Are you a woman in NYC Tech and interested in participating in this series? Make sure to read the whole article…
Much has been said and written about the lack of women in the tech sector, be it as investors (or associates), founders, or in management positions at major companies. Is the problem the old boys network – or that success in technology is seen as a young man’s game? In this series, we speak with some of the top women in tech in New York as they discuss the challenges they face, the perceptions that need to be changed and the work that’s being done – or not – to help to promote women in tech.
Today we speak with entrepreneur Allison Page, cofounder of SevenRooms, the CRM platform for the hospitality industry. Page, in finding her passion for tech, launched her first company at 22 while working a comfortable and well paying job in finance. A few years later she discovered that tech was her true outlet for her creative and analytical side and she decided to leave finance to pursue her next endeavor, SevenRooms full-time in 2011. The company has raised nearly $6M including funding from NYC’s BoxGroup. SevenRooms is used by the top hospitality brands in over 100 cities and is quickly growing.
Allison Page of Seven Rooms
What’s your background and how did you develop your career as a female entrepreneur in the NYC tech ecosystem?
After studying finance and real estate at Wharton, I took the traditional route to Wall Street. At the time, I didn’t know that careers existed outside of the finance and real estate world, especially not in tech. Wharton graduates followed the same path: study hard, graduate, work for a “top tier” investment bank. In fact, going into tech would have been considered a huge failure, as landing a job at a top investment bank was the expected next step for a Wharton grad. These finance jobs were glamorized and applauded, which made me feel accomplished, but no one actually talked about or focused on the importance of loving what you do. Early on in my career I was fortunate enough to realize that as someone who is passionate about building and creating things, finance probably wasn’t going to be the best fit for me. That’s when I discovered tech as an outlet to apply both my creative and analytical side.
I started my first tech company in 2007, when I was 22, and launched it in 2009. At the time, my cofounders and I weren’t thinking about the future of the company, we were just doing something we felt passionate about. We built the product at night and on weekends (with lots of caffeine) while I was working 100+ hour weeks at my day job. I loved every minute of it. The company ended up being a failure but planted the seed for both my current company, SevenRooms, and my true career calling in tech.
We started SevenRooms in 2011 when I was 25. When I broke the news to my friends and family that I was quitting my cushy finance job to go into tech, they thought I had lost my mind. Most people don’t realize, but even back in 2011, tech in NYC wasn’t a “thing.” It was pretty rare to see anyone leaving their banking jobs for careers in tech, let alone become a female entrepreneur. Almost six years later, I’m proud that SevenRooms has grown to be an industry-leading platform used by top hospitality operators in over 100 cities globally.
It’s been an amazing journey so far, one that has been 10 years in the making (since we started in 2007). I still don’t see as many women in the NYC tech ecosystem as I’d like to, and as a female founder I’m doing my part to change that. There’s still a lot of work to do, but from my perspective, today looks a lot better for females in tech than in 2007, especially in NYC.
What are the advantages of being a woman in tech?
The network is one of the biggest advantages of being a woman in tech. While it might not be a large network, it feels strong, as we all share a common sense of “we’re in this together.” In other industries where female counterparts might be competitive with each other, it’s the complete opposite in the tech community. We’re all willing to jump through hoops to help each other out anytime and in any way we can.
Another advantage of being a woman in tech is the ability to recruit women in tech. There’s nothing more powerful in recruiting than having a strong female candidate meet all of the incredible women that not only make up 50% of our team at SevenRooms, but are in leadership roles across the organization.
What can be done to further promote female entrepreneurs and women in tech in New York?
We do a great job of promoting “women in tech” to “women in tech”, but I think more can be done to cast a wider net beyond just women in the tech community. That means promoting tech to women in other industries and those looking to make a career switch. It also means advocating for and teaching the upcoming generation of girls that tech is a viable (and real) career path. It’s exciting to see a growing number of amazing organizations getting these future designers, product managers and engineers excited about their potential careers. Lastly, for women currently in tech, the more we can create successful reputations and organizations where women can flourish we will only open the door further for future women.
What is diversity to you and do you see it evolving in tech?
