Brandy Lawson is the founder of FieryFX, a boutique digital agency and a Chief Online Officer for-hire. Growth-minded business owners hire Brandy to disrupt their hit-or-miss, inconsistent marketing and rescue their online reputation. Most are intimidated by digital marketing and avoid technology, so Brandy helps them execute a consistent, powerful digital presence that delivers ROI every time.
Tell us about your first job in tech. Who did you work for, what was your role, and what excited you about the work you did?
My first job involving technology was doing data entry for my dad. My parents had a restaurant, but with a background in engineering, my dad wrote his own computer programs for tracking sales, payroll and printing payroll checks. I was eight years old and tasked with entering the daily sales data and employee hours into the green screen, two floppy disk computer.
Data entry isn’t inherently exciting, but it was cool to see how Dad could have the computer do all the calculations and then print out the checks. I wasn’t excited about how unreliable the saving mechanism was — there were so many times when I thought I was done, but the data hadn’t saved correctly.
I didn’t realize it then, but this experience was probably the catalyst for my entire career.
Describe your job in technology today.
Almost six years ago my corporate job with GoDaddy ended, so I started my own company. Today business coaches hire me to be their Chief Online Officer. Unlike when my dad had to create his programs to harness technology in his business, business owners today have too many choices, and those options are continually changing. My understanding of technology and business ownership allows me to help my clients make the right digital decisions for their business, their culture, and their goals.
I love it when we put a new system, process or tool in place and not only can the client feel the results, we can show data on how things have changed. Technology is the bulldozer that has leveled the playing field for small businesses. Using digital, small companies can get found by their clients, deliver incredible levels of personalized service, and grow with less capital required (or use alternative funding sources like Kickstarter).
If there was a point in your childhood when you first became interested in technology, describe that event or experience.
It was my first job, doing data entry for my dad, that showed me how technology could be used by small businesses to expand their capabilities and free them to use the data to improve their business.
In junior high and high school I had an AOL account and was “online.” Ha! When I got to college, I helped other students set up their email addresses and learn how to check their email using DOS.
My first “real” technology job was doing sales support for a company that sold printer-sharing products while I was in college. At that time businesses didn’t have networks, and the HP LaserJet was a serious investment, so businesses needed a way to have multiple computers share the printer. Thus, the company I worked for created a digital switch which enabled multiple computers to print. I loved learning about the systems and helping customers who called in solve their problem.
Who has been the most influential individual or mentor in your education or career and how did this person help advance your role in technology?
My dad has been the most influential person in getting started with technology. He was always looking for different ways to solve problems and trying out the latest technology. I saw how he used spreadsheets, macros, and programs to run his business and understood the power that technology had to leverage and enhance our knowledge.
The most influential mentor during my career was a friend in IT who patiently shared his knowledge and expertise in helping me learn to code PHP to create web forms. I was a marketing assistant helping out with the website, and this was new territory for me! His willingness to help me and his approach of non-judgment and constant encouragement helped me to gain confidence in my abilities and start doing web development free-lancing on the side.
What do you love most about working in the tech world?
I love the possibilities that tech brings, and working in the tech world makes me part of improving opportunities for those that are inspired to share their gifts with the world.
If you could give advice to other girls in tech, what would it be?
Build the skill of courage. I didn’t even realize I needed that as a skill until after I started my own businesses. In fact, if you would have asked me before, I wouldn’t have called it a skill, but it is. I’d also recommend finding a community of like-minded people to hang out with. These may or may not be your friends, and this community will change over time. But, if you consciously associate with people that move you forward, you’ll always be in a position to help others or get help when you need it.