Real-life super-heroes: 10 badass women who inspired me in 2017

This has been quite a year for women’s empowerment. The #MeToo movement blew the lid off our shared experience of everyday harassment. High-profile abusers in tech, entertainment and politics were held accountable, in the public eye. And Wonder Woman came out, giving us all a glimpse of what fierce, brave, feminine baddassery could look like.

My pre-teen daughter has watched Wonder Woman 5 times — it doesn’t get old for her. “I love it when the girl is braver then the boys” she says, watching avidly as Diana grows up, fierce and opinionated and ready to fight for what she loves.

My life is filled with real-life super-heros — women who inspire me, lift me up, and give me hope that things are gonna be OK, even in the darkest of time.

Let’s celebrate some of the badass women in tech 2017

Cindy Alvarez is principle design researcher at Microsoft, where she helps teams build better software. She’s also a superb cook, devoted mom and marathon runner — and maintains a buddah-like calm throughout all the chaos. Whenever I get nervous about running quick-n-dirty product experiments, I think about Cindy’s matter-of-fact, implacable attitude towards handling user feedback. “What’s the worst that can happen?” she’ll ask. “Maybe you’ll need to apologize. Big deal. You’ll survive — and you’ll have learned something valuable from the experience.”

Cindy Au was the first community manager at Kickstarter — and she’s now the VP community at Pilotworks, a culinary incubator that’s like a WeWork for food entrepreneurs. Cindy has a deep understanding of community dynamics — and the heart of an entrepreneur. She’s always learning, growing and taking on new challenges — I always end up inspired when I connect with her. Cindy brings heart, passion and clear-eyed business thinking to her tech career — and she inspires me to do the same.

Gina Bianchini has a deep, abiding passion for building community platforms that bring people together. Her company, Mighty Networks, offers a mobile-friendly community platform that’s helping me stay connected to my students & clients. I cherish my interactions with Gina — her brilliance, determination and vibrant optimism always leaves me feeling like anything is possible.

Erika Hall is one of the sharpest, funniest, most insightful people I’ve ever met. Erika runs Mule Design, a top SF-based product consultancy — and is a prolific writer. She shares excellent product advice on Medium; she’s written one amazing book — and is about to publish another. As I work on finishing MY next book (coming in early 2018!) I’m inspired by Erika’s sharp thinking & work ethic — and I can’t wait to read her next book.

Erin Hoffman-John is a passionate & accomplished game designer and CMU professor who shipped two new creations recently: the creative word game Dokudo, and her adorable son Kenji. Erin shares my passion for educational games, and developed a System Design course this year that I found deeply inspiring. When I feel overwhelmed by the many different projects and roles I’m juggling, I think about Erin — and get inspired to stay calm and juggle on.

Laura Klein is the VP Product at Business Talent Group, and the author of Build Better Products. Laura has a deep well of UX experience and advice, which she’s generously shared with our Game Thinking participants. She always makes me laugh when we get a chance to connect, and helps me to see the absurdity and humor in annoying life situations. Whenever life feels heavy or burdensome, I think about Laura — and I’m inspired to keep things light and keep moving forward.

Megan Mahdavi is the CEO of Sunreach, a fast-growing Salesforce consulting company with a social mission. Megan had a vision for merging her Salesforce expertise with her passion for helping young people in developing countries get ahead and participate in the tech economy. She created a business that delivers deep value to both her clients and partners — and makes the world a more connected place. Megan’s success shows me that a fulfilling, heartfelt business can ALSO be a smashing success. I’m proud to have helped her achieve that. and inspired to run my own business the same way.

Cara Meverden is the CEO of Subcast, a smart voice-activated podcasting companion. After working as a Product Manager at Google, Twitter and Medium, Cara’s got mad skills when it comes to creating and shipping products. What really sets her apart, though, is her get-it-done approach to developing and testing ideas. It was a pleasure working with Cara in the early days of Subcast — I’m inspired by her focus, determination and speed of learning, and super-excited to see her product coming to life.

Tracy Rosenthal-Newsom produced some of Harmonix’ biggest hits, including Rockband and Dance Central. Tracy has created a second career in transformative games and products for mental and emotional health — first working on the Muse meditation headband for Interaxon, and now helping Akili create perscription games to treat ADHD. When I’m feeling unsure about taking a big step in my career, I think about the way Tracy re-invented herself and pursued her passion for applying her gaming expertise to mental & physical health. If anyone is setup to make a breakthrough in that area, it’s this brilliant, talented & deeply skilled woman.

Christina Wodtke has gone through an astonishing transformation in the last few years — from high-powered corporate design executive to teacher & author, nurturing students & educating the world through her self-published books. Christina has the skills & talent to do many things — and what she chose to do was give back, and live life on her own terms. I’m thrilled to see Christina gaining success and making an impact in this phase of her career; she just accepted a new teaching job at Stanford, and her latest book, “Pencil Me In,” is helping business people sketch their ideas more effectively.

Game designer, startup coach, author, entrepreneur gamethinking.io