On Thursday, June 2, 2022 we hosted our 6th annual Seat @ the Table, an event that enables conversations and action so more women earn more seats at more tables at every level of management in the technology industry. This year the conversation was focused on getting more women engineers into leadership roles within the tech industry. Costanoa Ventures’ Partner, Martina Lauchengco moderated our panel discussion featuring Helen Altshuler (CEO and Co-founder, EngFlow), Kimberly Bryant (Founder and CEO Black Girls CODE), Lauren Hasson (Founder DevelopHer and Engineering leader), and Dr. Cynthia Maxwell (Director of Engineering, Netflix Animation Studios).
Check out Martina’s reflections and their best advice in her blog post, “Seat @ the Table 2022: Inspired. Grace. Curious. Sonder” and the full video recording on our YouTube channel.
And if you’re interested in learning more about potential opportunities with early-stage startups in our portfolio, please join our talent network.
Following is a transcript of the event
We’re going to kick things off since we’re at one after the hour. Good afternoon or good evening, depending on which time zone you’re in and welcome to the Seat @ the Table. I’m Martina Lauchengo and I’m a partner at Costanoa Ventures. And we started Seat @ the Table six years ago to help drive conversation and action around having more women have more seats at more tables. And in those six years, we’ve expanded the conversation to include allyship and every kind of underrepresented minority that might be in tech. And this year, we really wanted to focus on women with engineering backgrounds. Costanoa invest in the earliest stages of companies in infrastructure for data and developer tools, InsureTech, Fintech, and Web2, so highly technical areas. That also lets us see day after day, how much of a gender gap we have as it relates to people in product and engineering functions. So we know that it’s really, really important to make sure people can see what that path can look like.
A handful of years ago, pre COVID we actually led a panel at Grace Hopper. Where we had women engineers who’d become founders and there were 600 people that came to
attend and understand what that path might look like. And then people hung out for over an hour in the lobby afterwards asking questions. The biggest thing we heard repeatedly was questions like, well, “What might this path look like?” And how much fear was getting in the way. So the remarkable people that I have to my, what does that stage right? To my right are people who have forged their own path with an engineering background and we’ll hear all of their stories shortly. But before we dive into that, I want us to make sure we got a little level set on some of the data about women in the workplace. This comes to us via our friends at LeanIn who work
every year with McKinsey & Company to come up with kind of a state of women in the workplace, just so we can all see where we’re at and see where we need to specifically focus on and get better. So this represents over 750 companies, 25 million employees.
Good news is representation is improving, but we’re still a long way from equity and equality. What does that look like?
Here we go. So above that dotted line is men, and you can see that the gray line is 2016 and the slightly purple line is 2021. So we have some improvement that’s directly reflected in the bottom half where you see women it’s entry level all the way to C‑suite on the right. And you’re seeing we have a slight uptake in 2021 across every single one of those. So hooray, but we still have a lot of work. You’ll notice how steep a decline that is in the pipeline and it’s because we still have this “broken rung.” So it’s at that very first step of people becoming managers that we’re seeing far fewer women making it through. For every a hundred men that get promoted, only 86 women are getting promoted in that first rung. So that’s really of course the implications are clear as we go on down the pipeline.
And it’s not because women aren’t doing their part. So if you look, women are asking for promotions as much as men. And they aren’t leaving their careers more than men are. So it’s really about what are the biases, actions and systems that are accidentally in place that might be preventing us from expanding the women all the way through that pipeline. And you’ll notice here that women of color are disproportionately impacted by that. So you’ve got Asian, LatinX, and Black employees relative
to their white counterparts. And you can see how those numbers just get smaller and smaller, even as a percentage as we go on up the chain inside of organizations.
So what can we do about it? Four ways to improve representation. 1) Probably obvious is
to hold managers and leaders accountable. What might be less obvious is the stuff in the purple box. Which is to really focus on, ”How can we hold people accountable within performance reviews and what might we offer financial incentives that helps people or incentivizes them to make more explicit progress. So those are areas where there hasn’t been as much movement forward and a lot of room to grow. 2) Is to more actively address bias in performance reviews. So this is something that might be somewhat surprising.Hiring, we seem to be pretty aware of our biases. A lot of that is getting addressed. But we’re less aware of the bias that occurs in performance reviews. In 2014, they did a big study where they looked at at men and women in our performance reviews. And they found that women were 50% more likely to get negative feedback in their performance reviews. So you can imagine the downstream implications of this. In terms of how they are perceived and whether or not they are promoted. So just being aware of that bias is really going to impact what winds up on someone’s performance review and what sticks with them as they go through their career. So that’s what that awareness training for evaluators includes. So including there will make a difference. Third is to take an intersectional approach to DEI metrics. Or doing an obviously great job on gender and race. That’s probably obvious stuff, but it’s the intersectional tracking that is where we’re falling behind and is where we have the greatest need. So you obviously saw the stats earlier that showed that it was women of different color where we’re falling the most short. And so you want to track gender and race together to really understand if we’re moving the needle where we have the most ground to make up.
Also important in the area of hybrid and flex work is burnout and how much that is disproportionately impacting women. You can see here just between 2020 and 2021. The difference between how much more women are feeling burned out or on the verge of burnout relative to their male counterparts. So it’s 42% for women, 35% for men. It’s an increase of 10 points from 2020 to 2021. So that is significant. It means that we have to really watch out because just last year, only one in four people, which was still a lot, we’re considering downshifting or leaving their careers. And now it’s one in three. Part of this is because they are shouldering a bigger and heavier load at home. So you can see on that left side that responsible for most or all household work, that’s pre-pandemic. With the added work post-pandemic or in the pandemic era. You can see that men are stepping up, but there’s still a disproportionate amount that is falling to women. So that is really contributing to how people are feeling and whether or not they’re feeling more burned out.
It’s also this new hybrid slash flexi environment that is making people feel a little more, “always on” and contributing to that feeling of burnout. On the left‑hand side, you see the people who are feeling burned out that are expected to be on a little more 24-7, 50 7% of them are feeling burned out. And on the right. Those two are not expected to be available 24-7. Still over a quarter of them are feeling burned out. So this is really something that we need to be watchful of.
So, what do we do? 1) is to continue to invest in employee wellbeing and work‑life balance. The good news is all those raindrops on top of each one of those columns. That’s the newly added or expanded support since 2020. So clearly everyone is aware and is investing heavily in making sure that there’s programmatic support for people in all different aspects of how they can feel more balanced out at work. But part of that. Is it as simple as articulating where people are allowed to put in boundaries, so that flexible work doesn’t always feel on. You’ll see here that only one in five employees. I have been told that they don’t need to respond to non-urgent requests outside normal working hours. And only one in three employees have received guidance on blocking off personal time on their calendars. So sometimes it’s as simple as communicating, “Hey, go ahead and put boundaries in place so we can respect them and everyone can, can see them.” And then this is a really big one, which is making sure that managers provide clear and consistent support that
is understood by their employees. What you see here is the gray bar is what managers say they’re doing to take supportive actions. And the purple bar is showing how employees say and see their manager having taken action. And so you see this big gap between the perception of the manager and what they’re doing and how employees are experiencing this. And I just want to make note that this doesn’t necessarily mean that managers aren’t saying something. It might just be that you need to say it a little more often. Or check in weekly instead of occasionally or actively encourage somebody to block off that time so that they feel that sense of support, as opposed to just saying it. So be aware that there is this perception gap, even if you are trying to be supportive as a manager.
