Life After Madison Avenue

Who: Debbie Yount
Old Job: Executive VP of Grey Worldwide in New York
New Job: Chief marketing officer at Tonic Software Inc.

New York is the center of the known marketing universe. And few stars in that universe shine as brightly as Grey Worldwide. Yet Debbie Yount, 48, left a top post at Grey last summer and headed for Austin, Texas, home of Tonic Software Inc., a young Web-application company with roughly 75 employees.

Why move? “I was at the peak of my career at Grey, where I got to help build the Oracle brand. But Brian Phillips, Tonic’s cofounder and CEO, blew me away with his passion to hire the best people. That, plus the chance to market a new product from scratch, persuaded me to join.”

Old skills that still matter. “At Grey, we used focus groups to discover our clients’ immediate needs. Once you know what’s most important to a client, you can market according to that need. The same holds true at Tonic.”

Learning curve. “At Grey, I had more than 200 people working with me, and I was making multimillion-dollar decisions. But at Tonic, the pressure on me has doubled: I lead a team of fewer than 10 people, and we’re responsible for building the brand. On the upside, I was able to put together the Tonic advertising campaign — from concept to production — in just five days.”

Astrid Sandoval ( is a former Fast Company intern.FCS