Power Women of DC Tech!
Inspiration to become a tech entrepreneur comes from unlikely places—even a grandmother who played video games. Women have increasingly been inspired to launch tech companies or head divisions of companies tackling huge challenges. Today, we kick off the first of 40 profiles of DC area women. Come help celebrate their entrepreneurial prowess at a networking event on Feb. 18 in Crystal City.
Hear Me Code
Shannon Turner’s interest in technology started with her video game-playing grandmother. As a little girl, Shannon would draw pictures of how she thought the game could be enhanced. Her grandmother told her she’d have to get good at computers to make her creations come to life.
She took programming in high school but ended up majoring in political science, realizing that computer science was a tool for how to approach problems. Early in her career she worked at a startup as a coder and eventually launched Hear Me Code, an organization that offers free beginner coding classes for women.
Since 2013, the organization has trained over 1,500 women, held nearly 50 classes and recruited dozens of students who are now teachers. One of her proudest moments was hearing over a dozen women last year credit Hear Me Code with skills they needed to land a tech job.
Lesson: You could spend forever trying to perfect a project, but it’s best to release it early and make improvements as you go.
Current home: Mt. Vernon Triangle
Free time: Cook (a favorite is Turkish cuisine) and exploring the city by bike with her fiancée.
Bucket list: Visit all the national parks.
Favorite book: Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Favorite restaurant: Rice on 14th Street, and Lighthouse Tofu in Rockville
Drink of choice: Homemade hot cocoa
Family: Engaged; one niece and one nephew
Startling fact: People are surprised by how much art impacts technology. Creating software is a creative act and I try to think about whose lives we're impacting and whose problems we're trying to solve.
Amelia Friedman may be young (23) but she already has a few notches on her belt. She launched the Student Language Exchange in college, a nonprofit that focuses on building programs for underrepresented languages and cultures. She launched the DC affiliate of Vinetta project, an ecosystem that supports early-stage female tech founders. And she co-founded Hatch, a SaaS product that helps non-coders create mobile apps. The company was launched five months ago. She's also a fellow at the DC-based Halcyon incubator for social enterprises. Did we mention she’s only 23?
Best lesson: Team is more important than anything.
Current home: Rosslyn
Free time: Developed and now selling ($43k in sales in two weeks) a Cards for Humanity-inspired game with an election year theme.
Bucket list: Write a long-form investigative piece about something completely unrelated to work.
Favorite book: Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Favorite restaurant: Zenebech in Shaw
Drink of choice: Vinho Verde
Family: Parents, grandmother, aunts, uncle and cousins live in the DC area; brother is in college in Boston.
Most people don’t know: She majored in Brazilian literature and she writes daily (not in Portuguese) for her personal enjoyment.
Holly Kortright started her career as an industrial engineer and worked in information systems consulting. She became intrigued by large-scale change management and went back to school for her MBA with a concentration in human resources. Since then, her focus has been helping very technical companies like Capital One, Deltek and now Ellucian find and develop the talent to grow.
In the last two years, Ellucian, which provides software and services to help educational institutions thrive, has hired 1,094 people, many of them highly technical and very much in demand. She also led an effort to drive an innovative culture and improve employee engagement while helping women within Ellucian advance to senior-level positions.
Lesson: As a role model, be aware of your priorities and model them for the people you’re mentoring.
Hometown: Bethlehem, PA
Current home: Chantilly
Free time: Volunteer at the Gladney Center for Adoption, where she adopted her two children.
Bucket list: See the Taj Mahal
Favorite book: Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Favorite restaurant: Fiola in Penn Quarter
Drink of choice: Prosecco
Family: Married to a rocket scientist (works for a government contractor) and two children (5 and 8).
Startling fact: Father encouraged her to study math–a skill she uses daily.
Kaylyn Gilbilterra’s technology path started by randomly taking a Microsoft Visual Basic class in high school because she thought it would be easy like Microsoft Office. She was more interested in becoming a teacher, pilot or interior designer and soon realized computer programming had a tie to all those things. At Penn State, she studied psychology and engineering—learning how computers think and how people think, two related things that she wanted to improve.
She’s convinced banking technology is way behind, so as a software engineer at Capital One, her job is working on a team making banking services more accessible through technology. She specifically works on the 360 Bank Card, a former ING product, and is getting ready to launch its new platform. “The goal is to reinvent all of banking and let people use their money in ways they want to,” she adds.
Lesson: Solving engineering problems is really exciting because it hopefully impacts millions of people.
Hometown: Hershey, PA—grew up on Chocolate Avenue.
Current home: Dupont Circle
Free time: Two weekend hackathons per month; attend Women Who Code events (love getting together with people to code, not with a goal to build something but to learn), origami and sky diving.
Bucket list: Go to space.
Favorite book: The Innovators by Walter Isaacson
Favorite restaurant: District Taco
Drink of choice: Leprechaun Hard Cider—only found in Texas.
Family: Bamboo plant
Startling fact: She’s never gambled but she wants to learn how to count cards.