So we share all this, just to get us all on the same page about what’s the data and what tactically are. Some things that we can do. But I want to shift our focus and our energy now on. The stories of the amazing panelists that we have with us here today so they can share what their paths have been like so that you might learn from theirs. And I have, I’ll just go in alphabetical order and they’re going to go through and we’ll go one by one. Will there introduce a little bit of their story? We have, of course, Dr. Cynthia Maxwell. Who is a director of engineering at Netflix animation studio.
We have Helen alt Altschuler, CEO. And co‑founder of EngFlow. We have Kimberly Bryant, who is founder and CEO of Black Girls CODE. And Laura Hasson who is the founder of DevelopHer. And an engineering leader at Paine near me. So we’ll just go alphabetically by first name. So Cynthia, we’re going to start with you and your story.
Dr. Cynthia Maxwell:
Thank you. And thank you so much for having me here. This is an amazing panel to be a part of. I think some of the relevant points from the story of how I got to Brian’s day. Um, is that I started my career at NASA Ames research center, which actually is a couple of miles from my house. I don’t think I really appreciated it at the time, but my first manager was a woman with a PhD. And I think that really sort of set the stage for me that women can and should be leading teams. She really instilled in us sort of a strong work ethic. She had a saying that she would always tell us at the end of meetings which is, “There is no second place.” And she was really great at painting a vision, getting everyone on board and rallied to her cause. After I left NASA, I went to Berkeley to get my PhD. And my thesis advisor was another woman, Ruzena Bajcsy. In her office had a sweatshirt that would hang on the back of her door that said, “Results.” And I think both of those women taught me about hard work and grit. Um, and I think those are two sort of values that I took with me after I left Berkeley and went to Apple and then Pinterest, and Slack and now Netflix. You know, I think a lot about those women who helped me form my early models of how to achieve and excel. And I can’t imagine how hard it must’ve been for them. You know, coming up in a male-dominated environment in the ‘50s and ‘60s. And so I definitely feel I owe a debt of gratitude to both of them. And I think both of them had a pretty big influence on how I got here today.
I love that. It’s such an important reminder that even today, everything that we do can be an example for those that follow us. So thanks for bringing that up and those who inspired you. And Helen, let’s go to your story.
Hi everyone! Great to be here. Um, so, uh, I grew up in Ukraine. As it was emergent from the collapsing Soviet Union. And so for decades, The country was aiming for full employment. And as a result, women were everywhere. From construction workers to factory directors, engineers, astronauts. Absolutely anywhere., I grew up without the bias of male versus female roles. Uh, and so that shaped a lot of how I look at things and how I entered the workforce. Now that system had other problems like censorship, and systemic ethnicity and religion based discrimination, which ultimately led to my family refuging into the United States, but, uh, uh, overall, when I came to the US, uh, I entered the university and also had similar experience to Cynthia. About 50% of my professors were women as well in computer science. And so, uh, that seemed normal. And, uh, I basically didn’t pay attention to how many women were in my team as I, uh, as I progressed through my career, and I really didn’t know that I was a woman in tech until I was asked to speak on a panel, “Women in Tech” 10 years into my career. And that’s when it was a realization,.” Oh, it’s a thing I thought we weren’t professionals.” Uh, so a lot of different perspectives shaped how I initially looked at the, uh, the growth and as well as realizing that actually it’s not exactly the same for everyone.
And such a great reminder that it is. Everyone’s unique journey, which is why we’re sharing so many different styles and flavors of it. And Kimberly, I know you’ve had a, you had a distinctly different experience then both Helen and Cynthia’s when you were coming up in your early days.
Yes. Um, my experience was. Very different from Dr. Maxwell’s and Helen’s in that you. I started my journey as a stem professional back in the mid ‘80s. Um, that’s when I went to college and decided to major in electrical engineering with a minor in computer science. Now, if you look at the research on those dates around that time, there was a substantial amount of representation of women receiving bachelor’s degrees of CS. That’s about the last peak that we had for the last 20 years was about 35% or so. It didn’t feel that way, however, for me, because you know, I did not have any female professors, you know, out of my four years of university. And I really didn’t have too many women in my classes now. You know, we were a part of the engineering school. There were other women in other disciplines, but within the electrical engineering discipline, most of my classes, I did not have other female participants as a freshman and sophomore, you know, in my, in my class. Um, and I have very few students of color in those classes as well. Oh, so my experience was very isolating from that perspective. Um, being in a, and then one of the most competitive schools in the Southeast and, you know, coming from a very stringent and strong academic background, it was difficult to navigate, you know, this very rigorous curriculum and not have community. So that was a different, um, experience than I think Kellen and. And Dr. Maxwell described, and this was also reflective as I started my career. So I decided to go into heavy manufacturing for the bulk of my career. So first in the chemicals industry, then in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries later in my career, Cause similar products at a point. And what I found that I was really pushed into roles as leaders very early in my career. So like I was in project management for exactly one year and I was never a bench engineer. Again, I was always on the managerial track in technical engineering and it was very lonely as well. There were often a handful of women in these leadership roles, but especially early in my career, I was often not only the only woman in the role. I was also the only person of color in the room and probably was the youngest person in the room. Now that wouldn’t be the case now. But then it was which made it even more difficult, you know, to really kind of have my voice, be heard, to be respected for my expertise as a leader in this very male dominated environment. So I’ve seen, you know, part of my journey later in my career and starting my organization, Black Girls CODE was to try to change that perspective and really create a community for other women in STEM to find themselves, or to find other allies and to have to have community.
I love how the earliest parts of the career brought such safe to the later parts of cure of your career. That’s really excellent and inspiring. Lauren, tell us about your story.
