Women Tech CEOs From Kosovo to California Talk Business, Share Personal Experiences as Leaders

Published : Thursday, May 11, 2017 | 5:16 AM

An animated crowd gathered in the lofty presentation room at the famed tech incubator IdeaLab Wednesday afternoon to hear personal stories and take-aways from two women CEO’s who head their own companies, one in Kosovo and one in Pasadena, and about how a global mentorship program provided new insight towards empowering leading women in tech.

Gladys Kong, CEO of Pasadena-based UberMedia, took up and coming Kosovian tech leader Hana Qerimi, who founded startup Shkolla Digjitale (Digital School) in Kosovo, under her wing for two weeks, serving as a mentor to help bridge a growing global network of women tech entrepreneurs.

Gladys Kong, CEO of Pasadena-based UberMedia (left) with Kosovian tech leader Hana Qerimi, who founded startup Digital School

“For me, to meet another entrepreneur from the other side of the world who is also running a tech business is very exciting and also very inspirational,” said Kong.

Qerimi is visiting Pasadena and UberMedia as part of the prestigious Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership program, which leverages the expertise of U.S. leaders to support women’s entrepreneurship, economic empowerment and leadership both here and abroad.

UberMedia is one of 30 companies selected to mentor female leaders through the program alongside companies like Time, Google and Wal-Mart. Kong and Qerimi will contrast and compare their respective tech scenes as well as diversity and leadership challenges they face growing their companies.

“I’ve been learning a lot. I’ve been seeing how Gladys manages the team, how the team cooperates with each other and what UberMedia does, which is really impressive because it’s not something that in Kosovo is existent at all,” said Qerimi.

“It’s interesting for me because I never got to work with women because the IT sector in my country is mainly occupied by men so it’s my first time working with a CEO tech woman and it was very nice because I really expected something different–something more bureaucratic, formal and everything–but it was not like that,” said Qerimi.

The fireside style conversation included topics about being a woman in tech, the importance of technology as a global language and how to successfully lead a start-up in a global economy in the tech industry.

“I would say I feel very lucky with the resources that we have in the U.S. compared to what Hana has to go through to start her company from scratch,” said Kong. “I learned a whole lot of what we have here and what she doesn’t have there,” Kong added.

Kong’s UberMedia is recognized as a pioneer in targeted mobile advertising and was listed as Fast Company’s “50 Most Innovative Companies,” The Wall Street Journal’s Top “50 Startups,” Entrepreneur Magazine’s “Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America,” and as one of Advertising Age’s “Best Places to Work” since its inception in 2012.

Needless to say, Qerimi was able to see firsthand how a successful company is run.

Qerimi said she plans on interacting more with her co-workers and employees in Kosovo after seeing how close knit Kong and her UberMedia staff are on a daily basis.

“I love how they actually work on a team here because everyone is in one place and it’s a shared room. I will definitely implement this as soon as I get to my country because in that way you get to know people more, to socialize more with a team and definitely get their opinion when it’s requested whenever it’s needed,” said Qerimi.

Qerimi’s Digital School is the only private education institute in Kosovo which offers computer science, programming and robotics lessons for ages 7 to 18-years-old as an afterschool program.

It currently operates in two cities with more than 600 active students and is accredited by the Ministry of Education of Kosovo.

“I think they will have the chance to get two perspectives because my country is basically on the other side of the globe and it’s a very small country and still we share so many similar things,” said Qerimi.

Just 5 percent of leadership positions in the technology industry are held by women and only 18 percent of undergraduate computer science degrees and 26 percent of computing jobs are held by women, according to Girls Who Code.

“I’ve been involved in the IdeaLab community for almost fifteen years and it’s always been open and welcome to women in tech or any leadership position and I see that trend going across the board, not only in San Gabriel Valley, but also across southern California. I feel that it is going in the right direction and I personally have been very encouraged in my career to grow from a woman in tech to a woman in leadership as well,” explained Kong.

Since the inaugural program in 2006, the U.S. Department of State, Fortune Most Powerful Women and Vital Voices Global Partnership have worked with over 280 international business women leaders from over 55 countries and territories.

“Doors are opening for us,” said Kong.

blog comments powered by Disqus