Women of Inspiration


In February on the Huffington Post, I wrote about how Silicon Valley thinks women equal success. Ongoing, I plan to share examples of high-impact women leaders in high tech. In that HuffPo piece, I referenced Cindy Padnos, founder of Illuminate Ventures and a mentor of mine. With an impressive list of advisory board members that includes a significant number of women, Padnos’ early-stage VC firm illustrates that there can – and, I think, should – be more women at every leadership table. Oftentimes, it seems that equal gender representation seems far off not only in the Valley but in any boardroom. When we celebrate that there actually are a host of women doing amazing things in positions of high tech leadership, the high tech landscape will be a lot more desirable for future generations of women.

If I were to gather a group of women leaders who could serve as role models to today’s college-aged women who are aspiring to careers in high tech, who would I choose? There are so many candidates, like Cindy Padnos and like me. Here is who else I’d include:

Donna Horton Novitsky: Donna is CEO of Yiftee, a digital gifting solution. As her profile on Yiftee’s site reads, “Depending on how you count them, Yiftee is Donna’s 3rd or 19th start-up. She is also a former partner of a top tier venture capital firm [and] teaches marketing to engineers and entrepreneurs at Stanford University.” When I ran engineering at Scopus, Donna was the VP of Marketing at Clarify; Clarify and Scopus were competitors. I held her in very high regard then, as I do now. We sit on the Illuminate council together.

Amal Johnson: Among her past positions, Amal was president of Baan Americas, which made enterprise software. She was also at Lightspeed partners when Lightspeed invested in Exigen, where I was president. We now serve together, along with Donna, on the Illuminate advisory council. Listing Amal’s many advisory board positions would be exhausting, and those many honors reflect that she and her leadership capacity are held in very high regard.

Victoria Treyger: Currently CMO at Kabbage, which provides instant financing to online merchants and small businesses, Victoria was CMO at RingCentral prior to my joining the RingCentral team. Originally, I met Victoria through RingCentral CEO, Founder, and Chairman of the Board Vlad Shmunis when Victoria worked at Travelocity. I remain impressed by the career she has built in marketing leadership in high tech.

Heidi Roizen: Currently Operating Partner at Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Heidi is a Silicon Valley native who founded and served as CEO of T/Maker, an early personal computer software company. She serves on a number of advisory boards and teaches a class called “Spirit of Entrepreneurship” in Stanford’s MS&E department. Along with Donna and Amal, we sit on the Illuminate council together. I met Heidi through my uncle Nahum Guzik, an entrepreneur and inventor; Heidi’s father and my uncle were good friends. Heidi’s networking prowess is legendary; in fact, there is an HBS case about it.

Leyla Seka: Leyla is SVP & GM Desk.com at salesforce.com. I have enjoyed it when our paths have crossed at women in leadership events. Importantly, Leyla has played a significant role in the advancement of women in positions of tech leadership: she inspired Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff to guarantee equal pay for women in their company. Leyla, Heidi, Donna, Amal, and I serve on the Illuminate advisory council together.

This is just the beginning of a list of impressive women with whom I’d love to have a dinner table conversation about the future. I’d ask these women for their thoughts on gender-neutral workplaces, and I’d also ask them how they’d encourage future generations of women to follow in our footsteps.

What questions would you ask this group, and who would you add to the list?

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About Kira Makagon

Kira Makagon is a successful serial entrepreneur and tech industry leader. A graduate of UC Berkeley with both an undergraduate degree in computer science and an MBA, she enjoys sharing her lessons learned from being a veteran “only woman in the room.”

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