Kathryn Rose is the founder of wiseHer, a technology platform providing on-demand expert advice, education and resources to help women thrive in their business, career and lives. Follow Kathryn on social media using the handle @katkrose, and follow wiseHer on social media using the handle @getwiseHer.
What inspired you to start your company?
In 2007, I was working for a Wall Street firm, doing very well, and expecting my first child - such an exciting time! Then, in what seemed like a blink of an eye, everything was upended: the mortgage market melted down, they shut down our division, and my mother had a brain aneurysm that left her paraplegic. I had to find something else to do with my life that would allow me time to do what I needed for my family. I thought, "hey, I can spell Google, and this internet thing seems like it's going to be around for awhile, so let's see if I can do something with that!" I started by teaching myself SEO and then social media, eventually becoming a speaker and international bestselling author of nine books. I founded my first tech platform called Social Buzz Club, the first-of-its-kind blog sharing network, and it was my first experience with the development process. I also started a successful consulting firm, then decided to take a detour back into corporate and my first love: sales. I ran sales for a software company, where I learned a great deal more about the software development process and working with teams of developers.
When they sold the company, I decided to start my own company again, and this time I wanted to design something that would have an impact. I have always been an advocate for women in business by being both a mentor and sponsor in my corporate career as well as a trainer, coach, and consultant as an entrepreneur. Women rising higher in their business lives doesn’t mean instead of men but alongside them; I started wiseHer to address the common challenges women face in growing their corporate careers or their businesses.
Is there any coding or technical knowledge that helped you create this business?
The first tech company I founded worked, but it was very painful to build (for both me and my dev team) because I didn't understand the technology or the development process. This time, I built upon the experience I had at the software company. Although I was in sales, I connected well with the Director of Development (who is an amazing woman), and she allowed me to sit in on development meetings and learn more about agile process and sprints, technology stacks and so forth. I then decided to learn some code. The first tech platform was built on php (it's still a very popular programming language), and from what the developers told me, it was a good beginner language because some of it is very similar to HTML, which I had learned a bit of, too. I found a free class and learned more, and while I'm not totally proficient by any means, I understand enough to know how it works, what can and can't be done, and have a good conversation with my developers.
As I was building out the base platform, I started hearing a lot about AI and chatbots. One of the aims of wiseHer is to provide women with answers quickly, so I thought a bot would be helpful to answer basic questions like "how to write a resume" or "how to set up a Facebook page." You might think Google can do that and it can, but Google is not great at determining relevant results from recent results. If you try to find "how to set up a Facebook page" in Google, you can see results from 2013, which isn't going to work since Facebook changes on what seems like a daily basis. As such, a chatbot would cut down on the time that users would have to search.
I found a woman in Vienna who is a recognized expert in AI and bots and asked for her to teach me what she could. Building a bot seems like it would be a no-brainer - you just upload a spreadsheet of questions and answers (that's what I thought) - oh no! It's a very complicated process, but it was fun to learn how to do it.
What is the most important thing you hope your daughter/son learns about women in tech as she/he watches you in the years to come?
I wasn't born with an iPhone in my hand, so to speak - I had word processors and typewriters in college! However, I embraced the challenge, built relationships with the right experts, asked questions, and was a good student. I want them to know that they can do absolutely ANYTHING they put their minds to. They see me working hard, taking classes, teaching others, and they seem proud. I'll never forget the look on my son's face when he was in kindergarten and I went to be a "mystery reader" and the teacher announced that I was an author. He looked at me with these big eyes and said, "Mom, you wrote a BOOK?!" I said, "yes, nine, but who's counting!" Then he said, "was it a picture book?" I said "no, honey, business books," and just like that he was lost to Chica Chica Boom Boom. But hey, I'll take the wins when I can get them!
My daughter is five, and she's so curious. I want her to know that no matter what, she can have as many opportunities as anyone, including men. Hopefully seeing her mom out there making it happen will make an impact. I also want them to know that no matter what direction they take in their professional (and personal) lives, technology will impact it. I want them to love to learn so they can always feel like there are opportunities for them.