Leadership Spotlight | Jennifer Funk, Tech sHeroes Program Director

233e716Describe what you do in one sentence.

I’m a product marketer for mySidewalk (formerly MindMixer).

How did you get involved with KCWiT?

I got involved at the suggestion of an acquaintance who knew I had a background in education and thought I’d be a good fit to help launch KCWiT’s efforts in local school districts.

What is your technology background?

I’ve spent the past few years in various roles — mostly customer development and marketing — at a couple different technology startups, both of which have missions that I find personally meaningful. That’s what originally drew me into the field. I’ve stayed in the field because I quickly discovered that there are always more things to do at a startup than there are people to do them, which works well for someone like me who loves to follow my curiosity and take on new challenges.

What is one thing you learned or a memorable experience from your time on the KCWiT Board?

One of the most memorable moments for me was at the final Tech sHeroes session of the fall semester when we had about 20 middle school girls and their mentors visit MindMixer’s headquarters in the Crossroads.

The girls got to hear from a local developer about a cool little app he built to keep track of his dog, and then brainstorm their own ideas for websites and apps to help people. It was great for the girls to see and ponder the real-world application of what they were learning.

It also reinforced just how critical these kinds of experiences are for capturing and cultivating girls’ interest in technology classes and careers.

What’s your favorite Kansas City secret?

I have a friend who goes on what she calls ‘urban walks’ around the city — through Downtown, the Crossroads, Westside, the West Bottoms, Columbus Park, the East Bottoms – all over, really. I finally had the chance to join her the other day and I have to say I was surprised by how much I noticed my first time on foot that I’d overlooked hundreds of times by car — little stores, historical landmarks, quirky houses. I highly recommend taking a Sunday stroll just to explore the city this way, especially if you have a good guide who knows interesting stories about the places you pass.

I have another friend who started a photo blog modeled after Humans of New York called True KC, where he’d take candid photos of people around the city. He moved to Chicago, so it’s no longer active, but there’s a rich archive of photos that I think really capture the heart and diversity of our city’s people and places. I’d love to see someone pick up where he left off with it. I guess my real ‘KC secrets’ are my friends 🙂 The people are the best here!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten? 

Clarity comes from engagement. I’m a thinker, so I have to remind myself regularly that I won’t figure things out until I try them out. It’s been especially useful advice for working in startups where the culture is to test and fail and test again, but still, I struggle with it sometimes – who really likes to fail?

Describe your ultimate ice-cream sundae.

With sundaes (like many things), I think less is more: just vanilla ice cream and butterscotch syrup.

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