Culture News

Tania Katan on It Was Never a Dress, Keeping Things STEAM-y, and What Arizona Is Doing to Support Women

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See also: Girls in Tech Catalyst Conference Brings Innovation Leaders to Phoenix

You're an artist by trade -- how did you wind up working for a software company? Prior to being at Axosoft I was working at a contemporary art museum curating performance art and literary art. A throughline for my life and career has been creative writing and performing, mixed in with a little bit of activism. I come from a fine arts background -- I have a degree in theatre from ASU. Prior to Axosoft is what I've been doing my entire life -- creative writing, performing, and activism, in different forms.

Maybe two years ago I was asked to give a talk at Axosoft about creativity in the workplace. I came in and gave a TED-like talk and had a great time -- the people and the energy there was really supportive and fun, and they were really receptive to the ideas I was talking about. And that was it, we parted ways! I know nothing about software, I didn't think I'd ever cross paths with them again. About 7 months ago I was emcee-ing an event where Hamid Shojaee (who invented axosoft) was there as a judge. We had a really nice rapport, and that was that. Five months ago I got a phone call from Axosoft saying we'd love to talk with you about software. I said, "I don't even know what that means," but I wanted to come in and see what that was about. I knew they were cool people, creative thinkers and doers -- but that was all I knew. I went in for -- not an interview, a conversation.

We had this weird and amazing exchange where they were like, "We really like your energy, but we don't know how you fit here," and I said, "I don't know if I fit here, what does this mean?" At the end of it they invited me to come to their strategic meeting, which was like a locked down two-day meeting with an outside strategist. They said we want to show you who we are and what we're planning to do. I said, "Worst case scenario I'll learn about strategic planning." I sat in for two days. They are trying to create an agile Project Development software for Project Developers -- this "agile" methodology is bigger than just software, it's really a way of functioning in the world that I understand as a creative. That piqued my interest. I had a great time, and at the end of the two days they made me an offer. They said, "We'll give you the space, time, support, and team to figure out how you fit, and how you as a creative thinker, artist, activist, can make connections to the larger audience." I started working there three months ago and then came up with this project.

So it's safe to say you kind of blew their expectations out of the water with the success of It Was Never A Dress? [Laughs] We didn't have time for my three-month review because we've reached 7 million people on social media -- Time picked it up, Mashable, ReadWrite. It's on every major media outlet. The India Times posted about it. It's amazing. It's big.

I think the coolest thing about all of this is that this was never addressed is international. The symbol of these two women side by side -- our perception, and then the reality (or another perceived reality) -- all people are connecting to it, having conversations, challenging it. And it all stems from teeny, tiny little Arizona, and more specifically this software company that's been around since 2002 that's been all about creating a tech ecosystem in Arizona.

The first thing people ask [in interviews] is "Are you in New York? Are you based in L.A.?" I say "No, there are actually wildly talented people who live right here in Arizona."

The point is, we've been a part of -- and we want to be part of -- growing this ecosystem, by saying you don't need to leave Arizona. If you are pursuing informal or formal education in any of the STEAM fields, you can do it here, and stay here, and we will provide opportunities.

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Zaida Dedolph
Contact: Zaida Dedolph