Veteran Entrepreneur Spotlight:

Marlie Andersch

Marlie Andersch


It’s April 2020. Covid-19 disaster declarations are going up across the country. Workplaces are, where possible, transitioning to a work-from-home model for the duration of the crisis. While some tech and consultancy companies are already dealing with a dispersed remote workforce, other industries are scrambling to put together support plan for a suddenly remote labor. Local and federal government agencies and healthcare providers are particularly hit hard, being essential services that can’t function entirely remote, and both of which see an increased volume of queries and demand for services throughout the crisis.

Marlie’s Military Service

Marlie was born in Guam, lived in Hawaii, and then moved to Washington state, where she enlisted in the Air Force out of high school.

She served from 89-92 with the 4th Security Police Group. When the first Gulf War broke out, she deployed abroad to Clark AFB in the Philippines to provide operational support.

Her time outside Manilla was fraught with chaos. There were two shooting incidents near the base where military personnel were targeted and killed in May of 1990. Two months later the base was hit by a 7.7 magnitude earthquake. A year later in June, Mount Pinatubo erupted, (the second largest eruption in the 20th century) forcing the evacuation of the base and surrounding civilian personnel to nearby Subic Bay, a naval base just west of Clark AFB. She spent time helping with the evacuation and recovery efforts after the eruption.

Not long after, she transferred stateside to the 4th Operations Support Squadron, Seymour Johnson AFB, outside Raleigh, NC. She had been taking college courses regularly during her enlistment, and separated with an Associate’s degree. She remained in the area, finding work with tech giant IBM, who had a large campus in the region.

People want information, and many organizations struggled to find a way to communicate to individual customers or constituents necessary information, or even just route their call to the right person when only a skeleton crew is manning the phones. Several businesses reliant on in-person teams had to find platforms and processes to transition. For some organizations, this process is a lot more chaotic than others.

Enter rockITdata, who examines the pathways for customer queries and finds the most efficient way to get customers the information or person they need as quickly and painlessly as possible. What’s better, customers can use their preferred channels, be it a text message, phone call, email, or chat, without it creating more work on the organization’s side. Marlie Andersch’s company ensures that customers and constituents feel heard and taken care of, and no one falls through the cracks.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

Marlie wasn’t “supposed” to be here. She was supposed to be a doctor. Her work at IBM was supposed to be a fun, interesting job exploring the technology that fascinated her during medical school. It’s what she was “supposed” to do. But as she grew into her role, she realized how much she loved working with computers in a way that helped people. She restructured her academics to instead major in business management with a minor in computer science, and never looked back. Her career in tech, from consulting, to startups, and working with Salesforce, spans over thirty years.

While Marlie enjoyed the benefits of being an employee, entrepreneurship was in her bones. She knew she could do it better. She knew there was a way to do it better, faster, and make the experience more positive for customers and employees alike. She didn’t want to learn yet another new corporate culture brought in by some consultant—she wanted to create a space where she could make those decisions and impose her own.

Marlie Andersch founded rockITdata at the end of 2018 with the intention of doing one thing better than anyone else: data integrations. It might sound dry from the outside, but it’s one of the biggest challenges facing modern businesses today. No matter if it’s integrating legacy data after acquisition or merger, or a business that relies on disparate partners to collect data, like the healthcare industry. Getting all this digital data from different systems to talk to each other and have a single, unified output is an enormous technical challenge, especially coming through an era where a lot of these systems were custom-built by the lowest bidder with minimal standardization.

It was a consulting success, but for Marlie, it was a personal disaster. She had business partners that just weren’t the right fit, and there was a time when she was ready to wind her customers down and call it a day. Then she met her third partner after a year of struggling, who saw the business the same way. The business has taken off like the eponymous “rocket” implied in its name ever since.

Connecting With Bunker Labs

Marlie found Bunker Labs in early 2021, and joined our Veterans in Residence (ViR) 21B cohort. She was already poised for explosive, exponential growth, and was a bit ahead of most ViR companies in terms of having a refined business model and plan. Still, she immediately loved the community, the camaraderie, and the trust she could put in her fellow cohort members, even if the content of some of the programming was stuff she already learned the hard way.

By the end of the year, she joined Bunker Labs’ CEOcircle, where she was paired with other companies similarly poised to scale. The cohort helped her navigate the growing pains of taking a company from 10 employees to 170 in just a couple years. She credits the power of network, and being open and honest about where things are and where she wants them to be as major tools and lessons leveraged from her time at Bunker Labs.

 

“It is unbelievable to have peers and a network of folks [at Bunker Labs] that are walking your journey that you can call. Just last week, I called someone from my cohort and said ‘my struggle is real today, and I just need you to help me think through this.’ To have that support is pretty incredible.”

Marlie Andersch

Founder & CEO, rockITdata

The Work From Home Revolution

Not long after the pandemic hit, AWS came to Marlie, looking for solutions to the new work from home paradigm that erupted in the wake of Covid. This caused all sorts of problems for data, because so many customers were suddenly accessing these businesses digitally that weren’t before, and the tools just weren’t there yet. Marlie leaned on AI chatbots to direct website traffic, and once that data hit the cloud, it could output in all sorts of ways to get the right information to the right place, integrating disparate digital workspaces spread across the globe.

The result was happier customers with shorter wait times, getting connected to the right person to solve their problem quicker. And what’s better, the efficiency meant the entire customer service experience got cheaper. Now, the sky’s the limit as Marlie and her growing team refine and update their customer experience model, adapting it to other businesses, and expand into other IT customer experience and data niches.

RockITdata has continued to grow throughout 2023 and into the new year, adding new employees as fast as they can hire them. They were ranked #115 on the Inc 5000 List of fastest growing companies, having experienced 4,169% growth in the past 3 years.

It’s Your Time

Veterans in Residence is a peer-facilitated, six-month business incubator that provides veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs a networking community, business skills, and opportunities to help grow their business.

Breaking Barriers in Entrepreneurship is a virtual workshop series that facilitates business growth and support within AAPI, Black, Latinx, and female veteran and military spouse communities. The eight-week workshop is designed to create an immediate impact for early to growth-stage businesses by providing access to business tools, resources, capital opportunities, mentorship, and a stronger peer network!

As of January 2024, Bunker Labs is now a part of Syracuse University’s D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF). In addition to ongoing Bunker Labs programming, we’d encourage you to browse IVMF’s deep wealth of entrepreneurship programming, much of it available virtually or at locations across the country. Find the program to help your business take the next step today!