A Look At Why There Aren’t More Women in STEMs




If you read this blog (or know me) at all, you know I care deeply about getting more women involved in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. Recently, a (female) friend from my alma mater Harvey Mudd College sent me a fascinating article entitled Why Are There Still So Few Women In Science? It’s fascinating, in-depth exploration of various studies that have been done as to why girls don’t choose to go into scientific fields at the higher levels. A few of my favorite excerpts are below:

The most powerful determinant of whether a woman goes on in science might be whether anyone encourages her to go on.

The problem is that most girls — and boys — decide they don’t like math and science before those subjects reveal their true beauty, a condition worsened by the unimaginative ways in which science and math are taught.

But beyond strengthening our curriculum, we need to make sure that we stop losing girls at every step as they fall victim to their lack of self-esteem, their misperceptions as to who does or doesn’t go on in science and their inaccurate assessments of their talents.

Fair warning, it’s a long read, but it’s worth it. Bookmark it for when you have a minute, and then drop me a line in the comments to tell me what you thought!

Using Laravel on OSX – MCrypt Extension Installation




I’ve been happily using the Laravel PHP framework for a little while now. It’s lovely and lightweight and has been a pleasure to code with. The only thing that’s a bit of a pain is that I develop locally on OSX Mountain Lion and for some reason, PHP doesn’t come compiled with the mcrypt extension that Laravel requires. Every time I have to set up a new development workstation, I spend way too long googling how to add mcrypt to OSX, so as a reminder for myself (and for anyone else struggling with this problem), the best instructions I’ve found are here:

How to Install mcrypt for php on Mac OSX Lion 10.8 & 10.7 Development Server

UPDATE: If you’ve updated to Mavericks, a new tutorial was added here.

Chicken Confit




Over the weekend, I tried an amazing recipe I found in Sunset magazine (on of the two magazines I read regularly) for Chicken Confit. In a nutshell, chicken confit is chicken legs braised in chicken/duck fat, then fried. It’s wildly decadent but not actually that hard to do. Here’s my version of their recipe:

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Image courtesy of Sunset Magazine

4 chicken legs with thighs
salt+pepper
8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 large sprigs fresh thyme
2 quarts duck fat

1. Pat the chicken dry and coat it with salt and pepper. Put in a 5-quart dutch oven (I love my Le Creuset one!) and arrange garlic and thyme sprigs on top. Cover and chill at least 12 hours and up to 18.

2. Preheat oven to 200°. Add duck fat to chicken; warm on stovetop over lowest heat, covered, until fat is melted, about 30 minutes. It should completely cover chicken; if it doesn’t, add more. Bake until meat is very tender when pierced, at least 8 hours and up to 12.

3. Using tongs and a spatula, transfer chicken to a plate and spoon fat into a frying pan.

4. Heat fat over medium heat until it reaches between 275° and 300°. If you don’t have a thermometer (I didn’t!), sprinkle a little water into the pain – if it sizzles, it’s ready. Add chicken legs, skin side down.

5. Cook until chicken is lightly browned and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes, turning once. Be careful when flipping – the chicken is really tender, and falls apart easily!

For my first attempt, I followed the recipe pretty closely, and while it was impressively good, I think it could have used more seasoning. I’d recommend using more spices during step 1 (really anything would do – maybe some taco seasoning to make gourmet chicken confit tacos, or some basil and oregano to make some kind of chicken pasta dish). I served mine over arugula alongside a poached egg*.

Another cool thing about confit is that it can actually keep for MONTHS in your fridge. After step 2 above, all you need to do is transfer the chicken to a container, cover it completely with fat, let the fat re-solidify, and then throw it in your fridge. When you’re ready to eat it, just follow steps 4 and 5 (you’ll want to scrape the solid fat off the chicken before putting it into the frying pan). I can see myself making a huge batch of this in the future, so that I can have chicken confit whenever it strikes my fancy.

*Incidentally, I also learned how to easily poach an egg this weekend. Turns out, there’s a crazy-easy way to do it using plastic wrap. Check out the video!

Article Roundup (Volume 2)




I run across a lot of interesting blog posts that don’t warrant a full blog post, so every now and then I’ll be doing an article roundup to share the latest.

The Truth About Marissa Mayer: An Unauthorized Biography
This is a long read, but a fascinating one. Marissa Mayer has long been a role model for me and this unofficial biography had me captivated. With the caveat that I have never met Mayer in person, the article paints a very realistic and nuanced picture of her strengths and weaknesses. And while it’s clear she’s far from perfect, I still look up to her and consider her one of my technological and business idols.

The Happy Secret to Better Work
Yup, another TED talk about happiness. This one posits that “90% of your long term happiness is predicted not by the external world but by the way your brain processes the world”, and that happiness isn’t a result of success but rather that success comes in greater measures from happiness. It’s a fresh take on the concept that taking care of your mental and physical health will improve all other areas of your life as well, and it would do all of us entrepreneurs well to remember!

How and Why to Teach Your Kids to Code
This is an old article, but a good one. If you read my thoughts about how to get more women into technology – specifically that we should be introducing programming at a younger age – but wondered how to start, this article is for you. There are a ton of great recommendations for games and tools for kids and adolescents that will teach them the basics of computer programming.

Optimize For Happiness
Despite the title, this article’s actually about bootstrapping. In it, GitHub founder Tom Preston-Werner talks about his decision to bootstrap his company instead of fundraise. I’m a big proponent of bootstrapping, having done it all my life, and I think there’s often too much focus on how much a company raise (versus how much a company makes) in the media. It’s great to see other tech companies coming out on the pro-bootstrap side of the fence.

