How I found my dream job in Austin tech

Colin Morris

Ever notice how some people seem to have impossibly cool job titles that don't even sound like work? What does a Minister of Fun really do all day, anyway?

We tracked down five people in Austin with titles we wouldn't mind seeing on our own business cards, and asked them how they got there.

Joe Michaels (right) with Marketing Manager Pat Killoren.

Joe Michaels (right) with Marketing Manager Pat Killoren.

 

Joe Michaels, President of Resignation Brewery

Austin-based Resignation Brewery launched around this time three years ago, and its first bottle of KCCO Gold Lager rolled off the production line seven months later. It’s now available in all 50 states, plus Alberta and British Columbia.

How you got the job: I was best friends with theCHIVE co-founder John Resig in high school, so I’ve known him for 20-some years now. After college, I’d fly out to L.A. to hang out with him and a few other high school buddies about once a year. I relocated there with my wife when she got a job with Oakley.

My job with IBM kept me really busy and enabled me to travel all over the world, where I would visit breweries and learn the story behind local beers.

When I offered to do some free consulting for theCHIVE a few years ago, they gave me a choice: Online merchandise, or the beer recipes they’d been developing.

Beer was a no-brainer.

How do you spend your days? We try to keep things lean. We have a real startup mentality, even though theCHIVE has been around since 2008. There’s just three of us: me, a marketing guy (Pat Killoren, pictured above left) and a sales guy.

Unexpected challenges: Because of the nature of our customer base — theCHIVE is obviously a global phenomenon, most widely known in the U.S. — I had to figure out how to bring this product to our whole audience as quickly as possible.

So instead of going out and borrowing $10 million and building a brewery, I found the Portland, Ore.-based Craft Brew Alliance. We consulted with their award-winning brewers on bringing our KCCO Golden Lager to a commercial level, and now we use their facilities for production.

Your advice for finding a sweet gig in Austin tech: Anyone looking to get into a dream job has to have a high degree of passion for it and understanding. You need to have that passion to do it, or some sort of experience that’s maybe not traditionally or directly on that track, but relates to it in some manner.

You couple the passion with the people you surround yourselves with. My wife works at this company now. John, my best friend works here. That’s not a coincidence. Business is difficult enough. You don’t need to be miserable with the people you work with. We spend a lot of hours together. If you don’t really like them, that becomes very difficult.

 

Amir Mozafari, Director of Festival & Business Development

Everfest was recently named the world’s ninth most innovative live events company by Fast Company. Amir Mozafari is responsible for growing the company’s searchable network of events and concerts through relationships with their organizers.

How you got the job: I’ve lived in Austin for about 12 years. You develop pretty large networks. I did artist development at C3 Presents for five years, working closely with concert promoters, talent buyers and festival organizers. I developed a solid network of industry relationships and contacts that the people here thought would be valuable to them in building the company.

How do you spend your days? Everybody here touches on a little of everything. The thing I’m most focused on now is sales, but not in the traditional sense. We’re looking to build partnerships with festivals worldwide by developing good relationships with the ones we want to partner with. That means featuring them on our platform, online and in our mobile app.

Our criteria for festivals we reach out to and partner with aren't extremely strict. Our goal at the end of the day is to become the one-stop-shop for anyone who wants to discover new festivals and get out there and engage and have new experiences. We want to bring the world together through festivals.

Your advice for finding a sweet gig in Austin tech: Surround yourself with events and people and whatever’s going on in that industry. There’s not a blueprint for figuring out how to network. Follow your passion, do your research on events. There’s tons of networking opportunities all over town every week.

Austin’s become such a hub of creativity and innovation. There’s no shortage of events and things to do each day to get out there and meet new people. If you’re new to the city, get out there as much as you can and strike up conversations with people you don’t know. You never know who you’re going to meet. I’ve met so many people at events. Those ended up being great relationships.

I think something very important to keep in mind for anyone who is new to the city is to stay active in the community of the industry that you are working in or want to work in. While my main job is director of business development here at Everfest, I also manage a local band, Otis the Destroyer, and do consulting with other bands. I also put on events with a company I founded with a few friends called Keep It Quiet Productions and I sit on the board of directors and head up the marketing committee of a charity called Kids in A New Groove that provides music mentorship and instruments to children in foster care. These keep me deeply rooted in the Austin community and as a result, I’ve fostered some great relationships and met some amazing people who have gone on to become colleagues and close friends.

