Women in Tech Panel @ Apple Pasadena: Feb 8, 2017
Presented by Echo-Factory
Blog Writeup by Jan Young
Moderator: Dea Goldsmith, Chief Creative Officer & Co-Founder, Echo-Factory
Renee LaBran, Senior Advisor, Idealab
Max Powers, SVP Business Operations, TeleSign
Natalie Sun, Creative Technologist & Producer, Founder of Next Art
Echo-Factory sponsored a Women in Tech panel on February 8th at the Pasadena Apple store that brought together some inspirational women who came to technology via different paths: Finance/VC, operations, coding, and designing. None of the women panelists studied programming in school, and if you look at the statistics on who is in Computer Science programs in our universities, that’s not a surprise. But it also reflects how many people get into technology— startup people especially are driven by an idea and want to figure out how to get it done, so they teach themselves from online sources, read books and blogs, they join meetups, they work at a startup, or just dive in and start one of their own. These women panelists have that trait in common: they took their passion and taught themselves along the way.
The moderator, Dea Goldsmith, was a classically trained artist. After she graduated from art school, she bought a Mac and started teaching herself. She worked her way up in the ad world, and now she is co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Echo-Factory, an agency that has created a niche working with Clean Tech clients. They take incredibly complex technology like energy efficiency, demand response, renewables, and smart grids and make them easy to understand, easy to interface with, and easy to use. “That is the new face of advertising and technology allows us to make that transition.”
Renee La Bran is a Senior Advisor at Idealab. She started her career in finance and after business school worked in management consulting. Through management consulting, Renee learned how to become an expert in any industry quickly. When she wanted to travel less, she moved over to Times Mirror. Back then the newspaper industry was just starting to feel threatened by technology—Prodigy and AOL were the main disruptors, and Times Mirror had to figure out how to move newspapers into the digital world. These were the early days of the internet, and newspapers still had the eyeballs, content, advertising, and sellers of advertising—giving them the leverage to partner with the new technologies. Renee applied her management consulting skills to these new technology partnerships and became more expert than the CTO. Through that experience, she founded and led some companies and eventually moved into the world of Tech venture capitalism as partner at Rustic Canyon/ Fontis. Now, she’s a coach and mentor of startup CEOs at Idealab, a pre-eminent tech incubator in Pasadena, and the Co-Founder and advisor to Women’s Founders Network, a startup competition and accelerator to promote women entrepreneurs. She also serves as Governor Brown’s appointee as a non-attorney public member of the Board of Trustees of the State Bar of California.
Max Powers, SVP Business Operations, is a senior executive at TeleSign, a communications platform as a service that focuses on security. In 1998, while in graduate school studying marriage and family counseling, Max started working at a startup that put previously unavailable publications online. That experience provided the passion that lead to a career in technology and startups. She’s worked for four different startups, one of which was an email security company that was bought by Microsoft. She worked at Microsoft for 2 years and gained invaluable experience that she took back to the startup world in sunny SoCal.
Natalie Sun was studying to be a lawyer when she discovered technology art. She was doing illustration on the side and studying film, and considered herself a creative person. But when she encountered the world of interactive art, her passion took her away from law and she taught herself to code so she could create her art. From there, she worked at a startup and then moved into advertising. At the agency, her job was to bring TV and print campaigns into the interactive world online—experiential installations, interesting web campaigns, new ways to bring phones into the experience. Interactive projects require prototypes because the interaction is hard to explain—you need the power of the interaction for the clients to get it, so she built it. From there she started Next Art, an independent curation production studio that focuses on inspiring the creative industry with creative uses of technology. They take something like the web which has been around a while now and have artists use the web to interact and communicate in completely new ways.