Ep 76: Monica Bailey: Making GoDaddy the Company Where Everyone Wants to Work

Diversity Leadership Series

Diva Tech Talk was thrilled to interview Monica Bailey, Chief People Officer at GoDaddy (www.godaddy.com). With approximately 18 million global customers and over 8,000 employees worldwide, the 22-year old company is an indisputable market leader, as the largest ICANN-accredited domain registrar in the world, four times the size of its closest competitor. Monica came to her role at GoDaddy “having seen a lot of things I love about the technology industry and having seen a lot of things that I didn’t want to repeat.”

Monica, the daughter of a social worker mother and a residential builder father, was raised in what she described as a “rough and tumble fishing town” on the Washington State coast, populated by “amazing people” who “had to be as fierce as the ocean to survive there.”  She humbly acknowledged that some classmates and friends were “smarter than me” but did not have equal access to opportunities. Monica said: “I hustled as hard as I could,” applying for every scholarship for which she was remotely eligible. She graduated from Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow School of Communications with a double major in psychology and communications, and a special focus on women’s studies. Early in her career exploration, she knew “I wanted to help people; I wanted to make an impact” and “work in a company, helping people in that company --- speaking for them, and helping them.” Monica stays connected to her hometown for two decades of volunteerism on behalf of abused children, through a nonprofit called Camp Victory for Children.

Fate intervened in Monica’s landing her first job. Fortuitously armed with her resume, after graduation, she visited a friend, doing temporary work at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington. She spotted her third cousin in the building and importuned her to facilitate interviews. She was hired as a technical recruiter for Microsoft. “That’s when my journey in tech began, and I have spent my whole career there. I feel so fortunate. It’s a place where we don’t ponder for too long. We get to experiment, try things, iterate, and hopefully make change in the industry, and the world.” Her career at Microsoft spanned many roles including recruiter, recruiting team captain, senior human resources generalist working on Microsoft’s consumer internet group, manager of Microsoft’s merger and acquisitions, senior talent assessment manager supporting President/CEO succession and development planning, and also did a stint as HR partner for Microsoft’s Research arm.

Monica is a life-long champion of diversity, shaped by enlightening lessons from that 17-year Microsoft tenure.  She has the highest regard for Microsoft’s current CEO, with whom she had the chance to work on important projects, and who she acknowledges is a profound change agent.  Earlier, though, “I grew up in a work environment that was pretty internally competitive. I was fundamentally impacted by that system; but that system has now changed a lot. Having lived through that experience shapes your views on what you can strive for, in a company.”  

A few years back, Monica engaged in an exercise called “I BELIEVE IN…” where participants take 2 minutes and write down things in which they strongly believe.  In Monica’s case, she is adamant that “I believe there is enough pie for everyone. I don’t want to compete with folks. I don’t want my folks to compete with each other.”  In her industry, and company, “we are better together.” To that end, she encourages, and works toward, collaboration in all endeavors. Monica also has deep feelings about characteristics that comprise personal success. “That grit, that drive, that resilience” exemplified by some of her personal experiences “will ultimately make a difference in the world.”

Monica defined diversity as “having different perspectives around ‘the decision-making table.’ The more folks you bring around that table, from different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different socio-economic classes, the more holistic you get to be.”  She stressed that if you don’t have diversity, as an organization, you can “miss the market.” Her transformational work at GoDaddy has been propelled by a partnership with Stanford University’s 40-year old Clayman Institute, a nonprofit extension founded to inspire innovative solutions that advance gender equality. “We gave them unprecedented access to everything” she said, including wide-ranging employee surveys, various data cuts of the employee population, raw hiring data, redacted performance reviews, a seat to observe top-of-house talent review sessions,and much more.  After their in-depth review, “they said: you have two choices. You can continue to refine your hiring to reduce unconscious bias, similar to what many companies are working on. Or you can go for the ‘Holy Grail:’ career advancement for women, knowing that there is very little research in this area, at this point.”

Making the “Holy Grail” choice, GoDaddy’s first step was to revise their unique performance review process that encompasses both the “what” (targets, objectives, activity,) and the “how” of achieving goals.  “We want wonderful people doing wonderful work,” Monica said. “So, we had to reimagine the ‘how’ in order to strive for true diversity. The ‘how’ is how you exemplify our values; how you live them every day; how you help each other do great things for our customers.  We included ‘how do you introduce diversity and different perspectives ‘around the table’, in order to innovate.” Monica stressed that there has also been a robust effort to block unconscious bias in every human resources’ process as a result of the Clayman Institute counsel. “We just decided to build diversity into everything we did. Diversity is not siloed. It lives in every piece of work we do. The bummer is you’re never done!”  

GoDaddy is making great diversity progress.  “Our employees are super-clear about our culture and values. They come to GoDaddy because it is a really different culture --- hard-charging, yet collaborative. We overtly talk about it and more importantly, our people talk about it.” Monica said. “And we have record low attrition.”  She proudly pointed to a recent survey that shows that 89% of GoDaddy’s top individual contributors and leaders would recommend the company to others.

