From the Bench to the Boardroom

Automatic Summary

Surviving and Thriving Through Professional Challenges: My Journey in Tech

The old saying goes: good days bring happiness, and bad days bring experience. As someone who has navigated a multifaceted career in the tech industry, I can attest to this truth. Sometimes, our biggest hurdles are not external obstacles, but rather, internal anxieties and doubts. Here's my story on how I faced setbacks, moments of panic, uncertainty and ultimately, how I found ways to survive and thrive in this ever-evolving field.

Blind Ambition and The Birth of an Idea

From a young age, I was instilled with an entrepreneurial spirit. After outgrowing the monotony of my day-to-day job, I felt a pull towards something greater - I wanted to build my own company. This shift in mindset led me into a peculiar situation, one where I found myself sitting on a curb while a stranger test-drove my car getting ready to buy it. There in that bowling alley parking lot, an idea sparked: there had to be a better way to facilitate purchases like this.

I drew parallels to platforms like eBay or Poshmark, which had revolutionized buying and selling second-hand clothes. Could I apply these principles to the automotive industry? The thought excited me so much, I decided to pursue the vision despite the risks involved.

Embracing the Unpredictable Nature of Starting a Business

Starting a business is not unlike venturing into a maze riddled with unexpected turns. From checking legal requirements to crafting operation manuals, it demanded meticulous preparation. But the key lesson came unexpectedly on the day we sold our first car and realized we had forgotten something as simple as a screwdriver to change the license plate. It was in that moment I realized that sometimes, you just have to start and be ready to learn along the way.

Bouncing Back from Setbacks: Turning Challenges into Opportunities

A critical point in my journey came when a Fortune 750 company approached me, interested in using my experience in the consumer-to-consumer business. We took our operation to new heights, scaling nationally within just a year. Nonetheless, new heights brought new challenges. The company decided to change its direction, which meant winding down our business. It was a devastating blow, one that left me facing immense uncertainty.

Despite this setback, I pushed forward. I met with executives, took on consultancy work, networked and sought new opportunities even while expecting my second child. Through this difficult period, I realized my compass for decision making was malfunctioning. I was making decisions out of fear rather than opportunity. A much needed break came disguised as paternity leave. It was a chance to reassess and refocus.

Learning to Trust the Journey: Building Fututre from the Past

Having established clear parameters for any future venture, I threw myself into consulting work that pushed me beyond my comfort zone. A call from an old contact led me to co-found a new enterprise which was eventually sold to the very same company that had asked me to step back years earlier. This was a full circle moment for me and a testament to how truly unpredictable yet rewarding this journey can be.

Looking Ahead: The Constant Hunt for Growth and Learning

Following the acquisition, I questioned what my next move would be. After exploring various avenues, I eventually took on a new client, a Silicon Valley tech startup called Fusion. I immediately felt drawn towards their dedication to pushing the boundaries of technology.

I am now leading Fusion's premier AI-powered inspection application, working with the very team I had previously stumbled in front of. Another unexpected full circle moment that served as a powerful reminder of how closed doors can lead to great destinations.

Embracing the Highs and Lows of Your Professional Journey

In conclusion, my professional journey embodies the saying, "Life happens, and circumstances out of your control will occur." How you rebound from these events helps formulate your personal brand. It's all about embracing every twist and turn, as each experience, smooth or rocky, shapes who you are and will indeed give you more.

So, when a door closes, you take a deep breath, and swing open the next door to see what lies beyond. Success is not a linear path; it's a rollercoaster full of twists and turns. Embrace them all, as each contributes to the richness of your professional journey.

Video Transcription

Wow. That previous keynote was Absolutely. Incredible. I'm so thankful for that. And I'm also happy to share this moment with you. So let's dive in.It said the good days bring you happiness, the bad days give you experience. And let me tell you, I've had my share both. Personally, laughter is my antidote to life's challenges. They say if you don't laugh, you'll cry, and I firmly believe there's tumor to be found in almost any situation. Eventually, I also believe setbacks are inevitable, and I've encountered a fair share of those in my career as well. But what good are those challenges if we can't find meaning in them or use them to help others. Today, I'll share some of my setbacks, the moments of panic and uncertainty they brought. And how I survived and thrived in the face of what felt like sudden doom.

