Women in tech: 4 NYC leaders share their best advice

by Liz Warren
November 26, 2018
women
image via shutterstock

When it comes to being a woman in a historically male-focused industry, there’s no one manual that works for everyone. While the statistics show women in tech are underrepresented, the ratio is slowly balancing out — and women are sharing what they’ve learned. We talked to four female leaders at startups throughout NYC and learned valuable lessons that could be adapted and put into action immediately.

 

Chen Cheng
Director of engineering

Director of Engineering Chen Cheng has always been involved in the tech scene, starting in education and eventually moving to healthcare. She reflected on her career and what led her to healthtech startup Oscar, where she’s been for over three years.

 

What’s your professional background, and what led you to this team?

I started out as a software engineer and spent five years at Amplify developing enrollment and assessment products and services for educators and students. I grew into a tech lead and manager during my time at SinglePlatform where I focused on backend infrastructure. I enjoy the excitement of working at startups and have always been interested in two industries: education and healthcare. After working at ZocDoc for about a year, an opportunity at Oscar opened up, and that "technology and healthcare" combination was the perfect match for me.

 

What’s one piece of advice you wish someone had told you about being a woman in leadership?

To embrace your unique mindset and strengths as a woman engineer and leader, be confident in your inner voice and bring it to the table.

 

Cara Buscaglia
VP of global solutions

Communications expert Cara Buscaglia has worked with PwC, Groupon, Johnson & Johnson and other major brands throughout her career. Now serving as the VP of global solutions at AI company Talkwalker, she works closely with the company’s founder to hone the communication strategy and mission.

 

What’s your professional background, and what led you to this team?

I have extensive experience in PR and marketing providing high level consulting to help brands solve business challenges to shape their traditional, digital and social media strategies. Throughout my career in PR and marketing analytics, I’ve advised some the world's leading organizations. I joined Talkwalker to work closely with the founder to develop Talkwalker’s vision and mission, and build the global solutions team to help brands optimize the impact of their communications strategies.

 

What’s one piece of advice you wish someone had told you about being a woman in leadership?

Empower others around you, work hard and add value every day. If you believe in yourself, you can’t fail!

 

Jessica Cunningham
Senior director of sales and strategy for new verticals

Since May of 2017, Jessica Cunningham has been with data startup Unacast, where she serves as the senior director of sales and strategy for new verticals. Before that, she’s held various roles — including vice president — for a number of large corporations and startups. She walked us through her experience and encouraged others to take lateral moves when it makes sense for their career.

 

What’s your professional background, and what led you to this team?

I’ve been in sales for the past ten years, the majority of which was spent in media at both large corporations and startups. Over that time, I learned a lot and met great people, but was ready for a change. I knew I wanted to stay in sales but wanted to move out of media. Knowing this, I started to think about and research what sorts of products would allow me access to sell to all different types of industries and people and I kept hitting on data. Unacast was the perfect fit for this.

 

What’s one piece of advice you wish someone had told you about being a woman in leadership?

Your career doesn’t need to be linear. Taking a step back can actually move you forward. I’d reached a point in my career where I’d finally climbed the ladder to running a national team with that sought-after VP title that I thought would give me the stamp that I was a woman who’d succeeded, but I wasn’t happy. I ultimately took a step back in the title I’d worked so hard for to make a change, and it was the best career decision I’ve made. I wish someone had told me sooner.

 

Jenny Miller
Product Manager

Jenny Miller has always worked at companies with helpful missions. She serves as a product manager at TransferWise, a company that helps consumers manage their money. She explained how she’s been able to lead teams that inspire positive change.

 

What’s your professional background, and what led you to this team?

I discovered my passion for working on products that have a positive impact on people’s lives through startups. What I loved was uniting this with consumer behavior and motivations. I started at a small consulting firm which was building e-commerce apps. I then moved to a larger firm helping clients introduce technology and data-driven solutions to their portfolios. After a few years of ideating and shipping MVPs, I wanted to see more of the full lifecycle of building and iterating for growth. I joined a startup in the insurance space, which gave me insight and empathy for customers in need of simple products that solve complex problems. I’ve taken this approach at TransferWise, where my goal is to make the often stressful and costly process of managing your money across borders straightforward and easy, as it should be.

 

What’s one piece of advice you wish someone had told you about being a woman in leadership?

Building confidence and conviction is the best way to grow both personally and professionally and doing so will have a positive impact on your entire team. Arm yourself with data, know your product, your customers, and the business inside and out and don’t wait to be given a chance to step up and take a leading role. With strong conviction, those around you will be more supportive than you think.

 

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