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!

4 Ways Leaders Can Be Learners


David Chang Image

You know you can improve as a leader, but you don’t know exactly what you should be doing differently. Sound familiar? David Chang popped into a recent Exchange session to share his advice around strategies leaders can adopt to invest in effective lifelong learning. .

Chang was the Chief Operating Officer of the PayPal Media Network, co-founder and VP of Marketing at Mobicious, and Director of Product Marketing at m-Qube, Inc. He has navigated the growth of rapidly scaling companies through acquisition to integration and beyond, and it’s safe to say he knows how to make team  members feel valued. Now, he’s laying the groundwork for his next challenge as an Entrepreneur & Angel Investor.

According to Chang, you should approach  developing your team as if they are replacing you, by empowering, coaching, and creating opportunities for them to grow into leaders in their own right. Beyond his success on paper, spending an hour with Chang leaves you with a strong sense of his style as an inspiring leader and mentor, and his authentic commitment to embracing feedback.

Know Your Team

As a manager, it’s essential to get the right people on your team. This requires you to not only understand how to identify people’s skills, but also see when a person has the will to learn skills that can be taught. Assembling the team is only the first step. To keep each team member engaged, challenged, and committed to your team, you must take the time to understand what motivates them individually.

Develop Your EQDavid Chang

A high level of emotional intelligence will help you objectively understand and harness feedback to your advantage by allowing you to separate your feelings from the comments you receive. Chang has worked hard to sharpen his EQ, and admits that although some opinions might sting a little, they will help you be more effective in the long run.

Here’s how:

  1. Ask for feedback
  2. Take time to objectively understand others’ perceptions of your behaviors
  3. Acknowledge your shortcomings, celebrate your strengths
  4. Say thank you
  5. Make plans for growth/improvement
  6. Repeat

Support Down, Share Up

Chang continues to learn as a leader by asking for feedback from his team, peers, and stakeholders at every level. Valuable feedback can come from teaching and supporting your direct reports’ success, as well as sharing with your managers how they can support you. Don’t be afraid to share what you need to be successful.

Take Action

When asked for a piece of actionable advice we can all put to use ASAP, Chang kept it simple: take a step back and open your eyes to others’ perceptions of your behaviors. Taking the blinders off can go a long way.

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

Jennifer Fremont-Smith, CEO of Smarterer, on Hiring Interns

Creating a startup from scratch is not small feat. You sure can’t go it alone, but limited initial funding can cause huge headaches when looking to hire cream-of-the-crop talent. So where to turn when looking to hire a stellar team? The answer? INTERNS!

Interns, often looked at as the coffee-runners and copy-makers of offices, can serve as the foundation for a star-studded team, helping a new startup excel. More colleges and universities are incorporating internships into their requirements for graduation nowadays than ever before, producing a huge pool of qualified students, jumping at the chance to get their hands on one a coveted experiential learning opportunities. It’s truly a win-win for all.

So, where to start, and how to leverage interns to help your startup to succeed? Jennifer Fremont-Smith, cofounder of Smarterer, has the answers in her class, How to Hire an Army of Interns To Build Your Business. We spoke earlier this week to talk about her experience working with teams of interns, and what students can expect from her class. Check out our conversation below:

I.LY: You’re a repeat founder and serial entrepreneur. What challenges are you tackling now at Smarterer?

JFS: The big challenges we’re tackling every day at Smarterer tend to be around our product and our go-to-market. What’s cool is that interns get to work on all of these things. Here are the initiatives that are top of mind for everyone at Smarterer right now:

• How to build a great product that attracts and engages users, and delivers real value to customers.

• How to ensure we have great, high quality content in our system at all times, and how to leverage users to accomplish this.

• How to create massive scale

I.LY: Managing a team of interns for success can be easier said than done. How are interns helping you Smarterer progress?

JFS: I’m a huge believer in the importance of experiential learning for students. A lot of what is wrong with our higher educational system could be solved if more students gained practical experience through internships and apprenticeships. We practice what we preach by giving interns at Smarterer real world problems to solve, like how to crowd-source more great content on Smarterer, how to get the word out about our product to recruiters, and how to turn our blog into the world’s premier destination for people who care about learning practical skills and furthering their career. By working on these things they help create huge forward motion every day!

Also, and perhaps most important – having energetic, bright, and eager interns around makes everyone happy – and helping them gain practical, marketable skills reminds us all of the important work we’re doing at Smarterer by giving people a way to validate their skills and level the playing field.

I.LY: What are typical qualities you look for in interns?

