Hi, Could you introduce yourself?

My name is Mary Rinaldi. I am a writer, co-founder, and a self-taught strategist with executive tendencies and a gift for storytelling, based in New York City and London.

What are you working on?

I am experimenting with “hacking” these days. I am not a coder or engineer, but I enjoy tinkering conceptually with existing platforms and tools. I like to use what’s available rather than rushing to make new stuff because constraints can act as a forcing function for deep creativity around problems and opportunities. It’s a useful testing mechanism for new ideas.

AOC and Animal Crossing is a great example. Last month, she joined the Nintendo Twitch camping game visiting people’s campsites, getting to know her constituents and encouraging people to vote. It was a really brilliant way to hack a video game.

I’m taking that energy into a project I’m working on with my co-founder, Alexandra Darby, called Frend of a Frend.

We know how stressful and unfair the hiring process can be. We want to change that, and along the way, organically push organizations and teams to transform how they hire, onboard and work with their talent.

People tend to hire teams and people based on verification from their social and professional circles. This can lead to great work, but it can also lead to disappointing outcomes because it is a mostly invisible process, and often reinforces nepotism and homogeneity. We want to take the friend of a friend method and spread that to as many talented people and great teams as possible, seeding inclusivity, impartiality and diversity, resulting in truly great work and strong organizations.

We're building out our pilot and preparing to launch in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

Along with working on FoaF, I write a weekly newsletter about work called PSST.

What was the impetus behind PSST?

I spent years working in finance and tech feeling both frustrated and exhausted by the experience. I also spent a year listening to people’s stories of unfair, damaging and toxic workplaces, while working on Simone, a company I co-founded in 2019 (that is now shuttered).

The need became very clear -- workplaces can easily consume our intelligence and creativity while pushing us into diminishing structures and roles. Most people want a career where they learn and master skills, build autonomy and define their voice, and form long-term working relationships. Unfortunately, the typical workplace tends to inhibit those goals.

Acknowledgement of reality is really important if we want change, and I didn’t see anyone writing about this work experience. So I decided to launch PSST and write about growing out of unhealthy workplaces rather than trying to fit into them, all while having a bit of fun and sharing tips and advice from artists, writers, business people and innovators.

How did you get into your current field?

By hook or by crook. I moved to New York after college and began experimenting with my career (while eating ramen and paying exorbitant rent). I worked as a paralegal, launched hedge funds and eventually began building tech products, but I found my favorite work through friends and experiences outside the workplace.

The work I do now - mentoring creative technologists at NEW INC, writing PSST, and working on tech and activist projects I believe in - came to me through those interests and friendships.

I believe that doing the things you love and building relationships with people who inspire and motivate you can open doors that no resume or LinkedIn connection will.

What are your goals?

President of the United States of America.

Seriously though, I want to build a more equitable society. I don’t know where that will take me, politics, activism or continuing to use my tech and storytelling skills to be a good neighbor. But I want every project, campaign or piece of work I do to drive systemic change in my community, society and country.

Do you have a mentor?

I was homeschooled growing up and found an outlet for my mind in books. Writers and poets validated and expanded my inner world as a young person, and they still do today.

These are my mentors: artists, writers and activists who I was lucky enough to stumble upon in the library stacks, on the internet, and among friends. Audre Lorde, Mary Oliver, and William Shakespeare are a few OGs, but I’m also finding guidance and wisdom in new voices, like Saaed Jones, Ocean Vuong and Elissa Altman.

That being said, I encourage every young person to find mentors and partners. I am super fortunate to have partners in life who support and challenge me daily.

Do you mentor anyone?

Yes, I’m lucky to mentor a few creative technologists working at the intersection of art, science and technology through NEW INC, and I am constantly blown away by their creative courage.

For example, I work with a team of two amazing womxn Connie Bakshi and Pearlyn Lii (collectively known as nonstudio), who are creating an immersive, participatory sound chamber that allows visitors to listen to their genetic soundscape, connecting them to their matriarchal ancestors. Unpacking identity from an objective medium such as DNA creates a fresh and inclusive lens through which to begin understanding the female identity.

Noya Kohavi, another womxn founder I work with is building a new way to read and catalogue visual data, moving AI tech away from surveillance and toward contextualized data, which opens up new possibilities for building equitable and generous data infrastructure.

What could the tech industry do to better foster female talent?

Whew, that is a big question. TLDR;

Send the wire.

Make the hire.

Promote them.

From a systemic perspective, I would like to see alternative funding models proliferate that center people rather than “10-xing the money” and for tech companies to implement real structural change when it comes to hiring and promoting womxn.

I would like to see talented womxn, especially Black womxn, put in positions of power and actively supported at their organization or company. If leaders and managers listen to womxn’s feedback and concerns at work, build policies and environments that support their success and invest consistently in their careers, we would see a shift in outcomes - better companies, better products, and better towns and cities.

What advice can you give to people at the start of their career?

Always use the tools at your disposal to define your voice. Take control of your narrative and tell your story if you don’t want someone else to do it for you.

You’re kicking off a new chapter in life, one that will bring learning, growth, and yes, disappointment too. So it’s super important to build courage and strengthen your sense of self. Take the time to think about what kind of person you want to be in the world -- what is your purpose and mission and how do you show up as a colleague and a leader? Write it all down, and consult with your mentors, including the ones in books, as you go through this process. Knowing and committing to your core values will help you build a career (and a life) you're proud of.

Finally, remember you have rights as an employee, and you deserve a manager who truly supports you. If you’re not finding people who have your back in your place of work, don’t be afraid to leave and find sponsors and managers who actively co-create your success.

Above all always stay true to who you are.

What's the best and worst advice you have received?

The best advice I’ve received is this, via activist and philosopher Simone Weil, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”

When we give attention to something or someone, we are actively carving out space for discovery and growth. Paying attention to your health - physical, mental and emotional - cultivates energy and uncovers direction. Paying attention to your craft expands your capacity for curiosity and big leaps of faith, and paying attention to people in your life, who inspire and motivate you builds deep and rich relationships, both personal and professional.

The worst advice I’ve received is, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” This is a very New York piece of advice and rather misleading. Faking it won’t bring you what you want. But it will fling you farther away from your core values and purpose, delaying the future you want to build.

Be confident and understand that you are learning like everyone else. Do the work and believe in your ability to flourish under any circumstance.

Who do you follow? What blogs do you read?

I’m lucky to follow a slew of wise, whip-smart, hilarious womxn across tech, politics, art and science on Twitter:

In no particular order:

Symone D. Sanders

Brittany Packnett Cunningham

Wendy Johansson

Michelle Kim

Katrina Jones

Liz Fong-Jones

Tatiana Mac

Tiffani Ashley Bell

Aniyia Tinsel

Chani Nicholas

Meredith Whittaker

I also regularly read Zora Magazine, Marker by Medium, Ask Molly by Heather Hraviletsky, Brain Pickings by Maria Popova, Scott Galloway’s No Mercy, No Malice, and Tina Roth Eisenberg’s swissmiss.

What’s the best way to keep up to date with what you’re doing?

Sign up for PSST and follow me on Twitter!

We are preparing to launch on Product Hunt.

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