#WCW: Women Who Inspire on International Women's Day

The TechSesh team is constantly trying to empower and shine the spotlight on women in our website and IG #wcw series, and today is no exception. It's International Women's Day and in honor of being a female-first media-tech company, we're highlighting three women who are our inspiring us and  ultimate girl crushes.

They are inspiring, motivating, and everything we stand for. 


1. Erin Bagwell

Erin is a first time filmmaker and founder of the feminist storytelling blog, Feminist Wednesday. After working at an advertising 9 to 5 job, she was incredibly inspired working on the blog listening to the stories about female entrepreneurs. So she quit her job, hired an all female crew, and put together a Kickstarter campaign to fund a the documentary about their stories. She raised $104K in 30 days and since then you can say her life as changed forever.

Dream, Girl is a documentary showcasing the stories of inspiring and ambitious female entrepreneurs.

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2. Debbie Sterling

Who was the hero in the last action movie you saw? It probably wasn’t a woman.
Only 12% of protagonists in major Hollywood films are female. CLEARLY this is an issue-- when girls don't have role models. 

That's how Debbie, an engineer and founder of GoldieBlox started her company. GoldieBlox's  mission is to inspire girls to take the lead. She created Ruby and Goldie – strong, positive role models who solve tough problems, invent things, and prove that girls can be more than just sidekicks.


3. Jenna Arnold

Jenna is the co-founder of ORGANIZE, a non-profit leveraging technology, open-data, and behavioral economics to increase the amount of organ donations in the US. ORGANIZE works with state and federal government offices, and some of the world’s largest brands and tech companies, to rebuild the US organ donation system.

They recently launched the first ever portal that can drive registrations in 40 states as well as other policy based initiatives to facilitate innovation in the space. 

#WCW: Women With Websites

This week's #womancrushwednesday is dedicated to women who co-founded well-known websites that we all know and love.

These three women co-founded each of these websites, which all involve using a specific search engine. In order to help people everywhere with their searches, these websites can help you find things to do in a city, events going on both locally and nationally, and finding your own style. 


1. Ruzwana Bashir

Ruzwana Bashir is the CEO & Founder of Peek.com, a one-stop shop for travelers and locals to book amazing activities. Peek is disrupting the $100bn+ global activities industry. Whether it’s going ziplining, swimming with sharks or taking a cooking class, Peek connects people with everyday adventures. Hidden gems come from "Perfect Day" itineraries from tastemakers such as Tory Burch and Wolfgang Puck. The platform combines the Peek.com marketplace with PeekPro.com, a suite of powerful software tools that help activity operators to better run their businesses.              


2. Julia Hartz

Julia Hartz, the cofounder and president at Eventbrite. Eventbrite has generated over $3 billion in gross ticket After her co-founder and husband Kevin Hartz stepped down from his chief executive duties, taking a temporary medical leave and handing over the “office of the CEO” to his wife, Julia Hartz, and a couple of other execs. (He is “100% better,” according to the company.) 



3. Jess Lee

Jessica Less is the founder of Modern Citizen,  a destination for the modern woman, with thoughtfully designed and curated fashion and home goods. In our world, luxury is not a price point — our mission is to make modern, refined style accessible without sacrificing quality.


#WCW: Fabulous Female Founders

The theme of this week's #womancrushwednesday is fabulous and fearless founders. 

All three of these women have made a significant impact through creating the foundation of these companies. Though some have moved on to other companies, founding their first is what led them on the path to creating some of their biggest accomplishments.


1. Ayah Bdeir

Ayah is the founder and CEO of littleBits, an open source library of modular electronics that snaps together using magnets. This award-winning building block company has made it easy for kids everywhere to learn how innovation works!

Fun fact: She was the co-founder of the Open Hardware Summit, a TED Senior Fellow and an alumna of MIT.


2. Limor Fried

Founding Adafruit, an open-source hardware company, Limor has paved the way for women in hardware companies. Adafruit is currently number #11 in the US for manufacturing companies. Adafruit is a 100% woman-owned company. 

Fun fact: She was the first female engineer featured in WIRED magazine. 


3. Caterina Fake

Most well known for her co-founding of Flickr and Hunch, she is now the founder of Findery. Caterina is an incredible business woman and entrepreneur. Starting out in the world wide web,  Caterina worked on websites for companies, such as McDonald's, Levi's and Nike, before she branched out to do her own work.

Fun Fact: She is a chairman and board member of everyone's favorite unique and handmade e-commerce website, Etsy!

#WCW: Gals That Know Gears & Everything Engineering

It's a new month, a new week, and new Wednesday to talk about three ladies taking the engineering world by storm. 

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In this weekly roundup of our #womencrushwednesday, I want to highlight three women who are significant influencers and role models in the engineering industry. Through design, toys and our all-time favorite online bulletin board, Pinterest, these ladies are making an impact for women in engineering fields everywhere!


1. Roma Agrawal

Roma Agrawal is an Oxford graduate and a structural engineer at WSP, who has designed many bridges, sculptures, and bridges in her lifetime. She is most well-known for her innovative and creative design of The Shard in London, which is currently the tallest building in Western Europe. 

On top of utilizing the lego building skills she learned as a child, Roma is an advocate for diversity women in the engineering field. Winning many industry awards, it is no shock to us that this leading lady was listed as a Top Woman Tweeter by Guardian --- seriously give her a follow @romatheengineer


2. Debbie Sterling

Engineer, entrepreneur, and women enthusiast, Debbie Sterling (@debbieblox) is a Mechanical Engineer, as well as the founder and CEO of GoldieBlox. GoldieBlox is an award-winning children's multimedia company that focuses on challenging gender stereotypes and interrupting the pink display aisles in stores. 

