May 22, 2024
Propelling Women in Tech
"This is a volunteer-led effort. We all have day jobs. Some of us have multiple jobs. Many of us are bootstrapping our own businesses. We want this to be a fun, sustainable, engaging journey for everyone who's on it with us," says Raechel Canipe.

Photo: Camila Camacho Magnus Opus Films

Propelling Women in Tech
Women are half the population but only 25% of tech sector workers, with far fewer in leadership roles. Only 11% of venture capital partners are women, and in Florida, 90% of venture capital dollars go to all-male-founded startups.

Photo: Steven Seidman/Man on the Side Photography


Propelling Women in Tech

A software sales executive in Tampa is building a statewide network to help women in the industry climb the career ladder.

Nancy Dahlberg | 4/10/2024

The Entrepreneur
Raechel Canipe, 32

Founder and CEO, Women in Tech & Entrepreneurship, Tampa

In the eight years since Raechel Canipe graduated from college, she’s held eight jobs at four companies. A baby boomer might question that job-hopping — but for Canipe, like many Millennials, switching positions has opened doors to learning, career opportunities and giving back.

Canipe grew up in a one-bedroom trailer in Polk City with her mom, who was a University of South Florida commuter student returning to finish her degree. “She also worked two and three jobs to make ends meet, and somehow she still managed to be the room mom in my elementary school,” says Canipe. “I can’t fathom how she did it all, but from a very early age, my family set that kind of example — that high bar of showing up for one another and of working hard to lift yourself out of a bad situation.”

As a psychology major at USF, Canipe partook in research projects and interned with the National Science Foundation, but in her senior year, she started to rethink that career path: Grad school would bring student debt, and grant-funded research positions aren’t highly paid. After graduating and waiting tables in 2015 while figuring out what she wanted to do, a regional manager of DEX Imaging in Tampa sold her on a tech sales job, convincing her that she would learn valuable skills, and it would be a window into other industries and career opportunities. And while no Millennial woman dreams of selling copiers, Canipe was inspired by Sara Blakely’s story. Blakely came up with the idea for Spanx women’s shapewear line while making cold calls selling copiers and credits the experience with learning her sales chops.

Canipe excelled and started selling a robotic task automation platform around the country for a company DEX had acquired, traveling and learning about channel sales and product marketing. Then, through her involvement with the Tampa Bay Chamber, she connected with Quiet Professionals, a defense contracting firm in growth mode acquiring companies. The marketing position she landed there gave her experience in due diligence, brand integration and more. Indeed, while working for Quiet Professionals in 2021, Kabul was captured by the Taliban, a heartbreaking time for employees with family or military ties there. Canipe helped to facilitate evacuations through the CEO’s Project Afghan Relief Fund, and although the humanitarian work often left her in tears, it also inspired her. “I realized that we have this collective power to do so much good.”

Canipe had volunteered for Synapse Florida, an organization aimed at building Florida’s prowess in tech and entrepreneurship, “and this felt like that Goldilocks opportunity where I could shift my career into the non-profit space and put all those skills to work to transform people’s lives.” For just over a year as director of operations of Synapse, she worked with hundreds of startup founders.

But decision-making positions in technology companies, she observed, were still largely dominated by men. The gap alarmed her, as did the experiences of women who had made it to the top. “The things women had to tolerate or navigate to get there really weren’t sustainable or even appropriate. It became clearer that there were so few resources that catered exclusively to these experiences that women were having.”

Today, Canipe is vice president of sales and marketing at the Tampa-based software firm RevStar, but her side hustle is building Women in Tech & Entrepreneurship (WTE) from the ground up. The community effort that started in 2022 with a happy hour of a dozen women around one table has grown to monthly events that attract dozens and sometimes hundreds in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville. WTE is eyeing Nashville, Atlanta and possibly Toronto and Paris for expansion and is building its first collegiate chapter at USF.

WTE has no membership dues or event fees and for expansion seeks out emerging tech hubs with a need for affordable resources focused on women. Each month, chapters hold in-person networking events, and all locations participate in an educational workshop, fireside chat or panel discussion via Zoom, or sometimes at an in-person location with other areas joining online. Women from Jacksonville, Melbourne and Safety Harbor traveled to Orlando for a government contracting workshop. Another event dealt with burnout prevention. Other topics have included access to capital, how to hire marketing and sales talent, women-powered health tech and practical uses of AI.

The organization’s rapid growth — now 3,000-women strong — proves its need. “There’s this aspect of shared experience that creates something special and unique,” Canipe says, and when you put female entrepreneurs and tech professionals together, “we see these cross-functional collaborations and this exchange of ideas and knowledge that’s valuable to both groups. The solutions that emerge are far better than when we work in isolation.”

WTE’s volunteer 14-member board includes sponsorship and programming chairs, one being a high school student. So far, Canipe has largely self-funded WTE but with her board is developing a corporate sponsorship strategy to offset operational costs, expand services and sustain the group’s rapid growth.

Longer term, WTE would like to offer scholarships to help women upskill with microcredentials and create a fund to seed early-stage ventures. “We’re working on developing a scalable, resilient, sustainable model so that any woman in any community across the nation can plant her own Women in Tech & Entrepreneurship flag.”

Tags: Feature, NextGen

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