Inspirational profiles of women in
leadership roles in the tech scene.

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Lead(H)er profile - Stephanie Bourdage-Braun, Head of Technology Operations at SS&C Intralinks banner image

Lead(H)er profile - Stephanie Bourdage-Braun, Head of Technology Operations at SS&C Intralinks

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Growing up in Quebec, Stephanie Bourdage-Braun never aspired to climb the corporate ladder, and her ascendance to her current position as Head of Technology Operations at SS&C Intralinks is a testament to her natural curiosity and fearlessness.

SS&C Intralinks provides cloud-based financial technology for global banking, dealmaking, and capital markets. “Basically, we deliver virtual data room solutions that support dealmakers, corporate development and finance professionals” explains Stephanie.  “Companies looking to buy another company or offer their company for sale can use the Intralinks data room to share relevant information with each other. Our solutions are secure, reliable and auditable”

Because Intralinks is a SaaS (Software as a Service) company, it is accessed through the internet, which means that Stephanie’s team of 90 must ensure that the software is available, reliable, and secure at all times. “We’re responsible for release engineering, database support, performance testing, security, automation, networking and infrastructure. If you want software that’s reliable, you need people to be focused on making that happen. It’s a big job.” 

Stephanie didn’t start off with a big job. She attended University of Sherbrooke, where she studied business, with a concentration in management information systems. “I always loved computers, but I didn’t want to be a programmer. I thought you had to be a math whiz, and that wasn’t my thing.” 

After graduation, her first position was in technical support, answering phones at a small software company that provided tablets for physicians. In 1995, while surfing the internet on her dial-up connection, Stephanie came across a job board. “I saw this job working with collaboration software, Lotus Notes, and I thought it looked interesting. I wasn’t sure if I was qualified, but I figured I could learn it. So on a whim, I applied!”

A few weeks later, Stephanie received a call from an area code she didn’t recognize. “It turned out to be from Seagate, a tech company that makes hard drives.” After a series of interviews, she was offered the position of Lotus Notes administrator — in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “Just for context, Quebec is a place where people grow up and stay put, because you speak French. People thought I was crazy to leave. But I thought, I need something bigger.”

Stephanie started by taking a week-long training class. Not only would this class teach her to be a Lotus Notes administrator and launch her into her career, it would also alter the trajectory of her personal life. She met her husband during the class, and the two of them eventually moved to Boston, where Stephanie’s expertise with Lotus Notes landed her a job at IBM. She would work at IBM for the next 19 years.

“The beautiful thing about IBM is that you can be whoever you want to be. If you can convince someone you can do the job, you can do it. You find out what you love, but also what you never want to do again.” Stephanie moved from managing a field support team into business operations, then marketing (which she didn’t like) and product management (which she did like), and finally ended up as Director of SaaS Operations. “I would enter a position, learn it for a few years, then ask, what can I do next?”

Stephanie was enticed to work at Intralinks by a former IBM colleague. One of the first things she had to do was convince the company to upgrade their infrastructure. “I had to get them to understand that if you don’t replace the network, you won’t have a business any more,” she says. “It’s been rewarding to make things happen. I see how much the team has accomplished, in terms of stabilizing the product, improving reliability, the numbers don’t lie.”

But even though Stephanie’s title is “Head of Technical Operations,” the most important skills, she says, “are not technical skills. My team does that. As a leader, I have to enable my team. I have to take technical issues and explain them to the rest of the company, frame the problem so the person who’s in charge signs on the dotted line.” How does she do that? “Sometimes when you’re trying to convince someone to do something, you explain the benefits. But sometimes you also have to explain what blows up if you don’t!” 

As for what makes Stephanie proudest? “Helping people do their best. I have to be the one breaking down barriers, making sure that leadership understands what my team needs.” She is also the one rallying the troops, “making people feel like they’re part of something big. Emotional intelligence, empathy, knowing where people are coming from is really important. Making sure my team knows I care, so they should care, too.” 


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I have two kids, 13 and 15, so there’s a lot of chauffeuring, and my husband and I try to divide and conquer. But we love doing things with the kids. I also like reading, skiing in the winter, walking. 

What are your strategies for managing stress?

Taking the time to do those things. There’s always a pile of work, but I’ll tell myself ‘right now I’m going to cook dinner, I’m going to have dinner with my family.’ A role like mine can be 24/7, so I’ve learned I really need to disconnect. 

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

Two. If I have coffee after 2pm I won’t sleep, so I’m very disciplined!

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

I live in Acton, but when I get a chance I love to go into the city, go shopping, go to the theater, Celtics games. Boston is a beautiful city, despite the traffic!

What do you consider one of your proudest accomplishments?

Looking at where I came from, I’d say having the courage to pick up and go. I remember leaving Montreal, landing in Minneapolis all by myself with three big suitcases. I loaded them up on my cart, went to get the rental car, and then all the suitcases tumbled off the cart and I was in tears! I was so lonely. But I kept going, and I pushed the envelope every step of the way. I’m not someone who ever said ‘I’m going to be a CEO,’ but I figured out what I was good at, and kept building on that. That’s how my whole career has been.

Is this where you thought you’d be 10 years ago?

No. Ten years ago I was in a director role at IBM, so I thought I’d still be there. I also never thought I’d climb the corporate ladder, but the last few years have accelerated that, and I’m enjoying the ride. 

What’s your advice for recent college graduates?

Look for things you want to do. When you put yourself in a place where you’re excited to go to work, it shows, it makes people want to work with you. And when you love what you do, the sky is the limit. Don’t be scared of doing new things, just go for it!


Mira T. Lee is a Contributor to VentureFizz. You can follow her on Twitter @MiraTLee.

About the
Company

SS&C Intralinks is the leading provider of technology-enabled services for the global banking, dealmaking and capital markets industries.

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Lead(H)er profile - Lauren Zajac, Chief Legal Officer at Workhuman banner image

Lead(H)er profile - Lauren Zajac, Chief Legal Officer at Workhuman

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In her past twelve years as Chief Legal Officer at Workhuman (formally Globoforce), Lauren Zajac has managed to find what most people only dream of: a job that is professionally challenging, emotionally satisfying, and aligned with her core personal values.

Workhuman is an HR technology company that is humanizing the future of work located in Framingham, MA and Dublin, Ireland. “Our mission is ‘to make work more human.’ We essentially sell thank-you’s,” says Lauren, who majored in English at Boston College before attending law school at Hofstra University, and considers herself “an analytical person.” Prior to joining Workhuman, she worked in-house for several software companies, “though none of them sold into the HR space.”

Lauren explains Workhuman as “all about appreciating people for what they do - making gratitude a business strategy. For stepping up, for thinking out of the box, for bringing a different perspective, or having the bravery to raise their voices or suggest different ways of doing things.” The company’s clients include hospital consortiums, financial services companies, banks, and technology firms. In twelve years, Lauren has watched these companies build their corporate cultures from the ground up. “Seeing what a program of recognition does for a company, for relationships, for day-to-day interactions, it’s actually miraculous.”

