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Rachel Lo of ‘Struck’: “Code switch”

Something I’ve learned through this journey is that support comes from the least expected of places sometimes. My first office job out of college was doing Brand Management work for a lesser known e-commerce brand that sells luxury artificial Christmas trees. While they’re absolutely amazing at what they do and have built a really impressive […]

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Something I’ve learned through this journey is that support comes from the least expected of places sometimes. My first office job out of college was doing Brand Management work for a lesser known e-commerce brand that sells luxury artificial Christmas trees. While they’re absolutely amazing at what they do and have built a really impressive company, it’s definitely not a “hot” tech brand in the conventional sense, so candidly, I wasn’t sure whether working there would have a big impact on my resume.


As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Lo.

Rachel is an engineer-turned-astrology CEO from Los Angeles. After studying Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at UC Berkeley, she worked in technical roles at companies like Apple and Cisco Meraki before deciding to build her own company out of frustration with too often being the only woman in the room.

She turned to astrology in her mid-twenties as so many others did to help make sense of the world around her. She believes astrology — whether or not you believe it’s “real” — is a powerful tool for helping people to better understand and discuss their emotions in a society where many people aren’t taught these skills.

Apart from astrology and technology, Rachel’s interested in food, sustainability, and the environment.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Thanks for the opportunity! I was born and raised in Southern California before moving to the Bay Area to attend UC Berkeley. There, I studied Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. Even though I was studying two very technical majors, even back then I knew I likely wouldn’t fit squarely within the mold of an “engineer” and had aspirations to do something more big-picture. In college I channeled this into managing the student programming board, bringing bands, comedians, filmmakers, actors, and more to campus.

After college I took a slightly meandering path, scooping up as much knowledge as I could in as many different roles as I could. I first did Brand Management at a small but successful e-comm company before going on to work in a more technical capacity on Apple’s iPhone Product Design Team. After going from such a small company to such a large one, I knew that I wanted to have more control over what I was working on, so I moved back to progressively smaller companies again, covering Product Marketing and Brand Marketing. All the while, I grew extremely used to being the only woman on a team, or one of just a few. I finally realized how much that was weighing on me and knew I wanted to embark on my own venture.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

In 2020, we’re looking at the first generation of adults to have come of age in a time when online dating was completely normalized. I can remember back in 2012, when I was in college, how taboo Tinder was when it first came to market. Gradually that stigma faded away and dating apps featuring swiping blew up in popularity.

While I know friends who have met their significant others on dating apps and there is definitely good that has come from the rise of these apps, we’re also seeing a bunch of unintended negative consequences as well. People feel like dating (especially online dating) is a second job, and they find themselves “doom swiping” on these apps (similar to doom scrolling). After tons of personal experience facing these same hurdles — I’m one of those weird people that’s gone on over 100 dates from dating apps — and becoming more and more interested in the mental/emotional benefits of astrology in my own life, I realized there was a natural fit to be made.

By matching people based on astrology — which has sort of come in and filled the gap where organized religion isn’t working for my generation — we can slow down the online dating process and make it more deliberate. Because we pair users based on their birth chart compatibility (using synastry for those in-the-know), we only provide 4 prospective matches per day. We’re also building tools and features that fly in the face of the mainstream swiping UX — for instance, we opt to show users’ priorities before we ever show their photos, in the hopes of making the process less shallow. Looking at the consumer shift away from legacy social media and the desire to spend less time in front of screens, we’ll feel we’re successful if we have users logging in once a day and spending 15 meaningful minutes on our app, rather than swiping aimlessly for hours on end.

