70. Leah Simoncelli – Coordinator, AlphaLab Gear/Hardware Cup

Posted on
Reading Time: 3 minutes

“Find mentors, then be a mentor. Be a force for good. Support and amplify other women. “

Tell us a little bit about what a typical day looks like for you.

Similar to just about everyone in the entrepreneurship world, there is no typical day! Right now, we’re all system go on the Hardware Cup, the international pitch competition that I run, and our applications are open for the AlphaLab Gear accelerator. That means that my day can include anything from phone calls with partners in Hong Kong to setting up event logistics with a conference in San Jose to meeting local companies in our space at AlphaLab Gear to writing social media content.

How do you stay passionate in your career?

Most of the time, I really can’t believe that I get to do what I do. I feel very fortunate to have landed in a community that is fun, supportive, forward-thinking, and filled with brilliant minds. So the honest answer is I don’t have to make a conscious effort to stay passionate/excited/motivated — it’s a natural side effect of working with entrepreneurs.

Did you have a traditional path into tech (i.e.: CS/IT degree transitioned into tech job)?

Absolutely not. As a student, I loved math, but found communications/marketing to be a much more natural fit as a career parth. I started in the foundation and nonprofit sector, bounced to restaurant marketing in DC and Nantucket, then teaching ESL and education marketing in Chile, and then finally boomeranged back to Pittsburgh. My first job here was a combination of working on the Hardware Cup and UpPrize, and that was really my first foray into the startup world. I worked hard and landed a full-time position with AlphaLab Gear, running the Hardware Cup and supporting AlphaLab Gear programming, and that’s where I’ve been for 2 years!

Are there any apps, software, or tools you cannot live without?

Canva (design tool) is my best friend. It allows the non-artistic to create professional-looking designs for flyers, social media content, etc. Buffer (social media scheduling) is also fantastic. And I’d be lying if I didn’t include Instagram here — what can I say, I enjoy a cute puppy pic.

It’s common knowledge that women and femmes often face obstacles in the tech industry based on their gender. Have you ever had to deal with this type of experience and if so how did you handle it?

Of course. It’s disappointing to have to answer that question that way, but it’s the reality for all of us. I love the amplification or echoing strategy exemplified by the women/femmes in the Obama White House: one woman/femme offers an idea, and if it’s not acknowledged, the next woman/femme to speak repeats the idea and gives her colleague credit for suggesting it.

What’s your favorite thing about being a part of the #womenintech community?

I love being a woman in tech — and particularly a non-technical woman in tech — for the simple fact that representation matters, and I get to be part of it. I want my 4-year-old niece to look at me and say “I can do that.” I want young girls to feel like they can do and be anything, and I want women my age to know that they can completely switch careers and be successful at it, I want retired women to say “that looks cool” and become a maker or programmer or roboticist. I can do it; you can do it; we all can do it.

Also, getting to work with Ilana Diamond (Managing Director of Hardware and AlphaLab Gear) is among the best things to have ever happened to me professionally. She is powerful and supportive and SO good at her job, and she’s a huge advocate for women.

What is a piece of advice you would give to others wanting to or currently pursuing a career in tech?

Do it, because it’s awesome and exciting and fulfilling. Get good at ignoring imposter syndrome. Find mentors, then be a mentor. Be a force for good. Support and amplify other women.

Tell us about a time you felt extremely accomplished in the past year. 

The International Finals of the Hardware Cup (last May) was really a feat to pull off. 10 competitors from 5 different countries, hundreds of people in the audiences, dozens of investors, plus corporate partners, journalists…the list goes on. We had an awesome team that pulled off an awesome event, and I’m excited to make it even bigger and better in 2019.

Favorite quote:

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.


Want to sponsor a spotlight? Invest in our community to help keep our platform growing, nurturing and inspiring talent in the Pittsburgh pipeline.

💌Wanna stay in touch? (We’ll only bug you monthly with exciting updates, jobs, and events!)💌