Meet the Women Who Inspire LA’s Tech Leaders

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we asked women in Los Angeles tech about their biggest professional inspirations.
Written by Michael Hines
March 9, 2022Updated: March 14, 2022

Women in tech have to work harder than their male counterparts to earn the same opportunities and get the same level of recognition for their accomplishments. Naturally, it makes sense that the women they draw inspiration from overcame long odds to leave their mark on the world.

This mark can be an historical one, as in the case of Ada Lovelace, the godmother of computer programming, or Sallie Krawcheck, who shattered glass ceilings on Wall Street in the early 2000s and continues to do so in fintech today. 

That said, some find inspiration much closer to home. A hardworking mother who bucks societal norms of what a woman should strive to be can make just as big a mark as anyone from a history book or Forbes’ list.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we asked several women in Los Angeles tech to share their biggest professional inspirations. Continue reading to learn more about who inspires the directors, VPs and executives at some of LA’s fastest-growing tech companies.
 

Victoria Salerno
Vice President of Solutions Engineering

 

Victoria Salerno, VP of solutions engineering at Collectors, found career inspiration at an early age in her mother. Salerno’s mother bucked societal conventions, earned a master’s degree and built a career at a time when women were expected to orient their lives entirely around the home. In addition to inspiring Salerno with her actions, her mother offered poignant advice that encouraged her daughter to pursue a career in tech. 

 

Looking back on your career so far, is there a woman who has consistently inspired you? 

There is not one single woman who has inspired me but rather many women. However, if I had to name one who has profoundly inspired me, it is my late mother. She was a rare woman: a working professional mother who earned a college degree in the early 1960s and eventually a master’s degree. She was an amazing teacher and a dedicated mother and wife, which taught me how to balance family priorities and run a household all while maintaining independence. 

I recognize now how rare it was to be a working mother during those times, but yet she downplayed the significance of her accomplishments. The most valuable advice she gave me was to always remain humble. That advice has been the anchor that has grounded me throughout my career and is rooted at the core of my leadership thumbprint. Genuine humility in all things you do allows people to engage with you at all levels and ultimately inspire others to become the best version of themselves.

That advice is rooted at the core of my leadership thumbprint.”

 

How have you incorporated the lessons and achievements from your mom’s life and career into your own?

“Choose a career that you will love and success will follow you.” I heard that statement from my mother countless times in my younger years. It inspired me to pursue technology. She also said, “Know your strengths and apply them to the parts of your career that highlight your strengths.” It has taken many years to learn how to channel my leadership qualities and design skills in my technology career. But once I figured out how to apply them, it was all uphill!  

If you choose a career you are passionate about, it will truly never feel like work. This passion will be the very inspiration that others will find from you and become the light that will guide them to a successful career.

 

 

Shiva Mirzadeh
VP of Engineering

 

For as long as there has been tech, there have been women in tech. Even before the computer was invented, women like Ada Lovelace laid the groundwork for the technological revolution to come. Shiva Mirzadeh, the VP of engineering at Convoso, said learning Lovelace’s story early in college played a formative role in the academic and professional careers she’s built.

 

Looking back on your career so far, is there a woman who has consistently inspired you?

In my first year of college, I was one of five female students in the engineering program. The professor noticed that the girls in the class sat with one another and told us the story of Ada Lovelace. I was really inspired that the first computer programmer was female and felt a sense of pride because she programmed at a time when there were not only no computers but also no women in the field. I aspired to be as brave and daring as she was. In my first year the same professor also mentioned that a majority of his students do not pass the class due. With Ada as inspiration I continued my education, passed the class and went on to obtain a PhD in engineering. 

Having Ada as an inspiration led me to be comfortable in this male-dominated field.”

 

How have you incorporated the lessons and achievements from Lovelace’s life and career into your own?

In the mid-1800s women’s roles were highly restricted and often limited to performing domestic duties. Ada Lovelace proved that even in restrictive times, you don’t have to follow society’s norms or expectations. This gave me the courage to not only follow my passion for software engineering but also to specialize and pursue a bachelor’s in electronics and robotics where I was one of only two women in my whole department. Having Ada as an inspiration led me to be comfortable in this male-dominated field.

