In our Women in Web interview series, Meta Q meets up with women around the world to find out more about their path, their passion and how they think the web industry could improve. We’ll be sharing insight from the bright minds of female designers, developers, architects, strategists and business owners.
Our latest interview is with online strategist and communications specialist Jen Frazier. Frazier is president of Firefly Partners, a website design company focused on small to mid-sized nonprofit organizations. Jen has managed and directed hundreds of online campaigns and is a nationally recognized expert in best practices of online engagement. After years of working with Planned Parenthood and heading Firefly Partners, Jen is well-versed in the needs and realities of smaller nonprofit organizations. Jen is Board Member Emeritus at Idealware and a frequent speaker in the nonprofit technology and communications space.
MQ: Tell us about your work in 140 characters or less.
JF: I help nonprofits further their missions online with exceptional strategy, compelling communications, and engaging websites.
MQ: How/why did you get into the web industry? Why do you stick with it?
“A career in technology looked more promising than either Starbucks or many more years of academia.”
JF: I grew up around computers and technology. My mother worked at Hewlett-Packard and my father ran his own computer shop. So I fell into it naturally. I branched out and got a liberal arts degree but soon realized that I had an aptitude for the technology industry. The web was just picking up as I got out of college in 1994 and a career in technology looked more promising than either Starbucks or many more years of academia. I started doing IT and hardware work but soon realized that the web was where I wanted to focus my energies. It has proved to be challenging and interesting. I am continually learning and experiencing new things. The constantly evolving nature of the web is what keeps me sticking with it.
MQ: What was your first web-related job? What was that like?
JF: My first real web-related job was at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. It was the perfect job of technology and web mixed with politics and feminism. In many ways it was a dream job for me. I started there in 1999 as a Membership Manager and my task was to increase our email list and manage all of our online advocacy and outreach. There were no email-a-senator campaigns at the time. People were still using blast fax or phone campaigns as a means to reach legislators and to raise awareness of public policy issues. From 1999 until 2007, I went through many iterations at PPFA and was working with many of the leaders of the tech and web industry for nonprofits. We started working on ways to email constituents and allow them to reply to their email and have it generate a fax and then later an email to a selected target. Seems pretty basic today but it was huge in 2000. It was a lot of hard work and a lot of fun. Through the years I became even more entrenched in web work, databases, CRM tools and more. That work very much laid the foundation for the work I do now at Firefly with other nonprofits.
MQ: What does a typical workday look like for you?
JF: On a day to day basis, I spend most of my time working on new business opportunities for Firefly. My duties are diverse as President, but I typically spend time on new business, internal operations, financials and HR related items. We have been lucky to grow Firefly to 15 employees and we keep getting stronger as a company. This allows me to focus my attention on industry trends, developing strong relationships with other partners in the nonprofit and technology space, and really making sure Firefly is doing all we can to help small and mid-sized nonprofits utilize available technology effectively.
MQ: How do you stay passionate about your work? What do you do to refocus when you're having a bad day?
JF: That is easy. We work with so many great organizations that do such great work so it is pretty easy to feel good about what I do every day. I like the direct service work, but I love that I get to go to work every day knowing I am helping so many organizations do their part to make the world a better place.
Bad days still come along and when they do, I focus my energy on all of the things that are going well and what Firefly is accomplishing. It doesn’t take long to get back into a positive space when thinking about all of the positive work we are doing.
MQ: Do you think women face different challenges than men in the web industry? How so?
“Unfortunately, women continue to face sexism and discriminatory behavior in all industries.”
JF: That is an intriguing question. I don’t think that women face different challenges overall in this industry more than any other. In fact, the web industry provides a bit of anonymity in that a given design or a particularly cool app or clever development feat could just as easily have been done by a woman or a man. The work speaks for itself first, not the gender of the creator. That said, unfortunately, women continue to face sexism and discriminatory behavior in all industries. While we pay our staff equally for the same work, I am sure that across all positions, women still have lower pay than their male counterparts. I am fortunate to follow my passions of women’s equality, doing good in the world, and technology, and have them all come together in a rewarding career.
If I could change one thing about the web industry it would be:
JF: Honestly, I am not sure I would change anything about the web industry. I like the innovation and the excitement and to see the ways in which it can improve people’s lives. I guess if I could change one thing, I would stop the web hackers and the people who use it for evil purposes. I could extrapoloate that to everything: I wish most people would live their lives for the greater good rather than selfish greed or harm.
My favorite website/web project I worked on is:
“Putting power in the hands of the people is what I like to see.”
My favorite website/web project someone else did is:
JF: I like CrowdRise. Putting power in the hands of the people is what I like to see.
If I had one piece of advice for a woman trying to break into the web industry it would be:
JF: Follow your heart. That is the advice I give everyone in any industry. If you follow your heart and follow your passion, things will find a way to work themselves out.