Through selling toys, books, videos, apps, and merchandise, Debbie advocates STEM principals and integration with storytelling. By creating the first girl engineering character, Debbie's mission is to empower little girls everywhere to have confidence, to know they can achieve their dreams, and to remember that "they are more than just a princess." 


3. Tracy Chou

Currently a software engineer, who adores coding, Tracy Chou (@triketora) has been in the engineering business for a few years now and has had different experiences everywhere she has been (Pinterest being apart of these!). During her time at Stanford University, Tracy was able to intern at Facebook and Google. She then moved onto a start-up, where she wrote about being a woman in the engineering industry. 

Fighting against the diversity stereotype, Tracy became a woman activist soon after and has formed with seven other ladies, Project Include: an organization designed to help CEOs implement diversity and inclusion strategies at their companies.

#WCW: Eye On The Prize, Pursue Your Goals

New month, new inspiring ladies.

On this weekly roundup of #womancrushwednesday, we talk about three women who have made an impact on digital media and how they did that. From a CEO to an undergraduate student, it would be hard to not feel encouraged to pursue your goals after reading about these ladies. 


1. Kaya Thomas

Kaya Thomas has been making the impossible possible. She co-founded a STEM camp for girls in high school, became a mentor for Black Girls Code, and developed her own app (We Read Too). She has worked for companies such as Apple,  Time Inc., and Intuit. She writes for a few digital platforms such as TechCrunch and Fusion when she has the time.

And, guess what? She’s still an undergrad student at Dartmouth. (Is this the part where I say, yass girl?)


2. Jaclyn Johnson

It’s one thing to have founded and become the CEO of your own company, but to do that twice… Jaclyn Johnson said why not? Before Create & Cultivate, Johnson first founded No Subject which is a digital marketing and events agency because she found her niche in brand marketing. Through her experience as an entrepreneur, she started C&C as a space to motivate other female entrepreneurs. C&C has hosted many events, workshops, panels, etc. to advice women who want to start their own businesses.

P.S. Our very own, Jessica Naziri, will be speaking at a Create & Cultivate panel today (Nov 1) in Portland. If you’re in the area, make sure you don’t miss out!


3. Hagit Kaufman

As the Vice President of Brand and Design at Wix, Hagit Kaufman is definitely a boss. As a wife and a mother of three, Kaufman uses her impeccable time management to, well, manage her personal life and career. It is easy to get caught up into your work (especially if you are a leader at a large company like Wix) but Kaufman never fails to enjoy every little bits that life has to offer.

Her favorite quote: “Enjoy the little things life. Because one day you will look back, and realize they were the big things.”


written by Sheena Tadifa

#WCW: How To Be A Badass CEO

The theme for this week’s #womancrushwednesday is badass CEO’s.

On this week’s #wcw, we highlight three CEO’s slash founders of their own company who have shaped entrepreneurship in a unique way. If you have never thought about owning your own business before, these ladies might convince you otherwise. They make it seem like the coolest job in the world… 

And who doesn’t want a cool job?

Speaking of having a rad job, our very own — Jessica Naziri — will be coming to Portland with Create & Cultivate to talk about entrepreneurship and women in tech. So if you're in the area, make sure to RSVP here (the event is free!)


1. Emily Weiss

If you haven’t heard of her, you have at least heard of her ‘it girl’ brand. 

Emily Weiss, founder and CEO of Glossier and Into the Gloss, has created a beauty line that goes beyond the general idea of beauty. Due to her many innovative ideas and brand’s success, Weiss has been going at it non-stop from launching her first fragrance (Glossier You) to going international (Glossier now ships in Canada and the UK!) all within the span of, like, a month? 

Dear Emily, I hope you are at least getting some zzz’s in between.


2. Brit Morin

A tech and DIY lover since day one, Brit Morin built her own company based on things she has loved since she was young. If you are in need of Halloween makeup ideas, cooking classes, or simply need more color in your life — Brit + Co. is your right hand, your go-to. (Yes, I had to make that Drake reference.)

The strive to inspire women and young girls to be creative has been a success for Morin. She has over 90 million online audiences across her brand’s social media platforms and on the side, she is also a bestselling author. 


3. Padmasree Warrior

Techcrunch considers her a total badass and so do I. CEO of the global startup NextEV, Padmasree Warrior is making people re-envision smart cars like it has never been done before. Think Tesla meets Black Mirror technology (or see here). 

Yay or nay? What do you think about NextEV?


written by Sheena Tadifa

#WCW: Recovering From Emotional Challenges, Doing Aerial Acrobatics, and Loving Donuts

Amidst all the social, political, and environmental issues that has been happening, it can be quite difficult to find an escape. Everywhere I turn whether it is on social media or my current surrounding, there is always something controversial happening. Not to diminish the importance of such issues but sometimes we’d all just like a break from it all, right?

In fact, I personally feel that it is necessary to take a break from the world in order to stay sane.

This short list of inspiring women for this week’s #womancrushwednesday segment hopes to motivate, empower, and help you escape (even just for a little bit). We spotlight a kick ass engineer from the creative platform, Kickstarter, a resilient engineer who advocates for diversity in tech, and the VP of Product at Zillow who likes to hang upside down during her free time.


