Bitmaker Labs Exclusive - HackerNest: Women in Tech

On November 25th, the HackerNest social opened doors to three of their speakers and many guests to discuss Women in Technology. Each of the speakers were generous with sharing with us their insight into the challenges they face everyday and the highlights of their work in the tech industry.

Pearl Chen, founder of Karma Laboratory, started coding at the age of 13 and emphasized how important it is for women especially to take risks. As an educator herself teaching children to code, she finds that girls at a young age are already hesitant and fearful of trying new things. She recently worked on a redesign of TELUS’s website in an effort that included changing their corporate culture to a startup one of agile, lean practices. She advises novice programmers to never give up and work through those error messages.

Leila Boujnane, is the CEO of TinEye, an image recognition search engine. She views mentorship as the opportunity to pass along her knowledge and expertise onto someone in need of the skills. She says that in Canada’s education environment, there is less exposure for the tech industry and the opportunities available. Leila believes coding should be taught at an age as early as four. Her advice is as simple and concise as “Start."

By Stella Kim

I had the pleasure of speaking with Valerie Fox, Co-Founder and Director of Ryerson University's Digital Media Zone. She told me about how the DMZ came to be and mentioned some notable startups they've produced, including 500px, Flybits, Komodo, Greengage, and a new company called DreamQii that produces iPad-controlled quadcopters that work in sync with each other. When I asked what should be done to encourage more women to join the tech industry, she replied that it needs to start in schools, by providing context. She said that women like to make things, and now, more than ever, the tools to make things through technology are widely available, so right now is the perfect time for women to get started with tech.

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The event was well attended, with all types of members of the tech community socializing and sharing ideas. A number of people approached me after seeing the Bitmaker Labs logo on my hoodie, including a young woman who had already scheduled an interview to join the next cohort and a gentleman who was disappointed when I told him the program has nothing to do with Bitcoin. Later in the evening, Valerie, Pearl, and Leila addressed the crowd, sharing their experiences as women in technology, and contributing their thoughts on other topics as well.

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HackerNest is an excellent way to meet a ton of people in the tech community (though sometimes the excited conversations become so loud it's hard to hear the person standing next to you!). If you haven't been to one yet, you should make it one of your new year's resolutions. The next one is coming up on January 27 at Extreme Startups.

By Graham Lavender