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

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Lead(H)er: Marybeth Sheppard, Senior Vice President of Marketing at SevenRooms banner image

Lead(H)er: Marybeth Sheppard, Senior Vice President of Marketing at SevenRooms

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Picture this: When you show up for your dinner reservation at your new favorite restaurant, the host welcomes you back and greets you by name. Your server asks if you’d like a glass of that wine you enjoyed so much last time, and mentions that while the night’s special has dairy in it—you mentioned you had an allergy to it last time—a dairy-free option is available. Have you suddenly become an A-list celebrity without knowing it? Not quite. This restaurant is just using SevenRooms to make you feel like one.

SevenRooms is an integrated reservation and seating platform that makes everything from organizing reservations to making guests feel special that much easier. It’s an approach that Marybeth Sheppard, the company’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, takes to her own career, as well.

“I've always been in these roles where I’ve needed to take a very integrated marketing approach to manage the whole lifecycle,” Sheppard said. “How do we make sure the industry knows who we are and what we do, how do we get leads to talk to sales and engage with us, and how do we make sure they know how to use our product in a way that meets their needs?”

Sheppard earned her bachelor’s degree in communications at Seton Hall University, where a love of writing eventually became a love of marketing and the wider range of activities that fell under that umbrella. After graduation, she took a full-time role working in non-admissions marketing at her alma mater, running events including capital campaign launches designed to raise $150 million and speaker and gala events attended by such luminaries as Hillary Clinton, Kofi Anan, and Toni Morrisson.

Though the work was rewarding, Sheppard had always wanted to work at a marketing agency. She found her opportunity in Zer0 to 5ive, a B2B tech marketing agency. The experience allowed her to get a behind-the-scenes look at how different types of companies worked, from financial services to education.

“Working at an agency is a very intense experience,” Sheppard said. “You’re really working for another company’s success when you do.”

After six years, Sheppard decided to go in-house again. She was looking for a B2B company with a household name, and she found her match in Seamless, the popular food ordering and delivery site. There, Sheppard handled corporate business account sales and restaurant and delivery driver marketing. As she grew into new roles, so did the company, and Seamless eventually merged with GrubHub, with the combined company IPOing shortly after.

When she began to crave a new challenge, Sheppard again knew just what she was looking for. She hoped for company with a New York headquarters, where she could be right in the middle of the action, and for a role that continued to combine hospitality and tech.

“The hospitality industry, with its energy and its excitement, has a way of getting into your blood if it’s something you love,” Sheppard said.

SevenRooms was a natural next stop. In addition to checking all of her boxes, the company also offered Sheppard the chance to work with passionate, driven, and kind founders who had a strong vision for their company.

For Sheppard, her colleagues are often the most exciting part of working at a startup. When each person’s contribution can make such an impact, the workday becomes that much more rewarding.

“You really build a camaraderie with your colleagues around the fact that you’re building something together and that you’re part of the reason that this growth is happening,” she said.

Sheppard looks forward to the many opportunities these connections can bring and is eager to get involved in new projects that her colleagues might someday develop. Her immediate focus, though, is helping SevenRooms bring Amazon’s Alexa into the restaurant industry. In October 2018, SevenRooms received funding from the Alexa Fund, which sponsors programs designed to use voice enabled technology in innovative new ways.

“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.”

Rapid Fire Questions

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love to cook, host, and entertain. It’s probably why I’m so drawn to hospitality and restaurants. I love to think of a big meal and cook it up for friends and family. If the weather’s nice, I’ll go play tennis or go to the beach, but cooking is year round.

How do you typically manage stress?

Luckily I’m not a very stressed or anxious person. I was born with a positive outlook, and I tend to remember that and use that. When I do get nervous about a project or other situation, I have learned that it helps me verbalize it to the people who can help do something about it. The sooner you can do that and talk about it to the people who have the ability to impact it, the better. All it takes is saying, “Hey, I’m starting to think about this. What are your thoughts?” Just being stressed for the sake of being stressed doesn't do much. I like to be action-oriented.

If I’m stressed about a personal thing, I try to ask myself, “What's the absolute worst thing in the whole world that can happen right now?” We all know that whatever it is, it would never happen. Once I ground myself like that, I can manage almost anything. I even joke with my children—freaking out is always the worst response. It always makes things worse, and calm heads always prevail.

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

Two big ones, but they’re decaf, so I get to cheat a little bit. I don’t drink caffeine in theory, but I do drink a ton of decaf coffee, and there’s a little bit in there.

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

My happy place is Cape May in New Jersey. It’s a Victorian landmark city, and it has these big houses, an amazing beach, and great restaurants and bars. In the summer, we spend as much time there as we can. It’s just a two-hour drive from the city. In the city, there’s nothing like Long Meadow in Prospect Park. If I have an afternoon or a day to spend somewhere, that’s probably my favorite.

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

I think one of the things I’m most proud of is the relationships that I’ve built in my career and the number of people who are willing to work with me again. When people who have worked with you before know the results you’re able to produce, and how you react to good things and bad, and they want to work with you again, I take a lot of pride in that. If people are reaching out to you, that means you’re doing something right. Your professional network is invaluable.

What’s your advice for recent college graduates?

Control what you can control. What I mean by that is, for example, I may not always be the smartest in the room or the person who went to the fanciest college, but I’m on time. I work hard. I try to be the most prepared person in the meeting. So take the time to send the thank you notes and build those relationships and work on the things that don't have to do with the fact that you don’t have a Harvard MBA and someone else does. A lot of succeeding has to do with just working hard, showing up, paying attention, and listening. Do what you say you’re going to do. Be easy to work with. All of those things make an impact, and I think that’ll take them very far.

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

About the

SevenRooms’ Guest Experience and Retention platform helps hospitality operators create exceptional experiences that boost profitability and repeat business.

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Lead(H)er: Heather Ames, Co-Founder and COO of Neurala banner image

Lead(H)er: Heather Ames, Co-Founder and COO of Neurala

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Most artificial intelligence programs require more hardware, memory, and technology in general than a mobile device can hold. But in today’s increasingly mobile-first world, this limitation could be preventing some major breakthroughs in the AI field.

In 2006, Heather Ames and two fellow graduate students at Boston University decided to do something about it. The team patented a method for running neural networks for AI systems on mobile devices, then founded Neurala to hold the patent and do some consulting work on AI technology.

“We knew we were ahead of the market,” Ames said. “Today, we’ve evolved significantly from a patent holding entity to a company that’s really trying to push the envelope and commercialize AI beyond just service-based companies.”

While the AI market has developed more slowly than Ames would have hoped, Neurala has blossomed into a leader within it. The company’s Brain Builder Platform is making it easier for organizations to rapidly build and deploy AI. Its patented program uses less data and less time to analyze information, provide accurate solutions, and continue learning. It can find a missing child using just one picture, manage drones, help fight elephant poaching, and edit photos.

After several years of offering customized AI solutions to its clients, Neurala is scaling up by giving those clients -- most of which are not AI experts -- the ability to build the technology to meet their exact needs themselves.

“Every customer has its own unique problems and data sets, so providing them with a generalized solution isn’t going to solve the problem. We need to give them the tools to build and maintain those solutions themselves.” Ames said.

It’s one of the many ways that Ames and the Neurala team are working to help people view AI as a resource in their toolkit, rather than the sci-fi nightmare that some may think of instead.

“It’s so far away from anything that’s going be learning to take over cities,” Ames said. “We just need to be mindful of how we use it and always ask ourselves what we’re doing to make sure that the system is approaching the problem in the appropriate way.”

AI trained using historical criminal cases, for example, is likely to carry over racial biases currently at play in the criminal justice system, perpetuating that bias and further ingraining it into the system.

Questions like these have always interested Ames, who began her career as a graduate student at Boston University’s CELEST Science of Learning Center. She eventually worked her way up to become the center’s managing director and, throughout her tenure, focused on increasing diversity and creating mentorship opportunities in the field that would allow graduate students to pursue applied AI opportunities.

“Because we were on the cutting-edge technology side, it was important to me to guide students into career paths that weren’t necessarily just academic, but rather would allow them to see how their work can actually have an impact in products and technology.”

As a co-founder, Ames has been able to continue promoting impact not only with Neurala’s product, but also within the company itself. Through the highs and lows -- Ames was once forced to use her own savings to make payroll after a government shutdown prevented the necessary funds from coming through -- she’s used her role as a co-founder to assemble a talented team and create a company culture that focuses on more than just the tech.

“What I find most rewarding is really being able use my position to focus on the people that work here,” Ames said.

Rapid Fire Questions

What do you like to do in your free time?

Well, I’m eight months pregnant with my fourth child, and between that and balancing the company and my kids, there’s just not a lot of time in between. I don’t have free time, but if I do, I usually sleep!

Heather Ames with her children

How do you typically handle stress?

As all responsible adults should, especially if they have highly stressful careers, I have a therapist. I also try to have a sense of humor and a positive attitude, which I think just comes with experience and maturity. I certainly didn’t feel that way when I was 16, but I’m grateful for what I have in my life and try to keep that in perspective. The last thing I do is listen to my favorite podcast during my commute. It’s called My Favorite Murder, but it keeps me calm.

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

Unfortunately just one because of the pregnancy, but if it wasn’t for that, I’d drink three or four or five a day.

What do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments?

I think getting this far with Neurala has just been such an amazing journey, but I think the team we’ve hired here is maybe an even bigger accomplishment. My team is so amazing. They’re strong leaders, they make me laugh, and we have a good time together. I wouldn’t want to be here with any other group of people, and I think they can really take it to the next level.

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

Lately, I just go to work and to my kids’ school, so my favorite place right now is just my bed at home!

Is this where you saw yourself 10 years ago?

Ten years ago, we were in the early stages of Neurala. This trajectory isn’t far off from where I thought I’d be, but it’s surprising that it’s taken a long time for hardware and the AI industry to evolve during that time. It’s gone a bit more slowly than I would like, but that’s okay because we’ve been able to stick it out. So I think that I’m right where I want to be, I just wish that the market was ready earlier.

What’s your advice for recent college graduates?

This is a great time to explore the things that you enjoy. My parents worked because they had to work to take care of their families. They couldn't get a job just because it was motivating. It was just about getting a job. That's very different right now when you can actually get a job doing something that you enjoy. You can and should check in with yourself all the time and ask, am I motivated. am I enjoying my job, do I feel appreciated and respected? That's one of the greatest things I think about today's workplace culture.

The other thing is for the women out there, there’s always this question of waiting until you have an established career to have children. While that’s a viable path to take, it shouldn’t be your only deciding factor. No matter what time in your career that you have children, it’s going to be disruptive, and it does change who you are as a person. Those fears shouldn’t be driving your life decisions. Seek out a culture in a work environment that appreciates women as effective workers and leaders as well as mothers.

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

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Neurala is a pioneer in vision AI software.

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Lead(H)er: Kristin Simonini, Vice President of Product at Applause banner image

Lead(H)er: Kristin Simonini, Vice President of Product at Applause

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Kristin Simonini, the Vice President of Product at Applause, spent the first few years of her career in consulting and human resources. She supported recruiting efforts, helped build software, and used a variety of strategies and products to solve her clients’ problems. Eventually, Simonini realized that she could speed up the entire problem-solving process by placing herself one step further back, getting her hands dirty, and working on the products themselves.

While working at WebHire, a recruiting software company where Simonini had set up a business process consulting team, the product manager went on maternity leave. Simonini saw her chance to make the switch from consulting to product by filling in, but first, she had to come to terms with a reality check.

“When you get on the other side of the fence, you learn that pretty quickly that you can't just come in and execute on every idea you have,” Simonini said. “There are trade-offs. There are new business ventures and strategic initiatives you need to account for. There are considerations that you didn't have visibility into before moving into the role.”

It was the right opportunity at the right time, and Simonini has worked in product ever since. She’s honed her skills throughout her career, working primarily at software-focused companies like Brainshark and EdAssist before moving to Applause.

The company provides crowd testing and digital quality solutions for its clients, which operate in a range of industries, and Simonini’s team maintains the platform that supports it all. This includes the processes to find and match t testers to projects, support integrations with third-party tools like bug-tracking systems, manage test cycles, and process payments to the community.

It’s a tall order, particularly for a team that barely existed just one year ago. Simonini helped create the team from scratch when she arrived at Applause in February 2018 and is now going into 2019 with a fully-staffed and highly-talented group.

The same problem-solving mentality that led Simonini to product helped her tackle the enormous task of helping build a product team at Applause. To her, it’s all part of the challenge -- and reward -- of working at a startup.

“When you're talking about an early stage or start-up organization, you have an opportunity to really make an impact and see the results of your team's efforts,” she said. “If my team can be responsible for coming up with that next market disruptor or new offering to guide sales strategy, those are the kinds of opportunities I’m on the lookout for.”

To Simonini, these opportunities are major breakthroughs that will advance not just her own team’s success, but that of the entire company. She’s always been a problem solver, and impacting a core challenge or initiative wherever she works will always be a top priority.

“The next big step is to do something that’s not just tactically moving the business up the chain, but making 10 big leaps ahead on the chain,” she said.

Rapid Fire Questions

What do you do in your free time?

I have an eight-year-old son, so  I spend free time with him doing whatever activities he is interested in and exploring new places together. He’s a Cub Scout, too, and I’m the treasurer for his scout pack.

Kristin Simonini with her son

I'm also heavily involved in a fundraiser called Cycle for Survival that focuses on rare cancer research. We have our r local event a week from Sunday and have raised a lot of money over the years. It’s a special cause for me because my husband had a rare form of cancer that we lost him to. So when I have free time, I like to support that organization through activities and PR and whatever else I can do to help.

How do you typically manage stress?

Stress is almost a constant for me. I take a few minutes at the end of the day to read a book before bed because I find it is a chance to escape to something more mindless. I can disconnect from the day and not go over in my head all of the things that I might be doing otherwise, whether that be work-related or on the home front. I like things that are pure fiction like thrillers. I also find the beach to be great therapy for stress.

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

I have two cups of coffee each day-- one in the morning, and one in the afternoon.

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

A big favorite of ours is the Museum of Science. It’s a fantastic place for an eight-year-old kid to have in his backyard -- there are so many great things to explore and learn about.

I also got married there, so it’s very special in that regard. We were one of the first weddings they hosted. It’s got an amazing view of the city, great food, and you can’t beat pictures with a dinosaur on your wedding day. I always recommend it for people who are trying to find something a little more out of the box.

What do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments?

I really pride myself in my strengths as a manager, and I think when you're getting started in your career, you don't know if management is going to be right for you or if you're going to have the right skills for it. So a great accomplishment for me was when I was leaving a company, and  I was sharing that news with the folks on my team. One of my product managers kind of welled up and said, “You know, this is really unfortunate on so many levels professionally, but you’re also the most human manager I’ve ever had.” I got welled up with that too. That’s the best thing someone could have ever said to me -- not “Oh, that was a great product release,” or “Customers really loved this feature.”

That's something to hang my hat on, because it's important for me to make sure my team knows that yes, we work hard and we get our jobs done, because we play a critical role in the organization, but at the end of the day we’re here for our family and our health and our life outside these walls. That’s what we’re living for. If the teams that I build and grow over the years feel that they have that balance and that I’m able to support them, that’s my accomplishment.

Is this where you saw yourself 10 years ago?

I’m kind of where I would have dreamed to be earlier in my career. I don’t think I expected product organizations to get to the level they have. Historically, at least in my experience, product was buried deep under marketing or engineering. I feel like it’s really been a turn in the last decade or so that product has elevated and has a seat at the table with the leadership and executive teams. That's so critical, because we always understood that product was the hub and connected to absolutely everything that the business was doing, but at the same time, it didn't really have a voice in bigger discussions. So this is exactly what I would have wanted for myself, looking back 10 years, and what I would have wanted for product managers overall.

What’s your advice for recent college graduates?

I think a lot of people come out of school and haven’t quite figured out what their path is yet. My advice is to find your passion and identify your strengths. Maybe find a mentor that can help bring you up in some areas where you just don’t know what you don’t know yet. Networking and building connections is huge, because that’s how people find opportunities. Depending on yours area of interest, I would say also get involved in related groups for that. If product management is your passion and you’re in the Boston area, you should be part of the Boston Product Management Association and go to some of the meetings, network, and hear about what’s happening. That’s going to spark some area of interest and maybe shed light on things that you didn’t realize were out there but that are great opportunities. The earlier you start the better, because it’s great exposure.

Samantha Costanzo Carleton is a Contributor to VentureFizz. You can follow her on Twitter @smcstnz.
Images courtesy of Kristin Simonini and Applause

About the

Today, Applause is the only partner that can provide brands like you with authentic, real-world insight on how your digital assets perform.

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34 of the Top Leaders in the Boston Tech Scene - 2018 Lead(H)er Recap banner image

34 of the Top Leaders in the Boston Tech Scene - 2018 Lead(H)er Recap

It’s a great time to be in the tech industry, particularly in Boston, 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 Boston'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.

Each of these stories are inspirational and as we are closing out 2018, we decided to provide one snippet from each interview and a link to read through the full interview.

Jan Bruce
“Starting my own company wasn’t a lifelong goal. I didn’t get started in the world of work thinking I wanted to be an entrepreneur. What happened is, I eventually thought, ‘I can do this, there’s a need for this and I can do this better.’ I think those are also three things that really motivate entrepreneurs."

Click here to read Jan's story

Michelle Burtchell

Michelle Burtchell, VP of Marketing at Buildium

“Marketing is like a massive puzzle. Every single company is different, but you can use some of the same skills from one to the next. Even as you add to your marketing toolkit, you still have to learn the best way to put those skills - and your new ones - together. The best marketers never stop trying new and different things, and they never stop learning. That’s a pretty amazing way to spend your day.”
Also, Buildium is hiring. Click here for all of the company's openings.

Sara Radkiewicz, Head of Product of TVision Insights (now Head of Product at CarePort Health)

“Brightcove was my first startup, I got this bug about having an impact and wanting more impact. For me, the bigger a company gets, the harder it is to have the impact I want. I left there to go to a startup in an earlier phase and I just kept getting earlier and earlier. I want to be there from the beginning to find the product market fit and what that looks like. It’s really the hardest thing I’ve done in my career and I love the challenge. I’ve done it at two companies so far.”

Click here to read Sara's story

Jane Price

Jane Price, Senior VP of Marketing at Interactions

“There were only two of us in the marketing department when I started at Interactions, so my job’s been to build the team along with the core messaging and the Interactions brand. We’d been kind of the best-kept secret in the Massachusetts tech market, so we started with the basics of building the brand and awareness, then putting in place a high-performing demand generation and customer retention strategy. I always end up having a diverse and busy day where I’m constantly going from deep tech to some more creative types of tasks. I’m constantly using both sides of the brain and I wouldn’t have it any other way."

Click here to read Jane's story

Also, Interactions is hiring. Click here for all of the company's openings.

Colleen Miller

Colleen Miller, Senior Director of Product and UX at Toast

“I think I’ve always been a problem solver. I love crossword puzzles and analytical types of tasks. Once I started working at Harvard Business Publishing, there were just so many great problems to solve and analytical challenges about building a new eCommerce business. My transition into the tech space was a little bit unusual, but it was being at the right place at the right time and falling in love with the work."

Click here to read Colleen's story

Also, Toast is hiring. Click here for all of the company's openings.

Sandy Kreis, Director of Labs, North America: Lab of Forward Thinking (LOFT) at John Hancock / Manulife

“I didn’t anticipate coming back to Boston so quickly, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity at MassCEC. I worked in the innovation and industry support team, tasked with creating a policy to build up the ecosystem around clean energy innovation in the Commonwealth. We worked on so many unique projects, from connecting startups to large corporates looking to source innovation to creating a program to fund Greentown Labs, which has grown into the largest clean energy incubator in the world.”

Click here to read Sandy's story

Katie Bickford

Katie Bickford, Vice President of Sales and Customer Success at Starry

"Pick your first job wisely. I know that there’s a lot of grief that’s given to millennials for not taking whatever job they can get. I actually think what I’ve seen in the upcoming generation is the desire to find work that matters and find work that they care about. I really admire that. My feeling about the first job you take out of college is you actually start to find a groove. If you just take a job in insurance even though you don’t care about it, once you’ve been there for a year or two, that’s where people see you fitting in. That’s where you’ve built experience, that’s where you’ve built a network, that’s where you have value in the marketplace. I think that you should take the time to find something that you’re inspired by."

Click here to read Katie's story

Also, Starry is hiring. Click here for all of the company's openings.

Andrea Valente ERT

Andrea Valente, Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer at ERT

"I find that connections with customers can happen in a lot of different ways. My sales style is much more consultative — I really like to partner with my customers to determine how I can contribute to their success. I think that the relationships I establish with my customers are different than my competitors and because of that it has informed how I lead Product Development."

Click here to read Andrea's story

Also, ERT is hiring. Click here for all of the company's openings.

Eliza Becton

Eliza Becton, Co-Founder and Head of Product at Bevi

“Moving forward, we will have to constantly ask ourselves the same question -- how do we work smarter and move faster? It’s a lot to do, but it’s a great challenge and fun to think about the sustainability impact that we are making. Right now, we’re saving about 2.5 million bottles per month. I feel lucky everyday that I get to work on something that I truly care about that has a real impact."

Click here to read Eliza's story

Also, Bevi is hiring. Click here for all of the company's openings.

Kate Shamsuddin

Kate Shamsuddin, Senior Vice President of Strategy at Definitive Healthcare

“Definitive Healthcare is such a special company for so many obvious reasons, and I’m lucky to have joined when I did. This company created a space for me to grow up in, professionally speaking, and I am so grateful to call it home for where I really built up my career. I’ve learned a ton. I’ve learned how important it is to be nimble and responsive to the market. I’ve learned how critical it is to really walk in the shoes of your buyers and more importantly the shoes of your clients. I’ve learned what it means to be part of running a hugely successful business and all of the blood, sweat, and tears that go into it!”

Click here to read Kate's story

Also, Definitive Healthcare is hiring. Click here for all of the company's openings.

Alana Aubin

Alana Aubin, Vice President of Life Business Unit at EverQuote

“I love how anyone at EverQuote can have an idea and execute on it. I think when you’re working somewhere and you’re new, especially when you’re right out of school, it can be very intimidating to speak up. Working here has taught me to be more vocal. I’m thankful to work in an environment where expressing ideas is part of the culture!”

Click here to read Alana's story

Also, EverQuote is hiring. Click here for all of the company's openings.

Estelle Mense

Estelle Mense, VP of Marketing of BlueSnap

"Being at BlueSnap feels like I’m riding a bike where working at a large corporation is more like driving a tractor trailer. We’re much more nimble and can change directions quickly. But if we come to a steep hill with our bike, we don’t have as much power. We’re clever though, we make it work."

Click here to read Estelle's story

Also, BlueSnap is hiring. Click here for all of the company's openings.

Teodora Stain

Teodora Stoian, Business Technology Leader at Amazon Alexa

“While Europe lagged behind as a technology adopter, the U.S. was driving the innovation market. I had many theories on why that was, ranging from education, which in Europe is more theoretical to risk appetite. A failing startup in Europe does not get you a badge of honor. I wanted to experience firsthand the key drivers behind this apparent disparity and to understand whether Europe could begin to apply the same principles. This was one of the biggest drivers in my decision to move to the U.S.”

Click here to read Teodora's story

Also, Boston's Amazon Alexa team is hiring. Click here for all of the company's openings.

Elisabeth Carptenter

Elisabeth Carpenter, Chief Operating Officer at Circle

“In every job I’ve had, I’ve learned a lot, but this one blows the other ones away in terms of learning about the actual industry itself because it constantly changes. It has its own vocabulary and its own way of thinking about things. Not only is Circle a great company with great people in a great industry, but the amount of learning and mind-bending is phenomenal. It’s just so exciting.”

Click here to read Elisabeth's story

Also, Circle is hiring. Click here for all of the company's openings.

Karen Hutchinson

Karen Hutchinson, Director of DevOps at Agero

“Sometimes in the software industry, you don’t feel that you’re helping the world at the end of the day. Here at Agero, when our applications help people in need on the side of the road, it’s gratifying to think that our cutting-edge technology is actually useful and can even save lives.”

Click here to read Karen's story

Also, Agero is hiring. Click here for all the company's openings.

Alo Mukerji, Chief Operating Officer at coUrbanize

“I didn’t want to be in a particular box. For someone with my skill set on the market research side, you first understand the market, and you can influence the way you’re making decisions about those needs if you can learn that early and start building out the platform from there.”  

Click here to read Alo's story

Dana Cordova

Dana Córdova, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Janeiro Digital

"I think my advice would be to worry less about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, and more about just figuring out how you can become a linchpin for that company and how you can make yourself indispensable. Make yourself invaluable to your employers, and opportunity will find you. I always have younger people come to me asking, do you think I should take this role, do you think I should take that role, how do I find a mentor? I really do mean it when I say that those choices matter to a certain extent, but I believe becoming indispensable and working hard matters more."

Click here to read Dana's story

Also, Janeiro Digital is hiring. Click here for all of the company's openings.

Erin Kutner McCafferty

Erin Kutner McCafferty, Investment Professional at The Yard Ventures

“I really enjoy the learning aspect of it. [McCafferty's role at The Yard Ventures.] We’re not sector specific, so I do get to see a lot. It’s kind of hard to make an investment decision in an area that you don’t have experience in, and you only have two weeks to do due diligence. It’s the part that I like, but it’s the part that can be difficult sometimes.”

Click here to read Erin's story

Priya Sapra, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Product Officer at SHYFT Analytics

“I think I would say that has been a recipe of success for me—not sitting still, being relentlessly urgent. I wish I could say there was a very logical approach, but I think it’s just being impatient, looking for the next challenge, and not being afraid of what happens if it doesn’t work out.”

Click here to read Priya's story

Also, SHYFT Analytics is hiring. Click here for all of the company's openings.

Tara Haas

Tara Haas, Senior Vice President, Chief of Staff, and Head of Innovation at LogMeIn

“I’m passionate about the lab regarding being able to empower the entrepreneurs in the organization to do and explore things that they’re passionate about really. It’s very customer focused, and I’ve spent most of my career being in roles where it’s all about understanding customer problems and finding unique ways to solve them, so I’d love to spend more of my time in that space, continuing to help LogMeIn and entrepreneurs and small businesses explore and solve their problems using technology.”

Click here to read Tara's story

Also, LogMeIn is hiring. Click here for all of the company's openings.

Emmanuelle Skala, Senior Vice President of Customer Success at Toast

"I’m proud of the fact that as a female in tech, I’ve been able to rise quickly to executive status across a variety of different companies. A lot is working against us, and it takes more effort, patience, and confidence to overcome a lot of obstacles. Now, I’m trying to figure out what steps I took to get this far so that I can help other women find success, too. I’m trying to connect the dots."

Click here to read Emmanuelle's story

Also, Toast is hiring. Click here for all of the company's openings.

Anne Beckett

Anne Beckett, President and COO at Hopjump

"When I was in graduate school I figured out that I wanted to work in an organization where I could make a difference. In reality the career I found at Cogo Labs, and now at Hopjump, is way better than I could have imagined. I couldn’t have seen then the opportunities that I’ve had, and definitely not the ones I have now. I never expected to become as addicted to startups as I did, and never expected to have so many opportunities within Cogo Labs and Hopjump to build something that I think will influence the daily lives of Americans, and hopefully people around the world, one day."

