V2 was founded in 2007 by Jean Serra and Maura FitzGerald, two powerhouse PR women, with the intention of creating a nimble and innovative boutique agency for disruptive tech brands around the world. Twelve years later, they have seen that vision through and continue to drive their mission forward. Everyone at the agency looks up to Jean and Maura for their PR prowess, poise and confidence – but they didn’t get to where they are now overnight.
In V2’s new Leadership Blog Series, we’ll sit down with Maura and Jean and ask them everything we’ve been curious about – from who their mentors are, their experiences as women in business/tech, what they think the next “thing” will be that redefines PR and much more.
As the first blog in the series, we’re starting off with a simple yet important question: How did you get to where you are now? Let’s see what they had to say:
Tell us your story. What was your career path that led you to starting V2?
Jean: I fell into PR, plain and simple. I’m so impressed now when I meet college students studying PR and interning in the field because that was not me. I’m not sure if that was a “me thing”, or a product of the job market when I graduated. I majored in English at Boston College, and when I started looking for a job, I had a naïve idea that I would get into fashion buying. I eventually realized that’s not what I wanted to do, so I started looking into advertising, which was the most well-known career for English majors to apply their skills outside of teaching or publishing.
I ended up getting a receptionist position at a regional ad agency with plans to transition into account management. But the agency had a PR department, too, and I started doing work for them. I really started from scratch – faxing and snail mailing press releases, sending clip books to clients, that stuff. I learned by doing and got exposed to both B2B and B2C companies. I really grew to love PR – it gave me the opportunity to write creatively that wouldn’t have been afforded to me had I been on the advertising side. I stayed there for three years before going to FitzGerald.
FitzGerald – Maura’s first agency – was a big leap of faith for me going all-in on tech. I was reluctant to do tech at first, as I didn’t see myself as a tech person necessarily. But it was the late 90s and tech was hot. I loved working with B2B companies – I found all the different business models intriguing and I enjoyed helping clients articulate a value proposition from a very technical message to something that was approachable and mainstream.
I went in-house to a startup for a year, and that’s when I learned I love agency life. So, I went back to FitzGerald, stayed until I became an SVP, then started Version 2.0 once FitzGerald was acquired.
Maura: I worked as a reporter at a couple large newspapers in Miami covering a variety of beats like city government, feature writing, police and crime – the fun stuff. When I moved back to Boston, it was very challenging to find a job, so I freelanced, covering elections and writing for tech magazines. There were a lot of tech magazines then, and one of the editors I worked for had a friend who was starting a PR agency and asked if I would work with him. My gut response was no – this is not something I want to do – but the man had been a journalist and approached me with that lens. In fact, the entire agency was full of former journalists. I joined, and it turned out to be a great way to learn about agency life and have responsibilities to both clients and influencers.
It turns out starting your career in journalism prepares you for several careers. It makes you: 1) become a good reader of people, 2) become a quick study in a variety of topic areas, 3) articulate and able to talk to people in tons of circumstances and 4) think on your feet.
Anyway, I went to work for this agency, but it was eventually bought by a holding company in the UK and the culture changed drastically. I was under tremendous pressure to get revenue and was running all the major accounts. Plus, I felt like I had to work twice as hard to get promoted compared to my male counterparts. I wasn’t happy anymore, so went to work for an agency based in California. I didn’t want to move to the West Coast, so the founder allowed me to open an office in Boston. I did that for 18 months or so, then decided it was time to start my own agency: FitzGerald Communications.
There was a lot of appeal in opening my own business. I had several clients telling me I should go out on my own, and that they’d follow me. And guess what – they did. That’s why we now have non competes!
FitzGerald was a tech agency because Boston was the hub of tech publishing. But at the end of the day, I totally fell into my tech PR career, too, and haven’t looked back since.
Stay tuned for the next blog in our series to find out why Maura and Jean decided to start V2 and hear about agency milestones over the past 10+ years.