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Alumni Stories

How Suma Reddy Went From Flatiron School to the White House

Flatiron School / 21 December 2015
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This blog was originally published in August.

It’s been an eventful year for Suma Reddy. A year out of Flatiron School, she co-founded her own company Waddle and presented a beta app for it at the White House.

Suma had a lifetime of experience beforehand, including working as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali, providing micro-finance loans in India, attending business school at The Wharton School, and starting a renewable energy company. She sat down with us on campus to talk about her new app, diversity in tech, and how Flatiron School has changed where she is now.

Since you left Flatiron School, you’ve continued with iOS development by starting Waddle. How would you describe the app in a couple sentences?
Waddle is a friend-to-friend discovery platform that helps you find the best places to go,
based on your friends’ ratings, reviews and photos. It’s like a Yelp you can trust.

How did you come up with the idea for Waddle?
It actually started a few years before I even came up with the idea. I had gone to a
friend’s wedding in Bali and met the bride’s best friend — we went bungee jumping together, bonded, added each other on Facebook, and never really spoke after that. Fast forward a few years later, when I was planning my twin sister’s bachelorette party. It was going to be in Montreal and it was my job to plan the trip, but I had never been there before. It turns out this friend from Bali was now living in Montreal, and she had great advice of where we should go. She basically listed out the entire itinerary. To this day, my friends think it was the best bachelorette party they have ever been to. That got my wheels turning. I thought, “How can you tap into these friend-to-friend resources?”

Now that you have a foundation in programming from Flatiron School, how does it factor into your everyday work?
I’m already using the skills I learned at Flatiron School. I
work with two developers right now, one of whom is a co-founder. I’ve been able to work with them and understand their mindset and process. Before Flatiron School, I didn’t understand how a product was broken up into features, and how building each feature sequentially is important. Now I understand the process, the bugs with each feature and the obstacles you face in developing a product.

Once you left Flatiron School, did you exit with the expected results?
Wholeheartedly. I came in with pretty much zero knowledge, so it was challenging for me to get through those months. Joe Burgess is an amazing teacher and I had a lot of support from my fellow students, so I thought, “I can get through this!” Overall, my goal was to be able understand how product is developed from the ground up, and how to communicate effectively with developers. I knew I wanted to use this for Waddle, but I also knew that if things didn’t go right in the startup world, understanding how to code would be incredibly useful for product management roles.

You got to present your app in D.C. this month for White House Demo Day. What was that experience like?
Incredible. Going there was a really great opportunity to take Waddle outside our personal networks and show people the product — at the White House!  We’re pre-launch, so it was the first time we were exhibiting Waddle, which was really neat. It was also a surreal experience in general because I didn’t know I was going to stand on the podium behind President Obama until the last minute.

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Suma standing behind President Obama as he discusses the White House Demo Day on August 4th. Entrepreneurs from across the country gave demos of their innovations to showcase individual success stories.

Did you meet anyone at the White House who you found to be particularly inspiring?
I
met Megan Smith, the Chief Technology Officer of the United States. I had heard her speak before and she was very encouraging and supportive in person. I also got to talk to one reporter about diversity in tech. There’s so much talk in tech about diversity and what it means, and seeing how institutions and events like Demo Day cultivate diversity was interesting to see.

As someone who went to the Demo Day representing diversity in tech, you’re also a NYC Co-Director of Lesbians Who Tech. What role do you have in that program?
My role is really talking about
Lesbians Who Tech and bringing people to our events. For example, our next event is sponsored by Warby Parker, a socially conscious eyewear company. It’s an incredibly empowering experience to be in a room with 50, or even 2500, women like myself. You feel supported. An added bonus is being able to network professionally and find potential collaborators. It’s also just really fun! In the end, it’s about creating and harnessing a small community so people can make things happen.

Consider signing up for Waddle beta this fall at www.gowaddle.com, or contact Suma herself at reddysuma00@gmail.com.

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