Women Leading the Way in Silicon Valley – Part 4

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Silicon Valley is a hot spot for talented individuals and start-ups, and it can take quite a bit to succeed and make your company stand out. We spoke with five notable women who achieved their goals and are thriving in their careers. Their industries are wide-ranging, including politics, manufacturing biodegradable materials, founding a school for autism, money management, and helping companies tell their innovation stories. Each woman speaks about the challenges she had to overcome, as well as many particular issues she faced as a woman in her field. Their stories are compelling and will inspire and motivate you to flourish in your career!

We’ll be highlighting one of these five inspirational women each day. This is part four.

ASHLEY JOHNSON
COO AND CFO OF WEALTHFRONT INC.

Can you share what Wealthfront Inc. does?
Wealthfront is a next-gen banking service that helps you manage your money for both the near and long term by providing a cash account with the highest interest rate on the market, best in class automated investment management and free financial advice, delivered through a mobile and web application anytime you want it. It’s a great platform for enabling people to really visualize what their financial goals are.

What are some of your day to day tasks?
A lot of what I do is helping my team coordinate across the company. For example, I work with a finance team to understand both our historical financial performance and also our projected performance. I then communicate that to other parts of the organization and receive input back so that we can continue to increase the accuracy of our forecast.

What have your biggest challenges been?
I think the biggest challenge is hiring and retaining talent. On the hiring front, we’re in Silicon Valley, and it’s a really competitive market with a lot of companies competing for the same talent. We differentiate ourselves by making it an interesting opportunity for people to join.

Have you faced any issues as a woman in your industry?
In technology, I have faced far fewer issues being a woman. When I was an investor, it was much more difficult. One of the stories I tell is about walking with two other colleagues and talking about a deal I was working on. Suddenly, I realized they were walking to the restroom, and they went inside, continuing the conversation and left me standing outside.

Why did you start the Vista Guapa Surf Camp in Costa Rica?
When I was in my late 20’s, I went on a vacation with my brother where we went surfing for two weeks in Costa Rica. The first couple of days, I kept making conference calls and getting on the internet. But the draw of Costa Rica and the culture really captured me. When I came back to the U.S., my grandmother, who I was very close with, passed away and one of the last things she ever emailed me was “I hear you found something very special in Costa Rica. Just remember these things don’t come around often in life and when they do hang onto them.” After that I reached out to the surf instructor and said I’d like to buy some property. So, I spent the weekend drawing up a business plan, and now here I am still operating it today.

By Ali Lee and Sarah Wilson

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