Monthly Archives

December 2015

Early Career

An American in Paris: Meet Melissa Lim

Have you ever wanted  to move to Paris?

Yes, us too!

It’s not often that you meet someone who’s actually fulfilling her life-long dream of moving to Paris—on New Year’s Day!  What better way to ring in the new year on Fibonacci Sequins other than with Melissa Lim, animal lover,  ardent fashionista, tech maven and soon-to-be Parisian.  

Melissa is moving to Microsoft Paris on 1/1/16 and we felt very fortunate to have had time to do one of our most memorable photo shoots in Seattle’s Japanese Garden on a rainy fall day.  Read on to find out what Melissa is up to in Paris as well as who that gorgeous internet famous dog who photobombed us is!

Tell us a little about you.

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I’m excited to be here! I grew up in Alameda, California, studied Cognitive Science and Computer Science at UC Berkeley, and now work as a PM at Microsoft. And here’s the big news: I’ll be transferring to our Paris office in January (eeeeeeeek)! Living abroad has always been a dream of mine, and it’s still a bit surreal that it’s finally happening.

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

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Well first of all, I think Honus Wagner steals the show with his beautiful fur coat :) (It’ s not every day we run into a dog at the park who has more Instagram followers than all of us put together!) It was fun bumping into Seattle’s celebrity dog during this shoot! The world basically stops whenever I see a cute pup (I admit to running through a stop sign during my first driving test because I was distracted by a beautiful golden retriever.)

Anyway, this first outfit is what I’d wear to work or dinner with my girlfriends. The pieces are a Kate Spade dress, Zara coat, and Harrod’s scarf. I love the simple high-quality rings Bony Levy makes, and my other amethyst one was a fun vintage shop find. 

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My second outfit is something I’d wear when it’s a bit gloomy outside and I’m feeling more “edgy” (yes, this is as edgy as I get). I still try to dress it up with a statement necklace (from Baublebar) and heels (from Barney’s). I’m wearing a cozy J.Crew beanie, All Saints top, Zara shorts, Burberry trench, Chloe gloves, and Wolford tights. Stockings are my version of pants, and ever since one of my best friends told me Wolfords “feel like butter”, they’ve been my go-to brand. I wear this YSL purse every day to work and I stumbled across this adorable macaroon keychain during my last trip to Ladurée in Paris.

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

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When I was little, I was a collector of pretty sparkly things. I had a million different hair bows with dresses to match. At 5 years old, I cut out photos of jewelry from my mom’s fashion magazines to assemble the contents of my first “jewelry box”. I would say I was a pretty stylish little kid.

However, during my college years, I spent most of my time camped out in the library or computer lab, so as you can imagine, very little effort was put into my wardrobe. I definitely blended in with the free tech t-shirts and sweatpants. When I moved to Seattle for my first “big girl” job, I became much more independent and more comfortable showing my personality from both inside and out. My friends describe my style as “classy, feminine, and chic“ and my boyfriend says, “Modern, neutral colors, and no pants. Make sure you get the ‘no pants’ part.” Fun fact: I haven’t worn jeans for 3 years (and counting)!

Do you have any style icons or favorite brands?

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Aimee Song, garypeppergirl, Olivia Palermo, and Audrey Hepburn are some of my favorite style icons. I also get inspiration from my best friends. Even though we all live in different cities, my BFFs and I still shop “together” on weekends and send pictures of different clothes we find. We even plan to wear the same necklace or perfume on the same day as a way to remind ourselves of our friendship :)

Lately I decided to only purchase pieces that I really love and opt to invest in fewer but higher quality items. I enjoy bargain hunting at outlets and finding other creative ways to fund my love for fashion. My co-workers jokingly refer to my stack of patent awards as my “shoe fund”. Microsoft gives us money for inventing cool things, so whenever I see a pair of Jimmy Choos I really want, I pull some people together to brainstorm and file a patent. I’d say it’s a win-win situation!

Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?

