Community & Society
Name: Nicole Jass
Marital status: Yes, to Bryan
Children: Kaia, 4; and Ferguson, 2
Career: VP Data Products at Vantiv
Hometown: Fort Collins
Where do you call home today? Tallyn’s Reach in Aurora
Nicole Jass is part of a new generation of women in Denver who bring their intellect and prowess with emerging technologies to bear for both start-ups and major public companies. After graduating from the University of Colorado Boulder, Jass founded SpyderLynk, a company centered on her invention of SnapTag, a two dimensional logo (rather than a white QR checkerboard) that a consumer takes a picture of to start a conversation with a brand or receive instant discounts. Now Jass is the VP of data products at Vantiv, a leading provider of payment processing services for merchants and financial institutions. If that sounds like heady stuff, it is. But Jass is keenly aware of the special challenges facing women in business, and speaks freely about the balance needed for women to both advance their careers and have children. Jass has managed to find and honor that balance and has two children. Keep an eye out for Jass to continue to push the boundaries while maintaining her balance.
What surprises people about you?
That I like Britney Spears.
How do people describe you?
Driven, caring, and either funny or pain in the neck.
Who do you most admire?
Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. She helped monetize Facebook and Google. An incredible businessperson. You must watch her TED Talk.
Favorite Denver metro restaurant?
Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant.
What was the last great book you read?
I’m in the middle of Option B, by Sheryl Sandberg. It talks about resilience and the drive towards living positively.
What is your biggest fashion faux pas?
My sister pointed out my red workout leggings with purple shoes.
What is one thing that you absolutely can’t live without?
My kids. Or Google maps.
What was your last major purchase?
Our trip to Disney World in September.
What gadget can you not live without?
What are your hobbies?
My hobbies are bubbles and drawing chalk on the driveway with my kids. Before that, soccer and snowboarding.
What is your most memorable Colorado experience?
We just spent the 4th of July in Avon. It is a spectacular display. Perfect weather, our parents, my son’s birthday. Very Colorado and very fun.
What one word describes Coloradans to you?
What is your favorite spot in Colorado to visit?
Probably Avon. Depending on the season, it’s three or four places in one.
What took you down this career path?
At the very beginning, it was my mom who suggested I go into engineering. I had no reason not to, so I did. I did the true hard core engineering. If you are nerd who can talk, they pull you into marketing and sales. The more exposure to marketing and sales I had, the more I understood how important it was to tell the story.
You have reached top levels at several companies. What are the primary obstacles women face in reaching executive levels?
My experience might be unique. Most of my obstacles are internal. For example, striking the balance. I may have postponed having kids. I truly have never felt held back because I was a woman. But we still have to fight through the balance. We need to tackle this so we don’t get held back.
What is the key for you in overcoming those obstacles?
I did push back having kids to where I could give it the appropriate time. Now it’s important to find a company and a boss who respects the balance and lets you drive your career forward with the balance.
Are there other women who have inspired you in business?
Yes. My first boss was a woman when I was an optical engineer. I watched how she carried herself. She was fearless and bold and had to strike the family and career balance. She was extremely supportive of me. It didn’t matter that I was a woman, and she showed me that anything was possible.
Who has been most influential in finding your path?
My mom and dad. My mom told me to be an engineer and helps with the balance problem by watching my kids.
What was the trigger for you in starting SpyderLynk?
The trigger was a discussion about putting bar codes in magazines. I called my dad, and we started writing patents. We discussed the problems and the opportunities and solutions. We saw and idea and seized on the opportunity.
You invented SnapTag. What is it?
We invented the SnapTag. You take a picture of a logo, and find out about a product or enter to win a sweepstakes, or enter a website and purchase merchandise. You could immediately communicate with a brand, and the brand could communicate back.
What aspect of SpyderLynk are you most proud of?
We climbed the mountain from the base. Ultimately we had Jimmy Kimmel talking about it and it was in Glamour Magazine. We got to work with incredible brands and companies.
You are often asked to speak at conferences. What is the primary message you like to convey?
It depends on the content. It’s usually very entrepreneurial. The message of what it takes to seize an opportunity. It’s not easy, it’s often a roller coaster, but it’s a fun ride for you and your team.
Why did you choose architectural engineering as your major at the University of Colorado Boulder?
(Laughing) We are all on this journey trying to figure out what we want to be when we grow up.
What made you go to Vantiv?
We reached the end of the journey at SpyderLynk and sold the company. Vantiv is a perfect fit for me. It takes what we did before and tries to make a way to discover what caused a purchase, and see what marketing is working. The jump from the speedboat to the cruise ship has been very interesting.
Are there any special challenges for a woman at a publicly traded company like Vantiv?
I think that the balance remains the challenge. How do you put kids and family first, but still drive a career? We still have a lot of work, for example, to do on maternity leave. You have to give me something to come back to in order to leave my kids. It’s a challenge to keep women moving forward and up in a company.
What are your goals at Vantiv?
To build a strong team and practice on how we can leverage our data for our clients. To drive a meaningful impact for a big company.
As a little girl, did you always envision being in a leadership position in a major company?
I thought I was going to be a veterinarian. Then a lawyer. So, no.
My daughter just turned 21 and went “out into the world.” What business advice would you give her?
Have a strong eye on where you are going. Always stay open to what is happening around you and how you get there. Take yourself as far as you can. Drive and direction are critical, and stay open to opportunities.
Scott S. Evans is graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Virginia School of Law and is a father of two, a business litigation attorney, writer and high school lacrosse coach living in Centennial. Scott has freelanced for various newspapers, magazines, journals and academic publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Military Law Review and the Manchester Union Leader. Full disclosure: Scott worked for Jass’ father nearly 30 years ago in Denver.
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