Who's That Gal: Rachel Murray, Co-founder of
She Geeks Out
Most of us have an inner geek, we just don't know where to go to take advantage of it. Luckily, Rachel Murray, co-founder of She Geeks Out, has set out to help women get their geek on and make their own impact on Boston's tech scene. As self-diagnosed nerds ourselves, we are so honored to introduce Rachel and have her share why she thinks networking among women is so important for industry growth.
Psst - We're also thrilled to announce that you'll be able to meet Rachel at our Ladies Lounge: Tech panel next Thursday at WeWork Fort Point (details after the interview)!
Can you tell us more about your background and what led you to creating She Geeks out with your co-founder, Felicia?
In 2008 I learned about a group called Girl Geek Dinners that started in London and I thought, ‘this is so cool, why don’t we have something like this in Boston?’ So I got a group of women together and we started our own group in Boston that was a much smaller version - there were only about twelve of us and we had no sponsors. Nothing much happened with the group until the summer of 2013 when Felicia, who also works at VMware, connected with me after speaking with her colleague Julia Austin, former VP of Innovation at VMware. Julia knew of the incredible San Francisco chapter of Girl Geek Dinners and wanted to get a Boston chapter of Girl Geek Dinners here, so offered to have VMware sponsor an event at their office. That was really the catalyst to rekindling the group.
We had no idea what to expect. We decided to charge a small fee to encourage people to commit to attending and decided to give the proceeds to Science Club for Girls. The event was amazing and we had an incredible turnout. People came up to us afterwards to tell us that they were really excited about coming to future events and were also interested in sponsoring, which was such a reassuring feeling for us. It just kind of grew organically from there. Now we have sponsors through to January 2016 and an average of 100 amazing women attending our events!
SGO just rebranded. You used to be called Geek Girl Dinners. What’s with the name change?
The name change came about because we realized the name Girl Geek Dinners didn’t really fit with what we were doing any longer. We don’t have dinners (our events are usually heavy appetizers), we charge a small fee and we give the money to a local STEM non-profit. We also wanted to be able to offer more opportunities for women to connect, which isn’t quite what Girl Geek Dinners does. Finally, we wanted to get rid of the word “girl” since, well, we’re women. So, we chose the name She Geeks Out and relaunched in April 2015. Happily, our incredible group was extremely supportive of the change.
Why is it good for women to have their own forum to “geek out” ?
We want to create a safe space for women, where they can feel comfortable, relaxed, be themselves, without worrying about jockeying for a position in the conversation, and without ego. There are plenty of co-ed events in the area and tons in the tech and startup space. We strive to be different in that we’re really welcoming and encouraging women to be passionate about whatever is most important to them. There’s clearly a desire for it, as we average at about 100 women per event every month!
Tell us about an SGO highlight or two. Favorite event?
Oh every event is so fun and special! Our largest event at Yesware last October was incredible and of course when we announced our name change in April and received such positive feedback, that was great. Having women tell us the events mean a lot to them, or helped them in some way...their appreciation for our efforts is really the most rewarding part.
If you come to an event you will see that at the end of each we have a raffle. I am so obsessed with the raffle prizes! It’s not just the prizes themselves, but also the process of announcing the winners. It’s strange but it is so thrilling to me and at an event over the winter we gave away a Game of Thrones House Targaryen blanket. I swear, when Felicia and I unwrapped the blanket and showed it to the audience, the whole audience went, ‘Oooooooooh!.’ It was as though we had whipped out a celebrity and we loved every minute of it. Those little moments of joy are one of the reasons that this community is so special.
This is a side gig for you. Tell us about your day job.
I started a company called Kind Eye, which is a website that helps people find eco-friendly personal care products made by companies with a conscience. For example, if you want to find vegan shampoo, made by a company that has a charitable give back program, you could find it by searching our site. We don’t actually sell products, instead we direct you to like-minded online stores that carry these brands. The site is important to me because I want to be able to support these brands that are trying to make a difference by making higher quality products and care more than just about the bottom dollar. They care about the environment, their health, their customers.
How do you balance managing SGO and Kind Eye?
I’m really very fortunate that I’m able to do these two things simultaneously. I would say at the moment She Geeks Out takes about 15 hours per month and the rest of the time I spend on Kind Eye. Kind Eye is really inline with that “start up lifestyle” since I do work every day. There is just not a day where I don’t work. My phone is always on and I am constantly checking my email and checking social media stats, etc. I consider myself to be an incredibly organized and efficient person, but it is still a real challenge to focus on all the moving pieces. I really just try to prioritize each task and get the most important ones done first.
What I’m doing now feels very intermingled even into my personal life. Unlike a standard day job where you sometimes can just clock in and clock out, I’m very fortunate to have friends and family that are curious about what I’m doing and what I’m working on and let me share my work with them. I do have to remind myself to do personal stuff though, like go to the gym. Class Pass is so brilliant for that, I can’t believe I started using it so late!
What’s next for you, SGO, and Kind Eye?
We have a lot of awesome events coming up for SGO! What’s next in the near future is an event on June 30th at Localytics, an event in July with TripAdvisor at their Boston office, and in August we will be at Bolt with FitBit. We also have some news, which we’re announcing at our next event. It rhymes with shemberships… we also have some new types of events we’ll be doing this summer. As for Kind Eye, we are adding new brands and products all the time and I’ll be at ShiftCon and SXSW Eco in the fall!
Last book you read?
I can never just read one book at a time (book ADD?), so I’m currently reading Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Bookshop, a fun book about a quiet and quirky San Francisco bookstore and Chasing Molecules, a non-fiction book written by a journalist recounting all the ways toxins are in our everyday lives, how they affect everything from our health to the planet’s health.
COME MEET RACHEL AT LADIES LOUNGE: TECH
Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 6:30pm - 8:30pm
WeWork Fort Point
51 Melcher St.
Boston, MA 02210