We spoke with Elissa Shevinsky, tech’s ultimate troublemaker, during our #womenwhotech Google+ Hangout on Air series recently. Here are some of the highlights from the conversation and the link to watch the hangout.
Sexism in tech is alive and well, and Elissa is out to change that:
Elissa has been one of the more outspoken commentators on the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, where an app called TitStare overshadowed everything else that went on there. “TechCrunch’s intentions were good, but they needed to catch up. Sexism is never ok…for going forward, conferences need to be proactive. If they don’t put the right policies in place and aren’t paying attention, they’re going to experience incidents.”
Yes, if you go to a liberal arts college in the wilderness, read Plato, and never code you can still be great in tech:
“It’s never too late to get started.” Elissa went to Williams College where she studied political philosophy. “Williamstown was one of the places where the internet was being born in 1995-96. I started out as an intern for Geekcorps, which was sending tech geeks to Ghana…we literally flew with suitcases full of O’Reilly textbooks because we couldn’t send them electronically. It was one of the first nonprofits behaving like a startup.” After Geekcorps, Elissa joined Everyday Health where she was trained to build software.
You don’t have to code to contribute to a software project:
“There’s a bias towards being a programmer, and the notion that the technical founder is the builder. At this point I am quite technical, but for a long time I wasn’t and I was still contributing to these software projects in a really significant way.” If scripting, writing backend, and setting up a database aren’t at the top of your list, Elissa suggests learning Keynote, Keynotopia, and UI for product designs and business development (pitch decks, etc.).
Thanks to Elissa, you could potentially say goodbye to those OKStupid messages in your inbox.
Since OKCupid doesn’t have an API, Elissa and her developer hacked OKCupid and built a spam filter for the site called OKMail. “I wanted to do this to highlight the difference between how men and women use online dating. We grab the messages in your inbox and filter them according to a grammar check, a naughty word check, and a fact check, such as making sure that people who message you are actually close to your age.”
Say goodbye to hackers/hookers and hello to troublemakers:
Elissa not only built Glimpse Labs and met with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to see if they needed additional plaintiffs in interest of suing the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA), but she’s also starting a tech conference called Troublemakers. Inspired by Jonathan Corbet, who’s website uses the phrase ‘troublemaker’ and by the frustration of those experiencing harassment at conferences such as DEF CON where strippers are part of the programming, Elissa was inspired to create a new tech conference model. “A professional conference should not be such a radical idea. There are people that are doing great conferences, but I want to do something that’s more intended to be what I think DEF CON should be. All of the individuals that I’m interested in having come speak have one thing in common—they’re all troublemakers.”
Raine Dalton is WIM’s editorial and community innovation intern. Raine is passionate about finding creative ways to empower women globally through tech. In addition to WIM, Raine has written, tweeted, and posted for the Global Banking Alliance for Women, WITNESS, and 90.7 WFUV News. You can find her work at her website or get in touch with her through Twitter.