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25 Influential Women in Tech to Follow Today

14 minute read | January 17, 2019
Tammi Chng

Written by:
Tammi Chng

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Alan Turing is often put on a pedestal as the de facto father of computer science. But it was Ada Lovelace, a female mathematician and scientist, who first recognized the raw potential of a “computing machine.”

The “enchantress of numbers” did this more than 100 years before Turing ever even conceptualized the Enigma-breaking machine that played a crucial role in World War II. And when Turing’s machinations were developed, more than 75 percent of British codebreakers working at the iconic Bletchley Park were women.

Despite that, the tech industry is fiercely male-dominated.

Issues of diversity continue to spark intense debate across the globe, and women coders and technology leaders like Susan Fowler, who worked at Uber, and Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, are stepping forward to talk about their own experiences with sexism and the importance of gender equality.

In order to celebrate these important female movers and shakers in the technology sector, here are some of the most influential women in tech to follow in 2019.

Related: Women in Data Science: Advice From 4 Experts

Women in Data Science

Caitlin Smallwood

Follow her on online

In the field of data science, no other technology platform is as keen on pushing boundaries to the limit as Netflix. It is therefore fitting that the first female technology leader on this list is Caitlin Smallwood, Netflix’s vice president for science and analytics since 2010. Even before the Netflix we know today developed, Smallwood was at the top of the field, bringing some of Netflix’s most well-known technologies to the platform. This includes the internal decision to support content streaming through metrics, predictive models, and tools like A/B testing to not only optimize Netflix services but also personalize content for users.

Her passion about data and the field of data science at large is clear as she participates often in podcasts and gives talks about the need for new data scientists to explore the myriad avenues of the discipline rather than limiting themselves to what comes the most naturally to everyone in the field.

Karen Matthys

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As the executive director of Stanford’s Institute for Computational and Mathematical Engineering (ICME), Karen Ebert Matthys has a proven track record, developing deep relationships with companies and national laboratories and building data science and visualization, machine learning, and high-performance computing solutions. In addition, Matthys has an extensive background with leading technology companies, from her time at startups to Fortune 500 companies. Today she holds the position of principal at Indigo Partners, a marketing and business strategy consulting firm, while also lecturing at different institutes (such as Stanford Law School) on AI and gender bias, demonstrating her prowess as a multi-talented technology leader.

Megan Price

Follow her online | @StatMegan

Megan Price’s work on data analytics transcends borders as her position as executive director of the Human Rights Data Analysis Group has brought her to a variety of locations around the world, such as Guatemala, Colombia, and Syria. Her strategies and methods for statistical analysis of human rights data has helped further humanitarian efforts on many fronts. Through the knowledge earned from her doctorate in biostatistics and her certificate in human rights from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, Price has helped harness the power of data science.

Neha Narkhede

Follow her online | @nehanarkhede

During her work at Linkedin as a senior software engineer and then principal software engineer, Neha Narkhede has achieved great things. Narkhede and her team built and developed Apache Kafka, a now-widely-used platform for processing huge influxes of data in real time. Narkhede herself helped to create one of the largest deployments of her Apache Kafka technology and was able to create a system capable of processing hundreds of billions of events per daywith incredible performanceallowing her to co-found her own business, Confluent, where she now serves as CTO. Today, her team continues to look into the development of Apache Kafka and its applications for real-time data processing.

Monica Rogati

Follow her online | @mrogati

As a technical and strategic data science advisor by trade, Monica Rogati has helped dozens of clients across industries focus on what data analytics can bring to the table, identifying the right long-term data science solutions for every client. Before her time as an independent advisor, Rogati also was Jawbone’s vice president of data, where her work with data analytics and applied machine learning helped build some of the most intelligent data products and wearables.

She was one of the earliest members of LinkedIn’s data science team, where she helped develop some of the company’s key data services, such as job matching, helping to revolutionize the job market through the application of her background in social network analysis, recommender systems, and natural language processing.