As an example, she cites JetBlue. “Every time one of us gets on a JetBlue plane, we’ll ask the folks manning the flight, do you use your Lift program? Inevitably, they love it, they’ll talk about it for fifteen minutes. It’s a great experience.”

As Chief Legal Officer, Lauren’s day-to-day responsibilities include managing a team of six lawyers, keeping abreast of legal compliance issues, managing the company’s intellectual property portfolio, and dealing with any labor and employment issues that arise.

As to what makes for a strong in-house legal team? “A lot of time people will say to me, oh, corporate counsel, you must read a lot of contracts. But to be a really good in-house lawyer, you also need to be able to see the whole picture. That means understanding the inner workings of the company, from multiple perspectives.” For Lauren, this can range from sitting with sales teams and negotiating contracts, to listening in on initial contacts to see what resonates with clients, to going behind the scenes with developers to understand how end-users interact with the software. “If you really understand the company, soup to nuts, from initial contact to product delivery, that perspective helps.” She encourages the members of her team to “know a little  about a lot of different things.”

Lauren says that learning to access knowledge has also been an important part of her success. “As a lawyer, the buck often stops with you, and when something goes wrong, inevitably someone will say, well, what do we do?” Lawyers are trained to bring different threads together to make an informed decision, “but often times you don’t have all the information you need. So the key is to build relationships within the company, so you can access whatever information you don’t have personally. You need that to be quick and confident in your decision making.”

Lauren thinks of herself as particularly lucky to have landed at Workhuman. “It has turned into a strange confluence of the things I love as General Counsel and the things I’m passionate about as an individual,” she says. She particularly values the opportunities she gets to speak with industry thought leaders. “As a female executive, I feel strongly about a lot of topics, including equal pay, diversity and inclusion, and making sure different voices are heard.” Making sure these issues are addressed in her own company, and then at others, “that’s really gratifying.”

Outside of work, Lauren is involved with Boston’s Science Club For Girls, and helps with their annual charity event. She is also Chair of the Board of LeaderMom, an organization that strives to create community and supports for executives who are also mothers.

Lauren feels immensely grateful that she has managed to align career path, personal goals, and outside interests in such a synergistic way. She remembers this every day when she makes time to meditate. “Work is fast-paced, but meditation is really helpful,” she says, “because I remember that I’m choosing to do all of these different things.”


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I have three children who play three different sports. That takes up a lot of time. I have a son who is 14, my twin girls are 11, so basically I’m spectator, chauffeur, videographer!

What are your strategies for managing stress?

I meditate every single day. When I was in high school and early college, I started practicing yoga, but the thing that has resonated with me most and that I’m able to do with my limited time is meditate. I’m bringing a practice of gratitude to every day, for the littlest things, and that definitely brings my stress level down.

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

I’m down to one and a half! I’ve been trying to switch to green tea.

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

I love the North End. I’m half Irish and half Italian, and when my grandmother came to Boston she lived in the North End. Her dad was a tailor, he made clothes, and she’d point out to me where they used to live, right off Hanover Street. 

What do you consider one of your proudest accomplishments?

I think it’s an amalgamation, but right now, being in a place where I can mentor, and bring some of my hard-earned, slog-it-through experience to other people, maybe impart some wisdom and save others from the missteps I went through myself — that’s important to me.

Is this where you thought you’d be 10 years ago?

It’s where I hoped I would be!

What’s your advice for recent college graduates?

Try to find something that you are passionate about. Even if it’s just a thread of something larger, and even if it’s not core to what your essential job function is. Finding the part of what you’re doing that you’re passionate about gives you energy, puts fire in your belly. That’s what is going to get you up every day and make it all worthwhile.


Mira T. Lee is a Contributor to VentureFizz. You can follow her on Twitter @MiraTLee.

About the
Company

Changing the world with gratitude.

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Lead(H)er: Melissa Campbell, Chief Revenue Officer at Tamr banner image

Lead(H)er: Melissa Campbell, Chief Revenue Officer at Tamr

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As someone who worked in large enterprise software companies for much of her career, Melissa Campbell did not expect to find herself at Tamr, a high growth tech company in Cambridge, MA, where she is now a vital part of the leadership team. Tamr uses machine learning to help large companies unify data from multiple silos to enable these organizations to quickly and easily master their data to make it more broadly valuable. As the company’s Chief Revenue Officer, Melissa is responsible for overall revenue from sales and marketing. She manages an international team of more than 40 people.

“Selling technology to large enterprises was a sweet spot for me,” says Melissa, who managed sales teams at IBM, BMC and Oracle before joining Tamr. “But I was nervous about moving to a smaller company because I’d always had the mindset that I was a ‘big-company gal.’” Now, after almost two years, she finds herself thriving in the leaner, start-up-like environment, where “it’s all about growth, rolling up your sleeves, and being hyper-efficient.” Transitioning into the data management sector hasn’t been too tough, she says, as it’s a matter of “learning the product and the messaging.” 

Self-reliance comes naturally to Melissa, who considers herself a “lead from the front” worker, someone who isn’t afraid of taking on multiple roles, whether it be negotiating contracts, hiring new managers for her team, or prospecting in a sales booth at a large data conference.

Working with Global 2000 companies such as Glaxo-Smith Kline, Societe Generale, Toyota, and the federal government, Melissa is now laser-focused on growing Tamr 100%, year after year, while ensuring customer success. She loves using her passion and experience as a leader to inspire others. “It’s been especially rejuvenating for me to work so closely with so many smart, young people,” she says. Another thing she loves about Tamr is being able to work closely with its Board of Directors. “It’s different from the bigger companies. We meet regularly, we do strategy work, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know our investors and strategic advisors.”

As for how she got her start “way back when,” Melissa attended Bowling Green State University in Ohio, one of only four colleges in the country that offered a Procurement and Materials Management program at the time. “My father worked for the Government, in quality control, and he told me, Procurement and Materials Management, that’s a hot new area for women.” After studying procurement at the business school, Melissa began her career on the other side of sales — as a buyer, first at Texas Instruments, and then at Lotus Development Corporation, later acquired by IBM. While negotiating licensing agreements and working with lawyers at Lotus, one of her colleagues remarked that with her energy, enthusiasm, and people skills, she ought to consider moving into sales. “So I began negotiating contracts with the sales team, and my career blossomed from there.” 

Melissa credits some of her success to mentors who have helped her along the way. “Early on, one of the sales managers at Lotus took me under her wing, took me on national sales calls, taught me the ropes. I’ve always had people I could reach out to when I was looking for new jobs or opportunities, or just advice.” Melissa was recognized as Rep of the Year at IBM, an early achievement of which she is proud. But she was even prouder two years later, when after moving into a management role at IBM, “it was one of my reps who earned Rep of the Year. Anytime somebody on my team is recognized, that’s really what motivates me.”

Melissa now does a lot of informal mentoring herself and hopes to do more. She also hopes she might find herself on a Board of Directors someday, advising others. But she’s also “super happy and super busy being on the leadership team here at Tamr, rolling up our sleeves every day, making important decisions for the company.” One of the keys to getting places in your career is “to be open-minded,” she says. “Walk through the doors that people open for you.”


