Founder & CEO of Mack Web
MA English, Communication Development 2002
What is your current job position/career?
I am currently the CEO of Mack Web (a brand and community building company). CEO is a fancy word for doing everything that needs to be done so that the company runs smoothly and our clients get what they need. Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of growing a team of crazy-dedicated, talented, and clever people who work extremely hard to help our clients reach their goals. We also treat Mack Web as a client and we all work tirelessly to grow this company into something remarkable.
The more our team grows and the more I empower them as leaders in their own way, the more I get to focus on doing the things that I love (like leading vision, speaking, and blogging), and less of the stuff that I’m not overly passionate about (like managing the day-to-day). Although my job is extremely demanding, it’s incredibly rewarding and I feel very fortunate that we have had some success and that I get to continue doing this for a living.
How did your major prepare you for the job, the life you have now?
My graduate studies at CSU in the English Department (in Communication Development) helped me to set some very important capabilities in place. Lucky for me, I had the mentorship of Mike Palmquist who was very technical and encouraged me to learn some integral skills like html and CSS. Although I’ve moved beyond personally using a lot of those skills in my job today, learning how to code, design, and write for the web were what got me started on the path I’ve been following for the last 11 years.
But more than just a primer on technical skills, grad school taught me a lot about being a strong communicator. The experiences of teaching Freshman Composition, working collaboratively with my peers, and being challenged to be a better writer by mentors and professors have all contributed to the success I’m having in my role as a CEO today. Whether that’s doing something as simple as writing emails, blogging for industry publications, speaking on a stage, or leading my team, those communication skills have helped me to have the confidence to build relationships and genuinely foster connections with people which is really what has been the biggest contributor to our success.
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments (both personally and professionally)?
On the professional side, even though it seems like we have so far to go as a company, I am extremely proud of how far Mack Web has come. And when I look back to where it started 11 years ago, I’m amazed at what has transpired.
When I got out of grad school in 2002, Colorado was experiencing a huge tech recession. I couldn’t get a job and I applied for everything from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. Finally, after months of unemployment, a friend asked me to build a website for their business. Slowly, by partnering with more advanced programmers, I was able to build a pretty lucrative freelance business.
When I started to have kids, I wanted more freedom, so I started building a team to continue in the web design and development phase. But then in 2012, I attended a search marketing conference in Boston and my brain caught fire with a whole new idea of marketing. Rather than following the Google rankings craze, I started thinking differently about how to help companies build better businesses.
In the last few years, our testing and innovation on this approach has taken the company I started in my home office to stages in Boston, San Diego, New York, and London. It’s been hard work and it took a while to start seeing the rewards, but it’s been a tremendous accomplishment. I’m incredibly proud of our team and what we’ve built.
And on the personal side, I am also incredibly proud of the two beautiful children my husband and I are raising. We have a 6 year old daughter Ryan (who is a little CEO in the making) and a 4 year old son Easton (who wants to give Peyton Manning a run for his money) who are becoming these amazing little humans.
It’s certainly not easy to be a mom, a wife, and build a business all at the same time (and some days are better than others), but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It doesn’t hurt that my husband Jon is unconditionally supportive and no matter what comes up, he’s my biggest fan. We still laugh about how thought he was marrying a teacher.
What did you like about the English program?
Looking back, one of the best parts of the program was not only the classes you could choose from inside of the English department, but the requirements to take classes outside department. Had I not complemented my studies with web design classes, I’m not sure my path would have been the same, so I really value that flexibility and exposure outside of the English curriculum.
Why did you choose to study here?
I had been teaching eighth and ninth grade English at Lincoln Junior High School for the two years prior to starting my Master’s Degree. I was looking for a new career and thought going back to school would be a great first step. I’m happy I made the leap and I’m really lucky that there was such a good program so close to home.
Was there a specific class, professor, advisor, or fellow student who made an impression on you, helped you, or inspired you when you were at CSU in the English Department?
Obviously Mike Palmquist was a big catalyst in my career. I also have very fond memories of Kate Keifer and Sarah Sloane and learned a lot from them as well.
Do you still keep in contact with your classmates or professors?
Yes. I still maintain friendships with many of the classmates I met during grad school and enjoy watching their lives progress and their families grow.
What would you like to tell prospective CSU English Department students?
The CSU English Department is a wonderfully vibrant, innovative, and supportive space full of kind, creative, and smart people who you will learn a great deal from.
What advice do you have for current CSU English Department students?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether that’s for a paper you’re writing, a weakness you’d like to overcome, or need a connection to find a job. Work hard, face challenges head-on, and lean on the people you’ve built relationships with as you need their support along the way.
What was the last piece of writing you read or wrote? OR, What are you currently reading, writing? OR, You have an hour to spend in a bookstore. What section do you make a beeline to?
I just recently wrote 4 Ways to Build Trust and Humanize Your Brand with a colleague of mine, Mathew Sweezey. The post communicates the importance of the human connection when building relationships in businesses. I’m really passionate about companies building authentic businesses that have something at their core that goes beyond making money. This post provides a ton of examples about the importance of being human in business and the impact it can have.
I just finished reading Make Your Mark: The Creative’s Guide to Building a Business with Impact and I couldn’t put it down. It’s a curation of advice from leading entrepreneurs about what really makes businesses succeed and how thinking about your customers and leading from purpose and values (vs. money) are some of the most integral components to success.
What are your hobbies or special interests, what do you enjoy doing with your free time?
I love yoga (Corepower is my favorite) and having time to myself (which is a rare occurence). I also love to be outside, read, and spend time with my husband and kids doing things that make them happy.