Women Talk Tech Episode 55: From Zero to Startup

Riya Karumanchi

In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8th, Women Talk Tech is dedicating the month of March to saluting young women in the tech sector. 

This week’s guest is Riya Karumanchi, a 17-year-old high school student from Burlington, Ontario. Riya is an entrepreneur and CEO of SmartCane and is extremely passionate about harnessing technology to better people’s lives. She is an Innovator at The Knowledge Society, an avid ML developer & is recognized as one of the Top 20 Teen Entrepreneurs Worldwide. Riya is also very honored to be on Teen Vogue’s “21 Under 21” and to be featured on Time Magazine’s list for young inventors changing the world. 

Riya began her professional exploration into the technology sector after being presented with a problem: her friend’s visually impaired grandmother was using a cane which did not aid her in detecting and navigating around objects above ground level. She was getting injured as a result. Riya began developing the product behind her company SmartCane, which focuses on harnessing technology to better people’s lives. 

Riya faced many challenges while pitching her idea to large groups of people at conventions. At the time, Riya was 14 years old and was often pitching to people who were at least a decade older than her, in addition to having professional experience within the tech sector. While it was an intimidating feat, Riya overcame the obstacle of age through perseverance. 


“I thought that, if the first 6 people weren’t interested, what if I gave up then and the 7th person said yes. So, I think that’s what kept me going. What I was able to do to get that 7th person to say yes and join my team, was really demonstrating my passion. I really wanted to take this idea from a project and make it a reality, and I think that passion shone through and inspired other people.” 


In speaking with mentors older than her, Riya has worked to challenge the Imposter Syndrome faced by so many women in the tech sector, of all generations. Riya is a strong believer that with passion and drive, a person at any age can be an innovator. 


“I don’t think age is a determinant factor as to whether you can succeed or not. I think it’s your willingness to put in the work, embrace continuously learning, and also fail. And learning from your failure is really important.” 


Riya has observed that young women and girls are not as engaged in the tech sector as they could be. In reflecting on the people in her own life, Riya recognizes that of the people she knows who are interested in careers in engineering, none of them are women. She believes that this divide starts young. Often children determine their initial interests in early education, where their exposure to representations of who works in tech and what tech is, comes from movies or books. Often, technology courses are not offered until the later years of high school, and according to Riya, that is far too late.  

For Riya, computer science courses do not come early enough. The biases based on what young people see in the media are already set in place by the time students reach high school. From Riya’s experience, a lot of boys have already engaged in technology through clubs or extracurriculars centered around topics such as robotics, therefore, when computer science courses become available in high school, young women already feel like they are behind. 


Through her work with SmartCane and the Knowledge Society, Riya is demonstrating that technology innovation knows no bounds when it comes to age, and she hopes to communicate this to other young women seeking to get involved in the field of technology. 

You can find Riya on LinkedIn 

Follow Riya on Instagram @riyakarumanchi




Women Talk Tech Episode 54: A Case of the Tech Scaries

Nicole Ooi 1

In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8th, 2021, Women Talk Tech is dedicating the month of March to saluting young women in the tech sector. 

This week’s guest is Nicole Ooi, a fourth-year computer engineering student at Queen’s University, and the Internal Vice-President of Queen’s WiSE (Women in Science and Engineering). While Nicole is now eagerly looking forward to launching her career in business and technology consulting, the path towards a career in the tech sector was not a clear or an obvious one as she moved through high school and into university. 


When Nicole was nearing the end of her high school career she knew she wanted to attend Queen’s University for engineering. At Queen’s University, students in the engineering program must do a general first year in order to take a variety of courses in different disciplines before deciding on a stream to specialize in for the remainder of their degree. Nicole arrived at Queen’s unsure of exactly which area she wished to specialize in, but she knew with certainty that she did not want to go into computer engineering. 


“Why did I not want to do computer engineering? Even thinking about being in the computer science classroom in my high school, kind of scares me. I don’t believe there was a single girl who took computer science in my high school. I never really considered it, I just thought it was a boys club, and not explicitly that it wasn’t for girls, it just didn’t appeal to me at all.” 


