Faces of #OKGNtech
Accelerate Okanagan - Sep 17, 2020 - Columnists

Image: Contributed

A strong community can promote new ideas and ensure accountability. It can also act as motivation, support and even provide a little friendly competition. The power of community is undeniable, and the Okanagan tech community is no exception.

Our community is strong and growing with record speed, and maintaining connections through a period of growth like this can be a challenge. Nobody panic. We’ve got a plan.

Introducing “The Faces of #OKGNtech,” a showcase of Okanagan tech entrepreneurs, partners, supporters and cheerleaders designed to fuel more connection, more growth and more excitement. Follow along on the blog and on Instagram at @OKGNtech to learn more about our growing community and what makes them awesome.

Meet Erin. Erin Athene Fisher is the managing partner of Purpose Five and CEO of Mint C.R.O. When she’s not creating gender-inclusive opportunities in tech, you’ll find Athene Fisher jamming on her bass guitar or spending time with her family.

Where do you work in the Okanagan?

I’m the managing partner at Purpose Five. We’re a team of developers who focus on gender-inclusive projects and help to support tech-minded women in their careers.

How were you first How were you first introduced to the OKGNtech community?

When I first moved to Victoria, I was broken-hearted, coming out of a divorce and a $20 million failed software company. I owe a lot to VIATEC and Rob Bennett. He invited me in to chat and, after sharing my story of massive failure, he asked me to be an entrepreneur in residence for VIATEC. From there, I started attending entrepreneur in residence summits—my first one being in Kelowna. That’s where I met a lot of Accelerate Okanagan’s entrepreneurs in residence, was introduced to the OKGNtech community and my future husband.

What made you want to start Purpose Five?

I started to come across a lot of women who were falling out of tech because it wasn’t a good environment for them. I wanted to focus on helping women when they are deep in their careers, creating a space where we could support them at a leadership level and build environments that can sustain women in the tech workplace.

How did you get into this kind of work?

I started to learn to code because I wanted to get more self-sufficient in the tech space. I found Ladies Learning Code, a Canadian-non-profit that taught women beginner-level coding skills. From there, I developed an interest in helping women pursue a career in tech. I also brought Lighthouse Labs to Victoria. They put on an eight-week boot camp and trained participants in becoming a junior developer. To round off the training, the next step was to create a junior developer accelerator that allowed those individuals to work on real projects. This was called Purpose Social. That accelerator eventually transformed into Purpose Five.

What allowed you to successfully launch so many programs?

Customer discovery and market validation. The exact thing that we train our CEOs on, it’s the best of the best practices. It’s how Ladies Learning Code became the fastest-growing chapter in Canada for its first year. It started with a little booth at a VIATEC event where I could collect a list of contact information of those interested in participating in the workshop. I had lots of people sign up, but I also had people willing to donate money to put on the event.

How do you like to give back or add value to the community?

When I started Ladies Learning Code, a lot of women told me that they weren’t good with computers. By the end of one of our workshops, they would have built their own website from scratch. They couldn’t leave that event with the same mindset of not being good with computers. From Ladies Learning Code to Lighthouse Labs, Purpose Social to Purpose Five, I’ve dedicated a lot to helping women get more comfortable and confident working in tech.

What’s the best piece of advice you like to share?

If you don’t have a tight, good team, then all of your work will be for naught. Through mentoring and research into investing, I’ve learned that entrepreneurs often put a lot of emphasis on the product, the IP, the thing that they’re passionate about. That doesn’t guarantee a successful business. You can have an amazing product, do all the market research and validation, and have a product that is in demand, but if you don’t have a team that can actually be collaborative, the company will fail.

Is there something you want to be remembered for?

To me, tech is about changing lives. It’s a big deal. Technology creates the future. And who is at the wheel of creating the future has a big impact on how the future goes. I want to contribute, in some small way, to lowering anxiety girls and women have in tech. I want to shift their whole paradigm of what digital and tech is, have it be way more accessible and empowering for them.

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