Every year there seems to be an incredible opportunity to shape and inspire budding entrepreneurs, especially women and especially in tech and this Spring I got the honor of all three in one event for Cornell's first annual Johnson Women in Technology Conference hosted by Citibank in New York City.
Back in 2012 I lectured at Yale's Entrepreneurial Institute in a program titled, "Putting a Price on Yourself" and in 2013 I joined Kristin Luck and several other amazing ladies on a panel at Barnard College discussing Miss Representation the documentary and what it means for women who are breaking barriers in various careers and industries.
What was most interesting to me about the JWIT program (Johnson Women in Technology) conference was that it was founded by female entrepreneurs in the Cornell MBA programs and focused specifically on technology. This was very cool as I met other amazing women working on technical projects at big firms like Sabre, EBay, Accenture, Adobe and more (My exact panels were Trends and Innovations in the Tech Industry and East Coast tech versus West Coast tech). The finer touches of the conferences were solid and the talent pool intimidating with who was there but it really got me thinking about the larger picture:
alhambra high school, march 2014
While I am "from" San Carlos, CA and spent most of my childhood hanging out with my father at his startup (at the time called eBiocare.com which was later acquired) and graduated from Carlmont High School, what most people don't know is I spent most of my high school hours on campus at Alhambra High School. I played four sports (Tennis, Basketball, Cross-Country and Track) and was active in many clubs. I had high hopes of attending an Ivy League school and was pretty set on Dartmouth (for the writing program and nature), Harvard (for the competition and access to resources) and Cornell (rigorous programs and in New York state proper) I wasn't able to go to any of these schools because when my father passed away my Junior year of high school my home life and school life was completely thrown on its head with court hearings, probate hearings and general chaos that ensures with the patriarch of a family is gone and money is involved.
[And which is also why later this year I am opening a foundation in my father's name to help grant scholarships to those affected by ill-parents. The program will be run through the Stogdell-Silverman Foundation and will start for the 2015 school year]
TOP CALIFORNIA GRADUATE
What's interesting to me is that I stayed in touch with my teachers, friends and have generally felt good energy towards Alhambra especially since this was the same high school of my father as well. Once I was forced to transfer high schools my senior year I had little interest in social or athletic activities: my only interest was graduating (quickly) and getting into a school where I could not only afford the tuition (while my college fund was tied up with lawyers) but also stay in the State in California for the sleuth of various hearings requiring my presence. It wasn't ideal but it shaped who I have become and allowed me to transfer some grants to Humboldt State University and get the education I needed, excel in my career in technology and eventually be awarded as one of their Distinguished Alumni and later awarded by the State of California as a top Science and Technology graduate of the California educational system (What an honor!) It has also made speaking at Yale, Barnard, and Cornell even more important as these were places I always dreamed of going and can leave my own little mark in a way as a guest lecturer. And despite all the fancy schools and companies and events I have spoke at, what has been on my radar for the last few years has been to "bring it back home" meaning take what I have learned and been through and inspire all the would-be Ellie's out there to reach for the stars and what better place to do that then an awkward, teenager filled room in the suburbs of the SF bay area like Alhambra? Challenge accepted.
teaching passion, one high schooler at a time
Sometime in high school I found myself attracted to computers, taking classes that involved excel or making widgets or what-have-you. I even took some c# and java classes as a teenager. Luckily growing up in the Bay Area we always had access to "cutting edge" technologies and at Alhambra I was able to take several classes with computers and the same technology teacher I had back then (which seems REALLY far away given that it was 15 years ago now, ouch) is still teaching so on a business trip through SF I made a commitment for "Tikkun Olam" or "To give back" or "to repair the world" and given a small presentation.
Despite all the world travels and fancy events, my highlights this year has been helping High School kids understand what it means to start a business, how to calculate ROI, track tasks and projects, scope a mobile app idea and leverage technology to further their career. I'm not sure all who I inspired that day but I hope that I planted the seeds of tomorrow innovation and moreover I will continue to do so until a field of minds come marching towards new tech. You will get tired of seeing my handwriting.
So, its now April 1st 2014 and I have helped launch a webinar series at Koombea helping educate future developers and founders, been featured by Adknowledge as on of Top 23 Global Marketers, created a scholarship, helped the FDA with community outreach, supported the launch of a first ever NY Fashion Tech Accelerator program, attended four tech conferences, talked to high schoolers, talked to MBAs, competed in a couple regattas, traveled over 40,000 miles and advised almost a dozen start-ups on product-market-fit and how to launch their apps and all just for this year. I mention this because the world is infinite and there is more information available online than ever before and cheaper (if not free) than it ever was. So while I work at Koombea and help scope and design and assist others with their amazing app ideas and solutions I have to ask: what have you done today to change the world? What will be your mark?
I wouldn't look at all the fancy news articles about tech millionaires or pay too much attention to all the negative energy in the world but if a scrappy gal from the suburbs of SF can accomplish so much in just a few months why can't you give that one idea a crack or find a way to make someone else's like more beautiful today?
"Yad B’yad" or "Hand in Hand" we are in this together.