“Everyone you meet has something to teach you.”
Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
I’m a proud native of Philadelphia. I went to an all-girl’s school for 12 years (I know, right?) and then attended Haverford College, a local Quaker institution. In 2004 I graduated with a degree in Comparative Literature (French and English literature) and a minor in French. I couldn’t find a job when I graduated, and more importantly, I was semi-paralyzed with indecision and fear about where to go, what to do, what to look for, etc. I ended up working as a nanny for a few months, and then in the fall of 2004 I got a job in Providence working for a small technology transfer consulting firm. I wasn’t at all interested in the tech industry, but it was a job (yay!) and it paid very well (even better!) so I went for it.
I didn’t love the job or the city, so I ultimately made a move to Boston where I joined Northeastern University’s Division of Technology Transfer. I created my own position there, working as their Marketing and Business Development Manager—essentially I got to take a first look at all of the inventions that came out of the university. It was fun, but I got to a point in my career where I needed to make a move. I decided to go back to grad school to better learn the foundations of business.
I graduated from Boston University’s Questrom School of Business in 2011 with a dual degree (MS in Information Systems and MBA), and joined VMware as a Project Analyst. I’d interned with VMware the summer before my second year and was thrilled to continue on with them full time. I originally worked on VMware’s Academic Program, but soon transitioned to a Staff Program Manager role—for the past few years I have been working for the Office of the CTO on what we call ‘innovation programs’.
Now, after 6 fun years with VMware I’ve decided to make yet another move. I’ll be leaving the company in the fall of 2016 to work full time on my startup. My company, which I co-founded with a friend last year, is called She Geeks Out. We focus on building a community of super cool, amazing women in STEAM, and connecting them with awesome companies who want to hire and support them. We have built up a great network of women and companies in the Boston area, and will be expanding into NY this fall. We’ve also got a podcast, and we’re starting to roll out corporate diversity training. As you might imagine, my plate is pretty full!
Fun fact(s): I am kind of obsessed with graffiti and street art—I have a separate Instagram account where I only post pictures of cool things I find when I’m out and about @somervillegraff.
What # would define your life journey?
My life has taken many different twists and turns throughout the years. I definitely would have never imagined I’d end up one day starting my own company and quitting my nice, safe, cushy corporate job! Anyone who knows me well would say that I’m not a huge risk taker. I like to take my time and think through the pros and cons of every decision before I make a final choice. I love to make big charts that list out all the relevant things to keep in mind—that’s actually how I chose my college. Haverford came out top with the highest numerical score out of all my options, based on a super complicated chart that I designed to compare all of them.
However, I also recognize that I have a tendency to take the safe route. So I try to purposely put myself in positions where I have to stretch myself, or be uncomfortable, or take that leap. I like to call this ‘planned spontaneity’ or ‘planned chaos’.
This is actually how I originally got into rock climbing two years ago. There was a local gym (Brooklyn Boulders Somerville) that had recently opened up near me, and I had a free pass to go. I went and hated it—I was afraid of heights, I didn’t like being up on the wall, and it scared me so much that my legs and arms would shake uncontrollably. So naturally I signed myself up for a membership, because my New Year’s resolution was to stretch myself and seek out uncomfortable situations. I started climbing, and grew to love it. Now I’m at the gym 4-5 nights a week. I’m still not that good, but I love climbing and the mental refresh it offers. When I’m on the wall, whether it’s bouldering or top roping, all the stress of the day is wiped away and I can only focus on the problem I’m solving in front of me. It’s an intensely personal activity, but it’s also very social at the same time.
Favorite website / app:
I’d say my favorite app is probably Instagram—I have three different accounts! I’m constantly on it and I love how it offers a snapshot of our lives. If you follow me on Instagram you will see that I am basically a cat lady—I post a ton of photos of my cat, Jean-Luc Picat.
My favorite website (and yes, I guess it’s also an app) is probably Mint.com right now—I’m a little freaked out by quitting my job and taking the plunge into self-employment with a startup that doesn’t yet support any full time staff, so I’m constantly checking my bank balances and setting up budgets to make sure that I stay on target.
Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
I really admire my mentor Julia Austin. Julia actually hired me into VMware as an intern, and our relationship has evolved from boss, to mentor, to friend. I really admire her success and ability to consistently reinvent herself. Her career path has been impressive, but what I truly value is the time she takes to answer questions, offer advice, and champion my work and me personally. She is the first person who asked me last year: ‘so, when are you quitting and working on She Geeks Out full time?’ That question sparked something inside me where I suddenly realized that not only was this an achievable goal, but I had a supportive network (including Julia!) who wanted to help me succeed.
Song that makes you want to dance:
I’m a terrible dancer but I MUST dance to Madonna’s Like a Prayer (old school) and Beyoncé’s 7/11 (I mean come on, it’s basically an instruction manual on what to do).
Well, I think I’m living my ideal job—my dream has always been to run my own company. I grew up in an entrepreneurial family and so business is in my blood. What would make my current situation truly ideal would be the ability to hire a kickass team.
What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Don’t be afraid. We spend so much of our lives worrying about what other people think of us, wondering if we fit in, not sure if we want to go against the flow. Don’t wonder about the what ifs – just take a chance. Even if you fail, you’ll learn something. I used to be afraid of revealing my personal interests, my quirks, my fears, my shortcomings, etc. to others. I was worried that I would be seen as less or that my value would be diminished. What I’ve found is that every time I’ve let myself (or forced myself) to be vulnerable, that’s actually been a very powerful moment and has brought me closer to others—whether personal or professional connections.