Speakers at the inaugural Women in Tech conference, held on April 6 – 7, shared their career arcs and important life lessons with hundreds of virtual attendees, including current Punahou students and recent graduates.
The speakers included Denise Ho ’93, Director, Product Management at Google; Rochelle Higa ’89 King, VP, Creative Production at Netflix; Beth Liebert ’01, Product Manager at Apple; Chloe Mai ’10, Senior Manufacturing Engineer at Tesla; Alicianne Rand ’03, Head of Marketing at Venmo; and Dr. Valerie Galluzzi ’05 Liptak, Applied Scientist at Amazon Last Mile Machine Learning.
“Rochelle King’s advice about embracing your inner dirt gatherer – building smaller dirt piles in different areas and pooling them together into a mountain of your own unique strengths and skillset – really spoke to me in particular,” said Yale University freshman Diza Hendrawan ’20.
Three takeaways from Women in Tech:
1. Gain experience early in your career
2. Find your superpowers
3. Build soft skills
One lesson repeated by several speakers was the importance of gaining early life experiences, whether through participating in sports, studying abroad or taking jobs that allow for learning outside the classroom. Rand offered the analogy of sampling a buffet before investing in a five-course meal being akin to working at different jobs and internships before landing a dream job.
Another lesson echoed across the panel was finding your superpowers. As women in a traditionally male-dominated field, panelists discussed how they struggled with “imposter syndrome.” The key to overcoming such feelings, Mai said, is to regard your insecurities as superpowers.
The speakers also talked about the importance of soft skills. “Soft skills are what differentiate OK leaders from great ones,” Higa said.
Liebert ’01 reiterated this while talking about her experiences joining a new company and realizing that she had to communicate with her team with empathy, respect and acknowledging what she didn’t know. “It’s much more than just having the right answer, it’s also about how you deliver that answer,” she said.
Students who attended the conference said it helped them realize that even these successful alumnae are still learning and growing as they go. “It was so reassuring that they were all once students like myself,” said Kylee Hamamoto ’24, who helped advertise the conference to Academy students, and wrote a blog post about her takeaways. “Whether it was finding out about tech slightly later in their lives or receiving a B- in Computer Science, their relatable stories made the Women in Tech conference that much more personal and moving.”
Said Mark Loughridge, Director of the Case Accelerator for Student Entrepreneurship: “The conference inspired students to think, ‘wow here are people at these famous companies doing these awesome things and they are like me.'”
Although not all of the attendees questions could be answered during the two-day conference, the panelists took time after to respond to the unanswered questions. See their responses.