Plus, people who are at least open to the idea of astrology — even if they themselves are not super knowledgeable about it — tend to be more open-minded and empathetic, two skills/traits that lend themselves to building strong relationships.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This might not fall into the category of “funny,” per se, but my co-founder and I both assumed our app would be accepted by the App Store without any issues. We had reasoned that our app was polished and good-looking, and having both worked at Apple before, we thought those would be the only considerations. We were surprised when we were rejected based on the concept of our app, and spent the next several weeks fighting the verdict. With a little elbow grease and amazing help from the astrology community and our friends, we were able to get our app accepted after 9 rounds of rejections. From this experience, we learned that you can’t take anything for granted and that a little determination can go a long way in getting over the inevitable obstacles that come with entrepreneurship.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Something I’ve learned through this journey is that support comes from the least expected of places sometimes. My first office job out of college was doing Brand Management work for a lesser known e-commerce brand that sells luxury artificial Christmas trees. While they’re absolutely amazing at what they do and have built a really impressive company, it’s definitely not a “hot” tech brand in the conventional sense, so candidly, I wasn’t sure whether working there would have a big impact on my resume.

The CEO of that company, Mac Harman, ended up being one of the most impactful mentors and leaders I’ve worked under. Not only did he encourage me to not go to law school (I had already applied and committed to the University of Michigan at that time), but he also pointed out what he saw in me that I didn’t see in myself: I had a knack for straddling both sides of the fence when it came to technical versus business-oriented conversations. This piece of wisdom and recognition played an outsized role in my later career decisions. Years later, Mac made time to talk me through fundraising, give me tips, and thumb through his rolodex. It may not seem like much, but knowing that someone in that world (who has gone through the entrepreneurial journey himself) has your back is tremendously motivating.

Outside of that, the unfortunate reality is that I haven’t reported to any women in my jobs, so I haven’t had many strong senior female mentors. Instead, I’ve found support in my network of hugely talented female friends who have built their own companies or forged impressive careers in PR, design, and engineering. The support and advice that these friends have provided over the last year have been invaluable.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

This is a big question and I’m not sure I have all the answers, but I just know that we’re at an inflection point in the tech industry. Anyone starting a company in 2020 (and beyond) has to think about why they’re doing what they’re doing, and what the long term implications could be. It’s not always possible to predict the future of a company, but I think the world is asking business leaders to be more mindful and consider more perspectives than just their own.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We have a long way to go with Struck, and I’m excited to see how we can continue to grow the company. We have big aspirations for the long term of the app and how we can use it to help people build healthier relationships with others. Alex (my co-founder) and I are also personally interested in environmentally-focused technologies/solutions, so I could see that as an area we dive into in the future.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Where do I start? Just kidding, sort of.

The business world in particular was built by and for men. The “proper” way to negotiate is rooted in traditionally “male behavior”: being loud, presenting yourself as an Alpha, taking up a lot of space. Often when I’m in “business mode” I find myself consciously role playing — I pretend that I’m a white man. After working for many years in technical roles liaising with mostly men, I’ve found that this is the most reliable way for me to be taken seriously. But at the same time I have to be mindful to not step too far outside of what people expect of an Asian woman because that can ruffle feathers as well. So as women, and especially women of color, we’re constantly walking this tightrope, reading the room, and figuring out how to “code switch” to fit the environment.

In general, just the fact that women have to think through this type of thing and allocate energy to figuring out how to just be taken seriously can be a resource drain. I do believe that all traditionally “successful” businesswomen have had to work harder than their male counterparts to get to where they are in essentially all cases.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’m not really a quotes person, but I have this vivid memory of this magazine clipping my mom put on the fridge of a Bertrand Russell quote: To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.

Even though I think my mom put that on the fridge to be facetious and remind us kids to stop asking her for a new pair of sneakers, it’s really stuck with me over the years. As hard as it is to be an outsider in a lot of situations, I think there’s a fire that it lights in people. Women, POC, members of the LGBTQ+ community — all of us have had to fight harder for less than men, white people, cis people, whatever the majority is. I don’t think this is fair and I strongly believe we as a society need to address these systemic inequities, but given our current reality, the tough situations I’ve had to face as a WOC raised by immigrants have made me more tenacious, more driven, and generally happier in many ways.

More generally, when I’m feeling down for whatever reason, I’ll often meditate on this quote and think about what it is I’m sad about (usually that I don’t have something or someone that I want) and try to think more deeply about how I can view that absence as something positive.

How can our readers follow you online?

I’m not super active on Twitter but they can follow me @hellorachello.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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