By Beth Kuchar — January 26, 2017
Where do talented women in the tech industry go to discuss their professional challenges and support each other with advice? If you live on the Eastside, you join Melody King, Tracy Randall, and Sophie Parkison over drinks, where the Pasadena Women in Technology meetup members share their expertise, dispense industry tips, and help each other out. We asked these three co-organizers to talk a little about their own experiences and tell us what's in store for 2017.
Innovate Pasadena: The three of you have experience in various areas of technology, entrepreneurship, and community organizations. Can you share a little bit about your backgrounds and what drew you to create Pasadena Women in Technology?
Melody: I fell into technology from the music business, so I've always worked in male-dominated industries. I've been involved in women's networking groups in all of the industries I've worked in, and found them to be a great source of contacts and support. There are a lot of groups that are very specific to certain jobs or industries, and there are a few that are - let's face it - so far away that you'll never make the drive out to a meeting. We wanted to create a group that could encompass a wider variety of professional women as well as tap into the local resources that are in Pasadena.
Tracy: I was running an e-commerce business on the Westside for many years, and I moved to Pasadena shortly after selling the business. Leaving most of my start-up network on the Westside, I was interested in meeting the technology and start-up community in Pasadena. Through an introduction to Innovate Pasadena, Pasadena Women in Technology was started.
Sophie: I moved here from the Midwest to work in film and television. After a few years as a Hollywood assistant, I transitioned to tech and moved to Pasadena for a marketing role. I enjoyed the camaraderie I experienced in the entertainment industry and looked for similar camaraderie in tech.
IP: Walk me through how you connected with each other and what made you decide to join forces.
Melody: Tracy and I were introduced by Celina Guerrero, who was working with Innovate Pasadena at that time. She wanted to help get a women's networking group started and thought we would make a good team. I knew Sophie because we worked in the same office space and recruited her because she's smart, fun, and passionate.
IP: I remember the first tech meetup I attended 6 years ago, over on the Westside. I really wanted to dash out of there and head back home! I was the only female, and when I walked in the door everyone turned around and stared at me; it was like a cliche scene from a movie. Have you all had similar experiences, and do you think it's still difficult for women to to make connections at tech meetups?
Melody: I haven't had problems making connections at Meetups, regardless of gender, but I have certainly had the experience of being the only woman in the very large room. Several years ago, I was at a tech convention in Las Vegas and I heard a man in line behind me say something to the effect of "there aren't enough women here." I turned around and said, "If you want women to come to your conventions, maybe you should hire some women to work for your companies!" The good news is that in the last few years, I've seen a large increase in the number of women attending these kinds of events.
Tracy: I can’t speak for other Tech Meetups, as this is the first one I’ve been actively involved. From a technology standpoint, it’s well known that women are a significant minority. The majority of the role models and leaders I have had in my technical career have been men, which I believe is a shared experience. So, part of the mission of Pasadena Women in Technology is to bring women together at all stages of their careers to assist and support each other in their technology related endeavors.
Sophie: I've attended various different Meetups and mixers with the intention of getting to know more people. While men often outnumbered women at these events, I met lots of people. Out of a handful, there was usually one person or two I stayed in contact with afterwards. All the same, I found it difficult to build meaningful relationships from attending one-off events. Because of this, I wanted to become more regularly involved with one group. Pasadena Women in Technology has been that Meetup for me.
IP: Even with more emphasis on getting girls into tech, the "brogrammer" mentality is still pretty pervasive. What is a struggle that each of you has experienced in the tech industry?
Tracy: As the majority of VCs are male, my Board and investors were predominately male, as well. I believe this is a shared experience for most women in technology related start-ups. This lack of diversity presented a challenge for the Company as well as me personally. Ideally, Pasadena Women in Technology can provide female support and role models to other women pursuing careers in technology.
Melody: My experience with my male colleagues has been overwhelmingly positive in general, but you will meet the occasional person that will make assumptions about you. I've actually been told, "I didn't think you'd be so smart!" Hmmm...
Sophie: My biggest struggle in tech has been to establish a community. Entertainment has a culture of meeting up regularly with colleagues and associates for drinks or coffee. I found that for my marketing work, I interacted with few people from other companies and that many of those people worked in different cities. For me, Pasadena Women in Technology has provided the opportunity to get to know others working in tech and learn from their experiences. Some of our members work remotely and have mentioned that they value the Meetup for the opportunity to connect and learn.
IP: What are some of the hot topics you've discussed at past meetups?
All: We're still relatively new, so right now we are focused on figuring out how our members can best support each other. We like to have everyone introduce themselves and mention something that they'd like to get from the group, and something they feel they have to offer the group. We've been in a "getting to know you" phase - this year we hope to take that to the next level.
IP: Men still dominate the majority of high-level positions at tech firms, so it can be difficult for women in this industry to build a support network and find mentorship. Groups like Pasadena Women in Technology really fill a need - who you know can have a huge impact on your success. What can members expect at a typical Pasadena Women in Technology meetup in terms of building this network of peers with similar experiences?
All: We’ve been excited by the interest in the first few Meetups, as we’re attracting many new members as well as forming a “core” group of regulars each month. The group is currently focused on sharing backgrounds, career goals, and actively assisting one another. We’ve had a diverse group attending – early and later-stage careers, start-ups and larger organizations and across many disciplines – programming, marketing & sales, and finance & operations.
IP: Has joining the Innovate Pasadena Meetup Creator Program helped get the group going? How?
Melody: Absolutely, we wouldn't exist without Innovate Pasadena! In addition to putting the leadership team in touch with each other, the financial, marketing, and emotional support has been crucial to helping the group develop.
The next Pasadena Women in Technology meetup will be held on Tuesday, February 7th at The Blind Donkey, with food and drinks sponsored by Innovate Pasadena (while supplies last). It's a great opportunity to find advice and connections with other women in the tech industry.