7 must-reads from Austin tech's leading ladies

Kelly Jackson

Even the busiest people in tech find time in their demanding schedules to read. For many, it’s a great way to shut down the brain after a long day. For others, it’s an outlet to absorb new insight, gain a fresh perspective and reap inspiration.

We reached out to some of Austin’s leading women founders to find out about the pieces of literature that have helped them along their entrepreneurial journeys.

 

Monica Landers founded and launched AUTHORS.me in 2014. The Austin startup’s platform uses machine learning to connect writers with publishers and agents over a matching system, cutting down significantly on the time it takes to get a manuscript published. Landers shared three books that have impacted her career.

In The Company of Women by Grace Bonney

This is a beautiful coffee table book that is rich with stories of entrepreneurial women. Beautiful and inspiring!

The author asked each woman — there are over 100 of them in the book — the same battery of questions, and the results are invigorating and completely varied. From "what does success mean to you?" to "what do you like most about your work space?" and of course “what's the best piece of business advice you've received?" I go to this book when I need a quick infusion of energy and perspective from the incredibly impressive and innovative women within the pages of this book. It reminds me that there are a million "right" paths to success.

The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stores About Facing the Unknown by Catherine Burns

It's sometimes hard to stay present and appreciative amidst the onslaught of demands, decision-making and hard work required to get a company off the ground. I love this book because it brings me back to the story of life. It’s more than just getting through a hard day — it’s about being observant and present for the roller coaster that we all live.

The Joy of Leaving Your Sh*t All Over the Place by Jennifer McCartney

Because it's nice to have the reminder that some things just don't need to be stressful unless you make them. This book is a parody of the amazingly popular The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which is also a great — albeit different — book for finding your center. This one is more about finding your centered balance of not getting mired in perfection which is a great way to get through the day.

 

BuildFax co-founder and CEO Holly Tachovsky launched a business providing services that no company had before, offering the insurance and financial institutions critical property condition and history data. She finds encouragement from Ben Horowitz’s New York Times best seller.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

You might think that "success in the rear view mirror" has a fait accompli sheen to it, but it’s never like that in actuality. Making something from whole cloth — something that didn’t exist before— it’s messy. Ben Horowitz conveys that bivouacking nature of real life company creation in "The Hard Thing About Hard Things." The dark moments, the forks in the road, the little victories that mean everything… it’s the real stories that inspire me. Horowitz’s book gave me and still gives me hope, humility and companionship in my founder’s journey. — Holly Tachovsky, CEO of BuildFax

 

Kimberly Lexow and Jess Legge began their first entrepreneur endeavor in 2015, launching Sifted to offer companies a data-fueled, locally prepared, lunch delivery service. The two co-founders both shared books that have empowered them throughout their startup experience.

Daring Greatly by BrenĂ© Brown

“Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.” In BrenĂ© Brown's Daring Greatly, the crime was chronic perfectionism, and I was guilty as charged.

Before founding Sifted, my professional path was laced with security and independence. Work was about performance and work relationships were guarded at best. That kind of grind was exhausting, and through Brown's soul-bearing book, I found a new language, one that brings energy and positivity to risk, exposure and uncertainty.

For my team, developing a fluency in this counterintuitive language has meant pursuing authenticity over image and embracing mistakes instead of comfort. Emotionally-charged and new experiences come with the territory of being a startup, but this mindset helps us move to the core of the issue and let go of facades. We emphasize trust, encourage experiments and find the lesson in every mistake.

We own everything — the good, the bad and the really messy — and it's a new freedom for ourselves, each other and our clients. — Lexow

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

I’m a proud introvert. A phrase I would have previously mumbled before reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.

Leading a high-growth startup and being an introvert felt like a huge hurdle for me when we initially launched Sifted. It’s no secret that entrepreneurship requires you to put yourself out there more than any other role. You’re constantly pitching yourself and your dream to strangers in hopes that they’ll join your team or buy your idea. I used to worry if I could do that and still protect the solitude that I craved.

Quiet flipped the notion that being an introvert was to my disadvantage on its head. It taught me that my ability to sit alone with my thoughts actually drives my creativity and fuels big thinking. My focus on listening over speaking strengthens my bond with the team and allows us to form a deep level of trust and respect that pushes my startup forward.

Perhaps, above everything, I learned that you have to take what you need and make space for your team to do the same. If you get your energy from filling your social calendar with networking events then do it. If you need quiet, don’t be afraid to take it. Now I know that my best work comes from being my authentic solitude-loving self. — Legge

 

In 2014, Katie Fang founded SchooLinks, a startup that makes planning and applying for college easier for students. The end game? Get every single student interested in attending college on their platform. Fang chose a book that had a lasting effect on how she identifies and diffuses obstacles.

Start with Why by Simon Sinek

It helped defined the way I think about problems. Understanding why I am solving the problem I am solving and to ask enough whys to get down to the root cause. 

 

Responses have been edited for clarity and length. Images provided by featured companies.
 
What do you want to learn from Austin tech founders? Let us know via our tip channel or tweet us@BuiltInAustin

Women in Austin Tech

From founding companies to creating projects and initiatives, women are leaving their mark on the Austin tech scene.

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