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

My kids are “launched,” none of them live at home anymore, so my husband and I spend a lot of time together. We love being with our dog, with our friends, traveling. I also like to go for walks, spend time outside. Some exercise. Golf. I bought a new Peloton this year and I love it! 

What are your strategies for managing stress?

Well, that’s one of the reasons I bought the Peloton! But I also try to take time off on the weekends, real downtime. If I’m traveling for work I’ll take an evening to go out to dinner by myself, or I’ll walk around whatever city I’m in. A little downtime is important for recharging your batteries.

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

Two. One just to wake up, and then another one in the car because I have a pretty long commute. But not much more than that.

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

I work in Cambridge, but I live in Marblehead. I love Marblehead. And I love Boston in general, the Back Bay, North End. I grew up in the midwest, but I’ve been here since 1992. I think I’m a Boston person at heart now.

What do you consider one of your proudest accomplishments?

As I mentioned, I’m all about leading from the front, so anytime my team gets recognition, I’m happy. I was always very well recognized early on in my career when I was a sales rep, but really, anytime anyone on my team is recognized, that’s even better. That’s what motivates me.

Is this where you thought you’d be 10 years ago?

No, not at all! As I said, I’d been working for large software companies pretty much my whole career. My last stint was at Oracle, I had a big job there, with a challenging team to manage. But I didn’t have the aspiration to be the next Mark Hurd from a career perspective (former co-CEO of Oracle whom she says she has learned a lot from while working at Oracle and whom she respected a lot). My husband, who runs a small technology company, said, “what are you doing in these big companies, why not take all your experience and see what you can make of it at a smaller company?” I was a bit nervous, I had this idea that start-ups only want “startup people”. But I hit it off with one of the Founders and CEO at Tamr, and it’s been a great fit. It’s a hot space, the people are super, and even at this late stage of my career, the company has helped shape and challenge me.

What’s your advice for recent college graduates?

Do something you really enjoy. Take advantage of the doors that get opened for you. You might start in marketing, and someone opens the door for you in another area of the business -- go try a few things, see where your passions really lie. Be open-minded, and navigate to what makes you happy. Do this throughout your life!


Mira T. Lee is a Contributor to VentureFizz. You can follow her on Twitter @MiraTLee.

About the
Company

Tamr masters data at enterprise-scale to drive timely analytics projects and deliver successful business outcomes.

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Lead(H)er profile - Katie Mallett, Head of Finance and Strategy at Panorama Education banner image

Lead(H)er profile - Katie Mallett, Head of Finance and Strategy at Panorama Education

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Katie Mallett has spent the entirety of her career at two companies: athenahealth, where she began as one of the company’s first interns and worked her way up to the role of Executive Director of Finance, and Panorama Education, where she holds the title of Head ofFinance and Strategy and is a key member of the Executive Team. Mallett leads the finance & strategy and operations functions there and has also served as the acting Vice President of People over the past several months.  

“I really fell in love with the startup environment,” Mallett said. “I especially love the hypergrowth atmosphere.” 

Mallett joined athena when the company was still relatively new and helped out on the learning and development team by creating databases that tracked the results of job trainings and certifications that were taking place. When a friend working on the finance team found an opening for her there, Mallett interviewed for the position and started in finance when the company was at about $50 million in revenue. By the time she left 10 years later, after taking on various accounting and finance and leadership roles, athenahealth had over $1 billion in revenue and over 5,000 employees. 

Katie Mallet Panorama Education

“The company had exponential growth over that time period,” Mallett said. “We went public, introduced new products, opened up multiple offices, and acquired a couple of companies, and it was fun being part of all that.” 

When Mallett met Panorama CEO Aaron Feuer, what she learned about the company reminded her so much of those early days at athenahealth. Panorama was growing quickly, with a big vision about what it would take to change education. It also offered Mallett the opportunity to build a team from the ground up again. 

The move was a natural one. Mallett was the first in-house finance hire, replacing outside consultants that had supported Panorama until it was ready to make finance a permanent department. Mallett and the team she created have rolled out company-wide strategic planning processes, implemented scalable systems, introduced scorecards that show how the company is doing in relation to its goals, found a new office space, and helped raise $45 million in funding. 

“It’s been fun to have my hands in different aspects in the business,” Mallett said. “It’s certainly one of the best things and one of the most challenging aspects about the job at the same time.” 

Katie Mallet Panorama Education

Mallett is constantly thinking about how to continue fueling growth in accordance with Panorama’s long-term strategic vision. To do that, she looks for opportunities to work cross-functionally with other teams and stay a step ahead of the next stage of development.

“Working at a startup, it’s important to be really agile,” Mallett said. “We’re constantly evolving our strategy and figuring out, given where we are today, which levers we need to pull in order to reach our goals.” 

For some, the constant change and redirection can get dizzying. For Mallett, hypergrowth speed is the one in which she’s most comfortable. 

“Those are the things that energize me and that I get a lot of joy and passion from,” she said. 


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

I spent a semester living in Australia and a winter session in Chile, and I think both those experiences evoked a lot of personal growth and inspired me to travel whenever possible. I love exploring new places, talking with locals, and really embracing different ways of life. 

What are your strategies for managing stress? 

I talk about it. I work with a team of people who I not only respect professionally, but who I also genuinely enjoy as humans. In our regular one on ones and team meetings, we make space to talk about stress and provide each other with unconditional support. It’s probably one of my favorite parts of working at Panorama and with the team I have. 

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

Up until recently, I was not an avid coffee drinker. In August I gave birth to a baby girl and a cup of coffee (or two) has now become part of the routine. Being a mom has brought so much joy and I want to be awake and present for every possible moment.

Katie Mallet Panorama Education

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

I love going to the North End. Italy is one of my favorite places in the world, and I think going to the North End evokes a sense of nostalgia from past trips. The community vibe, the food, the people -- it creates a cozy atmosphere that I really appreciate. 

What do you consider one of your proudest accomplishments so far? 

Working at high growth companies means experiencing really high highs and really challenging lows. Some of my proudest moments were at those low points. When things don’t go as planned, it forces the team to come together in meaningful ways. When I first started at Panorama, there was a time when we weren’t on track to hit our revenue goals, and we needed to figure out our sales strategy and ways to accelerate growth to get back on track. So the co-founders and I met up one weekend in the office to brainstorm, and I’ll never forget that weekend. It was freezing in the office, and I remember being in the conference room wrapped up in coats. But we had a really productive session. We did a lot of white boarding and a lot of sticky notes, and we just left completely aligned and energized. Shortly after that we quickly got back on track, and I think looking back from where we are now, this is one of our best spent weekends. It was right when I started at Panorama and I was still getting to know folks, and it was just such a meaningful experience for the three of us together. 

How does where you are now compare to where you saw yourself 10 years ago? 

