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#TalkToMe: The Only Women In The Room

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While I can easily write code, build software, and understand how all those ones and zeroes turn into images on a computer screen, I'm not a natural businesswoman. When I took the leap from computer scientist to entrepreneur, I really didn't know how to build a team, attract investors and clients, and turn a good idea into a successful business. Luckily, I had Susan Mason.

When I saw the first #TalkToMe videos, I knew Susan was the person I wanted to film a conversation with. Though we're far from parent and child, our relationship warrants not just recognition, but celebration. In the tech industry, mentors like Susan are the true unicorns: women who have thrived as engineers and investors, and are passionate about doing their part to see more female leaders in tech.

Susan began mentoring me when I started Silver Tail Systems, the cyber security company I subsequently sold in 2008. Her insights have become even more valuable to my second project, Unitive, a hiring platform that promotes swift and effective collaboration, and removes unconscious bias from the hiring process. What I love about Susan - and what has made me want to pick her brain time and time again - is that she understands, both personally and professionally, the importance of promoting diversity in the workplace.

Susan has firsthand experience with the challenges women face in tech. She's had the strange, and often uncomfortable experience of being the only woman in the room. But she also understands the importance of diverse workplaces from the perspective of a smart investor. Research shows that teams with a diversity of experiences, opinions, and approaches to problem solving are more creative, and that their companies are more competitive in the global market. Well before companies started spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on diversity trainings, Susan realized that the companies she advised had to foster diverse teams to maximize their success.

Her advice helped me grow and evolve from a naïve startup owner to a savvy entrepreneur. Her influence has truly shaped me. I was thrilled to sit down with her to talk about her experiences working in male-dominated fields, and her observations of the changing workplace.