(Photo courtesy of RJMetrics)
Since she was three, Anita Andrews wanted to go to Harvard Law School and work in politics.
She put that dream aside to pursue others: she worked for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, got her master’s in computer science, worked at a handful of San Francisco startups and started (and sold) her own web analytics company. Andrews, 38, of Spring Garden, is now the VP of Client Analytic Services at Center City analytics startup RJMetrics, where she’s focused on the “human side of analytics,” as she puts it.
But she hasn’t given up on her dream of going to law school. She still wants to return to politics. Her dream job? Being Hillary Clinton’s chief technology officer.
We talked to Andrews about going on maternity leave while running her own company, what she doesn’t miss about San Francisco and how, exactly, it was that she graduated college at 18.
What brought you to Philly?
[Horsham-based] Nutrisystem was my first landing spot [where she was VP of Product Management]. It’s because my husband’s from Philly. We knew that we would be moving back to Philly but the timing was entirely dependent on discovering something that would be interesting for me.
You’ve lived in several different places growing up. Why was that?
Both my parents were immigrants from India. They came to New Jersey in the ’70s like many South Asian immigrants. My father was an engineer for Exxon, and you can trace us moving because of Exxon moving jobs out of the country. They consolidated their New Jersey operations to Houston, then to Southern California.
Since growing up, my whole family has moved back to India. They were able to get jobs that got them pensions and all that good stuff and they were very well situated to retire in India, where a dollar goes a long way.
When did you start with technology?
My whole life if you had asked me what I was going to do, even when I was 3 or 4, I was gonna go to Harvard Law School and go into politics. I didn’t want to be president or governor, I just wanted to influence the public environment.
After undergrad, I got a position as a speechwriter [for NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani]. It was interesting to see how much real stuff and not so real stuff goes into the daily life of politicians. Basically how much politics is involved.
I got promoted to mayoral program coordinator after that, and I loved that job. I used data to make better decisions on issues like crime reduction, community improvement — how do we reduce trash? Or petty crimes. Those were really tangible things I got to see.
So why’d you leave?
I was the most technically savvy person at that level. I said, why don’t we have people who really think about technology that could be used like this? And it’s because politicians don’t think that geeky tech people are savvy enough to work in politics and tech people don’t get paid enough to work in politics. This was in the ’90s, before the existence of Chief Innovation Officers, Chief Technology Officers and Chief Data Officers.
I wanted be the person that bridged that gap, so I got a master’s in Computer Science [at Stanford]. I had no background in computer science, so that was challenging. It was during the dotcom boom — I went to school with [Yahoo CEO] Marissa Mayer. I got pretty swept up in that, then I stuck with the private sector side of things.
I still have it on my list that I’m going to go to law school. Not today, not tomorrow, but it’s going to happen.
My dream job would be Hillary Clinton’s CTO. Optimizing her online efforts.
The lore is that you graduated high school at 16 and college at 18. How did you do that?
My mom, in the most stereotypical, South Asian focused-on-education way, had me reading and writing and doing multiplication tables before I even started kindergarten — and I love her for it. I understand what she was trying to accomplish. She wanted a daughter who could be very independent and self-sufficient.
She got married at a very young age as was traditionally the case in India. She graduated college ten years ago.
So, teachers said I should skip first and much of fourth grade. It was one of the hardest periods in my life because I was younger than everyone.
As for college, by the time I was in middle school, my parents got divorced and my mom was a single mom and she was working and going to night school at community college. She couldn’t afford a babysitter and didn’t trust the idea of one, so she sent me to community college. So, in seventh grade, I took typing and American sign language.
I figured out how to to work the system myself. I could take all those general requirements [for college], so that’s what I did. Between AP classes during the day and evening classes at community college, by the time I got to college, I was done with the first two years.
You were in San Francisco for nearly 10 years. What’s the difference between there and here?
I miss the fact that the caliber, in general, [of the tech industry] is more experienced and attracts people from so many places in the world.
One of the things I don’t miss and signaled that I was ready to leave: I don’t care about technology entrepreneurship, making big business 24 hours, seven days a week. There’s more to me than that.
I’m also not one of those people that can remember that so and so was funded by so and so VC, who also funded so and so. I don’t find it exciting to talk about.
What was it like going on maternity leave while running Sepiida?
I had a lot of lead time to prepare to go on maternity leave. The first two weeks, there was one person who was charged with texting or calling if it was that level of emergency. The next four months, it went from no work to increasing amounts of work. I had translated off all the client stuff but stayed on sales and business development.
I didn’t take a salary for four months. Partly that was also tell myself, I’m really going to give myself four months to do this.
I did crazy things like get on sales calls while chatting with my coworkers while breastfeeding, hoping my daughter didn’t scream while I wasn’t on mute.
You’ve said that minority and women entrepreneurs have less serendipity in their career paths. What did you mean by that?
There’s a lot of networking done in the tech space, that’s how you find a lot of new opportunities. That happens with drinks and beers after work. That’s probably OK but it’s somewhat problematic for young women, since it’s mostly going to be a group of men.
As women and men get older, there’s a still lot of deal making that happens serendipitously, through bars and drinks. But women will have children, they’ll become the primary caregiver. Or it starts to feel like, you have a husband and you’re gonna go have beers with a bunch of guys — what is the appropriateness of that? It’s the same things with corporate outings and golf, that’s generally a more male thing. Women have to think about these things a little differently.
And the same thing exists for minorities, it just manifests itself in a different way.-30-
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