By following Clayman’s recommendations to break down all the company’s work into a simple, clearly accessible set of behaviors, “women and men have a statistically equal shot at top performance in the company.”  Monica is justifiably proud of GoDaddy’s pay parity goal attainment. “For the last four years since we started measuring pay parity, we pay a dollar for a dollar, women to men.” And, “last year, we were at 31% women in our most senior roles.”  She also cited the GoDaddy college campus intern program as a successful feeder to diversity, noting that in 2015, only 18% of the company’s entry-level engineers were women. But as a result of the intern program setting a goal of 40-50% female interns, the company moved to 42% entry level female engineers, by 2017.  Additionally, in 2018, 67% of incoming interns were ethnically diverse.

Monica has diversity-strengthening recommendations for other organizations:

  1. Creatively formulate what unique success looks like for your company, and then proactively act on that vision

  2. Examine performance by ethnicity, gender, and all other criteria, and evaluate whether the system is fair to ALL your people; if not, then experiment and try new approaches

  3. Use a tool to constantly survey and obtain deep feedback from your talent base, and aggressively make changes based on the data (Go Daddy has a consistent tool called “GoDaddy Voice”)

  4. Engage in systems like GoDaddy’s “promotion-flagging” to ensure that no one is forgotten (particularly women and minorities who may not normally “self-promote”) when it comes to promotion paths

Monica was emphatic about the positive return on investment that diversity represents for all companies. At GoDaddy “We believe that diversity creates better innovation, better products and services for our customers.”  Her mission at GoDaddy is “making the company we all want to work for!”

Monica can be reached through her LinkedIn profile: linkedin.com/in/monica-bailey-1a11462.

Follow us on Twitter  - @divatechtalks

Visit us on Facebook -https://www.facebook.com/divatechtalk

If you like this podcast, please subscribe on your favorite podcast channel. 

Ep 75: Scarlett Ong Rui Chern: Passion Plus Perseverance

Diva Tech Talk enjoyed interviewing Scarlett Ong Rui Chern,  budding entrepreneur, founder and CEO of Peerstachio.  Scarlett represents the epitome of entrepreneurship:  courageous, persistent, yet agile in her approach to creating a technology venture.  She grew up in a small town in Malaysia and left to pursue her higher education in the United States. “I had one year of community college in Kuala Lumpur, and then transferred as a freshman into the University of Michigan (https://umich.edu/).”  As a 10-year old girl, Scarlett said: “I was interested in tech, especially the gaming field. I was very ‘into’ role-playing games, and multiplayer, collaboration games. I was always interested in the collaborative aspect of tech, which is the basis of what I am working on, right now.”  

Scarlett matriculated to the University of Michigan, after researching online, and looking for a sense of “community” among colleges she evaluated. Everyone was very friendly, from her perspective. But her first year at the university was difficult. “My first year was not a good year. But I really believed in myself, although I was struggling to adapt to the whole situation,” she said. “Besides being an international student, I was a first-generation college student in my family. And I didn’t have any family members around.”    Scarlett initially faltered, academically, particularly with calculus. “It was a shock to me, to realize that I was coming from far behind. Not having enough peer support, from an academic sense, brought me into a space where I felt very alone, and not sure of what I was doing.” She had to swallow her own pride, and “figure out strategies of how to reach out” for help, which was time-consuming and difficult. Even with her assigned academic advisor, she felt that “there was a barrier in communicating.” Scarlett initially closed herself off; but now “I have grown to be a more open person, more self-aware” knowing when to reach out and ask for help.  “It really motivated me. There are a lot of other students that face this issue, too.”

Scarlett had one certainty as she began her time at the university.  “I knew I wanted to ‘do’ business. But I was not certain WHAT business,” she said.  She was influenced by some of her friends to join the university’s “optiMize Social Innovation Challenge” in her freshman year. “Initially, I was just there for the experience,” she said.  Her first project created a “gamified” classroom experience for elementary school students.  She learned a lot and then successfully entered the university’s business school, with an emphasis on consulting, in her sophomore year.  “I joined a pro bono consulting club on campus. I actually learned more about myself and how to give back to our community.” She worked with the famed Zingerman’s, (renowned for leadership in employee engagement) as one project, and helped create the framework to enable past employees stay in touch with the current Zingerman’s community.   During this time, Scarlett discovered that consulting was NOT her personal life mission. “I am the kind of person who likes to get her hands dirty, make that ‘hands-on’ impact, and see things through,” she said.  “Everything was too high level for me. I wanted to do something, create something. This is when passion comes into play. Not only did I pick myself up, but I wanted to create something that would help others pick themselves up.”

Scarlett admitted that “it was pretty hard to get a job”, but she needed one to defray expenses. “I am a pretty stubborn person. When people tell me: ‘no’, I like to prove that ‘no’ means ‘not yet.’ I’ll get there.”  She began to explore the world of venture capital and acquainted herself with U of M’s Zell-Lurie Institute, dedicated to advancing knowledge and practice of innovation.  “They offer a lot of support in terms of mentorship, grant-funding; they have been one of our biggest supporters.”  She also got an opportunity at the Michigan Venture Capital Association, as a summer intern, where she worked on the association’s 2017 annual landscape guide and “changed the game” in terms of its data collection, data collation, and interactive reporting.  

