June 21, 2016

Key Takeaways from the IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference

The IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE) International Leadership Conference took place just a few weeks ago. WIE ILC is the annual flagship event for the largest international professional organization for women engineers, technologists and scientists.

I was honored to attend this year’s event alongside many of my Verizon colleagues as one of the event sponsors. The two-day conference was filled with insightful talks about entrepreneurship, empowerment, leadership, innovation, and emerging technologies.

So naturally, I wanted to share just a few of the key learnings I took away from the conference:

1. Embrace change for an exciting career.

Marni Walden, executive vice president of Verizon and president of product and new business innovation, kicked off the second day of the event with a keynote. Marni shared her career journey, from her beginnings with Verizon as a salesperson in a retail store in Chico, California to her current role as the head of product and new business innovation. From telematics, IoT, to content and media, Marni spoke about some of the exciting developments in the product and new business team. She said, “The change and breadth of what we do at Verizon is what makes this such a terribly exciting business.” As a member of the Verizon Ventures team, I wholeheartedly agree and am glad to contribute to the changes of the Verizon business.

2. Be unconventional.

Rose Stuckey Kirk, president of the Verizon Foundation, shared a childhood memory that shaped her business philosophy today. While in kindergarten, she competed in an art competition to color a house. She chose to color her house her absolute favorite color, burnt orange. When finished, she was convinced that her house was beautiful, and was stunned when her teacher chose to recognize her peers that colored their homes “traditional” colors, like brown or black.  Rose has since made it a personal mission to encourage children to be unconventional, take risks and think outside the box. The Verizon Foundation emphasizes this mission with their Minority Male Makers program, which is training more than 700 minority middle school boys to become creators of technology solutions.

3. Team is everything.

Susan Lyne, president of BBG Ventures, moderated a panel discussing the biggest learnings and realities of founding a startup. On the panel, Christina d’Avignon, founder of Ringly, emphasized the importance of recruiting a quality team of engineers early on in order to ensure a strong start. Likewise, Shanna Tellerman, CEO of Modsy, shared her biggest piece of advice to fellow entrepreneurs, which includes determining your product’s market fit. Finally, Shan-Lyn Ma, founder of Zola, spoke to the commitment required to make a startup successful.  

4. Connectivity is the future.

I served as a judge on this year’s startup pitch session alongside representatives from Amazon, Norwest Venture Partners, the Alchemist Accelerator, and Nautilus Venture Partners. Six female founders pitched technology solutions that ranged from a mobile application that creates group video greetings to life-saving medical devices for middle-income countries. Despite the various industries each idea catered to, a reoccurring theme was connectivity – whether that was bringing people together or providing access to resources. The winner of this year’s pitch competition went to Byte and its vision to establish better eating habits in the office with RFID-enabled refrigerators that provide fresh food options.

It was truly inspiring to see hundreds of women in technology in the same place, and to be able to learn from accomplished and influential leaders. I can’t wait for next year’s event! 


Related posts from Verizon Ventures:

Empowering Young Minds: Verizon Co-Hosts Panel with Girls Who Code 

Women Building the Tech Ecosystem: Insights from 2XinTech - Female Founders Conference 

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Andrea Baptiste, CEO of Benbria 

Tags: investing , Startup , Technology , Christie Pitts