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Rachel Jaffe

CEO of Adjacent, New York City, NY

 

What do you do in your free time?

I do a mix of discovering all the New York has to offer - a museum, a show, a music festival - with staying in and reading or cooking with my boyfriend. I also work out 3-4 days a week, and try to produce some piece of writing or art every week.

How long have you been in this profession?

3 years.

What is the larger field or industry or line of work in which your job fits?

Consumer tech, Technology, Start-ups, Entrepreneurship.

How did you get this job? How did you come into this field of work?

After graduating, I worked as a Researcher for the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. There I saw research on “Innovation Districts,” the idea that when you put together start-ups, universities, and large companies, there is an exponential return of the amount of successful start-ups created. This idea captured me, that the American Dream is deeply divided by where you happen to be located in physical space, and yet, that by surrounding yourself by smart people, you can give yourself greater access to opportunity. You have power over your fate. Adjacent, the company I am building, is simply meant to give more access to all people to this opportunity.

What is the most satisfying or rewarding part of your job?

An important thing to know about Adjacent is that it is designed in a way to decrease bias for entrepreneurs. I have now had several people who are women, people of color, people with non-traditional backgrounds that told me how grateful they are that there is finally a place where they can meet co-founders and advisers on an even playing field.

What is the most frustrating or challenging part of your job?

I am constantly under-valued and have to jump through more hoops as a non-technical founder. In pitch competitions, I am constantly tested on my technical ability more than a man. As a woman, I get less investment opportunities and fewer people that reply to my emails. It is so frustrating having a really great idea, a kick ass app and people using it, and yet constantly being belittled by the investment community. And yet, this provides the fire I need to keep going. But if entrepreneurship is hard for me, who has had many advantages in life, there are hundreds of thousands of smart entrepreneurs who currently have no access to opportunity.

What is something work related that you look forward to?

I started out at Stony Brook frustrated that there was little entrepreneurial infrastructure. We’re really close to being able to bring Adjacent back to Stony Brook’s campus. It feels really good to help the place that helped me start this journey.

For Stony Brook students interested in your line of work, what is your advice for what they should study or do at this point in their education?

Take a coding class. Even if you hate it, it teaches you some important lessons on a perspective of experimentation and failure. Words mean something different in code, and so it gives a different perspective on how we write. As well, even if you hate it, you know you hate it. Too many people in tech say that people choose English because it is easier than STEM degrees. Make being an English major a conscious choice after you have taken classes in coding, science, and math.

What would you look for if you were in the position to hire new graduates from Stony Brook?

In the world of start-ups, you don’t have time for people who need very clear, precise instructions and need continual guidance. You need people who can quickly understand your company’s larger goals and mission, and be proactive about finding a solution.

Are there any important aspects of your job that you would like to make a point on?

Even while I may have made a large shift from English to tech, there is one big lesson that I have taken specifically from having read so much science fiction: so much about the world can be changed. When you read about societies in Foundation that spanned the galaxy and about entirely new models of life in Dragon’s Egg, it becomes a smaller jump to look at the systems around you- transportation systems, agricultural practices, political systems, can all be changed. In a time of strife, division, and pessimism in America, I think this is vitally important to understand.

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