Gunjan Aggarwal, Head of Human Resources at Ericsson, speaks at the Watermark Conference for Women at San Jose Convention Center, Feb. 1, in San Jose, Calif.  (Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images for Watermark Conference for Women)


Watermark is a community of executive women in the San Francisco Bay Area, whose mission is to increase the representation of women at executive levels to drive innovation, human development and economic growth. Siliconeer looks at the recently held Watermark Conference that had many Silicon Valley Indian American women professionals as speakers. – @siliconeer #siliconeer #WatermarkConference #Entrepreneurship #SiliconValley #SanFranciscoBayArea #TiESV @TiESV @wtrmrk #WatermarkConf


In a rare and candid conversation before a sold-out audience of 6,500 at the largest conference for women in California, former U.S. Secretaries of State Madeleine K. Albright and Condoleezza Rice discussed the Trump administration’s recent executive order banning immigration from certain Muslim-majority countries. Rice, who served in the administration of President George W. Bush, and was National Security Advisor on September 11, 2001, called the Trump administration’s policy “ill-considered and badly delivered,” while still urging the audience to give American political leaders “a chance to work.” Albright, who came to the United States as a refugee when she was a child, and made history as the first female Secretary of State, serving President Bill Clinton, said the new policy “has hurt us and made us less safe.”

Coming days after the historic Women’s March, the nonpartisan, nonprofit Conference gave attendees the opportunity to hear from two history makers of different political backgrounds and longtime friends who agreed on many issues – including America’s role in the world and the need for women to support each other.

Themed “The Power of Us: Amplify Your Voice,” this year’s conference also featured a discussion between Facebook Chief Operating Officer and “Lean In” author Sheryl Sandberg and Swisher, and a keynote address from award-winning actress Viola Davis. Davis, nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award this year for her appearance in “Fences,” along with numerous awards for her appearance on the hit ABC drama “How to Get Away with Murder,” shared lessons with attendees about her rise from an impoverished childhood to stardom on film, television and stage. “Nothing in life will do you any good if you don’t own your own story,” she told attendees.

Annie Clark, co-founder of End Rape on Campus and subject of the documentary film “The Hunting Ground,” and Shawn Achor, best-selling author of “The Happiness Advantage” and record-setting TED speaker, also delivered keynotes.

COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg speaks at the Watermark Conference for Women at San Jose Convention Center, Feb. 1, in San Jose, Calif. (Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images for Watermark Conference for Women)

In only three years, The Watermark Conference for Women Silicon Valley has become the largest personal and professional networking event for women on the West Coast, with more than 100 industry and thought leader speakers from across the country. Breakout session topics included leadership, career advancement, workplace equity, personal branding, finance, and more. Conference attendees participated in the popular Career Pavilion, presented by Gilead Sciences, with in-person resume reviews by human resource experts, and career coaching with coaches from the International Coach Federation San Francisco Bay Area.

“We know that incredible things happen when women – and the men who believe in them—come together to increase opportunities for women to lead, grow and build community,” said Marlene Williamson, Watermark CEO. “The energy and ideas shared today will make a difference not only in Silicon Valley, but throughout California and the country.”

The Watermark Conference for Women Silicon Valley is generously underwritten by co-chair partners Gilead Sciences and Juniper Networks along with the following sponsors: Cisco; Dell; Ericsson; Genentech; Silicon Valley Bank; Akamai Technologies; Boston Scientific; Johnson & Johnson; Mastercard; QVC; State Street Corporation; Yahoo!; Actelion; Applied Materials; ARM; Inc.; Bonterra; BMW Dealer Careers; Cuyana; Kate Spade & Company; Oracle; Poo-Pourri; State Farm; Thermo Fisher Scientific; United Airlines; Varian Medical Systems; Visa; VMware and media sponsors 94.5 Bay FM; KFOG 104.5 San Francisco/97.7 San Jose; KGO 810; KSFO 560; Mix 106 and NBC Bay Area.

“Juniper Networks believes in the power of diversity to drive critical change in the workplace and we are dedicated to empowering our employees and providing equity, professional growth and opportunity for women,” said Rami Rahim, chief executive officer, Juniper Networks. ”Juniper is proud to co-chair The Watermark Conference for Women Silicon Valley and to share this day with our employees in attendance and the thousands of remarkable women and men here today.”

The Watermark Conference also hosted the QVC + Zulily Product Search, as part of its commitment to deliver unique programming for entrepreneurs and innovators. Participants had the opportunity to showcase their new idea to a panel of experts and buyers from QVC and Zulily.

“The connections formed here will be lasting ones, and will have an impact far beyond Silicon Valley,” said Amy Flood, Vice President, Public Affairs of co-chair sponsor Gilead Sciences. “It is an honor to support the Watermark Conference for Women and to be part of this exciting day and the movement it represents.”

