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

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Lead(H)er - Colleen Miller, Senior Director of Product and UX at Toast banner image

Lead(H)er - Colleen Miller, Senior Director of Product and UX at Toast

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Colleen Miller, Toast
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,” explained Colleen Miller, Senior Director of Product and UX at Toast.

Colleen grew up in Brighton and attended Boston College where she studied French and Psychology. She got her first job at Harvard Business Publishing working in Customer Service.

“This was back in ‘96 when people were trying to figure out eCommerce, how to transition content offline to online, monetizing the web and things like that. My boss at the time said, ‘Does someone want to work on this new website thing?’ and I happened to be in the right place at the right time. As a person who was interested in the web and what was happening there, I raised my hand. I ended up taking a project manager role and working to get the first version of Harvard Business Review and case studies online.”

In order to tackle her new role, Colleen dedicated her free time to coding. She spent her nights learning HTML and Javascript and created the first intranet at work. She worked with a web development firm called TVisions (now Isobar) on building out the eCommerce site and learning product management.

“I think for me with HTML, it was just another language. You have to understand the syntax, you have to understand how things are formatted. You have to practice it. I think it was kind of a natural thing for me to pick it up pretty quickly. I stopped that piece after a while because I realized I could concentrate on what I was more effective at, driving things forward, being organized, having a plan and working with engineers to help them understand the business side.”

After eleven years at Harvard, Colleen decided to pursue her passion for eCommerce and user experience at Upromise.

“Upromise helps families save for college. I worked on a project to overhaul their online shopping experience. They have an online shopping portal where consumers can shop online and get a percent back in a college fund for their kids. I spent about four years there. I started out as a manager and ended up as a VP. I went through the ranks there and got some of my first management experience there with some great mentorship.”

Staying in the eCommerce industry, Colleen transitioned into a Product Lead role at Staples. She oversaw Staples Business Advantage, the B2B arm of Staples, where she had the opportunity to design and develop their mobile experience from the ground up.

“I worked in the Staples Velocity Lab in Kendall Square and had the opportunity to build out the team, hire the folks that I wanted and really start mobile first. I worked on their iOS, Android and mobile web applications there. Once I got mobile up and running, I transitioned to running the desktop eCommerce site.”  After several years at Staples, Colleen read an article about the changing landscape of restaurant technology and what Toast was doing. “That’s when I reached out to one of my LinkedIn connections, Steve Fredette, who was one of the co-founders of Toast. He & I had worked together when I was at Upromise and he was at Endeca.”

Colleen was drawn to Toast because she found it to be the perfect blend of two things she loved - technology and restaurants. She was energized by the passion the leadership team showed when she met them in person and their enthusiasm for helping their restaurant customers succeed.  

“They have some great stories about how they started in a basement with three or four guys and an idea. Then after spending a lot of time at different restaurants, they discovered they had greater pain points they could solve for them, and pivoted to another idea. I got very excited about the opportunity to lead a team there. It wasn’t just about the game-changing technology, it was also about being a partner to the restaurant and helping them grow their business. My product and design team is amazing. I’m very fortunate to be here,” Colleen smiled.  

Colleen’s day to day at Toast is pretty diverse. She oversees a team of fifteen people in product and design. Her daily tasks can range from design reviews, discussions with large enterprise customers, new product research, quarterly roadmap planning or one on ones with her team members.

Toast Team

“We’re doubling the size of the team—we’re hiring like crazy. We’re also taking on more customers. In fact, more customers are knocking on the door than we can even get to right now, which is a really good problem to have! We’re working on some really exciting new products and projects on the software and hardware side. Lots more to come from Toast, keep an eye on us.”


Rapid Fire Questions

BS: How do you manage stress?

CM: I do hot yoga and that really helps. I sweat it all out!

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

CM: One… it might be a big one though.

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

CM: I have two kids, they’re teenagers so they keep me pretty busy. I like to travel, and I like to exercise. I like to keep up with new technology so whether it’s going to meetups or talking to people in the community, just those types of things.

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

CM: Hmmm that’s a tough question. I was going to name a few Toast restaurants but I don’t want to leave anyone out! I love Portland, Maine. I think it’s a great town with all these great restaurants and breweries within walking distance. Always fun to visit for a weekend.

