Lehigh alumna channels collegiate skills in startup career

Marlena Sarunac

Marlena Sarunac

For Marlena Sarunac, ’08, working as the director of marketing for the newly popular startup company, PoachIt, is eerily similar to going back to college.

“Think of corporate America as high school where you have a rigid schedule, homework and a curfew,” Sarunac said. “Then think of the startup world as college, where you end up managing your own time and work with minimal oversight.”

Like many Lehigh students, Sarunac was involved in several different organizations on campus during her time here. She was president of Alpha Chi Omega sorority and a member of Student Senate. These leadership skills gave her an appealing edge in the job market, she said.

After graduating as a political science major and an English minor, Sarunac was hired at the financial services corporation MasterCard without a formal business background. She said her employers were looking for people who were well-rounded and comfortable with problem-solving. Sarunac believes Lehigh did a good job of fostering such traits.

“The courses I took in political science gave me a better handle on the ‘what’ and the ‘why,’” Sarunac said. “It was up to me, and not my professors, to learn ‘how.’”

However, after traveling in Europe and leaving her job at MasterCard, Sarunac found herself starting all over again in her search for the right job. She turned to online job matching and quickly came across PoachIt.

“I said to myself, ‘this is it.’ I found my dream job,” Sarunac said.

In February 2013, Sarunac officially joined the company and was an integral part of the company’s release of private data in May 2013.

PoachIt was created to be the ultimate online shopping sidekick by eliminating the need for a virtual shopping cart and replacing the common practice of “bookmarking” different websites.

Every day, employees at PoachIt collect coupon codes from their validating database, which checks them with an algorithm. This eliminates the need for customers to double-check their coupon’s validity at the time of purchase, Sarunac said.

With PoachIt’s newly released app, customers can scan or search a regularly priced item. When the price of that item drops, the customer is notified of the reduced price via email.

The company has been very careful to not be gender-specific in its marketing tactics. However, most of its users are female, Sarunac said.

In describing her position as director of marketing, Sarunac said she often reports to PoachIt’s founder and CEO, Gidi Fisher. Her position includes a lot of reading, testing and staying up-to-date on marketing tactics, seasonal trends and current events.

Sarunac sees the company evolving with the pattern of rapid technological advances.

“Technology is moving pretty quickly,” Sarunac said. “Only a year ago we didn’t have an app.”

Even in the short amount of time that the PoachIt app has been available on iOS and Android operating systems, the company has seen a huge increase in users. According to an article by TechCrunch, PoachIt now has around 175,000 users on both platforms and is tracking over 500,000 products.

PoachIt’s success has been getting publicity on many different media platforms, as well. In December 2013, Sarunac appeared in a short interview on NBC’s New York Live with Raina Seitel.

“You don’t have to search for a coupon code ever again,” Sarunac said in the interview.

Other popular technology-based publications have picked up on PoachIt’s story, including the well-known Wired magazine. In Wired’s August 2014 article about the company, it described its effect on users as being able to “shop like a human.”

Sarunac is optimistic about PoachIt’s continued success, especially after the positive result following the app’s release.

“Hopefully we’ll be a household name in the near future,” Sarunac said.

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