Andy Saldaña

Andy Saldaña, Executive Director of the NY Tech Alliance

“The very first time I walked into a tech event in New York, I was petrified. I thought, ‘I don’t fit here. I don’t belong here. I’m gonna quit.’ I went to an event just last week — I won’t say which one. It was so poorly curated and homogeneous that all of those feelings rushed back. Here I am six years later and I’m still, ‘What am I doing here?’ How am I helping as many people who are like me not feel like that? That’s what I feel our mission is.”

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Meet Andy. Andy is a connector of people and ideas. After working as Event Director at the NY Tech Alliance for the past six years, he recently became its Executive Director. He has experience in event planning and producing, as well as fundraising. Andy helped launch Queer Tech Meetup and StartOut. When not curating bytes, bites, and humans, Andy describes himself as “a food and drink loving, recipe making, Tex-Mex guy in NY.” You can follow Andy via Twitter, or Instagram.

What Does He Do?

Andy is the Executive Director of the NY Tech Alliance, the largest MeetUp on Planet Earth, and a founding partner of Civic Hall. While he’s been with the non-profit for over six years, he’s still acclimating to his new position. His first order of business is seeing that the Alliance is on solid footing as it moves into 2019.

During the life of NY Tech Alliance’s Meetup discussion board, it’s been largely self-regulating with only five complaints in six years. Andy is committed to extending the community that he’s built offline. Sometime in the New Year, we will see a new type of digital discussion and community board. “My hope is that it will enable the continuation of the amazing conversations and connections that happen at the NY Tech Meetup every month. We have cultivated such a great community at these events and I’m hoping we can focus the conversations that happen on our other channels in a productive and meaningful way with Golden Wheel, which has a fundamental mission of providing a new type of discussions based on the Golden Rule. The more you participate and help others, the more quality and value you will receive in return. We just launched the beta for testing and hoping to follow in February with a full launch.”

How Did He Get Into This Work?

“My mother was the organizer in the family. She was a school secretary at the elementary school I attended in Houston, Texas. Every fall they’d recruit teachers from up north, and someone would need a place to stay so we always had people crash at our house.”

Growing up, Andy was a straight “A” student and all of his teachers assured him that he’d eligible to attend his choice of university. Proving them right, he got into Berkeley and NYU, among others, but he was immobilized by the financial aid forms: “I had no idea what that meant. I was clueless. I eventually went to U. Of Texas — a relative helped me out. Luck and determination made this happen. It was not an easy road.”

Andy moved from San Francisco six years ago with no experience in the startup world. While he had been working in operations and logistics for large trade shows, (think Javits Center) even in that space, he recognized and nurtured community. “It all came about through an introduction. I was looking for a new gig after moving to NYC and was introduced to Jessica Lawrence Quinn when she was looking for an Event Director. We met over coffee and it was an amazing conversation; I started two weeks later. I feel privileged to have worked with Jessica for so long. We view the ecosystem in a very similar way. There is profit to be made, business to be run, but you can also do it with heart and compassion, and goodness.”

While Andy is bullish in his support for New York’s growing tech sector (“I’m optimistic, if not willfully blind”) and has seen developer boot camps and trade schools enable family members and friends to level up, he thinks that just as no one was there to help him move from application to matriculation that we have to confront some blind spots: “There’s not enough focus on the bridge period between graduating and getting a job. We need to have these conversations about mentorship programs; apprenticeships need to be put into place. What soft skills need to be acquired, project management skills, while helping these students build out their portfolio so that the Google’s and Amazon’s are ready to go and they are actually valid hires for these firms. I hope that New York Tech Alliance can be a bridge and close that gap overall.”

How Did He Come To Civic Hall?

“I came to Civic Hall through the NY Tech Meetup as one of the founding organizations. We’ve been a member since the beginning and actually held a few events at the old location while the finishing touches were being completed and the attendees had to wipe their shoes off from the dust still settling.”

Andy was recently instrumental in bringing a Trans Entrepreneur workshop to Civic Hall, noting that LGBTQ folks account for less than 1% of the (self-identified) NY Tech Alliance community. “It was one of my favorite events ever. There were great energy and phenomenal people.”

What Projects Is He Working On?

“I volunteer my time to many LGBTQ organizations helping with programming and guidance. I serve on the NYC programming board for StartOut, an LGBTQ entrepreneurship non-profit, and just MC’d their Demo Night at Two Sigma.

Andy is also the co-founder of the Montreal-based Queer Tech. “We’re an LGBTQ non-profit that works to create representation and access for queer techies to the broader tech ecosystem. We focus on entrepreneurship, technical skills and have an annual program called PrideHacks that serves to build technology for other LGBTQ non-profits. Currently, we are focused on the Montreal market, but hope to broaden our reach in the coming years.”

Beyond 2019, Andy is thinking about who the New York Tech Alliance isn’t reaching:
“How do we support the entrepreneurs who aren’t coming to startup weekend? The Alley events? Grand Central Tech? How do we come to them and provide office hours, guidance, and tangible advice?”

What is He Reading/Watching/Listening To?

Andy is a ravenous consumer of podcasts: “I have Latino USA on my subscription list and I have to tell you, it’s the program I look forward to every week. Host Maria Hinajosa recently profiled a new Spanish artist named Rosalia and WOW it turned my world upside down! I also love the Nancy Podcast, Making Gay History – The Podcast, Tech News Weekly, and The Daily by The New York Times .
Andy is re-reading Bless Me Ultima for re-grounding, and just started reading Larry Kramer’s “Faggots.” Note: Faggots is a 1978 novel which satirized the Fire Island hedonism of the pre-AIDS era. Kramer later co-founded both ACT UP and Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

What Is His Ask of Civic Hall?

“Representation matters. I work really hard every month to put quality companies, entrepreneurs, and founders up on the stage. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the technology is the most mindblowing. It’s about the founder themselves. Who they are. How they are building the company.”

Andy believes that connectivity to New York’s tech ecosystem is the Alliance’s differentiator: “We’re in a unique position to provide that kind of value to not only founders of a successful enterprise company, but also student entrepreneurs, as well as queer and female founder entrepreneurs. We really try to program and put on as many women on stage as possible: In fact, this upcoming December 4th is Women’s Demo Night. We’re also always open to people helping us with registration!”
“The very first time I walked into a tech event in New York, I was petrified. I thought, ‘I don’t fit here. I don’t belong here. I’m gonna quit.’ I went to an event just last week — I won’t say which one. It was so poorly curated and homogeneous that all of those feelings rushed back. Here I am six years later and I’m still, ‘What am I doing here?’ How am I helping as many people who are like me not feel like that? That’s what I feel our mission is.”