Wisdom from Women in Technology

Last night I attended an event celebrating women in technical innovation sponsored by MTV Networks for NCWIT, an organization dedicated to advocacy and outreach for women in the field of IT.  Venture capitalists invested 21 billion dollars last year and of the companies receiving funding only 5% of employees were women.  NCWIT takes a positive approach to this issue by working with existing organizations across the country to increase participation starting in K-12, where a lot of the fall out from math and science starts.


They honored Audrey MacLean with the NCWIT Symons Innovator Award for “an outstanding woman entrepreneur who has successfully built and grown a technology-driven company.”  Audrey MacLean is the founder of Network Equipment Technologies (NET) and Adaptive, Executive Chair of Coraid, Associate Professor at Stanford and venture capital advisor. She has seed funded several companies which have gone public and is featured in the Forbes “Midas Touch” List, Fortune’s Most Powerful Women, and Businessweek’s Top 50 Business Women in America.


Audrey got into technology at a time when there were very few women in the field. She chose it because her dad told her if she wanted to go to college she had to get a scholarship. She found IT to be one of the best routes to doing that. As for acceptance, she says, “Math is a great equalizer. When are good at math, you are universally respected in the field.” Today I’m sharing some of her her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs and women in tech. She believe’s entrepreneurship is an extreme sport — and she embodies all the spirit of an extreme entrepreneur in for the ride.


On entrepreneurship as extreme sport…

“I tell people that entrepreneurship is not for everyone. It’s an extreme sport. It’s about black diamonds. It’s a demanding feat. You have to proceed with caution.”

On her inspiration…

“I came upon an opportunity that was so compelling I had to quit my job and go do it. That is at the heart of what makes me tick as an entrepreneur. You want to solve a problem that needs to be solved, and when you do, you want to make it a reality. It is that process that is exciting and it is that process that got me excited as an entrepreneur and it is that process that keeps me excited as an advisor to a whole new generation of entrepreneurs to help them realize their dream”

On making it happen…

“The fact is to be an entrepreneur, you need to be able to see things the way they could be vs. the way they are and you have to believe that if you can see it you can make it happen. Then you have to inspire others to want to do it with you…because it always takes a team. I’m happiest when collaborating to materialize real results and I never give up. For me, entrepreneurship is a natural habitat.”

On “used wisdom”…

“Being on the teaching faculty since 1994. I frequently get asked for advice and I frequently respond, I don’t necessarily want to dole out advice but I’m happy to share some used wisdom. One piece of used wisdom I give is that, if entrepreneurship is for you,  you can’t do it alone. You need to create a team. One of the most important decisions you will make is who to trust. Choose who your partners and your advisors are wisely. When you put a team together, you need to be sure the same level of integrity and commitment is there across the board. Then you need to strap on the ski boots and put your knees forward and go.”

I love the idea of used wisdom. That is exactly the mission for 40:20 Vision. Not to give advice but to pass on wisdom from what we have experienced!

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