Tech Ladies Talk Mentors, Heroes and Grit

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmail

Left: Catherine Wong, chief product officer and EVP of Engineering at Domo. Right: Karmel Larson, founder and CEO of Momni.

Utah is known for big families, red rocks, winter sports and fry sauce. It’s also getting a national reputation as Silicon Slopes, but is that a one-gender venture? We interviewed Catherine Wong, chief product officer and EVP of Engineering at Domo, and Karmel Larson, founder and CEO of Momni, about their journeys.

Catherine Wong: The Girl Code

Catherine Wong discovered a love of technology while writing a video game in her computer science class at BYU.

“Creating virtual games and solving puzzles was exhilarating. Since then, I’ve derived joy in all stages of building enterprise technology, platforms and programs. I love seeing the impact our work can have in our customers’ lives,” Catherine says.

Now she’s the chief product officer and EVP of Engineering at Domo in American Fork.

Utah Valley Magazine: How is Utah Valley in terms of environment for young women?

Catherine Wong: Today, young women participate in programs ranging from coding camps to tech internships all over Utah Valley. Organizations like Women Tech Council are so impactful as a way to interact with future leaders. Conversations and awareness around inclusion and diversity continue to grow. I’m encouraged by companies supporting women to stay in the workforce, with better maternity leave policies and cultures that encourage women to pursue leadership roles.

UV: How can we encourage girls to love STEM like you do and have the confidence to pursue it?

Catherine: It can be hard to become what you can’t see. Women can encourage more female STEM participation by being visible leaders young women can look up to. Be an active participant in the community and engage with young women personally by volunteering for events, speaking at schools or participating at conferences and career days. When strong leaders interact, students and young professionals can clearly see different forms of success and leadership.

UV: Advice for girls wanting to go into tech?

Catherine: No one likes to fail, but it’s a part of the process. My fail-fast moments make me a better engineer and leader. I learned early on the only thing stopping my success was me. I started raising my hand for every opportunity, even if it meant I moved laterally or even “backwards.” I worked in product management, M&A, technical architecture, production integration and engineering management. This “jungle gym” career prepared me for a senior leadership position. I amassed a wealth of experience in a very compressed amount of time.

UV: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

Catherine: My immigrant parents focused on working hard, avoiding complacency and having a willingness to “lose sight of the shore and discover new lands.”

UV: Who is your hero?

Catherine: Ed Catmull of Pixar. His movies reflect an interplay of technology, storytelling and heart. Meeting him at Domopalooza, our user conference, was a life highlight.

Karmel Larsen: A Natural Problem Solver

Karmel Larson is a social worker and mother of eight children who had an idea for solving the worldwide problem of childcare for working moms. She co-founded Momni, the Uber of childcare.

“I’m more concerned about solving world problems than developing my career. But when a life call comes, it’s time to hustle and technology is a great tool to accelerate that hustle,” Karmel says.

Utah Valley Magazine: How is Utah Valley in terms of environment for young women?

Karmel Larson: I see my own teenage daughter being empowered by coaches, teachers, mentors and peers. She has an, “I can do anything attitude!” I’m grateful for the influence of wonderful leaders who help model and mentor that belief.

UV: How can we encourage girls to love STEM like you do and have the confidence to pursue it?

Karmel: Too often we ask youth, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The question we should promote is, “What is the greatest problem in the world you want to solve?” If STEM could solve that problem, encourage that path and the belief they can do it!

UV: Advice for girls wanting to go into tech?

Karmel: Life gets crazy hard, no matter what path you choose. Knowing the why behind every choice is crucial to get you through bumps, valleys and Everests. Begin with the end in mind — then shatter every barrier that gets in your way, whether it’s in tech, teaching or telling bedtime stories.

UV: Was there ever a time when you wanted to give up?

Karmel: When I ran out of personal funds to grow Momni, I had to lay off my team and had no budget to move forward. I considered my options, and quitting was one of them. Momni was progressing and growing, so I determined that lack of funds and lack of team was not failure. I got back up alone — for months — and built it up again.

UV: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

Karmel: I love Marie Forleo’s advice that “Everything is figureoutable!” I believe that 100 percent. I had no idea how to launch a global tech company — but I am doing it. Thank you to God, Google and great STEM mentors!

UV: Who is your hero?

Karmel: Nelson Mandela. He said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Early on in his career, he gathered together with small groups of 12-15 women encouraging them to march on the capital in South Africa to protest inequality. Decades later he would lead the nation. By small and simple things we can achieve the impossible!

Originally published in the 2019 July/August issue of Utah Valley Magazine. 

Share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *