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29 Мар 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »
Bertram 36

Web Firm Provides Opportunity

For Growth for Different People


DONNA LACHANCE , Bonnie Bertram and David Osterweil all landed unexpectedly at eTour.com, an Atlanta-based Internet company that connects individuals with Web sites that match their interests. All have distinct aspirations and experiences that show how career goals change as we move through our 20s, 30s and 40s — yet all have found opportunity in the same workplace.

Mr. Osterweil, 23 years old and a recent college graduate who had just moved to Atlanta, was sitting at the pool in his apartment complex when he overheard a young woman talking about her work at eTour. He asked her for the name of a contact for a job. A year ago, he was hired to help promote the site.

Ms. Bertram, 36 and a producer at cable network CNN, was on a flight from San Francisco to Atlanta, seated next to a very opinionated man. The minute she sat down he told me the book I was reading was junk, she recalls. They spent the rest of the flight talking about other books, favorite authors, movies, current events, and we disagreed about everything, Ms. Bertram says.

But when the plane landed, Jim Lanzone, 28, one of the four founders of eTour, asked her if she would consider a move to an Internet company. Fourteen months ago, after first saying no, she accepted a job as editor in chief of eTour.

Ms. Lachance . 45, had just moved her husband and two children from Atlanta to Sydney, Australia, to become president of the multimedia division of Cable Wireless Optus, when a former colleague told her that eTour was looking for a chief operating officer. She had spent her 23-year career in large U.S. corporations and wanted to work abroad for a few years. Still, she decided to phone eTour’s CEO on a visit to the U.S. Six months ago, she moved her family back to Atlanta and became eTour’s No. 2, overseeing day-to-day operations and the company’s 165 employees.

FOR MR. OSTERWEIL, just working at an Internet company that offered stock options was cause to celebrate. I saw all of these guys getting rich at the age of 24 and I wanted that, says Mr. Osterweil, whose previous job experience was limited to a few internships. Plus, I thought it would be a better learning experience than going to business school.

Within a few months, he was promoted to a job in retention marketing, with the task of trying to bring back lapsed users. His boss challenged him to invent new tactics, telling him to ask for forgiveness, not permission, Mr. Osterweil says. His idea was to send e-mails to inactive users and offer a sweepstakes prize.

The company is still private, and with many Internet stocks currently in the tank Mr. Osterweil doesn’t expect to become a millionaire soon. But eTour gives him the chance to come up with my own ideas and then get advice from more seasoned people on how to fine tune them, he says. College friends at big companies earn more but aren’t at the center of things at work, he says. In addition, the young staff at eTour provides an instant circle of close friends.

By contrast, Ms. Bertram already had a large network of professional friends from the years she worked at CNN, and at several newspapers and magazines. Initially, she found her career in cable television innovative and exciting, but it began to feel like a velvet coffin, she says. She believes many people in their mid-30s who find themselves in that position think they can let their career coast for a while and make home decorating or another hobby a priority. But I think if you’re heading on that track, you need to set a new track.

SHE RELISHED THE chance to be in a pioneering environment where she could build rather than just manage a business. In the 14 months she has been at eTour, she has created an editorial department of 12 professionals and helped expand the site to four million members from one million.

She has had to adjust to being one of the eldest employees at eTour. When everyone brought in baby pictures of themselves to try to identify each other, one colleague assumed her black-and-white photo was of her, she says. Yet she feels refreshed by her staff’s energy and enterprise.

At 45, Ms. Lachance also wanted to be surrounded by all of the youth and energy this environment supplies. She was eager to steer the next big Internet brand to success.

Ms. Lachance is a veteran of several Old Economy giants, including Procter Gamble. where with eBay’s Meg Whitman she was a brand manager for Ivory shampoo. She also was vice president, marketing, of BellSouth.net, leading the company into the Web. But being an intrapreneur was ultimately limiting, she found. She preferred a place where instead of me being the radical who was trying to move the old model in new ways, I was the one who was being pulled, she says.

The pay cut she took to join eTour is worth it, she believes, for the chance to strike it big. The company boasts healthy ad and visitor volumes, with about 500,000 hits a month. As chief operating officer, she also can offer her wisdom to ease worries about fallout in the industry. I spend a good part of my time talking to my team members about why our business model makes sense, she says. Some of the perspective I have from years in business allows me to help them through this period.

The three say regardless of what the future holds for eTour, their own careers have grown.

Please e-mail to me your comments on this and other issues to inthelead@wsj.com .

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