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Peter loves data, startups and music

I had an amazing lunch with Peter Marinari today. Peter is someone who can cover an intense amount of topics in a 45 minute lunch. I knew I liked Peter the moment I first met him. He has a big personality, always thinks the best of people and consistently gets more stuff done in a day than most people do in a week.

We started lunch by talking about his recent trip to San Francisco for an RJMetrics customer event. He spent a day relaxing in Palo Alto, then emceed the event held at New Relic’s head office. Listening to him talk about how well the event got me all excited about my work, as well. Every day this week, I’ve talked to someone that is clearly sold on the idea of events being an important part of their business. Obviously, this feels great.

Peter is a great person to talk to about career trajectory. He’s spent time thinking about where he is at in his career, where he’d like to get and what he needs to do to get there. I get the feeling he’s spent as much time thinking about that for each member of his team, as well. We discussed a Seth Godin video that everyone at my work is thinking about (Lizard Brain, if you’re wondering).  It is both reassuring and energizing to speak to people at other startups about how work is going.

In addition to work, we talked about Peter’s music and where he’s at with it right now. I’m so impressed that he can juggle working at a busy startup, a toddler and being a musician, which isn’t an insignificant time commitment.

We ate at HipCityVeg, a great to-go lunch spot in Rittenhouse. We both grabbed salads and sat in the park, today was the perfect day for it.


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Chrisse talks tickets, running and toddlers

I had lunch with Chrisse Dragon today – we both ate a quick, late lunch by the windows in the office. Chrisse is the Director of Customer Success at Ticketleap and does an amazing job. She knows everything you can possibly imagine about ticketing (ok, that’s not the *coolest* thing ever, but for where we work, it’s pretty important). She’s also really great at talking to people on the phone (also good considering her job). One of the reasons I enjoy working with Chrisse is that she’s a very empathetic team member. She’s pretty good at reading how the team is feeling and knowing what to do about it. Maybe I should copy/paste all of this as a LinkedIn recommendation?

I used to be the first person in the office every day, but Chrisse has taken over that role pretty much all the time. That means she makes the first pot of coffee most days, so it is important to be on her good side (or at least, very important to me). In addition to being the first one in every day, she also often works out at lunch. Over the summer, we went running a couple of times together (she’s fast, it hurt and I really didn’t even keep up). We both also participated in the go-to-the-gym-across-the-street club, even though that gym is terrible. Since (I’m lazy and) Mike is on research this year, I don’t need to workout at lunch all the time. Pretty sure Chrisse is still going strong on that though.

Chrisse has one of the best last names ever and we often refer to her in office as Mother of Dragon, since she has a son. We talked about Halloween costumes for our kids and also some general, “Are we doing this parenting thing correctly?” that often seem to come up in the Ticketleap office. I can’t tell if we’re all terrible parents, or just more self-aware than other parents I meet.

Since we started working together, I’ve learned several things about Chrisse. She’s from NEPA, which I didn’t even know was a thing, she’s very competitive about everything she does while being a good sport and she takes her birthday off from work every year.

While I ate a sad, sad salami-on-Taffet’s sandwich, Chrisse ate some pretty amazing looking takeout.


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Juliana Reyes reports on tech and records her dreams

Today, I had a great lunch with Juliana Reyes at Gavin’s Cafe. Because I’m a numpty, I forgot to take her picture and had to ask her to send one to me.

We started off by discussing how she ended up a and what it was like to jump right into the deep end of the tech scene. I was new to Philly, but not new to tech/startups. She was new to tech/startups, but has been in the area for a while. We both felt pretty welcome, although it seems like a long time ago now!

Juliana recently started a series on on tech people talking about everything else in their lives. I think it is the best idea and asked her how she came up with it. She said she hates meeting people and being at a loss for what to talk to them about. This series is her solution to that. Meeting someone and already knowing a little about what they love to do makes it easy to having a meaningful conversation with them.
Perfect segue…

One of the reasons why I wanted to have lunch with Juliana was to ask her about a cool project she’s working on. She’s been writing dream poetry and, with her roommate, started making short films about them. She posted one on Twitter and I thought it was pretty neat. It seemed like a cool side project she was doing because she loved it — I wish there was more room in the world for projects like this. She said at the moment, she doesn’t have plans to do anything more with it other than to make more short films.