1. Rebekah Bastian

Making the switch from Microsoft to Zillow, Rebekah Bastian oversees everything from advertising to finance as the Vice President of Product at Zillow. She is a wife, a mother of two, a contributing writer for the Huffington Post, and an aerialist. The latter ignites her creativity and productivity at home and in her workplace. 

Maybe I should try becoming an aerialist.


2. Lara Hogan

As a published author and the new Vice President of Engineering at Kickstarter, Lara Hogan advocates for strong web user experience through a good balance of design and speed. She has given a number of talks about championing performance for Google, The New York Times, IDEO, and more. And her book, Demystifying Public Speaking, helps readers face their fear of public speaking. 

Lara loves donuts. Me too, girl. Me too.


3. Erica Baker

“It is ok to say ‘I’m not ok,’ and it is ok to ask for help.”

She left Slack to become the Director of Engineering at Kickstarter but in the end, Erica Baker couldn’t say her farewell to the Bay Area. She had quit her job, decided to decline a new job she originally accepted, and was sleeping on an air mattress while also going through a tough break up. After all the chaos, she snagged a position at Patreon as their Senior Engineering Manager and she could not be more happy to have stayed put in the Bay. 

What is that one saying? When life throws you a curve ball…

I better start learning how to bat.


written by Sheena Tadifa

#WCW: A Female Engineer, FashionTech Designer, and Bad Feminist As Your Source of Inspo

No matter where we are in life, we often use inspiration as our source of fuel to get by our daily lives. It has been said that inspiration is food for the soul. In that case, that must be the reason why we have been loving our #wcw segment. There is nothing better than reading about outstanding individuals to motivate us today and tomorrow…

On this week’s #wcw, we featured a software engineer from everybody’s favorite social media app (I hope you were thinking of Instagram), a fashion-tech designer, and a writer slash professor slash feminist. 

Uhm, can I be all of them? 

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1. Brina Lee

After acquiring her Communications degree, Brina Lee worked for a small startup in their marketing and graphic design team. Then she did a complete turnaround and got her Master’s in Computer Science because she realized how much she loves coding. Although the career switch terrified her at first, Lee ended up interning for some big companies such as Yahoo, Google, and Facebook. Now? She joined an all male team at Instagram to become the first female software engineer. No biggie. 

As a matter of fact, it was Lee’s decision to join an all male team because she knew she would bring in a different perspective. Maybe we could ask her if Instagram is ever planning on bringing back chronological posts again?


2. Madison Maxey

She’s a fashion designer, a Thief Fellowship recipient, and an entrepreneur all by the age of 24. Madison Maxey, founder of LOOMIA, has built herself a brand that creates smart clothing. I mean, what isn’t smart nowadays? Smartphones, smart cars, and now smart apparel. Maxey’s tech company collaborates with brands to make these smart yet functional clothes.  I’m talking shoes that could sense the temperature and provide heat, if needed. Now I won’t be as terrified to live in a state that snows.

Yes, my personal shoe heater.  Life could not get much better.


3. Roxane Gay

Although she isn’t necessarily a woman in the tech industry, Roxane Gay still deserves a shoutout for just being an overall boss. A New York Times’ best seller,  this bad feminist has written about things that matter most and things that a lot (maybe even all) women could relate to. Her book, Bad Feminist, talks about the unattainable demands that our society has created to become perfect individuals. We all know that being perfect is ultimately impossible yet a part of us still reach for it. Gay’s message is simple: accept your flaws.

So the next time you find yourself eating that cookie late at night, don’t beat yourself up over it. But maybe don’t do the same thing the following night.


written by Sheena Tadifa

TechSesh Spotlight: Hagit Kaufman, VP of Brand and Design at Wix

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Drum roll, please…

Introducing the incredible Hagit Kaufman, Vice President of Brand and Design at Wix.com, who is leading an international team in order to equalize the tech space by hiring female designers. Currently, 65% of her team are women. Kaufman is an incredible role model and thought-leader who aims to eliminate gender disparity in the tech industry.

During our interview, we talk about the key to building your own voice and brand as well as the best advice she has to offer to the other up and coming entrepreneurs — but it doesn’t stop there. Check out the interview below:

Please introduce yourself.

I’m Hagit, a mother of 3, and in charge of design and brand at Wix.com. I live in Tel Aviv, the city that never stops and neither do I. I’m always busy, taking the time to do arts and crafts with my kids, hitting the beach for TRX and decorating cakes for birthdays and special events. Since I was young, I’ve always had a passion for art. In fact, you could say that design runs through my veins - I live and breathe new trends, and am fascinated by the pairing of design and technology.

What’s an important leadership skill that doesn’t get talked about enough?

As a manager, I’d say that one of the most important things you can do is give everyone the opportunity to shine. We have design workshops twice a month in which all Wix designers gets a shot to showcase their work, learn and stand out, no matter how much or how little experience they have.

How are nontraditional career paths into tech helping build tech diversity and making communities better?

I came into tech by chance: some of my friends asked for my help and I found myself sucked into the amazing world of technology. I didn’t have the traditional skills that usually come with the position. However, this was actually a blessing as I was able to come up with creative and non-traditional solutions to common design problems. And that’s something I firmly believe improves our communities. When you have people from different backgrounds come together, you can build a diverse team that comes up with amazing creative ideas.

Can people really be successful in tech without a traditional education?

