Are you a woman in NYC Tech and interested in participating in this series? Make sure to read the whole article…
Today we speak with Samantha Ruiz, the CEO and founder of Well Traveled, the startup using big data to unravel a traveler’s path to purchase. While starting her career in the media and the adtech space, Samantha quickly learned that she could combine data and travel to create Well Traveled. Driven to inspire other women in tech, Samantha has taken action in becoming a strong voice in the NYC Startup scene.
Samantha Ruiz of Well Traveled
What’s your background and how did you develop your career as a female entrepreneur in the NYC tech ecosystem?
I started my career in digital media. At the time, I didn’t even understand what media was. I remember taking the train to Chicago for my interview and googling “what is media” the entire way. Miraculously, I got the job and quickly fell in love with the world of digital advertising. For me, it was the perfect mix of art and science. But, the glamour didn’t last long; my agency lost two huge clients and almost everyone was laid off. I was fortunate enough to be relocated to Los Angeles.
It was in LA that I started diving deep into the world of ad tech. I loved programmatic and finding ways to turn the data into deep, meaningful insights. Eventually, I left the agency world to try my hands on the other side of the business. I joined an ad tech company out there that focused on real-time data, a product that I truly believed in, and still do. But, once again, the glitz faded away for me as I realized that the data wasn’t truly first party data, like they claimed, but second party data that they modeled off of third party data. So, I did what it seems like every other millennial who is unhappy with their job does today, I quit to travel the world.
While I was traveling, I decided to go to a coding camp in Bali so I could learn to code. It was while at Institute of Code that I met my now co-founder, Isaac. At the time, he was a mentor at the camp and we found that we worked really well together. After we parted ways, we stayed in touch, ideating what we could create. We recognized the complexities of travel and the fragmentation of the travel path to purchase, and quickly became obsessed with it. Since then, we’ve gone on to found Well Traveled, a company that uses big data to unravel the travel path to purchase. As the CEO, I get the honor of speaking with travel brands and thinking of ways that we can use data to address their pain points and, ultimately, inspire more people to travel.
What are the advantages of being a woman in tech?
When you become a woman in tech, you join the ranks of other amazing, like-minded women. We are persistent, competent, inspiring and fierce. Each of us have our own stories and motivations behind what we do, and each of us have worked extremely hard to get to where we are.
What can be done to further promote female entrepreneurs and women in tech in New York?
Promoting female founders and women in tech starts at day one. Today’s girls need to be encouraged to take risks and challenged to study STEM, rather than discouraged from doing so.
Secondly, there needs to be a shift in the way society perceives women. I guarantee you that every one of my fellow female founders have been the victim of sexism or gender bias at some point in their career. The world needs to see and treat women as equals to men, and give them the opportunity to succeed.
Finally, women need to do everything they can to lift up other women. We tend to have this deep-seeded fear that there isn’t enough success out there for all of us, and therefore find it hard to support each other. But, the only way things will change is by doing it ourselves and demanding the world to change – by supporting other women and helping them get into tech and leadership roles.
What is diversity to you and do you see it evolving in tech?
To me, diversity is bringing a range of backgrounds, cultures, experiences and perspectives together. Regardless of what you’re trying to do, this is extremely important. Different voices, opinions and ideas are what make a product, or company, great. Without them, we’d never be challenged or innovative and progress would definitely slow.
I believe, and hope, that tech will continue to become more diverse. When I think of all the great people that I’ve met throughout the world, and how much they’ve impacted me as an individual, I can only imagine all the amazing things we would accomplish by looking beyond our borders (hypothetical and geographical). I link diversity and progress closely together, and therefore, I believe that in order for us to truly advance, we need to be diverse.
Why do you think it’s important that women retain, grow, and develop into senior roles within their organizations?
Growing up, all I saw were male leaders. When I was young, my dad worked while my mom stayed at home. When I went to college, I saw my female friends drift out of leadership roles and STEM career paths. When I started working, my directors and the heads of the agencies I worked at were male. Now, when I walk into a networking event or meeting, I am surrounded by males. I can count on my fingers the number of female execs I’ve seen throughout my career, and as a result, I see my female colleagues and friends afraid to pursue leadership roles or even ask for well-deserved raises. So, why do we need women in senior roles? Because, children today are tomorrow’s leaders and they need to know that girls can lead.
How do you see the future of teams and interactions in a diverse environment and what implications will this have?
Increased diversity will only help us continue to advance. As we diversify our teams, we’ll have exposure to more ideas and thoughts, allowing us to have deeper discussions and begin to see things from different perspectives. Doing this will only enable us to further improve our products, our companies and our world.
How can women rise in the ecosystem and what are the unseen barriers?
By not giving up. There are so many barriers and hoops and hurdles and walls that, at times, continuing on can seem impossible. I urge women to keep going. We can’t wait for things to change or get easier, we have to change things ourselves, and the way we can do that is by being successful and proving that we are just as capable, if not more so, than our counterparts.
There so many barriers in front of us, some are obvious – all the hard numbers and studies showing the uphill battles that we’re fighting. But others, the ones that I believe really take root in society, are less obvious. They live in all the comments women shrug off, thinking ‘oh, they didn’t mean it that way.’ The microaggressions that imply that we’re not capable or that we’re nothing more than a pretty face, they all begin to add up, until women begin to believe it. Those innocent remarks sit in the back of our minds, and are one of the biggest barriers that we have to face.
Please tell us about a few organizations that you are involved with or respect that are promoting women in tech.
There are a lot of great organizations, such as Sheworx, that have been mentioned in other interviews. I’m fortunate to cross over multiple sectors, tech, data and travel, and I’ve found Wanderful to be a group full of diverse, like-minded women, focused on advancing the travel sector and bringing more women voices to the forefront of the industry.
What can men do to participate in this discussion?
Listen. Truly listen to the issues and think about how it applies to the women in your lives, to your daughters, wives and sisters. Think about how your actions and words, and those of your peers, can impact those women. And if you don’t like those thoughts or ideas, if you wouldn’t want one of those women to hear something, then don’t say it. It’s the small things that can make the biggest difference.
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.