Startup Phenomenon Women




ColoradoBiz magazine recently posted an article I wrote about how to close the gender gap in technological fields. In it, I hypothesize that the way to draw more women into IT isn’t via segregation and coddling, but rather early exposure and long term encouragement. Here’s an excerpt:

Attracting more women to the STEMs fields is a mission that’s very important to me, but it’s a topic that I think is frequently mishandled and misunderstood. It’s often said that we should make tech environments more “female friendly”, that we should offer female-only programming classes, or that we should coddle women to make sure they feel comfortable in the male-dominated world of coding. That’s ridiculous.

Don’t get me wrong, sexism does exist in the programming world, and that needs to stop. But segregation and babying isn’t the answer. Singling women as the “odd ones out” only perpetuates the belief that women are less innately able to perform at the same level as men.

Looking back over my own history in the programming world, there were certainly times when I felt excluded or denigrated simply because I’m a woman. But there were two things that kept me going in spite of the rude remarks: 1. my love of coding, and 2. my relationships with people who believed in me.

You can read the whole thing here.

And if you’re as interested as I am in attracting more women into tech and startups, you should consider coming to Startup Phenomenon Women in Boulder on September 3.

SP-Women-Banner

I’ll be speaking on a panel about women in the STEMs fields alongside some tech heavyweights in the Boulder startup community. Hopefully I’ll see you there!

SXSW V2V




logo

Just a quick self-promoting post… If you’re going to be in Vegas for SXSW V2V next week, come heckle me at my panel, “Are Seed Accelerators Right For You?“. And if you can’t make it to that, at least hunt me down and say hi!

I’m Here




A couple of Chilean students attached balloons with messages like “Play With Me” and “Don’t Abandon Me” to stray dogs and the result is one of the sweetest videos I’ve seen in a while. It made me laugh and it made me want to go play with my own pup. Have a look:

ESTOY AQUÍ / Intervención Urbana from Felipe Carrasco G. on Vimeo.

Happiness




Today, I watched this TED talk by Stefan Sagmeister about how good design can precipitate happiness. While the discussion of design didn’t interest me much, Sagmeister’s list of the happiest moments in his life made me wonder what *my* list would look like. Certainly ranked would be hot chocolate and toast with my grandmother in her Parisian apartment, more than a few late nights learning to code in our old shoebox of an office, a couple of epic dinner parties ending in dance parties and sing-alongs, two incredible music shows, and reaching the top of my first fourteener.

But on the whole, I’m bad at retrospection. I spend more time thinking about the future and what I want to see, build, and do than I do reflecting on the wonderful moments I’ve experienced. I started to wonder what it would be like to be able to look back at a record of the great experiences I’ve had – big and small – over the last year. So, in what may be a short-lived failure or an uplifting success of an experiment, I’m going to try to post more often about the things that make me smile.

Up first, my sister, who made me the most adorable mix CD before she took off for LA, entitled “Happiness Mix: You can’t be sad when you listen to these songs”. It’s been on repeat all week and does indeed cure the blues. Music that also falls into the blues-curing category:

To Raise or Not To Raise?




There’s a fascinating Tumblr making its rounds in the startup community called My Startup Has 30 Days To Live, and whose tagline reads, “Through a series of unfortunate events, I took a bootstrapped (and profitable) startup onto the VC rocket ship. Now it’s crashing into the ground. Hard.” There have only been a couple of entries so far, and while a lot of people are focusing on the theme of when to fold your startup, I think the blog touches on another really important topic. Specifically, how accelerators drive startups toward institutional funding.

It makes perfect sense, at it’s core. Accelerators typically get equity in your startup, so they’re incentivized to push you toward “going big”. They have no interest in cushy “lifestyle” businesses or linear growth. Raising money ensures that your startup has a far more powerful and motivated party pushing you toward hockey stick growth and insane exits, so of course it’s in the best interest of an accelerator to have their portfolio companies raise a round.

Add to this that raising money is viewed (erroneously, in my opinion) as a sign of success. Raising a round from prominent institutions practically guarantees you coverage in tech blogs and publications, as well as a certain amount of prestige and pride in the industry. No one seems to care what your revenue and profit numbers are – just how much money you’ve raised and who you’ve raised it from.

These two factors create the perfect storm for a bootstrapper accepted to an accelerator. Having been in similar shoes (bringing a bootstrapped, profitable business to TechStars), I know what that pressure feels like. We almost got caught up in the hype too, distracted by the idea that if we just raised some money (nevermind that we didn’t need it or know what to use it for), we would be considered “a success”. It’s one of the things I warn new TechStars founders about – if you’re bootstrapped, be wary of the Demo Day hype.

That said, most (good) accelerators have a core tenet they repeat over and over: it’s YOUR startup and it’s up to YOU to make the decisions. It’s a tough lesson to learn, given how many incredibly smart people are throwing around their opinions, but not once during my time in TechStars did I feel we were forced to do anything. And at the end of the day, YOU’RE responsible for your own success or failure.

It’s a bummer that the Tumblr is anonymous, but I’m interested to see what happens next.

The Cotery




A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that I joined a new startup. Well, we finally have a name and a website: The Cotery! It’s based on the word “coterie”, meaning “a small group of people with shared interests or tastes”.

logo

We’re building a service that allows fashion designers to design cut-and-sew clothing lines via an interactive online customizer and sell their designs via a crowd-funding model. Our company handles all of the manufacturing and fulfillment, which dramatically lowers the up-front cost to the designer of turning their designs from ideas into reality.

Right now, we’re in the process of looking for a web developer to help me build out version 1 of the product. If you know anyone who would be interested in joining a Boulder/Denver based startup, send them my way!