Ericsson: Yeah. So I think those are kind of how I landed on finding a good work home for myself. So, yeah. We are almost out of time. So I’m going to ask you one last question.

Jiahan Ericsson: There’s a lot here, but I remember years ago when hearing you talk about equal pay at Salesforce, you said at some point your work stopped being just a job, it became a mission.

Jiahan Ericsson: I really love that, not only because it was fancy and I was like, I got to write it down, work it into conversation sometime. But also I saw you really lean into that statement and showing up differently.

Jiahan Ericsson: So now you’re COO at Ironclad, how do you think about that mission? And what do you achieve?

Leyla Seka: Listen, I really want to build a workplace and a workforce where every type of person that has some value to add feels welcome. I really enjoyed the lady before, too talking about you don’t have to go to college to be good at building a tech company.

Leyla Seka: Look, how many of these guys never went to college? Dell, Zuckerberg? I mean, not that these are everyone’s everyone, but there are lots of ways to build talent. There are lots of ways to educate yourself.

Leyla Seka: My word, if you pay enough attention, you can find out what’s going on in Silicon Valley by just following the right people on Twitter. I mean, they’re not that complicated. It’s all junior high playground.

Leyla Seka: I mean, we know how to play this. We’ve all been there. My honest point on this is I will never stop working on this. This is who I am. This is what’s going to go on when I die, whatever they write, it’s going to say something about equal pay and making it fair because that’s what I care the most about, for all of us.

Leyla Seka: For all of us, we should all get an equal shot. Like it’s going to say something about equal pay and making it.

Jiahan Ericsson: Very cool. Thank you so much. Sukrutha, I thought you came on. Thanks Leyla. Thanks everybody.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you so much, Leyla and Jiahan, for this wonderful, interesting and insightful session. This was an amazing keynote, and I know everybody’s really energized just looking at the chat.

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“Career Growth for Humans”: Kristen Warms, R&D Learning Enablement at Atlassian (Video + Transcript)

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Sukrutha Bhadouria: All right over to our next bit, which is our coffee break. We love Atlassian for being our platinum sponsor and hosting a coffee session. This means it’s time for you and I to grab another cup of coffee or chai and join us in welcoming Kristen Warms from Atlassian. She’s here to emphasize how we can support human first experiences at work, redefine what it means to be successful and open the door to tech careers that celebrate and affirm our humanity. Welcome Kristen.

Kristen Warms: Thank you. And thank you so much for having me today. I’m really excited to be here with all of you. We only have 15 minutes together today, but we may have some time at the end for sharing or Q&A.

Kristen Warms: So, please feel free to pop your ahas, ideas or questions in the chat along the way and I will collect those towards the end. I don’t have any slides.

Kristen Warms: So, please feel free if you’ve been looking at the Zoom screen for a while today, to just look away and listen in and rest, give your eyes a break, if you need to, or of course you can keep your eyes on the screen, whatever works for you.

Kristen Warms: My hope is that you’ll leave today’s session feeling a little bit more grounded and hopefully a lot more connected to yourself. So, let’s talk about work and more importantly, how we maximize the meaning we create through it.

Kristen Warms: Our work lives provide some of the most formative experiences and relationships that we have. At work on our best days, we feel fulfilled, productive, on fire, but it’s also where we can get triggered and our insecurities pop up and we have to deal with toxic social conditioning and all sorts of things.

Kristen Warms: Because we spend so much of our time at work, I think it’s really critical that we look at it and it’s placed in our lives differently because there really isn’t a work self and a home self, there’s just you, a whole person.

Kristen Warms: Work is, but one part of the tapestry of our lives and we get to decide what and how we find meaning in it, how we use the lessons that we learn there to better ourselves.

Kristen Warms: And then critical to this, is to allow yourself to be a whole human, complex, messy, lovely, unique, feisty, whatever you are and just remember that having complex emotions at work is both normal and totally okay.

Kristen Warms: I spent a lot of years stifling myself because I was trying so hard to be put together all the time. And as you can imagine, that’s a straight shot to burnout city because, half of my days were spent pretending not to be something I am, a complex person with feelings.

Kristen Warms: So, after reading lots of books, therapy and talking with far wiser friends, I began to understand that my emotions are really guideposts and they provide information that I get to use to learn more about myself.

Kristen Warms: Ultimately our feelings and our emotions and responses at work, shine a light on where we need to go, what is important to us and what we really need to thrive.

Kristen Warms: I was just talking to my husband this morning about that old adage, maybe you’d heard it of bloom where you’re planted and I just, I don’t think that’s true. Some plants just don’t do well in the desert. Some plants don’t do well in the rainforest.

Kristen Warms: We’re all unique, we need different things to be our best selves. So, put another way, when we think about what happens at work, we can use, [inaudible], as tools to help cultivate our own self-awareness.

Kristen Warms: I think the more we acknowledge and honestly celebrate the fullness of who we are, the more we can not only show up to work with more energy and vitality, but make work, work for us.

Kristen Warms: The other part of changing the way that we think and talk about career growth is, I’m sorry. The other way about changing the way we think is to how we talk about career growth, there we go.

Kristen Warms: When I started my career, I really thought there was only one way to do work. And that was to achieve, achieve, achieve. That way of thinking resulted in me, putting a lot of my self-worth in other people’s hands. “Did my boss think I measured up? Did my department give me the best grading? Did my peers give me good feedback at year end?”

Kristen Warms: And I quickly forgot what was important to me. I ended up taking roles that of course, got me that promotion or did that thing for my resume, but ended up making me completely miserable.

Kristen Warms: I had lost my sense of agency. And if you remember nothing else from what I say today, I hope that you remember this.

Kristen Warms: You always have a say. You always have a choice in how you react, how you respond, how you design your life, because at the end of the day, it is your life.

Kristen Warms: But that’s really easy to forget, especially because when we talk about our careers, it’s usually in very goal oriented terms.

Kristen Warms: How many of you talked about smart goals? How many of you have to do long winded performance review processes? Where it’s very much, what did you do? Who are you at work? What did you produce accomplish, achieve?

Kristen Warms: And obviously inherent in those conversations, we’re really talking about ourselves on these as if we exist on these linear planes. And that our worth is completely tied to exactly how quickly you got from point A to point B on that path.

Kristen Warms: And I really want to challenge all of us today to stop thinking like that, because that’s not really how it works.

Kristen Warms: I like to think about my career like a buffet and, stick with me on this one. But, there are going to be years where maybe you just need to eat all the wings. You just need something that feels good and comforts you.

Kristen Warms: That project that you can do in your sleep, because it just, is easy and you need the win and it fills you up, but maybe doesn’t challenge you. But maybe the next year you eat all the veggies because you’re ready to flex. And that promotion is in reach and you can taste it. And you know that it’s there and you know you want to run for it.

Kristen Warms: At the end of the day, these choices, both the slow down and the periods of flex are completely valid. Both nourish you just in different ways because we’re humans and we need different things from work and life, at different times.

Kristen Warms: Once we start to view our career growth with less rigidity, it allows us to see them myriad ways in which our talents and skills show up. And then, we can have careers that unfold more naturally with more fulfillment.

Kristen Warms: And really, I think that serve us better. That really speak to who we are uniquely as people, what we’re good at, what we like to do, what inspires us. And frankly, we can be far more self-compassionate as a result.

Kristen Warms: When we let ourselves off the hook, we make decisions based on what we love to do, not what we think we should do. In turn, at least from my experience, when I changed the way that I thought about work, it changed the way that I interacted with my coworkers, because I was giving myself more grace.

Kristen Warms: I was then able to give it to others. And how many of you have had those moments where you’re feeling really uptight and every little slip feels like the worst and you see every other person’s little slip. And that feels like the worst.

Kristen Warms: It’s really kind of moving past that. So, we can all just be a little bit less perfect. A lot of my work right now, I feel really lucky about my job, to be honest with you, because it’s work that I love to do, but it’s focused on helping build people up, particularly those who are new in their careers.

Kristen Warms: So, I spend a lot of time helping young people enter their working lives, feeling like the best fullest versions of themselves. And I get to remind them of the grace and self-compassion that’s required to navigate something new. And I think inherent in that, I get to remind myself of that a little bit too.

Kristen Warms: Most of the folks who are coming through the program that I run at Atlassian are Gen Z now. And honestly they have a really different view on work and working. I think they bring more openness about their needs and ways of working and in working with them, I’ve learned a lot about how people can approach the same skill from a totally different angle and still be really good at it.

Kristen Warms: I was recently talking with a colleague of mine and they identify as neuro divergent and they were mentioning to me that it’s really hard for them to do that, this Zoom face-to-face thing, it makes them uncomfortable.

