Why I’m Teaching

SpringfieldElementary3

It was 10th grade in high school and I was taking a class called “College Marketing.” It was a college-level course being taught as a part of a business program our school was piloting. The teacher, Mrs. Stein, pushed our class to explore potential career paths through cool projects and presentations. Mrs. Stein was always encouraging me to explore fun side projects and to network with everyone that I met. She eventually gave me advice when I started “MicFlash Enterprises” that fall (my 1-person desktop publishing ‘company’), and through our conversations that year she helped me understand what a career in business and technology could be. Mrs. Stein later introduced me to her husband at a class field trip to his office at Viacom in NYC, and some follow-up conversations with him led to my first internship at Viacom headquarters in Times Square. I can trace almost every job (and a best friend) since then back to the people I met at that first internship.

Mrs. Stein played a seminal role in my life. As an educator she taught me skills about business and professionalism that I still remember and use today, and as a mentor she gave me guidance about my career and connected me to my first job. I can never thank her enough for the path she showed me.

Twice a year for the last nine years, I have been going back to my old high school on Long Island and giving a talk to the students in Mrs. Stein’s classes. I call the talk “You Don’t Have To Be The Valedictorian To Have A Career You Love,” and it’s my attempt to show them how important the experiences, people, and relationships they make will be to their life. I do this by walking the students through a bit of my career journey: building web pages at a leather gun holster manufacturer in New Hyde Park when I was 14, DJ’ing, building web apps for Viacom, being a personal fitness trainer, then mainframe programming for insurance companies, eventually going to Microsoft, then Contactive, and now ThinkingPhones. I share how every opportunity, every job, and every success (or failure) was the result of a relationship I had made with a key person in my life.

Throughout my career I have continued to look for ways to coach and mentor others. As a manager at Microsoft I quickly realized and embraced that much of my role was teaching and coaching my team so they could grow and perform as quickly as possible. Working in the NYC startup scene at Contactive was a big change since our team size made it so I had a very tiny team and almost no time to manage. That wound up being a great impetus to jump into mentoring and advising other companies, and it’s something I continue in earnest now at ThinkingPhones.

Recently a mutual connection introduced me to one of the founders of General Assembly, Matt, at an event in NYC. He told me about GA and their mission, and almost immediately I said “Sign me up!” I loved the idea of working with a set of industry veterans to teach and coach others who were passionate about Product Management and design.

I’m now extremely excited to be joining the General Assembly family as an Instructor for their part-time Introduction to Product Management course. You can check out the details here on the GA site.

I can’t wait for the summer. I look forward to learning as much from the students as they (hopefully) learn from me.

Thanks!

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Brilliant. Facepalm.

This NYC Startup Will Be Your Personal Digital Doorman

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Appearance and enunciation matter as much as content.

The Do’s and Don’t When Meeting with a VC

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I remember it clearly: It was my first year at Microsoft right out of college and I was still rockin’ my blond spiked hair, earrings, and goatee. I went to my first customer event where we were meeting with C-level execs and wound up sitting down next to my VP. He turns to me and says “Wow, two earrings, huh?” Almost immediately I went to the restroom, took out the earrings, and have not worn them since.

I’m a proud supporter of individualism at work across every domain, from personality to attire to organization styles. Working with such broadly different personalities over the years has given me some of the most rewarding experiences as a leader and contributed immensely to my personal growth.

I love working in technology for a number of reasons, one of them being its support of individualism across so many of those important domains. For me, it’s great to be able to rock flip-flops and shorts at work on a lava-hot day in NYC. At the same time, I agree with the author’s point that you have sometimes have to dress the part: either for a role you aspire to have, or for a customer you’re talking to. Today we’re meeting with a client in the financial services industry, so I’m sans flip-flops and am ready in my corporate gear (slacks+button down+blazer) to ensure my attire doesn’t get in the way of our conversation.

Does How You Dress and Look Impact Your Career? Sadly, Yes