Tracy Young is the former CEO of a construction software company called PlanGrid. This is notable because she was one of the co-founders of the company, which was bought by Autodesk for $875 million in 2018. Here are 10 things that you may or may not have known about Tracy Young.
1. Knows Cantonese
Besides English, Young knows Cantonese as well. For those who are unfamiliar, Cantonese can refer to one of two things. First, it can refer to a collection of Chinese languages called Yue Chinese, which are spoken in the province of Guangdong, the province of Guangxi, and other parts of southern China. Second, it can refer to the most prestigious kind of Yue Chinese, which comes from the Guangdong capital of Guangzhou. Cantonese is very common in overseas Chinese communities, not least because Cantonese speakers made up such a huge proportion of the Chinese people who emigrated in earlier times.
2. Studied Construction Engineering Management
Subject-wise, Young studied construction engineering management at California State University, Sacramento. Construction engineering management can be considered a mix of construction engineering and construction management. As a result, people in construction engineering management are involved with not just the design side of things but also overseeing the projects enabled by the design side of things, thus enabling them to achieve synergies that are otherwise impossible.
3. Built Up Engineering Experience
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Young augmented her engineering education with engineering experience before becoming involved in the construction software industry. Presumably, her background provided her with first-hand insight into what her product should be.
4. Used to Minimize Her Female Identity in Her Professional Life
For a long time, Young minimized her female identity in her professional life. The reasoning is something that remains much more common than it should be. She feared that she wouldn’t be taken seriously as a woman, which is why she cultivated a stoic demeanor, dressed up in plain masculine clothing, and otherwise took steps to eliminate anything that could draw attention to her gender. However, Young changed her mind on the matter when she became pregnant because women just don’t have the same lived experiences as men.
5. Said that People Can’t Keep Secrets in Startups
Speaking of which, Young has said that people can’t keep secrets in startups, which was in relation to the people in her startup becoming aware of her pregnancy within a very short period of time. Amusingly, one of Young’s colleagues said that she had figured out that Young was pregnant when she saw Young eating two bagels. In any case, this makes sense because people in the startup have so much more reason to pay attention to what the founders as well as other leaders are doing, not least because startups tend to be much less stable than their better-established counterparts. On top of that, it tends to be easier for interested individuals to pay attention to the higher-ups in startups as well because they tend to have everyone in much closer proximity to one another.
6. One of Her Biggest Regrets Is Keeping a Wrong Person for Too Long
It isn’t uncommon to hear about senior management talking about the bad choices that they regret making. In Young’s case, she has talked about her regret in keeping a wrong person at her company for too long. Essentially, her thinking was that since she was the one who made the wrong employment choice as well as the one who failed to help said individual become better-suited for the company, she was the one who should take responsibility by correcting her mistakes as soon as possible. By dragging things out, Young did nothing but make matters worse.
7. Regrets Rushing Back to Work
On a related note, Young also regrets rushing back to work after her child was born. As she tells it, she was still healing from the experience of giving birth when she decided to entrust her child to a nanny so that she could return to her responsibilities as the CEO. Moreover, Young returned at a time when her presence wasn’t necessary, both because her company had plenty of funding and because her CFO was handling things fine. After returning, she had to juggle her responsibilities as a CEO with her responsibilities as a new mother, which proved to be a rather unpleasant combination for her.
8. Doesn’t Like Fundraising
Young doesn’t like fundraising. To a considerable part, this because she didn’t enjoy putting her startup out there so that she and her team could be scrutinized by outsiders, who can be quite aggressive when it comes to such matters. Having said that, Young has also acknowledged that her startup couldn’t have grown the way that it did without the funding from such efforts provided. Besides that, Young has also stated that she has never lived through some of the fundraising horror stories that other women have lived through, which she believes
9. Decided to Sell Because of the Market
Eventually, Young decided to sell her startup because of market conditions. In her opinion, PlanGrid would do best by being sold to a well-established incumbent with the right synergies, which is what winded up happening in the end. There was some fear on Young’s part that she had let down her team by selling, but they decided to throw a celebration instead. Something that was presumably helped by the fact that PlanGrid was sold for more than ten times its multiple on revenue.
10. Found Being an Employee Unsatisfying
After being the CEO of a startup, Young found being an employee to be unsatisfying. Primarily, this was because she and her team could no longer do things the way that they used to do things. For example, they could no longer take the small risks that they used to take but instead had to double-down on safe bets as well as pursue other safe courses of action. Something that she attributed to the company’s need to answer to the shareholders on a regular basis. Similarly, Young and her team also had to get permission from higher-ups for actions that they were once able to undertake on their own authority.