Of course. Everyone in this industry brings something unique to the table. For some, it’s traditional training and theory. For others it’s a different perspective or abstract thinking. This is part of what makes top tech companies so successful.

What are some of the things that hold women back during their careers? Especially if they decide to pivot mid-career?

Limitations exist for anyone, regardless of gender. Throughout my career, I had to become a multi-tasker, since I am a full-time employee, a mom, a wife and about 1,000 other things. When it comes to developing a successful career, I really believe that some of the best tools women have are determination and the ability to multitask.

What are one or two words of advice that you have for women with nontraditional careers, or who are considering making a change?

Don’t be afraid to fulfill your dream. If you have something you’re passionate about - chase it. My advice: learn, learn and learn some more. Meet anyone you know who can help you get more information about your field of interest, read books, watch TED talks and be sure you build as much knowledge as you can.

What is the key to building your own voice and brand?

First and foremost, determine your values. Your values are an indicator of your personality type and that will help you understand your voice and tone. Once you know what they are, then build yourself a website, so you can share who you are with the world. :)

What are you most proud of?

The way I manage my time. I make sure I’m investing as many hours as I can in my family life and my career. I’m blessed with 3 beautiful kids and a wonderful husband, plus I love going to work every morning.

For people who are just starting out, what is some advice you can give them about creating a website?

The first thing you should do is strategize: make sure you know what is your website’s purpose, your target market and define your brand identity. Once you’ve done that, get started by picking a template. You’ll find hundreds of templates on Wix for any type of business, large or small. Then, customize to make it your own, add your images, text and share.

What’s the worst piece of advice you have ever received?

To settle in order to avoid conflict. I think it’s important to keep pushing boundaries and to keep reaching for your goals. There are a lot of people out there who will say that it’s more important to keep the peace. I disagree.

How did Karlie Kloss get involved in Wix? Also, any future partnerships that we should look out for?

Karlie Kloss is an entrepreneur with a passion for technology and enabling creativity. So she’s a perfect fit for our brand. She’s an advocate for young women in tech through her KODE WITH KLOSSY program that empowers young girls by teaching them to code.. So we were thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Karlie and help her bring her vision to life. We can’t say too much about our future partnerships, but there are really exciting projects in the works.

What are some of the latest trends that are vital to creating a successful website?

It’s very important to have a powerful and stunning website. A site is much more than just visuals so make sure that it works for you to make managing your business a lot easier. Some of today’s biggest trends are to incorporate rich visual content such as photos and videos into your site. A lot of people are visual learners so video is incredibly important when it comes to communicating with the public. You can share videos, incorporate them into your background, use them to highlight products being sold.

Is it important for everyone to have a website in order to brand themselves? Is design as important as technology? Is having a website the new resume?

Absolutely. Your website is your online persona: it’s an amazing and easy way for people to get to know you or your business and what you have to offer. As for the importance of design, I think it goes hand-in-hand with technology. These days, it’s so important that your site not only looks good online, but that you also have the right tools to achieve your business or personal goals. So whether you’re creating a website for your business, to show off your portfolio or just to blog about your dog, make sure it’s one that you will be proud to show off to the world.

What's your favorite quote?

"Enjoy the little things in life. Because one day you will look back, and realize they were the big things." -Kurt Vonnegut

Connect with Hagit:

Design Blog: http://highondesign.wix.com/

Wix Blog: https://www.wix.com/blog/

IG: https://www.instagram.com/wix/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wix

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Wix

Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/wixcom/

#WomanCrushWednesday: 3 Inspiring Ladies To Watch

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Whether their game is fashion, science, beauty, or tech, so many women are out there killing it! I love to see women using their voices to empower other women to achieve great things. Here are just a few inspiring women to keep an eye on this #WomanCrushWednesday! 

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Justine Ezarik, Youtube personality, host, actress and model (@ijustine)

Fellow youtuber (and Aries!) Justine Ezarik, aka iJustine, seems capable of doing it all. From tech reviews, travel and lifestyle advice, modeling, and writing a book — we’re not too sure if she’s had any time to sleep. This digital influencer has quite an army of followers throughout her social media platforms (we’re talking billions). So if you ever need to learn about the new iPhone or maybe want to learn how to make cotton candy, our girl Justine has got you covered. Check out her channel and blog ijustine.com or follow her @ijustine and prepare to be amazed!

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Joanna Stern, Personal Technology Columnist for Wall Street Journal (@joannastern)

Have a question about the next laptop or smartphone to purchase? Joanna Stern is the personal technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal and can answer your laundry list of tech questions. With all of the tech out there to choose from, it can be difficult or confusing to make personal decisions based on your individual needs. As the former tech editor at ABC news, you can say she’s definitely an expert in the tech department. Follow her for some helpful guidance @joannastern

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Jesse Genet, Founder of Lumi (@jessegenet)

Want a cheaper and easier way to customize any surface with your own graphic or logo? Jesse Genet is here to help you. The founder of Lumi has finally made it possible to let your creativity shine, without having your bank account run empty. Custom-make your very own rubber stamp or silkscreen with your designs and start leaving your mark! Check her out @jessegenet + @lumi

#WomanCrushWednesday: 3 Inspiring Ladies to Watch


Whether their game is fashion, science, beauty, or tech, so many women are out there killing it! I love to see women using their voices to empower other women to achieve great things. Here are just a few inspiring women to keep an eye on this #WomanCrushWednesday! 