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  1. Be proactive.
    Figure out what you want, find the person who tells you “yes”, and go get it.
  2. Cherish and spend time building relationships.
  3. Apply technology to a cause you care about.
    During my time at UC Berkeley, I researched and taught a class on how to use technological interventions for positive effects on mental health. I also worked in a neuroscience lab with EEGs and fMRIs to understand memory consolidation. These projects were very personally rewarding to me, and I hope to work more in health technology later down the road.
  4. Pick a job that not only challenges you professionally, but personally as well.
    For me, moving to Seattle from San Francisco was the best life decision I’ve made so far- living in a city with nobody I knew forced me to discover myself and become much more independent. I’m excited to see what Paris will bring me next :)
  5. And lastly, if you’re a woman in tech, you’re going to stand out anyway. ROCK IT.

What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?

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The project I’m most proud of is one I can’t share in detail as it never shipped to the public. I was very personally invested in the effort as I believed it would change the way humans interacted with technology. I did everything in my power to get it on our product’s roadmap. Although it ended up cut for the release, I learned more from that project than any other one that could be considered “successful”. Something I heard repeatedly at Grace Hopper this year was, “It’s not failure, it’s learning.” I built really strong relationships with my colleagues and I do believe that feature will happen one day!

A broader project that I’m really proud of is Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant. We built her from the ground up. That founding team will always be family to me. (We LOVE this article about Melissa and her friends’ work on Cortana!)

Who is your role model?

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My family is my biggest role model. I had a wonderful childhood that taught me the importance of hard work, appreciating life, and cherishing relationships.

My dad has had an extremely successful career that I’ve always set as an example for myself. He was a VP at Salesforce and Oracle, and is now giving the start-up world a spin. On top of that, he always made it home for dinner and set his business trips so weekends were spent home with our family.

My mom is my best friend. She makes time to explore her passions such as learning piano better and volunteering at the shelter. I hope to be as great of a mother as she is one day :)

My little brother Ryan also works at Microsoft and he’s waayyyy smarter than I am. If you ever meet him, give him an unsolved Rubik’s cube- he can do it extremely fast blindfolded, left-handed, …and even with his feet. He’s ranked nationally ;)

What is the best way (if any) for people to follow you on social media?

Twitter / Instagram / Facebook / LinkedIn / Blog

From her move to Paris, to her “patent’ed” shoe fund, to her love of the furry critters, to being a “citizen of the world”, Melissa is someone we can’t help but be obsessed with. She is a modern day technical Audrey Hepburn in our eyes!  If you are at all interested in living abroad (or knowing what it’s like to do so), we highly recommend checking out her blog where she shares her step-by-step process for how she did it.  We are so excited to live vicariously through her adventures in Paris–whatever she does next, we know it’ll be extraordinary. 

Happy New Year friends–to a fun, fashionable and even more fabulous 2016! 

Love,

Dona & Beth

Fashion Post

Merry Christmas Y’all

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Definitely the highlight of the photoshoot, let’s be real

Here at Fibonacci Sequins, we insist on celebrating every single thing, including this incredible year we’ve had as well as finding free stuff like this excellent free DOOR by the side of the road.

What better way to sum up this killer year than a fun photoshoot in Seattle where we loiter on other people’s lawns to show off our fashion finds from our travels?

Here is Beth rocking a dress she acquired on her first Nasty Gal binge during a recruiting trip to LA and this is her favorite way to wear it. Skinny jeans are warmer than tights but still super cute, especially with the leg warmers. The jacket over the top is mandatory for the crazy Seattle weather as well as a way to edge this gorgeous dress up on days when law & order need to be handed out.

Dona is really loving this dress by her friends at Ohne Titel.  It works incredibly well from telling dudes what to do during the day all the way to cocktails with the girls at night!  She winds up wearing this almost every week because of the stretchy fit and because it’s her favorite color. Also, did you know the dress was made with Excel? (See? Everyone should be tech literate!) The faux fur white jacket is something she wears with pride as she negotiated for it in a vintage boutique in pioneer square from $80 down to $24 (“It’ll look better on me than on the hanger!”)

