When you were 17, what did you want to be?
No joke, I thought I wanted to be a marketer for a toy company, or work for marketing for Neutrogena. I liked commercials. I thought it was really interesting how they could speak to me and get me to buy things. And I was obsessed with Neutrogena commercials. I really loved when Jennifer Love-Hewitt would wash her face. It was graceful. So I definitely wanted to do marketing.
I had to go to community college first. My parents straight up told me from the beginning that I wouldn’t qualify for financial aid and that I was on my own financially for school. The only option was to do community college for a couple of years, and then transfer.
That really bummed me out, to have to go to community college when all my friends were going to real college, which is what I liked to call it. But community college was cheap and I lived in home at the time and I saved a lot of money. A lot of my friends went to Sac State, and I'd drive up on the weekends and hang out with them and stay in the dorms.
I had a few years to figure out what I wanted to do, because I was just getting my general ed [done] before I transferred. I took a couple of marketing classes at community college, and decided that I still wanted to do that. It took me two and a half years at community college, and then another two and a half at Sac State.
I was happy at Sac State. I had a lot of friends that went there, it wasn't too far from home. I ended up moving into a house with two of my best friends and we lived across the street from our guy friends. It was fun.
How did you choose your major?
I majored in business admin with a concentration in marketing. I knew I wanted to do business. I really liked accounting, but I quickly learned that I was pretty terrible at math. And I loved psychology. It still really fascinates me. That's the best part of my job now, figuring out who to talk to and when to talk to them in advertising, and figuring out what makes them purchase, what doesn't.
How did you get from college to where you are now?
I graduated in 2008 and got a job at an ad agency as a media buyer for 30-minute infomercial spots for all the weird ads you see on TV, like Proactiv or 2 Minute Abs. It was so monotonous, but I randomly learned all of the call letters for all the local stations in my market, like WBEZ in Chicago. For some reason, this has stuck with me.
Straight TV buys weren’t that interesting to me. I was more interested in online and digital, but in 2008 that was still pretty unknown. I ended up working there for a year and I learned a lot, but then I got laid off. I was devastated because it was my first job. I remember thinking, "Oh my god. I lost my first real job, my parents are going to kill me."
That same week, my boyfriend and I broke up. I tried to get a couple of jobs in Sacramento, but there wasn’t a ton of work in Sacramento in 2008. It was basically just bartending. So I ended up moving back home, which was super depressing. I actually had to live with my grandparents because my parents didn’t have room for me.
So here I was. I had just graduated, I had gotten laid off, I had broken up with my boyfriend, and I had to move back home. Super depressing. I was applying for jobs in San Francisco as a media planner at advertising agencies, and I ended up getting this job at Grey.
It was amazing. That was my first big job. I commuted for the first nine months because my salary was super low and I couldn't afford to live in the city. I drove from Vacaville to Concord, and took BART every day. After a year, I finally moved to San Francisco and lived in Nob Hill.
I got promoted at Grey, and stayed there for another two years. It was best time of my life, and I made some of the best friends I've ever had. Every job I've ever had, I've made some of my best friends who are still my friends today.
Then I moved to a competing agency called Carat because they had just won Disney Parks and Resorts. I thought, "Oh my god. Dream client. This is my big break." I went on as a digital media planner, so I did online advertising buying for them. It was a brand new client, and they had only staffed up four people to run this billion-dollar business. I have seriously never worked harder in my life, and that really burnt me out on advertising. For a year, I lived at the office. I'd get there at 7:00 a.m. and leave at 4:00 a.m. It was intense, sleeping at the office, Mad Men style. It didn't let up until the account was fully staffed six months later. At that point, I had asked for a raise but they wouldn't give me one, so I quit.
I was looking for other jobs and I thought, "I have to get out of advertising. I can't be on this side anymore." I had a few friends that worked at Facebook at the time and one of them submitted me internally for a job. I went through the interview process and I got the job.
My role was account specialist. I worked with the sales teams at Facebook, so the people who were selling advertising to brands, and I was there to help create collateral and details and data to help the salespeople sell better. Like creating a bunch of one-sheeters on why Facebook is a good vehicle to reach moms, or why you should use mobile targeting on Facebook.
It was great. Facebook is like Disneyland. Everything's free, they do your laundry. I started in Menlo Park and worked there for nine months, and then I moved to Austin. I loved the people, I loved the experience, but Facebook was a difficult organization to work for at that time. It was always changing, and I didn't always feel like my work was getting noticed. I’d spend hours creating something that never got used, which was super frustrating. It just made me feel like I was one out of thousands. It was just big org problems, and I got tired of that really fast.
