This is another video in the series I did for CBS about how to assess what you’re really looking for in a career - and life for that matter.
This is another video in the series I did for CBS about how to assess what you’re really looking for in a career - and life for that matter.
In November I was thrilled to join the amazing team at Movable Ink and just wanted to take a moment to share more about this terrific company. I have known Vivek, the co-founder and CEO, for about two years through the tech community, and had also learned about the company through some Kohort friends and a shared investors - Contour Ventures and FF Ventures.
What Movable Ink is doing in email is nothing short of revolutionary in changing the tool box for marketers in a way that is really moving the needle. I’ve worked in email marketing before - back at TheaterMania where our email lists were the part of the backbone for all Broadway marketing campaigns. It was interesting to return to the email marketing world seven years later and to discover that not much had really changed. In a digital landscape that is been radically redrawn in just the past five years - it is really shocking to consider that something that is so pervasive in consumers lives and so critical to almost every business has really not evolved to match the agile development methods of every other channel not to mention the pace of business.
Movable Ink offers marketers the ability to place dynamic live content into emails which can change at the moment the end user opens it - and subsequent times they open it - versus essentially just mailing a static message as marketers do now.
The dynamic content can take any form - a countdown clock to the expiration of an offer, realtime inventory trackers, a live stream of twitter comments, crop of a webpage with most recent content or inventory, a map which shows the closest store to where you are when you open it and messages that can vary by specific device type. All delivered in one piece of code that you as a marketer don’t need to touch when deployed.
The difference in engagement and results for an email which contains a dynamic message versus a static message is significant. Here’s a quote about a recent campaign we did for Lilly Pulitzer (which just happens to be a personal fave brand of mine :)
“Movable Ink’s technology is making our emails more compelling than ever,” said Michelle Kelly, senior vice president, merchandising, marketing & retail at Lilly Pulitzer. “A recent campaign that showed the minutes ticking away to take advantage of a special sale drove more than triple the amount of anticipated traffic to our website.”
And this is just one of the many enterprise clients we are working with and helping to drive results for. A recent Pando Daily piece profiled where the company is today after two years heads down in the trenches:
“It worked: the company has grown 219 percent in bookings quarter-to-quarter, going from from 37 million emails at the end of 2011 to more than 1.4 billion in 2012, adding 60 large enterprise clients including American Eagle Outfitters, Disney, Express, Finish Line, and General Motors.”
In addition to awesome technology Movable Ink is also powered by a wonderful team of truly seasoned email and tech veterans that I am really excited to be working with.
The super talented Jay Corcoran from CBS filmed me speaking about my career path last year and I thought this might be of interest to the few of you who have asked how I ended up in startupland.
Vassar has a very proud history in Technology especially for a small liberal arts school so it comes as no surprise that we have alums in leadership roles in all industries leveraging technology. Vassar grads include an early employee at Pixar, a co-founder of Oxygen one of the first cross platform mainstream media properties and a co-founder of Flickr, one of the biggest successes from Web 1.0.
In addition I have met dozens of other grads doing incredibly interesting things as social media managers and programers and product managers at startups to Fortune 100 companies.
A few years ago I started a simple Vassar in Tech group on LinkedIn to help connect these grads with one another and as a natural extension I connected with some great like minded alums in NYC and we started hosting in person meet ups about once a quarter. These events have varied in format but recently we settled on a combination of networking and some mini-demos from attendees either of products or projects they’re working on professionally or interesting trends they’re seeing. We’ve hosted about half a dozen of these and they’ve been a great informal way for like minded people to connect to make meaningful connections. Our next one is on January 26th - I hope you’ll come
Every time we send an email out about the event I get some requests to host them in other cities. Unfortunately I can’t jet out to Seattle or to Boston to get these off the ground but I do have a really simple step by step guide for how to get them started that I wanted to share here to encourage other Vassar grads in tech to get them going.
1. Reach out and let me know you’re interested in getting a group started in your city. I have terrific contacts in Alumnae Affairs who can help pull a list for you to invite to your event. We can also start a subgroup to the Vassar in Tech group on LinkedIn and get the word out.
2. Find your own network by doing a LinkedIn search and getting the word out through your respective social media networks.
