“What Do You Do?”

by Libby Greig DeMeo ’95

Libby DeMeoIt feels like yesterday, graduating without a job, yet eager to work. I wanted to translate my accomplishments at Scripps to the world. I loved business, and I wanted a consulting job so badly. When I didn’t get one, I was disappointed yet motivated to prove myself. Eighteen years ago, it was hard to leave school without a job. I didn’t like answering the question, “What do you do?”

My high school and college work experience was rich with desk jobs. My time at Scripps was filled with student government roles, including holding student seats on Board of Trustee committees. I benefited from participating in a strategic planning process that introduced me to the value of first-hand market research and how critical data collection and analysis is for any organization. These experiences provided foundational stepping stones.

My first fulltime job began at Regis McKenna, a high-tech marketing and consulting firm based in the heart of Silicon Valley. In this entry-level position, I learned how critical support functions are to maintaining a smooth customer experience and the essentials of customer acquisition and business strategy. I believe I experienced a successful management career because I cut my teeth in administrative functions. There is something absolutely beneficial about learning how the work gets done. My time there was followed by a stint at USWeb, a startup company.

The first major promotion I earned moved me to 3Com, where I confronted the first of many unspoken challenges that follow women working in male-dominated fields. At 26, I was hired as director of web operations for the newly created e-business organization. I managed a team of 30 people and a $5 million annual budget. I didn’t understand what a big deal it was until I showed up for my first senior management meeting with more than 1,000 people in attendance. I was asked more than a couple of times to serve coffee or help with the event logistics before I informed folks I was there as a management team member. These encounters reminded me to stand up a little straighter and take individual ownership for my role and contributions.

I quickly found opportunities to distinguish myself in the corporate crowd. In 2004, less than 10 years since my first job, with a 2-year-old and 6-month-old at home with my husband, I co-founded a digital marketing company, SolutionSet, with childhood friends of my husband. The agency’s scrappy, hardworking culture coupled with key technical expertise helped it singularize itself from others struggling to transition from print to the digital age. The depth and breadth of our technology offerings attracted the attention of Haggin Marketing, which acquired the company and then resold it to the world’s largest email marketer.

For the past 12 years, I found myself straddling the best of two worlds—which did not always come easily. As the primary breadwinner in our household, at times I yielded personal ambition to the broader wellbeing of our family. After selling SolutionSet, I struggled with the question, “Do I leave or do I stay?” and let the fear and burden of financial responsibility keep me in a role probably longer than I needed to be.

Three years post-acquisition, I left SolutionSet as senior vice president and closed that chapter in my professional career. I didn’t have my next step figured out, but I knew I needed time to reconnect with myself and explore what I wanted to do. Founding The DeMeo Group provided the opportunity to do both. As the principal of my boutique consulting firm, I was able to define my life and realize that long-ago senior-year ambition in a big way. The DeMeo Group gave me an opportunity to consult with entrepreneurs who are idealistic and talented, and who need another perspective on their business details. This is what I think Scripps has prepared us to do phenomenally well: to think critically and act boldly.

I was delighted to join visionary leaders of Benz Communications this May to lead finance and operations in a part-time capacity. Now I can participate in the classroom, lead the PTA, and join the board of a local nonprofit, Teen Talk Sexuality Education.

My future is wide open, and I have the confidence to heed my own counsel. Reflecting on nearly 20 years of emotionally and intellectually challenging growth, I can share my career’s simplest guiding truth: Life is short and there are too many good people and good companies to get bogged down in the fear that there isn’t another opportunity. That’s where courage factors in.

 

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