What is your name and title?

Tracey Welson-Rossman, Founder, TechGirlz.org

Briefly (1-2 sentences) describe your role at your company?

As Founder of TechGirlz, a non-profit that inspires middle schools girls to choose technology as a career path,  I drive the vision and execution of strategy which has guided over 15,000 girls across the country towards becoming technologists.

What advice do you have for women who are just starting their career?

It is never too early to start your life-long network of support.  Your network is comprised of people from all parts of your life – work, friends, outside interests – and you will be amazed at how often those intersect.  Sometimes you will help your network and sometimes they will help you. My network has been invaluable in my journey as a leading advocate for women in technology.

Is there a cause that is particularly close to you? If so, why this cause and how did you get involved?

Seeing a dearth of women in technology led me to build TechGirlz. The non-profit  inspires, teaches, nurtures, and networks girls and women at every stage of their lives to ensure they remain passionate, skilled and supported technologists. To date, the program has reached more than 15,000 girls and has plans to reach 20,000 more by 2020. Its success has challenged leaders of industry to consider how workforce diversity is better for their bottom line and how investing in girls is an investment in their future.

Women in technology is more than a headline or political hot button, it’s a competitive business issue for companies of all types and sizes. Technology is much more than coding and has permeated every industry and nearly every type of job. But America’s technology-enabled workforce is forecast to be short of 1 million employees by the year 2020. Even worse, studies have shown that companies are more competitive and profitable with diverse workforces and leadership. Bringing more women into the technology workforce helps solve for all those challenges. It will produce a more competitive business environment firing on all cylinders and at full capacity.

Do you serve as a mentor?  If so, what does mentorship mean to you?

Yes, mentorship is key to success for women in their careers. We built TechGirlz around the notion that mentorship, relationships and networking are key to continued growth and success for females in tech. I also founded the Women In Tech Summit which offers women, with existing careers in tech, an opportunity to mentor others or become mentees. But, mentorship is not always about structured meetings over set periods of time. To me it is simply about availability and open door policies. I make it clear to people who seek me as a mentor that my goal is to share my knowledge, offer support; and, most importantly, access to my network.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give to yourself 5 years ago?

Everyone has capacity limits — including me. It took me a long time to learn that cloning isn’t possible and that “no” needed to be a part of my vocabulary. No is not a dirty word and goes a long way in helping you balance everything that life brings your way.

Are you reading anything interesting at the moment? Please share your most recent favorite read!

“Non-Obvious 2018: How To Predict Trends and Win The Future” by Rohit Bhargava. Rohit has changed how I understand trends, connect the dots and realize the entire “playing field.” He has also helped me understand how I can better communicate about trends I’m seeing so that I impactfully convey the importance of the work we are doing at TechGirlz to greater audiences.

If you could sit down with three women (living or dead) for dinner, who would those three women be (and why!)?

My husband and I play a game called “Fantasy Dinner Party.” At the moment, we are seating twelve.  But if I had to choose just three, I would choose Amy Poehler, Tina Fey and Maya Rudolph. Humor is very important to me. Not only would I be laughing through the entire meal, I would love to hear the individual stories of how they broke through comedy’s glass ceiling and some of the lessons learned along the way. Plus, I just really appreciate spending time with smart women who have varied interests similar to mine.

What’s something coming up soon (personally or professionally) that super excites you?

Just today (March 5) TechGirlz made a very exciting announcement. TechGirlz was acquired by our largest funder, Creating IT Futures.  It is truly what you would call a win-win. We get to keep all the things we love, hand off the things we don’t love to someone else, and plan for much, much bigger things together.

TechGirlz will continue to operate as a unique brand with our team and headquarters in Philadelphia. We will still create, share and manage TechShopz around the country. And we will still be a critical part of the tech lives of middle school girls everywhere.

But we will begin dreaming much bigger. With Creating IT Futures’ institutional support, we no longer have to manage the day-to-day operations of the organization, freeing up our teams to focus on what they know and love. At the same time, Creating IT Futures will help us scale even faster by taking over our fundraising campaigns and lending operational insights and support.

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