Anna Saraceno: from St. Louis to Indiana
Anna Saraceno learned to love Indianapolis, just like she learned to love tech. She was attracted to Indiana University in Bloomington from St. Louis by the strong foreign language program, intending to study Spanish but eventually shifting her focus to public health. Of her first thoughts of Bloomington when she arrived as a freshman, Anna says, “I had this moment where I thought, ‘What kind of tiny city have I moved to?’.”
The more time she spent in Bloomington, the more she fell in love with it. As an undergrad, Anna was a support center for UITS, IU’s IT service. “I just answered phone calls and emails from people about their computer problems. That’s kind of what got me interested in the tech sector, although I didn’t necessarily want to do support for the rest of my life.” After she finished her undergrad in 2007, she started working for IU full-time as a technical writer for the IU Knowledge Base, a central repository of tech-related information for students and faculty to access.
While she was working for the University, Anna started considering graduate school. “I found a class called Health Informatics, which combined my interest in public health with my interest in the tech field.” While in that class, Anna was assigned a project to design an app or object that helped people live healthier lifestyles. From there, she applied and was admitted to the Human Computer Interaction Design masters program.
Anna finished her masters degree in 2012 and was hired as an intern by Blackbaud. She started working full-time for Blackbaud in January 2013. During the year she worked for Blackbaud, although she wasn’t working in public health, she liked designing software for nonprofit organizations.
Anna and her wife (also named Anna) looked at San Diego, Chicago and Austin, among many other cities as she started her search for full-time employment. Anna put in about 15 job applications across the country, but because her experience at Blackbaud had been so strong and because her wife works for IU in Indianapolis, they chose Indy as their home after Bloomington. They rented a “big, beautiful craftsman-style house on the north side of downtown” and expected to be in Indy for only a year.
After a year at Blackbaud, Anna moved to ExactTarget in January of 2014 to work as a designer for a product team. “I was craving in-person, collaborative work. I wasn’t looking for a job, but when I went in for an interview and talked with some of the designers there, it just really clicked for me. I knew from the start that this is the kind of environment that I want to work in.” Anna does work on ExactTarget digital marketing products – some new and some existing, requiring improvements in the customer experience. “The design team is growing rapidly. It’s a pretty young team overall and there’s a culture of innovation. ExactTarget’s motto is ‘Dream Big,’ and that comes up a lot. We do have a lot of influence on what happens with a product.”
Anna has found the company culture she envisioned when she conducted her multi-city job search and is “incredibly happy” at ExactTarget. “It’s a culture that really promotes innovation and outside the box thinking. It’s really relaxed and laid back. Our different personalities and backgrounds are complementary… The team is well-rounded.”
Ultimately, Anna has dreams of founding her own startup. “My UX designer friends and I talk about it a lot, although we don’t have any plans yet.” She sees Indy as a good place for that stage of her career too, saying, “If I moved to a city like Chicago or San Diego or another more expensive city, it would be much more difficult to get a startup off the ground.”
Outside of work, Anna and her wife have started to explore Indianapolis, although their initial impression of Indy doesn’t reflect their experience. “In college, we could come up here for Circle Centre Mall, Indians games and concerts. That was it.” This summer, you could find them enjoying the Pacers Bikeshare program three or four times a week. “Indy has a lot to offer if you’re willing to go out and explore,” she said. At this point, it sounds like Indy may be a longer-term commitment for “the Annas” than they expected. “I’m excited to see Indianapolis continue to improve.”