This is some serious fashion modeling going down at the Japanese Garden by Beth.  The white cape is also a result of the Nasty Gal binge and she loves layering over all kinds of things during her acts of daytime superheroism, but also wearing it with this awesome blanket scarf!

The fringe suede skirt was a result of an impulse purchase at Nasty Gal on aforementioned recruiting trip and the AMAZING black tuxedo jacket is the result of Dona’s hard work of standing in line at 8 am for the HM x Balmain event in November in NYC.  The beaded and ropey top was also part of the HM collection and Dona can’t think of a single season it’s not perfect for.  Worn over a turtleneck for winter–check. Worn over a long skirt for summer – check.

Tell you more about the “I Never Wear Sensible Shoes” clutch?  Other than pure truth, it’s also a NYC find and is by local artist Pamela Barsky at Chelsea Market.

What a year it’s been for us at Fibonacci Sequins. We can hardly believe we’ve only been around for 6 months and in that time have made so many friends, profiled so many stylish STEM people, traveled the world and have seriously upped our fashion game.

Merry Christmas friends and glasses raised all around to a fabulous 2016!

Love

Dona & Beth

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Industry Veterans

Jennifer Marsman: A Tale of GitHub and Ballgowns

Dona’s had the pleasure of knowing OF Jennifer Marsman for many years, but only got this meet this lovely, brilliant, hilarious lady during during a rendition of her infamous Career Advice To the Tune of Glee. Since then, Dona knew they had to be best friends forever. Read on to find out more about Jennifer’s amazing job, her style and her advice for the next gen of people who want her job!

Tell us a little about you.

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I have one of the coolest jobs at Microsoft.  I get paid to play with all of our cool new technology for developers, and then go out and share what I’ve learned, by speaking at conferences, blogging, tweeting, and webcasting.  I’m fortunate to work from home most days if I’m not travelling.

On a personal note, I’m happily married with 3 incredible kids.  I love reading, theatre, and ballet.  I’ve read all of the “Song of Ice and Fire” books (that’s the book series that the “Game of Thrones” TV show is based on), and I can settle Catan like a boss.

Tell us about what you’re wearing.

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Dona and Beth caught up with me in Houston, where we were all participating in the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.  Unfortunately, that was near the end of a month of travel for me, so for this impromptu photo shoot, I didn’t bring a wide range of clothing.

But!  Earlier this year, I spoke at a GitHub conference called CodeConf in Nashville, and they gave it a “country” theme where all of the speakers got authentic cowboy boots by J.B. Dillon, and I even got a GitHub belt buckle like the MC of the event wore, which are custom-made on Etsy.  Since the Grace Hopper Celebration was in Houston, I decided to bring my fun cowboy accessories with me, and rocked out the cowboy boots and GitHub belt buckle one day with my Microsoft shirt.

The dress I’m wearing is from BCBG.  I love long, flowy dresses.  I adore navy blue and brown, and wear altogether too much of those colors.

In terms of jewelry, I wear two rings that I never take off: my wedding ring on my left hand and a sapphire ring on my right hand. The latter was a gift from my grandfather on my 13th birthday, which I’ve always treasured. I wear earrings every day as well, but those I switch up based on my clothing.

How did your style evolve to what it is now?

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I have to speak at a lot of conferences in my role at work.  When I first started out, I dressed more “business casual” in skirts or nice slacks.  After being asked if I was in sales or recruiting a million times, I started wearing jeans and t-shirts to fit in with the “developer” guys.  This is sad, but there was a noticeable difference in the way I was treated when I looked the part.  It’s great that Dona and Beth are leading this charge with their blog, highlighting the fundamental idea behind #iLookLikeAnEngineer, that we come in lots of different looks which are equally valid.

A second fashion evolution that comes to mind is my wardrobe after having kids: I became very anti-dry-clean-only.  I still have young kids (under the age of 2), and it’s just not practical to wear clothes that need to be dry-cleaned when you are constantly holding little cuties with sticky hands and runny noses.  Everything I wear needs to be able to go into my own washing machine.  Ann Taylor has some nice quality pieces that can still be machine-washed.

