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Advice for women in tech from Girl Geeks: Don't play it safe, prep questions, start doing

Thursday, September 26, 2013, 7:30pm - 9:00pm
The Crawford Family Forum 474 South Raymond Avenue Pasadena, CA 91105 Map and directions
A pictures shows binary code reflected from a computer screen in a woman's eye on October 22, 2012.
A pictures shows binary code reflected from a computer screen in a woman's eye on October 22, 2012.
LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

On Thursday, September 26, KPCC's Crawford Family Forum welcomed Girl Geek Dinners for food, drink, and nerdy conversation.

Girl Geek Dinners is a regular meet-up aiming to bring together women from the tech community worldwide. The effort was started by Sarah Lam who founded the group in London in 2005. The Los Angeles chapter has been connecting geek girls since 2011.

The organization's aims: create a space in which women can learn, exchange ideas and find a supportive community among highly-accomplished peers.

Last Thursday's program focused on the impact of technology on media and career, leadership, and the current state of girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). 

Drawing on their work and personal experiences, the panelists explored questions surrounding what is currently being done to promote in STEM careers and leadership positions, how the media has portrayed girls and women, and what the future looks like.

Photo: Joining us in Pasadena for our Girl Geek Dinners event was (from left to right) inventor Elon Musk, English actress Talulah Riley, Bay Area Girl Geek Dinners founder Angie Chang, and founder and entrepreneur Stacey Ferreira . MORE: See more event photos


What was your "Lean-In" moment?

Stacey Ferreira, Entrepreneur, Founder of mySocialCloud: "I was sitting in my NYU dorm room at the end of my freshman year, and at this point my brother and I had already been running the business for about a year, and I was making the decision of whether to continue my college education or to leave it for the time being to run the business full-time. As someone who, at the time was a 19-year-old, looking back it doesn't seem like it's that big of a decision—[going] with the business—but at that point I'm sitting my dorm room and I [know] won't graduate with all my friends. I'm not going to have the traditional life that everyone has. My life is going to be very different if I decide to kind of take that leap of faith and put everything into my business, but I did and I feel like that was the best decision that I could have made looking back. And it was definitely a big lean in moment for me."

What's that one piece of advice to your younger self?

Jan Sanders, Director of Libraries and Information Services for the City of Pasadena: "I think I would have taken more risks, and taken them a little more earlier in my career."

Alex Schaffert, Director of Digital Media for KPCC, Southern California Public Radio: "Don't play it safe. I think that the risk-taking is a very good advice because when you're younger there's a little bit less at stake and you can pick up and you can change continents and you can try a crazy idea. You can shoot for the stars, and go for the first dream. Don't take second best, don't do the safe choice."

Networking advice: 

Jan Sanders: "What I have found to be helpful is to just come up with one or two really good questions, and then as you meet people pose those questions. A couple of really good questions that you ask — and then you stay quiet, because most people like to talk about themselves. And even individuals who are shy, if you ask a thoughtful question, will enter into a conversation." 

Other than the technical skills and education, what else can you do step up and separate yourself from the rest?

Jan Sanders:  "Just start doing. Just do it once. Take that step of faith. Take one step, the first time, and the next one's easier and easier and it builds your own confidence."

Alex Schaffert: "Own who you are as a woman, and don't try to hide an aspect of your personality because you think it's not appropriate or not wanted in the workplace. My advice is don't try to be one of the boys. Be a girl, all the way. And own it! And be happy about it and your professional work will only gain from showing other sides of you as a girl or as a woman."  

Talulah Riley, Actress/Writer and Ambassador of The Prince's Trust: "Cast around yourself with people who can provide accurate feedback as well, and be a good support network — events like this, family, close friends, people who can encourage you and support you and also tell you when something isn't happening."

Stories or moments when you worked really hard and didn't get recognition:

Alex Schaffert: "It's also important to recognize when you've reached the point in your career when it's your job to recognize others, when the spotlight may not always be on you but it's then your job to make members of your team feel good and accomplished and give them the kudos. That's really a great experience once that happens."

Stacey Ferreira: "Yes, there were a lot of times that can I think of that in entrepreneurship when you're trying to get funding for a security startup as an 18-year-old. It's not easy. You get a lot of people saying, 'You haven't been alive long enough to know what you're talking about.'

I think there, the lesson is just keep going after it and keep doing it if it's something you feel passionate about and eventually you'll find a way."


Angie Chang, Director of Growth at Hackbright Academy and founder of the Girl Geek Dinners' Bay Area chapter


Stacey Ferreira, Entrepreneur, Founder of mySocialCloud

Jan Sanders, Director of Libraries and Information Services for the City of Pasadena

Talulah Riley, Actress/Writer and Ambassador of The Prince's Trust

Alex Schaffert, Director of Digital Media for KPCC, Southern California Public Radio

Skylar Jackson, Communication & Program Director, Entertainment Industries Council


Andy Wilson, Founder of Rexter and Innovate Pasadena

This event was sponsored by Innovate Pasadena, Metacloud, Guidance Software, and SupplyFrame.