THE BLOG

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.

keith1

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.

keith3

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.

Fairest in the Land

March 28, 2014

by Lesley Gold

We live in a world where much of a woman’s value is wrapped up in her looks. My Mom once told me she was reluctant to get on board with feminism when Betty Friedan was the poster child.  But once Gloria Steinem burst on the scene, with her honey colored hair and legs for days, she reconsidered her position.

Today’s feminist poster children look properly poised, and attractive. Sheryl looks amazing on the cover of “Lean In”. And, Beyonce is downright smoking. Hillary Clinton is a little more challenged in the looks department, so when people wanted to hate on Hilary they simply flashed a photo from her bespectacled Wellesley days as proof of her failings.  You can almost chart Hilary’s popularity by hairstyle. So yes, we all want to be strong, accomplished women. But, we also want to be pretty.

Photo: Marianne Barcellona—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image

As Blanche Dubois said in Streetcar Named Desire “…beauty fades but character is enhanced over time.” As a person that strives to be semi-pretty, but high character – I’ve been kind of banking on this.

I have embraced my 40s. You don’t have to be pretty anymore. You just have to be pretty for 40. Hallelujah! That’s a hell of a lot easier. It’s like being a day-old baked good. When placed next to the smoking hot bagels just out of the oven, the older bagels are not so desirable. Bag the old bagels up and sell them at a discount – and suddenly those bagels look pretty good.

So here I was happily embracing my “day-old” status when I learned there is something worse than being a woman in Silicon Valley.  You can’t be old in Silicon Valley, either. If you’re a woman just about anywhere in the country at least you can lean in. If you’re old in Silicon Valley, well, you’re simply washed up.

According to the New Republic (for all of the young people out there – that’s an old person’s magazine), “Silicon Valley has become one of the most ageist places in America.” In a recent NPR piece, the author relays Mark Zuckerberg’s claim that, “Young people are just smarter,” and Paul Graham’s wisdom, “The cutoff in investors’ heads is 32… after 32, they start to be a little skeptical,” Graham told The New York Times in 2013.

Even on Quora, members pose questions like, “‘What do people in Silicon Valley plan to do once they hit 35 and are officially over the hill?’” the  recent T Magazine story “Silicon Valley’s Youth Problem” calls out.

Like many, I trace a lot of the youth craze back to Silicon Valley success stories. When I arrived in the late 90s, a generation of grad students – Sergey, Larry, Jerry -were all tinkering in technology. They hit it big. One thing to note: Silicon Valley is a land of fast followers. Once those guys hit it big, a lot of money was thrown at companies that were founded by Larry, Sergey, Jerry doppelgangers – similar age, pedigree and personality (even a few lookalikes). If it worked once, it will work again.

Then, Mark Zuckerberg transplanted himself and his funny little college website to Palo Alto. All of a sudden, I was meeting with prospective clients who were barely old enough to buy liquor. Suddenly, actually completing an Ivy League education and receiving a diploma was cause for suspicion, since now “real entrepreneurs” drop out.  The Zuckerberg era quickly brought on Y Combinator and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund to find the other Zuckerbergs.

Photo: Alex Washburn/WIRED

What I find interesting about this “ageism in tech” story is the growing outrage. As a woman, I was conditioned to know that my perceived worth would likely drop as I get older.  A few years ago a VC introduced me to a prospective client. He told him I was talented, smart and had years of experience building brands.  When I met the CEO for coffee, the first thing he said to me was, “The Botox is really working for you.”

The New Republic piece features a prominent San Francisco plastic surgeon and details his thriving plastic surgery practice. The reason for this surge in growth? He is no longer only seeing “late- to middle-aged prom queens.” Instead, he is seeing men—some in their twenties. Seems like this age thing cuts both ways in Silicon Valley.

I may not like aging but at least it’s an equal opportunity condition. Am I surprised that I am now considered “old” at 40? Yes. Am I surprised that the world values me less because I am old? No. Men – journalists, engineers, entrepreneurs, investors – in tech seem generally put out, shocked and worried about what will happen if we deny the world the talent the over 35 group has to offer.

I am a huge fan of the over 35-talent pool in Silicon Valley, both men and women. They are truly some of the most innovative, creative and dare I say experienced people I know. That said I am watching this age meme take shape and build momentum, and generate outrage with a somewhat amused and hopeful view. Discrimination is never okay. But why is it only truly dire when it’s happening to older white men? I do feel a kinship with my older brethren and am pulling for all of us. I am hoping that discrimination felt by all will create a world where no one eventually feels it.

New Top Dogs at SG

October 29, 2013

by Lesley Gold

I just had to use this headline to follow my last post about dogs at SG. But seriously, we have some new leaders at SG Group that I’m very pleased to introduce.

Lisa Broock has finally succumbed to my recruiting and joined as a Vice President. Lisa was most recently Managing Editor at Us Weekly. She was also a segment producer at “Good Morning America.” Like me, she started her communications career in politics, where she helped elect a freshman congresswoman and later became Communications Director for Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR. Her first week here, she helped launch new SG Group client Level, with a string of top tier media hits.

Josh Hawkins has been a client and friend for almost a decade and he’s also joined as a VP. But Josh will be bringing a new focus to our enterprise practice, helping build full on marketing plans for enterprise clients that need to grow fast. Josh is the former VP of corporate marketing at Brightcove. He was one of the first 20 employees at Brightcove and leaves to join SG Group after seeing the company through eight years of growth and a successful IPO.

But wait, there’s more.

Aparna Aswani is also a new Vice President at SG Group. Most recently, Aparna was General Manager of Nelson Bostock Asia, where she helped global mobile clients like HTC grow their visibility. She spent more than eight years of her career working in the UK and Asia for US companies expanding in those markets. She’s got more recommendations and referrals on her LinkedIn page than anyone I know. She’s a dynamo. She’s also one hell of a snowboarder; she’ll be shredding some powder in Japan later this year.

These superstars join Paul Loeffler in rounding out our VP team. Paul ran communications for Glam Media and was on the PR team at Palm prior to joining SG Group. Paul more recently introduced the world to Monsieur, the robotic bartender that was covered by more than 35 media outlets. And in New York, Emilie Johnson and Lisa Langsdorf continue to provide great senior leadership on the East Coast. They just found a new home for SG Group on Broadway, so expect a cocktail party out there soon.

I’m in awe just writing these few words about these new leaders at SG Group. Here’s the thing – I know these folks are all going to do great work, but I am most excited about working with them. I’m going to learn from this team, and so will the rest of us here at SG.

Welcome aboard guys!