Employee Spotlight: The Mac Hess Secret Sauce for Start-Up Career Success
For all of March we’re continuing to celebrate International Women’s Day, a global movement honoring the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.
We earlier profiled Courtney Laabs (COO, mother, triathlete, and entrepreneur extraordinaire) and three of the women who help make and manage the revolutionary Neuro-ID technology. For this final post in the series, we talked to Neuro-ID wunderkind Mac Hess to get her recipe for success in the world of start-ups.
“I thrive in weird chaos,” says Mac Hess, Director of Digital Marketing at Neuro-ID. “I’ll never jump out of a plane, but I am a special kind of adrenaline junkie for the organized chaos of well-run start-ups.”
While plane-jumping isn’t Mac’s risk of choice, she is no stranger to leaps of faith. After starting her career out at large corporate companies, Mac felt stifled by their red tape and molasses energy. So she quit her Big Corporate Job with nothing else lined up, simply because she knew she wanted more: more responsibilities, more high-quality output, and a more dynamic vision from leadership.
“Yeah, I don’t really recommend it,” Mac says now, about her choice to jump from the corporate world without a safety net. “But I fell into start-up life, so it worked out great in the end!”
As an only-to-a-point-adrenaline-junkie, Elle Woods acolyte, and wunderkind Director on the cusp of the Gen-Z/Millennial generational divide, Mac has carved out a young and thriving career in start-ups through a little bit of luck, a lot of focus, and a secret sauce flavored by a few key ingredients.
Secret Ingredient 1:
Generous Splash Of “Being Annoying”
“I’m super nosey,” says Mac. “I always tell any beginning professionals, just be curious and stick your nose wherever the heck you can! Embrace being annoying!”
This “annoying” curiosity has been a compass that guided Mac throughout her professional life, which wasn’t mapped for marketing. “None of my college time was spent in any sort of marketing class,” she says. “I just loved learning about people.” Those instincts for people—what compels them to act, how to best understand their needs, and the psychology behind their choices—led Mac to an internship and then a full career in the marketing field, where her focus is all about connecting the digital to the personal.
Secret Ingredient 2:
Sprinkle Of Strong Leadership
Mac had a few start-up gigs before landing at Neuro-ID in October 2021, where she currently runs the digital operations and strategy for the growing marketing team. The biggest thing those roles had in common was strong leadership.
“When looking at a role, I always look for cool leaders,” says Mac. “I know that’s key to not just my professional growth, but my satisfaction as an individual contributor. The leadership was what attracted me to my Neuro-ID job, and it’s still a huge part of why I love working here and in start-ups in general.”
Prior to Neuro-ID, Mac was the second marketing hire at Silvertrac. “My boss, Johnny, just trusted me. There wasn’t pointless red tape and there weren’t rounds and rounds of ego-driven approval processes, just really smart people trusted to do their jobs. That was my first real taste of start-up culture. It was exciting. And we built this crazy powerhouse of a marketing team.”
In the theme of “Break the Bias” for International Women’s Day, the idea of leaders who trust and empower is even more relevant. “I’ll never forget a conversation I had with Michael Sirota, the Neuro-ID Head of Revenue Operations, shortly after he started,” says Mac. “He stopped me mid-conversation and said You need to stop saying sorry. You’re very smart and we understand what you’re saying. It was the first time that I had someone of that caliber see who I am in that way and honor what I brought to the table, and even emphasize that while he may be a higher-up, we’re on the same playing field figuring stuff out together. That will always stick with me. And that kind of leader and mentor is only found at start-ups with a culture like Neuro-ID.”
Secret Ingredient 3:
Undiluted Heaping Helping Of Your Genuine Self
“The people I’ve met at start-ups are so unique,” says Mac. “We are like-minded individuals who are nothing alike.” That authenticity and uniqueness of vision is part of what Mac has learned to both contribute to and take from start-up culture, especially as a woman. “In a culture where everyone is just really curious and goal-minded, there should be no patience for bias,” says Mac. “You have to immediately learn to trust each other. I think it’s different for the current generation of women professionals, as we’ve evolved beyond needing to fight so much for that space. But sometimes there’s still an old-school mentality in corporate life. And stepping into start-up life with a lot of these very empowering leaders who embraced me for who I am—and part of who I am is a woman—felt drastically different.”
One of Mac’s earliest role models embodied this energy of unapologetic womanhood: the character Elle Woods from the movie Legally Blonde. In the classic 90’s movie, Elle derived her strength from her traditionally feminine pursuits, not in spite of them—a game-changer for young Mac, who saw Elle as an early feminist icon.
“I wanted to be Elle Woods for years. She was groundbreaking because she respected her femininity while being a badass. And I still love that. I’m not good at my job because I’m a woman, but being a woman is part of who I am and that has its own strength every day.”
Want To Join Mac At Neuro-ID?
We’re looking for awesome people who can jump into their roles with enthusiasm, expertise, and Elle Woods-esque energy. Sound like you? Check out our openings here.