Angela Tucci is Chief Operating Officer at Uplight, a mission-driven sustainable energy technology company, and serves as Board Chairwoman at AnitaB.org. We spoke with Angela about her career path, the importance of inclusive visual representation in tech, and what inspires her as she looks to the future.
Hi Angela! Tell us about yourself — how did you get to where you are today?
First, let me anchor in where I believe I am today: successful by external measures in terms of where my career has taken me but, most importantly, a great sense of joy on most days in my personal and professional life. How did I get here? By making a lot of mistakes from which I’ve learned (and sometimes been embarrassed by), by building authentic, not superficial relationships that are part of my “it takes a village,” and by stepping into opportunities with courage and yes, a healthy dose of fear.
You are currently the COO at Uplight, Inc., a mission-driven company in the sustainable energy technology space. Can you tell us more about your role, what a day on the job is like for you, and the types of initiatives you oversee?
My job is to “execute the plan,” which means driving the day-to-day operations of the company together with wildly smart and motivated people aligned with our purpose of creating a more sustainable future. Our products actually reduce carbon while helping people save on their energy bills, and also help utility companies to convert to a clean grid. I saw an estimate recently that our work had helped reduce carbon last year by the same amount as a couple of national forests sequestered in the same time — that’s incredibly motivating for me.
You are also Board Chairwoman for AnitaB.org, an incredible organization dedicated to supporting women in tech. What inspired you to get involved with the organization?
I was drawn to AnitaB.org back in 2011 when I saw that even the most educated, seemingly privileged women in technology lacked a voice in the workplace. That meant for others less privileged, it must be horrendous! For minority women, oftentimes they lived in fear, were discriminated against, and would eventually opt out of a profession they loved for lack of support, role models, and tools to succeed. Since then, it’s been wonderful to see all of us evolve to an even broader inclusivity of intersectionality, critical for all underrepresented voices to be heard, be seen, and have the opportunities of the more privileged majorities.
At Noun Project, we believe visual language has the power to shape, reinforce and change perceptions. What are your thoughts on why diverse visual representation in tech is important to help change the status quo in the industry?
Representation matters. We know that when people don’t see themselves represented in brands, products, activities, or companies, they feel like they don’t belong. They are significantly more likely to disengage when they don’t feel represented or heard.
In the tech space, we rely on engagement — end users engaging with our products, prospective employees engaging with our companies, and funders and clients engaging with our ideas. So, not only is it the right thing to do, it is critical for us to succeed.
Inclusive representation goes beyond imagery. Inclusive representation in tech requires us to understand the contexts in which people use our products and the ways in which their identities and experiences shape those interactions. It requires the curiosity to learn about those we serve, the empathy to put ourselves into their shoes, and the determination to advocate for their needs until they are prioritized — because failing to intentionally design inclusively results in products/companies/concepts that are inherently exclusionary.
What are some of the greatest opportunities you see right now to drive meaningful change when it comes to more equitable representation in tech?
As we have witnessed in the LGTBQ+ community, it starts by seeing more people like us in positions of power, celebrated for successes and highlighted by the media. The tech industry celebrated the narcissistic male founder, and the media immortalized these men, including in blockbuster movies. This gave license to all sorts of bad startup behaviors. What about the amazing minorities who run successful companies, parent their children, and give back to their communities? Let’s see more of them in our storytelling, imagery and icons of all formats!
This is true for the media in general, but also for our company. We’ve been purposefully and intentionally diversifying our board and executive leadership, and also put a meaningful emphasis on where we look for diverse talent as we go into a growth phase.
Looking to the future, what inspires you and what initiatives are you most excited about right now?
With the new administration, I admit I feel a big sigh of relief and hope again for humanity and our planet. What excites me is that most of our clients, the largest utilities in North America, have made decarbonization pledges, and Uplight is excited to be a partner and coach in that courageous journey. Uplight has also set a strategic priority to be a destination employer in its inclusion journey. I cannot wait to see what we do for our people in the coming years, and what they can do for us when they feel truly free to be their full and authentic selves.
What advice would you give to women who are currently navigating the path to a career in tech?
Oftentimes, young women do not want to be seen for their differences, but to blend in. This is a mistake as it marginalizes your gifts and makes you “less than”. If you are afraid to stand out, there are those of us here to have your back, and we can help you bring your whole selves to work. Seek us out, raise your hand and know that we have all had to be courageous when we’re scared and that it’s paid off more than we expected.
Thank you for sharing with us Angela!
AnitaB.org connects, inspires, and guides women in computing, and organizations that view technology innovation as a strategic imperative. Its social enterprise supports women in technical fields, as well as the organizations that employ them and the academic institutions training the next generation.