Pay is a strong motivator. It’s one of the great things about working at startups.
According to a recent study by Catalyst about the gender divide in technology-intensive industries, “Women coming out of business schools, looking to advance their careers, are looking elsewhere,” Anna Beninger, the report’s author, says women see these testosterone-fueled tech cultures “and they run screaming.”
But not UMass Boston College of Management grad, Adrienne Cochrane (’09):
“As a woman who worked three jobs while in college, I must say that pay is a strong motivator. It’s one of the great things about working at startups. You have the incentive of being part of a team that is building something from the ground up, which everyone hopes will be a lucrative journey.”
When I caught up with Adrienne, she said: “A piece featuring me might be a little more interesting in a few weeks when I have a new job announcement.”
It had been five months since being Executive Director of hack/reduce for just over a year. hack/reduce is a high profile organization created by local venture capital firms and major technology companies to cultivate a community of big data experts in Boston.
“I needed to take some time to stretch my legs, so I took a road trip around the US and then visited a dozen countries backpacking. It was awesome!”
She was recruited to hack/reduce by Chris Lynch, formerly the CEO of Vertica and now a Partner at Atlas Ventures. Adrienne was the Marketing Communications Manager at Vertica, an analytic database firm which Hewlett-Packard acquired for $340 million in 2011.
“I was actually quite happy at HP Vertica at the time and was not looking to leave.”
But Lynch is persuasive. To lure people into giving cash to St. Baldrick’s Foundation, he persuaded 36 entrepreneurs and VCs to shave their heads in solidarity with those undergoing chemotherapy.
Being on the big stage at hack/reduce worked out just as Adrienne hoped: “I got to meet literally thousands of people and it has opened up a lot of doors for myself through the experience. In fact, the Tamr opportunity came through a connection I made.”
Cambridge-based, Tamr, was founded by database expert Michael Stonebraker and longtime business partner Andy Palmer. It hopes to merge machine learning with human insight in order to generate quicker and more accurate data analysis. Last March, Tamr raised $16 million in venture capital from Google Ventures and New Enterprise Associates.
“At Tamr, I’d say nearly a third of the company has worked at HP Vertica at some point. Us tech geeks like to travel in packs.”
In her new job, she determines how Tamr will spend their marketing budget to efficiently reach their target audience, increasing brand awareness and generating demand.
I asked if she had a title.
“We all go by ‘Marketing’ for titles and have not broken it up by ranking. We’re all pretty senior. There’s lots of room to grow. A bright future ahead!”
While at UMass Boston, Adrienne took advantage of work done by the VDC’s first entrepreneur in residence, Dan Phillips. Phillips has strong ties to the local tech community, having launched several successful companies. He is now the CEO, Chairman, and Co-Founder, CloudHealth Technologies. Dan created the student entrepreneurship program (StEP) that prepared over 100 students for internships arranged at the best venture-backed startups in Massachusetts.
She landed an internship at Viridity Software, in 2009, right after the company completed a $7M Series A financing. Viridity brought her on full-time when she graduated and she worked there through the end of 2011, before moving to HP-Vertica in January 2012. She was a Marketing Associate, then Marketing and Sales Operations director.
“The internship at Viridity definitely jump-started my career. The company was as young as my new career, and it was like we grew up together. I gained extremely valuable experience in product marketing, marketing communications, and marketing operations. From there, I had opportunities to advance my career further in each area of marketing.”
What advice does she have for others who hope to follow in her footsteps?
“I highly recommend seeking out the internship of your dreams. Find an organization with a mission or culture that excites you and figure out what you can do to get your foot in the door. Once you’re there, you can determine what your ideal role would be and whether or not you’re in the right place to do it. If you’re pretty sure you know what you’d like to be doing, that’s great. You’ll likely score points during the interview for your decisiveness. I’d also encourage you to show your willingness to do whatever needs to be done, even if it means some of the grunt work. In your spare time, start to hang out with the people who do what you want to do. Find a mentor to meet with regularly and hang out at the VDC!”
Much has been written about women leaving the tech industry in droves. However, Adrienne, and the two other UMass Boston grads we profiled, Hacer Demiroers (’11), and Livja Jaho (’14), looked ahead and saw that working for tech startups was a valuable investment in their careers. As Livja said, “Tech is the future – and that’s where I want to be.”
It is also clear from their stories that the environment the startup founders, CEOs and executives created was crucial to their success. This is an environment where entry-level talent will thrive. At the end of the day, it was their work performance that propelled these women forward. As Fanso said about Hacer Demiroers, “If you want to accelerate growth, there is no one better.”