Nicole had come down with a case of what she calls, the “tech scaries” — she was scared of all that she didn’t know about the field of computer engineering, and she did not know how to find the information that she felt she was missing. Nicole believes that there is a disconnect happening with young girls in high school, where prior to, they want to learn and enter into the tech sector. However, in high school, when many young women are presented with the opportunity to take computer science courses for the first time, many of them do not engage. 


“Any young person grows up, and they just want to learn, they want to explore. And at one point, something is deterring [girls] away from actually pursuing [tech]. I really do believe it’s the environment that schools have created in those classrooms. Sometimes it’s the way that teachers are teaching it, and sometimes it’s not seeing yourself at the front of the room.” 


Nicole’s biggest piece of advice for young women entering into the tech sector is to try to find other women in the field who you can lean on and look up to. In her experience, Nicole has found that working with other female students in her program has helped her in feeling like she can persevere through the more difficult times because she has other young women around her who are going through the same experiences. She also sees great value in seeking out mentorship programs in order to find older and more established women in the tech sector to support and uplift younger students. 


For Nicole, the collaboration between men and women in the tech sector is invaluable when it comes to the inclusion and integration of women in the field. Nicole is hopeful that everyone, both men and women, see the value of diversity in the workforce and wants to see achievements in this regard, however, often they do not know how to be good allies. Nicole believes that making men aware of the instances of exclusion in the tech sector, and demonstrating strategies that can be used to combat these situations are a step in the right direction.  


Through her work with WiSE, Nicole is actively creating a community of empowered women in tech who are seeking to uplift and celebrate other young women in the field. 


You can find Nicole on LinkedIn here: 


You can follow WiSE on Instagram here: @queenswise 



Women Talk Tech Episode 53: Using Social Media For Good

Marley Melbourne

In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8th, 2021, Women Talk Tech is dedicating the month of March to saluting young women in the tech sector.

In the first installment of this series, this week we are joined by Marley Melbourne, a 16-year old student, and the creator of Casual Zine. As a high school student and track athlete, Marley has always been interested in the arts but had yet to find a platform to express and share these interests. In 2020, Marley turned this interest into action with the creation of Casual, an online arts magazine which seeks to connect youth from all around the globe.

Marley began the creation of Casual when producing a final exam piece for an art class in 2020. As COVID-19 related lockdowns began, Marley found herself wanting to continue with the collaboration and creativity she was able to foster through the arts. Inspired by TikTok and other social media platforms, Marley decided to use her spare time in quarantine to produce Casual, an arts zine with the goal of keeping youth connected through the arts.

“I woke up every day and I had a really rigorous posting schedule on both Instagram and TikTok, where I tried to find the youth around the world who are interested in art, and who are interested in expressing themselves in a way that they are not always able to do … when I opened up applications for people to become writers or become featured artists and creators, we received 1,200 submissions.”

Casual Zine lives on social media, and for Marley, the use of social media platforms for good is increasingly important. Casual presents a space where young people from different backgrounds can connect and communicate in a constructive and positive way. Through Casual’s platform, Marley was able to share artwork as well as foster a community where conversations of social justice, advocacy, and human rights can be had in a productive manner.

“We spend a lot of time talking, at least in the Ontario curriculum in our health classes, about social media being an outlet for hate, an outlet for body image issues, an outlet for all of these really nasty things, which is definitely 100% true … However, I do feel like we should spend a decent amount of time learning about how social media can be used for good, for activism, and to connect with others in a really safe manner.”

Prior to the creation of Casual, Marley had always been interested in the potential of a future career in marketing or entrepreneurship. However, since working on the production of Casual this year, Marley has developed a greater level of interest for the tech sector as an option, which she, like many young women, did not always consider. For Marley, the image and the marketing of the tech sector itself does little to engage young women in the potential of tech as a viable career path.

Marley has noticed that when many tech companies produce presentations for high schools, they often bring a panel of female employees and create a presentation around the theme of “women in tech”. For Marley, this type of discussion does not feel authentic. She believes that if companies wish to expand the diversity in their staff, they should focus more on demonstrating the ways in which they are doing that, rather than creating specialized presentations as a means to attract women into the tech sector.

Marley continues to foster an environment of collaboration and creativity through Casual’s ongoing social media presence.

Tune in to this week’s podcast to hear Marley Melbourne discuss Casual, the use of social media for good, and the integration of young women into the tech sector.

