Leaving Education to Get Schooled in Tech

by Keith Chapman

“How would you like,” the woman on the phone asked, pausing, “to join us in San Francisco?”

It was December 20, 2013, and the voice was that of Jeanine Bran, VP of Talent + Culture at SutherlandGold. I had Skype interviewed with SG a few days earlier, and Jeanine asked if I could start in two weeks.

I looked out the window of my Hanover, New Hampshire office onto a foggy, frigid landscape. San Francisco. I’d never stepped foot in San Francisco. I told Jeanine I’d call her back in an hour with an answer.

At the time I was working Public Relations at Dartmouth College, and I loved my job and colleagues. But Hanover is a sleepy little town, with little to offer twenty-somethings like myself. I was freshly out of a relationship—who am I kidding, I was freshly dumped—and felt suddenly free of obligations.

More importantly, SG offered a start in an industry that’s always fascinated me—tech—in the epicenter of that industry, no less. A friend of mine who worked at SG had nothing but wonderful things to say about the agency and its culture.

Photo: Keith Chapman

I called Jeanine back. Yes, I told her, you’ll see me in two weeks.

A few days later, I was driving west out of the White Mountains of New Hampshire and within a week, I was passing the neon of Reno, rolling down the western half of the Sierras, and traversing the Bay Bridge toward my new home.

I started on January 6. Even though I left higher education, I keep telling friends that it’s feels like I’ve gone back to school. Every day I’m being educated on some new industry or company. I’ve learned so much about our clients – fascinating companies like creativeLIVE, which offers online classes with world-renowned experts in photography, design, music, and Wickr, a secure-messaging app that uses the most cutting-edge encryption technology. With NSA surveillance being at the forefront of news cycles, it’s been a very exciting time to work with Wickr and see how these cycles can shape our strategy and drive our messaging.

Photo: Keith Chapman

I’ve also learned a lot about tech PR as a practice – from what beats certain reporters cover and the best ways to pitch them; to how to create effective media lists and briefing documents. I even have a vague idea of what a “seed round” and a “cloud” is.

Somehow, three months have already flown by here at SG; three months of a fast-paced, fun and exciting environment to kick-start my career in tech PR. Both personally and professionally, this opportunity has brought me a long way already, and I can’t wait for what’s next.

Lesley Gold | Yesterday