Solving the World’s Problems with Technology: Q&A with Stephanie Lampkin
YWCA Minneapolis recently invited Stephanie Lampkin, founder and CEO of Blendoor, to present the keynote address at our Partner Summit, where we brought together fellow industry leaders to examine demographic issues facing the STEM field and explored solutions to foster diversity within it.
Stephanie Lampkin has a 15-year career in the tech industry, founding two startups and working in technical roles at Lockheed, Microsoft and TripAdvisor. In 2018, she was listed as one of the innovators on Fortune’s 40 Under 40 list. In this Q&A, Stephanie talks about her career, her values and offers advice to young women who are hoping to pursue a career in tech.
You are a professional in your 30s who has already received recognition as one of Fortune’s 40 Under 40. What does this honor mean to you?
The Fortune 40 Under 40 honor means a great deal to me because when you’re working on solving a very hard problem (tech/AI solutions for mitigating unconscious bias), it’s hard to see “the forest for the trees.” There are so many challenges along the way, but being honored alongside such accomplished people truly validates the importance of the work we’re doing.
The tech world is changing to include more women. What advice do you have for young women aspiring to pursue this field?
Women were actually original pioneers in the tech industry (i.e., Anita Borg, Ada Lovelace, Dorothy Vaughan). Literally, the term “computers” used to refer to a room of women number crunching for NASA at one point in history. So my advice is not to be deterred by the current demographics that dominate the tech field; instead focus on what you can control (like learning to code) and join or build your own communities of women who share common ambitions. The biggest advice I can give to professionals who aspire to become entrepreneurs is venture to solve big problems that can improve the lives of ALL people, not just the top 1 percent.
How can young women stand out when applying for opportunities?
The best way to differentiate yourself from others competing for the same jobs or educations programs is to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. This means taking on stretch assignments at work, build unique projects on nights and weekends to build a portfolio that demonstrates how you translate your passion into tangible products.
You’ve achieved a lot in a short amount of time. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
My absolute biggest challenge in my journey to launch and successfully run Blendoor has been raising venture capital. It is by far the least meritocratic experience I have ever endured. So in five to 10 years, I hope to be in a financial position to become an Angel investor and/or start a fund where I can invest in teams building really meaningful products in spite of the limited resources they’ve been afforded.
YWCA Minneapolis mission is to eliminate racism and empower women. What does the mission mean to you?
This mission resonates very deeply with me. It is rare that organizations adopt a mission focused on addressing the challenges of BOTH racial and gender inequality. As a Black woman, I have experienced personal and professional marginalization from other marginalized people (i.e., racism from White women, sexism from Black and gay men) so intersectionality is very real to me. The challenges that come with all of my identities, characteristics that I was born with, have significantly impacted my experience in this country so I find it very refreshing that organizations like YWCA have a focus on addressing both.