(Senior Data Product Owner, Vanguard || CA USA)
“I was the only woman in 100 people at this research lab. I’ve been in completely male-dominated spaces my whole life. When you come of age in it, you notice it less — you’re conditioned to it. If you’re going to go into STEM, you need to build confidence and have the right expectation. There are male characteristics that are emphasized and present to a greater degree in STEM fields. But you can be prepared, and engender an excitement and passion for what technology can do.
I worked at NEC Labs when they discovered an algorithm for watermarking that could be embedded in video, audio, and software programs. Media on the Internet was just becoming a thing, and people were worried about how to protect it and track piracy. We were getting all kinds of inbound calls from people who wanted to buy it, like Disney Imaginarium — my bosses called me and asked me to handle the commercialization of the product. This little research project became a juggernaut. Eventually, management said, ‘great job, but the big guys are going to take over from here.’ So I moved to Silicon Valley to work for another startup, then founded my own company, growing it from nothing to a $25–30 million business for my second career.
Some careers you can dial back when you have kids. For me, starting my business, especially with a husband co-founder, gave me flexibility that was key at the time. Because in an undeniable way, when you become a mother, your attention shifts to your children. Now that my kids are teenagers, I’ve been drawn back to technology and a chance for a third career. We live so long these days, you can have multiple careers in 15 to 20 year chunks.”