Kara Nortman: VP, Urbanspoon; SVP, CityGrid Media

Kara Nortman

Meet one of Little PINK Book’s Top Women in Technology 2012

By Caroline Cox

Kara Nortman has quite the (virtual) Rolodex of big-name sites she’s worked with: Urbanspoon, Insider Pages and Citysearch, to name a few. As SVP of CityGrid Media, an online media company connecting web and mobile publishers with local ad organizations, she oversees publishing on the brand’s consumer sites, manages the P&L and charts the growth of sites and their content.

Education: Princeton University, Stanford University

Other work experience: Morgan Stanley, Microsoft

LPB: Where did you get your passion for technology?

KN: I was always interested in science. My Dad was a nephrologist, so I spent a good portion of my youth doing things like osmosis experiments to understand how the [kidney] worked. I also had an early interest in telecom, which I was exposed to through my uncle, Richard Karp, who was working at Stanford when they were sending emails for the first time from these massive machines. I definitely think it runs in the family!

LPB: What was the biggest career obstacle you faced?

KN: Growing up fast enough to fill the role that I landed in due partly to talent and partly to luck. I joined Battery Ventures in 1999 at 23 and got two board seats by 24. With one of the companies, the partner had so much going on that I became the firm’s lead investment professional. I had some hard tasks, like firing a CEO in his 50’s.

LPB: What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

KN: I did crew in college. I was part of a team at Princeton that won two national championships. I hadn’t rowed before but I walked onto the crew team, hung on, often by a thread, and made it through four years. Some of the best friends of my life today came from that experience. Second, I am known amongst my family and friends for a patented dance move that has been coined “the move.” My husband and I integrated into the first dance at our wedding.

LPB: How can more women be successful in the technology field?

KN: There are always opportunities to be a great team player and to act like a leader even if you’re not. Lead by example, doing without being asked and engaging your peers productively towards a goal. People who move up are the people who fill the role they want to have. The flip side of that is that many people feel uncomfortable when they get promoted into a role above colleagues. You want to be sensitive and garner people’s respect, but you cannot be hesitant. Set boundaries for the people you manage. You don’t always need to be liked – you need to be respected.

LPB: What’s your success secret?

KN: Success starts with intrinsic passion. I love the dynamism of technology and working with consumer brands. Sometimes work still feels like work, but I love what I do, which I think always makes you more successful. My first job out of college was in the private equity group at Morgan Stanley. At the welcome dinner I mentioned to a senior employee that I was interested in telecom and technology. Back then, that was an unsexy part of private equity. By taking initiative and being tenacious, I became the go-to expert in those areas, which helped lead to my next job as an associate at a VC firm. I spent days cold-calling CEOs after reading through tech magazines before the Internet became what it is.

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