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Profile: Molly Mackinlay, Product lead at IPFS

Women in Tech: “Women engineers helped me grow and learn without fear of failure”

Dominik Mohilo
women in tech

Four years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Molly Mackinlay, Product lead at IPFS.

research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?

Four years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Molly Mackinlay, Product lead at IPFS.

Today’s Woman in Tech: Molly Mackinlay, Product lead at IPFS

Molly Mackinlay, is IPFS Project Lead, a peer-to-peer network and protocol designed to make the web faster, safer, and more open. She also leads the Product Management Org at Protocol Labs,  a research, design, and deployment lab for new internet protocols like IPFS, libp2p, IPLD, and Filecoin. Previously, Mackinlay spent 5 years as a PM at Google on products like Search, Classroom, Forms, and Chrome. Mackinlay received her BS in Computer Science from Stanford University with a focus in Human-Computer Interaction.

When did you become interested in technology?

My parents are both engineers, so I had a lot of exposure to technology as a child traveling to conferences with them. They became coaches for my elementary school Lego robotics team, which was the first time I (kinda) learned to program – and where I got excited about building technology to solve problems.

I still remember one of the robotics competitions that we did where we had to solve challenges based on the many science experiments and activities a Martian rover would need to perform.

How did you end up in your career path?

I’d always been interested in the intersection of engineering and people – I took drama and robotics in high school – but it wasn’t until I discovered human-computer interaction during a summer course at Cornell that I knew I wanted to study computer science. Being able to design tools and programs for people, to give them new capabilities and superpowers, was super exciting.

I got immensely excited about some of the research being carried out at the Cornell HCI lab, like a diary that turned your journal entries into pieces of music, and decided then that was the field I wanted to work in.

Did you receive support from your family and friends? Do you have a role model?

My parents are my role models and heroes. They worked at Xerox PARC when I was a child – and we still frequently discuss the research they did in the early internet era to invent the office of the future.

I was also very inspired by Sally Ride, the first US female astronaut. Her work bringing science education to many girls inspired my own interest in education.

I was also very inspired by Sally Ride, the first US female astronaut. Her work bringing science education to many girls inspired my own interest in education.

A day in Molly’s life

I lead our Engineering Teams at Protocol Labs, helping support and organize our contribution to open source projects and communities like IPFS, Filecoin, libp2p, and more. We steward reference implementations like Lotus and go-IPFS – and design new improvements to the core protocols based on the community’s feedback and needs.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Launching the Filecoin Network this past October was the most complex engineering and ecosystem coordination problem I’ve ever been involved with, and it has been extremely gratifying to see this network flourish and the ecosystem-building tools and services around it grow.

I’m very proud of the critical decisions we made that helped enable this amazing community and am constantly impressed by the new businesses and tools being built on this new foundation for humanity’s knowledge by groups like Textile, Fleek, Slate, Infura, and others.

It can be hard to find role models and peers who can understand and help combat the normal imposter syndrome of creating impact in this space.

Could you name a few challenges (or obstacles) women in tech face?

It can be hard to find role models and peers who can understand and help combat the normal imposter syndrome of creating impact in this space. I’ve been really lucky to work with many phenomenal female mentors who helped support my growth.

What advice (and tips) would you give to women who want a tech career?

1. Find mentors.

I had the pleasure of working with some amazingly talented and impressive women when I was at the beginning of my career at Google, and even prior to that, I had amazing female role models who showed me that women can make a huge impact in this space. From Geri Gay, who led the Cornell HCI lab that I toured and instantly fell in love with computer science, to Parisa Tabriz, who I worked with as a new PM on the Google Chrome team. I had amazing female mentors and advisors that pushed me to succeed.

2. Find your support team.

When I was getting started at Stanford and Google, I had great cohorts of fellow women engineers who helped me grow and learn without fear of failure. I still connect with many of these peers today to share challenges and successes – and feel part of a vibrant and diverse community of supporters.

More Women in Tech:

For even more Women in Tech, click here

Author
Dominik Mohilo
Dominik Mohilo studied German and sociology at the Frankfurt University, and works at S&S Media since 2015.

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