RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – In the 1980s, the Internet exploded and decades later – it dominates everyday life.
Once a far away digital galaxy inside a big desktop, the worldwide web has evolved, and even gone to small mobile devices right at our fingertips
In the last 15 years, Brooks Bell has influenced what Internet users swipe or click.
“We are a customer-centric experimentation consultancy,” Bell described her company.
What that really means is the 38-year-old, Raleigh techie improves websites for businesses–also known as website optimization.
Her team of at least 50 people makes it easier to navigate company websites so that eventually customers click into the cart– a sale for these businesses.
Adobe, Google Analytics, IBM, and at least a dozen other companies believe in her work, and that’s why they’ve partnered with her.
Bell said she always knew business was her path, but she had to fall in love with technology.
“He wanted to be a tech entrepreneur; I wanted to spend time with him,”Bell recalled her college days with her then boyfriend. “I thought maybe we should do this together, and we started the first website company together.”
The Duke University alumna and her now husband, Jesse Lipson, started that venture 15 years ago.
“I felt like, websites are here to stay. You need– everybody’s going to need a website,” she said.
Lipson later created ShareFile and sold it to Citrix for and estimated $54 million. Bell also founded her own company.
And throughout the years, she’s been heavily active with the Democratic National Committee, having given a speech at the 2016 DNC convention.
Together, the couple co-founded a popular, downtown Raleigh co-working office space, HQ Raleigh.
Love pushed her toward technology; AOL tested her new passion.
“At the time, the biggest tech company in the country was America Online,” Bell explained. “They asked me to design them some pop-ups and landing pages and other digital media.”
It didn’t take long for the rising online provider to back Bell and her work.
“I fell in love with experimentation and A/B testing, and it just feels like that’s what the Internet is made for,” the entrepreneur said.
From those early days to now, Bell’s written her own code and forged her path, but her rise came with a few bugs.
“He (Lipson) looked at me and saw that half my face was drooping and I tried to laugh it off and then I realized I couldn’t say anything. I lost my ability to speak,” she recalled. “And I realized I was having a stroke.”
It was a wake-up call about health, one that she’s recently been reminded of.
Just weeks ago, doctors diagnosed Bell with colon cancer. Days later she underwent surgery, and has been recovering.
This latest health complication and her stroke have furthered Bell’s belief that self-care can be the best care.
“Things can change in your life in any moment and it’s something that I need to keep working on. We all need to work on– I’m really grateful that I had that moment early in my life to help me appreciate your health.”
Since her stroke and even after this most recent cancer diagnosis, Bell keeps making big strides in her field. She acknowledges, however, that roadblocks still exist.
“It’s still– you know I think we could do better. There’s not as many women as I wish there were,” Bell answered when asked if other women hold similar position in her tech circles. “It’s just — there’s very much a ‘bro’ culture that starts very early.”
Brooks says a way to tackle that starts in the classroom, but that it will also take industry leaders to take charge and address challenges for women in tech.
“Getting raises, getting fair compensation- in terms of getting the attention of investors and having credibility and raising money. Being part of those power structures are very difficult for women,” she listed.
She tells CBS 17 that she’ll keep forging a path for women in the industry.
As for her tech peers, she hopes they know women are vital and that she’s proof women succeed as technology entrepreneurs and leaders too.
The cancer survivor will give a speech at the “Get your Rear in Gear” Colon Cancer Race on Saturday, March 9.
On March 7, Bell released the following statement:
“In the weeks since my interview with CBS, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer. I’m lucky in that we caught it early. I’m looking forward to returning to Brooks Bell Inc. as Executive Chairman in a few months. But I’m also not alone. According to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, one in 10 colon cancer diagnoses are in people younger than 50, which has increased by over 50% in the past 25 years. This month I am launching a new initiative, “50 Colonoscopies Under 50,” to celebrate young people who are proactively protecting themselves against colon cancer. My goal is to elevate the conversation around the rising rates of colon cancer among millennials and the life-saving benefits of colonoscopies.
For more information or to get involved.”