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

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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.

About the
Company

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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Lead(H)er: Courtney Cunnane, Vice President of Demand Generation at SmartBear banner image

Lead(H)er: Courtney Cunnane, Vice President of Demand Generation at SmartBear

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Courtney Cunnane may have fallen into demand generation by accident, but staying in the field for the past eight years of her career was anything but. Cunnane began in B2B marketing for technology companies like Exchange Solutions and Allurent, then began to stretch her role for nearly 10 years at Experian. 

While Cunnane was a marketing programs director for Experian’s data quality software division, she focused heavily on using marketing as a driver of growth, particularly through generating leads. Without intending to make it her specialty, Cunnane was becoming an expert in demand generation. 

“The longer I did it, the more I really liked that area of marketing,” said Cunnane, now the Vice President of Demand Generation at SmartBear. “I love figuring out who is our target audience and why they need our product. What problems do they have? How can we help?” 

Cunnane had previously spent a few years at each of her employers, so remaining at Experian for almost a decade came as a surprise. When she was ready to embark on the next phase of her career, she knew she wanted to continue in demand generation and work at a company that still had plenty of room to grow. She found the perfect role at SmartBear, where she leads a team of 20, including six current open roles. 

The demand generation team pursues the same questions Cunnane did at Experian: Who needs what we have, and how can we make sure they know we have it? They work to increase awareness of SmartBear’s software testing, developing, and monitoring tools using feedback from sales and marketing teams to determine how well strategies are working and how new potential customers can be reached each day. 

Rather than go back to the drawing board and create an entire demand generation department, Cunnane counted herself lucky that SmartBear had a massive level of engagement with its target market when she joined five months ago. The awareness was there, and it became Cunnane’s job to go through leads with a fine-tooth comb to find the highest quality picks and generate more. 

“There’s enough to build on that you’re not completely starting from scratch, but there’s a lot of work to do in terms of developing the processes and strategies that will help us get from where we are today to be the massive organization we want to be,” Cunnane said. 

Cunnane is supporting this growth by helping implement systems that will allow SmartBear to replicate processes on a larger scale as efficiently as possible. She’s also structuring her team differently, giving each person a more specific role and hiring for brand new positions when necessary. This level of detail helps create a high-performing, motivated, and engaged team in which each member can take ownership of clear goals. 

“I want to be in a position where I feel really proud of having built a team that understands how each person contributes to the overall results and feels really good about the impact we have on the business,” Cunnane said. 


Quick (Q)uestions and A(dvice) 

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

I have two little guys at home, a four-year-old and a one-year-old, in addition to a pretty busy job here. I don’t get free time as often as I used to, but I do like being outside, so I’m usually at the beach with my boys, letting them run around. 

How do you manage stress? 

For me, it’s mostly about maintaining perspective. It definitely helps to remember what really is important at the end of the day in terms of both how you’re thinking of your own accomplishments and also in terms of the company and the results that we’re looking for. I try to take a step back and remind myself that we can’t necessarily make everything perfect all at once, and we really need to have perspective about what we need to do and when we can do it. It’s about balancing, having strong expectations of myself and my team but also giving us all a break if things don’t go as planned. 

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

Only one, but a pretty strong one -- I usually have a double cappuccino first thing in the morning. 

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

Castle Island is one of my favorites. I spent seven years living in South Boston, and for me, Castle Island is always an awesome spot. You can walk half a mile from where you are in the city and be surrounded by water. I like being out there in the evenings or on the weekend when there are lots of people out and about. It’s pretty easy to get to and very unique in the city. 

What’s one of your proudest accomplishments so far? 

I’m really proud of the fact that over my career, I've been able to stretch in a bunch of different directions and have had different responsibilities across different areas of marketing and product lines. I've even moved across different businesses and of course, have recently shifted into an entirely new space. I’ve spent a lot of time building up my marketing expertise and consider myself a marketing expert and can bring that over to other businesses and product lines, so that feels really good at this point. 

I’m also proud of having helped people on my team develop their own careers in the direction they want. I’ve been able to help people identify where they want to get to, develop the plans that will get them there, and then be able to see them achieve those goals. 

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

I think 10 years ago, I would have said marketing is the area of the business that I like being in, so that feels pretty consistent. I think it’s different in terms of how I'm just starting something new. Earlier on in my career, I had been at a couple of different companies for two to three years and would not have predicted that I would have stayed at my last company for almost 10 years. Now I'm starting in a totally new space with a new company and building from there. I also didn’t expect to be doing this much advocating for my team and telling the story of what we do, because I'm someone who hated public speaking and getting up in front of crowds. Now I do that a lot, and it’s something I really enjoy because I feel strongly about the value of the work that the team does. That's something I don't think I would have predicted.

What’s your advice for recent college graduates? 

Try lots of different things, but spend time identifying the things that you like. I don't think that you have to have a path defined or need to be moving in any specific direction, but I think it's really important to take the time to consider, as you’re in a role, what feels good and what satisfies your professional goals. For me, I always liked when I got to focus on storytelling and getting a message out to an audience, especially when it was connected to marketing or sales. It’s important to give yourself a break and not expect that you have everything figured out all at once, but start to develop the list of things that are important to you both in a current role and then in the career path that you eventually decide on. 


