Introducing Jessica Mara!
• Venture Growth
• EdTech Consultant
Meet Jessica Mara, an Alliance of Women in Tech Leadership member and EdTech extraordinaire, who is focused on the growth of early to mid-stage corporate ventures. She is skilled in go-to-market strategies and curriculum development to build brand awareness. She led education initiatives for project based learning correlated to STEM, NGSS, non-fiction literacy in the content areas of science and social studies, English as a Second Language (ESL and ELL), ELA, math, and Common Core mandates.
During her tenure with National Geographic Learning, Flying Classroom, Farrell Education Consulting, and Participate, Jessica worked with SaaS in K-12 school districts, grew an incubating startup venture, secured an EdTech RFP with the US Dept. of Trade for South America, co-founded a $6.4M educational consulting firm, and placed third in the Points of Light CivicX accelerator against 200 startups.
Jessica is currently consulting for clients that include Ethos (formerly GenFKD), a non-profit organization founded in 2013 to assist millennials with the skills and education necessary to create and lead the “new economy.” Through skills-based training and student-first reforms, Ethos is advancing a system of “new education” focused on improving post-graduate outcomes in areas of gainful employment, financial preparedness and entrepreneurial readiness.
Jessica is a huge contributor to our Alliance and engages on so many levels with our members. I've certainly never met anyone more passionate about education. I can't say it better than National Geographic Learning Director Kara Bombelli. “Jessica has a passion for education that is inspiring. Her experience will make her ideal for a role focused on the digital transformation of the classroom. I've seen Jessica as an advocate and a sales partner. She has a way of formulating innovative solutions to solve school challenges."
Get to know more about this dynamic EdTech leader in our Q & A.
1. What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of professionally?
I’m proud of joining purpose driven ventures who embrace a growth mindset, value education and truly work as a team. If I’m spending 40-80 hours per week building your dream, I must believe in your vision and I will deliver results.
2. What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of personally?
Working with early stage SaaS startups and entrepreneurs proved to be more valuable in taking risks. Since dissolving our Educational Consulting business in 2013, I have worked for large companies with 5,000+ employees and SaaS startups with 5 employees. Each time I have embraced my role and learned an immense amount from my colleagues. I am truly grateful for my experiences and the talented individuals I’ve met along the way.
3. What would you like to tackle next professionally?
Authoring articles such as, “EdTech as the Ultimate SaaS Professional Services Entity” and “Marketing and Sales Leadership: Special Sauce for Success”. I am inspired by my teammates at Ethos who have recently published articles in Forbes and Harvard Business Review.
With years of experience in sales, marketing, and product development my next move is to dive deeper with product to enhance my knowledge base as I continue my career trajectory.
4. Where does your passion for education come from?
As a child, school was my constant source of knowledge, peers, and teachers who cared about me and my growth. I’ve dedicated the past couple of decades to working on projects with a positive impact for students and teachers.
5. How do you feel the EdTech industry has evolved over the last 10 years?
This is my favorite question! Ideas and vision boards have become a reality. On January 15, 2019 Ed Surge reported that in 2018, $1.45 billion was raised by education technology companies. I’ve been a part of the evolution of print to digital and I cannot wait to see what brilliant iteration of technological advancements occur for future learners.
EdTech is a segment of the tech industry where adoptions and 80% engagement rates take 1-5 years to have an impact on student learning and development. EdTech companies have also set-the-stage for professional services, an area most other tech companies have just begun to explore.
6. Can you share any advice on navigating in today's changing workforce and how to develop and retain successful teams?
In the Raleigh Durham area, we do an excellent job of cultivating job opportunities for new graduates. In order to attract and retain local talent (especially women in tech!) companies need to find a way recruit and promote mid to senior level leadership.
Connected networking organizations like the Alliance of Women in Tech Leadership are the golden ticket of opportunity for open roles and leadership opportunities.
7. What gets you most excited about the Future?
How will AI enhance the way in which humans lead happy and productive lives? Anyone who has recently watched the viral video of two teenagers trying to dial a rotary phone might pause to remember how far we’ve advanced in tech and which items in our daily life will become obsolete as we evolve.
8. Share something we might not know about you?
In 1999 I pursued an opportunity with a tech company by cold calling the HR manager and then calling the hiring manger. He took a chance on me and I was hired as one of the first 50 employees for GSI Commerce. The company sold to EBay in 2011 for $2.4 billion.
9. If you could change something what would you change?
ATS (applicant tracking system) compliant resumes. I would have all candidates apply via video cover letters to assess their communication skills, ability to articulate why they want the job, how they would be an asset to the venture and other pertinent role related questions.
10. In 15 years where do we find Jessica?
11. What do you hope to achieve from your Alliance of Women in Tech Leadership membership?
As I continue to advance my career, I hope to learn from the women I am honored to share a seat with in the Alliance of Women in Tech Leadership. I have an immense amount of gratitude for these women and their mix of intelligence, drive and kindness. I also hope to mentor young professionals in the development of their careers.
Alliance of Women in Tech Leadership
Our professional woman’s peer group is designed for strong successful leaders in the Triangle. Members include executives in sales, marketing, and business development type roles in technology, pharma, biotech, and healthcare. Our group provides a confidential place to share best practices, discuss strategies, and address business challenges. We share successes, tools, vendors, networks, talent, and ideas that can help each of us grow and develop professionally.
Through our passion, enthusiasm, talent, innovation, recruiting, and success, Women in Tech Leadership support, mentor, and empower one other. We also support one another during trials and transitions, through coaching, collaboration, and resources. Our members are building healthy relationships and stronger networks, creating stronger personal brands, recruiting and retaining talent, positioning ourselves as thought leaders, and communicating with confidence.
We believe in candor and confidentiality, creativity and concision, confidence and circumspection. We believe in taking risks and grasping opportunities that challenge the limits of our capability, and encouraging others to do the same. We believe in winning with integrity, through inspiration and leadership.