Tech maven Kate Brodock is coding her way to the top as a digital activist for her big business clients, college students and other women in tech.
By AShley M. Casey
Photography by Kimberly Cook
Brodock, a native of Pompey who now resides in Cazenovia, is claiming her space in a field that according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology, women earn only 18 percent of the undergraduate degrees for computer and information sciences. Women Who Tech reports that women comprise only two percent of open source developers.
But Brodock isn’t looking to be just another statistic. She is paving her own way as the founder and principal of integrated marketing firm the Other Side Group, president of global women’s entrepreneurship organization Girls in Tech, director of the W2O Group Center for Social Commerce and adjunct instructor of advanced public relations at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. She also writes about the tech world — and the women who inhabit it — for Forbes and Ad Your Comment Here, an extension of OSG.
If Brodock’s true passion for the field was measurable data, it would report her entrepreneurial knack for decoding digital activism. More so, using her social media, marketing and other content-producing talents to empower people with her knowledge, especially other women who tech. And it’s this savvy thirty-something’s drive to carve her own niche that gives her the freedom to craft her own career. “I will never be the ‘9-to-5 and then you’re off type,’” Brodock said. “In order to truly be successful, I don’t think that a 9-to-5 mindset is really what’s going to make you come out ahead.”
Brodock has been spinning multiple plates since her undergraduate days at the University of Rochester, where she double majored in political science and history. (She also minored in French and graduated with a certificate in international relations.)
After graduation, she jumped into the business field for a better-rounded experience before entering what she had once thought to be a career track in academia. She spent two years at Ignition Ventures, a start-up tech transfer firm in Cambridge, Mass, and she hasn’t left the tech world since. “[It] was a firm that basically works with technologies that are primarily in their last stages, or ideas that are run by scientists, researchers … and we help them get to market,” Brodock explained. “That kind of got me started in both technology and entrepreneurship … and I just went from there.”
In February 2007, Brodock joined colleagues Adriana Gascoigne and Ivo Lukas to found Girls in Tech to focus on the “engagement, education and empowerment of influential women in technology.” Today, GIT has 30 chapters worldwide. “Girls in Tech [has] been my rock of passion for the last six years,” Brodock said. She founded the Boston chapter of GIT and then became global president. She is working on developing a chapter in Central New York as well.
“I like taking my experience and being able to help people who aren’t there yet,” she said. “I would not feel good about myself if I just went on and worked forward and looked up the rest of my life. I don’t think that’s how the world should work.”
Girls in Tech provides mentoring, workshops and networking resources for women and girls who want to embark on a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) career. As president, Brodock keeps in close contact with each chapter’s managing director, and she and her colleagues hope to expand their grassroots organization. “It’s been all volunteer up until now, but we’re actually very aggressively seeking sponsorship so we can shift some work over. We really love the organization and want to take it to the next step,” she said. “I’m hoping that that much more officially becomes a large part of work moving forward. … It’s something I just absolutely love doing.”
Brodock acknowledges that, compared to many women in the global tech world, she’s had it relatively easy. A graduate of Fayetteville-Manlius High School, she said she had a supportive family and many opportunities available to her. “If I ever heard anything about being a girl or a woman [being a disadvantage], I didn’t really take it into stride that much,” she said. “Being in the start-up world and with an entrepreneurial brain, I’ve wanted to make my own opportunities. … Yes, I am lucky, but this isn’t the case in places like our [GIT] chapter in Egypt or our chapter in Italy. It’s very different around the world. I … wouldn’t consider myself to have any real obstacles in that sense, but I work toward overcoming all obstacles that a lot of women can face.”
One of GIT’s core philosophies maintains that women are not weak, regardless of their interests and how they present themselves. Brodock mentors all GIT-ers in the importance of not losing one’s identity and femininity. “For quite a while, especially with the generation before this one, in a lot of male-dominant industries, women felt like they needed to be one of the guys, whether it came down to wearing pantsuits [or] however they were doing it,” she said. “There was a little bit of a hesitation to really embrace your femininity. … You don’t need to do that. You can still be very powerful and still be very feminine. That’s … part of the reason we call ourselves ‘Girls in Tech’ instead of ‘Women in Technology.’”
Brodock’s global interest in supporting other women sparked while doing graduate work in Bangladesh. While there studying madrasas (the Islamic school system), she realized that if women in oppressed situations were given the right tools and connections, they could be the key to improving their own societies and much more. “A large part of compassion for me is not just necessarily this idea of love, but it’s understanding other people’s positions, understanding the world outside of [myself],” she said. “Part of what gets me fulfilled about Girls in Tech is that I can really understand that other people’s problems are being solved or whatever they need. … I have done a lot of personal work on making sure I have a compassionate outlook. … I think it makes me work better, too.”
