Adriana Gascoigne is the founder and CEO of Girls in Tech, a non-profit organization she launched in February 2007 that is focused on the engagement, education and empowerment of like-minded professional and influential women in technology. Girls in Tech supports over 17,000 members among 37 active chapters worldwide.
Previously, Adriana was the VP of Marketing for SecondMarket, the global marketplace for alternative investments, and was responsible for SecondMarket’s marketing, branding strategy, event production and digital media efforts. She has also worked at a variety of technology start-ups working in marketing, communications and analytics, including hi5, SocialGamingNetwork (SGN), Jambool’s SocialGold, GUBA as well as Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide (as VP of 360 Digital Influence) and Edelman (as VP of the Digital Group). She is an “Intel Insider,” serving as a brand and product advisor for Intel. She advises a number of start-ups including Involver, Numiyo Technologies, Palindrome Advisors, Charity Blossom, DooChoo, and Change.org.
Read on for our interview with Adriana Gascoigne, including her advice (and encouragement) for startup entrepreneurs.
What did you set out to build with Girls in Technology?
Since there was such a scarcity of women in tech, I wanted to create a place for women to come together to share stories, best practices, serve as mentors and understand more about opportunities within the technology sector.
How do you spend most of your work time?
I spend the majority of my “work time” with Girls in Tech spearheading business development and fundraising efforts along with serving as the international liaison for chapter and corporate development of the organization.
At what point did you first think about working in tech as a career?
I never really thought that I wanted to work in the tech industry. After working with big consumer brands, major Hollywood studios and the commercial real estate sector, I thought that one of those industries would stick. It turned out that good timing enabled me to dive head first into the technology industry, right when Web 2.0 was booming. I was exposed to startups, the mentality, innovative attitude, collaborative and creative opportunities and I became addicted.
If you were not working in tech, what would you do?
I would be a fashion designer. I’ve always had a fascination and passion for fashion. At one point I even wanted to launch a fashion startup, however, timing just wasn’t right. I really love the creativity and glamour behind fashion designing. I guess it’s never too late!
What did you study in school at UC Davis?
Sociology, Economics, Communications.
Was your formal education important to get into your field? Or did you learn more on the job?
I learned A LOT more on the job than I did in my courses during college. College provided a basic education and a foundation to better position me in the workplace; however, I learned a lot more during my internships at a variety of large marketing, advertising and PR agencies. Also, having some solid mentors to provide advice and guidance really helped me realize my dreams and execute on a career path.
What advice would you give to someone applying for a job at a startup?
- Read blogs
- Start a blog
- Conduct a competitive analysis
- Conduct a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats)
- Understand the “startup” culture
- Do your due diligence
- Be prepared to wear many different hats
- Creativity and leadership is king
- Be yourself
Best advice anyone ever gave you about marketing or working with startups in general?
Embrace risk. Don’t be afraid to try to new things and share ideas. Be creative and be yourself.
What are the best and worst aspects of joining an early stage company?
You’re taking a huge risk. There’s a chance that the company won’t make it, which means that your equity would be worth nothing. On the same note, the experience you will have at that startup will be invaluable. You will learn so much from every aspect of the business that you’ll be able to take your skills anywhere. You’ll have to work hard the first 6 months to year, but it will be worthwhile!
Anything you miss from working at very large tech companies?
What advice would you give to a first-time entrepreneur?
- Be willing to take risks.
- Bootstrap – try your hardest to hold out on pitching VCs. Live a lean and mean life and company and you’ll be able to hold onto the majority of your equity, voting rights and the direction of your product or service.
- Most likely your product will change throughout the development/launch process, so be open-minded to pivoting.
- Organize a group of personal advisors (not for your company, for you). They should be trusted, experienced and experts at what they do.
- Be nice. If you are nice, grateful, humble, resources and advice will come to you without you having to ask.
- Simple is better – when it comes to product build out, messaging, your contracts, your pitch deck – pretty much everything!
- Making mistakes is a good thing. How you react to your mistakes and absorb what you’ve learned is an even better thing!
- DO IT! Don’t spend so much time researching and analyzing every little detail. If you believe in the product, go for it, be scrappy and get ready for the ride of your life!
What was your first experience managing other people? Is that something you enjoy?
I love it, since I really enjoy teaching and mentoring. This is a key function of what I’d like to do day-to-day regardless of the position, company or level I’m at.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs trying to recruit and build a strong team?
Go with your gut (and a couple solid referrals), not a CV, bio or even LinkedIn profile.
Are there some women working in technology who particularly impress you?
All of the engineers, developers and designers who work tirelessly behind their computers on the products and services which we use everyday. These people are rarely showcased or given a voice, so I would like to do what I can with Girls in Tech to highlight these talented people.
Do you have any suggestions about recruiting/retaining more women working in technology careers?
- Networking Events
- Organizations (like Girls in Tech)
- Advertising in the right places
- Recruitment out of University/Colleges
- Recruitment blogs
- Social networks – LinkedIn, Facebook, BranchOut