Finally, let’s discuss maternity fashion!  There’s a major style evolution that needs to happen when you become pregnant, as your normal clothes suddenly no longer fit and different looks may be more flattering with your cute baby bump.  My sister Christina found a great boutique called Patty Mama; their clothes are beautiful and have held up very well.  I lived in this sweater in dark brown through multiple pregnancies; the fabric is not too thick which is perfect when you are pregnant and always warm.  I also recommend buying a pair of not-too-expensive jeans or dress pants in one size bigger than your normal size when you become pregnant.  These are great when your stomach is getting bigger, but it’s not big enough for real maternity clothes yet.  Then they come in handy again when your stomach is slimming back down, and you are dying to get out of maternity pants with stretchy waistbands but you can’t quite fit back into your normal size yet.  Finally, scarves and fun jewelry can dress up a simple maternity top, and you can still wear them after the baby comes and your body returns to normal.

Do you have any style icons or favorite brands?

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If I could choose one person’s entire closet to steal, it would be Kate Middleton. (I’m trying to get fascinators to catch on in the US…no luck yet!) I like tailored, classic pieces. Currently, in the fall, I like layering a blazer or a jacket over a top with jeans, and adding a scarf for extra elegance (and warmth!). Another go-to look is leggings with a long sweater and boots. (This is super comfy when you’re just working from home.)

Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?

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I work with students often in my role.  I’ve been asked for advice enough that I decided to have fun with it, and created a presentation where I map popular songs to career advice.

But for Dona and Beth, some new content:

Stick with math, even if you don’t enjoy it now.  I hated math in elementary school.  Memorizing multiplication tables was not fun.  But once you master the basics, wow!  Algebra was the best thing ever.  Figuring out the value of x was like solving a puzzle.

Technology evolves quickly, so this is not a field where you get your degree and you’re done.  But that also gives you nice off-ramps and on-ramps during your career.  If I wanted to take a few years off and stay home with the kids, I could.  Then when I’m preparing to come back to work, I just study up on whatever the latest language/technology/platform is.  Let’s say HTML6 has just come out, and there’s a demand for people who know it.  Guess what?  EVERYONE is just learning it now, so you’re not behind!  It gives you a nice on-ramp to come back.

Above all, find your passion.  There are so many cool subfields just in computer engineering: virtual reality, artificial intelligence, gaming, compilers, operating systems, natural user interfaces, databases, web design…you will be working for at least 8 hours/day for most of your life, so don’t waste it on something that you don’t love.

What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?

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When I was a software developer working for Microsoft in Redmond, we built a Natural User Interface Platform.  I had just graduated from college and was the most junior developer on the team, so at the beginning, I owned Logging (whoo hoo!).  But I set out to do the BEST LOGGING EVER, and because I contributed quality work, I continued to get more and more responsibilities.  By the end of my time on that team, I was developing our intent processor for grouping clusters of similar search sessions together, for which I was awarded a patent.  (So whatever you are doing – do it 110%.)

Currently, I’m working on using EEG (brain waves) and machine learning to perform lie detection.  I have the EPOC+ headset from Emotiv that reads EEG, and I put it on my husband and had him lie and answer truthfully to a series of questions.  I fed this labelled dataset into Azure Machine Learning to build a classifier which predicts whether he is telling the truth or lying.  I’m continuing this research now, looking at more sophisticated methods of feature extraction to build a classifier that would work on anyone.

Finally, I’m extremely proud of my 3 kids.  They amaze me every day with their empathy, intelligence, and curiosity.

Are there any misconceptions about STEM fields that you’d like to clear up?

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The technology field is sometimes portrayed as very isolated work.  In the media, we see programmers holed up in their offices (or their basements) cranking out code.  We do this sometimes, but in reality, building software is very much a team sport.  As a software developer, I worked daily with program managers who helped chart the vision and specify the software’s behavior and with testers who would use very creative techniques to catch as many bugs as possible before the software went out the door.

