Lead(H)er: Meredith Wood, Vice President of Marketing at Fundera
When Meredith Wood was a Theatre Performance major at the University of Evansville almost a decade ago, she never imagined working as the Vice President of Marketing at Fundera, a five-year-old financial start-up that offers entrepreneurs a marketplace for small business loans and other financial solutions. Her career trajectory, like many others, is far from linear.
“I moved to New York City pretty certain I wanted to find a career outside of theatre” Meredith explained. “I’m results-driven. I like to work hard and know I’ll see the results of that work. Unfortunately, in theatre, you can't guarantee outcomes as there are so many conditional factors and subjectivity.” After starting an entry-level role at a financial firm, Meredith discovered a new career path that encompassed her skills and passions. Because start-ups were up and coming, she decided to take her newfound knowledge in finance to an environment where she knew there was an opportunity for growth, exposure, and recognition. Over the next three years, she worked at a small financial technology startup in New York City where she wore many hats. That’s when she found her “groove in marketing.”
“I was reached out to by my now CEO, Jared Hecht, who had seen my work over at that company. We had a really successful editorial and content SEO strategy and he was looking to do something similar at Fundera,” Meredith said. Admiring his business perspective and seeing Fundera as a way to enhance her self-taught business skills, she ended up meeting with him and has been at the company ever since.
At first, she secured her role as an Editor-In-Chief. But, over the last five years, she’s climbed the ladder as Director of Content, Vice President of Content and Communications, and now Vice President of Marketing. “In that time, it has gone from only content marketing, to multiple functions of marketing, to finally running the whole ship. It's been a really wonderful experience because I've learned a lot on the job by doing and they've done a wonderful job investing in me and my education to give me the resources to be successful,” Meredith explained.
As for her day-to-day tasks, she runs a team of 17 employees with four functions under her department (she started off working with only eight employees in the entire company!) including content marketing, editorial, growth marketing, and lifecycle marketing. “I spend a lot of time working with my direct reports and supporting them however they need. As a whole, I try to make sure that we've developed a strong culture within the marketing organization.” Her job, though, isn’t just about business. She loves helping business owners figure out the best financial move for their business.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I try to take a trip a month and would like to see the whole world with my husband. This means I spend a lot of my free time planning my travels.I've always been very much into health and nutrition. I really enjoy lifting weights and feeling strong. I’m a really big fan of the arts, so I do have the pleasure of living in New York City and try to see as much as I can. But I also enjoy participating; I love writing and screenwriting, specifically.
What are some of your strategies for managing stress?
I’m lucky to have an executive coach and this is one of the first things we tackled together. I was able to identify that I feel my best when I go to sleep at certain time and wake up at a certain time. Secondly, I feel my best when I work out every day before I go to work. So I have to prioritize both these things above everything else.
Making time for myself at my desk, too. Being in meetings all day can be draining. Giving yourself that time back is really important. I prune my calendar at the beginning of the week and try to remove anything that feels unnecessary or that I can delegate to give me some of that time back. It's really been helpful. I also know it makes a difference when I get out of the office, even if it's just for five minutes. That mental break away from the computer is really important. Lastly, I give myself a least 30 minutes to an hour to decompress before bed so that the rest I’m getting is actually restful.
What are some of your favorite places in the New York area?
I love going upstate and anywhere along the Hudson River, hiking and being outside. It’s so close to New York but so different. There’s so much up there: You’ve got wineries, galleries, but it’s really the hiking that I love. And the towns are so idyllic where you can stop and get breakfast.
How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?
Usually just one in the morning. I'll drink it, but I’m not dependent on it. Me and caffeine - we don't really need each other. It’s more that it tastes good!
What do you consider one of your proudest accomplishments?
I'm going to pick two. One is just being able to be relatively self-made in the sense that I didn't go to school for this. I had a lot of things working against me and my background but I was able to teach myself how to do things and prove to myself that if I work hard enough and if I take the time to learn something than I can do that. The other thing that I really am proud of is just people that have worked with me over the years, I've been able to coach, mentor, grow and develop them and seeing where they are in their careers now is probably the most rewarding thing ever.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Owning my own business is definitely in my future. I'm very inspired by the people I work with every day. I've had a wonderful mentor with my CEO Jared Hecht. I love building things and love supporting and developing others. I'm the daughter of an entrepreneur; I think it runs in my blood. Or, I could see myself going to write and possibly produce television or film, combining my love for the arts and business acumen.
What’s your advice for recent college graduates?
You have so much room for change in your future. Your degree means nothing. No matter what it’s in, you can do whatever you want. Don't let that hold you back. You can try something and if it doesn't work out, that's not a negative thing. You've learned that either you didn't like that or you've learned more about what you do like. Don’t be afraid of that failure. You will look back in ten years and understand how all these pieces work together. The world is changing very, very quickly and the ability to be self-taught and to prove yourself by doing is probably more available than ever. Don't feel like you have to follow these rules that were set for us many years ago. There's a ton of opportunity and everything you do - even if it doesn't feel right - is a step in the right direction for you.