Authors Karen Catlin (l) and Poornima Vijayashanker attend the Watermark Conference for Women at San Jose Convention Center, Feb. 1, in San Jose, Calif. (Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images for Watermark Conference for Women)

Some of the Indian American women at this year’s Watermark Conference were:

POORNIMA VIJAYASHANKER, founder of Femgineer, an education company dedicated to helping tech professionals level up in their careers, and build products and companies. Vijayashanker is also an avid public speaker who gives talks around the world on topics ranging from engineering to entrepreneurship. She has given a TEDx talk and hosts a monthly web show called FemgineerTV sponsored by Pivotal Tracker. Previously, she was the founding engineer at Mint.com, where she helped build, launch and scale the product until its acquisition in 2009. Since its acquisition she has been an entrepreneur-in-residence at 500 Startups, lead mentor-in-residence at Techstars, a lecturer at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering, and authored and self-published two books: “How to Transform Your Ideas into Software Products” and “Present! A Techie’s Guide To Public Speaking.” Vijayashanker earned degrees in electrical and computer engineering and computer science from Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering. @femgineer

MENAKA SHROFF, head of marketing at BetterWorks. In her role she drives all marketing, branding, PR, analyst relations and customer acquisition for the business. Prior to BetterWorks, she spent five years at Box and was responsible for growing the company’s user base from six to more than 20 million users, while leading all marketing functions and spearheading the Women in Leadership group. Shroff has also held a variety of technology and leadership roles at Yahoo!, Applied Industrial Technologies, Tata Consulting and American Marketing Association. She currently advises over 10 startups and is known for creating and managing high performing teams and serving as a mentor to aspiring women. Shroff earned an M.B.A. from Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, an M.S. in industrial engineering from University of Southern California and a B.S. in engineering from University of Mumbai. @menaka

SHIVANI SIROYA, founder and CEO of Tala, which works in emerging markets to help anyone with a cell phone build a financial identity. Through its mobile app, Tala connects over 10,000 data points per customer to create an instant credit score and deliver customized financial services. Tala has disbursed millions of dollars in capital to hundreds of thousands of customers across East Africa and Southeast Asia. Tala, formerly known as InVenture, is backed by Lowercase Capital, Google Ventures, Data Collective, Collaborative Fund and other leading venture and impact investors. Fast Company ranked InVenture as the World’s Most Innovative Money Company in April 2015 and InVenture’s work has been highlighted by TED, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Wired, among others. Prior to founding Tala, Siroya held a variety of positions in global health, microfinance and investment banking, including with the United Nations Population Fund, Health Net, Citigroup and UBS. She is a 2016 Aspen Institute Finance Leader Fellow, 2016 WEF Young Global Leader, 2015 Senior TED Fellow and 2013 Ashoka Fellow. She is also on the board of Stellar.org. Siroya earned a M.P.H from Columbia University and a B.A. from Wesleyan University. @shivsiroya @talamobile

SHILPA SHAH, co-founder of Cuyana. She was motivated to create products with rich stories while also building a fashion brand with a central mission of social change. She’s always enjoyed cultivating her personal style but found fast fashion unfulfilling. She often wondered why people couldn’t shop like her relatives in India – purposefully procuring treasures that would be passed down from generation to generation. Shah began her career in interaction design, creating meaningful online experiences at Disney and Punchcut, and then went on to earn her M.B.A. from UC Berkeley Haas School of Business. @shift8designs @cuyana

SHELLY KAPOOR COLLINS, venture capitalist who works at the intersection of technology, innovation and policy, with a focus on investing in female led and founded technology startups in cybersecurity, fintech, ed tech and digital health. After founding and running her own company and various technology products, Collins made the leap from entrepreneur to VC to have a greater impact on the emerging market of female entrepreneurs, and enable female founders to become 100% participants in the innovation economy. @shalkcollins

SHAMA HYDER, award-winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group, a global online marketing and digital PR company. Hyder has aptly been dubbed the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine, and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Under her leadership, The Marketing Zen Group has grown to include a team of 30 and serve clients ranging from publicly-held Fortune 500 companies to privately-held small businesses and nonprofit organizations across the globe. She is the author of “The Zen of Social Media Marketing,” and her latest, “Momentum: How to Propel Your Marketing and Transform Your Brand in the Digital Age.” Hyder has shared the speaking stage with the world’s top leaders, including President Obama and the Dalai Lama. She has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO award. She was named one of the “Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25” by Business Week in 2009, one of the “Top 30 Under 30” Entrepreneurs in America in 2014 by Inc. magazine, and to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list of movers and shakers for 2015. LinkedIn named Hyder one of its “Top Voices” in Marketing & Social. Hyder has been honored at both the White House and The United Nations as one of the top 100 young entrepreneurs in the country. Most recently her web show Shama TV was awarded a Hermes Gold award for Educational Programming in Electronic Media. @shama

Interested readers can learn more about the Watermark Conference for Women at https://www.watermarkconferenceforwomen.org, or on Twitter and Facebook.