Scarlett also decided to “get more serious” about EdTech projects. With a fellow student, she entered U of M’s CAMPUS OF THE FUTURE competition, which “reimagined” techniques and spaces for teaching and learning in the 21st century.  Scarlett and her partners tried to create a “study mentor” using artificial intelligence (AI) as its engine. Her team was one of 5 finalists that had the unique opportunity of meeting with Amazon’s Vice President of Development for feedback.  From this, Scarlett learned one of her key life lessons: “What makes a startup successful is not just a cool idea. Ours was too far in advance. There wasn’t yet a market for it.” Scarlett then made a big pivot; shed that original team; and used the kernel of the concept as the foundation of her current startup: Peerstachio, conceptually launched in September 2017.

Scarlett stays abreast of technology by taking both computer science classes and Udemy courses. “But I knew, deep in my heart, that even though I love tech, I wouldn’t be a professional coder by any stretch. I partnered with a friend of mine, who is currently our co-founder and CTO (Chief Technology Officer).”  She also recruited a UX designer and front-end engineer (currently founding members of the startup) to implement the “front end” of the Peerstachio platform while the CTO manages the back end operational database engine. Scarlett manages fundraising, the company’s overall vision and strategy, market research, marketing, competitive analysis, and sales.  Peerstachio’s main mission is to help students improve their grades by connecting underclassmen with a trusted cadre of older students --- mentors connected with mentees, tutors connected with students needing support and tutoring --- to get academic questions answered in a highly responsive fashion. “Kind of an instant messaging platform,” Scarlett said, “where students pick a course, go to the topic, and then ask their questions, with access to trusted upperclassmen.”  Peerstachio’s MVP (Minimum Viable Product) launched on a django, html5, scss and javascript coding stack Website, and sqlite3 (PostgresSQL in future) on the back-end of the site. Having learned from her previous experience, Scarlett ensured that she validated real customer need by conducting detailed surveys of potential clients. “It was a lot of work,” she said. (At the time of our Diva Tech Talk interview, the Peerstachio team had interviewed 110 students, all over the world.)  

Through all this, Scarlett is becoming a highly experienced entrepreneur.  For instance, she said “If any startup tells you there is no competition, they need to do more research.”  For Peerstachio “I feel fortunate we have competitors. That means there is a market, and room for us to improve.” Scarlett thinks that passion, perseverance and sense of purpose are propelling her future success, as well as her empathy for the customer. “I would add one more: positivity,” she said. “In a startup, not everybody can see it through.  Positivity helped me keep at it to find resources to get to that better future. A ‘growth mindset’ has kept me going.” Scarlett shared her fond hope that she, and others like her, can show that “if you have some goals, and you try to get what you desire, that is ultimate happiness.” Scarlett has a strong fear of having regrets in her life --- a fear of missing something that she could accomplish.

Scarlett’s leadership lessons for women interested in tech and/or entrepreneurship are:

  1. Develop deep listening skills – “Listening has really helped me to understand strengths and weaknesses” particularly in her own team;

  2. Collaborate – “In a team, I think the most important thing is making sure everyone is inspiring everyone and building a vision, together;”

  3. Be confident and decisive– “Decisions that you make may not be the best decisions but that’s life. Give people faith;”

  4. Lead by example – “No matter what I say, I try my best to SHOW it. “

Scarlett stressed that, in a startup, “there is no such thing as 9 to 5. Work and life are intertwined.”  To balance that, she follows a “process of layers of priority” so that she can juggle multiple goals, successfully. And for Scarlett, many of the goals are tied to making life better for others. She also recoups her physical and psychic energy through exercise and by reading, watching videos, and reflecting.

Note:  Peerstachio has received grants since this interview including a grant from DTX, at TechTown Detroit: https://techtowndetroit.org/?press-release=u-m-startup-peerstachio-receives-inaugural-10000-gm-go-award

Scarlett can be reached at ongruich@umich.edu/scarlettong@peerstachio.com

Follow us on Twitter  - @divatechtalks

Visit us on Facebook -https://www.facebook.com/divatechtalk

If you like this podcast, please subscribe on your favorite podcast channel. 

Ep 74: Grace Hopper Conference 2018: Diversity Leadership Series Launch

The Diva Tech Talk team was grateful to have the amazing experience of attending Grace Hopper Conference 2018. We highlighted many conference details, discussed the Abie awards, and shared the voice of attendees on the Episode 73 Podcast. If you didn’t get a chance to listen, please check it out here: http://www.divatechtalk.com/blog/ep73

There was so much material and insight that we had to create another article and episode for our listeners to stay with us on this journey. This podcast features a special announcement for our listeners.