 

Eventbrite

Zack Pharr, Head of Music Partnerships in Austin

How you got the job: After doing my undergrad in finance and earning my MBA, I worked in the strategy group at Disney in Orlando. I’ve always been interested in growth and new projects, and would often ask things like whether we should build a new park and resort somewhere. 90 percent of the job was to prevent the company from doing anything unprofitable, but it taught me a lot about doing market research and pro formas.

From Disney I moved to Austin for a new experience. I briefly worked on strategy at Dell before joining Front Gate Tickets as director of business development for two years. I arrived right around the time it was acquired by C3 Presents.

From there, I joined Eventbrite to focus on music partnerships.

How do you spend your days? At the end of the day, this is a sales role. We partner with venues and festivals to do their ticketing. If I see something I think would be a win for us from a partnership perspective with another company, I can help drive that as well. Anything that will further our music business.

Primarily, I’m out there trying to find new festivals and new venues we can support on the ticketing side. For example, I work with Empire Control here in town.

It’s me and three other guys on this team, and we’re focused first on relationships.

Unexpected challenges: They’re more buttoned up on the sales side at Eventbrite, in terms of process, which has been a change for me. I get more excited about high level change and relationships. I’m more all-over-the-place, blue-sky kind of guy than a process and details guy. The process stuff has been good for me, though. My favorite part is still the relationship building.

Your advice for finding a sweet gig in Austin tech: Do a job that you think is going to be fun, and the rest will come together. If you’re excited about it, you’ll be better at it and enjoy your day to day. Another job may pay more, but if you a do a job that genuinely sounds fun, you’ll enjoy it more and be better at it.


 

Allison Canestaro, Minister of Fun

How you got the job: My father was a festival promoter, so I’ve been in events my whole life. All my uncles were software developers, so the tech culture here is familiar. We’re all awkward turtles.

But I’d never worked at a large business. I’d worked at small tech companies doing business development when I was in San Francisco, then some destination planning for international sporting events.

So this job is just bridging both worlds.

When I started at athenahealth about two and a half years ago, the Austin office was brand new and they were looking for a Jane of all trades.

At the time, [Software VP Jack Nye, who launched the office alone in 2011] was still doing things like collecting the mail. That’s just what happens when an office scales that quickly. They needed someone to help run the space.

In the time I’ve been with the company, we’ve grown from 30 people to 115.

How do you spend your days? I manage events, employee perks, and general engagement and random fun things around the office. That includes everything from community events, chocolate supply, coordinating lunch and learns, tech talks, and things like Built In Brews. Basically, all our social engagements.

Unexpected challenges: I’ve been in events most of my adult life, but this company moves at a pace and scale I’ve never experienced before. Everyone’s pushing toward the next thing. We have such an aggressive growth plan in Austin. Making sure we’re building out the team, space and culture in a meaningful way is always on the forefront of our mind.

Our plan is to hire roughly 60 people in 2016. It’s basically a full-time job just onboarding people and having them feel connected without diluting the process or feeling.


 

Jill Dwyer, Queen of Culture

How you got the job: I joined Yodle as part of its acquisition of ProfitFuel, an SEO service for small and medium business owners. At the time, ProfitFuel had 11,000 clients and 220 employees.

How do you spend your days? I manage sales force recognition and the idea team, our version of a fun committee that oversees Yodle’s community involvement and office events like salsa cook-offs and decorating for Halloween.

Unexpected challenges: I served about 100 employees at ProfitFuel. After the Yodle acquisition, we have more than 600 in Austin and 1,400 nationwide. I’m primarily focused on office environment and culture in Austin, but I serve sales and client initiatives in other offices, too.

It was easier managing happy hours and other events when we had 100 employees. Now we have a chef on staff and we need 13 kegs a month.

Your advice for finding a sweet gig in Austin tech: Finding what you’re passionate about isn’t always the easiest thing. Sometimes you go to a job you find that’s not so much your passion, and that actually helps define your passion. When you do find it and you enjoy it, it makes coming to work so much easier.

In my case, it helped to be creative and know how to plan events, including understanding budgeting.

 

Looking for your own dream gig in Austin tech? These companies are hiring right now.

Yodle will also be participating in Built In Austin’s Fastest Growing Companies recruiting event April 14. Click here for more info.

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