A combination of networking and passion has guided Barbara Bry to a variety of fields in her career.
The co-founder and COO of Blackbird Ventures spoke to students Wednesday at the California State University, San Marcos, about the different professional opportunities she has experienced during the stages of her life.
“Well, if you look at my life, networking is everything,” Bry said to business students during the “In the Executive’s Chair” course.
Bry's non-linear career has ranged from high-school teacher to journalist and to becoming an entrepreneur in her 40s.
“It’s never too late to do something new … you will be continually re-inventing yourself,” she said.
Bry’s eight-year career as a journalist for the Sacramento Bee and The Los Angeles Times came from networking opportunities. Through her network, she also became the first associate director of CONNECT and founding editor and CEO of Voice of San Diego.
Earlier, she served on the founding management team of Proflowers.com through her children’s network -- they went to school with the founder, Jared Polis. Bry was with Proflowers.com for five years and saw it move from zero to $70 million in revenue.
The company went public in December 2003 as Provide Commerce (Nasdaq: PRVD).
Bry and her husband, Neil Senturia, also founded Atcom/Info, which develops Internet kiosks and Internet access in hotels. She invested $22,000 of her own money into the $1 million raised to start up the company. Atcom made $2 million in revenue its first year and is currently owned by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)
Blackbird Ventures, co-founded with Senturia, is Bry’s current professional project. The company invests in emerging technology companies in San Diego.
“We like to invest early and we like to invest in technology where there is a significant barrier to entry,” she said.
Bry has moved onto opportunities such as starting a radio show with Senturia, which is now a weekly podcast called “I'm There for You Baby ... the Entrepreneur's Guide to the Galaxy.” She shared the first three rules of the show’s “Baby’s Book of Becoming a Billionaire.”
The first rule is to return every e-mail and phone call. The second is to think of networking as a profession and to become a professional at it. The third rule is to go to every event, “particularly the ones you don’t want to go.”
“You have lower expectations when you go to the events you don’t want to go to,” said Bry. “You’re guard is down, you’re more relaxed, and generally that’s when something good really happens.”
Additionally, Bry has transmitted her passion to becoming involved in a grassroots effort to raise money and campaign for Hillary Clinton. She is a volunteer communications director in San Diego.
Aside from her professional experiences, Bry also spoke to students about her thoughts on why women leave the corporate world.
“They leave Corporate America because I think they either hit a glass ceiling or they see that to break the glass ceiling they may need to make tradeoffs in their personal lives that they’re not willing to make,” she said.
Through Bry’s experience, she found an entrepreneur should feel comfortable with a lack of structure. In terms of her own leadership style, she hires people smarter than her, empowers people to delegate and leads by example. She also believes a high sense of urgency is a quality, which she attributes to her journalism experience.
Bry also advised students to try different things in order to find a passion, which transmits into work successfully.
“You have to be passionate about what you’re doing,” she said. “If you don’t like what you’re doing, it’s time to move on.”