Almost exactly 10 years ago I had transitioned at athena from working in accounting to working in financial planning and analysis, and in that role I was able to work with and learn from some really inspiring leaders like Ed Park. Ed  taught me to use numbers and data to craft a story and build a long-term, strategic vision. I knew at that point that I wanted my future to be at a high-growth company with kind, passionate, and wildly intelligent people, and I knew that I wanted to continue to build teams and mentor others. I think I’ve been lucky enough to find exactly that at Panorama. 

What’s your advice for recent college graduates? 

Athena’s first CFO, Carl Byers, gave me the advice to do something every quarter that is resume-worthy. He really encouraged me to self-reflect each quarter about what I had accomplished and whether it was worthy of a bullet on a resume, and I found that advice to be really compelling. It forced me to be thoughtful about taking on new challenges. I think that at times, people can get held back by self-doubt or fear of going outside their comfort zone, especially for women and others in underrepresented groups. The advice that Carl gave me helps hold me accountable for my own professional development, and I think I’d really encourage recent graduates to do the same.


Samantha Costanzo Carleton is a Contributor to VentureFizz. You can follow her on Twitter @smcstnz.

About the
Company

Panorama Education helps schools improve by acting on feedback from students, parents, teachers, and staff.

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Lead(H)er: Lauren Melton, Vice President of People Operations at Ellevation Education banner image

Lead(H)er: Lauren Melton, Vice President of People Operations at Ellevation Education

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Lauren Melton graduated from Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration and went straight into what she calls “employee relations bootcamp.” Drawn to dynamic human resources classes while in school, Melton joined the human resources department at The Pierre in New York, giving her career an equally dynamic start. 

“I very quickly learned a lot of employee relations skills that I’ve seen people go their entire career never having encountered,” Melton said. “I dealt with everything from unfair labor practices and contract negotiations to investigations around some really challenging situations.” 

By the time she was 28, Melton was a human resources director and looking for ways to grow her overall business knowledge in her field. She wanted to improve her business skill set and become more familiar with the operations side of hotels, but that experience came with nonstop, 80-hour workweeks.

Lauren Melton Ellevation Education Vice President, People Operations

“It was really useful for my career long term,” Melton said. “Improving my financial and business acumen has made me a stronger human resources leader.” 

Melton had always been interested in technology companies, so she leveraged her newfound skills to seek out a role at a tech company making an impact with its products. Though she originally planned to take up to a year off after having her second child, Melton soon took on a part-time job at a tech manufacturing company. Her role quickly became full-time and eventually a leadership role. Melton has been working in the human resources departments of tech startups ever since. 

Her next company, DealerRater, was acquired about one year after she joined, and Melton has now spent the last three years at Ellevation Education, a web-based software program supporting school districts to build strong English language learner programs, as its Vice President of People Operations. This marks Melton’s third role at a later stage startup that’s ready to invest in a formal HR department for the first time. Much of her job has focused on how to successfully build and scale that department as the company itself grows. 

Lauren Melton Ellevation Education Vice President, People Operations

Melton’s role at Ellevation is a mix of strategy and hands-on support. In a typical day, she can be found doing anything from meeting with the CEO and leadership team about upcoming goals, to phone screening job candidates, and helping employees with benefits issues.

“I enjoy trying to figure out how to add value to the organization and to make sure it’s supported in meeting its objectives,” Melton said. “To me, that means never hearing anyone say ‘I have to do this because HR told me to.’” 

Throughout her career, Melton has worked to put in systems and processes that make it easier to work with HR and collect data that enables informed decisions. That means promoting people based on the actual impact of their work, rather than on arbitrary timelines, and encouraging ongoing conversations about performance rather than scheduling yearly -- and often impersonal -- performance evaluation meetings. 

Lauren Melton Ellevation Education Vice President, People Operations

“I do have a chip on my shoulder to make sure other departments see value in our efforts because historically HR hasn’t been seen as a strategic partner in many organizations. I can’t wait until there’s a day where fewer people even remember the paper-pushing HR departments and instead see HR as true partners in helping them achieve their objectives,” Melton said. 


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

I have two boys who are 6 and 8, so in my free time I’m mostly at hockey, baseball, and rugby games. I’m obsessed with my Peloton bike and ride it every morning at 5 a.m.   I just completed my 750th ride on Columbus Day weekend. I talk about it all the time, probably to the annoyance of my co-workers.. 

What are your strategies for managing stress? 

Definitely exercise. When I first had kids I thought I didn’t have the time to workout. I thought, “I can't do that. I am a working mother. It's selfish.” And then finally one day I just hit a point where I knew I had to make it part of my day and that self care is important. So that has been my number one way to eliminate stress -- sweat it out every morning. Organization and feeling prepared are also helpful. I'm an early bird, so I try to come in to work early, and that sets me up. If I get in at nine or after nine, I feel like the whole rest of my day is just a mess. 

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

I gave up coffee about a year ago, so every morning I drink green tea matcha. But I drink it cold, which people actually find very weird. 

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

I love spending my free time outside, and a lot of it is spent on the Cape at Bayview Beach. I grew up right down the street, my parents still live there, and it’s one of my kids’ favorite places to go. 

Lauren Melton Ellevation Education Vice President, People Operations

What’s one of your proudest accomplishments so far? 

I'd say building small, highly effective teams and feeling confident in them. For instance, seeing the growth and development of the two women that I work with has been amazing.  Being a resource to support to their development is an aspect of my job that I love. I've come into some of these small companies and it starts out as just me, an individual contributor, and when it gets to the point where you get to have a small team like this and get to see them really growing and developing and enjoying what they're doing, it's just so rewarding. 

How does where you are now compare to where you saw yourself 10 years ago? 

Honestly, I did not think this is where I would be. I was living in San Diego working in operations in a hotel and overseeing a division of 250 employees with zero work-life balance. I didn't have kids at the time either. So it was fine that I could put in a thousand hours and do that as I was on track to be the general manager of a hotel.  It’s just so different than what I'm doing now. I was putting out a lot of fires back then so I don’t think I could have pictured myself in a more strategic role like this. 

Lauren Melton Ellevation Education Vice President, People Operations

What’s your advice for recent college graduates? 

Don’t be afraid to take a role just to get your foot in the door with a company, work hard, and get exposure to one specific area of it. In small, fast growing companies, I've seen people transfer and move into other roles down the road once they've proven themselves. Coming in expecting to be a product manager right after graduating college is not going to happen. I had to remind myself that nothing has to happen on a certain timeline. I started as an HR coordinator at a hotel, and many peers and friends were working for the corporate offices of some hotel company or in real estate investment. My first job out of college might not have been as glamorous as theirs. But it’s much more productive to focus on what you’re learning and how you’re growing instead of comparing yourself to others.


Samantha Costanzo Carleton is a Contributor to VentureFizz. You can follow her on Twitter @smcstnz.

About the
Company

Ellevation is the first and most powerful suite of tools designed specifically for professionals serving English Language Learners   .

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Lead(H)er: Kate Adams, Vice President of Marketing at Drift banner image

Lead(H)er: Kate Adams, Vice President of Marketing at Drift

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Marketers usually look for a demand generation flywheel before building out their brands. Drift, the Boston-based conversational marketing leader, did things a little bit differently: the founders built their brand first, then set out to build their demand gen competency. 

