One of the fringe benefits of co-founding a company is giving yourself any job title you want. By the time the company was big enough to hire other people to do things like setting up trainings, billing/accounts payable, legal review et al., I had settled on Director of Communications.
While the only thing I've ever been able to convince anybody to pay me for in my professional life has been writing, my interviewing experiences, when we first moved to the San Francisco Bay area in 1997, convinced me that PR was not for me.
The founder of one boutique tech agency asked me a series of validating questions along the lines of “Do you have many friends,” and, as I became progressively more self-conscious, she concluded “it’s obvious you are very ill-at-ease”--a doubtful prognosis, I imagine, of my ability to handle journalists.
My other interview was with a manager for a white shoe, pre-March 2000 “We-only-work-for-equity-thank-you-very-much,” plus enough retainer to keep its female staffers in Manolo Blahniks type firm. I read an interview with one of that agency’s founders, where she proudly mentioned how many software execs marry their PR girls, citing Steve Ballmer as an example. I considered the promise of “If you do well, you too can marry a future CEO.” I thought for a few seconds about Steve Ballmer. The monkey dance video (Developers, developers, developers!) hadn’t yet come out, but already the intimation of so much agitated, perspiration-drenched corpulence was there. I decided there were other professions where I could earn a living with writing.
I’d like to mention that I married the CEO BEFORE he was the CEO, six years before. When we did start JBoss, we were living at my parents’ house, and the only entity who even remotely reported to us was the family dog.
Ironically, I was once "Almost Featured in Rolling Stone." I had just graduated from Wellesley with a degree in English Literature. My success in getting interviews, coupled with equal success in remaining unemployed brought me to the attention of one of their writers doing a "getting the first job" profile for a series on Gen-X'ers. I am slightly embarrassed to say the prospect of anybody flying down from New York and paying attention to me quite went to my head. The article never got published, but we dined out on Rolling Stone's dollar (it was 1994, I was unemployed and Marc was a Ph.D. student), on stories of my unsuccessful interviews and bathos like "I used to write about Personality and Artistic Theory; now I write about evaporators and batch digesters." I even stooped so low as to play the Southern card, sharing some insight from my grandmother and her friends: "Honey we don't know what to tell you. After we graduated from college, we just joined the Junior League and started playing bridge."
So, it’s funny when some journalists tell Marc that other people in the industry ask about getting the JBoss treatment, like it was some option you could sign up for like PPO vs. HMO on your insurance coverage. ‘Cause I would imagine that to get the JBoss treatment, you’d kind a sorta have to be JBoss, or the people affiliated with JBoss, and there definitely were two sides to the treatment we got. If there was any defining insight in our communications strategy, it was the oh-so novel idea of saying exactly what we thought. As for communicating our thoughts credibly, you’d actually have to have done the things we did and lived the quirky experiences we lived.