Kristen Warms: But when they are given the opportunity to put their communication in writing, their words just take flight. It’s really amazing and powerful for them to express themselves in a way that makes sense for them.

Kristen Warms: So, while we have an expectation that folks at their level are effective communicators, we are giving them this space to figure out how to demonstrate that skill in a way that really makes the most sense to them. And then they crush it.

Kristen Warms: I suspect that a lot of us on this call are probably in management or leadership roles, even if informally. And so what I’ve learned over the years, especially in working so closely with this newest generation entering the workforce, is this.

Kristen Warms: First, when we let people at a problem from their best place, we get a far more creative and imaginative solution. I think we get a fuller picture of the possibilities that could be, not just kind a one narrow definition.

Kristen Warms: And then secondly, we can learn a lot from them. I think, well, I’ll say speak for myself. Sometimes my ego gets in the way, right? I allow my drive to succeed, and it keeps me from that vulnerability that’s required from learning something new, especially when it’s from learning from someone who’s younger than me.

Kristen Warms: But really, the more I open myself up to and allow room for different ideas and ways of working, the better my team does, the better our products are, the better that the solutions we create serve the people they’re created for.

Kristen Warms: So really I think it’s about changing the lens, especially when we change the way that we define success, right? And making that definition broader. So it works for more people.

Kristen Warms: I think this is particularly critical in tech. My team actually talks a lot about how we are going to go about more opportunities for folks that don’t follow what would be potentially considered a traditional path.

Kristen Warms: So go to college, get an internship, get a job, right? There’s tons of talent out there that doesn’t follow that structure, that linear path, as I mentioned before.

Kristen Warms: When we stop putting these false parameters out there and realizing that talent shows up in many forms, we actually can create more inclusive companies, and we can make tech a more inclusive industry.

Kristen Warms: Ultimately though, it’s about giving ourselves permission. Permission to experience work from our full humanity. Permission for others to do the same.

Kristen Warms: When we change the way that we think about work, we change the way we make decisions, and we change the way we set the bar. And at the end of the day, we get to change our lives.

Kristen Warms: So thank you for hanging in there with me and listening. I’d love to pop over to the chat now and just see what you guys are sharing and saying. I saw so many things coming through. I was trying to focus and not get distracted, so. Awesome. Awesome. I’m so glad. I’m so glad.

Kristen Warms: It sounds like lots of folks are really jiving with what I’m saying. So I appreciate that. Yeah. Picking up the phone and calling each other. Angie, I love that too. Right?

Kristen Warms: Shannon, you mentioned taking cameras off days. I love that. That is such a good idea. Especially when you’re feeling exhausted. It’s hard. It’s hard to be on Zoom and feel like you have to be on all the time. So, excellent, Shannon. I love that idea.

Kristen Warms: Yep, Tracy. Yes. Appreciate people who, who are open about their needs at work. It takes a lot of courage to do that. So we got to give people props when they do it and give ourselves props when we do it too. Hey, Angie, I see that you’re on, is that my curtain call?

Angie Chang: I just want to say thank you so much for that reinvigorating talk that you just gave us!

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“AWS, GraphQL, with Apollo, Vue.JS: Delivering Enterprise-Grade Applications”: Maria Lucena and Divya Mahajan, Directors of Architecture at Fidelity (Video + Transcript)

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Angie Chang: Next up, we have two architects from Fidelity Investments with the tech talk on simple technologies that can help deliver enterprise grade applications. So please join me in welcoming Divya Mahajan and Maria Lucena from Fidelity.

Maria Lucena: Thank you for having us.

Divya Mahajan: Thank you, Angie. We’re really excited to be here. I have to say, all of the talks today have been awesome. The last one was certainly a very fun and relatable conversation. So, thank you, Reeny and Susanna. Hello, everyone. And a happy International Women’s Day!

Divya Mahajan: I’m Divya Mahajan, working as a Director of Architecture at Fidelity Investments, responsible for setting architectural direction and strategy for some of Fidelity’s high net customer products in the alternative investment space among other things.

Divya Mahajan: Previously, I worked as a Director of Architecture in the cognitive computing space, building out Fidelity’s virtual assistant platform to create conversational experiences for our customers. A developer at heart, I love to see how my work makes a customer’s lives better.

Divya Mahajan: I graduated from WPI with a Masters in Information Systems. I live with my husband in Southern New Hampshire and when not building software, I’m an avid hiker and can be found on the mountain of New Hampshire to Africa, to South America. I also taught myself to play the guitar during the pandemic and love drumming away in my free time. Take it away. Maria,

Maria Lucena: Thank you, Divya. My name is Maria Lucena. Thank you for having me and happy International Women’s Day. I’m a Director of Architecture at Fidelity Investments. I’ve been doing software development for 13 years.

Maria Lucena: I have two beautiful boys. I have been blessed with an 18 year marriage, a beautiful puppy who just turned one this weekend and I enjoy traveling and trying new food. I am originally from Venezuela. I have a big family, nine sibling, so that means tons of nieces and nephews.

Maria Lucena: And, I’ve had a pretty an orthodox professional development because I chose to be a mom first and take care of my children before going to work. It wasn’t until 2007 that I actually got a Diploma in Web Development.

Maria Lucena: And then I went back to work and it was in 2018 when I completed my Associates in Information Technology. And then, this past year, I completed my Bachelor’s in Computer Science for which I received, [inaudible], in my Cum Laude Honors.

Maria Lucena: And that brings us to today, the capstone project for my bachelor’s degree. Now, when I was asked to solve for a community pro problem for that project, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Maria Lucena: Given my background as a working mother and because I have done my professional development in a gradual manner, I wanted to do something to help women improve their lives. I also have always had an interest for women in the workplace and the issues they faced and the fact that women earn 82 cents for every dollar a man earns.

Maria Lucena: So, my way of giving back was by building a portal to help women who needed to work and develop professionally, remotely. So, this is the main goal of Remote Brilliance – it is to help women help themselves find a better quality of life by finding online jobs and creating a community where they could learn and sharing their knowledge with others.

Maria Lucena: As I was getting ready to start developing the project, there were a few things I needed to keep in mind. I needed to follow the software development life cycle, which for designing, planning and executing the project. It also needed to be appealing, secure, and resilient.

Maria Lucena: When I went online, though, I found a ton of available tools and some of them at a cost, some of them for free and all of them promising to do what I needed. It was then, I realized I needed to draw from my experience at Fidelity to help me find the right tech stack.

Maria Lucena: Now, given my experience with GraphQL at the firm, and recently having used AppSync in a project. I chose to center my strategy around defining the entities and using a tool that would help me get a backend up and running. Defining the server structure can be complex and time consuming.

Maria Lucena: So, I knew if I solved this first, I could spend more time in the UI, which for me was more challenging. Let’s understand some fundamentals of GraphQL. At its simplest, GraphQL is a language for your API, because GraphQL has been designed with a focus on client applications. It makes the connection of the backend and the frontend more coherent.

Maria Lucena: Now, at the core of GraphQL, we have Schema, the Schema defines the capabilities of your APIs through the type system. And if we think of types as objects in object oriented programming, we can think of the properties of an object as the fields defined in the Schema and the behaviors as the resolvers implementing the business rules and the GraphQL server.

Maria Lucena: Now, going back to that point of understanding the type system, I had to observe my business model and define its entity so that I could start building my API. I was recently involved in a project using GraphQL with apps, AWS AppSync, in which I learned that AppSync and the AppSync console, there is a co-generator tool, which is scaffolds all the operations for an entity to a Schema.

Maria Lucena: So, I could get my backend scaffold pretty quickly if I use that tool. Once I saw for what I wanted to deploy, for how I wanted to deploy the backend, I moved my attention to the client and how to wrap the traffic. A few years back, Divya and I worked on a, [inaudible], site for a nonprofit organization through Fidelity, change is simple.

Maria Lucena: What I learned about the pattern of using S3 for host static sites, at Fidelity, we use AWS and I know and trusted well enough to use its services on any project so you can see the entire application is hosted and run by AWS services.

Maria Lucena: Fronting the app, we have Cloud Front, which is a CDN and then there is some S3 in the middle and with AppSync at the back. So, here you have a high level look of what the end to end architecture is. I will dive a little bit into what the frontend is made off and then Divya will cover the backend.

Maria Lucena: As I mentioned earlier, there are many tools available for creating web and mobile applications. There is much promise of one size fits all for applying styles, but the reality is flexible designs are difficult to achieve.

Maria Lucena: So, using the right libraries can help you get closer to what you need.

Maria Lucena: I was part of a larger platform CCP with Divya, a Cognitive Computer Platform, where the client solutions team was using, [inaudible], a team made off of UI experts for building the platform’s portal. So, this led me to settle on using that framework for my UI.