“It’s been the most fun experience of my career so far,” said Kate Adams, the company’s Vice President of Marketing. 

Over the last 16 years of her career, Adams has worked in every facet of marketing, from communications and email marketing to strategy development for specific verticals and product marketing. She’s run entire marketing stacks for startups and honed in on one small piece at a time. Adams credits that wide breadth of experience for bringing her to her current role. 

At the beginning of her career, after graduating from Regis College with a degree in Spanish language and literature, Adams took on a marketing operations role at HCPro. In her seven years there she developed e-commerce solutions, implementation plans, and overall marketing strategies before becoming the Director of Product Marketing at Edvisors, which was then a small startup. At Edvisors, Adams worked directly with third-party clients to develop and execute traffic-generating campaigns. 

Adams continued her career in tech and education as the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Product at Flashnotes, before transitioning into tech marketing at WeSpire, which helps companies design, run, and measure sustainability programs for employees. 

In her final stop before her recent move to Drift, SmartBear, she rose from Director of Demand Generation to Associate Vice President of Demand Generation and Marketing Operation. 

Kate Adams Drift

Over the course of her wide-ranging marketing career, Adams began to notice something: the industry could use a simplified, more human touch. 

“B2B marketing is too much about acronyms – SAL and MQL and SQL,” she said. “But if you start and nurture conversations that help customers make good purchasing decisions, that turns marketing into something different. I’ve changed our marketing funnel at Drift to be focused on people and conversations, we don’t measure acronyms here. We measure what matters.” 

Adams, who was a Drift customer before joining the team and found that the company’s assessment of what’s wrong with marketing resonated with her, is doing her part by managing Drift’s entire demand generation team. She’s spent the last nine months building out this area of the company’s marketing in anticipation of continued growth. 

With that growth comes plenty of new technology. According to Adams, marketers used to have about 300 digital marketing tools at their disposal. Now, they have more than 7,500. 

“You have to know what problems you need to solve, but also what’s the most effective tech and how to integrate it with your marketing,” Adams said. 

To help bring marketers back to the creative side of their field and cut down on time spent evaluating and implementing tech instead of campaign ideas, Adams and the Drift team let their customers know they understand this pain point. Drift tries to be one thing -- a conversational marketing and sales tool -- and integrates with others that can handle the rest. 

In addition to working on getting marketers back into true marketing, Adams is focused on making Drift a place where all marketers ultimately want to work. 

“I want them to know that they’ll never have as amazing an experience as they’ll have here, and that they’ll do the best work of their careers here,” she said. 


Quick Q(uestions) and A(dvice) 

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

I have two kids -- one is 12 years old and the other is 15 months, so spending time with them and my wife is a top priority. They can both be exhausting for different reasons – the 12 year old can be mentally exhausting, and the little guy is physically exhausting. I think he covered two miles chasing seagulls on the beach recently. But we love watching them grow.

How do you handle stress? 

This is something I’ve been working on the past few years. I think grounding and having perspective is important. We’re not saving lives. In the last few years, I’ve also started meditating in the morning and paying attention to how I start my day. I set my alarm before the little guy gets up so that I make sure to have that time. I visualize my day and think about how I’m going to motivate myself.

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

It’s changed in the last nine months. I used to drink a lot more coffee, but now I start every morning with a five-shot iced americano. In the afternoon I have a peach green tea. Starbucks is probably pretty happy with me – they get a lot of my money!

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

We just started going to Castle Island with the kids. It’s beautiful there. I also really love the JFK Museum. I’m a big history buff and mostly read historical nonfiction. The museum experience is amazing, and the outside is gorgeous. It’s on the water and they have one of JFK’s sailboats out front.

What’s one of your proudest accomplishments? 

The teams I’ve built and marketers whose careers I’ve helped accelerate by helping them create clear career paths. That’s definitely what I’m most proud of.

How does where you are now compare to where you saw yourself 10 years ago? 

I’m honestly right where I thought I’d be. I’m a driven person and always had a vision of what I wanted and where I was going. Sometimes there was some angst about whether I was getting where I wanted to be fast enough. I couldn’t have envisioned Drift, though – it’s incredible how quickly it’s grown and changed over time. The culture and people here are amazing. I was for sure trying to get to the VP position somewhere, but I really couldn’t have imagined a place as great as Drift.

What’s your advice for recent college graduates? 

Find something you like, and don’t be afraid to understand that you may not like it in time. It might change. Nothing is permanent – permanence is a myth. If you like marketing, go for marketing, and if you like sales, go for sales. It’s okay to then not be sure if you like it and make a pivot. I learned the most about myself in those situations. Don’t be afraid to dig in and do the work, too. So many people think it’s not about the job they’re doing today, it’s about the next one – but no. It’s about today and the results you’re getting. Good things will come if you focus on the job today. Tell that story of your own results and be proud of what you do, and the rest will follow.


Samantha Costanzo Carleton is a Contributor to VentureFizz. You can follow her on Twitter @smcstnz.

About the
Company

Drift is the new way businesses buy from businesses.

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Lead(H)er: Maria Manrique, Chief Financial Officer at O'Reilly banner image

Lead(H)er: Maria Manrique, Chief Financial Officer at O'Reilly

Maria Manrique has spent much of her career in technology, though she didn’t necessarily intend for that to happen. Manrique’s skill set lies in helping companies scale and drive growth, and in Boston, roles that need those skills are more likely than not in tech companies. She's now the Chief Financial Officer at O'Reilly, which provides technology and business training and insights to help clients manage economic and technological shifts, through its online learning solution and extensive conference program.

Manrique began her career as an engagement manager at McKinsey & Company, then spent six years at Fidelity Investments in both Boston and Paris. Her first CFO role was at ecoATM Gazelle, a company that provides an international network of recycling and payment kiosks for electronic devices. She’d been at Toast as its vice president of finance and administration for about a year prior to moving to O’Reilly.

Maria Manrique

Not only did the role offered to her come with strong leadership responsibilities; it also played directly to Manrique’s strengths of business scaling and development. “Some of our major customers are based in the Northeast, and the company was looking to have an executive presence in the Boston office,” Manrique explained. “I jumped at the opportunity.”

Manrique’s previous employers had been largely private equity backed or VC backed, while O’Reilly is a privately held company. The switch offers a unique management challenge for her. “There are different financial targets and growth goals that need to be managed within existing resources,” Manrique said. “A privately held company is not necessarily interested in fundraising externally, so there are growth goals that need to be met within  stricter guardrails.”

Maria Manrique

Manrique welcomes the puzzle of growing O’Reilly within those parameters. She does this by helping oversee almost all aspects of the company’s Boston operations, including legal, sales operations, and human resources, for which she has a particular soft spot. In partnership with the heads of each division, Manrique helps ensure  O’Reilly is meeting its strategic goals.

Outside of work, Manrique is heavily involved with Casa Myrna, a nonprofit in Boston’s South End that works to end domestic and dating violence by providing women with resources and safe spaces. She counts this work, along with the ability to raise her children in an intergenerational household, among her greatest accomplishments so far.

