GDL Presents: Women Techmakers with JESS3

Uploaded by GoogleDevelopers on 05.11.2012



MEGAN SMITH: Hello, and welcome to Women Techmakers.
This is the first of a series that we hope to send to you
from Google Live.
We started with a panel at Google I/O last year, the
night before I/O. It was incredibly popular, and so we
decided that we would expand the series.
We want to talk to amazing women in our industry.
And today we have Leslie Bradshaw.
So before we start, my background is--
I've been at Google for almost 10 years, leading new business
development and M&A. Today, I'm a vice
president over in Google[x]
And I'm joined by Betsy.
I've been at Google for about 4 years, and I'm on the public
policy team.
And I work on a variety of different policy issues.
One of my favorites is how data can be used to transform
the economy.
MEGAN SMITH: So one of our ideas with women techmakers is
that there's an amazing number of women in our industry
already, and throughout the history of our industry who
have had a huge impact.
And so we want to raise the visibility of them, even
though we often are frustrated by the percentages.
Sometimes in teams we'll see 10%, 20%, or 30% women.
But the women who are here are fierce, fabulous, and
contributing a lot.
And so our goal with this series is not only to
highlight the astounding contributions they're making,
but also encourage more people, men and women, to join
the tech industry.
So, OK, welcome Leslie Bradshaw.
LESLIE BRADSHAW: Thank you, both.
MEGAN SMITH: Our first guest.
LESLIE BRADSHAW: Yes, the hot seat.
MEGAN SMITH: So you are the president, COO, and co-founder
of JESS3, the amazing data visualization company.
Can you talk a little bit about what you guys do and
what you're thinking about?
LESLIE BRADSHAW: So what we do is really bring
information to life.
And I think not a day goes by that there's not another
article about big data, and big data problems, and what
are you doing with your data?
And one of the most important things is not just only the
analyzing and kind of algorithmic work around the
data, but it's that final mile, the visual.
And making sure that people are engaging, and being
educated, and absorbing the information.
So we've really decided to specialize on that front and
tip of the spear with data.
MEGAN SMITH: It would be fun, I think, to show people some
of things you guys have worked on.
And when we were talking, preparing a little bit, you
talked about the range of different kinds of products
you guys do.
Whether they're full live or whether they're sort of more
of a static traditional visualization.
Do you want to kind of share a little bit of that?
LESLIE BRADSHAW: Yeah, there's really a continuum.
When you think of data visualization and you're in
tech, you're thinking interactive.
And that's probably the most dynamic, interesting kind of
API-based data visualization.
But on the other end of the spectrum, you have static.
And that's what you'd see mostly on Mashable with
infographics and I think the stuff that's been put out
there by the sports industry and financial
industry for years.
It's about telling stories with data.
"The Economist" does a fantastic job of little spark
lines and pie charts.
And then in between you have animation [INAUDIBLE]
has pioneered in terms of geocoding all
of the polling locations.
So there's just amazing--
There's a lot of sources of data out there.
And then, you then need to analyze it and come up with
some outcomes and some potential logic that's going
to power your system.
And that's probably the hardest thing for people who
aren't engineers to do and think about because there's a
lot of conditions, a lot of if-thens that you have to
think ahead about.
And I think most people want to just push a few buttons and
then have things compare and then reconfigure themselves.
I would say infographics are an easier lift because that
way you're able to hit pause on the data, look at it,
snapshot it, and then come out, what we call as in the
narrative phase.
And just as if you're writing a paper in college, you need
to have a thesis, supporting evidence, and a conclusion.
And that's what we've done in both the
static and the motion.
Whereas, interactive, it's a shifting ground.
The conclusion changes as the data change.
MEGAN SMITH: Let's show an example of something.
We've been lucky to work with you guys
tomorrow as the US election--
for those here in the US listening.
There's a visualization we've done with the news and
politics team at Google, actually with you guys.
And so I don't know if we can flip to that.
LESLIE BRADSHAW: Yeah, we've been working closely with the
Google politics team out in Washington, DC.
And what we've been doing is taking the search data and
search interest around key, decisive moments.
Whether it's a debate and seeing, at what point did
people-- what were search spikes?
When people were looking up the word "Biden" and
"malarkey?" Or, what was it--
"horses" and "bayonets." Those were some of the search terms
that were spiking during the debates.
We were also very active during the primaries in
looking at which candidates were surging in which states.
And one of the things-- and I know Google won't necessarily
say this, but I'll go ahead and say it.
It became very predictive of outcomes in
states to see what--
going in probably three to seven days out, what states
were interested and what counties even were interested
in which candidates were correlating very closely with
the outcomes in those states.
So it was a really exciting thing for us to be able to
kind of watch this huge data set.
And to take something where Gallup normally would be
polling people by phone and a certain kind of end example.
Whereas Google, the sample is much larger and it
geographically has integrity as far as who's
searching for what.
So a lot of the Google work, really excited about tomorrow.
And we've been working with all you for about a year now.
MEGAN SMITH: Thank you.
And then, maybe another example.
Which one should we pop to?
Do you want to talk about the Samsung?
LESLIE BRADSHAW: Yeah, let's talk about the Samsung wall a
little bit.