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

Images courtesy of Courtney Cunnane

About the
Company

6+ million software professionals and 20,000+ companies in 194 countries use SmartBear products to build and deliver the world’s greatest applications.

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Lead(H)er: Meeta Mathur, Vice President, Experience Design at MineralTree banner image

Lead(H)er: Meeta Mathur, Vice President, Experience Design at MineralTree

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Meeta Mathur began her design career more than 20 years ago in print and television advertising, where she put her degree in graphic design to good use. When the Internet arrived, her career took the first of several turns that eventually led her to a career in management and UX design leadership.

“It’s been a constant series of evolutions over the course of two decades from web design to information architecture to user experience design, to now managing the entire process,” said Mathur, who is now the Vice President of Experience Design at MineralTree, where she manages a suite of AP and accounts payable automation software.

As the Internet gained traction, Mathur moved into web design for PC Connection, which led to roles in information architecture as both a full-time employee at BigBad, Inc. and a consultant for various other companies, including H&R Block, Sapient, and Keurig.

The final turn in Mathur’s career came when she became a senior user experience designer at WSI Corporation, which provides weather-driven business solutions to media, aviation, and energy trading companies. There, Mathur designed new storm tracking features for the company’s proprietary software, which helped TV broadcasters track live weather data on geographical maps.

A little over a year later, Mathur became the associate UX director at Roundarch Isobar, where she worked for nearly two years before joining MineralTree in April 2013 to oversee the entire user experience and visual design process.

After working at larger companies, Mathur has welcomed the opportunity to connect with her coworkers on a personal level and build a strong rapport with them. She knows the motivations, goals, and preferences of many of her colleagues, making it easier to understand their perspective when they give feedback or present during a meeting, and giving their work as a team greater meaning.

Mathur has also been an active mentor over the last few years of her career with at least half a dozen mentorship roles at organizations within the Boston area, including Ladies Who UX Boston and #Mentor100kWomen. As she progressed through her own career, Mathur considers herself lucky to have found a few people willing to advise her along the way. But she wishes that she had encountered more mentors who actively volunteered their expertise, instead of finding them through happy accidents.

“I’m sure that if I felt this way, there were many more people who felt similarly,” Mathur said. “I’ve been there, I’ve lived through that, and I know what it’s like when you wish you had somebody whom you could turn to for advice at times, so I want to meaningfully give back and influence the careers of others like me.”

While mentorship remains a focal point of Mathur’s career going forward, she’s also interested in ensuring that MineralTree’s user experience and design team scales in line with the company’s growth. To this end, Mathur is planning to create more specialized roles and functions within the team to help it have an even greater impact on the company’s product design. Ideally having people on board that she describes as “T-shaped” – having deep knowledge in one aspect of design and having breadth of experience in a couple of adjacent areas.

“We want to make sure that the behavior of the application itself is based on our customers' motivations and pain points,” Mathur said. “Our design is based on the user’s mental model, which is what ultimately makes it easy to use and intuitive, and we want to make sure we can keep iterating that experience based on user feedback.”


Quick Q(uestions) and A(dvice)

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I enjoy spending time with my family and children. We go for walks, ride bikes and visit the neighborhood farm stand for  ice cream. I also enjoy doing a little bit of painting and traveling. I recently started a painting based on my recent travels to Spain.

What are your strategies for managing stress?

The usual – watching a little bit of TV, consuming some online content, and other mindless stuff to relax.

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

I’m actually not a coffee drinker, but I have about two to three cups of tea. I only have coffee once in a blue moon.

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

I absolutely love the city of Boston. It has so much to offer, especially in good weather. There are so many fun neighborhoods to walk around. In Concord, I love going to the Great Meadows wetlands because you get to see  migratory birds and other wildlife. I also love going to the Cape in the summer.

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

I definitely think it’s the redesign of MineralTree that we did in 2013. The product has now been in use for six years, and it’s often cited for its ease of use. We’ve grown the company significantly during that time from Series A funding to a $50 million Series C round, and from having about 20 or 30 customers to several thousand customers. The team is rapidly growing and closing in on a 100 employees, and we are still actively hiring for several positions. I would say this is definitely one of my proudest accomplishments.

Is this where you saw yourself 10 years ago?

My career has evolved much. Twenty years back, there was no Internet, and even if you go back about 15 years, we weren’t really using smartphones. So much has changed in terms of technology and what is now considered ease of use. There’s been a lot of rapid-learning that has to be constantly re-learned to make sure you’re calibrated with changing times all the time. User mindsets are constantly changing with evolving technology and it’s important to stay ahead with this constantly evolving landscape. That’s just part of this career. Even toddlers today know that everything can be swiped! Those people are one day going to grow up, and what I’m doing today is going to evolve again because what they expect out of their product is going to be vastly different than what this generation expects. 

What’s your advice for recent college graduates?

Hard work never fails. Work hard and work smart. Try to learn and acquire new knowledge whenever you can – there’s a lot out there, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I don’t know if I’d be able to keep up if I started my career now. I was lucky to start my career when I did and grow it along with all of this tech. So you need to be able to put in the work to make it in this field. And make sure you get your own “personal board” of mentors, because you’re going to need them.


