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Community Spotlight: The Priya Haji Fellowship

By True Ventures, March 2, 2017

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In 2015 we created the Priya Haji Fellowship, a nine month-long, paid fellowship program for college graduates—particularly women—interested in kicking off their startup careers. This fellowship was named to honor Priya Haji, a True-funded, four-time entrepreneur committed to building companies of broad social consequence.

As we continue to accept applications for the 2017-2018 Priya Haji Fellowship through March 15, 2017, we turn the spotlight to our current class of Priya Haji Fellows, who are midway through their fellowships and have been working for our portfolio companies since September.

If you’re considering applying, read through the interview to gain a greater understanding of the program and the impact it has had on this talented group of young women.

Priya Haji Fellowship

Where did you work during your Priya Haji Fellowship?

Lizzy Austad: During my fellowship, I rotated through cloud security company Evident.io’s engineering teams. One of my favorite projects involved writing code for one of Evident’s newest features, and then rewriting the frontend UI so the feature could be used by Evident customers.

Veda Bankar: I’ve worked as a product designer for customer support company Helpshift’s iOS and Android apps. I was involved in the whole cycle, from initial research to working with developers on implementing design. I also collaborated with the marketing team on smaller projects.

Priya Krishnan: During my fellowship, I’ve worked for the UX research team at Fitbit. Some of my projects include synthesizing data from user interviews, usability tests, and surveys for various device and interactive software features. Using these findings, I came up with product implications to improve existing features and ideate new features.

Lisa Bai: I’m on the growth marketing team at Madison Reed, a hair color startup. So far, I’ve helped with acquisition, retention, and SEO/SEM. For example, one of my projects was managing the performance of radio and podcast advertisements.

Did you meet any role models you looked up to during your fellowship? What did they teach you if so?

Lizzy: The women at Evident and the other Priya Haji Fellows were great role models for me. It’s been an amazing experience getting to learn from women in positions I aspire to fill myself one day and sharing that journey with the other Fellows.

Veda: Finding and cultivating a community of mentors and supporters that help you grow is so important. The fellowship taught me to truly believe I can succeed, and to put in the hard work that’s required.

Priya: One female role model that has had a huge impact on me is my manager, who is extremely intelligent and helpful. She taught me all about design thinking and guided me throughout my time at Fitbit.

Another female role model that inspired me is Amy Errett, the CEO of Madison Reed. During our mentor dinner with her, a part of the fellowship, she inspired me to think about the data-driven beauty space. It led me to create a prototype of a customized make-up app at a hackathon that I attended recently.

Lisa: The founder and CEO of Madison Reed, Amy Errett, is a very strong role model. An experienced entrepreneur and previous venture capitalist, Amy understands strong business objectives. However, she also understands “love” as a fundamental value, not only in the company but in everything we do, since love always wins.

True Ventures

What direction do you see your career going now, and how did your fellowship help to point you in that direction?

Lizzy: I definitely feel that software engineering is the right path for me, and I’m very grateful to True Ventures for giving me the chance to grow as an engineer in an exciting startup environment. I plan to continue working as a full-time software engineer and some day combine the technical and entrepreneurial skills I’ve gained to create my own startup.

Veda: The fellowship helped me gain confidence in my skills while working in a fast-paced environment. My time with Helpshift reinforced my passion for building products that create an impact. After the fellowship, I’m excited to continue working at Helpshift!

Priya: I definitely see myself staying in the fitness-tech space for the next few years. I’ve found the work I’m doing to be completely rewarding and interesting, and I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to explore this area through the Priya Haji Fellowship.

Lisa: I really enjoy the challenges and innovation at startups, so I want to continue working in the startup environment. I’ve met so many inspiring people from diverse backgrounds, and the fellowship showed me that there isn’t just one path to making an impact on the future. Anything is possible.

True Ventures is currently accepting applications for 2017-2018 Priya Haji Fellowships through March 15. Graduating students of all majors and educational interests are encouraged to apply.