Prior to the pandemic, successful professional women could focus on mastering their profession, and delegate, as I have, daily routine tasks in order to free themselves to forward their career goals. Because of the current situations we face, that paradigm has shifted, and professional women in tech are forced to wear multiple hats in addition to career that have become critical. Women are running their households, doing things the old-fashioned way, creating the need for a new balance, and finding a new sense of normal.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of my series about how women leaders in tech and STEM are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren Hasson.
Lauren Hasson is the Founder of DevelopHer and a senior engineer in apps and information security at a leading Silicon Valley fintech company.
Lauren transformed her career from rock bottom into a top, high-profile professional and nearly quintupled her salary in less than four years. Now, she’s moving the needle to bridge the gender wage gap and inspiring thousands of women to build their best careers and break glass ceilings in STEM and tech.
Lauren’s professional engineering work has been featured in Apple keynotes, she was one of 100 top innovators invited to attend the UK G8 Innovation and Decide Now Act Summits, and she’s won multiple, high-profile hackathons. In her career, she’s held both senior leadership and senior engineering roles at startups and prominent agencies alike.
In addition to her professional work, Lauren’s work with DevelopHer has been featured in the international IEEE Women in Engineering Magazine, and she’s been hired by top companies like Google, Dell, Intuit, Armor, and more to train and inspire their women. Lauren has received several awards for her work, including the Women in IT Awards Silicon Valley “Diversity Initiative of the Year” Award, a Gold Stevie Award for “Startup of the Year, Consumer Services” 2019, a Silver Stevie Award for “Female Solo Entrepreneur of the Year” 2019, and two Bronze Stevie Awards for “Tech Startup of the Year, Services” and “Startup of the Year, Consumer Services.” Additionally, Lauren was recognized by the United Nations as a Finalist for their WSIS Stakeholder Platform Prize and by the Women in IT Awards New York as a Finalist for the “Innovator of the Year” Award.
Lauren graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude from Duke University with a triple major in Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, and Economics in just four years.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Six years ago, I had just returned from a UK G8 Innovation Summit and had a conversation with a male coworker that changed the trajectory of my life. During our conversation, he complained to me about how little he made. When he told me his salary, I was stunned. He was making exactly what I made at the time though my experience and credentials far outweighed his relative value to the company. I also found he had been hired at a rate 50% higher than when I first joined the company.
Instead of blaming others, I didn’t wait and became the change I wanted, and I got it. This has been repeated throughout my life. I don’t expect opportunities to be given to me. I go out and create opportunities for myself!
At that moment, I started a journey of learning, action, and growth that would change my life forever. Within two years, I was able to triple my salary in that short, two-year span, and that difference meant an additional six-figure amount that I would earn EVERY year moving forward.
The journey was one of trials and failures, and of course, iterative successes. Each failure brought new insight into the journey and how I could use what I learned from each failure to my advantage to ultimately succeed. Of course, I absorbed every piece of knowledge I could find on personal and professional development and salary negotiation to arm myself with the tools I needed. Still, it was in the failures I found what worked for me, and how I could leverage my own strengths to realize success.
Bad experiences and personal loss are opportunities to learn. This is the foundational message of DevelopHer and what we strive to instill in other women.
But achieving this success wasn’t enough for me. I had invested thousands of hard-earned dollars, as well as hours and hours of my life, overcoming my own pay inequity. I looked around and saw other women struggling with the same issues. Someone had to make a change and decided I must be the change. I wanted to arm women with tools to overcome pay inequity, without having to struggle to find the resources as I did.
I launched DevelopHer in late 2017 with only my personal savings and no outside investment, and all while working full-time as a successful software and application security engineer. I created DevelopHer to share my experiences and help other women see there is always a way to get through challenges and be a positive force in their own careers. I wanted to distill the essence of how to negotiate for higher pay into a scalable, relatable, and affordable program to help women overcome pay disparity and arm them with tools to earn higher salaries and give them the confidence to reach higher in their careers.