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

About the
Company

The only affordable end-to-end AP and Payment Automation solution, built for NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics GP, Intacct, QuickBooks, and more.

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Lead(H)er: Heather Hartford, Chief People Officer at Acquia banner image

Lead(H)er: Heather Hartford, Chief People Officer at Acquia

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A Human Resources department may seem like a foundational element of any company. But for some start-ups in the tech space, the talent and human resources teams may be not built out until the company has reached a certain size. Companies like this often find themselves lacking a people-first mentality, which can make it difficult to create a strong culture that drives employee engagement, retention, and performance.

How do you fix such a problem? You call Heather Hartford.

“You can work anywhere, but more importantly, what are the compelling factors that differentiate where you work compared to any other company in the marketplace?” asked Hartford, the Chief People Officer at Acquia.

Over the course of her career, Hartford has worked to make sure employees are able to answer that question with confidence and excitement.

Hartford began her career in marketing at Gardner Preston Moss and Hill Holiday before moving into a Director of Advertising role for Marshalls at TJX, and her transition into human resources and talent organizations happened when she was tapped for an unexpected opportunity. 

Hartford had been at Digitas LBi for a few years when the CEO decided to take a new approach to people management at the company and brought on a new Chief People Officer to help. The CPO promptly asked Hartford to make the switch from marketing to recruiting. If she could sell Digitas to clients, she reasoned, she could sell it to potential employees.

Hartford was uncertain about the new role but went ahead and accepted it on a trial basis, with the understanding that she could return to marketing in a year if necessary. She never did. Instead, Hartford eventually became the General Manager of Digitas’ Boston office and then its Head of Global Talent Operations. In her last role, Hartford traveled extensively to help expand Digitas’ global footprint through acquisitions of several small agencies around the world.

That role helped remind Hartford of how much she enjoyed working with smaller companies and building teams, and she eventually left Digitas to consider her next move. After a short break, she joined Rue La La.

“It was a team of smart people who were disrupting an industry, so I loved it,” Hartford said.

Rue La La also presented an opportunity to enter the startup space with the benefit of a developed infrastructure. As Rue’s Chief People Officer, Hartford infused her people operations strategy and vision at the company while learning more about what it meant to work at a startup.

“The notion of ‘failing fast’ was a pivot for me,” she said. “At an agency, it’s all about transforming great ideas into programs with flawless execution to deliver results to your clients. There is no ‘fail fast’ on a client’s dime.”

But the freedom to take bigger risks, make mistakes, learn from them, and come back stronger appealed to Hartford, so when it came time to move on from Rue La La, she was drawn to the opportunity to build a new people strategy at Acquia.

“I joined Acquia because they had a lot of the right ingredients when it came to people, but they weren’t sure of how to activate them,” Hartford said. “I believed the company would grow and flourish for a long time after it developed some stronger strategy and vision.”

Hartford helped solidify that vision by rebuilding the talent team’s internal brand and building trust and partnership within the organization. Since then, she’s cultivated a company culture that values employees and gives them more than a paycheck in exchange for their work by encouraging managers to give the people on their team opportunities to grow that help them create careers, not just fill jobs. 

“We believe in the player-coach model, which includes transparency and mutual accountability,” Hartford said. “We’re not armchair managers. We get involved.” She went on to say, ”Our app managers are coaches. This means guiding rather than telling."

Hartford herself is involved in every aspect of Acquia’s people management, from developing a strategy and hiring to traveling around the world to meet with teams and better understand their needs.

When Acquia recently acquired a company (Mautic), Hartford ensured that new employees felt they were part of something bigger, integrated, inspired, and connected. 

“People are our lifeblood,” Hartford said. “They’re not just billable hours – they are our talented team members who are making a difference. In order to create a world-class customer experience, you must first invest in your most important customers -- your people”


Quick Q(uestions) and A(nswers)

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I love going to the beach and spending time there with family. We have a house in Maine, so we go there often.

How do you manage stress?

I always try to make time for myself. That’s a big one for me. I started doing pilates over the winter, and it really helps with my headspace.

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

I have two cups of coffee in the morning. It’s a nice ritual to get started.

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

I love the Common, and I like walking through it to get to the Public Gardens. My son goes to Northeastern, and at first, I wondered why he wasn’t going away to see someplace else. But it’s been really fun to discover the city through him. I commute in from Andover, so I always saw Boston as a place to work, not play. It’s nice to walk through the Gardens every day now as a way to clear my head.

Heather Hartford

What’s one of your proudest accomplishments?

I’m really proud of how we’ve pivoted the mindset at Acquia to think of people first. I truly value the opportunity to create transformation, and I’m proud of our evolution, commitment to world-class experiences, and the people-centric culture we’ve built together.

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

I didn’t think I would be in tech. I loved the agency world, and I knew I could always go back if I wanted to. The industry has a long way to go in regard to people, but it’s changing, and it’s exciting to be a part of that change.

What’s your advice for recent college graduates?

Take it in bite-size. I always tell my son to be curious, work hard, and don’t worry about the future. Nothing is guaranteed to come in five-year increments. My own career path has not taken me where I thought I’d be, or within the time frame that I thought I’d get there. Worry less about getting from point A to point B and follow your passion, because the rest will follow.


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

About the
Company

Whether you are a dreamer, doer, maker or builder, we make it possible for every Acquian to thrive and make a lasting impact.

