My schedule has slowed down a bit since we held the launch party on December 5th, so I wanted to take a moment to recap the event and share some key learnings with you all. The last few months have been a flurry of planning, organizing, and pavement pounding for Athena.LA. You probably already know what Athena.LA is all about by now, but if you don’t, read our first post.
I contemplated launching Athena.LA for a year after I relocated from the Bay Area to LA. I finally launched Athena.LA this past August, and it only took two months to find my first host thanks to Heidi Hubbeling Leach at the Preccelerator. Since August, I’ve been planning our launch party, building our newsletter, becoming active on our social channels, tweaking website copy, and embarking upon a listening tour, meeting with some of LA’s most incredible women in tech who have guided and supported me along the way. One of the key lessons from this year for me is to follow your inner voice and believe in yourself. For over a year I dismissed my ambition to build Athena.LA, thinking it was too ambitious of a goal. I decided to launch only after discussing with a trusted confidant who helped me validate my vision. Moments of self-doubt inevitably arise, but when they do I think about how far we’ve come in such a short period of time.
The launch party was our opportunity to showcase Athena.LA’s vision for women in LA tech. Melanie Stricklan, cofounder and CTO of Slingshot Aerospace, lead our keynote tech talk. It is no exaggeration to say that I was ecstatic when she said that she was ready and willing to speak at our event. After reading Melanie’s bio and learning a little more about her background from our mutual connection who had introduced us, I was a bit intimidated. Melanie has flown in USAF reconnaissance aircraft, commanded ICBM crew, and is now working on groundbreaking technology that will promote the national security interests of the United States. But when we met over white wine and kale salad, I was taken aback by Melanie’s warmth and personability. I shouldn’t have been surprised as Melanie hails from West Texas. I also struck by Melanie’s excitement for her industry and domain expertise. Melanie was driven by a passion for flight at an early age, which led her to a career in the USAF. But she also faces challenges that we all face in our professional careers. It was good to know that Melanie is not superhuman and relied on mentors and a support network to guide her through challenging periods and events in her career.
Showcasing accomplished women in tech as role models is at the core of our mission. I simply don’t know enough senior women in tech who are models for my career and sounding boards for the challenges that one faces in a career. It was incredible to get to know a woman like Melanie who thrived in a man’s world. Quite frankly, It’s important to have role models who share your gender. After Melanie’s tech talk, she was peppered with questions from a rapt audience, so I’ll consider it a mission accomplished for our first Athena.LA event.
P.S. Slingshot Aerospace is hiring for machine learning and computer vision roles. If you know of anyone with a strong background who would be interested in an opportunity at Slingshot Aerospace, please email morgan@athena.LA.
See you in 2018!