1. Tell me more about what you are doing as Founder of Hype AR?
I am currently running a startup focused on creating an augmented reality advertising platform. You can already see this happening with snapchat filters advertising films and products. As digital content continues to move off our screens into the real world, we want to create a platform that shows you ads that are relevant to you, and your surroundings. We are building tools to do just that.
As the founder of a tech company, I wear many hats. I must develop a vision of where we want to take the company, and then steer us there. This involves setting and maintaining core values and following up with teams, understanding what blockers they have and lifting them. I also have to do a lot of sales and marketing. I get to talk to a lot of customers, to understand their problems, and pitch solutions to them. I also write a lot of blog posts and other educational materials, so clients and other interested people can better understand AR and AR advertising.
2. Why did you choose to go into computer science?
I went into college wanting to become a chemical engineer. To fulfil a requirement, I took an Intro to Java class. I really liked how I could change one line of code and instantly see an output, and how easily I could share that output with the rest of the world. After doing an externship with a pharmaceutical company, I realized that a career in chemical engineering would not work for me. Realizing that computer science and technology is probably going to be the underlying force that will dictate almost every field, I made the move to studying computer science.
3. What is your favorite aspect of your job?
When I was working as an early software engineer at Snapchat, I liked getting to shape features and working on a lot of different stacks. You learn a lot and have to pick up new languages quickly. I think that is the fun bit, there is always something new to learn during development.
Being a founder is entirely different. It is up to you to define the products you're creating. I like talking to customers to get some of those requirements, but still being able to set the direction.
4. What do you find the most challenging aspect of being the founder of a start up?
Obviously, both are a lot of work, and it can be stressful. That said, my background as a software engineer gives me a better idea of the technical aspects of Hype AR. This allows me to set reasonable goals and accept clients I know we can deliver high quality work to.
5. Why did you choose to start your own company?
I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I like solving problems and wanted to have some ownership of the problem I'm solving. I knew this when I chose CS as my major, I knew this when I chose which jobs to take. I wanted to work at one big company, then one small company, and then go to business school before starting my own business. Of course, things didn't work out that way. At a hackathon I competed at while working at Snapchat, my co-founder and I started Hype AR and received funding. It made sense to skip a few steps and start a company.
6. As a woman of color, what has your experience in Silicon Valley been like?
I think I was sort of prepped for it. When I was in college, I was one of the 10% of women in the CS major, and I did not really have any female mentors in the field to look up to.
I think I did learn to step up though. When I took my first job at Apple, I was the only female engineer on my team for a while. I brought this up to my manager, and we went through the whole resume and sourcing process together. It seemed that by the time you get to the interview portion of the hiring process, women are in the vast minority. Understanding this motivated my manager to be a lot more thoughtful during the sorting stage. They actually hired three more female engineers to our team!
7. What has been your greatest achievement in your career so far?
Starting my own startup! I feel very lucky to be in the startup space, it isn't something that everyone is able to do. It did take a great deal of courage though, as it is a big step outside of my comfort zone.
8. On the path to where you are today, what were your roadblocks?
On a day to day basis, figuring out how can I reach more customers. Long term, finding mentors. I did not realize the value of mentorship until I actually got a mentor. He helped me gain a lot of confidence and pushed me to take initiative. I wish I could have found someone like that sooner.
9. What do you believe is the most important thing for girls to know before pursuing STEM?
It's not just a boy’s thing. STEM is something that girls can pursue as well. I see a lot of girls come in thinking that they are an outsider in these fields so they should not purse them. If you like it, then you should pursue it, regardless of your gender.
10. How do you think your field will change in the next 10 years?
Computer science as a whole has become so core to us over the last 10 years. There is this enormous demand for software engineers that the country is unable to fulfill. I think that in the next 10 years, a lot more people will realize that there is value in learning how to code.
11. What problem would you like to see solved by STEM in the next 10 years?
Climate change. If we don't fix it, we as a species will die.
12. What motivates you?
Problems do. I get so inspired by thinking about all the places the addition of technology could solve problems, whether it is in manufacturing or remote area water management. It is so exciting to live in a time where I actually can make an impact and solve these problems.
13. How do you define success?
I would define success as a series of failures followed by that one moment of luck plus intelligence. I think that we often overemphasize success and forget to celebrate failure. Nobody just became successful one random day. They kept trying and failing and failing and then they became successful.
14. What scientific discovery do you most admire and why?
I most admire the camera. I think they changed the way we preserve memories. When Kodak started, cameras became central to communication. They became like a third eye for us. Now, over a century later, we are using cameras to power visual search, and to share our lives online. It is interesting how important cameras are for us.
15. What one would you recommend everyone read and why?
I would recommend Life 3.0, It discusses how AI is taking over the planet while also looking at how our current technologies will evolve over the next ten years. I would also recommend Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. It inspired me to look around the world, see problems and imagine creative solutions.
16. If you could invent anything or make any discovery what would it be and why?
I would invent some software that would manage our limited resources in a sustainable way. I think we could both level inequalities and address the overconsumption that has led to climate change.
17. What high school superlative do you believe that you embody?
All Rounder! I think I'm involved in a bit of everything.
18. What advice would you give to your high school self?
Play more sports! There are so many lessons, like self-discipline, teamwork and decision-making, that I could have learned from playing a team sport. These are all such important skills for running a startup.
19. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be successful in computer science?
Being able to identify a clear problem and target audience
A knack for finding the simple solutions
20. What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I do hip hop. I love dancing and it is something I've done since childhood!