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Lead(H)er: Terry Ladisheff, Chief Revenue Officer at Loadsmart banner image

Lead(H)er: Terry Ladisheff, Chief Revenue Officer at Loadsmart

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Like many startup veterans, Terry Ladisheff considers herself a builder. But for her, it’s not enough to create something new⁠—she prefers a bit of pressure while she works. 

“The thing I love about the building stage is laying a strong foundation to help a company scale through really rapid growth” said Ladisheff, the Chief Revenue Officer at Loadsmart. “After things are a bit more established, I find the work a little less energizing. 

Though Ladisheff has held many roles throughout her career, from operations manager to vice president to chief operating officer, she has constantly sought out companies in the midst of dramatic growth. 

Ladisheff began her career in consulting before progressing into a sales operations role at Monster.com, where she discovered a passion for both operations and high-growth companies. After nearly three years there, Ladisheff moved to Yahoo!, leading sales operations and financial planning as a business operations manager. 

“At that point, I had been playing a hub-of-the-wheel, operations-type role at those companies, and I found that I really enjoyed it,” she said. “I was helping build skilled teams in a rapid-growth environment and wanted to continue doing that.” 

In 2007, Ladisheff began a five-year run at LogMeIn, beginning as the Director of Sales Operations and adding a position as the Vice President for User Services and Operations to her responsibilities. There, she helped establish sales operations functions and lead the global user services division, a new experience that she welcomed. 

“I try to continue learning, expanding my scope, and mastering different skills,” Ladisheff said. 

When LogMeIn shifted from building mode to the maintenance stage, Ladisheff knew it was time to find another construction project. She became the Chief Operating Officer at GearsCRM, a Salesforce implementation platform, and led the company’s best practice internal operations, talent acquisition, and other internal functions. 

“When I left that role, I was focused on finding another expansion-stage, rapid-growth company that would give me the opportunity to transform a market,” Ladisheff said. 

She found Loadsmart, a logistics platform, and began the next phase of her career as the company’s Chief Revenue Officer in September 2018. In that role, Ladisheff is working on building and scaling the company’s sales organization. She oversees the sales team’s go-to-market efforts, sales operations, marketing, and the integrations team, which focuses on pre-sales support and integration implementation for new clients. 

Cultivating a strong, cohesive team has always been a priority for Ladisheff, who has mentored participants in the MassChallenge program for the last year. 

“I find solving the hard problems that allow you to scale efficiently over the long term with a high-caliber team to be so fun and energizing,” Ladisheff said. 

Looking forward, Ladisheff is committed to continue building, learning, and mentoring both within Loadsmart’s offices and beyond. 

“My work has always been about solving interesting, hard problems and pulling together effective teams that work well together, so I foresee continuing to do that over the long term,” Ladisheff said. 


Quick Q(uestions) and A(dvice) 

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

My free time is all about family. I have a six-year-old and an eight-year-old, and we have a puppy as well. Free time is all about spending time with them and my husband. 

What are some of your strategies for managing stress? 

I tend to stay pretty even-keeled. I prioritize⁠—I think that’s probably my key strategy. I also try to keep things in perspective. If I’m really stressed, it’s always refreshing to take a walk and a deep breath. 

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

I’m a tea drinker, so I have one or two cups a day and switch between decaf and regular. 

What do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments up to this point? 

I would definitely say building high-performance teams, and Loadsmart has been a great example of that. It’s really humbling to work with such a fabulous group of people, and I think I’ve been able to pull together an amazing team here. Having a role in bringing a group together like that is really fun. 

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

Ten years ago, I was running sales operations at LogMeIn, and I was about to take a little bit of a tangent opportunity for a couple of years to run the global user service and tech support team there, which was very new for me. Looking back from then to now, I’ve done what I expected to do, which is to try lots of different opportunities. Another big difference is that I didn’t have kids⁠—throwing them into the mix is a big difference, but nothing could be more rewarding. 

What’s your advice for recent college graduates? 

Be confident in your voice and in the contribution you can make. At the end of the day, it’s about assessing the business problems in front of you and being confident in your ability to take them on, and then sharing that. If you work hard and keep perspective, you have an opportunity to set your sights on something that you really want to do and go after it. 


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

About the
Company

Loadsmart is a technology logistics company. We leverage data and technology to allow shippers to book a truck in 5 seconds nationwide.

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Lead(H)er: Maria Paula Saba, VP of Design at ALICE banner image

Lead(H)er: Maria Paula Saba, VP of Design at ALICE

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Maria Paula Saba went to a traditional design school in Rio de Janeiro, where her classes focused on teaching subjects like book cover and furniture design. Then, a one-off project done in collaboration with a computer science class changed her life. 

She and her classmates designed a multi-touch interface, which is commonly found on iPhones and similar devices today but was new technology at the time. 

“That’s what sparked my interest,” Saba said. “I knew I wanted to work with technology, but that was very hard to do back in Brazil.” 

Saba hadn’t realized how much she wanted a career in tech until she moved to the United States for that career in 2011. She entered a training program at Siemens, but the experience left much to be desired. 

“I would design things, and the developers would tell me what I had designed wasn’t possible to make,” Saba said. “But then when I asked them why, they’d usually tell me they weren’t going to explain anything because I wouldn’t understand.” 