Dame Stephanie Shirley is the OG Woman in Tech. In the 1960’s, she disguised herself as “Steve” Shirley in order to build a multibillion dollar tech company that went on to create hundreds of jobs for other women. Luckily, in today’s world, I don’t have to disguise myself as “Jordan” Naziri to own my own tech company, but I still face some of the gender discrimination that she had dealt with. She’s not just an inspiration to ladies in tech, but to all women who wake up every morning and kick ass to make a difference!


Hi-Tech Fashion Designer, Anouk Wipprecht (@anoukwipprecht), has officially bridged the gap between tech and fashion. Yep, in case you didn’t know, “FashionTech” is in full swing. She’s making fashion a full experience that goes beyond just appearance — her designs actually move, breath and react to the environment around them. Body-sensors embedded in her designs can even check your stress levels, like comfort and anxiety. Ladies, I think it’s time for another shopping spree...


Reshma Saujani (@reshmasaujani) visited many local schools when she was running (and winning!) for U.S. Congress. That’s when she realized the huge gender gap in computing classes and what ultimately inspired her to start Girls Who Code. Thanks to Reshma, the largest execution of future female engineers in the U.S. is underway and girls everywhere are now given the right tools to better their lives with technology. This girl doesn’t just code, but she’s making a huge difference to empower women. You go, girl!

#WomanCrushWednesday: 3 inspiring ladies to watch


Whether their game is fashion, science, beauty, or tech, so many women are out there killing it! I love to see women using their voices to empower other women to achieve great things. Here are just a few inspiring women to keep an eye on this #WomanCrushWednesday! 


Charlotte Kuhrt is an international model, and is breaking stereotypes of what a model should like. She embraces her figure and shares her message to many women and girls about how bodies shouldn't be just one type. She inspires other women to accept and embrace their bodies, because every body is unique and beautiful! 

Connect with Charlotte on Instagram and Twitter: @beautynotsize


Fellow woman in tech, Cassie Outsa, is one of the founders The Gadget Flow. The Gadget Flow is company where you can find any and all types of tech products suited to your needs. The website now has over 22 million visitors each month and is growing fast. 

Connect with Cassie on Instagram: @CassieOusta


Kate Unsworth is the founder of Vinaya, a company that specialises in smart wearable tech. Combining fashion and technology together; two of my favourite things! She's pushing the boundaries in the field and says that technology shouldn't just be limited to reading off a screen.

Connect with Kate on Instagram: @KateUns

I love seeing these empowering women creating platforms and inspiring other people! Who is inspiring you this #WomanCrushWednesday? 

#WomanCrushWednesday: 3 inspiring ladies to watch


Whether their game is fashion, science, beauty, or tech, so many women are out there killing it! I love to see women using their voices to empower other women to achieve great things. Here are just a few inspiring women to keep an eye on this #WomanCrushWednesday! 

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Tania Katan lights up every room she walks in. She is a CEO and award-winning author who sneaks creativity into corporate Fortune 500 companies, TED Talks, and marketing conventions. But it doesn't stop there- she's also helped create the empowerment campaign, #ItWasNeverADress, regarding the girls bathroom sign (It’s actually a cape!). Through storytelling, she motivates leaders to see women differently, and as a result, see the world differently. Talk about women empowerment! Check her out @theunrealtaniakatan

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Have you ever heard of the Los Angeles Lakers? Well this badass woman, Jeanie Buss, is the controlling owner and president of the NBA team. You are indeed looking at a lady with a powerful place in American sports. If that wasn't impressive enough, she believes that female athletes and performers are the pioneers for women empowerment in sports, and I couldn't agree more! Check her out @jeaniebuss

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Jenn Im is a true Youtube goddess! She creates fun and entertaining vlog’s of her styling musings, tutorials and helpful lifestyle advice. Follow her for her creative graphics, guidance and personal goal messaging @imjennim 

#WomanCrushWednesday: 3 inspiring ladies to watch

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Whether their game is fashion, science, beauty, or tech, so many women are out there killing it! I love to see women using their voices to empower other women to achieve great things. Here are just a few inspiring women to keep an eye on this #WomanCrushWednesday! 

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Not only is Lee Ann a super smart brand builder, she's super sweet as well! And you can see that from her Instagram which is filled with inspo (and not to mention her cute dogs). She is also pushing the way forward for women in graphic design and says that we need to see a change soon! Check her out @greenhousecreative

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Jelena is the co-founder and web developer for vanila.io. Vanila is a web and mobile app development service for startup businesses that are struggling with the technical side of things. It is a user friendly environment where clients can ask questions and get the help they need. Check her out on her Insta @plavookac

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With a Tumblr platform of over 497,000 followers, Rachel is changing how people see fashion, with her company The Style Line. Style Line is a platform where different women around the world express how their personal style is important for them. It is a growing community, and her work can be seen on her Instagram @rachelschwartzmann 

#WomanCrushWednesday: 3 inspiring ladies to watch


Whether their game is fashion, science, beauty, or tech, so many women are out there killing it! I love to see women using their voices to empower other women to achieve great things. Here are just a few inspiring women to keep an eye on this #WomanCrushWednesday! 

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With over 40,000 followers on Instagram Laura is changing the way people think about coders in a positive way! She’s a software engineer from NYC and shows people that coding is not just for the boys as well as this she loves fashion and jokes, follow her on Instagram @codergirl_

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Storm Reid is a twelve year old actress who had made her film debut in the Academy Award winning motion picture 12 years of a slave and has been killing it ever since! Not only is she super adorable and an amazing actress she actively promotes gender equality and representation in the film industry, which you can see on her Instagram page @stormreid. 