Women in Artificial Intelligence

Fei-Fei Li

Follow her online | @drfeifei

In November 2018, Dr. Fei-Fei Li attended a hearing at the chambers of the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, titled “Artificial Intelligence – With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.” Alongside her were some important people, including Timothy Persons, the chief scientist at the Government Accountability Office. Despite the fact that Li was the only woman seated at the table, she was also the only person who could claim to have made and contributed to some of the most groundbreaking breakthroughs in the complex field of artificial intelligence in recent history.

Fei-Fei Li is currently a professor of computer science at Stanford University and co-director of Stanford’s Human-Centered AI Institute and the Stanford Vision and Learning Lab. Her lengthy title aside, she is renowned as one of AI’s biggest advocates and also one of the field’s biggest and brightest researchers, as the leading scientist of the ImageNet project, which aimed to further visual object recognition software. Her work with the project led to one of the biggest breakthroughs in neural networks and AI in general.

Aside from her personal experience in technology, Li is also the co-founder and chairperson of AI4ALL, a nonprofit which aims to educate the next generation of AI scientists, while promoting diversity and inclusion through human-entered AI principles.

Jana Eggers

Follow her on Twitter: @jeggers

Artificial intelligence is one of the hardest and most complex topics a person could dive into, but Jana Eggers has embraced it, putting her love for all things mathematics and computers to good use. Today, she serves as Nara Logic’s CEO, a neuroscience-inspired artificial intelligence company that specializes in providing platforms for recommendation and decision support algorithms. Eggers’ career itself has helped take Nara Logic from a three-person startup to a 50,000-person juggernaut of an enterprise as she and her team drive customization and algorithms to their limit.

Silvia Chiappa

Follow her online | @csilviavr

From the age of 12, Silvia Chiappa has had a keen interest in and appreciation of mathematics and problem-solving, something that has culminated in her success as a tech leader in AI. Chiappa is now the senior research scientist at DeepMind, a subsidiary of Google that focuses on developing learning algorithms and artificial intelligence through raw data and experiences. She continuously supports and contributes to DeepMind’s initiative to encourage increased diversity and inclusion in the workplace, driven by her own experience as a female leader in a male-dominated environment.

Nikita Johnson

Follow her online | Twitter: @nikitaljohnson

Artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies are evolving quickly and their applications in real life business and societal challenges are never ending. With this in mind, Nikita Johnson helped to found ReWork, which creates and organizes globally celebrated summits, with one of their events even being voted #1 Best Artificial Intelligence Conference for Business Leaders in 2018. Johnson’s vision of the future landscape of technology is one where every business leader, whether they are CEOs or data scientists, has the tools and the motivation to disrupt industries with the revolutionary power of AI.

Joelle Pineau

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Joelle Pineau is the co-director of the Reasoning and Learning Lab at McGill University. She’s also an associate professor and a William Dawson Scholar, researching AI models and algorithms that have allowed her to apply and solve complex challenges in various sectors from robotics to games to health care. In 2019, Pineau will also split her time with her work at Facebook, where she heads the Canadian division of the Facebook AI Research Lab. Through her exciting discoveries in the field, Pineau was named a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists by the Royal Society of Canada.

Noor Shaker

Follow her online | @noorshak

Syria-born Noor Shaker is co-founder and CEO of GTN, a company that is making waves in the medical and biotechnology fields. Through her experience with machine learning areas such as deep learning and evolutionary algorithms, and over 50 publications in these areas, Shaker has revolutionized drug discovery by combining quantum computers and artificial intelligence to dramatically speed up the creation of new drugs, which will likely have far-reaching benefits for society. In 2018, Shaker was named one of the top innovators under 35 by the MIT Technology Review, an achievement bestowed upon the best of the best, cementing Shaker’s position in the tech industry.

Women in UX

Elizabeth Churchill

Follow her online | @xeeliz

Currently director of user experience at Google, Elizabeth Churchill is one of the top UX leaders in the world, integrating her background in psychology, artificial intelligence, and cognitive science to build and improve technology and service design. She has worked on a wide range of Google’s tools and frameworks, including Flutter and Material Design.

With over 100 peer-reviewed publications and more than 50 patents under her belt, Churchill has written and spoken extensively on complex topics such as implicit learning and frameworks for human-centered systems and design, bringing her knowledge and expertise in UX to the wider public, encouraging aspiring UX designers to take up the mantle.

