Shirin Laor-Raz Salemnia is the Founder and CEO of PlayWerks, an independent interactive media company that creates high-quality, innovative, multi-platform immersive experiences for children and adults. She is also the Founder of WhizGirls Academy, where students engage in exciting projects that help them acquire tech and digital literacy skills including coding, developing as entrepreneurs, and learning about healthy balanced lifestyles. They become more confident and engaged as members of the community. WhizGirls Academy has currently reached over 3000 students and continues to grow and thrive. Read More >
Blame it on Pac-Man — and those Super Mario Brothers, too. Shirin's entré to tech as child was through gaming, but it was really seeing the movie "Big" that set her on her path. Inspired by Josh, the character played by Tom Hanks, she was determined to find a way to make a difference in the world through toys and play.
Shirin began her professional career at Mattel working on Barbie, then at MGA Entertainment as the Brand Manager for the billion dollar Bratz brand. She analyzed industry trends, consumer motivations and competitor activity. At MGA, she was also responsible for designing the Play Lab, where children would gather for in-house research.
She is actively involved in Women in Gaming, an advisor to the LA Film School Video Game Department, Woodbury University, Santa Monica College, USC, Girls in Tech, and the White House Council on Women and Girls.
In 2013, Shirin hosted the first Hackathon for Women and Girls in collaboration with the White House Council on Women and Girls. In 2014, she hosted Kids Hack for LA in collaboration with Mayor Garcetti, the White House, and will.i.am's i.am.angel Foundation. She also presented at the TedxYouth conference in Los Angeles, CA: “Are You a Gamer or a Gardener?”
In March 2015, she was honored by LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin as LA City Pioneer Woman of the Year. Shirin is a Disruptor Foundation (Tribeca) Innovation Fellow.
Shirin currently teaches "Tech for Social Impact/Entrepreneurship" at USC School of Engineering—Viterbi, serves as an advisor to the Bixel Exchange and just named IJWO Woman of the Year in March 2016.
She has been identified as a thought leader in the area of tech inclusion, gaming, education, edtech and innovation, and has spoken on the topic at events such as Google Business Leaders, TedX, Digital Hollywood, KIN Global, Singularity University Global Summit, Colorado Innovation Network, Donnell Kay Foundation, Game Developers Conference and many others. Read Less ^