Brilliant Women in Tech: Lauren (Natoli) Baptiste
Hi CuteGeeks - remember me? ;) It's always a pleasure to showcase a brilliant woman that I personally know. I met Lauren in 2011, thanks to our corporate careers at Ernst & Young and our millennial desires to give back. She interviewed me to see if I was passionate enough to join an amazing cause and we later spent our time outside of work, investing it at an amazing edtech start up, The Future Project. I am not surprised to see the work that she's currently doing, especially because of how our friendship has blossomed over the 4+ years. From partaking in intense workouts, attending empowerment conferences, or soaking up some sun in NYC - Lauren has been one of the best friends that I've made as an adult. She is a phenomenal woman that never seizes to amaze me. She's compassionate, extremely intelligent, a holistic guru (in my opinion) and also a user/lover of technology. I couldn't think of a better woman to showcase as we kick off 2016's group of brilliant women in technology. Best of luck with your start up Lauren!
Enjoy the read everyone!
-Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background
I’m a go-getter with an insatiable thirst to stand on my own two feet. I always felt that way. Growing up, I knew I wanted to be a business woman, but in what, I had no idea.
Nearly 4 years into my corporate job, I decided that I needed to start pursuing my dream before it slipped away. I aggregated a list of what makes me happy and found wellness and personal relationships at the top of my list. I realized that many friends and family come to me for knowledge regarding good health, and thus, I decided to start a lifestyle blog, Drink Your Juice (DYJ).
I soon realized people were enjoying the written content but not applying it to their everyday lives. In 2015, a developer and I took DYJ to the next level, creating a marketplace that could help these individuals find tangible improvements in health and happiness by connecting them with qualified wellness professionals. Our marketplace went live this past October!
-Describe how you got to where you are? (How did you get started in technology, or at your current position?)
I didn’t find technology; it found me. I quickly realized that entrepreneurship and technology go hand-in-hand.
When building the blog, I needed to figure out some of the basics to get going. I used Codeacademy to learn elementary HTML. In a few short months, I learned more than I ever thought I would... until I pivoted DYJ to create a custom marketplace. To keep up with my developers, I was learning the basics of front-end design and back-end platforms. It helped me manage the build-out and timelines.
The one thing that’s certain is technology’s constant evolution. As I become comfortable with one tool, three new ones replace, and better optimize, the functionalities of the first. To maintain a competitive advantage, I’ll need to stay on top of my company’s technology platform.
-Was it tougher because you were a woman?
I don’t think it was more difficult because I was a woman, but instead, because I wasn’t educated prior. The business school I attended didn’t include a “how to create a website” or “technology in the business world” class, which would have been incredibly valuable.
Luckily, I have smart, savvy friends and family who continue to guide me in the right direction.
-If there was such a thing as reincarnation, would you come back as a man or woman-holding all other things equal…? I’d come back as a man. It’d be great to see what it’s like to live life from a man’s perspective. Just think of all the amazing things you could do with an extra hour per day of not doing your hair or applying makeup...
-Describe a "normal" day in your life.
A normal weekday is generally a Google calendar of invites from about 7am until 8pm or later. Balancing a life as a co-founder, wife, sister, daughter, friend and colleague can be chaotic. I always try to take one day at a time, focusing on what I love and letting everything else follow.
In order to maintain true balance, I incorporate self-care into my routine. Yoga, travel, and hangouts with friends are some of the must haves in my life. I may not have as much “free time” as I once had, but still make self-care a top priority.
-What's your favorite aspect of working in technology?
The power to reach and the ability to make true connections is my favorite aspect by far. I remember when calling my grandparents in Florida was considered “long distance”. In such a short amount of time, we’ve been able to build stronger, longer-lasting bonds with friends and family we may have lost touch with, or never met to start. It’s now cheaper and much more accessible to stay in touch.
Technology has helped me create DYJ, an entire marketplace that can bridge two people who are close in distance, but wouldn’t have known one another otherwise. I’ll always be grateful for that aspect of connection in technology.
-What have been some of your challenges you faced, and how did you tackle or overcome them?
I face challenges every day. We all do. From there, we can make the decision to let them conquer us or conquer them.
Every aspect of DYJ has been a challenge: creating a website from scratch with no prior technology know-how, building a community, maintaining readership, finding personal balance. DYJ may be one of the most challenging paths I’ve set on, not knowing the ultimate outcome, but I’m inspired to make it work.
When facing an impediment, I research the problem and connect with someone who may be able to point me in the right direction. It’s been a successful approach for me thus far. -Have you ever felt like you needed to hide your femininity or that fact that you were a female?
In the business world, I can’t say that I’ve felt the need to hide my femininity. However, I’ve had the feeling that I stick out as a solo-female, and target, when traveling through some third-world countries.
It’s through those experiences that I felt empowered to continue doing what I’m doing. Many women in our world, or even our hometown, don’t have the opportunity to follow their dreams. I’m not only taking a step for myself, but for female entrepreneurs everywhere.
-What advice do you have for females interested in getting into your field?
Women are open accepted into the wellness world. For that reason, I’ll share more general feedback, urging women to keep following their passions in pursuit of happiness, regardless of circumstance.
I’m not a licensed wellness professional, but I know the impact of having one in my life. I’ve leveraged health and life coaches, trainers, and retirement specialists to improve my life. It’s not education that’s a requirement; it’s the passion to create.
For whatever reason, we as women can feel bogged down and powerless. I’ve seen it in many women and I’ve seen it in myself. It may not be easy to wake up and start a new year conquering the world, but there is some small step you can take today. Don’t underestimate the power of community and the energy that will unfold when you pursue what you love.
-What's one gadget you can't live without?
A camera. Whether it’s on a phone, or something more professional, I don’t think I could live without a camera. I love the idea of capturing special moments and reliving them instantly.
-Do you have a personal 'mantra' or certain words you live by?
I wish I woke up to a quote that’d be enough to push me through my foreseeable challenges. Unfortunately, that’s not usually the case. What does end up propelling me is the reminder that I’ll one day cease to exist on this earth. Although that may seem morbid, it helps me quickly realize that my moment to create change is short-lived and I need to make moves now.
“Death is easy. It’s living that’s the hard part.” - Osho
-And lastly, what drives you?
I’m passionate about finding curative health and happiness through the power of community. I’m empowered by knowledge, learning simple, natural ways to bring overall wellbeing into personal lives. I feel many of us rely on someone else to cure us, but urge for change needs to grow from within. Next time someone tells you that your condition, mental, physical or spiritual is “unfortunately the way it is”, rethink your options and connect with someone who thinks differently.
I’m driven to make a difference.