Click here to read Anne's story

Marci Cornell-Fiest

Marci Cornell-Feist, Founder and CEO of BoardOnTrack

“I believe in the power of the network. Even in communist Laos, which was so isolated, it didn’t even have a bridge to Thailand … people want to learn from each other, and networking and competition can improve performance. You connect, you get better, you see how you compare to others and grow from that. You look around and ask, ‘Hey, what are they doing? Maybe we should do that, too.’”

Click here to read Marci's story

Also, BoardOnTrack is hiring. Click here for all of the company's openings.

Lindsey Bleimes

Lindsey Bleimes, Director of Engineering of Wayfair

“I could talk about our catalog all day. It’s fun to get into the details about our products and how we talk about them and display them. It’s different in how we sell a bed versus how we sell a ceiling fan, you have to make sure people are comfortable with what they’re buying.”

Click here to read Lindsey's story

Also, Wayfair is hiring. Click here for all of the company's openings.

Sarah Travers

Sarah Travers, CEO of Workbar

"My advice would be to take risks because at 22 years old, it’s hard to figure out what you’re going to do for the rest of your life. Don’t try to pigeonhole yourself into thinking that there’s only one thing that you should be doing. I come from a family where my father and siblings are either doctors or lawyers, and I thought I’d follow in their footsteps."

Click here to read Sarah's story

Also, Workbar is hiring. Click here for all of the company's openings.

Shelia Anderson, SVP & CIO at Liberty Mutual Insurance

“The numbers of women pursuing technical fields is less than 20 percent. While that’s great for that 20 percent, I think for organizations looking to have that diverse mindset and diversity of thought really, that’s going to be tough because we’re all competing for the same 20 percent. Programs like this encourage young women into looking at and continuing to pursue careers in technology.”

Click here to read Shelia's story

Also, Liberty Mutual is hiring. Click here for all of the company's openings.

Kristen Tyrrell, Chief Operating Officer at Catch

“I have always worked with companies whose mission I agreed with and aligned with. It almost sounds silly to say, but I think think it is a bit of a shift from how the Boomers and Gen X entered the workforce and what they thought the purpose of a job was. I think more and more people are looking at our role and responsibility in society and the types of things that we build.”

Click here to read Kristen's story

Gillan Hawkes

Gillan Hawkes, Head of Product at 6 River Systems

“I think the very apt analogy of building a bike while you're riding is what I love about where I am today, and frankly about most startups. There are some inflection points within a company where you go from everyone sitting in the same room to several dozen teams that you're trying to keep coordinated across different locations. The trick is getting the right amount of structure, and the right amount of support as a company grows without it being constraining or stifling. Navigating that successfully I think sometimes means success or failure.”

Click here to read Gillan's story

Also, 6 River Systems is hiring. Click here for all of the company's openings.

Berni Fisher

Berni Fisher, VP of Product at M.Gemi

"If I could tell it differently, I think I’m most proud of how I lead. I feel like I'm good at helping other people see the potential in themselves. I feel like that's a payback service, as the pay it forward mentality. I literally would not be here right now if it weren't for the people who taught me how to do what I’m doing, who saw the potential in me. To me, that is the biggest accomplishment I can give, is to let other people see what they have and help them get to their best potential."

Click here to read Berni's story

Also, M.Gemi is hiring. Click here for all of the company's openings.

Cindy Klein Roche

Cindy Klein Roche, Chief Marketing Officer at Cybereason

“I like a really hard puzzle, which is what I have in cybersecurity, but I only like it when I get to lure other people who are smart and unafraid to do it with me. I love starting from scratch and then tracking people from past lives to come join me in whatever problem I’m trying to tackle.”

Click here to read Cindy's story

Also, Cybereason is hiring. Click here for all of the company's openings.

Dorit Levy-Zilbershot

Dorit Levy-Zilbershot, VP of Product Management and R&D at Attivio

“You want to create a place where people are empowered to propose new ideas and are motivated to excel from within. This is not an exact science, and everyone is different. The key is to listen and communicate often to create a path that aligns one’s respective goals with those of the company. A successful employment journey is one that presents the opportunity to develop new skills and gain new experiences at the same time. Seeing someone grow year over year is definitely my biggest satisfaction as a leader.”

Click here to read Dorit's story

Also, Attivio is hiring. Click here for all of the company's openings.

Tricia Chang

Tricia Chang, Head of Product at Photo Butler

“There's so much that I love about product. It encompasses the impact each feature, every variable that you introduce has on an overall business. All of it is very analytical and critical, but there's also a creative part to it too. How do you design a product? How do you want it to look and feel to users? How do you optimize your conversion by placing a button in a particular area? It plays towards what I really love doing which is, how do I tackle a problem and how do I solve it?”

Click here to read Tricia's story

Julie Hogan

Julie Hogan, VP, Customer Success at Drift

"Don't be shy about asking someone, 'Could I go with you to work for a half a day just to see what the office environment is like?' I took small, unpaid internships that were only a few hours a week so that I could still work full time during the summers. These taught me a ton about what kind of work environment I wanted to be in, which eventually led me to the world of startups, and I’ve never looked back."

Click here to read Julie's story.

Also, Drift is hiring. Click here for all of the company's openings.

Jennifer Gormley

Jennifer Gormley, Senior Director for Change & Enablement at BCG

"I started off my career thinking,'Okay great, I'm going to work in magazines. I'm going to really obsess about print design and do all of the things a print designer does.' And it took too long for me to feel like there were 15 other avenues of my work that I should be exploring. Design is design. I could have easily, at any point in my career, gone on and been designing toothpaste boxes and doing physical product design or video or any number of other things."

Click here to read Jennifer's story

Also, BCG's Product Business Unit is hiring. Click here for all of the department's openings.

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

Lead(H)er: Julie Hogan, VP, Customer Success at Drift banner image

Lead(H)er: Julie Hogan, VP, Customer Success at Drift

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“Don’t tell me you’re a people person,” Julie Hogan’s college career counselor said to her during their first meeting.

Hogan panicked. That was exactly what she was going to say, and as a freshman who still hadn’t decided on her major, being comfortable talking to people seemed like a valuable skill. She eventually settled on an English degree, which combined her love of people, reading, and writing with the high possibility of graduating with a good GPA that would open doors for her.

When Hogan graduated, she took a job as an analyst at Deloitte. An internship at the Make-A-Wish Foundation had taught her that she would prefer fast-paced work, and one at Boston’s NBC affiliate taught her that a job in a true office setting would be ideal. Deloitte offered both, along with the opportunity to learn how to work.

To Hogan, who was raised in a family of people who were proud of their hard work and who had held jobs as soon as they could, Hogan was thrilled to enter the working world. She still remembers her first business trip – a Thursday flight to Detroit – with happiness.

“I was the only person at Logan Airport with a smile on their face,” she said. “I was so excited to be flying to Detroit on a Thursday afternoon because I was an adult on a business trip. I was very proud that I had a purpose and a job and I was going to make my own money.”

Hogan spent three years at Deloitte, taking on every project possible and accepting every opportunity that came her way until she realized that maybe she didn’t want to make partner or climb this particular corporate ladder after all. If she was going to make a change, she reasoned, now was the time.

A fellow Bostonian had left Deloitte to work at a small startup called HubSpot, which was still in the incubator phase, and Hogan decided to join him.

“He was the only friend who was genuinely on fire in a good way about what he was doing,” she said.

Hogan stayed at HubSpot for just under eight years, traveling all over the world with her husband and children to help set up the company’s offices in Dublin, Sydney, Singapore,  Latin America, Japan, and Germany.

“We live in a world of ‘no,’” Hogan said. “A lot of people say no to things that seem hard to do. I’ve heard people say that your default answer should always be no. I don’t operate that way. I'm going to say yes to those things because hopefully, I learn something from them.”

HubSpot taught Hogan to take risks, but when the opportunity came to join Drift and build its customer success team, which consisted of customer success, services, and support functions, people told her not to leave her current job. HubSpot was a stable gig, with the fast pace she craved and a good working environment.

“I think as a woman, especially now as a mother, there's this expectation that you should stick with stability and shy away from risks that could impact your flexibility somewhere else,” she said.

But Hogan was losing sleep over the idea that she would be missing out on an opportunity to learn while making a real impact somewhere, and eventually, she took the leap.

The stress was worth it. Hogan is now the Vice President of Drift’s customer success team, working to take care of customers while supporting the company’s growth. Her main goal is to help make SaaS feel like a world-class service, and a strong team bolsters those efforts. When it comes to hiring, Hogan focuses less on technical abilities and more on the ability to learn.

“If they naturally and genuinely enjoy solving problems and engaging with other human beings and building relationships and helping people grow, they are more than likely have the capacity to learn a new technology,” Hogan said. “We’re really shifting and not trying to lead and hire technology first, but lead and hire and think service first.”

Customer success is a difficult industry, but Hogan is, after all, a people person. While others may shy away from the idea of constantly talking to people, Hogan said that customer success is a perfect match for her precisely because she enjoys making those connections.

Julie Hogan at the NEVYs
Julie as part of the Drift team at the 2018 NEVY Awards!

