The Story of Datenight
In October of last year – I got fired. I had just entered the “official” workforce for the first time after defending my Computational Biology Ph.D. thesis at the University of Toronto (six months pregnant with my second son). During my mat leave — I began to realize that I had some valuable technical skills. In fact — my ability to parse, organize and present data actually made me a “Data Scientist” — one of the fastest growing technical positions in this age of Big Data. I even managed to wrangle myself a job at a growing start-up run by four thirty-something guys. It was awesome. My skills readily applied to their needs, I fell in love with their data and I got up to speed pretty quickly. In just a few short weeks I was designing dashboards and making slides to be presented to the top brass of their biggest customers.
Then I had a head-on collision with the CEO. We didn’t see eye-to-eye on the degree of micromanagement needed from him and the complexities of their dataset – among other things. When you’ve been playing with data for a while — you realize that it’s not uncommon for people to completely underestimate the size of their data. Large datasets are complex – but deceivingly so. It seems like a simple problem until you immerse yourself in it. And so — instead of trusting me (someone with actual data crunching credentials) to ramp up his practically non-existent data department – he fired me.
Being fired was kind of a big blow. I like to do things well. And getting fired didn’t exactly reflect that. Plus it was my first “real-life” job after finishing school — and I failed at it. But — I was a little excited too — because I knew that I could have been really good at it. Also — I was pissed. Screw you for firing me for what amounted to — and was actually stated — a personality conflict. Finally — I was a little bit pumped. Because that start-up had really shed some light on the start-up world … and I was in love with it. I’ve always wanted to build an empire. And here was my chance. It would make a great back story, I figured.
The whole incident really underlined some subtle workplace gender biases — it really is still a boys club in the start-up world. Even Paul Graham a famous tech entrepreneur, Venture Capital investor and one of the founders of the Y Combinator Accelerator says this on his website:
“For example, I would be reluctant to start a startup with a woman who had small children, or was likely to have them soon.“
Which is unfortunate because he also says this:
“So who should start a startup? Someone who is a good hacker, between about 23 and 38”
Which pretty much rules 80% of women out of the start-up game.
Anyway — back to my story. One of the really awesome people at this start-up that I worked at had said something interesting to me when we were having a conversation about the tiny number (read two — including me!) of women in their tech department. He said that they had tried to hire women — but that they just weren’t that good. Hmmmm. Disappointing. Fine. But then he said — “and all of the good technical women that I know, run their own companies”. Ding Ding Ding. Bells and whistles started jangling like crazy inside my brain when he said that.
So here I am. After I got fired — I decided to start my own tech company. Women – mothers – are huge users of tech. But we’re barely in the tech world — and we’re certainly not leading it. You know what that means? It means that the products that are designed for us, aren’t designed by us. Which means that they often miss the mark — because the designers don’t actually know what the users want. Like groceries — I can’t find an app that actually does what I want. But I can find twenty that want me to cook 25-ingredient meals. I am here to change that. Think of it as the start of a Mommy Tech Revolution. That’s the plan. Sounds reasonable — right? :}
I am a big fan of Sheryl Sandberg and the whole Lean In phenomenon. I’ve learned a lot of great things, including:
-Make your partner a full partner at home — split the household work more evenly
-Men still run the world, and the feminist revolution has stalled short of our goal
-How tricky it is to walk the line between being driven and being a bitch in the workplace
-Women have to be brave and take our seats at the table. Sit at the table and make your voice heard.
But I think that she’s missing a big one. Instead of navigating our way up the corporate ladder, sidestepping land mines, trying not to be “bossy”, sugar coating what we’re saying and trying not to appear too successful or smart for fear of not being liked – maybe there is another option. Instead of trying hard to get the corporate world to let us sit in decision making positions at the board room table, maybe we should — make our own damn table. And sit wherever we freakin’ want.
That is the plan. So, just after Mother’s Day – May 2014, I am launching our inaugural product. It’s called Datenight. It’s a purely hedonistic app for mothers. It doesn’t help you make a better grocery list to help you feed other people. It doesn’t help you schedule all the things that you do for your kids. It doesn’t imply that you need to be skinnier. It doesn’t help you make more lists of things to get for your family. It helps you get what you actually want. A night out without the kids.
- Has a Roster of Experienced, Local Babysitters — Many of them College and University Students
- Help You Schedule Interviews with Great Candidates
- Lets you Request Babysitting in a Few Clicks
I would be thrilled and honoured if you would download it, try it out, and let me know what you think.
We’re just getting going — and any feedback you have about how we can improve things — we want to hear.
It’s in the App Store here:
It’s in the Play Store here:
Please feel free to check out the rest of our site — and our blog.
You can email me here