Going Against the Flow: Alaina Percival, CEO of Women Who Code

Alaina Percival is the CEO of Women Who Code, a global nonprofit dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology careers. Under Alaina's leadership, Women Who Code has grown to serve more than 50,000 women in 20 countries and 60 cities across the globe. This thriving movement offers more than 1,000 free technical and leadership events, per year.

Prior to Women Who Code, Alaina worked at PUMA's headquarters in Germany, as well as Riviera Partners and Snip.it, acquired by Yahoo. Alaina is also a CodePath Advisor. She loves chocolate and has visited more than 60 countries.

Alaina Percival

What does entrepreneurship mean to you, and what underlying characteristics do you see in successful entrepreneurs?

Alaina: The core of being an entrepreneur is responsibility. You have a responsibility to your customers, your team, your members, your donors, and the world as a whole. It's a role that requires you to support, empower, and trust the people around you, and work with them to make everyone as successful as possible.

What are you most proud of in your professional career?

I'm incredibly proud of the impact that we're having on the careers of our leaders and members. I hear stories about women around the world getting promotions, raises, and rising to new heights in their careers because of opportunities and support that they received from Women Who Code. That fills me with joy and hope for the future of our efforts.

If you could do something over in your life, what would it be?

Alaina: I would have learned to code a lot sooner, although I do value the perspective that my experience otherwise has given me. I've tried to live my life making every mistake an opportunity to learn and improve.

Tell us about an instance where you had to go against the flow to realize your goal.

Alaina: When Women Who Code started, the conversation was focused on supporting girls in technology and teaching women. While this was a great dialogue, I saw a potential threat to talented women working in the field, who already were reporting being viewed as less experienced than they were and constantly needing to prove their knowledge and skills. WWCode chose to go against the flow, pushing for a shift the conversation to include women with experience and female leaders in the industry. We wanted them to be supported too and highlight their successes so that they could be the role models for the next generation.

Why do we need more women in tech/entrepreneurship?

Alaina: We need more people in technology and that isn't gender specific. We're expected to fall 1,000,000 engineering jobs shy of what the market needs in just the next few years. This is happening at a point in history when all industries are becoming software industries. It's crucial that we stay competitive by empowering the entire population to excel in technology pursuits.

We need more women because they are dramatically underrepresented in the industry and the industry will be better even better with more women in it and leading it. Studies have shown that having gender diverse teams can improve the collective intelligence of the group. Organizations with the greatest representation of female leadership also see a 34% higher ROI than those with few or no women in those positions.

In addition to everything else women deserve access to these jobs, which pay more and have a higher level of satisfaction than other careers. That also has a positive effect on the overall economy. When women make more, they reinvest 90% of their income back into their families and communities, thus creating a virtuous cycle or multiplier effect for supporting women to earn more overall.

What drives you? How do you measure success for yourself?

Alaina: The thing that drives me is that I want to create a positive impact on the people around me. I am honored to be part of a strong global leadership team and an extensive community of talented women. Together we are changing the face of the industry by supporting this generation of women in tech to become tomorrow's role models. That's incredibly inspirational and it pushes me to continue expanding the efforts of Women Who Code around the world.

If you were to give advice to your 22 year old self, what would it be?

Alaina: Be inspired by the world around you, and find the big problem that you want to solve.

Follow Alaina Percival at @Alaina, check out the other interviews in Going Against the Flow series at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/charu-sharma/ and join this movement to empower 1 million female entrepreneurs on goagainsttheflow.com.