In fall 1994, I was in business school and got my first glimpse of NCSA Mosaic, the browser that spawned what eventually became the World Wide Web. Within months, I had an addiction to “Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web” – which soon became Yahoo. I was intrigued and fascinated by the idea that people and institutions all over the globe could so easily connect and share their content and ideas. This notion got my juices flowing. It excited me like few other things had before. I became obsessed with the idea of building products with this new technology.
I had no relevant experience to support this career direction. As the daughter of a manufacturing entrepreneur, I spent my summers soldering PC boards, pulling kit assemblies and working shipping docks. Part of my youthful rebellion was trading in my father’s fully mapped-out double major in physics and electrical engineering for a major in economics. I went the well-travelled (and hardly entrepreneurial or creative) path after college to an investment banking analyst program.
For months, I made every attempt to satisfy my newfound career attraction, but all I had to show for it was one offer (ok, maybe it was a half offer). It was an opportunity to work for an unfunded startup in an unspecified role, with no cash compensation and a start date that was months before school officially finished.
In my heart, I was ready to lean in – the job offered smart people, hard problems, big opportunity. But my head wanted encouragement and validation from my friends, family and advisors. That never came. Some cited the horrific startup success statistics, while others reminded me that student loan companies would not take my startup stock options in lieu of cash for monthly payments. Classmates and professors suggested that, as a soon-to-be graduate of a prestigious business school, I didn’t need to consider “silly opportunities” like this. I deliberated. I tossed. I turned. And then, I listened to my gut, packed up my stuff and moved to Palo Alto - before classes had even ended.
That first, risky company in Silicon Valley did get funded, built innovative products, and saw great success. Those “worthless” options paid off all my student debt and then some. But now, looking back almost twenty years, the best part of that decision was what it set in motion; it sent me down a career path that, to this day, is my passion. I’m building the products and companies I dreamed of when I took that half offer. Some have worked, others well, haven’t. But, I spend my days in love with what I’m doing.