She's Not Just at the Forefront of the Digital Landscape, She's Creating It
You may think you need to be brain-deep in the social media and product marketing worlds to understand what Leslie Bradshaw does. Not so.
Yes, she's known for co-founding JESS3 back in 2006, a creative agency dedicated to social media strategy and data visualization.
Yes, she pretty much was doing social media marketing before anyone was doing social media marketing. She was trending before anyone knew what trending was.
Yes, she's now a managing partner at Made By Many, a product innovation studio that helps both big companies and startups innovate their way to taking products to market.
But what makes Leslie Bradshaw a badass beyond her industry is something more universal. It’s her approach, the way her mind works, the way she sees , and her passion for it.
At the core of her work, Leslie masterminds the intersection of people and info, and simply put, she creates cool products and experiences around that dynamic marriage. There's a good chance that you've interacted with a system or piece of info or product that's come from Leslie's genius. After all, she’s worked with companies like Facebook, Nike, Google, ESPN, and Samsung.
Duh, I needed to talk to this woman. I knew I had a lot to learn from her. And naturally, she didn’t disappoint.
Check out her infinite wisdom in this Q&A below, and read about leadership style that will give you #leadershipgoals, and the SOLID advice she'd give to her younger self that we should all be taking.
What did you set out to create when you started JESS3?
My boss at the time neither understood the power and potential of social media—nor let me spread my wings and go after the opportunities I saw. Co-founding of JESS3, on the other hand, put no limits on what I could achieve.
When did you know you were really on to something great?
Like the saying goes, it’s lonely on the extra mile. And boy, were we alone. You just didn’t see brands using infographics and social media APIs in 2006 the way they do now (for better or for worse). Being able to own Google results and being able to name our price were two additional ways we knew we were on to something :)
What attracted you to the Made By Many opportunity?
Two things: exemplary work and an exceptional team.
1 - The Made by Many process has been around for almost a decade and while many try to hijack the language, very few actually come close to replicating the outcomes. I knew working here would school me in areas of technology and business that I had, up to that point, only scratched the surface.
2 - And the team, where do I even start. So smart, so kind, so committed to their craft. No jerks. No “know-it-alls”. Just good, hard working people. From the founding partners, to the engineers, to the designers, to the product strategists: everyone treats one another with the utmost respect. There is not an imbalance or prioritization of one talent type over another, either. It’s great.
You’ve been named as one of Fast Company's Most Influential Women in Technology in 2011; The Wall Street Journal FINS’ Top Women in Tech Under 30; a 2011 "Tech Titan" by The Washingtonian along with your JESS3 co-founder Jesse Thomas; by Terra as one of the top women in technology; one of Inc.’s 2012 top 30 entrepreneurs under 30; and one of Mashable’s 44 "accomplished female founders" in 2012 – to name a few. What’s your definition of success?
Success is the accumulation of incremental wins, learning from mistakes, consistency, not rushing things, and radically collaborating with talented team members. You can neither do it quickly nor alone. The awards are merely recognition for years—sometimes decades—of long hours, sacrifice, grit, perseverance, and collaboration with others.
What's your leadership style?
Part coach, part professional chiropractor, part team member, part comedienne. 100% servant leader, with as much grace as I can muster. Let me explain:
- As a ‘coach’ and ‘professional chiropractor’ I like to figure out what motivates people, how they learn, and why they took the job—and when I can, I give them a chance to contribute in ways that play best to their strengths.
- As a team member, no task is below me and with the exception of coding and designing, I don’t ask anything I wouldn’t be willing to take on myself. And even with those examples, I wouldn’t ask the team to work hours that I wasn’t ready to work alongside them.
- As a comedienne, I don’t take myself or life too seriously. I try to make people laugh and enjoy what they are doing, even if it’s at my expense. Puns, mixed metaphors, and movie / TV references are my staples here.
- Overall, I view my job as a leader to always strive to serve others and be gracious no matter the circumstances. I serve my team, my clients, my industry, my community and ask: how can I make lives easier? how can I protect and advocate? how can I reward and thank? how can I give back? I serve at the pleasure of the people that pay me; the team that gives me their best everyday; and the community that has helped me unlock my potential with their support. To borrow a phrase from Rudyard Kipling: I strive to keep my head about me when all others are losing theirs (and sometimes even blaming it on me).
Is being a woman in tech an obstacle to overcome or an opportunity?
Opportunity. As long as you have done the work and have the abilities, you can get where you need to go. The few times I have been underestimated, I just blow people away with sticking it out and delivering great results. To quote Beyonce in her new Formation song: “Always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper.”
If you were to do it all over again, what advice would you tell your younger self?
Sleep more. Break up with jerks much quicker. Don’t ever give up your athleticism for more than a day or two; stay in shape, stay strong, stay on a team. Seek to collaborate with “A players” in both attitude and skill. Don’t wait until you turn 30 to be a good sister.
What are you looking forward to in 2016?
Hitting my stride with Made by Many and living in New York City. July will mark two years with both and I am finally feeling like I have the hang of it. With a sturdy foundation, I can start building the second story so to speak :)
You're also a partner in your family's vineyard, Bradshaw Vineyards (I'm a HUGE Oregon wine fan, by the way). What would you recommend I bring to wow the socks off a dinner party host?
Pinot noir from Oregon in general is a great bet. However, keep your eyes out for vintages from 2009, 2012, and 2014. Look out for 2010 and 2011 vintages, those were wetter and colder years. And a mixed bag: some 2013s (like Bradshaw Vineyards!) turned out very well depending on when folks picked. There was a fair amount of rain around harvest time, but we managed to still have a great year.
The book I'm currently reading is…
The Bible. The lessons and wisdom stand the test of time.