Maria Lucena: Now, Vuetify compliments Vue. With a UI Library that uses material components, these are not only beautiful or design components, but also meet accessibility guidelines and other UX concerns. So, you get some professionalism within that library. Now, Cognito provides to [inaudible] layer for users and also for the APIs.

Maria Lucena: As I was implementing this, it became really time consuming to create all of the resources needed manually and that is when I came across AWS Amplify. And this is a set out of tools and features created by AWS to help developers build full stack applications. It’s a CLI and an SDK, so you can use it to build things and then at run time. With this in place, I was ready to connect to the backend. I needed a library to talk to GraphQL and Apollo was the obvious choice.

Maria Lucena: It doesn’t need an orchestration to talk to the GraphQL server and have some added configurable feature for caching out of the box. Finally, I needed to route the traffic to a secure endpoint. And I found a tutorial using Cloud Front, Route 53 with S3, which was created by a Daniel Galati, the author of, Be a Better Dev series. Let’s take a look at that one time.

Maria Lucena: So, this is what it looked like. It looks like when that request comes in, when the user, Remote Brilliance, that link Route 53, a DNS service, checks it, that there is a valid certificate and then routes the traffic to Cloud Front, a CDN, which then points to the public bucket. And that eventually routes to the private S3 bucket, where the static assets of the application are hosted.

Maria Lucena: With that, we’re going to look at a quick demo and I’m going to start from the authorization component, which is done by Amplify. And one thing I want to show here is that none of this is really done by me. All I had to do was copy a template and drop it in my application and all of the actions that are needed resetting a password, creating a, [inaudible], account.

Maria Lucena: All of those things are managed by AWS Amplify SDK. So, there is very little that you have to do if you use that SDK. And now, I’m going to move on to showing this, if is done with, as I said, Vuetify JS. If you go to their documentation and choose any UI component you want to use, you can quickly add your styles and your customized, the colors.

Maria Lucena: And one neat thing that I really enjoy about this, it’s that if you set a palette, a color palette for dark and light modes on that plugin, you can just expose a flag to your UI and you can quickly get through your application, this dark and light, which is, I think I find it pretty amusing.

Maria Lucena: Now I’m going to point to the network console here. And we want to show at this point how with a single endpoint calling GraphQL, you can get all of your operations. So, this is the job, [inaudible], listing a single job. I’m going to do and add here, and then I’m just going to save it. And I want to demonstrate how… This is done by Apollo, the Apollo client.

Maria Lucena: And if you pay close attention here to the headers, you’ll notice is the same end point. But as I look, as I show through the payload, you’ll see the operation changes. So that’s get a list, get a job and list the jobs and so on. So that’s really, that’s one of the benefits of GraphQL. And with that, I’m going to pass it off to Divya. Thank you.

Divya Mahajan: Thanks Maria. So, we just saw how the web client so seamlessly communicated with the backing system GraphQL in this case, over a single end point to interact with various different entities and resources to display all of the data, to render that beautiful website.

Divya Mahajan: The backend in this app is predominantly made up of GraphQL APIs, implemented using a managed AWS solution called AppSync. But before we talk a bit more about these technologies, I just quickly wanted to point out that given that we have less than 10 minutes together at this point, this is definitely not an in-depth GraphQL class.

Divya Mahajan: We will probably need a couple days if not more to do that. But Maria and I have extensively implemented GraphQL APIs using various different platforms, such as AWS AppSync, Apollo, among others at Fidelity, in building enterprise grade applications. So, today is more of an opportunity for us to give you enough information to get you excited in building solutions of your own using these technologies.

Divya Mahajan: All right. So, what exactly is GraphQL? Well, it’s basically a syntax that allows you to define what data you exactly need. No more, no less. It’s a query language like Maria pointed out in a run time for executing those queries to retrieve existing data.

Divya Mahajan: A GraphQL service is created by defining types and fields on those types, not end points. And I want to make this point abundantly clear as that’s one of the major differences between using a REST specification versus using a GraphQL specification.

Divya Mahajan: Also, GraphQL also uses types to ensure apps only ask for what’s possible from a particular GraphQL runtime, and provides clear and helpful errors in the event that the apps ask for more than what’s in scope for a particular GraphQL instance. Now HDDB, as we all know, is the most common choice for client server protocol because of its tube equity.

Divya Mahajan: And that’s exactly what GraphQL APIs also use to communicate between a client and a server. GraphQL strongly type system uses SDL short for Schema Definition Language to define an API Schema, basically its types and its fields. SDL is a shorthand notation for succinctly expressing the shape of a data graph that a client expects to see. Next slide, please Maria. Thank you.

Divya Mahajan: Here’s a quick example of what a sample Schema looks like now. Maria also mentioned how Schema is at the core of GraphQL. Here, we can see a sample query as well, based on SDL and a sample response to execution of that, [inaudible], mentioned query.

Divya Mahajan: As you can see the job entity here supports many fields, but the client query in this example only, [inaudible], to resolve specific fields like category, company description, company name, et cetera, which is only made possible by GraphQL and would not have been possible by using REST.

Divya Mahajan: All right, now that we understand a little bit about GraphQL, let’s talk about why we should consider using GraphQL and what its advantages are over REST, which currently happens to be one of the most commonly used API specifications. Next slide, please. Thank you.

Divya Mahajan: Now I love this quote from Edsger Dijkstra and personally for me, GraphQL sort of embodies the notion of brevity without jargon, quite wonderfully. It’s a clear language, that’s simple and a fruitless.

Divya Mahajan: A client can just ask for what they need without having to provide too much unnecessary syntax, [inaudible]. So, GraphQL sort of really sums it up. As far as this quote is concerned, some of the other advantages of using GraphQL and if you go to the next slide, Maria, thank you.

Divya Mahajan: So, why typical REST APIs require, [inaudible ], from multiple APIs and multiple different URLs? GraphQL APIs get all of the data and app needs from a single endpoint. This obviously helps avoid making multiple API calls for a particular operation. Also, there’s no over fetching or under fetching of data.

Divya Mahajan: Now, one of the major issues with REST is that, it can contain too much data or sometimes not enough data at all. Which creates the need for additional requests, while GraphQL solves this problem by fetching only the exact and specified data in a single endpoint and a single request from all of the resources that need to be queried by a particular client. Lastly, it can evolve without versioning.

Divya Mahajan: Now, why do most APS version anyway? One might ask. Well, when there’s limited control over the data, that’s returned from an API endpoint, any change can be considered a breaking change and breaking changes require new versions.

Divya Mahajan: In contrast, GraphQL only returns to the data that’s explicitly requested. So, new capabilities can be added via types, via fields and operations without creating a breaking change by using single evolving versions or version, GraphQL APIs, give apps continuous access to new features and encourage a more cleaner and a more maintainable backend code.

Divya Mahajan: Now hold on, Maria and I are talking about replacing all of the, or proposing replacing all of the systems that REST today with using GraphQL. And like we all know, nothing in software is one size fits all, and there will always be used cases where REST is more preferable over GraphQL. But what we’re pointing out is that these are just some of the reasons we chose GraphQL over REST in building scalable apps in no time at Fidelity.

Divya Mahajan: And so, are merely pointing out that if you are looking for an alternative to some of the pitfalls of REST, then look no further. Next slide please. But how does it all work?

Divya Mahajan: GraphQL has three major components. I think we’ve already touched upon them first being the Schema, which is basically a definition of all operations, including the types, fields and the functions that are defined on those types. Data sources, this is where the data comes from and the data goes in various different operations that can be done on the data. And lastly, resolvers, which act as connecting blocks between the Schema operations and the data sources, basically the business logic that executes the requested operation in a particular client query.

Divya Mahajan: Now an app designed to use GraphQL in the realm of a serverless technology makes it a very powerful combination. Why? You ask. It’s because in building cloud native applications, the infrastructure is already managed by a cloud service provider and the app teams only need to worry about business logic. And this is where AWS’s AppSync shines.

Divya Mahajan: To get an API app and running in no time, AppSync provides automatic code generation like Maria alluded to, aided by its Schema first design approach. The end result is, and automatically generated API with all the client side operations already present and ready for us to use. This truly, as you can imagine, is a, [inaudible] for developers that want faster code development and a more structured approach to building data driven applications. Now in the interest of time, next slide please, Maria.

Divya Mahajan: I quickly want to about just a couple ways in which any AWS resources can be deployed to create and deploy scalable cloud apps, Infrastructure as a Code, as you can imagine is an absolute must.

Divya Mahajan: And the two ways that we want to talk about today is the ubiquitous Cloudformation template introduced back in 2011 is probably the most universally used technique to deploy an infrastructure stack within AWS.

