Make your mark: How 6 local women leaders are driving change in their industries — and beyond

by April Bohnert
July 23, 2019

Industry transformations aren’t brought about by technology alone. It’s also the people behind the technology affecting real, lasting change. And as more and more women find their seats at the tech leadership table, we’re witnessing the unique and far-reaching impact that a more inclusive, representative team can have across industries, professions and communities.

We caught up with six local leaders to learn more about the changes they’re driving in their respective industries and fields, and what obstacles they’ve faced — and overcome — along the way. Here’s what they had to say. 

 

Moda Operandi women leader driving change NYC tech
Photo via Moda Operandi.

Busola Babatunde joined online luxury fashion retailer Moda Operandi because of her passion for fashion but stayed for the opportunity to try on a new, better-fitting role. Nearly three years later, she’s a senior product manager for the company, proving that “fashionista” and “techie” are not mutually exclusive terms.

 

How are you driving change in your industry through your work?

For ten years I held traditional “fashion” roles at fashion companies. At Moda Operandi — a company I joined because of my love for fashion — I got exposure to more technical roles and instantly gravitated toward them. There’s a perception in the industry that you can be a fashion person or a tech person, but you can’t be both. After teaching myself how to be a product manager, I’m proving that idea wrong. Now, I’m a senior PM working on some of Moda’s most complex technical projects.

 

There’s a perception in the industry that you can be a fashion person or a tech person, but you can’t be both. After teaching myself how to be a product manager, I’m proving that idea wrong.” 

What challenges have you faced along the way? How have you overcome those challenges?

I sometimes find myself at industry events where I’m the only woman in the room, which certainly isn’t unique within the tech industry. This dynamic can often make women feel as though they need to prove themselves worthy, but when those thoughts creep in, I’m reminded that if we’re all at the same event, we all deserve to be there. Above all, I know my work speaks for itself.

 

Vimeo women leader driving change NYC tech
Photo via vimeo.

Sometimes the best way to make an impact on your industry is to focus on the impact you can have on its customers. Just ask Senior Director of Community and Support Suri Ratnatunga. Her team takes “customer-obsessed” to a new level, leveraging support from development and operations to ensure Vimeo’s users can make the most of its open video platform. According to Suri, creating an environment where support agents can do what they do best allows them to better advocate for and adapt to the changing needs of its users.

 

How are you driving change in your industry through your work? 

It's fairly common for companies to claim that they "obsess about their customers" and are "customer-oriented," but that's not really true unless they're making a meaningful investment in their customer support teams. At Vimeo, the support organization has developers and operations managers who are dedicated to building innovative solutions to streamline the workflows of our agents. For example, we've built over 10 custom apps in our support CRM that pull in and neatly package information from various external sources for our agents to easily reference while responding to our customers. It’s what we hired them for and it's what they do best, and we want to make sure they can stay fully focused on that.

 

It's fairly common for companies to claim that they ‘obsess about their customers’ and are ‘customer-oriented,’ but that's not really true unless they're making a meaningful investment in their customer support teams.”

What challenges have you faced along the way? How have you overcome those challenges?

When you're given valuable resources, you'll have to justify on an ongoing basis why you deserve to keep those resources. It's a good exercise because it keeps us working efficiently and we don't take anyone for granted. As a result, I think the support organization at Vimeo has been able to show time and again that allowing our agents to stay fully focused on our customers by letting the operations team handle everything else, means we can effectively advocate internally for our users and adapt quickly to their evolving needs. 

 

Managed by Q women leader driving change NYC tech
Photo via Managed by Q.

As a startup founder and entrepreneur, Senior Product Manager Pauline Tordeur is no stranger to innovation. She joined office management platform Managed by Q back in 2017 after the company acquired her startup Hivy, and has since played a critical role in bringing new features and functionalities to market. We caught up with Pauline to learn more about the work she’s doing to establish Managed by Q as a must-have solution for workplace teams and the challenges that come with building something completely new. 

 

How are you driving change in your industry through your work? 

In most companies, workplace teams are very often the only team in the office without software dedicated to help them work better. Marketing teams have Hubspot, sales teams have Salesforce, and workplace teams are still hacking their way to solutions using spreadsheets and emails. Managed by Q’s mission is to empower workplace teams with technology. We are driving change in our industry by building software tools specifically catered to workplace teams’ needs.

 

We are driving change in our industry by building software tools specifically catered to workplace teams’ needs.”

What challenges have you faced along the way, and how have you overcome those challenges?

Building something new also means changing people’s habits and anchoring a new class of software in the market. We will be successful if it seems obvious to anyone in all companies that workplace teams need Managed by Q to improve productivity. From our marketing site to our product, everything needs to reflect and explain our unique value proposition.

