Abbie Waite

About Abbie Waite

Abbie Waite is the Executive Director of - Boston's leadership development destination for startups.

The Best Is Yet To Come

One year ago, I joined the team because I was excited to help build an organization that helps companies invest in their most important asset – their PEOPLE.

And in just over 12 months, we’re thrilled to have hit some serious milestones, witnessed just how meaningful it is for companies to show their employees they’re invested in their success, and discovered a real hunger for learning at all levels of of the startups we’ve served.

Here are just a few of our major wins from the last 365 days:

  • Enrolled 135 managers in Exchange, our program that helps new managers be great managers.
  • Helped 27 startups build a pipeline of talent with Exchange (see the full list here).
  • Created relationships with our venue hosts and fellow community builders: WeWork, MassChallenge, District Hall, and CIC Boston.
  • Hired a Content & Community Specialist to help us do more, faster.
  • Launched our Leadership + Libations event series to bring our community together to learn from some of our city’s best.

And, now…drumroll, please…

Please help me welcome Gabriela McManus, our new Director of Learning & Development!

AGabriela McManus New England native, Gabriela has focused her career on strategically building a leadership bench inside hyper-growth companies. Three years ago she entered the tech community by joining the inaugural people team at Infusionsoft (#13 Fortune Best Medium-sized Companies to Work For) to build their flagship Leadership Academy and much more in Arizona. She returned to the Northeast with her family in 2014 and is ready to drive Boston’s talent forward!

Gabriela knows what it takes to attract, retain, train and develop PEOPLE in high growth companies and is already hitting the ground running, ready to lead our seventh Exchange program in June. As we continue to grow, Gabriela will help identify and develop new program opportunities to help our partners win at every level.

Spoiler alert: stay tuned for more about EMERGE, a new one-day conference this July for individual contributors to learn ‘A-player’ leadership skills.

More to come about what’s on deck from Gabriela soon!

Exchange Grads: Exchange, On!

Exchange Quote

Completing 55+ hours of management development on top of demanding jobs is no small feat!

On Monday night, we celebrated the fourth graduating class of Exchange – our leadership program – with participants from WordStream, Grasshopper, CitiCenter, Smarterer, Intrepid Pursuits, Raizlabs, HubSpot, and TurningArt.

Exchange Program 4 PhotoThroughout the six full-day Exchange sessions, managers developed key leadership behaviors, learned new management tactics, and created close peer relationships to take their skills to the next level. From digging deep to realize their unique growth opportunities, to supporting each other’s goals along the way, this group truly excelled together.

Putting a fiscal value on organizational health is hard to do, which sadly often leads companies to wait too long to invest in their high-potential new managers. Emerging leaders are invaluable, and more often than not, the skills that make a great leader – assertiveness, ability to motivate, and make decisions – need to be cultivated to truly flourish.

“Exchange is the best thing to happen to me professionally.”

The managers who joined this Exchange class are people who motivate and empower their teams, confidently making decisions and facilitating company growth. Today, we’re confident that these new Exchange grads have become true leaders and we can’t wait to see what they achieve next in their companies.

So, congratulations to Program 4–your dedication to becoming more effective leaders has truly impressed us, and we encourage you to take the tools you’ve learned and continue applying them in your everyday lives. Keep on Exchanging!

Exchange Program 4 Companies


Say hello to our new Content & Community Specialist!


It’s not every day you see a personal statement accompany a resume. Especially not from recent college grads. But Rachel’s did, so we took notice. And it didn’t take long for her calm confidence, witty remarks, and marketing smarts to win us over.

Although new to the startup world, Rachel’s desire to create is not. She was a communications and PR major at Northeastern University and completed co-ops at EF Education, Kravet, and the Improv Asylum, expanding each role she undertook.

Rachel will be sharing success stories and speaker insights from Exchange– our management development program- often, so stay tuned!

