Who I Am
Rebecca Gebhardt Brizi
With both Italian and American citizenship, I grew up in Switzerland attending British, Swiss and American schools. My upbringing was a natural education in avoiding “lost in translation” moments by verifying information before assuming I understood it. This has served me well in business, applying a data-driven approach to my work.
If she wanted to, Rebecca could speak to us in a different language for each of her next seven minutes. But whichever one she chooses, she’ll be highly quotable. During a recent hike together, she shared one of my favorites – “tradition is a terrible reason to do anything.” This holds especially true when it’s the only reason. While Rebecca appreciates the context that history lends, she did study the classics in undergrad after all, she knows that for a business to succeed it has to focus on now – not nostalgia – to get to next. Frustrated by hearing “because that’s the way we’ve always done it,” she left a large corporate job for the world of start ups. It’s there that she discovered and honed her ability to be a different type of translator; she is fluent in business messaging, in sales, and in “but why?” for her clients.
-Heather Riggs, president of Atlanta Legal Marketing, introducing Rebecca before a presentation
By the age of 10 I had lived in Spanish-speaking Argentina, German-speaking northern Switzerland and Italian-speaking southern Switzerland. By the age of 18 I had experienced the Swiss German, British, Swiss Italian and American school systems. Change has always been an opportunity for growth and learning.
Growing up in Switzerland with regular trips to my father’s family home in Colorado makes me comfortable when surrounded by mountains. It doesn’t have to be the Rockies or the Alps – try Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains for an experience “as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines.” On the other hand, I never tire of walking through the streets of Florence, Italy with my mother, who was born around the corner from Dante’s home. In those narrow medieval streets, she intertwines her life history with that of Dante, DaVinci and Giotto – providing me with a rich family heritage.
At 18 I moved to the Hudson Valley in New York to attend Vassar College, followed by a move to London where I attended graduate school and continued to live for many years following. My studies included Classical Greek and Art Connoisseurship. Those disciplines, followed by work experience in fashion and online publishing, led me through a meandering path to the software industry, with strategic and management responsibilities. I now reside in Atlanta, enjoying the vibrant startup community, diverse population and almost year-round outdoor sports and activities.
Because Switzerland does not have a habit of summer jobs for students, knocking on corporate doors asking for three month employment raised a few eyebrows. It also gave me rich work experiences in summer school administration, a new local news webzine and in the brand management department of a major fashion brand.
After my graduate studies I followed the industry path with a job in a major auction house, but my “experience radar” pushed me to an opportunity I could not have predicted: join a startup business as the third person in the door. Here, I was the strategy counter-weight to the product visionary: the founder would bring ideas of where he wanted the business to go, and I found the ways to make it happen.
Within a couple of years, by reviewing what the company finances could tell us, we decided to pivot our product placement and entered the enterprise software space, “starting-up” all over again. Once the business was established in the UK and Australia, I proposed that we tackle a new market in the United States.
This is when I moved to Atlanta and boot-strapped a US operations office, getting to “start-up” a business for the third time.
Spending 11 years in-house I oversaw business planning, go to market strategies and general operations globally as well as for the North American market. I participated in two successful rounds of fund-raising and established a customer retention rate of over 90%, both by volume and value. The nature of my work meant internal business management, as well as helping our top clients build their own business cases for purchasing enterprise software. This was invaluable experience in keeping an internal view of the corporate word to which my clients belonged.
Since January 2017 I have been consulting full time. My current clients include sole- practitioners and small businesses, with articles published in the research journal Jinfo and speaking opportunities with PowerCore and the Alliston Group events.