What we've done at various live events, I think that's
one place where user-generated content really spikes and the
data set becomes interesting.
And what we did with Samsung in both 2011 and again in 2012
at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival.
And looked at what terms were trending.
What startups were starting to surge.
What panelists were getting the most chatter.
And then, of course, the night life, which parties were the
most popular, who was checking in where.
MEGAN SMITH: Which is really fun.
We're looking at that kind of outcome screens.
But even going through our thinking and our processes,
what information is going to be important to that end user?
You've got people walking around
and badges and hungover.
What kind of information do they need to know?
Well, they need to know where the panels are.
And if they're missing the panels or they're stuck in
line, what's being said and being shared?
And that was something that we really watched.
It was at a point throughout the event that certain pieces
of news were breaking.
There was a rumor that CNN was going to buy Mashable.
And all of a sudden, our screen showed all of the
people discussing it.
And everybody's eyes just kind of glued to it as if it was
the TV station.
So we're always looking at live events.
Obviously, politics, sporting events.
We did a project around the NFL and Superbowl XLV with
Twitter and just looked at ways that fans were excited
and talking trash, and going back and forth.
And those are really the moments where the data spikes.
And then, things start getting interesting at that point.

BETSY MASIELLO: A lot of what you're describing is sort of a
new way of sociology, measuring what's happening in
real-time using all this data.
And I think you were telling me, as we were preparing
earlier, that you had studied sociology a
little bit in school.
What was your path like to get from that to what is now a
very data-intensive sort of role in life?
LESLIE BRADSHAW: I think when we all go to high school and
college, there's probably about five jobs we can
conceive of.
There's an astronaut, a firefighter,
a teacher, a lawyer.
And I thought I was going to be a lawyer because I thought,
oh, that's what some of my family members do.
That's what smart people do.
Make some money.
And you go into school, and then all of a sudden you get
exposed most often to this liberal arts education.
And you're just eating from the buffet of
education and life.
And I loved sociology and statistics.
And then I'm over here and I'm learning about Western
So there was a lot of courses that I took at the University
of Chicago that just, my mind was open and it was cross
disciplinary, and it was just a lot of intellectual
cultivation, I guess.
So you go through that and then you graduate.
And then you need to get a job.
And at that point I said, OK, well, I've been an assistant
paralegal at a few law firms back home.
I guess I'll be a lawyer.
I guess I'll go in that direction.
And while there at my first law firm, it was at the moment
when a lot of the phishing scandals and a lot of the
domain name squatting was occurring.
And I was helping track those violations.
I would screenshot the source code or I'd screenshot the
domain name violation, pull up the trademark, and make a
little file.
It started to dawn on me that there was this kind of
cataclysmic shift as brands were coming online and as
other people were exploiting brands that there was
something to the digital brand management.
And I think that's really where I started saying, OK,
there gold in them there hills.
And not that I was early to say that because it was 2005
and .com had already come through.
But it was starting to impact brands in a way that I think
forever changed the way they approached their brand
MEGAN SMITH: Almost like a pure digital agency, which is
where you guys, as a team, came.
In fact, to the level where as you started, I think everybody
was in different cities.
Is that true?
So with JESS3 what we were starting to realize is working
at traditional agencies, working in law firms, there
was just a lack of grabbing onto this new frontier in a
really holistic way.
People were digitizing records and trying to kind of think
beyond email.
But it wasn't happening fast enough for our liking.
So my business partner and I, we were 24 at the time.
And he was doing a lot of freelance work and I was kind
of getting a little bit bored filing papers and
screenshotting source code all day.
So we started building out a bit of a company that we
decided we weren't going to draw specifically from our
geography, but we were going to use the internet to find
the best talent.
And at the time, most people would put their
portfolio work on Flickr.
But over the years, now you have things like Behance and
Dribbble, and Forest.
And we're able to identify kind of the best in class.
And going to blogs like infosthetics and Information
is Beautiful, you see whose work is featured and you say--
everybody has a rate.
We were able to even work with Nicholas Felton
who's now at Facebook.
And we worked with him on an infographic years ago because
we just reached out and said, hey, we love your work.
And we had a project and collaborated a
little bit with him.
MEGAN SMITH: That's a great best practice for--
in visualization you can see amazing work and then go get
those people.
It's a very, very transparent industry.
And every once in a while, you'll get someone who puts a
portfolio piece up that they were one team member of a
larger team.
But by and large, it's kind of what you see is what you get.
MEGAN SMITH: You've had people from Poland.
You guys were in DC.
LESLIE BRADSHAW: We were in Washington, DC.
And in a lot of ways, I thought of us less as an
agency and more--
there was almost kind of this supply chain management that
was going on because I'd wake up at a certain time and I
would check-in with people that were producing graphics.
And then I'd have to check-in with the animators who were in
a different city.
It was a lot of coordination.
And I would definitely say that the cloud played a huge
part in even being able to conceive that we
were able to do it.
But I will also say that there has been so many times that
when we all come together and work together, we do a Google
War Room every time we have an event.
And that's when it just-- it's more efficient.
And certainly there's a lot to be said about the cloud, but
the human interaction I've come to really appreciate in
the last year or so.
MEGAN SMITH: You guys have explosive growth.

The things in Fast Company, Inc, everybody's saying you
guys are just--
it's an amazing story.
And so it's sort of--
I don't know if you can talk a little bit about the fly the
plane and build the plane at the same time kind of
experience you guys have been going through.
LESLIE BRADSHAW: Well, as I noted, it started with my
partner and I. Then we had a couple of freelancers.
And we were throttling between doing work for local
businesses, and doing logos, and that kind of work.
And we were stretching at the same time, because we saw this
user-generated content opportunity.
We were leveraging, originally Delicious and
Flickr had good APIs.
And then, eventually Twitter came online.
And of course, Facebook opened their platform.
So we really decided, first and foremost, let's
Let's specialize in data visualization.
And let's go a step further and let's even specialize in
social media data visualization.
And it's kind of like betting on the right horse because
those things were kind of up and to the right.
And as those user basis got larger and the volume and
velocity of their content got bigger, there were brands who
wanted to take that and make sense of it.
There were people who wanted business intelligence and
insights off of it.
So that really was a big part of our explosive growth was
the specialization and capitalizing off of the
proliferation of APIs.
The second thing about the growth is that it really came
down to just really trusting and going after what we knew
was the right thing.
Unlike startups and products, we don't
have any venture funding.
So this is 100% bootstrapped, cash flow management, kitchen
table business, hope we make payroll, hope that check comes
in on time.
But in a way, you have these amazing brands, like Google
and Red Bull and NASA, underwriting your
So we did a lot of prototyping in the early days.
One big piece of advice I always love to give is, don't
wait for a client to pay you.
Take some of those profits and reinvest.
And I think that some of our projects, like the I Voted
project where we did the first kind of visual, real-time
civic participation.
We also did another project called The Geosocial Universe,
a very simple graphic that just showed the enormity of
mobile versus some of the more kind of Lilliputian, Gowalla
at the time and Foursquare.
And those are things that are proofs of concept that later
turned into lead generation.
And kind of proved out something that we knew that we
could do, but nobody was yet paying us to do it.
MEGAN SMITH: Almost like how you found
some of your artists.
Yeah, so it's kind of you've got to chum the water a little
bit, and then get people to think in the way that you know
that you can deliver on.
Really, actually amazing, our first Google project came
about because we made a video called "The State of the
Internet." And at the time, we had never done a video.
And we were going to a lot of lectures and local
universities and just talking about the growth of the
internet was being driven by social media, and social media
is something that is very flexible and
everybody can get involved.
And we wanted to show that.
And we did it usually through a few slides.
We said, you know what?
We're going to do a video.
So we put this video out.
And lo and behold, big surprise, it goes
viral on the internet.
A video about the internet goes viral on the internet.
It's very meta.
And we got a call from Google and the Google Translate team.
And they were looking for a motion graphics team, and they
had seen our video.
And little did they know it was the only video we'd ever
done at that point.
But fake it till you make it.
And it turned into a project where we did the official
About video for the translate team.
And it was a lot of fun.
You said you were only 24 when you
started this whole venture.
And you and your partner Jesse are not in the first
generation of leaders in this space.
Where do you see this interactive space going?
And then, where do you want to take it?
So one thing I see companies that are being founded today,
there's not a clear line of, oh, it's a service business or
it's a product business.
I think terms like creative technologists are emerging.
People are hiring data scientists that are not just
at Oracle, but anybody who's trying to analyze metrics and
make kind of mission-critical decisions.
So I would say there's a fusion between the art of
marketing and the science of technology in Silicon Valley.
And what we've said of our firm, we want to fuse Madison
Avenue and Silicon Valley.
Now we're based in Los Angeles and we also want to fuse
Hollywood in there.
So we're kind of throwing all three together.
But I don't think we're the only ones.
I think there's a lot of other companies who are looking at
the proliferation of content, and trying to make sense of it
and put it in a way that is discernible and digestible.
And at the same time, looking for ways to storytell and
looking for ways to engage people.
And then also, monetize it.
And add some kind of layer of payment and the ability to
kind of keep growing.
So I would say, by and large, it's a
fusion of art and science.
And where we want to take it is just
through those three doors.
We want to continue to work with the Madison Avenue
brands, and help them storytell.
But at the same time, we want to have our own prototyping
and products division where we're taking some of our
learnings while we're processing all of this data
and thinking about, well, gosh, if every client comes to
us every year around the Oscars or the Olympics,
there's a product here.
There's a way to visualize that.
And I think there's certainly some smart folks getting into
this space and specializing only in that.
You have somebody like a Mass Relevance or, on the business
intelligence side, Radian6 or Crimson Hexagon.
But nobody's specializing specifically in
the design of it.
Whenever they close a round of funding, they always say, oh,
we're having 60 engineers.
But you don't really hear them talk a lot about UI designers
or graphic artists.
And I think that's where we've really differentiated and also
partnered with firms that specialize more
on that back end.
MEGAN SMITH: It's really important because
visualization has a way-- it certainly reminds me some of
the greatest change comes from storytelling.
You may have the data, but until you storytell well
around it, nobody really gets the point, or they don't see
how it connects to them, or there's no
sort of call to action.
And so you guys are the visual form of that in a really
interesting way.
Another example that might be fun to show or great to show
would be the one that you guys did with American Express.
In fact, that's a static version, but it has to do with
change for women in business.
LESLIE BRADSHAW: This is one, of course, near
and dear to my heart.
Near and dear, I'm sure, to the audience as well.
But American Express did a great job of pulling a lot of
data out of the Census report in 2010 and looked at a lot of
the small business growth.
And just how women were driving growth in, I think it
was 7 out of 13 major categories.
And just the economic impact of women-owned businesses.
Now, they released a report in the spring.
And a lot of people picked it up more just kind of based on
some of the factoids.
But they thought, there's a longer shelf life to this.
So we ended up creating 90 pieces of content with them.
One is a large infographic that shows just kind of the
overall path from starting a company to the growth and the
kind of macroeconomic impact.
And then what we did is we worked with individual
entrepreneurs and we asked them questions.
MEGAN SMITH: Is this the one?
Yeah, this is the one.
LESLIE BRADSHAW: "Your Business, Your Goals, Your
Journey." And then we worked with individual entrepreneurs
who would tell their story.
So there was a kind of storytelling through data, and
then there was more of a qualitative storytelling
through the women who were doing this themselves.
And we used some terms, we call it
socially optimized content.
Now, an infographic, when you look at some of those
scrolling ones and you try to put it on your G+ page or your
Facebook page, they become really hard to read.
So what we've done is we kind of optimize it for the
particular dimensions on the platform.
So we create snackable graphics.
So it kind of cracks open, kind of in a fractal way,
takes the big infographic and maybe makes 10 smaller
graphics out of it.
So part of the 90 pieces of content, one was this anchored
mega infographic--
supergraphic which is what Edward Tufte would call it.
And then, we had a lot of other kind of snackable pieces
that were easier to share, easier to see on your mobile,
easier to share on social, put on Tumblr, that kind of thing.
MEGAN SMITH: This is a huge contribution.
I was able--
for a little while at Google I led kind of a transition of where we added more engineering, like Google
Crisis Response and outreach to nonprofits.
And one of my observations in that particular space is that
people are doing amazing work, but the end product when
they're communicating is often a very thick journal or
written document that a subset of people have sort of maybe
the background to read that, or less people are able to
read that just because they're busy.
So being able to do things like this, sort of synthesize
the data, and then put it into visual form is really, I
think, a high contribution and an important skill, a 21st
century skill.
BETSY MASIELLO: You were talking a little bit earlier
today about saying, have you measured this on
And you were saying actually, no, you've measured it on
consumption, which is pretty interesting.
So you find that people are actually consuming this
information when it's in graphic form.
LESLIE BRADSHAW: Anecdotally I can say, one of our clients,
Nike, we do a lot of reporting on growth of their social
platforms and how social is kind of driving to their
commerce site.
And we were originally delivering this.
We'd load it up in Google Docs, and then
we'd export as a PDF.
And it was a written document.
And it seemed kind of counter-intuitive because here
we are a visual storytelling form and we're
delivering this Word doc.
And so what we ended up doing is turning that information
into an infographic.
So every week, we produce an infographic for Nike.
It's optimized for Keynote or PowerPoint slide.
And it gives you just the facts.
And its storytells with qualitative and quantitative
And I can tell you, everybody looks forward to that.
It's something that the executives have on their desk.
It's easier to kind of make an argument or have a discussion
as opposed to having, as you said, a big kind of
thick ream of paper.
And I've written plenty of big thick reports in my life.
And I know that even the most considerate, intelligent
people just do not have the time.
And I think what information design does is it distills it
down and really forces you to kind of get those potent
nuggets in front of someone in a faster way.
One of my favorite projects, actually thinking about a big
ream of paper.
So we had 150-page white paper.
And if we can pull it up.
If you even just Google Economist and JESS3, it was a
project where they had done--
"The Economist" had put together a study of 113
countries and the global economic
opportunity for women.
And amazing project.
And it was something that, again, near
and dear to my heart.
And it was "The Economist," so they've got great data.
But it was 150-page white paper.
And you can just imagine there's probably 8 people out
there, 4 of which are working on a PhD and 4 of which are
probably paid to read it.
And they came to us and we animated it in
the 6-minute piece.
And it was incredibly powerful.
And we just saw it just spread like wildfire online.
And it distilled down six executive findings.
It story told about the gap between policy and practice.
And it really illustrated that in a very powerful way.
And that convinced me immediately, from here on out,
any time I have a report it's either going to be animated or
it's going to be designed in an infographic because you
could just see the audience.
Because it was presented at a forum, their
World in 2011 series.
And other people got up there and kind of showed your
traditional slides.
And people kind of checked out.
But the video, you could just watch everyone's body posture
and their eye contact.
And so I think the consumption, again, I don't
have the hard data.
But qualitatively, I've seen people really engage better
with both video and infographic content.
So I think it's a smart tool, whether it's an internal
communication or whether you're doing any kind of
consumer-facing communications.
IBM has done a great job.
Think about their Smarter Planet, and that entire
campaign is an icon, data-driven kind of thing.
And that's where consumers are today.
They are more educated.
They are wanting to consume Wikipedia and IMDb while
they're watching their favorite show.
And brands are being smart to put that information at their
BETSY MASIELLO: It's not just consumers.
I think in the policy space, a lot of what you've talked
about is sort of policy relevant.
And certainly, there's a lot of 150-page reports floating
around out there about various different policies--
MEGAN SMITH: That are good, but they're
like not the end product.
They need to stop being the end product.
We need the visualizations, and then the social discussion
after that to be more of the goal with the data behind it,
real good data.
BETSY MASIELLO: So you have a regular--
a column on where you advocate for women getting
more power seats.
Tell us a little bit about why that's so important to you.
Sandberg's TED talk, TEDxWomen.
And she talked about there was a couple of staff members from
George Bush's staff that gave up seats and kind of stood
against the wall.
And she kind of used that as this metaphor, more women need
to take that seat at the table.
And looking up quite a bit to Sheryl, I thought to myself,
not only do they need to sit at the table, but they need to
be at the head of the table.
The idea of it's not just about more seats, but it's
about more power seats.
I think we're seeing parity in a lot of areas for women that
weren't here 50 years ago.
We think about education, obtaining higher levels of
education, and master's degrees and law degrees.
But it starts dropping off the further up the
food chain you go.
And so what I advocate for is that we don't want to see
single and low double-digit numbers in Congress, in
venture capital funding, in-- you name it.
Even the clergy I looked up and it was 15% of all clergy
leadership are female.
So seeing those numbers get closer to 50% is something
that I hope to see in my lifetime across as many
industries as possible.
MEGAN SMITH: One thing that's interesting is the president
of Harvey Mudd College has been working hard on computer
science because computer science for a very long time
has been 10% to 20% women in the field.
Which doesn't make sense given the impact and the fun in
what's out there.
But she was studying how the entry point into that
particular major is somehow not of
interest to women at scale.
And so she made three changes.
One of them was to take the freshman to the Grace Hopper
Celebration on Women in Computing, which is where
4,000 women get together who are computer scientists at all
level from senior fellows to new undergrads, so they could
see women in the field.
The second thing that they did was change
the class entry point.
So that instead of straight into programming, they
actually did things that showed you what this field was
about, and challenge projects, and then get into programming,
which was really important.
And they also did a little bit of rework on the
attitude in the class.
And they had people, instead of sort of let me prove to you
how I can code, it's more like, hey, if you're really
good, why don't you prove how well you can help other people
and turn people into more mentor peers with sort of the
rock star programmers.
And they're at 42% women after 3 years in the computer
science program.
LESLIE BRADSHAW: I just got goosebumps.
That's amazing.
MEGAN SMITH: Which is really exciting.
So it's really, I think in a lot of ways, showing people
how exciting these careers are and how fun they are.
And whether you're coding or whether
you're in the core team.
Because all of the tech teams are really cross functional
teams of writers, and visualization, and artists,
and people who keep the trains running on time, and people
who run the back end of the systems, front end, et cetera.
So helping people see a way into that because there are so
many jobs in our field, it's exciting to see finally when
there's a few bright spots.
Because it is pretty daunting, the numbers are daunting.
LESLIE BRADSHAW: The numbers are daunting, but I love this
idea of different entry points.
I think one thing people often say, oh, there's not enough
female technical people to found companies and I'm
looking for a technical founder.
And I think it's not the right question to be asking is
whether or not you're that hard core inner computer
science person, but there's other things that can bring
you to that table.
There's people that can do interaction design.
There are people that can do the
operational side of things.
People that do HR piece of it.
It all needs to come together.
And certainly, when you look at those numbers, I think the
number is more than just 20% to 30%, but probably expands
closer to that 50% that we'd want it to be.
I look at my own company and the way that--
the gender makeup.
And it's about 50-50.
We've had women.
We've had female programmers.
Our head of information design is a woman and she's based in
England, Tiffany Gonzalez.
And we've had interactive designers that are women.
It doesn't have to be that kind of,
again, that hard core.
I think when you think of somebody in their basement
programming or eating Cheetos and drinking Mountain Dew or
Red Bull or something like that.
I think that's that default stereotype, but I think
there's a lot of other entry points.
And I love that the program that it sounds like Harvey
Mudd has been--
MEGAN SMITH: You can eventually get to be the
Cheeto-eating programmer in the basement, but not right
away on the path.
Talk a little bit about school.
Because I think one of the other things with women coming
into technology, having confidence in yourself
You actually have been an entrepreneur for a long time.
You guys have a family farm.
LESLIE BRADSHAW: So one thing I would say about my
upbringing is I've looked a lot to my father and his
entrepreneurial self.
He didn't go to college and just kind of started working
his way up through various jobs.
And eventually, went from being a ski lift operator in
Lake Tahoe to being a general manager after 13 years.
So I saw my father go to work early in the morning, late at
night, take any shit he could get, and just learn every
aspect of the business.
So that in my mind was like, OK, that's how you do it.
Learn every aspect of the business and work your way up.
I think my parents also instilled a lot of
confidence in me.
