Hi friends! I’m thrilled to share this blog (and audio) with you, as Laura Beth David, a colleague of mine at Gone Social, was fortunate to interview Sarena Bahad, the Founder of the Women In Tech Snapchat channel! I’ll be sharing the quick 12-minute Q&A below, along with the full Q&A in text with some bonus tidbits.
For some quick background, Sarena is a self-proclaimed Culture Vulture, Tech Geek, and Travel Bug. She is a champion of #DiversityInTech and #ChangeTheRatio. You can read here on why the world needs a platform and voice like Sarena’s Women In Tech Snapchat channel.
@WomenInTech is a Snapchat channel for women to discover other badass women in tech. It’s a place to learn, discover, connect, and get inspired. Different woman from different parts of the world host channel takeovers sharing what they’re working on, answering questions, and sharing insights and advice. Women In Tech is Snapchatter of the Year Shorty Award winner from the 9th annual awards!
Interviewing Sarena is Laura Beth David, who is a Marketing Manager in the tech industry, and thrives in event management and social media, and is also an avid fan and follower of WIT! She’s even hosted her own takeover!
Let’s dive in.
[0:18] Q1: What inspired you to start the WomenInTech Snapchat channel?
A1: Women In Tech started just as a real need. I feel like when I started becoming active on Snapchat, the influencers were entertainment and celebrity accounts sending silly selfies here and there, but there wasn’t an element of story telling. So I did a takeover on StartupTV and did a callout to my network — who was actively storytelling on Snapchat – and noticed that discovery on Snapchat is still very difficult, so I started WIT as a channel to connect with other women in the tech space storytelling their hustle every day.
[1:10] Q2: What has been your overall strategy on the channel? How has it evolved from the start to the present?
A2: I never really thought of this as a company, this was just something that needed to exist so we could all connect with one another, see diverse candidates in the tech space that are thriving. So the strategy has definitely evolved organically. For one – the difference from start to present – we’re actually approaching our 1year mark next week (May 23) that our Snapchat channel has been live. We’re also very active now on Instagram (Stories weren’t a thing there when we went live). Strategy has simply been to highlight diverse candidates every single day on the channel, and when these women do takeovers they share with their existing networks that they’re doing takeovers, so we’re built with growth in the channel and community.
[2:33] Q3: Congrats on winning the Snapchatter of the Year Award! Can you share what this means for the channel as well as yourself personally?
A3: So we were nominated and then became a Finalist for Snapchat Account of the Year. It was about a month ago (April) at the Shorty Awards in NYC, we won! It came as a big surprise – the winner last year was DJ Khalid. (Note, enough said, she’s killing it.)
We were up against some Snapchat accounts that had been around for a really long time; that had a larger audience and stronghold. We were the only account listed that was social good and education based. The win was huge for us! When I reach out to people in the tech community whether for takeovers or to tell them about the resource, I still get met with a lot of hesitation from those unfamiliar with Snapchat as a platform. This win confirms and validates the work that we’re doing. It’s huge in that it shows a change of the times. It shows that people want this type of media. They want media that is inspiring and has real positive impact in the offline space. There’s been a lot of momentum from the win, and I’m truly grateful from the bottom of my heart. Of course, after we become Finalists we put a big push to share with our network to get more votes, but it’s not like something I would ask in every day. It was one push. That means there were people that went to vote who are not even involved in our community that put their votes towards us. That means there’s this whole community that supports us that we’re not fully engaged with right now. So the momentum moving forward is about making sure that we get that full reach to have the most large-scale impact that we can possibly have.
Bonus! Here’s the video of Sarena accepting her Shorty Award, presented by Bill Nye!
[5:06] Q4: Where do you see the future of Women In Tech?
A4: I want WIT to be a go-to resource for women when it comes to getting advice, connecting with other women, to learning, etc. As mentioned, we are @WomenInTech on both Snapchat and Instagram, but I’d like to become a lot more active on YouTube. When it comes to Snapchat content, the 10-second videos, yes you can put together a narrative but it is quite choppy. I thin it would be interesting to show the source. Longer form quality content. Imagine in June – every Tuesday at 12pm ET if you come to our YouTube channel for 20 mins, at the end of the month you’ll know how to use InDesign. You’ll know how to build XYZ on your website. That sort of resource is what I want WIT to become. I’ve also been toying with the idea of a mentorship platform. A lot of women will ask questions on the channel and we do get a lot of repeat questions. It would be great to connect women in our community from investors, and those in school taking their first computer science class, or those taking internships at startups. The range of our community can match one another and lift one another up.
Q5: [7:03] Best tips for social media professionals?
A5: Be sincere and authentic with the way you communicate. One thing I love about Snapchat and video story telling – you see the expression on their face and hear the tone in their voice. You can basically cut through the crap; really, you can see the authentic whole person that’s there. What my tips for professionals is – what they’re supporting and what kind of messaging they align themselves with is truly connected with what they believe in and what their purpose is.
[7:54] Q6: Where do you think social media is heading?
A6: It’s always going to be here, and I love that. Social media helps scaled offline relationships. It’s mimicking how we can be in more than one place at one time (I wish we could teleport). We have a situation now where there are so many different platforms. I think what will end up happening is we will have one anchor platform, but it’s important to distribute messaging among several channels. We started as a WIT Snapchat channel, our logo is currently our Snapcode, but I see this building from that. There will be an umbrella organization that includes all of our social channels.
[8:55] Q7: Even live meet up events in majors cities might be fun as well!
A7: Exactly, exactly. Offline is huge. I used to work at a company called AngelHat, and previously Grub With Us, and here we would organize small dinners with 6-8 people and at AngelHat large hackathons with easily 200-300 people coming together on a weekend developing products. I’ve seen firsthand the magic of when you have successful online communities, when they meet in person that sort of spark just can’t be beat.
[9:36] Q8: What’s next for you?
A8: I’m doing a lot of work in building up the evolution of the WIT channel. Our channels have started having themes for different days. For example, Monday is now mindfulness Monday, where you get a little reminder to be present in the work that you’re doing, take a breath, and don’t be overwhelmed by the stress that sometimes overpowers us in the startup and entrepreneurial space in general. On Fridays is a consistent Founder Friday, so building up the Instagram channel, YouTube, the events, and collaborating with other communities and organizations that are doing similar work in listing up candidates in the tech space.
On a personal note, I’ve been NYC-based for about three years now. I was living in San Francisco before that for about three years also, but I’m actually moving to Los Angeles next year. For the last year I’ve been completely location independent. I’m currently in London and heading to Prague soon. I spent about six months in Asia, was in Bali, India, Thailand. I did a 10-day silent meditation retreat in Burma, so I’ve been doing a lot of personal, inner-self-development work. A lot of women in tech are shining the spotlight on some really sticky topics that go swept under the rug, that we don’t speak about at all. So there’s been a lot of inner strengthening that I’ve had to do in order to continue this journey to be able to continue to be that person and that organization that is happy to 1) highlight those companies and candidates and organizations that are a great and safe place for our candidates to work; and also 2) work with those companies and in those situations where there are still tension points.
Be sure to follow Women In Tech across social: Snapchat (@WomenInTech or scan the code below!), Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. I also recommend you check out Sarena’s blog post on why the channel was started.
PS – If you’re interested in a takeover, apply here or email firstname.lastname@example.org!
Note: Interview recorded in May 2017 as a part of Gone Social.