Renee Kakareka is (o)living the dream through her company Olive Devices. Read on to learn more about this great startup based in Philadelphia.
What is your job title and tell me a little bit about the company?
I am CEO and founder of Olive Devices, headquartered in Philadelphia. We are developing smart glasses that display captions in real-time to enhance the abilities of people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Our glasses are fashionable, locate sound, and change the way people interact with others. We are also exploring applications of our product for children with ADD and ADHD.
What does your typical day look like?
The morning is mainly spent on emails. Since that can get very time-consuming, I have recently started a practice of writing my top 3 priorities for the day on a Post-it note on my desk to keep focused. Before our interns get in, I have a meeting with my COO about our priorities and plans for the day, so we can be on the same page. Once the interns come in, we also hold meetings with them to guide them on their tasks and get the most out of everyone’s time. I usually do my planning on Sunday to prioritize tasks early in the week and then adjust as I get through the week.
How did your education and experiences prepare you for this type of career? Did you foresee doing something like this?
I started off college as an architecture major, then switched to industrial design (both of which are male-dominated fields). The most important part of my education was the balance we got working with other majors and within different companies. I did a lot of company-sponsored projects, where we got to think through the product life cycle. This interdisciplinary program was helpful because I got to take courses in everything from graphics to business to engineering.
Describe the dynamic of your mostly women team. What strengths does a mostly women team have?
Well, we try to keep it fun, interesting, and team-oriented. I think being women allows us to have a strong positive form of competitiveness, especially in a male-dominated industry. At the end of the day, I encourage everyone to participate as much as possible; everyone has an equal role to play and I want to make sure everyone gets the most out of their time.
What is your favorite part of your job?
By far, it is being able to talk to people about the product, especially people whose lives will be affected by wearing our glasses. I’ve gotten so many messages from old classmates who I didn’t even know were affected by these issues, and hearing their stories makes everything worth it.
What tips do you have for young women who might be interested in starting their own companies or in the tech world?
Never stop learning! Especially for girls who might not have strong mentorship, the most important thing you can do is use internal strength to push yourself to learn what you need to. Be sure to ask a lot of questions, it is the best way to learn.
Do you have a favorite quote/life motto?
Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work.
Contributor: Megha Keshav