One incredibly worthy outcome of the Grace Hopper Conference and the AnitaB.org effort is the Top Companies report for women in technology. This is a national program that identifies key trends around the representation of women in the workforce. First launched in 2011, it pairs wonderfully with the conference “vibe.” Although there are many other female technologist benchmarking programs, this is the only one that measures technical employees using a rigorous, standardized definition of the technical workforce. The 2018 Top Companies report was compiled with participation by 80 companies, 628,000 + technologists with 150,000 + women technologists in that group. Congratulations to the companies who took top honors for female tech diversity for 2018. They include: HBO Inc, Morningstar, Inc, Securian Financial, ThoughtWorks, XO Group, Airbnb, Blackbaud, GEICO, State Farm, Ultimate Software, Accenture, Bank of America, Google, IBM, and SAP. Every company is scored along the spectrum of seven identical metrics. There is no weighting nor subjective or black-box evaluation of the results. Everything is simply data-driven, with pure statistics.  Special Diva Tech Talks “shout-out” to Tarsha McCormick and Shuchi Sharma, two leaders in that cohort we were fortunate to interview.  

The complete Grace Hopper Conference 2018 Press Release on Top Companies is here: https://anitab.org/news/press-release/2018-top-companies-report/

In addition to the keynotes, and breakouts on topics ranging in complexity from exploratory data analysis to mentoring, there were also some amazing women with whom we spent time to capture their experiences for our Diva Tech Talk audience. After reviewing their insights, the Diva Tech Talk team is proud to announce a new Diversity Leadership Series, following this event. The series will feature senior level leaders from a variety of organizations, who lead diversity and inclusion programs in their respective organizations. In this Grace Hopper Event Recap podcast, we include audio teasers for these full-length episodes, rolling out over the coming weeks and months. Here are some of the women we will include in our upcoming Diversity Leadership Series:

  • Monica Bailey, Chief People Officer at GoDaddy, the world’s largest company managing domains and domain names for the worldwide Internet (www.godaddy.com)

    • Monica prides herself on being a very strong advocate for diversity at GoDaddy. She spoke about her opportunity to lead, creating an even playing field for everyone through specific targets, and highlighted research from a Stanford study. She shared applicable, real world tips to help expand workplace equity.

    • “Having seen a lot of things I loved in the industry and also having seen a lot of things I didn’t want to repeat,  I got to take all of that and make GoDaddy a company we all want to work for.”

    • One of her recommended mental exercises to inspire and focus you is: “Take 2 minutes to do an ‘I believe in _____’ ”

    • Monica believes “there is enough pie for everyone”. It's a grounding philosophy. She wants to discourage enervating and demotivating competition. “I don’t want my folks to compete with each other. Together, we are way better, than we are apart.  When it comes to promotion velocity at my company, I wanted to make sure everyone has equal access to promotions and career advancement, but I didn’t want any of my employees to suffer so other employees could benefit.”

    • “We just decided to build diversity into everything we did. It doesn’t live in a silo.”

    • “There is a ton of unconscious bias built into people and processes.”

    • “By the nature of not being really specific about what you are looking for, you are excluding a large group of people”

  • Sonja Gittens Ottley, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Asana, a company that provides a world-class application for teams to track their work with greater ease, clarity, accountability, and efficiency.(www.asana.com).  Asana is one of Fast Company's (www.fastcompany.com) Most Innovative Companies, the top work-tracking vendor on Forbes's inaugural Cloud 100 list, and the only enterprise software application to win Google's 2016 Material Design Award

    • Sonja never thought she would be in a technology field.  She is a lawyer by trade, but after a temporary job with Yahoo doing management and consulting in 2005, technology “hooked” her. She began working on a human rights program at Yahoo, and then naturally pivoted into a diversity and inclusion specialty.

    • “In my role, I get to work across the entire company, which allows me to be thinking about it in two aspects. Diversity is really about how you are thinking about the people that are coming into your company. That allows me to think about recruiting. How are we attracting the best applicants from everywhere and how are we ensuring they are assessed in a really fair manner? The inclusion part is how are we ensuring that they get here. The culture is really supportive of inclusion as well as supporting those communities that are existing in the company. I think about it as those two pillars. And one cannot exist without the other.”

    • “People inside the company needed to understand how people outside the company were using products. Part of that involved having people inside the company who looked like those people and had those perspectives.”

    • “Imagine the product that we could build if people inside the company reflected those users. The potential of that is so huge.”

    • “Because we talk about diversity and inclusion or we talk about women in engineering all the time, we have an understanding of it. But we often forget that this is new and uncomfortable for a lot of people --- to talk about race or gender or any other identities that people possess. It is an uncomfortable topic. So, I want us to be doing more work to get people more comfortable to being in that sort of icky place of comfort because I think that is how you change things. I don’t think you do it by ‘saying this is too hard, so I am not going to touch it.’ It has to be ‘this is hard, I need to know why this is hard.’  ”

  • Tarsha McCormick, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, North America for Thoughtworks (www.thoughtworks.com), which is a loosely-confederated community of passionate individuals, whose purpose is to revolutionize software design, creation and delivery, while advocating for positive social change.

