Take the Leap with Hannah Field

By
Sophia Witherington
February 10, 2021
Hannah Field

The Startmate Fellowship works to create pathways for talented women to find their sweet spot in a rocketship startup.

For Fellows, the program fast tracks your knowledge, network and presence in the startup world. The Fellowship connects you to a powerful network, works with you to translate your skills and experience into startups, and helps you land your dream job.  

By showcasing women who had taken leaps and risks in their career — from corporate to startup, or from one career into something seemingly unrelated — we hope to have inspired our broader community to join our Fellowship program.

Let’s hear directly from women in the ecosystem who took the leap, before anything like The Fellowship existed...

Originally from the US, Hannah started her career in the music industry, launching and managing a classical record label while freelancing as a violinist. It was a niche path that sated a lifelong passion, but she was itching for something bigger.

Fast forward a decade, and she’s been an operator in three global unicorns (Pandora Radio, Dropbox and Canva) and is now an investor at Australian venture capital firm, Tempus Partners.

What was attractive about climbing the corporate ladder? What do you miss?

It’s impossible to answer because I’ve never climbed the corporate ladder!

There have been times in my life when I envied my friends who did -- they had significantly better salaries and greater predictability and stability in their jobs. I thought they had it all figured out.

But on reflection, I have no regrets about the zigs and zags I’ve made. It has facilitated adventures I never thought possible in my life, and has taught me an extraordinary amount about my appetite for risk, capacity to adapt, and penchant for exploration.

At what point did you decide to take the leap?

My big jump was from the world of music (i.e. the record label) to tech.

During and straight out of college, I was immersed in the world of classical music, where everyone knew everyone and the rate of change in the industry was imperceptible. I felt bored and suffocated and that turned into unhappiness. I was desperate to break out of the bubble, uncertain of how, but recognised that a pivotal life change required a leap.

So I quit the label in Boston, sold my belongings, packed up my car and drove across the US to San Francisco. I had no job and a couple months of runway to figure it out.

It was the best decision I ever made, and gave me the courage to make even bolder decisions in the years after.  

How have your career goals evolved throughout your career?

Honestly, I didn’t have career goals when I finished college, and have never set out long term professional goals. What I have optimised for is insane amounts of learning, pushing myself into radically new contexts and experiences (countries, companies, communities), and being a good human within the circles I operate.

Life is too short to spend it engineering outcomes for the sake of status, title, or ‘feeling important’.

I want to be the master of my own adventure, not owned by traditional career paradigms or expectations.

How did you land a startup job?

I didn’t know anything about the tech and startup world when I ran the record label, so am fortunate to have landed at Pandora via a schoolmate’s introduction. I’ve since recognised the power of community, and have worked extremely hard to build out my personal surface area.

Every job I’ve secured has been through a touch point (often multiple degrees away), and I wouldn’t be here without the generosity of countless individuals who have given their time to support me along the way.

It has instilled in me a deep conviction in giving back to ‘community’ — wherever or whatever that may be — and why I am excited about programs like the Fellowship.

Who have been your mentors?

I am grateful to have had wonderful mentors and advocates throughout my career.

My longest-time mentor is an exec I met while at Pandora. I was antsy about what I wanted to do next and asked him for coffee and advice. One thing led to another and we were meeting on a regular basis.

Ed supported me through a period of self-learning and discovery, and helped me understand what I valued in work, life and the kinds of people I wanted to surround myself with. It wasn’t long after that I ended up at Dropbox during its crazy period of hyper-growth.

That was a decade ago, and we still keep in touch after all these years.

What advice do you have for people wanting to make a change?

1. Know your competitive advantage

Understand your points of differentiation and optimise for organisations and teams that value your strengths, while always remaining open to learning and expanding your skill set along the way.

2. When doors open, walk through them

I’ve had such rich life experiences because I put my hand up for opportunities that didn’t always look lucrative, sexy or ‘important’, but evolved into once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

Don’t be afraid to make bold and unconventional moves. I promise, it will accelerate your learning and enrich your life beyond what you ever imagined!

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