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Not your typical food reporter, Erin Ireland promotes the benefits of being vegan and draws attention to the environmental and health impacts high consumption of meat can have. She has her own website called 'to die for' where she shows her readers where to find restaurants that ethnically source their food as well as being delicious in Vancouver. She is also an amazing chief herself, where you can see some of her tasty recipes on her Instagram @erinireland. 

#WomanCrushWednesday: 3 inspiring ladies to watch

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Whether their game is fashion, science, beauty, or tech, so many women are out there killing it! I love to see women using their voices to empower other women to achieve great things. Here are just a few inspiring women to keep an eye on this #WomanCrushWednesday! 

We all know how it goes, healthy food just isn't as tasty as sweets! Laura Lea is on a mission to change that. Laura is obsessed with cooking and especially cooking healthy! Her message is to provide easy, family friendly recipes that will make healthy eating more fun. She also has her own book called The Balanced Cookbook and its good to see in a her making such a positive change. 

Connect with Laura: @lauraleabalanced

Angie Chang is one of the the youngest technology influencers out there. She is the former VP for HackBright Academy, an engineering school for women, as well as the founder of Bay Area Girl Greek Dinners. She also founded Women 2.0, which is a leading brand for women in tech. She is always pushing the boundaries for women especially in tech and science. 

Connect with Angie: @thisgirlangie

Tammy Tibbetts is the Co-Founder and CEO of She's The First, which is an educational non-profit organisation providing scholarships, mentorship and empowerment to girls in low-income countries who will be the first in their families to graduate. Tammy is a first-generation college graduate who attended The College of New Jersey, earning a B.A. in journalism, summa cum laude. She is an outspoken, passionate leader who has been shortlisted by Fast CompanyForbes, and Marie Claire

Connect with Tammy: @tammytibbetts

These are just a few amazing women who are proving that girl power is a force to be reckoned with. Who is your #WomanCrush this Wednesday?

TechSesh Spotlight: Brooke Battle, founder of Swell Fundraising

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How can an individual event have a great impact on a cause? Brooke Battle took her passion for important causes and turned it into Swell Fundraising, an event platform that helps non-profits maximize their fundraising potential. 

Battle's company has helped numerous non-profit organizations around the country achieve their fundraising goals. Swell combines event planning, check-in, and the Swell Slides projection app to keep guests engaged and create amplify their clients' missions. 

Since it began in 2012, Swell has created an impact by expanding events' potential and making significant impacts on several causes such as the YMCA, the American Cancer Association, and more. Based in Birmingham, Alabama, Swell received the Alabama Launchpad competition in 2014. 

We had a chance to talk to Brooke and hear how she was able to turn her passion for helping causes into a successful business. 

What motivated you to start Swell?

I started Swell because I believed (and continue to believe) that nonprofit events could have a greater impact on the cause they serve.  It was my commitment to women’s issues and a desire for that cause to grow that led me to create an event platform that would maximize the fundraising potential of an event.

Whatis the number one thing preventing women from taking the plunge into entrepreneurship and technology?

Fear. While I hate to generalize by gender, women often evaluate situations more thoroughly – too thoroughly in many cases. If you thoroughly evaluated entrepreneurship, you would fear failure, fear the commitment and the negative impact on your family, fear the financial instability, and fear the unknown. Women get caught up in this detailed thought process and lose the strategic vision and confidence that inspires them to take the leap.    

If I were to start my own business today, what is the the first thing I should do to take action? - Where do you start? 

You should survey 100 prospective buyers to fully understand the problem that you solve for them, validate the need and how they buy products like yours.

What was the worst piece of advice you have gotten? 

The worst piece of advice I received was not to hire a salesperson early.  In this person’s experience, the founder was the top sales person at each company until it was stabilized.  There is no question that the founder is heavily involved in sales but sales is a skill set that I needed and I should have hired a sales person first. 

Who has always been your mentor? 

I have not had the good fortune to have a steady mentor.  I wish I did, but honestly I don’t know how one finds a mentor.  My husband, Bob, has been an absolute rock and a great sounding board.

Do you think the entrepreneurial spirit is innate or can it be learned over time?

I think entrepreneurship can be learned over time.  In my opinion, being a good entrepreneur is really about knowledge and perseverance, which can both be acquired. Sure, some people may have more grit than others but if you want to persevere you can.  The only factor that might be innate would be a person’s capacity for instability and risk. Entrepreneurship has definitely tested my capacity for the latter and my solution has been to seek stability in other aspects of my life.  It’s interesting to consider because literally nothing has changed about my personal life, not even one piece of furniture or decorative item in my house, in the six years since I started Swell.  It’s probably time for me to take some “risk” elsewhere!

What keeps you motivated when everything seems to be going wrong?

When things seem to be going wrong, I just think about how far we’ve come. There have been many times when I questioned the future and in each of those cases I put my head down and worked hard to figure out the next step. Perseverance works and I just remember the many times we pushed through to the other side.    

Everyone has their two-cents, how do you decide whose advice to listen to?

First, I listen to everyone. The question really is which advice do I act upon. Creating a tech-centered company without a technology background meant that I relied on a ton of input and advice.   My strategy has always been to ask questions, keep asking and listen to everything. I look for patterns in the answers and the experience of the people who provide the advice and act accordingly. 

