Melissa Smolensky: San Francisco

What’s your historical San Francisco and New York connection?
I have been enchanted with San Francisco and New York my whole life. Growing up in Texas, I was obsessed with music, film and Broadway musicals and could only see myself in New York.  In fact, as a child I had a NYC mural painted on my bedroom wall in my parent’s house. After I graduated from the University of Texas, I began helping SXSW Interactive with public relations and met a slew of San Franciscans coming through Austin for the conference. That was eleven years ago, and ever since, I have been captivated by the brain power and the digital innovation happening in the Bay. I have loved both cities ever since.

I eventually moved to New York City to work in the heart of the media industry. I worked in public relations and did PR for startups, film festivals (like CMJ Film Festival), and film premieres (like Time Traveler’s Wife and Shutter Island). On the side I helped produce downtown music projects, trying to bring my love of opera to new audiences and new genres, and also started a group called Connectors NYC that helps people in technology, fashion, music and entertainment meet. I then came to San Francisco to dabble in my love of technology and startups.

Describe your experience in SF.
Since living in San Francisco I have worked in public relations at Rackspace, leading cloud PR, and now in marketing at a startup called Chartio, taking on the data visualization industry. San Francisco is filled with some of the smartest people I have ever met, solving some of the hardest problems out there. There is so much innovation in any field you can imagine (health, music, data viz, cloud, social, etc) that it can be overwhelming. When I am not working in startup-landia, as my friends call it, I am either trying to find a new beach – Baker Beach and Stinson Beach are some of my favorites, visiting one of my favorite Museums – Moma, Exploratorium, Cal Academy of Sciences, or watching movies at the Castro Theatre or the SF Indie Film Fest, Disposable Film Fest, etc. Being from Austin, I am psyched to have an Alamo Drafthouse opening in SF soon.

What was the biggest challenge of moving from NYC to SF?
I think the biggest challenge for me was finding a group of people that beat to the same drum. I didn’t know that many people here in San Francisco and I refused to only meet people on the technology side where I worked. I love tech, but I also love the arts and giving back to the community. I am continuing to look for ways to get involved with various projects that fuse technology with the arts and the non-profit industries.

How can NYC and SF best engage with each other?
I think the cities go hand-in-hand. For me, NYC has a much more active entertainment and digital entertainment industry, whereas SF has the deep tech background to make all industries hum. I think both cities are full of early adopters and influencers, meaning it is powerful to be involved in both cities. I am not sure how people should engage, except to not be afraid to dive into the communities that matter to them in either city.

Favorite SF secret spot
Wise and Sons, but I am not sure it is so secret anymore! After moving to S, I missed the good ‘ole NYC Jewish deli experience.  Now I crave a Wise & Son’s reuben or pastrami sandwich and that gets me through those times. Yum.

Favorite NYC secret spot
The Norwood Club. It is a private club on 14th, between 7th and 8th, and is dedicated to providing creative experiences to its members. When I lived in New York I went to many events there and threw a couple myself. I have so many fond memories of times there. Plus, sometimes it’s just a good place to grab a book and hang by the fire all day.

If you were not at Chartio, what would you be doing?
Ohhh man, what would I be doing?! A geneticist, a lawyer working for the Innocence Project, a documentary filmmaker, a reporter writing stories on Texas’s past, a politician fighting for women’s rights, an author writing young adult books, a laptop bag designer. Those are all things that have crossed my mind before.

Inflight Entertainment: tell us what song/album, TV show, podcast, or web videos you’ve been watching lately.
NPR TED Radio Hour – I am obsessed! They are really well-produced interviews, with TED talks interspersed throughout.

From the 2905 Miles newsletter: connecting NEW YORK CITY + SAN FRANCISCO

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