Our ‘A Day in the Life’ series highlights alumni in various fields and positions, offering a glimpse of what life after graduation is like. This post comes to us from M&T alum Daniel, currently CEO of Tailwind in New York.
Please briefly describe what industry you’re in and what your particular position entails.
I’m Co-Founder and CEO of Tailwind, the Pinterest Marketing and Analytics platform. We help over 3,000 of the world’s leading brands and agencies understand how consumers are engaging with their brand and products on Pinterest, execute marketing initiatives on the platform and integrate Pinterest into their overall marketing strategy.
Social media marketing has been heating up over the past five years, with multiple companies already achieving outcomes in the $100Ms. Major tech companies, such as Google, Salesforce.com, Oracle, Adobe, Yahoo and Microsoft have invested billions in the space, while social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have charged ahead with IPOs.
As CEO, my role has evolved as we’ve grown. Today, I tend to focus on certain key areas: building a world-class team, investor relations, partnerships, business development, strategy and whatever needs to be done today.
What time did you get up this morning before work?
6:24 am, not counting when I woke up at 3am and spent some time working through an issue that was on my mind.
What time did you start working, and what time were you done for the day?
7:50 am as I rode in on the train. I’m currently working as I ride the train home and have a few things I’ll need to finish before bed. It’s now 9:14pm. I’ll likely call it a night between 1-1:30am, as I have an early meeting in the morning.
What were some of the projects you worked on today?
I started this morning by working on a guest blog post while riding into Boston on the train. I arrived at the Social Media Strategies Summit by 9am, where I would kick off the morning presenting on how brands can leverage Pinterest to connect with their target customers. Between the train and arriving at the conference, I took a call to work through an administrative issue that could have delayed a round of financing we’re scheduled to close this week.
After my presentation, I plowed through my rapidly growing backlog of emails (travel can do that to you), caught up on the status of our dev team’s efforts to optimize the speed of our app, answered a few inquiries from customers and then broke for some networking between conference sessions and lunch. I had lunch with the Social Media Director of a major retailer we’ve been courting for the better part of a year and made plans to present to their Executive team in the next couple weeks.
After lunch, I sat in on conference sessions about marketing on Instagram and the importance of social CRM data. During those sessions, I scheduled a visit to our Oklahoma City office for a group of student entrepreneurs from Canada, screened recent job and intern applicants, checked our payables/receivables, initiated new client invoices, paid outstanding invoices, reviewed an early version of a new product we’re developing and checked in on which new customers had signed up in the past day. At one point, I stepped out to grab a coffee and spoke with another company sponsoring the conference about potential partnership opportunities and set a time to explore further with them next week.
Around 3:00, I headed off to find a room where I could take a call with the lead investor in our pending financing round, interview a promising developer candidate and return voicemails from a customer and government official. After finishing, I hopped in a cab to my next destination.
I closed the day with dinner and drinks with one of our largest clients to talk through their new CMO’s goals for the company, share our upcoming product roadmap and get their feedback on how we can be a better partner. I then caught my train and began writing this post.
Who specifically did you interact with today, besides coworkers (clients, interns, researchers, executives, founders, etc.)?
On most days I interface with all kinds of stakeholders; today was no different. Within our fabulous team, I interacted with my co-founder, developers, marketing department, accounts manager, sales team and a contractor who’s working on a short-term project for us. Beyond our team, I interacted with multiple existing customers, prospective customers, job applicants, investors, government officials, conference organizers and attendees, potential partners, service providers and a number of folks who made it all possible (cab drivers, train conductors, waiters/waitresses, etc).
Are you currently traveling or about to travel for work?
Yes, I’m wrapping up a two and a half week trip that has brought me to Las Vegas, New York and Boston. I’m excited to head home tomorrow night and spend a few days with my wife Megan (a fellow Quaker) before heading to California next week.
What was your favorite part of the workday?
I love meeting talented people. Today I got to do that at a leading social media conference, as well as by interviewing job applicants. Working with great people keeps me motivated and humbled.
What are some of the challenges within your position that you particularly enjoy?
As an entrepreneur, everything is connected: sales, customer service, product development, recruiting, building our culture, community relations, fundraising, marketing, strategy, PR, personal growth. No one piece can function as well without the others. And to keep it all functioning, I need to simultaneously see the big picture and dive in on the important details. Keeping all of these pieces moving in the same direction, while adjusting to a rapidly evolving landscape around us, is the most challenging and exhilarating problem I’ve faced in my career.
How did you end up in your current position?
I started my first company while at Penn. From that experience, I learned that I wanted to be an entrepreneur in order to create something meaningful. After school, I joined the Boston Consulting Group to build my analytical and managerial skill set. A couple years in, a friend and colleague informed me about a position at Google that sounded perfect for me – creating a strategy team at the intersection of Product and Business Development. I was lucky enough to be offered the role and moved out West. In my time at Google, I learned a lot about the consumer internet industry, as well as how to bring products to market and how to build a high-functioning culture. While there, I met and began working for David Eun, a friend and mentor who helped nurture my young career. When David left Google to become President of AOL Media, I knew I wanted to go there, too. Moving to AOL enabled me to accelerate my learning curve by moving into a General Manager role – a type of position Google didn’t really have at the time. That was my first foray into managing the many diverse elements of product at scale, from operations and budgeting to product roadmap, strategic vision, sales development, partnerships and more. As a team, we saw great success rebuilding the AOL Video product to a leader in its category, despite broader challenges the company was facing. That experience gave me the confidence I needed to know I could create something meaningful in any context. So, when my co-founder Alex and I met in New York and hit on a concept we wanted to explore, I was ready to take the leap. And we did.
How did M&T help prepare you for where you are today?
Through M&T, I learned the value of working with the smartest and most interesting people you possibly can. I loved working on group projects with classmates who challenged me, pushed me and (often) humbled me. My classmates made me a stronger, better, more capable person. That lesson underpins all of the others.
What advice do you have for those who might be interested in pursuing a similar path?
- Build a support network of fellow entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster; you’ll need the support to keep you going through the hard times, and so will they.
- Do what you love. When you do, you will work harder, learn faster and enjoy it the most.
- Don’t wait for the perfect idea or the perfect time to innovate. The perfect time is now. The perfect idea is the one you have. Build, fail, learn, iterate.
- Don’t waste your time with people who will waste your time.
Daniel is currently CEO and co-founder of Tailwind in New York City. He graduated from Penn and M&T in 2005 with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Systems Science (Individualized) from Penn Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the Wharton School with concentrations in Management, Legal Studies, and Finance. Daniel enjoys playing with his three dogs as well as traveling to new places.