Divya Mahajan: The second, a more newer kit on the block called CDK or Cloud Development Kit has been catching steam. And I think we’re on time, but, you get the idea.

Divya Mahajan: Now, Maria and I understand that this is a lot of information in a very short amount of time, but we really hope you enjoy the conversation, took away some excitement and shared some excitement like we have, in creating cognitive applications using GraphQL, [inaudible], AppSync.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you so much, [crosstalk]. Thank you so much both Divya and Maria for all the insights and information, as well as the slide linked with all the resources. Quick note to everybody, all of this is going to be recorded and accessibility to you all later. Look out for your emails. So, don’t fret if you missed a few details or you want to catch up on it, even the slides you’ll have access to. All right over to our next bit, which is our coffee break. 

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“Become the Role Model You Wish You Had”: Reeny Sondhi, Chief Security Officer at Autodesk, and Susanna Holt, VP of Strategic Technologies at Autodesk (Video + Transcript)

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Sukrutha Bhadouria: Next we are hosting execs from Autodesk for an inspiring chat about becoming the role models you wish you had. Please join me in welcoming Reeny Sondhi the Chief Security Officer at Autodesk with over 25 years of experience in technology, she is joined by Susanna Holt, VP of Strategic Technologies at Autodesk with over 20 years of experience. We’re so happy to have you both here. Welcome Reeny and Susanna!

Reeny Sondhi: Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here with all of you.

Susanna Holt: Thank you for me too. So let’s get started first of all, happy international women’s day, everyone. So Reeny and I have been preparing for this for while and we had a great time. The trouble was, we couldn’t really select what is it we’re going to talk about? There was so much we wanted to share.

Susanna Holt: We will talk about becoming role models and our struggles along the way, finding our voices. And we’ll talk about allies and I’m not sure we’re going to have enough time to answer questions that come up in the chat, but at the end we’ll tell you where to find us if you’d like to follow up on anything.

Susanna Holt: So with that, let me reintroduce Reeny. So we already know she’s the Chief Security Officer at Autodesk where we both work. She’s been here for over five years before that, she was leading a security engineering team at EMC, now part of Dell.

Susanna Holt: She’s also on the board of a cybersecurity company called Rapid7. And in distant past, she did product management, but what Reeny is passionate about, and what I see when I interact with her is building teams that solve complicated and complex problems, but that do so in a pragmatic way. And that’s what we need from security. Isn’t it?

Reeny Sondhi: Thank you so much, Susanna. And again, let me also wish everyone a super awesome international women’s day. Great to be here. It’s a tough act to follow, Susanna, from the last talk to this. So we better bring our game on here, but it was very inspiring to hear Mina and Claire talk.

Reeny Sondhi: And before we begin, I would love to introduce Susanna to all of you. She is, as we heard, she’s the Vice President of Strategic Technologies at Autodesk. She’s been with Autodesk for, I think over 10 years now, has led multiple engineering and product teams in different roles, working in Europe in the past and now in the United States.

Reeny Sondhi: One interesting fact about Susanna is she has a background in mathematics and even more interesting fact, I’m sorry, I’m picking this one over the background in mathematics, Susanna is the fact that she was an international rowing champion, which means that she’s not only competitive, but knows how to win and sometimes uses awesome sports analogies at work, which I completely totally love, I appreciate.

Reeny Sondhi: So Susanna, let’s get the ball rolling. And I’m going to throw the first question over to you. So this is a chat, so this is going to be back and forth between us. There’s no moderator. So it’s you and I here, but I’m going to start with your experience of meeting me for the first time, as I think there is a story in there which will help people understand our working relationship a little bit better. Why does it matter in the context of today’s conversation? So I would love to hear from you first.

Susanna Holt: Thank you Reeny, and you’re right. There is a story. Then it’s a story that formed me as a person, as a leader and our relationship, I’m going to say it.

Susanna Holt: So here’s what happened. I joined a new team, new role, new responsibility, all very exciting, a little bit intimidating too.

Susanna Holt: And Reeny was on that team and we had a staff meeting and we were talking about my first all hands and my boss.

Susanna: Well, our boss, both of our boss said, how about if I go along to support Susanna, that will show Susanna that I’m behind her, that I believe in her and all of that stuff. And I was thinking that might be nice because I was a little bit scared. It was a new thing for me, but I didn’t say anything.

Susanna Holt: And before I got to say anything, Reeny came in a way, and this is a style she has, she’ll say, “well, let’s think about this. Let me challenge this. Does Susan really need your support? Don’t we all know that she can talk don’t we know that she can run this. And by going there, wouldn’t you be saying, I don’t believe she can do it herself?”

Susanna: Holt: And she was right. And we changed our minds. I did it on my own. It was all fine. But I was just amazed. Who was this woman who I barely met, who had absolutely no reason to look out for me or to care for what happened to me to speak up on my behalf, to have that belief in me?

Susanna: Holt: So that was awesome and I’ve admired and aspired to be like Reeny in that respect ever since. But there’s more, it also told me this is the kind of team I want to be on.

Susanna: Holt: It’s the team where everyone works together and looks out for one another as opposed to thinking, well, the only thing that matters here is me and my work and the people who report to me.

Susanna: Holt: Thank you, Reeny it was awesome that you did that and I’ll forever be grateful to you for that.

Reeny Sondhi: You don’t have to be grateful. I’ll tell you that I was in those shoes myself, I think a couple of years before you joined the staff. And I had an ally on that team who welcomed me, enabled me to find my voice and the same staff I learned from her, what it meant to be an ally, to be perfectly honest.

Reeny Sondhi: I mean, she was my ally. She was a little bit of a role model for me. And it just felt natural to carry that forward to when you joined the team. And in fact, I think since then there have been a few reorgs in the company where we have together gone on to join completely new staff together. And I think we felt that our allyship can continue to push us forward together, at least that’s how I feel about where we are today.

Susanna Holt: And not just us together we then have the confidence to maybe challenge things rather than accept, okay, on this team, it’s different. We would say, well, I liked what we did on the other team. What do you think Reeny? And then make proposals based on that. So it’s been great.

Reeny Sondhi: Awesome.

Susanna Holt: And the whole thing has continued as Reeny and I have been lucky enough to continue to work together. We’ve continued to look out for one another and to push. Back to you Reeny.

Reeny Sondhi: Absolutely. We have, we’ve continued to do that. I think I have a very, I call it a trusted relationship with you. We call each other out when we are not at our best.

Reeny Sondhi: So for me that definitely comes in into being an ally. You have for everyone here who’s attending today, the last couple of years has been all about, attending meetings over zoom.

Reeny Sondhi: And Susanna has this thing about looking at me over zoom and understanding very clearly if I’m paying attention, am I checked out of a conversation and she will send me a little slack, little paying, zoom chat and ask me for my point of view, if she sees that I’m missing in action. And that definitely drives accountability in me. And I really appreciate that about you Susan.

Susanna Holt: But it goes further than that Reeny. And you must all know this. Sometimes you get asked for feedback on someone, maybe part of the annual review or coaching opportunities, and that feedback gets escalated and then anonymized, and then fed back to the person. And at some point I’d had enough of that. I

Susanna Holt: It felt to me, if I was going to make the trouble to think about what’s awesome about Reeny and where I would love to see her develop, why bother with someone else and going through someone else’s going to anonymize it.

Susanna Holt: So I tried to first, I tiptoed into it very carefully and gave Reeny a little bit of feedback and she embraced it. And now that’s become part of our relationship that we look out for one another and the growth that I get out of that it really exceeds other forms of growth because it has this trusted relationship and the honest, and I know, and I knew from day one, Reeny is looking out for me, she has my best interests at heart.

Reeny Sondhi: And I totally, truly completely appreciate you providing feedback to me. So let’s package this up. I think we have given examples of our working relationship, examples of how we look at each other as an ally. And so let’s package it up on what does being an ally really mean. And I can start, you can definitely add your own understanding your definition of what an ally is.

Reeny Sondhi: So to me personally, an ally gives me space and a voice. I look at an ally, someone who can help create conditions that give me the courage to go and take on the unknown sometimes. Someone who is an advocate for me, doesn’t support me blindly. And that’s why I keep bringing back the examples I’ve given earlier about when you see me being checked out, you’ll push me, you’ll nudge me, you’ll drive some accountability for me.

Reeny Sondhi: And really an ally for me personally, is someone who brings out the best version of me. And if I’m talking about this, I also want to contrast that a little bit with what does not being an ally look like. Because we are focusing a lot on what does being an ally look like.

