Bestselling author and tech industry veteran Alana Karen. Photo Credit: Alana Karen
Bestselling author and tech industry veteran Alana Karen spoke about her book “The Adventures of Women in Tech: How We Got Here and Why We Stay.”
Alana Karen has built an impactful career in Tech for twenty years, only to see headlines in media paint a grim image of women in Tech. Spurred by her own experience and the lives of other women, she wrote “The Adventures of Women in Tech: How We Got Here and Why We Stay” to address the need for guidance and truth about being a woman working in Tech.
Drawing from her work as an author, speaker, and award-winning tech leader, she collected the stories of over 80 women to make this powerful testament to real life in Tech. This game-changing book illustrates how women break down doors and cross barriers to create thriving careers, providing not only a guide to potential Tech leaders but an insight to those of us who benefit from the work of women in Tech in our everyday lives.
You have played a pivotal role in the tech industry and product development. ‘The Adventures of Women in Tech: How We Got Here and Why We Stay’ has been extremely popular with readers and reviewers no doubt because it is a much-needed and refreshing read for any woman looking to join the industry. What or who inspired you to write this groundbreaking book?
It was early 2019, and I was writing a series of articles on LinkedIn about my development over what was then 17 years at Google. The response was encouraging to my writing, but I noticed that people were really responding to the honest stories of my career journey through Tech.
At that time, post #metoo, many of the news articles were discouraging women in Tech with titles like “Do women belong in tech?”, and I couldn’t find a book that delved into stories of women in tech across backgrounds, roles , and ambitions. That seemed like a huge gap for women who were wondering if they should join Tech or thrive in Tech. That was the spark I needed to think “I could write that book” and start interviewing over 80 women for it.
You have been very successful in the Tech world. What initially drew you to seeking a career in tech?
Certainly not my education! My college degree is in History, and I spent time in Creating Writing and French courses in college. On the side though, I became really interested in the emerging field of web design and content development. I started to spend my nights teaching myself HTML in the computer labs, and I sought out internships where I could practice and learn more technical skills. I initially loved it because it was able to combine my love of art and writing.
I was enjoying it so much that I ultimately looked for jobs in web development after college, starting in a webmaster role at my university. I look back and think I got a bit lucky because there certainly weren’t classes back then on what I wanted, but I was able to find my own path.
What do you think is the most important key for women to know before they decide to have a career in tech?
You belong! I think we all have a mental picture of who belongs in Tech whether from movies, school, or personal experience. I can attest that Tech has a job and place for everyone. Every industry now leverages Tech for their area, and technology companies need all sorts of people both technical and non-technical to build and support their products. So first off, you belong and you shouldn’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
To follow that up, I think it’s really important to find support as you navigate your career (regardless of industry). I highly recommend forming support through colleagues, online groups, and people who can ask as mentors whether friends, family or co-workers. This support will help you on the hard days, celebrate your good days, and provide counseling as you navigate opportunities.
There are so many fantastic stories in ‘The Adventures of Women in Tech: How We Got Here and Why We Stay.’ I know this might be a hard question, but I have to ask is there one story in the book that resonated with you the most on a personal level?
I loved so many of the stories that I heard that it was hard to choose which ones ended up in the book. There is a story that gives me chills every time I repeat it. A Latina woman joined a team, and she felt like she was the “only” one like her. The team had women, but with her curly hair and forward demeanor, she felt loud and bossy compared to the relatively quiet people around her. She started to seek to fit in, straightening her hair and trying to be quieter.
Over time she came to a realization that she wasn’t the “only,” she was the “first”. That set her on the path to helping others like her join Tech at conferences and through other outreach. I love this story because it mirrors so many of our stories, not just those of women, of seeking to belong and trying to fit in — only ultimately finding ourselves after a long journey. I hope my book, through the stories and advice, helps people feel they belong more quickly.
‘The Adventures of Women in Tech: How We Got Here and Why We Stay’ has been a hit with readers and reviewers. Do you have another book or project in development that you can tell us about?
A follow-up workbook comes out in April. This time I’ve partnered with four amazing women to write this book, my co-author: Marily Nika, and contributors: Georgia Dealey, Syreaa Hughley, and Stacey Y. Rivers. Through personal stories and our life-tested exercises, we share ways to grow the 5 key skills I discuss in my first book.
These are Resilience, Marketing 101 (aka self-marketing), Asking (for what you want and need), Finding Support, and Own your Awesome. This book will further help women through their journeys in Tech by sharing the hard-earned lessons that helped us thrive.
“The Adventures of Women in Tech: How We Got Here and Why We Stay” is available on Amazon by clicking here.