3. Once you’ve got a target list of a few dozen possible attendees send them an email explaining what you’re planning to do, asking if anyone else would like to help plan and include a survey to get the best date to maximize attendance. I like Doodle.com for surveys. You may want to start a group on Meetup.com to easily manage event planning or use a tool like MailChimp to send emails.
4. Once you have a date you need a space. I have used a variety of locations - back spaces in bars, a side room in a restaurant or a conference room after hours in someone’s office. In the beginning it might be nice to just meet in a bar to keep it lowkey, but as you put some structure around the event a conference room with a space to mingle works best.
5. Depending on how the event is structured you may need someone to cover costs. We’ve done well with self funding - meaning we ask everyone who comes to pitch in $10 towards beer and pizza, but we’ve also had success with generous alums offering to cover costs through their businesses. See if there’s someone like that in your midst. For a small gathering $250 usually goes a long way.
6. In terms of format, starting with a happy hour is a nice way to break the ice. Make sure you have nametags to help break the ice. Once you have more of a following though the NY group has done well with a format of 5-10 minute demos, no more than 4, followed by a discussion and informal networking. Usually 2.5 hours is enough time.
7. Make sure you get attendees names and contact info since some may have been brought by friends and be sure to send a follow up email asking for suggestions, feedback and if anyone else wants to be involved. The NY group is run by an informal group of volunteers - about 5 of us - and none of us spends more than 3 hours a month on these events. We have no titles, no formal org structure, we’re just interested in meeting great like minded Vassar grads in a fun setting.
And that’s it! I can’t tell you how gratifying and fun these events have been for me personally and they’ve also been great professionally. Please let me know if you’re interested in getting one started and we’ll take it from there.
Now I’m on the hunt for my next biz dev role I’m using two resources I established over the past few years - they are my JAM sessions and my personal board. Let me elaborate….
When I was in business school I was surrounded by motivated career minded friends who, like me, were spending a lot of time in this wonderful bubble thinking about our careers and lives. We had endless time to help each other refine what it was we wanted to do with our careers and to talk each other through our internship and interview challenges.
When I graduated of course life and my career proved to be less perfectly predictable than I had laid out and I thought what a shame that I wasn’t surrounded by all those smart nice people to run things by on a regular basis. So I reached out to two of my favorite friends from CBS and we started doing bi-monthly conference calls where we each talk for about 45 minutes about pressing issues in our careers and at work. We have been doing the calls for almost four years now and they have been incredibly helpful. In that time two members of our small group have moved to San Francisco, Seattle Germany and Australia, and all three of us changed companies - coaching each other through our respective moves. They are a trusted sounding board of two friends who have known me for the better part of a decade and we all share a foundation of the goals and values we talked about ad nauseum in business school. It took little to no effort to get the sessions off the ground and the only effort it takes to keep it going is trying to find a time slot that works with our ever changing time zones. Oh and we call it a JAM session because those are our initials!
Secondly I make use of my personal board. I think the idea for this came from some cheesy article on career planning I read a few years ago blended with my overall thoughts on the limits of traditional “mentorship”. The “mentor” model as I understand it works well when it is someone senior in a company or industry that you work in and that is the company or industry you want to grow your career in. This model didn’t work well for me because it was too static I hope to have a career that spans several companies and by virtue of it being in tech it is likely that I will traverse a few industry verticals already (since business school alone I’ve technically touched financial services, social media, mobile app development and community management. Hunting for one senior person who is going to have perspective and insights into all those areas itself is likely a big waste of time and energy, but you can assemble a group of people who each have valuable perspective on pieces of the career you’re trying to build.
Another challenge to the mentorship model is that senior people don’t always have consistent time to offer you - even though you might be in the midst of a crucial decision point in your career. It’s not personal, it is just reality. So to that end I have about a dozen people who I have appointed to my personal board which manifests itself in a long term relationship where we catch up for lunches or coffees once a quarter, give or take, and where we build a foundational relationship that allows me to seek ad hoc advice. In exchange I do whatever I can to offer them value - either by giving them my take on things I’m seeing on the ground, introducing them to various contacts I might know or serving on some committees I’ve been asked to to provide new perspective. All in it is very little in exchange for a lot of value. It also speaks to what my friend Kristal termed reverse mentorship (Kristal is on my board btw :) It’s not like marriage, I didn’t ask them outright “will you be on my board?” and then put a ring on it but over time we created real relationships where we are invested in each other’s success.
