The Road to Becoming a Female Tech Executive

How I Went From New Girl Stand-in to Startup Executive Vice President

 Image via  Code Like a Girl .

Image via Code Like a Girl.

What is it like to be a female executive at a tech startup? For starters, it’s both exhilarating and, at times, beyond challenging.

What drew me to the field of technology initially was that I wanted to help change the world. When I was younger, like many girls, I dreamed of doing this by becoming an actress. But after moving to LA, diving into the entertainment industry, and getting a steady job as a stand-in for Zooey Deschanel on the set of New Girl, I soon realized that becoming an actress didn’t fulfill me, personally, in the way that I thought it would. It was then that my career path and goals began to shift.

Through my connections in LA, I soon began working as the Brand Manager for a marketing company, before becoming the Head of Content for Google Ventures’ “Strut,” where I worked with the CTO to categorize 7,000 brands and help transform 45% of downloads into daily users (compared to the industry average of 14%). From there, I was hooked.

It had always been my goal to help change people’s lives for the better, but the world of tech finally answered the question of how.

I won’t lie and tell you that it was an easy journey. Without a female mentor or a traditional tech background, my venture into the field of tech as a woman was paved with many obstacles. But those barriers only made me want to succeed even more, as well as lend a hand to other young women join the field and be promoted into C-level executive positions. Moving into tech opened my eyes to what was wrong in the industry, as well as what I could improve.

After meeting the CEO and Founder of Pavemint, an LA-based peer-to-peer app that connects people looking for parking with people who have spaces to share, I knew right away that it was the fit I’d been looking for. Soon, I became Pavemint’s Chief Brand Officer and eventually, the Executive Vice President.

Over the past two years, we have built an incredible and diverse team, half of which consist of talented and brilliant women. Our runway has been long, and our hours longer. After all, building a peer-to-peer marketplace is no walk in the park. We have made what feels like a million pivots, and had assumptions confirmed while having many others destroyed. But our entire team, including myself, have also learned many vitally important lessons:

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Success is not a straight line:

  • There were points in my life when I thought the world was going to end because of my failure. Big shocker, it didn’t, and I emerged from every missed success stronger. Your failures will help you grow in the long run. It’s also good to talk about your dreams to others; you never know when someone will be able to lend a hand.

It’s OK to be ruthless when needed:

  • I hate being ruthless. That being said, sometimes it’s completely necessary, especially as a female executive. No matter how much it churns your stomach, there will be times that you have to be ruthless for the good of your company. Know when someone needs a gentle nudge, or when they need a stern talking to. It’s all about balance.
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Be willing to pivot:

  • In life, as well as in business, there will be times when you realize that what you’re doing isn’t working. Admitting, even if only to yourself, that you were wrong and adjusting your course of actions is bound to take you far. Never get too attached to any idea. After all, you never know, a better one may be right around the corner.
 Image via  Everyday Feminism .

Communicate:

  • Whether you’re talking to an investor, colleague, boss or mentee, always say what you mean and mean what you say. Thinking before you speak is one of the most important practices you can have. Acting out of emotion will only hurt you in the end. Mastering the art of communication will aid in your professional journey and earn you respect.

As a company, we set out to build an MVP, but not the classic MVP that you hear in the tech community (which stands for Minimum Viable Product). Instead, we built what we like to think of as a Maximum Value Product. And after two years of hard work, we finally get to find out if we have a product market fit over the next few weeks. It’s been both nerve wracking and exhilarating to metaphorically pull back the curtain and put my baby on display for the world, and yet, with the current housing and parking crisis in Los Angeles, it also seems like the right time to bring Pavemint to the city.

After all, imagine never having to search for parking again. Picture never getting another parking ticket. Envision knowing exactly where you’re going to park and how long the walk is to your destination before you even leave the house. With Pavemint, all of those things become a reality. On the reserve-side of the platform, residents can list their private parking spaces when they aren’t using them or business owners can rent out their parking lots after hours, helping both to make extra income easily.

Now, believe me, I know that Pavemint doesn’t sound like a sexy app, but to me, cleaner air is sexy. After all, 30% of city traffic is caused by people looking for parking, which comes to a staggering 4.2 billion tons of C02 dumped in our air in LA every year. So parking really does matter.

There are so many ways, both big and small, to do our part to make the world a better place and people’s lives easier through technology. And while being part of any startup will most likely also include long nights and obstacles to overcome, it will also make you grow. Trust me. So for anyone wondering if they should make the leap, my advice is to dive right in. It won’t always be easy, but that’s how you know it’s worth it.

If you’re in LA, and, like most of us, have had to deal with the pains of parking, I wanted to offer you a code to check out the app free of charge. Simply download Pavemint and use code: MEDIUM to receive your first five reservations of $20 or less free.