Anything else you’d like to share with the audience?

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Believe in yourself! There is a phenomenon known as impostor syndrome, in which high-achieving people feel like impostors or frauds that are not truly deserving of their success. They feel like they are fooling everyone else into believing they are more intelligent than they actually are, and will one day be exposed as an impostor. Impostor syndrome affects people across the board, but it is especially common in women.

I can share a personal example. Many years ago, a colleague and I were scheduled to present a day-long event with many technical sessions at a large corporation, and we were dividing the session topics between us. One of the topics was Silverlight, which had just been released at the time. I didn’t really feel like I knew Silverlight that well…I had read some blog posts, seen a video or two, and downloaded some demos, but I hadn’t written any of my own code with it yet. My colleague said that he knew Silverlight pretty well, so we agreed that he would present it. Fast-forward to his talk: he presented a marketing slide deck to developers (which is never a good idea), didn’t show any demos (since Silverlight is a visual presentation-layer technology, you can’t fully appreciate it without seeing it in action), and didn’t do so well answering questions. It turns out that he had just seen the Silverlight announcements, and yet he felt confident enough that he “knew” Silverlight from that, whereas I (with more actual knowledge, in this particular instance) did not.

In my job, I have seen so many success stories, especially in the “women in tech” space. Women who are pregnant during demanding times like graduate school, single moms, women from cultures where they weren’t encouraged to work – these ladies all worked through difficult situations and emerged triumphant. Don’t stop believing in yourself; with the right mindset, we can all accomplish great things.

What is the best way (if any) for people to follow you on social media?

I use Facebook for personal stuff (i.e. pictures of my kids) and Twitter for work-related stuff.  If you are interested in machine learning or other tech topics, you are welcome to follow me on Twitter or subscribe to my blog.

 

We are simply obsessed with Jen’s GitHub belt (must have!), film noir-esque photo shoot (a first for us!) and fantastic, practical career advice. We love that this powerful woman is a technical overachiever as well as being a dedicated parent and an excellent friend. We did this photoshoot, literally by cell=phone light outside the Grace Hopper conference center before and evening of networking and learning. That kind of multi-tasking is what Jennifer excels at and a skill we admire tremendously. Till next time! 

Love,

Dona & Beth

 

Fashion Post

What Do NASDAQ and Cosmo Have in Common?

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Every company is a tech company. Do you use email? Do you use social media? Do you look at customer data? Do you have machines and other automated systems that do work that humans used to have to? Yep, you work in a tech company.  Do you have the right tools in your toolbelt to succeed?

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Surreal much? Speaking at NASDAQ on the importance of tech literacy

I attended two extraordinary events in one day recently and learned some very important lessons from both.

First up was kicking off Computer Science Week at NASDAQ with an Hour of Code event. I spoke to an audience of business leaders, press and students about the importance of tech literacy in the classroom. Back in the day where we lived in tribes, she or he who knew how to read had a superpower and emerged at tribe leader because they could read messages passed from one tribe to another.  This is still true today. She or he is tech who is tech literate will emerge as tribe leader, because they will be able to understand how to do things better, faster and cheaper than ever before.

I met many students, ages 6-17. They had all been coding for two or more years.They weren’t approaching the two games (Minecraft and Star Wars) with newness and wonder.

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Leo hacked the Star Wars game and got it to crash in 20 minutes. Someone hire this kid!

They were approaching them with confidence and even some fun attitude! For example, six year old Leo was like, “Who needs an hour for this? I was able to finish and even crash the game by adding a 100 new character in 20 minutes.”

It was incredible to see the difference between these students and many I’ve seen in the past who have never been exposed to computer science before (like me at their age!) who are usually afraid to even start.  Their confidence in being able to solve a brand new problem using the logical thought process they had learned through coding was astounding. As one young woman pointed out to me, “Coding helps me think in different ways. Now when I can’t figure out a social studies problem, I think of it like a coding problem: figure out what I’m trying to do, break the problem into individual small ones, solve them all and make sure they all fit together.”

