On Thursday, February 16, a group of women in the data and tech field got together at Zoox headquarters in Foster City, CA to listen to a panel discussion from women leaders offering career advice and then got to meet with them in smaller groups to go over various topics during speed mentoring sessions.
The data/tech field is rapidly growing, and there are more opportunities than ever for women to enter this field. However, there are still many challenges that women face in this field, such as gender bias and lack of representation. Panelists discussed the challenges they faced and how they overcame them, and who were their mentors/sponsors that helped them in their careers. One major theme that was discussed throughout the evening, was building relationships, and relying on these relationships to help move in your career, whether it’s to other companies, other positions, and/or other fields.
The panelists and mentors were:
Erika Lunceford – a business leader with 30 years of technology and financial services expertise. Erika is currently serving as Co-Director of the Silicon Valley Chapter of Women in Big Data. During the speed mentoring portion, Erika provided advice on identifying and developing a relationship with a mentor, becoming a strategic technical leader, and career advancement.
Qi Hommes – Senior Director, System Design and Mission Assurance at Zoox. Qi provided mentorship on people management, how to set healthy work/life boundaries, and how to cultivate resilience within yourself and your teams.
Jessica Vaughan – Program Manager on the Data Science & Engineering team, specifically focused on enabling teams to make data-driven decisions on Zoox’s driving performance. Jessica discussed best practices and helpful tips as an up-and-coming data scientist and early career development.
Punam Sarad – Associate General Counsel, Director, HR & Employment Law at Zoox. Punam provided mentorship on career advancement, preparing for managerial positions, and changing sectors.
Joy Baker Peacock – Client and Community Relations Director for PNC Financial Services, a law professor at Santa Clara Law, and a certified Designing Your Life Coach. Joy was excited to mentor on how to network effectively, provide tips on how to find a mentor and advise on changing careers and early career development.
Ullanda Davis– Environmental, Health, and Safety Engineer and leads safety initiatives across multiple departments within the manufacturing operation organization as well as vehicle integration at Zoox. Ullanda provided mentorship on how to change industries, identifying skills that will benefit you and your journey, and celebrating your leadership accomplishments.
Maria Nguyen – Technical Recruiter at Zoox, focusing on Software Infrastructure and Information Technology. Maria provided mentorship on transitioning from one industry to another and providing insight on overcoming challenges to move forward in your career.
Tina Tang – co-founder of Women in Big Data, with over 20 years of experience in the high technology industry. Tina was happy to provide mentorship on career development, including changing careers, technical leadership, thriving in ambiguity, continuous learning, building strong relationships at work, and vision and goals setting.
Apoorva Pasricha – Strategic Operations lead at Zoox. Apoorva provided mentorship on finding opportunities at the intersection of strategy and data science, learning more about different sectors data science is applied to, and developing a portfolio approach to career development (i.e. building transferable skills, networking, and side hustles).
A few of the members from the San Francisco Bay Area Women in Big Data Chapter had some great things to say about this event.
Emiko Sano – “[This] was my first in-person event with WiBD, and it was great to finally meet some of you in person. (Erika reminded me that we’ve known each other for 2 years!)”
And regarding the event, Emiko said – “I really liked the speed mentoring bits. A lot of them turned into sharing ideas or peer mentoring to collectively solve some of the work challenges that each of us is facing.
I haven’t been in my position for very long (I made a pretty major switch in my career), but since I have quite a bit of work experience, it was nice sharing some thoughts to maneuver some work challenges that we face regardless of field. I also got some ideas of how I can improve my skills and knowledge in my current role through the creative suggestions that some of the participants and panelists gave. “
Erika Lunceford – “It was great to be able to meet people in person that I had known for quite some time. It’s awesome to see different working spaces and this time the hi-tech space at Zoox. Working with Zoox, women in big data and the participants is really connecting and helps us all remember what we live about tech and managing our careers.”
Tina Tang – “The candor of the panelists really hit home. I felt encouraged by their stories of resilience. The willingness of leaders to be vulnerable is incredibly inspiring.”
Panel discussions are a great way to learn from experts in the data/tech field. Speed mentoring is a great way to build relationships with people in the data/tech field and offers a more intimate setting to ask more personal questions and receive feedback. This event was a great way to network with the women at Zoox, and in the field, and Women in Big Data is excited to offer more events like this in the future.