Thanks, Austin: 20 tech leaders share what they’re grateful for

by Katie Fustich
November 20, 2018

Good weather, good food, good people — there’s a lot to be thankful for in Austin all year-round. Of course, in the bustle of our day-to-day lives, it can be difficult to remember just how lucky we are to be a part of such a thriving culture.

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we asked what leaders of the tech scene are most grateful for. Their answers are a sweet and surprising portrait of what it means to be a member of this special community.

 

Thanksgiving
image via shutterstock
Michael Smerklo
co-founder and managing director

“I’m thankful for the incredibly diverse innovation landscape the Austin ecosystem has created. I’m especially grateful I’ve gotten to work with some of the best female founders I’ve seen in my career, scaling everything from a modern butcher to fashion AI software to fully-operational robots.” 

 

Jakob Franzen
head of people ops

“We are thankful to be headquartered here in Austin, Texas where we have world-class machine learning and data science engineers who are the backbone of our company. Even when we recruit from other cities, it’s not too difficult to persuade people to consider moving here. The talent here is great and the business environment is second to none.”

 

Liz Downs
VP of marketing

“At Volusion, we’re so thankful to be a part of the amazing tech community in Austin. Volusion is all about supporting entrepreneurship and helping merchants grow and scale their businesses. And the creativity and drive of the people of Austin inspires us every day. We’re thankful to have our headquarters here in Austin for almost 20 years, and are proud to continue to grow and hire in this great city.” 

 

John Leo Weber
VP of marketing

“I’m thankful for all of the talented tech recruiters that I’ve worked with here in Austin. There is such a deep pool of tech talent here in town that it can be difficult to sort through all of the noise to find the right people to hire. Recruiters have made my life so much easier these past few years by introducing me to the best people on the market!”

 

Greg Martin
CEO and co-founder

“I’m thankful that Austin has emerged as a leading hub of innovation for startups; the culture here truly could not be a better fit for the fast-paced, cutting-edge nature of JASK. I’m thankful for the opportunity to build a great company in the same state I was born in. Last, but certainly not least, I’m thankful for all of the amazing, talented individuals I’ve been able to connect with due to the high-quality tech scene Austin possesses.”

 

Greg Fitzgerald
CMO

“I’m thankful for Austin’s great culture that promotes ingenuity, creativity, modernization and social good — more than just money. Second, I’m thankful for great investors and corporate and civic leadership excellence that establish Austin as the city where what starts here helps change the world.”

 

“It may sound cliché, but: culture. We’ve been able to create a great culture here at GroupBy that goes far beyond the usual startup-y things like happy hours and ping pong tables. We hire smart people and empower them to make decisions that really allow them to leave their marks on the future of our products and our company. I’m grateful to be able to work with these folks day-in and day-out, to see them reach new heights as they learn and grow, and also learn from them as they break new ground for GroupBy.” 

 

“I am so thankful that I moved from Boston to Austin back in 2010, bringing my IT security startup (and my motorbike) with me, and I have never looked back. Austin was home from day one.” 

 

“I am grateful for the alignment in my life that allows me to have a strong purpose every day. Having moved to Austin this year after living around the world, it is clear to me that this city is by far the most warm and welcoming. As CFO at Dosh, I feel blessed to be part of a company that uses technology to move billions of wasted advertising dollars to millions of hardworking people, [contributing] to important issues around human dignity, gender equity, inclusion and alleviation of poverty worldwide.”

 

Chris Stoneff
VP of Security Solutions

“On this holiday season, I am thankful for high-speed internet, high-resolution monitors, and bad security decisions, without which I would be out of a job.”

 

Bret Cunningham
SVP of digital consulting, head of marketing and innovation

“Eight years after founding and growing a technology company here in Austin, I’m thankful for being acquired for a second time. The most recent growth and acquisition are a great market validation of our unique approach to how we help our clients deliver amazing digital experiences. We recently moved our headquarters to Austin, and we’re having a blast building the team here.” 

 

Marion McMillan
team lead, global marketing solutions

“I’m thankful that I work for a company that genuinely cares about people, being a good neighbor, and giving back to local communities. Just last week, employees across the Austin office participated in our annual Week of Giving through which I was able to help Mainspring Schools in their mission to eliminate the early childhood school readiness gap for Austin’s most economically disadvantaged children and their parents.” 

 

Elizabeth Pishny
North America CPG lead

“We have so much to be thankful for in Austin. I’m especially grateful for the can-do Texas spirit that says no problem is too big to tackle, and that we should all do our part to make Austin the best it can be. Recently we organized the first annual Week of Giving for Facebook, mobilizing over 530 people to serve 25 local NGOs. It was really meaningful to do work that makes a tangible impact on our local community.” 

 

Thanksgiving
image via shutterstock
Rob Webber
founder and CEO

“I’m grateful that all life’s challenges help me grow and to appreciate the most important things, such as, how excited my kids are when I pick them up from school, my family and our health. I am also thankful for living, raising a family and running a business in Austin. It’s a city that has everything I could possibly need to grow my business and enjoy family life, which is something that we should definitely not take for granted. What more could you want?”

 

Ken Eissing
president, in-store media

“I am most thankful for my decision to move my family to Austin five years ago. Having lived in many parts of the country, I can say the vibrancy of the community, the people and the business environment are second to none. I try to never take for granted what a special place Austin is to build a business and call home.”

 

Sarah Kettles
director of research

“I”m grateful for the connections with other women-focused Employee Resource Groups at tech companies in town. It’s helping The Shebras grow, get fresh ideas on how we can support and elevate the careers of women here and be as impactful as possible.” 

Christina Freeman
director of product

“I’m grateful for Austin’s unique tech scene. Coming from the East Coast, I feel l like Austin is swimming in new, fresh concepts that range from disruptive insurance to AI receptionists to three-person bot development agencies. I’m grateful to have found Austin and be here now during this exciting time.”

Meetesh Karia
CTO

“I’m grateful to have a team of talented, hardworking, highly-collaborative and diverse people to work with every day!”

 

Thomas E. Hogan
chairman and CEO

“I am indirectly thankful for living in the coolest city on the planet. My kids have graduated from universities across the country and have all boomeranged back to Austin with great jobs in tech. It didn’t stop there. We have added sisters, nieces, and nephews to the list over the past couple of years. I like to think it’s their desire to stay close to family, but I have a sneaking suspicion the youth, energy and vibe of Austin played a leading role. There is no better way to celebrate [Thanksgiving] than a giant table filled with family.” 

 

Mary Critelli
president of strategy and development

“We’re thankful for our clients and partners who put their trust in us to fix all IT needs, big and small. We’re so thankful for the mighty group of IT providers on our platform who continue to prove that IT support can be on-demand, efficient and a huge pain relief.”

 

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