Such improvement is being witnessed in the “burgeoning tech scene” in Latin America, Asia and the Middle East, Brodock said, where women have flourished with GIT’s networking opportunities. “Women are really playing a pretty strong role in places like that,” she said. “There’s certain pockets in the Middle East where women have begun to [find] channels, resources, avenues, supporters, et cetera, and they’re really doing some awesome things. I think in general, women working with other women, having a network of other women locally who are in the tech field, has also been very beneficial. In terms of women supporting each other, that seems to be a very strong foundation as well.”
Her teaching and mentoring echo that sentiment as well, as she learns from those she teaches. She called this reverse mentorship. “A lot of times, I also look for opportunities to be learning something from people in that situation,” she said. “Don’t discount people 10 years younger than you just because you think you have more experience. You can learn a ton from them. It’s important to be looking not always forward and up.”
Last year, Brodock shared some of her wisdom with teenagers at the Hewitt Shool in New York City as part of the TEDx Youth Day. She spoke on the importance of working hard, playing hard and loving hard to reach your dreams — a practice she strives to implement daily with the help of her husband, Chad Meigs.
Given her packed schedule, it was a struggle for Brodock to learn to create boundaries between her work and home life. She credits her husband with teaching her how to detach from her devices and unwind. The couple met in Boston, where Meigs, of Vermont, worked as a web developer for another tech startup.
“When we first started dating and I was still in my twenties, super-motivated in Boston, I was a work-all-the-time person,” Brodock said. “We still both work hard, but we put some boundaries around it. When we are spending time together with friends and family, focusing that time. For me, it was a slow process of getting comfortable with that. It used to make me very uncomfortable — not the hanging-out part, but the not-being-attached part. That’s something I had to do myself as part of the process.”
In November 2009, the couple moved to Cazenovia, 10 miles from where Brodock grew up. The outdoorsy Brodocks have no children yet, but they do have an “awesome dog” named Dice. As “very non-professional athletes,” per her website, the Brodocks enjoy skiing, hiking, biking and sailing. When she has time, Brodock also likes to brush up on her piano and cello skills. She played throughout high school, college, grad school and beyond, participating in various orchestras and even a band.
Although the job market for web developers in Syracuse is not ideal, Meigs has picked up some contract work. In the meantime, he also dabbles in home brewing. Brodock said they are thinking of starting a hops farm. “It’s a lot of work, but it is something I can do with my husband as a family,” she said.
Brodock said that while Syracuse has a very successful past, people should be aiming toward the future. “Because I grew up in the area, and because at least for the time being we’re settling down here, I have a very vested interest in the region, emotionally. I’d like to see the region prosper,” she said. “I think this region could really benefit from focusing on technology innovation entrepreneurship a lot. There’s certainly a good, burgeoning community here and I hope that we can harness that as a region and as a city and really do something with that. I think we have a lot of potential.”
As for what is in store for her future, Brodock said she isn’t the typle who likes to plan that far in advance. “The thing about me is that I would not at all say that I don’t have direction because I certainly do in some very clear areas,” Brodock said. “A lot of times, things will come to me, so something will get in front of me somehow, whether it’s through a connection I have in my network, someone asked me to do something, and a lot of those things will spark my interest. I never know what’s coming. I have some very clear solids in life, but then there’s the part of me that is also very much I take opportunities as they come.”
Just like the ever-changing nature of the field she’s currently dominating, Brodock will forge on, turning whatever comes her way into one-of-a-kind opportunities that will no doubt impact others.
Breath of Fresh AIR
Bianchi, 24, is program manager for the Northeast Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airspace Integration Research Alliance, or NUAIR, which is managed by CenterState CEO. While most people are familiar with unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in their military capacity, NUAIR is developing new purposes for drones.
“UAS have a multitude of everyday applications in agriculture, environmental research, disaster relief and much more. It’s exciting to work alongside the engineers, programmers and entrepreneurs creating UAS for uses ranging from the humanitarian (units that deliver medical supplies to underdeveloped areas) to the ‘party enhancing’ (units that play music and flash strobe lights),” Bianchi explained.
Her job as program manager is to connect with businesses and government leaders to establish civilian use standard for UAS.
“It’s very rewarding to be part of an organization shaping this technology’s story in the United States, and to see Central New York at the forefront of such a momentous new industry,” she said.
Bianchi also works with CenterState CEO to “stimulate innovation and economic development” in the region. In addition, she has helped organize Startup Weekend in Syracuse, a 54-hour crash course for those wishing to launch their own businesses.
“She’s really motivated. I think she takes a real active role in what’s happening in the tech scene, the entrepreneurship scene,” Brodock said. “So far on the board she’s been very receptive in terms of putting together events and programming. … I do see her developing into a leader in the future for sure.”
As for Bianchi, she said her vision of the future is “constantly evolving,” especially given the fluctuating nature of the tech world.
“In five years, I see myself in a career in which I can utilize tech to contribute to urban revitalization efforts and enhance entrepreneurship,” she said. “I see myself still learning new skill[s] and adapting to find solutions to the next challenge!”