Career Curveballs: How Getting Married Kickstarted My Career

This post is part of a series in which LinkedIn Influencers share how they turned setbacks into success. Read all their stories here.

My career curveball came in 1995. I was living in Silicon Valley and working at the San Jose Mercury News, because I made a career bet coming out of Harvard Business School that newspaper content would be one of the first types of content to take advantage of the

nascent “Internet”. I had been at the Merc already for two years and was thinking of making a move to a tech start-up. I had friends working at Netscape and was talking with a scrappy company started by two Stanford grad students with a funky name.

There was just one hitch — I was about to get hitched. Married. As in live in the same town with my love who happened to be in Boston, running a company he had started. Because he was in start-up mode, he didn’t know for sure if it would be stable enough to warrant me giving up my budding career to move out to Boston. So we continued with our wedding planning, got married on October 8 1995 and went on our honeymoon hiking amongst autumn foliage in New England.

When we returned to Boston, reality hit me. I was about to get on a plane back to San Francisco, leaving my newlywed husband behind in Boston. The entire trip back was a blur as I realized that despite the career opportunities in Silicon Valley — I would have been a single digit employee at Yahoo — I had to be in Boston. So I landed, resigned from the Mercury News, and a month later was in Boston looking for a job.

After a few weeks of interviewing, I joined Fidelity Investment’s Community Newspaper Company to start their Internet presence for 120 newspapers. That experience gave me early hands-on experience of setting a strategy, building a team, and running a profitable operation under the guidance of experienced leaders. I also learned how to hand code HTML (CSS hadn’t been invented yet), set up community publishing in 1997 (way before blogging had been invented) and had a front row seat to the development of online classifieds, portals, and search engines. That experience then led to a media analyst position at Forrester and to this day I’ve been engaged in the digital space as an analyst and writer.

I can’t help but wonder sometimes what would have happened if I’d stayed in Silicon Valley, worked with a Dot Com start-up and cashed out. I watched from the sidelines as many of my classmates did exactly that. But when I tell people this story, I explain that getting married and moving to Boston was not the worst career decision I made, but the best one ever. If I

had never moved to Boston, I wouldn’t have gotten a taste of starting something early in my career when such risks are more easy taken. That adventure gave me the confidence to start Altimeter Group later in my career, when the right time and opportunity came. I would never have become an analyst or written two bestselling books.

But most importantly, I would have begun my lifelong partnership with my husband on the wrong footing. There is no doubt in my mind that I am richer in my life because of the strength of our marriage, and that bond was forged in those early days of struggling to pay off our debt, save for a house downpayment, and raising two infants a year apart in age. As Sheryl Sandberg writes in “Lean In”, one of the most important things women need is support at home so that they can take the risks and put in the time for their careers. I’m very very lucky in that getting married to the right man for me means that I have a full partner in life and in my work — I would not be where I am today in my career if I hadn’t moved to Boston.