Start-Ups

Scarlett Sieber: Entrepreneur. Ecosystem builder. Scuba diver.

Scarlett Sieber spoke with TechRepublic about her career path, how she built out her professional network, and her philosophy on work.

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Scarlett Sieber speaks at The Space.
Image: The Space, Wofford College

Scarlett Sieber's journey as an entrepreneur began in high school. As a 15-year-old sophomore, Sieber took a class on entrepreneurship where she had to create and present a business plan. Her idea was a clothing store that was also a candy store.

"My tagline was 'candy you could fit in,'" she said.

After winning in her class, Sieber was given the opportunity to present the idea in front of the Rotary Club in her hometown of Durango, Colorado. After that, she was hooked.

For college, she moved to New York City to attend Fordham University, located in the Bronx. Fordham didn't have an entrepreneurship program at the time, so Sieber ended up majoring in accounting. It was stable and it was something she was good at.

Then, a trip to China changed her perspective. Sieber moved to Beijing to study abroad and, being in a completely new environment, she had a realization.

"I realized life is short and I don't know what I want to do, but it has to be something that I'm passionate about, and accounting is not that," Sieber said.

Upon returning to New York, Sieber worked full time as a cocktail waitress while she finished up her senior year. For the year after she graduated, she continued to work as a waitress while she tried to decide what she wanted to do next. After many interviews, she found Infomous, a data visualization startup.

"From the moment I walked in, it just felt right," she said.

Initially drawn to the passion and vision of the founder, Paolo Gaudiano, Sieber began working as an office administrator in early 2012. When she joined, the company had already raised $2 million and everyone who worked with her was about 20 years her senior. However, she said Gaudiano was upfront about the career opportunities ahead of her.

She began using data analysis to look for ways to advance the business by identifying potential new audiences and brought that information to Gaudiano. She was promoted quickly and Gaudiano began taking her to high-level meetings with key executives at client companies. By the time she left Infomous after her three-year tenure, she was an honorary co-founder and the company's COO, with a 10% equity stake. And that drive to be self-sufficient has since been part of her core work philosophy.

"The way that I approach essentially anything is that I try to exceed expectations," she said.

As Infomous began raising capital again, Sieber was looking for ways to differentiate herself, so she began using Twitter more regularly. She targeted around 100 VCs to follow on Twitter and engaged with their content. She set an aggressive schedule of social networking, using tools like ManageFlitter to manage her account — and it paid off.

"I started doing that every single night when I got home from work for about two hours a night from February until December," she said. "And, by the beginning of December, I had 10,000 followers. So, I went from 100 to 10,000 in that time."

This growing network netted her jobs writing for the Huffington Post and Forbes, writing about issues such as startups and diversity in the technology industry.

In late 2014, Infomous competed in a startup competition sponsored by global bank BBVA. One of the contacts Sieber met at BBVA she kept in contact with, and he eventually offered her a job and tailored it to her strengths. She now works as an SVP of open innovation and an ecosystem builder at BBVA.

Although she was initially hesitant about moving from the startup world to work for a bank, it soon became clear there were opportunities for innovation at BBVA. She's been in her current position since March 2015.

In addition to her day job, Sieber routinely volunteers and speaks on topics such as being a woman in finance and technology and being a millennial. When asked what tips she had for women who want to pursue a similar career path, Sieber said she has a simple piece of advice:

"Be fearless."

In her own words...

What do you do to unplug?

"On a consistent basis, it's video games. I work and travel a lot, so when I'm not doing that I come home with the boyfriend and we sit here and we play video games and that kind of is a decompressor for me. I find it very cathartic and I really enjoy it. There's a few games that we love. The one that we're playing right now is Diablo 3, which is enjoyable. Before that we were playing Borderland — Borderlands 2, Specifically.

"On a different scale, one thing that's really important to me, because I'm very 'let's go let's go let's go' and I can overwork myself — one thing that I've learned to do is take vacation. That sounds like a crazy idea, but what I do is I take a two-week vacation off the grid. We've been doing that now for the past few years and that has been so crucial in my mental sanity and moving forward, and refreshing my energy and my brain to keep going again. With that, we're big scuba divers. I love scuba diving all over the world. That, to me, brings me true peace. You're under the ocean with nothing next to you except for the sound of your own breath. Talk about a more peaceful and serene moment that you could ever have in your life."

What's the best thing you've read lately?

"Unfortunately I have a stack, and I'm looking at it right now, of about five books I've purchased from Amazon that I've been meaning to read and I have not opened a single cover yet, which is pretty disheartening. I read a lot of blogs. In terms of finance stuff, there's one from the Bank Innovators Council which just kind of gives a high-level overview of what's going on. So, that's very helpful. So even if I don't know the details, I can go into any conversation like, 'Oh, did you hear XX got acquired for X amount?' and I will know about that.

"I spend a lot of time reading very high-profile VC blogs. So...Fred Wilson, I read his blog quite consistently. Mark Suster from the West, from LA, he has really high quality content in his blogs. And then Hunter Walk, he's more of an early-stage investor. He came out of Google, was an entrepreneur, did all of that, and he gives a very realistic perspective in what he writes. Those are the three I read the most."

If you weren't working in tech, what other profession would you love to try?

"I'm extremely passionate about sports, so I always saw that as being a potential career path. I know that sports are hard, and especially at the high level it's such a sought-after career that it's hard to be the best and make significant money, but I always was very excited and passionate about that. Heading social media at one of the teams, or on a large-scale for the NBA, or dealing with operations. That always was very exciting for me as well. I was a basketball player most of my life, really into football, really into baseball, I think that would be one path."

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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