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

CM: I always pride myself on the teams that I’ve built. I think building teams that work well together and enjoy working together is a great accomplishment. When you’re hiring, it’s another type of puzzle. What skill set will add to the team, who will bring out the most in this team, what will make this team productive. Some of it is psychology. You really have to get to know the people, learn their strengths and adjust accordingly. I like to understand what makes them tick, learn how they like to get feedback, and their working style. Those are all soft skills that I feel like people overlook sometimes. People will ask me ‘Your team loves you! How do you do it?’ The answer is, don’t overlook team dynamics and their effect on results.

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

CM: Probably ten years ago, yes. Probably twenty years ago, I was still thinking I’d be living in Paris somewhere. But once I got into the product side, I had always seen myself leading a team for a company that I was really excited about.

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

CM: I think there are a couple of things that come to mind. One is to volunteer for opportunities that come up, things that are going to stretch you, things that you might not know anything about, but you’re interested in. I wouldn’t be in my position if I hadn’t done that. Also, be authentic. I think that’s something that has helped me throughout my career. I think that if you’re authentic, open and honest with the people you work with, that builds trust, and trust is an important part of any team. Working in a number of different companies in a male-dominated tech industry, you’re going to hear from lots of different people that you should try this, do this and be more like this person. Obviously, you take some of that feedback if it’s relevant and apply it. But bottom line is, just be true to yourself.


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

Images courtesy of Colleen Miller and Toast.

About the
Company

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

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Lead(H)er - Michelle Burtchell, VP of Marketing at Buildium banner image

Lead(H)er - Michelle Burtchell, VP of Marketing at Buildium

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“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.” Michelle Burtchell, VP of Marketing at Buildium, explained.

Michelle has been in marketing for over a decade but it took her some time to figure out her career path. Growing up, she moved around quite a bit, attending three different high schools in four years. When it came time for college, she studied communication and criminal justice at UMass Amherst.

“UMass is a really great school. I met a number of lifelong friends and there was a lot of really great stuff that came out of there. However, I definitely didn’t know what I wanted to do going into college and I would honestly say I still didn’t know when I left,” Michelle smiled.  

After graduating, Michelle moved in with her mom in upstate New York and got her first job at the Pepsi Arena as an assistant marketing manager.

“It was like TD Garden but in Albany, New York. It was a pretty cool job. Although it didn’t pay very well, I learned a ton and I had an amazing boss who I’m very grateful for. He taught me so many things about life, not just about work. To have a strong mentor like that coming right out of college is really important.”

While at Pepsi Arena, Michelle got her feet wet in marketing for the first time. She helped market events from Bruce Springsteen to minor league hockey, learning how to adapt her messaging and the channels used to reach different audiences.   

With two years of experience under her belt, Michelle decided it was time for a move. Looking for a change and feeling landlocked in Albany, she started looking for new positions in Boston.

“I ended up working at the Boston Herald and stayed there for about two years in outbound sales—cold calling. It was a hard job. There weren’t computers and you had to write down your number of calls. I quickly realized that sales was not for me, but as a marketer, I recommend that other marketers get on the phones and dial for at least a year. It really thickened my skin and I now have an appreciation for how hard sales is. Being able to pick up the phone and have a conversation with someone who’s never heard of you before is just a skill you never want to lose,” Michelle explained.  

From there, Michelle took a development role at a nonprofit called Triangle where she marketed and fundraised for people with disabilities. Although she had a great experience during her year there, she ultimately knew she wanted to go back to the corporate world.

“I ultimately decided to leave Triangle and went into marketing at StrideRite. I worked as a brand marketing specialist there and really got to know the retail business. After about a year and a half, I heard about this little tiny company (at the time) called Constant Contact that was looking to hire marketers. I ended up taking a position there and had my longest stint of about seven years. While there, I built out my marketing “know-how” and operational experience throughout the entire funnel. Being part of such a strong marketing team and a well-run company fueled my curiosity, and I discovered my passion for growth stage tech companies.”

After almost a decade at Constant Contact, Michelle decided it was time to pick her head up and figure out what was next. In order to figure out her next move, she decided to take a break from work and spend some time meeting new people in the Boston area.

“I told my husband that I was going to leave my job and I didn’t have another one lined up. It was totally crazy but I needed to figure out who I wanted to be when I grew up! I ended up setting a goal to meet five people I didn’t know every single week. Sometimes those coffee conversations with complete strangers can be some of the hardest things to do, but each meeting was worth it. I learned about different roles, different size and scale companies, and really had a chance to see what Boston was becoming. There are amazing people in the Boston scene - we’re a top player when it comes to tech and talent, that can’t be underrated.”