Available on iTunesSpotify, and Google Play Music.

Instagram: @casualzine

TikTok: @casual.zine

Women Talk Tech Episode 52: Being Resilient Today

Jamie Chambron 1

In this week’s episode of Women Talk Tech, we are joined by Jaime Chambron, CEO and Founder of Impact Oceans and the Career Agility System. With over 20 years of tech leadership experience, she has recently pivoted to focus on helping grow women in tech leadership and entrepreneurship, high growth tech companies, and youth.

In middle school, Jaime found herself to be an avid problem solver and was proficient in Math. In fact, she was considered a Mathlete throughout her middle school and high school careers. Jaime was first exposed to technology via a computer programming project that got her interested in a career in tech. She took her education into her own hands and started taking AP courses in programming, unlike most kids her age at the time. But Jaime’s career path shifted, as her self-motivated, self-starter attitude led her toward a path of entrepreneurship in tech.

“I pivoted early on, I didn’t stay a programmer for very long.” says Jaime, “we need to expose young professionals to the different paths one can take, and to help them discover what they’re strong at and how their strengths can drive them to their unique path in the tech industry.”

Jaime left programming and started Impact Oceans, realizing she wanted to be known for helping people and businesses “make a tidal wave, not a splash”. She also founded Career Agility System, to help individuals hone-in-on their talent, vision, purpose, and unique capabilities to share their story and understand lifelong approaches to stay tapped into market needs for a resilient career.

Jaime’s passion lies in uncovering more people like herself that can be role models for women in tech to look to that have experienced the same challenges in business and in life.

“To me, there’s more to unpack and discuss than just having a job and having a role model and having mentors,” says Jaime, “with tech, almost in overdrive right now, how can women and people pivot to these careers and bring unique skill sets in terms of communication styles, or different ways of thinking? It is back to the concept of having more diversity in the workforce; How do you make sure you have the female perspective on a team? Who is problem solving for the next great solution and understanding what customers are looking for? Where the markets going? you need different perspectives.”

As Jaime has worked through different tech companies over the last 20 years, she can identify the difference in the way women communicate in the ideas we generate, the energy and the enthusiasm we bring, and recognizes that companies need those different perspectives to make breakthroughs in technology and products. From a recruitment perspective, Jaime discusses her ideas for companies in how they can build an inclusive environment where women feel appreciated and respected, and foster mentorship programs within their companies to help female talent grow and navigate to their next role within the organization.

Co-Founder of the Alliance of Technology and Women in the early 2000’s, Jaime continues to play an active role in building, and fostering a great community of women in technology!

You won’t want to miss this week’s podcast with Jaime Chambron!

Available on iTunesSpotify, and Google Play Music.

You can follow her on social media:

Women Talk Tech Episode 51: The Importance of Diversity in the New Tech World

Janet Lin 1


In this episode of Women Talk Tech, our guest is Janet Lin, Senior Director of Customer Engagement Technology at Loblaw Companies Limited. She talks about her journey coming to Canada to pursue a career in tech and the challenges she faced, along with the importance of diversity – in all aspects – as we embark on the new age of technology.

Janet grew up in Shanghai, China with her mother, a university professor, and her father who was running a company at the time. In traditional Chinese culture, parents do all the planning for their children from managing their studies to choosing which career path they would go down. This didn’t sit right for Janet. After high school, she decided to move to Canada to live her life the way she wanted which led her to choose a career in computer science.

“It was challenging,” says Janet, “I had to adopt North American culture versus Asian culture, I had to learn computer sciences versus what I had learned in the business domain in China, I had to learn to speak a different language, and how to pay my tuition on my own.”

These types of cultural challenges are faced by many, but with those challenges comes opportunity.

“Diversity is not just gender,” says Janet, “diversity brings different cultures, different ways of thinking, and many many other aspects.”

Marie and Janet discuss diversity in the tech sector as a whole and the opportunities that come with having not just women, but a vast cultural representation at your table. When it comes to women in tech specifically, they expand on why we may be seeing the numbers going down rather than up.

“To me, tech has a very broad variety of things you can contribute,” says Janet, “any woman should be able to feel comfortable and confident; to find their role that they feel they can contribute.”