 

 

Esther Kestenbaum Prozan
Chief Revenue Officer

 

Flowspace’s chief revenue officer finds her career inspiration in one of Amazon’s first employees, MacKenzie (Bezos) Scott. Esther Kestenbaum Prozan said Scott’s numerous accomplishments, which extend far outside of her involvement with the tech giant, have inspired her to try and make a multi-dimensional impact with her skills and time.

 

Looking back on your career so far, is there a woman who has consistently inspired you? 

I have come to find MacKenzie (Bezos) Scott to be an inspiring Renaissance woman. From being part of the founding team at Amazon and writing award-winning novels to her cause work as executive director of the anti-bullying organization Bystander Revolution and more recently being a signatory of the Giving Pledge, the arc of her journey is fascinating and inspiring. She is a hugely successful, well-rounded person who makes a multi-dimensional impact.

She is a hugely successful, well-rounded person who makes a multi-dimensional impact.”

 

How have you incorporated the lessons and achievements from Scott’s life and career into your own?

I have tried to make space for giving back through involvement with nonprofits and currently sit on the board of the global NGO ChildFund International. I also write and publish original content about my industry as well as business, specifically how to drive efficient revenue growth. Being intensely involved in the business world, it is easy to become self-absorbed. Remaining open and multidimensional is something I am actively focused on.

 

 

Carolyn Steinmetz
CFO

 

Sallie Krawcheck’s careers in finance and tech have served as inspiration for many, including Carolyn Steinmetz, the CFO of Collab. Steinmetz said Krawcheck’s advice around understanding risks and networking have been critical to the career she’s built so far.

 

Looking back on your career so far, is there a woman who has consistently inspired you? 

Starting my career in finance, Sallie Krawcheck has always been an inspiration to me. She rose to become the head of both Citi’s and Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s wealth management divisions, becoming the most powerful woman on Wall Street. She was always known as a contrarian who used her leadership to question the status quo. And while she broke all sorts of glass ceilings on her ascent, she was eventually forced out due to this approach. 

She then pivoted to entrepreneurship, applying her financial acumen to developing Ellevest, a company focused on women’s financial literacy. I found it so inspiring that she was able to rise so high in a more traditionally structured role and could reinvent her mindset around her contribution to society to launch and run a company that serves an underserved market.

She used her leadership to question the status quo.”

 

How have you incorporated the lessons and achievements from Krawcheck’s life and career into your own?

Krawcheck has many lessons for women in business and entrepreneurship, and some of my favorites are to get comfortable taking risks by understanding the downside and to network like crazy. In business, you want to make sure that the probability of upside in success outweighs the probability of downside loss. For instance, when I am making a major career decision, I like to engage a career coach to talk through the possible outcomes in detail, because while many of the upside scenarios are clear, I want to make sure I am aware of and prepared for any potential risks change can trigger. 

The benefits of maximizing what you value down the road can far outweigh that cost. Additionally, I focus on building and maintaining my network. I run a group focused on connecting and developing senior-level women on the business side of media and entertainment, and everything I continue to learn from these connections has been invaluable for my personal and professional development.

 

 

Prodege office space
Prodege

 

Jessica Batty
VP, Marketing & Corporate Communications

 

Jessica Batty is proof that professional inspiration doesn’t have to come from someone who shares your profession. Batty, VP of marketing and corporate communications at Prodege, said Peloton VP, author and ultramarathoner Robin Arzón inspired her to make a major life change that ultimately led to a major career opportunity.

 

Looking back on your career so far, is there a woman who has consistently inspired you?

When looking for inspiration in the last decade, I go beyond the boardroom. I love Robin Arzón, most notably from her work at Peloton. Robin embodies the hustle that I love as I grew up in New York, however she balances it by prioritizing herself. She took a hard pivot in her career and embraced doing what was right for her, and I can’t agree with that move more. I first started following her when she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes — which I have as well — and appreciated her candor and insights regarding working out with it.

Robin embodies the hustle that I love.’’

 

How have you incorporated the lessons and achievements from Arzón’s life and career into your own? 