I'm sure all of us here can relate to the feeling of being stretched thin and falling victim to overthinking. As women in tech, we've had many hurdles to jump in our career. But sometimes our biggest hurdle can be ourselves. As Tina Fey once seamlessly put it, my ability to turn good news into anxiety is rivaled only by my ability to turn anxiety into chin acne. There you have it. I wanna share how I navigated through the anxiety ridden mazes in my career and how I actually claimed opportunity on the other side. From a young age, I had an entrepreneurial spirit instilled in me. Early in my career, I felt the pull to venture into business for myself. And like most motivated young people, I had blind ambition. I didn't just want to work for a great company. I wanted to build that great company.

I was growing restless in my day to day, and I could no longer ignore the fact that my mind was wandering toward what was next. I began preparing my essentially and dedicating downtime towards figuring out what that endeavor would be. As I pondered this move, I found myself in a peculiar situation. I was selling my car in a bid to get funds to finance my future venture. Leary of divulging my address to a total stranger who was interested in meeting to my car, I arranged to meet this person at a neutral location, which happened to be a bowling alley parking lot. There, I sat on a curb while a man tester of my car, and I can tell you I felt like an idiot thinking this person has drove away and stolen my car. Well, of course, this wasn't the case, but it hit me. There had to be a better way.

If you've ever dabbled in buying or selling clothes through sites like eBay or Poshmark, then you're familiar with what I was after at the time. The only difference, I adapted these principles to the automotive industry. After an extended period of discovery, I launched my business. I prepared for my launch like I had never prepared for anything before. Legal check, real estate check, recruiting, check, operations manual written before there is anything to operate, check. I was ready. And then we sold our first car, and I realized I had thought of everything but a screwdriver to change the license plate. Sometimes it's about the preparation. Sometimes you just have to start and be ready to absorb the learnings along the way. During this period, I welcomed my first child while also scaling this business.

It was also during this busy time that a fortune 750 company approached me wanting to leverage my experience in the consumer to consumer sector. This marked the inception of my co founding, the car buying company. I dedicated myself wholeheartedly to this venture. Despite operating within a large publicly held organization, though, we were essentially bootstrapping our operation. And it soon became evident that strategic partnerships were essential leading me to collaborate with major online retailers. We were riding a speeding train while same simultaneously laying the track. And to put it eloquently, it was nuts. Within just 12 months, we scaled nationally, and we were the driving force behind the back end operations of some of the nation's largest vehicle search engines.

5 years into the business and still juggling the other company I had founded, I was now expecting my second child. Did I mention I was utterly exhausted? It was within this time that I attended a conference to meet with my tech partners. One of the highlights of the event was a breakout session with Cheryl Sandberg to discuss her lean in initiative. Many of you know Cheryl as the former COO of Facebook. She's also the best selling author of the book lean in. Check it out. I was a million months pregnant navigating the streets of San Francisco to take meetings, putting my personal reputation on the line to develop these crucial connections. And I was more than ready to kick back and soak in Cheryl's keynote, craving a much needed boost and chance to rest my feet.

Deep into the lecture though, my phone lit up, displaying the area code of our parent company's location. The very organization funding our endeavor. And since saying something was amiss with such a late day call, I excused myself from the lecture to answer. And sure enough, my intuition proved correct. The call delivered the news that the board sought a change in direction, signaling the need to wind down our business. It was a surreal moment. Sitting in a session led by one of the most influential business leaders while simultaneously receiving a call to step back. I mean, I was literally listening to a keynote on how to lean in when I received the call to get out. While the business thrived, Founding this enterprise within a publicly traded company introduced challenges.