“You have to stretch yourself in ways very quickly that you didn't think you would be capable of,” Hogan said. “In my mind, I always thought that because I don't have a pedigree or an MBA, I’m not even set up to do this. It's just where I landed and where I really thrive.”

Rapid Fire Questions

What do you like to do in your free time?

I think because I lived away from New England for a decent period of time, I'm obsessed with the beach. So in my free time, you will see me spending almost all of it with my sons with a soccer ball on one of our local beaches.

Julie Hogan and her family
Julie with her husband and two sons at the beach.

How do you manage your stress?

I like to figure out what tools other people use and see if they could work for me. A piece of advice I got from a former colleague of mine was that when he feels stressed he leans into something he heard Beyonce does, which is, you have to mentally translate that stress into positive energy. So, when you're feeling stress or worry or anxiety or butterflies, it’s because you are passionate about the thing that you have to accomplish. I think just making that mental transition makes a huge difference for me.

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

I have had a love-hate relationship with caffeine, and so as of now I have one cup in the morning and I try to keep it at that.

What is one of your favorite spots in the Boston area?

Provincetown, Cape Cod. I got married there, grew up staying down there. It's amazing. It's the best place.

What would you consider one of your greatest accomplishments unrelated to family?

There are two things. First, I'm very proud of the teams we built at HubSpot when we were getting the international team going. I look back sometimes and just think, wow, we learned a lot of things, we certainly made a lot of mistakes, but what a what a ride to go literally around the world and start up those teams and build businesses.

What's disappointing -- and this is just the world we live in, and I think it will change -- when the opportunity was there to do it, I was on maternity leave with my first son. Someone made the comment, “Oh, isn't it a shame that that didn't happen before you had kids? Obviously, you can't do that, you have a baby.” It lit a fire under me because I knew I absolutely could do this -- anybody can -- it’s just a little bit different.

The second thing I’m really proud of is building our customer success team from scratch at Drift. This past year has been the most challenging and rewarding career opportunity I’ve ever had.

Is this where you saw yourself 10 years ago?

No! I had no idea. I knew or hoped that I would be working. I dreamed that I would have a job that would allow me to keep learning and that I would get exposure to all sorts of people. That has been the one thing that I've loved so much about these roles -- you meet different people from all over the world, from your customers to the people you hire, and it's incredible. You learn something almost every day because of the diversity of people and being part of a global team.

I wanted something that was fast. I knew it had to be fast-paced for whatever reason. That's how I operate. I knew that in ten years if I'm sitting in a cube where no one was talking I wouldn't be thriving. I'm grateful that it's been what it's been. I can go home every day, put in hours that are hard and focused, but go home and say, yeah, I like what I do. I really like what I do.

What is your advice for recent college graduates?

Think about what you what you enjoy doing already, and don't back into a job title. Don't just say you want to be a social media marketing manager. Instead, start with a list of things that you genuinely enjoy, and don't let anybody tell you that any of those things are stupid. Knowing that I liked people and enjoyed communicating, working with people, and knowing that as my truth has been the foundation of things I've gone after and roles I've taken on and have seen success in. Start there. I think often, people go on job search sites looking for titles but don't even really know what those jobs mean or what their day to day life would be.

The other thing I would say is, stalk your network. Don't be shy about asking someone, “Could I go with you to work for a half a day just to see what the office environment is like?” I took small, unpaid internships that were only a few hours a week so that I could still work full time during the summers. These taught me a ton about what kind of work environment I wanted to be in, which eventually led me to the world of startups, and I’ve never looked back.

Samantha Costanzo Carleton is a Contributor to VentureFizz. You can follow her on Twitter @smcstnz.
Images courtesy of Julie Hogan and Drift

About the

Drift is the world's leading conversational marketing and sales platform.

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Lead(H)er: Cindy Klein Roche, Chief Marketing Officer at Cybereason banner image

Lead(H)er: Cindy Klein Roche, Chief Marketing Officer at Cybereason

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Cindy Klein Roche spent years in the book publishing industry until her husband advised her that print was dying and suggested she make a career change. Roche, who graduated from Princeton with a degree in English language and literature, decided that the suggestion had merit and turned to the Web.

Initially, she worked in digital community development and information design but soon realized that, while she enjoyed those jobs, she’d much prefer to be in marketing. Roche made her way into a marketing strategy group at Fidelity, and the rest was history.

“I decided that marketing was my calling because it was the practical application of being customer first and customer-centric,” Roche said. “It's a sure way to tap into the customer and make customer insights actionable when you do marketing.”

From Fidelity, Roche worked on brand creation and brand marketing at TripAdvisor, a move designed to help her jump into the startup world.

At the time, TripAdvisor consisted of around 500 employees, and it would expand to more than 2,500 employees by the time Roche moved to her next job.

“I like being in places where there isn't a drawn path, and where you're doing ‘firsts,’” Roche said. At TripAdvisor, there had evidently been marketing efforts before her arrival, but the size and scope of those efforts continued to grow, giving Roche the perfect challenge.

She found her next challenge working on demand and lead generation at athenahealth. At the company, Roche oversaw all of the company’s marketing efforts, from demand analysis and brand building to website design.

Like her first marketing role, the job at athenahealth gave Roche another revelation: this time about the exact type of marketing she wanted to pursue for the rest of her career.

“I realized that B2B marketing was so much more rewarding because you were chasing something that was tied to the bottom line,” she said. “So at athenahealth, I decided that I never wanted to do B2C again. ‘Never is a big word, but I feel as if B2B is where the center of gravity is for marketers in general.”

Armed with this knowledge, Roche has quickly climbed the ranks to Chief Marketing Officer at Cybereason, where she oversees the cybersecurity startup’s ever-growing range of marketing campaigns. The marketing team has tripled in size since Roche began as Vice President of Marketing in November 2016, with revenues up an astounding 500%.

Cindy hosting Cybereason's annual DEEP conference this year.

The other secret ingredient in Roche’s success, aside from her industry know-how and ability to distill the spirit of a company into its brand, is her knack for assembling the right team for the job.

“I like a really hard puzzle, which is what I have in cybersecurity, but I only like it when I get to lure other people who are smart and unafraid to do it with me,” she said. “I love starting from scratch and then tracking people from past lives to come join me in whatever problem I’m trying to tackle.”

Like many, Roche has caught the startup bug, and it’s safe to say that she’s perfectly happy with that turn of events. Her sweet spot, she says, is a company with between 100 and 1,000 employees – small enough that she can have an impact on the company’s developing vision, with plenty of twists and turns still to come on the road.

Cybereason, with just under 450 employees, will be just Roche’s sizes for several years. When it’s time to go, though, Roche has a good sense of where she’ll land.

“Boston has such a vital, energetic startup community with so much possibility,” she said. “I never want to go back to corporate marketing.”

Rapid Fire Questions

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love to run. I run every day. I love to read, which I often combine with running in the winter when I’m on the treadmill with my Kindle. And I love to make desserts. I don’t make main courses – I stink at making savory food – but I love to make desserts.

How do you typically handle your stress?

Definitely running, and exercise in general,is a stress reliever. If I haven't gone for a run and I'm cranky, my family will literally force me out the door to go running. I also think laughter is my stress reliever. I am fortunate to work with people that I really love, in part because I hired a lot of them. I would say in the little free time I have, getting together with women friends and sharing the stress among mainly working women has been helpful. I have the most in common with them because I've been juggling kids and career for years, so those are my people.

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

It matters not how much as long as I have one venti dark coffee in the morning, always. And then maybe a second or a third, but one venti dark coffee for sure. I describe it as the reason to get to work because I don’t have it until I get there. It’s the prize for coming in.

What’s your favorite spot in the Boston area?

The Charles River is my favorite spot. I love walking and running along it, I love sitting at it, and I love seeing it. I work in the Hancock Tower, so I stare at it all the time. It runs through the town that I live in and through the town I work in. It's sort of everywhere. I went to grad school for a short time in Boston, and I lived on the Charles, and now I live in Newton which the Charles goes through, and I work overlooking the Charles, so it is, for me, a defining location.

What do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments?

Tied for one are three things. People that I have managed to attract to whatever work project I’m doing. I have a lot of people who have joined me in some new crazy pursuit that I’ve convinced them is the crazy pursuit they should make theirs. I view that as a real accomplishment because creating great teams may be the best thing you can do for a company.

I also am extremely fond of a brand campaign, mostly involving video advertising, that we did for athenahealth. We did a set of ads aimed at burnt-out physicians to help them know that athenahealth empathizes with them. We got an incredible amount of response in the numbers but also other data telling us that we had made a real connection.

The third is from the past. I discovered this author named Jhumpa Lahiri who has gone on to enormous fame. She went to BU, so she sets a lot of things in and around New England and Boston. She had published in very small literary magazines, and she was actually doing a yearlong grant at the Provincetown Writers’ Workshop. I got three of her stories published in The New Yorker, which was really her breakout. Then we sold her story collection and her novel, and that was really her beginning as a writer. It was thrilling. It's pretty amazing just to be in her aura.

Is this where you saw yourself 10 years ago?

