Recently, women and a few men from the tech, startup, and business scene gathered at WeWork in New York to hear the stories of five panelists for Codify Academy’s “Women In Tech” panel, hosted by Codify Academy’s Marketing Manager, Kanwal Jehan.
Codify Academy is a part-time front-end development boot camp for web development.
“The reason why we’re hosting this event is to encourage women to pursue entrepreneurship and to get an insight into the tech scene,” said Jehan.
The panelists were women in the startup and tech field, each working as either an entrepreneur or team member. Each talked about their entrepreneurial journey and their inspirations, and offered advice to those who wish to start their own company.
Tiffany Pham is the founder and CEO of MOGUL, a worldwide platform that connects women with content such as articles, videos, and products, based on their interest. It allows women to share their voice, exchange information, and learn from other women. The creation of MOGUL was inspired by Pham’s grandmother, who fought against propaganda to democratize media.
“I knew that it was a desire of mine to eventually follow in her footsteps and start this business,” said Phan.
Starting a media company that was meant to inspire and empower women became a life-long goal of hers and every decision she made was towards that end. She adopted every skillset needed by working in different fields in media, such as distribution at Universal Pictures, working with HBO to launch HBO Go, and business development and strategy with CBS.
“Being an entrepreneur is adopting that mind-set,” she said. “Of knowing what you need to accomplish, and adopting every skillset along the way to get there.”
Upon creating MOGUL, Phan taught herself to code. She credits its early success to her many years of working with various people, like her advisory team, early partners, contributors, and team members.
“Be kind and giving to every person in your life that you can be kind and giving to,” she said. “Bringing people together, giving to them, collaborating with them, and just continuing those great relationships are going to be what enables you to become a great entrepreneur.”
MOGUL is now one of the fastest-growing content hubs for women.
Amy Wu is the Head of Finance and Operations at NewsCred, a New York-based content marketing platform for brands and publishers. The only one in the group who is currently not a founder, Wu has had two career transitions, from management consultant to venture capitalism and now, finance and operations.
“Entrepreneurship is about taking risks and taking the paths less travelled,” she said.
After graduating from college in 2009, Wu wanted to work in business. At the time, tech in New York was slowly “getting exciting.” She quit her job and volunteered for various startups to learn how they operate. She began to love the tech scene because of how much the people in it worked not to compete, but to help each other, and in turn, helped her develop her own skills.
Wu eventually became an investor at IA Ventures and Insight Venture Partners for some time before working at NewsCred, first as Director of Operations, and now Head of Finance and Operations.
As a woman in a mainly male-dominated field, Wu advises women entrepreneurs not to wait and to take matters into their own hands. She encourages them to ask for what they want, even if asking makes them uncomfortable, because it means it is really important to them.
“Strive to look for these decisions that make you uncomfortable,” she said. “And then just going for it.”
Maya Gat is the founder and CEO of Branching Minds, an educational technology company that helps teachers and parents identify and understand students’ learning challenges, and provides resources needed to help these students overcome those challenges. The company was inspired in part by Gat’s career as a teacher, and she even calls herself a “teacherpreneur.”
“Activism and entrepreneurship are very much the same,” she said. “It’s about identifying the problems, figuring out what the solution is, and just faking the gumption until you build it.”
Gat taught activism to elementary school students. Her curriculum involved identifying problems in their community, coming up with solutions, and trying to solve it. She realized that she could incorporate this into Branching Minds.
Prior to the startup, Gat did not have much knowledge about building websites and running a tech company. When she met her cofounder through LinkedIn, his technical skills and her education experience were the perfect balance that helped to make Branching Minds the company that it is today.
“You don’t have to know anything about what you’re doing,” Gat said. “The way the world is designed right now is that it’s possible to learn, it’s possible to gain that knowledge… Take the small risks one at a time – validate as you go, incrementally.”
Patrycja Slawuta is a researcher and founder of Self Hackathon, an event she co-hosts with world-class teachers to help high achievers improve and go to the next level. With her two master degrees and a PhD, Slawuta was on her way to becoming an Ivy League professor.. She discovered that she wasn’t particularly good at following orders, and so she was introduced to entrepreneurship. Slawuta loves teaching and incorporates this passion into Self Hackathon, where they bring in scientific research and experts to “hack old patterns of thoughts, behavior, and emotion.”
She has worked with high-performing individuals on confidence through the use of neuroscience. She is originally from Poland and owns many education-based startups in Latin America.
“Entrepreneurship is freedom from and freedom to,” said Slawuta. “Freedom from limitations… and the freedom to do what I want and freedom to be responsible for what you are doing.”
As an entrepreneur, you can be free from limitations and you have the freedom to be responsible for your own work.
“Learn the emotional intelligence,” advised Slawuta. “How do you ask questions? How do you listen? How do you make that social glue grow?”
Valerie Weisler is the founder and CEO of The Validation Project, a website dedicated to working with teenagers in 100 countries, dedicated to solving global issues through technology, media, and community service. Though only 17years old, she was inspired by her experience with bullying as a high school freshman, and wanted to help others teenagers.
After reaching out to other bullied teens at her school, she realized that although she has a support system at school and at home, other teenagers at other schools and other parts of the world may not. So, one day, she decided to design the early version of The Validation Project.
“I didn’t know what it was. I just knew that I wanted to spread kindness and validation,” said Weisler.
Soon enough, people from all over the world were getting interested and wanted to be a part of it. She had to come up with a mission statement and realized that everybody has a struggle – and a skill.
“As a teenager, you know a lot more about your struggle, more than you know about your skill,” she said.
Weisler wanted to change this way of thinking, and help these teenagers validate and hone their skills and talents, whether it be through education or volunteering.
“You don’t have to have a title to do something big,” she advised. “Don’t wait for a BA or an MA to do what you want to do. Do it.”
Right now, The Validation Project has collaborated with Capitol Hill, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and the NFL.