I asked about what Juliana took in school and she said she graduated from Linguistics. I appreciated our discussion about college/university, as it seems pretty similar to my experience. I went to drink and to figure out who I was as a person. I left with a degree and somehow ended up as an employable human. Although I admire people that go in knowing exactly what they are going to get out of a post-secondary education, I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything.


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Lisa Wu loves her job, travels well and apple picking

Lisa Wu

I had lunch with this amazing lady yesterday. It was a holiday, so there was booze involved. We met at Jones, a place I have a love/hate relationship with. Something always just feels a bit off there…but they have tots so I inevitably keep going back.

Lisa works at J&J and I’m always impressed by the way she talks about what she does. She loves her job and her coworkers. She spends her days organizing clinical trials. I can’t even imagine how much work goes into her job and I get the impression she is very good at it (from her coworkers, not just hearing that from Lisa, haha). Her job is probably not a great for someone that isn’t into details.

We spent a large part of lunch discussing the one week safari in Africa, plus one week diving in The Maldives trip she and her husband just went on. If you’re ever wondering how much you can pack into one vacation, or how far away you can go in a limited amount of time, talk to Lisa. Her recreational travel schedule is impressive and neither Lisa nor her husband are shy about getting on long flights for a weekend trip.

Over lunch we also discussed the optimal fall weekend for apple picking, what the eff you do once you pick a bunch of apples and when we should next convene for cocktails at our (what I think of as) secret location, the outdoor garden at M hotel. Hello, gin list!


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Michaelangelo Ilagan runs, eats tacos and loves Philly


I met @MikeyIl (and let him know we only refer to him as MikeyIl in the office) for lunch at Buena Onda today. He has a plan to meet 100 people for lunch and document each one. I thought it was a cool idea, so I’m copying it, starting with today’s lunch! I’m not sure I can meet people for lunch every day, but I’m making it my own and aiming for 3 lunches per week.

As we ordered, he mentioned he normally eats what I would consider to be two lunches because he’s been running a crazy amount lately. Over the last few years, he’s gone from not-a-runner to finding his groove and really getting in a huge number of miles every month.

After we ordered, we mostly talked about work, with a few random questions I had sprinkled in. I was interested in the dynamic of what it’s like to work at a smaller company, but be in a huge corporate office all day. He is a front end web developer for Think Brownstone and is contracted out to Comcast. MikeyIl says he likes how they work together. He gets all of the benefits of working at a smaller company, a great team culture, etc. but also has the stability and predictability (in a good way) of working at a large company. He said before working at Comcast, he had no idea just how many people could all work on the same website. It’s pretty crazy when you think about it.

MikeyIl seems to be connected to everything in Philadelphia, so I asked him about how he gets involved in stuff. He said if it has a social network, he’s on it, although he doesn’t actively contribute to the same things year over year. I told him my story of getting fired from Yelp Elite. He then definitely one upped my story by telling me about how he originally met Allison Hartman (I credit her with helping me get a job a Ticketleap) by trying to set The Trestle Inn on fire at a Yelp Elite party.

MikeyIl has just finished up Geekadelphia’s Geek Awards for the year, and I was excited to talk to him about how things went. Events are hard work and The Geek Awards is all done by volunteers. They used Ticketleap for ticketing this year and I’m looking forward to showing off some new stuff we’re working on to The Geek Awards when they are ready to ramp up again next year.

When I talk to anyone that’s from Philadelphia, I always want to ask them all of their favorite spots (and other questions, like, “Do you know where to go hiking?”). I settled on asking about a brunch spot I’d seen him post about (Fourth and Cross). It’s kind of weird when you follow people on social media. You know weird details about their lives, then have to either pretend like you don’t, or just be comfortable asking questions that would otherwise be awkward. “I stalk all brunch photos and was hoping to get your opinion on a restaurant.” would be one of those awkward questions. Lunch #1 was a success, even though I forgot to take a photo until after we ate.


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Alex Hillman loves Philly, co-working and HTML

Alex is the first person I’ve connected with in Philadelphia! He co-founded the co-working space Indy Hall and works in a strategic role on a number of projects. 


Sarah: Alex, can you tell us a little about what you do for a living?