So mine, mine starts as early as freshman year of high school where my parents put me into computer science, not even knowing what it was saying, “It’ll be good for you” at the advice of some friends. And, uh, I went on to get a triple major at Duke and electrical engineering and computer science, and then added in economics for good measure. But I left tech after college. I had some less than stellar college internships that left a bad taste in my mouth. And I went into investment banking and in entrepreneurship, and ultimately after a number of career moves, I found myself completely at a dead end 11 years ago, living on unemployment checks with no, no confidence, no marketable skills. I mean, when I graduated, not only did the iPhone not exist, the Razor didn’t exist in like SMS, text messaging. Wasn’t even a thing. Yet, I. I mean, my tech skills on a Unix box or a completely outdated, and no one would give me a chance. And I, um, iOS was getting big at the time. And I had an agency that gave me 90 days to teach myself iOS and prove myself. And it was the most terrifying experience ever. But within two years, Not only one that company‑wide awarded this top mobile agency and some big hackathons, I won the South by hackathon two years in a row. My work was featured in Apple’s big iOS 7 keynote. I met Kimberly. We were two US innovators invited to attend a UK G innovation conference. Um, and I was getting regularly recruited by FANG companies. I mean, companies that wouldn’t even source me in before regularly trying to get me to come work for them. Um, and now I’m not only the director at PayNearMe, a Silicon Valley payments company, that’s a portfolio. A company of Costanoa. Uh, but I’m also the founder of DevelopHer and I’m a motivational speaker and I help women in tech get promoted, get ahead, earn more. I have not only worked with individual women, but I also help the companies that want to build their individual. Uh, tech bench of women leaders to get to the next level. Um, and I’m doing that. I don’t believe those roles are mutually-exclusive. I said, I want to be a founder and I want to work on the front lines of tech myself and be that role model for. For women in engineering to go to the next level and say, I can be a director and I still write code to this day and I absolutely love it.
Cynthia, I wanted to talk about something that you, you brought up, which is you started your
career at NASA and you had the great luck and luxury of having these two female mentors that really helped provide a template for you to follow. So as you think about the steps that you took for yourself, where you might’ve felt, oh, this is a little out of my comfort zone and you might not have had those mentors that were pulling you along. How did you make that leap and put yourself up for, or put your hand up saying, “I think I’m ready for this leadership position.” What did it take to push yourself out of your comfort zone?
Dr. Cynthia Maxwell:
A couple of experiences where I didn’t raise my hand and I regretted it. So when I was working in Apple, the team that I was working on was getting really big. And my manager sort of looked at all the senior most engineers and said, “One of you needs to do this. One of you needs to become a manager.” And we were like, “No, man, we don’t want to be a manager. That’s just overhead. We like to code. We know managers isn’t a real work sort of thing.” And so we didn’t raise our hand. And, um, later on I did sort of wind. Everybody in that position, because I do think I probably could have done my job really well. If you don’t raise your hands. And we’ll get so with someone else. And then you have to live with the consequences. And so I think. Um, you know, when the opportunity came, you know, A few times after that when I was sort of an IC and I knew that they were looking for leadership, I made sure I jumped at the chance. Because I think you know, there’s a famous quote that says, you know, “Regret for things that you do are tempered by a time. Regrets for things you did not do are inconsolable.” And so I think that that’s just sort of stuck with me ever since. That’s how I look at things.
Helen, you mentioned that when we were getting ready for this, you mentioned that there was somebody that other than you deciding I’m ready, that believed in you and pulled you along and said, “Hey, all right. We need more of you in this world.” Walk us through what that was like and who that person was and how much it shaped your career, and also now what you do for others.
Sure, actually luckily multiple people. I can say my professional career have been that what I call “sponsors.” Really, business technical sponsors that speak for you in meetings where I do not present. And so, yeah. The early career manager was Sharon Murphy. She’s the current COO at Wells Fargo. And she was my manager’s manager when I was pretty junior in my career. And she saw the potential before I did. And she had a way of coaching me towards achieving that potential in ways that seemed natural to me. “So alright, you this project. Here’s a related project that can use your skills.” It was kind of guiding me, you know, in a way that that felt really natural. I definitely can appreciate that those some of these skills, how do you connect the dots and see the opportunities and match them with people before they already, as they’re getting ready, provide them the right mentorship and support. And so those have been kind of the core of how I look at managing teams, managing career development as well. It’s a system. It’s a system of stretch opportunities, core skills that give you confidence that you can do it and pairing up with the best people that can help you grow.
Helen. You had a system that you now put in place for others. Lauren, I’ve always been struck with your story, how you developed a system for yourself. So you didn’t have somebody showing you how to do this, but you found a way to upskill yourself to put yourself out there, even though it might not have been comfortable. How did you develop that skill and did it come naturally to you? Or did you just have to train yourself to do that?
Well, if you ask my parents, I’ve been, a go-getter since a very young age. They just, they said they didn’t need to show me the way that it’s needed to stay out of my way. But it doesn’t come naturally, even to me, um, I was at absolute rock bottom. I remember a time where I was counting out, change to put gas in my car to go to a networking event to get myself to the next level. And it was just literally, “What’s the next one step in front of me?” And that’s honestly, the hardest step that you’ll ever take is getting started. Um, I nerd out. And I talk about how is this in terms of coefficients of static friction, didn’t bring you back to visits. But it’s harder to get started than it is to keep going. And so that’s, the trick is tricking myself into getting started and I break it down into like the simplest, smallest step that I can possibly take to get started. And then I build on momentum and once I get some momentum and action, that’s when I really start seeing change in my life, um, as an engineer and then as an engineering leader, and then as an entrepreneur and founder. Where I am today is not where I intended to be, but I discovered that path along the way through trial and error, like I did not intend to get involved in hackathons. It was an opportunity and I volunteered and I tried it out and I said, oh, I wonder what more this could be. And I kept showing up and then it became something bigger than I could’ve ever imagined. The same thing with DevelopHer. I didn’t think anyone cared about my story because I’m not Sheryl Sandberg. And I started by interviewing other women. And then someone asks, well, what’s your own story? And I honestly didn’t think anyone would care. And that’s actually the story that resonates most with most women was my own story. I’ve kept iterating on that. So I’m constantly listening for feedback. Um, To nerd out again, his assistant feedback loop. So I put something out there. I take action. I collect feedback. I do a little bit of user testing and then I iterate and I keep going and I’ll tell you sometimes I just want to quit. And, to quote, my mom, “Don’t quit. Pause.” I take a lot of pauses along the way to keep going. It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon and I am constantly. Pumping the brakes, taking a pause. And just saying, what do I need? Uh, what am I low on? Um, and then replenishing my reserves. And then when my reserves are replenished, iterate and I keep going.
Wise words from your mom. Kimberly, I am curious because you mentioned this in your intro, that there were many times that you had trouble feeling seen and heard. And that is something that I hear a lot from women in engineering teams in particular and product teams that they’ll say something, it’s not heard, even though they acknowledge that it was present and then someone else
says it and all of a sudden it’s heard. So, what, what did you find worked for you to make sure that at those times that you weren’t feeling seen or heard. How’d you stick with it? And then what were the techniques that you used to make sure that you would feel seen and heard?
