Girls In Tech to conquer Melbourne

Published:  January 15, 2016
Jamuna Raj

There’s a new wave of awareness for women in technology and leading the pack is Adriana Gascoigne, CEO of Girls In Tech. Gascoigne didn’t start in tech, however; she was originally in consumer brand marketing and advertising.

Gascoigne’s passion for the tech industry was ignited when she worked at her first start-up, which led her to Silicon Valley, where she found herself to be the sole woman at her start-up. This drove her to start making changes in the tech industry and inspired her to build Girls In Tech in 2007.

This non-profit group encourages the empowerment, engagement and education of girls and women in technology. The group has since grown significantly with a 53rd chapter soon to be launched right here in Melbourne.

Gascoigne, who will also be presenting at Pause Fest 2016, shares more about Girls in Tech and what Melburnians can expect from the launch.

You must have told this story countless times. But what is Girls In Tech, and how and why was it formed?

Girls in Tech is a global non-profit focused on the engagement, education and empowerment of influential women in technology and entrepreneurship. Our goal is to promote the growth and success of entrepreneurial and innovative women in the technology space. We have 52 chapters and more than 27,000 members currently.

The first start-up I worked at had 35 employees and I was the only female. I would come into work every day and look around the office and wonder ‘where’s the diversity?’ It was just a bunch of 25- to 35-year-old white men. As much as I was OK with working with that demographic, I always felt that there should be more minorities and more women at the start-up. I decided to start Girls in Tech to get women excited about the tech industry and be more exposed to different opportunities, whether it was in business development, product marketing, engineering or design. We needed to have representation and different perspectives in product and culture development. I was having too much fun at work and I wanted other women to experience this!

It’s been eight years for Girls In Tech, how have these years been – what were the highs and lows?

I can’t believe it has been eight years. I have learned so much and can’t wait to see what else is in store for this incredibly empowering and supportive organisation.

There have been so many great moments and milestones – from global expansion and the creation of a solid board of directors to international funding (we received a Google Grant in Brazil and programs funded by USAID/US State Department in the Middle East) and the development of the largest women’s business pitch competition (Lady Pitch Night) in the world!

I think the biggest challenge we’ve encountered has been inter-organisational communication. Right now, it’s a good problem to have. But it’s very important to communicate and make sure that we’re all aligned in terms of our messaging, program development and curriculum, so that we can share ideas and collaborate – I mean, that’s the whole point of the organisation after all!

Girls In Tech 1

Image: Girls In Tech

Has your initial goal when forming Girls In Tech been achieved? What are the other goals and future plans for Girls In Tech?

As a founder, the job is never done. So while I think we are in a good place and have made great progress, we still have a way to go to achieve the ultimate goals with Girls in Tech.

A few ideas that I’ve been tossing around include creating an ‘Idea Exchange’ or global think tank for women in tech, as well as a crowdfunding or crowd-investing platform, much like AngelList, but for women-founded companies.

Let’s zoom into the Melbourne chapter you’re starting. What can members here expect from being part of Girls In Tech in Melbourne?

We’ll be building a strong chapter team including a managing director and five to eight advisory board members. We are also planning on deploying our trademarked programs including:

  • hackathons
  • coding, design, product development and entrepreneurship boot camps
  • our Lady Pitch Night competition (which will be the first in Australia)
  • the Catalyst Conference
  • the XChange program (female entrepreneurs tour Silicon Valley and learn about the start-up ecosystem)
  • GIT Work (providing job-entry skills within the tech industry – (1) Digital Resume (2) Start-up Job Search (3) Negotiations, and
  • Global Classroom – an eLearning platform for coding and design tutorials and eMentoring.

The creative and tech industries are hot at the moment; they’re even blending into one another. Traditional creative agencies have diversified to add the digital element in their offerings. From your experience, what do creative agencies need to do to keep up with this ever-changing landscape?

Be open to change and evolution. To remain innovative and competitive, you can’t remain static. Just like you need to be open to creating the right mix of employees for the ultimate team, you need to be open to the right mix of new ideas with more tried-and-true approaches to keep things moving and fresh.

Adriana Gascoigne -aims to empower women in tech through her organisation Girls In Tech

Adriana Gascoigne aims to empower women in tech through her organisation Girls In Tech.
Image: Girls In Tech

You’re a champion for diversity in the workplace. In an interview with VentureBeat, you said that you believe “diversity equates to creativity and innovation”. How can creative agencies ensure that they have got that ‘right mix’ of people in the business?

The ‘right mix’ is different for every organisation, but the key is to look at the variety of backgrounds, expertise, hobbies and talents to fill your team. Recruiting is critical to ensure you are building a creative, productive and comfortable work environment and culture. But so is staff retention. Having the proper training programs and creating a flexible work environment, as well as establishing corporate accountability, compensation parity and ownership for all is important to achieving the right mix.

You’ve worked for tech companies like SecondMarket, ImpulseFlyer, hi5, SGN, Jamboola, Guba, Edelman and Ogilvy Public Relations. Besides Girls In Tech, you’re also the executive director for SmittenWithMittens, an advisor to many start-ups, an ‘Intel Insider’ and the founder of HelpLearnAsia. How do you do it all?

Trust me, I don’t do it all, but I’ve learned a lot about time management and prioritisation, which definitely helps. SmittenWithMittens is now called the YOUniform Project and it’s slowly moving forward. My colleague has taken over my role and responsibilities with HelpLearnAsia. While my main focus is on Girls in Tech, I’m still an advisory to a handful of start-ups on a limited basis. Again, it’s about time management and prioritisation.

Let’s talk about Pause Fest. You’re coming down to speak about personal brand presentation. Clue us in on what we can expect.

Social media has resulted in almost every individual having a personal brand, even if we don’t intend to have one, but they exist nonetheless. Our digital footprints span our professional and personal lives and can be accessed through multiple platforms, devices and mediums. The question is no longer if you have a personal brand, but if you choose to cultivate and leverage it.

During my presentation, I plan to discuss and ponder the word and emotional association when people hear your name and how you can help steer that association as well as how to create or change the perception of your personal brand. It should be a good conversation!

This article first appeared in the desktop-Pause special.
For more information on Pause Fest, click here. Get your tickets now.

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