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My passion for all things tech began when…

I realized that being a software engineer was about ushering products and services into existence and how powerful software could be used for making people’s lives better. Although I had studied electrical engineering and computer science in school and done internships throughout the Valley, that realization hit late. It was only when I took my first job out of school and started working full-time as a software engineer at Quora, then just a tiny startup, all of us crammed into a room that could barely fit eight desks, all of us heads-down in building Quora from the ground up, that I finally understood our role in a process of creation, that we were living a creation story.

The “Where are the numbers?” initiative is…

A call to action to the tech industry to acknowledge its problematic lack of diversity. The irony was that in an insistently, obsessively data-driven industry, there was no data at all on diversity. For a long time, no one was willing to admit to the numbers and by consequence to the severity of the issue. We had no way of knowing, either, how the situation was trending, if anything we were doing in service of diversity was working.

The initiative, if it could be called such, was at first just a Medium post that I penned in a moment of frustrated rumination. When I shared it and people started tweeting their company data to me, I realized the data needed somewhere to live and set up a GitHub repository to collect it all. The project gained momentum from there, with almost 250 companies contributing their data, but even more significantly, big tech companies like Google and Facebook took note and in selfsame spirit released their own holistic diversity data reports.

Most surprising thing I have learned since starting the initiative…

There are a lot of people that are sympathetic to the cause of diversity in tech but don’t know how to help. (Understandable, as there isn’t anyone that has a sure playbook for progress.) Given the right resources and prompts, these allies can be mobilized to great effect. For example, I originally expected only a meager response to the call to action that I posted, but as soon as people knew that they could help by contributing data, they were eager to do so.

Diversity in the tech industry is important because…

We need all perspectives and viewpoints represented as we build the future of the world that we live in. From a very utilitarian business perspective, it also means that we’re more effectively utilizing the talent that exists in the economy and that we’re assembling smarter, more innovative teams.

Key steps that need to be taken to tackle tech’s diversity problem…

  1. Acknowledge the problem.
  2. Understand the problem (this is the hard part.)
  3. Commit to solving the problem.
  4. Experiment with different solutions; learn; iterate.

Most crucially, though, we need to effect a mindset shift in how we think about diversity, so that we treat it as we would any other pressing business problem, with the same sort of rigor and creativity and commitment to results.

My best advice for tech entrepreneurs…

Aim to make the most leveraged impact that you can on the world.

Entrepreneurs can leverage Pinterest by…

Finding inspiration and motivation. Assembling mood boards and project boards. Understanding trends in the market and with their customers. Building their brand and following. Acquiring traffic both organically and with Promoted Pins.

3 tips for connecting with influencers in your space…

  1. Use Twitter (to tune into the conversation).
  2. Use Twitter (to publish your own thoughts).
  3. Use Twitter (to open up conversations with influencers).

The biggest mistakes I see tech companies making…

Not investing in and doing right by their employees, in a way that engenders loyalty and incentives for employees to stay and grow in their careers at those companies. Tech companies have extremely high rates of attrition and churn, which is not only expensive but also a big drag on productivity and their ability to execute.

Trying to re-invent everything from first principles, even things like HR and management, which often means ignoring well-established best practices and unnecessarily re-learning lessons already hard-learned. To be sure, tech companies are in the business of innovation, but sometimes it’s worth examining which things they should be “innovating” on.

Entrepreneurs learning basic code should…

Try to understand the big picture of software engineering first. Code is powerful because it’s a set of instructions written for computers, which are extremely good at executing those instructions repeatedly and quickly. Computers are everywhere now—from data centers that handle massive amounts of data and data processing, to the laptops on everyone’s desks and the phones in everyone’s pockets. For websites and apps, backend software engineers are writing the code that runs on those servers in the data centers; frontend (aka client) software engineers are writing the code that runs in browsers and on phones.

When you try your hand at writing some code yourself, it’s easiest and most gratifying to work on projects that have a frontend component. There are plenty of great online resources to teach computer science; look for the ones paired with fun tutorials or assignments where you’ll end up building websites or apps that you can play with.

Books that every entrepreneur should read…

This is not at all a comprehensive list, but here are a few good reads:

Founders at Work
The Hard Thing About Hard Things
The Score Takes Care of Itself
Creative Confidence
The Innovator’s Dilemma

A typical day at Pinterest…

A morning email from the Workplace team detailing the day’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus, and of course then the materialization of aforementioned food; scattered 1:1s and meetings in conference rooms arranged alphabetically by name; blocks of time allocated for work, whether it’s writing code or email or design docs or interviews; work and unrelated chatter on assorted Slack channels and mailing lists.

My daily must-read tech websites…

I don’t have any daily must-read sites, but I check Twitter religiously and usually catch my tech industry updates from TechCrunch, Re/code, WIRED, FastCompany, and whatever is trending on Medium.

3 technology trends that will shape the next 5 years…

  1. The ubiquity of mobile and constant connectivity. This one is a bit clichéd to point out as an emergent trend, but it’s unshakeable and many companies are still figuring out how to build effectively for a mobile-first, mobile-dominant world.
  2. More efficient marketplaces that are better for consumers but questionable for (and potentially exploitative) of the workers providing services. There are a lot of unanswered questions about the future of work here, although the next 5 years will certainly bring some answers.
  3. Software applied to unsexy industries. There will always be fun consumer apps, but increasingly entrepreneurs are using technology to overhaul very unglamorous, old-school, paper-based businesses.

And which one I am most excited about…

As a consumer and someone who is addicted to my phone, I love how much is and will be possible with mobile and constant connectivity.

My proudest accomplishment…

Helping to elevate the conversation about diversity in tech to not just industry-wide but national awareness, galvanizing tech companies to action. It’s a big deal not just for the people who are participating or might someday participate in the tech industry, but also for everyone who uses the products that the tech sector outputs.