Advice for women in tech: “Find your tribe. Find the people you want to work with. Find your work family. We succeed due to support from others.“
Jean’s company, Dogpatch Technology, recently launched Flower, a mobile app that makes it easy for friends and family become a better, more effective support network for anyone going through an illness or important life event.
Years in tech industry? 12.
Who or what inspired your career in tech?
My dad, though not in the way you’d think. We always had computers growing up (I still have my TI-99) and my father was always trying to teach me MS-DOS and command lines. I hated it! Though I did like playing games on our old TI which I still have. By college I could put together my desktop, change the sound card and graphics card if necessary, fix my television (only shocked myself a little), and rewire a telephone line. It was because of my dad, I was never afraid of technology. Growing up we didn’t have a lot of money, but my dad would always make sure we had what we needed in terms of technology (which meant I usually had the latest). So when I found myself in video games, in grad school researching global online communication, and later working for a virtual worlds software company – then I suddenly realized I was in “tech.” If only my dad could have seen that I started a tech company!
What’s been your best hack ever?
I love to travel. Then I had a kid. And that was not going stop me from traveling. But I hate getting stuck behind the disorganized family trying to get through security and I sure as heck wasn’t going to be that parent. This is how I hacked traveling with a kid:
Global Entry for everyone- kids too: This means TSA Pre line for domestic flights and no waiting forever in customs with a toddler who has been on a plane for 12+ hours.
BabyZen Yoyo stroller: It folds to the size of a carry on, so no more checking the stroller at the gate and then waiting forever on the other end. You can also fold it down with kid in hand, and it fits perfectly through the scanner conveyor belt.
Car Seat bag: Buying a bag for the car seat may seem unnecessary until I realized that I could use the free car seat allowance to fill that car seat bag to the 50lb limit and not have to pay for an extra bag.
Prepare for security: Even with TSA Pre, my shoes always set off the scanner, so I take them off regardless. And if the airport doesn’t have TSA Pre, the backpack goes in first, electronics in a second bin, so on the other side, you have the bag ready to put in all the electronics.
Diaper bag within a bag: Usually, I have my laptop backpack and carry-on. In the carry on, I have the diaper bag which is packed with all the things that the kid will need on the plane which I pull out and put under the seat in front of me, and what is left in the carry-on are all the just-in-case extras.
I blow through airports faster with my kid than many of my solo business traveling counterparts. And I try not to say “booya!” as I’m strolling by them!
What has been your greatest career challenge and how have you handled it?
My first job out of college was a job my parents wanted me to have. I was a trading analyst at Charles Schwab. They were very proud, and I hated it. I was also in San Francisco in the middle of the dot.com crash, so my options were limited. But, I took classes on the side, looked into different career options, and the biggest, most important thing I did was figure out what I did not want to do and what I did want to do. Then I realized, that figuring that out is a skill that we have to do throughout our lives, and the quicker we can figure out how to do it every time, the better.
What is your biggest career success to date?
When I started work at Linden Lab, the makers of Second Life (a collaborative, social networking, online virtual world platform), I saw how desperately they needed to have an international strategy. I spearheaded their international initiatives program which internationalized Second Life’s technology, marketing, and support into seven different languages. Launch of the program increased Linden’s annual revenue by over $10 million, leading to the majority of their revenue and users coming from international. I managed an extensive online community, developed and executed customer acquisition and retention programs, and negotiated and oversaw business development opportunities in Brazil, Korea, and Singapore, the latter leading to a government partnership and subsequent opening of a Singapore office.
Who are your role models?
My mom. She is the definition of resilience. She has risen up in spite of life’s challenges– being born on the side of the mountain while her parents were fleeing China to Vietnam; her family’s peanut oil factory being bombed in the Vietnam War; marrying the “white man” and moving to the US; finding her way in a foreign nation that spoke a foreign language; never getting the credit for her knowledge or her smarts due to being a woman or not being able to speak English; working so hard to make sure her little girls could go to college; battling cancer twice… and never with a second thought about her being resilient – she simply is.
What are the top 3 pieces of advice you’d give women in tech?
1. Find your tribe. Find the people you want to work with. Find your work family. We succeed due to support from others. Before I walked into Linden Lab years ago, I didn’t realize I wanted to be in tech. After a week of being there, a fellow employee turned and said, “it’s like you’ve always been here!” They were right – I felt like I had found my home. Linden was an incredibly close knit company, and we still are, even if most of us no longer work there. Half of my company is made up of former Lindens, and we hope to add more. You may be really focused on making sure you have the right “brand” on your resume – but if you ever want to start your own company, focus on finding the people you want to hire, learn from, or work with. One of my best bosses at Linden is now leading marketing for us. Flower is all about support from friends and family, and we live it.
2. Find the work you love and a product you believe in. And get good at figuring out what you want to do with “the rest of your life” or at least the next 2-3 years. If you have always known exactly what you wanted to do – then you are one of the few lucky ones. The rest of us have had to figure it out by being in soul sucking jobs. Get good at finding the thing you want to do, realize that thing might just be the right thing for now, and roll with change. Because if there is anything the tech industry has to offer – it’s change.
3. Build your “how to get myself out of the pits” toolkit. We have ALL been there – but when you’re in the pit, your really don’t give a s*** about that! Here’s the thing, there have also been many experts that have been in the pit, have studied the pit, and there are great tools to help you get yourself out of the pit. And sometimes your friends will throw you a rope and get you out of your pit. That is to say, we all get stuck under the fury of our own mental critics time and again. It’s important to have a toolkit handy for those moments because they never go away, but if you have your toolkit, you are ready for them. Some basic tools: mind being hungry or tired – the world always looks worse then. And focus radically on the present and everything you are grateful for right now – since our critics tend to aim for the past and the future to get you in the pit, it will throw them off.
If you could go back in time, what’s one tip you’d give your teenage self?
Only one tip? I would tell myself to join the debate team.
What do you do when you’re not kicking butt at work?
I spend time with my family and my friends. And I make it happen – see www.schedulinggame.com.
Flats, heels or kicks?
Comfortable heels – I need the extra inches, and they must be comfortable.
Best career advice book?
The book I’ve enjoyed in recent years is Adam Grant’s (one of our advisors) book Give and Take, but I must admit I’ve been referencing the classic High Output Management by Andy Grove a lot lately.
Who are the women in tech that you most admire and why?
Kristina Reed, Producer/Co-Producer at Disney Animation Studios. I have had the chance to connect with her through Pipeline Angels, and I’m a fan. I am not only a huge fan of her work as a storyteller (Big Hero 6, Paperman, Feast…), but she is also very thoughtful in her management style and generous with her time.