Once she felt she’d had enough time to herself, Michelle had a brief stint as the Chief Marketing Officer at Happier but ended up accepting the VP of Marketing position at Salsify several months later.

“Salsify was really my first take at being the head of marketing and having the chance to build and grow a marketing function within an organization. I was excited to partner with the founders and help build the company through early growth. I’m so proud of my time there and what the company is doing today.”

Michelle ran Salsify’s marketing for about two and a half years and then made the decision to move to Buildium.

“I made the decision to leave for Buildium - the opportunity was one I couldn’t turn down, and the chance to work with some of the CTCT mafia again was just too irresistible  But every time Salsify gets a win, I’m the person cheering the loudest from the sidelines. They’re a solid company and I had the chance to learn from really great people. Ultimately I landed here at Buildium because I’m a data driven person and like working in small business markets. It’s so rewarding to offer products and services to people who are really trying to support their passion, similar to the market I served at Constant Contact.”

Michelle explained that although no two days are the same at Buildium, her number one focus is building and supporting the marketing team. She also works every day to make sure the marketing organization is tied in as close as possible to the customer and they’re always providing value.

“We’re a mission driven company. We believe in doing business in the way business should be done and that’s true throughout everything that we do. Buildium has the solid foundation of a company that’s been in operation for over a decade, but is innovating and building like a startup.  It’s a pretty unique situation - really smart people, fun and complicated problems to solve. We’re also hiring like crazy.”


Rapid Fire Questions:

BS: How do you manage stress?

MB: For me, managing stress is about getting to the core of what the stress is all about. It’s making sure I take the time to take a breath, work through it, and have some alone time to figure out how I can best react to drive to the outcome I think we need. What can I do to solve it? I’m action oriented, I want to find the solution. And if it's something I can’t change, I figure out how to put it in a space where I can manage it appropriately, but not let it take over. It’s about being real with myself, honestly.

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

MB: If you couldn’t tell, about 7,000! I have about five... I cut off at three o’clock though.

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

MB: I have a six year old son so I don’t have a ton of free time. My favorite thing to do is really anything with him -most recently I’m learning how to play Minecraft. He’s obsessed and I can’t figure out to win, but it’s still fun!

Michelle Burtchell and family
Michelle with her son, Jack, and husband, Adam

BS: Where is your favorite spot in Boston?

MB: I love going down to the Seaport. There’s this bridge where they sometimes have art hanging and it’s the most beautiful walk. There is such good energy over there, it’s just this addictive vibe.  

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

MB: I’m really proud of the team we have at Buildium. I’m proud of the teams and what they’re able to accomplish. That feels like I’m taking credit for it but I’m not, it’s just amazing to see what people are capable of when they have the space to do stuff.

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

MB: Oh god no. Ten years ago, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I don’t know if it was ten years ago or eight years ago but I had set my sights and said I wanted to be a CEO of a company. I don’t know what’s to come but I still aspire to be a small business owner. I love technology and community. I think it would be something to own a small, local business.  A place that creates a safe environment for people to relax, get to know each other. I don’t know what that will end up being, but if I do it right, that would be the result.

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

MB: Don’t worry as much about title, focus on what you can learn. Take that through your entire career, not just the first role but through everything single thing you do. Focus on what you can learn. I don’t think you’ll regret anything if you can look back and can define what you’ve learned and taken with you on your next adventure.


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

Images courtesy of Michelle Burtchell.

About the
Company

Buildium is a property management software-as-a-service (SaaS) company headquartered in Boston. 

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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.

About the
Company

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

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Lead(H)er - Danielle Sheer, Vice President and General Counsel at Carbonite banner image

Lead(H)er - Danielle Sheer, Vice President and General Counsel at Carbonite

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As Carbonite's Chief Legal Officer, Danielle Sheer manages Carbonite’s global legal affairs and serves her clients which she says includes, “Every Carbonista from the Board of Directors and the CEO to every customer support representative based out of Lewiston, Maine.” For several years, she was the only person in the legal department but now she manages a small team of lawyers and paralegals globally.

Danielle Sheer, Vice President and General Counsel at Carbonite
Danielle Sheer, Vice President and General Counsel at Carbonite

“I’ve had some formative moments in my career. While I didn’t know it at the time, the challenges I experienced ended up being growth opportunities and chances to learn how to advocate for my clients, my colleagues and myself,” she said.

