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Advice from women in tech: ‘Be yourself and you’ll be a legend’

The numbers for women in tech are dismal: only 26% are female, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology. However, for the women who are there, support and advice from other successful women can be essential reminders that it’s possible to climb the ladder even in what is a boys club.

Last night at the Airbnb headquarters in San Francisco, Niniane Wang CEO of start-up Evertoon, and Varsha Rao, head of global operations at Airbnb, talked about what it takes to be successful.

Wang brought in years of experience in the tech industry. Highlights of her career before she started Evertoon include graduating from Caltech at the age of 18 with a B.S. in computer science, and helping to create Google Desktop.

Meanwhile Rao’s credentials include Wharton, and an MBA at Harvard business school, where she was classmates with Sheryl Sandberg. (They were in the same book group afterwards, and Rao lists her as a mentor.) Before coming to Airbnb she worked at McKinsey, and led her own start-up Eve.com, which sold cosmetics online.

Here are their takeaways.

1. Rewards are delayed.

It takes one to three years to see the rewards for your work. You have to take a blind leap of faith that you will be rewarded for work. When I first started at Google, I felt like I wasn’t getting any accolades. I made a commitment to work as hard as possible for six months with no reward. During the six months, nothing much happened. At the end, I got recognition and rewards. But part of that blind faith is enjoying what you’re doing. It’s like going to the gym. It takes time to see results and if you don’t like you aren’t going to keep going.

-Niniane Wang

2. Build leverage.

What you wear, how you speak, how you stand…wearing a skirt, or saying I think in front of sentences, doesn’t matter. What matters is your skill and your leverage. What matters is your power to make a difference.

-Niniane Wang

3. You can have it all.

You have to be flexible. Be passionate about your job. It will be tough, there are days when you feel like you aren’t doing anything well. Passion gets you through that. Trust others, let go. You can’t do it alone. If your kids are in good hands, trust those people.

Get the job you want before you have kids. It’s a myth that kids need you when they are younger. They just need someone who really cares about them. But when they are older, that’s when they really start to need you.

-Varsha Rao

4. Talk to your friends.

Everyone has the same sets of problems. Having friends to confide in is important. It lets you know that you aren’t alone.

-Varsha Rao

5. Let negativity self-select out.

Anything you do can turn into vitriol. Be yourself more strongly so haters will self-select out.

I had a brilliant friend, think educated at Harvard/MIT, who loves to run marathons and put down in her online dating profile that she loved to bake in her pajamas because she was afraid of scaring away men. What she got were men who wanted someone who wanted to bake in her pajamas.

Don’t worry about fitting in with the boys club or dressing to fit in with them. Wear what you want because you will stand out when you blow someone’s mind. When you do gain leverage to make change, you’ll stand out and be more memorable: you will be a legend.

-Niniane Wang

Let negativity self-select

Anything you do can turn into vitriol. Be yourself more strongly so haters will self-select.

I had a brilliant friend, think educated at Harvard/MIT, who loves to run marathons and put down in her online dating profile that she loved to bake in her pajamas because she was afraid of scaring away men. What she got were men who wanted someone who wanted to bake in her pajamas.

Don’t worry about fitting in with the boys club or dressing to fit in with them. Wear what you want because you will stand out when you blow someone’s mind. When you do gain leverage to make change, you’ll stand out and be more memorable: you will be legend.

-Niniane Wang