Alaina Percival is the CEO & Board Chair at Women Who Code, a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology careers.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I started off my career in Germany working for Puma. I managed to get promoted pretty quickly so that I found myself in the role of Project Manager, with everyone who was providing deliverables being senior to me.
That meant I had to really learn how to work with people when I couldn’t put demands on them. I had to bring them on the journey. And that has very much led to working with large numbers of volunteers.
I got my MBA and then took a job at a small women’s performance footwear company. That was a startup-like environment, where we were a small company and we had huge competitors like Nike and Mizuno.
I then moved out to the Bay Area, but I struggled a bit trying to transition into the tech industry. That’s when I found that I loved spending time with women who were passionate about technology. It was through those interactions that I started to see gaps that were really opportunities
I ended up at a small tech startup that eventually ended up being acquired by Yahoo. That helped me to elevate my tech credibility. I then went to work for a firm leading developer outreach. There I saw that fewer than 5% of the people in the top technical roles were women.
So I started learning from what those women were doing to succeed in their careers, and that would eventually become a part of the Women Who Code program .
Women Who Code itself started as a community group in the Bay Area. It was a small but powerful movement, and we realized that other women around the world deserved to have access to it as well. So eventually, I decided to take a risk and give up my day job to focus on fulfilling the mission of Women Who Code full time.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
A typical work day is waking up and going for a walk with my family in the park closest to my house, then spending much of the first hour focusing on planning my day and getting through email and Slack to see if there’s anything urgent that came through overnight.
I then jump on a couple of calls ranging in topic from launching our new digital programs, to applying for grants, or strategic planning, to HR needs, regulations due to COVID-19, or financial meetings.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Yes, it definitely does. Half of our team was already remote working so we were lucky that, other than our programming efforts, our work has largely been uncompromised and we are able to continue regular operations remotely. As for our local programming, we’ve been pivoting to a new digital format to accommodate our members needs during COVID-19.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Work-life balance means to me that I not only have time for family, friends, and personal activities, but that I also love the work I am doing and believe in the mission of that work.
5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?
Every day is different. You have to balance your strategic objectives with whatever the day brings. Flexibility is key.
6) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?
I like reading business books in the morning and reading page turners that help me to clear my mind at night.
7) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?
I like to create a list of what I need to accomplish, and then move down the list so that I’m not missing something.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I’ve always thought that Richard Branson has an interesting take on the challenges of maintaining a healthy balance between working towards career goals and having a good personal life.
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