We’re speaking with Barbara Hanna, the founder of Cyant, and Nora Toure, who we’ve spoken to many times before and who I adore, of Sculpteo. Barbara is a technologist and entrepreneur, passionate about fostering technology and especially committed to empowering women and girls in 3D printing. They founded together Women in 3D Printing #3DTalks. They are working on making sure that there are talks all around the world, not just the country, making sure that they can involve, inspire women and further the conversation about women in 3D printing and challenges, objectives and those types of things. Anyway, I’m really pleased to be able to talk with them today. I look forward to you guys listening as well. Let’s go straight to the interview.
Listen to the podcast here:
Closing The 3D Print Gender Gap with Nora Toure and Barbara Hanna
Barbara and Nora, thank you so much for joining me today.
It’s a pleasure. Thanks for having us.
I was really inspired by the #3DTalk that you just had in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago. I want to talk about why you guys decided to collaborate together as companies? It’s not the most common thing to do. Why you decided to do that and why this is so important, from both of your perspectives?
Thanks. Nora and I have known each other for a while. We both started our respective efforts, Nora at Sculpteo and myself at Cyant, we realized we had a lot of objectives in common. Nora then went on to found Women in 3D Printing. Cyant grew with its objective to reach more people and bring more educational content to the table, recognizing the technology literacy gap that was out there with 3D printing. Nora also wanted to have more women featured, which we were on par for given our commitment to empower and be supportive of women in technology. It seemed to make sense that we should collaborate on an event.
We got started. Nora really had some great ideas in terms of industry verticals. I really wanted to bring out the industry knowledge that these women would have. I think it just really clicked. We really worked well on defining both the format, questions and so do working with each other to bring new events each month. It translated into the audience. The speakers who came were able to bring each time great ladies and audiences to these events.
It’s definitely true for me that this partnership is totally making sense since the beginning. Actually, Barbara advised me in the very beginning of Women in 3D Printing, so I do consider her as my close advisor here. For me, it was just making sense, as I was moving forward with Women in 3D Printing, to include her in the strategy of the events, especially at the time when we actually started #3DTalk. We were both looking into doing separate events actually in San Francisco. As you may know, San Francisco is very competitive in terms of events. We looked at each other one day and realized, “It’s kind of stupid to be doing competitive events as we’re not competitors. We could just work together.” This is really how we really started the discussion. We just jumped into it and done it.
In terms of the actual partnership, it’s again really making sense because Barbara has a more technical background than I do. In terms of the layout of the equations and really the logistics and finding the speakers, it’s really making sense for us to work together because we’re really complimentary even in our background and what we’re doing in the 3D printing industry itself. Coming from a service bureau, I have a certain knowledge. Barbara used to be a customer of Sculpteo at some point. That’s really how we started discussing together in the very beginning. She has her own point of view as an actor of the industry that I don’t have. It’s really making sense because I believe we’re really complimentary in both the background and what we’re currently doing in this industry.
That’s great. I like the idea of it being a collaborative model, which is very feminine in a way. I love that, inspiring us to all work together as an industry and align objectives. Let’s talk a little bit about those objectives. You said early on that your objectives were in alignment. Let’s talk about why you have these objectives about committing to empowering girls and women in 3D printing. It’s a personal story I think for each of you. I’m sure it’s different.
I can say that indeed I have a technical background, so I’m very familiar with the lesser representation of women in the technical fields. Although there are improvements, unfortunately statistics are showing declines in some areas, maybe growth in others, but there’s still a lot to do. 3D printing is really poised to disrupt a number of industries. Not just highly technical industries, but also industries where women are typically more represented. We want to make sure that they are well familiar with the technical aspects because this will impact their future job prospects and their ability to grow in these industries.
I think that from an education standpoint, we also want to make sure that girls and boys have access to the same type of learning, content and opportunities, so that in the future they can make the right choices and work within teams. By empowering girls and women early on, we also form future team members. We talked about the importance of our collaboration. That collaboration and this collaborativeness is important in all sets of job or work sectors, not just with what we do. We want to put them all out there for that too.