When Saba was offered to apply for a full-time position at Siemens after her training program ended, she didn’t do it. Instead, she went to NYU to pursue a master’s degree in the university’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, which welcomed creatives and engineers alike. There, Saba learned how to connect design, coding and other technologies. She wanted to make sure no one would ever dismiss her with the phrase “you wouldn’t understand” again. 

Maria Paula SabaAs part of her thesis project, Saba created a programmable bracelet that she hoped would help get girls more interested in coding. The thesis eventually became a company, called Jewelbots, which sold thousands of units. While she found the work fulfilling, Saba began to miss having a more consistent income. 

She mentioned this to Dmitry Koltunov, Director of the Startup Leadership Program that she was attending and co-founder of ALICE. The company’s software functions as an operations platform for internal communication and task management for hotel front offices, concierges, housekeeping staff, and maintenance teams, while guests can send text messages or use an app or to access information and services. At the time Saba and Koltunov spoke, ALICE was hiring for its design team, and he offered her a role as a design lead. 

Saba soon became ALICE’s Director of Design, and is now its Vice President of Design. In this role, she’s responsible for running the product design team and ensuring that their work creates a cohesive user experience throughout the platform. 

“A lot of my job is talking to the users and validating the designs we put out before we even develop them to make sure we’re going down the right path before investing our resources,” Saba said. 

Saba knows that her skills in design, coding, and technology are equally valued at ALICE, a refreshing change from some of her other roles, and credits the attitude to the startup’s reflection of her own values. The fast pace of startup life itself is also a welcome change. 

“In a corporate environment where things are already established, it takes so much energy to change anything,” Saba said. “In a startup, you’re creating the environment that you want to work in.” 

During the rest of her time at ALICE, Saba is focused on making an impact in as many ways as possible. She’s built a strong, talented team—including some remote members working from Brazil—and hopes to keep them as engaged and interested in the work as possible. 

“After ALICE, I think it’s just about doing that again and again with different projects and problems,” she said. 


Quick Q and A 

What do you like to do in your free time? 

I have a dog, and I love to spend time with her and teach her new tricks. She’s very well trained. I also do aerial silks, which is a kind of acrobatic dance. I started back in Brazil and then continued here. When I lived in New Jersey, there was no place to take classes, so sometimes I’d go to New York for it. Now I can practice once or twice a week. I also like to travel and want to go to as many places as possible. 

How do you handle stress? 

Silks is one way. I started that when I got a little bored with yoga, so exercise helps. Meditation and mindful meditation are also good. I use the Headspace app, which my sister introduced me to, and it’s been so helpful to have that guidance. 

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

I actually drink tea. In Brazil, the tea culture is not big, so when I got here I learned more about tea. I usually have one black tea in the morning, and I like the ones with some kind of flavor. I found a new berry flavored tea that I’m obsessed with. 

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

I live in Williamsburg, and there’s a new park by the waterfront that I love. It has a beautiful view of the city skyline and a dog park, so my dog also likes that. It’s built where the old sugar factory was and was designed by the same architects as the High Line, so it’s really beautiful.

What’s one of your proudest accomplishments so far? 

I’m very proud of Jewelbots. I never knew I could do something that would get that big. It started as a school project, and now it’s reached so many girls. I think people were happy with the product and with what they were able to do. 

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

Ten years ago, I wasn’t planning to move to the U.S. I was starting to become interested in technology, but I didn’t know I would go so far to pursue my career. I met my husband in Rio, and I had told him I was moving and he could join or not, but I was going for my career. I had no idea I would do something like that and be so determined to make a move of that magnitude. I was so attached to my friends and family. Now, 80 percent of my team is based in Brazil, so I created the opportunities that didn’t exist for me 10 years ago. I couldn’t work in technology in Rio then, but I have interns from the school that I went to that are able to have that experience from where they are. I’m quite proud of that. 

What’s your advice for recent college graduates? 

I think the biggest lesson that I learned in my master’s program is, don’t be afraid to learn new things. In my program, my professors told me that they weren’t going to teach us technology, because technology was going to change. In five years, everything is going to be different. They wanted to teach us how to learn. If you can learn how to learn, you have so many opportunities ahead of you. You’ll commit yourself to learning if you really want that new job. It’s can be really tough because not everyone is a self-learner, but we have Google. Someone else has had your question, so if you don’t know how to do something, Google it. Look for references on web forums. To be able to do that gives you independence. Things are always changing, and there’s no reason to stop learning just because you got a job.


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

About the
Company

Connect every department of your hotel with one platform for all staff communication and guest requests. 

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Lead(H)er: Amanda Bohne, VP of Marketing at AppNeta banner image

Lead(H)er: Amanda Bohne, VP of Marketing at AppNeta

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Good marketing, to Amanda Bohne, is based on having a clear understanding of your customers, products, and how your products can solve customers’ problems.

“If you don’t have that clear, then what are you doing?” said Bohne, who’s currently the Vice President of Marketing at AppNeta. “That link connects everything that you do as a marketer.”

