I never had any issue with being the only woman in the room. I have always been perfectly fine with that.”
A true pioneer, Jennifer Bonnett never saw pursuing a career in technology in the late 1980s as a challenge.While attending Dickinson College, a small liberal arts college in Carlisle, Pa., she was one of just a couple of women majoring in mathematics and computer science. Her first job straight out of college was as a systems engineer with Electronic Data Systems.
Bonnett is a self-professed “true technologist” and “coder by trade.” She has spent a good part of her more than 25 year career in information technology and software development, specializing in web and mobile technologies. Bonnett has served as founder and CTO of a number of venture and angel-backed startups and, together with her co-founders, raised in excess of $46 million in venture funding at three companies.
She first recognized her knack for computer programming when her high school math teacher introduced her to personal computers. But it was really her early fascination with puzzles that served as the foundation for her interest in computers and technology. As a child, she always kept a puzzle under construction on a piece of cardboard under the couch. Bonnett likens programming to solving puzzles:
Computers are like puzzles,” she said. “With a puzzle, you have to figure out how to put all the pieces together to make it work. The same is true for computers.”
Today, as assistant director of education and community outreach at technology incubator ATDC and founder of StartupChicks, she helps entrepreneurs overcome the myriad of challenges that come with founding and building a startup.
I am in charge of all things programmatic and related to outreach [at ATDC],” she said. “Our job is to help these companies launch and grow their business and create jobs and revenue in the state of Georgia. Georgia is still not listed as one of the top 10 states for startups and we are working to put Georgia on that map.”
StartupChicks is a nonprofit focused on empowering women entrepreneurs through education, community, coaching, connections and investment. According to Bonnett, the organization has reached 10,000 women who have attended at least one event. Bonnett also runs the organization’s accelerator program where a handful of companies are selected each year to participate. To date, 50 companies have gone through this program.
When Bonnett is not working a challenge, she enjoys reading and spending time with her dog, Mocha, and her family. She is the quintessential doting aunt to her niece and nephew and is especially focused on helping her niece master STEM-related subjects. Because of this, she often gives the kids gifts that encourage education in those fields. During a recent family visit, they all built and flew a drone that Bonnett gave to her niece for her birthday.
Tonya Layman is a freelance writer who has successfully generated hundreds of newspaper articles and other written content related to current business and industry. She resides in Marietta with her husband and child and enjoys traveling.