Give First

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As a successful woman CTO, Sherri Hammons is well known for being both humble and strong. Her Oklahoma childhood taught her the importance of always giving (and how to get back on the bucking bronco). Give First is ingrained in Sherri’s leadership style and her approach to bringing together technology and sustainability, which is her focus as CTO of The Nature Conservancy.

Today, Sherri Hammons is CTO of The Nature Conservancy, but as she admits, “I took the nontraditional path to CTO land.” This path included eight years as a professional singer before she went back to college and got a degree in software engineering—and went on to work for companies big and small, as well as being CTO for the state of Colorado. She’s done for-profit, non-profit, and government—and brought technology, strategy, and humane leadership to each role.

Sue Heilbronner, CEO of MergeLane, described Sherri as a “humble badass”—a phrase that host Brad Feld loves. Sherri credits her humbleness to her parents, who taught her to “always give and always be nice to everyone no matter what.” That’s right, Sherri learned to Give First from her family—and she has been guided by that advice throughout her career.

As for the “badass” part, she’s a successful woman CTO. Toughness and strength of character might as well be part of the job description. Sherri sees her upbringing as contributing to this element of her personality as well: “I grew up in Oklahoma, I grew up on a horse, on a farm. And so I know about getting bucked off a bronco and getting back up.”

Get more of Sherri’s insights, plus a full list of companies, people, and resources mentioned in this conversation.

Have a guest idea? Reach out to Brad on Twitter @bfeld or email us at podcasts@techstars.com.


Techstars personnel and/or guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, and not the opinion of either Techstars or any company discussed in this podcast.

This podcast is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities are for illustrative and/or informational purposes only and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investor or prospective investor, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by Techstars.  Certain of Techstars funds own (or may own in the future) securities in some of the companies discussed in this podcast.

What is Give First?

In the startup world, Give First means simply trying to help anyone—especially entrepreneurs—with no expectation of getting anything back. It's the pay-it-forward principle that builds strong startup networks. Hosts David Cohen and Brad Feld—Techstars cofounders, lifelong entrepreneurs, and startup investors—talk with mentors and founders about what giving first looks like in action, and how it makes great entrepreneurship possible.