Lead(H)er: Dorothy Chang, Vice President/Head of Marketing & Communication at Paxos
Cognitive science combines psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, philosophy, and computer science to better understand how the mind works. When Dorothy Chang majored in the field at Yale, she focused her research on something called The Curse of Knowledge, a phenomenon in which the more a person knows about a topic, the more difficult it is for them to teach or explain it. Chang never imagined she’d use her cognitive science background in marketing and communications, yet it has helped her become a bridge for many.
“There’s definitely a place for those of us working in marketing and communications to help be the translators between the people building the projects and the rest of the world,” said Chang, the Vice President/Head of Marketing and Communications at Paxos.
Paxos works to digitize all forms of financial assets, from gold and cash to securities, using blockchain technology. Moving most assets typically entails turning it into cash, then completing banking transactions between certain hours and on particular days, but Paxos doesn’t think it should be that complicated.
“You can send an email or a text message anywhere in the world instantaneously, and in this day and age, moving financial assets is the same thing as moving information,” Chang said. “It shouldn’t make a difference.”
Chang started in technology PR at Text 100, where she represented giants like IBM and Fujifilm. After learning how PR operated in that corner of the industry, she wondered what it would be like to work at a boutique agency or at a larger firm. She found out at Edelman, the largest PR firm in the world, where she continued working with large clients like Microsoft and eBay.
Towards the end of her time at Edelman, Chang had the opportunity to work with small startups at the very beginning of their journeys. Instead of working on one aspect of a company’s public relations strategy, she helped these businesses in more far-reaching influential ways, including overall positioning, forming meaningful relationships with venture capitalists, product launch strategies and more.
“That’s what really captured my heart,” Chang said. “I got to have my hands in everything that the company was doing and help them navigate the world.”
The realization led her to Brew Media Relations, a boutique agency that works with clients in Silicon Valley. There, Chang says she had some of her most formative startup experiences with companies like GroupMe, WordPress and Charity: Water. Chang found inspiration in the founders of these companies and felt a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that she had played a role in helping the world recognize their ideas and grow their ventures.
She became a founder herself in 2012, when she started her own communications consulting company and co-founded a seed stage fund with a group of friends in the same year. The fund, Liberty City Ventures, continues to invest in digital currency-focused enterprises. She then went on to work at Foursquare, where she led communications and broadened her skillset to include more areas of marketing.
Now at Paxos, Chang has a seat at the table with a leadership position running everything relating to the company’s brand, marketing and communications. She oversees press communications, partnership promotions, digital marketing, event representation, email marketing, content marketing, the website and more. Paxos’ audience includes both financial institutions and individuals interested in using and trading digital assets, and the wide open space presents a welcomed challenge.
Throughout her career, Chang has focused more on finding a place to learn and grow than on reaching a particular goal. Looking forward, she’s also cognizant of the fact that her next move may not have even been invented yet.
“I’ve been working with technologies that didn’t even exist when I first got out of college,” Chang said. “The whole way we work today is completely different from how it was then, so I couldn’t have set goals that perfectly align with what I’m doing today. There is a lot of benefit to approaching life and career with an open mind.”
Rapid Fire Questions
What do you like to do in your free time?
I have two little boys—one is three and a half, and one is 15 months, so any free time I get, I spend with them. I just started to teach the older one to play the piano, which is always fun. He can’t really play anything, but he knows what the notes are, which is huge. The little one has mastered saying “mama” and is working on “dada.”
How do you typically manage stress?
I try to make sure I’m pulling myself back frequently to get some perspective on life and remember that I’m happy with how things are going generally.
I have the kind of personality where no matter what, I'm going to be working really hard and trying to do the best I possibly can in my role, so I try to stop and take stock of things so that the self-induced pressure doesn't get too out of hand.
How many cups of coffee do you drink in a day?
Zero, now! I used to drink coffee, but I gave it up before having my first kid. It’s been almost five years now, and I just never took it back up again. I really enjoy feeling a little more even-keeled throughout the day instead of experiencing highs and lows, so it’s been awesome.
What's one of your favorite places in the New York area?
Right now, it's where we live in Jersey City. It only takes me five minutes to get into New York, but it’s a little oasis. All we can see out our windows is water and sky and the Statue of Liberty. It’s a super calming and lovely place to live and withdraw from the hustle and bustle of the city.
What do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments?
There was a year where I did three things that really makes me proud. I started my own business, which was a little PR agency, and I co-founded a seed fund called Liberty City Ventures, where my friends and I started investing in startups and blockchain technologies. The third thing is that I also spent the year planning my wedding. It was kind of a crazy year, but one where I pushed myself into uncharted territory. But I loved learning what it's like to run your own business. I learned so much. It was definitely the most productive year of my life.
Is this where you saw yourself 10 years ago?
My role is within the realm of possibility of what I thought, but I don't think I would have guessed that this was the path. At that time, I was still very much solely focused on communications and not on the broader marketing bucket. The truly unpredictable thing would have been that I'm in the blockchain industry because it was an area I didn’t know anything about yet, so that's kind of cool.
I think that's what I really love about working in technology, that things are moving and changing and evolving so quickly and constantly. The communications and marketing challenges really never end because of that. When you're trying to figure out how to introduce brand new things that have never existed before, that’s the kind of intellectual challenge that I enjoy.
What’s your advice for recent college graduates?
I think the hardest thing you can do is to develop a more long-term perspective on life and realize that your first job isn't the end-all, be-all. I think a lot of people spend a lot of time worried about what that first job means for them and whether they’re making the right choice or not. But you’re 22 years old, and there's no way to know the answer to any of those questions until you do it. You just have to dive in, and then as you continue to grow, you'll learn more about life, what is best for you, where your strengths are, and what your desires are. You can figure all of that out as you go, so don't stress. Just go for it and keep putting yourself in a position to learn and grow and have the kind of impact you want to have on the world.