Bohne has woven her way between product marketing and general marketing throughout her career, which began at Care.com. Though she had no initial intention of pursuing a career specifically in technology, the opportunity to work with technology-focused teams to solve meaningful problems hooked her almost instantly. She was responsible for marketing and account management for the company’s Workplace Solutions unit, a B2B division of the company.

After nearly two years at Care.com, Bohne searched for another tech company to continue immersing herself in the industry. She found it in Carbonite, where she held various product marketing roles, including Director of Product Marketing. There, she was responsible for all pricing, packaging, positioning, and competitive & marketing intelligence functions, and built a team that would reshape the company’s go-to-market strategy.

Her career then took her to Databox, where she was able to shape the strategic direction of the company’s customer acquisition and product positioning, and to iboss, where she began as the VP of Product Marketing and then transitioned to oversee all of marketing. Bohne is now at AppNeta where she is responsible for all things marketing-related, including demand generation, product marketing, content marketing, and public relations.

“Our customers are very large enterprises, so it can be a lengthy process to acquire new customers and onboard them,” Bohne said. “We give them lots of TLC along the way, working in close partnership with the sales and customer success teams, to make sure potential customers feel confident that AppNeta can help make them successful.”

Bohne also likes to think of her role as “Chief Cheerleader” for AppNeta, and always seeks opportunities to be actively involved in creating a positive company culture not just for her own team, but for all of AppNeta’s employees.

The desire to make an impact is what brought Bohne to startups, where the speed of operation tends to lend itself well to creating meaningful change.

“The foosball tables and snacks and amenities so many startups provide are nice, but it’s not enough to keep you going,” she said. “At a fast-paced, growing company, it’s really all about the opportunity you have to make an impact.”


Quick Q and A

What do you like to do in your free time?

My guilty pleasure is watching The Bachelor, and my not so guilty pleasure is Zumba. I used to teach Zumba classes, but now I get to just zone out and have fun as a participant. It’s such a good stress reliever.

How do you handle stress?

I think it’s important to step back and get perspective. I had a mentor who used to say, “No one’s dying on our table.” At a startup, everyone is super motivated and passionate, which is great, but you sometimes have to remember that this isn’t life or death.

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

I don’t drink coffee -- I guess I just have natural pep!

What’s one of your favorite places in Boston?

I take the Red Line to work, and you actually get the most beautiful view of the skyline as you’re approaching the MGH stop from Cambridge. It can be really peaceful at the right moment, and it’s a great reminder of how lucky we are to work in this city. My other favorite place is the Common -- there’s nothing like it on a spring day.

What’s one of your proudest accomplishments?

I’m proud of the teams I’ve built because those teams can do more than any one person could on their own. Seeing the growth of my team members over the years has been so fulfilling and gratifying. It’s bigger than any one project -- these relationships go beyond that.

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

I didn’t anticipate how much I would love tech. I got into it by luck, and I can’t imagine being any other sort of marketer right now.

What’s your advice for recent college graduates?

Don’t feel like you need to know exactly what you want to do right now or that there’s only one path. In school, you go to sixth grade and seventh grade and so on, but in life, that’s not the case. You can go from engineering to marketing to customer success, and the most versatile people are often the ones who are able to take on that zigzag path. To recent grads, that can be scary because it’s not what they’re used to. But if you embrace that freedom, you can see some new paths. It’s liberating.


Samantha Costanzo Carleton is a Contributor to VentureFizz. You can follow her on Twitter @smcstnz.
 
Images courtesy of Amanda Bohne

About the
Company

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

 

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18 of the Top Leaders in the New York Tech Scene - Lead(H)er Recap banner image

18 of the Top Leaders in the New York Tech Scene - Lead(H)er Recap

It’s a great time to be in the tech industry, particularly in New York, and women are leading the charge.

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

They’ve told us about everything from the challenges, successes, and surprises of their careers to how many cups of coffee it takes to get through a day, so take a look at our list of the talented women we’ve spotlighted this year.


“What’s been really fun as the business gets bigger is that the challenges change for myself and my co-founders,” Choi said. “Today, it’s really thinking about the next phase of growth and how we keep the foot on the gas."


Laura Zax, Vice President of Marketing at Splice

“I was really passionate about change at scale,” Zax said. “I fundamentally saw two levers for change at that kind of change. One was government, and that wasn’t a route I was going to go at this stage in my career, and the other was the corporate world. I had to figure out how business works, because it shapes our lives unlike any other force.”


Xiaodi Zhang, Chief Product Officer at 1stdibs

“I wanted to be a sponge and to learn as much as possible from those around me,” Zhang said. “I’m a big believer in the idea that you need to spend 10,000 hours on something to become an expert.”


Devra Prywes, Chief Product Officer at Applicaster

“Having an app suddenly means that wherever you are in the world, geography is not a factor in terms of access to information, entertainment, or education,” she said. “I see the work we’re doing now being able to help break down these borders to help people connect with content and  form communities.”


Joanna Lin, Head of Marketing at Simon Data

“I love having the ability to understand everything about the organization and be a part of what the business is trying to accomplish every day,” Lin said. “Everyone is working so hard to get to the same place, because we know that we’re all building it together and have a part in it. At the end of the day, if we’re successful, it’s a group win.”


Lillie Green, Head of Product for Wix Experts at Wix

“Part of what I love about working in product management and in the tech space, in general, is that there’s always something new to learn,” Green said. “It’s always changing, and for me, that’s what really keeps me excited and drives me to really build the best products we can.”


