Being a newbie in the startup world is daunting. Actually, being a newbie anywhere is daunting. So when I encounter new college graduates floundering aimlessly for direction and jobs, I tell them in today's marketplace they need to develop marketable skills that companies will pay for. When I heard about a local Los Angeles-based startup called Image Searcher and it's female Vice-president of Operations, Victoria Aagaard, I had to learn more about this day-to-day executions expert and how she contributes to the growth of a startup that received $1.69 million in funding. More importantly, I wanted to know why Image Searcher chose her to be part of the team. What are her marketable skills?
Ms. Aagaard is in charge of overseeing the quality of two of Image Searcher's apps: CamFind and TapTapSee. Her job is to make sure the cost remains low and the quality remains high. This means that she regularly needs to develop ideas so the team can test for product effectiveness and efficiency. She also works closely with the Product Manager in order to ensure Image Searcher's products are released with high quality. Interestingly when asked how her professional background and education have helped her in her current role, she stated that her upbringing contributed much more to her success in the startup sector. Encouragement by her parents to develop creatively was a major factor. Her dad encouraged her to pursue an area she was passionate about and told her, "I'm paying for your education so you're either going to be an actress or a professional golfer. You choose." Needless to say, that's one cool dad. Even though Ms. Aagaard started out in college as a theater major, she decided to switch her major to Digital Media during her second year. She was incredibly fascinated by how the Internet worked, even though she had little experience with computers prior and was afraid of them. However by learning HTML, she was able to understand how the Internet worked and become more comfortable with it. This part stood out to me. She faced her fear and conquered it. Then afterwards she turned it into her asset. Her ability to do this is her marketable skill.
I asked Ms. Aagaard what recommendations she would make to parents in getting their children interested in STEM. She made a good point -- parents can't force their children to have certain interests. Instead, parents should spend quality time with their children and understand what their natural talents are and encourage them to play, which in turn can increase creativity. This sounds incredibly intuitive and sensible considering a 2010 study done by Dr. Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William and Mary showed creativity in American children decreasing since 1990.
Image Searcher is one lucky company to have a strong leader like Victoria Aagaard be part of its team. With a determined attitude, new college grads might also achieve in the same way.