Janneke Niessen is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, board member and mentor for startups. She has started and sold 2 international tech companies and is currently working on her third: Berlage. She is co-initiator of InspiringFifty, an initiative that aims to increase diversity in tech by making female role models more visible. As part of the InspiringFifty initiative, Janneke has published Project Prep, a novel for young girls in conjunction with an award winning child book’s author. Jannekke will be joining our panel at BookMachine Unplugged 2018: Talking Tech.
1. Tell us about InspiringFifty. Why was it important for you to create it?
InspiringFifty is a non-profit that aims to increase diversity in tech by making role models more visible.
Technology is already important today but will become even more important in the future. A lot of future jobs are there but if you look at diversity the numbers are really bad. Since I loved working in tech so much I wanted to show others why it is actually a great environment to work in. We also have to make sure that the products and services of the future are inclusive, that is an additional reason to make sure the workforce is diverse. We strongly believe that role models are a way to achieve this: if she can see it, she can be it.
2. You’ve just published a book called Project Prep. What was the most rewarding part of writing it?
With Project Prep we wanted to create a role model for young girls as well. At an age where they make really important decisions with regards to their education they think tech is boring, difficult and that they are not capable of it. We wanted to show them the opposite is true and that tech is fun, creative and creates a lot of opportunities. The most rewarding is actually finding out it works. The emails I receive from girls who actually start to learn to code, who create something, who tell me they have done everything suggested in the book and what they can do next. That means it is working. And every girl we inspire is one. And how knows, how cool would it be if in the future, the next big tech hotshot will say, I was inspired to start a career in tech by Project Prep.
3. What advice would you give young women considering a career in tech?
Go for it! Look at the wide variety of things you can do. Start with a solid basic education in computer science and decide from there if you want to specialize or actually go for a more general role or maybe start your own company. That foundation though is very important.
4. Tell us about a mistake you made that you’ve learned from. What did it teach you?
I made many mistakes and I think the most important for young girls to learn is that it is part of the process. You will make mistakes and that is fine. It is impossible to be perfect. The most important thing is that you learn from the mistakes you make and move on from there.
5. Where would you like to be in five years?
I am currently setting up a new company and I would love that to be a smashing success in 5 years. Also Project Prep is being released in many other countries and there will be a movie of it, reaching even more girls.