This past Tuesday, on March 27, 2018, WE@Yale’s Breakfast series was excited to host Rosie Atkins, the current Vice President of Product Development at Homebase, an early to mid-stage startup that builds and uses software to address issues of work scheduling. After joining only 2 months ago, she has been crucial in evolving the company as an aid to hourly paid workers and small business owners. But, she didn’t start out in product development, this business mogul started her career at the Video Smith in her home state of Massachusetts. After reaching to the head of their advertising department, she was rejected from a promotion, so she decided that a change of scenery was needed. Rosie then found herself in California and that is where the shift in her career occurred, producing learning materials and software for GoCorp. This move catalyzed the momentum of her career as she was quickly poached by her first employers, and came back on at Video Smith as the Executive Vice President and later President of the entire company. After achieving IPO for Video Smith, she travelled back West and using her sharpened skill of observation, co-founded Reel.com, renting and selling VHS. Her chameleon qualities played to her advantage after coming to the realization that there was a limit to Reel.com’s scalability, and what the company really needed was a producer, a role she happily filled. But, in keeping grounded, after the milestone of selling her company she took time to write and be a mother, re entering the tech world in 2005. During her time away, a lot had changed, and she dipped her toes into OpenTable, Groupon, and UpServe.
It’s clear, as Rosie told her story to her captive audience that her story is anything but linear. She commented on this, saying her entire career was built on her ability to identify opportunities and being bold enough to know when things aren’t working for you. Although, she revealed that this attitude isn’t always taken well when delivered by women, but in her case, she has her tenacity to thank for her career. Although her career isn’t linear, that doesn’t mean she didn’t have direction, and it is a path that everyone must follow, happiness. Rosie asked her audience that that feeling is how you know if this is the place for you, to ask yourself if what you are doing is worth your most precious commodity, your time. This mentality gave her the confidence to leave situations that weren’t cultivating her skills, made her work hard and advocate for herself, all by listening to that voice in her head.
However, her momentus rise was not a solo mission, as he prized networks as gold, and the dire importance of the simple handwritten “thank-you” note whenever someone comes through for you. Keeping in this theme of networks, she spoke on how to treat mentors, as she has become one herself. “Number one rule”, she reiterated, don’t ask them for coffee! The audience was stunned, many of whom had probably done exactly that, perhaps less than 24 hours ago. Although you must always ask for help, since no one will offer, she continued to say that networking up is about fitting to their schedule and being cognizant of their time and its value. The unique feature of networking and fostering a mentor relationship is that they tend to be formed outside of natural life, and therefore Rosie advised her listeners, to create structure and specificity to these relationships to help you and them achieve your goal. And when networking, look for the women in the room, they tend to be overlooked, but host a bounty of valuable information.
It’s clear in her demeanor and buoyant personality, that Rosie truly loves what she does, but even at her level, she still witnesses the serious issues around gender as an executive female in the tech space. She warned her audience that there will be multiple times when you are the only woman in the room and that gender bias is true, but advised the young women at Tsai CITY that Tuesday, to never let it continue happening as soon as they realize it, and to be an advocate not only for themselves, but the other women they indirectly represent.