Entrepreneur Anthony Gold talked dollars and cents at this month’s IEEE Women in Engineering Summit East in Philadelphia. While the summit was aimed at helping women in technology get ahead in their career, his session focused on salary negotiation. Gold gave more than just tips on how to boost earning potential—he also talked about ways to approach hiring managers with confidence and how to make sure you never get stuck in a job that doesn’t make you feel valued or fulfilled.
“I’ve been on both sides of the negotiating table,” he said at the session, explaining that he has been a hiring manager and a “shy, non-confrontational engineer.” Gold, a computer engineer, used to work for Unisys, a software company in Blue Bell, Pa. He left after 20 years and went on to found several companies, including his latest co-venture, ROAR for Good. The Philadelphia-based startup created Athena, wearable jewelry that can be clipped on a belt loop or attached as a necklace. The device is primarily designed to help women fend off attackers. It sounds an alarm when a button on its face is pressed and held for three seconds. It also sends a text message with the wearer’s GPS coordinates to people she’s designated through an app as her emergency contacts, alerting them she needs help. The company has raised more than US $250,000 on crowdfunding site IndieGogo, far exceeding its initial fundraising goal of $40,000. More than 2,200 people have preordered Athena, which costs $99 and will be shipped in May.
The Institute recently caught up with Gold to learn more about why he left a stable job to launch his own venture and some lessons he’s learned along the way.
How did your time at Unisys shape your career, and why did you ultimately leave?
I had the great fortune of working alongside some of the smartest minds in the world. While I loved the intellectual stimulation of designing supercomputers, I discovered that I really enjoyed the business side too. I had a chance to build a mini-startup inside Unisys that developed open-source software and services. Not only was I surrounded by incredible engineers, sales, and marketing folks, but we hit the market at the perfect time and grew that business very quickly. I left because I was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and wanted to find more ways I could leverage technology to solve compelling societal challenges.
What are some signs that it’s time for a career change?
My mantra is that life is too short to be in a job you don’t love or are unhappily unemployed. A famous Steve Jobs quote that has really stayed with me is: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? Whenever the answer has been ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
You had mentioned during your presentation that one of the worst ways to try landing a job is by applying online. Why is this?
When you apply online, you are competing with everyone else who is doing the same thing. Your likelihood of getting discovered using this approach is much lower than by getting connected to key people in the company, including the hiring manager or others in the department.
Believe it or not, it is much easier to make these connections and get discovered than you may think. If you don’t know anyone at the company, you can start by getting connected on social media. You can reach out to employees via their blog, LinkedIn or even follow the company on Twitter and Facebook so you can learn more about the organization and comment on its posts. The more you contribute in a powerful, relevant way, your odds for getting discovered (and getting your résumé read) dramatically increase.
What do you like most about being an entrepreneur?
Building startups is a ton of fun and a lot of work. The exciting part is the opportunity to think big and develop ideas that can truly change the world. Of course, the days are very long and resources oftentimes scarce—especially when you’re just getting started. But working on mission-driven initiatives like ROAR for Good is what keeps me going.
How did you and the cofounders of ROAR for Good come up with the idea for Athena?
Our mission is to empower women, reduce assaults, and thereby transform society. Every one of us knows someone—or is someone—who has been a victim of an assault. The statistics are horrifying. One in four women on a college campus in the United States will be sexually assaulted, according to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control. Another study done by the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault shows one out of five women have been a victim of rape or attempted rape. This is unacceptable, and ROAR is focused on developing solutions to help make a difference.
As we started researching existing self-defense weapons like pepper spray and tasers, we found that many women didn’t like them because they were intimidating and combative. Perhaps most disconcertingly, some women were concerned they might be overpowered, and their own self-defense weapon could be used against them. We developed this device as a nonviolent way to help deter attacks and immediately get help.
In addition to Athena, we are committed to getting to the root causes of violence against women. That’s why for every device purchased, we are investing a percentage of the proceeds into nonprofits that are teaching youth about empathy, respect, and healthy relationships—programs that have proven to reduce violence when they become adults. We want to not only imagine such a violence-free world, but also we want to help bring it one step closer to reality.