Company and Nomad Health co-host Leading & Succeeding with some of NYC’s top female tech entrepreneurs

Photos by: Nick Weinberg

“We are here tonight to learn from women who have built amazing companies.”

Alexi Nazem, Founder & CEO of Nomad Health (and former participant in Company’s GCT Startup-in-Residence program), introduced the evening’s stellar roster of panelists: Hayley Barna, Partner at First Round Capital and former Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Birchbox, Shan-Lyn Ma, Co-Founder & CEO of Zola and Alexandria Stried, CPO of Ellevest. Alexi also announced that renowned journalist Susie Gharib would be moderating the panel, only to further reveal she was in fact, his mother! Susie created an immediate intimate and familial environment, and kicked off the evening’s conversation on how women can be successful entrepreneurs in tech and men can support them along the way. Read on for highlights of the conversation.

Women In Tech | Company

(From left to right) Alexandria Stried, Shan-Lyn Ma, Hayley Barna and Susie Gharib.

No career path is perfect.

How do you set yourself up for success? Hayley notes that “you don’t have to know it all from the start for your idea to be successful. Every step along the way came as a surprise to me”. Her advice? Always follow and explore the opportunities that come your way. Shan-Lyn reflected on her time as an intern at Yahoo, where she “learned to go above and beyond what everyone else was doing, and to do what needed to be done even though she “wasn’t always told to do it”. For Alexandria, after nearly six years at Weight Watchers, she received a LinkedIn message from a recruiter pitching her on a new company started by two anonymous senior Finance executives. “I have no background in Finance but I didn’t want an opportunity to go by, so I called the recruiter”. Flash forward and that’s how she got her job in Product at Ellevest. Alexandria suggests that you should “never turn your back on potential opportunities, even if you might receive them in a LinkedIn message. Give it a chance (but be careful of course!).”

As women, we tend to shy away from negative feedback because we want to be perfect, but we don’t have to be.

What’s the key to turning an idea into a successful business? First, ask yourself, “Do I really believe in the cause?” Next, “Do I want to spend the next 7 to 10 years of my life on this?” Shan-Lyn explained. Next, Hayley suggests, “talking to everyone about it.” The more you put your idea out there, the more feedback you will get. In fact, Alexandria said she seeks negative feedback all the time. “The only way you can grow professionally is to ask people what you could better next time. Every day when I come home, I ask myself how I did today and really reflect so that I can make better decisions and get better at my craft.”

Yes, we can do it all, but make sure you pick the right partner.

How do you balance your personal life with work? Women get asked this question a lot. “In my late 20s I was very focused on my career and not on who I wanted to marry, only later did I realize that the person I marry could enable my career success,” shared Hayley. She was happy to report that she chose a good partner with whom she can share care-taking responsibilities. The latter is key, confirmed Alexandria, who also has a young daughter, and suggested that if you ever get overwhelmed don’t be afraid to ask for help, even if it means hiring someone. Moderator Susie Gharib jumped in and noted that when she had an early morning show, she taught her husband how to French braid their daughter’s hair every morning before school.

Women In Tech panel | Company

The panelists engage in a conversation on gender, tech, success and failure.

Men in leadership positions have a responsibility to help lead the change.

In meetings, give credit to the ideas of women without letting other men take it, something that women experience often. It is the responsibility of men in leadership roles to believe in gender equality and act on that belief. According to Hayley, “if this is one of the core values of the company, recruiters should make it clear in the job descriptions and in the recruiting process,” to ensure a company has a fair balance of men and women. One way of doing that is for every position, interview two qualified women and two qualified men, even if it slows the hiring process.

Parting words of wisdom.

  1. Go outside your comfort zone and do something “scary” every day. If that means wanting to pick up an extra project because you might want to switch to a different job, do it. You will start feeling comfortable with the uncomfortable.
  2. Figure out who you want to be, figure out who is doing it, and learn from them.
  3. “Don’t compare your behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel.” Do your own thing.
  4. Success is the overlap between what you enjoy and what you’re good at.
  5. Tell others you believe in them.

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