3D printing is indeed a transverse technology in a way that you can find it in a bunch of different sectors. Fashion, healthcare, robotics, aerospace, automotive, just name it, you can find an application with 3D printing in all of these industries. Most of those industries, either it’s really easy to find the application of 3D printing, some other times it’s less easy and you really need to be into it. Find what’s next and really find innovation here.
That’s a really interesting thing, I believe, of technologies like 3D printing and 3D in general, even modeling, VR and AR today. Even if you see the numbers, for example the number of women working in those industries, and especially women in tech globally, like the number of women who are actually having degrees in engineering fields, and then you’re looking at the reality of the women who are actually doing in their industries, sometimes there’s a gap. For example, I studied law. I was becoming a lawyer. Six years later, I’m in Silicon Valley in 3D printing startup. I don’t have any engineering background. But that’s a reality. That’s possible. Even though I’m not in the numbers of the 11% of women who actually have a degree in engineering.
What I want to say here is that basically there are numbers that you have to look at because they need to increase. We need to have more women coming out of the schools and having engineering diplomas. You also need to look at the reality of what we’re doing in different industries. This is what was my primary objective with #3DTalk and still is. That’s where Barbara and I really found complementarity here and the same objectives. We need to show that we exist. We’re here, even though we have different backgrounds and we’re working in different verticals, different industries. We’re still using the technology in an innovative way and we’re actually doing it. We’re doing the job. We just want to show that’s what we’re doing.
I think it’s really an interesting thought because there are so many women in engineering and women in design and women in other fields. For instance, Tom and I come from industrial design backgrounds. There isn’t any one of the women that he graduated with in practicing. There are a couple who are in education, but none of them are practicing industrial designers today. That’s a shame, because we have a high design and technical labor gap right now for 3D printing. We could use all the women with degrees we can get who aren’t jumping in for whatever reason that might be. Maybe if we reached out at all levels, both from youth all the way up, we could close that gap.
Let’s talk about the all ages approach. Because I saw that you had a 10th grade student on your last panel. She was quite insightful, Jane Yarnel. Are you handling it different in terms of age group?
With regards to Jane, I have to say, she’s outstanding. I’m not sure what she’ll decide to do. It’s really for her to decide. I believe whatever she decides to do, her future is bright. She’s extremely eloquent and we were so thrilled to have her on the panel. I think she totally held her own.
She did. I kept saying, “It says 10th grade here, right?”
Exactly. She’s really poised. In terms of age groups, this is actually the first time that we’ve had a younger member of the panel. Obviously, the panels, the audience, we don’t restrict the age. I brought my own son to this event. I think he also benefits from attending and listening to the voices out there. We’ve always encouraged people to bring their kids if they want to. It’s never too soon, never too early to have exposure to people who have careers that you might want to emulate at some point.
As far as the panel, I think we take an approach of bringing the expertise, bringing the knowledge and the insights no matter what age group they are. Jane was put forth by her former teacher, Christine Mitko. I want to give her credit for also highlighting her own student and saying, “Jane really knows so much. I think she should be part of the panel too.” That was also a testimony to that teacher.
In this particular case, we found that Jane has such expertise already. We provided the questions and she was able to really navigate through all of them without any prompting on from ourselves. Whether in the future we have younger kids come, we’ll have to be in a case by case basis. But this is already an experience that has proved to be extremely successful. I would look forward to having outstanding young people who are solving problems already with 3D printing and related technologies.
We can learn so much from them.
I totally agree. Jane was really so inspiring actually, even though I’m probably fifteen years older than she is, maybe even more. She was really inspiring. I wish I was a little bit more confident when I was her age. Maybe that would have changed things for me in terms of my choices in my career. Even though I’m very well where I am right now, no worries about that, but maybe I would have gone more into scientific fields like I wanted to when I was younger. There’s still this question of our generation, what happened? We were all really interested in science most of the time, but still we don’t graduate from scientific fields. I’m still wondering, what happened?