One of the things that resonated with me with Helen’s story was this notion of having a sponsor. And I think a sponsor is very different from a mentor. You know, and then I think we’ve heard that notion that “Women are over mentored and under sponsored” a lot. That’s true. I think it’s been true for me throughout my career life, even before founding my own company, but even in corporate, um, that the folks that were most impactful, most impactful in my journey were those who were sponsors. So those who were in the room when I wasn’t in the room and who could speak my name into places that I wasn’t. And I remember, and I think I shared in our pre panel call with you an experience where my boss’ boss, who was like a senior executive director at one of the biotech companies that I worked with earlier in my career, um, pulled me aside after a team meeting one day and asked me why I was not sharing my voice in this room of my other peers. They were all men, other directors in this department. And myself. So there are about six of us. All of us were at the director level running this manufacturing facility. And my boss’s boss was like, “Why are you not speaking up in these meetings?” And I was like, well, I want to be part of the guys. I don’t want them to say, “she talks too much.” You know, I wanted to be in the, in the. In the club with the. With the boys. I wanted to be part of the boys club. And he was like, “oh no, no, no, no. He was like, you are here. And the reason you are here is because you have a different perspective. You have something different to offer to the team. And I need you to speak up. You know, That’s the reason that you’re here.” And that one conversation. I feel it was pivotal in my development as a leader and learning how to own my voice to own my story and never being afraid of sharing it. And even if that meant, you know, which often happens to women in these rooms, when we’re one of a few, you know, we will say something and then it, it gets, it gets ignored. And then the next person says it and it’s like, “Oh yeah, That’s a great idea.” But being confident enough to say, “Hey, I think I just said that, a little bit ago. And this is how I see that, but I also agree that, and I’m glad you see it as well.” So I think really being able to find my voice as a leader, especially, you know, once I went on out on my own became a founder as well, has been critical to my survival. I won’t even say success. I think my survival has been really predicated on being able to own my voice and own my story is, which has helped me to survive.
Helen. You mentioned that you also like Kimberly or had the great blessing of some incredible advocates, a sponsor advocacy. They go by different names, but it’s really the same form, which is someone who is not necessarily in your direct chain of command. That is advocating on your behalf for your career progression specifically. So Helen, you had the gift of people that were doing that on your behalf. Tell us what they did and also how it has shaped what you now do.
Yeah and actually, I can relate to what Kimberly said. I think that’s a good quote for this panel. “Women are over-mentored and under-sponsored.” I haven’t kind of appreciated that until I’ve experienced this without realizing, but that’s what I’ve experienced. First of all, the biggest impact is early in someone’s career. And so I think this is also where I’ve had a definite great experience very early in my engineering career. As I took the leap into the first level of management as like leading larger projects across teams, the sponsor has kind of emerged based on my work, which is really the best way you want to have a sponsor in your career. So Paul Compton, who at the time was not yet in the C‑suite of JPMorgan, now is head of CIB at Barclays, he was a very influential leader responsible for the business agenda for all credit risk infrastructure transformation, which was a three‑year initiative coming out from the Enron disaster. And like, how are we going to reimagine the bank information systems? And so at the time, I was leading a project and I had some visibility to him through the project update meetings on a periodic basis. But at the same time he was aware of the work that I did, uh, at a more deeper level because of his engagement in the program. And also that he was aware of the fact that prior to me, several other leaders failed to deliver that particular set of technical projects. And so, um, as, uh, as the project was nearing completion, he would go to various senior leadership meetings where I, of course wasn’t in those, and as those meetings, as the tech discussions are happening about new projects that they need a leader score, he would basically say, “We need a Helen.”Needless to say that within a month, I had multiple kind of career options to look at because he, uh, He recognized that the impact of somebody’s work. And he also made sure that there are others, his peers that are aware of that. And so to me that the most impactful to someone this is early in their career because it shapes impact on them. And it gives them the energy, which I absolutely have to do that for others.
Just point out because both Kimberly and Helen’s examples are ones where men were advocating on behalf of people that were many levels below them because they believed in their potential and they thought it was important. So just putting out there that this is, this is work that everybody can do. And Cynthia, I know that. Uh, or do you prefer Dr. Maxwell? I never asked you that.
Dr. Cynthia Maxwell:
Either is fine. You know, just as an aside, I added Dr. to my LinkedIn profile after the op‑ed came out about how Jill Biden is not a real doctor and she should not be using the honorific. I took offense to that and have used it ever since. I never had the honorific on my name before that OpEd.
That is a very good point because I likewise have a friend who has a PhD and we talk and her honorific that often gets dropped and we didn’t make a big deal about it. And she’s like, no, I did the work. I should get credit for it. So Dr. Maxwell. I know in your current position you have started a team with a very different philosophy and different dynamic. Tell us about this team, what you’ve built and how it has been different based on what you’ve observed at Netflix.
Dr. Cynthia Maxwell:
Yeah, well, a year and a half ago, I had the opportunity to start a brand new technology arm inside of this new engineering organization, and I, and you know, several people expressed interest in transferring onto the team. And I wanted to do something a little bit different. And so intentionally created the team with the majority of women coders. In fact, it was 90% women coders. And I just wanted to sort of see what happened. What sort of dynamic might emerge, you know? How could we do things differently? And, you know, one of the nice things that I saw was that we cheered for each other a lot more. You know, there was no dominant voice in the group that everyone’s sort of got behind, including my own. Um, I also noticed that. Into playfulness a little bit. We chose as our team emoji, a little chick coming out of the shell. Which was pretty cool. And, you know, I was told by one of the members of the team that she was almost on the verge of leaving tech. She always felt that she had to fight to get her ideas noticed. She felt like she was being shut down a lot and had to really go above and beyond to prove her point versus, you know, maybe a different person with the idea that it would get adopted more quickly. Um, and so seeing her in this environment, Um, and so, you know, I’m just so thankful to have her here because she’s amazing. Um, and so that was what.
And other things you’re talking about. Dr. Maxwell that’s so important is how people feel on a team. And of course, very famously Google has done the Project Aristotle, where they looked at and examined to team performance. And Helen, you can probably talk about this about how the teams that were most productive and successful were ones where people felt that psychological safety did you, were you there at the era and the era of the Project Aristotle?
After I think, but yeah, certainly aware of it and the impact that it had. Yeah, I mean, in general, using this is very Google using data to explain anything. And, this was maybe in some ways intuitive kind of, how do you create an environment that where people can be themselves at work, where they can be vulnerable with their colleagues, where they can feel like they have each other’s back. And those teams naturally all at the most productive.
Of course by definition. Dr. Maxwell, you’re the “N” in FANG at Netflix. And Lauren, you talked about the fact that you were offered a lot of jobs by people in the FANG companies, but you chose instead to be more of a renegade and to work for a Silicon Valley scale‑up as an engineering leader. How did you make that choice? And then in a world that perhaps has less flexibility and resources, how do you make sure your teams stay diverse and or productive and have more of this positive culture?
