By: Khaleelah Jones, co-CEO
I first heard about Ada’s List at a dinner party in the mid-2010s. The aim of the dinner was to get women from various backgrounds and industries in tech to come together to network, raise a glass and eat delicious food. Amongst the people I met at the dinner was none other than co-founder and then-CEO Merici Vinton. When she described that she was the CEO of an organisation that was dedicated to giving women in tech a voice, a leg up, a network, a community, I was all in. I used my phone to sign up then and there and have been a pretty active member since then. Throughout my time as an Ada, I’ve found a CTO and COO for my business, found attendees for various networking events I ran for women of colour in tech (ah, remember the good ol’ days when we could have IRL events?!) and connected with countless women to give them feedback, suggestions, support or just to chat. And now here I am, co-CEO of Ada’s List with Mara Larson-Richard!
Mara and I have been in our new roles only a short time, and one of the most frequently asked questions I get is what it is like making the transition from active community member to CEO. As time has gone by, my answer has changed: first I was struck by how truly supportive and awesome our community is (still true), then I was floored by how competent and on it our team is (also still true), but now that I’ve truly settled in and have not only taken a peek behind, but fully gone through all the boxes and corners behind the curtain, I’m most awed by how much Ada’s List has managed to do with so little.
Ada’s List was founded in 2013 in London as an email list, with the intention of connecting women in technology. Organically, it has grown to a community and platform of 9000 women and non-binary folks around the world. In 2019, Ada’s List made the change from being fully volunteer-run to hiring its first full-time staff member, CEO Merici Vinton, and in 2020, it hired three part-time freelancers, Lilias Adair, Karen Lobban and Nicole Whitelaw, to assist. That’s the team that has been behind the curtain. These four women have made it possible for us all to connect, collaborate, network, learn and build our careers, companies and change culture for the better for women and non-binary people in technology. Whether we’re engineers, developers, designers, marketeers, project managers, customer service or another role in tech, the thing that binds us all is our affiliation to Ada’s List and the community these women have helped build and future proof.
Ada’s List is funded in two major ways: through our jobs board, which we use to share job opportunities from amazing companies with our members, and our annual conference. The conference is a time when we come together as a community to celebrate each other, reflect on the year behind us and get ready for the year ahead. It is a conference created for the community, by the community, although anyone is welcome to join- especially since we’ve made the switch to virtual. We uplift voices in our community, giving members a chance to speak to share their experiences, insights and perspectives, and we further perspectives and causes that are important to us by having keynotes and workshops that showcase causes and ideas that are core to our mission and values. Quite simply put, the conference is not only the core event in our year, in which we come together to celebrate our community and lift each other up: it is the event that financially sustains our organisation. Without the conference and the funding it provides, we would not be able to exist.
While Mara and I are investigating ways to future-proof Ada’s List so that we are less reliant on the conference for funding, we wanted to be transparent about the conference and how important it is to the livelihood of our community. We hope that you appreciate our candour and transparency, and most importantly, that it inspires you to get involved. There are so many ways you can support the conference- and therefore Ada’s List- including:
I’d love to hear more from you if you have feedback, thoughts or questions- please get in touch email@example.com