And I have a younger sister, so it's just us girls.
And it wasn't, oh, boys do certain things, girls do
certain things.
We were always very active outdoors.
I loved science and math and went to a science and math
camp and econ camp.
And that was always encouraged.
So I never had a lack of confidence, and probably could
be said atc certain points, I probably have a little bit too
much confidence.
I think each personality is going to develop differently.
There's probably men out there with less confidence and the
women that are overconfident.
But in general, I think women tend to put themselves second.
Whether they're sisters, or mothers, or daughters, they're
always in this role of making sure everyone's OK.
And when you make sure everyone's OK, sometimes you
kind of take that foot off the gas pedal.
Again, to use some Sheryl Sandberg language in talking
about not stepping up and saying, yes, I'll take that
But you know what?
Oh, Frank, he's been working hard.
Let's have Frank have this one, or giving the credit,
kind of further distributing it.
And I think that those are some really great traits of
the female gender.
But at the same time, they are inhibiting, oftentimes, the
advancement and putting women further at the top.

MEGAN SMITH: You were accepted to University of
Chicago and to Davis.
And you decided not to go to Chicago.
Say a little bit about that.
LESLIE BRADSHAW: So here I am, I graduated from a rural high
school in Junction City, Oregon.
And I was valedictorian and I thought, OK, I'm going to go
make my way in the world.
And I was touring a couple different schools, among them
Davis and Chicago.
And I went to Chicago and all of the students had already
read all the texts that they were
discussing in the classes.
They had gone to private schools.
And I had no concept of this, but they actually paid as much
to go to high school as I was about to pay to go to college.
And it just completely blew my mind.
And it was intimidating.
Honestly, it was very intimidating.
And then I was offered a full ride scholarship to UC-Davis.
Because I had grown up in Northern California and
Oregon, I had family members in Sacramento
and around the area.
I thought, OK, I'll go there.
And I'll tell you, two weeks in, I knew I
made the wrong choice.
Davis is a wonderful place, great school, really enjoyed
the professors.
But it was really large.
People weren't going there for academic
inquiry at the volume.
It was kind of more of a default.
Like, oh, I did pretty well in high school.
I'm going to matriculate to this school.
Whereas Chicago, highly self-selecting.
You're on the South Side of Chicago.
It's cold.
The school's hard.
You have to take a lot of math.
And I decided to reapply.
And at that point when I reapplied, I was talking with
the counselor.
And he said to me, Leslie, you didn't just get in once, but
you got in twice.
So you do deserve to be here and I hope you remember that
for the rest of your time.
So I ended up graduating top 2% of my class.
And went to every single lecture, did not
miss a single beat.
Because it was if you didn't, everybody else
would kind of lap you.
So it was a really competitive environment, but it was also
really kind of nerdy, and fun, and being smart was cool.
And I loved that.
MEGAN SMITH: But I think it's telling you've done this
amazing thing.
But to have a moment where sort of confidence is taking
you in a different direction is important.
I think that happens to a lot of women and men.
And it's important to note that that's a pretty normal
And then, you get back up and go.
And just keep going.
LESLIE BRADSHAW: The one secret to my success at JESS3,
and now looking back at the last 30 years of my life, it's
It's discipline.
It's showing up every single day.
And there were so many points throughout the last six years
that it would have been so easy to walk away because
things got stressful, people quit, project didn't go as
well as we'd like it to.
But I also knew that there was more to come.
If we just kept showing up--
I knew that if I kept showing up and putting my best in, and
showed that to the rest of the team, then we could make it.
We've had a couple of really great awards.
You mentioned we made the Inc 500 this year at number 430
with our growth.
And that took every ounce of me.
Every blood, sweat, tears.
It's only been in the last few months that I'm starting to
sleep regular hours again.
But for six years--
and for three of those years mind you, I
had a full-time job.
So I was coming home, eating dinner, rallying, working from
8:00 PM to 4:00 AM, collapsing, rallying again,
getting back up and going to my other job.
And did that straight for three years until we finally
had enough money and potential to make that bigger leap.
So there's, certainly again, lots of times that you could
have just folded up and walked away, but showing up every day
as I did, whether it's at University of Chicago or with
JESS3, it's just giving it 110%.
MEGAN SMITH: Yeah, showing up at the place you want to be
and going for it.
I mean, you're at over $5 million in revenue at this
point, which is just amazing.
So when I look back and I add up every single year, which I
do sometimes, we've officially crossed the $10 million mark,
which is really just a big number in my mind.
I can hardly even think about it.
But it's every little check, every little moment kind of
collected all in one place.
And this year, due in large part to amazing partnerships
with clients like American Express and we talked about
Google and Samsung.
Another one that we worked with over years is Intel.
It doesn't get more Silicon Valley than being able to work
with the chip maker that made it all possible.
So it's been fantastic.
And to have the trust of those brands--
and they're coming to us for really fun prototyping,
experimental work.
And they're looking to us to kind of
help them think through--
I always think of us almost as the Navy seals who are kind of
dropping out of a black helicopter and
kind of solving something.
And then kind of zip-cording back up.
MEGAN SMITH: And then it goes on.
LESLIE BRADSHAW: Yeah, it keeps going.
