Eight years later, Erin is Vice President of Business Development at Gawker which reaches more than 40 million readers through eight blogs including the eponymous New York gossip fountain Gawker, gadget go-to Gizmodo, and edgy women’s well Jezebel.
She builds new revenue streams for Gawker Media through advertising, licensing partnerships and ecommerce products, and helped grow the company’s sales and marketing team from two to 28 members.
How did you get started at Gawker?
After graduation, I was looking to move into the digital space. The Internet and how people communicated, was an area I was really interested in. But at that time, New York didn’t have a sizable digital community so opportunities were few.
One lucky day, I saw that Gawker was hiring via a post on Craigslist. Five minutes later, I had an email into the company to learn more.
At Yale, you helped fix students’ computers. You’ve said your tech background has helped you succeed. Could you share any other secrets to working your way into management? Did you seek out mentors?
I didn’t find mentors formally. But I had supportive people around me who extended a hand for me to take on new projects or roles.
And outside the company, I enjoyed going to events organized by Meetup (which helps people with similar interests create offline groups). I would go meet people with specific specialties, and we’d check in on each other’s progress every couple of months. You can take your mentorship and education from a lot of different places.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
It’s this cool hybrid of qualitative and quantitative, tech and design, art and science. It’s the best way I can think of working in business creatively.
I’ve also had the opportunity to see Gawker change from being really small and informal to growing to more than 200 people. It’s more structured but still has a lighthearted no-bullshit feel. I’ve had opportunity to hire a lot of the people there now. Seeing them contribute is rewarding.
What is most challenging?
I tend to do too many things at once. I frequently have to make a list of top priorities and find a way to move everything else off. New ideas accumulate, and then the cycle repeats.
Growing up I had an extremely regimented schedule. When you’re out of school you lose that structure. Creating that structure for myself in business and figuring out what I want to achieve, that’s been the trickiest thing.
You work with many other companies through your role at Gawker. What do you think helps companies thrive?
The best thing is creating a vision, setting the objective, and providing the autonomy for people to carry it out. Every employee at a company should be a sole owner of at least one project or function, no matter how small.
Is there anything you would have done differently along the way?
Yale was particularly focused on liberal arts. I decided to focus more on that at the time and moved away from my tech interest in my coursework. So, I would say I wish I had pursued my tech interests at school instead of conforming to the academic environment around me.
Do you see more opportunities for young women in tech than when you started eight years ago?
So many more! In college I was one of four female computing assistants on a staff of 76. In high school, my AP computer science class had 26 students. My best friend and I were the only two females.
Engineering teams at digital companies are still extremely male. But that is changing. For example, I’ve been watching the start-up space in New York for a long time and there are now many media and ecommerce start-ups, which is great because they attract more women.
Tech education for women is also improving. There is a coding education start-up called Skillcrush, for example, which is focused on making tech approachable for everyone.
What advice do you have for women entering the workforce today?
Create two plans: a continuing education plan and a financial plan.
Even after you’ve left school, be proactive about classes, conferences, meetups, and reading the news of your industry. This is how you build up business intuition and the network to act on it.
Once you’re in the workforce and making money, it’s a good idea to know what you want to achieve with your money. Think of your earnings not just as something to store away but also as something to invest in your future goals.
What advice could you offer other women about handling money?
I like to think of myself as a business – one that has to manage its costs but also take risks to realize profit.
Of course, just managing your cash flow and saving money isn’t enough. Make the effort to educate yourself about low risk ways to invest so that your savings can grow alongside you. There are simple ways to do this with index funds, high yield interest savings accounts, Vanguard, etc. And there are more adventurous ways like investing in single equities or other asset classes. I have learned a lot about this from personal finance blogs, investment news, etc. Time spent learning to put your money to work can have very real ROI for you.
And you also want to take risks. Saving everything up for a rainy day means you’ll miss out on the once in awhile risky experience or purchase that provides you a new opportunity. Figure out how often you want to take a financial risk in your life, and then aim to do that. Risk often precedes the greatest reward.