Janet and Marie talk about the future of tech and the trends that she has been seeing working in customer engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic. Listen to find out how Loblaws as a company has been adapting and using technology to meet new demands and what Loblaws is doing for the advancement of women in tech.

You won’t want to miss this week’s podcast with Janet Lin!

Available on iTunesSpotify, and Google Play Music.

You can follow her on social media:

Women Talk Tech Episode 50: How To Thrive Through Change You Did Not Ask For

Esther Weinberg


In this episode of Women Talk Tech, our guest is Esther Weinberg, Founder & Chief Leadership Development Officer of The Ready Zone. Esther coaches leaders through change with proven systems to reframe, refocus, realign—and ultimately—put people first. Esther’s created breakthrough strategies for such clients including Netflix, NBCUniversal, Microsoft, WarnerMedia, Sony, DreamWorks Animation, Disney, IMAX, and has held executive positions at Disney and Fox. 

Like most of our guests during high school, a career in tech was not where Esther saw herself heading. Reflecting on this time she recalls an innate sense of curiosity that she had for tech, people, and organizations, but admits she was more focused on the social aspects of high school.

Originally, Esther thought she would be a finance major or an attorney but recognized early on that it wasn’t where her passion lied. She had a pivotal moment in a media class she took in University that touched how media is influenced by Public Relations Professionals, which fascinated her because she saw it as a way to leverage her interest in tech and her interest in entertainment. This lead her to a career in Public Relations and Promotions and now in Entertainment and Media where The Ready Zone was born.

“If you look at both the tech industry and the media industry, they are very synonymous in this way; lots of tech companies want to be media companies, and lots of media companies want to be tech companies. It’s like FOMO on both sides.”

After taking a look at the leaders of these sectors and the commonalities amongst them, she recognized that they all want to be ready and powerful to take on the challenges that are coming their way; both known and unknown. The Ready Zone uses their own concept called “Zone Performance Indicators” which uses 6 diagnostic areas to help individuals, teams and companies determine where they are off in terms of innovation, creativity, and profitability; and where they need to make changes to bring themselves back into alignment.

Looking at the list of companies Esther has worked with, Marie asks how they are embracing the diversity and advancement of women and if they are facing the same challenges. Esther goes into detail acknowledging the trend is that everyone has an innate desire to get it right, it’s just a matter of if we are actually seeing results. She talks about the importance of coaching and mentorship and her role in advocating for the advancement of women in tech.

“It is statistically proven that when you have women who are more in leadreship positions, your companies perform better”

You won’t want to miss week’s interview with Esther Weinberg!

Available on iTunesSpotify, and Google Play Music.

Download The Ready Zone’s FREE eBook – “Why Your Company’s Bottom Line Is Not Your Top Priority: 6 Eye-Opening Strategies to Put People First

You can follow her on social media:

Women Talk Tech Episode 49: The Collective Wisdom of High Performing Women

Dr.Stefanie Chiras 1


In this episode of Women Talk Tech, our guest is Monique Allen, the EVP of Data and Technology for OMERS (Ontario Municipal Employee Retirement System), one of Canada’s largest pension plans with roughly 500,000 members in Ontario and managing over 100 billion dollars in net assets.

Growing up and attending high school in Kitchener, Ontario, it was safe to say that Monique’s interests were vast and a career in technology was not on her radar. After initially pursuing a post-secondary career in medicine with the University of Waterloo, Monique decided to change direction and started taking business courses in her 4th year of university. It wasn’t until after graduation and her first job working for a life insurance company that she realized she wanted to pursue a career in tech.

She shares with us her journey in going back to school and entering the tech workforce and admits looking back that she may have been naïve when it came to recognizing bias and gender bias in tech.

“I wouldn’t say that at the time I knew I was overcoming those challenges.” Monique said. ” I looked for the numbers and I thought that if I could see women, than that wasn’t the big problem that everybody thought it was”

It wasn’t until the past few years that she really started to recognize bias as an issue and started conducting research of her own on the topic. She shares her observations about what she has learned and ways that we can adjust our approach to dealing with this challenge.

“Bias and values are two different things – you can have very strong values that promote inclusivity and diversity and still carry bias.”