Reeny Sondhi: So let’s do that little contrast in compare and I’ll drive home this point with another example. And you’ll realize the audience is going to realize we’ll come up with examples of meetings, we attend way too many meetings. And this was yet another meeting where I remember being part of a heated debate. And I was on the receiving end of the heated debate.

Reeny Sondhi And I think somewhere along the line, there was a moment there where I stopped myself from participating and was collecting my thoughts, trying to figure out, Hey, how best to respond.

Reeny Sondhi And I remember one of my colleagues decided that he needed to step in and protect me. And he actually said that, “Hey, I’m here to defend Reeny.” And I had to politely ask him not to do it because all I was doing was taking some time to reflect on what I wanted to say, and I really didn’t need protection or didn’t need anyone to come and defend me. So that’s the other contrast that I’m going to bring up and would love to hear how you think of what’s an ally.

Susanna Holt: Yeah. That’s such a good point. And I’m going to pick up on this. What is not an ally thing first, before I go to what isn’t an ally because I had a similar but different experience that’s coming that’s on my mind here. Also a staff meeting, heated debate, lots of people talking, nobody really listening.

Susanna Holt: And I wasn’t doing any talking either. And then someone stood up and said, we haven’t heard anything from the women yet. Well, woman, there was only me in the room and I was so angry. I was angry for the same reasons as Reeny, I wasn’t looking for a night in shining armor. I was not talking because there was no point no one was listening. At least that was my take on the whole situation.

Susanna Holt: And the sad thing about it, he was really trying, he was trying to do something good and right by me, but that wasn’t the right thing for me at that time. And it has led me to understand that I’m not looking for an ally to rescue me.

Susanna Holt: In an ally, I’m looking for someone to partner with me, whom I can reach out to, and that doesn’t have to be someone at work. Allies can be anywhere. It’s not like a mentor that it’s a fixed relationship. So an ally is someone who I can reach out to when I need, and then we go on our way again.

Reeny Sondhi: Awesome.

Susanna Holt: Now I want to talk about role models. And I want to talk about role models because I realize you and I, Reeny, we at a stage in our career where we could and should, and maybe are role models to other people.

Susanna Holt: And I struggle to think of myself as a role model and that I haven’t quite come to terms with this yet. What about you Reeny, are you struggling? Are you doing this with ease?

Reeny Sondhi I think I’ve shared with you Susanna about my hesitation. It’s been a journey for me. It hasn’t come naturally or easily for myself as well. And I think I’ve had some hesitation of being a role model and personally, it has been shaped by some of my experiences. And I’ll talk about some of those.

Reeny Sondhi So several years ago I got invited to again another meeting. And this was when I was the director of product management for my past company. And I remember this was with, I think the CEO staff at that point.

Reeny Sondhi I remember someone telling me right before I was going in for the meeting, that one of the reasons I was invited to the meeting was because I was a woman. I want to call this piece out here, one of the reasons, okay. But I immediately gravitated to her the fact that was the reason I was invited in meeting. And I remember being extremely upset about it, and I’ll be honest with you. I just was in the best version of myself at that meeting. I just did not bring my best out. And after that, I’ve had several years of lots of introspection about it.

Reeny Sondhi And I realized that I could have used that platform to prove that I actually deserved a seat at that table, but I decided not to use that opportunity, like my loss.

Reeny Sondhi Now let’s contrast that with just a couple of years back, I was approached by a security company to become part of their board of directors. They came to me because I’m a security practitioner, I’m an expert in my field. I have a product management experience that they could have leveraged at the board level.

Reeny Sondhi And yes, I would help them with adding diversity to the board. Now it’s a pretty diverse board in general, but I would just help them with adding diversity. And I’ll be honest with you. I’ve looked at that as getting an opportunity and making the most of it.

Reeny Sondhi So I think I have with the two contrasts I’m bringing up, I have embraced the role of being a role model much better now than I did several years back. But I hear your stuff. So let’s talk a little bit about that and about your feelings on this topics Susanna.

Susanna Holt: Yeah. Thanks Reeny and I will say I’m probably forever scarred by the times when I was told, you’ve only got this opportunity, because you’re a woman you’ve only got this promotion because you’re a woman.

Susanna Holt: And like you Reeny, for me, it’s an only, regardless of what people say, what lands in my head is the only, and it leads to a form of imposter syndrome, makes me feel I didn’t deserve it. But if I just sit on this imposter syndrome, I’m being lazy and I don’t want to be lazy.

Susanna Holt: And like you, Reeny, for me, it’s an only, I want to manage this activity actively, like you do Reeny, and I’m on the path to it. And I want to do it because we’re kind of out of appreciation for the women who came before us, because they had much more difficult things to deal with than we do.

usanna Holt:And out of a sense of responsibility and care for the women who come after us for whom it will be a little bit easier. And, I have a responsibility to deal with this and to work through it. And I want to and I’m proud of trying and I’ll get there.

Reeny Sondhi: You will. It’s a journey for all of us. My experience and my contrast doesn’t mean that I don’t get self-doubts. So, okay. So we have talked about allyship, we have talked about our experiences and I would love for us to give a couple of messages that we can leave this audience with and I’ll start and you will absolutely, I know, build on top of that.

Reeny Sondhi: So, my two messages, I’ll be honest about, I don’t have one, I have two, but number one for me, is don’t get in your own way. Like I did. Don’t get in your own way, in the past. I’m a woman, I shouldn’t get a, [inaudible], because of my gender, my race, et cetera. All of these are meaningless. Instead, think about the platform that you’re getting and use that to amplify your voice.

Reeny Sondhi: And… it’s a journey, it doesn’t come easy. It doesn’t come, naturally the very first time you try to do this. And the second piece that I would leave the audience with, is embrace your role model-ship.

Reeny Sondhi: Don’t be reluctant, hesitant, when you have self-doubt, I’ll link it back to having allies, go to them, walk through yourself doubts with them. Those all allies, as you mentioned, very clearly, don’t have to be at work, having an allied at home with your partner, spouse, friend, recognize and use those allies to become the best version of yourself. So, that would be the two messages and let’s hear from you, Susannna.

Susanna Holt: The good news is I don’t actually have an additional message. I’m just going to build on what you said, Reeny. And for me, I articulate it differently, like I just said, I’m always going to live with that voice on my shoulder, wondering whether I really should be here or whether I’m only here for reasons that I don’t like, but I’m going to embrace that. That’s part of my growth, it’s part of who I am and I’m going to own it.

Susanna Holt: And one of the ways in which I own it is, I know what situations are going to be difficult for me. I know what gets me down and what makes that voice on my shoulder start shouting at me, but I can preempt that. I can go and find out ally, if I know this is going to be a difficult situation, maybe I line up a one to one with Reeny immediately afterwards and she can talk me off the ledge or my husband, whoever is available to that.

Reeny Sondhi: Awesome. I’m always here for you, Susanna. So when you need, [crosstalk]. I know we’ve come to the end of our conversation. I really sincerely hope that the audience has enjoyed our talk, a little fireside chat, and it was thought provoking for you.

Reeny Sondhi: We have thoroughly enjoyed being here with you. And I know we have not been able to get to questions today, but Susanna, let’s talk about how people can connect with us.

Susanna Holt: Yes. So first of all, thank you for [inaudible], for your interest. Thank you, Reeny for doing this with me. We are both on LinkedIn, reach out to us if you would like to engage and we hope that you will, and then we can start a conversation there.

Reeny Sondhi: Thank you. Have a wonderful rest of your day and rest of the conference.

Angie Chang: Thank you, Reeny and Susanna for joining us, that was so transparent and inspiring to hear you candidly share authentically about overcoming some of your thoughts and being a role model. 

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“Tech is a Team Sport: When Women Lead, Everything is Possible”: Claire Martorana, Federal Chief Information Officer, and Mina Hsiang, Administrator at United States Digital Service (Video + Transcript)

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Angie Chang: We are having our next panel now. We want to welcome Claire Martorana the Federal Chief Information Officer for the Office of Management and Budget in the Executive Office of the President hailing from Washington, DC.

Angie Chang: And previously, she served on the USDS team at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, working on digital monitorization for veterans and prior to her tour of duty in government tech or gov tech with the USDS she was president at Everyday Health and Senior Vice President at Web MD.

Angie Chang: Also, we want to welcome Mina Hsiang. She is a third Administrator named at the United States Digital Service. She is the first woman and first Asian American to lead the USDS and she brings her experience and expertise to the government. Notably, she was previously a VP at Devoted Health.

Angie Chang: Hi Claire. So get things started. Why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself and what is the biggest digital initiatives that you’ve been working on and some of the challenges that your teams have been taking on.

Claire Martorana: Thanks Angie. Hey, Mina. Nice to join you all today.

