Heather Hiles said her mom had one job for 35 years. Hiles said she will probably have 35 jobs by the time she’s done. From that statement, one might think she has a commitment issue, but that is anything but the case.
The Pathbrite CEO graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1990 and took several years to venture through the public sector and work in public affairs. In fact, she said she tried to work in every sector of the PA field. She worked for CORO, a leadership training company; PG&E; a high school job training group; and a rapid response team for the first Clinton/Gore presidential campaign.
Hiles soon decided to advance her education with a master’s degree, but only applied to one business school: Yale University. She was accepted in 1994 and graduated in 1995.
“I didn’t have the understanding of finance,” she said. “Yale had an emphasis on all sectors from a finance perspective.”
She began her career at a consulting firm where she offered financial services and consultations to banks and high net-worth individuals. Her understanding of the financial side of business continued to grow through her continual financial projections, assessments, and planning. Soon her company was bought out and she decided to start her own company – SFWorks.
SFWorks helped place women on welfare onto a career path. The non-governmental organization soon grew to a $10 million per year budget and much of the success could be traced back to her time at Yale University.
“It’s been critical,” she said. “The classes prepared me. I’m using so much of what I learned in business school.”
Hiles career and leadership in the business field has grown from SFWorks into the education field as well, including being the former Commissioner of San Francisco Unified School District; COO – Break the Cycle, a K-3rd grade tutorial program; and currently serves on the board of Leadership Public Schools. She also was the Executive Director of Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund; CEO of Hiles Group, a philanthropy consultancy firm; Co-Founder of EARN, an individual development accounts program; and also currently serves on the board of the Social Venture Network, the Liberian Women’s Sewing Project, and three startup companies.
She said it’s not enough to just know about business, but people have to be willing to share their knowledge. She referenced EARN in regards to sharing business knowledge.
“[EARN] helps people save for assets,” she said. “People who would come to us wouldn’t have checking accounts or never walked into a bank. They didn’t know how to save money. You can go through college and not know a single thing in finance. Bringing people along is really important.”
She said it’s good to learn business but it’s even more insightful to have physically experienced the business.
“Someone asked me how I know all this stuff,” she said. “By doing.”
Even those who are on her boards – startups or the private or public organizations – she continues to train and teach from the perspective of finance. She said she tries to convey whatever knowledge she has to her team members and other people in general and has made it obvious in her social works.
She was scheduled to speak at Stanford University, July 5, on the topic of the entrepreneurial mindset. Possibly the largest part of that mindset is the creation of startups – something she said she gets a lot of enjoyment out of.
“For some of us, it’s just in our blood,” she said. “I like to create. Seeing [the startup] be born and then come to fruition and then see people enjoy it. Seeing employees making careers out of it – there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.”
One of those startups is Pathbrite, an online company that helps people – students and career-seekers – format their lives into interactive portfolios. Instead of a resume written on a Word document, individuals can organize their life through video, audio, and still images in order to paint a better picture of who they are.
Hiles believes people are more interesting than what a few bullet points and paragraphs can lead someone to believe.
“Today’s life feels like a series of evaluations,” she said. “We’re learning and creating so much so prolifically. Today’s students are engineers, but they’re all over the place and they have so much they know. They have a lot of experience to bring to the table.”
She said this is why Pathbrite was created. In regards to her 35 jobs, she said she thinks she’s experiencing what is normal. But how much do people really get to know about someone? They have all of these experiences and all of this knowledge, but who knows about it? Pathbrite allows for people to show themselves in a clean, three-dimensional format.
“People can’t tell what I’ve done by Facebook or at the superficial level on LinkedIn,” she said. “[On Pathbrite] you get a holistic sense of who I am and what I’m about. It’s for all walks of life. You can now have access to the best technology and put your best foot forward.”
Hiles will be the first to admit that she still needs expert advice on business related topics. She’ll also admit that she’s the type to never stop learning. She said it’s what she tells students all the time – that learning is a return on investment and that return comes back when they grow up to realize their dreams and goals.
“You can have a lot of ideas,” she said, “but you have to execute. I think a lot of the skills needed to execute have to have education around them.”
-Dustin Bass, @dbass_cmn