I thought that that was the most interesting part about your panel, the comment that was made that you can approach 3D printing from art into the science or you can approach it from the science into the art. It doesn’t really matter. It’s valid both directions. My background is completely in design. I don’t do the tech side of it. Tom does that. He handles the CAD side of whatever design work we’re going on. We collaborate within our own business here. I don’t feel that makes me any less valid a 3D printer at the end of the day just because I don’t do the drawing. That’s really, I think, the future of 3D printing, when those interfaces are so much easier that it doesn’t matter if you have any tech skills. When you’re able to manipulate and print out whatever it is that you want to shop for, that’s really the future. To have that perspective already Nora, like you and I both do, I think that’s a good thing. I think we can shift the industry better.
First, I would say I totally agree. It’s music to my ears. I think you’re familiar with what we do at Cyant, we actually have tools to eliminate that tech barrier to entry. I think that’s one of the things that’s been holding the industry back, is a lack of easy to use tools. We’ve done that for kids in particular. I think indeed the panels are showing how the diversity of backgrounds and expertise is what really makes the industry successful at large.
You come from design. I’ve worked or interacted with many people now over time that do have a design background and make their way into 3D printing, either starting their own companies or as contributors to existing companies. Nora is from law. There are a lot of people who are from marketing backgrounds. We had even members of the Sculpteo team who have a background in animation. Other people come from all sorts of things. I would say that I found my technical background was also invaluable coming from that perspective because I could add the design of the tools themselves. I think that was a perspective I was really happy to bring, and also the understanding of how to push out certain technical concepts.
Truly the industry can’t be restricted to 3D printing. The success of it will be when all sorts of people come together. Nora really aptly mentioned healthcare. This is a huge area of growth. Now you have doctors and researchers. I’m constantly amazed by the intersections and interconnections between fields that happen in this very specific industry.
That’s why I think it’s so important that you’re working on a collaborative model. We just spoke to and interviewed Jenny Chen from 3DHeals. Her point, which is something that we’ve been saying from the design world all-around, is that the language of 3D printing, in whether it’s the tech tools, the slicing tools, whatever it might be, the language of it isn’t necessarily meshed with the industry that it’s being applied in. Somebody has to make that translation happen. When those things either don’t require translations, which would be the ideal world, or they have a champion translator like Jenny, then you get into a world in which there are lots more of possibilities of how change and disruption can happen.
I totally agree with you on this. We need more advocates for 3D printing in different industries. Definitely, Jenny with 3DHeals is doing amazing work in bringing the traditional healthcare and 3D printing worlds to actually talk together. We look forward to her conference in April. We’re going to talk about this all day long. I believe Autodesk did also a great job for all those years doing this. They have advocates in different industries for a long time now. Not only pushing their own solution. I believe they’ve done a good work of connecting 3D printing with different industries. I just want to give them credit here as well on this.
Let’s shift a little bit and let’s talk a little bit about a taboo subject. Let’s talk about money in 3D printing and money for women-owned companies in 3D printing. Have you found some panel members and other things to reach out to? Because I think that is also a significant subject that needs to be covered. What do you think? Talking about the idea of whether or not there’s venture capital for women in 3D print businesses or angel investors or whatever that might look like in order to spur some more women-owned companies, women founded companies, and/or some of these interesting collaborative models as well. What do you think about bringing in panel members? Have you been able to find champions like that?
I think right now we’ve been a little bit focused on the industry verticals, but it definitely is on our mind to also talk about things that are more related to the specifics of business. We talked about other topics that are more important to people who do want to launch into their own ventures. Whether it’s IP, whether it’s how do I get started. At that point, I think we definitely are going to be facing that very topic. How do you help women? Some of them are bootstrappers and some of them would want to remain like that. How do you help them maximize their chances? Also, how can we bring venture capitalists or angel investors to those panels and have them give perspective on what they see as opportunities and vice versa, to have opportunities for dialogue.
I think this is on the road map. At this point in time, we have decided looking at the topics but also the locations. We’ve looked at increasing our exposure not just in the Bay Area but the East Coast and beyond, in Paris as well. I think we have that as an initial priority so we can start reaching more communities. The very topic you’ve just talked about is an important one and we certainly intend to address it.
That’s great. I think that’s really important too because whether you’re talking about at a lower level, school grants to make sure that there’s access in various classrooms, and/or all the way up to building companies and businesses that are going to focus on disrupting and/or retraining within those industries that may have a high level of women working in them. I think that’s great. Nora, why don’t you address for us some of these new locations? because there are some exciting locations coming up. I really wish I was going with you in March.