Claire Martorana: I think probably the thing I’m focused on the most these days is cyber security. Cyber security is top of mind for this administration and kind of top of mind at this moment in time, as you can all imagine. And we are working across the federal enterprise.

Claire Martorana: So my job as federal CIO is, I help coordinate across all of the federal agencies, there’s 24 CFO act agencies, which are really big agencies then about 140 small agencies, including the Marine Mammal Council, so gigantic and then very tiny, making sure that our entire federal enterprise is safe and secure.

Claire Martorana: Recently in this administration, we launched a cybersecurity executive order, and then we just published out a zero trust strategy to try and help bring all our agencies up to a different level.

Claire Martorana: So that’s what I’ve been focused on and I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to work with Mina quite a bit on our customer experience executive order. So maybe I’ll turn it over to you Mina.

Mina Hsiang: Awesome. And thank you so much for having us, this is super exciting great to see you Claire. Tons is going on across government, we’ve been very focused on things that improve services for the public, things that make key needs of the public more accessible.

Mina Hsiang: So things that you have seen, launching vaccine [inaudible] and adding testing sites, adding appointment availability, launching COVID test [inaudible] and helping everyone get access to new testing, standing up tools and a site and an engagement model to enable folks to more easily get access to the child tax credit, understand what entitled to at a simple reading level…

Mina Hsiang: Which is not easy for taxes and then to support people in applying for the child tax credit and in filing their taxes which is necessary to get all the credits they deserve working on tools that help us do analysis and evaluation in the interest of climate and economic justice investments and making sure that we can ensure that Federal Dollars are going to things that support those goals.

Mina Hsiang: Working on modernizing WIC, which is Women, Infants and Children, and making sure that this program which is run by the states but has a lot of technology and operations behind it has the tool that make it accessible for people at critical time.

Mina Hsiang: So we’ve been really deeply engaged on a number of programs across government as Claire said, many of them are customer experience focused as well as some things that are a little bit more security or processing focused but really helping improve government services across many areas that touch everyday people.

Angie Chang: That’s really great to hear. Thank you for sharing all those examples of the fine work that you’re doing. So can you tell me about what is the CXEO and why we should care about and how you are working to deliver better services?

Mina Hsiang: Absolutely. And Claire jump in. So the CXEO… Government is like organized in this very bureaucratic way, where we have different agencies that all touch the same stakeholders.

Mina Hsiang: We run different programs that have come out in different laws, but the public doesn’t care about any of that. Like you’re a person, you have a moment in your life. You need services, you deserve access to things that you’re entitled to at that point in your life, for one reason or another, you need to register, you need to retire and register for an array of different things that you’re entitled to at that point.

Mina Hsiang: And so this is really the nexus of a lot of our work and our observations and our understanding of how people really need to interact with services. The best companies think much more about the customer at the center. And so this was us saying let’s orient government in this way.

Mina Hsiang: Let’s not make it an exercise for every individual to go learn about every program and have to navigate the same thing over and over again.

Mina Hsiang: How do we start orienting with a mindset that says, how do we serve the individuals who are entitled to and dependent on and use government programs everyday, some of them are about support, but some of them are just about registering and becoming part of the system.

Mina Hsiang: And so putting that all together has been the nexus and that has required as Clara says. And we talk about a lot, it’s really a team sport, right?

Mina Hsiang: That all of a sudden requires all these parts of government to have a similar customer focus orientation, to hold hands and say, okay, so how are we going to serve people?

Mina Hsiang: And it’s been awesome to work with Claire. We have deployed… USDS deploys, a bunch of teams across agencies to help implement that. And then Claire’s team. And I’ll let you talk about it provides the connective tissue and the super structure that makes sure that this all hangs together. So it’s been great to partner and work really closely together in this, but Claire.

Claire Martorana: Yeah. And I think to build on what Mina said – a person, and I think this was really prevalent during the pandemic, a person’s just trying to get something done, they don’t know the org chart of some federal agency. Half the time you don’t even know the name of the agency that you’re trying to get services from.

Claire Martorana: So what we are trying to do with the customer experience executive order is do what we have done in the private sector, right? Which is try to care for your customer. A, know who your customer is, make sure you’re designing your products and services with your customers, not for them.

Claire Martorana: And recognizing that in many instances, you’re possibly going to have to intersect with multiple agencies to get one thing done. And then maybe an office is closed. So the only way a person knew how to approach the government was to go to this place and talk to a person. And then during the pandemic that wasn’t available.

Claire Martorana: And so we’ve spent a lot of time working with all of the work that the US Digital Service has done. And then with other folks across government saying, how do we not only improve the digital experience for people who can use digital channels, right?

Claire Martorana: Not everybody can, some people still want to get somebody on the phone at a call center or walk into a building and have a person to person interaction. We have to think omnichannel. We have to meet people where they are also based on their skills and abilities, because not everybody speaks English.

Claire Martorana: Not everybody understands the legalese on these forms that sometimes they’re asked to fill out, to even get access, to speak to a person about something.

Claire Martorana: So we tried to step back be the customer and really think about how we can make navigating agencies more efficient and effective based on the tools we all know how to use right. In the private sector, all of our phones and the channels that we know how to use.

Claire Martorana: And I think the pandemic was really interesting because it broke down a lot of bureaucratic silos. People previously were like, we can’t do that statute, A, B, C, G, E, F, won’t allow us and during the pandemic, a lot of those barriers were broken down.

Claire Martorana: So we were able to take advantage of that and really accelerate some of this work that was started in government, but we’ve really had the great opportunity to take it several steps further.

Mina Hsiang: Absolutely.

Angie Chang: So what does this mean in terms of execution when it comes to hiring?

Mina Hsiang: So much hiring! OK. I mean, we talked about this customer experience EO. But even just the EO enumerates 36 life experiences that are specifically going to get improved across 17 agencies, in addition to many programs that are not specifically enumerated, all of the things that I listed that we’re working on, none of those are listed in the customer experience EO, because those are additional things that we’re committing to, all of the cybersecurity work that Claire has laid out, needs to be built into all of this.

Mina Hsiang: And so you all know from where you sit, how much expertise, how much skill and focus it takes to accomplish things in this arena.

Mina Hsiang: And we need to bring in a mix of people who come from experiences like the audience here, private sector, public sector, people who have done this at state and local levels, we’re working to bring all of those people together and actually build these integrated implementation teams to work shoulder to shoulder with the staff at the agents who have been supporting the services and understand the customers to build and enable all of this.

Mina Hsiang: Change requires a lot of work and a lot of new thinking and collaboration. And so Claire and I have been deeply focused on working across the government to say, now is an amazing time, there is so much to do, there’s so much support. Jump in Claire.

Claire Martorana: Yeah. And I would say, if you’ve ever interacted with the government and you went to a website and went, wow, this looks old or, wow, I wish I could do this other thing. It’s because you’re right. And we need to be a to do that. But the only way we’re able to do that is if people like you all come along with us on this journey.

Claire Martorana: We need to hire people that look like the American public, that interact across the nation.

Claire Martorana: We want people from different places. It can’t just be New York, DC, Atlanta, Chicago, and whatever.

Claire Martorana: We need people that come from all different walks of life because we all bring such different perspectives. When I talk to somebody who is coming from Kansas and they’re talking about having to drive an hour and a half to a local hospital, that’s different from where I live.

Claire Martorana: And that’s really important for me to have that understanding and perspective when we’re thinking about developing products and services. So the people we want to come and join us on this journey are all of you. I never thought I would join government.

Claire Martorana: I read a WIRED article about president Obama’s tech team. And it had a little thing at the bottom that says, USDS join. And I clicked on, I went online, I clicked on it and I filled out this application.

Claire Martorana: I never thought anyone would call me, a lot of us have imposter syndrome and parts of our careers. And we go, oh, all those people are really smart. And they know how to do all the things.

Claire Martorana: You are all those people, everybody listening right now, you are the people that actually can come into government, do a tour of duty and have an outsized impact.

Claire Martorana: Millions and millions of people can benefit from the skills you have. And that’s a really sobering thing to think about, but it is really true.

Claire Martorana: I mean, I work with people every single day that thought they’d be here for a year and three years later, they’re still doing outstanding work, because they can have such a gigantic impact and build all of those things that Mina talked about earlier. These COVID websites, getting tests out to the American public through the postal service that was all done because people like you showed up to help us do this work.

Mina Hsiang: Could not agree more. And I think just to get more detailed and specific or Angie, if you have a different question, but just to stay on this for a second, I mean the skills that we are looking for.

Mina Hsiang: We are looking for technologists, experts in design, people who are user researchers, data scientists, data engineers, product managers, all of these are the skills.

