Growth Story: Sierra Harlan of IMMERTEC
Welcome to our Growth Story series, where you’ll meet startup team members—either natives, boomerangs or transplants—in Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Sierra Harlan, Executive Assistant at IMMERTEC, a real-time 3D VR communications platform that allows professionals to seamlessly train, consult, and observe any time, anywhere.
Where are you from?
Tampa Bay Native- Born in Maine, moved here in Elementary school after my parents left the military, basically a Native.
Tell us more about your role at IMMERTEC. What does a day in the life look like?
One of my favorite parts about the EA role is that every single day is vastly different from the next. There is a lot of movement in my role which is the exact environment I require. I usually start my morning by reviewing what the day holds with my CEO Erik Maltais and spend the rest of it adapting to change and keeping him on track so he can focus on the needs of our team, customers and investors. As our company moves through phases so do my responsibilities. In the beginning I could usually be found at investor meetings absorbing the art of my CEO’s pitch, outside of these meetings, constant evolution of his pitch with our team, finding opportunities to pitch and managing daily communication is a small part of what I do.
How did you get your career started and what challenges did you face along the way?
I met the Immertec team at a local tech event and fell in love with the problem we solve. Immertec saw a need to deliver better access to physician training and developed a solution to address the issue in an innovative way. I knew I wanted to get involved and simply began by asking what they needed help with and if they were willing to give me an opportunity. It seemed like such a big ask, it took a lot of courage and rehearsal on my end but it is one of the best questions I have ever asked!
Getting involved with a company at ground level offers many opportunities in what seems likes a hundred different directions, picking just one to focus on was a huge challenge when you want to solve all problems. I quickly learned this was not a realistic goal and when everything is important, nothing is important.
Early on our team was small and spare time from teammates was limited. Of course they all tried to guide me when they could, but diving in at early stage as I am sure most can relate requires a lot of “figuring it out”. We have since grown, added new talent, and built a wonderful team of people who all contribute their talents in very impactful ways. This led to an evolution of my place in the company and I now find myself in a position that is tailor-made to my strengths.
How has this region shaped your career or startup journey?
The Tampa Bay area doesn't have the kind of "startup" culture you might find in bigger tech cities. I like that people here commit themselves to a project and do so earnestly. There's a freedom that comes with this ability to rely on your team and trust their resolve and dedication. I feel that our company is able to build a strong team because we feel a sense of community, both to each other and Tampa at large.
What tactical advice can you share from building your startup or career?
It’s okay that you cannot DO EVERYTHING. When I started, my ambition naturally made me want to take on the world and do it all effectively. This is not realistic. Find the areas you are great at and give your all to that role, permit room for others to be strong in the places you are weak.
Where do you see Tampa Bay next? How do you play a role in this future?
I know my role as a facilitator, organizer and communicator contributes to the daily success of our team and that success is helping to gain recognition for our efforts in Tampa and beyond. Recently Tampa was named one of the top 5 places in the United States to start a business by CNBC. Startups can and do come from Tampa Bay and now the rest of the country is taking notice of the innovation and developments in the area. The recognition will benefit the local startup community and bring new opportunities we can’t even imagine yet.
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