Before March, we’re actually going to have New York later this month. We’re really excited because this year we’re starting to expand #3DTalk to New York and the East Coast. In this month towards the end, the last week of February, we’ll be having an informal meet-up. This is the first time that were going to do it so we wanted to keep it relatively low-key, maybe not the full panel that we typically have. We just want to be known by the community here and start introducing ourselves.
Towards the later part of the year, late spring and September, we have plans for full-fledged #3DTalks. We’ve already defined some topics. We’ll release them when were a little bit closer to the date so we have all the speakers lined up. We’re very excited. The community here in the East Coast is outstanding. There’s a rich community of designers, companies, researchers. I think it’s great that we’ll be able to tap into all these people as well.
That’s in conjunction with the timing of the Inside 3D Printing Conference, right?
We will also be looking at opportunities to cross over with those trade shows. Sometimes we may have to our own because, as you know, it gets very busy. Sometimes the logistics work or don’t work. We’re in discussion with Nora right now to make sure that we continue that collaborative model over to shows that it exist out there and where we think that we can be of mutually beneficial arrangements.
I think that would be great, because it brings in those of us in various parts of the country who won’t get there, there’s a good chance we might. Talk about Paris in March.
We’re going to kick start Paris this coming March. This will be an actual #3DTalk panel like we used to do here in San Francisco. We’re still waiting on confirmation from one speaker. That being said, we’re going to talk about the process from going to research and development to industrial applications with 3D printing. It should be a very high-end topic. I’m not going to disclose the speakers’ names right now just because we haven’t released anything. It should be very exciting. I can let you know that it will be on March 20, in the middle of Paris.
We have a great partnership with Paris Pionnieres. We talked about VC a little bit earlier. They’re actually an incubator not only for French but for female founded companies. They’re very strict on the criteria. You need to have at least one woman in the founding team. I’m not sure how it goes in terms of equity and if they’re actually an actual VC fund or not, but at least their incubating really female-owned company. They’re really focusing on this. They are hosting us for this first Paris #3DTalk. We’re very, very excited about that.
That really great and interesting. That reminds me of the Inside 3D Printing, when I saw you last Nora we were in San Diego at the Inside 3D Printing talk that you spurred on because there was no talk on diversity. There were very few women speakers. I was really shocked to see the New York speaker profiles, there was only one woman on that one as well. Little disappointing that they didn’t listen to their own talk. I thought your talk was fascinating there, that you helped sponsor and get going. That was where they had the same discussion, that diversity in the founding team is a critical factor. Have you guys seen that at all? Does that make for a more diverse company overall?
I believe so, yes. There’s actually numbers of reports and analysis on this, on how more successful a company who has at least one woman in the founding team is. Do you want to talk about money? Have more diversity in your founding team because that will increase their ROI and everything in your company. The numbers will be way better if you have a diverse team because you actually have diverse ideas. You’re able to not look at just a very narrow point but to actually open your mind on way different issues that you may have in your company and you don’t even know. It’s really important to have a diverse team. I think the studies have backed it up extensively at this point. What is true in other industries is perfectly true for 3D printing as well.
We find the same thing. Shockingly, there’s a lack of women in product design for all consumer products. I’ve been doing consumer products for 25 years. I’ve yet to meet, in one factory in all of Asia that I’ve been to, women product designers there. There are women in the companies. There’s no question about it. But most of them are in sales positions or support positions, no engineers.
The reality is in today’s world of consumer products that are imported, they are all designed by the factories. They are not designed by US companies except at an Apple level. You’re talking about the things that you’re normally buy at Target, Walmart and Costco and places like that. They’re not designed here in the US anymore. They’re just shopped for at a factory. When there are no women in that process, it’s no wonder we’re all dissatisfied with the products we have to buy and the way that they’re just homogenous.
Because we are typically the purchasers, women actually end up making the purchases themselves. We have to buy products that were designed necessarily by the end purchasers.