Definitely not. In brand building and marketing, yes, but in B2B and particularly in enterprise B2B marketing – that is a big surprise but also a delight. I think what I’ve realized, mainly once I went to athenahealth, is that the bigger and more challenging the puzzle, the more I like it, provided I can hire plenty of smart teammates to work with. I think I honestly could never have predicted that this is where I was going to be. I’m so grateful that I have found my way into the hardest possible B2B enterprise marketing that there is. There’s something really thrilling about making a go of this.  

What’s your advice for recent college grads?

I feel like it is such a luxury to spend your college years exploring and being creative and being the opposite of practical. It may be the only time to do it. That's my wish for college kids, for sure. Don't settle or be practical. Choose to be creative and to explore, because you have the rest of your life to be practical.

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

About the

Cybereason is the champion for today’s cyber defenders with future-ready attack protection that extends from the endpoint, to the enterprise, to everywhere.

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Lead(H)er - Alana Aubin, Vice President of Life Business Unit at EverQuote banner image

Lead(H)er - Alana Aubin, Vice President of Life Business Unit at EverQuote

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“I love how anyone at EverQuote can have an idea and execute on it. I think when you’re working somewhere and you’re new, especially when you’re right out of school, it can be very intimidating to speak up. Working here has taught me to be more vocal. I’m thankful to work in an environment where expressing ideas is part of the culture!” Alana Aubin, Vice President of Life Business Unit at EverQuote, exclaimed.

Originally from Canada, Alana moved to Taunton, Massachusetts when she was nine years old. She attended Taunton High School where she excelled in academics, played trombone in the band, and served as swim team captain.

Although she now runs a successful business unit at a tech company, she initially sought out to be an actuary.

“When I was a senior in high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for my career or even what major I wanted to pursue. However, I was really interested in math, so my AP Calculus teacher encouraged me to look into becoming an actuary. That suggestion helped inform my college search.”

Alana Aubin EverQuote
Alana Aubin (right) with her younger sister Colette (left)

Looking to attend an engineering school focused on science and math, Alana attended Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). She liked their top-notch academics and the fact they were NCAA Division III for swimming.

“I started as a regular math major and then transitioned into actuarial math. The actuarial math advisor was excellent, and the classes were interesting. After junior year, I got an internship at an insurance company. Over the course of the summer, I realized that the actuarial work moved too slowly for me and the corporate environment felt stifling. It was a great experience overall, but it showed me that I needed something more fast-paced,” Alana explained.  

At this point, Alana was almost done with her actuarial degree, so she decided to finish and stay at WPI for another year to get her master’s degree in financial math.

“WPI had a great master’s program that I could complete in just one extra year, so I got my master’s of science in financial math. I learned a ton about portfolio analysis, which I found really interesting, but I also knew I didn’t want to work for a bank or on Wall Street. Towards the end of my program, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I got lucky. One day I ran into my study-abroad advisor from junior year and he asked what I was doing after graduation. When I told him I didn’t have a plan, he connected me with a WPI alumnus at EverQuote (then called AdHarmonics). I came in, interviewed, and was hired as a quantitative analyst!” Alana said with a smile.

When Alana joined EverQuote, they were only about 25 people. She worked as a quantitative analyst on the search engine marketing (SEM) team where she was responsible for getting consumer traffic from Google and Bing.

“I didn’t know that quantitative analyst was a job you could have! I loved it! I thought it was so exciting to do something today and see the impact tomorrow. It really played to my skills of data analysis, problem-solving, and coming up with new ideas and questions, like how can we optimize this, how can we do that better, how do we get more volume, how do we pay less for this? I enjoyed it.”

Since she first started, EverQuote has grown significantly. After spending two years on the search engine marketing team and being promoted to Senior Quantitative Analyst, Alana became a manager.

“At that point, there was one other person on my team, so he started reporting to me. I was a little worried about the transition from a peer relationship to a managerial one, but he was great at his job and a fantastic teammate, so we did it more like a partnership. We had a lot of trust in each other. A couple of months after that, three new college grads joined the team, and that’s when I realized, ‘Oh wow, I have to teach them everything I know.’ It was completely different from anything I had done before.”

When I asked Alana if she had always envisioned herself becoming a manager, she explained that it was a path that she’s still wanted for herself.

“I hoped I’d make a good manager because I had taken on many different leadership roles in the past and was the captain of the swim team in high school and college. I felt like I’d been preparing my whole life to lead people, coach them, and get more out of the group as a whole.”

After her time as a manager, Alana was promoted to director. Initially, mobile and desktop SEM were split out, but she took on the entire department in her new role. She also had to think bigger picture and longer term.

“To think more critically about how my department fit in with the rest of the company and figure out how to expand my sphere of influence was very challenging. I felt like I’d been on the ground level doing campaign management or directly supervising campaign management for a long time and it was hard to develop that new perspective. It didn’t come naturally to change my mindset like that.”

Last year, Alana was promoted to Vice President of SEM. In addition to added responsibilities, she now was responsible for a team of managers.

“Two of my team members became managers themselves, so they had their own direct reports. It was much different because I was trying to give advice and help them develop their leadership skills, which is more nuanced than teaching technical and analysis skills. I also wanted to give them freedom but also make sure they felt supported, which was challenging at first.”

After working as VP of her department for a while, Alana realized she’d been on the SEM team for about four years, and she wanted to try something new.

“Last summer, I went to my manager, and I told him I was starting to feel restless. We have a lot of automation to help with repetitive tasks, and there are always new problems, but it seemed to me like I was continuously solving similar problems and I just wanted to try something different.”

This past November, Alana moved over to head the Life Insurance business unit. She loves doing more cross-functional coordination and working with the consumer acquisition, business development, and product teams, helping them with different analysis and projects.

“Our CEO calls me the CEO of our Life Insurance vertical. It’s very cool. I feel like I’m super busy but also very engaged. I’m glad that I spoke up and said that I wanted to do something different because I am happier at work now and more excited about what I’m doing. Since it’s a new position, I’ve been able to help define the role of a vertical lead as well. It’s fun! I feel extremely fortunate to be a part of EverQuote. I can’t believe it all goes back to that one professor and his amazing recommendation!”

Rapid Fire Questions

BS: What do you like to do in your free time?

AA: I spend most of my free time focused on swimming. I swim on a masters swim team called Charles River Masters, based at Harvard. I practice several times a week, race in meets periodically, and have been doing a lot of open water swimming the past few years. I’m looking forward to the weather warming up so I can swim outside more! I also coach once a week and volunteer for US Masters Swimming as the Communications Chair for New England and on a national committee.

Alana swimming
Alana swimming butterfly at a Masters swim meet

BS: How do you manage stress?

AA: Swimming is a such a good stress reliever. Generally, I default to various fitness activities to help with stress. I like to bike a lot, do yoga, and lift weights at the gym. That physical release is really important for me. The New York Times crossword is a great mental break for when I can’t get outside.

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

AA: I drink one cup of coffee a day. I keep trying to wean myself off of caffeine completely but I can never stick with it. We have cold brew on tap, too, which is extra potent and extra delicious.

BS: Where is your favorite spot in the Boston area?

AA: I might say the bike lane. I love cycling, and especially cycling to get around. I picked that up when I was in Copenhagen my junior year; everyone there bikes everywhere. There are definitely some areas of Boston where it’s not that nice or safe to bike, but there are also a growing number of decent bike lanes. It’s usually faster than driving or taking the T, plus I love being outside.

BS: If you had to choose one thing what would you say is your greatest accomplishment?

AA: That’s a tough question! I guess I don’t really have one big thing, but I’m really proud of how I’ve been able to continue swimming and improving after college. I’ve been able to beat most of my personal best times from college in Masters swimming, which is pretty unusual, and I continue to challenge myself with different events and open water races. This summer I’m competing in the Boston Light Swim, an 8-mile race in Boston Harbor, which will be my longest swim to date.

BS: Ten years ago, is this where you would have seen yourself?

AA: I don’t think so, no. Let’s see, 10 years ago I was graduating from high school. At that time, I knew I was going to major in math, maybe actuarial. I didn’t even know that this job existed, but I’m really happy with how it’s turned out.

BS: What one piece of advice would you give to a recent college graduate?

AA: I think I would have to say, in life and especially at your job, if you have an idea that you think is great then you should try to make it happen. Have confidence in yourself because there’s a good chance that nobody else has that idea. Believe in yourself and speak up about your ideas. Go for it!

Brianne Shelley is a Contributor to VentureFizz and an Account Executive at ezCater. Follow Brianne on Twitter: @MuddleandMix.
Images courtesy of Alana Aubin and EverQuote.

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We are the largest online Auto Insurance marketplace in the U.S. We're helping end distracted driving with our safe driving app, EverDrive.

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Lead(H)er - Kate Shamsuddin, Senior Vice President of Strategy at Definitive Healthcare

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“When I started college my plan was to become a doctor, plain and simple. So I started down that path, and it was just after I finished all the pre-med requirements I decided to pivot. I realized that there were other ways to get involved in the healthcare industry that didn’t involve a white coat,” Kate Shamsuddin, Senior Vice President of Strategy at Definitive Healthcare, said. 

Originally from the greater Boston area, Kate grew up in Hamilton. After high school, she enrolled at Emory College for her undergraduate degree down in Atlanta, GA. 