Tu Nguyen, VP, Head of Finance and Analytics at 1stdibs

“I learned from experience that I get the most out of taking the biggest risk and exploring the unknown,” Nguyen said.


Lindsey Fielding, Vice President of Marketing and Growth at YieldStreet

“I really love building, and enjoy early-stage companies where there's not really much there,” Fielding said. “It's sort of a blank slate to really think through what we’re trying to accomplish and how we’re going to do it.”


Lindsey Andrews, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Minibar Delivery

“When you’re creating a startup, one day will be the best day ever, and then something bad will happen the next and take you to the lowest of the low,” Andrews said. “I feel like Lara and I are really happy to have each other. Having someone to be a sounding board, to rely on if you're having a bad day, and really having that partnership to do it together has made it easier to weather the storms.”


Jessie Lazarus - Head of Mobility Business Development at CARMERA

“I think working for great people who trust you and will have your back is important. Someone in college once told me to choose classes based on the professor, not on the syllabus, and I think that’s how I’ve approached jobs. Work for people who will let you step beyond your qualifications because they trust you and will give you the freedom to learn, grow, and even mess up. Bosses who have your back is key.


Dorothy Chang, Vice President/Head of Marketing & Communication at Paxos

“I think the hardest thing you can do is to develop a more long-term perspective on life and realize that your first job isn't the end-all, be-all. I think a lot of people spend a lot of time worried about what that first job means for them and whether they’re making the right choice or not. But you’re 22 years old, and there's no way to know the answer to any of those questions until you do it. You just have to dive in, and then as you continue to grow, you'll learn more about life, what is best for you, where your strengths are, and what your desires are. You can figure all of that out as you go, so don't stress. Just go for it and keep putting yourself in a position to learn and grow and have the kind of impact you want to have on the world.


Amy Jacobowitz, Head of Content at Getaway

“I think the benefit of working in the world of advertising is that it has some of the most creatively-minded people and smartest people who are really trying to tackle things strategically,” she said. “It got me into a different mindset.”


Marybeth Sheppard, Senior Vice President of Marketing at SevenRooms

“I don’t really know what that’s going to look like 10 years in the future,” Sheppard said. “But I can tell you, I’m super excited for it.”


Jackie Trebilcock, Managing Director at New York Fashion Tech Lab

“There’s new things happening all the time, and we really don’t know what the next thing will be. That’s the exciting part.”


Marie Myers, CFO at UiPath

“I had this opportunity to create a big startup in less than 10 months, which was a pretty exciting experience, to say the least,” Myers said.


Neha Kumar, Director of Product Management at Oscar Health

“I’ve had amazing, strong, female leaders that supported me through each step of my career,” Kumar said. “They saw something in me and gave me opportunities, so now I’m doing the same.”


Dana Cordova

Shivani York, COO at InRhythm

“In business, so much is about empathy and relating to people,” Shivani said. “It took me a while to realize that. People want to not just be heard, but they want to feel like their ideas are valuable.”


Stephanie Manning, Director of Platform at Lerer Hippeau

“I really had to hustle for that first job, and I wish I knew how many applications I had to send because it would be a funny number to look at now,” she said.


Cara Reisman, Head of Betterment for Advisors

“I liked being able to collaborate across teams and translate big-picture ideas into execution in order to scale client-focused businesses,” Reisman said. “That’s how I came to Betterment.”


Laila Zemrani, Co-Founder and CEO of Fitnescity

“People want to take actions to learn more about their health,” Zemrani said. “We just needed to make it easier for them.”


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

Lead(H)er: Laura Scott, COO at Takeoff banner image

Lead(H)er: Laura Scott, COO at Takeoff

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If you’ve ever ventured into a Trader Joe’s grocery store on a Sunday evening to do your grocery shopping for the week and felt like the entire neighborhood had the exact same idea, you know all too well how stressful this necessary chore can become. Amazon’s Alexa can manage our homes, and we’re so close to self-driving cars, so when will the robots make grocery shopping easier? They already are, and if Laura Scott has anything to say about it, they’ll soon be helping shoppers all over the world.

Scott is the COO at Takeoff Technologies, a Waltham-based company that turns 10,000 square feet of existing grocery stores -- about an eighth of the location’s space -- into tiny warehouses staffed by automated fulfillment robots. Instead of having a person do your shopping for you or getting groceries sent over from a warehouse on the outskirts of town, which usually happens when you order groceries online, Takeoff’s bots pick up to four orders at a time from 15,000 SKUs right in the store and deliver them to a single employee through a series of racks and lifts. This employee can then bag the goods and send them off for delivery. Despite the tech involved, the whole operation costs grocers half as much as it does for consumers to shop for themselves.

Takeoff wasn’t operating any sites before Scott arrived in October 2018. Two months later, it had two -- the first of their kind in the entire world.

“Now we're going to be building that blueprint and refining it and perfecting it so that we can literally launch multiple sites a day in every corner of the globe,” Scott said.

It’s an ambitious goal, but Scott has the experience to help make it a reality. She’s been in management and operations throughout her entire career, beginning with the Woodstock Soapstone Company, which sold factory-direct woodstoves and gas stoves primarily through catalogs and later the web. Scott then earned her MBA from Dartmouth University and returned to Woodstock for another six years before joining Wayfair as the then-fledgling company’s Director of Supplier Operations.

