Interview: Robyn Cohen of Girls in Tech
Adriana Gascoigne and Robyn Cohen
Girls in Tech made a splash into the Los Angeles tech scene in December with a launch party and since has held hot events (co-ed so boys you're welcome too) around town for the Girls in Tech...and the people who love them.
Girls in Tech is a social network enterprise focused on the engagement, education and empowerment of like-minded, professional, intelligent and influential women in technology. Created in February of 2007, ‘Girls in Tech’ (GIT) was founded by Adriana Gascoigne. GIT and was born out of a need to provide a place for women to cultivate ideas around their careers and business concepts involving technology.
The Los Angeles chapter's Executive Managing Director is Robyn Cohen. Originally from Toronto, Canada, Robyn is a fashion and beauty maven with a passion for tech. Her main focus with the growth and launch of the LA chapter is to focus on the business development initiatives both online and offline for the organization. Robyn also is the big-cheese in LA for producing GIT events, organizing bloggers for the site and building awareness about Girls in Tech in Los Angeles.
LAist: Tell us about Girls in Tech.
Girls in Tech aims to offer a variety of resources and tools for women to supplement and further enhance their professional careers and aspirations in technology. Some of these resources include, educational workshops and lectures, networking functions, round table discussions, conferences, social engagements, and recruitment events.
When was the LA chapter created? What is your role and how did you become involved?
The LA Chapter was launched in September 2008. I met Adriana, the Founder, at Twiistup 4 last year. She was handing out Girls in Tech stickers and I asked her about it. I thought it was such a great concept. We kept in touch after and one day she asked me if I knew anyone who would be interested in heading up the LA chapter. I told her I would keep my eyes and ears open. Then she asked if I wanted to do it. I didn’t feel I fit the GIT description, but she felt I did, and the rest is history.
What do you see as the primary mission of the LA Chapter? How do "Girls in Tech" differ in LA versus other cities?
The primary mission for the LA chapter is two-fold.
One is to bring together women from all the different industries in LA, entertainment, media, finance, fashion, etc. Each one of those industries has a connection with the web. It’s not about whether one is a programmer or SEO expert. You may be the Online Brand Manager for a fashion company, or you may be the Interactive Marketing Manager for a Film Studio, or you may just have a passion for tech. I want to bring all those women together.
Two is to educate women on what is happening with the web/tech. Let’s learn about SEO, let’s discuss the best way to achieve ROI online, let’s highlight a successful female entrepreneur or a women-focused web business.
GIT LA differs from the other cities, because 1) the array of industries we have here. Entertainment does dominate, but we can bring together fashion, PR, media, etc and talk about what’s going on with tech and how it affects them, 2) LA’s tech community is very open and people want to network and meet people to collaborate on different projects, and 3) the Hollywood/Tinsel town aspect is great, because more celebs are getting involved with the internet and eventually we can start engaging with them and producing events with them which would be very exciting.
What kind of events have you thrown? What's next?
The events I have thrown so far have been a couple of mixers. One event was called ‘Startup Savvy’, part of our Incubator series where we highlight a female entrepreneur and her company or a female-focused company. Another was the Social Fashion & Beauty Summit.
Is it just about the networking? Or are there other benefits to being part of the GIT community?
That goes back to our mission. It’s about networking and making new connections, but it’s also about educating and empowering women. Tech is a boys-club no doubt. When you think of tech, you think of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, we need to work on highlighting the women that are moving and shaking in this industry.
Is it exclusive to women?
It’s not exclusive to women. Some events will be strictly for women and some will be open to both men and women. I don’t want to shut out men; I would like them to support what we are doing.
What defines a "girl in tech?" Do I have to be a developer or software engineer to get involved?
What defines a ‘girl in tech’ is you either have a passion for tech, or you work in the tech industry, or you work in another industry such as fashion, but are in the online division.
What is the vision for GIT? Where do you see the organization in a year, or 5 years?
What’s remarkable is GIT has gone from 3 chapters (SF, LA, NY) to a dozen nationally and half a dozen internationally within the last four months. Clearly there is a need for this type of organization.
In a year I see GIT dominating all the major US cities with our presence both online and offline. I also see us implementing our GIT University program with several major US Colleges and Universities. Like the city chapters, there will be university chapters nationally engaging and educating female students. We are also working on a reality TV program with a production company. It would be great to start full production on it. Finally to get a handful of great corporate sponsors behind us.
In 5 years, definitely to have a solid worldwide presence. We would love to do a major annual Girls in Tech Conference like Maria Shriver’s Women Conference, but focused on tech and entrepreneurship. Other than that, I’m not sure. It would be interesting to hear what Adriana, the Founder, would say to this question. There are so many exciting opportunities with this organization, I’m just thrilled to be a part of it.
What are the first 3-5 websites you look at in the morning? What should every "girl in tech" have bookmarked?
- Twitter - It’s a wealth of information and very entertaining
- HuffPost - News - politics, media, business, entertainment, etc all in about 20 minutes.
- Facebook - To see what my friends are up to, but also to see what events are happening that I can attend.
- Girlsintech - Of course! To read the latest entries from our team.
- Popsugar and the other sugar sites for fun.
This must keep you busy! Are there other projects you're working on?
Funny enough, a month after I launched the LA chapter I lost my job, hence our current times. So, the other projects I’m working on is one finding a job, but also looking into starting my own company. It’s during these times that you have to be creative, resourceful, and very pro-active.
Give us some of your LA secrets! What's your idea of a perfect LA day?
My idea of a perfect LA day (particularly on a Sat or Sun with Tweets in between) is going for a hike at Runyon Canyon, having brunch with my hubby and friends in Larchmont Village (or the Huntley hotel in Santa Monica, or the Little Next Door on Third street). Going for a drive in the Hills or along the Pacific Coast Highway, grabbing an early dinner at Le Petit Four or Sushiya at Sunset Plaza, watching a movie at the Arclight Hollywood, then ending the evening with drinks on a terrace with hubby and friends.
One of the best restaurants in Los Angeles is AMMO on Highland. They only buy their produce from the local Farmer’s Markets and have a very unique and delicious menu. A lot of celebs go there, because it’s quiet, out of the way, and an intimate setting. The best place to get your nails done is Planet Nails & Spa on Santa Monica, just West of La Cienega. The best workout class is the Dancer’s Workout followed by Pilates with Skip on Tuesdays at the 24 Hour Fitness, Hollywood location. Finally, the best burger is 25 Degrees at the Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood blvd.
It's hard to define the "center" of LA. When you think of the center of LA, where do you think it is and why?
That’s a good question. LA is so spread out. There are companies in Burbank, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Culver City, Santa Monica, etc. For me, everything happens in West Hollywood and Hollywood. That’s the center for me. Be it going out for dinner, shopping, events, work, movies, and so on. Some people might say Santa Monica for the same reasons, but it’s not center, it’s right at the edge of the ocean, so that’s not center for me.
Tonight is your next chance to get in on that action when GIT (that's right, acronym love) hosts, The New World of PR. There will be networking and an amazing panel of PR rockstars including:*Brian Solis - Principal at FutureWorks
*Nicole Jordan - Director of Public Relations & Communications at Rubicon Project
*Christine Kirk - Senior Account Executive at Murphy O’Brien Public Relations
*Heather Meeker - Director of Marketing & Corporate Communications at Pelago
*Jennifer Fader - Vice President of eMedia at Rogers & Cowan
We've heard the event is almost sold out, so go buy your ticket!