    • “I’m a great example of someone who was given some opportunities, and was able to make a way where society probably said I shouldn’t have a way. I fell into the tech industry by chance. I would like to say it was intentional, but it wasn’t. But once I got into the tech industry, I realized how important it was for people of color, for women, and for other marginalized groups to have a say in what we are doing in technology because it really is impacting all of our lives. So I am very passionate about what I do in the diversity and inclusion space because I know we all have a voice, but unfortunately we all aren’t being heard right now.”

    • “Diversity has always been sort of baked into the fiber of who we were as an organization, but honestly we were not always intentional. We were doing it on an adhoc basis. And as we continued to grow,  we saw the disparity of women in other under-represented groups in the tech industry. We realized we had to be more intentional with our approach.”

    • “Diversity is important, but more importantly I think you have to pair that with inclusion. We can get people from different backgrounds and race and gender and socioeconomic status, etc, but if they don’t feel like the workplace is supportive. If they don’t feel like it’s a place where they can be their authentic selves and they can grow and learn, we aren’t going to retain them.”

  • Shuchi Sharma, Global Lead for Gender Intelligence at software industry giant, SAP (www.sap.com), a 4.5-decade old solutions leader:

    • “I started my career as a scientist. I studied chemistry with the aim of being a doctor, but then realized that probably wasn’t the best option for me for many reasons. What I actually excelled in was economics. I went into management consulting for many years in healthcare. I loved technology. I discovered technology in that line of work.”

    • “What I observed was that women were not really helping one another. I saw that opportunities were being missed because of that. They were missing opportunities to help each other excel. I thought ‘well what can I do about this,’ so I founded an organization dedicated to women’s leadership and professional development.”

    • “Be comfortable with failure. If you aren’t failing, you're not trying new things.”

  • Rebekah Bastian, Vice President of Community and Culture at Zillow Group (www.zillow.com), the leading cloud-based real estate and rental marketplace

    • Rebekah  leads Zillow’s efforts around equity, belonging, and social impact. She was also one of Zillow’s first employees. Prior to that, she worked at Microsoft.

    • “I ended up getting degrees in mechanical engineering, following things that were interesting to me. First time I ever went to college was for music and I failed out. I just wasn’t quite focused enough yet. When I did start going back to school, I started taking a series of classes that were interesting to me and it led me to math and physics. I was pretty good and liked the problem-solving and exploration that went along with it. I ended up transferring to the University of Washington and getting a Mechanical Engineering degree. After that, I ended up at UC Berkeley getting a masters in Mechanical Engineering.”

    • “I did answer an ad on Craigslist and was one of the first employees here. Zillow was still in stealth startup mode, so I didn’t really know what I was going to be working on.”

    • “We generally have this philosophy: hire better than yourself.”

In addition, we got to meet with Dr. Paulette Gerkovich from Micron (www.micron.com), a 40-year old semiconductor giant.

  • Senior Director, Diversity and Inclusion, Paulette offered a vast amount of knowledge from her years of experience in the field of diversity and leadership. It was incredible to hear about her data-driven diversity development mindset and some of her cool work at Catalyst (www.catalyst.org), a 56-year old nonprofit working with some of the world’s largest companies and CEO’s to accelerate the progress of women in the workforce .

We are excited to add this special series to the Diva Tech Talk “mix” along with our traditional podcast format. We know it will be a great fit.  It will continue to inspire women in the field of technology, and the unique perspective these leaders share will get you thinking about companies you might work for in the future or do work for today. We still continue our tradition of learning about women’s  personal journeys, but the series goes deeper into what it means to lead a diversity effort, and innovative ways to approach the challenge to get more diversity and inclusion in technology.

We hope you enjoy this teaser and look forward to the upcoming series as much as we do. Make sure to subscribe today so you don’t miss an episode.

Follow us on Twitter  - @divatechtalks

Visit us on Facebook -https://www.facebook.com/divatechtalk

If you like this podcast, please subscribe on your favorite podcast channel. 

Ep 73: Grace Hopper Conference 2018: Diva Tech Talk is Here!

Photo Sep 27, 1 39 13 PM.jpg

“A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are built for.” - Grace Hopper

The Diva Tech Talk team was ecstatic to attend the 3-day 18th Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing #GHC18 (ghc.anitab.org) --- the world’s largest gathering of women in computer technology --  September 26 through 28, 2018 in Houston, Texas. The conference has taken place since 1994, with a yearly cadence since 2006. Named for the inspirational and courageous U.S. Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, the annual conference is a tribute to her work on the Mark I computer and creation of one the first industry compilers, that eventually led to the development of COBOL, still a relevant programming language. Grace paved the way for many women to follow in technical careers.

The Grace Hopper Celebration convenes many thousands of women in computing in a single venue to discuss topics of interest, and share research related to women in technology. Students flood the halls to get exposure to tech companies and tech departments. Many engage in onsite career interviews. There are a variety of presentations, poster discussions, and meet-ups throughout the week. It is also an ideal gathering for veteran tech women, employed in the field, to present and listen to each other, while networking and meeting the next generation of upcoming tech women. This year’s conference boasted a record attendance of over 22,000.


