10/17/12 | Uncategorized

Inspiration From Women Leaders In Tech From SurveyMonkey’s Girl Geek Dinner

Women are the buying power of the economy, and are increasingly moving into leadership positions in tech, but what helped them achieve their success, and what did they learn about scaling a business?
By Courtney Mayeda (MBA, UCLA Anderson)

From candied apples to the photo booth to the cute stuffed monkeys serving as centerpieces, the event was a delight. However, it was the panel of women leaders at SurveyMonkey’s Bay Area Girl Geek Dinner that absolutely stole the show.

A roar of applause rose up when an attendee noted how inspirational it was to see so many women in leadership positions in a tech company. In fact, many women work and help lead SurveyMonkey; we had the pleasure of hearing from four: Selina, Ashley, Elena and Kate.

Selina Tobaccowala, Senior VP of Product and Engineering at SurveyMonkey, mentioned how important it is to support more girls in pursuing science and engineering. Thus, we still have a long way to go.

Seeing Tobaccowala’s success with Evite.com, Ticketmaster and SurveyMonkey inspired many women in the audience who love technology, and want to remain in the industry. Specifically, she spoke about the challenges of scaling a business, and the things she wished she had thought about earlier on in the process.

Key takeaways on how to scale a business:

  • Data: Extreme importance of having sufficient data to back your decisions.
  • Modularize code: How will you scale your code base once you grow?
  • International: Think about differences in your business should you approach global expansion. Can you support multiple languages and regulations?
  • A/B testing: Iterate and test constantly. What do your customers really like?
  • Ensure app is built with right APIs: Integration is important. Understand your customer group.

Scaling a business is extremely important, while achieving success as a woman in tech is even more fundamental to what we talked about during the panel.

Kate Brennan, Senior Business Development Manager at SurveyMonkey, spoke out on how she succeeded in tech, and in the business world in general.

  • Analysis: “Needed to put her Excel model where her mouth is” and show a solid business case for her proposals.
  • Communication: Communicate analysis effectively and efficiently – Be ready to defend your stance and to hear “no”. It’s important to “speak your mind, even if your voice shakes,” as said Maggie Kuhn.
  • Transparency: Set expectations and be honest with your team, (or they won’t trust you).
  • Team: Be humble, admit your mistakes, and build good relationships with your team. Especially important to build “street cred” with technical folks when you don’t have a technical degree.

Through following these principles, Kate has moved up the ranks in a tech company as a non-engineer – something that inspired many women in the audience with a similar background.

This panel demonstrated that women can succeed in tech, and that more and more women are reaching higher levels of leadership. Considering women for leadership positions is vitally important since women have emerged as the buying power in today’s economy. Paying attention to, and understanding, women’s voices and viewpoints are essential, and represent part of how SurveyMonkey succeeds.

Here’s hoping that more tech companies will follow suit…

Women 2.0 readers: What events have you gone to recently where you have learned good lessons or tips from women leaders in tech? Let us know in the comments!

About the guest blogger: Courtney Mayeda recently graduated from UCLA Anderson with her MBA in Technology Management/Marketing, and moved back to the Bay Area. Previously, she worked for Apple and Wells Fargo’s Online Sales and Marketing division, following graduation from Scripps College with her bachelor’s degree. Follow her on Twitter at @courtneymayeda.



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