Give @rachelwaldmann a shoutout or email her at

Abbie Waite

The Secret to Bill Belichick’s Success

The New England Patriots have won all but two AFC East titles since 2001, and haven’t had a losing season since 2000. Think it’s all because of Bill Belichick sick coaching skills? Think again. Bill Belichick’s primary responsibility isn’t just coaching–it’s making sure the team is made up of the best players (and coaches) for every position at any given moment. Belichick’s primary responsibility is talent density.

Last week, Swami Kumaresan (Entrepreneur in Residence at General Catalyst Partners; Former SVP, Product and Engineering at Carbonite) stopped by Exchange as Swami Kumaresan Photoa guest speaker to share his thoughts on building exceptional teams. Swami was instrumental in Carbonite’s growth, helping lead the company to its 2011 IPO, but his proudest accomplishment is building strong teams. When asked to share how he’s cultivated the right talent mix, density always emerges as a recurring theme; you have to get the right people on the bus.

So, what is talent density? In short, managers and coaches (like Belichick) have to be fanatical about recruiting and cultivating stars for their teams if they want to win. This idea typically sparks concern in our Exchange sessions among managers; they react by pointing to their team members’ potential, or their stellar attitudes, urging that “the stars” aren’t the only people who can play to win. But people want to be surrounded by team members who are exceptional at what they do, who lift them up, who push them to do their best by leading with a positive example, who help them learn and grow by sharing their own insight and experience. If this reminds you of the Netflix Culture Deck – you’re getting the message!

Believe focusing on talent density is good advice? We had a full 60 minutes with Swami jam-packed with tips. Check in with us next week to get the scoop straight from Swami himself on why he believes in the importance of managers fostering trust on their teams, and discover the difference between “trust in agenda” and “trust in ability”. Insights w/ Larry Kim

INTELLIGENT.LY INSIGHTS lets you learn from leaders who have done it before.

For this series inaugural post, we’re thrilled to feature Larry Kim, CTO of WordStream. Larry is deeply committed to cultivating his team’s leadership skills, investing in future leaders to promote the company’s long-term growth.

Larry Kim PhotoWhat’s one piece of advice you wish someone had given you as a new manager?

Building a start-up is a challenge, and communication is key among the few employees you have in the beginning. We recently did a communication exercise with our team, based on Exchange training, that really shone a light on the different personalities we have and how we can communicate more effectively with one another for better outcomes. This is the type of lesson I wish I’d learned earlier, when I was just starting up. As an entrepreneur, when you’re just getting into managing people, definitely take the time to actively work on communication with your team.

How do you ensure that you stay in lock step communication with your team?

We have regularly scheduled meetings and training, but I think it’s also important to have an open-door policy. I mean, anyone can say they have an open-door policy for their employees, but you have to live it for it to be meaningful. People need to know they can bring their ideas and concerns to you without repercussion and that’s an environment that you build over time.

Describe what the term ‘Manage Up’ means to you. How have you see people manage up effectively?

At WordStream, managing up is critical for effective teamwork. In addition to managing up, which is making that effort consistently to go above and beyond to make your manager’s job easier, I think it’s important for everyone to “manage across” and even manage down! Companies don’t need a couple of heroes to carry the team – they need an entire team that feels empowered and like their work is appreciated. So manage up, yes, but it’s even better to get all employees thinking in a team mindset, not competing against one another but building the unit up as a whole.

Share one strategy or tactic that you consistently use to support the growth of your direct reports.

One thing we really focus on is giving employees ongoing learning opportunities. In tech and in other industries, as well, the industry changes constantly and very quickly. It’s to our benefit to keep our knowledge current, but it also feeds a personal development need in employees and executives. We do a lot of internal group work and training and have been sending our top team members to’s management development program, as well. You have to make time for ongoing education and prioritize it so employees have time to really get into it and bring those benefits back to your team.

Larry Kim is a marketing industry thought leader and the CTO and founder of WordStream, a million search marketing software and services provider based in Boston managing approximately a half Billion in ad spend for over two thousand small businesses. He regularly shares his advice and insight with over 750,000 visitors a month at his WordStream Blog and is a columnist and top contributor for leading industry publications including, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch, and Social Media Today.