BETSY MASIELLO: We've talked a lot about
your distributed team.
How do you think that leadership--
how do you change your leadership style to adapt to
what sounds like is a very distributed global
team around the world?
LESLIE BRADSHAW: So one of the things that I always try to do
is have as much face time as possible.
And oftentimes, that face time comes in the form of a Skype
session, or a Google Hangout.
Oftentimes, our information design director is logging on
just as I'm logging off.
And I'll grab her on IM and say, hey, Tiff,
let's just catch up.
And at that point, I always like to hear from everyone and
just say, what are you working on?
Any roadblocks?
Anything that you're bumping up against?
I think also, we typically do one to two summits a year
where we bring everyone together as much as we can
from all over.
And that's an opportunity to break bread together and to
finally work together in the same room on a whiteboard.
And that's incredibly important.
But also, making sure that we're constantly celebrating
wins as a team.
And whether that's through our blog, or tweeting it, or
sending around emails, there's kind of a constant flow of
discussion groups that are going on.
And then we have a couple of other distribution lists and
list groups within the company.
We have Ladies at JESS3.
We send around links when the Anne-Marie Slaughter piece
came out in "The Atlantic," or just different things that we
want to kind of rally around.
And we certainly make sure to just reinforce contributions
from, oh, this person did this and shout everybody out.
Because sometimes you've never met the person.
Or people don't know who's working on everything because
even though it's a small team of 30, about 30 full-time,
there's dozens, if not hundreds, of contractors
worldwide that are contributing.
And to be able to pull everybody in is tough, but
we've managed to do it.
MEGAN SMITH: There's a couple questions on moderator.
So let's see, DBR in San Francisco wants to know, how
do you balance growing head count to be able to take on
more work with growing cash flow to make pay?
How do you balance that?
And he or she is also saying, how have the clients of JESS3
changed over time?
And how's the focus of the work?
All right, so maybe those are a little bit
related in some ways.
LESLIE BRADSHAW: So in terms of head count, one thing we've
always done is, it's been mostly contractor.
And we'll do kind of permalancer, someone who is
permanently part of the team but you don't bring on as that
full-time employee with benefits.
And that model has been incredibly successful for us
because then we're able to kind of throttle up and down.
It's known by both ends that it may be that way.
So first and foremost, relying more on contractors, less on
full-time head count.
The second thing, as far as the ways that the clients have
changed over the years.
We did Busboys and Poets, their logo, helped with their
mural in Washington, DC.
A really just amazing restaurant and entrepreneur
Andy Shallal.
That was one of Jesse's first clients.
He built the entire website on Blogger.
And designed it all himself and hacked it together because
he's not a programmer, per se, but he's a designer and he
figured it out.
And we would still have that client while we started
picking up clients like Nestle and Pfizer.
And we started working, kind of bridging with having
agencies do overflow.
So we'd get hired by agencies to work on
subcontractor basis.
And I will say, it was a painful process to go from the
small business servicing because we had a price point
that we could make a little bit of money.
And at the time, it was just subsidizing.
Jesse and I both had full-time jobs.
And at that point, it was just kind of mad money to go on
vacation or something.
But what happened when we both quit our jobs and all of a
sudden we had a few employees, it got real.
And the pricing needed to get real to reflect that.
And our previous clients that we were still servicing at a
certain price point, it wasn't working.
So we had to--
I guess the term might be fire clients or have that tough
And that was probably one of the hardest things I've ever
had to do in this position of six years is no longer work
with certain clients because they had an
expectation of a price.
But in order for me to cover overhead full-time and also
our talent pool, we just kept trying to increase and
increase the kind of people we were bringing in.
So the price of their time went up, so then we had to
pass it on to the customer.
So that was a difficult transition.
And I would say that all occurred probably about 2010.
And by 2011 and 2012, we'd been 100% direct to brand, no
agency overflow work.
And been able to keep our pricing consistent, so that
there aren't those conversations again.

MEGAN SMITH: We have a couple more over here.
Let's see.
So someone interested in getting to-- it doesn't say
from where.
For someone who's just starting out in tech, how do I
get into information design?
Where would you start?
LESLIE BRADSHAW: Well, I would definitely start with being
comfortable with wire framing.
And I wire frame on a whiteboard.
I often take photos of things that I've sketched out.
But just being comfortable with drawing and using Adobe
Illustrator is also what our information architects use.
It doesn't have to be high fidelity in the way that if
you see some really elaborate UX work that a web
designer might do.
But having the wire framing and the drawing skill is
incredibly important.
The second thing to be thinking about is to start
looking at what kind of data sets are available.
And start thinking about how you might pair them.
One thing we did with Google during the primaries is we
would take a Gallup data set.
Then we would take a CNN poll.
We would take the exit, actual outcome.
And then we'd take Google Search data.
And just being able to look at multiple types of data and be
able to kind of storytell.
So start thinking about data and information, but then
also, find a way to draw and think through
kind of some sketching.
And Edward Tufte, I would say he does a great course three
times a year throughout the country.
Try to take one of his courses.
They're pretty theoretical, but I think it starts getting
your mind thinking about it.
And it's not as intimidating as it sounds.
