International Women’s Day: the women who have shaped us ❤️Featured

It’s International Women’s Day and at Elpha we are throwing the spotlight on all the women who helped make us who we are today.I asked the community one question, who is a woman that has had a huge impact on your life and why?Dozens of Elphas shared their unique experiences and we have shared a few below with permission from the posters.
A woman who has had a huge impact on my life is my Director of Engineering at Slack, Arquay Harris.She was recently featured as one of America's Top 50 Women in Tech for 2018 and in my time as an engineer on one of her teams at Slack, she has inspired me to become a better developer and leader.As a fellow woman of color in the tech industry, I'm constantly impressed by her sheer presence and strength.One day, I'd like to be able to command the room and lead effectively as she does.
My colleague, Chrissie Brodigan, has made an immense impact on my life. She and I worked at Airbnb together a few years ago and have stayed close since.From her I've learned so much about how to be a better advocate to those with disabilities through her leadership and example, how to a more empathic researcher, and how to be richer storyteller and influencer through research.She's just one of those people for me that I look back on and think, "Wow, how lucky am I to be connected to such an amazing person and friend?"She has seen promise in me when I couldn't see it in myself, encouraged me to ask for things that I didn't think I was capable of getting, and has been a confidant and friend far beyond what I've experienced with any colleague relationship.
There's so much that could be said for Danielle Graham. She founded Fierce Founders a female accelerator at Communitech (the #3 tech hub in the world after Tel Aviv and Silicon Valley), she ran Smart Start at OCE (a grant for marketing initiatives for startups). She's about to start as a VC at Dream Makers. That's just her resume though. To know Danielle is to know an advocate. She takes the time to meet with founders and advocates for them, not because it's her job, because it's her calling. She's never one to have free time on her hands, but she always makes time for people who are doing the work and need help to access the market.
Amy Brown, currently Head of Creative Strategy at Google, has had a huge impact on my career. I joined as an intern with no experience in the tech industry, no Ivy League education, and still struggling with English. All I had was a lot of curiosity and willingness to learn. She guided me, pushed me, and inspired me, and I have seen her do the same exact things with many other women around her.She is the kind of person that gives more than she takes, that listens more than she talks, that creates more than she consumes. She just * knows * how to elevate other people around her and make them shine.When I look back, I feel so lucky I got to meet her. We need more Amys in this world!
My therapist, Sarah Weinberg, who has helped me unpack some difficult family issues that have weighed into my life, career, and self-worth. Had it not been for her expert support, I wouldn’t have the clarity that I have today. I’ve never had another human being in my life with such limited interactions, less than a dozen sessions, profoundly impact all of my key relationships.I’m exceedingly proud that my efforts today are in building a new smart voice journaling platform for mental health and well-being. I couldn’t have started it without strong women like Sarah, women tech communities like Elpha and SF Mentor Night, and equally amazing men who support women leading innovation.
The woman that has the biggest impact on my life is Skillcrush founder Adda Birnir. Adda is one of my favorite role models and continues to inspire me today as a woman in tech. She particularly has a huge impact on my life because her story is what inspired me to learn how to code and become the confident woman I always wanted to be.
A woman who changed my life was my childhood friend Petra - she was a fearless girl who didn't let others steal her shine - she was grand, loud, powerful - everything girls were not supposed to be at that time. I remember being 12-13 and for the first time in my life finding an ally - someone who accepted me for all my flaws and told me to stand my ground in the face of adversity, unapologetically. She changed how I saw myself and my self-worth, she made it possible for me to feel that there is more beyond bullying and that I can be strong enough to change the direction. Her "protection" allowed me to feel like I am allowed to exist (I was severely bullied during elementary school). It took years for the lessons to land, but just having one friend like that early on possibly started the avalanche of self-discovery for self-love that would happen years later. Our paths have changed during late teens, but I still think of her from time to time because of what she did for me.
My big sister. She has Down Syndrome and throughout my whole life, she's been teaching me that everything is possible. She wanted to go to the Special Olympics and she made it twice (To China and USA), she wanted to win a medal and even when we explained that she was competing against a lot of people from around the world, she told us "I know, but I will make it", and so she did. And that's only one part of the story. She taught me to be brave, strong, positive, to believe in myself and to always be smiling no matter what. A few years ago, I opened a chapter of the NGO Best Buddies International in Argentina, because of her and it was one of the best experiences in my life. Now, here in London, all those things that I've learned from her, are helping me in my new life. So yes, she is the best woman that I've ever met and I'm lucky to be her sister.
Coincidentally, I was just thinking about Evi Nemeth this week. In 1995, I was offered my first solo systems administration job at ETHZ. I wasn't really qualified for this job, but I was determined to make it work. I found Nemeth's book at a nearby bookstore, but I was too broke to afford it. My grandpa snuck back to the store and bought it for me as a going away present.I read and reread that book until it fell apart. It was my dirty little secret. There is no way I would have survived at that job in pre-Google, pre-Stack-Overflow days without it. She explained everything I needed to know to do the job in a way that was accessible.It's a damned shame I'll never have a chance to thank her. Though I do admire that she lived her life her own way.