“Like many others, I instantly fell in love with Atlanta when I started college in 2004. Both my parents were pretty shocked when I chose to go relatively far from home, yet they were thrilled to see college was off to a good start and that I had the chance to be part of a community outside of Massachusetts. While college served up no shortage of fun, I was there to study and graduated with a major in anthropology and a minor in public health. At the time both degrees felt a bit random, but they worked well together and were two things I found equally interesting.” 

Although she loved her time in Atlanta, Kate decided to make the move back north after graduation. Upon arrival in Boston, she prepared for and attended a series of job interviews with the rest of grads of ‘08 and was lucky to land an offer from RTI International

Kate Shamsuddin Definitive Healthcare

“Keep in mind 2008 was a tough year. The job market was anything but strong, and it was the first time I had to find myself what they call a “real” job. Things were a bit tense. It wasn’t the first time the economy dipped, but it made for an enduring process,” Kate explained.

As a Health Policy Analyst, Kate focused on research projects centered around the Medicare program. During her time at RTI, she enjoyed applying the public health curriculum that she learned at Emory and learning more about the healthcare system and many of the things that needed to be fixed.

About one year into the job, she started thinking about going back to school for her graduate degree.

“I wanted to figure out if healthcare was going to be the mainstay, or if it may be fleeting. The idea of returning to school meant I needed to think long and hard about the opportunity cost of taking myself out of the workforce. It felt like one of the biggest decisions in my life, granted I was just shy of 24, but I ultimately decided to go to public health school. I started my master's program at the Harvard School of Public Health in 2010.”

Kate describes her two years in graduate school as remarkable years in her mid-twenties. She loved the university, who she was surrounded by, and the chance she was given.

“The academic programming was everything I expected it to be and even a bit more, but school marked a really nice chance to continue to build out my Boston-based network. My program hosted people from all different walks of life. Everyone had their own unique story and their own excitement about what lay ahead, whether that was professional or personal. It was nice to stitch together the experience, weaving on my own. A significant portion of the value in going back to school was the people I met while I was there.”

When Kate graduated in 2012, she decided to pursue a position at the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. With the help of her connections from a prior internship, she jumped into a Strategic Services position at the association out in Chicago.

“I moved out to Chicago and worked on the product development team. I got to work on a lot of great programs that helped service the customers of Blue plans across the U.S. For example, I got to work on the national telemedicine strategy and following program development. Telemedicine wasn’t new in 2012, but we got to think about how you reimburse for it and market it to consumers since it is a great way to receive care.”

While at the Association, Kate liked that she had a bird’s eye perspective. She found a big part of her experience was learning how to come up with clear value propositions and how to effectively communicate strategies.

“In order to get 37 plans to listen and buy in, you had to have a pretty tight story around recommended action and why it was compelling to move in that direction. The biggest takeaway was making sure you had an intention behind every decision and a story supported by values to succeed in making a change. It was also important to make sure you had the ability to influence key stakeholders alongside the political will.”

After a few years in Chicago, Kate felt she’d tapped out on her opportunity and was itching to make a move back to the east coast to once again be close to her family. In the fall of 2014, she moved on back to Boston.

“When I came back to Boston, I connected with an old friend and colleague from RTI who had taken on a key role at Definitive Healthcare. He encouraged me to come in and meet with the CEO, so I interviewed at Definitive. My motto at the time was to take all interviews, but this one struck me right off the bat. I quickly learned about the business they were in and what they were looking to achieve. My initial conversations felt really good, and it was in my gut that Definitive would be a solid match. The decision was easy. I joined the company right after the interview at the start of 2015.”

When Kate first started at Definitive, there were just about 30 employees. She originally joined to help think about product strategy. Today there are more than 200 employees across the company.

“At that time I joined, we needed another member of the team who could build out the product pipeline. That meant thinking about core questions—what new data was important to bring into our database and what new products did we want to include in the portfolio—that would support our effort to win new business and capture market share while also maintaining our client relationships through renewed partnerships.”

Since the start, Kate’s role has evolved pretty significantly. Although she still supports product strategy work, she’s shifted to think more about corporate strategy for Definitive Healthcare at large.

“I now think about how Definitive Healthcare can position itself for continued growth by working across each of the functional groups to ensure the scale with our explosive business. Together we think about short, medium, and longer-term strategies that tie directly to our company’s goals. That might mean a focus on how marketing can build up the funnel to support our growing sale team or the ways in we need to evolve our customer success strategy to support 1,600 or so marquee clients on our product platform.”

“Definitive Healthcare is such a special company for so many obvious reasons, and I’m lucky to have joined when I did. This company created a space for me to grow up in, professionally speaking, and I am so grateful to call it home for where I really built up my career. I’ve learned a ton. I’ve learned how important it is to be nimble and responsive to the market. I’ve learned how critical it is to really walk in the shoes of your buyers and more importantly the shoes of your clients. I’ve learned what it means to be part of running a hugely successful business and all of the blood, sweat, and tears that go into it!”

Rapid Fire Questions

BS: What do you like to do in your free time?

KS: I love spending time with my family, in particular, my two nieces and nephew. My elder niece is just shy of four and the other two are 8-month-old twins (my sister definitely has her hand’s full). The little ones are like the Three Stooges and always put a smile on my face.

BS: How do you manage stress?

KS: By going to the gym. I’ve always made a commitment to regular exercise since it gives me a true break from the day where I don’t have to think about anything. Whether it is a 20-minute run or a fun spin class, working out is a good way for me to release stress. I keep it on my calendar and make it a priority to follow through. When the gym doesn’t do the trick, a nice martini now and again will.

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

KS: When I’m on my best behavior, three. When I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll drink four cups. My only cardinal rule is no coffee after 1 PM.

BS: Where is your favorite spot in the Boston area?

KS: One of my favorite places is Crane Beach. It’s up on the North Shore, pretty close to my parents' house. The beach is part of larger conservation land, so it makes for a beautiful scape almost all year round.

BS: If you had to choose one thing, what would you say is your greatest accomplishment?

KS: My greatest accomplishment is the collection of small things I have been able to squirrel away over the years that influence who I am and how I conduct myself. It was the feat of financing grad school, moving to the Midwest, running fun road races, building great teams, and getting feedback that I have helped someone in their career. Perhaps one day all these things may be trumped by one large event, but I imagine my collection will continue to grow, and that I am grateful to look forward to.  

BS: Ten years ago, is this where you would have seen yourself?

KS: Absolutely not. Ten years ago, I was probably at the point of figuring out if I wanted to go to medical school, which is clearly quite different than working at Definitive Healthcare. Ten years ago I would not have imagined I’d be where I am today, but I would not rewrite it at all.

BS: What one piece of advice would you give to a recent college graduate?

KS: Don’t put pressure on yourself to think you need to know exactly what your career is going to look like. The reality is you’re going to try out a lot of different jobs. Some of them are going to be great and some of them may not. Figure out what it is you like and what it is that you don't like from a professional perspective and carry that with you. While it may feel stressful and like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, keep in mind that life is all about trial and error and everyone will ultimately land where they’re meant to be. Also, don’t be afraid to work hard. It will bring you great things when done well.

Brianne Shelley is a Contributor to VentureFizz and an Account Executive at ezCater. Follow Brianne on Twitter: @MuddleandMix.
Images courtesy of Kate Shamsuddin.

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Definitive Healthcare delivers data, insights, and analytics on the healthcare market to help companies accelerate their go-to-market efforts.

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Lead(H)er - Eliza Becton, Co-Founder and Head of Product at Bevi banner image

Lead(H)er - Eliza Becton, Co-Founder and Head of Product at Bevi

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“Water has always been an important and constant part of my life. Growing up outside of Boston, I spent a lot of time sailing out on the ocean. As a result, I was naturally interested in sustainability and ocean stewardship,” said Eliza Becton, Co-Founder and Head of Product at Bevi.

But Eliza’s path to founding her own company wasn’t directly from sustainability. She grew up loving both art and science and graduated with a Bachelor's of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Yale. After working in New York for a few years at an engineering firm, Eliza quickly realized that she wanted to work on something with a mission while also utilizing her creative skills.

“Fortunately, I soon discovered industrial design and went back to school for a masters degree at the Rhode Island School of Design. It was completely life-changing. It taught me how to ask the really hard questions like why are we doing what we’re doing? As a result, it was not just about creating things for the sake of creating them. It was about purpose and people and user-centered design,” Eliza said.

During research for her masters thesis, Eliza learned about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an ever-expanding, floating mass of plastic waste in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

“That was really shocking to me and got me thinking about how I could design a product that could eventually replace those plastic bottled beverages. How do you create something that’s easier to use, more convenient, and more enjoyable for people?” Eliza asked.

She completed her master thesis with a product design concept that aimed to eliminate bottled beverage waste. After graduation, Eliza went back to Boston to work for startups as a designer, but she always kept this concept in the back of her mind.

And then plastic water bottles started showing up in the news. The town of Concord, Massachusetts, banned bottled water as did many school campuses. Eliza realized that this was the time to pursue her project, if she was ever going to do it.

