Sara J Chipps

JavaScript developer based in NYC, Former CTO of Flatiron School and now CEO of Jewelbots

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON October 05, 2015

Discussion

SaraReyChipps@sarajchipps · Jewelbots, CEO
Hi! I'm Sara, I've been building software of all kinds for 15 years. I co-founded Girl Develop It, a program that teaches adult women to code, as well as lead several engineering teams at startups. Now I'm building Jewelbots, smart friendship bracelets designed to spark girls' interest in engineering, pre-orders are live at http://jewelbots.com. I like JavaScript and robots. Ask me anything.
Hunter Walk@hunterwalk · Partner, Homebrew
You've played a visible role in the NYC tech community for a while. How has it changed over last few years and are there specific types of startups which benefit from being in NYC (vs Silicon Valley)?
SaraReyChipps@sarajchipps · Jewelbots, CEO
@hunterwalk Good question. There are a lot more startups now then there were, or, at least in my perspective. Before it was more "people working in tech". I think there are verticals that benefit from being in New York such as, finance, fashion, and B2B. Product and social companies will always be best in SF. NYC has a long way to go to reach the product standards set in Silicon Valley, I think that's our biggest challenge.
Jana Trantow@janatrantow · Investor, Bluerun Ventures
@sarajchipps a follow up to @jmar777. Who are your role models, both growing up and now?
SaraReyChipps@sarajchipps · Jewelbots, CEO
@janatrantow Great question, growing up my role models were mostly fictional and ridiculous. Like Nancy Drew and Laura Ingalls Wilder(okay she was realy but no idea why I wanted to be on the prairie). Now my role models are women like Marissa Meyer and Hilary Clinton who have their dreams and their families and coexist with both. How about you?
Jana Trantow@janatrantow · Investor, Bluerun Ventures
@sarajchipps My current role models are two women who lead the way for us–Geraldine Laybourne and Sara Levinson. They are role models I have made mentors and look up to their views on life and business (and how to win at both) How do you think your early role models (real or not!) shaped the way you approach business and life now?
SaraReyChipps@sarajchipps · Jewelbots, CEO
@janatrantow my early role models were all super spunky, funny, and smart. I think I have tried to channel their energy since the beginning.
Phillip Yang@geekyyang
@sarajchipps Hi Sara. Fan of your work. I like asking this one question to any entrepreneur I come across: What would you say your spirit animal would be, and why?
SaraReyChipps@sarajchipps · Jewelbots, CEO
@geeky_yang definitely this guy I love piglets!!!!
Victor Chanhthasenh@bvcxtds · www.collabbro.com
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
how much weight do you give the power of role models in influencing youth behavior? if a lot, how do you think about promoting women who code, or combatting incorrect stereotypes some people may believe?
SaraReyChipps@sarajchipps · Jewelbots, CEO
@eriktorenberg Role models are the biggest influencers of kids after their friends. There was an awesome woman who said about role models "You can't be what you can't see". It's important that we put women and PoC who code on blast, promote what they are doing and who they are so all kids can see this is for them too. I think this will also go far to combat stereotypes.
Margaret Lee@margaretleedees · co-founder aParently
hi sara, big fan of your work (and personhood!) here, i was showing a couple other friend-parents your kickstarter on Jewelbots and they asked me what technology skills do their daughters need to know to use your product effectively? (sad that I couldn't really tell them-- i know a very large group of parents and girls who are excited to use the product-- there is clearly a need/interest from parents as much as girls!)
SaraReyChipps@sarajchipps · Jewelbots, CEO
@margaretleedees Thank you for sharing Jewelbots! So, no technology skills are needed to use Jewelbots. Out of the box it is customizable by the app and users can just stop there if they want. However, they are open source, so users can also utilize the Arduino IDE to make it more awesome. Should they want to do that, they would need to be able to install the IDE and grab some code they can customize on our site. We're trying to make it as beginner friendly as possible.
Jeremy Martin@jmar777 · CTO, Stream.Live
The woeful gender ratios in tech are much discussed, and the conversation often centers around corporate hiring. While that's clearly a critical piece of the puzzle, it's also long after much of the female attrition in the field has taken place, which has been shown to begin as early as grade school. Programs like Jewelbots are exciting, as they can provide a meaningful avenue for girls who want to explore and begin building their engineering skills. Are there are any efforts being put into place to track what percentage of users of Jewelbots go on to remain in tech fields, and especially how those percentages compare to girls who weren't exposed to similar programs?
SaraReyChipps@sarajchipps · Jewelbots, CEO
@jmar777 Jeremy, thanks for your question/thoughts. I agree that we both need to work on recruitment and attrition in software engineering. We will do our best to track if our users get into technology fields. As a consumer product that can be a challenge, but I'm hoping our users will come back and share their stories.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
What has been the biggest roadblock (if any) that may not be so obvious in fulfilling Jewelbots mission "sparking girl's interest in engineering?"
SaraReyChipps@sarajchipps · Jewelbots, CEO
@eriktorenberg Great question... hmmmm.... I think one big thing that we will be focused on after getting our product out there will be to see how many users are actually coding and how many users are just playing with the existing functionality. That's something we'll probably always be tracking/changing as we want to build a super fun product and also drive users to put the work in to make it better.
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
What’s something you are most grappling with right now?
