Sage Franch is the Co-Founder and CTO of Crescendo Inclusive Workplaces, and the creator of TrendyTechie.ca. She specializes in emerging technologies including blockchain, augmented reality, and cognitive computing, and is passionate about leveraging new tech to build a better future. Previously, Sage worked as a Technical Evangelist at Microsoft, where she focused on global developer education and AI as a tool for positive change. Now, as Co-Founder and CTO of Crescendo – Inclusive Workplaces, Sage builds AI-powered tools that identify unconscious bias and help people learn to be more inclusive at work.
My first job ever was… teaching drum lessons at a young performing arts academy when I was in middle school.
I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I never actually decided to become an entrepreneur, I decided to solve a problem. When I met my co-founders, we all bonded over our experiences of bias and discrimination, and based on our skill sets we realized we could build tech to change the world for the better. We researched and worked until the idea turned into a plan, which eventually turned into a startup, and here we are! I guess the day I became an entrepreneur was when I left my old job for my startup – that was the day it became real.
My boldest move to date was… leaving my fun, comfortable, well-paying job at Microsoft to go full-time on my startup without a salary! Leaving a bad job is hard, but leaving a great job is even harder. I loved working at Microsoft, but the time came where I knew I needed to give Crescendo 100% of my time in order for it to grow. Startup life is completely different from corporate life so it was a big adjustment, but so worth it.
I surprise people when I tell them… I also write music and science fiction!
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that I studied martial arts for nine years!
My best advice to people starting a business is… don’t get caught up in the “cool factor” of what you’re doing. Focus on your customer and what they need. No matter how excited you are about blockchain, AI and the next emerging tech, if it doesn’t add value to your customer, you should leave it out.
My best advice from a mentor was… talk about what you do in simple terms. When you live and breathe your business, it can be easy to forget that not everyone understands it as well as you do. Whether you’re talking to a customer, an investor, or a potential hire, it’s important to be able to convey what your business does in plain language. If you’re struggling to break it down, do the family test; pick the family member who knows the least about your industry and explain it to them.
“When you live and breathe your business, it can be easy to forget that not everyone understands it as well as you do.”
I would tell my 20-year old self… not to forget about self care. I way overworked myself in my early twenties, simultaneously studying full time to complete my Bachelor of Computer Science and working full time for Microsoft. That whole period of my life is a blur, and I didn’t focus nearly enough on my own health. Burnout is real and bouncing back from it is harder than pacing yourself!
My biggest setback was… when my mother and my grandmother were diagnosed with cancer. Nothing could have prepared me for how much my life would change when I had to become a caregiver early in my career.
I overcame it by… prioritizing endlessly and learning how to turn down opportunities. When I was just starting out, I said yes to every opportunity and task that was sent my way, because I simply loved learning new things. But when faced with family health crises, I had to learn how to budget my time and prioritize the most important things. It took a lot of “no’s” but I eventually learned how to not feel guilty when turning things down, and that is a skill everyone should learn.
Work/life balance is… absolutely essential. Work and life don’t have to be separate, but it’s important to give yourself time to think about something other than work. I get my balance by practicing yoga, playing guitar, and going to concerts, all things that allow me to disconnect and focus on something else for a while. Think about it like restarting your computer – sometimes we just need a reboot to start fresh and operate at full speed.
The last book I read was… 10% Happier, by Dan Harris. Now I’m reading Data and Goliath, by Bruce Schneier.
I stay inspired by… mentoring technologists who are starting to work with emerging tech. Geeking out with people who are excited about the future of tech is always so inspiring. And if my experiences can help remove barriers for someone on their road to their goals, I’m happy.
“If my experiences can help remove barriers for someone on their road to their goals, I’m happy.”
The future excites me because… there is so much potential for good technology to improve people’s lives. At Crescendo, we’re building tools to help people be more inclusive of one another, and we’re looking forward to a future where people and tech work together to do good in our world.
My next step is… expanding our development team and launching the full version of Crescendo!