Women Techmakers Summit

A belated Happy International Women’s Day! Last weekend, I attended the Women Techmakers Summit hosted by Google at their Mountain View campus. I had the opportunity to network with many talented women working in tech, as well as hear great talks by some of the tech industry’s most inspiring women leaders!

I want to share the insights I took away from the summit, so here’s a dump of all of my notes. Enjoy, and be sure to check out a Women Techmakers event near you!

Keynote: Humans, Devices and How They Live Together

Yoky Matsuoka, VP of Technology @ Nest Labs

Tennis –> robots –> neuroscience
Original goal: create tennis buddy robot
Desire to help people around the world
Getting machine side to understand human side

  • Intersection: both machine and human are learning

YokyWorks: non-profit
Nest: reinventing things in the home

  • Learning thermostat: helping people save energy
  • Thermostat 44% of US residential energy bill
  • Nest Leaf creates gamification through satisfaction of seeing the leaf
  • Continuously learning new things about the home
  • Protect: smart, hands-free smoke detector
  • Smoke alarms are annoying, but disabling them puts us at risk
  • Works together with other Protects and with learning thermostat

Great audience story/question: 8-year-old sister who wants to be an engineer, but because of influences form TV, YouTube and media, thinks engineering opportunities are only for men

  • Support girls who show inclination toward STEM, especially during ages 8-14

Keynote: My Journey, My Learnings

Pavni Diwanji, VP of Engineering @ Google

“I will declare victory when I have changed the world”
Stanford class assignment to rewrite PCoIP

  • Don’t think anything is impossible
  • Surround yourself with smart people

Never take no for an answer
Do whatever it takes to make your dreams come true
Take big risks and challenge yourself with new problems
Follow your gut and passion
Find an environment that supports you
The answer is with you, not around you; say what you want
Know when, and don’t be afraid, to ask for help
Mentorship is valuable

Staying Uncomfortable: How I Got to Design Glass

Isabelle Olsson, Lead Designer for Glass @ Google

Take inspiration from things that are unfamiliar
It’s good to be different and uncomfortable
Someone’s asking you to make something impossible – what do you do?

  • Set up design principles; simplicity, lightness, scalability (Glass)
  • Visualize ideas with prototypes: set high goals using something tangible
  • Design for evolution: nothing is one size fits all

Technology During Natural Disasters

Raquel Romano, Software Engineer @ Google

Google Crisis Response Team
Vulnerable people/countries are hit much harder by natural disasters than people/countries with wealth
Synthesize info from various sources and media
Technology can be used to:

  • Show warnings e.g. from National Weather Service (Now cards)
  • Show live evacuation traffic (Maps)
  • Find missing loved ones (Person Finder)

Educate yourself on people’s true needs

  • What questions are they asking and when?
  • When and where to send data? How to make it precise?
  • How do people share info?

Data integration strategy: launch and iterate (prototypes!)

CSI: Lab for Innovation

Tatiana Chapira, Instructional Designer @ Google

Mike Lin, Legal Assistant @ Google

Design thinking: observe –> define –> brainstorm –> prototype –> test
POV statement = user + need + insight

  • [user name] is a [user characteristics] who needs (a way to) [user need] because (they value) [insight].

Build on others’ ideas: “yes and…”

Being a Role Model: Introducing Young Women to STEM

Reena Singhal Lee, Senior Technical Program Manager @ Google

Young girls see STEM fields as boring, nerdy, or difficult, but they want to make the world a better place
Communicate what STEM has to offer; connect to girls’ interests
How do I become a role model?

  • Participate in K-12 outreach programs
  • Volunteer or tutor at after school programs
  • Join a professional org
  • Connect with other role models

Talking to young girls

  • Icebreaker
  • Share a personal story; tell them about your life
  • Hands-on activity to keep kids engaged
  • Final questions used for metrics and evaluation
  • Present using pictures

Try these tools:

Moving Up: The Path to Engineering Leadership

Kimber Lockhart, Senior Director of Engineering @ Box

  1. Aim clearly
  • Singular direction (focus on one thing for 6+ months)
  1. Be at the right place, at the right time
  • Find a rapidly growing team
  1. Do the job before you have it
  • Observe someone who’s doing the job you want
  • Solve problems that are above your level
  1. Think high leverage, but be willing to take out the trash
  • When you have the opportunity to serve your team, take it
  • What will be best for your company in the long term?
  1. Welcome feedback
  • No matter what, say “thank you”
  • Try to implement it
  • Feed forward (let people know you want to improve)

Your job will change, you need to too
Being an engineering leader gives you more impact than as an individual
Don’t let your gender be an obstacle; you can do at least as well as everyone else
While in a junior role:

  • Do really well in your job
  • Observe your manager
  • Notice organizational problems

If you’re scared to do something else, you should probably consider it
Managers are measured by how well they lead their team
Evaluate yourself and what you’re doing every 6-12 months

Getting Code Out the Door

Panel of Googlers

How do you handle tradeoffs and constraints (e.g. deadlines)?

  • Make informed choices about what’s most important
  • Sometimes have to give up some features for the release

Role of prototyping at Google and getting code out the door?

  • 1-2 dedicated prototypers per product
  • Creating internal prototyping platform
  • Sell product ideas, demo functionality, user testing
  • Test new ideas extremely quickly without production quality code


SolveforX.com #TechMoonshots
Innovating Women

Contributed by Lizzie Li

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