Some of these people have started brands that are household names, some have IPO’d companies they have founded, some seem to know how to have a rich family life and career, and all are people I would love to work with some day. In the meantime I have benefited immeasurably from the portfolio approach to mentorship.
I had the pleasure of meeting a bunch of great Vassar students when I went up this February to recruit for Venture for America, but one in particular stood out. Her name is Charlotte Yang and she’s a complete powerhouse, and since meeting her she has gone on to create one of the most exciting initiatives at Vassar in decades - a group called Vassar Ventures. The breadth of what VV has already done and aspires to do is incredibly impressive and I seriously wish it had existed back in my days on campus. Charlotte came and spoke to a group of us at a Vassar in Tech event in the city last spring and I think the alums who were present were stunned by how much she’s accomplished in such little time.
VV features an alum once a month in their newsletter and this month featured yours truly. I wrote a piece about my career intended to provide some practical tips to liberal arts grads looking to pursue careers in tech.
I hope it is helpful!
Nothing makes you more existential about the value of your physical possessions than having to move frequently. After moving most of our things into the basement for our renovation and then shuttling between two house sitting spots while amassing tons of baby items (and a baby :o) along the way - I will never look at “stuff” the same way.
Josh jokes that we should all be made to carry our possessions up and down a flight of stairs once a year to assure ourselves that we really want them.
To that end Josh and I have a new rule. No new books, no souvenirs and only digital frames. If we want a book we buy it for the kindle apps we have on our iphones and ipads. We are actually about to ship a box of books to amazon as a part of their buy back program and use the credit towards buying digital copies of the books we love. Since Josh travels a lot for work I’ve told him if he ever has the urge to buy me something small and cute as a souvenir - instead to take a picture of it and email it to me. It sounds silly, but the end result is almost the same. And then for frames - digital frames have some so far and are really beautiful I love the ability to update them. There was a point in our prior house when all we had were pictures from the year after our wedding. It’s rare that you think to update a physical frame - even though it is so easy.
With this new mindset I do think that there are still really special things that are worth the investment and physical space they require. Here are a few things of beauty which are going to have special places in our newly redone house.
For my husband’s birthday in 2009 I commissioned a water color of our building by an incredible Brooklyn artist (also very well priced) named Abdul who I highly recommend. He’s at 2024865817.
Then the following year I hired this terrific young woman named Katie Evans to do a portrait of me and Josh and Diego. Katie is incredibly talented and designs for Kate Spade. You can see some of her other stuff here http://hellohellodesign.com/ and contact her here: email@example.com
People all over from the web to the street are asking how Marissa Mayer is going to make it work with her new high ranking job and impending motherhood and unsurprisingly the discussion is less about her qualities as a leader or experienced product manager but more about her abilities as a working new mom. I know exactly how she’s going to pull it off - by relying on a community of friends, family, neighbors and colleagues.
As you might have guessed from the last post - and the delay to this one - I just became a mom. It has been its own incredibly wonderful experience, but it is not without its logistical, physical, professional challenges- among others. Early on I knew that the communities I’m a part of would be a big part of overcoming these challenges: my colleagues were genuinely excited for me, several of our investors connected me with moms at their other companies, my friends (parents and non parents alike) offered tips and resources and people I’ve known from every corner of my life reached out through social media to offer congrats and see how they could help. I had also started a small Moms in Tech group in the Kohort Beta and we’d been able to get together for some breakfasts and lunch dates in person as well as have some great discussions online.
But all of that was nothing as compared to the support I received once the baby arrived. Since literally day one people have been showing up with food, helpful advice or simply adult conversation. A friend and former colleague came over one morning to just hold the baby while our movers were here, our downstairs neighbors jumped in when our AC wasn’t installed and the temperature in our place climbed to triple digits, I solved a feeding crisis with help from some women I met on a Brooklyn Heights parenting listserve and friends have jumped on skype to answer baby questions in the middle of the night and on and on.
I will admit that I was slow to accept help and advice even when it was offered freely and without judgement. As someone who has been managing my own life and career for this long there’s something quite humbling about being in a role I have little experience to prepare me for and no context to fall back on. As I prepare for the next phase - returning to work - I will be quicker to implement the suggestions and tips than I was in the early days at home with the baby.