Mina Hsiang: And now as a moment to bring those into government, it’s a skillset that is rare in government and experience that we want diverse backgrounds and diverse ages and diverse locations, as Claire said.

Mina Hsiang: And in terms of the amount of work to do and the amount of leadership support that you will have to do that, it’s just the teammates. It’s an incredible moment to do that. If I may, I wanted to read a quote, just a woman at USDS said this to me last week.

Mina Hsiang: And it really, to me is like, why we’re here. My partner told me the other day that I’ve seemed extra of happy to him lately, despite the sometimes long hours and a lot of challenges.

Mina Hsiang: This is a unique job. And I don’t think I could have imagined what it was like ahead of time, but it’s definitely the coolest, most meaningful job that I’ve ever had. And I think to me at this moment where people we’re all looking for meaning and to do something important and to be able to use our skills in the most high impact way I have come back.

Mina Hsiang: This is my fourth time in government. I keep coming back. There is no other place that you can so meaningfully use your skills to impact the lives of others. So if it’s at all appealing, now I will plug. We have a website, the one where Claire went and clicked and we pulled her in, which is usds.gov/apply and really hope to see more of be there.

Claire Martorana: Yeah. And Angie, I’ll just add one more thing to pile on. The thing that is really fascinating about the government is if you care about food safety, if you care about healthcare, if you care about helping children, all of those opportunities are available to you. Y

Claire Martorana: ou can basically think of any constituent group and there is work that needs to happen. Technical work that needs to happen to empower the experience that those people have with the federal government.

Claire Martorana: So it is really an incredibly important time to join because we have so much momentum and candidly, we have money to support the momentum because of the American Rescue Plan and the Infrastructure. IIJA infrastructure bill. There’s actually a lot of work going on and what we need are the people to come and help us do that work.

Claire Martorana: And I would just add one thing in closing is, don’t self select out.

Claire Martorana: I was really close to self-selecting out. I don’t know, I’ve just done management and product and they probably need SREs and frontend engineers, not me.

Claire Martorana: Don’t self elect out, please go to usds.gov, apply and start on the journey. And if it’s not the channel through USDS, there’s lots of other places, USA jobs, the technology transformation services. There’s lots of other ways that you can get involved.

Angie Chang: Sounds like that’s the last question I have, which is, advice you would give to a person looking to make a change, or make a difference. It sounds like in this great resignation, great reshuffling, a place that people can go to reinvigorate themselves with something that has important, impactful, meaning to many millions of Americans is go have a tour of duty at the USDS.

Angie Chang: So do you have a final piece of advice or someone who wants to make an impact beyond applying for the USDS or many of these other organizations that you mentioned?

Claire Martorana: Yeah. There’s the US digital core for folks early career at the general service administration. There’s a technology transformation service. There’s 18F, there’s a really interesting group called the presidential innovation fellows that do outstanding work.

Claire Martorana: So there are lots of different ways into the government in addition to USDS but it is absolutely, I’d say raise your hand, go on these websites, take a look around and really interrogate that.

Claire Martorana: The one thing I said I was going to add in closing before, but I’m closing again is I had this amazing woman I worked with at the VA and we launched a product that helped veterans get access to healthcare. And when we launched, literally she started crying and she said, I just spent three years kicking ass and optimizing a shopping cart.

Claire Martorana: And today what I did is helping people and I’ve never had the opportunity to do that. And it was that impactful for her and I’ve never forgotten it. So we see that through our colleagues all the time, as you get to really help people that are in need and you get to use your awesome technology skills to drive that impact.

Claire Martorana: And it’s really, it’s something that we mean has been here in government. Numerous times I had thought, I’d be here a year I’m on my sixth year. You get commitment escalation because the work you get to do is so impactful.

Mina Hsiang: A thousand percent agree. I think we hear all those stories. The other thing I would add is this isn’t something that derails your career, this is a high impact job. First of all, there are also state digital services.

Mina Hsiang: There are state government offices of technology that have other names, but they are opportunities to work in your local community if that’s what matters to you. But all of these, every business that I have worked for every other company that I’ve helped start are deeply intertwined and affected by government programs, by regulations.

Mina Hsiang: This is the other piece of the economy and it’s in the extent to which I am competitive because I understand how things work on the other side as well. And that I understand the interplay and how both the table is set and how the game gets played.

Mina Hsiang: It’s really unusual to have people who have both of those skill sets. So this is also just really valuable for your perspective on the world and your career.

Mina Hsiang: So I would say, it’s both not a limitation and not a step back or a pause in your career. It’s a big leap forward.

Mina Hsiang: It has been really helpful to me in understanding how the world overall works and in my professional development.

Mina Hsiang: And then I would also say, there’s so much to do and there is no one else who is coming to do it. And no one else who is better qualified to do it so come.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you so much, ladies, this was just amazing. There’s so many comments on here where people are talking about how greatly inspired they are by you, Claire and you Mina. This has just been wonderful and we really, really are grateful for the time you spent in not just educating us, but in influencing and inspiring us today.

Mina Hsiang: Thank you so much.

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“Unique Paths to Machine Learning Careers”: Julie Choi, Chief Growth Officer at MosaicML, and Laura Florescu, Machine Learning Researcher at MosaicML (Video + Transcript)

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Angie Chang: Next up, we have women from MosaicML sharing their unique journeys to machine learning careers. I want to welcome Julie Choi, MosaicML Chief Growth Officer and Laura Florescu, MosaicML, Machine Learning Researcher.

Angie Chang: And they’ll share about how they worked at several tech companies, eight total, including a few unicorns and blue chips, and their reason for joining forces at a new startup focused on making machine learning training better for everyone and please do ask questions of these ladies in the Q&A section of Zoom. They welcome your questions and welcome, Julie and Laura!

Julie Choi: Hi everyone. Let me just pull up this, great hello, Happy International Women’s Day, Laura!

Laura Florescu: Happy International Women’s Day!

Julie Choi: I’m so happy to be here with you in our San Diego offices together in real life. So really, really happy to be here with everyone. Thank you so much. The Girl Geek X organization and Angie and everybody, I know it takes so much work to put this event together and we’re just thrilled to be here today to share from our own career stories, as well as from our current intersection where we’re working at MosaicML to train machine learning models faster.

Julie Choi: So let’s get started with Laura and we’re going to take Q&A at the end. We’ll reserve some time. So Laura, you are a machine learning researcher at MosaicML, and it’s just been a joy and delight to get to know you. Can you tell us more about your path that got you to this point?

Laura Florescu: Yes. Thank you, Julie, would love to. So my journey starts in Bucharest, Romania, where I grew up and went to school. I went to a math and computer science high school, and I guess I just kind of loved math. My father had a deep appreciation for it. And so that wore off a little bit to me.

Laura Florescu: And afterwards I went to Reed College in Oregon when I moved to the United States to study mathematics. And so that’s where my academic roots began. And afterwards for a year I worked at Los Alamos National Lab, where pretty much I learned programming and that’s how I got kind of interested more in engineering and technology.

Laura Florescu: And afterwards I wanted to do my PhD. So I started at New York University and I had the honor and pleasure to write a book with my PhD advisor. And so I got my degree in math, computer science, and afterwards I moved to Silicon Valley where I got interested in AI in startups, entrepreneurship, and I made the decision to join right after a small, at the time, startup called Grok. So they are working on custom hardware for inference in machine learning.

Laura Florescu: So I worked on compilers on machine learning there. I learned a ton and afterwards I went to SambaNova Systems also kind of following my passion of accelerating neural networks training. So SambaNova is also building custom hardware for training neural networks. So I worked on many different areas there as well.

Laura Florescu: And now for about a year, I joined forces with you at MosaicML, again, with the same kind of goal of accelerating AI now through more algorithmic side and system optimizations.

Julie Choi: Amazing. I have one question. I mean, this is a brilliant journey and so many amazing points along the way. How did you decide to go into industry versus academia after your PhD?

Laura Florescu: Yeah. So I think a lot of people finishing their PhDs have that exact dilemma. I definitely did and I think I realized I wanted to have more impact in the world, kind of work on work on something that basically the whole world can benefit from. And I felt Silicon Valley and startups in particular would give me that opportunity to do so.

Julie Choi: So it was about impact?

Laura Florescu: Right. Yeah.

Julie Choi: Great.

Laura Florescu: Yeah. Thank you, Julie.

Julie Choi: Sure.

Laura Florescu: So you are Chief Growth Officer at MosaicML. Can you tell us a little bit about your path and where you have been to get to here?

Julie Choi: I’d love to thank you so much. Yeah. When I was a kid growing up in LA, I didn’t imagine that at this age I would be a Chief Growth Officer. Those jobs didn’t exist back then.