You really can have that lo-fi wire framing process.
And then you can hand it off to someone else on the design
line, and they can kind of bring it to life and do some
of the more beautiful, kind of sexy visualization things.
BETSY MASIELLO: Do you find that people in your team make
that transition from starting out with wire framing?
How hard a transition is that to make from, I don't really
know what I'm doing?
I'm going to learn how to do this first easy thing, and
then sort of get into the harder, more
technical roles over time.
LESLIE BRADSHAW: I would say we have a lot of people coming
in who have a strong background in
research and analysis.
We've had people that are history majors,
who are former reporters.
So they understand how to storytell.
And all they need to do is partner with the next person
sitting kind of along the continuum.
In this case, it's Tiffany.
And be able to work with her to interpret that.
And she's as much a designer as she is a strategist.
So it's kind of a fusion of the two.
I would say her role is that linchpin.
And then, the next one down the line is that kind of
creative artist, who may not have any concept or any
mathematical or statistical background, but they're really
good at making things look beautiful.
And having the wire frame gives them some parameters and
helps them understand the relationship between data.
I think one thing that we did early on was institute the
wire frame in our infographic and even
our storyboard process.
Whereas, we see a lot of people-- and if you've seen a
bad infographic, this is probably what they did.
They had an idea and some information, and then they
designed it.
Just went straight to graphic color.
And they skipped over that process.
And I think that's an incredibly important process
because that's when you work out the kinks of, well, does
this make sense?
Am I really telling a story or am I just making it look good?
Why are we doing this?
What's the goal?
What are you trying to [INAUDIBLE]?
There's two questions here that are related to something
you guys were talking about before.
One is sort of talking about how companies can involve more
women and starting early ages.
But also talking about biggest challenges in social in 2013.
I actually think that part of one of the answer says that
you were talking about, you guys are both doing big data.
You're doing visualization.
There are a lot of jobs that people predict.
We need data scientists.
We need visualization.
We need people.
In some ways, these kinds of jobs, as an enticement to
young people, young [INAUDIBLE].
And also, sort of as a social challenge, just being able to
see in big data.
I don't know if you guys would talk a little bit about it.
I forget the number of jobs that it's predicted are going
to be in this area, but it's thousands and thousands.
BETSY MASIELLO: It's in the millions.
MEGAN SMITH: That we need to get ready for.
And like the beginning of computer science, probably
most of the people coming to these jobs won't--
in terms of computer science, people didn't have computer
science degrees because the departments weren't there yet.
And so people came from math and economics and art,
whatever engineering.
And so in the same way for data visualization, other
places, they've going to come from all over.
So it's huge opportunity for people for career growth if
they're interested.
So I don't know if you guys want to talk a little bit.
LESLIE BRADSHAW: Well, I would have loved some encouragement
from the teachers who saw that I loved math.
And then I was really good at Latin, which is a big kind of
formulaic system.
And there's a great program going on in England called
Code is the New.
And before I remember my parents always saying, you
need to learn Latin.
You need to learn Latin.
And that was what you were supposed to do to understand
root language and be successful in business and
Medical and legal and fields.
But you think about now shifting that perception of
before it was all about going into, let's say, law, if you
were going back to our original five potential
vocations as a child, and making engineer a really--
engineer, statistician, data scientist, making that a part
of that choice set.
And educating students not just at the college level, but
really as they're coming up and showing them what that
looks like.
And I think that could be a big disconnect potentially
between classrooms that are still teaching to some pretty
basic vocational roles to teaching to the future.
And encouraging any [INAUDIBLE]
proclivity in math or a fascination with science or
numbers that they can parlay that into a
very important field.
That, as you said, the jobs abound.
MEGAN SMITH: It's interesting because it's sort of like the
makers, the makers movement, meeting
sort of design thinking.
So vocation ability to make things, but also think about
how to transform or invent or build sort of fits.
It's interesting, there's an article in "Technology Review"
this month, just a one page update from Nicholas
Negroponte on the $100 laptop, the one laptop per child.
And there's some Android tablets--
getting a phone call.

So of the Android tablets that are in Ethiopia right now with
some kids who have no access to literacy and
those kinds of things.
But one of the things he said, I think there's 400,000 kids
in Uruguay with PCs.
Part of their curriculum, they're all programming.
So this idea that all children--
Sue Black in the UK, who's in computer science field is
thinking that, why shouldn't--
once you've learned to read in, say second or third grade,
we're teaching kids cooking and instruction in that way.
Why shouldn't we learn programming?
It's an instruction.
It's a form.
And so you're starting to see that actually with the
So getting more coding and making into the schools I
think will be critical.
We learn the quick, brown fox jumps over--
the typing, and you think about all the different things
that are systematic and coding among them.
And the earlier that you can introduce that,
we do it with language.
It's just another type of language.
And it is, in many ways, the new Latin because it is the
universal thing upon which so much is based in the world.
I like that a lot.
MEGAN SMITH: Well, we are I think at the end of our time.
Leslie Bradshaw, thank you so much for
joining us here at Google.
And Betsy for joining me.
And everybody out on the web page, thank
you for joining us.
I think the series is going to go all week, and then we'll
expand from there.