Meet the D.C. chapter’s newest board members: business development lead Sowjanya O’Neill and marketing lead Alyssa (Aly) Martin.

Managing Director Baan Alsinawi, who is president and founder of integrated risk management firm TalaTek, is happy to begin filling her board positions. “I couldn’t be more excited to add these two outstanding ladies to our board. We are looking forward to doing great things together as we begin our journey to support girls in tech in the D.C., Virginia and Maryland areas,” said Baan.

Baan recently sat down with Sowjanya O’Neill, CEO of SugarDX and Aly Martin, to talk about their interest in joining the board and helping to relaunch the local chapter. They also discussed why promoting women in tech in the D.C. area is so important to them. Read the full Q&A to learn more.

What interested you in joining the D.C. Girls in Tech (GIT) board? 

Aly: I was a part of Girls In Tech San Diego. I was patiently waiting from the time I returned to the East Coast to see Girls In Tech D.C. return. I wanted to be more involved and when this board member post was published, I hopped right on it!

Sowjanya: I see a skills shortage in cybersecurity and I think females could fill this gap. Cybersecurity requires analytical, technical and creative skills which I believe makes it a great fit for girls. Through GIT’s D.C. chapter my goal is to attract more women to this field. In my role as a board member, I will focus on business development and outreach. The DC chapter is partnering with tech companies in the DC metro area and I will help manage those partnerships. Cultivating and fostering long-term partnerships is essential to the chapter’s outreach and growth efforts.

Tell us about yourself and what you hope to accomplish with GIT. 

Aly: I truly hope to bring more Tech understanding, opportunities, and assistance to girls AND women in the DC area. I want all women in the tech industry currently or who want to be in this realm to know that they are important no matter what position they hold.

Sowjanya: I have over 15 years of experience delivering product marketing, industry marketing, and sales goals for technology companies. I have successfully launched multiple software products and services for Fortune 500 companies and startups. For the past eight years, I’ve focused on cybersecurity solutions and am passionate about getting other females engaged in the field.

Have you been involved in other leadership roles outside of work? If so, please share details and if not, why now? 

Aly: I have always been a leader, not self-proclaimed. I’ve just always been told that by my leaders. I think being a leader is so much greater than being a boss. To be a boss you lead by telling. Leaders lead by example. To the “why now” question, why not now?! I will never fully be ready for anything I do so I am going for it anyway!

Sowjanya: I have always been an active volunteer in my kids’ schools. For the past few years,  I have been serving as a mentor to MACH 37’s cybersecurity startups and I am also on the board of McLean Youth Athletics.

If you were able to give advice to your younger self, what would that be?   

Aly: “Sis… for goodness sake, just go for it. Don’t allow other folks limiting beliefs to cause you to have Imposter Syndrome so frequently babe.” – Me to me

Sowjanya: Don’t eat out and with the money saved learn another language!

What do you love most about working in the tech world? 

Aly: The culture. Although we still have a long way to go, we are pioneering a culture of flexibility, inclusion, and growth for all. Tech was the first field I was in where I said, “I need a mental health day today” and everyone understood.

Sowjanya: I love that it’s ever changing. New technologies and uses for them are sprouting up every day. What do you dislike the most? I dislike that it’s a male dominated field.  When I attend conferences there’s no pink in the crowd.  When I meet with CIO’s or CISO’s they have been always male at least for me. Having a more diverse workforce definitely would benefit tech.

What do you believe is the biggest hurdle women face in pursuing a career in Technology?

Aly: Balance. I believe that technology is still seen as for the guys and women are expected to mold to that form or get lost. Technology needs to form to us, and we will make it happen. We have the ability to have everything we want in life whether that’s a family, love, a better education, etc. The Tech world will either get on board or fall behind.

Sowjanya: I think finding the right fit is a struggle we face. There’s so many ways to engage in technology but finding what you enjoy and are passionate about is a challenge.  That’s why it’s important to try different roles in tech. There’s more roles than being a developer or coder.  You can be a sales engineer if you enjoy solving problems for customers. You can be a product marketer if you like writing about technology and how the products and services work. It’s about exposure to the different areas  within the field.

How can your role with GIT help address these hurdles?

Aly: By connecting women from all walks of life, representation is IMPORTANT. Women need to see women who look like them, work like them, and want the same things in life that they want, doing the job they want. I will be responsible for Marketing to a wide array of women. I am bringing them together to see that they can be themselves, they can do it, they can have everything they want and *boom* here standing in front of them is their real life example! Representation is where we begin. Always.

Sowjanya: GIT is about providing an open forum to share, collaborate, mentor, and learn from each other. The GIT community we are building will help girls overcome some of these hurdles through mentorship, career support and sharing our experiences.