Getting to Know Andy Saldaña
For the last 9 years, Andy Saldaña has been an integral part of the NY Tech Alliance including being our Executive Director for the last 4. He has championed our DEI efforts and fought to make Tech in the NY boroughs as accessible and diverse as possible. He ushered in new partnerships, created new event series, and has grown our tech community to more than 60,000 members. We have cherished the leadership and guidance he has given our community over the last 9 years and we wish him all the best as he transitions into his new role as the Co-Founder of QueerTech in Canada.
Before he departs, we wanted to give our community a look into his first experiences with tech, his favorite moments at the NY Tech Alliance, great advice, and some words of wisdom.
NYTA: What was the first piece of technology that had an impact on your life?
Andy: I want to say it was the Atari video game system. I remember being very young and wanted one because of the games Pong and Pole Position, which both completely fascinated me. I never was able to own one myself, but I did own a Nintendo later on! Those were the first pieces of technology that I thought “Oh my god this is amazing!”
NYTA: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Andy: To be kind! I have taken this into my every day. I heard it from my grandmother, mother, and other business mentors. Whenever I asked for help on anything or needed guidance, they have always said to lead with kindness because it leads to more empathy, understanding, collaboration and productivity. Everyone should live their life with that in mind.
NYTA: Why is the NYC area a great place for tech businesses?
Andy: Because it has everything! Not only is it a diverse marketplace, but the best of every industry is here. It’s the HQ of so many fortune 500 companies, the time zone is perfect for global business in Europe and the west coast. Beyond that, the diversity, creativity, and energy of the city in its beauty and design exposes you to things you would never have thought about before. It also takes a lot of grit to build a company here — so if a company can break through the noise and create a market for themselves to create success in NYC, it’s a pretty good indicator that they are doing something right.
NYTA: What are you proudest of in your nearly 10 years with NYTM/NY Tech Alliance?
Andy: I am proud of the community that exists which I have been able to help foster and be at the helm of. When people ask me about the community at the NY Tech Alliance, I always say it’s incredibly welcoming, super resourceful and connected communities I have ever been a part of, and everyone is so willing to help each other out. I am also very proud of the fact that we have been able to continue the meetup experience through the pandemic and expose new founders and technology to our community despite not being able to meet in person.
NYTA: Any favorite NYTM demo moments?
Andy: I have seen so many companies, founders, organizations, and hackers come across the NY Tech Meetup stage that it would be impossible to pick a few favorite moments. I mean, every month is my favorite demo moment and I count myself as one of the luckiest to have gotten to spend my time scouting, working with, and showcasing so much amazing tech from the NYC community and beyond. Whether it was Digital Ocean and Zola demoing or a Hack of the month that injected css into webpages to make it playable like a string instrument for fun, each month there were always WOW moments. Also, the high school students — Anytime we had students present winning hackathon or program projects, my mind was absolutely blown. Each year the increasing sophistication of these projects and apps made me feel like more and more of a luddite.
NYTA: Now that you’re on the Board, what are you looking forward to for the organization?
Andy: I’m looking forward to the future of the organization and their next phase after the acquisition by Civic Hall, a part of The FedCap Group. The new space at Civic Hall is going to be game changing. The programs the organization will be able to create, and a home venue for the NY Tech Meetup are all so exciting. I’m excited to see that experience reimagined and reintroduced to a city and community coming out of a pandemic and how we can leverage the experience to increase accessibility for all voices into the tech community. The idea of the NY Tech Alliance being a hub is going to come to fruition in a brand-new way.
NYTA: Tell us more about QueerTech!
Andy: Yes! I am moving to Montreal, Canada to run QueerTech, a nonprofit organization I co-founded with my friend, Naoufel Testaouni in 2018. Our mission is to queer the tech ecosystem by breaking down barriers, creating spaces, and connecting communities to support and empower LGBTQ2S+ people to thrive.
Our goal is to increase 2SLGBTQ+ representation in tech, help our community advance their careers in tech, and launch tech businesses. We do this through our programming and events that not only support our QueerTechies (QTs) directly, but also several local nonprofits that serve the 2SLGBTQ+ community. You can learn all about us and join our next event at queertech.org!
NYTA: Any other last thoughts for the Community?
Andy: I would like to say thank you to the community. I know I would not be the person I am today without leveraging the opportunities I had or being able to learn everything I have about entrepreneurship by shepherding this community. When I started in 2013, I knew nothing about entrepreneurship. I didn’t think I would find my place and I wasn’t yet comfortable in the tech ecosystem. The NY Tech Alliance and its community taught me the opposite. There are so many wonderful people in the tech ecosystem who are willing to provide you with answers, so many organizations working to democratize and create an accessible and more equitable ecosystem. I’m so thankful to the community, to the city, to the NY Tech Alliance for giving me the opportunity to grow as an individual, as an entrepreneur, as a community builder, and as a mentor. I never thought I could lead an organization like this, let alone found an organization like QueerTech. Thank you to everybody who has helped me on my own personal journey, those who have shared their stories with me to provide encouragement, inspiration, and guidance along the way.
About NY Tech Alliance
The mission of the NY Tech Alliance is to represent, inspire, support, and help lead the New York technology community and ecosystem to create a better future for all. Founded in 2016 with the merger of NY Tech Meetup and the New York Technology Council, the organization has over 60,000 individual and institutional members, reflecting the full spectrum of the greater New York area tech community and making it the largest tech organization in the region. Led by Executive Director Andy Saldaña with Acting Chair Thatcher Bell, the NY Tech Alliance continues the work of its predecessor organizations, hosts a monthly Meetup as well as educational and social events, and continues to focus programming and advocacy efforts on issues important to the technology sector and New York.