My godmother, Susan Kirk, had a huge and astoundingly positive impact on my life.She started out as an intern in the White House and became a lawyer. She became Head of the legal department of the London branch of Bank of America (covering Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Pakistan).Unabashedly North American, a perfect white bob and red lipstick on at all points, she was the most brassy, caring, intelligent woman. A killer combination. she taught me (and repeatedly told me) I could be anything I wanted if I worked hard enough. She supported me unconditionally and in myriad ways, taking me in when I got kicked out of school, teaching me so many interesting things, buying pivotal pieces on my journey into womanhood, fighting my corner. She was a constellation of hope and independence and vivacity in a sometimes all-too-dark world sky. She saw the good in everything but was deceptively sharp.She was beloved of many and had a lot of godchildren - I count myself so fortunate I was one of them. I found out recently she was also the Delaware yoyo champion for a time too.She passed away from cancer almost two years ago now, and a light went out when we lost her. I hope one day i can be as positive an influence in someone's life as she was in mine.
Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu aka Mother Teresa is one of my first and greatest mentors and made a huge impact in my life. We couldn't be more different in background. I came across her via a book in my teenage years and then I began to look for more books about her and watch everything my young self could get my hands on regarding her. I was enthralled by her and how she selflessly cared for others. How she sacrificed the comfort of the convent and took the path of most resistance like most entrepreneurs do. She forged a new path for herself helping others wanting nothing in return. She had significant challenges when she started out but stuck through it. She learnt basic medical skills, languages and anything that she needed to succeed. She was a young woman that wanted to make a difference in the life of those around her but she ended up making an impact in the lives of millions including mine. This earned her the Nobel Peace prize in 1979 and many other awards and accolades. I had wanted to be a doctor before I knew of her, but getting to know her channeled the type of doctor that I knew I should be.
My friend and mentor, Adriana Truong, who helps me be better every single day; she managed to instil patience in the restless me, as well as helping me better understand who I am, both on a personal and work level, how to grow and value my skills.One of the best women in VC, Carmen Alfonso Rico, for genuinely trying to help people achieve their goals, whilst being the most positive and hard working person ever.
The first woman who has had a huge impact on my life is my mother the late Mrs Rachel Imuwahen O. She was an epitome of breaking stereotypes of who women should be and what they should achieve. She was hardworking rose to the apex in her civil service career retiring as a Permanent Secretary. She was industrious a go setter she never believed that you could not achieve anything you put your mind to and wanted. The virtues of hard work, determination standing up for myself without any limitations. My sisters Ehizogie O and Nosa O are women who are also hardworking and proving to me that I am my own limitation. There is also a female judge whose court I once interned in during my Law School attachment. Angela Merkel because how many female presidents do we have? She proves everyday that women can and should aspire to any position they want. Being a woman is not an obstacle or barrier or limitation Being a woman means there are no limitations It means doing what you want and getting the respect and pay that you deserve.
The woman who has had the greatest positive impact on my life is my 22 year old daughter, Zoë. She inspires me every single day. She never waivers in her enthusiasm for life. Her outlook stays positive and realistic. She sets boundaries with people and keeps them. I have watched her grow now for 22 years so I feel like I know her fairly well :) I have witnessed her face adversity head on and go up against some pretty powerful competitors. Yet she never felt less than, like an imposter. That is precisely what got her into medical school. It's that level of confidence, not arrogance, that is almost palpable when she enters any room that draws people to her instantly.There is a lot of talk about millennials and the negativity that goes with that association but I can tell you first hand this particular millennial has our best interests in mind. She is who pushes me. Picks me up when I may feel like people aren't listening. She reminds me I am important and to stay steady for the course and let people go that aren't interested in making my life better. She taught me to take the "Don't" and "Stop" and turn it into "Don't Stop". She believes in me.Sometimes as a business owning single mom you feel like you are doing a straight up crap job at parenting. You feel like you lack time, energy, and a playful attitude. But I am here to tell you that you can be a solid "B+" parent while succeeding in business. I should know since I have 3 kiddos who inspire me on a daily basis but that daughter of mine....holy cow she has got it going on like nobody's business.When I finally grow up I hope to be like my daughter. Thank you for letting me share her with you and all the other wonderful ladies out there!
I’m thankful for all the women in my life who have all had an influence on me and have been such amazing role models. I’m thankful for the women who have gone before me and sacrificed so much so that I could be where I am. Most importantly, I’m thankful for my mum that had the courage to carry me for 9 months, had the courage to trust her body and was selfless in raising me.
My mum. Her strength and perseverance is aspirational. She is an entrepreneur, mother, wife, daughter and so much more, a powerhouse yet so naive about her force at the same time. As women, we fight with insecurities that sprout from within, sometimes sparked by others around us. But we fight. She is not much of a speaker, but her actions preach.
To my dance teachers Mrs. White, Yasmina Ramzy and Suhaila Salimpour. Not only did they give me a foundation of grace and strength, but they served as role models for embracing and finding power in being a woman.
My Bubby (grandmother)- I'm a domestic abuse survivor with no remaining family. My Bubby was the only stable woman in my life who instilled in me the value of ambition, adaptiveness, and pragmatism. She was just so 'real' and helped me learn to do simple things I didn't have a present mother for like shaving my legs, figuring out which men were worth my time, helping me make childhood friends as a socially shy kid. Her memory is with me always.
I wrote a post on this! Inspired by my mom and grandma: