Inspirational profiles of women in
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Lead(H)er Profile - Amy Wagner, Chief Financial Officer at CreateMe banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Amy Wagner, Chief Financial Officer at CreateMe

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Amy Wagner, Chief Financial Officer at CreateMe


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I grew up in a small town in Connecticut and was definitely a free spirit - picture a super girlie-looking total tomboy that got straight A’s but also was the first person disrupting the entire class during an exam because she was bored.  

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

I graduated with a degree in Environmental Science & Public Policy and a citation in Spanish which essentially means I voluntarily took all of the pre-med classes (and loved them) and knew I wanted to work in a career or company that had sustainability as a core mission and value.  From college, I went into investment banking to gain a practical skill set in finance and accounting that I could then apply in my target field.

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

I think the first most critical decision in my career was deciding to enter into investment banking.  As a profession, investment banking teaches financial modelling and valuation, which are fundamental to understanding decision-making in business.  Even more critical, was selecting Citigroup and then, within Citigroup, my industry group.  As a major global market leader, Citigroup attracted some of the biggest and most complex deals.  Within Citigroup, I found two mentors that worked on a number of these deals and also had a management style that empowered me to play a big role with a lot of autonomy, without which, I would have never learned everything I did at that job.  They also taught me how to be a manager and mentor, which has been invaluable in my career.

The second most critical decision in my career was deciding that I was enough on my own and that I could not only found but also successfully grow and exit my own start up.  Based on everything I learned in investment banking, and a natural ability to think critically about why and how things should be done, I developed a thesis for how my business would outgrow and “win” against my competitors.  I then implemented and tested different programs to achieve my main goals, always starting with “why” and “what could be” and not with what currently was there.  In doing this, I found my superpower - connecting all of the disparate data points to formulate an efficient and successful strategy to achieve a goal.  

The rest is history.  Both moments and experiences have gone on to shape my career.

What is your current role and responsibilities?

My current position is Chief Financial Officer of CreateMe.  As the CFO, I am a strategic partner to the entire executive management team and a sounding board for ideas and critical analysis.  More granularly, I oversee all of the accounting, finance, FP&A, corporate development, M&A, and global procurement functions.

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position?

It was always my goal to work with really smart people who are also really good people at a company that positively contributes to society.  CreateMe is just that - a team of exceptional people working to make the fashion industry more sustainable and equitable. 

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

Take the time to completely understand everything you are doing.  Don’t take anything for granted and always get to “why” you are doing something a certain way.  What you will often find is that there are inherent assumptions baked into every task and not all of those assumptions hold true for your company.  By critically thinking about each task, you will not only be able to connect the dots better between all of the disparate things you are doing, you will also be able to identify efficiencies and learn on the job.

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

Attention to detail, critical thinking, deep understanding of various disciplines (finance, accounting, tax, law, etc.), and patience.  One of the most critical skills I have developed in my career is the ability to take a breath, keep my calm, and give everyone the benefit of the doubt.  There have been so many times that one simple skill has made a world of difference.

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

The most rewarding aspect of my work is that there is a new challenge every day.  It keeps work interesting and affords me the ability to learn and grow.  The only aspect that can be challenging in my role is when information is too siloed because it could lead to inefficient business outcomes.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

My proudest moment in my professional career was at the conclusion of my first M&A deal.  We had just secured a huge valuation for the two founders, way more than either had thought they could sell for, and one of the founders said to me, “If only we had found you sooner.  We could have been 5x as big.  You were the missing link.”  I was only 22 at the time so it wasn’t my network of buyers or knowledge of M&A that had impressed him.  It was the way I broke down his business drivers and marketed it, the way I cultivated relationships with each team member of his company and the buyers to get the deal completed, it was the intangibles that he felt I brought to the table that leveled up the perception of his company.  The confidence gained from that moment allowed me to build on those skills and get better professionally.

Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?

I am a firm believer in literacy, medical research, and animal rights and have worked with several organizations, including serving on the Board of Reading Partners while I still lived in NYC and serving as a foster parent for dogs for years before adopting my own.


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I have four kids, three dogs, and an amazing husband as well as a ton of family that lives near by so I enjoy anything active and/or with family - running, water balloon fights, swimming, barbeques, you name it.

How do you manage stress?

My best stress relievers are running or snuggling with my kids.

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day

Two - but I use espresso-quality coffee like most people use just traditional coffee so I’m not sure what that would be in terms of caffeine intake.

What's one of your favorite places in the Boston/New York area?

I love both cities a ton.  It’s odd but, my favorite places in both are the walking/running paths along the rivers (the Charles and the Hudson).  It’s a nice mix of the city and the suburb that I grew up in.

Any book or podcast recommendations?

I largely read via Audible on my way into the office since finding the time to sit with a book tends to escape me during my daily routine.  I loved “Song of Achilles” and “Circe” and just started Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime”.  I tend to fluctuate between fiction and nonfiction/historical books depending on my mood on the day when I start a book.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Whatever job you do, be excellent at it.  Take full responsibility and ownership of what you are doing and it will open countless doors for you.

About the
Company

CreateMe reinvents apparel manufacturing for brand owners through automation, innovation, creativity, and speed.

We're empowering brands to transform their manufacturing processes, while giving individuals the freedom to explore and create their own unique style.

 

 
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Lead(H)er Profile - Christina Arellano, Chief Customer Officer at Acoustic banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Christina Arellano, Chief Customer Officer at Acoustic

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Christina Arellano, Chief Customer Officer at Acoustic


Chris in Paris at the Prince de Galles, overlooking famous Avenue George V

Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I was actually a child of two United States Marines, so I spent my early years in North Carolina, California, and ultimately landed in Arizona which is where my mother’s family is from. Having two Marine Corps parents taught me early on to always do my best and never give up. These core values helped shape me into the person I am today.  

As a child, I was very curious and always wanted to know how things worked. I would spend time taking things apart so I could put them back together. I knew early on in my childhood that I wanted to have a profession that allowed me to be creative, solve problems, and help a business be successful.

I was also an avid sports fan and loved to play competitive team sports. It is through that foundation that I learned the importance of teamwork, collaboration, and hard work.

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

My undergraduate degree was in industrial engineering from Arizona State University (Go Sun Devils!). After I graduated, my official first engineering job was at Motorola serving as a manufacturing engineer in a semiconductor manufacturing facility. The job was in a cleanroom so I had to wear a “bunny suit” from head to toe to prevent contamination of the semiconductors that we were manufacturing. However, the start date for my job wasn’t until two months after my graduation, so I took a job detailing cars at a local auto shop until my official start date arrived at Motorola.

Chris flying over Switzerland/The Swiss Alps

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

After starting my career as a manufacturing engineer at Motorola, I transitioned to FedEx Ground where I was responsible for the Southwest U.S. territory. At FedEx, the philosophy is for leaders to work every job so they understand the different responsibilities and perspectives of the various teams that they support. I’ve taken that philosophy to heart in everything I’ve done.

Following my time at FedEx, I joined American Express where I transitioned from being an individual contributor to a manager for the first time. I was nervous to apply for the position, but realized that no one is born a manager -- at some point, someone had to give them a chance. I was accepted for the position and led all reengineering teams in North America for Amex Business Travel. Now, I love to be able to provide that opportunity to others. 

From there, I entered the executive leadership team for the first time when I joined McKesson. I was able to relocate in the U.S. to three different places and hold various leadership positions during this time, further expanding my skill set. 

Each of these experiences working with Fortune 100 companies helped prepare me in different ways for the scrappier private equity world. Big businesses often have more mature infrastructure and processes than PE-owned companies, which was certainly a culture shock. However, I was able to take the best practices and lessons learned from my time at those big brands and apply them to my role at Acoustic. 

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I serve as the Chief Customer Officer at Acoustic, an open, independent marketing cloud and analytics provider. In this role, I’m responsible for our Customer Success, Professional Services, and Customer Support functions within the business. Our ultimate goal is to ensure customers have a superior customer experience and are able to fully maximize the value of the solutions and services that we provide.  

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position?

I always knew I wanted to be in business and help companies solve problems, but never imagined that my journey would take me to the role I’m in today. I grew up fairly shy and introverted. Being responsible for customer relationships is a big change from how I originally started my career as an individual contributor working behind the scenes. 

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

I’ve always taken the initiative to improve processes and solve problems without being asked. I believe in the philosophy, “Ask for forgiveness, not permission (within reason).” No one is ever going to be upset with you if you solve a problem for the business.  

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

Dedication, hard work, collaboration, and the mindset of “making the impossible possible.” I believe that everyone needs to challenge the status quo and look for ways to learn from the past so we can improve in the future. I also think having a “get s#&! done” mindset is a must and an incredible superpower if you can get your team rallied behind it.

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  

I love mentoring and helping members of my team. To this day, I still have mentoring sessions with people I used to manage many years ago. It is the most rewarding experience to see people grow and accomplish their own personal and career aspirations.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

One of my proudest achievements is the work we were able to accomplish when I worked at Upserve, a hospitality POS business that provides the technology for restaurants to manage front-of-house and back-of-house operations. I joined Upserve a few months prior to the pandemic, and when COVID hit, I wondered if I had made the right choice. The restaurant industry was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, and we had customers going out of business because of it. Yet our goal was to grow Upserve’s business so it could eventually be acquired. 

Despite these challenges, we were able to have that successful exit with a 10x revenue multiple during the height of the pandemic and improve our retention rate by 10% year-over-year. It was an incredible challenge, but I’m very proud of all we were able to accomplish.


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I love to travel with my family and experience new things, places, and food. I consider myself an avid foodie and have a rule not to eat anywhere we could eat at home when we’re traveling. Prior to the pandemic, I was exploring different parts of Europe, but my favorite destination is the one I haven’t visited yet -- I always want to see somewhere new rather than revisit the same places.  

The Swiss Alps

How do you manage stress?

Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed, I try to remember that small wins accrue to larger success. The same goes for your workload: if you look at it holistically, it can overwhelm you, but if you aim to accomplish one thing at a time, it will be much more manageable. 

It’s also important to have a good network of trusted colleagues you can talk to. Spend time speaking with people who can give you an honest perspective. 

Outside of this, make sure you’re prioritizing your health and getting exercise. It’s incredible how much of a difference movement can make in your day.

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

Three per day. I have a mandatory two cups in the morning as I start my day and one more shortly after lunch.

Any book or podcast recommendations? 

Yes, a few! Some of my favorite books are What got you here, won’t get you there by Marshall Goldsmith, You are a badass by Jen Sincero, and Customer Success: How Innovative Companies Are Reducing Churn and Growing Recurring Revenue by Nick Mehta.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Be open to opportunities. I think people can be too focused on looking at a position’s title vs. what they can learn from the job. I never thought I would have a few of the positions I’ve held, but when I saw the scope of the jobs and the responsibilities I would have, they piqued my curiosity and I recognized that they would allow me to learn and grow. Especially when you’re first starting out, it’s critical to absorb as much as possible and be open to the vast possibilities ahead of you.

About the
Company

Reimagine everything.

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Lead(H)er Profile - Laurie Mitchell, Vice President, Partner & International Marketing at Wasabi banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Laurie Mitchell, Vice President, Partner & International Marketing at Wasabi

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Laurie Mitchell, Vice President, Partner & International Marketing at Wasabi


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I grew up in a small suburb outside of Hartford, Connecticut. Looking back I would describe myself as a well-rounded kid. I was always focused on doing well in school and bringing home good grades. If I didn’t have my nose in a book, I was usually running around playing with other kids in my neighborhood. I was the type of kid who got along easily with others, I was friends with everybody rather than just one particular group.  

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

I studied business and marketing at the University of Connecticut. I was always very interested in marketing because it was something that allowed me to be creative, and I am fascinated to learn what makes people buy certain products. Right out of college I was very intent on getting an actual marketing job, not just any job. I hunted for a while until I found an entry-level job at a small startup called Excel Switching that was looking for help in marketing. I was the first marketing person at that company so I was given the opportunity to learn all aspects of marketing from day one. 

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

As time went on, the startup I was originally working for brought in additional marketing professionals. This gave me the opportunity to have many talented bosses who helped propel my career as the company grew to over 900 people. I also had many mentors, and one who was pivotal introduced me to the idea of a partner program and together she and I built the partner program for that company. This gave me opportunities to travel and build partner marketing programs. Looking back, that experience was the key moment that transformed my general marketing career into one that was focused on partnerships and alliances. To this day I am still thankful to her! 

What is your current role and responsibilities?

Currently, I am Vice President of Partner and International Marketing for Wasabi. I am responsible for marketing to, through and with Wasabi’s partners. My team and I work to recruit technology alliance partners where our products are complementary, and we then take those partnerships and drive a better story together. We then go out and recruit their channel partners. Along the way, we are building a sea of evangelists of the Wasabi product. On the international side, we basically walk through the same process but from an international partner perspective. We work with the broader marketing team to build the brand and create content, along with all the other wonderful things that are used to promote the brand overall. I enjoy the role because it is both fun and challenging. I get to work with very talented people and do something different every day.

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally? Was it always your goal to be in this position?

I am not the type that had a set specific goal in mind, especially when I was younger. I always knew that I wanted a job that would challenge me but also be fun at the same time. It was important to me that I worked with great people and this path took me to where I am now. Looking back, I am exactly where I want to be at this stage of my life. I think it is important to have the ability to roll with the punches and make adjustments along the way. You never know what opportunities will arise and where they will take you.

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

First, it is important to be able to work well with others. It may sound overly simple but it is important to be inclusive and respectful to everyone no matter their level or title. It is also important to never adopt the mindset that you know everything, no matter what your title is. I would advise someone just starting out in their career to recognize that you are never done learning because your industry, technology, products, processes, and people will always be changing. Marketing has completely changed and gone inbound digital since I started my career and I had to adapt. You have to always be able to adjust and learn along the way.

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

Communication is the most important skill that comes to mind. Over-communicate and communicate often. And be diplomatic. In each partnership, some people have different timelines and styles than you and you may not always see eye to eye. But if you are patient and open you can come to a solution that all are happy with.

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

I love our creative marketing and voice at Wasabi. Telling our story in a fun and interesting way through social campaigns, our Migrate with Nate campaign and more makes Wasabi a fun company to work for. We are very marketing-driven, and while many tech companies underfund marketing, I’d say we fund it well. One of the most challenging parts of my job is finding patience. Some companies we work with are big companies and don’t want to give you the time of day or they are on a different timeline than we are.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

My instinct tells me my proudest moment is happening right now. At Wasabi we launched a partner network that has tripled in the last few years and continues to grow so rapidly. So much has gone into it including digital marketing automation which constantly feeds the sales team with leads and new partnerships to activate.  We are building an A+ team which is our best asset. 

Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?

I wish, but as a mother of twin girls, that’s what keeps me busy outside of work. 


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I love going to the beach and being active - hiking, biking, skiing, yoga. I really love cooking, and I did lots of it especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of my favorite new recipes that I made recently is roasted salmon with honey-mustard pecan crust.

How do you manage stress?

Taking my dog for daily walks and going to yoga every week keeps me sane. I think it is important to take time away from work, kids, etc., and focus on yourself.

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

I usually have one giant cup of coffee every day.

What's one of your favorite places in the Boston?

Legal Harborside is one of my top favorites. They have everything I love - seafood, great gluten-free options, ocean views and so much more.  

Any book or podcast recommendations?

The Power of Habit is a must-read. I love that book because it helps you think about how you operate and how your brain uses more energy when you are out of habit. It applies to pretty much every aspect of life.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Don’t settle for any job. Go out and find the one that is the best fit for you, even if it takes time. Also, use your network, and don’t be afraid to reach out. I’d be impressed if a college grad reached out to me and asked about partner marketing. 

About the
Company

Wasabi is the hot cloud storage company. 

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Lead(H)er Profile - Amanda Baier, VP, Marketing Communications at Vecna Robotics banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Amanda Baier, VP, Marketing Communications at Vecna Robotics

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Amanda Baier, VP, Marketing Communications at Vecna Robotics


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I grew up in Walpole, a suburb of Boston. I was bookish but also active in the 4H club as a child. I rode horses, showed pygmy goats and loved nothing more than quiet afternoons in the barn. I guess you could say I’m a little bit country! 

I was also really into the arts. I played piano, flute, french horn, and harp; acted in all the school plays; and eventually went on to participate in founding our high school’s annual film festival which is now in its 19th season! The kids write, direct, film, act in, edit, produce, and even write original music for the films. Whenever I’m storyboarding a professional production for work, I go right back to the basics that I learned from the WHS film festival. I like to think that I am proof that the skills acquired through an education in the arts are wildly relevant and transferable to a career in business. 

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

I originally enrolled as an English major, but my studies ran the gamut of everything from archeology to botany to business school. I finally graduated with a dual degree in comparative literature and English with a minor in Spanish and certificates in simultaneous interpreting and technical writing with a specialization in business communications. I spent a lot of time translating Spanish poetry. Even today, the works of Pablo Neruda cast a certain spell over me! 

My first job out of school was working as a paralegal in the grants administration division of the largest healthcare system in Massachusetts. At that time, I thought I wanted to go to law school, so this was a great way to test the waters. I worked out of the Prudential tower which felt pretty glamorous at first, but I quickly realized that I wanted a smaller team and a less corporate environment. When I found Vecna Robotics and the startup atmosphere, I immediately knew it was the right place for me. 

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

As an English major in college, everyone asked me if I wanted to be a teacher. I think the first critical moment in my career was the early conviction that I did not want to teach. 

After I ruled out law school and found Vecna Technologies (Vecna Robotics’ parent company), I found a great fit in both grant writing and marketing due to my strong language skills. I stayed with Vecna Technologies until Vecna Robotics began the process of spinning out into its own entity. 

At that time, I became very interested in health and wellness and took a sharp turn into the world of yoga and holistic healing. I spent a year completing my 200-hour yoga teacher training, studying to become a Reiki master, and a certified health coach then left Vecna to pursue my own health coaching practice. I used the experience I gained in the studio and with private clients to land a job at a small teaching hospital in Cambridge, MA as the Wellness Coordinator for their cancer center. I was able to expand the programs offered to patients to include free Reiki, oncology massage, art therapy, organic farming experiences, and even an all-natural beauty workshop for women undergoing treatment.

One day, I got a phone call from the Vecna Robotics team, asking if I could take on some writing projects. As I jumped back into the fringes of the fast-paced startup world, I remembered how much I missed the excitement and the relationships I’d forged over the years with incredibly smart people. They were, after all, my “framily.” I left the health and wellness field to dive head-first back into the fray, identifying another key realization in my career journey: yoga is a wonderful personal tool for me to maintain my mental and physical health, but not my intended career path. This does not preclude me from sharing the practice with others. I now just see it as more of a service to my community than a career path - a way of giving back - and I get to do that within the Vecna Robotics community. I’ve taken on the role of Yoga Club President in the office and, during COVID quarantine, taught weekly classes for coworkers over Teams. Now that the offices are open and we hire a yoga teacher to come in, I still jump in and substitute teach from time to time. 

To sum it up, for me, it’s always been about trial and error and following the sparks of inspiration. I look for the places of greatest challenge, thrill, and personal growth - and remain open to change whenever it’s required. Change is hard and presents many unknowns. But, I’ve discovered that as long as I bring passion and energy through the tumult of change, I will land on my feet. 

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I currently manage the marketing initiatives at Vecna Robotics internally and externally, including demand generation, public relations, trade shows, digital and more. I work hard to foster community within the company by keeping close relationships with senior leadership and more junior team members and nurturing their growth within the organization. I also manage marketing relationships with partners to grow the greater Vecna Robotics and material handling communities. 

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position?

It was never my goal to be in this position, but if I look back, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that I was headed for an entrepreneurial environment in material handling all along. From a young age, I was always dreaming up random little businesses like private tutoring, custom fashion design, and making crocheted slippers to sell to my friends. Of course, none of these were scalable, so that was lesson number one!

Also, my father and my brother are both engineers. I was always watching them in problem-solving mode as they built things around the house, fixed the boat engine, took apart motorcycles, or rebuilt my dad’s 1932 Ford Pickup. When my brother got older, he then got into building robots for school projects and summer camps. So, early exposure to mechanics and automation was definitely a strong influence. 

My dad also has an appreciation for logistics feats hidden in plain sight. I remember him coming home from Home Depot with a new rake one time, and he asked, “Could you make this, package it, and ship it for $10?” He has a strong appreciation for supply chain, which certainly shaped the way I see the world. 

I think it makes sense that I would end up being in an environment that is the professional version of what I experienced at home. But at work, I get to bring my core competencies to the challenges of growing a technology business: writing, creativity, interpreting highly technical language and making it accessible to the everyday person. 

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

  1. Begin with yes. No project is beneath you, especially early in your career. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get dirty (sometimes literally when working in a lab environment!). Add value for your leadership team - look for where they need help and offer support. Through that, you gain exposure and get to work alongside really smart people, learn a bigger breadth of skills, and advance in your personal growth more quickly. 
  2. Don’t compromise. Do quality work. And if you’ve hired someone for a job, maintain high standards and push them to deliver up to expectations. 
  3. Be discerning. Know where to put your time. Don’t work just to fill the hours; focus on what’s going to get you the biggest results. 
  4. Step up. Do the hard thing -- take on a project that is big and scary or overwhelming, step into a place in your organization that needs a leader, give candid feedback in a loving way, etc. What’s hard is different for everybody, but you have to learn to recognize your edges and then lean into that discomfort. That’s how you grow and become a bigger, better, more powerful version of yourself. 

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

When the ball comes at you fast, swing slower. In marketing things are constantly flying at you - deadlines are changing or being piled on. Even when the hours seem limited, resist the scarcity mindset. Take time to breathe, get centered, and stay present. This will expand time. The quality of your output relies on a steady mind. If you are rushed and disorganized then customers and prospects will see that - it will be apparent in the quality of your work.

Staying organized is another key skill. I like to set up regular check-ins that help me to know exactly where I’m at every week: budget review, weekly metrics reports, big project checkpoints, or milestone meetings. By having small chunks of time devoted to reviewing big systems, you will be less likely to be caught off guard and feel more in control.  

Another necessary skill is adaptability. In marketing, as in so many other disciplines and life in general, your plans may change at the drop of a hat. It’s important not to get thrown off or ruffled. If you maintain equanimity you’ll be happier in the long run. And if you do feel ruffled, that’s ok too. Do what you need to do to get your feet back under you first, and then take on whatever’s next. What’s past is past. Leave it there. Every day and every moment is an opportunity to start again. 

On a more tactical level, crisp comprehension and writing skills are key, especially when you’re in an innovation space!

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

To me, the most rewarding part of marketing is seeing the outcomes of things that actually work. A lot of time is spent setting up systems, crafting messaging, producing content, and thinking creatively, and then launching it all into the world. It’s incredibly rewarding on the days the leads start piling up and requests for interviews start coming in. Those are the days you’re validated in your efforts and you realize that the machine is working. 

Most challenging is keeping up with the demands and knowing what is valuable and what’s not. What’s actually going to help you accomplish something and have a great return on investment? I’m always reassessing: what’s the 20% of work that’s going to get me 80% of the results? It’s constantly a game of working smarter, not harder.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

My proudest professional accomplishment is seeing the culmination of many years of dedication to one mission, one company. It began 10 years ago with writing winning proposals for millions of dollars in research grants to seed some of Vecna Robotics’ early technology development - to lay the groundwork for Series A and Series B investment - to now having systems in place where the marketing machine is humming. Earlier this year, we won the Fast Company Most Innovative Companies award, ranking #4 in logistics worldwide. Getting that recognition on an international scale for the work that we’ve done over the course of all of these years was huge. It goes to show that Rome wasn’t built in a day -- it takes a lot of grit, focus, and teamwork to do things that are worth doing. 

Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?

I’m involved in MHI (Material Handling Industry) and just completed the MHI Leadership Program. MHI’s Industry Leaders Program helps emerging and new leaders connect with industry peers and leaders, gain a broader perspective of the supply chain and material handling industry, and grow their leadership skills and expertise. I’m also on the MHI MPro (Material Handling Industry Marketing Professionals) subcommittee for education. We pull in experts from the field of marketing to provide education to other MHI marketers. Outside of work, I also work with the Sunny Rock 4-H Program - a youth development program that teaches kids leadership skills through agriculture and care of livestock. 

What has attributed to your success thus far and what types of obstacles have you had to overcome along the way as a female leader in a predominantly male industry?

There have been times at trade shows where I’ve stood on a raised platform and not seen another woman for what seems like miles. This is can be a stunning experience but should serve as a reminder of how far we have to go to bring more diverse talent into the supply chain industry. 

One thing I’ve observed is that many women in male-dominated environments have a tendency to adopt a masculine energy. For me, it happens when I’m under stress and it comes out in my posture, my voice, or putting up walls and taking a defensive tone. It usually arises as a response to a need I feel to be seen as smart, strong, and capable. Luckily, Vecna Robotics has always been a workplace that encourages team members to be authentically who they are and one that encourages diversity, recognizing the role of different perspectives in furthering innovation. 

With that, I’ve been able to shed some of those stress responses over time (still working on it!). And what I’ve come to realize and appreciate over the years is the power of well-balanced feminine energy in the workplace. When we (who identify as feminine) soften into our feminine qualities, we can create an atmosphere where all feel welcome to speak up, it can open doors for hard conversations and make them less difficult, it can cast a sense of ease over problem-solving and turn up the volume on creativity, it brings lightness and humor, and fosters relationship building and a stronger team environment. I’ve learned that I can be strong, smart, capable, and feminine all at once. These qualities are harmonious. 


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

My husband and I are avid rock climbers. If not climbing in the gym, we go to New Hampshire or New York on the weekends to adventure on new routes. Vacations usually take us further afield to international climbing destinations - which is always fun because we get to combine our love of travel with our love of adventuring outdoors.

I’m also an avid trail runner, and oil painter. I like to take my painting outdoors and do a lot of painting en plein air in parks and trails around Boston. When I’m home, I spend a lot of time playing with my two rowdy rescues, Max and Chief, my sweet cat Lilou la Fleur, and my ever-expanding collection of plants. 

How do you manage stress?

A daily workout routine is critical. I try to run every morning, rain/snow or shine and get in a post-work gym sweat sesh or yoga practice. Art and music is also a great way to destress.

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

One cup just to get going.

What's one of your favorite places in the Boston/New York area?

I love kayaking and canoeing on the waterways around Boston. The Ipswich and the Concord Rivers are so peaceful.

Any book or podcast recommendations?  

I love the All In podcast with Jason Calcanis, Chamath Palihapitiya, David Friedberg, and David Sacks. They’re a hilarious group of some of the biggest investors in tech and I listen to them religiously. I also listen to Bigger Pockets, Tony Robbins, and The Wall Street Journal Secrets of Wealthy Women. Listening to other women's stories is a great way to stay empowered and motivated to keep pressing forward. 

Two of the books that changed my life are Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, and Eastern Body, Western Mind by Anodea Judith. The first is by a cantadora (storyteller) and psychologist who uses myth to unpack the female psyche. The second unveils the energetic body in great detail, drawing links between modern psychology to ancient body awareness. Both provide a guidebook to staying grounded.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Let the journey unfold. It’s easy to hold tightly to old goals and identities. But don’t be afraid to let go of what beliefs and personas no longer serve you along the way; and similarly, don't be afraid to try on new ways of thinking and take new roads. Through doing this, you find that more opportunities open up for you, and can present you with more fulfilling and exciting endeavors. And if it doesn’t work out, it was a good story!

About the
Company

Vecna Robotics delivers Automated Material Handling, Hybrid Fulfillment, and Workflow Optimization solutions featuring self-driving vehicles operated by our learning Autonomy Stack.

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Lead(H)er Profile - Debbie Umbach, VP of Corporate Marketing at Dynatrace banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Debbie Umbach, VP of Corporate Marketing at Dynatrace

Open Jobs Company Page

Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Debbie Umbach, VP of Corporate Marketing at Dynatrace


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I grew up in a sleepy suburb outside of Cleveland. I had a traditional family at that time: a working dad, stay-at-home mom, and a younger brother and a sister. As the eldest, I was always paving the way for my siblings -- I loved trying new things and finding adventure everywhere I could. I got into trouble sometimes but was usually able to talk my way out of it. Lots of stories can’t be told here :) 

I worked very hard and loved doing it in the middle of all the action so I wouldn’t miss a thing. (I’m an extreme extrovert). I would spread out my homework in the middle of the family room and everyone got used to walking by me carefully, so as not to step on any papers. I have very good concentration so could tune everyone out when working on a challenging problem. I was an avid reader and my mom always had to call me to dinner multiple times as I said, “Just one more page, please!” 

Debbie Umbach Dynatrace

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

I always loved math and science and knew I wanted to study engineering fairly early on. However, I also wanted a lively social life and the option to transfer out of engineering if it turned out to not meet my expectations. Thus, I chose the University of Virginia and got a BS with Distinction in Systems Engineering and a minor in French.

I love variety and wanted to travel, so consulting was quite appealing to me. I chose IT consulting over management consulting because tech was also a passion. I got what I wished for in an internship with American Management Systems (AMS) (which was later bought by CGI). On my first day, they asked if I wanted to travel to the client site in Birmingham, AL the next day! It was trial by fire and I loved every minute of it. I was a sponge and learned as much as I could, getting promoted to a project manager and then expanding my portfolio to managing 2 projects in 2 different cities. 

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

Consulting was fun and I was exposed to all aspects of managing and implementing IT systems (I specifically worked on document imaging for healthcare systems). We implemented the custom software in hospital after hospital, and eventually realized we could productize it. This gave me my first taste of product management. 

It’s a hard leap to go from project management to product management, so I decided I needed to go to business school to accelerate the process. I was thrilled to get into my first choice: Harvard Business School, and I immersed myself in the full-time experience, working hard and playing hard. 

From there I worked at Akamai as a product manager and went to other start-ups, one in which I sat next to the marketer and would listen to her and see what she was doing. I decided to make the leap to product marketing and continued to move from start-up to start-up as they got bought out or folded. I had many different types of managers over the years, and I learned about what works well -- and what not to do. Eventually, I earned the opportunity to run all of marketing at BitSight, a cybersecurity company. I was so excited to take on this meaty role, and manage a growing team. 

I ask a lot of questions and try hard to listen closely in order to learn what’s needed to be successful in any role. Then I try things out and course correct along the way. I also network regularly with people outside my organization (currently I’m a part of a local Boston CMO group that regularly shares information via an old fashioned mailing list and gets together in person every so often). I also am on a CMO Coffee Talk group that gathers for a discussion via zoom every Friday and has a very active Slack group. I learn from them every day and can reach out to get best practices, advice, etc., at any time. I also make sure to share my insights whenever I can.

My curiosity, drive, collaboration skills, willingness to take risks, and a growth mindset have led to me where I am today: leading a team of 45 (with lots of open req’s - we’re hiring!) as VP of Corporate Marketing at Dynatrace.

What is your current role and responsibilities?

At Dynatrace as the VP of Corporate Marketing reporting to the CMO, I am responsible for 6 areas:

  • Brand & Experience
  • Social Media
  • Strategic Events
  • Digital Marketing
  • Marketing Analytics and Operations
  • Customer Marketing

Ultimately, my team and I are responsible for driving awareness of Dynatrace and building a strong, differentiated brand. We do this through developing crisp messaging, advertising (mostly digitally but also in print, video, and audio), engaging via social media, partnering with the field and campaign teams to run demand generation programs, and running programs to retain, upsell, cross-sell, and engage our customers to become strong advocates. 

Having strong directors in place for each function enables me to think strategically and plan ahead as we grow the organization. I believe in the “First Team” mentality where you spend a lot of time with your peers, exchanging information and supporting each other. This enables you to provide value to the people that report to you, as you’re aware of broader organizational priorities and where they fit in with the overarching business goals. I spend a lot of time with my team, ensuring they are happy, productive, and empowered. I also make sure to address my manager’s needs and keep him in the loop on everything he needs to do. My job is to ensure my team’s objectives and projects will drive Dynatrace’s growth -- and I ultimately want to lighten the load for our CMO so he can focus on his key initiatives.   

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position?

I was trained as an engineer and now I’m in marketing, somewhere I never envisioned myself. That said, I also thought I would end up in business. Given that marketing has become more and more analytical and data-driven, it meets my math criteria, and the creative side of me loves the artistic components. It is truly an art and a science and requires new and different thinking every day. I absolutely love my job and career and, while it took me a while to find my passion, I learned many things along the way that have proven invaluable to make me successful in my current role. 

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

Never be afraid to take on new challenges and ask a lot of questions. Embrace your mistakes and learn from them. 

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

The most important skills are centered around 3 areas:

  • People: Hiring and developing a strong team, and maintaining a healthy culture where people feel empowered to do their jobs is essential for any leader. I also like to hire people who are smarter than I am. I help provide a framework from which to work, based on company goals and what’s important to my peers, and set the strategy (with my direct reports’ input and buy-in), and let them do what they do best. Early on in my career, I found it hard to not get stuck in the details and sometimes micro-managed, but as I’ve grown, I’ve found it easier to let go and know that things will get done, sometimes differently than how I would have done them -- but often better. I also believe in 360 degree feedback, both positive and constructive, in as near real-time as possible.

  • Process: Understanding how to get things done in your organization is critical to strong execution. You must learn to navigate the structure and figure out who to go to for what. Learning the “norms” is one of the first things I set out to do in a new job. 

  • Technology: Good marketing is grounded in not just strategy but also a solid tech stack that helps automate and ameliorate your team’s work. It’s not just about picking the best tools but perhaps even more important, operationalizing them so that you can use them optimally to suit your needs. I have found that many marketers love tools -- and there are thousands of them available -- and it’s easy to get excited about the next cool tool, but you need to put together a good business justification and articulate how they will fit with your processes and existing tools.

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

I love the variety. Every day is different, and I get to problem solve in various ways. The people piece of my job is the most challenging and rewarding.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

I am most proud of the team that I built in my first VP of Marketing role at BitSight, a Boston-based cybersecurity company. 

Debbie Umbach Dynatrace

Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?

I have served on a few non-profit Boards, which has given me the experience I can leverage when I go for my first for-profit Board position. When my children are out of college, I plan to seek a Board position in a local tech company so I can lend my expertise to others and continue to grow professionally.


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I treasure time spent with my family, including our 2 dogs (a boxer and a German short-haired pointer). My children and husband and I eat dinner together most nights and always have interesting conversations. I also love exercising and reading (I’m in two different book clubs). I talk to my mom at least every other day while walking the dogs or commuting; she brings me a lot of joy.  

 How do you manage stress?

Managing stress is essential for everyone. I have learned great tips and put them into practice over time. It’s pretty basic, but sometimes it’s tempting to get off track. If I do, I reset the next day. Exercise, sleep and a healthy diet, in that order, keep me balanced. I love to run, swim and do yoga -- cross training is important to avoid injury. I need 8 hours of sleep, so I try to go to bed and read a bit before falling asleep around 9:30-10pm. And I eat a balanced diet. Pizza and ice cream are my favorite foods, but I eat them in moderation. Oh, and I love a good cocktail!

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

After I drink a large glass of water, I “reward” myself with 2 cups of coffee. I love to plan my day and get essential work done in the morning while I savor my Starbucks.

What's one of your favorite places in the Boston/New York area?

Stephanie’s on Newbury because they have the best brunch and seating outside (for great people watching). I also love my back porch, as we overlook wetlands and it’s very peaceful.

Any book or podcast recommendations? 

I love so many books, it’s impossible to pick a favorite. From mysteries to love stories to biographies to young adult books, I pick them to match my mood in the moment. The Good Earth is one of my favorite fiction books. For some reason, it gives me great comfort, and I have read it at least 4 times over the years. My favorite business books are “The First 90 Days” and “The Who Book: The A Method of Hiring.”

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

It doesn’t really matter what your first job is out of school. Just do your best and don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions (and take notes so that you rarely have to ask the same question twice). Always think about making your manager’s life easier. If you do that, you will become invaluable. Be proactive in career planning discussions so that you can figure out what your next growth opportunity is, but don’t ask for a promotion. If you are providing value and take the time for some strategic thinking in addition to executing well, the promotions will come. 

About the
Company

Dynatrace provides software intelligence to simplify cloud complexity and accelerate digital transformation through our all-in-one platform powered with advanced observability, AI and complete automation. 

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Lead(H)er Profile - Eva Maloney, VP of Business Operations at AppNeta  banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Eva Maloney, VP of Business Operations at AppNeta

Open Jobs Company Page

Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Eva Maloney, VP of Business Operations at AppNeta


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child? 

I grew up in Sudbury, MA which is a suburb about 20 miles West of Boston. I’m told that I was stubborn, strong-willed, and fiercely independent. I guess it’s true that some things never change :) 

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school? 

I studied Marketing and my first job out of school was in sales.  

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today? 

I graduated in the height of the recession in 2009 so it was a challenging time, and I still didn’t have a clear picture of what I wanted to be when I grew up. There were several key moments that led me to where I am today. Shortly after graduating college, I took a job at Boston Children’s Hospital in the marketing department in order to move back to Boston and be closer to my parents after my Dad had a serious accident. The job was not at all what I expected and they dumped this thing in my lap called Salesforce.com. I had no idea what I was getting into, but quickly learned that I absolutely loved the platform and saw tons of career opportunities in the space. Fast forward a year or so later and I stumbled upon a job posting from AppNeta. I applied and got the job offer a week later. It has been such an incredible journey over the past nine years, and taking that job in 2013 changed my life in ways I never could have imagined. One other critical moment in my career was when I returned to work after maternity leave after having my first child. The support and flexibility I received was nothing short of incredible, and I’m not sure I would have made it through that transition without it. So many women end up leaving the workforce after having children because they don’t see a way to do both. As leaders, we need to recognize that we are losing out on so much talent and work to develop programs to support working parents.  

What is your current role and responsibilities? 

I am currently the VP of Business Operations and I oversee People, Business and Customer Operations.  

Appneta Lead(H)erFor people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals? 

Never turn down an opportunity, even if you think you might be getting in over your head. In my time at AppNeta I have taken on four different functional areas, each with their own set of challenges. It’s a scary feeling when you don’t know what you don’t know, but I have been fortunate enough to be able to build teams of people who are extremely talented in their respective areas and they have all helped me along the way. Joining a company with a culture that allows you to fail is key, because that’s how you learn.  

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well? 

The two most important skills in my role are to be able to think and work in a cross functional capacity, and the ability to effectively communicate and earn buy-in from others.  

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging? 

By far the most rewarding thing about my work is the relationships I’ve built along the way. I recently read something that said “You’ll spend a huge amount of your time between the age of 20 and 60 with the people you work with, so you have to make sure you work with people you love.” This really resonated with me, and I feel extremely fortunate to work with a group of people who have become like family over the years. The most challenging part of my role is that I’m responsible for multiple departments and I have to switch gears frequently throughout the day. One minute I’m working on our recruiting strategy, the next I’m discussing Salesforce.com requirements. I wouldn’t change it for anything, though, as no two days are the same and I learn something new every single day. 

What is your proudest professional accomplishment? 

My proudest professional accomplishment was coming back to work after having my second baby, managing a demanding career with an infant and a one year old at home. I have been extremely fortunate to work with such a supportive group of people. Mom will always be my most important job, and I could never manage it all without the support of my peers and my teams.  

Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work? 

Not at the moment, but once my kids are a bit older I would love to join the board of a non-profit. 

 

Q&A 

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? I have two boys, ages 2 and 1 so free time is hard to come by!  We just relocated to the Atlanta area last year to be closer to family, and we really value the time we get to spend with them. Our favorite place is the beach and we are counting down the days until our next beach trip this summer! My husband and I just built our dream house last year and I have really enjoyed the decorating process. Transforming it into our forever home has become my new passion project. 

Appneta Lead(H)er

 

How do you manage stress? I wish I could say practicing yoga or running 5 miles a day, but honestly at this stage of life it’s more like drinking red wine and watching trashy reality TV.

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day? I have my latte from Starbucks every morning. I think I have Gold Star status through 2030 at this point!

What's one of your favorite places in the Boston/New York area? 

Anywhere with a view of the ocean! It’s the thing I miss the most after moving out of the area.  

Any book or podcast recommendations? With two toddlers at home I rarely have the opportunity to read anything that doesn’t have pictures in it. Grumpy Monkey has been the recent crowd favorite and is read on repeat every night. 

What advice do you have for recent college graduates? 

Focus on the company and the culture you are joining, rather than the words in the job description. A big part of the journey is who you are on it with.  

About the
Company

AppNeta provides proactive end user performance monitoring solutions for your business critical applications over any network.

 

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17 Inspirational Women Leaders in Tech banner image

17 Inspirational Women Leaders in Tech

As part of our Lead(H)er series, we have had the great privilege of interviewing so many incredibly talented women who are founders or executives at some of the fastest growing companies in the vibrant startup scene.

They’ve told us about everything from the challenges, successes, and surprises of their careers, so take a look at our list of the talented women we’ve spotlighted this year.


Sue Nolin Wasabi

“For women in tech, or for women looking to break into technology, remember that you don’t need to be an expert before you start the job.  This isn’t a new message but it’s worth repeating. Trust your foundational skills and trust those around you. Your colleagues, your leaders, they want to see you succeed. Your success influences theirs.

Check out the full Article   View Wasabi's Jobs


Kady Srinivasan Klaviyo

“I never thought I would be in a CMO/head of marketing role. It used to bother me that I didn't know what I wanted to do esp when I saw the clarity my peers had. However, I have realized that not knowing has given me a richer background, and frankly has been more fun. A big secret right now is, I have no idea where I will be in 10 years!”

Check out the full Article   View klaviyo's Jobs


Lauren Lowman Ordergroove

"As I reflect on how I’ve progressed in my career, I attribute a lot of my success to saying “yes” to new opportunities and additional work responsibilities. I’ve always tried to play the long game when it comes to my career, meaning filling in gaps in responsibilities, even if it's not technically a part of my role and thinking of them as opportunities to learn something new.”

Check out the full Article   View ordergroove's Jobs


Erin Byrne Recorded Future

“Aim high, take risks and work really hard. Most importantly, earn your keep/respect, don’t be entitled!”

Check out the full Article   View recorded future's Jobs


Zoe Silverman Yesware

“I think just be open to anything -- there are so many jobs and experiences that could contribute to a future in People Ops, you don’t necessarily have to start there (I didn’t). ”

Check out the full Article   View yesware's Jobs


Jen Waldron CareAcademy

“I didn’t know I would be in this role specifically. But I did always want to be able to do something meaningful that really improves people's lives. I love that what I do helps other people grow their careers, makes them better at their jobs and ultimately improves their lives of older adults. ”

Check out the full Article   View careacademy's Jobs


Evadne Cokeh ButcherBox

“Patience, communication, empathy, and the ability to persuade are also skills that have gotten me to where I am today. I’ve spent many years honing those skills, they certainly are not skills you develop overnight. The variety of my work experiences really helped me with these skills too – which says a lot in terms of not needing a “traditional” career path to get where you want to go. ”

Check out the full Article   View butcherBox's Jobs


Heather Bentley Mimecast

“I often tell people that their career paths won’t be linear. It’s important to be open to new opportunities, roles, and industries. Gain as much experience and knowledge as possible and if you are no longer passionate about the role or work you are doing, try something new! "

Check out the full Article   View Acquia's Jobs


Jennifer Armstrong Duck Creek Technologies

“Second, find a good mentor(s) that you trust to help you on your career journey. A mentor doesn’t always have to be someone you have a direct mentorship relationship with. I have had people that I would consider mentors that I just watched how they interacted with people or handled situations. Everyone in your life/career can be a mentor informally. It is also important to find advocates for you outside of your direct management chain.”

Check out the full Article   View duck creek technologies' Jobs


Shital Whitmore SmartBear

“Treat people the way you want to be treated. Titles don’t matter. People are people. Work with people. They will help you, and you will help them.”

Check out the full Article   View smartbear's Jobs


Hillary Wyon EF Education First

“There is no job below you. You can learn something from everything you are tasked with. You may just have to figure out what it is. Sometimes it won’t be the big cool challenge you are looking for but they are all steps towards that.”

Check out the full Article   View EF Education first's Jobs


Brittney St. Germain Forward Financing

“Focus on finding work that’s interesting and puts you in the company of interesting and smart people, the rest will come together.”

Check out the full Article   View forward financing's Jobs


Dafna Sarnoff Aura

“Work hard, be proactive, reach out and get to know people and the company, figure out how to help your manager, bring ideas and solutions not problems, ask for and act on feedback, be someone others want to work with.”

Check out the full Article   View Aura's Jobs


Daria Marmer Alyce

“Feedback is a gift, but it's often wrapped up in stinky old newsprint instead of a cute bow. Being able to discard the wrapping but still keep the gift will help you grow and bounce back from adversity faster. ” 

Check out the full Article   View alyce's Jobs


Lisa Schneider Framework

“I can’t count how many times I have been the only woman at the table, the only woman in the room. I have literally had vendors sit down and try to explain the interwebs to me before pitching their service, or ask me for the wi-fi password and then turn away. I am definitely aware that I have had to work harder, perform better, just to be considered. It can be really hard to persist, but you just do it. And then you reach a hand down and help the person behind you.”

Check out the full Article   View framework's Jobs


Suzanne Glick Gilfix Applause

“Don’t worry if you haven’t figured it out as of yet. Find good people to learn from either in your job or outside of it and ask lots of questions of how people got to where they are. As noted above, find mentors that do what you think you strive to achieve and then figure out how they got there. ”

Check out the full Article   View applause's Jobs

Lead(H)er Profile - Dafna Sarnoff, Chief Marketing Officer at Aura banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Dafna Sarnoff, Chief Marketing Officer at Aura

Open Jobs Company Page

Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Dafna Sarnoff, Chief Marketing Officer at Aura.


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I was born in NYC, and we moved out to a rural area in Westchester when I was in middle school. My mother described me as “determined” on my nursery school application. I cared a lot about school, and my high school math teacher was a life-changing mentor. When I wasn’t at school, I was at the horse barn. I rode competitively, but the biggest lessons learned were from my coach, who demanded a work ethic that included mucking stalls, stacking hay, grooming and caring for the horses, and much more. But I think my friends (and some of my teachers) would also have described me as someone who laughed and joked around a lot.

Dafna Sarnoff Aura

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school? 

In college I majored in mathematics. I remember considering majoring in English, and having a conversation with my Dad who suggested if I was on the fence then maybe I should consider that math might help me out a bit more later in my life. I was annoyed but took that advice, and I’m glad I did. My first job after college was at Bain & Co, when management consulting was much more generalized than it is today. There were over 100 of us right out of undergrad who started in the Bain office together. I was so lucky to have had that as my first formative job-- both for the training and data-driven orientation that stuck, but also for the smart fun people I met, who are my closest friends even today. I also got to work in all kinds of different industries: information services, packaged goods, healthcare, heavy truck wheel manufacturing, and more. 

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

Truthfully, a lot of my early career path was not particularly planned. I applied to business school from Bain, figuring if I got into HBS I would go-- so I did. Most of my job changes came from relationships with people I’d worked with before, including American Express, where I started as a manager in the Consumer business, and had several different jobs over 10 years, eventually joining the executive team for the Small Business division. Amex is a well-run, marketing-led company, and was a great training ground in that respect, and for understanding the value of a great brand. 