DevelopHer is the realized vision of a scalable and affordable platform that can reach millions of women. The DevelopHer platform has empowered thousands of women to earn 26%, 43%, and 67% salary increases in just a single negotiation. Women have also gained the confidence to secure better positions and move beyond glass ceilings, bridging the challenging opportunity gap.
I created something that inspires women to seek an understanding of their true value and to continually learn and seek growth. Women who know their worth and know their relative value in the marketplace will be better able to command higher salaries, either within their current company or with another employer. With this understanding, they are better prepared to take the most important step, which is to self-advocate.
My goal is and has been from the beginning to create real change at a grassroots level. The continued growth of DevelopHer depends on women telling their compelling stories. In the beginning, I wanted to tell the stories of talented, strong women who had faced their own personal and professional challenges and had ultimately overcome them. It was in these shared stories on which women could build a base of knowledge and empowerment from which they could propel themselves, and others further. In two short years, DevelopHer has expanded its reach and influence to thousands of women. The change is real and all from women sharing their knowledge and experiences. The change and impact are evidenced by the clients DevelopHer has served, and by the number of awards DevelopHer has received.
A few of DevelpoHer’s awards and accomplishments are listed below.
- Winner of Women in IT Awards Silicon Valley Diversity Initiative of the Year Award 2018
- Winner of Gold Stevie Women in Business Award for Startup of the Year, Consumer Services 2019
- Winner of Silver Stevie Women in Business Award for Female Solo Entrepreneur of the Year 2019
- Winner of Stevie Bronze Award for Tech Startup of the Year, Services 2019
- Winner of Stevie Bronze Award for Startup of the Year, Consumer Services 2019
- Finalist for United Nations WSIS Stakeholder Platform Prize 2019
- Winner of Gold Female Executive of the Year 2020 by DataBird Business Journal
- Winner of Silver Rising Star (Female Executive Under 40) Award by DataBird Business Journal
- Finalist for the Women in IT Awards Silicon Valley Diversity Initiative of the Year Award 2019
- Finalist for the Women in IT Awards New York Innovator of the Year Award 2019
- Featured in IEEE Women in Engineering Magazine December 2018
- Featured in DataBird Business Journal as 1 of 250 Inspiring Female Entrepreneurs 2019
- As seen on Indeed, CBS, NBC, Dell Perspectives, Security Intelligence, and more
These awards and acknowledgments are only the beginning of the DevelopHer story. Our future is in the adoption of the DevelopHer platform by businesses and institutions of higher education. This adoption will allow women at all levels to learn and grow personally and professionally, and to conquer the gender pay and opportunity gap.
Through my experiences with DevelopHer, I have personally witnessed that teaching and arming women with knowledge and empowering them to take responsibility for their career growth creates value, not only for the individual but for the companies where they work. According to one company officer, members of their women’s network who attended, “left ready to take a new look at how they are approaching career growth and personal motivation.”
I have come so far in two years, but there is much work to be done. When the current COVI-19 crisis ends, I will continue speaking engagements, but I plan to secure additional partnerships with companies and educational institutions to implement the technology platform for the benefit of their students and employees. DevelopHer will be THE resource for women and employers of women and the international benchmark for companies who wish to credential their commitment to women.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
I’m best known as the face of DevelopHer, and for sharing my own personal stories of overcoming pay inequity and building my career from nothing. What is most interesting and people don’t often realize is that when I founded DevelopHer, I had so much imposter syndrome that I didn’t think anyone would care about my own story. Instead, I shared the stories of other leading women in tech and their career journeys. Who was I to tell my story when there were so many other women, more accomplished, more successful who would better be able to tell their stories?
One of the most surprising things I found was that women relate to me personally. My story was one of the every-woman. Because I have been genuine and authentic, without glossing over the less glamorous details of my experiences, they wanted to hear more of my story. Since I found my own voice, I have been able to engage more audiences and reach more women than ever before.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Through DevelopHer, I am building on an already strong foundation of an equal pay framework and will continue to grow. I have established a flagship partner with Indiana University for the DevelopHer online technology platform and will build additional partners with the goal of eliminating a gender pay gap for women before it starts.