Absolutely. Well at the time remote work was not a thing and my home is in Dallas and I’m part of a partnership that my partner had ties to Dallas. So that was part of, I didn’t want to move to the Valley. And so instead I actually got into remote work by commuting to Nashville as part of the senior leadership team. And I would fly into Nashville on Monday morning at 7:00 AM and fly back on a Thursday or Friday night. And then eventually once I got my team up and running, I started
working remotely and that’s how I initially got into remote work. And then I, it was a really bad week. I
actually was in a really bad car accident on a Saturday. And then, uh, the company laid off the entire mobile division, the following Friday, and then my partner was frozen out of law in his career totally changed. And I became breadwinner overnight and I was in a ton of pain. I had an actually a herniated disc in my neck that required surgery and I. It just was life‑changing for me. And I had multiple opportunities. Um, and I was open to, I was open to traveling before, but because of my neck injury, I wasn’t able to travel. And it seemed like a step back at the time to take an IC role for a remote-first company, but it ultimately ended up propelling me forward because that got me into the Silicon Valley network. I had been working at that company for over five and a half years. I am actively hiring the best company I’ve ever worked for is actually I joined because. Because of the leadership team, um, not because of the product or anything. It was just, the people is why I joined and the people is why I continue to stay and build it. Um, and then ultimately I ended up retooling. iOS was no longer needed, which was my expertise. And so I got not only into security, but into voice and uh, back and front end web technologies. And so I’ve not only started over once in my career. I’ve actually started over multiple times and I’ll tell you every single time, it’s scary as heck, but it is absolutely worth it. There were tears shed, but because I’ve done that I’ve really dramatically increased my value, not only to the company, but just my value. Uh, in the workforce. And so that’s something that I bring to my team. Uh, as well is, you know, we talk about psychological safety. I look at the whole person. I had people asking internally to join my team and that I take that as the ultimate compliment. When people ask by name to join your team. And I focus on the whole person. So I look at, you know, how much time are you taking off. Are you responding outside of regular hours? I don’t, I don’t like that. I, it’s not okay with me. And I set the example myself. Um, and I, and I make sure that they’re taking care of themselves. Actually the number one thing I do as a leader is I schedule my fitness time. I’ve taken the same approach to my career, to lose 70 pounds and get healthy. And I protect my workout time on my calendar and I make that a priority and an extra, my team knows about it. And I believe that a healthy team is a healthy team, uh, and that’s something that I’m trying to lead by example with.
I just want to call out. Everyone on this panel does an amazing job of living their lives by example, and being an example to everyone that’s on their team. So kudos to you for always doing that. And Kimberly, one of the things that you modeled is you love your career at Genentech, so a safe, wonderful place where you had earned your way to leadership. And yet you decided to
take the risk to leave it and start your own venture. Tell us what that journey was like and what made you decide to take that leap.
Well, I often say that, you know, Genentech was probably, and it has been the last corporation I would ever work for. And that was because it was such a Mecca of diversity. And I had never experienced that throughout my, you know, 20+ years in Corporate America. And I, you know, intentionally was struck by how many women in leadership roles there were. There were women in leadership all around me, and that was something that I had not experienced before. And so it was difficult to leave, but also I wanted to be able to build. I think that I am a founder at heart. I want to say an entrepreneur, like I’ve always been like into like, selling t‑shirts or, you know, doing something that was kind of like, um, entrepreneurial, like it’s in my blood. And so I wanted to do that and I saw an opportunity to do it when I first left Genentech. I wanted to create a health tech company and a startup field, but I stumbled into this need for more diversity around tech inclusion and my pathway pivoted and I started a nonprofit instead to really focus on this issue that I didn’t really see anybody working on. And I think that it is important to be flexible in our careers. I think for my generation, we would go into one area and be expected to, or expect ourselves to be in that one role and one industry, one pathway for our whole career. I don’t think that is net. That is the case anymore. I think there’s an opportunity for us to have multiple career paths. Myself being in Corporate America, being in non-profit. Now getting ready to make a pivot into doing something else to support his founders. Um, Lauren’s career is a complete testament to that. Being able to have no limits. And I think as women we have to embrace that. Right? We have to embrace that flexibility of not just thinking. We can only do one thing, but tapping into all of our unique talents. And I think. That is one thing that I would want women on this call to embrace like, no, you have many, many opportunities in probably things you haven’t explored yet. So give yourself permission to take a chance and explore, and as long as they iterate on what’s your next path, may be.
I just want to build on that, Kimberly, because I think that is so important. And oftentimes we believe we have to have the answer or the next step to make the leap. I myself have done this, where I took the leap without knowing what the net was going to be and became an interim operator and did advising, and for those of you who think that might be a path or actually even platforms for that full disclosure, we’ve invested in one called Bolster. But it does make it much easier to make that leap because there are a whole there’s, there are platforms and infrastructures that support making that
leap now where it didn’t exist when I started and made that leap. So there’s way more variations on a theme than there were even a decade ago and so much more infrastructure to support these creative career paths. So you started a nonprofit. Helen you started a for‑profit super high‑flying startups. So tell us what made you finally decide to make that leap into being a founder yourself.
I actually thought it was interesting that Kimberly mentioned that she joined the company thinking that was the last company that you were going to work at. In a way I joined Google as a way, “Alright, I can do this for like a long time and then, and then retire early and do other things.” And so it’s a bit of an unusual story. So first of all, like having spent most of my career in fintech, how did I end up in deep tech? Which is what my company does today, the build systems and the developer tooling. So at my Google interview, an engineering director, Jeff Cox, spoke passionately about his team and the work that they were doing, I decided that I should find out what it was all about. And so I came home, I installed Bazel, the build systems at Google open source on my laptop, followed instructions, got it to work. And I thought, okay, I can do this. This is actually a very important accessibility tip to getting people successful in tech, which is good documentation and code labs, give developers, especially the newcomers, the confidence that they can do it and proceed with it. And so while working on Bazel I partner with Ulf, now my co-founder who led the team. And while we didn’t work super closely, I’ve always been inspired by working with people who are the best at what they do, experts in their field. And as an engineering leader and manager and CTO and PA. And past the companies that I worked at. I always saw my role as a catalyst to helping them succeed. And so when Ulf decided to create a company, it was a bunch of dots connecting for me with all my startup enterprise and baseball experience, passion for giving the best tools to the developers that I’ve always worked with and managed. And here’s this remarkable engineer who never did a startup and who I could actually help become successful and build something very special and different together. And to me that was enough of a reason to take the leap. I guess halfway through my original plan of my Google career and say, “Maybe there’s something in it.” Another thing that I would say also helped me get started with this is that throughout my career, I have never said no to an opportunity. If somebody believed in me before I believed in myself. And myself, I just went for it. I never wanted to ask myself questions, like shoulda-woulda-coulda.
You are remarkable in that way. Cynthia, you shared something in our prep call that I think
talks a little to the internal journey where it might be obvious when you’re connecting these internal dots, but internally you still have to make that leap and be comfortable at stepping out of your comfort zone even if you’re not necessarily feeling it on the inside. Maybe you can share with us when you have decided to make that leap, what was that internal journey for yourself? And how did you kind of overcome some of your own internal beliefs?