Aside from her work at Google, Churchill was a former director of human-computer interaction at eBay Research Labs, where her research into people’s shopping and recycling practices as well as her research initiative “Putting the Person into Personalization” helped to further the still-developing field of user design.

Related: 25 UX Designers to Follow on Twitter

Cathy Pearl

Follow her online | @cpearl42

Not many people have as extensive a career in UX as Cathy Pearl, who has worked in the field of voice user interfaces since 1999 and has contributed to a range of organizations including banks, airlines, healthcare companies, and even Microsoft. In 2004, she designed IVR for 511 at Nuance Communications, a free service for the San Francisco Bay Area that enabled millions to get traffic and transit information in the age before smartphones (it’s a technology that remains in use today). She has gone on to become head of conversation design outreach at Google and published her own O’Reilly book, “Designing Voice User Interfaces.”

Lizzie Dyson

Follow her online | @lizziedyson

Lizzie Dyson has been making splash after splash in the UX world since graduating from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2012, starting with her work as a UX designer at the BBC. She has gone on to work with Rentalcars, a rental car company that aims to revolutionize the future of the industry. However, one thing she and fellow UX designer Georgie Bottomley noticed was that their industry suffered from a lack of womenespecially in mid- and senior-level positions. So, they got involved. Dyson helped set up Ladies that UX in order to create a space for women to engage each other and talk about their experiences as UX designers, giving many of their peers a platform to not only share their stories but to inspire more women to join their industry.

Indi Young

Follow her online | @indiyoung

Simply put, Indi Young is a trailblazer. Businesses thrive when they solve problems, but over time, many organizations neglect their roots and lose touch with their “problem space.” Young addresses this issue every step of the way as a personal coach and freelance user experience designer, synthesizing big data trends, user data and research, design think, and other methods to drive company performance without overstepping her boundaries and changing too much. She started her career early as a software engineer before transitioning into UX. Since then, she has founded Adaptive Path, the leading UX agency and pioneer of the field.

Alana Washington

Follow her online | @AlanaWashington

It’s impossible to talk about female tech leaders in UX design without talking about Alana Washington. As a self-proclaimed lover of good service design, data, and untangling complexities, Washington has taken her passion for design and desire to solve unsolvable problems and applied it to her work. Currently, she serves as Capital One’s strategy director of data experience design. Her growing team of UX practitioners helps design the intricacies of AI, from chatbots to deep learning. However, her personal goals are to focus on creating inclusive design by developing human-centered AI that explores the application of Afrocentrism and her own experiences to help solve some of the bigger challenges in the world.

Women in Digital Marketing

Talia Wolf

Follow her online | @TaliaGw

Digital marketing is all about conversionsand that’s something Talia Wolf knows intimately. As a specialist in conversion optimization, Wolf’s understanding of customer behavior and the power of emotional targeting and customer-centricity has helped her become one of the most influential voices in the space. She has shared her skills on stages such as Google, Unbounce, and Conversion Conference, among others.

She was also a co-founder of Conversioner, a conversion optimization agency. However, she currently runs GetUplift, which offers important conversion optimization services, trainings, and workshops. In her mind, the art of CRO is not just about simply altering elements on a page and hoping it worksinstead, she vouches for the power of simply finding out what problems people are having in their customer journey and solving those problems step by step.

Melanie Deziel

Follow her online | @mdeziel

Melanie Deziel is among the top digital marketers, taking her love for storytelling to the next level as she helps empower brands to tell their stories. As the founder of StoryFuel, Deziel is an internationally recognized keynote speaker with an extensive career, having graced the stage at some of digital marketing’s biggest events, such as Content Marketing World and SXSW. She was also the first editor of branded content at The New York Times, where she went on to write award-winning native advertisements. Her desire to help spread her love for storytelling has also led her to work as an adjunct professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, where she developed a content marketing course.

Mari Smith

Follow her online | @MariSmith

With a social media following of more than 1.7 million, it’s no wonder Mari Smith is often called “the queen of Facebook.” As the world’s foremost expert on Facebook marketing, she has topped Forbes’ Top Social Media Power Influencer list and is also the best-selling author of “The New Relationship Marketing.” Her background in internet marketing stretches back to 1999 and has culminated in a number of successes, including being headhunted to partner with Facebook as a leading small business and Facebook marketing expert, through which she has shared her experiences and expertise with budding businesses across the United States. IBM named her one of seven women who are shaping digital marketing, putting her alongside the likes of Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, and Alison J. Herzog, director of global social business strategy at Dell.