What is your favorite gadget or app that you cannot live without? 

I love gadgets and new apps. For work, we use Slack and I’m a big fan of Google Docs/Sheets/Slides. Once you take the leap to the concept of shared files, it’s hard to go back. My favorite gadget is the Vivitek Qumi mini HDMI projector. I can turn any blank wall into a presentation which is great for exhibiting and presentations when you don’t know the space.

If you could give your former self one piece of advice that could have saved you many mistakes what would it be? 

Establish a relationship with a large partner that is a user of your product. This helps validate the product specifications, test the product and creates a sales channel from the start. 

What is the key to building your own voice and brand? 

In my case, the key was to hire a good branding firm and good people to develop the voice/brand. The only thing I’ve done is maintain our core focus which is to help nonprofits expand their mission and be authentic.    

What are you most proud of?  

I’m most proud of the success of our clients. Helping great organizations expand their mission is the ultimate win. I’m proud that our software and guidance has raised an additional $2 million for causes that support women and girls, provide low cost day care, environmental protection and housing families with medical needs.    

Your favorite quotes?

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” - Walt Disney

“A really clean house is not compatible with a really big life”  - Ann Richards

Connect with Brooke:

Twitter:  @bhambattle; @swellfunds

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/brookebattle/

TechSesh Spotlight: Leslie Heyer, founder of Cycle Technologies

When you think of technology, you probably don't think of how it can help plan or prevent pregnancies, do you? Leslie Heyer, founder of Cycle Technologies, has used innovative technology that goes beyond gadgets and gizmos to help millions of women world-wide. 

Leslie Heyer founded Cycle Technologies with the goal of creating sustainable health care products in mind. When she saw the challenges millions of women face when it comes to health care, especially contraception, she became driven to develop simple and effective contraceptive options. Now in its 15th year of business, Cycle Technologies has brought numerous products to market which are widely used to assist in effectively planning or preventing pregnancies. 

Thanks to Leslie and Cycle Technologies, over 5.5 million unplanned pregnancies have been avoided, with over 1.5 million pregnancies successfully planned using their products. 

We had a chance to talk to Leslie and hear how she grew her business and became one of the “50 Most Talented Social Innovators.”

What motivated you to start your business?

I founded Cycle Technologies to help research organizations and others create successful, sustainable health products. It wasn’t until I learned about the challenges in global family planning that I became laser focused on working to address women’s contraceptive needs.

While researching women’s reproductive health needs and learning about the many negative outcomes associated with unplanned pregnancies, it was clear that more needed to be done to innovate and provide women with real contraceptive options that better met their needs.  I became highly motivated to develop and bring to market simple, effective, natural, contraceptive options.

The first contraceptive product that we worked with was CycleBeads® - a visual tool that helps women use a proven, fertility awareness-based method known as the Standard Days Method®. CycleBeads is now used in +60 countries by millions of women worldwide and offered in health programs, both domestically and internationally. It is also offered as an app.

More recently, we developed Dot™ - a patent-pending, app-only contraceptive method that gives women critical fertility information by identifying daily pregnancy risks and predicting future periods with its highly sophisticated advanced algorithm. Dot Fertility & Period Tracker was launched for iOS in late 2015 and the Dot app for Android was launched earlier this year. We are thrilled that researchers at Georgetown University’s Institute for Reproductive Health, with support from USAID, are conducting the first ever contraceptive efficacy study on a fertility app with the Dot app. To date, 6 million women use Cycle Technologies’ products worldwide; and over 5.5 million unplanned pregnancies have been prevented, and 1.5 million pregnancies successfully planned using these options.

What started as a health and product-focused consulting business has grown into a global, social-impact company focused on reproductive health. It’s exciting because I’ve found a great team of people that share in my passion and bring different skills to the issue of meeting women’s contraceptive needs. This year, we’ll be celebrating our 15th year in business, and we continue to stay highly driven knowing that our hard work helps improves the lives of women around the globe.

What is the number one thing preventing women from taking the plunge into entrepreneurship?

Women are less likely than men to start businesses that require them to seek capital, but women are natural entrepreneurs. We see women starting all kinds of businesses from their homes, while doing other jobs, etc. That said, the biggest issue for women – and many men – is sheer confidence. You have to be a bit of an irrational optimist and really sure of yourself to start a new business.

If I were to start my own business today, what is the first thing I should do to take action? - Where do you start?

 No matter what type of business you’re planning to start, the first thing to do is write the business plan. The business plan is a living document and something that you will refer to throughout the lifecycle of your company. It’s also where you to start to think through the different levers and assumptions about your business. Once you have a business plan in hand, it can give you the confidence to start putting all the other aspects in order.

What was the worst piece of advice you have gotten?

 No advice is really bad advice unless the intent of the advice given is ill-will. But it’s important to know where a person is coming from when they give you advice and to decide if you’ll actually use it. Generally speaking, I like hearing from people and hearing different perspectives. Even if I don’t necessarily think the advice is helpful at that moment, it can help me expand my thinking.

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Who has always been your mentor?

 My mom has been a huge mentor for me.  She’s taught me to stand up for myself, work hard, and to take care of people.

Do you think the entrepreneurial spirit is innate or can it be learned over time?