If we want technology to serve society rather than enslave it, we have to build systems accessible to all people - be they male or female, young, old, disabled, computer wizards or technophobes.

-Anita Borg

While Grace is celebrated as a pioneer, it is appropriate that this conference is organized by the research-oriented Anita Borg Institute for Women in Technology (https://anitab.org/) and Association for Computing Machinery (https://www.acm.org). The Anita Borg institute was founded by Anita Borg, PhD and Telle Whitney, PhD to recruit, retain, and advance women in technology. Anita Borg was also a significant contributor to technology history, innovating in Unix operating systems, analyzing computing memory, and doing extensive work in early email and messaging applications. Telle was a computer scientist by trade; significantly contributed to the microprocessor industry; and founded the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT.org), another non-profit focused on increasing meaningful participation of girls and women in technology.

The Diva Tech Talk team is so passionate about strengthening women in tech, we could clearly write a novel sharing the names and accomplishments of a multitude of women highlighted at this conference. Instead, we encourage our listening “divas” to visit the Grace Hopper Conference website here: ghc.anitab.org for event immersion, and to experience the wide range of speakers and featured talent. We also encourage our listeners to consider attending, starting now to get your company’s support for your attendance in the future.

Three primary keynotes dominated the 2018 GHC mainstage. Justine Cassell is the Associate Dean of Technology Strategy and Impact at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science, and Director Emerita of the Human Computer Interaction Institute (https://hcii.cmu.edu/). Her work furthers the development of human and robot communication in addition to advancements in Artificial Intelligence. It was amazing to see her showcase innovations in this area, noting that we are living in a robot-embedded world.  Jessica O. Matthews was the first woman we ever witnessed jump rope in high heels during a keynote! She is the Founder and CEO of the unique Uncharted Power (https://www.u-pwr.co/).  Her company strives to leverage more energy in motion to derive a greater degree of innovative power solutions for the world, much like the light she powered from rope-jumping. There was one other keynote speaker, no stranger to the corporate side of technology. Padmasree Warrior is the CEO and Chief Development Officer for NIO U.S (https://www.nio.io/) developing innovative solutions surrounding the Connected Car. She previously worked as the Chief Technology Officer for Cisco Systems (www.cisco.com). This female triumvirate represented just some of the variety of opportunities available in three key areas for women in technology: research in academia, the fast-paced startup space, and the impact of a large, global technology corporation. Each of them vociferously voiced wisdom and inspiration during the conference. We hope to feature each of them in future Diva Tech Talk podcasts.

The Grace Hopper Conference also offers a variety of awards programs to highlight the achievements of individuals and organizations in technology. The individual series recognizes distinguished women, whose achievements and life stories demonstrate that all of us have the power to improve our world, individually and collectively. The Technical Leadership Abie Award and the Student of Vision Abie Award are granted every year at the conference. AnitaB.org also sponsors hundreds of student and faculty scholarships to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration each year as well.

Congratulations to two winners for this years Abie awards in 2018! The Technical Leadership Abie Award (the Conference’s most prestigious award)  celebrates a woman who led or developed a product, process, or innovation that made a notable impact on business or society. This year’s winner was Dr. Rebecca Parsons, ThoughtWorks’ (www.thoughtworks.com) Chief Technology Officer. For decades, Rebecca has used her knowledge and technical experience in applications development across a range of industries and systems. She led the creation of large-scale distributed object applications and the integration of disparate systems. Furthermore, she is a strong advocate for diversity in the technology industry. Committed to increasing the number of women in coding and STEM fields, Rebecca served on the board of CodeChix and acted as an advisor to Women Who Code.

The Student of Vision Abie Award honors a young woman, dedicated to creating a future where the people who imagine and build technology mirror the people and societies for which they build. This year’s winner is Chiara Amisola, an incoming college freshman at Yale University (www.yale.edu) from Manila, Philippines. She plans to major in computer science. First encountering technology at the age of seven — post-after school ballet practice and pre-Warcraft II gaming session — Chiara picked up web and basic game development before turning it into a long-time hobby, and later into a passion and vocation. After several years of international experience in competitions and research with the Philippine Robotics Team, she began to recognize the disparity in inclusiveness and accessibility within the technology sector, finding a gap where students with the most socially-conscious and transformative ideas towards innovation had no opportunity to even enter the tech landscape.

At the event, we spent some time with past winner of the Abie award to learn more about their experience. Here is a quick look at insight we gained from speaking with them.

  • Ashley Conard with Brown University (www.brown.edu) helped judge the Abie award and shares information about the video portion of the contest submission.

  • From 2016, Past Winner Canadian Alyssia Jovellanos won the award and continues to build for change.  She is a Computer Science student and undergraduate teaching assistant at McMaster University (https://www.mcmaster.ca/) , and Outreach Instructor in the program Software: Tool for Change, which exposes girls and other underrepresented minorities to computer science.She has built education tools for 10,000 disadvantaged students in Canada and gives dated technology to those students in need. She found out about the awards on Twitter and since winning in 2016, she has continued to find success.

