Women’s History Month at Scale

by Yuri Maruyama, Erin Ellsworth, Bihan Jiang, Karena Zhang, Catherine Ma, Iris Guo and Lin Zagorski Latimer on March 31st, 2023

Women’s History Month at Scale cover

As we close out Women's History Month, we reflect on the incredible contributions of women throughout history and their importance in shaping our world today. In particular, we want to highlight the vital role that women have played and continue to play in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields.

Despite facing numerous challenges and barriers, women have made significant strides in STEM. From Ada Lovelace, the world's first computer programmer, to Katherine Johnson, who helped put the first human on the moon, women have been pioneers in fields traditionally dominated by men. However, there is still much work to be done to address the gender gap in STEM, particularly in terms of representation and pay equity.

Throughout this month, Scale’s Women ERG spoke to a few of its members to showcase the perspectives and experiences of women working in AI. We heard from Scaliens who have consistently broken barriers and achieved success in their fields, as well as those who have faced challenges and obstacles along the way.

We hope that by sharing these stories, we can help amplify the importance of diversity and inclusion in STEM and inspire the next generation of female leaders in the field. So, join us as we celebrate Women's History Month and recognize the incredible contributions of women in STEM. Together, let's continue to work towards a more equitable and inclusive future for all.

“Having it all” as a woman means different things to different women. I think this is important to acknowledge as I discuss what it means to me.

Last year, I began pursuing my MBA on top of my full-time job. When I first started, I quickly discovered that my definition of “having it all” was exhausting and unsustainable in my new season of life. It was time to change that definition.

Oftentimes women tend to take on more responsibilities both at work and at home. This was exactly what I was doing in every aspect of my life. It forced me to prioritize the limited free time I have. I had to set boundaries in my work and personal life to make room for school. I highly recommend The Book of Boundaries: Setting the Limits that Set You Free by Melissa Hartwig Urban as it was immensely helpful for me.

“Having it all” not only means different things to different women. It also means different things in different seasons of life. In my current season of life, “having it all” means shifting priorities and setting boundaries that help me succeed where I am today. When I finish my MBA, I’ll enter a new season of life where “having it all” is going to evolve. And I can’t wait to see what that looks like. 

Yuri Maruyama

Head of Product Marketing

I joined Scale four and a half years ago when Scale was a forty-person company. At the time, I didn’t think it would be possible for me to start a family while working at a hyper-growth, early-stage startup. It took a few years but I welcomed my first baby last summer. I was able to take and enjoy my full parental leave without getting pulled into any work or feeling any guilt. 

Once I came back, I worried about how I would balance being back to work full-time while also being present for my family. I still often fall short of my own expectations, but to manage this, I’ve blocked off my calendar in the mornings until 8:30am and in the evening between 5-8pm to spend with my family. Blocking this time and holding this boundary has helped to make me more present and productive at work during the 8:30am-5pm time when I am 100% focused on work. At the same time, I’ve been able to be present for my family in the mornings and evenings without feeling guilty or like I need to check slack or email.

Bihan Jiang

Product Manager

Balancing work and life is both a challenge and a necessity. One way that I’ve found balance is by scheduling time for activities that I enjoy, such as exploring coffee shops (I drink 3+ cups a day!), traveling, watching dramas, and playing board games like Catan and Tractor.

It’s also critical to find passion in your work. As a product manager on the Spellbook team, I’m responsible for driving the development of our product, collaborating with cross-functional teams, and staying on top of industry trends and customer needs. It can be challenging, but it’s also incredibly exciting to be building in the generative AI space, which is evolving every day.

Achieving a balance between work and life is a continuous effort that requires prioritization. By making sure to allocate time for my hobbies and interests, as well as having a support system in place, I am able to maintain a strong sense of self while excelling in my career.

Karena Zhang

Account Executive

Passionate about living as a true “Corporate Athlete,” I find a myriad of ways to stay active and challenge myself in the office and beyond. When I first began my career, I was a Reformer Pilates instructor part-time while working full-time in tech. Now that I have since retired from being a fitness instructor, I have taken on a new challenge of traveling the world by way of sliding down mountains on wood planks (skiing). I was also a competitive college tennis player at Carnegie Mellon, so I am not new to navigating the stress of work and play, but I know how important it is to have a strong sense of self outside of work. I believe that no matter how stressful things get at work, I still have to live my life. Calendar blocks plus a passion for planning allow me to balance working hard, having fun, and making history.

As a female engineer, I have experienced being overlooked or underestimated many times in my career. Most of the time, there's nobody to blame--these biases are just that deeply ingrained in everyone. Over time though, I have learned to use this to my advantage. When my coworkers had low expectations of me, as long as I still set ambitious goals for myself, I could make sure I blew their expectations out of the water. I constantly remind myself daily to be confident in myself and to not let my goals and abilities be dictated by the male-dominated environment I'm surrounded by. I also keep in mind that as a minority in the workplace, I can bring fresh perspectives to the table. Finding success in engineering definitely feels like an uphill battle sometimes, but that also makes success feel much more rewarding.

Iris Guo

Strategic Product Manager

Despite lots of excitement and eagerness, I didn’t know what to expect coming into the role of a strategic product manager as a new grad. In the past, I had more traditional product manager internships at big tech companies where I was building software/ hardware features and focused on the user experiences. I haven’t done operations before and this was my first time getting into the weeds of running a project as an STO. As a woman with high degrees of agreeableness and conscientiousness, I found it difficult to be the one calling the shots and not asking for approvals before execution. At first, I thought I had to come up with the solution for every problem, so I would put a lot of pressure on myself to do everything right and I wasn’t used to asking for help since I didn’t want to bother other people. I tend to be detail-oriented and diligent in my tasks, but sometimes I would miss out on the bigger picture for strategic thinking. When I was stressed out at work, I would lean into my passion for dancing as a creative channel for me to destress. Dancing helped me express my full sense of self and relieved my obsessive thoughts from work to stay present. I performed ballroom dancing growing up and I started learning k-pop/ jazz funk/ contemporary/ bachata/ salsa when I moved to SF six months ago. Every group dance required lots of teamwork to help each other to learn the harder part of the dance, and I learned to ask for help from people with more experiences, which I applied to problems at work. Through dancing, I also learned to experiment and iterate fast, because we would have different versions of the same dance and improve from trials and errors. Dancing enlightened me to see the bigger pictures and let go of the unimportant details with bold movements, which served as a constant reminder to me at work. I felt extremely grateful for having a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship between my hobby and my job, and I believe that everyone can find the right balance between work and life.

I’m thrilled to be a woman and working with other talented men and women here at Scale as a part of the AI revolution. As a society, we have a ways to go in terms of representation and equity across all STEM fields, and think that women have an especially important role to play in bringing diverse perspectives shaping AI products, and ensuring that the future of AI is just, equitable, and serves all of humanity better.