“About this time, I was introduced to Sean Grundy, Bevi’s CEO, through mutual friends. He was an MBA candidate at MIT Sloan but also a sustainability nerd, like me. We met for coffee one day and spent hours chatting about our ideas. He was crazy enough to work with me and together we began entering business plan competitions. We eventually convinced Sean’s roommate and close friend, Frank, to join as our third co-founder. Sean and Frank Lee met in China before they even started at Sloan, both while working on water-related projects abroad,” Eliza said, describing the catalyst for her future company.

Bevi Founders
Bevi's founding team: Sean Grundy, Frank Lee, and Eliza Becton.

Bevi incorporated in August of 2013. By then, they had proven to themselves and others through several successful business competitions that it was possible to use design and technology to change user behavior from relying on bottled beverages. When they first started out, the Bevi team was doing really crude market tests with cardboard boxes and trying to get people to pay for things as early as possible.

“It was really embarrassing and we failed a lot, but we learned and moved on to the next idea or iteration. Those small failures were very important to understand and learn from,” Eliza remembers.

In the spring of 2014, Bevi was accepted into the Techstars Boston program, which became their early big break. With access to amazing mentors and peers, the team felt really lucky to learn what they did there. Techstars pushed the team a lot and they came out of the program finding Bevi’s product market fit—commercial offices.

“Once we figured that out, our first product, the Standup Bevi, started to take off in sales. People actually liked it -- they wanted it and were willing to pay for it. It felt like things had finally clicked. Our next challenge was figuring out how to scale. We kept improving our product for performance, reliability, and costs,” Eliza said.  

In the fall of 2017, the company released their second product, the Countertop Bevi. Launching a product with a more established, bigger team was a much different experience, than the original product which was built with a team of just five people.

“Moving forward, we will have to constantly ask ourselves the same question -- how do we work smarter and move faster? It’s a lot to do, but it’s a great challenge and fun to think about the sustainability impact that we are making. Right now, we’re saving about 2.5 million bottles per month. I feel lucky everyday that I get to work on something that I truly care about that has a real impact,” said Eliza.

Rapid Fire Q&A

BS: What do you like to do in your free time?

EB: Well, I have a two year old son so I like to spend my free time with him and my husband. I also enjoy cooking a lot. It’s kind of my new creative outlet these days, since I’m not doing as much design as I used to.

BS: How do you manage stress?

EB: [laughs] Not very well! I mean again, creativity is a great outlet for that. I think when I’m really stressed, I also try to make an effort to exercise or be outside. Additionally I enjoy seeing friends. Everyone has their own challenges in life so it’s nice to be able to talk to someone, be there for them and forget about your own stuff.

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

EB: I’m actually pregnant right now so I try to limit my coffee for hydration purposes. On a regular day, though, I drink maybe three to four cups.

BS: Where is your favorite spot in the Boston area?

EB: I love being on the water so I really enjoy the seaport. Sitting at a restaurant on the water is pretty amazing. The smell of the ocean, the fresh air—I love it.

BS: If you had to choose one thing other than family, what would you say is your greatest accomplishment?

EB: I’m really proud of Bevi, everything we’ve done and all the amazing people I get to work with every day.

BS: Ten years ago, is this where you would have seen yourself?

EB: No way! In fact, I would love to meet someone who fully anticipated where they were going to be in ten years and congratulate them on that. But I almost feel like I would be doing something wrong if I were living up to all my plans in life. I don’t know if I had even thought about where I wanted to be in ten years, ten years ago. I knew I wanted to be doing design. But other than that, I didn’t have any plans. I just wanted to feel like I was making an impact on the world and I feel like I am.

BS: What one piece of advice would you give to a recent college graduate?

EB: I feel like I’m lucky to have found what I want to do in life that also makes me happy. I’d recommend finding whatever that is for you and to consider paths that maybe aren’t as conventional. I’ve seen too many people take the safe route and do what their peers are doing, and one day they wake up realizing that their job isn’t fulfilling for them. If you have a vision for the career that will make you happy, go for it and work hard to get there. If you don’t yet know what will make you happy, take the time to understand what you really care about and find fulfilling. The saying is true: life is too short to waste your time doing something that you don’t love.

Brianne Shelley is a Contributor to VentureFizz and an Account Executive at ezCater. Follow Brianne on Twitter: @MuddleandMix.
Images courtesy of Eliza Becton and Bevi.

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We’re a Series C startup using intuitive, user-centered design to disrupt the bottled beverage industry and create customizable beverages at the point of use.

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Lead(H)er - Jennifer Hogan Mahoney, Vice President of Customer Success at SmartBear banner image

Lead(H)er - Jennifer Hogan Mahoney, Vice President of Customer Success at SmartBear

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“I realized I wanted to be in customer success after I realized the impact customer success can have on relationships, both internally and externally. It’s interesting just how powerful relationships can be - it leads to customer expansion and transforms how a company views its customers,” said Jennifer Hogan Mahoney, Vice President of Customer Success at SmartBear.

Jennifer grew up in the tight-knit community of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. After graduating high school, Jennifer went to Assumption College and pursued a degree in communication and education.

“Halfway through college, I changed my direction and thought I wanted to be a teacher. Although I was uncertain where my life would lead me, upon graduation I decided to take a teaching opportunity. This was a great experience, but ultimately I realized I wanted to be in a traditional business environment.”

She moved on to start her career as a sales support person for a private healthcare system in Waltham. Moving on from sales support, she became an account manager at Tufts Healthplans where she first got to experience the impact of relationship management. Once she spent several years in the space, she decided to switch things up.

Ultimately her career in Customer Success truly started when she was recruited to Picis, a high acuity software used in operating rooms. She was their Client Service Director and the main relationship point of contact for the customer.

She went from managing a single software platform at a 600 person start-up vendor to managing multiple platforms and technologies across an 80K person corporation when the company was acquired by Optum. Jennifer’s role expanded into managing larger customers at an executive level. She learned how customer success can benefit an organization by allowing for expansion and growth opportunities.

“I managed the Boston market. I love Boston so it was great because I spent a lot of time in the city working at a lot of hospital systems such as Partners, Boston Medical Center, Hallmark Health, Stewart, Cape Cod Healthcare—all the major health systems. Additionally, I was also part of the pilot program evangelizing one point of contact for the customer, across all products and technologies. This gave me an incredible amount of insight into the importance of continuity for the customer, and continues to drive my strategy today.”

Again, Jennifer’s role expanded when Optum divested their clinical applications to Harris Computer, a Canadian company owned by Constellation Software. Looking to put various healthcare companies together with a set strategy, they asked Jennifer to develop a customer success platform and program that was built with scale in mind.

“I started with the Picis business unit and rolled out a customer success platform that included customer success managers that were located in North America and Europe. I managed the strategy from net promoter program to leads, sales pipeline, and managing customer relationships. Once I had the program solidified for Picis as part of Harris, that program was presented to more of Harris’ businesses as a proven method not only to retain but also to improve customer adoption.”

After almost three years with Harris, Jennifer joined SmartBear, where she is currently the Vice President of Customer Success.

Customer Success team at SmartBear
SmartBear's Customer Success team on an outing! 

“I took the opportunity to come into SmartBear and develop the customer success organization, which is growing in scale and scope internationally. After just under a year, we have global customer programs in support of our strong customer-first strategy.”

“Our customer success teams engage with every functional area of the company. They are the champions of the customer internally, working with support, product management, leadership, and development. We’re able to operate with a feedback loop, being the voice of the customer for feature requests, product enhancements, and overall customer requirements. We also work with sales and marketing, having developed strong relationships with our customers to showcase our product portfolio and support the brand.”

Jennifer is known for having mantras that she instills in her team, a few favorites are “bad news doesn’t get better with time,” “come with solutions not problems,” and “do something amazing.”

SmartBear is currently 375 employees and growing. They have a fast-paced collaborative culture and seven offices worldwide. Their global HQ is located in Somerville at Assembly Row with beautiful views of the river.

Rapid Fire Questions

BS: How do you manage stress?

JHM: I have an acoustic mix on Spotify that I listen to. When facing a stressful situation, I put my headphones on, take a step back before addressing the situation at hand.

BS: How many cups of coffee do you drink a day?

JHM: I do a double shot of espresso and that’s it!

BS: What do you like to do in your free time?

JHM: Spend time with my two boys. As you can imagine they have very busy schedules with school, sports, and friends; so if we have any free time I just like to snuggle and watch a movie or take a walk around the pond.

Jennifer Mahoney, SmartBear
Jennifer and her family on vacation in Disney World.

BS: Where is your favorite spot in Boston?

JHM: Anything Back Bay, sign me up! From the architecture to the local coffee shops, even just a stroll by the river is enjoyable.

BS: If you had to choose one thing, what would you say is your greatest accomplishment?

JHM: My greatest accomplishment is being a mom! I am lucky to have two amazing boys and a supportive husband who enables me to balance it all.

BS: Ten years ago, is this where you would have seen yourself?

JHM: Surprisingly, yes. Ten years ago I was well into my career in Customer Success and had the vision of running the team.

BS: What one piece of advice would you give to a recent college graduate?

JHM: Stay focused, keep an open mind and take all opportunities that come your way.

Brianne Shelley is a Contributor to VentureFizz and an Account Representative at BlueGrace Logistics. Follow Brianne on Twitter: @MuddleandMix.

Images courtesy of SmartBear.

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Smartbear's tools are built to streamline your DevOps processes while seamlessly working with the products you use – and will use

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