Maria Manrique

Looking forward in her professional career, Manrique is committed to helping O’Reilly continue growing and maintaining its strong brand presence while she continues to be a valuable member of the executive team.

“I’m proud to be part of the company’s history of financial stability and financial strength that allows us to make investments that are all self-funded,” Manrique said.


Quick q(uestions) and a(dvice)

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I’m an avid reader, and I love keeping up with the latest and greatest books. I try to find time for that, especially during my commute. I enjoy being a part of my kids’ activities, so a lot of my time is spent supporting them in their interests. My husband is a talented artist, while artistically challenged myself, I enjoy his love of art and visiting local art installations.  

What are your strategies for managing stress?

This is a work in process for me. I do my best to plan for the madness, both at work and at home. I feel like having a solid plan is a good start. It’s also important for me to share the wealth in terms of responsibilities and leadership opportunities—that way I can give additional experiences to my team but also delegate and take things off my plate. The same goes at home, having my kids step up and help. My husband is an amazing partner, and home tasks are very much divided 50/50—maybe he might argue 60/40!  My parents provide an incredible amount of support and I can’t tell you we would manage without them.

Maria Manrique

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

I’m sipping on my third of the day right now, so too many! I enjoy reading articles that talk about the benefits of coffee because I drink so many cups—maybe three or four daily.

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

The Back Bay has to be my favorite. I love all of Boston, but Back Bay is the neighborhood where I lived as a newcomer to Boston and as a student, so it brings back a lot of memories of why I chose Boston as my home.

What’s one of your proudest accomplishments?

I'm very proud to live in a multigenerational household where everyone's goals and aspirations are supported. My husband and I have successful careers  we love, my kids are happy and thriving at school and outside of school, and my parents get to enjoy their retirement and live with their grandchildren in a wonderful place, Massachusetts. I didn't have that growing up, and  always dreamt of it, so I’m proud that we’ve been able to create it, as a team.

Another accomplishment I’m proud of is joining the board of Casa Myrna,  the largest provider of shelter services for domestic violence survivors in Massachusetts. I’m proud to be part of their efforts to continue doing the amazing work they do in the Boston area.

Maria Manrique

How does where you are now compare to where you saw yourself 10 years ago? 

This is above and beyond my expectations. I love my job, I’m involved with the community, I’m involved at home, and I’m incredibly happy and grateful for where I am.  Hard work, having access to incredible educational and work opportunities being in Boston and in fast-growth technology businesses have played a key role. My role at O’Reilly is a dream CFO position supporting an accomplished, fun and talented team.

What’s your advice for a recent college graduate?

Don’t pass on opportunities that might not be a perfect fit at first, because they can open other doors. People should aspire to be in roles  they’re passionate about and feel are a good fit for their skills, but there’s nothing wrong with trying something that might not be perfect at first. That’s how I got to most of the jobs  I’ve had, and I think they’ve been my best roles, you can mold a role or project to what you want it to be. Keep an open mind in terms of opportunities that open up and jump on the ones you think you’ll be able to get the most out of, even if they’re not what you expected.


Samantha Costanzo Carleton is a Contributor to VentureFizz. You can follow her on Twitter @smcstnz.

Lead(H)er: Barbara Scarcella, Senior Advisor to CEO & SVP at NetBrain Technologies  banner image

Lead(H)er: Barbara Scarcella, Senior Advisor to CEO & SVP at NetBrain Technologies

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Barbara Scarcella was often asked the same question throughout her career in tech: Do you by any chance have brothers? 

Yes, she’d respond. Four older ones who, through sports and the daily adventure of growing up together, ended up teaching her how to be competitive and relate to the male-dominated working world Scarcella entered after graduating from college. 

“I had a keen sense of how to challenge somebody and do it diplomatically,” she said. 

Scarcella, who has a bachelor’s degree in economics and business certificate from Columbia University, hoped to find herself in a vice presidential position at a bank as quickly as possible. Instead, she took a trainee role at a technology company called Securities Industry Automation Corp, which functioned as a clearinghouse for all domestic stock exchanges. There, Scarcella earned a spot on the company’s fast track to promotion and became a supervisor and coordinator within less than a year.

Her hard work and skillset were soon recognized outside of the company, and she was recruited to a then-startup called Shark at Walsh, Greenwood Brokerage Firm, for which Scarcella rolled up her sleeves to build and manage 10 data centers from scratch all over the world. 

“That company got sold a couple of times, and every time we sold the company, I got more responsibility,” Scarcella said. “I had a good work ethic and ability to adapt to change and be very positive and succeed.” 

By the time Thomson Reuters came in to evaluate the company, Scarcella had an executive role. Of all the resources and experience Walsh, Greenwood and its employees had to offer, Thomson was most impressed with Scarcella and her work. 

“It was a really nice way to be recruited into Thomson,” she said. “I had a good reputation, and past experiences had prepared me for this significant endeavor where again I proved myself and was successful.”

Barbara Scarcella Career

The company grew through acquisition, and over the next 17 years of her career, Scarcella integrated diverse companies and data systems into the overall Thomson organization, boosted profits, selected and negotiated technology agreements, and more. Eventually, she became the only woman to sit on Thomson’s executive committee at the time and lead technology initiatives across the corporation, managing people worldwide.

Scarcella used her sharp negotiation skills to leverage deals and partnerships that saved the company tens of millions of dollars, much of which went directly to the bottom line. This increased bonuses across the division, making her a hero amongst her colleagues. 

“I’ve always been able to work with a smile on my face, no matter how challenging things were, and most often found a resolution,” Scarcella said. “To this day I’ve maintained good business relationships with many CEOs and C-level executives. I attribute this to being open, honest, and sincere with them from day one. CEOs are human beings like all of us that  have a job to do, and they appreciate an honest partner relationship.”

When it was time to move on from Thomson, Scarcella knew exactly what she wanted to do with her career: start it over.

“I wanted to do it all again, and I did,” she said. “And it’s been a lot of fun.”

Barbara Scarcella Career

After a year as a consultant for Lehman Brothers, Scarcella became the Senior Advisor to the CEO of NetBrain, providing critical advice based on her long and varied career to help with business development, driving sales, and strategic relations. During her tenure, Scarcella did all that and more. In her first year as Senior Vice President of Global sales,  she boosted worldwide sales by 40% to 50%. Scarcella also focuses on driving C-level relationships for NetBrain’s signature clients. 

“I still get excited talking about what we do here,” Scarcella said. “It’s not just software -- it is  just in time automation. NetBrain provides end to end visibility and automation in real time for any IT workflow; always accurate, up to date, and on demand network diagrams.” 

By helping customers move manual, time-intensive tasks to more automation, NetBrain has become the go-to resource for major players in the industry. One out of every three Fortune 100 companies, including telecompanies, large banks, healthcare companies, and tech companies, uses NetBrain’s innovative solutions. 

