(Photo by Melissa Morris Ivone)
Alyssa Dingwall is breaking up with Philadelphia.
This time, it’s a classic case of “it’s not you, it’s me,” she said.
But it almost wasn’t like that for the 27-year-old native of Higganum, Conn. She almost fled the city due to what she saw as a lack of opportunities. After graduating from La Salle University in 2009 and finishing a stint in the nonprofit world, Dingwall said she couldn’t find a steady job in the city.
“My current conclusion is that I need to leave the city I love in order to live the life I want,” she wrote in a guest post on Technical.ly Philly in the spring of 2013.
Shortly after that, things turned around. First Round Capital investor Josh Kopelman read her piece and helped connect her with First Round portfolio company Curalate,where she worked until this past August.
Dingwall recently left Philly for New York City, but now, it’s on her own terms.
Below, she charts the progression of the Philly tech scene as she’s seen it, talks about her favorite Philly tech event and explains how she learned to speak up.
How did you come to live and work in Philly? What neighborhood do you live in?
I came to Philadelphia in the summer of 2005, intending to stay at La Salle University for one semester, and then transfer to a school in Boston. Yeah, that never came to pass. I graduated in 2009, interned at The Wistar Institute, and then worked for the American Cancer Society for three years. I have always lived in the Center City area — both the Gayborhood and Chinatown.
What’s next for you? What prompted the move?
My move was prompted by a bit of a perfect storm: shortly after I gave notice at Curalate, my long-term relationship came to an end. The universe seemed to be telling me that it was time to move on!
My first next step was to enjoy the summer! I got a chance to spend a week at the beach, visit my brother in San Francisco, and take a few day trips to get to know my new town. My second next step is focusing on my job (and apartment!) hunt, and finding a position that is a great fit for me in NYC.
Anything that could have been done to keep you here?
No! This is a very classic “It’s not you, it’s me” situation.
What was your proudest accomplishment at Curalate? How about during your time in the Philly tech scene?
My proudest accomplishment at Curalate was getting good at the sales pitch. It sounds rudimentary, but when the product offers analytics, community management, promotions and publishing across Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr — plus shoppable user-generated content and now Like2Buy — knowing where to even start can be overwhelming. Being surrounded by exceptionally smart folks helped me to learn a lot of new information in a short amount of time.
My proudest accomplishment during my time in the Philly tech scene has less to do with me, and more to do with us as a community. Somewhere along the way we stopped being not New York City, and started being a strong tech community in our own right. N3RD Street became an official designation and Tetris on the Cira Centre made national news. RJMetrics is growing like a weed, Monetate has almost 300 employees and Curalate brought on Gary Vaynerchuk as an investor this year. Being a smaller city means that a lot of us know each other, so when RJ or Monetate or SEER Interactive or O3 World or those still at Curalate do cool things and get recognition for them, it means that my friends are being successful, which is always awesome.
Favorite tech-scene memory from your time in Philly?
My favorite tech-scene memory from my time in Philadelphia will always be the Geek Awards. I’ve known Tim Quirino, Eric Smith, Mikey Ilagan and Robby Perdue for a long time — the Geekadelphia crowd was the core of my social circle for years. Since they were my friends, I was always at events and aware of the projects that were going on. I never paid attention to the popularity of the events, or how many more relationships (and marriages I think, at this point) started there.
It was odd at first, but then super exciting to watch the Geek Awards grow into something that was much larger than a group of friends goofing around. They created this thing that a whole bunch of people wanted to be a part of, and that is still cool to me.
Can you share a lesson with us that you’ve learned during your time here?
Studies have shown that when asked the exact same set of questions, men overestimate their abilities and performance while women underestimate both their abilities and performance. I’ve gotten better at asking for advice from peers or colleagues I admire, which has helped me form a better idea about what steps I can take to make my career look the way I imagine it. I also learned how much of job hunting is who you know, so I’m not afraid to ask for referrals or remind every poor soul I know that I’m looking for something new.
Will you be back?
I’ll be back to visit, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be back for good! I think that I have a lot more places to see before I can be sure of my forever place.-30-
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