Amber Mac is a multi-talented tech expert, author, speaker, TV host, and president of her own business, AmberMac Media. She got her start during the dot-com boom in the late 1990s and has written bestselling books like the business manual Power Friending and co-wrote the online safety guide Outsmarting Your Kids Online. As a pioneering woman in the tech industry, she’s shared her expertise and insight with CBS, CNN, Bloomberg TV, and Fast Company magazine, among many other outlets. Amber has also been featured as a keynote speaker at events around the globe and continues to grow and develop her brand. She spoke with The Edge in a previous issue’s Winner’s Circle, and this is an excerpt from that interview.
You’ve witnessed the growth of the tech industry since the dot-com boom. How did learning and growing up in that environment shape you?
During the dot-com boom in the late 1990s, startups were much riskier in terms of overspending. I worked at one startup that raised more than $20 million and spent most of it within a couple of years without any significant revenue. Also, there were more barriers to entry in terms of starting a business during that first bubble. Today, it’s easier than ever to launch a company thanks to plenty of third-party tools (whether it’s Freshbooks for invoicing or Squarespace for website design) and more opportunities for seed funding. If you want to start a business in your basement, it’s doable.
As a child, you attended school in a two-room country schoolhouse. What was learning like in that environment?
As a child growing up in rural Prince Edward Island, I had a unique experience that shaped who I am today. While I’ve had incredible professional experiences, such as writing two bestselling books, working with top technology companies, and interviewing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this past May, I always remember my very humble roots. From a learning perspective, I always knew I would have to work harder if I was going to succeed on a global scale; after all, I had no built-in network, being from the country’s smallest province. As the child of entrepreneurs, I was working in the family business at the ripe age of 8. While my parents were running a property management company during that time, my brother and I often cleaned up garbage in parking lots my mom and dad oversaw before heading to school in the morning. I believe that this early work ethic has helped me grow my business and my brand.
Did you always have an entrepreneurial spirit?
I’ve almost always had two or more jobs. I worked an early morning job at a radio station in San Francisco before my day shift at a technology startup. I was hungry for success in my early 20s, so I always knew I could outwork others my age. Today, I have no problem putting in the hours required to win in today’s digital economy. I don’t watch much TV, I don’t drink alcohol, but I’m all in when it comes to my family and my business.
During your career, have you observed any changes in how women in tech-related industries are perceived and treated?
I give my mother and her generation credit for being one of the first to raise families and go to work outside the home. Over the past couple of decades, I’ve seen plenty of positive changes in the tech industry when it comes to how women are treated. There’s a popular saying, “If You Can See It, You Can Be It,” which applies perfectly to women in tech. While there are more of us, we need to continue to put the spotlight on these women at work.
What are some of the best strategies that an entrepreneur can use to grow their business and keep their clients interested?
Today’s entrepreneurs must always be adapting to new digital tools and technologies. Consider a recent trend like artificial intelligence; all business owners should be working hard to figure out how AI can help make their companies more productive. Whether it’s introducing a chatbot for customer service or learning how an AI-driven sales tool can maximize opportunities, it’s important to stay relevant.
Are there any lessons you learned when you were in San Francisco during the dot-com boom that are still relevant today?
I was quiet during my first job at web agency Razorfish in San Francisco, but I was always listening. I think this skill is undervalued in today’s world where people are constantly shouting at each other (whether it’s online or offline). What I mean by that is we sometimes forget that sitting back and hearing another person’s perspective is the best way to educate ourselves and grow.
Jennifer M. Williams | Editor-in-Chief