Back in May, the women-in-tech advocacy organization Women 2.0 started holding monthly meetups in Oakland, making our town the fifteenth city worldwide with a Women 2.0 presence. Despite these events being very new to Oakland, each one draws a room-filling crowd eager to soak up the words of the guest lecturer(s) and expand their own professional networks.
July 10th’s meetup, held at Pandora’s Webster St. headquarters, was no exception. Two brilliant, accomplished women were featured as guest speakers: Farnaz Ronaghi, co-founder and Director of Engineering at NovoEd, and Angie Chang, an original co-founder of Women 2.0 who now serves as Director of Growth at Hackbright Academy.
“You can’t be what you can’t see,” said Women 2.0 Global Programs Manager Jin Zhou in her introductory talk, quoting Marian Wright Edelman. Curating quality guest speakers to serve as role models is an important component of the organization’s effort to boost women’s presence in technology.
Farnaz Ronaghi’s company NovoEd is a social learning platform that features online courses from leading education institutes and corporations. The courses cover a variety of subjects, but the main focus is on teaching business and entrepreneurship skills. The most difficult part of running a company, Ronaghi told the room, is “brutal honesty with yourself. What parts aren’t working? Is it serving others’ needs?” It’s important to develop empathy, she stressed, to understand the customer “as they are, not as you think they are.”
Angie Chang shared her personal career path and the inception of Women 2.0. Fresh out of UC Berkeley, Chang quickly became the only woman on an all-male engineering team. The dynamic bothered her: Where were the female tech workers, startup founders, and investors?
Women 2.0 began as a wine-and-cheese networking event hosted out of her Palo Alto apartment. Eight years later, it has vastly expanded its reach, and Chang went on to then found Girl Geek Dinners and join the team at Hackbright Academy. “Start things and do things when you want to,” said Chang. “Don’t let anything stop you.”
The event concluded with networking between the event’s diverse attendees. Some women were still in college, some were currently working technical positions, and others were looking to get back in the workforce after a move or the birth of a child. “It’s amazing getting communities together and having a positive impact,” said Jin Zhou after the lectures. “Women 2.0 helped me in my own journey. The people I met really changed me.”