Originally from Miami, Florida, Danielle received her college education at George Washington University and went to Georgetown for law school. During her second summer of law school, Danielle interned at the global law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP headquartered in NYC. At the end of the summer, she was offered a full-time position as a Corporate Associate.

After graduation, Danielle began her legal training at Willkie. During her time at the firm, she learned how to advise companies on the independence requirements for public company Board members and draft disclosure documents for shareholders of public companies. She also learned how to prepare private technology companies for public offerings. “I was very lucky in that I connected with a talented partner at Willkie who exposed me to technology companies, mergers & acquisitions, and public offerings.” After a few years with Willkie and exposure to tech companies and their management teams, Danielle felt like she belonged on the inside of a company, rather than on the outside looking in as an external advisor.

Through her network, Danielle was introduced to a serial entrepreneur named David Friend. He was looking to hire Carbonite’s first lawyer, which would be the first in-house lawyer Friend had ever hired in his half-dozen companies. “David had been interviewing experienced lawyers for some time but couldn’t find anybody he connected with. In my series of interviews with him and Co-Founder Jeff Flowers, we didn’t talk at all about what a General Counsel does or my knowledge of the law. We talked about music, as I am the daughter of professional musicians and David is a musician and patron of the arts. We talked a lot about how we both resolve conflict, and what we are each passionate about in life. After several visits to Carbonite and interviews with the entire management team, he offered me the job.”

Taking a chance, she accepted the position, picked up her life in Manhattan and moved to Boston. Her husband would then begin his job search for a transfer to Boston, and the two commuted between New York and Boston during the first two years of their marriage.

To prepare herself for the new role, Danielle joined the Association of Corporate Counsel, leveraged her network for advice, and extensively researched Carbonite. In her first few months as Carbonite’s first and only lawyer, Danielle focused on what she knew best: Due diligence and setting the company on a path toward an initial public offering. “David and Jeff were supportive every step of the way and throughout the years encouraged my out-of-the-box solutions to take flight.”

Danielle is entering her 9th year as the General Counsel at Carbonite which today boasts over 1,000 employees, a global business, and half billion+ market cap. Danielle shared the two accomplishments that she is most proud of: becoming a trusted partner to the business and helping women obtain leadership positions at Carbonite.

“Learning what different people expect from their lawyers has been one of the most challenging tasks and one of the biggest opportunities in my career. In Manhattan, every third person you meet on the street is a lawyer or a banker—you’re amongst your own. When I started at Carbonite, I was the only lawyer and no one let me forget it. I heard at least three lawyer jokes a day, some were very good actually. I quickly learned that most people’s exposure to lawyers was as a result of divorce or traffic violations. So, I went on a press campaign to change the narrative amongst my new team so people wouldn’t be afraid of me, but would seek me out as a partner and sounding board.”

She’s also very proud of her work promoting women to leadership positions.

“For a few years, I was the only woman on the leadership team. In the beginning, I felt like I had earned something special. But after having claimed a seat at the table, I actually felt pretty lonely. I saw alliances form and fall apart and I learned the importance of socializing ideas before meetings. After witnessing several iterations of this, I believed that we needed diversity on the team. We needed people who think differently from each other and come from different life experiences; we needed fresh ideas to challenge assumptions and each other. I became obsessed with believing that we needed to add diversity to the team in order for the company to grow and thrive.”

Danielle on Bloomberg Radio.
Danielle on Bloomberg Radio.

Danielle recognized that there were several women who served in number two positions at the company, despite their essential contributions and aptitude. She made it a priority to include and vocally support them in important meetings. Danielle founded a group at Carbonite called SaaSy whose mission was the advancement of women leaders in the technology industry. SaaSy was intended to help women support women. In fact, several women were promoted and when Mohamad Ali became Carbonite’s CEO in 2014, things really took off. “He’s a big proponent of diversity on his management team. As Chairman of our board, he served as a catalyst by adding the first woman to our board of directors, and the last three executive team hires have also been women.”

In Danielle’s spare time, she is a contributing member of the Boston legal community, a board member of The Boston Club and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and a mother of two young girls.

Danielle and the girls

“Being a working parent has added great perspective to my professional life. I have to do more with less time and on less sleep, and the result is that I spend more time training and empowering my team and the business to solve problems. I think it’s made me a more effective leader. And, I believe it is critical to Carbonite’s success that we mentor and invest in the next generation of leaders.”


Rapid Fire Questions

BS: How do you manage stress?

