The Agile Marketer: TMMBA Alum Launches Business

M.H. Lines, TMMBA 2014

M.H. Lines (TMMBA 2014) still displays the placard on her desk from the Technology Management MBA (TMMBA) Leadership course game she played in 2013. It reads “Play to win, not just survive.” M.H. has used this competitive spirit to establish a successful career in marketing strategy. From past consulting experience for companies like Terex, Cohn & Wolfe, Microsoft, Lowes, The Tile Doctor and IBM Watson Health, to acting as CMO for a tech start-up, she now finds herself as CEO & President of Automaton, an agile marketing company.

M.H. launched Automaton in 2016 to build the next great testing and automation tool set for the SaaS economy. She credits exceptional leadership coaching along with the skills and network she gained while in the 18-month, accelerated TMMBA Program as catalysts for helping her take the leap into starting her company.

What makes it all worthwhile? M.H. shares, “Being a competitive person, doing something close to impossible definitely motivates me. I also like having control over how we treat our people, focus on quality and most of all, only deliver stuff that really matters to our customers.”

M.H. always keeps her eyes forward on “what mountain she has to climb next.” There’s no doubt that with her “play to win” tenacity, a strong network of professionals and a toolkit of skills gained while in the TMMBA Program, she’ll be ready to climb it.

Read more about M.H.’s journey in entrepreneurship and her experience in the TMMBA Program:


Why did you choose the UW Foster TMMBA Program?
I was coming from the East Coast, so I only knew a few of the West Coast programs.  After researching Foster, I was really impressed about the strength of reputation. I was pregnant and traveling a lot for work – which colored my decisions and made the concierge aspect especially valuable to me. That and the focus on technology, leadership and entrepreneurship.

What is your advice for someone considering TMMBA?
My advice for someone considering an MBA would be to approach it as an adventure.  I hear so much whining about how much it might take away from your life, but if you just think of it as fun, replace your TV time and clean a little less.

How has the TMMBA Program impacted your career since graduation?
My startup is only here in this state today because of the incredible network I got from TMMBA. Our engineer was referred.  My advisory board includes two of the incredible leaders from our class. I met the lead investor during the entrepreneurship courses. TMMBA is the core of my community. Before starting my company, TMMBA helped me move into leading large teams.

What key skills did you acquire during the TMMBA Program that you have leveraged in your career?
Leadership, data analysis, decision making, and managerial accounting are the first few that come to mind.  I leverage at least one of those topics daily. And I use the prisoner’s dilemma frequently on my children at home on the weekends.

M.H. was a featured speaker at the 2019 Women in Cloud Summit. She’s a strong advocate for women (particularly moms) in tech.

On Entrepreneurship

At what point did you decide to take the leap and start your own business?
My leadership coach encouraged me to join the Women in Cloud Accelerator.  What we learned from participating in that amazing program really got me to define the product and hire the team to build the minimum viable product (MVP).

How did TMMBA prepare you to start your business?
There are a lot of ways – thinking about building a balanced team is what’s on my mind right now. A lot of things about scaling, applying models to understand my market and keep me from being myopic.

What are a few aspects of entrepreneurship that you enjoy most?
Being able to learn and react quickly, but make sure we have the data to act, not just react.  Being able to pick the folks I want to work with has been a huge reason I wanted to lead. I’ve always been able to be incredibly practical in bringing in diverse teams with complimentary style, but now I get to add “and folks I want to be in the trenches with.”

What advice do you have for someone considering the entrepreneur life?
Know your stuff – is the total available market (TAM) big enough, what is the channel and channel incentives, use design thinking to test your idea – but then, wing it.  If you understand the risks of being an entrepreneur, you’ll never do it.