Michelle Eichner is the co-founder and CEO of Digitile. She works with businesses to reduce the challenges employees have finding files. Eichner is a seasoned marketer and SaaS software veteran with a deep understanding of the marketplace. Her more than 25 years of in-depth B2B experience driving product marketing and strategy helps her identify market challenges, gaps and solutions. Prior to co-founding Digitile, Eichner served as vice president of product marketing at Persado, a 2017 CNBC Disruptor 50 startup. Before joining Persado, she spent more than five years as product director at IBM and vice president of SaaS product management at Unica Corp., an IBM company. Previously, Eichner co-founded and was integral to the success of startup Pivotal Veracity, an email deliverability platform which had thousands of users. Eichner exited with its sale to Unica Corp. Eichner holds a Masters in Direct Marketing from Northwestern University and a Bachelor of Science in Business and Marketing from Drake University.
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 career in marketing led me to the tech industry. It was in the late 1990s, the infancy of the “dot-com” era. I worked for Net Perception where I was doing B2B marketing for a recommendation software before Amazon’s “if you like this, then you’ll like this” software. My role was to be a liaison between businesses and the tech community. Because I was a marketer myself, I could speak to other marketers in language that would resonate with them because I understood their environment and objectives. It was really cool to be involved at the time the internet was beginning to transform marketing.
Describe your job in technology today.
After years of working in marketing and technology fields, I had an idea. I would be in the zone, zooming through projects, and I would come to a halt when searching for a file I needed to complete a task. I thought, “if only there were a search engine to make my work life easier.” That’s why my co-founder and chief product officer, Josh Topel, and I created our startup, Digitile. Digitile is a smart and easy-to-use search engine that quickly finds all your files stored in disparate drives such as Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive. As CEO, I work with businesses to reduce the challenges employees have finding files.
If there was point in your childhood when you first became interested in technology, describe that event or experience.
I can’t recall any points in my childhood, but during the advent of the internet, I was fortunate to be about eight years deep into my career. Society was being taken over by AOL and Netscape. I saw how society and businesses embraced this technology. Everything shifted from that point on. Companies and customers would interact completely different. I knew I had to be part of it.
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?
I was lucky to have excellent relationships with each of my managers over the years. I could pick up the phone now and call any one of them and have a great discussion about what’s happening in the market, trends, and compare and contrast our views. My managers have all been influential in their own ways, helping me mature into the professional I am today.
What do you love most about working in the tech world?
Technology is always changing. The agility and expansiveness of technology is what is exciting for me. New technology is introduced with such velocity. If you were to throw a bunch of darts against the wall, there are a handful of life-changing startups, software or products that stick. It used to be it was every decade there was a new technology that changed the way we work or live, but now it’s every five years, if not less. It’s so interesting to watch industry trends and see how companies try to keep up with consumer behavior, catching the right bandwagon without losing its core principles.
What do you believe is the biggest hurdle women face in pursuing a career in technology?
I was lucky, in my career I never experienced much adversity as a result of my gender. But many women aren’t recognized and aren’t promoted in this male-dominated industry. I think it’s hard for women to fit in as well, especially with a pervasive “bro-culture” where we often feel excluded. I believe that for women to play in this boys’ club, they have to find commonality with their peers to get their foot in the door initially. I was able to talk about sports and athletics because it just so happened that’s what I was interested in. Ladies, even if you’re the only woman in the room, you can still participate in conversations! Just like in any situation, you have to find common ground through being a little perceptive. I think that’s a simple way for women to push their way into the club.
Who in the tech field inspires you and why?
Elon Musk is such a visionary. I’m in awe of his ability to embrace the sky, but bring it down to a solid, achievable goal. He cuts through the noise with such innovative ideas. He’s the modern-day Thomas Edison; he will change the course of the world. I admire people that see the big visions, create a strategy and reach the intended outcome.
I am also struck by an anecdote from Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM. Rometty worked for a senior executive who was leaving his position and offered her his job. At the time, she felt she wasn’t ready for the job, she needed more time. She needed to go home and sleep on it. She discussed it with her husband who told her, “do you think a man would have answered that way?” Rometty said he was right. She was just as capable and could take on any job. I think that’s important. Women can’t second-guess themselves, they need to have confidence and take on new opportunities.
If you could give advice to other girls in tech, what would it be?
You have to be perceptive of your situation. I believe building a business commonality to talk about with your peers, then finding outside-of-work interests will keep women engaged in watercooler talk. If you’re in a negative environment and kept out of the men’s club, don’t just accept the situation for what it is. Pay attention and stay tuned in to social signals. You have to work hard to pick up on tells for how to play in the boardroom.