Looking forward, Scarcella intends to continue seeking out opportunities to grow both her career and the companies in which she finds herself working, with a particular focus on helping other women climb up the ladder she so deftly navigated herself. 

“In the past 20 years, I’ve been mindful of women and business in the technology industry and have made a point to include women at every level who showed ambition and talent,” she said. “I’m proud of the men and women I’ve mentored, and I strongly believe that you need to bring people up with you and encourage talent to grow in a nurturing environment.”


Quick Q(uestions) and A(dvice) 

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

Renewal is key for everyone, and sometimes I need to practice what I preach more often. On my weekends on Long Island, where my home is, I like to have small dinner parties and enjoy good music, good friends and family, eating fine food, and having stimulating conversations. I also enjoy playing golf once in a while, and my vegetable garden gives me great pleasure to see things grow and enjoy the fruits (or veggies) of my labor. I can also make a similar comparison to my position at NetBrain and getting the same satisfaction with my teams. Mentoring our people at NetBrain is very satisfying  -- you see them growing and reaching their full potential.

Barbara Scarcella Career

How do you typically manage stress? 

Stress reduction techniques are a work in progress for me, always. I have learned from past experiences that mindfulness and goal-oriented tasks help me to disregard the extraneous disturbances that go on daily and can increase tension and stress.

If you're a coffee drinker, how many cups do you have in a day?  

I actually don’t need a boost of caffeine. Colleagues often remark about my energy level being extremely high. I do drink a hot beverage at times, especially Herbal Tea or Decaf coffee during the day.

How does where you are now compare to where you saw yourself 10 years ago? 

I was a senior executive of a large corporation, Thomson Reuters, a little more than 10 years ago, traveling all over the world and living on and off of planes.  At around that time I was introduced to NetBrain, and I knew instantly I would be a good match with my skill set to work with our CEO, Lingping Gao. It has been an exhilarating ride introducing our “Just in Time Automation” to the industry. In retrospect, if I wasn’t introduced to NetBrain, I would have saved Thomson tens of millions of dollars by negotiating favorable contracts and driving optimization initiatives, which I am very good at. Being at NetBrain is so much more exciting and challenging. I got another chance to wear more hats and use my experience and capabilities to help even another company drive to success. It’s very satisfying.

What's one of your favorite places in the NYC and Boston areas, as you have offices in each? 

In NYC my favorite places would be Broadway and the theater.  My home in Floral Park, Long Island is a welcomed treat since I spend a lot of time commuting between New York and Massachusetts.  We always enjoy our 2nd home in Provincetown, Cape Cod, on the bay. I must say that restaurants are the best in both places! Having an Italian background makes good food a necessity for a good life!

What do you consider one of your proudest accomplishments so far?  

My proudest accomplishment is having a successful relationship with my spouse for over 3 decades. In my career, I am extremely grateful to have attained my full potential working with very smart C-level executives. My most impressive accomplishment has been the success I have had in each new endeavor and ability to each challenging position asked of me. I’ve embraced each new opportunity with passion, excitement and a focus on success and have loved it all, along with the people I’ve worked with!

What's your advice for recent college graduates?

Love what you do, no matter what the position. Embrace it and give it your full energy and focus. Build on each level of success and grow, and you will almost never have to ask for a raise or promotion. You will be noticed and it will come naturally. Persevere!


Samantha Costanzo Carleton is a Contributor to VentureFizz. You can follow her on Twitter @smcstnz.

About the
Company

NetBrain was founded to deliver end-to-end network visibility to enterprise networks across the globe.

 

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Lead(H)er: Kelly Esten, Senior Director of Product and Partner Marketing at Toast banner image

Lead(H)er: Kelly Esten, Senior Director of Product and Partner Marketing at Toast

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Every day that Kelly Esten was a municipal bond sales intern at UBS, a colleague would call her at 7:30 in the morning and ask her to pitch him a bond. He’d give his feedback on her selection and pitch, and soon, her job became more than just putting people on hold when they called to speak with a representative. It became the first major step in her career. 

Esten eventually received a full-time job at UBS’s New York and later Zurich office, traveling throughout Europe for the next three years first in the strategy and business development department, and later as chief of staff for the London branch’s head of investment products in Europe. 

“As it turns out, what they called strategy and business development I now know as product marketing,” said Esten, now the Senior Director of Product and Partner Marketing at Toast. 

At UBS, Esten developed her skills in competitive intelligence, pricing, new product launches, and other product marketing responsibilities in addition to budgeting, team management, and cross-functional collaboration. While the job was an incredible way to spend her 20s, Esten ultimately decided to come back to the States for business school. 

Esten graduated from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business and, after a successful internship with EnerNOC, joined the company full-time as its first product marketing hire. She helped commercialize a software program leveraging the data from its Demand Response product from $10 million in revenue to nearly $100 million in revenue, eventually progressing to the role of Director of Enterprise Software Sales. 

EnerNOC was eventually sold, and Esten sought out a smaller, founder-led company ready to scale. She found Toast and began in her current role there in August 2017. 

“I felt like I could have an impact within an organization of this size,” Esten said. “My last two companies have been founder-led, and I think working with the founders and executive team at this level is something really special. Everyone knows everyone’s names and what they’re working on.” 

For her part, Esten is working on the management of three key Toast teams. The first, core product marketing, is responsible for messaging, segmentation, sales enablement, and product launches. The market insights team focuses on market research, competitive intelligence, and pricing and packaging, while the partner marketing team is responsible for bringing new partners to Toast’s platform and co-marketing. The company currently has more than 70 integration and go-to-market partners, with which it brings joint solutions to restaurants. 

“Product marketing is unique in that it sits in the middle of a lot of things,” Esten said. “Done well, it connects the dots between different departments and makes sure that all of the pieces line up to make a new product launch or segment strategy successful.” 

Esten’s department has helped launch several products lately as Toast expands from a point-of-sale system to a comprehensive restaurant management platform. After interviewing customers about their unique pain points and finding that payroll, retention, and training were major areas of concern, the company purchased StratEx in July to incorporate payroll into its offerings. 

The acquisition is one of the first of many steps Toast is taking to diversify its product offerings in an effort to better serve its restaurant clients and provide them with tech-based solutions to their challenges.

“Serving a neighborhood coffee shop is really different than serving a full-service restaurant that also offers catering,” Esten said. “From a product marketing perspective, that means we continue to get to launch new products that serve specific segments. Toast has aspirations to continue providing that level of service.” 


Quick Q(uestions) and A(dvice)

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

I spend most of my time with my family. My husband leads a tech company in Boston, and we have a three-year-old son and a one-year-old puppy, so they keep me busy in my free time. We’ve made great friendships in the Boston area with a lot of other dual-career families with young kids, so we enjoy spending time with them, too. It’s reinvigorating to see other people going through what you’re going through. 

What are your strategies for managing stress? 

A lot of it is about having some perspective, having interests outside of work, and tackling the hard things first. When stress builds up, it’s usually when I’m putting off something that I’m either dreading doing or something that’s been hanging over me, so doing those things first is a real stress buster for me. It’s also important to make time for the things that lead to feeling less stressed. Finding balance over a week or a month instead of fitting everything into a day helps. Some days are all work and some are all play, and you need to balance it out. 

