The latest candidate in our series of Q&As with influential women in the technology business in Canada is Linsay Moran, Co-Founder, Unwrapit, a Canadian tech startup that launched a new online gifting platform
Name: Linsay Moran
Job Title: Co-Founder
Years in the Industry: 1 Year in Tech, 15+ years in Events/Operations
The Quote That Most Inspires You: “Lighten up on yourself. No one is perfect. Gently accept your humanness.” – (Deborah Day) I am always a work in progress. I think it’s healthy to accept that!
What drew you to a career in the consumer and/or business technology industry?
In my case, it was a little bit of serendipity. I saw a LinkedIn post through my network. My co-founder Peter (Deitz) was seeking a co-founding team to build upon his initial virtual gifting concept. I wouldn’t necessarily have been drawn to a general business technology opportunity. What drew me to Unwrapit was the social impact element and the fact that I believed we could solve a problem for businesses and event planners that needed to give gifts at scale, in a sustainable and unique way.
Often we hear stories about roadblocks related to gender, has that been your experience throughout your career?
For the most part, I haven’t experienced major roadblocks as a woman, and I think it’s important to talk about positive stories and experiences as well.
For example, I’ve worked in the very male-dominated event lighting and sound industry in the UK and had an overwhelmingly positive experience. The men that I worked with were helpful, supportive, and genuinely a lot of fun!
When I moved back to Canada, I worked in the non-profit sector for several years. I did notice that the leadership often tended to skew slightly towards men, but even that shifted and evolved over time.
When I worked for the Women’s Executive Network and managed the Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Awards, I heard some wild stories about gender bias. But being part of a program like that was a way to highlight the positive, and I’m really grateful I had that opportunity.
I’ve taken two maternity leaves throughout my career and was fortunate to do that and have time with my family at that stage in my life.
At Unwrapit, I have met so many interesting people over the last year. I love leading the sales efforts as I get the chance to talk about our product to anyone and everyone and never once have I felt there was an issue because I’m a woman. I also recognize that I have privilege as a cis, straight, white woman.
What unique characteristics or perspectives do you feel you bring to your organization as a woman?
I don’t think I bring unique characteristics as a woman but rather as a person who has had a varied career and the good fortune of working with many smart, capable, and fun people throughout it. I’ve learned from the entrepreneurs I’ve worked with in the past and it helped set up a realistic appreciation for the entrepreneurial experience I’m having now.
One skill I feel is really important to have, is the ability to multitask, one which I luckily do well. A lot of women have this skill as they are often juggling work and home priorities in a way that men sometimes aren’t. The pandemic has brought that truth to light even further as women left the workforce at a higher pace in 2020.
Technology is historically a male-dominated industry, do you think that’s shifting? What do you feel the technology industry needs to do to attract more women, particularly into high-level positions?
This is an interesting question because I joined the technology industry in 2020 and as I’m not engaged day-to-day in the ‘pure tech’ side of the tech industry, I haven’t seen the same male domination that we often hear about. But I appreciate that a female developer may feel differently. As with many industries, evolution is happening. Maybe not as quickly as we would like at times, but it’s there.
There are lots of men who are founders and there are companies that could benefit from a hard look at their leadership team. But more often than not, I’m surprised when I visit a company website and see a sea of white, male faces. And over the last year, I have met a number of amazing women in tech. We are doing amazing things with other women AND men.
Further, we recently posted for our first employee role and the candidate pool was about a 50/50 split which was great to see. I’m not sure that would have been the case 5-10 years ago.
Are there other women in the tech industry who inspire you?
Yes! During my time at the Women’s Executive Network, I met so many of Canada’s amazing leaders. People like Cybele Negris who is one of the most generous founders and won the award several times. Lois Nahirney, the Founder and CEO of dnaPower shifted from a traditional ‘corporate’ career into health tech. I have benefited from her mentorship and friendship over the years.
I follow people like Catherine Metrycki, the Founder of Callia, a women entrepreneur who is reimagining flower delivery in Canada and the U.S. Eva Wong, the Co-Founder and COO of Borrowell has built an amazing business with her team. And when I first saw Alyssa Atkins speak at a NextCanada event over a year ago, I immediately followed along with her journey at Lilia. She offers “fertility info for the doers who may want kids one day (just not now).” She took a topic that has traditionally been very private and difficult to access information about and made it mainstream and accessible. I think sometimes women are bolder when it comes to tackling difficult challenges and that is amazing.
What are some of the misconceptions/myths about women working in the technology space that you’d like to dispel?
That we all have a background in tech. Or that you must have a background in tech.
I don’t, and my co-founder and CTO, Taylan Pince can attest to this as I ask him tech questions every day! I follow the rule of, “no question is a silly question” (unless you didn’t listen to the answer the first time you asked it!) This is especially true when it comes to learning about new things you haven’t been exposed to.
When I joined Taylan and Peter, I was honest about my knowledge and I’ve learned a lot over the last year. My strength isn’t in tech and my role also isn’t rooted in “tech” per se. As a result, I’m an interesting example.
I am what many people call ‘a generalist’ and of course tech companies need people who have business strategy, marketing, sales, HR, legal, finance, and admin skills. If everyone came from a tech/developer background, it likely wouldn’t work out so well! Diversity of background, experience, and thought is key to success, no matter the company or sector.
What’s one thing you wish was done differently in the industry, and why?
I would turn this around and say let’s do more uplifting and supporting others! Let’s do more to make sure our hiring practices are inclusive and rooted in strong EDI principles. Let’s do more to change the narrative and assumption that tech is a male-dominated industry.
Also, let’s do more to remember that a lot of people in this industry are also parents. Let’s make sure that hiring policies and employee expectations are supportive and inclusive of that. Peter, Taylan, and I connected over our shared identity as entrepreneurial parents with young kids and we’ve all struggled at times through pandemic parenting. I think it’s part of what makes our working relationship so strong and there can be more room and understanding for personal life within a work context.
Are you optimistic for the future in general and for the industry?
Every day I learn about a new business that blows me away. We’re fortunate to be part of several amazing networks including the Upside Foundation of Canada, 1% for the Planet, ventureLAB (based in Ontario), Circular Economy Leaders Canada, FoundersBeta, and Founders Institute, to name a few. I spend at least 20-30 minutes every day reading various newsletters, LinkedIn posts, and more to stay up to date with our networks. It’s a rare day that I don’t read about someone, or some company, doing something so cool that I immediately go to their website to learn more. And what’s even more heartening to see is the number of businesses that are focused on social impact in one way or another. The technology industry often leads, and in this way, I think we will lead business generally to a more human and planet-focused approach!