JFS: When hiring interns look for three things: intelligence, great attitude, and digital skills. We don’t expect our interns to know everything – they’re still students – but we do expect them to have the intelligence to figure lots of stuff out. They don’t need tons of experience – again, being interns they are here to learn. But we absolutely require that they’re comfortable with a baseline of software tools that they’ll need to do their job, and the ability to quickly pick up new skills.  And last of all, they have to be bright, positive people ready to learn. Our very best interns are always the ones who ask the most questions – who start with the attitude of “I have no idea how to do this but I am going to ask questions and figure it out!”

I.LY: How have you successfully utilized interns in your other companies?

JFS: Other startups I’ve been involved in have used a similar approach to Smarterer in working with interns – recruit bright, passionate people, give them some gnarly challenges they can sink their teeth into, and they can do amazing things for the company – and learn a lot at the same time.

I.LY: What can students hope to learn during your class next week?

JFS: Every student who comes to the class with leave with an actionable roadmap for designing a high-impact internship program. We’ll cover our secrets for how to recruit a pipeline of candidates, an amazing process for identifying the very best candidates, how to on-board them, what kind of work to give them –  in short, everything you need to know to create an astoundingly successful internship program!

Don’t miss out! Make sure to register by clicking here! We’ll see you in class!

The Thrill of the Hunt: How to Find Talent for Your Company

TalentIn a world that is constantly changing, it’s essential to always stay one step ahead of the game, or else be beaten by competitors. To stay ahead takes resources, though, and ones that aren’t quite so easy to come by, like people.

No matter how advanced your technology is, the amount of money you have, or the sweet digs you’ve outfitted your office with, people still remain the driving force of any company. An organization can’t excel with average, run-of-the-mill folks who just coast by though–it takes talented people to drive it there.

Boston has no shortage of talent, as we’ve discussed previously, yet they’re not just waiting for the world to come to them. “The most talented people aren’t looking for a job. In most cases they already have one. Talented people might not be looking for a job, but they are always looking for a good opportunity,” says Steve MacLaughlin, the Director of Internet Solutions at Blackbaud.

How can a company sift through all the dirt to find those diamonds in the rough, then? Marie Burns, recruiting manager over at provided us the answer at her Intelligent.lyclass on Wednesday night. She showed students the process to use, questions to ask, and how to train your team to interview. Read on to become a star recruiter for your company as well.

The Jobs Owner

The first step in the hiring process is to determine who will be the Jobs Owner. The Jobs Owner will be the person who makes the ultimate decision as to whether or not to hire someone and will oversee all aspects of the hiring process.

This person MUST be a key stakeholder in the company, or a decision maker for the role. They should be held accountable for all items for the specific job throughout the entire hiring process as well as all communication to candidates. You have to set expectations that THEY own the job. By setting a person as the Jobs Owner, you’ll alleviate the confusion of having the multiple roles spread across various people by having one central person to go to.


Stay organized by creating a schedule. Use this quick rule of thumb in order to break down your time effectively:

  • Take 30 minutes – 2 hours a day per job you own.
  • 45 minutes – 1 hour to review resumes
  • 15 minutes  to evaluate and document
  • 30 minutes to schedule
  • However long you need to screen and interview

Of course you can always delegate responsibilities to other people, but make sure the Jobs Owner does the screening.

The Rapid Recruiting Process

You must optimize your time with candidates and keep up with today’s market! Don’t waste your time or theirs–the process should take no longer than 2 weeks and is optimally 1-1.5 weeks. Define what your company’s process will be, and make sure everyone knows it.

There should be no more than 4 interviews in your process, including a phone screening. Every candidate should go through a phone interview to initially screen them. Immediately after the phone interview, give them an assignment to assess their skills. This assessment should be something that relates to your company and should provide immediate results of whether or not the candidate has the skills required. If they do not pass the skills assessment, they should NOT make it to the next round of interviews, which is the in-person interview to test cultural fit. If the candidate is not a cultural fit, they should not make it to the second round of interviewing, if there is one.

After the interviewing process, discuss as a team who to hire. Don’t drag this process out–companies lose talented candidates all the time because they don’t move fast enough and the candidate receives another offer.

Segmenting Your Interviews

Now that you’ve got the process down, it’s time to move into the actual interview. All too often, interviewers don’t know what to ask and leave feeling like they don’t know enough about the candidate to make a solid decision. Solve the problem by having the Jobs Owner delegate specific roles to the interviewers. Each member of the interview team should assess different skill sets related to the job, answers to behavioral questions, and the candidate’s cultural fit. These roles should be set before anyone ever gets on the phone with the candidate.

The key to an effective and expedient hiring process lies in organization and clearly defined roles. Make sure that everyone is on board and to follow your schedule and you’ll be on your way to securing the talent your company needs.

For more great lessons, check out the other guides on the blog, or visit our class page.