Dr. Cynthia Maxwell:
Absolutely. After a year of being at Netflix, I had built an amazing team. We had just released a rewrite of the software that had sort of become this sort of platform that was going to be the foundation of the live action tooling for our studio. And an opportunity came up that I had heard about where they were going to start an animation technology team. And it seemed pretty ambitious. There was going to be a lot of growth. I have also worked at startups and have been in hyper‑growth and I really love the act of hiring. I love meeting people and building teams. I love building products. And so I got really attracted to the opportunity, but it was a bit scary because here’s a high‑performing team. I’m in a group. Everything’s great. This is what I had been working for the last year. Should I really make the leap and go into those essentially starting over and building a brand new team. Starting from no foundation or products. Trying to help this amazing company, building a new arm of their engineering. But I decided to go for it. Again, I felt like if I didn’t go for it, I might kick myself later. You know, what, what could I have done? What could I have achieved there? And, you know, in retrospect I’m really glad I did. And, you know we’ve learned a lot. It’s been incredible to hire so many people and to learn about this new discipline. So my degree is in computer graphics, and many of my peers have gone on to become leaders at Pixar and ILM and that sort of thing. And I made a hard pivot into signal processing right after graduation. And so it was just kind of a nice return to the roots of what I studied. So I think in summary, the internal dialogue again is about that quote about regret. Right? Regret the things you do are tempered by the time, and regret the things you didn’t do are inconsolable. And so similar to Helen, I say lean in and go for these opportunities and see what happens.
That’s definitely a theme I’m hearing from all of you, which is you were really, really great at being bold and taking the steps and the opportunities that are placed in front of you and saying like, “well, if it fails, So be it, at least I’ve taken that step.” But Lauren, you’re our last question. Before we go into Q&A. One thing that you said that I really want to hone in on was you were comfortable taking what at the time seemed like a step backwards that turned out to be step forward, but you didn’t know that at the time. In retrospect, if you were to advise people on, you know, sometimes it’s not obvious that this would, could be a step forward. Are there things that people might look for that might not be obvious on the surface where like, don’t worry about it and just go ahead and make that leap?
Yeah. So on the surface. The job that I ended up taking was not the job that I thought that I wanted. And in hindsight, I am so glad that I did it. Like it worked out to be better than I could have ever imagined. But what I did is I did a side by side analysis. I had multiple opportunities, and I wrote down, “what does success look and feel? What does it feel like to me? What not? What is it in terms of title, but like, What it, like, when do I wake up? Who do I work with? What’s my lifestyle like? What kind of things can I work on?” And I, you know, I described this life that I wanted. And at the time I hadn’t found a developer, but it was on my mind, like it’s I have the carve‑outs in my employment agreement to do this. That’s how adamant I was. I was going to start something. And I wrote it out and then I compared it to what are the two, what are the opportunities that I’ve narrowed it down to? And when I put it side by side, I said, “Which one is going to get me to the life that I really want? Like what success really feels like to me?” And I had been chasing these really high flying, you know, the other opportunities where they paid more. They had a lot of, you know, impressive travel, a lot of perks, working with C-suite. I mean, everything I thought I wanted and then in leadership, and then here’s this job working for a company that I couldn’t even download the iOS SDK. I never met
my hiring manager in person. I didn’t even see him on video and it was an IC role and I took a step back. But it felt right. And it aligned with my definition of feeling for success was. And because I did that, I’ve lived a life that’s truly aligned. And Kimberly talked about taking those new opportunities and iterating, and I’ve, I’ve refused to live a life where I live in a world where it’s either or to borrow. And I’ve done a lot of therapy. And I know there was a question in the chat about mental health. I own it. I talk about this all the time with DevelopHer. I have mental health issues. I talk about them publicly. I invest in mental health, resources and therapists, and one of the most valuable things I learned from her other than to like, watch your dashboard for your energy level. It was, “Live in a world where it’s both and.” I refuse to live where I have to choose one or the other. I instead try to live where I can find a win-win for everyone. That’s how I negotiate. That’s how I work. That’s how I lead my teams. And it’s how I am really getting a lot of change with DevelopHer because I refuse to say, “I need to be just a founder” or “I am jjust an engineering leader.” I said, how can I make both happen for me? And I like, who am I? I’m not Sheryl Sandberg, but I hope that I’m inspiring some people.
You are certainly inspiring a lot of people right now because the chat is going off the hook for your humanity and vulnerability and sharing the fact that you struggle with mental well-being and the fact that we should be talking about that and that it is really important. So bravo and thank you for sharing that part of your journey. And, uh, let’s see other questions. So this is the time to drop them in. But I also just want to note really quickly to Lauren that the fact that you took the time to define how success, what it feels like to you versus everyone else’s external markers of what it should be. I think that’s really hard for a lot of us to do. And we feel sometimes, like that’s not okay to just do what feels right versus the shoulds. And just to encourage everyone to think about who are you doing this for? This is for you. And to just to make sure that you’re taking the time to figure out what feels true to you as a human being, it’s hard, it’s really hard work. So you gotta take the time to do it.
Okay. Let’s see if there are questions that are coming in. How do you encourage your team to stay mentally well? Obviously was a huge topic at the top of the hour when we were talking about the data that’s in companies. So any of you, how do you make sure that your team for those that are managing others, balance that mental wellness? What’s worked for you and your teams? Helen, I know you’ve got a team that I accompany that you’re running there.
It’s a challenge. It’s a challenge for a startup, especially a venture-backed startup when your goal is to, to move fast and create, create great products and work with customers and very sophisticated customers with super, super high expectations. Uh, yeah, I don’t think we’ve solved all the problems there, but suddenly we are discussing some of these topics very thoroughly. I would say the main thing is understanding each person’s kind of personal limits. And this is a responsibility that like you should have as a, as an individual. Like you need to know your limits and you need to make set them. Uh, very clearly. Uh, and ideally before you burn out, I’m like, how do you know that, that meter? And then as an, as a, as a manager, Look, you, you, you need to understand and articulate. Like those. But that’s your support for those, for respecting those limits. And so to me, especially when it comes to very. Kind of difficult. Uh, releases or timelines balancing as much as possible across geographies. Like that’s a helpful thing. So if you have a global team, then if certain projects need to be done, you can balance the work. You can balance the support. But ultimately taking time and as a leader, putting things on your calendar that say, okay, well, this block is block blocked for my daughter’s graduation, and this is her dance. And this block is blocked for making dinner. Uh, and so making sure that, uh, the team members. I understand that this is how you also can set limits within a day, within a week to try to manage that.
And Dr. Maxwell has 60 seconds that he can quick to, to add to that. Since you have a team that’s already saying I’ve never felt better on a team.
