Create & Cultivate 100: STEM: Jessica Naziri

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THE DIGITAL DARLING.

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You know that one friend you have, who you always go to for tech tips, the trendiest gadgets, or the best apps to organize your life? That's Jessica Naziri, tech expert, writer, speaker, and founder of TechSesh.co, a tech and lifestyle site for women. It's where culture and tech meet. 

Jessica is on a mission to bring tech to women and women to tech. It's a win-win. Recently listed on Inc.'s 30 Inspirational Women in Tech 2017, Jessica started her career as a technology reporter for The Los Angeles Times, CNN and CNBC.com. She's consulted for Google, Intel, Dell, and Samsung, helping get their message to a millennial audience. But she's also committed to fostering the next generation of female tech leaders. 

More from Jessica below. 

Name: Jessica Naziri

Instagram Handle: @jessicanaziri

Where do your drive and passion come from?

TechSesh.co was born out of my passion for creating a platform that celebrates incredibly dynamic females in the tech space and a place where women can talk candidly about their journeys and share actionable advice that fellow career-focused women can hold on to. My drive and passion come from the lack of what is out there. I wanted to close the tech creative gap and come up with development solutions and show that it is okay to be creative, fashionable and involved in the tech industry. I feel like that’s something this industry can expand on. There was a gap between lifestyle and tech companies who needed help, and there was no one there to help them. I saw this void and I wanted to make a difference in order to encourage people to break the stereotypes in the tech space.

You didn’t have a traditional trajectory into tech. After working in the startup world, you taught yourself to code. What was that experience like?

I started my career as a technology reporter for CNBC and the LA Times and later as a tech exec at a local start-up in LA. I still remember looking around at all my co-workers who were the ones building the product roadmap, debugging and testing the latest version of the app and I felt inferior. At the time I didn’t touch a line of code and I felt that I needed to prove myself even further because I was female— so I took more initiative, wore many hats, wrote and pitched content, and was able to make a huge impact in the company. Still, the reality of it was, no matter how hard I worked, the problem wasn’t me. It was my gender. I promised myself that day that I would never allow gender bias to affect me and I would never overcompensate because I was a woman.

After seeing the gender gap in technology first hand, I wanted to make a difference by starting TechSesh.co, a modern woman’s destination to all things tech. My mission is to be inclusive, to inspire, to educate, and equip girls with the tech skills and knowledge to pursue 21st-century opportunities.

How do you feel as a woman in tech?

Embrace the 'f-word.' Since when did feminism become a bad word? If you advocate for women’s rights, you’re a feminist. Stand up for what you believe in: for your sisters and daughters. Women are more empowered than ever before. We’re seeing better products catered to women as we see more diversity. Pink is not a strategy. There is no one size fits all and companies are beginning to realize that! We should constantly be thinking about it because it’s the only way we get better and smarter as a society. With more opportunities, there are also more tech products. The more we push for inclusion, the better these tech products are, as they are based on needs and wants, not stereotypes of women.

"If you advocate for women’s rights, you’re a feminist."

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How have you successfully navigated such a male-dominated field?

I’m okay with knowing that not everyone is going to like me, especially in a male-dominated field. When working at the start-up, I realized men don’t apologize or ask for permission, they just do it. I learned quickly to do the same. So take it from me and do yourself a favor, eliminate “I'm sorry,” “excuse me,” and “if it’s alright” from your vocabulary. You don’t need to apologize for someone bumping into you, being passionate, asking for permission, raising children or saying no.

You don’t need to apologize for someone bumping into you, being passionate, asking for permission, raising children or saying no.

Women in STEM only represent 23% of the field. How do we get more women in tech? What are your hopes for young women who are interested in STEM?

Change comes through storytelling, whether that’s through an advertisement, a movie, or a book. We need to start by changing pop-culture and we need women as heroes in movies. Imagine your favorite beauty brand like Benefit coming out with an ad that promotes skipping class, not concealer or one of my favorite movies, Mean Girls where Lindsay Lohan gets a great grade on her math test and hides the fact that she achieved the A just to get a boy's attention - we send messages to our girls every single day that beauty is more important than brains and that science and tech is not for you. That is not the right way to empower women.

"We send messages to our girls every single day that beauty is more important than brains and that science and tech is not for you. That is not the right way to empower women."

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What is the best advice you have to young women wanted to get involved in the STEM world? Should they learn to code? Should they go back to school?

It is important for young women to know they can have successful and impactful careers in the tech sector without committing to a life of coding. You don’t need to go back to school to learn, but when you understand the technology yourself, you are ultimately empowered to do what you want to do. If your dream job doesn't exist yet, create it. I like business & technology because my ultimate goal is to empower millennial women through technology, and show them that they can make whatever they want to make with techs help.

"Success to me is not doing the same thing twice."

What is your biggest pet peeve?

Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State, once said, "There's a special place in hell reserved for women who don't help other women." My biggest pet peeve is when women who don’t help other women. We are already swimming in an upstream battle when it comes to respect in the field, so why are we not helping each other?

What are your biggest fears about running a business?

As an entrepreneur, I fear a lot of things. My fear has always been of failure. Putting in so much time, energy and passion towards something I love, while always fearing I may not succeed. But one thing I learned over the years is that entrepreneurship is not for the fearless, still, sometimes I lose sleep, dreading (or sometimes even expecting) the worst case scenario. I've learned how to channel fear in the most productive way by from mistakes and taking the time to study other people's mistakes. Every one of my biggest fears drives me to ensure that I never have to see them come true.

What's something you'd like people to know about your job that they probably don’t?

I get to work with tech companies, such as Dell and Moen, on their branding, packaging and social content for their products, in order to help them tailor their products to their target markets. I even earned the nickname "creative developer" because of how often I get called in to explain to the creative teams how their concepts work from a technical perspective.

IYO-- How can we stay original when we are so saturated with other people's work?

Success to me is not doing the same thing twice.

What about your career makes you feel the most complete?

My career makes me feel complete because everyday, I get to learn something new from the people I meet, feedback from my audience, and the always changing tech industry.

If you had to trade jobs with anyone else in the world, who would it be and why?

I love my job! I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

At what point in your career did you find the confidence to really take charge and become the woman you are today?

Women’s intuition is real. Follow it and you will become a master of your life. I followed my gut, left a cushy high paying job with benefits to start my passion project that turned into a full-grown business. I haven’t looked back since. When big brands reach out and tell me they love the TechSesh.co mission, I know I am doing something right.

I followed my gut, left a cushy high paying job with benefits to start my passion project that turned into a full-grown business.

What's the best advice you've ever been given? Or your favorite piece of #realtalk?

Authenticity is single-handedly the most important message and I can sit here and write about how successful I am, but it’s more important to talk about my failures and how I learned from them.

When you hit a big bump in the road, how do you find a new road or a detour?

The trajectory of my career path has been long and windy with so many potholes along the way. I have taken on jobs because I needed them, which then led me to more opportunities. But these detours have led me to where I am now with TechSatish. When I left my high-paying job, everyone thought I was insane. My husband, Michael, really encouraged me to start my own business and served as my biggest support system. Having a mentor, friend, or lover to bounce ideas off of and boost your confidence is key when dealing with these detours in your career changes.

What song do you sing in the shower when you’ve had a bad day?

I sing “Ok, Google, play Alanis Morissette's You Live, You Learn." Then I leave the singing to the professionals.

Photo Credit: @davisfactor

Hair & Makeup: @SmashboxCosmetics @TheGlamApp @TheOuai

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