How I Went From New Girl Stand-in to Startup Executive Vice President
What is it like to be a female executive at a tech startup? For starters, it’s both exhilarating and, at times, beyond challenging.
What drew me to the field of technology initially was that I wanted to help change the world. When I was younger, like many girls, I dreamed of doing this by becoming an actress. But after moving to LA, diving into the entertainment industry, and getting a steady job as a stand-in for Zooey Deschanel on the set of New Girl, I soon realized that becoming an actress didn’t fulfill me, personally, in the way that I thought it would. It was then that my career path and goals began to shift.
Through my connections in LA, I soon began working as the Brand Manager for a marketing company, before becoming the Head of Content for Google Ventures’ “Strut,” where I worked with the CTO to categorize 7,000 brands and help transform 45% of downloads into daily users (compared to the industry average of 14%). From there, I was hooked.
It had always been my goal to help change people’s lives for the better, but the world of tech finally answered the question of how.
I won’t lie and tell you that it was an easy journey. Without a female mentor or a traditional tech background, my venture into the field of tech as a woman was paved with many obstacles. But those barriers only made me want to succeed even more, as well as lend a hand to other young women join the field and be promoted into C-level executive positions. Moving into tech opened my eyes to what was wrong in the industry, as well as what I could improve.
After meeting the CEO and Founder of Pavemint, an LA-based peer-to-peer app that connects people looking for parking with people who have spaces to share, I knew right away that it was the fit I’d been looking for. Soon, I became Pavemint’s Chief Brand Officer and eventually, the Executive Vice President.
Over the past two years, we have built an incredible and diverse team, half of which consist of talented and brilliant women. Our runway has been long, and our hours longer. After all, building a peer-to-peer marketplace is no walk in the park. We have made what feels like a million pivots, and had assumptions confirmed while having many others destroyed. But our entire team, including myself, have also learned many vitally important lessons:
Success is not a straight line:
- There were points in my life when I thought the world was going to end because of my failure. Big shocker, it didn’t, and I emerged from every missed success stronger. Your failures will help you grow in the long run. It’s also good to talk about your dreams to others; you never know when someone will be able to lend a hand.
It’s OK to be ruthless when needed:
- I hate being ruthless. That being said, sometimes it’s completely necessary, especially as a female executive. No matter how much it churns your stomach, there will be times that you have to be ruthless for the good of your company. Know when someone needs a gentle nudge, or when they need a stern talking to. It’s all about balance.
Be willing to pivot:
- In life, as well as in business, there will be times when you realize that what you’re doing isn’t working. Admitting, even if only to yourself, that you were wrong and adjusting your course of actions is bound to take you far. Never get too attached to any idea. After all, you never know, a better one may be right around the corner.
- Whether you’re talking to an investor, colleague, boss or mentee, always say what you mean and mean what you say. Thinking before you speak is one of the most important practices you can have. Acting out of emotion will only hurt you in the end. Mastering the art of communication will aid in your professional journey and earn you respect.
As a company, we set out to build an MVP, but not the classic MVP that you hear in the tech community (which stands for Minimum Viable Product). Instead, we built what we like to think of as a Maximum Value Product. And after two years of hard work, we finally get to find out if we have a product market fit over the next few weeks. It’s been both nerve wracking and exhilarating to metaphorically pull back the curtain and put my baby on display for the world, and yet, with the current housing and parking crisis in Los Angeles, it also seems like the right time to bring Pavemint to the city.
After all, imagine never having to search for parking again. Picture never getting another parking ticket. Envision knowing exactly where you’re going to park and how long the walk is to your destination before you even leave the house. With Pavemint, all of those things become a reality. On the reserve-side of the platform, residents can list their private parking spaces when they aren’t using them or business owners can rent out their parking lots after hours, helping both to make extra income easily.
Now, believe me, I know that Pavemint doesn’t sound like a sexy app, but to me, cleaner air is sexy. After all, 30% of city traffic is caused by people looking for parking, which comes to a staggering 4.2 billion tons of C02 dumped in our air in LA every year. So parking really does matter.
There are so many ways, both big and small, to do our part to make the world a better place and people’s lives easier through technology. And while being part of any startup will most likely also include long nights and obstacles to overcome, it will also make you grow. Trust me. So for anyone wondering if they should make the leap, my advice is to dive right in. It won’t always be easy, but that’s how you know it’s worth it.
If you’re in LA, and, like most of us, have had to deal with the pains of parking, I wanted to offer you a code to check out the app free of charge. Simply download Pavemint and use code: MEDIUM to receive your first five reservations of $20 or less free.