    • “It was absolutely incredible. It was such an overwhelming experience in the best way.”

  • From 2015, Past Winner from Brazil Camila Fernandez Achuttiis is the Founder and CEO of Women in Computing, the biggest site, in Portuguese, to support and encourage female participation in technology. Camila also works as a software engineer at Iridescent Learning, (http://iridescentlearning.org/) a non-profit that creates and delivers powerful science, engineering and technology education to help underprivileged children develop curiosity, creativity and persistence. She went on to found and create a school that is now comprised 61% of girls.

    • “This award means everything. It was more than a boost of confidence. It was a message that you are on the right path, so just keep going. It was a wake-up call.”

There was one additional interview that will also be published, in full, at a later date.  But, we wanted to introduce you to Noramay Cadena, Founder and CEO, Make In LA.  A three time MIT graduate and now founder of a hardware accelerator, she will be featured as a future standalone podcast episode.  Noramay also co-founded a group called Latinas in STEM (latinasinstem.com). She spoke candidly about her challenges, not having as many role models and being a young mom. Her continued journey to success in education and career prove that you can do anything to which you put your mind.

Why are you HERE at Grace Hopper Conference?
We love all the people we met throughout the time at the conference. Many were featured in the podcast audio. We wanted to provide a bit more information on the projects featured in this section of the podcast:

  • We spoke with Jennifer Cloer who is working on an inspiring film project called Chasing Grace that highlights women in the technology field. More information is available here: http://www.chasinggracefilm.com

  • Trish Costella, CEO and Founder of Portfolia, stopped by to share her passion for backing tech women for things they require in the market.

  • We also ran into the Black Girls Code (www.blackgirlscode.com/) team, who shared their vision. They are a well-known and celebrated organization, that encourages black girls to become programmers/coders. More info: http://www.blackgirlscode.com/

  • Digital Undivided (https://www.digitalundivided.com/) was the main organization behind the first ever PitcHER Competition held at Grace Hopper to encourage female entrepreneurs, from all industries, leading early stage technology startups. They stopped by to share with us why they love the Grace Hopper Conference.

“Go to as many things like this as possible [like Grace Hopper] and surround yourself with a community of women that build each other up.”

-Anita Hill, inspiring Grace Hopper Conference 2018 speaker

Sincere thanks to Hotwire, the Anita Borg Institute, and Melissa  Iarocci, all amazing hosts who accommodated us at the conference, and support the work we do on the Diva Tech Talk podcast. We are so grateful to them, our featured guests, and listeners!  The Diva Tech Talk team left this experience feeling empowered and humbled. It further fuels our energy and resolve to continue our mission to inspire more women and girls in the field of technology with our podcast.

Interviewing these organizational and corporate change-makers was truly moving. In fact, we were so motivated from this event, that Diva Tech Talk will be announcing a special project next week to explain more an upcoming Diversity Leadership Series: We Lead Diversity.  Stay up to date on this special series and other upcoming episodes by visiting our website or following us on social media.

Most of all, Make sure to subscribe to our podcast so you don’t miss an episode!

Follow us on Twitter  - @divatechtalks

Visit us on Facebook -https://www.facebook.com/divatechtalk

If you like this podcast, please subscribe on your favorite podcast channel. 

Ep 72: Stephanie Espy: Exposure to The Possibilities

Diva Tech Talk was delighted to interview Stephanie Espy, Founder and CEO of MathSP (https://mathsp.com/) and STEM Gems (http://stemgemsbook.com/).  A leader, engineer and author, Stephanie shares a common goal with Diva Tech Talk (www.divatechtalk.com) to educate, support and serve female STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) practitioners as well as inspire the next generation of female STEM leaders.  

Stephanie is lucky.  “I think it is important to note that both of my parents are engineers,” she said.  One of four siblings, “all of us are connected, in one way, shape or form, to STEM. Growing up in a home where both of your parents are creators, problem-solvers, builders,” was a distinct advantage. In her extended family, “I had aunts and uncles who were in STEM as well.  Engineering and science are two main career paths my family has taken.” She fondly recalled family gatherings where “we would play a lot of chess; do board games, logic-type puzzles.” Stephanie was also influenced by “really fabulous teachers” as early as elementary school, extending through secondary education and college.

After high school, Stephanie moved from Georgia to Massachusetts to attend the prestigious MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: www.mit.edu ). There she “thrived because of the community” and obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering.  “MIT brought engineering to life,” for Stephanie, since she could implement “hands-on projects,” and collaborate with other brilliant students. “We were able to take an idea from inception to creation” repeatedly.  Her penchant for bonding with others in her dorm, in her major and “with other women of color on campus” got her through the “difficult moments.” Supplementing her academic program, Stephanie successfully completed research projects, and worked at many internships (“they are absolutely critical.”)  Internships “helped solidify my understanding of how engineers make a difference in the world,” and acquainted her with post-graduation career options. “My first two internships were in a manufacturing plant,” and helped her apply fundamentals of process design and engineering in a real-world application.