Another truly formative experience was the four years I spent at Yodle. I joined as a VP of Performance Marketing, and eventually reported to the CEO running Marketing; I was part of the executive team that pitched and eventually sold ourselves to Web.com. Yodle was my first experience in a tech start up. I learned so much from our CEO about operating a company around agile product development, as well as how to create a demanding, fun, and values-driven culture. 

My CEO at Intersection was a ranked poker player, and among the things I learned from him was perspective on risk, and taking failures in stride as part of what is necessary to ultimately succeed.

Aura has also been an incredibly rewarding learning experience. Our CEO, Hari, combines true entrepreneurship with a deep understanding of capital markets. He attracts a huge network of partners and investors and brings his own hands on personal experience with taking companies public. He pushes all of us to move fast with an eye towards big things; he generates a sense of us being destined for greatness.

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I’m the CMO of Aura as well as the D2C business leader. I run Marketing, Inside Sales, and Customer Service for the company.

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position?

I never had a specific career objective, but I knew I wanted to continually take on more responsibility and learn new things in each new job. It feels great to be part of the leadership team of a dynamic company aiming for greatness, with a mission to create a safer internet for people as our world grows increasingly complex and reliant on digital transactions.

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

Advice that I keep trying to give people (including my kids!) who are new to the workforce:

  • Learn as much as you can outside your own area-- it will help you do a better job for the company.
  • Actively cultivate relationships with people at all levels across the business. They might be the people who get you your next job!
  • Learn what your manager is doing that you can do for them.
  • Keep a solution-oriented mindset. If you bring a problem, bring a way around it, even if it’s wrong. This distinguishes great people from good people.
  • Speak up with your ideas-- the best ideas can come from anyone, and aren’t necessarily tied to experience level.
  • Solicit feedback and make a commitment to act on it, from your manager and from your mentors. 
  • Remember that a strong work ethic, and being someone that others like to work with, will take you far.

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

The most important skill I need to do my job well is the ability to attract, retain, develop and motivate great talent, and to get our team to work well as a unit, and with other teams across the company. If I can excel at that, I can staff to any of my own personal weaknesses, which is critical for any leader. Of course, it’s also important to have a strong library of experience to draw from across different Marketing challenges.

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is working with my direct report team, learning from each other, and creating opportunities for everyone to grow and succeed. It’s magic when the team chemistry kicks in. It’s also really rewarding to crack a tough problem using data and creativity, and see the results in the P&L.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

My proudest professional accomplishment is to have re-entered the workforce and continued to grow significantly after taking 8 years out to be with my 3 boys when they were little. Eight years is a long time to be out, and the first year back was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done professionally. 


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I’ve been making room for my yoga practice a few times a week for 25 years, so I’m committed to keeping that going. I love walking around NYC. On the weekends I try to take serious down time, and spend time with my husband and sons, and the rest of my family. My husband does the cooking in the family, but the pandemic really brought out the baker in me!

How do you manage stress?

See above!

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

Zero! I drink water.

What's one of your favorite places in the Boston/New York area?

In New York City, I love The Hudson River Park, and I walk there all the time. Also the Highline and Central Park. One of the best things about the pandemic is realizing you can really walk anywhere in Manhattan.

I lived in Boston for eight years, and my favorite spots were running the bridges along the river. Also love the Gardens, the Commons, Beacon Hill.

Amazing spots in both places where everyone can go!

Any book or podcast recommendations? 

My husband, Geoff Rodkey is a comedy screenwriter and also an author. I recommend The Tapper Twins series for middle-grade kids (fun-to-read books about boy/girl twins in Manhattan). His first adult novel, Lights out in Lincolnwood, (a dark comedy about a suburban American family coping with a global calamity that upends all of modern life) comes out this July. The influence of our lives and our kids are present in much of Geoff’s work, including Daddy Day Care, his first produced screenplay, which was inspired by his staying home to take care of our oldest son when I went back to work at American Express.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

See above. To summarize: Work hard, be proactive, reach out and get to know people and the company, figure out how to help your manager, bring ideas and solutions not problems, ask for and act on feedback, be someone others want to work with.

About the
Company

Aura is a technology company dedicated to simplifying digital security for consumers.

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Lead(H)er Profile - Daria Marmer, VP of Product & Design at Alyce banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Daria Marmer, VP of Product & Design at Alyce

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Daria Marmer, VP of Product & Design at Alyce.


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I grew up in Massachusetts. I don’t know - how does anyone describe themselves as a child? Immature?:) 

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

I studied Economics and Math and I was sure that I wanted to go into finance. I had two internships with Lehman Brothers and graduated with an offer to join them full time after graduation. Less than 6 months after I started, Lehman declared bankruptcy and I was laid off. 

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

I didn’t know what I wanted to do if it wasn’t finance -- and in early 2009 there weren’t many finance jobs still open. I applied to a variety of roles… I considered marketing, recruiting, sales, everything! I applied to a business role at eBay and one of my interviewers was a group product manager, Thad, with an opening on his team. At the end of the process, the folks asked me if I preferred the business or the product role. I had absolutely no idea what product management was and I asked Thad which one he thought I’d be better suited for. He said that I’d be a great product manager and I decided to jump for it. Thad is one of my mentors to this day!

Daria Marmer Alyce

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I’m the VP of Product and Design at Alyce. We are a fast growing startup, so a lot of my time I’m setting the vision and culture for the product and clearing any roadblocks for my team. 

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this product leadership?

Certainly not! When I was a sophomore in college, I wrote myself an email to be delivered 5 years later where I wrote something like, “by this point, you will probably be in business school after 2 years in an investment bank.” When I got it, I was in product and I never ended up going to business school. 

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

Seek out other people’s feedback, but make space between the feedback and your self worth.  

Feedback is a gift, but it's often wrapped up in stinky old newsprint instead of a cute bow. Being able to discard the wrapping but still keep the gift will help you grow and bounce back from adversity faster. 

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

Listening. Building software isn’t brain surgery, all of the answers are available if we’re able to listen for them from our customers, team members, and data. Two ears, one mouth and all that!

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

Probably the toughest thing is to manage my own emotions (ugh. Is that too touchy feely?) Being really honest, as a leader, the “easy” problems are solved by my team. Once they reach me, they’re the difficult ones. I can’t let my brain fall into any one rabbit hole of a problem and bring that negative energy back to the team when I’m trying to advise on the next problem. Creating that space is something that I work on regularly. 

Every Friday, I leave the week on a good note by publishing the “good stuff” that happened that week. When I sit down to write it, I’m still thinking of all the challenges and hard situations that we’re in the middle of solving. Once I start writing though, my mood improves dramatically -- looking back at all of the amazing challenges we solve, that retrospection is the most rewarding. 

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

Building my team at Alyce is definitely the best thing I’ve done. I am blown away regularly by the insights that they bring to our conversations and having a great team makes going to work not feel like work. 

Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?

Right now no, but once my kids get a little older I look forward to it!


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

When I’m not running after my 2 kiddos, I’m playing guitar (poorly), running or rowing (not that long), or cooking (actually pretty good at that one). 

How do you manage stress?

Finding time for myself is really important for me. I made a new years resolution that every day I will either row 1k meters or walk/run 1 mile and so far I’ve done it every day but 1! I need a goal to keep myself accountable, and being physically active really helps me stay grounded.

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

0.001 - I never really got into the coffee habit, but I’ll have one if I’m out at a coffee shop with someone else. 

What's one of your favorite places in the Boston area?

Does my bedroom count? Just kidding. I went to college at Wellesley and the trail around the lake is definitely my happy spot. 

Any book or podcast recommendations? 

How much time do you have? I switch off reading business books and fun books and I’m in the middle of Ben Mezrich’s Once Upon A Time in Russia and it’s very good. Basically anything he writes is great! I’m not big into podcasts though. 

What advice do you have for recent college graduates hoping to find a career in Product?

Find some way to build a software product -- it can be as a side hustle, a team project, a small web app, really anything that can show an employer that you’ve gone through the steps of Discovery / Development / Delivery before and have the battle scars to prove it.  

