Alumni Snapshots: Q&A with Mark Mason '04
Alumni Director Carrie MacVean Grimes '91 recently caught up with Mark Mason '04. Mark is living in New York City, working for an early stage venture capital firm that invests in start-ups in the consumer space. If you have ever bought a custom frame from Framebridge, ordered a t-shirt off CustomInk, or eaten a KIND bar, you’ve bought from one of their companies! We asked him to describe Severn in one sentence and he replied, "Building lifelong friendships and the foundation for future learning."
Tell us a few highlights of your journey since you graduated from SevernAfter Severn, I graduated from Vanderbilt University with a dual degree in history and organizational development. I then started a winding tour of East Coast cities, spending five years in Washington, D.C., (where I lived with fellow 2004 Severn alum Mike Heslin), before heading to Boston for four years and finally ending up in New York City. I moved there shortly after graduating from Harvard Business School in 2017.
On a more personal note, I have been very lucky to remain close with a lot of my fellow Severn ’04 alums and have loved visiting a few of them in San Francisco (Rob Hardy, Brandon Cato and Travis Bernard), Washington, D.C. (Mike Heslin and Carl Hoff) and Los Angeles (Brook Bolger).
What has surprised you about your path?When I left Severn, I thought I was going to be a history professor (I had grand plans that involved smoking a pipe and wearing sport coats with elbow patches). A late-night run-in with some very dry material for a paper slowly erased that idea for me and I had to start from scratch on career aspirations post-undergrad. It has been a winding road since then, but I am really enjoying where I ended up. Hopefully, I still have an opportunity to teach at some point down the road, just with a little less pipe smoke.
Who has been an inspiration to you in your personal and/or professional life?My parents have been (and continue to be!) a huge inspiration to me. Their love for each other and our family has been a constant force in my life and that of my brother, Matt Mason ’99 and sister-in-law Kat (Coldiron) Mason ’99. They set high expectations for all of us while providing love and support along the way.
What is your “why”?A love of learning has been the primary motivating factor in my life. When I was young, my parents stressed the importance of education. At Severn, I learned that education was a personal responsibility and had many amazing teachers along the way that helped me down the path. Over time, this interest shifted to understanding what makes businesses succeed and drove a lot of my career decisions as well as my hobbies (which I hope the history faculty will be glad to hear still involves ample reading in that department).
Share a book you recently read and recommend—and whyAttention Merchants by Tim Wu. It's a fascinating look in to how companies have been selling our attention since the birth of advertising. I think it is a particularly interesting read in the context of today’s struggle with attention monopolies like Facebook and Google, showing that while the platforms are new, their business model — that of selling your attention and intent — are not.
Who was a mentor to you at Severn and what wisdom/guidance did they impart to you that’s still a part of who you are?I had a lot of teachers that had a positive impact on me during my time at Severn. Mr. Bodley’s mentorship during AT Economics and Fed Challenge was amazing and, I believe, led me to eventually choose the career that I did. Also, Mrs. Gray and Mrs. Hundertmark stoked my passion for history and pushed me to pursue this interest in college. I will also never forget the amount of red ink that came back on the first paper I submitted to Ms. Sotiropoulos…I shudder to think how many times I’ve failed her in my answers here alone.