I think that’s the part that I am excited the most about. What excited me from the first moment that we started 3D printing was the democratization of being able to not have to have that. You can bootstrap it into a product line and not have to have the expensive tooling and the expensive investment and all of these things. Amazon helps that as well because you can also launch a product on Amazon for a few thousand dollars. It’s not tremendous anymore. The barrier to entry is very low. Because of that, 3D printing and not having any inventory at all is a really exciting future world. Why shouldn’t more women want to control that? Because you’re right, we make 85% to 90% of the purchase decisions.
It’s a win-win situation. In economic argument, there is collaboration or a learning argument. There’s just no way to lose on this proposition of involving girls and women in the field really.
Absolutely. Why a panel? Why did that format appeal to you?
First, it’s a great way to feature women. When you have a panel, by definition, you bring out the panelist to the forefront, you give them the microphone. We don’t want to make it a lecture. We want something like an interactive format where we can let each and every one bring their own experience. We like not only the fact that it was a great vehicle for highlighting individuals, but it’s also a way to very interactively and in very lively way have participation. We can then bring in the audience as well. Our goal is not for all of us to sit on stage and talk for half an hour among ourselves. Let the audience chime in and bring in their own questions. We typically do that towards the end in a more Q&A type of approach. I think the panel and the process have been tried, to ask questions and halfway through they really wanted to jump in. This is really conducive to maximal interaction and learning, I believe.
There is also the fact that as a panel we can indeed trigger discussions in between the panelists. For example, I’m just thinking about the first #3DTalk we did, which was about 3D scanning and 3D modeling. On the panel, we had two Lisas. We had Lisa from Scansite3D and Lisa from HoneyPoint3D. They’re both having very different point of views in technologies used for scanning. It was very interesting for us to have them on stage together and to have them talking to each other, which they do actually in real life. Basically, having them on stage and talking about different kinds of technologies somehow, even though they’re both using 3D scanners.
The same thing on the service bureaus in the Bay Area. We were able to have almost all of the big service bureaus from the Bay Area all in the same stage and talking to each other. That was also very interesting. That’s also why we wanted to have a panel format, so we can trigger the discussion with the audience but also in between the panelists. This is something very close to my heart because it’s really how I’m seeing networking and how I use it to work. When I created Women in 3D Printing, that was really my own private network at the beginning, then it grew obviously. It was really my own network. It happened to me sometimes to talk to some of our competitors. I didn’t necessarily see this as a problem. We can also work together sometimes. I just want also to give this living networking thing a life on the talks as well.
I agree with that. That’s a great model. If you grow and we all grow together, then the industry grows and everyone’s bigger.
It turns out that this idea of bringing this people who might in appearance be competing has been actually happening for all #3DTalks. Even in education topics, we actually all came with different products and services. It’s an opportunity for networking for learning about one another, highlighting where we make different contributions. The discussions are always very respectful. There has never been a time where the competition was savage. It’s the opposite. I think we’re highlighting why there’s room for a lot of different thinking in this industry and why everybody’s going to come with a different approach, complimentary maybe or very octagonal. At the end of the day, each of us finds an audience in the market. The point is, we, as a group, further lot of objectives and bring the industry forward.
I thank you both for championing this. It’s near and dear to my heart and for many, many of the women that I’ve met over the years, working in this industry so far. They are passionate about it as well. The fact that you’ve both been so vocal and so organized has really helped us all. We appreciate that.
Thank you. It was really a pleasure.
Closing The 3D Print Gender Gap – Final Thoughts
The thing that I find most fascinating about Barbara and Nora is the way that they’ve come together to collaborate. That’s not an easy thing to do when you have two separate companies. It’s incredibly difficult. For them to be able to do that as two separate companies with such diverse backgrounds and be able to format a model for an organization. Women in 3D Printing is an organization. To be able to further a model in which you then make every woman whose on a panel, every woman who is highlighted in their blog, make them all feel like features and be featured. Make what they have to say important. That is just such a different model of doing business. To be sexist about it, maybe it’s a feminine model of collaboration for doing business. I really do believe that this is a wonderful balance in skills, mission and growth that can become an interesting organization on its own as well as become a resource for women in 3D printing of all ages.
