3 Tech Entrepreneurs Offer Startup Advice To Women in STEM

Pauline Ochieng

May 24, 2020

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In her interview with Queens in Tech, Megan O'Connor, Forbes 30 Under 30, Environmental Engineer and CEO, Nth Cycle debunks a common myth about tech entrepreneurship.

O'Connor says, "I think one of the biggest myths is that you can't be a founder or CEO with a science background. I would say that's the biggest thing that I hate hearing from people-"Well, you're from academia or you're from science...how could you possibly be a CEO?"

As every entrepreneur can tell you, starting a business can be challenging, but it is doable with the right skill sets. In the interview, Megan reiterates that "...while it's untraditional, I think that we have the necessary skills...it's all about determination and learning from failure."

Despite challenges and failure, entrepreneurs live on because they are resourceful, responsive and resilient, often acquiring the skills needed to adapt. This is a key point that Megan reiterates during the interview where she says, "And yes, there are definitely skills that you need to learn along the way."

According to her, "You don't have to have an MBA. You don't have to have a crazy business background." You should, however, have mentors and advisors who have been where you'd like to go or can support you as you go there.

You may be here today, wondering how to start up as a woman in STEM despite the challenges new founders face.

One way to assure your startup stays on track is by learning from founders who are consistently and intentionally walking the entrepreneurial walk.

Here's startup advice from three tech founders with STEM backgrounds-founders who are walking the walk:

"Be confident in yourself"
- Patrice Milos, PhD, CEO of Medley Genomics
Having grown her career at Pfizer, Patrice managed high-performing teams-taking biotech products successfully through rigorous FDA clinical trials.

An industry veteran and biotech entrepreneur based in Providence, Rhode Island, she now leads her cutting-edge startup Medley Genomics in this challenging branch of biology: precision medicine.

"To become an entrepreneur, you have to do your customer discovery; I think customer discovery is critical, really find that need in industry" - Megan O'Connor, PhD, CEO of Nth Cycle

A cleantech entrepreneur, Megan and her team of engineers and chemists in Nashville, Tennessee are developing technology to recycle critical metals in electrical components. Their focus is squarely on effectively recycling lithium ion batteries, lowering costs for tech manufacturers and sustaining the planet.

"Be simple; simplicity really is a beautiful thing. Simple means different things for different people, though. Keep it simple, build lean and test, test, test" - Beleicia Bullock, Computer Science Master's Degree Candidate, CEO of TechUp

Currently in Illinois, Beleicia is a tech prep entrepreneur. She's a computer scientist, master's degree candidate, and technical interviewing expert.

Her start-up TechUp helps women walk confidently into coding interviews.

With 40+ coding interviews of experience, Beleicia has received several offers each year from Adobe, Qualcomm, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Accenture, Groupon, and Comcast.

Although entrepreneurship is no joke, keep in mind that you have access to people and resources that will help you along your path. Choose to be resourceful!

Key Takeaways

While "be confident in yourself" might seem simple, it is profound!

- Your self-image drives your decision making and no one will build the life you want for you. Be your own cheerleader, lean into your strengths and be aware of your blindspots

Your business is your customer, not your product or service

- Create solutions, not products or services. Each product/service offering should solve real, existing, verified customer problems. Do your customer discovery before investing in product/service development

Keep it simple and lean; continue testing approaches as you go

- Stay focused and accept that learning, adapting, and testing are life processes. You will never have it all figured out, but you can always learn and adapt

To listen in as Patrice, Megan, Beleicia and other women in STEM share heartfelt details about their lives, experiences and advice as entrepreneurs, find Queens in Tech on Spotify or wherever you get your podcast fix.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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