From years of art schooling I learned the importance of visual communication. I spent my youth recording my world with a camera. The only place I could satisfy my passion for art was New York City. In 1988, I received a Bachelor's degree in Photography from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and later in 1992; I earned a Master's degree in Film and Dramatic writing.
After receiving my MA, I decided to move to Italy to pursue a film career. I had fantasies of working at Cinecittą and dazzling what was left of the Italian film industry. Though disappointed by the economic reality of the turmoil of the early 90's, I managed to work at a variety of colorful jobs in film and video. All safely within the realm of Italian law! I loved living in Italy and consider Rome my second home. I was very lucky because I managed to live with my meager salary teaching English and working in film production and that sustained me for a while.
My first computer, a Mac Classic, purchased in 1990 for graduate school, accompanied me to Italy. Out of necessity, I became extremely resourceful and on my own and mastered the technology of the Mac. Since Apple computers were not as popular as Olivettis or any IBM clone, tech support was non-existent in my new home. I was confronted with a great challenge, I was completely on my own and if I had any problems I would have to solve them myself. I was amazed at how adept I became with time on my hands and behind a language barrier.
After Italy, I moved home to Cambridge, MA near the sandboxes of MIT and Harvard. I knew only a little about technology and nothing about the Internet back in 1994. My first "real" job in the states was in the distance learning industry. My film and video production background partnered with my technology skills enabled me to venture forth into the unknown territories of a start-up. This was the pre-Internet era and the company I worked for coordinated, produced and distributed teleseminars using satellite technology. The overhead was enormous and within six months the company met the fate of most start-ups and folded taking my last paycheck and 401K plan with them.
I trace my web roots back to my first "Internet" job at a software company named VirtuFlex. The core product was a rapid application development tool similar to Allaire's Cold Fusion. I wore many hats at VirtuFlex, my responsibilities ranged from office manager, HR contact, product manager, technical writer, company shrink, dating guru and manager of public relations. This was Internet 101 for me and where I learned all about the technology and the industry that was to transform us all. My challenge at Virtuflex, as the only female at the company for a while, was to make the product and company shine. I saw the potential and enjoyed the excitement of making history so I jumped at the chance to work with some of the most talented and brilliant guys from MIT. I researched the market, identified competitors and potential customers wrote press releases, white papers, tech support documents, web copy, and the occasional marketing and business plan. My struggle was to learn the technology, industry trends, and art of geekdom. I loved every minute of it. We launched a 1.5 and 2.0 version of the product, received rave reviews from of all the tech pubs, industry analysts and the few customers who actually paid for the product. Unfortunately, we could not compete with two now very successful products for web development, Allaire's Cold Fusion and Microsoft's ASP. Our competition had bigger pockets and stronger PR machines. After almost 2 years with the guys from Virtuflex I was laid off due to poor sales. I don't regret a minute of that experience, as I still believe this was not a failure but a successful baptism by fire! It was the early days of an industry that was to become a frenzy of hype and activity. At Virtuflex our successful was measured by the tremendous amount of press and good local industry buzz. My dear friends at Virtuflex reinvented themselves as Channelwave and are still surviving the roller coaster ride of the industry.
Because of my success at Virtuflex, career counselors advised me to move into high tech Public Relations and marketing. I enjoyed this for a while but the Internet invaded my psyche, I was completely hooked and soon realized that I wanted to focus on this exciting new technology. From my previous experience, I knew that the Internet is the best marketing and PR tool for companies with limited budgets and staff. I learned effective techniques of leveraging technology and design and helped clients build strong and effective campaigns that increased a company's presence in both vertical and horizontal markets. This practice is now known as Integrated Marketing.
At this point in my career I became a specialist. I was now an Internet evangelist. I had many opportunities to speak publicly on Integrated Marketing and how an effective web presence can support a growing company. I was even teaching Internet Marketing at The Graduate Center at Marlboro College http://www.gradcenter.marlboro.edu/. My mantra was "A website is the most effective marketing tool a company can own." I taught my students that the web was not just about pretty pictures and compelling text but community, communication and customer interaction.
