Nikki Navta - Geek Girl Rising
Nikki Navta

“Don’t look over your shoulder, look straight ahead.”

Nikki started Zulama with a mission to bring computer science education to every student in every classroom through game design.

Year in the tech industry?
25, depending on how you define tech industry. I grew up in the years when the pay phone was advanced technology!

Who or what inspired your career in tech?
I’ve always been tech-curious. Not ever afraid of breaking the computer, I’ve been an early tech adopter since I can remember. Palm pilot, Apple, NeXt, Atari, you name it! I created my senior thesis using a then state-of-the-art computer called the Commodore Amiga. I graduated with honors in a mathematics and fine arts multifield major.

What’s been your best hack ever?
I make time for exercise, no matter what. It’s just as valuable for my mind as for my body.

What has been your greatest career challenge and how have you handled it?
Raising investment capital is much harder than selling my product into schools. When in doubt, I always revert to selling my product.

What is your biggest career success to date?
My biggest success is building a quality team of people who are as committed as I am to the success of Zulama.

What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would give to women who are starting out in the tech industry?
Ask for help, don’t apologize, be creative.

Who are your role models?
My kids, my coaches, and my teammates. The latest obsession at crew practice is figuring out how to use a drone to record our practices.

If you could go back in time, what’s one tip you’d give your teenage self?
Don’t look over your shoulder, look straight ahead.

What do you do when you’re not kicking butt at work?
When I get frustrated at work, I go for a punishing workout in the gym or a hard row. I am on a semi-competitive crew team. Exercise clears my mind.

Flats, heels or kicks?
Why choose? A person can’t ever have too many shoes.

Best career advice book? 
Not a book, but taking improv classes is my biggest recommendation for anyone looking for self-improvement, career advancement, and generally becoming a more interesting and confident person.

Who are the women in tech that you most admire and why?
I admire Christa McAuliffe for her dedication to her family, education, and exploring new frontiers.