NEXT Up: Making tech and startup culture more inclusive with Jenn Van Dam

Jenn van Dam

Jenn Van Dam (far right) at the 2016 Invest In Her Pitch competition with the IIH co-founders.

As Digital & Community Engagement Manager at Innovation Works (IW), Jenn manages the organization’s online presence, develops messaging, branding and marketing collateral, and helps companies develop their marketing strategies. When it comes to tech and entrepreneurship, Jenn is passionate about supporting and empowering people of color, LGBTQIA folks, women and underserved communities. At national conferences such as the “Lesbians Who Tech Summit” in San Francisco, and the “TechUp Summit” in Washington, D.C., Jenn has spoken about “bro-culture” and how startups can be more inclusive for everyone.

Monday, July 17:

6:15 a.m. My partner Allie Reznik and I walk our dog, Tulip (@tulipthebostonterrier) in Allegheny Commons Park before heading to the gym for a Nike Training app workout. We eat breakfast while listening to the “Coffee Break French” podcast to polish our language skills since we’re vacationing in Europe next month.

9 a.m. On my walk to work I’ll call my parents in New Jersey to catch up. At work, I’ll dig into emails and review digital analytics.

11 a.m. Meeting with my IW teammates Terri Glueck and Susan Bower to coordinate multiple projects we’re working on.

12 p.m. Lunch at Eddie Merlot’s with the Athena Scholarship award selection/planning committee. I’m honored and grateful to be selected out of 28 candidates for the Barbara McNees Spirit of ATHENA Scholarship! This scholarship underwrites my cost of attendance to CMU’s Leadership & Negotiation Academy for Women this fall. This is the second year for the scholarship and their hope is to raise more funds to offer it in perpetuity.

1:30 p.m. On my way back to the office I’ll text my four brothers. We live around the country so we check-in via group text.

3:00 p.m. Catching up with Christine Marty from the City’s Department of Innovation & Performance at Arnold’s Tea.

6:30 p.m. Ending my day cooking dinner and working on marketing for ALPFA Pittsburgh (Association for Latino Professionals for America), where I’m a board member.

Jennifer Van Dam

Jenn and Allie attending the Great Night Gala at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, where Jenn serves on the Young Professionals (BigKids) Board.

Tuesday, July 18:

7 a.m. Starting my morning managing Innovation Works’ social media, then off to WELD Pittsburgh’s (Women For Economic And Leadership Development) Breakfast at The River’s Club.

9:30 a.m. Stopping by StudioMe; I’m managing a video project interviewing startups in the Innovation Works portfolio.

2 p.m. A favorite part of my job is connecting with entrepreneurs! At AlphaLab, I’ll lend my marketing expertise to the new cohort during office hours. Then I’ll hop onto a call with Imagebox, the design firm I’m working with to redesign Innovation Works’ website.

5 p.m. Driving to the North Side for Blue Tree Allied Angels’ annual meeting. Since I’ll hit traffic, I’ll listen to a favorite podcast, “The Broadcast;” it’s a great way to learn about women changemakers in Pittsburgh.

Wednesday, July 19:

9:30 a.m. At the IW accelerator/communications meeting, we’ll plan and share updates. I’ll spend the day creating digital content and preparing our August newsletter.

5:30 p.m. After work, I’m meeting friends for “Frosé All Day (or at least for Happy Hour)” at the Harris Grill.

8:30 p.m. I’ll wind down by reading Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe.

Thursday, July 20:

7:30 a.m. Since I’m dedicated to advancing people of color, LGBT folks, women, and underserved communities in tech and entrepreneurship, I’m excited about the work our team has put into July’s Caffeinated Innovation event. Kelley Benson will lead a group of panelists addressing how startups can genuinely deliver on diversity and inclusion in their HR strategies.

1 p.m. Terri and I will head to Pittsburgh International Airport for a meeting/tour. IW is partnering with the Richard King Mellon Foundation and the airport on a project called “Creating a Sense of Place.”

5:30 p.m. My colleague Ashley Hayward and I are hosting a picnic for Black women and femmes that IW is sponsoring. We both love connecting people and we’re excited to bring our networks together and create space for collaboration!

8 p.m. Starlight Meditation in Allegheny Commons Park.

Friday, July 21:

8 a.m. Over to AlphaLab for a session. I’ll head downstairs to AlphaLab Gear to see what the Startable Pittsburgh cohort is working on.

12 p.m. As a community engagement manager, I’ve found that working in public spaces is great for connecting with new people. This afternoon, I’ll work from Everyday Cafe.

6 p.m. Invest In Her (IIH) is having an event at Wigle Whiskey’s Barrelhouse. As the IIH VP, I’m excited to meet prospective applicants!

Jennifer Van Dam

Jenn (second from right) with friends at a Pirates game where Pride hats were given out.

Saturday, July 22:

8 a.m. Tulip, Allie and I will walk to Commonplace Coffee. This afternoon I’ll work on the free online UX design class I’m taking.

4 p.m. We’ll head to IIH President, Sam Hartzman’s birthday party!

7 p.m. Attending the opening celebration for 20/20: The Studio Museum in Harlem and Carnegie Museum of Art is the perfect way to end this summer evening.

Sunday, July 23:

7 a.m. #SundaysAreForLovers! Allie and I will make sure to spend today together. We’ll clean, make breakfast and go to our apartment building’s rooftop to read.

12 p.m. Grocery shopping at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s in East Liberty then Carmi’s on the North Side for lunch.

3 p.m. Pups N’ Pints Yappy Hour at Grist House Brewery. Tulip will hang out with her friends and we’ll catch up with ours.

5 p.m. Stopping by the MyStylist “Get Faded” event. I worked closely with the ResusTech team when they were in AlphaLab and am excited to see them grow.

7 p.m. Journal, reflect and plan the week ahead.

10:30 p.m. To end my week, I’m excited to watch the premier of Insecure.

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