September 26, 2018

Lead(H)er: Sarah Travers, CEO of Workbar

Many folks in the Boston tech scene have spent time in a particular industry that serves as a trend for their career. For Sarah Travers, CEO of Workbar, she has been involved with coworking spaces in some way, shape or form...even before the term was coined.

“Back then, it [coworking] was just called ‘shared workspace’ and people would walk into the door and not know what to expect. After taking a tour of a Regus office, [at the time] the most common thing people would say is, ‘I can’t believe that this even existed and what a fantastic idea.’”

After graduating from Trinity College, Travers joined office space-provider Regus as a Community Manager in 2002.

“I loved it. I loved the fact where I was one of two people who were from Regus and the rest of the space was populated with companies of all different shapes and sizes,” she said.

Travers was at Regus for 15 years and she held nearly every position she could, with her final title being Area Manager, where she was able to grow the company further in the Boston area, including opening the Regus office in the Seaport District.

“I went into a career where I could meet and interact with all sorts of companies and people every single day,” Travers said. “I may have been there for fifteen years, but it never felt like the same company throughout that time. It was something different every day, and I had new jobs all the time.”

Along with growing her career at the company, Travers was able to go to Northeastern University and obtain her MBA.

In 2017, she left Regus to forge a new career path and also to keep her family in mind. Her typical routine involved dropping her two young children at daycare and she wanted to keep the family in one location, and if she were to advance at Regus, it would require relocation.

Since she was already working in the same area of the city where MassChallenge is, Travers had already been in touch with the startup community. The company she chose to join up with was Workframe, a workflow management software company, as their general manager in Boston. While the position was unfortunately short-lived, the experience urged Travers to seek out further jobs in the tech community.

“I had this need to work for a startup and to be connected with the innovation world in Boston, but what was I going to do? Then, the Head of Business Development position at Workbar opened up” said Travers. “To me, Workbar is the best of all of these worlds.”

In November 2017, Travers joined Workbar and worked alongside Founder and then-CEO Bill Jacobson. However, as the months progressed into her tenure, Travers slowly started taking on more and more leadership. In April of this year, she was named the successor to Jacobson.

“I was brought on as CEO based on my experience in the industry, and to also bring Workbar into the future,” said Travers. “That entails filling out our regional density model so no one has to travel more than 20 minutes to get to work.”

Workbar team

In August of this year, Workbar made the announcement of their newest location nearby the Burlington Mall. Travers’ vision for this new location is something different than their other suburban locations, but one that helps fulfill a need for flexible space on Route 128-home to many tech companies. The new locale will feature enterprise suites designed for companies that have grown to be more than ten people, but also give those companies a chance to interact with the smaller, or in some cases single-member, startups in the region.

Workbar Burlington is going to be a new direction for the company, and Travers mentioned they have plans to build more similar locales in the future. While she was unable to answer where they were going to be, as of this writing, she did tell us to keep our eyes open for announcements in the next few months.

While she has remained in a similar industry for a long time, it doesn’t mean that she is looking for a way out of it any time soon, and remains optimistic about it.

“This is fun for me” Travers said. “I like to think anyone can get fun out of work and you’ve got to love what you do. It makes a big difference.”

Rapid Fire Questions

What do you like to do in your free time?

What do I like to do in my free time? I have a young family, so my free time is focused on spending time with them. We have a boat that we are on all summer, and now my husband and I are trying to teach our children to ski. Anything that we can do together, we try to do together.

We’re big skiers. When my husband and I first started dating, we had season passes to Killington, and we’re excited to get back there once the kids get a little older.

How do you typically handle stress?

I think that I am pretty good at putting everything into perspective. I believe it comes a little bit with age, and I think in my younger years I didn’t handle stress very well. Nowadays though, I have the ability before I either respond to an email or try to solve a problem to be a more methodical thinker and come up with a plan

How many cups of coffee do you drink a day?

A lot, why do you ask?

I drink two venti iced coffees from Starbucks a day. Workbar has great coffee, but I like iced coffee and I need it very cold all year round. I’m trying to cut down to one a day, but nine times out of ten, I really want another coffee.

What’s your favorite place in Boston?

Any place on the water, especially in the summertime. My family and I spend a lot of time on the water, so Boston Harbor.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments besides your family?

I think every single day is an accomplishment when I get into my bed at night. It’s so cliche, but it is a lot of work to juggle all of this. I work outside of the home, my husband works outside of the home, we have two very active young kids who need to get to a lot of different places.

That being said, being a female CEO of a company at 40 is pretty cool too.

Is this where you saw yourself 10 years ago?

I saw myself having a career that I really loved and I saw myself having a family that I loved spending time with. What surprises me is the blurring of the work-life balance that I have been able to achieve. You hear all the time that it’s difficult to balance the two but it’s a lot easier to blur the two. I am happier than I thought I would be 10 years ago.

What advice can you give to a recent college graduate?

Coming out of college, I had gotten into law school, but a week before classes started, I deferred for a year. I wanted to work for a year and have a little bit of fun and just fell into Regus and into an industry that I love.

So, 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.

Figure out what you want to do and make sure you find the right environment to take risks.

Colin Barry is an Editor & Staff Writer to VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter @ColinKrash

Images courtesy of Sarah Travers and Workbar

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