This interview with Penny Herscher, the chief executive of FirstRain, a business analytics firm, was conducted and condensed byAdam Bryant.
A. My parents were both engineers and mathematicians. My mother was actually the second woman to ever major in engineering at Oxford. So I was raised in an environment where anybody who was anybody did math, and the expectation was that I would go into technology, because that’s where all the excitement was.
So you had a clear idea what you wanted to do in college.
I studied math at Cambridge, and I thought I was going to be in technical roles my whole life. I worked for a year in England as a computer programmer, and then my husband and I got on a plane and came to California. We had no health insurance, and no money. But we were confident we could get jobs.
I did get a programming job, but after a couple of years I wasn’t terribly happy being a software engineer because so much time is spent in front of a screen, and I’m an extrovert. I got discovered by the sales and marketing people in the company because I was good at doing product demonstrations, and they recruited me to the business side of the house. I’ve never looked back.
What were some early lessons you learned as a manager?
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