Deborah Jackson spent 21 years in the financial industry after she left Columbia Business School. Gradually, over 10 or 15 years, she began to suspect that her industry had stopped caring about solving problems.
She left Goldman in the 1990s for a boutique firm; she later launched a health-care technology investment banking practice. Her next itch to move was different — more existential. Shortly before the 2008 crisis, she left finance for good.
“It just lost its interest for me,” she said. “It just became work instead of enjoying what I was doing.”
When Jackson left Wall Street, she called it retirement. She day-traded to keep her brain engaged. But she knew she wanted to get back into the business world, somewhere she could solve problems again, where she could make a difference.
Then, in the course of some volunteer work, she started meeting female entrepreneurs, and she was taken with their ideas and energy. She co-founded an accelerator program for women building new mobile technologies. She helped organize an all-female “hackathon,” where programmers get together to build something cool from scratch. She rented a home in the Hamptons and invited 18 women, all skilled coders, to start at 10 p.m. on a Friday. They worked around the clock until 4 p.m. Sunday, building an interactive game to show the horrors of sex trafficking.
Finally, she hopped into the job-creation space. She founded Plum Alley, a company focused on spurring innovation and job creation among female entrepreneurs. It can help them find money to get started (through a six-step plan to tap potential donors in their social networks) and help them find customers (through an online shopping site). She hired three highly educated women, then four more. The company recently moved to an office on Park Avenue South.
Jackson had found the meaningful work she’d been looking for, using knowledge in finance to try to create value in the economy. She had taken a risk and started a business. She’s already thinking about expanding the company to help start-ups grow and thrive. “It kind of reminded me of the early days,” she said. Like back at Goldman, all those years ago. Solving problems.
Coming in Chapter 5: If the shoes don’t fit, find a better way to make them
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