Dr. Cynthia Maxwell:
Yeah a lot has happened when we first started it and where we are now, I mean in the world. And I think it also just starts with acknowledging that like, It’s okay to not feel okay. You know, you don’t have to put on a brave face and act like everything’s okay, because we’re humans, right? You don’t sort of shut ourselves off when we come into work. And so I have also shared, you know, sort of my journey of finding a therapist and how it’s gone and sort of letting people know that I’m utilizing a resource and encouraging others to use it as well. And I think, you know, similar to what people are saying in the chat, encouraging people to take time off you. I also check in with people as far as how they feeling with their flow state. Are they anxious? Are they bored? Are they leading to burnout? And try as hard as I can to nip burnout in the bud, but sometimes things happen and making sure that we can support people as a whole human beings.
Speed round questions
So we’ve got two minutes left and so I want to take a 60-second speed round. So we’re just going to go quickly through each of you answering this question:
Favorite book you’ve recently read?
- Helen Altshuler: LOVED by Martina Lauchengco.
- Kimberly Bryant: Hollywood Shuffle.
- Lauren Hasson: Reading for like the 10th time, Awaken the
- Giant Within by Tony Robbins
- Dr. Cynthia Maxwell: I’m currently enjoying reading, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me).
Favorite sanity saver?
- Dr. Cynthia Maxwell: Yoga and gardening.
- Lauren Hasson: Getting my nails done.
- Kimberly Bryant: I’m gonna say Netflix and chill. So thank you, Cynthia!
- Helen Altshuler: 2-hour walks in New York city.
- Helen Altshuler: Inspired.
- Kimberly Bryant: Grace.
- Lauren Hasson: Curious.
- Dr. Cynthia Maxwell: Sonder. Look it up–it’s cool!
I will try to encourage everyone to remain inspired, graceful, curious, and to sonder. And I want to
give a special shout out of thanks to my comrades in arms at Costanoa–to Jim Michelle, Katie Taylor, Betty Pamela, for everything that you’ve done to help Seat @ the Table actually happen and to make sure we have such an engaged, amazing audience here with us. So, thank you so much to our panelists. Zoom applause! You guys are amazing. It’s so inspiring. Thank you for sharing your stories. Thank you for your vulnerability. And may your journeys inspire many others behind you. We are still going to leave things open for the next 15 minutes for people that want to continue to chat and chat. Or if you want to ask us any questions, we’ll just be here, hanging out so we can continue to answer questions, but we want to be respectful of your time so that you can balance your wellness. And thank you again so much for joining us at this year seat at the table.
Cynthia, “sonder” is great. I just looked it up. I’m sitting here. I need to look it up. Look, see.
I got to look it up too.
Psychologist and balanced out with texts. Somehow. This is great.
Whoa! Who invented that word? Is “sonder” a real word? It’s unlikely you will find this definition in any traditional dictionary, but it exists in the Oxford dictionary. Cool. Okay, for those of you that don’t know, “Sonder is the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.” What a fabulous word.
I love it!
Love it. Love it. Well, all your words. May we remain inspired with grace and curious, and Sonder. Learn something new every day. So I got to ask Dr. Maxwell, how did you learn about that
It’s part of leadership training at Netflix, one of the leaders it’s one of his favorite words and he taught it to me and I have to remember it because I feel like it does imbue a lot of empathy, you know, not only like in the workplace, but you know, in the world. And so that’s why I really taken to it.
I was doing a commencement speech recently and I asked for some tips from others,and they recommended this commencement speech, This is Water. And I read it one night and my mind was blown. I was like, this is the most beautiful thing I ever read. It wasn’t a book, it was a speech. But the, the, the, the whole premise of this beautiful, lovely, um, rendered to miss the speeches is sort of this, this issue of, of “sonder” and that you’re meeting people, like we’re all on this rat race day in and day out, and we’re doing this job and. We’re going to the grocery store and then we run another rat race and we’re meeting all these people and having all these encounters and getting annoyed or not by the counters. But we should look beneath the surface or think beneath the surface because all of these people that we’re encountering have these complex lives that we’re just making an assumption about because we’re trying to go do the next thing. Going to make dinner or go to work and, and we sit, stop and think that we’re encountering these other human beings that have as complex as wise as ours. So I love this word.
It is a question, a very important question. That’s come in relevant to everybody. Um, this person would love to hear if there are any tips we have for recruiters, especially in the startup space on how to succeed at growing diversity in technical teams at the startup stage.
I would, I would love to just start with that. This is something that I’ve personally done at my day job is bring in over half the security team, all diverse hire, women and individuals of color to the team. And it starts by having someone who will go out and tap people on the shoulder. We said, “We have this position open.” And I went out and looked through my own network and said, “Who do I know?” And I got on the phone and like track these people down and said, “This is going to be a mistake. If you don’t throw your hat in the ring.” And then when they got an offer, I said, “This is going to be a mistake of a lifetime if you don’t take this opportunity.” And of course they thank me now, but
I’ve brought in multiple senior women leaders. Multiple individual contributors. And it starts from having someone in leadership who can say, “This is the team you want to be in” who is a diverse candidate? It goes out to their network and gets other people to get on the bus to.
Yeah, I can add to it the suddenly like a topic that, uh, I’ve been, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about. I don’t consciously decide to say, okay, I need to hire a woman. Oh, any. Uh, other kind of, well, I look at this as a long‑term relationships. And so it actually starts with being on panels like this I’ve been on several others in the past, and then. Uh, I come out of a panel and there are a couple of really interesting, uh, people that come and reach out and they want to build a deeper connection or I’ve been on a panel and, uh, I answered a bunch of questions. And does somebody say, I want to
work? So Helen, uh, so creating an environment, putting yourself out there. Uh, it starts with having leaders in your team that will do the same and that so that you can scale. So you don’t have to be in every panel. But putting yourself out there and building communities and building longer term relationships. Has been a way for me to do this over time. I, at any given point I may hire. You know, like 10. And that’s pretty woman. Uh, but then it will reverse and it’s a mobile, just the overall. At any given point, putting myself out with people that I want to work with. And people that are the best in that field have access to me and to reach out as well.
Any other tips or hacks to recommend from the rest of our panel on how to, how to do this in the early stages, where you have to survive in order to be able to hire. And so sometimes it seems like. Expediency. Might be prioritized over getting somebody that is more diverse. Any thoughts on that?
Dr. Cynthia Maxwell:
One thing I’ll add is just be authentic about it. You know, don’t slip into a, into a community, like just when you’re hiring to. In some ways a long‑term relationship, right. So really invest in conferences and that sort of thing, and get to know people. Authentically. So they are network it’s about larger, right? Like I think I read somewhere that like, Uh, you know, the probability that women will make it through this funnel. Increases when there’s more women at the top of the funnel. Right. So. He didn’t want to have like, oh, I got my token one or two people going through the funnel and you know, the
rest of the phone was not representative. You need to overly make sure that you’re top of the funnel. The representation of the outcome that you’re hoping to achieve. So the probability is higher. And so the way to make that little top of the funnel. More representative as to immerse yourself. You know, in the communities that you’re looking to engage.
right, net. Another reposted question. Ah, this person’s in an MBA program. What would be our advice for someone who might be interested in tech? But have no previous work experience in tech.