DS: I have a few strategies. One strategy is to run. If I feel stressed to the point that I’m unable to focus, I just put on some great music and go run it out. It physically calms me down and clears my head. Another strategy is to find a quiet spot by the ocean. With no noise but the waves, I can hear my voice again and get some perspective.

When I’ve reached a point of diminishing returns and a vacation isn’t practical, I put my head down, tune out the noise and go back to what I know how to do, which is my work. I know that when I pick my head back up, the world will look different.

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

DS: I’m a connoisseur of bad coffee. I love a terrible cup of coffee from the office coffee machine because I’m not kidding, the worse the coffee is, the more I like it. I have a cup in the morning and a cup in the late afternoon, and it’s a part of my daily routine I never miss.

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

DS: We have a chocolate lab who’s been with us since before we had our daughters. He’s 10, his name is Reilly and I love spending time with him. I like to do anything that makes him happy so we take him swimming, hiking and to play ball. He’s been sleeping in our bed since he was a puppy and I can’t fall asleep unless he’s with me.

Danielle Sheer and her dog, Reilly
Danielle and her dog, Reilly

BS: Where is your favorite spot in Boston?

DS: Cat Rock Park in Weston. It’s a beautiful place where you can take your dogs for an off-leash hike and a swim. We’re there as often as we can be with Reilly.

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

DS: I really enjoy the process of empowering other people to achieve their professional goals by providing encouragement, motivation, and opportunity. It’s made me better, it’s made the company better and I’m proud of the team we’ve built and continue to invest in at Carbonite.

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

DS: Ten years ago, I was at Willkie Farr & Gallagher. When you start at a big law firm, I think you begin to think seriously about where you ultimately belong professionally. I wanted to be General Counsel of a company when I was there, so yes I did dream about this. My greatest strength and my greatest weakness is my loyalty. I knew my personality would be a good fit for in-house.

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

DS: When looking for your first job, pick something that you’re truly interested in. You’re going to work harder because you like what you’re doing and you're more apt to stay where you are for a couple of years, which is critically important in your first job right out of college.

Let me repeat that: It is very important to your development and professional growth that you stay at your first job for a few years. Staying at your first company for a number of years is essential if you want to learn how to properly do the job, practice how to be a team player, and be available to opportunities and challenges that will push you to grow and mature. It’s about building relationships and creating opportunity by showing up and being interested and engaged.


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

Images courtesy of Carbonite.

About the
Company

Carbonite provides data protection solutions including backup, disaster recovery and high availability solutions for any size business in any location.

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Lead(H)er - Emmy Linder, Global Head of Operations and Chief of Staff at Cybereason banner image

Lead(H)er - Emmy Linder, Global Head of Operations and Chief of Staff at Cybereason

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“I was an officer in the Israeli Defense Forces for four years and at the age of 19 commanded a team of twenty people who worked 24/7 to provide support for various operations. This was the beginning of my career because it opened my eyes to many possible career opportunities when my military service ended,” Emmy Linder the Global Head of Operations and Chief of Staff at Cybereason explained.

During her adolescence, Emmy routinely split her time between Israel and the United States, due to her father’s job. Years later upon graduating from high school, she was recruited by the Israeli Defense Ministry into Unit 8200, the elite intelligence group within the Israeli Defense Forces. This is the norm in Israel as every Israeli from the age of 18 is required to serve a minimum three (men) or two (women) consecutive years in the Israeli army. The best of the best end up in Unit 8200. Throughout its history, the Israeli army has stood for many things that translate to the business world, including its commitment to resourcefulness, diversity and technological innovation.

After four successful years of military service, Emmy decided she wanted to pursue a career in the field of software and technology. To further her education, Emmy attended IDC Herzliya, an Israeli university that emphasizes initiative, leadership and community service and received a bachelor’s degree in computer science, attributes that would help Emmy in her professional career.

“After fulfilling my military service and receiving my computer science bachelor’s degree, I embarked on my professional career and worked in product management roles at several tech companies in Israel, including Optibase and 888.com. My third stint was with a company Verint where I learned a lot about the operational side of businesses. It was the experience I gained at Verint that led me to apply to business school at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.”

Upon being accepted at MIT, Emmy packed her bags and moved to Boston. “I wanted to go to Sloan because it marries my two passions: technology and business.” At business school, Emmy focused on entrepreneurship and consulting. She was interested in gaining diverse experience outside of product management and working at a consulting firm.

