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 coding skills, develop as entrepreneurs and learn about healthy balanced lifestyles. They become more confident and engaged as members of the community.
Blame it on Pac-Man—and those Super Mario Brothers, too. Shirin's entré to tech was through gaming as a child, but it was 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, Boys and Girls Clubs, Girls in Tech, Girl Scouts 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. Last year, she hosted Kids Hack for LA in collaboration with Mayor Garcetti, the White House, and will.i.am's i.am.angel Foundation.
Shirin teaches "Tech for Social Impact/Entrepreneurship" at USC School of Engineering—Viterbi, serves as an advisor to the Bixel Exchange and just named LA City Pioneer Woman of the Year by Mayor Garcetii.