Women in Business Q&A: Christina Mercando, founder and CEO of Ringly

Christina Mercando is the founder and CEO of Ringly, a New York City company composed of designers and engineers dedicated to blending fashion and technology in meaningful ways. Their first suite of products integrates wearable technology with beautifully designed jewelry and accessories. Ringly's core belief is that technology can be more discreetly and smartly integrated into our lives.

Prior to founding Ringly, Christina was the VP of Product at Hunch, a social recommendation service aiming to build a 'taste graph' of the entire web by intelligently connecting people to the things they love. Hunch was acquired by eBay in 2011 where Christina played a major role in improving the social shopping and merchandising experience across ebay.com.

Christina's passion for art and technology started at an early age. She graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with degrees in both Fine Art and Human Computer Interaction. She has a strong interest in user-centered design and its power to enrich and strengthen both online and offline experiences.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Throughout my life and career I've always had an intellectual curiosity and appetite to learn new things. From an early age, I knew I would be running my own company one day. Because of this, I tried to soak in as much knowledge I could from the people and experiences I've encountered along the way. Having a deeper understanding of the world and of people will make you a much better leader.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at RINGLY?
I learned so much from my time at Hunch and from working in the start-up world. Just knowing and being around other entrepreneurs, designers and engineers helped tremendously when I decided to start Ringly. I had built up a strong network of friends and colleagues who were really supportive of everything I was doing when I decided to take the plunge.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at RINGLY?
With a company like Ringly, there are a lot of moving parts. We're shaping and defining an entirely new category of jewelry and fashion accessories. Doing that has a lot of challenges, but also comes with a lot of rewards. Being a part of the history of jewelry by merging new technology with something that's been around for hundreds of thousands of years really excites me.

What advice can you offer to women who are seeking to start their own business?
I've had lots of ideas over the years but when the idea for Ringly came to me, I couldn't shake it. I kept thinking about how cool it would be to have a cute piece of jewelry that helps solve a problem in many women's lives. My advice to anyone starting out would be to have perseverance. Starting a company is not an easy thing to do, but you'll learn more than you ever thought possible and there's nothing more rewarding than seeing your vision unfold and having others believe in it too.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I don't think I do as good of a job maintaining a work/life balance as I should these days but I do try to focus on the things that make me happy during my off hours. Spending time with friends and loved ones, taking time for myself by running or doing yoga and reading books that have nothing to do with work help keep me balanced.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think it depends on the workplace. I've worked at companies where I was one of very few women and I never noticed an imbalance; everyone was treated fairly and respected each other. I've also worked at places where that wasn't the case and it makes things much more difficult. When there is a noticeable unbalance it's important for women to support each other and help each other succeed as much as possible.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I've had a lot of great people to look up to throughout my career but I often find that it's the friends and people you surround yourself with everyday that have the most impact both personally and professionally. I also believe that it's equally important to mentor others and to give back. I learn so much by teaching others.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
This might sound cliché, but I admire anyone who sets out and pursues his or her dreams. There have been a lot of powerful female leaders emerge in the last decade - Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg and Sara Blakely to name a few. I aspire to join their ranks so I can be an inspiration to future leaders.

What do you want RINGLY to accomplish in the next year?
We want to grow Ringly into the leading smart jewelry and accessories brand. We plan on announcing retail and designer partnerships over the next year as well as expand our own collection.