I started my marketing education as a junior in high school taking college-level courses. I’m not going to hard pivot my career, but I definitely took a page out of Arzón’s book and prioritized myself and my happiness in 2018. I left my job and decided to move to Los Angeles with my husband. It was something I had always wanted to do but because of personal commitments, no job opportunities and the hesitancy to move cross-country on a gut feeling, I never did it. To this day I’m thankful we did, as it allowed me to land my role at Prodege where for the past four-and-a-half years I’ve grown our B2B marketing team and overall brand.

 

 

Brooke Norton Lais
Chief Marketing Officer

 

Keyla Lazardi is the chief scientific officer at Revlon and a PhD in biochemistry. According to Brooke Norton Lais, chief marketing officer at Welcome Tech, she is also a talented leader and motivator. The two worked together at Proctor & Gamble, and Norton Lais said she looked to Lazardi for inspiration when refining her own unique leadership style.

 

Looking back on your career so far, is there a woman who has consistently inspired you?

My friend and colleague, Keyla Lazardi, who is currently chief scientific officer at Revlon. She has inspired me since we worked together on global innovation for Pantene in 2007. With a PhD in biochemistry, Keyla is undoubtedly brilliant and also a strong leader. Keyla’s style is passionate and enthusiastic but also direct and no-nonsense, which gives her a unique talent for inspiring others to do their best work. Keyla is also a true problem-solver and is unafraid to challenge the status quo. 

In witnessing her confront daily business challenges and design global innovation plans, I learned that she is a great motivator of people who did not suffer fools or settle for mediocrity. Keyla’s tenacity and ability to motivate teams using her unique blend of subject matter expertise, fearlessness and enthusiasm inspired me to refine and strengthen my leadership style.

Keyla gave me a new model of strong leadership to emulate as I became a people manager.”

 

How have you incorporated the lessons and achievements from Lazardi’s life and career into your own? 

Keyla gave me a new model of strong leadership to emulate as I moved forward in my career and became a people manager. I had previously been told in an annual review that I was not direct enough in my approach as a leader. Through observing and learning from Keyla, I realized that a leader could be strong and direct yet also personable and fun.

In Keyla, I saw a woman who had successfully crafted her own brand of leadership, and this inspired me to be true to myself as a manager and leader. Her mentorship helped me to craft my own leadership style — one that is direct and collaborative, demanding and understanding, and passionate and reflective.

 

 

Chelsea Moon
Creative Director

 

As a child, Chelsea Moon would often visit her mother at work, although the “office” changed locations each week. Her mother was an event planner, and Moon said watching her work showed firsthand how true the old adage “you get out what you put in” can be. Moon, who is the creative director at Route, said this experience has shaped her leadership style, which is focused on positively pushing forward in the face of challenges.

 

Looking back on your career so far, is there a woman who has consistently inspired you?

My mother has been a constant inspiration to me. She is one of the hardest working people I know and has always gone above and beyond for everyone around her. My mother was a successful event planner and put on the most extravagant experiences, from weddings to celebrity events and massive charity gatherings. As a child I would often go with her to the events. It was amazing to see how she so easily took the stress and frustration upon herself and away from her clients.

She navigated the toughest challenges and hurdles associated with putting on major events, allowing everyone else to enjoy these moments and gather with their loved ones. I saw her effortlessly succeed at this and still make it home in time to cook dinner for her family or attend school meetings as president of the parent teacher organization.

The work you put into something is exactly what you get back.’’

 

How have you incorporated the lessons and achievements from your mom’s life and career into your own? 

Directly witnessing how she was able to strive, succeed and take on different challenges has absolutely affected the way that I work with teams and lead. The biggest lesson I learned is that the work you put into something is exactly what you get back. She worked so incredibly hard and it came back to her through the wonderful friendships she cultivated and the joy people felt that they attributed directly to her. I know it gave her great purpose.

I always try to keep this in mind when I feel like something is too difficult or draining. I constantly try to positively push forward and push boundaries because I know and have already seen the effect it can have, like that amazing feeling you share with your team when you have pushed so hard and succeeded.

 

 

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