Stories from the WIT Trenches: Adriana Gascoigne

[This is the thirteenth in a series of posts exploring the personal stories of real women in technology. Every woman in tech overcame, at the very least, statistical odds to be here; this blog series aims to find out why, and what they found along the way.  This week we met up with Adriana Gascoigne (ln), founder and CEO of Girls in Tech, Inc. If reading her story inspires you to share yours, please email me.]

Adriana-Gascoigne

Adriana Gascoigne is the founder and CEO of Girls in Tech, Inc. As a woman in tech, her passion lies in empowering, engaging and educating other women within the tech community. With an impressive background steeped in marketing, branding and business development, Adriana’s worked for companies such as hi5, SocialGamingNetwork, Edelman, and Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide. She’s also worked in an advisory capacity to Intel along with startups like Startup Exchange and Involver. Today you can find her launching HelpLearnAsia, an eLearning platform, which teaches SMEs in Asia online marketing tools. Chat with her in Spanish, Japanese or French about her passion and dedication to furthering women in tech.

1. Can you take us back to your “eureka!” moment—a particular instance or event that got you interested in technology?

The very first startup that I worked at (GUBA) was my light bulb moment in technology. It was a dream to be able to work with such a diversified group of technology professionals, while building a groundbreaking product and having such an impact in the development process of something so scalable, fun and useful.

I never thought that I would be so amused with my job at a startup; however, when something that you get paid for turns into a hobby, that’s when you know you’ve hit your “eureka” moment. So, I thank GUBA for breaking me into the industry. Technology will always be a part of my career.

2. Growing up, did you have any preconceived perceptions of the tech world and the kinds of people who lived in it?

Yes, I think everyone on the outside does. I believed that the technology industry was filled with massive amounts of coders and that was it. “Code monkeys” stuck in their cubicles typing out their 1’s and 0’s until the carpal tunnel kicked in. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

While the technology industry thrives on the talents of coders, developers and engineers, it doesn’t necessarily mean they were the only people involved in the innovation, design and monetization strategy behind the product or service. Innovation is the execution of an elaboration of something new, fresh and interesting, and I strongly believe that it takes a team of diversified professionals to build something that will work.

I didn’t realize this when I was growing up and now, through Girls in Tech, we consistently evangelize the fact that the technology industry caters to all different types of professionals with unique experiences and levels of “techie” aptitude.

3. As founder of Girls in Tech, what led you to this career path? When did you first start working with tech? Was it by choice?

Really, I fell into working in the technology industry when I relocated from Miami to San Francisco. I was debating on whether or not a move to New York would be good for my career and at last minute, decided that San Francisco catered to more of a work/life balance, which was/is very important to me.

After moving, I almost immediately began working at a startup and networking at different industry events. Being a part of the Web 2.0 revolution was addicting and I have never looked back.

4. Did you experience any personal or systemic setbacks at any point of your academic or professional career?

I had to make a few tough decisions that definitely would have affected my career path:

      1. I was going to become a professional salsa dancer during my third year in college, but decided to finish college instead. While I think that it was the “right thing to do,” there are times when I regret not following my passion of becoming a dancer. I still dance for fun as much as possible.
      2. I was going to go to the Peace Corps after college. Since this is a 2-year commitment and the location in Central America that I was going to be working in was dealing with some political issues, I opted not to participate in the program. I definitely think that having this experience would’ve changed my career path significantly.

5. Whom do you look to as mentors and/or sources of inspiration?

Global leaders, such as Aung San Suu Kyi and Hillary Clinton, are my inspiration. Not only are they smart and passionate in everything they do, they are also execution-oriented. There are so many academically smart people in the world without the skills to execute on making an impact, changing the way we do things in the world for the advancement of human rights, innovation in developing countries, economic stability, education, healthcare, etc.

6. Can you tell us a little about Girls in Tech? The inspiration behind it and the goals of the organization, the workshops and educational tools you provide.

Girls in Tech has evolved into a global movement, which focuses on the empowerment, education and engagement of women in technology. Over the last six years, we have provided powerful and passionate women with a platform to have a voice through conferences, workshops, expos, networking events, entrepreneurship labs program, along with our mentorship and university programs.

The inspiration is derived from the massive web of women in technology that we’ve created. From Saudi Arabia to Silicon Valley to Singapore, we have built an unbreakable bond between women striving to learn and expand the network to influence fellow women to jump head first into the tech industry.

7. Why do you think the rate of attrition for women in software engineering is higher than that of women in most other tech fields?

I believe that there is a high attrition for women in software engineering because it is more challenging to secure senior level, executive position without leadership or business skills, so it makes it less appealing if one can’t “climb up the ladder” or have something to strive for in terms of a promotion. Also, a lot of technology-oriented engineering jobs (coding and developing) require that women sit in front of a computer all day – this might be tedious, a little anti-social and less appealing after awhile. Engineers are very valuable; however, many times do not know how to market themselves (they’ve never needed to know how). Also, at a certain point in a woman’s career, she has to decide whether to change course and start a family. This happens when women reach their early 30’s and realize that they have to make certain sacrifices in their careers in order to focus on raising a family.

8. Why is getting women and young girls involved with technology and the computer sciences important to you?

It is important to welcome a diversity of “people” into the technology industry since it provides different perspectives, experiences and interests into building products and services. It makes sense to have more women as developers/designers since this gender is taking over as online/mobile consumers, gaming enthusiasts, bloggers and more.

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