The Women Of AngelHack: Christina Lila Wilson
Project WoAH (Women of AngelHack). It’s a movement. One led by the amazing Women of AngelHack, who have stories to share. And share we will! Check out the intro below, and tune in LIVE on December 17th (5pm PST) to check out and ask questions during our WoAH Livestream.
Name: Christina Lila Wilson
Role: Europe Regional Manager
Been With AngelHack: since November 2015
Works Out Of: New York City
What do you do at AngelHack?
I ensure the Euro hackathons have proper support, leadership, venues, sponsorships, APIS, challenges, content creation, marketing, prizes, mentoring, and most importantly amazing and talented communities on the ground. Putting on a hackathon is as multidimensional as running a startup, the space is constantly changing so you need one ear on tech progress and one ear on main street at all times. Also sometimes do designy things.
Can you tell us about your toughest day on the job?
I was running a hackathon to solve development challenges for Pakistan, a huge hurricane was hitting NYC that weekend, I got sick, and on top of managing volunteers/mentors/event & venue logistics I had to present case studies and a "how to" opener since most attendees had never been to a hackathon, then 2 volunteers backed out last minute. Just when I thought the day couldn’t get more challenging we were delivered a huge load of bacon butter chicken sandwiches for a predominantly Muslim participant group. But that worst day of the year was followed by the best day of the year when I saw how so many teams had stayed up almost all night and the incredible quality of the hack presentations showed their passion. That gives a glimpse into the beautiful and transformative chaos of a hackathon.
AngelHack is a global company, requiring frequent travel. You must have had some memorable experiences. Give us one!
On my way out of Kabul the Afghan guards who were checking my passport informed me I needed to step out of line for questioning. Another two guys at the window said my name was on a list for narco involvement and was questioning me about all the trips on my passport. They saw how scared I was and said it was just a joke and wished me a “nice trip.” They thought it was hilarious but I was terrified.
Has there ever been a time you felt discriminated against as a women? Explain.
No matter what I did at the business accelerator multiple people thought I was a member startups assistant or employee, not sure if that was because I’m a woman but it wasn’t happening to my male colleagues in the program.
A young and brilliant computer science professor I know (female) is constantly asked if she is trying to get into tech, or wants to learn to code when she is at tech events, right before she goes up as a speaker because she is a pioneer in the field. She has an awesome attitude about it but that can definitely wear a person down over time.
Sometimes people’s underestimation of you can be used to your advantage though, as you can catch people off guard, like playing like you suck at pool before shutting down the game.
I think most discrimination in our world is invisible as it often even operates subconsciously. Like there is an underlying convention in day to day business that has been created by and reinforced by men, one is the "confidence over competence" phenomenon I observe so often that women don't play as well at. One example: the most talented person in my UX bootcamp was a woman who never put herself out there as the expert she was. She had so little confidence but mostly because she had such a high standard of perfection and got passed over time and time again when guys sold themselves so well and got high positions in the field. Of course individual men and women have varying levels of confidence but women rarely sell themselves with the same intensity because overconfidence can be quickly shut down in women whereas a nurturing nature and humility better aligns with societal expectations.
What challenges have you faced because of being a female at a hackathon or in business?
I don't like to focus on the negative, but I have definitely witnessed some very belittling attitudes toward females. I even had someone I worked with who is a face of the women in business movement say she prefers to hire men!
Luckily, most men I encounter are very supportive of women in tech, like many of the free code workshops for women in DC have mostly male volunteers donating their time, so I don't want to sound like there are impermeable barriers for women because of the attitude of some.
What about the startup culture do you like?
I love that most are self motivated and cared more for challenge than finding a comfortable life, that will filter some great people into your life. At AngelHack, the team rolls up their sleeves to dive into a mission we jointly love. Startups are like the emerging economies of business, in those markets youth have more ambition than those in developed countries (just take a look at invest2innovate in Pakistan or Gaza Sky Geeks). So I feel the startup mantra is similar to "work like an immigrant," and I love that.