The DevelopHer Zero to Hero program already has a strong foundation in companies such as Google, Dell, and Armor, where I am now established as an in-house role model. I will continue to grow deeper relationships with these companies, as well as partner with additional organizations that wish to invest in the development of their professional women. I will be working at these companies to highlight internal career opportunities to help companies attract and retain top female talent.
The DevelopHer blog and the DevelopHer Show podcast will also be expanded to include even more resources such as career development paths and information on professional tech roles to help attract more women in technology career positions.
I have also partnered with Kappa Alpha Theta women’s sorority to provide online coaching for this large women’s organization. I wish to springboard this opportunity and foster it in order to scale my coaching efforts and create an online mastermind group with which I will be able to effectively reach far more women.
On a personal front, I am always working on new projects as a full-time role as a security engineer and application developer, but these projects are proprietary, and I am bound by confidentiality. I can share that over the past year, I have built a voice application of a payment system from the ground up, and I have reviewed over 100,000 lines of code as the owner of all of AppSec.
I don’t just talk the talk of a top female in technology; I run toward opportunities to push myself and grow my career.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
In a world where employer support for professional development, and where professional female role models are not given the same weight or audience as professional males, I have been hard-pressed to find mentors. I have never let this lack of employer support or the existence of female role models stand in my way. Instead, I focused my efforts on creating a mindset of success and getting the game between my head together. The personal empowerment messages offered by Tony Robbins have been instrumental in helping me get a start on this. His approach to taking control of your life helped me establish a base for my success.
I have also looked to assimilate with leaders from other fields. There are many methods and paths to success. Learning from others and “standing on the shoulders of giants” has helped me learn from the successes and mistakes of others to propel me forward. Everyone teaches you something, whether the lesson is how to succeed, or how to learn from failure.
I’ve also enlisted professional coaching to help me establish and solidify goals, then take continuous, consistent action toward those goals. Coaching has helped me stay on track toward goals, and remind and challenge me when I am veering off course.
Through DevelopHer, I am solving the problem of a lack of female role models. I am bringing role models to the forefront and sharing their stories. I am also acting as a role model by sharing my own story and providing a repeatable and scalable framework where women can see there is a way through to success and how they can create their own best career.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?
Health is at the top of mind as the current crisis has impacted me on multiple levels. I am in the class of people who are considered vulnerable to COVID-19 and have restricted my movements to shelter in place. I also have multiple close family members with health issues and am very concerned about their health and safety.
Though I have worked from home for years and have mastered remote activities, the current crisis has created a situation where my partner and I share a home office. We do work together to mitigate the issues shelter in place, but challenges exist that were not present before. We often shuffle between rooms in the house to facilitate individual conference calls or when we each have the need for focused work time.
One of the luxuries I afforded myself in the past was to dine out. Given the current restaurant limitations and social distancing, along with my personal health concerns, I have chosen to avoid the delivery of prepared meals and taken up the challenge to learn more about cooking.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
The need for sheltering in place created by COVID-19 does have its inherent challenges. Still, my boyfriend and I have a partnership and approach the sharing of the work environment as well as running the household through acting as a team, dividing the needs of the household, and conquering what needs to be done.
Before this crisis, my domestic skills were limited, and as a busy professional, I dined out often and delegated much of my day-to-day domestic needs. That has all changed. Staying true to my nature, I have taken up the challenge to do my part, and now share the once-delegated daily tasks with my partner, including cooking. In four short weeks, I have found I can fill my grocery cart with healthy foods and can prepare a mean sirloin steak, rivaling renowned steakhouses.
I stated that my health is top of mind, and the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted my journey of living a healthy lifestyle. I began the journey early last year to start taking care of my physical and mental health. This involved working out at a local studio. I achieved many successes over the past year and remain determined that the current challenges not materially affect my progress. Since the onset of the current health crisis, I have needed to get creative on how to replicate my success at the gym at home. This has included taking up running, which I had not done in over sixteen years!