About the
Company

Alyce is creating personal connections at scale - transforming how businesses grow & engage people through our AI powered platform. 

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Lead(H)er Profile - Lisa Schneider, Chief Growth Officer at Framework banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Lisa Schneider, Chief Growth Officer at Framework

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Lisa Schneider, Chief Growth Officer at Framework.


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I moved around a lot, which definitely helped me become adaptable and also means those “what regionalisms do you use” quizzes are very confusing for me! I was a bookworm kid and didn’t get in trouble in 6th grade for reading under the desk in math class when the teacher pulled out the book and saw that it was Jane Eyre … but she did ask me to put it away.

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

I majored in English Literature, which seemed at the time a great scam to get in on: they would give me a degree for reading books and writing what I think about them? Sign me up! I didn’t have a plan for where that would take me, so like many English majors I went into marketing. My first job was in the communications department of a Fortune 100 firm writing copy for brochures and newsletters.

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

I was the Marketing Director at Bridal Guide in 2001, when many magazines were still just launching their websites. We outsourced the building of our site, but then realized someone needed to sort of manage the thing. I was super curious about the possibilities in digital and volunteered. We turned the website from a “companion site for merchandising banner ads” into a highly engaged community destination that was a pioneer in sponsored content, paid social engagement, and online contests. People at the time thought I was crazy to switch career focus, but I think it was a pretty good career move.

I spent the next dozen years in various digital leadership roles focused on product development and strategy, and another critical moment was when I got a call from a recruiter asking if I would like to look at a job at Merriam-Webster. Remember, this is a bookworm kid so yes, yes I would like to work at Merriam-Webster! As Chief Digital Officer & Publisher I led a digital transformation that turned the brand from a “dusty book on the shelf” to a timely, relevant resource and commentary users turn to every day; worked with super smart, creative, wonderful people; and we won about 18 awards including eight Webby Awards. I learned something new every day from the lexicographers, and actually became less judgy about language as a result.

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I’m now Chief Growth Officer at Framework Homeownership, a social enterprise organization focused on building strong communities through the stabilizing force of homeownership. In other words, making the world a better place. We have a really stellar Homebuyer Education course which is a valuable resource to help correct the information asymmetry in the home buying market, and to give people the power and confidence to make good financial decisions around homeownership and advocate for themselves throughout the process. It has a 96% satisfaction rating but is the “best-kept secret” in home buying—obviously I aim to change that! And we have a new platform, Keep by Framework, focused on support for homeowners. The reality is that new homeowners express regret that they were unaware of the true costs of owning and maintaining their homes. Our goal is to provide the resources and support to get people into their home and help keep them there. 

I’m responsible to identify areas for growth and innovation, and then create the strategic and executional ecosystems to make those happen. I’m still in my “first 90 days,” though, so more details to come.

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position?

My job didn’t exist when I was in high school—so it certainly wasn’t always my goal to be in this position. I have had a lot of luck in my career, and I definitely credit being curious and maintaining a learning mindset for helping me evolve and grow. 

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

I’m a big believer in STEAM - science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. Being an English major is still relevant to my career, even though I’m a technology executive. For example, I think the skills I developed analyzing literature are what help me find stories in data that are relevant and actionable; I can communicate well and use storytelling to convey concepts; and if you read literature written across hundreds of years you learn that human psychology hasn’t changed. This is really important to remember when organizations get distracted by shiny new technology. The technology is just a tool, the people are who you connect with.

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

I am a real believer that the “product mindset” is so helpful for anything you are working on, not just literal product development. Who are we doing this for? Why are we doing it? What is the user journey? Where and how can we improve it? Where might things go wrong? How will this benefit our business? Who can we partner with? How can we amplify this? The ability to ask—and answer!—these questions, to play out the chess game and not just focus on immediate tactics, is really where you break through.

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

I love that it is a combination of creativity and analysis, and that it’s always changing. 

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

There are so many, since I’ve been lucky to work with amazing teams and do good work together. Sometimes it’s the big resume-level things, sometimes it’s the small wins, and it’s always about the relationships you build. But getting handed a Webby award by Will Shortz live on the Webby stage was a huge thrill.

Lisa Schneider Framework

Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?

I am incredibly indebted to the women of CEOX, an organization focused on getting more women into CEO, board, and other c-suite roles. I’m part of a smaller support cohort and my colleagues there just blow me away and provide incredible inspiration and guidance.

I volunteer and am on the Advisory Board for ACP an organization that matches U.S. military veterans transitioning into civilian life with professional mentors. (My husband is a combat veteran of the U.S. Army.)

I’m an executive advisor for the CPO Accelerator, a sort of “bootcamp” for upcoming CPOs (Chief Product Officers). It’s awesome because I get to share my experiences with people coming up in the product space, and also get to learn from my co-panelists at our seminars.

And I’m a speaker/mentor for the OU Impact Accelerator, an organization that identifies and incubates start-ups in the community non-profit sector.

What does homeownership mean to you?

The first thing that comes to mind is security, a place to just be. I became incredibly aware of the importance of this at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown, when I looked around and realized how lucky we were to have our safe space during this time. But homeownership isn’t secure for everyone, since so many people are one financial surprise away from really hard decisions about which payment to make. Having said that, it’s still one of the best routes to building generational wealth, and I think everyone should have the path to homeownership smoothed for them. That’s why I’m so happy to be part of the Framework mission.

When you hear "breaking glass ceilings " how does that impact your everyday life? How do you help break down such barriers?

I can’t count how many times I have been the only woman at the table, the only woman in the room. I have literally had vendors sit down and try to explain the interwebs to me before pitching their service, or ask me for the wi-fi password and then turn away. I am definitely aware that I have had to work harder, perform better, just to be considered. It can be really hard to persist, but you just do it. And then you reach a hand down and help the person behind you.


Q&A

As a distinguished word nerd, we have to ask what is your favorite word?

My favorite word is ‘why.’ It’s not the word people expect me to say in terms of being impressive by way of being particularly obscure or mellifluous, but it’s amazing. ‘Why’ solves problems: why do you need that? Why is it important? Why does this thing bother you? It’s the best negotiation tool ever. Don’t underestimate the power of small words.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

As a working parent I don’t have a lot of that, but obviously I like to read, and I like to exercise—run, spin, weights, yoga. It’s the closest thing we have to a magic bullet for long-term health, and in the meantime I feel better and sleep better.

How do you manage stress?

I work out, I drink (reasonable amounts of) wine, I talk to my spouse and my friends. I bought a LOT of books during the pandemic, and justified the clutter to my minimalist husband by pointing out that it was cheaper than therapy. Also I try to keep perspective, which is slightly easier to do as you get older. I wish I could gift that to my teenage daughter, but we have to get there on our own.

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

Usually two. It used to be none. I am sort of a coffee heathen, and just drink instant coffee with milk and Equal. I can appreciate really good coffee when I get it, but I don’t make a Thing of it. As a working parent I’m pretty sure it’s mostly about the caffeine.

What's one of your favorite places in the New York area?

I live pretty close to JFK airport, which tbh is nobody’s “favorite place” but right now I would love to be able to go there because it would mean we could travel and discover other places again!

Any book or podcast recommendations?

My favorite business book of all time is Getting to Yes. It’s the book that taught me the power of ‘why.’

My default go-to book is Pride & Prejudice. The book and the movie are downloaded on my phone at all times in case of emergency.
Recently I absolutely loved Circe, by Madeline Miller. It’s mythology meets #MeToo, turning the focus of these well-worn stories to the evolution of a woman finding her strength against formidable odds. Ms. Miller’s attention to detail is pitch-perfect, and her prose rolls and resonates like poetry. I didn’t want to put it down.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Screw 30 Under 30 lists. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

And finally, what’s something that motivates you.

This is a bracelet my teenage daughter made me. I keep it at my desk as a reminder and talisman: the fact that she sees me this way, and because I work she thinks she can do anything, means everything to me.

 

About the
Company

One simple idea, a dedicated team, and a mission that connects us all. 

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