Wednesday, October 21, 2015

AWE in New York City

On Friday, October 16, nine SEAS undergraduate women, myself included, traveled to New York City for two site visits at LivePerson and XO Group. The trip was arranged by Advancing Women in Engineering (AWE) and Penn Alumnae Kristy Sundjaja and Katherine Brady.

 To give a short background on the company, “LivePerson is a New York City-headquartered technology company that works with over 13,000 companies to enhance their online commerce transactions by providing a cloud-based platform that enables businesses to connect with their customers via messaging through websites, social media and mobile devices.”

During the site visit, we first heard from the CEO of LivePerson, Robert Locascio. He told us a story of learning to grow from failure based on his own experiences being laid off from his first job and with the failure of the first company he started. One thing he said which sums up his message was, “Where you fail is where you learn. You never quit when you fail.” Mr. Locascio said that for every silly idea, there’s a wealthy person making money from it. He said, “No one can help you make the journey of your life.”
After Mr. Locascio spoke with us, Kristy Sundjaja ENG00 W99 GEN00 (Systems, Finance, Master’s in Systems) told her story. She came to Penn from Indonesia without ever having visited the school. She started in Bioengineering but switched to Systems Science and Engineering and entered the M&T program. After graduation, she began working in consulting before working with the New York City government and eventually joining LivePerson.

She said that engineering teaches you how to work with different people, and if you know how to work with and manage people, you have the foundation for great leadership skills. Ms. Sundjaja arranged for a panel of four speakers from varied backgrounds and current roles in technology and product management at LivePerson to speak with us.

Visiting XO Group in New York City

We headed to the XO Group on the MTA. XO is the premier consumer Internet and media company dedicated to providing information, products and services to those planning their wedding, pregnancy and everything in between. We met with Katherine Brady, ENG01 W01 (M&T, BAS and Economics) and got a quick tour of the office before lunch.  After lunch, a panel of XO female professionals in Technology, Product, and Marketing joined us in the cafĂ©. They gave us their perspective on how they came to work at the XO Group. We heard from Ms. Brady as well as Michael Steib, the CEO ( Penn alumnus). 

We discussed what skills are important for engineers, the experience of being a woman in tech, and about how their respective backgrounds led them to XO Group.  To one question, “What drives your career?” Ms. Krechmer, VP of Engineering, said, “saying yes to opportunity, even when you’re scared.”Another piece of advice was to be able to learn and adapt, ask good questions, and go out of your comfort zone. The tech world moves quickly, and you must be able to learn to keep up. 

The thing that struck me most on this trip was how much the mindsets of the professionals I met differed from own. While many of my friends and I, as seniors, stress over what we will do after graduation, the people I met on these visits to LivePerson and XO Group showed me that your path will take turns that you never expected, and opportunities will arise that you never could have predicted.  This visit showed me that you have to be true to yourself in your goals. At Penn, it’s easy to get swept up in the wave of people who seem to have their whole career trajectories planned out. But unless you’re being honest with yourself with regards to who you are, what you enjoy doing, and what difference you want to make, you won’t be content, even with a paycheck. 

Erin Beacham BE 16