Nasreen Abdul Jaleel
Director of Technology at Expedia

How can women remain competitive in tech?

There’s nothing you can’t learn. Start small, even with ten minutes of research. Follow experts on Twitter or take an online course on a new technology. Find a side project where you can try new things. Staying engaged is key.

How do you navigate an unwelcome environment?

Find an environment that works better. Too often women get into a pattern of feeling, “If I’m good enough, I can make it work.” The truth is you’ll achieve more in an environment where you can thrive. Many places are dynamic and value diverse teams. Make time to find one.

How do you find those places?

Maintain connections with supportive colleagues, both male and female. Chances are your dream job will come from this network. Many big companies are focused on promoting diversity and inclusion. Put yourself out there and let them find you.

So you’re thinking about heading out to Silicon Valley to start the next billion-dollar tech unicorn. What will it take to be successful?

I often hear people pondering this question. The answer isn’t obvious. Mark Zuckerberg, our founder and CEO at Facebook, for example, is one-of-a-kind. It’s hard to predict when, how and from which garage the next Pied Piper will emerge.

Of course, there’s no single, definitive answer. From my experience leading recruiting and people operations at Facebook, I’ve had the great privilege of working with Mark and so many great colleagues for seven years. Over time, I have observed that there are some characteristics that many of the very best share.

1. Will to build

Mark famously wrote the initial code for Facebook himself, with a couple of his college friends. He is a builder. Many successful tech entrepreneurs—Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, Reed Hastings—are engineers who write code. They create things.

Of course, it’s possible to create a world-changing technology company without being an engineer. Steve Jobs is a famous outlier in this regard, but having the mindset of a builder is essential.

2. Yearn to learn

Mark has a tremendous passion for learning. Curious by nature, he listens intently to others, seeks experts and experienced input as he needs it and asks probing questions all along the way. He is constantly expanding his own knowledge base. He tries new technologies early, reads voraciously (a book every other week this year) and learns quickly. If there is any question about Mark’s appetite for learning, check out his interview at Tsinghua University, which he conducted entirely in Mandarin—a language he began learning just a few years ago.

3. Bold and quick

Technology is ever changing and evolving. At Facebook, we often say that the future comes sooner than you expect—especially as it relates to the way people connect and communicate. The “move fast and be bold” philosophy is so deeply engrained at Facebook that our new people often call it out as the defining characteristic of our culture and the way we work. And it comes entirely from the way Mark works.

4. Focus on impact

It is incredibly easy to get distracted by the small things that seem important but really don’t matter. Identify the few things that do matter and focus entirely on those. Do what it takes to get those few, important things right. This is much harder to do than it sounds!

Like anything, there is no single path or set of skills that will get you there. You have to find your own way. But if you are passionate about building something, dream big, focus and listen along the way, you will be one step closer to the unicorn.

“You don't have to be a genius or a visionary or even a college graduate to be successful,” said Michael Dell, the founder and CEO of Dell Inc. “You just need a framework and a dream.”