Community & Connections: A Look at Robinhood’s 2nd Annual Women In Tech Conference
Robinhood was founded on a simple idea: that our financial markets should be accessible to all. With customers at the heart of our decisions, Robinhood is lowering barriers and providing greater access to financial information and investing. Together, we are building products and services that help create a financial system everyone can participate in.
The 2023 Robinhood Women In Tech (WIT) conference was a resounding success, attracting hundreds of attendees from both within Robinhood and across the financial and tech industries. The conference served as a platform for building a community and fostering growth opportunities for women in technical roles.
The event was no small feat, as a committee of forty employees helped make it happen. To better understand this celebration of internal and external talent, Lahari Katam (Senior Technical Program Manager and WIT Board Member), Loni Olazaba (Director, Talent Acquisition and WIT Partner), and Sejal Parmar (Backend Software Engineer and WIT Lead) guide us through their process and share insights into the importance of nurturing a strong community that empowers women in the tech industry.
From left to right: Sejal Parmar (Backend Software Engineer at Robinhood), Dheerja Kaur (Senior Director of Product at Robinhood), Diana MacLean (Senior Engineering Manager of Credit Cards at Robinhood), Erika Dean (Chief Security Officer at Robinhood), Lahari Katam (Senior Technical Program Manager at Robinhood), Loni Olazaba (Director, Talent Acquisition at Robinhood)
What’s the background of the WIT conference at Robinhood? How was this year’s event different?
Sejal: Women In Tech started in 2021, with the first conference in 2022 only for internal attendees. This year, we wanted to expand the impact beyond Robinhood to show that this is an environment where women can grow and succeed. We had 148 Robinhoodies in attendance with almost 100 external attendees from over 70 different companies.
Loni: We also wanted to highlight our robust WIT employee resource group (ERG) while amplifying women within the tech community at large. Our conference worked as connective tissue, showcasing Robinhood as an employer of choice for members of this community.
Lahari: In my almost two decades working in the tech industry, I’ve seen the evolution from being the only woman in the room to leading and having a seat at the table, making business-critical decisions. As a WIT board member, I worked on initiatives to inspire women engineers to pursue technical careers and create opportunities to uplevel careers. As a group, we aligned on the theme of “Empowering Innovative: Women Leading the Digital Future” to celebrate the incredible work inside (and outside) of Robinhood.
Sejal, as a recent college graduate, can you explain the importance of creating community through events like the Women in Tech conference?
Sejal: I want to build the community I wish I had when I was interning and when I started my first job in 2021. Because I ended college during the pandemic, I lost that community building you get in those last two years of school. Building this community has been a passion project – and is the first time I’ve seen this many women in a room together! It also helped to focus on a specific community: women in technical jobs hoping to uplevel skills like engineering, product, and security. Given Robinhood’s dual focus on technology and finance and the limited opportunities for women to connect in this industry, the conference provided a chance to establish a tight-knit community.
How did you put together programming that was valuable to the community? How does this reflect Robinhood’s values and the larger WIT community?
Lahari: We wanted to give attendees a platform to enhance their technical and leadership skills, along with an opportunity to grow and build a community they could fall back on. We reached out to everyone in the WIT ERG at Robinhood to give them the opportunity to participate in workshops, lightning talks, panel discussions, and more. With the help of an amazing group of volunteers, we helped 30+ women engineers attend WIT at the Robinhood headquarters. Lightning talks like the Evolution of Money Movement and Authentication & Authorization in K8s gave subject matter experts the opportunity to share learnings, challenges, and their technical skills. The Remote Development Envs and Privacy workshops received ecstatic engagement and feedback too. We created opportunities to connect with peers, look for mentors/mentees, and build community inside and outside Robinhood.
Sejal: One of the most impactful events was Tam Bain (Senior Staff Software Engineer) speaking about Robinhood 24 hr Market. Bain made the subject relevant no matter if you’re an engineer or a product manager. Our keynote panel with Erika Dean (Chief Security Officer), Diana MacLean (Senior Engineering Manager of Credit Cards), and Dheerja Kaur (Senior Director of Product) was also very well received – panelists discussed how workplace issues can be universal. The programs emphasized our shared experiences — many of us have dealt with impostor syndrome, sexism, and other sticky issues… not just in the workplace. These discussions really brought the community together!
How will you maintain momentum until the next WIT conference?
Loni: External attendees are invited to join our Talent Community, where we nurture relationships and share Robinhood updates and events. We also want to make sure these attendees are connected with recruiters for immediate opportunities, relationship building, and any WIT updates. Our goal is to share firsthand knowledge.
Sejal: We’re working on our 2024 strategic plan and are hoping to have upcoming events decided soon. We’re hoping to bring the community together quarterly rather than once a year for the conference. Internally, we’re continuing our initiatives with more focus on community building and creating more support.
For more on events similar to the Women In Tech conference, join the Robinhood Talent Community to stay connected.
We are always looking for more individuals who share our commitment to building a diverse team and creating an inclusive environment as we continue in our journey in democratizing finance for all. Stay connected with us — join our talent community and check out our open roles!
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