I realized during this event the power of what Code.org is doing. They aren’t just teaching computer science in the classroom, they are teaching confidence and modern thinking ability.

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Power Women Unite! Katie Couric and Julie Larson-Green, the Chief Experiences Office at Microsoft talking Women in Tech

Computer Science doesn’t care where you come from or who your parents are. Code.org is leveling the playing field, one classroom at a time by teaching this new “superpower” that absolutely should be taught in every classroom.

In contrast, the next event I went to was Joanna Coles’ Cosmo 100 Influential Women’s Power Lunch.  This is a yearly event that Joanna throws to bring together women in media, fashion, publishing, design, politics and this year, tech.  Julie Larson-Green, Chief Experiences Office at Microsoft was the belle of the ball giving away gifts and being a stunning fashionista as always.

I was a happy peon, star-struck by being in the same room with so many women I’ve admired for years.  I mean, we all grew up with DJ Tanner and Katie Couric!  It was pretty incredible watching

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Eva Chen of Instagram, Stella Bugbee of The Cut and Laverne Cox of Orange in the New Black

deals being made, guest appearances being planned and relationships being formed in a series of frenzied conversations.

I had a chance to meet one of my heroes, the great Rebecca Minkoff, the first mainstream fashion designer to embrace tech in her fashion line and stores with phone charging handbags and virtual dressing room mirrors.

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Candace Cameron Bure–host on The View. Will always be childhood role model DJ Tanner!

Also, it was a pleasure to meet Eva Chen, who earlier this year joined a tech company! She made the move from being Editor-in-Chief of Lucky Magazine to being the Head of Fashion Partnerships at Instagram.

When I introduced myself to these amazing women, a look of surprise passed over every single one of their faces. “Oh, you’re a smart girl!” I heard once. “You definitely do not look like an engineer,” I heard many, many times. “I could never do what you do,” I heard most of all.

I realized how strange it was to hear these incredibly accomplished women who lead business, news networks, fashion houses, publishing houses, magazine groups and political parties say they were…intimidated by tech, something the kids from earlier in the day thought was fun and easy.

And simply because of lack of exposure. These women solve some of the world’s biggest problems every day, yet, they felt that it was “too late” for them to become tech literate.

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Me with Courtney Kemp Agboh, host of STARZ Power and Janet Mock, host of MSNBC.

It’s never too late to become tech literate. Tech changes so fast that what I learned in college many years ago is no longer relevant. In fact the people graduating college today are more up-to-date with tech than anyone in my generation.  We constantly have to be learning to stay relevant.  This morning as I wrote this article, I was learning about Flarum, an open source forum software for a project I’m doing at work.  My skill is not knowing every single tech tool out there, it’s being able to quickly analyze one to see if it suits my needs and what I need to learn to use it.

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With Karen Fondu, President of L’Oreal Paris

It’s so critical for business leaders to understand how to do certain business critical things more easily: how do you scale your online business to more customers? How do you collect customer data and use it to create new things and experiences?

How can we automate old, manual processes and kill off mind-numbing work?

If I have one goal after the Cosmo lunch, it was to make clear to business leaders that you do not need to “make” tech to be tech literate. You do not need to become a coder to use tech to make your business and life better. Just like you don’t need to write books to be literate.

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That’s not Tilda Swinton! With the great Joanna Coles. Hostess and Partythower Extraordinaire.

And most of all, it’s definitely not too late to become tech literate.

Joanna Coles immediately got it. She asked me to come and teach her how to start. This is why she has been a relevant business leader for over 30 years while reinventing herself several times. I realize that if Joanna gets it, she will make sure her millions of readers will too. I will be continuing my quest to spread this message through various mediums, so please get in touch if you’d like to be involved.

Happy Holidays. May 2016 be the start of tech literacy for all.

Dona Sarkar

http://donasarkar.com

http://twitter.com/donasarkar