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Long Journey Over 20 Years: Paula Tompkins, CEO of ChannelNet (Part 1)

Posted on Monday, Jun 13th 2016

Paula Tompkins started her bootstrapped digital marketing venture in 1985. She has navigated massive industry level shifts, three significant downturns, and has managed to remain relevant. The company today does $20M+ in annual revenue.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?

Paula Tompkins: I was born and raised in Huntington, West Virginia. I was the first of my family to be college-educated. I went to Marshall University. It was a local university in my hometown. I graduated with a Business degree in 1974. My mother was a hairdresser. My father owned a shoe store. My father was a first generation Lebanese. My mother has a multi-generational Irish-English-Welsh background.

Sramana Mitra: What did you do after college?

Paula Tompkins: I was recruited off campus by the Bank of New York. At that time, they were very interested in bringing in minorities and women to the work force. That was 1974. I joined their commercial lending training program and spent a year with college graduates that had come out of Yale, Harvard, and Princeton. Here I was a young lady who had lived her entire life in West Virginia. It was a dramatic change for me.

Living in New York city for the first six months was really miserable. Every day, I wanted to go home. Going from a town of 60,000 to to a city of 8 million was a bit of a shock. I was with some of my friends in Central Park on July 4, 1975 when Bernstein was conducting the 1812 Overture. The fireworks were going off and I said, “I’m going to beat this city.” I went on to be very successful working on Wall Street. I went to work for 3M.

Sramana Mitra: What did you do at Wall Street?

Paula Tompkins: Commercial lending training. Then I went to work for 3M. I decided that banking wasn’t my interest. It was a little bit too conservative for me. I liked being out. I joined 3M and was the first woman in the original division of 3M – the industrial abrasives division. My territory was the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and Long Island. I went around to all sorts of factories in the New York metro area. I saw everything from F15s to baby grand pianos being manufactured. It was quite interesting. Then I decided to go West and I took on a job with General Electric. I moved to Silicon Valley in 1979. I worked there until I went to work for my first startup.

Sramana Mitra: What year was that?

Paula Tompkins: 1981.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Long Journey Over 20 Years: Paula Tompkins, CEO of ChannelNet
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