SaraReyChipps@sarajchipps · Jewelbots, CEO
@russfrushtick I'm assuming you're talking about work (and not my personal life) and will say that the biggest thing I am grappling with is the fact that this week we needed a particular antenna for our boards and they aren't available. Mysteriously (we think someone just went to production with our microprocessor that just came out of beta) we couldn't find the part, which had been readily available previously. We were able to find it in the Czech Republic and get them sent here but it took a while. Now our new boards are delayed by 1.5wks. Annoying.
@sarajchipps How difficult was it to convince angel investors to invest in Jewelbots without any traction? The catch 22 being the funding required to build a sellable product. Currently our company has bootstrapped till the prototype stage with a few beta signups. Thanks!
SaraReyChipps@sarajchipps · Jewelbots, CEO
@dmurthy The super early angel investors believed in our mission and shared our goal of getting this product to market. Since then we've gotten traction and it's much easier to put forward our case. This is always hard, but persistence is key. Good luck!
Aroop Chaudhari@bombayblue · UT
@sarajchipps Hi Sara, what's your take on entirely remote teams?
SaraReyChipps@sarajchipps · Jewelbots, CEO
@bombayblue I think that remote work is awesome, it opens you up to all kinds of talent, and allows people to work from where they are comfortable. Remote work takes a lot of trust, and when a whole team is remote it lays the groundwork for that trust as everyone is keeping each other accountable.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
Hi Sara! Thanks for joining us today. 🙌 How did you originally get into engineering? Did you always know the type of career path you wanted to take? What have been the biggest challenges in your career so far - and how have you overcome them? (Sorry - couple Q's snuck in there ;))
SaraReyChipps@sarajchipps · Jewelbots, CEO
@ems_hodge Hi Emily! The short answer is that I was a homeschooled kid with not a lot of friends and a bunch of free time. There was an entire generation of people that got into programming because they were loners and I was on the tail end of that. I loved messing with computers and seeing what I could do. I knew when I was 18 that I wanted to be a programmer for the rest of my life, I was super lucky that way. The biggest challenges in my career always revolved around culture and being different. As the only female on a number of teams sometimes it was hard to be accepted into that culture. As my career grew I became more used to it, but in the beginning it was super hard.
Abby@passi0nista
Hello, Sara! I love the the work that you do! Now, your turn...what is it that you love the most in all the work that you do? :)
SaraReyChipps@sarajchipps · Jewelbots, CEO
@passi0nista what a fun question! Working on Jewelbots, the best part is doing user testing with pre-teen girls. Especially when they are too young to be self conscious about the way they behave. They can be total spazzes and hilarious and super fun and that's great.
ian ownbey@iano · Bumpers / Captioned
What was the hardest part of starting a hardware company as a software engineer? How has your perspective on that changed over the last couple years as you have done it?
SaraReyChipps@sarajchipps · Jewelbots, CEO
@iano going from making software to making a physical product is such a shock at first. Like "what do you mean I need four different types of engineers to make an MVP?" Over the past two years my perspective has gone from "oh fun! I'm gonna build a thing!" to "I'm going to build this thing and it's going to be a lot of hard work but totally worth it."
Joanna Montgomery@joannasaurusrex · Founder, Little Riot
Hello! I'm a fellow female hardware startup founder and battle similar challenges to you every day. Your background is software - do you ever wish you'd founded a "conventional" tech startup?
SaraReyChipps@sarajchipps · Jewelbots, CEO
@joannasaurusrex only because I would be better at it. As CEO I'm responsible for how this thing goes, and I'm trying my best to get out of the way of the amazing experts I have the privilege of working with.
ian ownbey@iano · Bumpers / Captioned
What is the coolest thing you have learned since you have started building hardware?
SaraReyChipps@sarajchipps · Jewelbots, CEO
@iano I've learned all the steps that go into building a physical product! Like, you need a package designer! There isn't just a person that makes a box somewhere and says "here is what you put your product in" (or whatever I imagined previously). It's crazy and really cool.
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Sara! Welcome. I'm particularly interested in the way entrepreneurs build and launch their startups. Why did you decide to launch Jewelbots on Kickstarter? Did it meet/exceed your expectations?
SaraReyChipps@sarajchipps · Jewelbots, CEO
@rrhoover Hi, Ryan, thanks for having me! We decided to launch on Kickstarter as it's a place where people vote with their hearts and we thought Jewelbots was the perfect product for it. Kickstarter is a lot of work and preparation, but it was totally worth it and now we have this amazing community forming around Jewelbots.
What have been your primary sources of inspiration and guidance when leading a company?
SaraReyChipps@sarajchipps · Jewelbots, CEO
@dmurthy People who have done this before. We have great advisors and mentors that we can ask questions to when we need it. I want to learn from other's experience as much as I can.
SaraReyChipps@sarajchipps · Jewelbots, CEO
Stepping away for a few, this has been super fun, will be back in a bit to answer any questions!
Koji Kanao@twelvejapan · Web/iPhoneApp dev/legal tech startup
Hi Sara, I have two questions for you. Do you feel the difference female coders and male coders? If yes, what is that? Do you have any experiences that you could make something because you are female?
SaraReyChipps@sarajchipps · Jewelbots, CEO
@twelvejapan Hi Koji, thanks for your question. No, actually, I haven't seen anything that's different from female coders to male coders. I find them to be similarly skilled in a void, and wouldn't say that either is inclined to certain skills.