At the time, Wayfair was struggling with fulfilling orders. The majority of orders weren’t delivered on time, and for about 10 percent of orders, Scott said, items customers had purchased weren’t actually in stock. Scott created a supplier team out of 25 former customer service representatives with the goal of helping suppliers ship smaller quantities of inventory on time and improving the customer experience. Once she and her team resolved that issue in the U.S., they turned their focus to the company’s European and Canadian operations. Shipping rates and backorder numbers improved dramatically, and while Scott was proud of her work, she missed the challenge of solving problems.

Scott took the summer off after leaving Wayfair and enjoyed the break, but when her kids went back to school, she realized how much she wanted to go back to work. After some searching for the right move, Scott landed at Takeoff.

“What I loved about Wayfair and now love about Takeoff is that we’re solving problems when there’s no blueprint,” Scott said. “You can’t call anybody or look this up online, because nobody knows how to do this. I don’t know how to do it either, but I know how to put the right people into the room to dig into problems and figure it out.”

Like she did at Wayfair, Scott is looking to create a recipe for success. This time, she and her team are working to figure out how to install Takeoff’s mini-warehouses as quickly as possible in grocery stores around the world.

“The level of rigor that you need to have behind that process of getting a site up and running and training retail clients is huge,” she said. “When you think about going from launching one or two sites here and there to launching multiple sites per day in different places, that’s impressive. I’m very excited.”


Quick Q(uestions) and A(dvice)

What do you like to do in your free time?

I have two kids and a husband, and anything that gets us outside is ideal. We lived in Vermont and New Hampshire for a while, so even though I’ve been in Boston now for 10 years I miss walking in the woods, hiking, and being in nature. Having a dog is fantastic because it reminds us every day, if not every weekend, to get out and get to the water or mountains or something. Boston actually has a pretty decent array of walks in the woods, and all the towns have some sort of conservation land or area with trails.

How do you manage stress?

I think there are two things that help the most. One is getting outside. I bike to work, run, and swim. Even getting outside for just 15 minutes for a quick walk is a huge help. That always helps me get my head in the right place. When I have something that's really weighing on my mind, the best thing for me to do is actually talk about it with somebody else. Somehow the act of verbalizing what's going on and how I'm thinking about it and the options that I see works. Half the time the other person doesn't even have to say anything -- I just need to talk at someone for a minute!

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

I’m not a coffee drinker - I don’t really do caffeine. I tried to like coffee in high school when it was cool, but I thought it tasted so bad! So I never got into it.

What’s one of your favorite places in Boston?

My favorite place in the Boston area is Hull. It's a 25-minute ferry ride away from Boston, but you feel like you are in a completely different universe. It has an amazing beach, and it’s got big hills and cliffs into the water and a cute downtown shopping area. It feels like it moves at a different pace. Most people don't know about it, so it's sort of a Hidden Gem.

What’s one of your proudest accomplishments?

About six months into my tenure at Wayfair, we reached a moment where things were still not going great with the supply chain. We had a meeting about our strategy with suppliers, and a lot of the proposals that were on the table to solve these problems relied on implementing some sort of penalty, like chargebacks for late shipments. I had talked to enough suppliers at this point to know that they weren’t shipping late to be malicious -- they just didn’t know how to drop ship. Their entire business was about shipping full truckloads of furniture to places like Jordan’s, and we were asking them to ship one bedroom set to Joe and Jane Doe in Belmont. So I gave the team some examples about why I thought penalties were the wrong way to go and why we should partner with the suppliers and be the retailer who helps them figure out how to do this. So they gave me some more time to try that strategy, and it paid off. I get asked all the time about why Amazon isn’t crushing Wayfair in this space, and I think the answer is that the relationships that we built with those suppliers are incredibly strong.

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

That would have been right before I joined Wayfair. I was the general manager of a small, family-owned manufacturer of wood stoves and gas stoves -- we’re talking a $7 million business. I had no idea that Wayfair was going to become what it did, so it's hard to say where I thought I’d be. I knew I wanted to be working in tech and eCommerce in some way, but I never expected anything like this!

What’s your advice for recent college graduates?

I would say, don’t overthink it. A lot of people worry about taking the best, most strategic first job out of college, but they’ve got a long road ahead. Focus on whether you’re joining a company where you like the people, feel like you’re going to be challenged, and feel comfortable with whatever you’re selling or doing. When you find that place, dive in with both feet, and don’t hold back. I think a lot of people are used to professors giving you assignments and checking in on you, but when you go into the working world your boss probably isn’t very aware of what you’re doing or thinking about it often. New grads might expect the kind of management that they've gotten from their professors, where their professors have a lot more insight into how they're doing, and then they sit back and wait for their boss to recognize that they aren't being challenged anymore. They don't speak up, and I think that’s a problem. You have to tell people what you want to be doing and what you need.


Samantha Costanzo Carleton is a Contributor to VentureFizz. You can follow her on Twitter @smcstnz.
 
Images courtesy of Laura Scott
 

About the
Company

Takeoff is helping grocers thrive in eCommerce.

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