What about the startup culture do you dislike?
Startups can be like needy little babies, they can call for 100% of your abilities, focus and creativity, which can make other departments of your life take a hit with or without you realizing it. But as with children I think the investment pays off in unexpected ways (...not a mom, but this is what I imagine). Sometimes the culture of celebrity around entrepreneurship could poison the startup mindset, like a rush to focus on PR or fake work above creating ever-evolving value for ever-evolving people.
How does it feel that 80% of your community is male based?
I love working with men and so many of the men I know are silent feminists! (speak up more like Patrick Stewart said:) Really though I think there was a time when I felt intimidated like when I was the only single person female team in an accelerator of 95% men. I have been a minority many times in multiple ways and have to say I actually enjoy it in a way as it means I'm stepping out of my comfort zone. I also really believe we need diverse people of background, gender, ethnicities, income levels etc. to do great things together so am glad to be at an intersection like this.
I come from a VERY diverse family we have Christians, Muslims, Bahais, Jews, Zoroastrians, Catholics etc. so it’s made me love extreme diversity of people and opinions plus exploring and understanding their traditions and perspectives. I have a Persian poetry club. I love friendly feminism. I love experimentations with photography / UX / graphic design. I am trying to learn guitar via Master YouTube. I love cooking especially Persian dishes or inventing new cocktails or fresh juice recipes. I look at every person as a teacher and a riddle holding an amazing secret you just haven't figured out yet.
What do you love about working for AngelHack?
I always try to work somewhere with people who both inspire me yet push me to grow. I think inspiration is the fuel of personal evolution so always searching for it will keep you content yet challenged in your career.
One thing I noticed quickly is AngelHack is a place that accepts everyone's individuality and lets everyone’s weirdness shine. And we all know that if you're not a little weird, you're probably still hiding something ;)
I love that I found this career path by following my crazy and sometimes irrational dreams that people had multiple "interventions" with me about. My life and career was transformed partially through hackathons, so I became a somewhat evangelist about them even though it wasn't related to any career potential, but it led me to a series of events that culminated in this dream role at AngelHack.
After years of working for nonprofits and some old school DC organizations, it was refreshing to be at a place where all are self-motivated, and have passion running at full force.
One of my favorite women growing up was a family friend names Angel. She passed away from breast cancer at a young age but I always think of her so when I saw the name AngelHack I thought it was a sign and was right :)
Most importantly, I love the international emphasis and recognition that we need to tap into the diverse ideas around the planet to solve problems outside of the first world bubble or Panem.
What’s your spirit animal?
Probably a peacock, the persian emblem of love & awakening OR piglets. Pigs are so awkward and misunderstood I have a special love for them. Probably why I love techies too.
What’s one word you would use to describe yourself?
curiosopher. just a philosophy of curiosity - the more you learn you realize how little you know relative to infinity so this is my way of always trying to expand a drop of infinity.
What’s your favorite thing in the world?
SIX nieces + a nephew. I love them so much and wondering what kind of world they will encounter has forced me into feminism!
I have recurring nightmares of tsunamis that is slowly being replaced with a very futuristic armageddon, but a more realistic fear is going through life chasing the wrong things.
What’s your definition of success?
Taking the many curveballs that life has thrown at you and building something you are proud of, even if it’s not grandiose by many measures... I like the “deathbed philosophy” of imagining how your life will look when seen backwards close to the edge, when a lot of things people think matter are not even considerations. Hearing my mom's background as an ethnic minority female leaving Iran during the revolution and building a life from scratch as a foreigner, I do feel I have been given a lot, and to "whom much is given much is expected" so I hope to do something meaningful with the time and resources I have access to.
The stage is set, December 17th at 5PM PST. Submit your questions ahead of time using #ProjectWoAH or through the YouTube LIVE chat on December 17th. Mark your calendars, and make sure you tune into the livestream!
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