Are you a woman in NYC Tech and interested in participating in this series? Make sure to read the whole article…
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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 Dr. Selin Kurnaz, CEO and cofounder of Massive Bio. After emigrating from Turkey and completing a Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, receiving multiple engineering degrees, Selin spent more than a specializing in delivering revenue enhancement, margin optimization, and capital efficiency improvements for Pharmaceutical and Life Science companies. Her startup, Massive Bio, brings the latest knowledge in cancer care to patients treated at community practices in the US and worldwide. Selin has written and spoke extensively about life sciences in tech and how to deliver information in creative ways.
What’s your background and how did you develop your career as a female entrepreneur in the NYC tech ecosystem?
I come from a pretty heavy engineering background. After finishing five engineering degrees, I have spent 10 years in strategy, operations, and transactions. I started Massive Bio in 2014 in order to translate and operationalize cutting edge developments in cancer care to the point of need. There is a tremendous interest to do research and develop science but making science usable for human beings is significantly running behind. I recognized that this is an engineering problem – it requires multidisciplinary expertise from clinical, operations, and business side and thus I put my life to solve this problem and that is how my journey has started, obviously, a family situation in cancer opened my eye, and then my little side project turned out to be a lifelong passion. I am spending a lot of time and energy in order to develop a brand name in NY digital health eco-system. I am trying not only to run a company but also to be a missionary. I am meeting with other entrepreneurs, participating to city-wide programs, making my voice heard by becoming a thought leader. Since we are still a young company, I spend a significant amount of time with sales, delivery operations, and capital raising and my time to do big picture things is still small but over time I plan to take a more prominent role to be a game-changer in digital health in NYC ecosystem while growing Massive Bio.
What are the advantages of being a woman in tech?
I have to admit that whatever I do in life, I never pay attention to my gender. I never recall a time that I decided not to proceed with something because of my gender. Because of that reason, I have never fully studied the upside of being a woman, but I like surprising people with my intelligence and knowledge in the space. It is always good to see the shock on their face after they talk with me for more than 10 minutes.
What can be done to further promote female entrepreneurs and women in tech in New York?
I think we need to do three things:
- We need to find role models that women can look up to.
- We need to make sure that these role models become sponsors of the upcoming generation and
- We need to educate women that being an entrepreneur is very difficult and full of chaos and emotional roller-coasters and they need to hang in tight in order to be successful.
What is diversity to you and do you see it evolving in tech?
Diversity means when different pieces of the puzzle come together and build something larger than its parts. I don’t like defining diversity as religion, gender, political view, etc. I don’t see neither “my” diversity or “traditional” diversity will evolve in tech; there may be a slight improvement over time but a total overhaul is not going to happen.
Why do you think it’s important that women retain, grow, and develop into senior roles within their organizations?
I think senior roles are still not good enough, women should take the key decision making roles in the organizations to make an impact. Even if there are 2 women in the entire company of tens of thousands and if these women hold CEO and Chairman of the Board positions then nothing else matters.
How do you see the future of teams and interactions in a diverse environment and what implications will this have?
There is no question that people are more aware and sensitive of diversity these days, however, diversity for the sake of diversity is not healthy. I don’t like the fact that people start to form camps – almost for everything. People should focus on results and think through how we can work together and change something important to the humankind instead of what percent of the team is woman vs. man.
How can women rise in the ecosystem and what are the unseen barriers?
Women can rise in the ecosystem by being very intelligent, working very hard, and being very persistent – all of which are qualities of successful human beings not specific to women. I don’t think there is a “fact-based” unseen barrier, however, there is a huge “make up” barrier in women’s minds. When women stop brainstorming and start doing hard-core things, they will quickly understand that barriers are illusions. Getting many engineering degrees, working many years in management consulting, specifically with private equity clients. I am sure there were many people who didn’t believe in me, however, if I have complained about these barriers and lived with the past, probably I would never set-up my own company and be this fearless lady. I feel like I am just starting even after all of these bruises along the way.
Please tell us about a few organizations that you are involved with or respect that are promoting women in tech.
I am not a part of any organization to particularly promote women in tech, however, I do things and try to become a role model of many young, and immigrant women who want to change the world. Of course, if there is a young woman reaches out to me, I try to help with the best of my abilities but I do that for every young individual – regardless of male or female. On the other hand, I have a secret project that I plan to do in the future to promote science and engineering among young girls in rural parts of my home country, Turkey. When those girls become educated, they will have their economic power and they will have their own identity to make decisions — which will contribute to their lives and the overall economy.
What can men do to participate in this discussion?
Men should be at the core and center of every woman in tech discussion because in the end, we are trying to change their behavior against women. I think it is women’s responsibility to integrate men to these discussions and give them specific tasks and milestones.
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.