Julie Choi: But I think when I look back on the journey, it kind of makes sense that I’m doing what I’m doing because my job right now is to connect us, right? To build relationships with engineers in the research community, as well as at large or medium or small companies who are looking to build AI. And so I am a connector and I’m a people person, but I am…

Julie Choi: I identify as a nerd. So I started my journey in LA. I grew up as an immigrant. Actually I immigrated to LA from South Korea. My parents moved us here when I was the age of three, and my sister was 0.2, literally just born. And we moved here with kind of everything we had and settled in first El Segundo and then North Torrance, if anyone knows Southern California geography.

Julie Choi: And my parents worked very, very hard. They owned a 7-11 store in Lawndale, close to Inglewood. And so they were very, very, very busy and they basically left my sister and I to kind of figure out what we wanted to do with our spare time. And as many kids during the 80s did, I watched a lot of TV on my own.

Julie Choi: I played video games and I just gravitated towards robots and transformers and robo tech, Voltron, anything mechanical as well as these stories of good versus evil. And I identified with the few female heroes that were in these cartoons. And I guess that kind of just spurred me on towards my path in education.

Julie Choi: I went to MIT, continued to find my people and find my groove. But when I graduated, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. So I went into consulting. And I started, I spent five years working with fortune 1000 types of enterprise companies, helping them solve problems, primarily in the security domain.

Julie Choi: So I was a hacker, I was hired to penetrate systems. And that was probably the first time I realized what it felt to be the only woman in the room, especially at RSA Conference. Wow. I was the only woman in the room usually and I was just like, wow, okay. But actually even then my team was extremely supportive and I had allies around me and it was like, do whatever it took to make that customer successful.

Julie Choi: And so I moved to Silicon Valley and here we are at MosaicML. I mean the Silicon Valley chapter also intersects with personally a lot of things, right? I met my husband, had my children, settled in where I live now. And at the same time growing in an understanding of what I wanted to do. And most recently, before deciding to go to MosaicML, I was at Intel and at Intel, I spent four very impactful years helping establish the AI business and brand for Intel.

Julie Choi: And actually the last time I gave a talk was Intel at a Girl Geek X conference. So it’s kind of amazing to do this again, about two years later.

Julie Choi: So here we are at MosaicML and we are here and so excited on this journey to accelerate AI development. And we’re doing this kind of differently than anyone else because we’re applying algorithmic research as well as system level optimizations to speed the way neural networks are trained.

Julie Choi: And so what I would love is given your research and engineering expertise, Laura, is if you could talk us through why neural network training is so important.

Laura Florescu: Yeah. Thank you, Julie, of course. So just a very briefly, a little bit about neural networks and why they’re so important and basically why we’re focusing on them. So there’s simply a series of algorithms mimicking the human brain to recognize patterns and relationships in vast amounts of data.

Laura Florescu: And so very briefly in the image below, you can see we have been given a number of images containing the number five and a bunch of neurons that are trained then through providing this kind of data in order to recognize features and textures and patterns in the images in order to correctly identify what the image is.

Laura Florescu: So through such iterations, we learn to classify numbers in this specific example.

Julie Choi: Oh, so this is unstructured data going in kind of like images and speech?

Laura Florescu: Yeah, exactly. So it can be applied to many different fields, basically anything that you humans would, would create, right? So a bunch of images, a lot of language. So you can imagine the whole Wikipedia, the whole internet, right? Speech data.

Laura Florescu: So many, many different fields affecting all of us. And I guess the issue is the training costs for building such powerful large models have spiraled. So they can actually get into the million dollars range for a single run. And in order to build a powerful model, you need several iterations of such training. And so you can imagine quickly getting to tens of millions of dollars.

Julie Choi: Wow. That seems extremely difficult and limiting in terms of who has the capability to train neural networks today. So in general, what are the types of companies that have this capability in house?

Laura Florescu: Right, so those companies would be, Google, Meta, Microsoft who have access to such resources.

Julie Choi: I see. But it feels like for AI to really reach its potential, we need these capabilities to be in the hands of far more than these things.

Laura Florescu: Exactly.

Julie Choi: Enter MosaicML. So Laura, can you tell us about how Mosaic is accelerating the training of these neural nets?

Laura Florescu: Yeah. So that’s exactly where we come in and it’s my passion to work on such problems, especially as they apply to, as we have here, a couple of different tasks, different domains in which we have done research and shown significant progress.

Laura Florescu: So in the area of natural language processing, which encompasses everything from machine translation, everybody speaks different languages. So it’s huge question answering, information retrieval, sentiment analysis for Amazon reviews, for example.

Laura Florescu: So in this kind of area, through the research we have done by combining multiple algorithms, we have shown speedups of up to 3.7x on these GPT type models, which is the state of the art in language models.

Laura Florescu: And in computer vision, so such as classification, what I showed earlier here, you can see a couple of examples in detection and image segmentation, which are crucial for autonomous driving. So similarly through our research, by combining multiple algorithms, we can train such models up to 4.5x faster.

Julie Choi: So if I’m interpreting the speed or the impact of speed, does training 4.5 times faster mean that you can potentially train a model that would’ve taken four weeks in maybe one?

Laura Florescu: Exactly. Yeah. So you can iterate faster and your costs go down significantly.

Julie Choi: Awesome.

Laura Florescu: What’s really good about it in my opinion, another thing that we’re doing at Mosaic is we have open source our library of such algorithms. So you can visit it on GitHub, it’s called Composer. So it’s a flexible system to combine efficiently such different algorithms.

Laura Florescu: There are about 20 of them right now, and we’re actively researching and implementing more. And yeah, so we opensource that. We welcome community interaction, community feedback, as well as contributions to our open source library.

Julie Choi: And so is this available today for developer use?

Laura Florescu: Right. And that’s exactly how we got the kind of results that I just described.

Julie Choi: The 4x speed up on vision and four and a half… Okay, perfect.

Laura Florescu: Yeah. So my question to you, Julie, then is we have seen obviously how ML is so important and it’s affecting our lives, but why work in it? What’s in it for us?

Julie Choi: Yeah. So why work in ML? I’ve been working in ML for the past seven years. So I started working in machine learning at HPE, and then I went to Intel and I continued to choose to work in this domain because whether we’re ready to embrace it or not, the era of AI is happening now. I mean, it is not a future thing.

Julie Choi: There is so much data that we’re generating every day on our mobile devices and through our computers that now any company in it, not only the things, but there’s thousands of enterprise companies with legacy data and new data being generated, any organization can create AI systems.

Julie Choi: And so the era of AI is upon us because of the convergence of data, as well as tools that extract meaning from the data. And so I feel like it’s very imperative for me to be a part of developing tools that accelerate this adoption, because at the end of the day, AI systems are acting on my behalf.

Julie Choi: They are identifying who I am, right? And they are trying to make decisions on my behalf. And so I would like to be part of setting up the requirements for AIs, both from the ground up at the tooling level, which is where we’re involved as MosaicML and help educate builders of a AI applications so that we can consider basically people like me, right?

Julie Choi: And today is International Women’s Day. And basically almost 50% of the world identifies as female and that’s about 4 billion people. However, only 15% of the ML space in terms of research and science and development identifies as females. And so this is part of why I choose to work in this domain.

Julie Choi: And so actually, if that resonates and if what Laura, you and I discussed resonates with people that are attending the conference today, I really encourage you to join us here at Mosaic.

Julie Choi: It is an incredibly exciting time to be working on machine learning infrastructure and algorithmic software and to be shaping the space and the opportunity that AI presents. So I would like to just, maybe now we can move into question and answer, we’ll stop sharing, and then let’s go into Q and A. So there are a few.

Laura Florescu: Julie, I have a question for you.

Julie Choi: Yes.

Laura Florescu: Do you have any recommendation to someone who might not have any AI or ML background in order to get into the field?

Julie Choi: Yeah. I mean, I think education, there are so many materials out there, on Coursera, as well as there’s many organizations like Women in ML, Women in Data Science, these types of organizations.

Julie Choi: I would definitely go and look for the coursework, if you’re looking for a technical background and then just talk to people, right? Whether it’s over Zoom or now over coffee, learn from the practitioners who are out there.

Julie Choi: Again, I’ve been in this for seven years and so we’ve kind of come to a state where there are lots of sources of information. Yeah. It looks like, oh, I’m so sorry. There’s a lot of, I think we have a couple more minutes here.

Angie Chang: We’re actually out of time, but if you’ll hop into the chat, we can have you answer questions.

Julie Choi: Okay.

Angie Chang: Thank you Julie And Laura for sharing about machine learning careers and how MosaicML is making machine learning training better for everybody. 

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