After getting her Masters of Business Administration at MIT, Emmy accepted a job at Boston Consulting Group. “I worked at BCG for over five years. It was an amazing company and a really great place to gain firsthand experience with the day-to-day business challenges routinely facing companies. I learned how to solve complicated problems by working across many departments in the company to find the best solution available and making it stick by working with the people who have to touch it, implement it, and bring it through to all levels of the organization. It’s not the easiest thing, as you might imagine. This learning and training were second nature to me due to the extensive, hands on, military training I had received,” she said.

As Emmy climbed the ranks at BCG, she felt like she could continue to grow and learn but something was missing. She dreamed of finding the right technology company to work for and she would eventually be introduced to Lior Div, Cybereason’s Co-Founder and CEO. She would be offered a job at the fast-growing cybersecurity company.

“For me, there were many different factors that affected my decision—the market, the people, the product, the huge opportunity and the stage of growth that the company was at. I was also excited by the pace by which the company operated and the potential I could have helping to grow the business.”  

Cybereason is the leader in endpoint protection, offering endpoint detection and response, next-generation antivirus, managed monitoring and IR services. It employs 300 talented people across the globe. Its headquarters are in Boston with offices in Tel Aviv, Tokyo, and London.

Emmy Linder at work with Cybereason colleagues.
Emmy Linder at work with Cybereason colleagues.

Emmy handles day-to-day business operations at Cybereason, making sure that everyone in the company is on the same page, no matter where they’re located or what department they’re in. In addition to overseeing operations, she also works with Div on strategic planning and implementation, where a lot of both short term and long term goals are created and mapped. “We are constantly evolving as a company. If we want to change our offering for a certain product or service, that touches every aspect of the business and the organization. We can pivot quickly to meet the needs of customers and the fast paced environment is like riding a rollercoaster because of the speed by which we move on a daily basis,” said Emmy.


Rapid Fire Questions

BS: How do you manage stress?

EL: Stress manages itself. Life is pretty stressful across the board. Normally, I don’t have time to properly manage stress, so I don’t worry about these things. I just go with the flow.

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

EL: Two to three. Maybe four depending on the day and what’s happening. I should mention that I have three small children. I have a five-year-old girl, an almost three-year-old boy and a ten-month-old girl, so coffee helps.

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

EL: Beyond the obvious, “What free time?” I love spending time with my kids. Getting them outside either at a park or on a hike is always fun. If I have the luxury of actual free time, I love to find a quiet corner and read.

BS: Where is your favorite spot in Boston?

EL: The different parks of Cambridge. Our kids love running around all of the parks and playgrounds in Cambridge, it’s an easy break from the day-to-day for me.

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

EL: I have a lot of things that I’m very proud of. On the personal side, I’m proud of my kids. I am also very proud of what I have accomplished in my career. In the end, when I have a day that I feel like every part of my life is getting the right amount of time, attention, and achievement, that makes me feel great.

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

EL: In broad strokes, sure. I knew that I wanted to go back into technology. I knew I wanted to have a leadership position at a company. I don’t know if I would have envisioned myself at such an entrepreneurial company, that interest was something that evolved as I got more and more involved in the startup scene here in Boston. Overall, my career has not been a huge departure from what I would have expected.

Emmy Linder at work

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

EL: I know you might have a set plan in your head. I think a lot of people do. But you should jump on opportunities as they come, be open to things that will take you off of your path. When I was finishing up my bachelor’s and planning on going into a development role, I got an offer to be a product manager. It wasn’t the role I was looking for but I took it, and it set my path to be much more customer and business oriented.


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

Images courtesy of Cybereason.

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Cybereason is the leader in endpoint protection, offering endpoint detection and response, next-generation antivirus, managed monitoring and IR services.

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Lead(H)er: Geeta Sachdev, CMO of Turbonomic banner image

Lead(H)er: Geeta Sachdev, CMO of Turbonomic

“As a marketing team, we drive Turbonomic's brand awareness and demand generation. Our more than 1,700 customers are our key evangelists - we help them share their experiences and stories around how Turbonomic has helped them transform and modernize their IT to adapt and evolve to the pace of business,” Geeta Sachdev, the CMO of Turbonomic, explained.

Before she was a Boston CMO, Geeta spent her childhood in Southern New Jersey. She studied finance and marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.  “At Wharton/Penn, I was exposed to many different areas within business along with the liberal arts. It was a really well balanced education.”

Geeta Sachdev, CMO of Turbonomic
Geeta Sachdev, CMO of Turbonomic

After graduation, Geeta was a consultant with Booz Allen in their Financial Services practice, where through various assignments she learned how to strategically solve issues, using an analytically data driven approach to support and build recommendations for a variety of Fortune 500 clients.  

