Interview with Christina M. West: solar engineer, company president and ukulele player


Guitar Girl Magazine caught up with Christina M. West, California engineering-savvy resident, President of Tiptonic, in her San Francisco Bay Area office to learn more about her, Tiptonic’s history, and the challenges of management. of a company in the male-dominated music industry. .

GGM: You have lived abroad and in the United States. Why did you choose the Bay Area?

CW: Opportunity. The Bay Area breathes, supports and inspires creativity and innovation and is full of people willing to work hard to make a difference. With persistence and luck, you can work yourself to the extreme, with a chance for success and great rewards. There is also an atmosphere of openness, awareness and down to earth that makes me feel that positive change is not only possible, it is happening.

GGM: Now you have a background in engineering, business and management. How did it get you to where you are today?

CW: I’ve spent the past decades building and leading teams to help humans evolve into a more sustainable, human existence through smart engineering and solar power. One of the joyous perks is that the people who revolve around this work are usually full of heart and soul and are passionate about their causes and life in general. It is not surprising that many of them are musicians, including my husband who is a guitarist and composer as well as a solar engineer. He and I started a few successful solar businesses, and we both played in our company’s rock band.

GGM: How did you become a musician and what do you play?

CW: I have always loved music and wanted to play, but I didn’t apply myself to learning an instrument until after I graduated from college. I helped a friend in need who returned the favor by teaching me to play an old Martin guitar and sing. I started with simple folk songs, which I found very fun and rewarding. My current repertoire includes Bob Dylan, Emmy Lou Harris, Stevie Wonder, Townes Van Zandt, Bob Marley and others. I love to play with friends and have performed at casual weddings. I also started playing the ukulele.

GGM: What’s the story behind Tiptonic?

CW: Tiptonic makes tone tips, which are unique guitar picks for stringed instruments that adapt to fingernails. As I mentioned, my husband, Jack West, plays guitar, especially fingerpicking on an 8 string acoustic guitar. After years of ruining his nails with acrylic manicures, he invented Tone Tips to keep his nails healthy and so he could also always play, even if he broke a nail. Fortunately, he found that the product significantly improved the sound of his guitar. He’s a big monster of tone. We patented the invention, but we were too attached to our solar start-up to develop the product. When our solar power company was acquired in 2013, I parted ways to create Tiptonic with Jack’s brother Britt West, who is also a guitarist. We made our debut at the last winter and summer NAMM concerts in front of a very enthusiastic audience.

GGM: What makes them special?

CW: The tone tips adapt to your fingernails and stay on even when you’re playing really hard. The tip of your fingernail, even if it is very short, fits into a pocket on the tip for grip and strength. End caps stick with reusable adhesive. You can peel them off and reuse them dozens of times before needing to refresh the adhesive. But the main features are that they increase the volume and improve the tone of the instrument – compared to conventional picks or nails – and they improve the agility of the player. They are ideal for seasoned players and beginners who are learning to fingerpick. I’m a pretty basic guitarist, but when I wear Tone Tips I have more freedom and I feel like I can really tear it up. They are also ready to use, regardless of the condition of your nails.

GGM: When will they be available?

CW: We are currently running a pilot program to get feedback from pro players and plan to launch the market in early 2016.

GGM: What challenges do you face as a woman company president?

CW: Coming from the engineering industry, I’m used to working with 90-95% men. I really really enjoyed it! The biggest challenge is dealing with stereotypes, expectations and inequalities. I try to rise above and lead by example. Change is slow with gender issues, but we are moving towards a better understanding (or at least I hope so).

GGM: And do you have an artist program?

CW: Yes! Outside of Tiptonic, I work with several artists and musicians on programs that benefit the public. One project is a dance and self-exploration workshop for Oakland girls who are vulnerable to human trafficking. Another is a series of concerts and videos to provide access to cultural music for those with limited exposure. We are also working to connect musicians and artists with fiscal sponsors and support networks.

GGM: Will there be other products?

CW: Yeah, but nothing we’re announcing yet.

GGM: How can people find out about the latest in Tiptonic Custom Selections?

CW: Visit and friend Tiptonic on facebook to see our videos and keep in touch.

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