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

At least three. I love coffee, so it’s definitely necessary. 

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

One of the really fun parts of being at Toast is getting involved in the restaurant community in Boston. Since joining, I’ve gotten a bigger appreciation for the restaurant community, and working here makes you feel like you’re a part of it. Some of my favorite restaurants are Bar Mezzana in the South End, Eventide in the Fenway, and Puritan in Cambridge -- that one is actually co-owned by a Toaster. Restaurants are our favorite spots to spend time in Boston now. 

How does where you are today compare to where you saw yourself 10 years ago? 

I definitely couldn’t have named this as what I would be doing 10 years ago. I didn’t know that product marketing existed then, but I had decided that I was going to go to business school to get out of financial services and get back to the U.S. I think the spirit of what I was trying to do is here at Toast, because working for a company with a product I’m passionate about and finding an industry that I really loved were part of my goals at the time. 

What do you consider one of your proudest accomplishments so far? 

What I get the most fulfillment out of is building a team. I had the opportunity to build product marketing teams from early stages to full-fledged teams a few times now, which I feel really fortunate about. Hiring the right people and giving them the tools and context to do great jobs, launch new products, and empower sales teams has been amazing. 

What’s your advice for recent college graduates? 

One of the things that served me really well early on at UBS was saying yes to a lot of new opportunities, like moving countries multiple times and trying out jobs that weren’t why I initially joined banking. I wasn’t in sales or investment banking or wealth management in the end, and I think that’s because I said yes to exciting opportunities that were put in front of me. 

Something that we tell newer employees on our team is to work hard, try to have a measurable impact on the business, bring some data to what you’re doing, and have a great attitude. Having a great attitude makes such a big difference, and the rest all follows. 


Samantha Costanzo Carleton is a Contributor to VentureFizz. You can follow her on Twitter @smcstnz.

About the
Company

We empower the restaurant community to delight guests, do what they love, and thrive.

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Lead(H)er: Ella Alkalay Schreiber, Vice President of Data Science at Hopper banner image

Lead(H)er: Ella Alkalay Schreiber, Vice President of Data Science at Hopper

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When you’re looking for the best prices on flights and hotels for your next vacation, you might want to check out an app like Hopper. The company collects 750 billion prices each month, which now include flights and hotels, to analyze and predict prices so that you get a great deal on your trip. 

Hopper’s machine learning algorithms can answer anything from “When should I book my flight?” to “Where should I go on my next trip?” 

Mastering all of that personalized data-driven advice is Ella Alkalay Schreiber, Hopper’s Vice President of Data Science. 

“What was once done by a human travel agent is now done through a machine that gets smarter each time an action is or is not taken,” Schreiber said. 

To become the leading source on travel data and advice, Schreiber and her team have collected and analyzed trillions of price points. Hopper has distinguished itself in the travel industry with its unique data-driven conversational commerce, and the data science team is constantly working on building a richer and more dynamic dialogue with their customers. This conversation and user intent data is key to the company’s ability to implement algorithms and provide users personalized recommendations. 

For example, earlier this year Hopper began testing a new recommendation algorithm which models meaningful insights into how much users are willing to pay extra over the lowest price for different flight qualitative variables like stops, cabin class, departure time, carrier etc. Every conversion strengthens the algorithm, thereby making future flight recommendations even more relevant for the specific customer, removing friction and empowering the customer consideration set.

Additionally, Schreiber and her team utilize the data to collaborate with the public relations team to serve as a trusted source for journalists when they’re working on travel stories. Her team also collaborates with airline and hotel partners to help them explore new strategies and opportunities based on Hopper’s unique set of demand and pricing data. In this way, Hopper’s data science team is delivering lasting impact for both business partners like airlines and hotels as well as travelers planning their next trip. 

Schreiber first entered the field of data science in Israel, at Outbrain, the world's leading performance-driven discovery and native advertising platform. She was a data scientist in the recommendations group, where they served personalized content recommendations to over 500 million unique users. Her transition to Hopper from there was an organic one, as Outbrain’s recommender systems are similar to the algorithms Hopper serves. At any given moment, there are thousands of potential recommendations Hopper could be offering a single user. The key to success is reaching the right user with perfect flight recommendation at the right time. 

“As a data scientist, it’s important for me to work in companies where the value proposition is the data,” Schreiber said. “I wanted a company that didn’t compromise, and strives to be the best in that field.” 

When she began at Hopper as a data scientist in 2016, the team consisted of three people. Now, Schreiber manages a team of 20 within the 300-person company.

Hopper team

Schreiber is committed to ensuring that her team retains its communication, processes, and impact as it and Hopper continue to grow. They’re currently working on implementing new machine learning frameworks to help support both the flights and hotels side of the business. With these advancements, Hopper can extend and improve its conversation in the company’s signature user-centric and data-driven style. 

“Hopper is always evolving,” Schreiber said. “The opportunities and challenges are huge, and the more we grow, understand the industry, and collaborate with users and airlines, the more interesting our environment becomes.” 


Quick Q(uestions) and A(dvice) 

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

I love going diving -- that’s usually my preferred type of vacation. I scuba dive all over the world. I studied 10 years ago on an island in Honduras, and since then I’ve spent almost every vacation in a diving site.

How do you manage stress? 

I focus on causality and action items. I think understanding the root cause of the stress and talking to my team helps me deal with it. Taking time off is good, too! It’s important to have an escape. 

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

Too many! I think four cups a day now. We have a really good coffee machine here. 

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

I love the Esplanade. There’s a good beer garden along there to have a drink, watch the water, and relax. It’s also dog-friendly, which is perfect. 

Hopper Lead(H)erWhat do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments? 

Establishing this team at Hopper and building it from a small startup to where it is now has been my proudest so far. Finding amazing people in this space has taught me so much. We’re looking for people who are inherently curious and are exceptional problem solvers. Everyone on our team is very independent, so we’re looking for people who are self-sufficient and ready to take on and own challenges. We spend a lot of time collaborating with other teams. In addition to having the right technical skills, members of the data science team must have strong product intuition, business judgment, and the ability to articulate their findings to non-technical people. 

How does where you are now compare to where you saw yourself 10 years ago?

I didn’t know I’d move to Boston and lead a team like this! Every day at Hopper is a fascinating day -- there are so many ideas, projects, challenges, and new hires. Every day I feel fortunate that this is my job. 

What’s your advice for recent college graduates? 

Make sure you work in your passion. Work in something that you think about all the time. When I’m hiring, I’m always looking for people that have passion, curiosity, problem-solving skills, and good communication. If you have all that, you’re unstoppable. 


Samantha Costanzo Carleton is a Contributor to VentureFizz. You can follow her on Twitter @smcstnz.

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Hopper is the award-winning mobile app that doesn't just let you book flights and hotels from your phone - it also tells you when is the best time to buy. No spam. No ads. No popups. No time wasted. Just the confidence that you're booking smart and saving money.

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