Geeta then decided to pursue her interest in marketing at MIT Sloan where she ended up falling in love with the high tech world. During a campus visit from Dell, Geeta interviewed for a marketing position based in Austin, Texas and ended up accepting the job.

“For a Jersey girl, Texas was like another country. I remember telling my mother that I’d be back in a year. However, one year turned into twelve years. I met my husband, had my children and ended up having a terrific experience. I grew to love Austin,” Geeta smiled.

During her twelve years at Dell, Geeta held multiple positions within Dell’s consumer and online businesses, with the most recent role as leading Dell consumer marketing. She even had the opportunity to run the Dell Asia-Pacific Japan online business in Singapore, giving her P&L responsibility and global exposure and experience.

“In the early days, the consumer segment within Dell very much operated as a startup within a much larger company. There was just so much to learn and go after. For those who took ownership, were comfortable with ambiguity and worked well as part of a team, good things happened.”

After over a decade at Dell, Geeta was approached by SolarWinds, a leading IT management software company based out of Austin, to lead their marketing team as CMO. SolarWinds had recently gone public and was in hypergrowth mode.

“The go to market model at SolarWinds was truly disruptive - it was based on a strong partnership between marketing and sales.  Marketing had responsibility for building a vibrant SolarWinds community of IT pros and driving 100% online leads and pipeline - sales had responsibility for converting these leads into deals at a high velocity and volume. Having P&L ownership in a hyper growth environment was truly transformative.”

Having lived in Austin for a number of years, Geeta started to think about moving back to the Northeast to be closer to family. As luck would have it, an opportunity presented itself: Ben Nye, a SolarWinds board member, took the position as the CEO of Turbonomic and asked Geeta to join the team as CMO.

Geeta has led the Turbonomic marketing team for the past four years and has helped them drive their record growth.

Geeta (far left) and her team at Turbonomic.
Geeta (far left) and her team at Turbonomic.

“Turbonomic is a hybrid cloud management platform where we help our customers activate their hybrid cloud.  We unify the monitoring and automation of workloads on premises and/or in AWS and Azure environments, helping our customers accelerate their migration to the cloud. We do this autonomically, meaning the workloads self manage in real time to ensure they have the resources they need to assure performance, lower cost by up to 30%, while maintaining continuous compliance.”

The Turbonomic team is 450 people and growing. Turbonomic last week was named to the Forbes 2017 Cloud 100 list for the second year in a row. Check out this article written by their founder and president, Shmuel Kliger, to find out more about their mission.


BS: How do you identify a good opportunity?

GS: Whenever I consider an opportunity, I look at three things - the team, the technology, and market opportunity. First, I look at the team. Will I enjoy working with this group of folks every day to drive to the mission? Secondly, does the technology help solve real customer pain points - is it truly disruptive? Lastly, how big is the market opportunity that the company is trying to go after?

Another shot of Geeta (back row, fourth on the left) and her team.
Another shot of Geeta (back row, fourth from the left) and her team.

BS: How do you manage stress?

GS: I take a step back and think, ‘Will this really matter 24, 48 hours from now? What about 48 days from now?’ If I stress myself out, there’s a good chance others will stress out because people reflect off your energy. I also think having kids helps put everything in perspective. So it’s good to just take a step back and decide if it really matters in the overall scheme of things.

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

GS: One to two. Depending on how the days is going. Today’s a two cup day.

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

GS: I love to spend time with my kids. I have an eleven year old and a nine year old so most of my free time is spent with them. Outside of kids, I like to read and I love to travel. But there’s not a lot of time so it tends to be kids, work, kids, work.

BS: Where is your favorite spot in Boston?

GS: I love the Cambridge area. I like the vibe.

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

GS: I would say my kids.

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

GS: No. Actually, my husband and I were just talking about this the other day. You never know where life will take you so grab the opportunity as it comes. I would not have anticipated being here ten years back.

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

GS: Don’t always look for the most obvious paths. Seek out paths that aren't the most obvious but where you’re really going to engage your passion. Grab opportunities as they come your way. They may not be the most attractive in everyone’s mindset but often the road least traveled is the most interesting, the most rewarding and the most fruitful.


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

Images courtesy of Turbonomic.

