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**Mosoiu CQ** Tech Liminal founder Anca Mosoiu, left, gives a WordPress workshop at the company's office in Oakland, Calif. on Friday, Oct. 05, 2012. Mosoiu, a former software engineer, began the "technology salon" to help people gain knowledge through workshops in WordPress, Pinterest and other tech applications and programs. (Jane Tyska/Staff)

OAKLAND -- It was a Wednesday night and Anca Mosoiu, a software engineer, was digging through a tangle of fat computer cables.

She extracted one and walked past a table filled by a group of six people working on a project to turn Oakland's budget data into a graphic showing how city money is spent.

This night, as is often the case, Mosoiu was wearing a T-shirt and big green-rimmed glasses. She handed off the cable to another table, walked to the back of the room and stood next to a lanky programmer who had been sitting silently for about an hour, facing his computer screen.

"He's learning Python," she said, smiling.

This is a typical scene at Tech Liminal on 14th Street near Lake Merritt. Mosoiu calls it a "technology hotspot and salon." And it's easy to picture it as nothing more than a bunch of geeks hunched over their laptops talking about things that have nothing to do with the real world.

But Mosoiu is bringing together the people who want to do what City Hall has been unable to do: lay the groundwork to build a much-needed tech industry in Oakland.

"Tech Liminal was the first place where techies, nerds and geeks could come together and feel at home," said Deborah Acosta, of 2. Oakland and iDotconnect, which tries to attract tech businesses to Oakland.

She called Mosoiu the glue that holds Oakland's tech scene together.


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"And she did it before anyone else," Acosta said. "That's the mark of a true entrepreneur."

Nicole Neditch, who works in the city administrator's office directing Oakland's digital strategy, praised Mosoiu. "The city of Oakland," she said, "is fortunate to have creative and committed community partners like Anca Mosoiu."

Mosoiu opened Tech Liminal just over three years ago as a co-working space for freelancers as well as a place where, on any given day, people can attend a "Tweet Like a Boss" seminar, a WordPress Support Group or an encryption workshop. She also helped organize a weekend of workshops during the summer that offered everything from programming to cake-decorating for children and adults.

"Just because you have the technology doesn't mean you know how to use it," she said.

"That's what Tech Liminal does," she added. "If they get stuck they can ask for help."

Being first meant she had few resources to build upon.

Mosoiu said she made mistakes along the way and learned from others' mistakes. Even when she doesn't know the answer, she said, "I am confident I can figure it out."

It is an attitude that served her well as a 9-year old who landed in Oakland from Romania with her family in 1983 and later as one of the few women to pursue a high-level computer science career. Her family left Romania before the revolution toppled the Soviet-era autocrat Nicolae Ceausescu.

The letter from the United States granting them political asylum came first, "so that's where we went."

She attended West Lake Middle School and Monterra Junior High School before the family moved to Springfield, Ill.

After graduation, Mosoiu enrolled in MIT, the alma mater of physicists, astronauts, architects and inventors. At the time of her enrollment, in 1991, only 33 percent of the students were women.

The disparity didn't phase Mosoiu.

"I didn't think, 'I'm a girl, I'm not supposed to do this,'" she said.

Paradoxically, now that the number of women at MIT is closer to 50 percent, Mosoiu said she notices when she is the only woman in a room of men.

Mosoiu escaped the bruising of the 2000 tech bust, but instead of riding the lucrative crest of the newest tech boom, she decided to follow her dream to create a space where people could experience a tech community that did not exist for freelancers.

Tech Liminal opened on July 6, 2009.

In the meantime, San Francisco and Fremont began attracting high-tech startups in record numbers. Oakland continued to lag behind and failed to take advantage of the cheap empty space and tech-skilled people who were making the city their home. Mosoiu became a magnet, helping people to channel their desire to use their expertise for the city while offering training to people who wanted to improve their abilities.

If Oakland becomes a place where workers have the necessary skills, businesses will be more motivated to move here, she said. "It's easier to have more impact in Oakland with little more than gumption," Mosoiu said. "It feels like we're all in this together."

Follow Angela Woodall on Twitter@angelawoodall or Facebook.com/angelawoodall.

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anca mosoiu
Hometown: Oakland (born in Cluj-Napoca, Romania)
Age: 39
Occupation: Business owner/computer programmer
Family: Married
Claim to fame: Runs Oakland's technology salon, Tech Liminal
Quote: "It's easier to have more impact in Oakland with little more than gumption. It feels like we're all in this together."