Using AI to Connect Women

Anne Cocquyt - Executive Director of Women in Product

Sponsored by Serendipity

Photography : @maria_boguslav

Photography : @maria_boguslav

I grew up in Germany and was always intrigued by the legal system. From the ages of 12-16, I was sure I wanted to be a judge one day. I was the top student in my math and German classes with 5 years of Latin under my belt, so I felt prepared for the journey. I must confess that John Grisham might have had something to do with that dream. When I experienced the county court for a 2-week “career orientation” at age 16, I left knowing that a career in the judiciary system was not in my future. I wish I had the opportunity to experience different careers at that age, but unfortunately, that was not the case.  I left high school quite “unoriented” and chose a college based on my grades rather than a dream. I studied business at an elite university in Germany and signed up for the mandatory Computer Science and Economics course. I was intrigued by how CS and Economics applied math to solve problems at scale or project macroeconomic trends. I also felt that it was an opportunity for me to differentiate my path at university from others as there were very few women in my class that majored in CS, Economics and Human Resources.

Fast forward a few years, I was in management consulting in IT and leading projects for the first major IT outsourcing deals.  I had not only learned a lot about technology, cloud computing, system architecture, managing teams of developers, I also navigated being the only woman in conference rooms, #metoo moments and getting my voice heard in a room full of guys shouting at each other. Understanding that there was always a solution to a problem and knowing who to ask for help got me to be my confident self years later when I started my own company in Artificial Intelligence, The Guild, in San Francisco.

I came to the US 7 years ago and experienced mostly male networking events and “manels” (male panels) I created a networking group that ultimately resulted in the GUILD, a networking platform for women. I saw a need and acted. We were the very first AI-driven technology platform to focus on women to connect them for 1:1 meetings. During the course of the past few years as founder of a tech startup and now as the executive director of a women’s non-profit organization for female product managers, I’ve seen a lot of change in the eco-system. More and more groups started focusing on women in tech, STEM, leadership roles and many small and large efforts have emerged.

Today there is no shortage of organizations that cater to women, offer networking events, workshops, retreats, dinners, platforms and conferences. I’m very happy to see this positive change but I hope we now start pulling some of these efforts together to build a true mesh network of organizations that collaborate and find ways to scale so that we can start advocating for change at higher levels with a unified voice.