On March 1st, the TUNE House called upon the Seattle tech community to gather and celebrate Women’s History Month and discuss the meaning of success throughout the generations with keynote speakers and a panel discussion.
TUNE House scholars Aishwarya Manoharan and Shanti Camper-Singh kicked off the evening with a few words of gratitude: “Thank you to the community for supporting programs like the TUNE House that create a safe environment for women pursuing their passion in technology. Whether you’re a mentor, sponsor, teacher, industry professional, fellow student, or this is the first time you’ve heard of the TUNE House, thank you for your support and encouragement.”
From the themed cupcakes and photo booth sponsored by DreamHost, to information tables from University of Washington women in tech organizations, there was no shortage of sweet treats and fun activities for the audience to take part in.
At the conclusion of the evening, attendees walked into Women’s History Month with a sense of empowerment, stories of success and failure, new challenges, personal advice, and plenty of recommendations for TED Talks and books to compliment their newfound knowledge from professionals of all different backgrounds.
It is pretty powerful when a 9-year-old can bring inspiration and provoke deep thought in the minds of over 100 adult professionals. Bhavya Manoharan accomplished just that in her opening keynote when she, as a fourth-grade aspiring software engineer, discussed how we as a society consider success, and what the quest for success means to her. She began with what any kid in the 21st century would do … “Hey Siri, define success.” But the answer was too vague for Bhavya, so she continued her quest of determining what success really means.
After talking to her fellow fourth-grade friends, she soon came to the realization that “each person can define success and make it what they want it to be.” She thought about the moments that made her the happiest, which ranged from solving difficult math problems to improving herself and making an impact on her community. She reflected that as a society, we don’t take the time to recall what we accomplished and use it as an opportunity to learn, but instead try and power through to find our next moment of success.
She asserted that she would only compare herself and her successes to herself, rather than anyone else, and that her definition of success will always keep expanding. As a final thought, she encouraged the audience to think about one question: “What does success mean to you?”
Sarah Bird, CEO of Moz was the evening’s keynote. She let the audience know this talk would be different from anything she had done before. She demonstrated vulnerability and shared personal stories about pivotal moments in her life that were shaped by the examples set by influential women like her mother, grandmother, the co-founders of Moz, and her career coach.
“Here I am today at this event,” Sarah began. “I’m a CEO, serve on several boards, spoken at the White House, and have won awards. Every time something like this happens, I get a heavier weight on my shoulder about the responsibility I have to others that I’m not meeting.” She took this moment to widen the lens and discuss privilege: “We’re in this moment, in this cross-roads: incredible, exhilarating, depressing, amazing, awful time right now. We’re at a time of incredible change.”
Despite the challenges faced today by women across all industries and walks of life, Sarah has never been more hopeful and more proud, especially of women of younger generations. She encouraged the audience to “show up and speak up,” and get involved with organizations and initiatives that support women, such as Women’s March, Female Founders Alliance, TUNE House, SheEO, ADA, IGNITE Worldwide, #TimesUp, #MeToo, and so many more.
What Does Success Mean to You?
Each of our panelists shared stories about how they use their “super powers” and unique backgrounds to inspire positive change for women in society, and gave advice on how our audience can take action in their daily lives.
- Lynn Plummer, Sr. Principal Software Engineer shared her story of being the first female engineer at Zillow, the challenges she faced, and how she became more comfortable with her personal communication style.
- Jonna Bell, Head of Marketing at The Riveter shared why creating a growing and successful co-working space for women and founding Lean-In Seattle was so important to today’s society.
- Cherie Ruan, University of Washington student and TUNE House scholar discussed her journey of discovering her passion for technology and mentoring younger generations through teaching and visiting high schools with the TUNE House Roadshow.
- Kasey Champion, Computer Science Content Developer for Microsoft discussed how she balances a full-time role at Microsoft while mentoring and teaching aspiring software developers and giving back to the global community of women in tech.
- Jennifer Mankoff, Richard E. Ladner Professor in the Allen School of CSE stated that while her journey might have not been the most successful from a career trajectory standpoint, she’s proud of her decisions to always pursue change-driving research on issues in society that truly fire up her passion, such as accessibility for people with disabilities, health, and sustainability.
- Jamie Park, TUNE’s Director of Career Development moderated the panel with her instinctive curiosity to dig deeper with each panelist, while sprinkling humor and positivity throughout the evening.
About the TUNE House
The TUNE House is a program supporting women at the University of Washington pursuing degrees in computer science and other technology fields. If you’re interested in getting involved or learning more about the program, reach out to [email protected] for more information.
This post was co-authored by both Ali Wulf and Hannah Nilsson, managers of the TUNE House program.
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Ali is a content marketing manager at TUNE. She is also a manager of the TUNE House program and creator of the TUNE House Roadshow. Ali received her bachelor's degree in Communication from the University of Washington. Outside of work you can find her traveling and exploring new neighborhoods by foot with her husband and furry companion.