Community News

Women in Tech: A Silicon Valley Fireside Chat Focused on Entrepreneurship and Technology Trends

As the Tepper School MBA students in the Business & Technology Club and the Graduate Entrepreneurship Club were participating in their annual trek to the West Coast during winter break, the alumni community gathered at Palo Alto-based VMware. That evening, MBAs and alumni met for an interactive panel discussion with leading Tepper women alumnae who shared their personal perspectives on entrepreneurship, innovation and being a woman in the technology industry.

The fireside chat was moderated by Dean Robert Dammon, who was joined by Christine DeFilippo (MSIA 1994), who works as the director of map operations for Apple Inc., Emily Mui (MSIA 1995), senior director, SAP Cloud Product Marketing at SAP and Cindy Padnos (MSIA 1980), founder and managing partner at venture capital firm, Illuminate Ventures. 

As the initial discussion focused on trends such as location-based and machine learning technologies, the conversation turned to the importance of disruptive technologies.

“We invest in entrepreneurs that see disruptive technologies and whose companies will ultimately transform how we do business,” said Padnos, while discussing her firm. “Small businesses can compete with large organizations because of these innovations.”

As the discussion turned to how women in the technology industry are received or any barriers they may face, the panelists reflected on their personal experiences and how culture has evolved as women in tech-focused workplaces.

“There is no better time to enter into the tech world for women than today,” Padnos said. “When you’re the only woman in the room, you’re noticed and you can make impactful changes.”

“I’m used to being the only woman at the table,” DeFilippo said. “That’s why I am there – to provide a different perspective.”

The panelists also had some advice for the MBA students in attendance when looking back on their own experiences at the Tepper School and for their careers.

“Take the job that makes you grow,” Mui said. “Sometimes you need to remember your resume and the story you will tell with each experience you have.”

“Tepper felt like a community, which was really personal for me. It pushed me to my limits – I could run circles around anyone else from any other b-school,” DeFilippo said. When reflecting on her career and advice, “There really is no growth in comfort – take the job the stretches you and pushes you to grow.”

Padnos echoed a similar sentiment when looking back at her Tepper School experience. “I struggled at first, having a background that didn’t focus heavily on quantitative skills like statistics – and the dean became a mentor to me. When I got through it all, I knew I could do anything.”