What It’s Like: Haley Altman on becoming a first-time CEO
There is no test, degree or experience that automatically qualifies you to become a chief executive officer. Whether you are working your way up the ladder or launching your own company, it takes a combination of grit, determination and a savvy leadership to be your own boss.
Haley Altman, CEO and founder of Doxly, recently spoke at a Ladies in SaaS event to share her journey from lawyer to tech company CEO. She highlights the specific challenges she faced — such as having few female role models and creating confidence — in this contributed piece.
Transition to CEO
My journey to being a law partner is a big part of how I got to where I am today. My mom always made sure that I knew I could be whatever I wanted to be. I never thought about gender as a potential limiting factor to anything I might do in life whether that was in academics, sports, or my career.
I’ve always been extremely driven. Always setting goals and putting in the work to achieve them. I didn’t really have any female mentors in my chosen practice areas, but I had a number of female role models at the firms I worked at that helped show me what was possible.
During my law career, I realized I really enjoyed working with different clients and developing an understanding the business side of law: how do we bring on more clients, how do we show value to our current clients, how do we train and bring up the next generation of lawyers?
When you start to think of the business side of the law firm, you start to see more of the pain points that make business more difficult. It was out of the pain points that the idea for Doxly was born. It was difficult to make the transition to CEO, but I have had a lot of support from the High Alpha team.
Decide who you want to be
I also talked about my time as a CEO: building a team, raising capital and trying to figure out the type of leader that I wanted to be. I want to empower my team to be the best they can be. I want to create an environment in which everyone collaborates together to reach our goals.
I don’t think gender has had an impact on my CEO journey as much as my lack of a business background. There has been a learning curve to figure out all of the intricacies of running a business. I had to open myself up to the advice and feedback of people that have been successful.
I think we all bring our own personal insecurities to the jobs we do and we have to acknowledge them and do our best to not let those insecurities prevent us from learning from those around us.
Look, then leap
I think if you want to make the jump to entrepreneur you need to do a lot of preparation and research. You need to understand the problem you are solving and make sure there is a clear pain point and market need. You need to talk to potential customers.
I would also recommend getting advice from trusted advisors who have had success in a similar field. Once you have a solid plan, you can move forward with building your product and your vision.
From my experience as counsel to early stage companies, I think a lot of people jump into starting a company before they have done enough of the ground work to figure out if the market is ready for their product.