I’m really also excited about the idea that they push further into the conversation on venture capital money, all of that conversation, because I think that changes the game. It’s one thing to have the conversation amongst ourselves as women and also to just promote that and push that out there so there’s awareness, but awareness isn’t enough. You sometimes have to get money into it and make a difference there. I keep thinking about conversations we’ve had with women across the podcast.
Furthering that conversation about venture capital and women, it really brought it to head when I saw that diversity panel discussion at the Inside 3D Printing that I referred to briefly into that conversation. It’s the idea that if you start with a diverse team and a different model of doing business, which this is, you then put the money in it to make sure that the team grows and they grow in a diverse way. They grow their product lines in a diverse way with a better fit for markets that are already attuned to what women want to buy or accomplish or do. I think that’s going to have an exponential effect on the industry and really grow it over all. This is a worthwhile investment in time for you to make, whether you are men in business, women in business, men and women in 3D printing, kids. It’s a worthwhile time and investment to be coming to one of the talks if you can, hearing the panel, seeing what’s going on.
I also think back to a couple of people who are on the Women in 3D Printing, the last talk that I attended. One of my favorite listeners out there, Vicky Somma, we’ve had her on the show and we’ve talked to her. Recently, we touched base with her to see how it was going, because sometimes you get into something, you love it and it’s exciting and fun, but then time gets away from you. You start to lose interest, especially when it’s not your day job. That’s really what’s so hard without having some of the money in the mix to grow businesses. When you’re boot strapping it for so long in 3D printing, can you really sustain that level of interest? We checked in with Vicky to see how she’s doing. She said that she still totally loves 3D printing. 3D printing is still a side business and hobby, but for 2016 she was in the black. She’s been doing Etsy and craft shows and commission work. Her favorite thing is also training. She’s been doing a lot of trainings. I think that’s fantastic.
There was one commission piece that we saw that we highlighted over the holidays. That was an ornament for the Virginia Executive Mansion. It was a literal interpretation of the historic building in our own called the Rockledge Mansion. It was beautiful. I loved the look of it. This building resonated for her as well as for a lot of people in the town. I think that was really why, it’s a popular wedding venue evidently, so it had a personal meaning. It did very well and she ended up selling 50 additional prints compared to the two that she sold the year before. Her sharing that information, really gave us an idea of what’s working and when you make it personal, when you make it to your objectives. It doesn’t lose interest.
I think that’s really what Barbara Hanna and Nora Toure have going on here. They have a passion for this. They have objectives that they want to achieve. It’s not only in their core wheelhouse but it’s an important part of the companies that they’re working with and for. It’s important to all the women that they’re featuring and helping us all grow as an industry together. I applaud them and I want to do everything that we can here on the WTFFF podcast to support that. You’ll be hearing announcements when the #3DTalks are going on and other things.
If you are in Paris, do not forget March 20th. I really wish I was there. That’s their next talk. It sounds fascinating and it’s going to have a little bit more of an investment focus. At the time of this recording, the panelists haven’t been announced. The sponsor is a venture capital group out of Paris. That’s fantastic, that now we’re getting that kind of exposure and that they’ve been able to start to bring in some of that money in conversation. Also to continue to message out when they will be having their next talk after that. Be sure to look for April’s talk. It’s in the middle of April, I believe. That date is still to be finalized. It’s at the same pretty much as the 3DHeals conference. Be sure to reference and listen to the Jenny Chen episode interview that aired in the past month because that also highlights what’s going on in the San Francisco area at that time in mid-April.
If you have any talks or other things going on in your businesses or companies, organizations, clubs, we’re always interested in hearing it. We have an event calendar on 3DStartPoint.com. Be sure to check that out for events in your area. Be sure to let us know about events in your area. We’re always happy to highlight and profile what’s going on in 3D printing around the world. Please let us know at 3DStartPoint.com or message us on Facebook, and you could go to the Facebook page @3DStartPoint. Thanks again for listening. We’ll be back tomorrow for another episode of the WTFFF 3D Printing podcast.
- Women in 3D Printing
- 3DHeals conference
- Jenny Chen episode interview
- Inside 3D Printing
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