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Meet Marilyn Jackson of Undergrid Networks in Downtown Atlanta

Today we’d like to introduce you to Marilyn Jackson.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Marilyn. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
After a full technology career of operations, innovation and selling tech services and products, I took a leap of faith and made the decision to build and grow a technology firm in the deep technology space. It took a lot of guts, deep thoughts and second-guessing before I became comfortable to go all in. I kept one foot in as a corporate executive and the other in the entrepreneurial space, which created some turbulent and unsure times. It took me about three full years for me to make the leap to dedicated business ownership. There was so much that I had to figure out. I talked to my current mentors, who at the time were running Fortune 100 companies, and they couldn’t provide the input and guidance I needed, because they only had the perspective of the protections and perks that working for a large corporation brings. I reached out to other tech entrepreneurs and they provided little insight, as they didn’t have the business background or experience that only comes from having been there and done that. They were too fresh. The rest of the people I talked to either wanted to talk about retirement or why at this point in my life was I “starting” something new. It all became noise and distraction and I knew I had to find my community, who not only understood what I was attempting to do but could be of assistance to me to make it happen. Enter into my world, a person who not only understood why I was doing what I was doing but understood WHAT I was doing and brought the funding for me to make it all happen. Although I had bootstrapped my way to my first million dollars in revenue, to go any further, I knew I would need outside investors. Thanks to this individual, I am well on my way to scalability and growth.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Smooth road in entrepreneurship is never that. Ever! If the road is smooth, I say get suspicious and hold on, something unexpected is about to happen. Even with the years of tech and business experience that I brought with me into entrepreneurship, there was still so much to learn. What I didn’t realize, that my learnings and experience in running multi-million dollar projects and divisions only half prepared me for the things you would encounter when you’re running your own business. Because I have always had “resources” to support me with things like Financials, Legal, Insurances, and all the other corporate protections, I never had to develop deep knowledge in these areas. Cursory knowledge allowed me to do the job well. That’s not the case in entrepreneurship. You MUST understand all aspects of your business finances and know-how to surround yourself with the RIGHT PEOPLE to put your financials in place. You also have to know how to speak to the financial health of your company. You can’t depend on that Financial Analyst to jump in and save the day. Same goes for Legal and Insurances. You have to have more than a passive understanding of how these tools work for your business. For me, that was a big learning curve, especially when contracts begin to roll into the company. I begin dealing with so many things that I had not anticipated such as payroll, HR, compliance, OSHA and overall employee satisfaction. Yes, employee satisfaction is a thing. A big thing. As the talent needed to deliver on the technology products and services we offer does not sit idle on a shelf. Because it’s in such high demand, employees have to be happy with their work environments and company culture in order to stay around. We continuously work on that. It’s a major challenge but one which we embrace.

Undergrid Networks – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Undergrid Networks is a Digital Engineering firm specializing in Data-Driven Technologies that transform real-time business decision-making capacity. We are positioned for the future and understand that there will be Data here, Data there, Data, Data everywhere! This is the new reality. Data has become the most valued currency for business. It has also become the newest most urgent problem for businesses to solve. There are so many unknowns about how to handle the massive amount of Data that is anticipated to be produced. Our product and solution suite offer solutions using emerging technologies such as Extended Reality, AI and Blockchain to bring Data handling and visualization closer to the operational edge. Predictions indicate that by 2025, approximately 34 Billion data-producing devices will produce sixty percent more Data than we already have today. Companies will require assistance in corralling this monstrous Data in unique ways. For this reason, we have created a Portfolio of Solutions that will help our clients build responsive, human-centered intelligence into their business decisions, while protecting their sensitive data, both in-transit and at rest.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Every day in business gives me moments to be proud. Everything from receiving that first certification to hiring that first employee is monumental moments that make you feel like you’re standing on the winning podium. There are many moments, of being called to the Podium that I have experienced on this entrepreneurial journey. Let me recall a few. Being approved to become a Vendor for the NFL Business Connect Program for the SuperBowl, being selected to provide the opening pitch at Venture Atlanta in 2019, being selected the winner for the MBDA Manufacturing Summit Poster Walk 2019, being selected and graduating from the Atlanta Women’s Entrepreneurial Initiative Program, LaunchPad2X and the AT&T Business Growth Accelerator Program, obtaining business certifications from WBENC, GMSDC, GDOT, City of Atlanta, and the SBA, moderating an Autonomous and Intelligence Technology panel for Atlanta Innovation Forum and receiving an invitation to speak at a lecture series at Georgia State CAII on Creativity and AI. All proud moments in the life of an entrepreneur. If I had to pick just one experience to call it my proudest moment, it would have to be the one that came without accolades, fame, or expectations and that was when a young female, college student, came to me and told me that I had given her inspiration. That I had renewed her faith that she could build and create a business in the tech space. A space where women and people of color are not plentiful. She wanted to engineer, make and inspire. Knowing that she saw inspiration in me made me know that all that I do and endure is not in vain. I can’t wait until the day that I can inspire, support, fund, and grow many more entrepreneurs that look like me.

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Image Credit:
Personal Photo: Tammy McGarity

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