She matriculated to the University of California, Berkeley (https://www.berkeley.edu/) for her graduate degree in chemical engineering.  Stephanie’s work there was more independent. She implemented a variety of approaches to “get my experiments to work;” published her research, (“that was exciting,”); and built another supportive community on campus.  “Having community leads to confidence, empowerment, and helps you believe you can get through any challenge that comes your way,” Stephanie said.

As she proceeded in her education and career, Stephanie accrued significant experience, working with polymers; using various rubber-producing plants at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve quality and yield of U.S.-grown natural rubber; and as a chemical engineer in the oil and gas industry at BP (www.bp.com).  Along the way, “I saw the value of having an impact at the highest levels of an organization.”  So, she decided to get a business degree to complement her graduate degree in chemical engineering.  “Engineering is its own language,” Stephanie exclaimed. And she “wanted that other set of skills,” so she completed a joint program at UC Berkeley’s HAAS business school (The Management of Technology – a certification program combining engineering and business).  Then, “I landed at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School” (http://www.goizueta.emory.edu/) where she earned her MBA. At Goizueta, Stephanie “shifted gears; I got this entrepreneurial ‘bug’ and it came down to my experience as being one of the few women of color in the room” in her engineering and business environments. “That drove me to want to create something, my own way of helping to close the gender gap in STEM.”

Throughout her career, Stephanie said “most of my experiences had been in male-dominated environments. I yearned for more representation” by women of color.  “In thinking about my legacy, it really came back to my desire to help to fill the pipeline with more girls, young women, and people of color.” To accomplish this, she founded MathSP a decade ago. “S stands for strategies; and P stands for problem-solving.”  The company’s premise is that “in order to enter a STEM career, you absolutely must have a solid foundation in math and science.” Her venture helps male and female students at all levels “find their gaps in education, and close them, helping them become more ‘STEM-fluent:’ better problem-solvers, independent thinkers, and self-sufficient learners.”  

She also saw a need to serve girls “in their own special way.” To that end, in 2014, Stephanie founded STEM Gems (http://stemgemsbook.com/) which began as a book but has morphed into “a movement.”  Its aim is “to expose girls and young women to careers and role models in STEM.”  It offers its audience exposure to career opportunities that “they did not even know existed.”  Stephanie lamented that movies, television shows and other communications channels don’t offer enough female engineering role models to young audiences.  “So many of these careers go unnoticed!” In addition to a variety of career choices, STEM Gems also give girls exposure to role models, working in science, technology, engineering and math. The basic premise is “these careers are not only for boys, only; these are things you, as a girl, can do!”  The STEM Gems book features 44 different careers. “I brainstormed careers that I had never heard of when I was a tween/teen but I wish I had,” Stephanie said. They include a wide variety like data science, global health science, environmental engineering, archaeology, entomology, biotechnology, animation and a plethora of others. “There are so many careers out there that people don’t really think about, especially girls,” Stephanie exclaimed.  STEM Gems is shining a light on many of them.

“A lot of research went into finding STEM women leaders, highlighting their accomplishments and advice, interviewing all of them,” and spotlighting the biggest thing: “how they make a difference in the world and help people.”  A challenge was also to put those stories into the language of children “so a 10-year old girl could pick up the book, read it, and understand!” Stephanie noted how grateful she is to the women who participated. “It has touched so many lives, both through the book and through the STEM Gems Clubs!” The clubs focus on groups of girls (boys welcome too) reading the book and following a curriculum (with adult community members leading).  They began in the last 12 months, and have spread throughout the United States. “It is a ‘tribe setting,’ and shows you that you are never alone in your pursuit of greatness,” Stephanie said. “Girls who were singularly uninterested, before, have transformed through these clubs.”

Stephanie has learned many leadership lessons in her own educational journey, through her career and creating MathSP and coming to know her STEM Gems role models.  They include:

  • “Never, ever, give up, despite the odds.”  The common theme is that the successful women Stephanie has profiled have a “prove them wrong” attitude.

  • Do not be intimidated. “These women have walked into a room and pulled up to the table…” invariably letting their voices be heard. Speak up and speak out.

  • “You cannot shy away from a challenge.” Get comfortable “being a trailblazer.”

Stephanie’s parting tips for women and girls to succeed include:

  • “Be a part of a community. You can’t do much alone.”  To that end, she recommends membership in many of the national and regional professional associations that offer resources, support and fellowship.

  • “Be a mentor to the next generation. Be a role model to many; and pick a few for whom you can really have an impact on their journey.”

The inspirational Stephanie can be reached via LinkedIn at  https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephanie-espy/, via Twitter/Facebook, and Instagram @STEMGemsBook, and via her website at www.STEMGemsBook.com.

Follow us on Twitter  - @divatechtalks

Visit us on Facebook -https://www.facebook.com/divatechtalk

If you like this podcast, please subscribe on your favorite podcast channel.