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“5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO of SocialCode,” With Laura O’Shaughnessy

Focus on delighting the customer — nothing else actually matters. There have been times when platforms have pushed us in a direction. What really matters is what customers value and what impacts their business. I had the pleasure to interview Laura O’Shaughnessy. Laura co-founded SocialCode to provide the world’s most valuable brands with tools to […]

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Focus on delighting the customer — nothing else actually matters. There have been times when platforms have pushed us in a direction. What really matters is what customers value and what impacts their business.


I had the pleasure to interview Laura O’Shaughnessy. Laura co-founded SocialCode to provide the world’s most valuable brands with tools to grow their businesses and create competitive moats. She continues to work closely with clients to develop innovative ways to digital marketing goals. Prior to SocialCode, she ran business development and product strategy for the Slate Group, focusing on advertising product development and strategic partnerships. Laura holds an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management and a B.A. in Economics from the University of Chicago.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Itwas chance a little bit! I started working in product and on the business side of things and started SocialCode in 2010. I am obsessed with driving the best business results for customers and helping brands thrive.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Oh gosh, there are more stories than I can count. One good one is my co-founder Cary Lawrence running a White Elephant (Yankee-Swap style gift exchange) in December of SocialCode’s first year. At that point, we had only been in business for six months and only had a handful of staff, but we all came together at my house to eat lasagna and do the White Elephant which has now become a tradition.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I make so many mistakes. I can’t think of the funniest, but my philosophy around mistakes is not to dwell on them. I learn from how the mistake was made, but keep moving forward and focus on what is ahead and how to do better.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We are committed to helping brands thrive in a digital ecosystem that is accelerating its pace of change. I remember looking at a customer report recently and being absolutely wowed by the incredible insight and testing we were doing for the client across digital platforms.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are constantly innovating! It’s the only way to thrive in the digital world. All of us need to be constantly testing, learning and scaling what works (and pausing what doesn’t).

One example of a project is a recent one-click Shopify integration we built into our Audience Intelligence Platform that helps clients sift through all their Shopify data and understand their highest lifetime value customers. It is easy to use and drives great results for customers.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

  1. Aim higher than your instincts.
  2. Never apologize or diminish your ideas.
  3. Always keep learning and asking people for time and advice.
  4. Marry the right partner.
  5. Find business friends and mentors that support you.
  6. Lift others (especially other women and under represented people) up as you climb.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Trust the leaders under you, be constantly monitoring the data, but trust the folks on the team to help invent the future and come up with most of the good ideas.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Honestly I have an incredible community of mentors that I ask when I need advice. Dave Goldberg was an incredibly important mentor to me. He was so smart and had seen so many companies that he could call from his breadth of experience. In addition, he believed in me even before I believed in myself. I was in his office and we were speaking about a friend of his who I was recruiting. I suggested that the friend would make a better CEO than me and Dave said, “No, Laura, you are the CEO.”

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

First I spend time on boards of nonprofits that are important to me. I am specifically passionate about poverty and opportunity in DC. I feel that our system is so unfair and basically traps people in a cycle of poverty. For a country that says everyone is created equal, I think we still have massive system bias and unfairness to fix.

Secondly, at SocialCode we dedicate time to giving non-profits at-cost marketing support to fundraise, sharpen their brand, understand their donors or promote an event.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. Focus on delighting the customer — nothing else actually matters. There have been times when platforms have pushed us in a direction. What really matters is what customers value and what impacts their business.
  2. Persist — there are some excruciatingly joyous moments, but there are hard times too and you can’t ever stop.
  3. Make time for fun — I actually think fun at the office and with the team is WAY more important than I would have initially thought. I have three young kids which always made me eager to get home to spend time with them.. But sticking around the office a little later and goofing around in meetings is important to create bonding and balance.
  4. Focus on running a great business — the customer is most important but the team at SocialCode wants to be known for running the best marketing business. Keeping an eye on all sides of the P&L is key. Some leaders just want to grow their teams and ultimately only the CEO can really manage costs.
  5. Build in constant innovation — the world is changing so quickly and the best companies are getting disrupted. You need to create a company that disrupts itself and is always thinking about how to do better!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would inspire people to listen to ideas that don’t naturally feel comfortable. I think our world is getting more divided and we live and segment into groups of people that think the same things we go. If we could have more ways to be exposed to totally different ways of thinking and different people, the world would be a better place.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

When I was in grade school, I had a little quote book that had a quote from my grandmother, Katharine Graham, which said something along the lines of, “to love what you do and to feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun.”

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I’d love to learn from Bill Belichick, the coach of the New England Patriots. His commitment to preparation and constant innovation is inspiring.

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