As I shared, the pandemic has created challenges to my work situation, which I am overcoming. Still, I have additional concerns about my employer and have faced the possibility of a pay cut, or even the loss of my job should the crisis continue for any length of time. Though I have no specific information, I work for a company that is not insulated from the economic hardships the COVID-19 crisis has created. I am taking every opportunity to take on additional projects for my employer and solidify myself as a champion and leader within the company.
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?
The challenges of position and pay disparity that existed before the crisis are only exacerbated during these times. In my interactions with women since the advent of this crisis, many women feel they have lost their negotiating power, and most feel lucky just to have a job. This means that working toward the creation of their best career and preparing for advancement have been, at best, placed on hold.
Prior to the pandemic, successful professional women could focus on mastering their profession, and delegate, as I have, daily routine tasks in order to free themselves to forward their career goals.
Because of the current situations we face, that paradigm has shifted, and professional women in tech are forced to wear multiple hats in addition to career that have become critical. Women are running their households, doing things the old-fashioned way, creating the need for a new balance, and finding a new sense of normal. Women are no longer able to become an expert in one thing and delegate the rest.
We need to continue having conversations regarding these realities and the perceptions of women that they have less leverage and less ability to negotiate should they find themselves in the job market, during or after this crisis.
I don’t think the pandemic changes the challenges of pay equity and paths to leadership, but it may delay gains for many women unless they take action. Women should take this time to invest in themselves, so when the world emerges from this crisis, they will be better prepared to pick up the fight and overcome.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Instead of responding with fear and panic, I have chosen instead to work on my attitude and actions. I have taken the same tenets that helped me create a solid career and has made DevelopHer successful and parlayed them into things that help me not only able to survive, but thrive during this pandemic.
The DevelopHer mission is based on four tenets that are designed to empower women to advocate for themselves and arm them with knowledge and skills to thrive in any environment.
• Owning Outcomes
During this time, it’s not only owning your outcomes, but owning your attitude and actions. How we respond during this crisis will help determine how we emerge from it.
I could sit around and complain that I don’t know how to cook, or I could go out and learn how to cook and find the resources to learn valuable skills and be successful. As I have always done, I am resolved to advocate for myself. This includes advocating for my own self-care, the needs of my household, and loved ones as well as my career.
It is normal to feel fear in the face of any adversity, but taking on additional fear for things that are beyond your control takes the life that you already have, or could have in the future.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
The practice of maintaining focused micro-commitments has been key to my success. During this time, this has only become more important. I have doubled down on making focused micro-goals and micro-commitments.
One area where I have focused and achieved a win is in learning to cook. I am not domestically skilled, so I don’t try to make a gourmet meal. I am learning many new things during this time and learning new things you will not be a master at them yet; I remind myself I need to allow grace, and there needs to be room for growth.
An example of this grace was not once, but the first two times, I cooked a steak. In both instances, I set off the smoke detectors in the house. The first attempt was not received well by my boyfriend, who was sleeping at the time!
I commit and keep trying to improve. I make mistakes and do better the next time. In just four weeks, I am more confident in the kitchen and can prepare an awesome sirloin steak.
My journey of self-care I began last April also continues. I have lost 60 pounds since my journey began, and I took the opportunity during this crisis to run for the first time.
The pandemic has also altered my goals for maintaining a clean office, as my office is now a shared space. I no longer commit to have a clean office. Instead, I try to have a clean workspace.
I have learned flexibility and have grace for myself and others, and through all the challenges I have seen wins, both personal and professional.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place for long periods with your family?
I am a planner and prepare. I have prepared financially, mentally, and emotionally for the current situation, as I have personally experienced far worse times in my life.
There was one period of my life where a series of events could have derailed me, but through focusing on the small things, I was able to manage and find happiness.