Monique has recently been published in “The Collective Wisdom of High Performing Women” that profiles over 70 women that have participated in The Judy Project, a leadership forum for women, that share compelling, first-person stories. They talk about ambition, courage, and the hard choices they’ve made to manage personal and professional lives and offer advice to young women about how they can move up in organizations while remaining true to themselves and to their families.



Listen for Marie’s queue in this week’s episode for your chance to receive your very own copy of “The Collective Wisdom of High Performing Women”!

Available on iTunesSpotify, and Google Play Music.

You can follow her on social media:

Women Talk Tech Episode 48: Tech and COVID-19

Dr.Stefanie Chiras 14


In this week’s Women Talk Tech episode our guest is Dr. Lissy Hu, the CEO and founder of CarePort Health. We are going to talk about COVID-19 and how it has impacted entrepreneurs in tech when managing their businesses.

CarePort Health is a software company which matches patients in need of post-acute care to post-acute care organizations. Today her company connects 1000 hospitals with 180 000 post acute providers.


“I think the promise of technology is that you can have an impact at large scale,” Lissy said.


She talks to us about her journey to starting the CarePort Health. Although Lissy didn’t grow up with the idea of wanting to be an entrepreneur, working in hospitals made her realize the need for connecting post hospital care for seniors, with hospitals.

What began as a summer project, ultimately won the Harvard business plan competition, providing Lissy with the funding to officially launch CarePort Health.

“One of the things I never would’ve anticipated when I started this journey, is how rewarding it is to build software, get it in to the hands of customers, see it have a direct impact.”


Be sure to tune in, and in case you missed it, Women Talk Tech has launched a 2020 Action Plan Report. Download this report to help develop a program in your organization to advance women.

Available on iTunesSpotify, and Google Play Music.

You can follow Lissy here on social media:

Women Talk Tech Episode 47: Adventures of Women in Tech

Dr.Stefanie Chiras 13

In this week’s Women Talk Tech episode, our guest is Alana Karen, an award-winning tech leader, author, and speaker whose work impacts many of our everyday lives.

Alana Karen’s work spans from Google Search to Ads, Fiber to Google Grants and beyond. She has been leading the charge to develop, scale, build and drive team and product development that has seen rippling industry impact.

Alana has spoken at conferences and summits on technology, leadership, DEI, talent and innovation.

Her book entitled, “Adventures of Women in Tech: How We Got Here and Why We Stay” is set to release on November 14, 2020. She aggregates hundreds of stories on the topic of women in tech.

Throughout this episode, Alana dives into the different topics of her book, touching on
the importance of recognizing the diversity in tech.
Alana shares the top advice learned from interviewing 80+ women in tech, including resilience, needing support, asking for what you want, marketing 101, and owning your awesome.
She currently lives with her three children, husband and two dogs in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Be sure to tune in, and in case you missed it, Women Talk Tech has launched a 2020 Action Plan Report. Download this report to help develop a program in your organization to advance women.

Available on iTunesSpotify, and Google Play Music.

You can follow Alana here on social media:
Twitter: alanatkaren

Women Talk Tech Episode 46: Embracing your entrepreneurial spirit

Dr.Stefanie Chiras 12 1

In this week’s Women Talk Tech episode, our guest is Asra Nadeem, the co-founder of Opus.AI, a streaming platform powered by proprietary tech that turns plain text into movies and playable 3D worlds in real-time.

She has been working with the technology on Opus.AI for over a year, and is currently finishing her first film, hoping to launch by January 2021.

Throughout the episode we discuss Asra’s unique entrepreneurial journey, starting with selling chocolates as a child in Pakistan, to working on product and market development for startups in the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia.

Be sure to tune in, and in case you missed it, Women Talk Tech has launched a 2020 Action Plan Report. Download this report to help develop a program in your organization to advance women.

Available on iTunesSpotify, and Google Play Music.

About Asra Nadeem

– Asra grew up in Pakistan, and knew from a young age that she wanted to break ceilings. At 13 she received her first computer, and instantly became hooked with technology.
As the first girl in her family to go to college, Asra studied mathematics and economics and received her Masters in literature.
Asra has worked for many startups, learning to code on the job before founding her latest startup, Opus.AI, a streaming platform powered by proprietary tech that turns plain text into movies and playable 3D worlds in real-time.
She currently resides in California.
You can follow Asra here on social media:
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