 

Galileo women leader driving change NYC tech
Photo via Galileo.

Software engineer Diana Lee dove head-first into her career straight out of college, spending five years at Snap’s LA office before bringing her talents to NYC to join fast-growing healthtech startup Galileo. Today, she leverages her unique social media background to make Galileo’s app even more friendly to digital natives and ensuring the code she writes today sets both users and her fellow engineers up for success in the future.

 

How are you driving change in your industry through your work? 

At Galileo, my job is to use technology to improve quality and access to healthcare for everyone. I'm driven to take the lessons from my past work in social media and use them for good in the healthcare industry, because getting medical care should feel as easy as any of the other reasons you might reach for your phone. The app we build makes going to a doctor more convenient, more comfortable and much less daunting for those of us whose love language is online messaging. We then partner our learnings from this platform with the other half of our business, which builds new ways to provide better care for Medicare and Medicaid patients.

 

As engineers at Galileo, we work hard to be advocates for future developers in our codebase by taking the extra time to build solid infrastructure that can not only stand the test of time but also improve the efficiency of future projects.”

What challenges have you faced along the way? How have you overcome those challenges?

At tech startups, it often feels like there is a need to build and grow quickly at any cost, because the short-term reward feels great — green pastures and lots of sparkly new features. But in my past experience, this type of growth, without foresight, eventually becomes unsustainable in terms of both efficiency and writing bug-free code.

Instead, as engineers at Galileo, we work hard to be advocates for future developers in our codebase by taking the extra time to build solid infrastructure that can not only stand the test of time but also improve the efficiency of future projects. Especially as mobile engineers, we are the first people to use the product we build, and our wins are directly passed on to our patients.

 

Gameffective women leader driving change NYC tech
Photo via Gameffective.

Daphne Saragosti has a passion for people — a passion that has fueled her career for over 15 years and which makes her an impactful leader at employee performance enablement software company Gameffective. As the vice president of global customer success, Daphne serves as a champion for both the employees she leads and the customers she helps succeed. She shared some insight into the way the company’s software is transforming the workplace and how she’s bringing that message — and some impressive stats — to organizations around the world. 

 

How are you driving change in your industry through your work? 

In my role as leader of Gameffective’s global customer success team, I am driving change by educating the market about our innovative ways to increase employee productivity through intrinsic motivation. Gameffective is disrupting the way companies can improve employee development and performance. It’s exciting to know that, with my team and the rest of Gameffective, I have the opportunity to help thousands of employees at companies around the world be better at their jobs in an engaging, fun way.  

 

I have the opportunity to help thousands of employees at companies around the world be better at their jobs in an engaging, fun way.”  

What challenges have you faced along the way? How have you overcome those challenges?

Anytime you drive change there will be individuals and organizations not yet ready to embrace that change. Gameffective’s approach is to provide evidence of performance that our platform and solutions deliver solid improvements, like a 12-percent increase in employee productivity, a 50-percent increase in upsells, 30-percent faster onboarding, a 10-percent decrease in employee attrition, and a 12-percent increase in customer satisfaction for multinational companies. Along with that, we develop and employ best practices for implementation and governance to ensure maximum impact and value for our customers.

 

Cockroach Labs women leader driving change NYC tech
Photo via Cockroach Labs.

As a senior tech writer for Cockroach Labs — the team behind open-source, distributed SQL database CockroachDB — Amruta Ranade is responsible for breaking down complex technical subjects to ensure users are well-equipped to put that technology to good use. In her flex time, she’s busy breaking down barriers in her profession, lending her unique perspective to a field that has long-suffered from a lack of diversity and representation. She shared a bit about that work and how it’s evolved over time — along with her confidence. 

 

How are you driving change in your industry through your work? 

I am passionate about making tech, and specifically tech communication, an inclusive and accessible field. To that end, I use Cockroach Labs’ Flex Friday policy to make weekly YouTube vlogs to open-source my tech writing process and give a behind-the-scenes look at how I write technical documents, continuously learn new technologies, find and contribute to open source projects and build skills that help me thrive in tech.

 

The lack of diversity and representation in the YouTube tech community is what motivated me to start my channel in the first place, so I knew I had to overcome the imposter syndrome somehow.”

What challenges have you faced along the way? How have you overcome those challenges?

It took me a long time to get over my insecurity of being a female tech professional with an Indian accent on a public platform. But the lack of diversity and representation in the YouTube tech community is what motivated me to start my channel in the first place, so I knew I had to overcome the imposter syndrome somehow. I started with making animated videos with voiceovers that didn’t require me to talk to the camera and slowly worked up the courage to make talking head videos. I have now reached a stage where I am very comfortable being on camera and look forward to recording a video every week.

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