DCF: Who Are You?
Kate Matsudaira, creator at Ink+Volt. Kate Matsudaira (@katemats) has spent her entire career leading brilliant teams, and is currently the founder of the company Ink+Volt. Previously, Kate was the founder and CEO of Popforms (acquired by Safari Books Online in 2015). She has also worked as the VP Engineering/CTO at Decide (acquired by Ebay), Moz, and Delve Networks (acquired by Limelight), and as a software engineer, tech lead, and manager at Amazon and Microsoft. (DCF: Impressive, I like it!!) Kate is a keynote speaker at conferences around the world, and teaches a highly sought after workshop for teams on the elements of successful leadership. She also maintains a popular blog on management, productivity, and creating an amazing career at katemats.com.
DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
KM: I love solving problems. And I love helping people. I like to think Ink+Volt combines those two things – we are focused on creating products that will help people reach their dreams. We try to design everything to make people more successful (DCF: And it’s WORKING!!).
I started my career in big companies – where the majority of problems are so big and abstract. Then I worked in startups where everything was about the customer. And you would look at the competition and ask – how can we make things better? After years of that you just learn to see the world that way.
I wanted a planner and notebook in one – so I created it (the Ink+Volt Planner that started the company). Our new thing is a laptop bag we are launching in a couple of months. (DCF: That’s exciting!! This sounds like just what I need!) It is made like a high end luxury handbag, but has tons of pockets and all the functionality of a great laptop bag.
Creating things is fun, and creating things I want to use, and that other people love and rave about — well that is my ideal career.
DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
KM: I have had so many honestly – I don’t know how to pick one. I would say the earliest person in my career was a computer science professor who took me under her wing. She believed in me. And that is one of the most amazing gifts someone can give another person – hope that they can do anything.
I know it sounds crazy but there are only 3-4 people who have believed in me enough that I could do anything. And those are the ones that stand out – because without them I don’t think I ever would have tried to accomplish some of the things under my belt. (DCF: This is so true, having someone in your corner rooting for you is priceless!)
DCF: What’s your happy place?
KM: My bed! Seriously. I don’t get enough sleep (I have a one year old baby). Also Hawaii. I love, love, love the beach. (DCF: Water is life, I’m realizing that more and more as I get older) My lifetime goal is to retire and have a house there and spend half my years there and somewhere else.
DCF: Where do you get your energy?
KM: I love to do cardio. I love to run and do the elliptical. It recharges and gives me energy. I also try to be diligent about taking vitamins everyday (because I don’t eat healthy consistently and I swear it impacts my mood and energy levels).
Otherwise I would say I get inspired by everything. Reading the experiences of other people, listening to podcasts or audiobooks, talking with my super smart team — or even just taking a walk. Inspiration is everywhere, you just have to open your eyes wider and introduce a little wonder and curiosity. (DCF: We take the beauty of the world around us for granted too often but you are right, inspiration is all around!)
DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
KM: Balance is interesting. I don’t have work/life balance. I just have life. When I am wrestling with a challenge I can’t just turn off – so I don’t force myself. I do always try to be present and in the moment – especially when playing with my children. I want to be there for them.
That being said, I probably do work too much (compared to most people). And I am sure we eat too much take out food. But I think you just have to find what works for you and your family, and then if that makes you happy, and you live a rich life – does balance really matter? (DCF: Interesting question, I think balance does matter but it isn’t one size fits all, happiness might be your balance and there’s nothing wrong with that)
DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
KM: Vacations and travel. I never took a day off from work (except when I was too sick) until I was 27. I was super dedicated to my career and I worked lots of nights and weekends. My first real vacation where I took a whole 3 days off was an extra long weekend with my now-husband. 🙂 (DCF: Hopefully you are getting to see some more world now!)
DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
KM: Gosh, this is so hard to answer. I have faced a ton of struggles but I would say most of them weren’t because of my gender.
Growing up I couldn’t get into the colleges I wanted to attend, or I didn’t have enough financial aid to attend. I had a bad manager for a few years and that was really difficult – and I felt stifled and miserable.
I think it is those struggles and difficult times that we learn the most. So when life makes things challenging I just focus on powering through, making the most of it and learning as much as I can. (DCF: Always learning means always growing)
DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
KM: I wish I hadn’t opened a bunch of credit cards and put myself into debt. (DCF: Agreed!!) When I got my first job I was so spendy! I would just buy anything, even if I didn’t have the money in my account. I ended up spending years paying off stupid stuff instead of saving for retirement or vacations even.
Now I am super good with my money, but it took making some big mistakes. It is the first thing I tell college students when they ask for advice – never spend money you don’t have and try to save a little bit of every bit you make. Just put it away automatically and never look at it.
DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
KM: My greatest failure? I sold my company Popforms before I was ready. I wished I had known what I know now. I didn’t know how to sell and market things and I sucked at enterprise sales. I was pregnant and ready to sell. In retrospect, things were going so well. I should have held on and grown it further. Of course hindsight is always 20/20.
DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
KM: I am super proud of Ink+Volt. The brand is still evolving and next year we are going to be launching lots of new products. It is exciting to see how one little Kickstarter as evolved into a company with 4 employees, and is still growing! (DCF: Just ordered my 2018 planner!!)
DCF: What are you Currently Conquering?
KM: Check out Ink+Volt! We have an amazing 2018 planner (the one that started the whole company) and we will be launching a fabulous laptop bag in early 2018.