Fran Hauser '90
Fran Hauser ’90 is the definition of “Opportunitas.” Born in Italy, she came to the United States with her family as a young child, and was raised in a very traditional Italian household in Westchester County, NY. By the time she was in the first grade, Hauser was generating invoices for her father’s masonry and her mother’s tailoring businesses, using a chart made by her aunt to figure out the sales tax.
“I became a general manager at a very young age because my parents spoke very little English,” recalls Hauser.
The first in her family to attend college, Hauser was a commuter student. Her sister, brother, and cousin later followed suit. Today, Hauser speaks of her portfolio-based career, has a book in the works, and is a strategic advisor on a new reality show.
“I’ve had a 27-year career,” says Hauser. “But the path was not always linear. There was a lot of zigzagging. Be open to the zigzagging – it’s really important. I’ve reinvented my career multiple times.”
Following stints at Ernst & Young and Price Waterhouse, Hauser found herself the director of finance at Coca-Cola Enterprises’ NY division with over 100 employees under her when she was just 27 years old.
“I realized that I wanted to run all aspects of the business,” she says. “If I stayed at Coca-Cola Enterprises, that meant a career in finance, because it can be difficult to switch to another department in a big company. In a smaller company, there can be more flexibility, and you are exposed to different areas of the business.”
Hauser took a call from a recruiter, which she highly recommends.
“Always take the call from a recruiter and make them your friend,” she emphatically states. “They know the market value of your position and the market trends.”
The call led to a position at Moviefone, which was transitioning from a phone-based service to the internet. When Moviefone was bought by AOL, Hauser became vice president of AOL's Programming Group, and was named vice president and general manager of Moviefone. For Hauser, it was the best of both worlds: running a smaller company within a larger company. She then served as the liaison between AOL and Time Inc. after the AOL Time Warner merger, and ultimately migrated to Time, Inc., where she led the digital team that built PEOPLE.com into a leading brand.
“I was in awe of the Time, Inc. brands,” recalls Hauser. They were brands that I knew as a consumer and loved.”
At the same time, she was establishing her “side hustle”: advising and investing in companies with the approval of Time, Inc.’s general counsel.
In 2014, with two young children and a four-hour roundtrip daily commute, Hauser reinvented herself yet again, leaving Time after 10 years and further developing her “portfolio-based career.”
“I have 17 companies in my personal portfolio, and 14 of them are female-founded,” she explains. “At any given time, two or three of them might need my assistance – help recruiting a new board member, a second round of funding, or strategic assistance.”
Hauser continues, “In order to be successful in this type of career, you need connective tissue – a thread between the components. All of my initiatives involve mentoring and/or investing in young women. Most of the founders of my portfolio companies are young women under 30 who are looking for mentoring. All of the things I’m working on feed into each other.”
She is drawing on her unique experiences to write a book about the struggle that women face between being nice and being strong in the workplace.
“You can be nice and you can be strong,” says Hauser. “A lot of women feel you can only be one or the other. There were many situations where I solicited my team’s input, but ultimately, I had to make a decision and there was a chance that some people would be disappointed (but I was always respectful and appreciative).”
Hauser is also serving as a strategic advisor for a reality television show that debuted in April on TLC. Girl Starter focuses on eight young women between the ages of 18-24 who compete to launch their own businesses. Hauser likens the show to Shark Tank meets Project Runway. Both the book and the reality show play to her strengths as a mentor.
“Because I grew up in a very traditional household, I had no examples of women who had professional careers,” she notes. “My female Pace professors were really my first mentors. Barbara Farrell and Pat Healy – they were the first women I met who had professional work experience. I’ve had wonderful mentors throughout my career – both women and men. Men have to be a part of the conversation if anything is going to change for women in the workplace.”