We found ourselves navigating revenue reporting methods, that would have worked within a privately held company, but we were publicly traded. The board wanted out. At 6 months pregnant, all I craved after this call was to retreat to my hotel room and pull a blanket over my head. Life had other plans. I had been invited to dinner with another executive attending the conference who knew about the recent call. With all the enthusiasm of a deflated balloon, I trudged to the dinner, juggling impending business doom, and impending diaper duty. I figured Why waste time pondering the future when I could be mastering the fine art of balancing a baby bump during a business nosedive? What do you want to do next? He asked me. Next? Earlier that morning, I had been in meetings outlining plans to develop a new operating system.

Now I was faced with a daunting task of returning to my company, liquidating assets, and informing our employees about the closure, all while trying to persuade them to stay on board to assist with the process. As I departed San Francisco the next morning, I was lost in a haze of uncertainty. Mid flight, I found myself in a state of total stress induced illness with symptoms that mimic a heart attack. Wedged in the seat nauseous and short of breath, I soon noticed the tech savvy guy next to me, clearly a conference attendee as well, who looked completely horrified, as he witnessed my mid air drama and inched as far away as he could in his middle seat. After having digested the initial shock of the call, suppressing my emotions to power through that dinner. Reality was crashing down on me like a ton of bricks. I was grappling with the weight and uncertainty about what the future help The holidays were looming and the idea of breaking the news to my team and potentially ruining their holiday season was unbearable.

Upon returning home, I was confronted with the stark reality of shuddering the business I had poured my heart into. I agonized about the daunting task of breaking this news to my team and my strategic partners. I reluctantly accepted the timing. I would be 9 months pregnant by the time I could feasibly wrap things up. Despite the imminent closure of my business, However, I found myself receiving invitations from industry colleagues to discuss what was next for me. Even at 9 months pregnant, I was crisscrossing the country determined not to miss these opportunities. Fearful of losing momentum and relevance, I kept pushing myself forward. My doctor told me, slow down, or I was gonna have this baby in another state.

Offers to acquire the business that I needed to wind down came in, I met with executives for roles that weren't totally defined. And during all of this, it never occurred to me that if my personal brand was developed enough, to be to be asked to meet for future job opportunities while 9 months pregnant and closing a business. That I would probably be okay if I didn't have something lined up upon my return, but that never occurred to me. I was fear stricken. When I finally paused to consider my options, I realized my compass for decision making was malfunctioning. I was running on fumes both emotionally and physically. I was exhausted and not at my best for years of building businesses and fearful of not having meaningful work to return to falling paternity leave. Those meetings I was taking, let's just say I was bombing them left and right. My brain screening for a much needed recalibration.

I was too heavily laden to be on point. It was time to hit pause. Shortly after I came to understand that I was making decisions out of fear versus opportunity and not authentically putting my best self forward. To refuel, I saw inspiration from books and articles and podcasts anything and everything I could find. I eventually came to the realization that any future entrepreneurial endeavor would have to meet 3 qualifications. The right market timing, the dollars to support, sustainable growth, and a reasonable time frame, and the right team to partner with. I saw these factors like a 3 legged stool. If any one of them were missing, the whole opportunity would be off balance.

Despite knowing what I required in a company, however, I had reached a Crossroads where I couldn't articulate any further professional goals for myself. I wrestled with where to redirect my focus. Eventually, it dawned on me. It was time to move the goal post. And here is what I realized. Things that enabled my success previously were not a guarantee for my future. I noticed that my most productive and innovative projects often came during periods of reflection. So instead of diving head first into a permanent position, That I wasn't going to get anyway because remember I said I was bombing. I opted for a new adventure, a chance to clear my mind, and brought in my horizons through short term consulting. In the months following the birth of my second child, I threw myself into consulting deliberately taking on projects outside my comfort zone.

And if you're wondering how I secured these contracts, suffice to say I networked like it was my job. Well, I still felt the itch for another entrepreneurial venture. I chose to focus on expanding my skill set until a well balanced 3 legged stool came along. Reflecting on my greatest periods of growth, I realized they often came hand in hand with immense challenges. Interestingly, many of these endeavors weren't my first choice. It seems ingrained in our nature to shy away from difficult tasks, especially when they're optional, like summoning the energy to go on a run or take a difficult job. It takes a considerable amount of activation energy that push needed to break from the norm and tackle something arduous. Sticking with your usual routine has benefits, low anxiety, predictability, and embracing the familiar.