I would say finding mentors and finding communities where you can grow together and learn that then. Whatever tech skills. That you help? Uh, to me, actually, I I’ve been bringing a lot of people along to any events that I would go to, especially like hackathons law hackathons. I think I mentioned to Kimberly in 2015, I actually brought my daughter to the hackathon, black girls code.
We were judging, uh, together. Uh, and, uh, I brought, brought colleagues. Uh, from time to time, especially the wants that are thinking of switching into the field. Sometimes like you need that boost. That’d be on the team, uh, hackathons that are dynamic. You can be on a team with, to experience. Uh, engineers, one designer. Um, and then you bring in. Skills that you have and learn skills that, that you, that you don’t as a way to immerse yourself in that environment. And then you can get
better. Uh, tips on the best ways to start from them as well.
I definitely agree, um, tapping into communities like, Grace Hopper. We’ll be a great community event to attend. Um, but you know, south by Southwest, going to other tech conferences, Um, that was really how I started to network. When I was, you know, moving from corporate back into a tech or startup industry was just really networking and trying to find my tribe and build community. And that’s an excellent way. You know, when you’re looking to get into the field that you don’t have
experience with, it’s just getting out there, networking, meeting people and, you know, creating your tribe.
Also just throw out meetups or sometimes an easier, more casual and accessible way, either technical meetups, product management mediums. If you’re coming out of an
MBA program. There are a ton. And they are very open and they’re just, they’re a little less formal than many events. And so it just was easier to put yourself out there to ask questions, to learn. You also get a sense of what are the topics that people are talking about. So you might hear something that you don’t know much about and then go and research it afterwards. And that just fills
in some of the gaps that you’re trying to close and being more knowledgeable about tech and what’s happening in the industry. So meetups. Strongly encourage you to, to give those a try.
would also say that. In addition, number one, build your network before you think you even need it. I started building my network. Like as soon as I was like, got, even before I got back into tech, I started building it because I didn’t have one and I knew it was hurting me. But I would also say if you’re getting into tackle it, what’s really important. The degree is not important. Your portfolio is really important, whether you’re a developer or designer or product manager in mark. Getting having your portfolio. And a lot of people think portfolio means that you have to have paid experience. And like that, that can be further from the truth. Like early on my portfolio was like a bug fix or a hackathon project that I did a hackathon. I had talked about that a lot. Like those are great because you can build your network and your portfolio. And try new skills at the same time. But like, I also built my portfolio, which is like, Lot of examples from books that I read and follow it along from page to page, and guess what I built it. And when you build something, not everything goes right. And that’s what they’re going to intervene. One is how did you respond when things don’t go right? And
that’s what a portfolio gives you is interview content that you can talk through about how you problem solve. And that’s what they’re really looking for. It’s not that you came up with some creative project from scratch. That you can problem solve that you can work through something. Apply something that you’ve learned and put it to work. And so, I mean, that’s how I built my portfolio. And then within two years, I mean, my, I was doing the Starwood hotels and resorts app that was right next to Facebook. And that that’s how I got started was just using a portfolio of. Big nerd ranch, examples from their big book.
It’s just fearless. I love it. Another question that’s come in. Cynthia, we’ll give this to you. How have
you managed pursuing your career and caring for family?
Dr. Cynthia Maxwell:
I hold my partner accountable to do at least 50% of the work. And he’s amazing. Um, there have been times in my career. So before. Coming to Netflix. I pause. You mentioned before, um, just sort of make space to, uh, um, I was having trouble getting pregnant with my second child. I said, well, let’s remove a variable from the equation. You know, get back to work when I’m successful or wasn’t able to, to have that time. Thankfully. But we have the resources you have at the time, and I’m having my second child. And I draw some pretty hard boundaries when it comes to the end of my day. So I have a separate work phone and I have a personal phone and my, I turned my work phone off at six o’clock. I rarely check emails or slack on the weekends because I really want to be there for my boys. They’re young now, and there’s a clock ticking until they’re going to kick me out of their room and not want me and, you know, It was him anymore. So I’m going to try to enjoy the most that I can, I also have help.Again, I’m thankful that I have the resources to be able to, um, bring in, uh, care like. The nanny care for my youngest. Um, and so I’m not shy about bringing in help as needed. I’m not going to fool myself into, then I can do it all cause it’s, you know, It’s definitely difficult. So
That’s some of the techniques.
Those are all such great and important tips and all the help on, cause I know I struggled with figuring out where should I apply that help. Sometimes having other people reflect on and just say like, Hey, this is what I’m doing. Cause you can’t see your own life very clearly. And sometimes others can and they’re like, oh, you should definitely outsource. This is obvious to someone else. If you’re willing to share. And then the part that sends you had talked about boundaries. So much of boundary keeping
is just our own internal boundaries and, and the balance of a family is being as having the capacity to be fully present for your family. Not that you have all the time in the world, but when you are there. You are present and that’s an internal boundary that we can enforce with different phones and hard time. But there’s also the mental work of making sure that you can be present when you’re present. Anyone else want to add something to that? Cause that’s such a, such an important question.
I would also say in the reason grace is, is one of my words. This year is that. I think we, as, as women and interest sealing our careers. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be everything to everyone. And I, I, my daughter is 23. She just graduated from college last
year, last week. So I am done. It’s just the only one. Um, but I, I raised her as a single parent and it was difficult, you know? And I think that give yourself some grace that you will get it. All right. And that’s okay. And I think you could still have it all, but you may not. Can have it all at the same time. So, if you need to give yourself that grace, that you can have all the things, but you, you have to make space where you can really, as, as Martina said, you can fully be engaged when, when you’re on the path for whatever that thing is. Whether it’s with your daughter and sons and your family. Just giving yourself some grace to like, be fully in the moment when those times, those times occur and just be okay with not being everything and having all the things at one time. This is a long race. This is a marathon. It is not a sprint. It is a marathon and you will get there, but take your time and give yourself the grace.
I love that. Being able to create space and being comfortable with space, which I think a lot of us are running and gunning at 110 miles an hour at all times, realizing that some spaciousness is actually a good thing. And it’s not that we’re at. When that we’re slowing down. Okay. Oh, best word. That word someone’s putting out there believe. Excellent. Well, we want to be respectful of everyone’s time. We want to say thank you again to our panelists who are so amazing in every way. And thank you for everybody who stuck it all the way out with us till four it’s four 15 Pacific time and seven 15. For those of you who are on the east coast. So thanks for being with us all this time. Bye!