Last month, I had the opportunity to sit down with Mariel Devesa, who had just joined tech startup Phyn as Global Head of Business Development. In the first half of our interview, we covered the basics:
Where was she born? Argentina (she moved to the United States at age one).
Where did she go to school? She has a bachelor’s degree from UCLA.
What positions did she hold before starting work at Phyn? Mariel was a competitive athlete as a windsurfer, worked at companies like Deloitte & Touche, Redbull, and Herbalife, and was working at Farmers Insurance as Head of Innovation before moving to Phyn this summer.
It was this last question that really caught my attention. How does one go from working as a sponsored athlete to being Global Head of Business Development at a Los Angeles County tech startup, and what skills and lessons did she bring with her along the way?
An Introduction to Phyn
Mariel explained that one of the things that attracted her to Phyn was how advanced their technology is. Phyn is a Torrance startup focusing on smart water management technology.
The Phyn Plus, Phyn’s first product, aims to enable to customers to “speak the language of water” by providing technology that monitors the water use in their homes or commercial buildings. To learn the basics of Phyn’s background, read our article on their technology here.
Working at a Startup
Mariel has an entrepreneurial background, her family having roots in real estate. To Mariel, working at a startup provides a higher level of agility in her work. She explained, “If you need something done, you just get it done.”
Phyn still has fewer than 50 employees, allowing her to work very closely with the product team. As Mariel put it, “Product is my next door neighbor, finance is my other next door neighbor, and [our desks are] six inches apart.”
The Makings of a Self-Starter
During her late teen years, Mariel’s involvement in competitive windsurfing resulted in a turning point for her confidence. She needed a way to finance her sports career, compelling her to network with companies (local and global) in order to source sponsorships. These endeavors were ultimately successful, as she put together multi-year sponsorships with companies like Redbull.
This wasn’t an easy feat, though. Mariel recounted her experience with shyness and rejection, “It was like a game for me. I’d walk into a room and say: I’m going to get this person to say yes. Even though 50 people are going to say no, that 51st person is going to say yes.” Books acted as a source of motivation for the young businesswoman, specifically, Harvey Mackay’s works, Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive and Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt.
Mariel’s curiosity and drive are key to her work, as she has switched industries and business departments multiple times throughout her career. Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, refers to modern careers as “not a ladder,” but “a jungle gym.” Sandberg describes this as people who “look for opportunities, look for growth, look for impact, look for mission. Move sideways, move down, move on, move off. Build [their] skills, not [their] resume. Evaluate what [they] can do, not the title they’re going to give you. Do real work.” Devesa is a model example of this metaphor.
Actions at Phyn
It has now been just over a month since Mariel started work at Phyn, and you can be sure that the LA Startups team will be keeping up with the actions she is taking to maximize Phyn’s international growth through consumer education and global partnerships.
For more information on Mariel Devesa, you can visit her page on LinkedIn here.