One of the last places Paula Gold wanted to spend New Year’s Eve was Iceland.
“I moved away from Boston to get away from the cold, why would I ever spend my New Years on an Island in the middle of the Arctic?” said the now-CMO of cloud service provider GreenQloud.
Her friends had been going there to party for a few years and after sufficient friendly badgering, she finally agreed to go along. The trip went so well, they all returned the next year — good thing they did. That second year, Gould met her husband, a guy who described what he did for a living as “tech stuff.”
“I was like ‘Oh yeah, what kind of tech stuff?’ and then later on he asked me, ‘So what do you do?’ And I was like, ‘You know, tech stuff.'”
She didn’t always do “tech stuff,” though. In fact, the beginning of her career was rooted in the arts.
Out of college, Gould worked at a 10,000-seat concert venue in Massachusetts. After a few years, she headed west to Los Angeles to work in the music industry, where she did tour publicity for bands such as The Fix and the Marshall Tucker Band. She then ended up taking care of day-to-day management for those artists, developing new artists, working on song publishing, and working with record labels.
Leaving music, but staying within the arts, Gould moved over to film and advertising.
“I found that no matter what job position I had, the bottom line passion was the opportunity to tell somebody’s story,” she said.
Recognizing that thread is, in part, what helped Gould branch out beyond art and into the tech industry, with a short gig at a Boston-based company called POP Stick. POP Stick was a platform to license music for rich media ads.
“It was a very interesting 6 or 7 months of my existence, but what it did do, is it gave me the opportunity to find another passion and that was technology,” she said, “So, I was using my knowledge of the music industry and applying it to technology and advertising.”
The cross-industry work became something of a defining lesson for Gould. If you have a good sense of yourself, she said, and a strong skillset, you don’t have to confine yourself to one area.
So, Gould eventually started her own PR firm, and around the time she and her husband were going to get married and move back to Iceland from Los Angeles, she started soliciting GreenQloud as a PR client before later coming on board as CMO.
GreenQloud is in the infrastructure-as-a-service space. Their public cloud is entirely powered by renewable energy, running against the trend Gartner reported on in 2007, saying that 2% of global CO2 emissions come from the ICT industry. The good thing about Iceland — it produces the most green energy per capita in the world.
But how to tell the story of renewable energy and cloud services?
Even as they’re coming out of the startup phase, GreenQloud’s marketing gets planned only weeks or months in advance and hits anything from posts about hybrid cloud to pictures of their view of the harbor.
“From my perspective, there’s an endless amount of stories to mine,” she said, including Reykjavik’s “celebration of quirkiness.”
At the moment, Greenqloud is preparing for event season — presentations, speaking engagements — they’re even trying to get a spot at South by Southwest through the 2015 Panel Picker process.
Gould said it’s been an important and meaningful experience, gaining steam as a company with a message.
“My favorite moment in a startup is always when, as you’re building something, people say, ‘We don’t really need that, there’s other people like you, you’re not unique enough as you think you are,'” she said. “Then the market tells you that what you’re working on is really important.”
In a sense, the path of a startup is not so foreign from working in music and film.
“I actually find that the music industry is very similar to the tech industry, dealing with extremely creative people that find a medium to express themselves and make an impact on the world,” she said.
And as Gould is inclined to find the threads of similarity between her different phases of life, she looks at her relatively new station working in tech in Iceland like this: “I feel like I’m in the same exact place but in a slightly different environment…like I’m standing on a stage and somebody just changed the background.”
In her own words…
How do you unplug?
“Having a one and a half year-old is really helpful because you have to pay attention. I’m still pretty glued to my phone, but that’s really helpful because when you have a kid around you, you have to remember to have a relationship there. With a kid, they demand so much of your attention that it forces you to put things down.
“I learned several years ago that if you find yourself in a position where you’re crazy young and you can’t come up with creative ideas, that’s a pretty good indication that you either need to go for a drive or row a boat somewhere, or go for a walk. Or hike a glacier. There’s plenty of that here.”
If you had to chose a different job, what would it be?
“It would be writing, for sure. There was a time, actually, where I thought I was going to be a veterinarian. I believe it was second grade to about my sophomore year in college. I was studying veterinary medicine, and then I got mono one semester and I had to beg for grades. I couldn’t make the labs. But, I was always a really good writer, so what I did was, ‘Oh, for a semester, I’m going to take some creative writing classes and some literature classes and I’ll just get my grade point average back up and then I’ll just go on with my veterinary career.’ That semester when I started taking writing classes, I really fell in love with writing and storytelling again. I never thought I would thank mono for anything, but it saved me a lot of allergies and probably a lot of unnecessary studying.”
What’s the best place you’ve discovered in Iceland?
“There’s so many places here. My husband grew up in a town about an hour from here that has 600 people in it, and mind you, I can’t stay there for long periods of time, but that’s one of my favorite places. It’s just big, open skies. It reminds me of Montana. It’s horses and sheep and lots of land, and you can see for miles and miles. I really like going down there, especially if I’m trying to decompress… It’s called Hella [pronounced Het-la], which would be great for somebody from California because it’s spelled H-e-l-l-a. I make lots of Hella jokes when we go down there, like ‘This is a Hella cool place to live.'”