Purna Virji

Follow her online | @purnavirji

Named the most influential PPC expert of 2016 and a Young Influential of 2018 by Adweek, Purna Virji has had an extremely successful career in digital marketing. While she specializes in SEM, SEO, and voice search as a senior manager of global engagement at Microsoft, working on products and services involving AI, Cortana and Bing Ads, Virji is also a regular keynote speaker at various conferences across the globe, including MozCon. Prior to her work in marketing, Virji was an award-winning journalist and CEO of Purview Marketing.

Ann Handley

Follow her online | @MarketingProfs

As a Wall Street Journal best-selling author, Ann Handley is a pioneer in the field of digital marketing and has helped inspire and empower many others to create what she calls “ridiculously good marketing” through her training courses, keynote speeches, books, and her personal newsletter, Total Annarchy. The main driving force behind her work is her own desire to inspire others to do work they’re proud of, and through her work she has been named one of seven people shaping modern marketing as we know it. The marketing training and education company she founded, MarketingProfs, has more than 600,000 subscribers from all over the world and is a clear demonstration of Handley’s success as a digital marketer first and educator second.

Women in Technology

Gwynne Shotwell

Follow her online | @GwynneShotwell

Well known as SpaceX’s president and COO, Gwynne Shotwell was also one of the first employees of the company and has seen it grow to a valuation of over $30 billion. Just in 2018, the company won a $645 million contract with the U.S. Air Force for their next-generation GPS satellites.

Bloomberg Businessweek named Shotwell “SpaceX’s secret weapon,” as her success has driven the company and the development of some of the most exciting tech to come out of aeronautics in the last century. This includes the Falcon Heavy, which would have the largest capacity any rocket has had since the Apollo era.

Shotwell’s more than 30 years of experience as an engineer has translated into not only one of the most successful businesses in recent history, but also one of the most technologically advanced, as SpaceX news continues to generate buzz and excitement among the general public.

Jessica Butcher

Follow her online | @jessbutcher

Often called a visionary technology entrepreneur, Jessica Butcher has made good use of the past 20 years building successful businesses from the ground up. As director of Blippar, she grew a small idea into a multi-million-dollar company dealing with revolutionary augmented reality technology within six years. CNBC named Blippar one of the “Top 50 Disruptor Businesses of 2017.” In 2018, she went on to co-found Tick, an equally disruptive tech company in its early stages. She is also a highly experienced keynote speaker and has given speeches in a number of high profile conferences, such as TEDx and FIPP, regarding technology and her experience as a woman in business and technology.

Leanne Kemp

Follow her online | @leanne_kemp

Blockchain technology, popularized with the rise of Bitcoin, is groundbreaking and has the potential to change the way the world works. At the helm of this technology is Leanne Kemp, founder of Everledger, a startup that makes use of blockchain to enhance verification techniques in the diamond industry. The company has since risen to a valuation of at least $50 million. However, Kemp is also well known for her work in RFID tracking, supply chains, and advertising, having garnered three exits in the last 20 years. Today, she also is a member of the IBM Blockchain Board of Advisors, the World Trade Board, and the World Economic Forum’s Blockchain Council, helping to decide the future of technology.

Related: Check out our FREE blockchain course with more than 60 resources & lessons!

Manal al-Sharif

Follow her online | @manal_alsharif

One of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2012, Manal al-Sharif is better known as a women’s rights activist who was arrested and imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for “driving while female.” Beyond her focus on leading the #Women2Drive movement and other activism, she is also the first Saudi woman to specialize in information security, and began her career in 2002 with Saudi Aramco, the largest oil company in the world. Today, she is a renowned TED and Harvard speaker and has become a voice for women in Saudi Arabia and all over the world.

About Tammi Chng

Tammi is a freelance writer based in Singapore. Specializing in healthcare and technology, she’s never without her head stuck in a book and her mind on the run.