At Braze, we strive to continuously enhance our Diversity and Inclusion efforts to maintain a strong sense of community across all of our offices. For International Women’s Day 2020, we highlighted executives and leaders at Braze, alongside leaders from two of our clients, to shine light on what it means to be a woman in tech. At Braze, we strive to mend the gap of gender inequality which is why this month, and every month, we recognize the value of celebrating women.
To shine a light on their insight and experience, we spoke with Sara Spivey, CMO, Braze, Julie DeForest, Marketing Director, Overstock.com, Georgia Price, Senior CRM Manager, Wine.com, Marjorie Armitage, VP, Legal, Global Privacy & Operations, Braze, and Julia Lee, VP& GM, Sales, APAC, Braze. Here’s what they had to say.
Question: Who is your biggest female inspiration/mentor?
Spivey: My mother. She knew when to push and when to back off. She made me a better person, a better mother, and a better leader. I think about and miss her every day.
DeForest: Coretta King. the First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement. Her advocacy and leadership for Civil and Women’s Rights influenced generations and continues to change and create a better America. Her determination and resilience are unmatched.
Price: My older sister, Rianna. What began as merely "following in her footsteps" with a shared passion for horses and an education at UCDavis has become a true inspiration as we have grown and I've watched her career flourish. She is a BOSS in all aspects of life. She can do it all but doesn't hide the hard parts.
Armitage: I was extremely lucky to start my career with an amazing female manager who was my first mentor, Agnès Raulin. Having such an amazing role model at this defining time of my career has given me the tools to thrive but also to cope with things that didn't go my way later on.
Lee: From afar, Indra Nooyi. Closer to home, the women in tech and digital consulting who are mothers here in Singapore. There's no such thing as a work/life "balance" — it's all about integration and how we navigate through family and local cultural expectations.
Question: What advice would you share with a woman starting their career in tech?
Spivey: The first piece of advice I would offer would be to not chase sexy technology or some mythical valuation. I would say to pick a product or service you really believe in, with the right team behind it and people you can learn from (and want to spend A LOT of time with).
DeForest: Figure out what exactly motivates you and what kind of role you want to have in 5-10 years. Make sure that you are aligning with those skills. Research what requirements you need for the position you aspire to grow into.
Price: Negotiate your worth. If you don't ask, you probably won't get it. Also, support other women in (and out of!) tech. No matter what team they are on—take a new employee to lunch, offer to mentor an intern, ask a C-level woman out to coffee, be air support for women with great ideas.
Armitage: Be curious and take every opportunity to learn. Tech is complex. Dare to ask questions and don't stop until you've got an answer that makes sense to you. There will always be someone who knows more than you, be humble about it and be proactive in finding these people and learn from them.
Lee: Be authentic. Observe and learn, constantly. Dedicate time to networking not just within one's company, but beyond as well. Don't underestimate the connections you can make when you're starting out and how these can grow.
Question: Book/podcast/movie/newsletter that inspires you?
Spivey: Podcasts: I really enjoy listening to “How I Built This” and “Side Hustle”. Whenever I listen to them I always find myself asking, “why the heck didn’t I come up with that?”. It always leaves me feeling incredibly humbled.
DeForest: Any article that depicts second chances—a good example would be this article from Lifehack on 20 people who only achieved success after age 40.
Price: Anything by Nora Ephron—books, essays, movies, commencement speeches. I highly recommend you absorb it all. Stressed about work? Crazy Salad. Need some perspective? I Feel Bad About My Neck. Looking for inspiration? Her 1996 commencement address at Wellesley.
Armitage: The podcast "HBR Women at Work." Any time that I hit a roadblock at work, there's always an HBR podcast on the subject to help me find a path forward.
Lee: "When Breath Becomes Air". This book is profoundly reflective, where its words roll off the pages as if its author is in front of you. I can't recall when a book last made me tear up. "Hit Refresh" is another book to pick up. We at Braze talk about “empathy" a lot—this word regularly appears in the book.
Question: Who is someone in tech that you admire and why? (could be male or female)
Spivey: I love a good turnaround story, so I would have to say Ginny Rommity at IBM, Lisa Su at Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Satya Nadella at Microsoft. Transformation at that kind of scale is next to impossible, so huge props to those three. And I probably wouldn't be a very good marketer if I didn't say Steve Jobs had a big impact on how I think about marketing.
DeForest: To every woman paving the way: tech is a difficult space dominated by men and your leadership, empathy, and example are noticed. I’m inspired by hundreds of women and constantly empowered by them.
Price: Eva Chen, Head of Fashion at Instagram. Eva Chen has seamlessly combined the analog and digital worlds of fashion through her role at Instagram and her previous experience at magazines like Lucky and Teen Vogue. I believe she is an honest and relatable representation of a working mother who loves her family as much as her job.
Armitage: Dr. Vivienne Ming. I was fortunate to see her speak at an event—I loved how passionately she explained how we can use data and AI to make a better world. She talked with insight, vulnerability and a great sense of humour, although she went through great hardship in her life.
Lee: Satya Nadella. I admire how he reinvented Microsoft where he drove focus to cloud computing and very large acquisitions aside. He had to change the culture of Microsoft to effectively engineer change.
*Some responses have been condensed for brevity and clarity
Erin is the Communications Coordinator on the Comms team based out of Braze HQ in New York. When she's not working, you can find her studying to become a certified personal trainer or listening to true crime podcasts.