Editor's Note: This post is part of a series produced by HuffPost's Girls In STEM Mentorship Program. Join the community as we discuss issues affecting women in science, technology, engineering and math.
At the end of this past summer I was asked to be the CEO of an education startup called Nanoogo. Being able to combine theory and business together to offer the public a product is a phenomenal opportunity. It is not unusual to hear gripes about the education field being too theoretical, so Nanoogo is focused on transforming theories into reality. Nanoogo is an online platform that students can use to develop creative works of art as part of their school assignments. For example, if a teacher assigns a character analysis assignment based on Charlotte's Web, students can draw, upload photos they capture or upload images they develop onto the Nanoogo platform and complete the character analysis right on the web. Think of it as a modern techie version of the original poster board for presentations.In the short period of time working at Nanoogo, I've been asked multiple times how it feels to lead a startup team with no technology background. Initially I was confused by the question and then eventually I began answering, "Terrific!" I realized that everyone who asked this question and who was also interested in becoming a founder of a startup was concerned because of the notion that startups that are successful need to have founders and CEOs who are coders. This belief has become less and less relevant. OnStartups.com offers insight on why it is not necessary to have a tech background in order to lead a startup anymore:
Instead of building fancy technology from the outset, [founders are] hacking together inexpensive online tools such as online forms, drag-and-drop site builders, advanced Wordpress plugins, and eCommerce providers.
The availability of these types of tools allows everyday folks to be able to offer products or services in a professional manner that otherwise would have been impossible before. The other question I get asked often is, "Doesn't it feel awkward being the only female in the group?" My answer to that is lots of experiences in life are awkward and uncomfortable. However, the only way around them is to learn to deal with them. It is true that women and men lead differently, work together differently, analyze situations differently and operate under stress differently. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to understand these differences and figure out the most efficient way of handling problems that arise.The learning curve for first time founders and CEOs is incredibly high. I often feel that there is so much information that I do not know, which is why I spend several hours a day reading, researching, learning and figuring out if what I learned can be implemented into Nanoogo. This past week I had the opportunity to chat with Quora's head of Product Marketing, Community and Business Operations, Marc Bodnick, so I took the opportunity to get his thoughts on finding mentors and advisers. He point blank told me that there is not a hidden giant gold mine of unlimited advisers somewhere. The startup world has become significantly more competitive since the early years so finding an adviser who understands the market fully is not realistic. What is realistic is to always be learning, testing, and improving. These areas are definitely unlimited in scope. Within a short four weeks, the Nanoogo team tested hypotheses on over fifty teachers person-by-person and refocused the direction of the company. The new direction is exciting. There is something to what Anthony Volodkin of Hype Machine said:
Be undeniably good. No marketing effort or social media buzzword can be a substitute for that.