Alex: I’ve made a weird transition from developer into a pretty cool strategic role. Because I’ve been working in tech for almost 15 years, I tend to work with companies that are utilizing technology as a primary component of their business, but the companies are very different. In the last year I’ve worked with a top-tier advertising agency (helping develop their interactive department and strategy), a multi-million dollar t-shirt company (leading the in-housing of their entire technology stack), a few software product companies and teams, including Wildbit – the makers of popular products like Beanstalk and Postmark.

Exactly what I do for these companies varies a bit, but the consistent element is that I’m focused on helping them grow. Usually, it means assessing the company’s strengths and assets and looking for ways to reassemble them to help the company grow. This means I’m looking for sustainable, exponential growth patterns that don’t require excessive outside resources or intensive spending. The fun part is that because I’ve got a tech and development background, I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty and write some code if it helps. 

I tend to operate best as a hired gun: though most of the teams I work with now are long-term arrangements, none of them are full time. This lets me get all sorts of dirt under my fingernails, and if I’m doing a particularly good job…I’m making myself obsolete. 

Sarah: In addition to that, you co-founded that co-working space, Indy Hall. How did that come about?

 Alex: When I struck out on my own as a freelance web dev in 2006, I was working from home. I quickly realized that wasn’t going to last long. I didn’t miss going into work, but I did miss having coworkers. I met some folks that were doing the earliest experimentation with coworking in San Francisco, and figured, hey, that sounds pretty rad. I’ll move out there!

When I failed an attempt to move to SF, it was an inflection point. Why was I leaving Philly again? It wasn’t for the job, or the money, or even the weather. It was for likeminded culture and a “place” where I felt I belonged. Well…if I could find that in Philly, I wouldn’t need to leave!

So I started going to every event I could find. User groups. Meetups. Happy hours. You name it. I was looking for anyone in Philly who was doing cool, interesting, creative things because that’s what I wanted to do! What I found wasn’t just people doing cool, interesting, creative things…but I found that they were looking for other people too! So Indy Hall started like more of a club than a coworking space. Over time, we started working together, even if we weren’t working on the same things. Just being in proximity to one another once a week or so was great. 

When we got to enough people, I said, “hey…we could do this every day if this club had a clubhouse!” and we started working together towards opening our first office. Inside of 18 months that office was completely full and we had a waiting list. This drove us to expand into a ~4500 square foot location where we are today, which is home to over 100 members on our active monthly roster and many more friends who visit and drop in when they can.   

Sarah: What do you think is the most important thing about finding a good co-working space?

Alex: It’s ALL about the people. A good coworking community is going to be your tribe. People should be interacting with one another. It should feel warm and fun. You should be able to feel productive, but not constrained. You should feel at home. 

I’ve become convinced that people don’t really want a better place to work…they just want better coworkers. Coworking provides that far better than it provides the amenities you think you need.

Sarah: You must get to interact with plenty of companies in Philadelphia. What’s hot there right now?

Alex: Mobile Games. Holy moly, everybody’s making games. It’s awesome. 

Sarah: As with most cities near larger cities, Philadelphia must get compared to its neighbours often. What sets it apart?

Alex: I feel bad for anyone who feels the need to compare Philly to its neighbors. A few friends decided we should throw a party for people who love Philly, and give them a reason to talk about the things they love about Philly rather than compare it to other cities. We’re doing that party every other month now. You can check out the video from the first party and see for yourself why people love Philly: 


Sarah: Finally, what are you working on next that has you excited?

Alex: There’s a couple of projects that I have to keep under my hat right now, which is totally not my style…but I can promise they’ll be worth the wait. The next couple of teams I’m working with though have me really pumped. I recently started working with Philly design and development shop P’unk Ave to help take their open source CMS Apostrophe and make it a SAAS hosted product, I’m going to start working with friends of mine Amy Hoy and Thomas Fuchs on their product, and I’ve got a new product that I spun out of my work with that T-Shirt company that should be launching in the next month or so. 

Bottom line is, I’m continually working to achieve my goal of working on great things with great people. Nothing is more gratifying than that.

Alex, thanks for taking the time to answer all of these questions! If you’d like to keep up with everything Alex has going on, check him out on Twitter, or on his blog

Photo by Chris Sembrot