In the early days of my career as an Internet start-up workhorse, I also volunteered to run the local chapter of Webgrrls from 1996-1999. As chapter leader, I built and launched two versions of the Boston Webgrrls website that included membership registration, bulletin boards and an email listserv. This was the perfect opportunity to practice what I had been preaching. I took my knowledge of technology, marketing and industry and tested my theories. What a success! Our local chapter grew from 200 to 2,000 members. Together as a strong team, we created a viable resource for women and the web. The local and national buzz and strengthened our community and we grew faster than expected. After three and a half years of service and a lot of sweat equity, I decided to hand over my responsibilities to a new chapter leader, Diane Darling. With my blessing she decided to leave the Webgrrls organization and create Digital Eve, www.digitaleve.com a non-profit networking organization for women.
As a result of my amazing experience, I had an epiphany! I quickly realized that I loved the process of web development. I had found my bliss! I welcomed the challenge of creating a useful tool that would support any company's marketing and business strategy.
I embarked on my new Internet career. As an independent consultant I created web marketing and pr campaigns. I freelanced at several start-ups. But my passion for building websites consumed me. I taught myself html, learned Home Site and Cold Fusion and persevered. I will admit, my career change was a struggle at first, but I was finally able to work as an associate producer at answerthink formerly known as Think New Ideas.
I had intense training at the Internet consultancy and learned project management essentials. Through trial and error I managed to gain incredible experience by building corporate websites for such clients as Comp USA, Unilever and Glaxo Wellcome. My experience as a web marketer enhanced my role as a producer and helped me manage our client's needs and expectations.
A few of my projects were: www.takecontrol.com, www.cozone.com, and www.advair.com.
For Lipton's food product Take Control, I managed the development of quarterly banner ad campaigns, a site redesign, and created a strong link campaign. The final result was beautiful work done by a great creative team and talented technical team.
Another big project came from the pharmaceutical company Glaxo Wellcome which has now merged with Smith Kline. This was the first site I worked on from scratch. We were asked to help define the functionality, and content needs of a completely new site built for both the healthcare community and consumers. During this incredibly stressful time, all of our user experience architects were busy on other projects so I had to step in to handle the responsibility of functional and content assessment. We worked with Glaxo's marketing team for a new asthma drug--Advair to decide how the medical information could be presented to both consumers and healthcare professionals. We had an extremely tight development schedule and was asked to build a site under the strict regulations of the FDA. The work was intense, challenging and exhausting--but I loved it!
Unfortunately, the Boston office of answerthink closed in the fall of 2000. I luckily landed a new job as project manager at a small Interactive agency Show and Tell.
I worked with a much smaller team of talented folks under a strict financial and schedule mandate of Fleet Bank. Our budget and schedule were extremely tight and the scope of the project kept changing. However, we managed to work closely with our client to decide what the ultimate goal was for the project. Our challenge was to create a microsite that enhanced Fleet customer's online experience and provide consumers with content that helped them make decisions on life's major milestones. College Planning was the first subject Fleet wanted to tackle. Fleet had licensed content from a few well-known college-planning companies so our challenge was to combine original content with licensed content and create the best experience for anyone planning on attending and financing college. Our Information Architect helped us categorize hundreds of pages of content and we built several financial aid planning tools to keep the user interested and engaged with the site.
www.nationalgeographic.com/kids-- I work with a talented design staff to create an online counterpart to a new kids magazine National Geographic will publish and distribute in the fall of 2001.
www.tagshardware.com-- I had been helping Tags Hardware, a local store in Cambridge, MA with a few marketing and PR campaigns. I knew the most cost-effective way to market a very successful local landmark was with a web presence. With no budget and a staff of one I helped create a beautiful online brochure informing customers of the offerings of Tags Hardware.
www.bostonwebgrrls.com This was the first site I produced from scratch. The site became our virtual headquarters and leveraged design and technology to keep our chapter informed and communicating. It was the most challenging, exhausting and satisfying experience I have had and triggered my passion for web development.