68. Lynn M. Banaszak – Executive Director, Disruptive Health Technology Institute at CMU

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“Women should not hold back. We should share our opinions, take credit for our accomplishments and be willing to learn from and also lead others without fear.”

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

A typical day for me is focused on being an innovation connector. I work to connect solutions to big healthcare problems by connecting innovators at CMU to industry, government, regulatory, and investment collaborators to drive novel technology that creates positive societal and economic impact. Every day is a mix of meetings, presentations and introductions to make sure that people and ideas are being supported and progressed.

How do you stay passionate in your career?

It’s easy to stay passionate when you are surrounded by dedicated people that want to make the world a better place. Every day I learn something new from the brightest researchers in the world. I am dedicated to mentoring young people, volunteering to coach entrepreneurs, building women’s networks and helping connect companies to resources. These efforts to contribute to building our innovation ecosystem sustain me and give me energy!

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

My path into tech began as a high school vocational educator and non-profit communications director. The skills that drive teaching and persuading others to consider new ways of thinking led me to directing and managing international high-tech scientific conferences which then led me to being recruited to start the world’s first regenerative medicine and tissue engineering conference in Pittsburgh. This became the platform for me to work with start-up companies, tech innovation and economic development.

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

I love SwiftKey, OpenTable, PicArts Photo Studio.

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?

In general, I believe that all obstacles can be overcome by being true to yourself, courageous, fair and hardworking. Women should not hold back. We should share our opinions, take credit for our accomplishments and be willing to learn from and also lead others without fear. It is also important to build professional networks of women that can rely on each other for mentorship, perspective and support.

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

My favorite thing about being a woman in tech is being able to solve wicked problems by putting big ideas into practice while also helping other women thrive, excel and live their dreams by doing meaningful impactful work that they love.

If applicable, how have you given back to the WIT community?

I volunteer my time to make sure that women have a seat at the table in our region. I am a member of the Board of Directors of the Pittsburgh Venture Capital Association, a Founding Board Member of Pittsburgh Women in Bio, a member of the Board of Directors of Coro Pittsburgh, Founding member of the ACG Women’s Leadership Forum, a commercialization mentor for the Chatham University MYBoard for Women Entrepreneurs, The Vice Chair for the Women and Girls Foundation, an Advisor for the Pitt Coulter Translational Research Program, a Mentor for AlphaLab Gear, a member of the Board of Directors of the STEM Advisory at the Carnegie Science Center.

In 2016, me and my family started The Caileigh Lynn McDowell Foundation in honor of the beautiful life of my precious 17 year old niece Caileigh, who tragically passed away in April 2016 due to catastrophic injuries from undiagnosed Crohn’s Disease. The foundation is working to transform political, social and economic systems and institutions to create a kinder, more equitable and just society for all. While also bringing attention to the devastating fact that more than 250,000 people in the United States die every year because of medical mistakes, making it the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.

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

Our time is limited, so have the courage to go after opportunity, work hard every day, follow your heart, enjoy the journey and always be kind.

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

I had the unique opportunity to produce two TV shows in the last year! I used my own entrepreneurial advice and went for it! I pitched ideas, created content, secured funding, and saw my creativity appear on network TV!

Favorite quote:

And one day she discovered that she was fierce, and strong, and full of fire, and that not even she could hold herself back because her passion burned brighter than her fears.


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