But when you have the audacity to push yourself out of that comfort You're not pretending that uncertainty and fear don't exist. You're challenging yourself to harness every brave, creative, and smart bone in your body to excel. Embraising consulting was a leap beyond my comfort zone, but it resonated with the principles I set for myself. Through this work, my energy sword, and my mind, gained clarity. Around this time, I received a call from somebody I countered during my business's rapid expansion. You know, the one I had to close, He sought to pick my brain on a new business idea. This initial dialogue sparked several more. And within a few months, I realized I had the 3 legs stool opportunity I've been seeking. Ignited with curiosity, I joined the founding team.

The funding for this opportunity was led by Billionaire entrepreneurs Eric Levkowski and Brad Keywell, known for their success with Groupon and ventures in aggregating big data. In the span of a year, my life had shifted from being 9 months pregnant and closing a business, to partnering with visionary entrepreneurs. After pouring into this venture, I went on to lead the sale of this business to the very company that urged me to get out during Cheryl Sandberg's lecture. Talk about full circle. Following the acquisition, I was back to asking myself, what's next? I was now on the hunt for opportunities to partner with a rock solid team, not necessarily to start from the ground up again. I was itching to collaborate with visionary entrepreneurs, people who are developing ideas that blew my mind. I wanted to learn from the best in class.

I met with everyone I could in my network and was told I was looking for a needle in a haystack. So I went for it. I immersed myself in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, attending events, mentoring and investing. I also resumed consulting as it would put me in the room with brilliant entrepreneurs doing groundbreaking things. And yet something told me I still hadn't found it. This is an important part of the process of defining next steps. It's not enough to think in isolation or to wait for opportunities to come your way. Part of identifying what comes next is figuring out what you want to do. And that can be trial and error. Regardless of how senior you are in your career, the discovery, is always in the doing. Eventually, doing the work brought me to my answer. I took on a new client a Silicon Valley Tech company called Fusion.

The company applies 3 d computer vision and machine learning expertise to make images as intelligent as they are beautiful. And as I began working with the company's leadership, I saw them commit to the work I was recommending. And I realized this is an opportunity I wanted to commit to as well. I enthusiastically joined the team to contribute to refining the company's automotive strategy. Within a shorts fan, our collective efforts were dedicated entirely to this endeavor, and we were acquired. Remember when I shared those cringe worthy moments of doors closing while I was heavily pregnant and stumbling along? Well, here's the twist. We wound up selling fusion to the very company that witnessed me stumbling firsthand. And guess what?

I'm now proudly leading our premier AI powered inspection application as part of the team I once struggled in front of. It's a full circle moment yet again. The timing was not right years ago, but it was now. If the doors had not closed at the time, I would not have been on the path to join my current team in this role. It's amazing how a closed door can lead to a great destination, but it often takes distance from an event to understand the why behind the journey. In closing, my story illustrates this, life happens and circumstances out of your control will occur. How you rebound from these events, formulate your personal brand. You're constantly being evaluated for roles that don't even exist yet.

Like the night I was given the news I had to close my business and was asked to dinner by a CEO to discuss what was next for me. What was so wonderful about having doors close is that others opened up to what would lead to intensely interesting work. That's the thing about being in it so deep. It's like staring at something so close-up. You can't make out the beauty and what can be revealed until you take a step back. And see the bigger picture. This is my favorite benefit of experience, new found perspective. Now when a door closes, I take a moment, and I swing open the next door to uncover what lies beyond. Success is not a linear path. It's more like a rollercoaster full of twist and turns and highs and lows. As Amy Poehler put it, careers are full of MSG.

No matter how much of one you've had, you always want more. So embrace every twist and turn of the journey because each experience, whether smooth or rocky shapes, who you are and will indeed give you more. Thank you so much. It's been a