 Image by  Victoria Filice .

Image by Victoria Filice.

YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US

How the gender gap is breeding girl-on-girl hate crimes

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We all know that technology is expanding at an astounding rate. That it is bound to continue to grow exponentially, far into the future, to achievements currently unfathomable. After all, it’s been estimated that within the small window of the next five years, technological advancement will expand 32x, and in ten years, will be 1000x more advanced. At that rate, who knows what the future will look like?

But can we, as flawed humans, keep up with this growth rate? In a world still wrought with blatant bigotry, racism, and sexism, can we succeed in continuing to advance exponentially as a civilization? While it’s a difficult reality to confront, it’s undeniably true that our advancements in science don’t even come close to mirroring the advancements that we’ve achieved as a world, or even as a nation (as evidenced by our recent presidential election).

As the average person spends around 90,000 hours working (and much more if you’re working at a startup), the workplace is a rational place to begin an “industrial revolution” of the mind, by ridding it of prejudice. But while women have made an applause-worthy amount of headway in breaking the glass ceiling, the gender gap in the business world is still far from being closed. Women are still earning only $.76 for every $1.00 men earn, currently, account for only 20% of staff at the senior vice president level and 20% of line roles that lead to the C-suiteand make up only 4% of the CEOs at S&P 500 companies.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has spoken out about her feelings that America is far from being on the path of gender equality. “If NASA launched a person into space today, she could soar past Mars, travel all the way to Pluto, and return to Earth 10 times before women occupy half of C-suite offices,” she told the Wall Street Journal last year. “Yes, we’re that far away.”

And while most people, both men and women, can admit to having seen sexism in HR, management and Payroll at some point in their past or present, there is another insidious result of gender inequality that is rarely looked at: the resultant jealousy and unhealthy strain of competitiveness — not between men and women (though this in itself runs rampant), but between women at the same company.

Many women, especially those in managerial or C-level positions, have had careers lasting a number of years. And over those ten, or twenty, or thirty years of jumping over hurdles to get, and keep, their jobs, most have been ingrained with the same subliminal message. It can be administered in so many various ways, but it boils down to one simple common denominator:

“Any other woman in the workplace is a threat.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not accusing all successful women of feeling this way, by any means. In fact, I’ve discovered that most women I work with in business are gracious, kind, and generally want to build each other up. But just because many haven’t given in, doesn’t mean we aren’t all being slowly spoon-fed the same propaganda. If we really dig deep and think about it, most of us have experienced this message, at least once, along the path of our careers. And what more brilliant way to keep smart, independent, and creative women from thriving, and from banding together in the workplace, than to tell us, subtly, and in so many different ways, “There is only room for one”?

If we’re going to make it as a society and truly have gender equality, we need to break away from the trend, step aside, and make room. We need to realize that when it comes down to it, the only way to break any glass ceiling holding us in is for those women who have fought their way to executive positions to lend a helping hand, and give other women the support that they may never have received themselves.

Trust me, I get it. Most of the women in C-level positions weren’t given a hand up by their female predecessors. They weren’t given a hand up, because there weren’t any other women at the top to offer their hand, thirty years ago. Those women had to fight with everything inside them to climb the corporate ladder, against a room full of men that didn’t believe in them; and I respect the hell out of them for doing so.

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Today, there are women at the top, and they can reach down. We can support each other, and mentor those who will follow in our footsteps. I frankly think it’s criminal NOT to help other women, regardless of age, or the thought she may one day take a coveted job. We need to stop focusing on what other women might take from us, and focus more on how we can add value and make ourselves irreplaceable. This will only be achieved through collaboration, and each of us paving a smoother path for the next generation than the ones we’ve had to walk. Why? Because If we don’t, an older white man will likely take that C-level position. For those of you that don’t agree, well, it may be difficult to sleep at night once you realize your part in helping our culture regress, instead of progress.

Progress is more imperative today than it has been in many years. Because today, the rights we’ve fought so hard to achieve are facing extinction. Compound this by the fact that 20% of women, in LA alone, are living below the poverty line, and female homelessness has increased by 55% since 2013, and you can see there is a long road ahead. So here is my message: those of you who have been working at companies for ten, or twenty, or thirty years, please know that we appreciate how hard you have fought for equality. We implore you to make room for the younger generation. To lend a helping hand, so that millennials of today don’t have to fight the same battles you’ve already won. After all, we already have new battles to face, as the world around us changes. Please nurture our creativity, and help motivate positive change. The future of humanity depends on it.

To find out more about a few incredibly companies dedicated to helping close the gender gap, visit Paradigm 4 Parity and Women in the Workplace.