While I’m sure Marissa can get world class help on deck to tackle much of the busy work - the most meaningful help and support we have gotten from our community extends beyond what you can just hire people to do. Becoming a new parent is probably the biggest transition of your adult life so when challenges pop up they tend to take more than just hiring someone and calling it a day. It takes drawing on that special sauce that is what transforms any group of people into a community that genuinely cares for its members.
I had heard before that it takes a village to raise a child and it could not be more true. Even for someone as eminently capable and as accomplished as Ms. Mayer I’m sure she will find the entire experience exponentially easier if she taps into her communities early and often.
I was thrilled to find out I was pregnant but pretty soon it dawned on me that I had never faced such a personal (and in some ways professional) milestone with so little know how to prepare me. When I worked at Amex I was surrounded by literally hundreds of super smart working moms, but in tech startupland moms are a lot harder to find.
So I set out to connect with as many working moms in as I could - I also circled back to some of my favorite moms working in Tech at big companies since even though being at a startup is different - a lot of the principles of being in such a fast paced space are the same no matter the size of the company.
Over the past six months I’ve spoken to about 20 working moms and had the most affirming positive and encouraging honest discussions about the challenges and massive rewards of being a working mom in tech.
These women ranged from serial venture backed entrepreneurs to first time founders who had just launched alpha versions of their services to senior executives from major global brands working on some of the coolest tech programs in market today. There were women who had been promoted on maternity leave and women who left big companies while on leave to start their own thing. And women in roles from everything from developers to heads of business development to editors.
Firstly, I have to say I was just so incredibly touched by the fact that these women would take the time to talk to me about such a truly personal topic. All of these women were incredibly busy (see: definition of working mom) and most of them I hadn’t actually met before - we were introduced through mentors, friends or some of Kohort’s terrific investors. There’s plenty written about how women don’t do enough to mentor each other, but my experience could not dispute this more.
Collectively these women gave me confidence in my gut instincts, saved me a ton of expensive mistakes with unnecessary equipment, convinced me to find a daycare option instead of going with an au pair, gave me tactical feedback on what I should be asking for maternity leave and gave me reassurance that you can do well by your husband and child while still growing a product and being a leader in your company.
All of the advice was invaluable, but here are some of the top gems:
When the baby arrives
I just want to leave with this last piece from Sheryl Sandberg about how she leaves the office early every night to have dinner with her kids which I know was widely circulated a few months ago. She expanded on this recently with her HBS commencement speech where she mentioned how many years of her professional life she had pretended not to be a working mom and how she hid all of the the adjustments that it entailed. I love that she is forcing herself out of the working mommy closet and is shining some well needed light on what it takes to make this sort of work/life balance work. I think at the same time she is also exposing how much commitment, organization and prioritization it takes to play both roles - and those are definitely traits I’d want in anyone on my team.
As a post script to my Venture for America I wanted to share a terrific update. When I went up to Vassar in February I was really hoping to create a connection between VfA and the Vassar Career Development Office. The prospect of having a successful applicant, even a finalist, seemed slim since the turn around time between the session and the final deadline was very tight. I had also seen the caliber of the applicants at one of the review days and to say they were a very well prepared lot would be an understatement - for someone to come in at this point without having been focussed on entrepreneurship throughout undergrad (not something Vassar is traditionally known for) would be tough.
Which is why I am so thrilled that Sam Stites (Vassar Class of 2012) has been accepted into the inaugural class of Fellows. Sam is a terrific young man who I had the chance to talk to a length a few weeks ago and meet in person at a recent Vassar in Tech get together. I am very hopeful that Sam will be the first of a long line of Vassar grads heading into the VfA ranks - just as they do to Teach for America, the Peace Corp and Fulbright Fellowships.
In the meantime, VfA continues to go from strength to strength. Executive Director Andrew Yang was invited to meet with President Obama where he spoke for 45 minutes about what VfA is doing to impact employment and training the next generation of entrepreneurs in America. Andrew was also named one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business. Venture for America has also garnered some terrific supporters - most recently Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos who will be speaking at their summer celebration on June 12th. This event was great fun last year and is back at the IAC building again this year, but is bound to be even more fun as they celebrate and send off the first class of Fellows to their training program at Brown. The night will also be a fundraiser - lest we forget that VfA is itself an early stage startup and individual donations have been a critical source of funding.
I hope you can join me and Sam on June 12th!