While you could think of diversity in the traditional sense of race, religion or gender, I think about it as how many different viewpoints and opinions can I get in the room at
the same time. These viewpoints are often a byproduct of someone’s background, experience or upbringing, and the more voices we have, the better. I can only imagine how boring our product (and office happy hours) would be if we were all cut from the same fabric.
I see tech naturally becoming more diverse as more and more people flock to the industry from other careers, as well as their first job out of college. It’s also becoming easier than ever to work across borders, enabling people with diverse backgrounds to connect and collaborate from all around the globe.
Why do you think it’s important that women retain, grow, and develop into senior roles within their organizations?
I came from the highly male dominated industries of finance and real estate, and the lack of female leadership across those two industries is one of the primary reasons I left and opted for an entrepreneurial path instead. When companies lack women in senior positions, it becomes harder not only to recruit and attract female talent, but also to retain the female talent that you already have. It’s important for women to grow and develop into senior roles to ensure that female voices are being heard at all levels of the organization, to help foster environments where other women will want to work, and to show promising career trajectories for all employees regardless of gender.
For all these reasons, having females well represented at SevenRooms is something that has been extremely important to me from day one, and continues to be something we strive for in the hiring process. Across seven departments in our company today, five are lead by women. Out of everything we’ve accomplished, that is one that makes me incredibly proud.
How do you see the future of teams and interactions in a diverse environment and what implications will this have?
I took an unconventional path to become cofounder and Head of Product for SevenRooms, so I see enormous value in building a team with a range of personal and professional experiences. As a product person heading up an international company, it’s important to have a diverse group of people who can help build out features for a global audience. We’re fortunate to live in 2017 and be a part of an economy and workforce that makes it easier than ever to collaborate across borders and demographics.
This diversity in hiring produces diversity in thought. If we had hired all of the same types of people, it’s very likely the SevenRooms product would not look like what it does today, nor would it have had the same impact on the hospitality industry throughout the world.
How can women rise in the ecosystem and what are the unseen barriers?
The barriers are crystal clear at this point. We’re living in a male-dominated industry and it’s not going to change overnight. That doesn’t mean sit on the sidelines and and wait. If anything, being an entrepreneur is about changing the status quo. What excites me most is the growing community of female entrepreneurs that have already set out to change the world in their respective industries, and are now banding together to change the ecosystem. If you’re going to place a bet, bet on these women to change the status quo — not just in tech but across all sectors.
If you want to rise in the ecosystem despite the barriers, start by putting yourself on the best possible path to succeed, choosing a career that you are passionate about and a company that will support you and your goals. Whether that’s taking the plunge and starting your own business, or leaving behind your current employer for one committed to developing female talent, the only person that’s going to control your own destiny is you.
Please tell us about a few organizations that you are involved with or respect that are promoting women in tech.
Tackling gender bias in tech starts with educating girls at a young age that careers in math, science and engineering are not just for the boys. There are so many awesome companies out there like Girls Who Code who are working to show young girls the possibilities of a career in tech, and equipping them with the skills needed to get ahead in STEM industries. On my end, I stay active in the Wharton community to help both undergrads and alumni understand that there’s life outside of finance and roles for everyone in the tech community regardless of education or prior work experience.
What can men do to participate in this discussion?
Discussion is good, but actions are better. We can keep talking about the issues, but nothing is going to change until men in executive positions commit to and act on hiring, developing and promoting talented women across all levels of their organization. To be clear, I’m not saying to hire and promote women for the sake of it. At SevenRooms, we wholeheartedly believe in hiring the best talent above all else, regardless of gender. That said, I personally know how impactful women can be in an organization because I see it everyday with the amazing women at SevenRooms. What I’m advocating is for men to take a hard look at existing sources of gender bias within their own companies, question them and put processes in place to combat them.
The team at AlleyWatch believes it’s important to have an inclusive discussion around the challenges facing women in tech along with highlighting the work of the female entrepreneurs that have made NYC one of the best places for women in tech according to some recent studies. That’s why we are running this series that showcases women in tech in New York.
If you are a female founder in NYC working in tech and interested in participating in the series please visit this link or click on the image above.
Please feel free to pass this on to any women in NYC that you feel should be considered for the series. Thank you.