Over a span of two weeks prior to Thanksgiving, I was involved in a major car accident where I suffered a severe injury, lost my job, and at the same time, my partner lost their job as well. Overnight I became the household’s breadwinner though the accident caused me to have nauseating pain, and I was barely able to function. Amid this crisis, I was able to find gratitude and happiness because of the little things in life.
Because I was able to find joy in the little things, I didn’t need external distractions or the next shiny object to fill a void to keep me happy and entertained. I recognized the value of having health, time, and, most importantly, love of the people around me.
Now I practice gratitude, not only daily, but throughout the day. I put on the oxygen mask of regular gratitude because for so long, I was running on fumes. I experienced burnout after burnout, and it wasn’t sustainable.
As I stated, a year ago, I started taking care of myself and making time for myself. In doing so, I’ve been able to do more, both personally and professionally, and the difference this time is that it’s been sustainable. I’m healthier, more mentally emotionally present, and thriving. This has allowed me to be more positive and emerge as a leader to encourage people during a challenging time.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
We need to ask, “Do I want my days filled with fear or do I want to live in life, joy, love, happiness, and relish the small things in life?”
I said previously that I focus on micro-goals and micro-commitments to help me maintain focus and keep my eyes on the light at the end of this crisis. These include:
I take care of myself
My journey of self-care has continued throughout this challenging period. I have committed to learning to cook, I maintain an exercise regimen, and I make sure I get plenty of rest each night so I can wake each day ready for whatever challenges it may bring.
I feed my need for regularity and normalcy by keeping a schedule.
I slept in on weekends before the current crisis, but in the new normal we face, I am getting up earlier on the weekends. I use this time to learn, regularly viewing webinars or listening to educational material, and exercising.
I feed my mind through learning.
My current focus is on learning real estate investment, but I would encourage others to follow their own educational path, including learning negotiation skills.
I am staying connected.
I am relishing this time because I have found people’s hunger for connections. I am taking this time to reach out to support others in their time of need.
I constantly practice gratitude.
I always remember I have so much and have been through much worse. I focus on controlling my attitudes and my actions to rise above the current crisis, keep my feet on the ground and my eyes on the future.
I am also doubling down on opportunities to build my reputation and advance my career and leadership roles. During this time of social distancing, plans with friends have been canceled. I am filling this time by volunteering for challenging projects at work in order to shine and emerge as a valued leader at my company.
I would urge women not to become discouraged or complacent and to find their own new normal that includes self-care, learning, and growth.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
I’ve always been authentic with my audience, and have peeled back the layers to show I am an every-woman who is in the trenches with them. I have used LinkedIn as a way to communicate this even more during this crisis, peeling back the onion even more to show my personal side. This included a side-by-side picture of me before and after my weight loss of 60 pounds. I also recently shared how real my life can get during this crisis by showing a picture of myself with a lost tooth. I knocked my front tooth out on a LIVE zoom call with my entire team! The lost tooth required an emergency dental appointment during a time of lockdown. The situation was scary, but it was resolved safely. These are examples of how I continue to share personal experiences to show I am a real person who is going through this just like them.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I’m unstoppable not because I don’t have failures or doubts, but because I continue forward despite them!”
This is definitely more important during this pandemic. We are not going to have our best days, but not every day is going to be a bad day. Pick yourself back up after a bad day, and keep moving forward. I struggle with anxiety and cabin fever, but I do a reset the next day, and I move on.
I’m moving forward and am in a thriving direction. I have had my bad days. I stumble. I have embarrassing meltdowns and unreasonable moments just like everyone else, but I rebound and move forward.
I created DevelopHer to share my story and the stories of other successful women in technology, so others can find a common thread on their journey and, most importantly, the inspiration to continue, overcome and succeed. I want to remove the veil hiding the path, open a dialog about challenges, and provide encouragement that we can not only overcome but thrive as professional women. Each woman I help move forward moves the needle forward for all women.
I want other professional women to stand on my shoulders and learn as much as they can from my mistakes.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!