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Women in Tech Panelists Give Career Advice

Glendale Tech Week showcased talented tech industry executives during its second annual “Women in Tech” panel hosted by Phonexa, a Glendale-based marketing solutions company, on Wednesday night.
Panelists included Talar Malakian, chief marketing officer at Phonexa, Iris Yen, head of marketing and community at Nike Virtual Studios, and Talin Koutnouyan, the principal of marketing at Modern Animal. Moderated by Manouk Akopyan, the director of content and communications at Phonexa, the panel shed light on what it’s like to be a woman in the tech industry, tips for engaging consumers in marketing, how to approach competition and more.
Koutnouyan, a Glendale native, emphasized the “timeless principles of marketing” — defining one’s audience, figuring out what resonates with them and creating a plan to reach them. While the distribution of one’s message is an essential element to marketing, Koutnouyan said that most people put all their focus into that aspect and neglect to give content and audience enough attention.
“Your customer is the No. 1 source of truth out of any data out there,” she said during the panel.
Similarly, Yen suggested thinking more in depth about the concept and vision for a product, rather than thinking of the product linearly.
Malakian, who grew up in La Crescenta, shared her principles of viewing consumers as “co-creators” and viewing marketing as “a vehicle for mutual value exchange” between consumers and marketers.
Koutnouyan told the News-Press she hopes the panel inspired the audience to recognize their own power and instincts when it comes to career.
“A big thing that I’m hoping people will take away is that they’re more resourceful than they think they are,” she said. “It’s one thing to learn about someone else talking about their experiences, but in terms of their own nuance, their own complexity that they’re trying to navigate, no one is going to have a better sense of what is right for them and their career better than they themselves.”
All three panelists recognized that in most tech-occupied spaces, men are often in the majority. Yen connected how the patriarchal structure of society has trained women to feel the need to support their strategies by using data and research. Because of this need, Yen said she notices women in the industry providing more research-backed ideas that tend to yield more success than ideas based on gut feelings, as men tend to do.
While the industry has seen some improvement in gender diversity, Koutnouyan noted that she wants to see more growth specifically when it comes to female-founded companies. Malakian too emphasized the importance of diversity in the workplace.
“Diversity creates better ideas and better execution,” Malakian told the News-Press. “It’s important to have these events so that we can openly talk about the journeys that we’ve each had, and that we’ve collectively had, in the hopes of empowering the next generation of women.”

Iris Yen is the head of marketing and community at Nike Virtual Studios.

Finding mentors who will “champion your growth” is an important aspect in building career success and confidence in a male-dominated industry, said Yen.
Reflecting back on her career, which has involved finance, marketing, strategy and analytics, Koutnouyan shared the varying challenges she has faced at different levels in her career. She explained that starting out, she had to learn to be resourceful and how to have the answers to questions from the higher ups. Once she got her footing, she then had to navigate between being a mentor and having the answers.
She and Yen both shared the importance of paying it forward when it comes to mentorship.
Malakian shared her career journey from starting out in the nonprofit sector to working in gaming with Xbox and Microsoft to her current position at Phonexa, in addition to a number of other roles. After being asked to be a panelist during last year’s Women in Tech panel when she was working as the head of go-to-marketing at Metaplex Studios, Malakian connected to Phonexa’s CEO, and was eventually offered her current position.
“It’s actually a Glendale Tech Week success story of sorts to have been on the Women in Tech panel and then to be offered a job at a company with predominantly female executives in Glendale,” Malakian said. “It was really cool to see that materialize and was unexpected but a blessing for sure.”
Malakian also struck the balance between the impactful nature of sharing experiences in professional industries and recognizing that those experiences are often vastly different.
“There isn’t a single path that defines how successful you are, but there is a community of people that are willing to help you through that journey,” she said. “And ultimately, I want people to feel like they can find that community in the room during this panel and if they can walk away feeling seen and feeling heard in the stories that we all share.”
Koutnouyan identified her evolved view of competition as a significant turning point in her career. While she previously focused on keeping up with her competition, she realized that instead of seeing competition as the benchmark, she should create this benchmark herself.
“If we’re too busy looking at what our competition is doing, we’re losing time with the consumer,” she added.
Yen echoed this sentiment, adding that knowing and utilizing her own unique skill sets propels her work forward.
“Don’t compare yourself to competition. Be new and be first,” she said.
Aside from advice specifically for the tech industry, panelists shared general insights on pathways to success.
Koutnouyan shared her principles on self-evaluation to help drive career choice decisions.
“Thinking of time, energy and attention as nonrenewable resources will allow you to be more intentional with your decisions,” she said. “Use your emotions to unearth your next steps. Ask yourself, ‘Which emotions propel you and which emotions paralyze you?’”
Malakian reflected on imposter syndrome and self-worth.
“If you don’t intrinsically believe you add value to a space, other people won’t believe you do either,” Malakian said.
Lastly, Yen told the audience to avoid having a monolithic view of success when there are many different paths out there, and to always be authentic.

First published in the September 16 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

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