070: Culture, Core Values and Atlanta's Tech Boom with Karen Houghton of Atlanta Tech Village



Meet Karen Houghton, VP of Atlanta Tech Village. As one of the first team members, Karen has helped transform a massive empty space into the fourth largest startup hub in the country. Karen believes in intentional culture and creating a space for everyone at the table. Karen proves you don t need to move to California to launch a successful startup. We hope you enjoy her interview as much as we did.

Welcome to Episode 70 of the Executive Minds Podcast

Links + Resources:

Karen on Twitter

Atlanta Tech Village

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Good to Great by Jim Collins

Three takeaways:

1. You can t build a happy community if you aren t intentional about culture.

Atlanta Tech Village a community of startups together in one building is a place where failure is seen as a learning opportunity, successes are celebrated and the cutthroat, competitive world of tech startups is friendly, encouraging and supportive. This kind of community didn t (and can t) happen by accident. It happened because of clearly defined core values and a vetting process to make sure each business and leader who joins the space is the right fit. Every company has a culture, whether you create it or not; but, great companies are intentional.

2. There s room for everyone.

The tech world is notoriously competitive. When 9 out of 10 startups fail within the first 3 years, it can feel like anyone doing anything similar to you is a threat, an enemy. But when you embrace people in your field, you can grow, learn and celebrate together. Everyone will be happier, we promise.

3. Your career might not be a ladder, it might be a jungle gym.

Karen describes her career journey the way that Sheryl Sandberg does:

“Ladders are limiting people can move up or down, on or off. Jungle gyms offer more creative exploration. There’s only one way to get to the top of a ladder, but there are many ways to get to the top of a jungle gym. The jungle gym model benefits everyone, but especially women who might be starting careers, switching careers, getting blocked by external barriers, or reentering the workforce after taking time off. The ability to forge a unique path with occasional dips, detours, and even dead ends presents a better chance for fulfillment. Plus, a jungle gym provides great views for many people, not just those at the top.” Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In

You don t have to climb and climb and climb a career ladder which maybe leads to reaching the top after 20 years. You can move around the jungle gym, left and right, up and down; and, when you reach the end of what you’re working on, you go to whatever interests you next. In a jungle gym, there s lots of opportunities to explore and many different ways to get where you want to go.