Lead(H)er: Vanessa Kafka, VP of Product Management at KAYAK banner image

Lead(H)er: Vanessa Kafka, VP of Product Management at KAYAK

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As the VP of Product Management at KAYAK, Vanessa Kafka has earned a leadership role at one of the world’s leading online travel companies - without a traditional product management background.

Music was an early passion for Kafka. Her parents -- who immigrated to the US from Peru -- gave her an early appreciation for both traditional and modern music and culture. She learned to play the guitar and began writing and performing her own music at a young age. “It’s a great way to go through your teenage years and build up confidence,” she said. “Plus, it’s a great outlet.” Her love for the process of creating and writing music led her to record an album as an independent musician in 2008 called Into Place. The creativity didn’t stop at just writing music, as she also sought other avenues to express her creative energy.

“As a child, I developed my nerdiness by teaching myself the different things I could do on computers,” said Kafka. “As I got older, I spent a lot of time learning graphic design software and web design. I realized that technology was a medium which allowed me to explore my creative side.”

Kafka attended the University of Connecticut and after exploring three different majors in hopes of blending her creativity and her interest in tech, she ultimately achieved an MIS degree.

After graduating, Kafka landed a role at Ernst & Young as an IT Auditor. This role involved working with E&Y’s clients and auditing their IT systems. At E&Y, she built the foundation of her career and was exposed to the inner workings of companies both large and small.

After four years at E&Y, Kafka decided to attend MIT Sloan full-time to further her professional development and explore her interest in tech and business.

The education at Sloan is driven by a hands-on approach to coursework through research projects, so Kafka started working on a project with a taxi hailing startup in the UK called Hailo. The company was interested in expanding into the Boston market and other cities in the U.S. She spent six weeks researching the taxi industry and interviewing drivers in Boston.

What started out as a six-week research project, turned into a full-time role after graduation as she joined Hailo as the General Manager of the Boston market.

From there, she joined Wayfair in a digital marketing role, where she learned customer acquisition strategies and how to rapidly grow a user base. While she enjoyed marketing, she wanted to work on the actual product and get closer to the end-user. She ended up focusing her career search on product management roles.

At the time, KAYAK was just starting to build a product management function, and while she lacked traditional product management experience, she was able to connect the skills that she had gained in previous positions and during her time at Sloan to win over the team at KAYAK.  

“We look for self-starters - people that are smart, driven and willing and able to hit the ground running. That matters more to us than the perfect resume,” said Giorgos Zacharia, CTO, KAYAK.  “Vanessa stood out to us during the interview process as a strong communicator who would work well with the team and add a unique perspective, given her experience working at a start-up and for more mature companies.”

Until then, product was controlled between a collaborative process between engineering and design. She ended up being one of two Product Managers hired into the company.

The lack of background in product management worked to her benefit, as she didn’t have a preconceived notion of what she should be doing every day. Instead, she just rolled up her sleeves and jumped in where she could to help out.

“I was not afraid to do things other people maybe didn’t want to do,” added Kafka. “I tried to find different ways to add value early and build trust and respect with the different teams internally.”

Kafka’s impact was immediately felt and within two years, she rose up through the ranks in the company to become the VP of Product Management. She now leads a global team of 18 people.

When asked about her rapid ascent, she remains humble by saying that she has the same characteristics as most of the employees at KAYAK. She has a passion for solving problems, she is highly effective at managing her time, can work autonomously, and gets energized by working in a team setting with smart people.

When it comes to hiring for her own team at KAYAK, she keeps an open mind and hopes to attract equally open-minded candidates that will be creative, thoughtful and productive.

She is the perfect example of a great product manager, whose resume wasn’t obvious.

The Flexible Dates - KAYAK Inhouse Band
The Flexible Dates

In addition to the traits previously mentioned, she also looks for people who are collaborative and easy to work with. Critical to the role is the importance of getting people to work with you, even though there is no direct management responsibility. Highly effective product managers need to ask the right questions to pull the ideas from engineers and designers, and demonstrate sound judgement involving complex projects.

Not only has Kafka landed a product role that allows her to leverage her interest in tech, but she is also able to keep her passion for music intact too. KAYAK has an in-house cover band called The Flexible Dates, which plays occasionally at Thursday happy hours. Vanessa is one of the lead singers.

Here’s a great cover of Pyro by Kings of Leon:

Or… Love Song by Sara Bareilles:


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

Images courtesy of KAYAK.  Flexible Dates photo credit: Jason Brillon.

About the
Company

KAYAK searches other sites to show travelers the information they need to find the right flights, hotels, rental cars and vacation packages.

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