Kylie Woods Created Her Own Career From Scratch
The founder of tech non-profit Chic Geek explains how she made it happen
Name: Kylie Woods
Job title: Founder, Chic Geek
Currently lives in: Calgary
Education: BComm, Mount Royal University
First job out of school: Marketing at a product-management company
Kylie Woods’ road to tech wasn’t predictable. She studied communications and didn’t even think of tech or computer science as possible career paths until she got a glimpse of Calgary’s start-up scene—and then she knew she had to be part of it. “I fell in love with the pace, the energy, the ambition and all these very cool tech entrepreneurs I was meeting,” she says. “I was like, ‘How do I get involved in this?’ Because this is going to be a career that I am always going to be excited about.”
“Proactive” is probably too lax a term to use for Woods. She was “insatiably curious” about tech and wanted to learn more by meeting with experts. She got her first jobs “through coffee and conversations. I didn’t really apply for jobs, but I went for a lot of coffees.” It didn’t take long for her to realize that the faces she wanted to see in tech weren’t there. That’s how Chic Geek, her non-profit that runs events to increase women’s tech and entrepreneurial skills, was born.
Woods wanted to fight the systemic barriers, like exclusionary or hostile work culture, and personal obstacles, like struggling to be confident or assertive, that prevent women from engaging with tech. She also recognized that tech is part of “every single role,” so women need to be confident with it regardless of their industry. Chic Geek is the resource Woods wishes she’d had when she was entering tech: a supportive community where women can grow their skillsets.
Woods has always found, particularly in the beginning, that she is a minority at tech events and that she has often had to justify Chic Geek’s existence by explaining why it’s important to have such an organization, but she tries not to let detractors faze her. “There will always be opposition, but if you believe in what you’re doing and the problem you’re solving, then you’ll go forward anyway,” she says.
As for the future, Woods has some concrete goals: She wants to see women taking up a minimum of 50% of tech roles and receiving equal pay. It might sound like a pipe dream, but she’s optimistic it’ll happen while she’s still in the industry. Right now, though, Woods is on maternity leave and is “unapologetic” about taking time to be with her family.
When her mat leave ends, her role at Chic Geek will be a blank canvas, but she’s okay with that. Her advice to people worrying about how having kids could impact their career is to think about what they want sooner than later. “Build the career you want to support your lifestyle,” she says. “When we take time to make ourselves happy, we bring better quality and new ideas into the careers that we have. That belief that we all need to be working 80 hours a week and not have time for anything personal or wellness-related is fatally flawed.”