Jessie VanderVeen has packed a lot of variety into the past 15 years of her career. She sits in a far different place than where she started out, both in profession and location — these days she's the director of marketing at software company Tempo, based in Reykjavik, Iceland.
"Many people think that careers develop in a linear manner, but mine definitely hasn't," she said.
Originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she received a Doctor of Law from New York University and continued living in New York for about 10 years.
Her first position after she finished undergrad at Binghamton University in Central New York, was at a company that made respiratory wearables, like gas masks. It was VanderVeen's job to manage their regulatory applications and make sure they passed through the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH).
"I knew I wanted to go into law, I didn't want to go right out of undergrad, so I wanted to have a little bit of work experience." she said. Working more with law and public interest while in law school introduced her to areas like anti-trust, labor law, and employment law.
On a random trip to Iceland seven years ago, she met her now-husband. After they got married, she left the law firm where she was working when they decided to live in Iceland instead of New York.
Moving to a foreign country has been one of the biggest transitions VanderVeen has been through, one that required as much of her ability to adapt as possible.
She applied for a job with Icelandic company TM Software. Currently, TM has about 100 employees and is split into 3 programs focused on custom web solutions. VanderVeen oversees general marketing efforts for Tempo, a product which grew out of the need to track time spent working in bug-tracking software Jira in order to accurately bill clients. The company launched Tempo Timesheets in 2008 and launched Tempo Planner, which integrates with Jira and helps teams plan projects, earlier this year.
When VanderVeen first came on board the 11-person team, she was the only full-on marketing person. But, as smaller companies often call for versatility, she also found herself helping with sales, support, and even legal.
"My time at school and my professional experiences have really taught me the importance of curiosity, of always observing and analyzing, and remembering to consider the bigger picture," she said.
The ability to keep moving and keep learning as she's stepped into new roles has helped her shape the direction she's taken her marketing role at Tempo, and tap into a more creative side by incorporating storytelling into not just the marketing but the product development.
"Our teams work in Scrum, which is very much about continuous improvement and working in iterations, and this notion of empathy — trying to put yourself in the customer's shoes and understand their issues. We work a lot on integrating customer stories into our solutions," she said.
They don't focus on the idea of having a "final solution," but rather always trying to make the product better.
"I think my world philosophy has a lot to do with that, just learning something new everyday, continually growing and adapting," she said.
The idea of continuous improvement is key for VanderVeen. Out of all's she's done, she's most proud of not only adapting to a completely new environment, but raising a family there. Though the plane ride from Reykjavik to New York is a relatively manageable six hours, it's still difficult to be an immigrant.
"You're a little bit isolated being in the middle of the North Atlantic ocean on a little island," she said.
As for Tempo, Tempo Timesheets was voted the #1 Atlassian (maker of Jira) Marketplace Add-on in 2012, amongst a few other distinctions. Tempo is also planning on releasing a product called Tempo Books, which deals with financial management.
"It's rewarding to tell customers that we're listening to them and putting ourselves in their shoes to solve a problem they face," she said.
In her own words...
How do you unplug?
"I have two small children. I have a 3 year-old and a nine-month-old, so from the time I leave work to the time they go to bed, they get 100% of my attention, so it's really easy to unplug with them. We live right by the ocean, we actually live right across the street from the ocean. There's this really nice path along the sea, so we can just walk outside and take a walk and get some fresh air, and it's really beautiful. There's a view of the bay here and some mountains. Otherwise, I play the violin. It's a really good way to unwind and completely focus on something else. I like reading a lot, and taking online courses."
If you could try a different profession, what would it be?
"I wouldn't mind running my own company someday. I think that would be really exciting. Otherwise I wouldn't mind — it's probably too late for me to do it now — but I always wondered if I had an alternate career in music and playing violin."
What's been your favorite thing about Iceland?
"Its peacefulness. It's a really peaceful country and it's very safe. It's a very family-oriented society, so it's been really fantastic to raise small children here."
Erin Carson has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.