If I wanted to grow, I needed to move back to Menlo Park but I just wasn't ready to do that yet. So I ended up leaving. It was an awesome experience, and I would go back there now, because they're so much more organized. They are definitely the company that has taken care of me the most.
When I left Facebook, I decided to do consulting on my own. I wanted to take what I'd done in advertising and what I’d learned at Facebook and position myself as this one-stop shop for digital advertising. I wanted to work with startups so I could see someone grow, instead of my work just getting lost.
I had a friend in Austin who was building an app, of course, like everyone in Austin and San Francisco. He said, "I really want you to help me. You can be the head of marketing." And I said, "I don't know. I don't know. I don't know." But then I was getting more and more unhappy in my role at Facebook, so I said okay. I worked with him for about a year, helped them launch their marketing and grow their business. He knew someone at another startup who had gotten into Y Combinator, and they needed a marketing person, so I ended up working with them.
I found a lot of clients on Upwork and Elance. I slowly got my confidence. I was so, so green and so nervous, and if you offered me any type of money, I said, "Sure!" I took a lot of clients that totally walked all over me. But looking back, I think I needed them. If not, I would have never gotten to where I am. I did that for about a year, but consulting is so hard. I do not like selling myself.
At the end of the year, I said, "I'm tired. I’m really struggling. I'm not making any money. I'm barely making ends meet." It was nice to work my own hours and work at my house essentially, but it got lonely. I wasn't part of a team. I had to chase people for money all the time. Clients were crazy. The two startups that I worked for ended up going under, like many startups do.
I went back to San Francisco, and I moved home for a little bit. I ended up getting this freelance job at an agency in San Francisco, Universal McCann. I had friends that worked there, and I made really good money. I moved back to San Francisco, which I wasn't super excited about, but that's where all the jobs were.
I stayed at Universal McCann for almost a year, and I made one of the best connections with my boss at the time. But after a year, I was burnt out by agency life. That boss had left. I had no mentorship. I was just on my own, and I wasn’t learning anything. I ended up taking a job as head of marketing at this startup in San Francisco that did food delivery. It was so fun. A bunch of 20-somethings, all their first jobs. Super green, but the vibes were good, the energy was fun. We were like a little family.
I did that for a year. During that time, I also got a side gig with this freelance company. This woman had started her own consulting business, and then turned it into a remote agency. Basically she wins all the business, and she hires digital gurus from around the world and then assigns them to a client. It's an ideal situation.
I had been in contact with her for a few years, and she approached me and said, " I have this client who wants to do Facebook ads." I started doing a few hours a week and then started ramping up, getting more and more clients. Fast forward a year. I was working my day job at the startup and coming home and working at night until pretty late, and it was becoming a lot. I thought, "One of these has to break."
My life was at this weird turning point and I was thinking about traveling. I talked to this woman and said, "Hey, if I quit my job, do you have more hours for me?" We'd been talking about it, but I could never pull the trigger. It just felt so risky. I’d have to pay for my own healthcare. I have rent. What if she loses a client? But I finally I quit my job, and started working with her full-time. Then, the next month, I signed up for We Roam.
I think probably what's next for me is going back to a bigger company, doing a more impactful role than my last couple of roles. The clients I'm working with are growing and trying new things, and that's always fun. But there's no one to train me or mentor me. I feel like I've maxed out what I can learn, and I'm not growing as much as I'd like to.
Looking back, what seems clear to you now?
For me, getting laid off was so devastating, so embarrassing. But my parents said, "It's fine. They laid off other people too." I was so hard on myself about it. But if that had never happened, I would never have worked at Facebook, I might have stayed in Sacramento all my life. I think if that hadn't happened, I would not be where I am today, I wouldn’t be on this trip. Totally one of those blessings in disguise. That was definitely something that I would go back and tell myself, "It's totally fine for this to happen. It's part of your path. Don't fight it - just go with it." I've also moved back home more than anyone I know, which is not a bad thing. It's totally this millennial, come back to the nest thing. Very convenient.
Bumps in the road are serendipitous. It all works out. Pick and choose and stand up for yourself. When I didn't get a raise, I said, "Cool. I'm going to go look for new jobs." And I ended up getting a way better job. I would tell myself, "Stop stressing out so much about finding the perfect job or having the perfect career path. None of it is real." I'm still figuring it out. We're all figuring it out. And I'll be figuring it out for the next 20 years.