I think most of what an entrepreneur does can be learned, but there has to be a small spark that does seem to be innate – or at least fostered from a very young age. The spark is having confidence in your decisions, a clear vision, and being able to manage the stress. But like everything in life, there are lots of skills that an entrepreneur can learn that really do help with all aspects, even the confidence, clarity and stress management part. 

What keeps you motivated when everything seems to be going wrong?

There are two things that keep me sane when things are going wrong: 1) The people with whom I work. We have an amazing positive team of problem solvers within our company and among our partners. Having people you can lean on and who can help brainstorm and address any challenges is key; and 2) Focusing on our end users. Hearing directly from people who you are helping can keep you motivated and focused on the end goal.

Everyone has their two-cents, how do you decide whose advice to listen to?

I try to think about where the person giving advice is coming from. We all have a point of view that shapes what we focus on and how we see the world.

What is your favorite gadget or app that you cannot live without?

I am obsessed with my Bose headphones. I wear them walking to work and on the airplane. It lets me catch up on news and podcasts and creates a little bubble where you can recharge.

At what point did you know you would be successful?

I’m hoping to know that soon!

If you could give your former self one piece of advice that could have saved you many mistakes what would it be?

At the risk of sounding cliché, I’d say, “just do it”. Be bold and confident in who you are, ask questions, don’t be afraid to look stupid, and never assume you can’t do something if you just don’t know “how” to do it yet.

What is the key to building your own voice and brand?

I think you have to first be authentic in who you are. Never try to be something you aren’t. But then really refine your message and brand and repeat it often to everyone in your organization and in all of your materials. In our case, it’s about solving complex problems with simple, effective solutions. It becomes a touchstone that we can come back to whenever we start to lose our way or get overwhelmed with all the potential opportunities and challenges.

What are you most proud of?

I’d have to say that I am most proud of being a mother to two young children who are turning into fantastic human beings. On the work front, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished. We’re moving the ball forward in terms of expanding contraceptive options, increasing access, and helping women stay in control of their reproductive health.

Your favorite quote?

 “The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.”

Connect with Leslie:

Twitter: @Leslie_Heyer



TechSesh Spotlight: Kristel Kruustük, founder of Testlio

Kristel Kruustük was just 23 when she became disillusioned by how QA testers were treated. She came up with the idea of building a platform that would appreciate the work of testers and elevate the importance of QA within organizations. She shared her idea with then-boyfriend, later-cofounder, now-husband Marko Kruustük and the two entered the world’s largest hackathon Angelhack. Together, they took home first place winning a $25,000 seed investment and their first paying customer. 

Testlio then picked up steam with customers like Microsoft, Lyft, Salesforce, CBS Interactive, Flipboard, Strava, and GoDaddy. Most strikingly for a tech company - over 50% of its employees are women and minorities. Today, Testlio’s leadership team is over 40% women and Kristel believes they will have parity soon.The diversity reflects their fearless leader who believes her company is in a unique position to make progress on diversity by hiring globally.

Testlio’s freelancer network is made up of over 150 testers from 33 different countries assisting customers in 36 different languages. Additionally, in an attempt to eliminate institutional bias the company’s hiring practice involves a rigorous practice test cycle that eliminates 97% of all applicants and ensures talent wins out. 

We had a chance to speak with her and how she became recognized as “one of the most successful female entrepreneurs in the the Baltics.”


What’s an important leadership skill that doesn’t get talked about enough?

Running a successful business is about more than the bottom line. It’s about the people who build it, scale it and run it day in and day out. People drive our success more than anything else. A great leader needs to spend the time hiring and empowering her people. The business fundamentals will follow.

Why should young people consider a career in IT or STEM?

Technology is the future; It is allowing us to make drastic improvements to human life. Even looking at the past decade, so much has changed in terms of what people can accomplish on their own. IT / STEM careers also enable young people to innovate and impact their world.

Why is there a need for nontraditional career paths in tech?

I never planned to become a software tester, but I knew soon after testing my first few apps that testing was something that would drive my career. People need the opportunity to discover how technology can transform their lives, and nontraditional career paths enable that. Technology demands innovative, out-of-the-box thinkers. Those people don’t always fit neatly into a box.

How are nontraditional career paths into tech helping build tech diversity and making communities better?

Encouraging diversity ensures companies have employees who bring distinctive, valuable perspectives to the table. Often times these out-of-the-box thinkers need nontraditional career paths to find their place in the technology ecosystem. The bottom line is that diverse companies outperform their competitors. Diversity enhances the products and services tech companies can offer all of us.

Can people really be successful in tech without a traditional education?

Of course! There’s plenty of merit in a traditional educational, but the most important element to success is being constantly curious. Never let the lack of a degree deter you.

What are some of the things that hold women back during their careers? Especially if they decide to pivot mid-career?

Women are underrepresented in tech, which I think leads some women to overcompensate and worry about how they’re perceived. That’s not productive.


What are one or two words of advice that you have for women with nontraditional careers, or whom are considering making a change?

Don’t let fear rule you. Never give up when you face obstacles.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud of my life journey and of what we’ve been able to accomplish with Testlio so far.

Your favorite quote?

No pain, no gain.

Connect with Kristel

Twitter: @kristelviidik

LinkedIn: /kristelviidik

Instagram: @kristelkruustuk


TechSesh Spotlight: Natalie Zfat, social media influencer

Natalie Zfat is the entrepreneur behind The Social Co., a global social media consulting agency, and writer, entrepreneur and social media influencer. We talk about the founding of her company and the best advice she has to offer to other up and coming entrepreneurs.